This is one of my earliest works. It was inspired by an episode of The X-Files, where various people are exposed to a variant of LSD and suddenly start seeing homicidal rampage-inducing messages on TV screens and digital displays.
Rimmer sat in Starbug's mid-section dictating to a voice log. "I can therefore conclude that there is nothing of salvagable value, that can be safely retreived, from the SSS Esperanto. Log ends.". He got up and walked into the cockpit. "How long till we get back?"
"About half an hour," said Lister, who was piloting and finishing off a third can of lager.
"Fine. But I demand that someone else lands."
"No problem, if you can find them," said Lister. "Kryten's down in the engine room trying to flush out all the water we took on under that ocean, and Cat's somewhere on the obs deck, getting dressed for our arrival. I doubt if they'll be finished in time to land."
"Lister, if you're drunk, I'm invoking Space Corps Directive 13498, which states that no-one who can be considered inebriated should be allowed to fly a Space Corps vehicle for more than three minutes in stable conditions."
"No it doesn't," said Holly. "Directive 13498 states that any officer wearing medals awarded to their dead relations will be suspended from duty forthwith, pending an enquiry."
"Forget it!" groaned Rimmer, and left to find his diary.
Some hours after arriving back at Red Dwarf, the Cat was prowling round the cargo levels, when he picked up a scent. It was new to him, and curiosity got the better of him. He followed it to its source, which was Starbugs' decom chamber, where it disappeared. Puzzled, he went back to the sleeping quarters.
Kryten was in the science lab, having another go at repairing Talkie Toaster. He wasn't making any mistakes this time - he was going to close down its voice units and install a screen on the front. He finished connecting up the last wires, closed the casing, and plugged it in. The screen flashed up "Howdy doodly doo! Talkie's the name, toasting's the game! Anybody want some toast?"
"Excellent," said Kryten, and unplugged it before going to find someone to show it to.
Kryten and the Cat arrived in the sleeping quarters at the same time, to find Rimmer arguing with Lister about wether Lister should be allowed to play Rasta Billy Skank at full volume with Rimmer on same deck. Kryten broke it up. "Sirs, please. I have something to tell you," he began.
"What? That the laundry's done?" snapped Rimmer - Lister had managed to have the last word. Cat sat down at the table with his head in his hands.
"No, something much more exiting. The toaster isn't as annoying as it once was!"
"I know," said Lister. "It's still in bits after the last time you tried to repair it. Isn't it?"
Cat started sobbing gently, and Kryten continued. "No sir, better. I've shut down its voice units and wired them up to a screen!" he said proudly. Cat let out a wail.
"This is so depressing!" he blubbed, stood up, and ran straight through Rimmer out down the corridor. Rimmers' light bee hit Holly's screen and shattered it.
"What's got into him?" wondered Rimmer. "The only time he usually gets like that is when he has to help Lister carry his laundry down to the decon shower every March."
"He could be still affected by the suicide squid ink," said Kryten, "I didn't have time to decontaminate everywhere on Starbug. We'd better get after him in case he tries and kills himself."
They followed the Cat as far as the technicians' quarters block, where they lost him. "Holly, can you find the Cat?" gasped Lister, leaning against a wall. Kryten jogged past him, his knees nearly reaching his chin, and Rimmer crawled along the corridor some hundred yards behind him, gasping for breath.
"Take the second corridor on the left, and he's gone into the third door on the right. I don't know whose room it was," she said.
"Cheers Hol," he managed, and lurched away. Kryten doubled back, as he had already gone past another two corridors on the left, and Rimmer, seeing that no-one was watching, remembered he didn't have to be out of breath, and stood up.
They found the Cat was sitting on the edge of the top bunk of Headbanger Harris' room, trying to hang himself with a hippy scarf. He slid off the edge of the bunk, and the knot holding the scarf to the light unraveled. He fell to the floor, rolled, and crawled in the direction of the sink, where he tried to slit his wrists with an electric razor. Kryten spotted a cannister of lithium carbonate, and clamped the mask over Cats' face. He slumped to the floor, dropping the razor onto his lavish leopardskin coat, severely damaging several spots. "Get him to sickbay you two," said Rimmer wearily, and went back to being out of breath.
