The seven things came around the corner and took in the sight of the two. Evidently it worked, because they paused briefly, before carrying on to whatever task they had been assigned. After a long moment, they were out of sight. Cass tapped Jade on the back. Jade, who had her eyes closed, opened them and quickly let go, blushing an even more deep shade of red.

As soon as she was released, Cass scrambled away, her breathing ragged and her heart beating so hard in her chest, she was sure Jade would be able to hear it.

That had been… What?

She struggled to collect her scattered thoughts.

A kiss!? (Of sorts)

The first one in quite some time.


There had been tongues and everything.

This was going to take some unpacking.

Cass shot Jade a skittish glance and blew out a deep breath. She felt flustered and, worse ((?) – What the fuck had just happened!?), more than a little turned on.

Still crimson, Jade caught her eye and the two women regarded each other in expectant silence.

One of the nearby vending machines nervously cleared its throat, unsure of whether this was the right time to offer a hot beverage or not.

“It didn’t mean anything” the Jade blurted.

Cass gave her a lopsided smile and shook her head; immediately making Jade wonder what on Earth she meant by that.

“Turns out that you’re pretty good at it in any case.” she said, apparently coming to a decision and jumping in with both feet “I’d always imagined there’d be more gin involved though.”

“I…” Jade stopped and took a breath, suddenly aware of the need to tread delicately “We can do gin?”

Cass nodded after a moment, her teeth nipping her bottom lip, the way, Jade knew, she sometimes did when she was unsure of herself. “Sure. What could possibly go wrong?”

Jade gave a nervous laugh. “You never know until you try.”

“True.” Cass sighed and clambered to her feet “There’s a time and a place though. Shall we press on and see what’s occurring with Holly?” she held out a hand to Jade.

“Sure” Jade accepted the lift and was pulled upright “Just to double check though: You do fancy a drink? With me?”

“Don’t make it weird” Cass shook her head and began walking away down the dimly lit corridor “Coming?” she called over her shoulder.

“Yeah, sure.” Jade hurried after her, still non the wiser.

“Ah. Hello?” the vending machine called after them “It’s not gin, but would anyone like a hot beverage instead?



It took another thirty minutes to get to Holly’s core; a circular shaft of a room, criss-crossed with walkways that spanned more than ten levels. Normally, the ships AI would have almost filled the space but owing to a series of incidents involving (amongst other things) the original Holly, a miniaturisation ray, and a tub of ointment, Blue Dwarf was now run by an amalgamation of technological junk welded onto a chrome pop-up toaster.

For the most part, it was a mystery how the collection of junk even functioned, let alone ran the ship, but it was generally agreed that it was an improvement on the first Holly – even if the intervening three million years had done little to improve the AIs sanity.

The toaster itself stood atop a crenulated plinth, illuminated from above by a single light which lanced down out of the darkness. Wires trailed everywhere, connecting disparate components, and snaking across the floor, up the plinth, into the body of the toaster.

Of the gene stealers (or whatever it was that they were being called), there was no sign.

Everything was still. Lifeless.

“Holly” Cass murmured as she prowled around the toaster, inspecting the interconnects “Still looking good. Seems like an age since I was down here. Huh, that’s new…”

She paused and looked up at Jade “Are you sure nobody has any recollection of why we shut Holly down?”

“If they have, they’re not letting on about it” Jade kept her voice low. Sound echoed around the empty chamber, and they didn’t want to attract any attention “What do you think we should do?”

“I reckon we should turn Holly back on”.

“You do know that we found video messages from us all, telling us not to do that?”

“Yeah, but how bad can it be?”

“I dunno.” Jade shrugged “But I do quite like being able to talk to everyone without having hideous recollections of them doing… whatever”.

“You’re talking about Pliskens cum face, aren’t you?” Cass asked solemnly.

“Urgh! God, no!” Jade protested but burst into laughter as Cass did an impression, with illustrative choking noises “No, stop!” she giggled “That’s wrong!”

Pretty soon they were sniggering like schoolkids.

“Wait, wait - Do Jamie” Jade gasped, her voice high with mirth.

“Oh, you don’t want to go there.” Cass said firmly “We shared a mind link, remember? We know things...”

“I shudder to think”.

“It sounds like you girls are having fun” a familiar-sounding voice echoed out of the darkness.

“Shit.” startled, Cass drew her pistol “Is that who I think it is?” she whispered to Jade “How did they get a sample?”

“I seriously don’t know”

Cass aimed the weapon in the direction the voice had come from, while she fumbled the psi-scanner from her belt with her free had “Show yourself”.

“I’d have hoped for a warmer welcome” a figure ambled nonchalantly into the light.

Cassandra’s eyes widened “Jay!?”

I’m guessing a psi scan would reveal that isn’t really Jay, so what does the gene stealing freak want and how do we deal with it?

Are there any others?

What happens if we set Holly to ‘well done’?

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