Heads Up: This is the first MST3K story I wrote and finished, so it holds a special little place in my heart. It's a simple story with no plot or purpose - just Mike wandering around and thinking one afternoon.
Special Note: There are three flashbacks in this tale, but because paragraphs of italics is rather annoying, each one is offset by a sentence in italics before and after each flashback. Okay? Okay.
As always, thanks for reading!
It was unusually warm on the Satellite that morning - or what was assumed to be morning. Only the clocks, calibrated to Central Standard Time, kept the occupants of the ship in sync and on a proper morning-afternoon-evening schedule. If it wasn't for the little reminders of meals or – ugh – experiments, Mike Nelson was sure he would've lost all sense of time by now.
But, of course, he hadn't, and wasn't exactly planning on it. By the digital clock that hung on the wall in the kitchen-esque area of the Satellite, he knew today was a Thursday. Close to the weekend, yes, but the experiment was still four days off. Four glorious days of…
And here was when the blank came into the mind. Four days of what? Although he regarded the Satellite as his home, the robot occupants his family, and space his neighborhood, they didn't fill in the gap of what one could do with their time. True, the Satellite still held many wonders and unexplored parts – at least to Mike; he was confident Crow and Tom had the entire ship in their memories – but that wasn't much of a thrill for him.
…Eh, maybe next weekend.
Instead, Mike walked down the upper deck hallway of the Satellite, tying the sleeves of his jumpsuit around his waist so that he could revel in wearing a t-shirt. The tune he noticed floating in his head was something of a shocker, since he hadn't heard the song in nearly two decades. It was from when he was in high school…dragged to a football game by a couple of friends…He remembered that the girl he had a crush on was in the marching band…
A smile crept on Mike's lips as he dusted off the memory. He stopped near a port in the floor, a ladder jutting out from it, and leaned against the wall, smiling. Closing his eyes, he could see the scene unfold in his head…Ah, there it was. The band was in its own section of the bleachers, completely off in their own world as they danced and cheered and did…band stuff. Mike admitted that he found many of them a bit on the weird side, but overwhelmingly friendly and cheerful.
His crush – Chelsea was her name – played the quad drums for the marching season. Her long hair was currently in a braided ponytail, which she would pile on top of her head and hide under the…band hat. What was it called? …Oh, right, a shako. Funny name for a funny hat. She was of a lithe build – skinny and flat as a piece of plywood. But she was cute and had an earthy quality to her that the teenage Mike somehow found himself attracted to. He had a handful of classes with, talked to her, ate lunch with her…He considered Chelsea his friend, and secretly pined on the hope that it would turn into something more.
Mike ran a hand through his scraggily blonde hair as the band stirred and moved out from the bleachers and onto the track. He tapped his foot impatiently, staring at the clock, willing it to go faster so he could watch the show. What an odd thing to say, and something the farmboy never thought he would find himself thinking. Sure, he liked – loved – music, but he it wasn't like he hated football.
The buzzer sounded. Without missing a beat, there came a whistle, and the familiar pangs of Chelsea, the solo quad player, echoed out onto the field. Soon, the first bass drum joined in, followed by the three other basses, before the three snares and single cymbalist rounded out the group. A small school meant a small band – its members totaled about sixty this year – but just by the nine on the drumline, they made their presence marked. They marched on to the field and, in perfect rhythm, came to their spots. The cadence stopped…another whistle…then the barrage of music.
It was "Get It On" by Bill Chase that Mike found himself humming when he opened his eyes. He hadn't fallen asleep or even dozed off…in fact, the watch on his wrist told him that he had only spent two minutes in memory-land. He sighed, looking up and down the hallway, wondering what in the world he was going to do to pass the time.
The port next to him caught his attention. Mike peered down the ladder, noticing that the only light from the room below was the faint blue one that was in every room – meant to act as a sort of 'courtesy' light of sorts so that one wouldn't randomly find themselves in a black abyss.
