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Red Dwarf fanfic - Death is Not the End

by Caroline Seawright
November 27, 2000

 

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Death is Not the End - Part 1 (of 2?)
[Mature Readers - Not Quite a Lemon]
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[Space]

As the ship flew off, the larger space ship dwindling to a small, green pinprick of colour in the distance, the sole occupant stared at the controls within the cockpit.

A perplexed look changed slowly into one of contempt, followed soon after by a face filled with horror as it dawned on him - he had no idea how to work the thing.

He scanned the controls, trying to spot the labels that had so far eluded him. They had to be there, somewhere! Maybe the gits who'd built the ship had decided on a nice black motif - black letters on a black label, stuck under the rows of flashing lights and switches, on the matt black control panel.

Leaning forward, his face bathed in the multi-coloured lights of the control panel, he stared intently everywhere around the buttons. Nothing. And it was almost impossible to see with the soft, blow-dried fringe feathering across his line of vision.

What on earth had possessed him to even wear that poofy hair do? All he'd ever really wanted was a nice, short marine-style cut. Short back and sides. But here he was, with some poncy fringe and a head of hair that was not only tipped with golden strands, but it _cascaded_ past his collar!

And the _outfit_! A silver, aluminium foil-like jacket and matching pants. At least he wasn't wearing the sunglasses. The cream polo neck was almost too much to bear, too. Why on earth did he ever change out of his nice, normal Space Corps uniform?

He reached up and turned the joystick a little, and glared at the stars as they seemed to arc around, moving left through the inky black sky. That was all there was out there - stars and deep, black, cold space.

"I've got to concentrate," he muttered to himself, his voice even sounding weaselly to his own ears. He'd been in ships before. True, he'd only been on the scanner and helped with navigation, but he should have picked up _something_ from his time up front.

He reached up a hand to flick one of the switches on the bewildering arrays, and paused. His hand hovered for a moment, then snatched back as if the buttons and lights had turned into a poisonous snake, ready to strike. There was no way that he was going to risk it - what if he pressed the ejector seat by accident? What if he pressed the warp button and smashed into a planet or a sun?! What if...

A movement in the window caught his attention, and he caught a glimpse of his ghostly reflection, the glow of flickering lights softening his features. He hardly recognised himself. His eyes seemed a little wider. The sweep of his fringe and hair softened the sharp edges of his face, even making the line of his nose smaller. In fact, he seemed quite a bit better looking that he really remembered.

No wiry, toilet-brush hair. No flaring nostrils. His sharp chin and overly large Adam's Apple had soften and diminished. Maybe the hair and outfit weren't so bad, after all...

He'd set off to become a hero. The new look went with the job... He'd set off to travel to dimensions unknown, to seek out new life and, wherever possible, to bring it back home, and to boldly have sex with lots and lots of beautiful women.

Too bad he was stuck in this red, un-flyable vessel, millions upon millions of light years from anywhere. The closest thing near-by was the other ship.

For a moment, he thought to turn back to the others. Some companionship! And they, at least, knew how to fly their ship.

But he was no stranger to loneliness. Ever since he could remember, he'd always been alone. Maybe not physically alone, but always emotionally. Not even the others on the ship were close to him. In fact, often they were just the opposite. At least there had been one, brief, shining moment of happiness in his life .....

He sighed. Turning back was no option. He would never live down the shame.

He stared resolutely at the dark, star-studded sky, and flew on.

"Ace?"

The soft, sexy feminine voice made him start.

"Um, hello?" Ace stared around, a little nervously.

"Oh, he died, did he...?" the voice asked, sounding forlorn.

Ace looked down and stared at a little speaker. It was the ship's computer talking to him.

"Err, yes. Sorry." He really didn't know what to say.

After a moments silence, a sigh emanated from the speaker, "I guess that it's left for me to teach you how to fill his footsteps." After another moment, the voice continued, "Well, Arnold, it's time for you to become Ace Rimmer."

After a moment's pause as the computer scanned through his hologram projection files, the voice spoke again. "Oh, Gordon Bennett. This is going to take some time."

