…And Other Science Facts

By Lisa Jenkins

Part One -- BLAST OFF!

A single vehicle traveled down a lone country road as the sun set in the
horizon. The purr of the vehicle's motor was all that pierced the growing
darkness -- that and the muffled sound of Jimi Hendrix blasting from inside on
stereo speakers.

Inside the vehicle, a man was on his way to work. This was his daily routine.
Drive to work at 1700 hours, clock in at 1730, working the evening shift.
Punch in, clean up, punch out. But this was only a necessary evil of
mundanity. Greater dreams than this janitorial life were on his horizon.

The vehicle pulled up into the service parking lot. He parked in a space
marked "staff only" which happened to be the furthest away from the entrance.
The man headed for the guard's door over which hung a large toothy-geared "G"
and the name Gizmonic Institute.

"'Evening, Joel," greeted the guard reading a magazine at his desk behind the
bullet-proof glass.

"'Evening, Kev," Joel replied as the guard buzzed him into the facility.

Joel found his time card at the usual place, and he punched in.

"Oh, this is for you," prompted Kevin, the guard, handing Joel a large
envelope.

Joel took the envelope and looked at it. "Really? What's it for?"

"The young doctor gave it to me. Seems your good work hasn't gone unnoticed."

"Wow, really?" Joel was delighted to hear the news. Perhaps this was finally
the break he was looking for -- a chance to show off his work. "Thanks," he
said with a goofy smile (although he always thought he smiled goofy anyway)
and a wave. "Catch ya later, Kevin."

Kevin gave a salute-wave back as he returned to reading.

* * *

Joel laid the envelope on the bench in the locker room. He took out his
jumpsuit and began to suit up. Sitting beside the envelope as he zipped up
his uniform, Joel looked at it and wondered what was inside. _Why don't you
just open it?_ he thought to himself. But of course that was the most logical
thing to do. It was just so suspenseful, though, and Joel liked that feeling
of suspense. He let it last a little bit longer as he put his other clothes
back into the locker.

As his back was turned, Joel failed to notice another person sneaking into the
locker room. The red-jumpsuited woman creeped up behind him and snatched the
envelope before Joel could turn to retrieve it.

"Jann," he turned and said exasporatedly, reaching for the envelope.

"Hmm," she teased, trying to pry inside the envelope and take a peek, "what's
this? Dock in pay? New orders to clean the waste warehouse? Termination
papers?" Jann smiled mischievously.

Try as he might, Joel let a smirk slip. "Come on," Joel appealed, "I'm gonna
be late for work, and I already punched in."

Jann pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes at him. "Oh, so the great Joel
Robinson is too busy now that he's an important to-do person."

"Whatcha heard?" Joel asked in all seriousness, wondering how many knew what
was in that envelope before he did.

Jann swung the envelope on its corner between her two fingers and shrugged as
she rolled her eyes innocently. "Gee, not all that much, really...."

Joel sighed and resigned himself. "Okay. I'm sorry, Jann. I don't know
what's in it. Kevin gave it to me when I came in."

"And that's it, then? No idea whatsoever?" she continued to tease.

"Well, he said Dr. Erhardt gave it to him. Somethin' 'bout my good work or
somethin'." Joel shook his head and shrugged.

Jann smiled. "Going to be the next great inventor of the century, oh mighty
Joel Robinson!" She laughed and slapped the envelope to Joel's chest where he
barely caught it in time. "You and your gadgets!" She smirked again as she
turned and left the men's locker room.

Joel smiled shyly after her. He had considered asking Jann out once or twice,
but he never found enough courage to actually go up to her and ask. Thinking
she would do nothing but scoff him and tease him about it for the rest of his
life, Joel never thought he had a chance, but maybe for the first time he
would have something to be proud about. After he opened the envelope.

But he was late. Without even a glance at the envelope, Joel tucked it under
his arm and headed down to the basement where he was scheduled to clean out
the old disused labs.

* * *

Joel couldn't believe the mess left for him in the sub-basement. Also known
as Deep 13, the sub-basement was normally disused by the Gizmonic Institute.
However, an experiment earlier had leaked down somehow and there was flubber
everywhere. Joel had to take very careful steps to prevent himself from
bouncing across the room. He placed his envelope on a countertop with some
lab equipment and carefully made it to the closet where every chemical and
janitorial need was supplied.

Moments later Joel exited the janitorial closet, and strapped to his back was
the most impressive collection of useless junk. Plastic pipes and tubing lead
to a container strapped to the backpack. The container held a chemical
solution, thick and green like ecto slime. Feeling a bit like a Ghostbuster,
Joel hiked up his belt on his red jumpsuit, unsheathed a long rod from the
back of the pack and spoke in his best Bill Murray voice, "Who ya gonna call?"

"Certainly not you," spoke a strange voice out of thin air.

Joel whirled round to see who spoke, which was obviously the wrong thing to do
as his foot slipped on some flubber and sent him flying.

"Whooooooa!" cried Joel as his flew passed the man who spoke. Joel landed in
some open lockers at the other end of the room.

The young man who had spoken earlier cackled. "Good job, monkey boy."

Joel brought his head out of the locker and looked at the other man. "Dr.
Erhardt," he spoke with some surprise, "whatcha doing here?"

"I'm surprised you don't know, my simple janitorial pip-squeak," the dark-
headed young doctor said. "I came to ask you what you thought of my
proposal."

"Your, uh, proposal?"

Dr. Erhardt picked up the envelope from the countertop and gave a knowing
grin.

"Oh, um, that proposal. Well," Joel said as he struggled to get up which
wasn't very easy with all the equipment strapped to his back, "to be quite
honest with you, I, uh--"

"Fine," said Dr. Erhardt. "You need more time. But remember, Mr. Robinson, I
expect your answer before midnight tonight!"

"You do?"

Ignoring Joel's obviously stupid question, Dr. Erhardt asked, "What's that
stuff strapped on your back?"

"Oh, this? Well, it's this gadget, you see--"

"Oh, one of THOSE. Listen, Robinson, and listen good. I'm watching you, so
don't you THINK of stepping outta line. Midnight, flubber boy!" Dr. Erhardt
slapped the envelope back on the countertop and left as mysteriously as he
came.

