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Third Console Officer Kristine Kochanski had a face. That was the first thing Lister noticed about her. It wasn’t a beautiful face. But it was a nice face. It wasn’t a face that could launch a thousand ships. Maybe two ships and a small yacht. That was, until she smiled. When she smiled, her eyes lit up like a pinball machine when you win a bonus game. And she smiled a lot.

Lister could perhaps have survived the smile. But it was when he found the smile was attached to a sense of humour that he became irretrievably lost.

They were both standing at the bar, queuing to get a drink, and Lister was looking at her in a not-looking-at-her kind of way; in the bar mirror, in the reflection in his beer glass, over his shoulder, pretending to look at Petersen, at the ceiling just above her head, and occasionally, because it was permitted, directly at her. His heart sank when a tanned, white-uniformed officer, who obviously knew her, came up and touched her on the shoulder. Touched her on the shoulder - just like she was some kind of ordinary person. It really made Lister mad.

The tanned, white-uniformed officer noticed a book sticking out of her black jacket pocket. Lister had noticed it too. It was called Learn Japanese, by Dr P. Brewis.

‘"Learn Japanese"?’ the officer snorted, ‘Talk about pretentious!’

What she said next tipped Lister over the edge.

‘Pretentious?’ she placed her hand on her chest, ‘Watashi?’

Lister didn’t know any Japanese but he guessed rightly, that it was an adaptation of the ‘Pretentious? Moi?’ joke.

The officer just looked at her blankly.

She got her drinks and went back to her seat, while Lister was still trying to think of something to say which would start a conversation.

For the next hour Petersen droned on about the supply station at the Uranian moon, Miranda, where Red Dwarf was due to stop off for supplies in seven weeks. It was to be their only shore leave between Saturn and Triton, and Petersen was telling him what a great time they were going to have. But Lister wasn’t listening. He was looking across the crowded cocktail bar, trying to calculate the amount of drink left in the glass of the girl with the pinball smile and her female companion, so he could be at the bar just as she arrived, and casually offer to buy her a drink.

Who was he kidding? How do you casually offer to buy someone a drink, without making it sound like ‘I want you to have my babies’? If he hadn’t been crazy about her, it wouldn’t have been a problem. Lister never had any troubles asking women for a date, provided he wasn’t too keen on them. When he was, which didn’t happen too often, he had all the charm, wit, and self-possession of an Alsatian dog after a head-swap operation.

She got up to the bar. Lister got up, too. They exchanged smiles, ordered drinks, and went back to their separate tables.

Damn. Smeg. Blew it.

She got up again.

‘My round,’ said Petersen, rising. Lister thrust him back in his chair and went to the bar. They exchanged smiles and ‘Hi’s this time, ordered their drinks, and went back to their separate tables.

Damn. Smeg. Blew it again.

She’d hardly sat down before she was getting up again. The two girls’ glasses were full.

She’s going for peanuts, thought Lister.

‘You want some peanuts?’ he asked Petersen.

‘No, thanks.’

‘I’ll go and get some.’

They stood at the bar again. They exchanged smiles again. Then she introduced herself and asked him out for a date.

And so it began.

Lister became a walking cliché. His senses were heightened, so even the foul, recycled air of the ship tasted crisp and spring-like. He went off his food. He stopped drinking. Pop lyrics started to mean something to him. Magically he became better looking; he’d heard that this happened, but he’d never really believed it. He’d got out of bed before his alarm clock went off - unheard of. He started to marvel at the view out of the viewport window.

And his face acquired three new expressions. Three expressions which he’d stolen from her. Three expressions which, on her, he’d found adorable. He wasn’t even aware of copying them, and he certainly wasn’t aware of how stupid he looked when he pulled them. Because Third Console Officer, Kristine Kochanski, a.k.a. ‘Babes’, a.k.a. ‘Ange’ (short for Angel), a.k.a. ‘Krissie’, a.k.a. (‘K.K.’), ‘Sweetpea’ and a host of others too nauseating to recount, was madly, electrically in love with him.

Lister’s all-time favourite movie was Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, and, just to make things totally perfect, it happened to be Kochanski’s too. They sat in bed - Kochanski’s bunk-mate, Barbara, had been chased away to the ship’s cinema yet again - eating hot dogs doused in mustard, and watching, for the third consecutive night, It’s A Wonderful Life on the sleeping quarters’ vid-screen.

Suddenly, in the middle of the scene where Jimmy Stewart’s father dies, Lister found himself for the first time in his life talking about his father’s death.

It wasn’t, of course his real father, but he was only six at the time and he didn’t know then that he’d been adopted. It had been a gloriously hot day in mid-summer, and the six-year-old Lister was given toys and presents by everyone. It was better than Christmas. He remembered wishing at the time that a few more people would die, so he could complete his Lego set.

She held his hand and listened.

‘My grandmother tried to explain. She said he’d gone away, and he wasn’t coming back. So I wanted to know where, and she told me he was very happy, and he’d gone to the same place as my goldfish.’ Lister toyed absently with his plaited locks. ‘I thought they’d flushed him down the bog. I used to stand with my head down the loo, and talk to him. I thought he was just round the U-bend. In the end, they had to take me to a child psychologist, because they found me with my head down the pan, reading him the football scores.’

This had never struck Lister as being funny. But when Kochanski started roaring with laughter, he started laughing too. It was like a geyser going off. Something was exorcised. And as they lay in the crumb-laden sheets, wrapped in each other’s arms, giggling like idiots - and even though they’d only been dating for three-and-a-half short weeks - Lister knew more certainly than he’d ever known anything in his life before that they’d be together, forever.



Seven months into deep space, while Rimmer sat at his slanting architect’s desk under the pink glow of his study lamp, Lister stared out of the sleeping quarters’ viewport window, longing to be bored again.

He’d been not going out with Kochanski now for three weeks.

The whole affair, the glorious ‘forever’ he’d imagined, had lasted just over a month. Then one evening in her sleeping quarters, as Lister arrived to take her to a movie, she’d told him she wanted to break it off. He’d laughed. He thought it was a joke. But it wasn’t.

She’d been seeing ‘Tom’ (or was it ‘Tim’?), a Flight Navigation Officer, for almost two years. Tom or Tim (it may have been Tony) had left her for a fling with some brunette in Catering. And Lister had been a rebound thing. She hadn’t realised it at first, but when Tom, Tim, Tony or Terry, or whatever the smeg he was called, had turned up at her door, having dumped the brunette in Catering, she’d gone scurrying back.

There were tears, there were apologies, and pathetic clichéd platitudes: they could still be friends; if he met Trevor, he’d really like him she wished she were two people so she could love both of them ad nauseum.

She’d returned the blue jumper he’d left. She’d returned his DAT tapes, and offered to give back the necklace he’d bought her, which, of course, he’d declined.

And that was that.

Except it wasn’t. Because now she was everywhere. Everything he did, he did without her. Everywhere he went, he went without her. When he went shopping, he didn’t go shopping, he went shopping without Kochanski. When he went to the bar, he went to the bar without Kochanski. She’d infected every part of his life. His mental map of the ship now judged all distances in relation to her sleeping quarters, or the Drive Room, where she worked. He wasn’t walking on such-and-such a corridor, he was walking on such-and-such a corridor which was n floors above or n floors below where she was at that precise moment.

So he lay on his bunk, staring out of the viewport window, longing for the anaesthetic of the stupefying monotony which he used to feel two short months earlier.

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I should really get around to buying my own copies of the Red Dwarf books.

type that up yourself did you?


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