“Gotta be fake,” Maybourne said.
“Unless the BBC is more technologically advanced than they've let on,” Jack agreed.
“It's listed as the Red Dwarf, a ship from a show on the BBC of the same name,” Sam said.
“Why is a list of fictional ships even included in the database?” Maybourne demanded.
A thin blonde woman who looked like she didn't get enough sun stepped forward. “There are several possibilities that make including fictional ships a good idea.”
Jack noted that like the rest of the team Maybourne had brought her camo was devoid of rank insignia and info, save for her name, Stark.
“Like what?” he asked.
“World is myth, uncontrolled clairvoyance, parallel thought processes ...” she began listing off.
“Hmmmph,” Maybourne grumped unimpressed.
“Wormhole Extreme,” Stark pointed out before rejoining her group.
“Man, am I glad all the hard work is over,” Xander said.
“What hard work?” Willow asked in amused fashion. “All you did was drink beer and use a remote arm and a pool sim to aim rockets to move asteroids around.”
“Actually several times I had to get out and give some a push,” Xander replied with a grin.
The girls laughed.
“We'll reach lagrange point L1 in seven and a half hours,” Holly announced.
“Everything going according to plan?” Xander asked.
“Yes, however the scutters have put in a request for all the old John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart movies you can find, for the theater.”
“Is that section pressurized yet?” Willow asked.
“Should be by the time you get back,” Holly replied.
“We should probably put in our order before we get there,” Xander mused.
“Who do you call to order a lot of old movies, ten thousand LEDs and a fifty gallon drum of curry powder?” Willow asked.
“And porn!” Harmony added.
“Dave used to know a bloke or two,” Xander said, “and even though they don't exist here it shouldn't be too hard to find someone similar to get everything for us.”
“They're communicating with a telecom satellite, we've tapped the signal,” Sam announced as everyone quieted down to listen.
“Brian's Pub,” a deep voice with a London accent said, “Brian here.”
“Is Mikey there?” a young man's voice asked.
“Haven't seen him around lately, probably got nicked.”
“How about Davey then?”
“What you need 'im for?” Brian asked suspiciously.
“Got a load of stuff I need, all above board but I hear he can find some good deals when properly motivated.”
“If he had any proper motivation he'd pay off his bar tab!” Brian snorted.
“If you can get me enough beer to stock a bar at wholesale prices I'll pay off his tab myself,” the younger voice swore.
“Seriously?” Brian asked, “cause I know a guy.”
“Seriously,” the young man replied, “got a rich bloke who has this HUGE yacht we're stocking up, so it's all above board. Won his money in a contest, so he doesn't like all that knobby food. Lager and curry all the way.”
“Then why use Davey?”
“'Cause we get to drop a 10% surcharge on everything for handling, but the better the quality for the money the better a chance to become his regular supplier. He'll need to stock up once or twice a year.”
“And Davey knows how to get things at a decent price without it being too shady,” Brian said knowingly.
“Sounds simple enough,” Brian agreed, “he doesn't have any quirks we gotta know about does he?”
“Payment is either in gold or gems, but it’s up front so you can convert it over to cash before you deliver anything.”
“How much did he win?” Brian asked, wondering what kind of money it took for someone to start paying people in gold and jewels.
“Enough to make being his go-to-guy a very happy position.”After a little haggling and the deal was finalized...
“That was smooth,” Harmony said with approval.
“All bars have a couple of folks named Davey and Mikey who can get stuff cheap. We'll need to wear the space suits minus the helmets for a little intimidation and to keep them honest,” Xander admitted, “but it'll get us all the supplies we need.”
“I don't think geeking out will impress them,” Harmony said doubtfully.
“The suits are armored and amplify the wearer's strength,” Willow pointed out.
“Now I'm impressed,” Harmony said.
“Ideas people!” Maybourne ordered.
If not for the darker hair color Jensen could have passed as Stark's twin. “As a group we're leaning towards aliens building a craft based on the show Red Dwarf, rather than the show being based on information received by someone in England.”
“That would fit with the magnetic readings from the asteroid belt,” Sam agreed.