Joel's eyes followed Erhardt's departure, his eyebrows arched in puzzlement.
What was in that envelope, anyway? Carefully maneuvering himself out of the
locker he had flown into, Joel took delicate steps across the flubber to the
countertop where the envelope lay.

As Joel reached over the countertop to grab the envelope, he heard an
approaching noise like someone had stumbled, fallen, and bounced. Joel looked
up in time to see an oncoming green projectile.

"AAAAAHHHHHH!" it cried.

Joel ducked quickly as the man in the green lab coat flew passed Joel's head
and landed in the pile of lockers on the other side of the room.

"Ow," came a voice inside the mess.

"Are you alright, Dr. Forrester?" Joel called to the man as he started making
his way back to the lockers.

The green-labcoated man fought against the metallic structures as though they
were nipping at his flesh. Getting up, Forrester gave the locker a final "so-
there" kick to show the inanimate object just who was the boss around here,
anyway. Forrester then stood upright, straightened his tie and glared at the
young janitor.

"Well, boobie," the tall blonde man spoke, looking disapprovingly at Joel,
"what have you to say for yourself?"

Joel apologized, "I'm sorry, sir, I'll have this flubber cleaned up right
away."

"I should say so!" The man began to march out of the room -- which was the
wrong thing to do because it sent him flying out again, back the way he came.

Joel winced as he watched the scientist go. He shook his head and thought,
_Boy, that Dr. Forrester is one weird mamma-jamma._ Turning back to his work,
Joel took a look at the mounds of flubber goop over the floors. He gave it a
quirky "I'm-gonna-get-you" grin, unsheathed the rod from his backpack and set
to work.

* * *

There was nothing better than a day's (or night's as the case may be) work
well done. Joel finished with the sub-basement hours before, but that still
had left him with the tasks of mopping the hallways and scrubbing the
restrooms.

Joel knocked on the door of the ladies' facilities. "Janitor," he called,
although it really seemed unnecessary at this time of night. But you could
never be too careful. Joel remembered the first week he came to work at
Gizmonics -- he never thought anyone besides himself and the few security
guards would work so late after hours, but his third day at work proved him
otherwise. Walking in the facilities on the third floor of the complex, Joel
had discovered Dr. Bridget Jones preparing to leave for the evening, changing
from her lab coat to a party dress. Catching her with her paintyhose was the
most embarrassing thing Joel had ever experienced. Unless, of course, you
counted the time during his second week at Gizmonics when Joel accidentally
dumped some experiments into the trash and nearly blew up the south wing of
the complex.

No one answered Joel's call, and he slowly entered, peeping a head inside to
make absolutely sure it was all clear. It was, and he entered with his mop
and bucket of sudsy water.

Starting with the far corner, Joel began mopping away with the vigor of
someone who was about ready to be done. He began to swish the mop in some
kind of a rhythm, then after a moment he began to sing.

"'Come on home, girl,' he said with a smile. 'You don't have to love me, and
let's get high awhile. But try to understand, try to understand, try, try,
try to understand, I'm a magic man....'" Despite the echo off the tiles, the
man's voice left much to be desired, especially when he failed to hit the
correct notes from the Heart song. Most of all, he had stopped mopping and
held the stick like a microphone, singing into it.

Suddenly a very loud "HARUMPH!" called out. Joel, now aware and wide-eyed,
looked about and saw the green-labcoated Forrester standing with arms crossed
in the doorway of the facilities.

"Sir?" inquired Joel.

"Robertson, isn't it?" Forrester questioned.

"Robinson, sir."

"Robertson, Robinson," Forrester shrugged. "When you're finished here, Dr.
Erhardt and I have some work for you in the satellite launch bay."

"Yes, sir."

Forrester glanced at him in a way that sent shivers down Joel's spine. The
man practically lived at Gizmonic Institute. Joel never remembered a time he
didn't see the scientist wandering the hallways, no matter what time Joel's
shift happen to be. Of course, Dr. Forrester was the only scientist Joel ever
saw wearing a green lab coat. He never managed to find out what significance
the green lab coat meant, although Joel thought the color was pretty cool,
almost like a mad scientist from a monster movie. Forrester turned and was
gone.

Joel shrugged and returned to work, but with only a few mops his expression
changed. He looked up and stared out in space like a person who realized he
left his water running at home. "The envelope!" Joel said under his breath.
So busy with work, Joel had completely forgotten about that mysterious
envelope Dr. Erhardt had left him. Now he had to back-track to find where he
left it.

Leaving the mop and bucket in the facilities, Joel jogged down the hallway
trying to remember every place he had stopped along the way through the night.
He peered into closets, break rooms, rest rooms and labs looking for a plain
manila envelope.

Joel jogged towards a security guard making his rounds through the labs. "Hi,
Paul," he called out when he was close enough.

"Hi, Joel," the guard Paul returned the greeting. "What's up?"

"Uh, well, I'm looking for an envelope. I left it somewheres."

"Oh. Sorry."

"You wouldn't have seen anything like that laying around, would ya?"

Paul shook his head. "No, I'm sorry, I wouldn't. But I can keep an eye out
for you."

"Okay. Yeah, sure." Joel waved as he continued down the hall. "Thanks!"

Paul called after him, "Welcome, Joel!"

Joel re-traced his steps back to the beginning of the evening, back to the
sub-basement. He raced down the steps only to find another security guard
bolting a heavy metal door -- the only access to Deep 13.

Joel stopped short in front of the door. "Uh, what's the door being locked
for?" he asked the guard.

"It's been classified as highly radioactive," the guard replied, hooking the
keys back to his belt.

"Listen, I left something in there earlier this evening. I really need to go
get it."

"I'm sorry, I can't let you in there."

"Please." Joel peered at the man's name on his uniform. "Mr. Mallon, it's
real important."

The guard shook his head. "I'm not allowed to let anyone in."

"Oh, look, I was in there earlier. It can't hurt me to go in again, can it?"

The guard wouldn't budge. "Sir, I'm sorry. No one can enter the sub-basement
without permission from a level-3 or above."

"Okay," Joel succumbed. What good would it do to fight with the man?
"Thanks."

"My pleasure," the guard said before he left. Joel always thought that was a
strange phrase to say -- "my pleasure." He really wondered how much pleasure
the man got from rigidly following rules.