He was Arnold Judas Rimmer, recently promoted to First Officer, of the missing Jupiter Mining Corporation vessel, Red Dwarf. It had taken him twelve years to rise from lowly Third Technician to lowly Second Technician, in charge of Z-shift.

Z-shift was, in fact, the group who cleaned the gunk out of the chicken soup machines and who made sure that vending machines never ran out of various fun-sized chocolate snacks. Not only was he a vending machine repair man, but he wasn't a very good one at that.

But the day when the ship's captain asked him to fix a drive plate was the worst one in his life. Of course, it hadn't been repaired correctly - the team had been short one man, so Rimmer had to fix it by himself. And so, the whole crew had been subject to a lethal dose of Cadmium-2, and had all been wiped out.

Rimmer had died with the rest of them. Three million years later, he was revived as a hologram. Revived to do one important job - to keep the last human in the universe sane.

The last human being left alive was kept in a stasis field for the whole three million years - he was Rimmer's subordinate. Having brought an un-quarantined cat aboard the ship, he was punished by being placed in statis for a few months, and having his pay docked during that time.

While he was frozen in time, inside the field, the accident occurred and the whole crew died. Holly, the ship's computer, released Lister as soon as the radiation reached a safe background level.

To stop Lister from going crazy from loneliness, Holly brought Rimmer back. Unfortunately, Rimmer is a petty, small-minded, cowardly, bureaucratic maggot of a human being. The only reason that he was chosen, out of the thousands of other crew who died aboard Red Dwarf, was the fact that driving Rimmer crazy was what would keep Lister sane.

And drive Rimmer crazy Lister did - they didn't like each other one little bit. Exchanging insults was what they were best at. And Lister was the one who thought of him the most fondly. There were two others who eventually found their way on board - the Cat, a humanoid descendant (felis sapiens) from the cat that Lister had hidden in the hold, and Kryten, a series 4000 mechanoid. They both disliked Rimmer.

Even Rimmer, deep down, hated himself.

Though, to Rimmer's credit, he had done a few laudable acts in his life. He'd given up everything that he'd ever wanted - a position of command, an effective physical presence, sexual congress twice a day (health regulations) - for the only woman he'd ever really loved. He had also found the courage to fight and saved Lister and the others from death.

Ace Rimmer - a Rimmer from another dimension, who was everything that Rimmer ever wanted to be; cool, charming, handsome with wall to wall charisma, brave and incredibly yummy to members of the opposite sex (not to mention members of the _same_ sex, though Ace was strictly butter side up) - could see that Arnold J. Rimmer had the potential to be better.

The goodness was there, the courage was there. But it was well hidden behind his neuroses and his self-loathing.

But the computer still had her work cut out for her.

[Space, Months Later]

"Look, you stupid broken-down excuse for a photo copier, just shut up! Shut up! Shut up! I am _not_ going to fly into GELF territory - I might get killed!"

If the computer could sneer in disgust, she'd be doing that right now. "Look, you bonehead, I'm going to turn you into Ace, even if it kills you! If you don't have the love spuds to meet with them now, you'll always be the maggot you are now!"

With that, the computer took control of the ship, and flew off into enemy space, with Arnold trying desperately to have a nice, quiet panic attack under the pilot's seat.

She was going to teach him, even if it killed him.

[Space, Years Later]

"No, Arnold, 'Mi esperas ke vi lernos ^gin, balda^u' means 'I hope that you will learn it, soon'!"

"I thought that that was the one that went 'My thanks for the lemon gin, and that small, plastic umbrella looks smashing'."

The computer groaned in frustration, "But you've been trying to learn Esperanto for over three million and eight years! Concentrate!"

[Space, Centuries Later]

"...and that it how I'd turn the light-speed drive into a time machine, using only my jacket, a screwdriver and a paper clip."

Arnold's voice was deep and full of confidence, and actually quite sexy. He gave a winning smile at the computer, although she couldn't see him.

"How did I go, you sexy CPU, old love? Do you think I'm ready to hop this crate up and into the great unknown?"

