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Work Experience

by Andraste

[Story Headers]

The way Arnold Judas Rimmer saw it, there were three steps to follow when becoming an intergalactic hero. For all the drivel his predecessor had spouted, the job description was pretty straightforward provided you approached it logically:

  1. Dimension jump from one reality to another, looking for wrongs to right.
  2. Find people to rescue, including attractive women.
  3. Have constant guilt-free sex with attractive women after rescuing them.

After almost a month on the job, though, Rimmer was finding it more challenging than he'd feared. He'd traded in Ace's ship, with its confusing controlls and limited leg room, for a more sedate but larger craft a few dimensions back. (Getting rid of the AI that wouldn't stop comparing him unfavourably to the previous model had been a happy bonus.) He'd mastered the voice easily, although the trademark swagger still made him look like a man hunting for the closest latrine, or failing that a convenient tree. He'd even gotten used to wearing an outfit that made him feel as if someone was about to pop him in the oven and reheat him.

It was more the actual heroics that were presenting a problem. Rimmer just hadn't found a situation that seemed both worthy of his intervention and relatively safe. He didn't feel up to defeating Evil Empires or going head to head with rogue GELFs just yet. After all, it would be a pity to get himself killed straight off by taking on more than he could handle. Perhaps he should start out fighting extremely small and non-threatening monsters, or rescuing cats from trees, and work his way up.

Even worse than the lingering cowardice was the nagging feeling in the pit of Rimmer's hologramatic stomach that he strongly suspected was homesickness. For, of all the scummy, weevil-infested mobile hellholes, Starbug. Little as he'd enjoyed being stuck with his crewmates, had had to admit he was half-tempted to turn around and beg them to take him back. Not that they ever would, of course - they were probably still celebrating his imaginary wake.

The temptation had reached its peak the night before, in an extremely disturbing dream about Dave Lister that Rimmer was just going to pretend had never happened. Clearly the only solution was to fling himself head first into his new role and become the hero he was born to be, or to go out and get blinding drunk.

The bar in the backwater dimension he'd chosen was full of more individual species of space scum than Lister's dirty sock basket, and about as pleasant.

Aliens had turned out to be much less impressive in reality than they'd always been in Rimmer's imagination. After the first few reality hops, he'd soon realised that they were more or less like ordinary people, only in a wide variety of novelty colours and with optional attachments such as tentacles and eyestalks. He hadn't spotted any with six breasts yet, but even though it could only be a matter of time he wasn't sure he was still looking forward to it. After spending fifteen minutes trying to remember how to engage the universal translator in his upgraded hardlight drive without the remote, he'd been wishing he'd picked somewhere where everyone spoke English.

He'd eventually worked it out and managed to order himself a glass of Mysterious Blue Liquid. Rimmer had been sipping it gingerly at long intervals for about half an hour when the girl leaped up from a table in the corner and bolted for the door, just as the men in black came in. There were have a dozen of them, dressed in leather and body armor, heavily armed - prime Evil Empire material. He briefly considered opposing them on general principles, but then, weren't even the minions of an Evil Empire entitled to a quiet drink now and again, without the Forces of Good giving them a hard time?

Except, of course, they weren't there for a drink. They'd come for the girl (certainly attractive, in a monochromatic sort of way) who'd tried to run away. Although Rimmer certainly understood the impulse, he could see that she wasn't going to get far. Sure enough, the first one in the door shot her with a little yellow bolt of light that made her fall down, stunned.

Rimmer glanced around, but the other patrons were doing their best to keep out of the way - they must recognise the uniforms as belonging to people not to be trifled with. He wondered why he hadn't already dived behind the bar - it was usually an automatic reflex at the first sign of a fight. He should have been cowering in abject terror seconds ago.

But Ace Rimmer didn't cower.

Over the years, Rimmer had met more than a few versions of himself, and he hadn't liked a single one of them. Yet although he hadn't precisely enjoyed his meetings with Ace, his recent encounter with the future self who had attacked Starbug had shown him that things could get a lot worse. If he had to choose between becoming a smug, self-important git wrapped in BacoFoil, or an overweight canary with the moral fibre of runny custard, he knew which he wanted to be.

