Author's Note: Originally a Red Dwarf fanfic, now heavily rewritten. Not sure if it still counts as a fanfiction. Please let me know what you think. Alice is somewhat like a female Rimmer, but I wouldn't compare Lucinda to Lister.
Lucinda's Journal Entry 15th September 2118
Shift 13 always get the cruddiest jobs to do. I've got to trail after Alice, my supervisor, shoving this trolley while she takes notes on the trivial stuff that's broken down. Like vending machines. I hum as I push the trolley down the softly lit corridor. The lighting is rosy pink. It's pretty, I guess. The atmosphere on board this ship is nicer than the air in the space station, too.
I hum "Bring back my Bobby to me." It's an old tune, but I think it's romantic.
Alice, my superior, doesn't agree. She whirls round, her blue eyes flashing.
"Lucinda, are you winding me up?"
She calls me 'Lucinda' when she's annoyed.
"Not at all, Alice," I say, scrunching my nose at her.
"Then stop humming."
I stop humming and whistle the tune instead.
Alice stops the trolley by a vending machine and rounds on me. "One more sound, anything at all, and you're on report."
I shut my mouth and nod.
"Now what job number's this?" she asks, opening her notebook.
I mouth at her silently, careful not to make a sound.
Alice glares at me and scribbles in her notebook. "Right, that's it. I'm telling the captain."
I've got to reason with her. "Alice I'm bored."
"Bored? This is essential routine maintenance. It's essential to the mission and the wellbeing of the crew." She tuts and examines the machine. "Now can this machine still dispense toffee crisp bars?"
Essential indeed. What would the crew do if they couldn't get toffee crisp bars? Alice really is a wishful thinker. We've got all the most rubbish jobs on the Rosasphere. The girl who maintains the toilets is more important than us.
"Pass me a 2B pencil, Luce," says Alice. She's calling me Luce again. Her flash of rage has passed.
I pass her a pencil. She breathes through her nose, annoyed again. "Is this a 2B? Does it look anything like a 2B?" She picks up an identical pencil. "This is a 2B, Luce. You handed me a 2C!"
At that moment, someone comes down the corridor to us.
Oh great Galaxy! My heart skips. It's Baldr, the second in command on the Rosasphere. His eyes are blue like glaciers. I swear, he's so gorgeous, he lights up the corridor like a golden comet. I hastily smooth my long hair over my shoulders and make sure I'm standing up straight.
"Hello, Alice. Hello, Luce."
Stars and Planets, he knows my name and that I like to be called Luce!
I stammer at him like an idiot. He beams at me, his smile a tiny bit crooked. I've never seen anything or anyone so lovely. Alice smirks.
Baldr turns to Alice. "Alice, I see you've filed a complaint against Luce on a count of insubordination."
"She stood on my foot, Sir," says Alice stiffly.
"It was an accident!" I protest.
Baldr holds up his hand pacifically. "Girls, you must try to get on. There are 84 of us, on a ship 100 feet in diameter."
"Yes, Baldr," I reply. "I – I'll do my best." I know I'm gazing at his lovely face like an idiot and I bet I'm blushing so my face is red as my hair…
Alice makes a scoffing sound.
Baldr clasps my hands and smiles his dazzling smile. His grip is pleasantly firm. He smells like apples and blackberries. Oh planets. I can't believe he's clasping my hands. I wish I could say something impressive, but right now I'm just thinking how skinny I am, and about my carrot hair, my too fair skin, my too many freckles. Pathetic, isn't it?
"Take note, Alice." Says Baldr. "Luce wants to improve."
Alice sneers. "Yeah, I think I know what inspires her."
In the mess hall, there's a bit of a weird announcement. Tess, the captain, a pallid, pudgy lady, introduces this other lady. She's tall, with an aquiline face and hair almost as red as mine – but I can see right through her. I mean I can actually see the mess hall right through her. She's transparent, like a ghost.