The computer was quite pleased - she had expected to have taken another few centuries, at least, to get him up to this level. He had been the worst Rimmer that she'd ever come across, in any of the dimensions where she had traveled.

But the last Ace had proved himself right - there _was_ an Ace Rimmer buried somewhere, hiding deep under all of Arnold J. Rimmer's neuroses.

Ace would live again!

But first...

"There is one test left for you, Arnie. You'll have to earn the name 'Ace' by yourself."

A crease marred his forehead, under the perfect waves of blond hair, "How can I do that, old girl? The only boffins out there are the boys from the Dwarf." He flicked his hair back, and slid his sunglasses on with his other hand, "And we've left them behind long, long ago. There hasn't been even a flicker on the scanner in the last five years."

"A ship has just come into my long-range scanners, Arnie. Have a look."

"Gordon Bennett, you're right! And I didn't even notice it - well, dearest, since we have company, it'd be rude of me not to pop by for a visit, eh?"

"Oh, Arn... you'd better stick your H on - it's a hologrammatic ship."

"Hologrammatic?" As the computer projected a small 'H' on his forehead, a look of disbelief crossed over his features, "It couldn't be."

They flew on, until the strange, space station came into view. It was made up of three long cylindrical habitation areas, joined by two sphere-shaped control decks. It seemed to twinkle gently with a strange light.

It was.

It was the Enlightenment.

[Moments Later]

A glow of twinkling, blue lights flew straight into Rimmer's ship. It paused and swirled around Arnold for a moment, before zooming off into the ship's sleeping quarters.

Rimmer had been through this once before. It had been quite a number of years before - about two hundred years before he'd left to become a hero - and he felt quite a bit more nervous now than then.

Before, he didn't know what it was. Now, he had to prove to himself that he was worthy of becoming Ace Rimmer... and _she_ was on board.

Nirvanah Crane.

His hologrammatic lover. The only woman in the world to have really, really loved him. And his only lover (who wasn't concussed at the time).

And, surprisingly, she hadn't been desperate or ugly. She actually had more wits than a Tasmanian Tiger after its visit to the taxidermist. She was quite intelligent. And beautiful. With a damned sexy voice.

But he hadn't seen her again, since he left the Enlightenment. She'd given up not only her position on the ship as Navigation Officer to let Arnold have his dream, but she'd relinquished her hologrammatic life for him.

He couldn't accept her sacrifice. He'd left a letter for her, and returned to Red Dwarf. All because he had loved her, too.

Now he was scared to death at seeing her again. Maybe she had gotten over him. Maybe he'd written something gittish in that letter, and she had finally realised how stupid she'd been. Maybe she'd fallen back into thinking that love was only a short-term hormonal distraction. After all, the rest of the crew thought that - love was an outmoded concept on the holoship....

Before he could follow this train of thought any more, he blipped out of existence.

[The Enlightenment]

The ship's captain stood on the bridge and swept back his long, blond hair with an elegantly shaped hand, then formed the Enlightenment salute.

"Captain Hercule Platini, IQ two-one-two. I haven't seen one of your type of hologram around here, so I thought it best to bring you straight to the bridge. You remind me of someone, too. So, who are you?"

Rimmer looked around the bridge. The other holograms were all looking at him. Natalina Pushkin, the Captain's second. She was a pretty woman, though a little too arrogant for Arnold's taste. Commander Randy Nevaro, a handsome male hologram. IQs two-zero-one and one-nine-four respectively.

He spoke in the deep, space marine-type voice. "The handle's Commander A.J. Rimmer. Friends call me Ace. Just had to pop in from another dimension to take a look at this marvelous machine you've got here. I'm what the boys call a 'hard light hologram'. Not sure how it works, but I've got a solid body when I want it." He looked up around the bridge, "A holoship, am I correct? Then you're all obviously top-flight personnel. 'Course I could only dream of watching you guys from a distance. I'm just a humble test pilot in the Space Corps."

"I see that you know pretty much about us, Commander Rimmer," he rolled his rs thoughtfully, "Hmmm. Rimmer... Rimmer... Where have I heard that name before? Rimmer?" He looked Arnold up and down for a moment.