A few hours later, the Cat fine. In fact, he was more than fine. He was happy, ecstatic, hallucinating. Almost. Kryten, Lister and Rimmer walked in.
"How are you man?" asked Lister.
"Fine!" he replied. "I could almost be in paradise if I wasn't stuck on this ship."
"Well now that everyone's happy, I would like to show you what I did to the toaster," said Kryten, and began to leave.
"Kryten, I've told you before about that toaster!" complained Lister, as he, Cat and Rimmer followed Kryten to the science lab.
"But this time you'll like it," said Kryten. "I've done something to make it more bearable."
"As long as you haven't painted it green," said the Cat. "Green with all these colours," he gestured at Lister and Rimmer, "is just too much of a clash."
As Kryten prepared to plug in Talkie Toaster, the other three prepared themselves for non-stop offers of toast. Kryten plugged the infernal machine in. The screen flashed up "Howdy doodly doo! Talkie's the name, toasting's the game! Anybody want some toast?"
Lister, Cat and Rimmer took their hands away from their ears. "Well, what do you think?" asked Kryten.
"Great,man. Smegging great!" said Lister, "Now we don't have to say no every ten seconds."
"Why did you bother?" demanded Rimmer.
"I thought it would be fun," said Kryten. "I thought we could all do with cheering up a little after that little escapade with the despair squid. What did you think of it sir?" he asked the Cat.
The Cat wasn't looking at Kryten. He was looking at the screen on the front of Talkie. Everyone else could see "Why does nobody want any toast?", but the Cat couldn't. all he could see was "The others clothes are an insult to fashion. It'll spread to you!".
"Cat?" said Lister.
Now the screen said "Kill them all..."
"Noooooo!" Cat screamed, and launched himself at the toaster. He ripped its' plug out of the socket, dropped it on the floor, and planted a cuban heel on the screen, smashing it. He launched himself at Rimmer, whose light bee went flying again, and seeing he wasn't hurt, sprinted out of the science lab and down the corridor.
"What's up with him?" said Rimmer as he stood up.
"Dunno," said Lister, craning his head round the door to make sure the Cat had really gone. "Maybe he preferred it when the toaster drove us crazy."
"Or maybe that lithium carbonate didn't work," said Kryten.
"Of course!" exclaimed Rimmer, and began making his way towards Headbanger Harris' room. "Remember where we found it?"
"Deck 519, room G37," said Kryten, following.
"That's Headbanger Harris' room!" said Lister, catching on. "You think he might've spiked it? That's impossible.Brannigan gave it to him after that bout of depression when he tried to kill himself by jumping off the cargo bay gantry."
"That doesn't mean to say that he didn't put anything in it at some point."
"But that was only a week before the accident, it must've taken longer than that."
"Then we'll just have to find out how he did it," said Rimmer as they reached a lift.
The, Cat meanwhile, was rifling through his wardrobe for something that he didn't mind getting blood on. When he found something that was two seasons out of date, he put it on, picked up a nearby bazookoid, and went to look for the others. Holly watched him go.
They were nearly back at the science lab. Kryten was carrying the cannister of lithium carbonate they had taken from Headbanger Harris' room, Rimmer was whining about how the science lab would be the first place the Cat would look for them, and Lister was carrying a baseball bat to keep everyone safe. As they entered the science lab, Holly's face appeared on a screen.
"The Cat's going to kill you. He's wearing a khaki jumpsuit and carrying a bazookoid, and he keeps mumbling things about lack of style being infectious."
"Where is he, Hol?" asked Lister.
"Four decks above you and making for the nearest lift. I don't think he's feeling alright, to be honest."
"We noticed," said Rimmer, and tried huddling into a corner that was hidden from the doorway.
"I've connected the cannister to the atmospheric analyser, sirs," said Kryten. "Don't breathe in for a few moments." He turned the release wheel. Nothing happened.
"Marvellous," said Rimmer from his hiding place. "The Cat's turned into a homicidal maniac, and the only thing we can use to find out why, is empty!"