“But why would they choose that ship?” Jack asked.
Stark and Jensen disappeared back into the scientific huddle of NID personnel for a minute before returning. “Best guess without further data is that since Red Dwarf is a comedy show it was chosen as the least threatening option.”
“It makes a hatak look … tiny,” Teal'c pointed out.
“We need more data,” Jensen said with a shrug.
“Sam can you pirate me a copy of the series?” Jack asked.
Sam was already typing away. “The first two seasons are available at the local mall while downloading would take 12 to 16 hours.”
Maybourne waved down an airman. “I need copies of seasons one and two of Red Dwarf.”
“Yes sir!” the airman said sprinting off.
0oOo0RING RING! RING RING!
“What's that?” Xander asked.
“Time for sex!” Harmony replied. “I scheduled it between my mid-morning nap and lunch.”
“We can schedule sex?” Willow asked. “I thought it was just kinda spontaneous. Did you know we could schedule sex?” she turned and asked Xander.
Xander shrugged. “I have a zen mental state in regards to sex.”
“What’s that mean?” Willow asked after a couple of seconds.
“It's always now.”
“What is the sound of one hand fapping?” Harmony said stripping. “Who cares, we're behind schedule!”
Holly shifted his attention to Kryten's spare head that the scutters had placed in the med bay. “What's happening?”
Kryten's eyes opened. “The nanites are still working on my body; they seem to feel some upgrades are in order since I have no spare heads or negadrive at this time.”
“That would be a good idea,” Holly agreed, “the last thing we need is the scutters putting your head back together every week like the world's most explosive jigsaw puzzle.”
“So, what's the plan?” Jack asked.
“We can intercept them when they receive supplies in London,” Maybourne said.
“Do I need to tell you the number of things that can go wrong with that scenario?” Jack asked.
“Do you have a better suggestion?” Maybourne asked.
“Well, instead of violating another country's sovereign territory and risking exposure of the Stargate Program as well as creating an international incident, I thought we might approach peacefully in orbit.”
“I'd rather negotiate from a position of strength,” Maybourne said.
“Negotiate for what?” Jack asked. “Right now we need information more than anything, we go in peacefully; we gather information and then we decide what to do.”
“I've got the tapes,” Sam interrupted them.
“That was quick,” Jack said.
“A couple of airmen on base are fans and between the two of them had the entire set in their lockers here,” she replied.
“Get everyone to conference room one,” Maybourne ordered, “let’s see if there is anything useful on the tapes.”
“Has anyone seen the Space Cadets at all this week?” Cordelia asked as she entered the library.
Giles looked up from the book he was studying. “It has been rather quiet the last few days hasn't it?”
Angel frowned. “Come to think of it, I haven't had anyone insult me in a while.”
“I thought you guys were getting along?” Buffy asked.
“We are, it’s a guy thing.” Angel replied.
“They exchange minor insults rather like dogs sniffing one another,” Giles said, “subject and tone of insult says a lot more than one might expect.”
“I wouldn't put it like that!” Angel said with a wince.
“I didn't mean to imply any actual sniffing was involved, just that the information conveyed was both more subtle and expansive than was readily apparent.”
“So the three have been missing for the better part of a week and no one has noticed?!” Cordelia exclaimed.
“Missing?” Buffy asked, “just because they decided to skip a couple of days of school doesn't mean they're missing. Harmony skipped school for shoe sales before she was turned into a cat and Willow has had to literally drag Xander to school some days.”
“I can't believe you guys,” Cordelia snorted with disdain. “You know what someone going missing for several days on the Hellmouth means, but you don't even care!”
“Most people yes,” Giles agreed, “but those three are hardly defenseless. Willow can't be harmed as she's immaterial, Harmony has speed and reflexes superior to Buffy's and Xander ...”
“Kills easily enough,” Buffy said flatly.
“Their Willow doesn't even have to touch anything to make phone calls,” Willow added quickly, “if there was any real trouble she'd call.”
“Xander kills easily?” Angel asked with surprise.