Tess gestures to her. "This is Davinia Rothman, architect of the Rosasphere. I appreciate that not all of you have travelled with a Virtual Projection, or VP before. I want you to treat her as you would any crewmember."
She sits down. Davinia smiles a tight-lipped smile. "Thank you, Tess. I am a Virtual Projection. I appreciate that this may seem spooky to some of you, but I have died. And now I am back as a computer simulation. Or Virtual Projection. It is routine for the Star Corp to download the personalities of all of its crew members and refine those personalities into algorithms that can be used to bring them back as VPs in the event of their deaths."
She gestures with a wide weeping gesture, as if she wants to grab us all in her arms. Who taught her how to make speeches?
"This is the Rosasphere's maiden voyage. I designed the Rosasphere to be capable of both interplanetary and interstellar travel. The ship is a perfect sphere, 100 feet in diameter with perfectly simulated gravity. The northern hemisphere is for crew. The southern hemisphere is a self-sustaining ecosystem, with algae fields and sunlamps as the basis. On an interstellar flight, the Rosasphere would become a generation ship, and the crew farmers. Then the Star Corp rule would apply – quad marriages, three women and one man each."
There's some sniggering at that. Real mature, girls and guys. I'm just thinking that on one of these interstellar trips, I'd better be Baldr's wife. I think I could stand his having two other wives. I know he'd come to really love me if he'd got to know me, and the awful, arranged marriage idea wouldn't hurt so much anymore…
Davinia continues. "But this maiden voyage is an interplanetary mission at a mere cruising speed, to transport a cargo of lab cats to the Asteroid Base. They've been experimented on with retro-viroids."
I sit up and take notice. What's she on about? Who'd dare hurt a kitty? I had a cat, back on Earth. The thought of someone putting retro-viroids in her makes me angry.
I glare at Alice, trying to convey that I want an explanation. She raises her eyebrows at me. I want answers now, but I'm useless at sign-language. I shake my head.
Alice runs her fingers through her short brown hair, and turns away. Well we're bunkmates in the poky dorm. I'll get an explanation then.
The ladies dorm is for all the girls who are not officers. All sixty of us. It's four to a bunk. Alice and I are both in a bottom bunk in the far corner. Alice grumbled about it at first, but she's not exactly my first choice either. I think you know I'd like to share with Baldr.
There's a vidscreen above us, with the image of a ghostly green, female face. It's Nebula 2000, the ship's computer. She's an AI who runs the ship. Supposed to have an IQ of like 5000 or something, but she doesn't have hands, so she couldn't do those silly IQ jigsaw puzzles.
Her dark green lips form a smile. "Good night, girls. May your dreams be sweet tonight."
"Good night, Nebs," most of us chorus, while Alice makes that scoffing sound.
Alice wriggles under the cover. She's a lot smaller than me, and she's complained about my long legs taking up room. "Try not to snore so much."
Ouch. I don't know why that offends me, but it does. "I do not snore!"
"Yes, you do. Like an adenoidal pig."
"I don't-" I remember what's really eating me. "Never mind. Alice, what was that about kitties being given retro-viruses?"
"You didn't know that, Luce? The retro-viroids give them extra DNA. It's supposed to accelerate their evolution over generations or something."
"Mm hmm. Go to sleep, freckleface."
The thought of a sweet, fluffy kitten being given some foul parasite brings tears to my eyes. Alice had lain back on the pillow, but now she stares at me, amazed. "Hey, hey." She wipes a tear away from my cheek. "It's alright. That's what they're for. The Star Corp paid for them."
Alice can be surprisingly dense at times, so I'll forgive her that one. "It's not alright. I hate cruelty to animals. I want to stop them."
I can see Alice's face in the near darkness, but I can't read her expression. She replies in a surprisingly soft voice. "Luce… you have to accept what you cannot change. You are a dreamer. There's nothing wrong with that, but sooner or later, you have to wake up. The universe is a cold and cruel place to those that don't. It's like with Baldr. You two cannot be together. He cannot settle down with a seventeen year old girl who's got no money, and no qualifications. It's best to put impossible dreams from your mind, or you will get hurt."