"Oh, I know," Natalina interjected in her deeply accented Russian voice, "He was that strange man who took Commander Crane's position, then stupidly went and returned to his pathetic ship, the Red Dwarf. He was so rude that he even refused to have sex with me."

The Captain raised an eyebrow, "Oh, my. Thank goodness he decided to leave after all." He turned back to Rimmer, who looked slightly uncomfortable, "I take it that you're related to that Rimmer?"

Rimmer forced a laugh, making it sound surprisingly free and easy, "Of course not. I'm just him from another dimension. At some point in time, our lives diverged, old man. And thank the Big Man Upstairs for that!" He swept back his fringe and smiled, "And the poor man must have been higher than a hippy flight attendant after his first open-air festival - how could he refuse such a deliciously sexy hologram like you, my old love?"

Natalina's glacial expression actually melted as he spoke.

Randy stood forward, coughing slightly, "Captain, if you want, I'll show Commander Rimmer around the ship," he saluted.

"Actually, Captain, I go off duty now. I'll show the Commander around," Natalina raised her chin, looking down her nose at Randy. She wasn't about to let Randy get this one.

Rimmer looked apologetically at Randy, then gave a salute to the captain, "Sorry, but it looks like the lady has me. I'll see you gents shortly. What a ship! What a crew!" He turned, and offered Natalina his elbow.

Linking her arm with his, the two headed off the bridge.

Randy stared after Rimmer, his eyes dreamy, and murmured, "What a guy..."

[Later]

Rimmer and Natalina stood in the elevator as it whooshed up the various levels to the bridge. She'd shown him all of the more interesting parts of the ship - the botanic gardens, the vid suits, the mess hall, various clubs and bars, the engine room, the main computer room (from which Stocky, the ship's computer, projected the entire holoship, including the crew; it was a little strange, since Stocky himself was a hologram of a computer), and even the sports and sexual recreation deck.

He'd been through the tour before, with Nirvanah Crane. And then she'd invited him to stop over for a spot of sex for a couple of hours. It had been during that whole, blissful day that they'd fallen madly and deeply in love.

Rimmer had been terrified at the thought of seeing her... what to do? What to say? But now that the tour was almost complete, and he hadn't seen her, he knew that he needed to see her - if only once. The longing deep inside him, to meet with her if only for a moment, was something that he'd never felt before. He was still in love with her.

"...to have sex with me, some time next week, if you're still around?"

Rimmer was pulled back into reality at this, "Umm, pardon?"

"I said, would you like to have sex with me, some time next week, if you're still around? It would be a really good work out for both of us." Natalina gave a smile as if to say that she didn't need the work out, but what the smeg!

Collecting his thoughts, Rimmer smiled and said in his Ace voice, "Well, my delicious little vodka martini, my schedule's a bit tight what with hopping dimensions for the Space Corps and all, but it would be bad manners not to. Especially for you, my lovely."

He really didn't think anything much of her, but that sounded like an appropriate space-marine-type thing to say... But he hadn't had sex ... well, he hadn't had sex in over a millenium or so, give or take a couple of hundred years. The last time had been with Nirvanah. It had also been his first time as a hologram. His second time all-up.

His first time had been about three million years previously - a brief liaison with a concussed female boxing champion on Red Dwarf. Yvonne McGruder. Pity she kept on calling him by the wrong name... But then, that Arnold Rimmer was the maggot who didn't believe in love. (Mostly because he'd never actually been capable of having a relationship with anyone, let alone with a woman.)

The years since his death seemed to have been the best years of his whole existence!

He _had_ to see her again. He really, really did.

[Mess Hall]

Having finished the tour, Natalina left to get some sleep. Rimmer played with the hologrammatic plum sauce that covered chicken leg on his plate. Being a hologram, he had no need for food ... but this food was something that he could actually taste. The computer-projected food somehow stimulated the part of his mind that 'tasted' food, and the part that 'smelled' it. He could eat and drink normal food, when he was in hard-light form, but it just wasn't the same. This really felt _real_ to him!

Although, right now, he wasn't interested.