Okay, so maybe he would drag 'explore' up a weekend.
Mike grabbed onto the handrail positioned above the port, carefully placing one foot on a ladder rail, then the other, before make his descent. The blue light was posed to the left of the ladder, marked about six feet from the ground. A bit disoriented by the black-on-blue, Mike fumbled for the light panel located underneath the blue bulb, gradually turning the circular knob until it came to its final resting place with a click.
The room was like many others in the ship – roughly spherical, with the familiar hexagon (and occasional pentagon) panels covering the walls. Acting as a sort of baseboard was a triangular wedge of air grates, supplying a steady flow of oxygen to the room. A large port window was on the opposite wall from the ladder, a wide ledge before it so that is resembled a sort of bay window.
Mike took a few steps away from the ladder, completely in awe of what lay before him. Books. They were in boxes, sure, but open boxes, which revealed their glorious contents. Judging by how two of them were knocked over, he assumed Crow and Tom had found their way in here once while playing around. The farmboy kneeled down, picking up the closest one nearest to his feet. It was a relatively thick paperback with the white text of "Edith Hamilton's Mythology" proclaiming itself against the black background of the cover. It was trimmed with gold, and a winged man in a red robe stole the center spot.
He flipped over the book out of curiosity, quickly reading the summary on the back. It mostly gushed about how old the anthology was (published in the '40s or something) before giving the insight that it was over Roman and Greek myths – as if that wasn't blatantly obvious by the garb of the man on the cover. He sighed and tossed the book down before maneuvering towards the window. Without a second thought, he hopped onto the ledge, nestling himself between the plexiglass and the edge, before staring out into space.
The blonde did this a lot – well, 'a lot' meaning he did it enough so the action wasn't out of the ordinary. Sure, Mike spent much of his time with the 'bots, but he himself needed some alone time. …Boy, that was funny to think of. He closed his eyes again, leaning his head on the paneling, thinking back to when he was first shot up…There was Gypsy on the screen – though at that point, she was just some giant purple robot that was freaking out about saving Joel's life. He had just given her access to the controls that would allow her admission to the Satellite's one escape pod. With nothing left to do, Mike had given her a wish of success and turned back to his work.
His job for the temp agency placed him in Deep 13, the sub-basement of Gizmonic Institute. He was cleaning and clearing boxes for the two weird guys that resided there – they insisted they were mad scientists, but their incredibly horrible stash of movies convinced Mike they were just waiting to get carted off to the loony bin.
There were some fun things in the boxes – also some disturbing things. Random gizmos and gadgets, cans and bottles, strings and wires…Some things he was able to identify, others he was afraid they might explode if he prodded them the wrong way. With a chuckle, Mike threw a random hat on his head before setting back to work, moving and piling boxes and crates.
It was about an hour later when a rather cheerful Dr. Forrester emerged from a shower (why there was a shower in a basement Mike would've rather not thought about), rubbing a towel through his mess of brown hair and asking Frank about the experiment. The assistant was able to flub his way through normal conversation before attempting to casually mention how Joel had escaped. The doctor, however, immediately picked up on this and began to bellow in fury.
Mike shook his head at what he had done next. Rather than slink into the shadows or try and make a break for it, he stupidly asked them to sign his time card…They laughed…He laughed…Then he was asked a rather ominous question.
"Mike…what size jumpsuit do you wear?"
He raised an eyebrow, but kept up the good-natured mood. "Well ah…large? Maybe extra 'cause I'm tall? But I've already got one, so what do…you…" He stared down at the time card, his pen scratches marking out the hours…oh…oh how he wanted to simply have him sign his name so he would leave…The temp looked up, just in time to see a large hammer swing into his vision before a loud, hard hit to the head sent him spiraling down…
Blackness…loud noises…beeps…an eruption…
Then he woke up. Well, he woke up with quite possibly the worst headache ever had by a mortal man – and even then, he bet he would've beaten a couple of the immortals. His whole body ached, but his brain felt like it had been ripped apart and sewn back together with a rusty needle.