Joel sighed. He was certain he left the envelope inside the Deep 13 lab, and
he didn't even know what was in it! He did know, however, that Dr. Erhardt
left him the envelope and that he wanted an "answer" by midnight. And he also
remembered that Dr. Forrester said he and Erhardt wanted him at the satellite
launch bay. Joel saw no other alternative but to go to Erhardt, admit he lost
the envelope before looking at it, and just find out from the young man
himself what was inside. Joel sure hoped it wasn't something terribly
important.

* * *

Joel entered the satellite launch bay control room and looked around.
Strangely, it looked just like a TV control room with all its monitors and
switches. Joel smirked playfully and picked up a headset. "Ground control to
mission launcher, do you read?" he mimicked a typical NASA-like controller.
"This is ground control to mission launcher, how do you copy?"

"With a Xerox," came a curt reply from behind him.

Joel whipped off the headphones and turned around. Dr. Erhardt was standing
there. "Oh, I'm sorry, sir. I just--"

"Ah! There you are, Bobbinson!" called Dr. Forrester, entering from the main
launch bay door to the control room.

"Robinson, sir," Joel politely corrected him for the second time of the
evening.

"Whatever. I'm glad you came. My colleague here says you're quite a gadget-
man."

Joel perked up. "Why, yes, sir. I am."

Forrester frowned. "That's too bad. But oh well. We have some work for you
to do."

"What's that, sir?" Joel asked politely.

Erhardt spoke, "Uh, we need you to, uh...." He looked to Forrester to fill in
the gap.

"To clean the satellite, of course!" the tall doctor exclaimed.

"Yeah! Clean the satellite!" Erhardt parroted.

Joel looked puzzled, "But the satellite's spotless. I ran it through the
carwash last week."

Forrester continued, "But you didn't vacuum the inside. See to it,
Jefferson."

"Oh," said Joel, who didn't even bother correcting the scientist this time.
_So much for my hopes,_ Joel thought as images of perhaps one day wearing his
own lab coat dashed away.

"Oh, Robinson," Erhardt's voice cackled like a pubescent boy, "there's just
one more thing."

"Yes, sir?"

"Forget that proposal I gave to you earlier. I think we'll have a much BETTER
one for you after tonight!"

"Really?" Joel's hopes shot back up.

Forrester prompted him to go. "Come on, hop to it. We haven't got all night,
booblie-ooblie!"

"Yes, sir," Joel complied. "I'll just be back, one second." Joel exited the
control room and headed back to the main part of Gizmonic Institute. If he
was going to do this right, he was certain he would impress them with style.
Dusting the inside of the satellite would take precision, and what better way
to show of his super accordion duster than now?

Retrieving the gadget from one of the janitorial closets, Joel slipped it over
his shoulder and returned to the launch pad bay.

* * *

Entering the satellite, Joel thought, _Strange...._ The control room looked
spotless. True, it was a little bit drab and undecorative, but quite honestly
Joel didn't spot a speck of dust anywhere.

Joel set down his gadget on the control board and looked at its strangely
button-absent surface. Where were the control buttons? He found only a hand-
held device with a set of lights and a few simple buttons -- send, receive,
pause, end. Picking up the small control box which did not seem to be an
original part of the ship but rather a hard-wired modification, Joel peered at
it curiously.

Suddenly, the red light on the box flashed along with a corresponding red
light above the exit door. Joel immediately dropped the box, but the light
continued to flash.

Hesitantly, Joel pushed the corresponding button -- receive.

The sound of chuckling laughter filled the control room. Joel looked around
frightened and noticed a monitor beneath a fixed camera mounted on the wall.
The monitor showed the faces of Drs. Forrester and Erhardt. "Hello -- Mr.
Robinson," said Forrester, for the first time getting Joel's name right which
set the two chuckling again.

"What's up, sirs?" Joel asked wonderingly.

"You are!" Erhardt cackled, and barked out more chuckles even louder than
before.

Dumbly, Joel asked, "I am?" But instead of an immediate answer to his
question, Joel found himself knocked off his feet by the sudden change in
velocity -- he was moving!

Climbing back to his feet as best he could, he looked at the monitor and asked
more specifically this time, "What's happening? What're you doing?"

The scientists cackled again, but Dr. Forrester answered him nonetheless.
"We're blasting you into space, Mr. Robinson!"

"Why?!"

Dr. Erhardt answered this time, numerating a long list on his fingers. "You
dress funny, your breath smells, you need a haircut, and--"

"--And we don't like you," finished Forrester with a frown.

"Well, what kind of excuse is that?" wondered Joel as he fought to keep his
footing on the floor of the control room.

"No kind of excuse at all, Mr. Robinson," Dr. Forrester replied. "It just is.
Au revoir, Joelerini! Better hold on tight."

Erhardt interjected, "Many happy returns!"

Joel gripped the control desk as he felt a rocket's engines shudder through
the ship and gravity tugged at him like a vice grip. Within moments, Joel was
flung to the back side of the room feeling like he was plastered there like
toothpaste against the wall. Moments after that, Joel fell unconscious.

 

Part Two -- MOVIE SIGN!

When Joel came to, he found himself on the control desk. His body felt like
it was half-floating, half lying down. He realized that the artificial
gravity generators were kicking in, adjusting to the orbital trajectory of the
satellite. Moving in any capacity just made Joel nauseous, so he tried not to
move, but each time the ship shifted into a new orbit, the artificial gravity
readjusted, making him a floating mass in the control room.

"Ow!" Joel cried out as his accordion duster hit him in the gut. He hooked
the accordion's straps around his arm as he dragged it along with him to the
control room walls. Various projectiles from the walls looked suitable enough
to tie the equipment down. Joel quickly tied the gadget to the wall before
another shift in the satellite's orbit jostled him about the cabin again.

Joel eased down to the floor in the tentative gravity field and held on to the
control desk as the nauseating change in gravity came again, this time closer
to full gravity force. He fell to his knees with a thud, let go of the desk,
and fell back down to the floor gasping for breath. What he wouldn't give for
a nice, stable, solid bed right about now.

Since he did not know when (or even if) he would get that pleasure again, Joel
simply fell asleep where he lay.

* * *

Joel awoke with a start. He looked around the control room, his face sinking
as he realized he had woken up right in the middle of his nightmare. He was
still on the satellite.