Ace Rimmer would never let any men in black - even if some of them were, in fact, women - harm a defenceless (and attractive) young woman when he was there to stop them. If he was ever going to be worthy of the title, he had to step in. Millions of Rimmers before him had pulled off feats that had altered the fate of universes. Surely he could rescue one girl?

"Excuse me, chaps," he said, getting off his stool, "I wonder if I might interrupt for just a moment?" It wasn't the best opening line in the history of heroism, but it was a start. Two of the men turned to look at him as another reached down to haul their groggy quarry to her feet. "I was wondering if you'd mind terribly, er, unhanding that woman?"

"Don't interfere in Peacekeeper business," one of them said, rather rudely in Rimmer's opinion, especially given the way he was pointing his gun.

"Listen, me laddio, I happen to object to your tone. Now let her go, or you'll have to answer to me."

The soldiers looked at him, and then at each other, apparently incredulous. Come to think of it, Rimmer was pretty incredulous himself. But the interval was all the time the girl needed to twist free of the man who had hold of her and kick him in a place that made Rimmer wince in sympathy. After that, it was all a blur. One of the women raised her gun to fire at the girl again, and some instinct Rimmer was sure he hadn't possessed five weeks ago made him lunge at her. He managed to knock the shot off course as one of her comrades shot him.

Rimmer's life (and death) flashed unpleasantly before his eyes, and he was convinced that he was destined to have the shortest career as Ace in history. Absolutely typical.

Then the bolt of light hit him - and bounced.

He stood there for a moment, stunned by disbelief, even as the person who'd shot him crumpled to the floor. The last time he'd been hit with an energy weapon it had knocked his light bee out for weeks - this lot must have it tuned theirs the wrong spectrum or something. Unfortunately, his attackers recovered from the shock before Rimmer did, and took the very sensible step of abandoning their weapons down in favour of hitting him instead. Meanwhile, the girl made another dash for the door, which Rimmer considered very poor form. Clearly she was meant to hang about and be rescued properly, so she could be grateful later.

Surrounded by glistening black uniforms containing bodies that had obviously been training for this since before they were old enough to tie their own laces, Rimmer was out of options. The blows they rained down on him were having little effect - his hardlight form was nothing if not robust - but they still hurt. To his own surprise, Rimmer swung a punch at one of the soldiers. Admittedly, it didn't have do much other than startle him, but Rimmer followed up with a move that almost always worked in a tight spot, and kneed him in the groin.

And there he was, in an actual brawl, throwing actual punches that sometimes even connected with something. It was just like the saloon in that silly dream of Kryten's, and he didn't feel in any more control of what he was doing. Perhaps it was the suit.

Rimmer was sure that he'd have pulled the whole thing off, too, if only his wig hadn't slipped and fallen over his eyes.

"So this other you went off and became a hero, got killed, and now you feel like you have to take his place? Sounds like something that happened to a guy I know. Do all humans have a thing about saving the galaxy?" Chiana said.

After a few moments of blind (literally) panic, Rimmer had managed to break free of his attackers and make a dash for the door, getting the direction right based on sheer cowardly instinct. He hadn't gone far before someone who had turned out to be his damsel in distress grabbed him and hauled him into an alley. She'd told him her name, encouraged him to hide behind some refuse until the Peacekeepers went away, and then offered to buy him a drink at another bar. He was liking her better with every glass of Mysterious Green Liquid. For that matter, he was liking the Mysterious Green Liquid, which tasted as if it should come topped with a little umbrella.

"You've met other humans?" Rimmer asked. She'd told him that the people trying to capture her had been Sebaceans, whatever those were.

"Just Crichton," she replied.

"You know Kryten?" Rimmer said. "Pedantic know-it-all? Obsessed with ironing? Head shaped like a cubist sculpture gone horribly wrong?"

Chiana grinned, showing pink gums, and Rimmer wondered idly whether she was grey all over or ... not. "Doesn't sound like my Crichton at all."

"Probably just a coincidence then." Still, it was a big multiverse. Maybe there was a non-mechanoid version of the jumped-up lavatory brush out there somewhere. Stranger things had happened. "You haven't heard of the Quagaar by any chance?" he asked.

"Doesn't sound familiar - what's a Quagar?"

"That's Quagaar," Rimmer said, "with two As. They were meant to give me a new body." He took another sip from his glass.

"Something the matter with this one?" she said reaching over to touch his chest.