“Seen Ford around lately?” Buffy asked sourly.
“No, I helped Xander put him on ice – why?” Angel asked confusedly.
“You helped Xander kill Ford?!” Buffy exclaimed angrily.
“No, I helped Xander put him on ice,” Angel repeated.
“Yeah! You iced him, meaning killed,” Willow said sadly.
“No, put on ice as in some word that begins with ‘C’ so he could be thawed out when he could cure him,” the dark haired vampire corrected her.
“Cryogenics isn't advanced enough at this point to do more than preserve corpses,” Willow said with a frown.
“Xander has knowledge of advanced technology thanks to Halloween, remember?”
“I thought it was mostly useless because he lacked the tools from the future to make use of it?” Giles asked rhetorically.
Angel shrugged. “He was confident about being able to revive Ford when he could be cured.”
“So he didn't kill Ford?” Buffy asked numbly.
“I ...” Willow fell silent.
“You thought dufus became some sort of nut who casually killed people?!” Cordelia asked but neither girl responded. “You two are HOPELESS! Now who's going to help me find Xander and Harmony?”
“I'll check with his teachers and see if he has called in an excuse for their absence,” Giles offered.
“I'll check Xander's house and see if his parents know where he is,” Willow said. SGC
“Other than a growing fondness for the show, I've got nothing,” Jack said. “I say we develop a plan and watch the rest while en route.”
Maybourne nodded. “We can load up for any response from friendly to hostile and decide our reaction on the way based on their actions.”
“You heard the man,” Jack called out, “load for bear both grizzly and panda.”
“Bear?” Teal'c asked.
Jack shrugged. “Okay maybe not the most PC phrase.”
Maybourne chuckled. “Loading for bear refers to making sure you're well-armed. Grizzly of course refers to a tough battle, while panda refers to … let us say a more diplomatic approach.”
“Oh...” Daniel and Sam chorused, getting it.
Sam sighed and explained to the jaffa. “Pandas are a near extinct species we've been trying to get to … procreate so loaded for panda would mean we're trying to make friends with the target.”
“Indeed,” Teal'c said with understanding, “and what should we bring along to encourage panda mating in this situation?”
Everyone paused what they were doing and contemplated that question.
“I can see why you insist on keeping him on your team,” Maybourn said to Jack, “any ideas as to what they would like?”
“The food, drink and entertainment requested would be good indicators of what they would find acceptable,” Teal'c said reasonably.
“Pop culture and junk food,” Jack said nodding.
“And porn,” Sam pointed out, blushing bright red as everyone stared at her. “They did order some and defined what they were looking for quite specifically,” she said in her own defense.
“All things readily available on base,” Teal'c mused with a nod.
“We can reimburse the troops for their snack food and movie collections,” Jack agreed.
“We'll have to bring some insurance with us just in case things go wrong,” Maybourne said, preparing for Jack to argue with him about it.
“Can I hold the switch?” Jack asked.
Maybourne nodded. “You've been in the position before and know what to do. It's a last resort, but for the sake of the human race we have to be prepared to use it.”
“Yes sir,” Jack said respectfully; probably the first time he'd ever shown Maybourne respect.
Teal'c looked at Sam the question clear in his eyes.
“A nuclear device or a dead man's switch, so if worst comes to worst we can end the threat so it just costs our lives alone,” Sam explained.
“A wise precaution and a great honor that we are trusted to do so,” Teal'c said. “Is a nuclear device anything like what the yautja carry?”
“The aliens from the movie?” Daniel asked. “They cloaked themselves; hunt heads, wear armor, about eight feet tall with a plasma cannon on their shoulder, and their suicide bomb leaves a huge crater?”
“That is a good description of them,” Teal'c agreed, “but what movie do you speak of?”
“They went camping?!” Cordelia hissed in disbelief.
“That is the excuse they used, yes,” Giles agreed.
“Xander's parents confirmed it,” Willow agreed, “they went camping.”
“This I didn't expect,” Cordelia admitted, “actually I'm not sure I believe it. Xander I can see camping and Willow going along for the chance to share a sleeping bag with him, but Harmony?”