He did not know how long it had been since he last saw the scientists on the
monitor when they sent him off into space. From the sounds of the ship and
the finally-stabilized artificial gravity, Joel surmised that the satellite
had reached its final orbit. His anger prevented his creative spirit from
wanting to explore his surroundings of the satellite. Right now, he wanted
that monitor back on so he could give those two scientists a piece of his
mind.

"Hey!" Joel tapped at the eye-piece of the camera in front of him. "Show some
life!" He leaned against the control board and looked at the fixed camera
lens attached to the wall. It "looked" back at him.

With a sudden flourish of energy, Joel grabbed the camera attachment to the
wall and began taking it apart.

* * *

Several hours later, Joel found himself with a mess of wires scattered around
him in the maintenance dock he found a couple levels down from the control
room. The ship was certainly well-stocked with replacement parts and other
assorted raw materials. It gave Joel a creepy feeling that he was meant to
stay for quite a while aboard the vessel.

The camera had been completely reassembled before him. Its basic shape
remained, but where once its wall socket would have been, a long tubular
expandable neck stretched. Joel knew there would probably be limitations with
this design at least as how far it could stretch around the ship, but perhaps
that was as well. After all, there might be places he would like to be alone
and not have some machine come whirring around the corner to spy on him.

But the most significant change of all was the controlling computer chip. If
he were to give free movement to this creature, Joel wanted to ensure it was
on its own initiative, not commanded by someone thousands of kilometers away.

Replacing its basic command structure, Joel keyed in a new logarithm wiped
clean of any previous Gizmonics tampering. To get away with this, Joel
included a web-net processor which would allow the command structure to re-
teach itself once switched on. He had no idea what this would do to the
machine. Either it would be dumb as a turnip, unable to do anything but send
and receive images, or.... Well, Joel didn't want to speculate what it would
do when he could see it in action himself.

Joel returned to the control room and replaced the camera to the wall socket
and re-attached it to the monitor. Instantly, it re-activated.

Shooting up to a close-up of Joel's face, the camera was nose-to-nose with the
human for a second. Joel looked worriedly at his new creation as it retracted
a bit and scanned the control room. The camera caught sight of the exit hatch
and immediately headed toward it and out of the control room.

"Hey! Uh, wait!" Joel cried after it, following the head of the camera as the
neck continued to coil outward.

The camera's neck stretched on and on, straight down the corridor of the ship.
Abruptly it bounced to a stop as its neck had stretched as far as it could go.
Joel came up behind it and spoke, "Umm, camera?"

It swiveled its head and looked back at Joel who stood beside it.

"What're ya doin'?" Joel asked it.

The camera's head looked Joel over and then nudged him slightly.

"Who, me?" Joel answered as though he understood the conversation which was
ensuing. "I'm Joel Robinson. I kinda rebuilt you."

The camera's head tilted slightly as if to say something.

"Um, you're a camera, but you're more like a 'bot -- a camera 'bot."

The camera's head jerked back almost to indicate Joel to continue with that
train of thought.

Joel shook his head slightly and shrugged. "Camera?" The camera jerked
again. "Cam--?" And again it jerked. "--bot?"

This time the camera bounced up and down.

"Cambot?" The camera seemed to act quite pleased with this. Joel giggled.
"Yeah, Cambot. Sure, that works."

A klaxon rang down the corridor, and Joel saw a red light flash from the
control room. Joel sighed. "It's them again. You'd think if they really
didn't like me, they'd leave me alone!"

Cambot retracted its neck and returned to the control room, Joel following.
He looked at the controls on the board. Purple, yellow, red. He hit the red
and was rewarded with a small plump green seedless grape. Popping it into his
mouth, Joel looked at the incoming image of the scientists.

"Well, there you are, Joelekins," Dr. Forrester greeted him as nice as pie.

Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Erhardt shouted, "WHERE WERE YOU?!"

Joel snorted. "Oh, yeah, I stepped outside. Come on, sirs. Where do you
think I was? I'm stuck up here on the satellite, remember?"

"Don't get wise with us, Droll Robinson," Forrester punned. "Remember, we
still control the satellite."

"Yeah," Erhardt chuckled. "BANG! ZOOM! Straight to the moon!"

Forrester joined his colleague in their merriment.

"Listen, sirs, isn't it enough that you shot me into space?" Joel couldn't
imagine his situation any worse.

Forrester responded, "Of course not! Shooting you into space was just cruel.
But we're MAD! So we've got something much more insidious in store for you."

"Oh great." Joel rolled his eyes. "Well, lemme tell ya, I've got some things
I wanna say to you--"

"Sorry, it will have to wait, Robinson," Forrester interrupted him. "We have
a little experiment we'd like to try out on you."

"Hey, look, I'm not a guinea pig--" Joel tried to put his two-cents in.
Considering his generally sunny disposition and his laid-back demeanor, it was
rather hard to convey any anger or frustration, so of course the scientists
simply continued without him.

Erhardt interrupted this time. "After this, you'll wish you WERE a guinea
pig!"

"That's right, Robinson," Forrester confirmed. "We've installed a little
theater in the ship for your 'viewing pleasure.'" He giggled slightly with
the knowledge that this "experiment" was not pleasurable at all -- well, at
least not for Robinson. "We've selected an array of mind-boggling theatrical
bombs which, under normal circumstances, only find airtime at wee hours of the
night--"

"--or TNT, TBS and USA cable networks," injected the young Erhardt.

"So right, my friend," Forrester acknowledged, "but we want to see what the
accumulative effects are of subjecting a hapless victim--" with a chuckle, he
corrected himself, "-- oh, pardon me! -- commoner such as yourself to these
films."

Joel shook his head. "But -- why? I mean, what's the point?"

Forrester needed no sane reason. "Point? You want a point, Mr. Robinson?
Because we're MAD!"

"We're crazy! Zany! Bonkers!" Dr. Erhardt continued.

"Uh, thank you, Larry."

The young doctor smiled up at his superior. "No problem, Clay."

"Where was I?"

"You were about to tell him his part in our insidious plan."

"Oh, but of course!" Forrester returned his attention to his victim. "Well,
my simple-minded custodian, settle back and enjoy our first selection. We're
told it's the worst film ever made -- 'Plan 9 from Outer Space.'"

Joel, in his sleepy-eyed demeanor, perked up. "Hey, cool. I loved those
monster movies as a kid."

"Oh, we're just getting started, my late-night enthusiast. Right now, you've
got movie sign!"