When do I ever listen to Alice? After she's asleep, I lie awake. Baldr, my love, must hate cruelty to animals too. I'll get the cats out of this somehow. And he'll admire me for being so brave. He'll shine his dazzling smile on me for it and take me in his arms. Alice will see that it doesn't matter if someone has no money or qualifications. Those are things she thinks are important. Well they're not. Courage is important. Kindness is important. Love is important.
I slip off the bunk. Alice does not stir. I tiptoe down the rosy lit corridors. I know where the animal cargo room is. The door is heavy and has a KEEP OUT sign, but I have a trick up my sleeve. A techno-tick. These little things scramble any circuitry. I set it into the lock. It's black and red striped. It latches onto the lock mechanism which soon glows red and gives way. The door opens inwards.
The lights come on when I cross the threshold. There are row upon row of cages. The cats look up at me and mew. They're all in tiny little cages! It breaks my heart. They should be allowed to roam and exercise, that's what kitties want to do!
I'm sorry to disobey the captain, but it has to be. I can't let cruelty to animals go on if I can do anything to stop it. And if Alice disagrees, well stuff her.
"It's OK, darlings. I'm getting you out. There's a chute to the Southern Hemisphere. You can roam the fields there." There's squeaking from a table nearby. There's a cage of white mice. Well I'm not going to leave them to have horrible experiments done on them when the Rosasphere reaches the Asteroid Base. I'm letting all the animals free.
Lucinda's Journal Entry 16th September 2118
OK, now I'm in trouble. It's a lot worse than being in trouble at school. Hauled in front of Tess the Captain is worse than being hauled in front of a headmistress.
"What were you thinking?" she storms. "Releasing the cats into the Southern Hemisphere Ecosystem? And the lab mice? We may not be able to round them all up in time."
Baldr's there too. He looks at me sadly, but says nothing.
"I – I'm sorry, Captain, Ma'am," I tell Tess. "I do respect you, but I hate cruelty to animals, and the idea of deliberately giving the cats retro-viroids makes me sick."
"We're just the transport. It's not up to us to decide on the medical ethics involved," yells Tess.
"I must stand by what I believe in. That is, kindness to all living creatures." Oh no. I think I'm going to cry. I can't lose it here. "Do what you want with me," I tell her.
"Stasis. For the rest of the trip."
The poker-faced security girl leads me to the stasis booth. "The stasis booth works like this. Time cannot penetrate the stasis field inside, so no time will pass for you, but it will pass for others on the outside. You will exist, but you will not exist in time."
"Great," I say, glumly.
"Don't worry, it doesn't hurt. It'll be like no time has gone by. Then you'll be out and the trip will be over."
Baldr's coming up the corridor. My heart leaps. "Wait!"
The security girl stands to one side. He clasps my hands again. I stammer. I think I'm going to melt. "I admire your passion for doing the right thing, Luce," he says steadily.
Oh planets, I'm blushing again. I don't know what to say.
"I certainly can't overrule the captain," he continues, "but …" he pauses. I know I'm just staring, taking in his glacial blue eyes, his perfectly sculpted features, his white gold hair. Do I sound shallow? Well what I'm really excited about is that he admires me. Admires my passion for the right thing. For kindness to all creatures. Yes. It must be true. He must be my soul mate. After I get out, could I ask him to marry me? Would I dare?
My lip is quivering. My emotions are welling up inside me. I'm trying not to burst into tears…
"Remember… at the end of the trip… we must talk."
Then he's gone and I have to get in the stasis booth. There's a window in the door, but the door itself is clearly airtight. It slams shut. I hear Neb the computer's voice. "Stasis field going up in ten seconds… five… four… three… two… one…"