"You mean other than the fact that I'm dead and made entirely out of light? I didn't mention that before?"

He certainly seemed to have mentioned everything else - Chiana was an excellent listener. She'd nodded and smiled while he'd told her about his life and adventures, and steered the conversation away from herself at every opportunity. She seemed to prefer discussing the specifications of his spaceship, which she obviously found intriguing, and Rimmer had been perfectly happy to tell her everything he could remember. It was so nice to meet a girl who didn't bang on about herself the entire time.

"Funny," she said, moving her hand to his thigh, "you feel pretty solid. Hard to damage, too, from what I saw."

"It's, uh, hard light," Rimmer said, wondering if he was misinterpreting the gesture. "Almost impervious - that's why they couldn't hurt me."

"Hard light, huh?" she said with a grin. "Sounds fascinating."

He certainly wasn't misinterpreting that. "It is," he said, trying not to sound nervous and failing. "I mean, if you have an interest in the technology."

"Oh, I'm very interested ..." Chiana said, as her hand crept up his leg.

Rimmer's mind went beyond boggled an into the infraboggled spectrum. He knew that this was how it was meant to work: save the pretty girl, get a reward. However, one of the few things he had managed to establish about women was that they didn't find him attractive. Chiana didn't seem to be concussed, and as far as he knew she wasn't the product of a society where offering to have sex with someone was the rough equivalent of making them a cup of tea. Then again, perhaps she was. Maybe it was time the universe did him a favour.

"If you like, you could come and see my dimension jump engine," Rimmer said hopefully. Well, it was a step up from swimming certificates.

"I'd just love to see your engine," she replied. "Why don't we go back to your place, and you can ... show it to me."

With the benefit of hindsight, he probably should have realised what was going on when she started asking him about his drive specifications during foreplay. At the time, it was easy to put it down to a weird alien turn-on, given that his brain had almost totally disengaged by then.

"So, you have a working energy converter?" Chiana asked, licking his neck. The cabin wasn't large, and Rimmer's bunk didn't have much room for two. Still, if she was going to keep lying on top of him like that it wasn't going to be much of a problem.

"I think so," he managed to say. "To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how it works." At this point, he wasn't entirely sure how his knees worked. Just as well he was lying down, then.

"Maybe I could give you a few tips," she said kissing him.

Rimmer's brain made a last-ditch protest, and wondered why on Io she was doing this, but it was immediately drowned out by other portions of his anatomy. "We're not talking about engines now, are we?" he said.

"I think we've done enough talking ..." she said with a grin.

When Rimmer woke up the next morning, he was mildly hung over, sore in all kinds of interesting places, and his wrists were tied to the bunk. He was just trying to remember if they'd gotten up to bondage the night before when he heard an unfamiliar voice.

"Chiana? Is there anything valuable in here?"

Rimmer opened his eyes to see what looked like a hideously mutated frog riding a hovercraft. He closed his eyes, then opened them again, but it refused to vanish like a good hallucination should. As he watched in bleary-eyed disbelief, it managed to wrench his wardrobe door open. Suddenly the ropes seemed less indicative of an interesting evening, and more of a very unpleasant morning after.

"Hey!" he said. "What are you doing!?"

"Going through your possessions," the creature said. "I did not intend to wake you."

"Rygel," Chiana said, appearing in the doorway, "we need to -"

"What you need to do," Rimmer said through gritted teeth, "is untie me and explain what the smeg is going on."

"You're awake?" She actually had the nerve to smile at him. "I gotta admit, I'm impressed. I thought you'd be unconscious for hours after all that."

If possible, her good humour made Rimmer even angrier than he was already. "So this is the thanks I get for rescuing you? Trussed up like a plucked chicken in a shop window while that slimy excuse for a talking toad steals my things?"

"Look, Arnie, I'm sorry. But my friend and I need your energy converter so we can fix our ship and get off this rock, away from the Peacekeepers."

"I do not steal," Rygel said indignantly, "I procure. However, you have nothing else worth taking, and your anatomy is offending my eyes. Chiana, we should be going."

Instead of listening to her helpful animal companion and following him out the door, Chiana sat down on the end of Rimmer's bunk. He briefly considered kicking her, since they'd left his legs free, but settled for moving them as far away as possible instead. As he did, his bare foot touched something that had almost slipped down between the mattress and the wall. If that was what he thought it was ...