Loud klaxons rang, flashing all the lights. Even the satellite seemed to
shake. Joel covered his ears. Behind him, a panel opened. Joel peered
inside. Seeing nothing of consequence, he jumped inside the chute. Suddenly
he found himself spiraling "down" -- at least he felt like he was being hurled
head-long down into a dark pit. Like a spiral water slide, round and round,
bumping the sides as he went. Unsure if it was his imagination or if indeed
the spiral seemed to be moving itself, Joel felt the tunnel walls shifting him
along.

At the end of the tunnel, Joel was spat out into a darkened theater with a few
rows of standard cinema seats. He stood and crossed a threshold, walking over
an air grate. Suddenly from behind him, Joel heard a metal door seal shut.
He spun around to see he was completely sealed in, cut off from his only route
out through the spiral tunnel.

Another noise came from the back of the theater, like a combination lock from
a large bank vault being opened. A slot of light pierced the darkness for a
moment, and then Joel saw Cambot's "eye" poke out of the peep-hole.

A moment later, light began to flicker on the large theater screen before the
seats. Joel picked a spot near the front edge of the theater and sat down.
_They could have let me have some popcorn before starting,_ Joel thought as he
hunched down in his seat.

* * *

An hour into the film, Joel found he couldn't keep his mind on the movie. It
wasn't the movie itself or really the fact that he couldn't take commercial
breaks (although he would have been grateful for those -- that and a well-
stocked refrigerator). The movie itself was pretty hilarious. Tor Johnson,
Vimpira and now-you-see-him-now-you-don't Bela Lugosi were perfect picks for a
cheesy black and white monster flick. But somewhere in the background there
was a noise that grated on Joel's nerves. It was like a bad projector,
slightly off track, like the noise of a motor with a large piece of SOMETHING
stuck in it, caught in the projector's moving parts.

Suddenly Joel realized what the noise was. His teeth were chattering.

Joel brought his hands up to his face and blew on them to keep them warm.
Noticing he could see his breath, Joel blew out into the air and watched the
cloud dissipate in the cold. "Man, I'm cold!" Joel cried out. He turned to
look back at Cambot. "Did you hear me, sirs?" he said with voice raised. "I
said I'm cold!"

Joel rubbed his hands together and looked about the cold dark theater. There
was only one exit (if you didn't count the little vaulted peep-hole for
Cambot), and it was closed. Joel made his way over to the sealed exit.
Standing over the heating grate, Joel felt the air pumping into the theater.
It was like ice.

"Sirs!" Joel cried out again. "Dr. Forrester! Dr. Erhardt!" He jogged to
the back of the theater and stood in front of Cambot. "Come on, sirs, this
isn't funny! I'm cold!" Joel ran in place to keep warm. He looked back at
the screen. The movie continued to run as the projection showed the film's
local police bumbling around the graveyard.

Joel turned around to look at Cambot again, blowing air out into the darkness.
The little clouds of moisture condensed in the cold, turning to ice and fell
like snow. Joel looked at Cambot, his eyes knitted in terrified knowledge
that he was going to freeze to death before the mad scientists helped him.

Joel ran back to the closed exit and pounded on the door, grappling his icy
cold fingers with the metal surface trying to find the edge of the door. In
frustration, he pounded his fist against the metal, but it was no use.
Frightened, Joel's mind whirled, looking for a way out.

Running back to Cambot in the rear of the theater, Joel told the robot,
"Cambot, you've gotta go back to the control room. Find a way to contact
Earth. Tell 'em what's happening. Go!"

Cambot shuddered and pulled out of its peep-hole. Joel peered after it a
moment before the vault lock swung back in place and sealed itself over the
hole. Joel was alone. Very, very alone.

Turning back to the movie, Joel tried to let the movie take his mind off where
he was and what was happening to him, but it was no use. His mind returned to
Cambot, wondering what the voiceless robot could do to help him escape this
frozen hell. What if he was trapped in the cold, dark theater forever,
nothing left but a block of ice? For the first time, Joel realized that
whatever situation the mad scientists had put him in, he wouldn't mind so much
if he wasn't so ALONE.

Suddenly the movie flickered and disappeared. Joel looked over to the exit
with anticipation. When would it open? He slowly walked toward it, every
step expecting to see it swoosh open and every step filled with desperation as
it failed to do so.

Over the air grate, the air was like the winds in Fargo winters. Joel felt
his heart sink as he turned away. Then the sound of metal scraping on metal
sounded, and Joel swung around to see the door sliding open.

He rushed back into the entryway and hopped into the tunnel. Again, it began
to spiral him with the sensation of going "down" although Joel was quite sure
there was no true "up" and "down" in outer space. He was spat out on the
other side into the control room.

Joel quickly found the life support controls behind a wall panel. Flipping
his numb cold fingers across switches, he heard the gurgling of something
almost like boiler heaters in an old building starting up. It slowly began to
warm up again.

The light was flashing on the control board -- the mad scientists were
calling.

Joel slapped the receive button, but was too upset to take the juicy green
grape that popped out of the dispenser. "Hey, sirs, did you know I was
freezing my buns off in that theater of yours?"

Forrester shrugged. "Theaters are always air conditioned. It wouldn't be a
REAL theater unless you were too hot or too cold."

Joel had another point of view. "Zero Kalvin, cold? All heat turned off in
the middle of outer space, cold?"

Confessed Forrester, "Oh, that. Well, we've already had over 10,000,000 miles
on the satellite. Sometimes the heater wonks out."

Joel squinted his eyes (as if he could do so even further than they already
were, as tired as he seemed to be) and shook his head. "Wouldn't it've been
easier to just kill me?"

Erhardt exclaimed, "Heck, no! Think of all the paperwork...."

"...And the blood." Forrester shivered. "Messy."

Joel requested, "Look, sirs, I'm really tired. Can't you wait until tomorrow
to show me your films or whatever you plan to do?"

"What do you think, Lar?" Forrester turned to his assistant.

Erhardt considered it. "I suppose we could work the bugs out of our mind-
monitoring equipment."

"Good idea." Forrester grabbed two football wire mesh helmets and handed one
to Erhardt who put it on his head. The tall doctor re-addressed Joel, "Why
don't you take a little nap while we test our telepathic helmets." Returning
his attention back to Erhardt, Forrester asked, "Ready, Lar?"

"You bet. Now what is this supposed to do?"