"…Mike?" The voice was familiar…vaguely female, slow and dim…but a layer of intelligence hidden somewhere, as if it was off with better things to do. Slowly, he opened his eyes, his vision blurred and out of focus for a few lingering seconds before sharpening to the world around him. In front of him was…oh, what was the name…
"G-Gypsy?" he asked on a weak breath before breaking out in a coughing fit. The purple robot leaned back, her gaze (if that's what it could be called – her only sense of vision seemed to come from the flashlight mounted to look like an eye) seemingly glossed over to another plane.
"Air levels normal, wavering with 78.7% nitrogen, 20.3% oxygen and 1% miscellaenous gases. Cabin pressure normal…humidity at 29.4%." She looked down at Mike, who had ceased coughing and was instead pacing himself to breathe naturally.
"W-why am I here?" he asked, his voice shaking subtly. He peered around Gypsy and noticed he was…definitely not in Deep 13. Given the 'bot that was with him…the noises…the…Oh man.
"I'm not quite sure why," Gypsy responded, slithering with her tube-like body a few feet to the left before coming back, "But...they sent you here."
"They?" And as soon as it was out his mouth, he knew.
Mike opened his eyes when he heard a faint beep and a noise akin to an extremely quiet, almost non-existent vacuum cleaner moving around. He looked towards the ladder and noticed the familiar, compact sphere of Cambot floating down, swiveling his lens as if nervous and looking for a safe refuge.
Upon noticing the human at the window, the camerabot beeped in high chirps and darted toward him, slamming into his chest and shaking slightly. Mike was a little baffled, but hugged the quivering sphere nonetheless.
"Well…hi Cambot, nice to see you…What's wrong buddy?" The 'bot looked up, stumbling only a little when his lens got caught in a fold of the t-shirt. He made a series of beeping noises, as if trying to explain a situation. They both knew it was futile, so Mike held up his hand for him to stop.
"Okay, sorry little guy…Um…You're hiding, right?"
A single beep. That was a yes.
"Hiding…and you're hiding from Crow and Tom, aren't you? They playing a new game or something? Maybe just want to tease you?"
A series of single beeps confirmed what Mike knew was going on. He sighed, picking up the camerabot and looking him straight in his eye (the lens).
"Tell ya what, Cambot. You pick out any book here in this room and me and you can have a little bit of reading time, okay?" This simple act seemed to perk up the 'bot immensely, as he started to zoom about and nose through the boxes excitedly. Mike held back a laugh as one of the boxes fell over with Cambot still nosing about with it, but, undeterred, he quickly went back on task.
He was soon coming back towards the ledge, nudging a book (much like a dog would do with a large toy) towards him. Mike scooted his legs off the ledge to better position himself to pick up the book. It was the mythology paperback from earlier, the spine warm from where the camerabot had nudged it along.
"Mythology, eh?" Mike asked, settling back into his lounging spot on the ledge. Cambot zoomed up and bounced excitedly before nestling into the crook of his right arm, swinging his lens out to have a proper view of the book.
The little robot was warm – set roughly to a standard human temperature. Was this something Joel had done? Maybe to make the 'bots seem a little more human and less like bits of scrap, he had given them radiating temperatures? Mike looked down at the 'bot while he thumbed open the book. If Joel was the father of them – of Crow, of Tom, of Gypsy, of Cambot – what did that make him? Uncle? Brother?
He liked the uncle option. It reminded him of his age and relative position to "leader" of the crew on the ship. Afterall, there had been that one time when Tom said he was going to "overthrow" him…but then he claimed to be too lazy…and Crow was as well…so the position defaulted back to him. He could joke with them smoothly and felt only a little embarrassed when parts of their movie tortures forced them to ask about the "facts of life". (He was pretty good at dancing around that question and gotten about as close to the facts as one of the shorts from the '50s that gave only vague allusions to the subject.)