Everyone else was busy at their posts, or sleeping or doing whatever the arrogant beings of this ship did. The mess hall was empty.

A voice startled him, "Oh, I heard that there was another ship. You must be the pilot?"

He knew that voice. He remembered every sexy intonation she had ever uttered. It was Nirvanah.

He turned to her ... and found himself talking as Ace, as a group of crew members entered behind her.

"Yes, I'm the poor chump whose old crate's just a bucket of rusting bolts that have been sitting out in the rain for a few years, compared to your magnificent craft. The name's Ace, my charming beauty. Might I have the pleasure of knowing your name?"

The others were off getting their own meals by now, but Rimmer still felt as if he was making a total fool of himself. How could he act towards her like that? ...but how did he know if she even remembered him......?

She gave a little sigh of pleasure as the full force of his charisma hit her, "My name is Nirvanah Crane, and the pleasure is all mine."

He gave her a charming smile, and gestured to the table opposite him, "Would you care to join me? Seems that tonight's dinner is a tad dull without someone to have a good, old chin-wag with. Crashing bore, if you know what I mean. And dinner with the captain wasn't something that interested me, frankly. I'd like to get to know the rest of the crew than reacquainting myself with the fairies in the land of Nod."

She gave a smile, "Well, if you'd like..." She sank down on the seat next to him, forgetting totally about getting something to actually eat. Somehow, he reminded her of someone ... but she just couldn't place it. The memory fluttered, teasingly, at the edge of her consciousness ... then vanished. But she did know that she was *very* attracted to him. There was something in him that made her recall the hero on a white horse that she'd dreamt about as a teen, so long ago... and there was something more. But, again, she couldn't place it.

Finding herself talking to him, mostly on autopilot, she gazed at him. He was the sexiest guy she'd ever seen. The most attractive thing about it was the fact that he didn't act as if he knew it. He was charming, too, and treated her with a respect that was genuine... and he lacked the arrogance of the rest of the holocrew. It was refreshing - a man who didn't think that he was God.

She started a little as he repeated her name.

"Oh, sorry... I was just thinking about something for a moment. What did you say, Ace?"

He just smiled his winning smile at her, without a hint of disapproval for her lack of concentration, and said, "If you really don't mind being shacked up for a while with just a test pilot, rather than all of your intelligent and handsome crew members, I wouldn't mind taking time out for a little sex. It's been a while - hopping dimensions and all - so I might be a little rusty."

"Oh, of course I wouldn't. A sexy guy like you needs to have a work out now and again. My schedule's empty for the next few hours," she stood up, and brushed back a lock of her hair that had fallen across her face, "My room is quite comfortable."

Rimmer stood up, and followed her. They chatted about this and that while they walked, Rimmer's mind not really on the conversation, just on her. He felt a little strange, asking for some sex just like that... but he just wanted to be alone with her for a while. Plus, sex was just a recreation here - a health regulation. He loved her, so why couldn't he make love to her? On top of that, he hadn't had sex in the last couple of hundred years, and was really, really horny.

[Nirvanah's Room]

Nirvanah pressed a switch on the computer, and said, "Privacy on."

She then turned to the man, sitting on her bed.

"So, Mr Ace, what do you do?" She walked to him, and sat down on the bed next to him, "You're quite a new type of hologram..."

Rimmer reached down to a small, black control box attached to his belt, and pressed a button. It didn't do much, physically, being on a holoship, but he changed from being hard-light to soft-light.

"When I'm like this, I'm just a normal hologram and can't touch anything, normally."

She looked at him in some surprise. "Whenever did this technology get used? We'd speculated on such a thing, but even our computer couldn't formulate a way to put it into practice!"

As she studied his facial features, she paused, and a frown crossed over her pretty features. Recognition flashed across her face.

"What's wrong?" Rimmer asked as she stood up, half turning away from him.

"I'm sorry, Ace, I can't have sex with you."

All Rimmer could think of to say was, "What's wrong?" again. So, he said it.

"What's wrong?"