"You'll do everything I do. I won't even say a word."

Joel tilted his head and squinted his eyes at the monitor. He wasn't quite
sure those two really had a full deck of cards, sometimes. Hitting another
button on the board, Joel disconnected the transmission over the monitor and
took the grape that had dispensed earlier. He wondered if there were any
other food stocks in the satellite; it would get rather boring to say the
least if all he had were grapes. Joel wandered down the hallway.

Cambot stretched out and followed Joel as he peered into the different rooms.
Most of them he had already briefly explored when he looked for the parts to
build Cambot. Joel opened the door to an "interior" room (one of many which
did not include portals to the outside of the ship) and found a cot. Too
tired to look further (as far as he was concerned, Joel had hit jackpot), Joel
climbed on the bed and fell fast asleep. Cambot peered at him inquisitively
outside the door.

* * *

Joel awoke with a start. He opened his mouth in heaving, rasping breaths. He
couldn't breathe! Dragging himself out of bed, Joel pushed back the nausea
the lack of oxygen caused. Joel felt himself tumbling down a long tunnel as
he made his way down to the control room, each breath he took a long labored
task.

Cambot panned Joel as he stumbled across the room and heaped over the life
support controls. He struggled to keep conscious, desperately fighting
against what seemed inevitable. Joel got the panel to the life support to
come off, and the metal clanged against the floor as the panel fell from his
weak fingers. Like a puppet without a deft operator, Joel worked over the
controls, trying to correct the malfunction.

When all seemed lost to his hazy mind, Joel heard the slow hiss of fresh air
being pumped through the vents. He drew himself closer to a vent and leaned
over it, breathing deeply as his ragged lungs could muster. He slumped down
to the floor in relief and exhaustion.

Cambot moved down to peer in Joel's sweat-filled face. It had no expressions,
but with the slight tilt of its head Cambot indicated something akin to worry.
The only strength Joel could muster was to look up at Cambot and breathe, and
breathe....

 

Part Three -- MONITORING HIS MIND!

After two harrowing narrow brushes with disaster the day before, Joel was
determined from ever letting another satellite malfunction happen again.
Sequestering himself in the workshop on the maintenance dock, he feverishly
worked away at a large remote setup which housed controls he scavenged from
the control room, including the life support. The whole thing turned out to
be almost as large as his torso. It was bulky and probably inefficient, but
Joel didn't want to find himself frozen in a block of ice or out of air again
any time in the future.

This time, however, Joel thought perhaps he would try to make the robot a bit
more interactive. After all, if he were to be stuck out in space, he wanted
something to talk to him besides the occasional calls from the scientists
which seemed to be only a one-sided conversation anyway. Joel set the
controls inside a large housing he dressed up as best he could with a single
eye on top (an extra lens stolen from Cambot's reserve of extra "eyes") and a
large retractable neck at the bottom to house the cabling which would attach
it to the wall.

Cambot watched from the doorway. Joel turned to it and lifted the finished
product to show the camera.

"Well?" Joel asked its opinion. "What do you think?"

Cambot tilted its head as though it were almost puzzled.

"You'll see," Joel answered Cambot's quizzical "expression" and lifted the new
robot he made over his shoulder. "Come on, Cambot. Let's see what she's made
of."

Back in the control room, Joel laid the bulky head on the floor as he attached
the neck to the life support socket. He made the last connection and looked
down to the robot's "head." It didn't move at all. Not even the long coil of
neck and cable moved. Had he done something wrong? Joel peered back at the
control panel in the wall. Nope, everything was connected properly. Maybe
his programming wasn't quite debugged as he thought it was and it would be
back to the drawing board.

Joel turned to check out the head and found that it had risen...and was
trying to engulf Cambot!

"No!" Joel cried out, prying the new robot loose from Cambot's head.

Suddenly let go from the grip of the larger robot, Cambot slunk back into its
socket and cringed, shaking a bit in fear of this new creature.

Joel put his arm around the head, hoping to prevent it from trying to eat HIM
as well. "Hey, girl, don't put things in your mouth!"

"Waa uhhh," a croaking sound came out of the new robot's unusually large
mouth.

"My, haven't you got a lovely singing voice?" Joel teased.

"Gaa ahhh," it said this time, no more melodic than before.

This wasn't exactly the communication Joel was hoping for, but perhaps he
could make the best of it. He wondered, "What're we gonna call you?"

"Giiyy uup!" the robot croaked.

"Gyp? No...."

"Eee ssseee," the robot continued to gurgle.

"Hmm. Gyp...see." Joel looked at the 'bot. "Gypsy?"

"Yeaaa, yeaaa," the new creature said with some clarity for the first time.

Joel asked, "Do you like the name Gypsy?"

"Waaahhhhrrrr!" the robot cried with a flourish, seeming to become excited for
some reason.

"Whoa, girl!" Joel cried, hoping to calm the large bulky robot down. "That's
okay. I can call you something else."

"Gyypppseeee," it said this time with purpose.

"Come on," Joel prompted. "Make up your mind."

"Gypppseee," it said a little easier than it had before.

Joel figured that was about as much as he could get out of it for the time
being. "Okay. You're my own Gypsy Rose Lee, then."

"Gypsy," the machine finally croaked properly before going into another string
of non sequitur sounds.

It was going to be a long day.

* * *

Gypsy and Cambot followed Joel around the satellite as he picked up objects,
showing them to Gypsy, and prompting her to try to speak in some kind of
understandable dialogue. He found that although Gypsy probably knew what she
was saying, her vocal sequencer was not that great, plus she was seemingly
unable to speak in complete sentences. Sometimes Gypsy would be completely
silent for long stretches of time. However, in those stretches, Joel noted
that minor changes happened around the ship, including changes in temperature,
and minor adjustments in orbital path. Joel was just grateful he would not be
making those changes himself every time they became necessary.

Joel found himself automatically speaking to Gypsy like a child with a softer,
gentler voice. "Okay, Gypsy. What's this?" he encouraged her.

"Aaapp-aaaal," Gypsy sputtered. "Apple."

"Very good!" Joel patted her broad purple head and then took a bite into the
apple. Finding objects around the ship for Gypsy to say out loud also allowed
Joel to find the foodstuffs.

"Me too!" she cried, trying to grab a bite of the apple.

Joel fended her off. "No, Gypsy. Apples are for Joel."