Cambot beeped and whirred, wiggling in an attempt to give Mike a nudge. "Oh, right. Sorry about that…So, what myth are we going to read about? We could go with the creation of the world, or maybe about Hercules…aha, the House of Atreus, let's not…there's a thing with Norse mythology too, cool. Which one ya like, Cambot?"
Mike held the table of contents page so that the little 'bot could make a selection without moving. His lens poked the page, leaving a slight indent across the line that read 'The Trojan War'. He winced…it was pretty long, meaning he'd get thirsty along the way and would have to…Ah well, what did it matter? He had all the time in the universe to do whatever he wanted.
"Trojan War?" A single beep and a vigorous nod confirmed the selection. "Alright." Mike flipped through the pages before landing on the chapter, its header marked by a simple illustration of the iconic wooden horse. Clearing his throat, he began to tell the tale.
He was slightly thrown off in his story-telling by the camerabot nestled in his arm. At certain actions in the story, he would shake or nod, beeping and wiggling to show his joy or displeasure. It was so odd to have to interpret these actions – unlike Tom, Crow, or Gypsy, Cambot was silent, operating without any means of verbal communication. In all honesty, it felt like having…a baby.
The words stopped, which wasn't unseal at first. Cambot figured Mike had to take a break before hopping back in; it was a long story afterall. But as the seconds passed and the voice didn't continue, the 'bot looked up, dipping towards one side and beeping, confused.
"I…just had a thought," the human murmured, slowly setting the book down. He looked at Cambot, whose lens reflected in the light and reminded him of a child's – big, curious, and willing to listen. With a grin, he asked, "You wanna hear?"
Cambot had no voice. He had no way of speaking and therefore no solid way of responding. The beeps and whirs and tilts were all he could do to communicate his thoughts. But despite all that, there wasn't a shred of doubt that he was the greatest listener – whether human or robot. He would sit and listen...listen…listen…and never object. He was quiet companionship, something solid and always there.
"You know how – okay, I guess you don't, but let's say hypothetically – you know how when you're a kid, you think it's so weird to maybe one day have children of your own? I mean, girls have dolls, but boys kinda have to wing it until they're older…But I remember…I remember growing up and thinking about how I always wanted to have a kid or two – or three. It didn't matter the gender, just that…just that knowledge of knowing that somebody was created and carries half of you is just really something, you know?"
Well, no, the 'bot didn't really know, but he understood. He nodded slowly, beeping in confirmation. Mike sighed, resting his head on the paneling while slumping his shoulders. "I dunno, it's just…you're a warm little body. Human-warm, it seems. And your size, and just the way you're posed…you make me think of a baby." At the rise of the angry chirps, he quickly added, "I don't THINK of you as a baby, but you have that feeling, okay?" He laughed, grinning. "It just got me thinking about…I dunno…what kind of father would I be?"
There was a pang of sadness in his voice that Cambot picked up on, not to mention the cheerless look in his eyes. To even get to the concern about the quality of his parenting, Mike leapt over the part of getting back to Earth, finding a woman, getting married, and having the kid. He, however, had realized those hurdles, which resonated in his voice and expression. The camerabot nudged his torso affectionately in an attempt to give him some comfort.
This caught Mike by surprise. He looked down at the 'bot before smiling and patting the top of his sphere. "Thanks. You know buddy, I don't know if you know but…I appreciate all the stuff you do. It means a lot to me. And I'm sure – even though they don't say it – I'm sure Crow and Tom and Gypsy do too."
Cambot looked up at him, the inner lens of his eye contracting in and becoming small, much like a human's pupil when surprised. It soon adjusted to its standard width before the scope suddenly contracted into the sphere, the lens covered by two triangular pieces to make a lens cap. The two halves of the sphere then snapped shut.
Mike stared at the 'bot, confused for a few moments until he saw the fading red light from underneath the outer shell. It was the light right next to Cambot's lens, and its actions confirmed that he had gone into sleep mode.