"You're such a sweet man, you really are, but... you just remind me of someone. He's very special to me..... although we've evolved passed love, I guess that I'm not as intellectually superior as I thought. I ... love him... and so, I can't have sex with you. It would just seem ... wrong." Nirvanah finished on a sigh.

Rimmer steeled himself, reached up, and removed the wig that he was wearing. Underneath, his hair was dark brown, short and slightly curled. It wasn't soft hair, it was wiry, but it was neat. He looked more like the old Arnold J Rimmer.

He spoke in his normal, slightly nasally voice, "Nirvanah..."

"Arnie?" Her eyes widened as she turned back to him, "What is going on?"

"I... I'm sorry about the whole Ace business. I just had to see you again." He looked down at the floor as he spoke, "I've changed, look at me. A new outfit. New hair. New hard-light projection. New knowledge," He tapped his forehead as he spoke, "Myself from another dimension made a new man out of me, Nirvanah. The ship's computer decided that here was to be the testing grounds for my new self. If the others on this ship believed that I was, in fact, Ace Rimmer, I'd succeed. I'd be a success for a change! Someone who's okay. So I just couldn't tell you before..."

"I never thought that I'd see you again, Arnie. You gave up your whole dream for me!" She sank down on the bed next to him, tears starting to form in the corner of her eyes, "Arnie, how stupid you were to do that!"

Rimmer swallowed and looked into her eyes, "It was stupid of you to have given up your hologrammatic life for me, Nirvanah. I... I love you too much to let you do that for me."

That had been even more difficult to say than saying goodbye to the crew aboard Starbug. In fact, saying goodbye to them was easy in comparison. He'd never been any good with feelings. Saying what he just said had been the emotional equivalent of having his teeth pulled out by a psychopathic dentist with a rusty pair of pliers.

"Oh, Arnie..."

He managed a smile, looking at her hopefully.

She took his hand in hers, "You know this isn't right... We're just meant to explore the universe and have fantastic sex, at least twice a day. We shouldn't be in love. But sex was never the same after you'd left. It was still exercise, but there was never anything ..." She paused to search for the right word, "... different about it. Just meaningless, sweaty grinding away, hour after hour with man after man. Constant, steamy sex, day after day."

Rimmer twitched a little as she spoke.

"But none of it was with you, Arnie. I really did miss you," She looked up at him with her beautiful, wide eyes. There was no taunting or teasing in her eyes - she really did mean what she said.

He leaned towards her slightly, caught in her innocent gaze.

Ever so slowly, she lifted her face up to his. Her pink, soft lips parted slightly for a kiss. As her lips hovered inches away from his, Rimmer could feel her sweet, hologrammaticaly simulated breath against his face. He could do nothing but wait, her lips so tantalisingly close to his... and then her lips brushed against his.

So soft and delicate was her kiss that he was stunned at the shudder of pleasure that went through him. For the merest second, he felt like he was in heaven.

Ever so slowly, they broke off their kiss. Nirvanah was trembling inside.
She looked up at him through her dark eye lashes. Both were inexperienced at love.

Rimmer slid his arms around her and drew her close. He could feel her body, pressing against his, arousing him intensely. He'd definitely need a _jumbo_ quatro-formaggio pizza with extra olives at the end of this!

Reaching down, Nirvanah placed her hands on his hips, and slowly pulled him back against her. Their lips met again as they moved down against the bed. As their kisses grew more passionate, their hands started to explore and caress each other's bodies. Rimmer's body felt wonderfully heavy against her own. She was feeling a passion that she'd never really known before, and it felt wonderful... Even the last time she'd been with him, there had been a wall. They'd both had to pretend that it meant nothing to either of them. This time she was free to explore her own feelings as she joined with him.

As Rimmer's hands brushed through Nirvanah's elaborate coiffeur, he kissed her deeply, his lips open and his tongue searching out hers. She felt so soft and warm underneath him, it felt so right to him. His body started to rock against her, and she matched his movements. He heard her murmur softly, and suddenly she was naked beneath him.

"Undress," he whispered a command to his own light bee, the little computer controlled device that projected him. His clothing disappeared, and he gloried in the sudden feeling of her smooth, velvety skin against his.