"Why didn't you just ask me to help?" he said, stalling for time as he squirmed in his bonds.

"Oh, sure. If I'd asked nicely you'd have just handed it over, right?"

"That's not the point! And how am I going to get away from the Peacekeepers without a working engine? They're probably looking for me as well by now!"

"Life in the Uncharted Territories is tough - you have to look out for yourself first. And hey, you're practically invulnerable and they're probably not that interested in you. They've been after me 'n Rygel for cycles now."

"I can't believe you'd seduce me just so you could get your hands on my engine parts," Rimmer said bitterly. "I suppose you'd just have knocked me over the head if I wasn't a hologram?"

"Probably," she said with a grin. "But it would have been less fun that way."

At that moment, Rimmer managed to hit the conversion button on his light bee remote with a toe.

The instant he turned to soft light, the ropes he'd been tied up with fell straight through his wrists. Chiana barely had time to leap backwards off the bunk in shock before he moved to wave a hologramatic hand over the light-sensitive control that turned him solid again.

"Hey," she said, backing away from him through the door into the cockpit, "neat trick. There's no need to be upset, we should just talk about this and -"

"Take it," he said, grabbling one of the rumpled sheets off the bed and wondering where his clothes had ended up the night before.

"What?" she said, backing away another step as he wrapped the sheet around himself and followed her.

"You heard me. Take the converter. Leave the rest of my stuff behind and get out."

"You're kidding me, right? Why the frell would you do that?"

"Because," Rimmer said, "I've spent my entire life looking out for myself, and not long ago I got a peek at the result. I didn't like it. So I'm going to help you, even though you cruelly used your body to lure me into a trap, and then let your extremely dubious-looking friend loot my ship."

Ace Rimmer would definitely give her the energy converter. Well, Ace Rimmer would have worked out that she was after the energy converter a lot sooner and given it to her then (no doubt winning her undying affection and even more sex) but the principle was the same. Plus, this way he definitely had the moral high ground, and could feel appropriately virtuous. Perhaps even a tiny bit smug.

"Thanks," Chiana said, with a tentative smile. "You humans are OK, you know? Completely frelling fahrbot, but OK."

"Just go," Rimmer said tiredly. "Fix your ship, don't get caught. I'd hate to have to save you a third time."

The alien girl closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling his head down into a kiss. Rimmer was strongly reminded of the night before, not to mention the fact that he was mostly naked ... still, it was something of a relief when she moved away. Another round and she'd probably be demanding the starboard thrusters as well.

"Bye, Ace," she said cheerfully. "If you ever get your ship working, maybe we'll see each other again some time." She blew him another kiss from the hatchway, and then she was gone.

After a few minutes hunting, Rimmer managed to recover most of the clothes he'd been wearing the night before, but his wig was nowhere to be found. The malformed amphibian had probably taken it. He looked into the ship's small mirror and frowned at his reflection - maybe it was possible to be an intergalactic hero with unmanageable hair. He'd have to give it a shot, anyway, or buy a new wig - and given that he was probably going to spend the next few days trying to find a compatible energy converter and avoid the Peacekeeper death squad, it was hardly a top priority. At least his own hair didn't make a habit of slipping off during a fight.

All things considered, the evening hadn't been a total disaster. He'd rescued a girl, and if she'd taken advantage of him, well, you had to expect the occasional femme fatale in this line of work. What's more, for once in his life he'd actually managed to do the right thing. Maybe he did have the potential, after all.

Besides, he'd now had a lot more experience with Step Three. How difficult could the rest be?

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Fandom:  Farscape, Other (Red Dwarf)
Title:  Work Experience
Author:  Andraste   [email]   [website]
Details:  Standalone  |  PG-13  |  het  |  19k  |  06/11/05
Characters:  Arnold Rimmer, Chiana
Pairings:  Rimmer/Chiana
Summary:  Arnold Rimmer meets a mysterious grey girl.
Notes:  Continuity-wise, this is Season Seven, post-'Stoke Me A Clipper' for Red Dwarf. For Farscape, it's between Season Three and Season Four. And probably rather AU.
Disclaimer/Other:  I do not own Rimmer, Chiana or the various other copyrighted things in this story. Nor do I make any money whatsoever out of writing about them. Darn.

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