What an odd time to do it, though, Mike had to observe. Creating a dog-ear in the book, he left it on the ledge before hopping off and making his way towards the ladder, Cambot tucked under his arm. Was it because he told the camerabot that he thought he was important? Was the little guy so shocked and touched by this that his harddrive simply needed to rest? Well, it was possible, but equally plausible were options that blamed Crow and Tom's little game on draining out the 'bot.
None of that really mattered, though, as Mike climbed, one-handed, back up to the upper deck hall. Upon stepping onto the hall's floor, he peered down at the room below – left exactly as it had been found, with the blue courtesy light still glowing and illuminating the light panel. Switching Cambot to his left arm, he continued his trek down the hallway he had abandoned at least an hour ago.
This part of the ship was where they lived, the floor spreading out and showing six portholes to different rooms. Although all six were filled, only five were in use, the sixth one having been Joel's. (It was filled with a wealth of things to raid though, but left mostly in-tact – sans a package of tube socks that were needed after the 'bots decided to cut up his.) Mike ducked down into one off of the left, which was Cambot's little homebase. The room was relatively small, its walls adorned with photos of whatever the 'bot snapped up and printed out.
After setting the camerabot down in his bed (a simplistic set-up of a dog bed and some blankets), Mike stole a glance of the photos. There were collaged all over the place and hanging at crooked angles, some with bent corners and a few threatening to peel off the wall. They were of literally everything – besides the obvious of the crew, there were shots of the flashing movie lights, of the kitchen and the inside of the refrigerator, of the cargo bay, of the corners of boxes, and some pretty breathtaking images of the galaxy outside the Satellite.
Making a note to come back to really observe them later, Mike slipped out of the room and took a few paces towards his own before stopping and peering into it. It was relatively tidy, with a stash of books in one corner and massive amounts of paper in the other – if he wasn't reading, he was drawing something or another. Next to the head of the bed was a small end table with a lamp on it, empty soda (and a single beer) cans strewn about its surface. Mike slipped through the porthole and flopped onto his bed, hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling.
He closed his eyes, thinking back to this time of the year on the farm back in Wisconsin. It was November, so the growing season was long over. It was a bit nippy outside, though nothing wearing a sweatshirt and long sleeves couldn't protect against. A seventh grade Mike was swinging his legs down from the branch of a leaf-barren tree that sat next to the small farmhouse. Some of the branches overlapped the roof, and the logical step of what that created was, in fact, on the twelve-year-old's mind.
Eddie was already up there, sitting on a flat portion of the roof that came after a climb up to the peak of the shingles. He and Mike were brothers, such was true – they resembled each other (and their father) a great deal. What set them apart, besides hair color, was the older boy's attitude. He was a bit careless (whereas the younger was more hapless) and rough, already being scolded for being too vulgar by their mother. He was, however, a pretty good big brother –protected his sibling from the day he was born, explored the farm and found secret spots with him, and even taught him how to climb trees (and get onto the roof). "C'mon Mike, hurry up!"
"I'm coming!" The blonde scrambled up before climbing further up the branches, kicking away at loose bark and knocking stray leaves off their branches. After carefully shimmying around the trunk and turning around, he scrambled up the limbs and onto the roof, not even pausing in fear of losing momentum and being sent on a nice trip of scraped shingles and loose gutters.
"There ya are. What took you so long?" Eddie was flipping a box of cards in his hands as Mike crawled onto the flat patch, wiping his hands after he got into a comfortable sitting pose.
"I'm still not that good at it," he mumbled before noticing the beat-up cardboard box that held the playing cards. "Oooh, what are we playing today? Goldfish? Crazy Eights? Poker?"
"I'm going to teach you Blackjack," Eddie replied, flipping open the box and sliding the deck out. Mike watched intently as he nimbly shuffled the deck, cards flying between his finger and palms. After a vigorous cycle, he set down the deck and was about to begin explaining the rules when he was interrupted by his little brother.