They kissed each other, Rimmer's lips moving from hers to leave a trail of kisses over her face and neck. He softly moaned with need for her as her gentle touch spread shivers through him.

Pushing back up against him, Nirvanah wrapped a leg around his hip, her sex tingling, sending fires of need rushing through her. Arching her back slightly, she whispered his name.

As their bodies rolled over again, naked and covered in a sheen of perspiration, abruptly the ship's klaxon started blaring.

In a knee-jerk reaction, they both jumped apart, ordering their clothes on. It was worse than having a bucket of ice water poured over them! Looking at each other for a moment, frowns on both their faces, Nirvanah turned away, fixed her hair, and touched her private computer.

"Privacy off," she said after Arnold put on his wig, "What's the problem, Captain?"

On the screen, Platini looked rather flustered, though he tried to give the outward appearance of calm.

"Greetings, Commander Crane. It seems that there is a rogue simulant ship out there with holo-weaponry, and they're daring to attack us. No matter, we will defeat them, but I think that you should take up your position on the bridge. Ah, Commander Rimmer is there with you. Commander, if you would join us on the bridge, please."

"Yes, Captain," Nirvanah replied. She switched the screen off and turned to Rimmer, "It seems that we are needed..."

Rimmer's face took on some of his old look, "Attack? Umm... well, it seems that we are."

"Don't worry, we'll have time later," she smiled at him and lightly kissed his lips.

Rimmer followed Nirvanah out, feeling somewhat confused and more than a little afraid. But he was also determined to show his lover that he'd changed. He was going to do his best to be brave.

[On the Bridge]

"What is the probability of success," Natalina asked the computer, enunciating her words with a Russian accent, "Against the simulant ship?"

She was talking more for the benefit of the rest of the crew than for the computer - it required typed commands. Her fingers clicked speedily over the keyboard, her eyes focused on the screen.

"Stocky says that we have a 68% chance of success."

"68?" Platini was dumbfounded. How could something have a 32% chance at beating them? They were the best of the best - the creme of the Space Corps!

Natalina kept her cool, "Yes Captain. It seems that their weaponry is superior to our own, and that they have more experience at fighting than ourselves. Of course, being mere robots, however psycopathic they are, we are superior in every other way."

Nevaro looked over to the captain. "She's right, sir. They only live to destroy, and do not care that we are more likely to win. If we disable their craft, there will be no threat as they have no hand-to-hand holo-weaponry."

Platini swept back his blow-dried hair, "Well, lets see what we can do, then. Where is Commander Crane? She's the most adept at flying this ship."

As if by magic, the bridge's automatic doors slid opened, Nirvanah stepping in, followed by Rimmer.

"Crane reporting, sir." She saluted, and stepped up to her station.

"It's so good of you to make it, commander," the captain said, saluting back, "Proceed to formulate an attack plan and then we'll be on our way to study the twin suns in the next quadrant. Now, Mr Rimmer, perhaps you would like to take a seat and enjoy the spectacle. It won't take long, but when the simulant's ship explodes, I'm sure that you'll enjoy seeing the fireworks."

With that, he turned back to his console.

Rimmer was left to himself. Nirvanah turned to him for a moment and they shared a worried look. A slight shrug, and she turned back to her job.

Looking at the monitor, Rimmer recognised the ship before them. It looked like the one that had attacked Starbug, Red Dwarf's ship-to-surface vessel, all those years ago. Platini seemed to be trivialising the matter too much - did he know what to expect? The last time that he'd encountered one of the murdering simiulant beings, he and the rest of the crew, had been used as game for their sort - hunting down and killing humanoids. It had largely been a matter of luck that had saved them - but even then, the simulant captain had had a trick up his sleeve.

He'd spread a computer virus to their ship, leaving it careering into the path of an oncoming planet! This time, they'd been saved only through the efforts of the whole crew. An antidote was found at the last second, and they were saved from being made into a large metal and squishy bits pancake.

These man-made beings had been designed only for war - the ultimate warriors. Only they had turned on their human masters. In fact, they'd turned on each other, too, and a lot of murdering and killing and orgies of blood had occurred before the human race could dismantle most of them. A few had escaped into deep space... these few were smarter and more devious than the others.

