The League of Mystery Science

“The League of Mystery Science” is just a short story I wrote, a love letter to the original Mystery Science Theater 3000 that will hardly make any sense to anyone but MST3K superfans.

Having said that, enjoy:

The League of Mystery Science

“Mr. Rowsdower,” said the blonde, and she extended her hand to shake. She was a good-looking woman whose age was hard to guess– 40? a well-preserved 49? A little older? She was hard to read, except that he could tell from her eyes that she’d seen some shit in her time. Well, so had he. Zap took her hand and shook it– he was pleased to find that she had quite a firm grip, a characteristic not shared by many women he’d met. From there she turned to Troy. She shook the kid’s hand next. “Mr. McGreggor…” she said.

“You can call me Troy, ma’am– ow, my hand!” Zap tried not to roll his eyes, and almost succeeded.

“Look, sister, let’s get right to the point,” said Zap. “We got your message, but what kinda cockamamie group are you inviting us to join, here, exactly? Even yer waitin’ room is screwy…!” Zap glanced, again, with skepticism, at the walls of the large room the blonde had had him and the kid wait in.

“The League of Mystery Science has a very honorable history, Mr. Rowsdower,” said the blonde.

“It’s damn unbelievable, is what it is,” growled Zap.

“That wall is our roster,” said the blonde. “It lists all of our members of the past, some of whom have retired peacefully after serving the planet well… many of whom have fallen with great honor in its cause.”

“But it’s insane,” insisted Zap. He gestured with frustration at the whole wall.

The blonde walked over to the left side. “I understand that the origins of the team may well be perplexing,” she said. “We have so little information on the earliest members… I know that Desir was some sort of viking woman… that Sir George fought evil with the aid of his mother, Sybil…”

“But Hercules? Hamlet?” squeaked Troy. “That’s crazy!

“I understand your doubts,” said the woman. “But surely men as yourselves know that many strange things are possible…” The kid puffed his pigeon chest out with pride at the idea that anyone would call him a man.

“It’s the twentieth-century part that really gets me,” snarled Zap, reviewing the middle and right-hand side of the wall again. The list of names, after the left-hand side, started out all right, with some Japanese names: Dr. Hidaka, Kyoko, and Aoyagi, and Toshio. Then some guy named Henry Krasker, and then there were even more doctors or scientists, real egghead-types– Dr. Paul Nelson, Dr. Cal Meacham, Dr. Ed Wainwright… some sort of police or military person, Lt. Lee Hampton… then a bunch of regular names… many of them seemed to be listed as partnerships: James “Jimmy” Wilson and Kitty Reed, Bix Dugan and Danny Winslow, Silver Morgan and Jimmy Parlow, Finley ‘Critter’ Jones and Michele Casey… Zap supposed that if they decided to join, he and the kid would be listed that way someday… but after that the names got absurd, and Zap wasn’t afraid to say so. “…Who or what is the ‘Prince of Space?’ Or ‘Diabolik,’ or ‘El Santo?’ And–” The blonde started to say something, but Zap held up his hand to interrupt her– “–and even if you have good answers to those… you’ve got freakin’ Santa Claus listed there! You tellin’ me that Santa Claus is one of yer precious defenders of the planet?”

“In spite of how it sounds, he has more than once protected the planet’s interests from enemies both extra-planetary and… other-dimensional, let us say,” the blonde shrugged.

Zap just stared at the blonde. She stared back. “…Well,” he finally said, “you people ain’t seen nothing like the crap that’s coming from this ‘Manos’ cult. The kid and I have fought cults before, but that was nothing like what’s comin’ down the pike…”

“Yes, Mr. Rowsdower. And that is why we must unite our forces.”

“…I think she’s right, Rowsdower,” whispered Troy.

“Okay, okay, fine, we’ll join your little group,” said Zap. “But I think some damn introductions are in order. You know us, but we don’t know you.”

“Yes,” said the blonde. She turned to the four people who were standing behind her. “This is Sam Casey,” she said, placing her hand on the shoulder of a jerk with a fancy wristwatch and a big smirk on his face.

“You lucky people, getting to meet Sam Casey,” nodded Casey. “I’m a former agent of INTERSECT– but you probably never heard of it.”

“Damn right I haven’t,” muttered Zap.