"What…what are you going to do when you grow up?"
With a sigh, Eddie reclined back in his spot, resting on his arms stretched behind him. "I dunno. Take over the farm, I guess. You know, if Dad'll let me…Uh, other than that, I haven't really thought about it. Why? What 'bout you?"
"I want to…get out of here. Go somewhere different! Like…maybe go to Madison and find something there. Just to…get out of here."
"Why? Hate the farm? Ooooh, I'm gonna tell Dad –"
"Oh come on! It's not anything like that! I just mean…I mean, I'm not really good at it. You are, even if Dad does go after you with the belt more times than he does me." Mike started to cackle, dodging to avoid a jab from Eddie. "All I can do is take care of the chickens and maybe plant. Otherwise, I'm pretty…"
Mike scowled, but made no rebuttal, instead staring down at the roof of the porch set about five feet below them. It was another flat portion of the roof, good for watching fireworks or stargazing. The blonde proceeded to look up at the sky, shielding his eyes from the bright light of the sun, made even sharper by the crisp blue of the day.
Eddie looked at his brother curiously before stealing a glance up. "UFO?" he asked breezily, a slight tone of impatience coloring his voice.
"No…but…" He closed his eyes. "Wouldn't it be cool to be out there in space?"
Ugh, irony. Mike heaved a yawn before grunting and sitting upright, sitting awkwardly on his bed with his right leg hanging off and the left laying on. He felt like he had drifted off there for a bit, though for how long he had little idea. Standing up and stretching, Mike glanced out the window that stared out into the cosmos. Off in the distance were splashes and twists of stars, and towards the left was the moon…no matter how often he saw it, the scene was still a bit daunting to look at.
His stomach suddenly expressed its displeasure at not being full. Mike looked at his watch – little past one in the afternoon – before heading out and back down the hall. Before making his way to the kitchen, he glanced into Cambot's room, noticing that the dog bed was empty. Well, that was good.
His thought process shifted from the 'bot to lunch as he wondered what was even left in the fridge. Maybe, if he was lucky, some of the roast Gypsy had made yesterday would be there…he could make a sandwich, always a nice solid lunch staple…Eh, if not, ramen noodles didn't sound too bad either. Not very gourmet, but they were a nice meal of themselves.
Carefully poking his head out to the bridge, he noticed it was just in minor disrepair, with a littering of crafting supplies on the control table. Mike went with his usual tactic of ignoring it, knowing that in due time, he'd learn what it all was.
He felt a nudge on his elbow. Looking down, Mike saw Cambot staring up at him, who gave a chirp upon being noticed. "Uh, hey Cambot. What's up?"
The camerabot whirred and made jerking motions back to the hall before pointing down. It took a moment to register. "Oh, you want to finish reading, huh?" A happy beep confirmed that answer. "Okay, well, lemme grab some lunch and we can do that, mmkay?"
As he stepped into the kitchen and popped open the fridge (finding a Tupperware container with some slices of the roast left, much to his delight), Mike couldn't help but chuckle. There were times when he thought about how he would explain his time in space to his family and friends – and, when he got really deep, to his possible children – when he got back to Earth. Although hell-bent on not leaving the 'bots behind, he knew that they wouldn't always be following him around. So how would he go about it?
His thoughts were interrupted when Cambot poked his lens in into the kitchen, beeping rather impatiently. "Okay okay, geez, hang on…" Mike slipped a soda can into one of the many pockets on the forest green jumpsuit while jamming the sandwich in his mouth to free up his hands and re-tie the bread bag. After completing this task, he turned to the 'bot, ripping off a corner of the sandwich in the process.
"Alright, so, Trojan War…we were at the part where Agamemnon had kidnapped the daughter of a priest, giving Hector and the Trojans an advantage in the war…"
At least until the end of the story, all thoughts of what could be were put on hold.