“You have a point,” Buffy said with a frown, “she's not exactly the outdoor type.”
“Xander's parents said the three went camping, heck they even mentioned the other me like it was normal,” Willow said.
“If they return I'll rip them a new one for making me worry,” Cordelia decided.
“Making you worry?” Angel asked.
“Yes! Making me worry,” Cordelia agreed firmly, “it’s been days since I had a good argument!” she growled and walked out.
“That girl worries me,” Giles said cleaning his glasses.
Pick up of supplies went smoothly, with everything packed into huge wooden crates that Xander and Harmony manhandled aboard, stunning the rather large gentlemen who had used forklifts to move them about.
Xander had paid in gold coins with Bob the scutter's head on one side and the Red Dwarf on the other, as the nanites had decided it fit small gold coins well.
Loading up the shuttle and leaving took just over an hour, and that's including the time Xander spent waiting in an Indian restaurant for a to-go order.
“That went a lot easier than I thought it would,” Xander said as the Earth fell away behind them.
“Don't jinx us buddy, we're almost home free,” Harmony said swatting his arm.
“Aooga Aooga!” Holly said as he appeared on one of the monitors.
“What is it Hol'?” Xander asked.
“We've got another ship out here and it’s trying to contact us,” Holly reported.
“It's the USS Daedalus,” Willow announced, “It’s not a space shuttle like the Challenger either. It's an actual space ship and I don't recognize the design.”
“Put them on screen, and open hailing frequencies,” Xander said after a few seconds of tense silence.
“This is the USS Daedalus, Starbug please respond.”
“This is the Starbug, what can I do for you?” Xander asked nervously eying the face of the officer that was on screen.
“We'd like to arrange a peaceful meet and greet,” came the reply.
“Guys?” Xander asked looking around the cockpit.
“Peaceful sounds better than the alternative,” Holly offered.
“Here or the Dwarf?” Willow asked.
“A bit too cramped to have people aboard the Starbug,” Harmony pointed out, “plus I need a shower and a change of wardrobe before I'm up for company.”
“Dwarf it is,” Xander replied, “Follow us and give us a couple of hours to freshen up, we'll call you when we're ready.”
“Aye aye, Daedalus out,” the officer replied cutting the signal.
“Thoughts?” Jack asked.
“They don't look exactly like the characters from the show but they sound and respond like them,” Daniel offered.
“Cat and Rimmer were both female, which may have been done to make them a more balanced first contact team,” Sam suggested.
“That is our opinion as well,” Jensen said.
“Threat assessment?” Maybourne asked.
“The technology needed to build the Red Dwarf and its crew are far beyond anyone's capabilities short of the Asgard,” Sam said.
“Threat assessment is high,” Jack agreed, “we don't know their capabilities, the power backing them or even their intentions.”
“You think they created the crew as well?” Maybourne asked, focusing on something Sam said.
“Two of the crew are AI so their creation is not in doubt, of the other two one appears to be a human and the other a feline sapien as seen in the show. I'd say the odds of the crew being created are almost 100%,” she explained.
“Odds are the race behind them isn't human,” Daniel added.
“The choice of a comedy show bodes well,” Teal'c said, “however until we are certain of their character and intentions caution is the best idea.”
“One finger on the button and two crossed,” Maybourne instructed Jack who nodded gravely, “everyone freshen up and be on your best behavior; we have a party to attend.”
0oOo0On a flight to LA
“We still need a good cover story for why I'm solid,” Willow said as she relaxed in first class.
Harmony shrugged. “It’s a done deal, so any story will do from a wizard did it, to Xander got a wish.”
“I got a wish is the most believable,” Xander said, peeling the wrapper off a cherry red crayola.
“So a genie or what?” Willow asked.
“Nah, I made a wish and boom we have no clue otherwise. That way there's nothing to trip us up.”
“That's a good plan,” Harmony said, snagging half the red crayola out of Xander's hand and scarfing it down.
“Got any blues left?” Willow asked hungrily. AN: Typing by Godogma!