"Joel give Gypsy apple!" she insisted.

Joel glanced around the room. What could he give her to chew on? He picked
up some small PVC tubing. "Gypsy likes PVC."

"Uhhhggghhh!" Gypsy said with disgust and turned her head away from the
tubing.

Joel rummaged through some other mechanical salvage. "Circuit boards? No....
Copper tubing? Nu uh.... RAM chips--"

"Yum!" Gypsy barely got out of her vocal processor before chomping down on
Joel's hand.

"Ow!" exclaimed Joel. Gypsy pulled her mouth away, but the RAM chip was gone.
"Hey! Where'd it go?" Prying open Gypsy's mouth, Joel peered inside and saw
an interior clamp grab the RAM chip and drag it down into her tubing neck. He
felt like he were watching a smaller, friendlier version of the Alien movie.

Joel squinted as his eyes traced Gypsy's neck tubing coiling out of the room.
He put a hand on the tubing and felt something inside it move, like a snake
moving its prey down its slender body. "Eck!" he said repulsed as he pulled
his hand away. Joel never made Gypsy with the need to replenish energy via
eating. However, the changes Gypsy's processors had made to the ship also
seemed to have changed her as well, and it was apparent that she was now
perfectly capable of "digesting" subsistence -- and needed to.

"Ymmm," Gypsy made a yummy noise and began looking for another.

"Hold on, Gypsy," Joel tried to stop her from tearing apart the room with her
nuzzle, looking for more RAM chips.

She complained, "More RAM chips!"

"I'll find you more RAM chips." Suddenly Joel heard a klaxon ring down the
hallway. The Mads were calling. "Oh no, not now." Joel left Gypsy who
continued to rummage in the boxes of equipment for RAM chips.

"Joel?" Gypsy called after him.

In the control room, Joel punched the receive button on the control board. A
juicy plump grape spat out at him. Eating his reward, Joel watched Dr.
Forrester's image appear on the monitor below Cambot.

"Ah! Mr. Robinson," Forrester addressed him, "glad to see you awake. We're
ready to continue with our experiment."

"Look, sir," Joel was quite cross with the scientist and his situation, "you
blasted me out here on a broken-down satellite. Last night I ran out of
oxygen! I'm sick of this. I don't wanna watch your dumb ol' movie."

"RAM chips!" called Gypsy and she slunk in beside Joel.

Forrester squinted at his monitor where he watched Joel. "What is THAT?"

"Oh, ah, this is Gypsy. Gypsy Rose, honey, say hello to the evil scientist."

"Hello, evil scientist," she echoed.

Forrester couldn't believe his eyes. "My God. You're STILL building things!"
He called off-screen, "Larry! I thought you said we could break his spirit!"

The young man's voice floated through the monitor's speakers, "Well, it'll
take a while. Give it some time -- and another bad movie!"

"How right you are, my young colleague," Forrester agreed with an evil grin.
Turning back to Joel, he frowned and said, "You're going back in that
theater!"

Joel stomped his foot like a stubborn child. "No, I'm not!"

"It looks like I'm going to have to pull the big guns out on you, Robinson."
Forrester called again to his assistant off-screen, "Lar, ready shock to the
shammies!"

"Readying shock to the shammies!" echoed Erhardt.

Forrester asked his victim again, "Are you going in that theater?"

Joel stood firm. "Nope. Nu uh. No way."

"Commence shock to the shammies!" cried Forrester to his assistant unseen.

Erhardt parroted, "Shock to the shammies commencing!"

And no later than Erhardt replied to his superior than Joel felt a startling
jolt down the back of his legs. He involuntarily jumped.

"Hey!" Joel exclaimed. Before he could receive an answer or explanation, he
received another shock. "Now, wait a minute!"

"Are you going in that theater?" Dr. Forrester asked yet again.

"Fine! I'll go in the theater! Geez!" Perturbed, Joel slipped into the
spiral chute and felt it move him "downward" once again to the theater,
spitting him out to the other side.

He walked into the theater, the metal door hissing shut behind him. Joel
watched Cambot's peep hole open and the camera slipped inside. He picked a
seat near the front and hunched down in his chair as light began to flicker on
the screen.

The opening picture was of Criswell -- Plan 9 from Outer Space was starting
all over again.

"Oh, great," Joel said, unenthused.

* * *

Barely half way through the film, Joel felt himself drift off into sleep. His
chin fell down on his chest, and after a moment a light buzzing sound started.
Joel snored, fast asleep as Vampira, claws outstretched, chased the poor
innocent woman through the graveyard.

Suddenly a loud klaxon rang and Joel awoke with a start.

"Huh? Wha--?" Joel said sleepy-voiced (although no more than usual). He
noted the door to the theater slid open. Seizing the opportunity, Joel dashed
through and jumped into the spiral.

Deposited back in the control room, Joel found the lights flashing indicating
the mad scientists were calling. He hit the button and out popped a little
green grape. He looked at it, but didn't feel like eating it.

The doctors' faces appeared on the monitor set in the wall. They looked quite
disappointed. And mad.

"Mr. Robinson," said Dr. Forrester with a lecturing-type voice, "our mind-
monitoring equipment indicates that you fell asleep. Now, you didn't fall
asleep, did you? HMMMM?!" Forrester pushed his face up against the camera
lens on his end, filling Joel's monitor with his mad scientist face.

Like a naughty schoolboy found out, Joel spoke hesitantly, "Uh, oh no, sir.
Not me."

"Liar!" spat Dr. Erhardt, his lip curled.

Forrester crossed his arms, his face distorted with disgust.

Joel sighed. "Come on, sirs! I've got no set schedule, I don't know when
you're gonna call me into the theater -- I'm worn out!"

"Well, maybe we WANT to wear you out!" complained Dr. Forrester with a whine.

Erhardt tapped his superior on the shoulder with an apologetic demeanor. "Uh,
Clay?"

"WHAT?!" exploded the taller scientists.

"We, uh, don't have any other test subjects," Erhardt smiled innocently up at
Forrester and shrugged.

Forrester lowered his voice to confide in his cohort, his back slightly turned
from the camera. "What about that cute little red-head?"

Erhardt shook his head sadly and shrugged again. "She has a grandmother;
she'd be missed if she didn't bring her grandmother a picnic every Sunday."