The blonde moved to a guy in a weird costume like out of a comic book– maybe a cheap Italian comic book. “This gentleman uses the non du guerre of Pumaman,” she said. “His is a legacy of special abilities inherited from otherworldly visitors,” she said, giving Zap a meaningful look. Zap got her meaning, and nodded back.

“I’ve been a member of the League for some time,” said Pumaman. “I’ve helped fight giant gila monsters, giant spiders, Venutian vegetables, the siblings Girmar and Bomar and their green-skinned Martian invasion… killer shrews… the sorcerer Lodac… the irradiated monster that men once knew as astronaut Frank Douglas… Ratfink and Professor Neon… Dr. Eric Vornoff… an invasion from Gor… the undead voodoo priestess Molly Mekembe… the Creature from Boggy Creek, the Mole People… the deathless head of Gideon Drew… The Great Vorelli, in his doll-body… the witch Melissa Strickland… and worst of all, the hobgoblins, which we only defeated with technology from the lost Metalunan civilization… but I don’t know how we’ll defeat Manos without help from you two.”

“Wow, thanks,” said the kid.

The Blonde moved to the last couple of people, a muscular guy standing next to… a young, pretty nun. “Similarly, this man is an escapee from alien slavers… “he works with… well, for similar reasons as Pumaman, she still goes by the name of Sister Ann.”

“Heya,” said Sister Ann.

“Um… eheh… hi…” mumbled Troy. Great, the kid had a new crush, even though it was obvious to Zap that Sister Ann and the runaway were an item.

“The Runaway was the one who got our Metalunan interocitor working,” said Pumaman, gesturing to a large device in the corner of the room.

The blonde turned to her colleagues. “This is Zap Rowsdower and Troy McGreggor, son of Thomas McGreggor, the noted explorer of alien civilizations… and Mr. Rowsdower is of half-Xiox heritage, giving him greater-than-human strength and resilience…”

“But… who are you, ma’am?” Troy asked.

“My name is Sandy Hubbard,” said the blonde. “I joined the league when I was 18, sponsored by my friend Mrs. Ellis… Yes?”

This last was because Troy had raised his sticklike arm to ask a question. “Ma’am? Ms. Hubbard? I have a question… what is the asterisk for, next to that last man’s name on the roster?”

“Ah.” Hubbard walked over to a piano nearby. She stroked the top of the piano once, sadly. “The asterisk marks one who used to be a member decades ago… summoned by Finley ‘Critter’ Jones… but recently, I also gained the ability to call upon… well, as for being a man, you’ll have to decide that for yourself.” The blonde sat on the piano bench, looked at the keys of the piano, and played a tune… a complex, modern-jazz sort of composition.

And on top of the piano, a figure appeared out of thin air, wearing a sort of blue-green Pied Piper costume with musical notes on it. “Wheeeee! It’s me! Mr. B. Natural! You were feeling sad, but you played that music to cheer yourself up! That’s what summons meeeee!”

“Holy crap!” said Rowsdower. “Uh, no offense, sister,” he added to the nun.

“None taken!” said Sister Ann. Her expression showed that whatever Mr. B. Natural was, Sister Ann wasn’t quite used to it yet either.

Mr. B. Natural turned to Troy. “Why, you’re Troy McGreggor! Knew your father, I did! When he was feeling depressed, he and a grizzled old prospector would break out a harmonica and a mouth harp and play around the campfire on those cold Canadian nights… and that’s what I’m all about!” Mr. B. Natural danced a little jig on top of the piano.

“I need a beer,” muttered Zap.

Mr. B. Natural must have had excellent hearing indeed, because she turned to Zap and waggled a finger. “Ah-ah-ah! No time for that right now! Because I know about another enemy of the League who’s headed here at this very moment– as big an enemy of music and fun as the Manos cult! It’s an invasion force from the planet Krankor– so we’d better get ready, because if they manage to land, they’ve got Gargons and everything!”

Hubbard jumped up from the piano bench. “Then with the Prince of Space retired, there is only one we can call upon,” she intoned, and she walked over to a large terrarium. She opened the top, and reached inside and pulled out… a turtle. “A mother will always come when her child calls upon her,” said Hubbard. “Mr. Rowsdower, Mr. McGreggor, allow me to introduce you to… Tibby II… son of Gamera.”

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