They were not to be taken lightly - the simulant ship was contolled by intelligent, crafty, sadistic beings who's only pleasure was that of seeing another being slowly and cruely killed.

The Enlightenment was a prize - these simulants would stop at nothing to destroy all the holograms on the ship.

And Rimmer knew that there was more to the situation than it seemed... they would never attack another ship stronger than they were. They enjoyed playing with their prize before the killing started.

It had to be a trap.

The simulant ship had been firing steady blasts at the holoship, sending objects skittering everywhere, and crew members falling over themselves to keep standing. Only in the bridge did things seem calmer.

The scream of the ship klaxon was softer in here, and the crew were much more composed.

But, even to Rimmer, who was terrified beyond belief, there was something wrong with the situation.

The attacks were just too ..... He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but there was something fishy going on.

[Outside]

The stars sparkled distantly against a backdrop of darkness and two ships in the midst of combat. The stars continued on their eternal dance, cold and uncaring as brief blasts of light and heat burned, scarred and twisted the outer casing of the two ships - one of light, one of metal. The twinkling lights danced on in the deep silence... the ships raging in a silent battle...

[Inside the Enlightenment]

Rimmer watched the battle from his seat. Blasting apart the Enlightenment wouldn't do much. The ship was hardly there, anyway - it was just a hologram. As soon as the computer was able, it would repair the holoship by reloading the ship's projection program. The lack of oxygen wouldn't kill the crew, either. Why were the simulants shooting at them?

He watched the return barrage hitting the simulant's ship. Chunks of the outer hull were being blown away, but still the attack came.

Did they hope to somehow board and use hand-to-hand weaponry on the crew, personally? How else could they kill the crew? Attacking like this wouldn't do a thing - the best that they could hope for would be to hit a few of the holoship's crew with the blast as they were shooting through the ship. But what was the chance of killing many before their own ship was destroyed? It seemed more and more like a suicide mission for the simulants to Rimmer, the more he thought about it. It just didn't fit.

What were they trying to do? What?

His eyes searched the room, over the others as they concentrated on their tasks, keeping themselves steady as blasts shook the ship.

He didn't understand. What were they trying to do?

His eyes swept back to the monitor...

Then back again. He stopped and stared.

Stocky! They were going to destroy the ship's computer, and - in one shot - all hologrammatic life abord the ship! All they needed was a few solid hits on the computer banks, and the Enlightenment would cease to exist!

Sure, he would live, as he had his own, personal light bee, and wasn't projected from the ship. But...

His eyes went to Nirvanah. She would no longer exist.

He just couldn't let that happen.

He stood up and addressed the room.

"I'm going to my ship, old friends. Maybe a bit of diversion to let you boys and girls take them out. Who knows - I might get a lucky shot or two in and actually get to hit the blighters before you blow them all to Kingdom Come and Back Again."

He gave a salute, "Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast."

Without looking - unable to look at Nirvanah again, maybe for the last time - he turned and marched out.

He didn't see Nirvanah watch him go.

Nor did he see her mouthing, "I love you, Arnie."

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Well, this is a test to see if anyone likes anything non-Ranma that I write. And to see if people can pick up the characters, if they've never seen the show first.

Also looking for C&C, too...

It's my first non-Ranma fanfic, and it's also a non-anime fanfic (*shock! horror!*), but hopefully it was enjoyable anyway.

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All characters portrayed in this fanfic are copyright of Grant Naylor, etc, etc, etc.

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Ja, mata!

Kunoichi@AnimeMUCK
Kunoichi@AnimeMUSH
Lum@RanmaMUCK
Akane@KawaiiMUCK
Ukyou@Furtoonia
Kodachi@FictionMUCK
Caroline@RealLife

Kunoichi's Fanfics

Seawright, C , Death is Not the End, Short Story, <http://www.thekeep.org/~kunoichi/ kunoichi/themestream/ death_is_not_the_end.html>.

© Caroline 'Kunoichi' Seawright 2000 - present

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