"Sir, if you'll just bear with me for a moment," said Kryten, and fiddled with the controls on the top of the cannister. Nothing happened. Kryten hit the cannister, and what was in it escaped through the atmospheric analyser. Kryten closed the release wheel and waited for the readout. A few seconds later it arrived. "Ah," he said.
"What?" asked Lister.
"According to this, the cannister contained a 50/50 mix of litium carbonate, and LSD. The Cat has been higher than Concorde's flight ceiling for the last four hours."
"But that still doesn't explain why he's trying to kill you," said Holly.
"I know," said Kryten. "We might be able to work it out though. Who did he first attack, and when?"
"Me," said Rimmer, "just after he smashed the toaster."
"I wonder what he saw on the screen that could send him mad?" wondered Lister.
"'Does anybody want some toast?' probably," said Rimmer, climbing out of his hiding place. "This is doing smeg-all good. Let's just leg it until the effects wear off."
"Holly, can you replay what was on the toaster screen for us?" asked Kryten.
"Sure, if you want five minutes of offers of toast."
The screen cleared, and then displayed the message "Howdy doodly doo! Talkie's the name, toasting's the game! Anybody want some toast?". Then "Hey, are you deaf? Does anybody want some toast?". There was a blip, then the screen displayed "Why does nobody want any toast?". Another blip, then back to "Why does nobody want any toast?".
"Holly, what were those blips?" asked Rimmer.
"Dunno," Holly said. "Watch it again in slow motion."
The first blip revealed itself to be "The others clothes are an insult to fashion. It'll spread to you!". The next one was "Kill them all..."
"Those blips must have freaked him out," said Lister. "But they were so fast, no-one could read them. How come he read them?"
"LSD is a known hallucinogenic," explained Kryten, "but if used correctly, it merely slows down a persons responses enough so that they can be fully conscious of subliminal messages. I think the Cat must have read, understood and over-reacted to these messages."
"When will it wear off?" asked Rimmer.
"Never. The effects of the LSD will have worn off long ago, but he will still remember the messages. The only solution will be to erase his short term memory."
"Right," siad Lister. "Where is he, Hol?"
"About twenty yards down the corridor and getting closer."
"You're a great early warning system, aren't you?" said Rimmer, just as the Cat came through the door. He levelled his bazookoid at the first target he saw and fired. The shell went staright through Rimmers' image and exploded harmlessly against the wall behind him. Lister, Rimmer and Kryten ran out of the door on the opposite side of the lab before the Cat could fire again. Checking to make sure they had all fled, the Cat followed.
"Head for sickbay!" called Holly as they went past one screen. "You can erase his memory there!" she called as they passed another.
Ten minutes and two near misses later, they were in sickbay. Kryten and Lister hid on either side of the doorway, chloroform and baseball bat ready, while Rimmer hid behind the central console. As the Cat came in, Kryten swung his chloroform pad at head height. The Cat ducked, stepped forward, aimed at Kryten, and Lister hit him with his baseball bat. The Cat dropped his bazookoid and toppled forward.
Five minutes later, the last six hours of the Cat's life had been removed from his memory. He woke up and screamed.
"Why am I wearing this? It's so out-dated!"
"You were trying to kill everyone," said Holly without thinking.
"Why would I want to do that?"
"You thought..." Kryten began.
"Shut up!" hissed Lister. Kryten ignored him.
"You thought that we were so uncool, it might be catching."
"Shut up Kryten!" Lister hissed again.
"Hey, good point! Why didn't I think of that before?"
"Because you were suffering from the combined after effects of despair squid ink, LSD, and a malicious toaster," explained Holly.
"Holly!" remonstrated Rimmer.
"Oops," grinned Holly.
"Toaster? What toaster?"
"Nobody tell him!" ordered Lister.
"What toaster?" persisted the Cat.
"Talkie toaster," mumbled Rimmer.
"Oh nooo!" wailed the Cat. He leapt off the bed and sprinted out of sickbay.
"Here we go again," said Kryten, reaching for the chloroform.
"You and your big smegging mouth," complained Lister as they went after the Cat.
© Brian Wakeling. Red Dwarf is © Grant Naylor Productions