"Oh, what if I scrunched down a little?" Forrester demonstrated, trying to
make himself look petite -- which was virtually impossible with his gangly
height. "Kinda -- like this?"

Erhardt shook his head.

"And if I wore that, you know, riding hood? No?"

Erhardt continued to shake his head.

Suddenly the scientists were interrupted by what sounded like a buzzsaw. Joel
leaned his elbows against the control panel as his chin rested in his hands --
he was asleep again.

Forrester opened his mouth to shout at the test subject, but Erhardt touched
his comrade's shoulder and said, "Allow me."

Erhardt reached out off-camera for a switch, presumably the shock-to-the-
shammies. However, before his hand could make contact with the switch,
Forrester cried out in his loudest voice, "Hey, you GUUUUUYYYYS!"

Erhardt winced.

Back on the satellite, Joel snapped awake and looked crossly at the monitor
below Cambot.

"All right, Robinson," Forrester conceded. "We'll have it your way--"

"--But OUR rules!" Erhardt finished.

"That's right," Forrester frowned furiously into his own monitor back at Joel.
Suddenly he looked off into the distance, somewhat puzzled, then back down at
his colleague. "Say, Lar, what ARE our rules?"

"Oh. Ah. Gee." The young scientist shrugged, his dark eyebrows playing tag
across his forehead.

Forrester bent closer to Erhardt and consulted with him, leaving Joel out of
the conversation with hushed tones.

Forrester confided, "I'm beginning to think your original plan would have
worked MUCH better."

"Never!" Erhardt replied, bootlicking all the way. "This is much slower; much
more insidious."

Forrester smirked. "Of course it is, isn't it?"

"Of course!"

Putting hands on hips, Forrester went full-tilt into mad scientist mode, his
voice deepening and his face contorting like it were made of silly putty.
"After all, am I not the one in the green lab coat? Do I not amuse you? Does
this not bug you?!"

Erhardt cackled and chuckled. "Clayton, you ARE the god!"

Forrester smiled down at Erhardt, but instead of softening his features, it
spread only darkness and fear to those who witnessed it. "I am, aren't I?"

Joel watched the scene incredulously. His own face was contorted with
disbelief at what he was witnessing. Had his two superiors not shot him into
space, Joel would never have known the underlying dark wackiness lurking in
their souls. But, then, if they weren't so evil, they probably wouldn't have
shot Joel into space.

"Um," Joel interjected, "you two obviously have more important things to do.
Look, I'm going to bed."

Turning back to the monitor on his end, Forrester pointed an accusing finger.
"You aren't going to bed until I TELL you!" He stared into the camera lens
for effect, doing some weird eyebrow thing like Lon Chaney. Erhardt looked
over his shoulder.

Suddenly Forrester snapped upright and seemed perfectly normal as he looked
down at his young colleague to ask with an inquiring voice, "So, what do you
think we should do to him next?"

"Hmmm," Erhardt considered, tapping a finger against his chin, his other arm
supporting his elbow. "How about...sending him to bed?"

Forrester turned back to the camera, pushing his face up to it. "Looks like
you're going to have to go to bed, Mr. Robinson -- with NO SUPPER!" He and
Erhardt cackled evilly.

"Oh, gee," Joel said blandly, rolling his eyes, "thanks, sirs." He punched
the button to end transmission. Turning to his newly-formed robot creation,
Joel said, "Okay, girl, you be good now. Joel's going to sleep," he informed
the large robot hovering beside him. He gave her a pat on the side and
trudged down the long corridor to his cabin.

* * *

Joel tossed and turned restlessly in his sleep. Just as his body would relax,
he felt the sensation of being zapped by a "shock to the shammies" or
travelling down the spiral towards the theater. He woke just enough to peer
out into the darkened bare cabin and look about fearfully, wondering what
other contraptions the mad scientists might have in store for him next.

Pulling up the covers around his ears, Joel felt his warm breath trapped under
the sheets and soon fell asleep again.

He was walking down the corridor of the satellite, his foot-falls echoing in
his ears. His breathing was slow and steady. The sounds of the ship and the
computers whirring surrounded him, but nothing else.

Joel walked into the main control deck and scanned the room. Nothing. No
one. In fact, the sockets to which Cambot and Gypsy connected were gone. The
room was bare and empty. All except for Joel.

There was a sound of a hatch blowing open. Joel looked down and saw the
theater chute, it's sharp toothy entrance open, endless blackness following
below. He felt the entrance calling him, drawing him nearer. Despite his
fear and the sirens ringing in his head warning him to run away, Joel found
himself lowering his body inside the chute. He released his grip from the
swing bar above the outside of the chute, and his body felt the force of the
spiral-on-down -- its hungry mouth sucking him inward towards the dreaded
theater.

He was spate out on the other side, dust and smoke billowing in behind him.
Joel stood and watched as the metal doors parted, leaving him with an open
view into the theater. He stepped over the threshold.

The seats were empty, a whole theater to himself, all alone. There was no
radio station tuned over the speakers. There was no pre-movie "let's go out
to the lobby." There was no one but Joel.

The doors behind him began to slide shut. For the first time taking his
senses, Joel turned in desperation and grabbed a hold of the sharply cold
metal, his fingertips digging into the door, his muscles struggling in vain to
hold the door back. But it was of no use. The door closed without slowing,
trapping Joel inside.

Panting from his exertion, Joel leaned against the cold door, his spirit
crestfallen at his loss. Suddenly laughter filled his ears -- cold,
heartless, evil laughter. He recognized the cackles of Drs. Forrester and
Erhardt. Joel spun around to find the source, but there was no one. Only the
voices.

Covering his ears, Joel cried out, "Stop it! Just stop it! GO AWAY!"

There was silence.

Joel looked about, looking for Cambot, looking for Gypsy, looking for the
faces of the Mads in the monitor, but they were not there. There was nothing,
and no one. And Joel was alone.

* * *

To be continued....

DISCLAIMER:

Mystery Science Theater 3000, its characters and situations are copyright 1996
Best Brains, Inc. Gizmonics is a copyrighted trademark of Joel Hodgson. This
publication is not meant to infringe on any copyrights or opinions held by
Best Brains, Comedy Central, its employees or Joel Hodgson. "...And Other
Science Facts" is copyright 1996 Lisa Jenkins.

This file can be read online at http://rrnet.com/~jenkins/fanfic.html

Return to the main page…