By Mike Bishop <email@example.com>
Submitted December 2004
Summary: What do you get when you mix an old Superman comics formula with Lois & Clark, insert tongue firmly in cheek and mix? In this bit of fantasy, you get Dr. Unnamed Mad Scientist and Mechanical Monster Number 5.
*Disclaimer: Characters not mine, blah blah… property of DC Comics and tons of others… legal mumbo jumbo, penniless college student, yadda yadda… please don't sue. One scene property of Bill Cosby. Situations aren't mine either — but fortunately, parody is protected by copyright law.
Okay, so I was at Best Buy the other week and found an interesting thing in their bargain bin: a DVD collection of episodes from the really old Superman cartoons. In and of themselves, they're mildly entertaining. But coming from a more recent Superman tradition, I find their very improbability amusing… I couldn't resist trying to reframe and see what this episode would look like with our more modern Superman contexts.
And I admit, this might be pointless to anyone who hasn't seen the episode — but maybe the sheer ridiculousness of it will still shine through despite my meager talents.
Clark Kent was running late for work. His original intention, a quick breakfast before heading to the Planet, had been somewhat derailed by a warehouse fire near Hobb's Bay. After it was extinguished, he had returned to his apartment for a fifteen-second shower to rid himself of the smoke and soot that had caked on him. Then he saw the clock — late. Again. He spun into a fresh Suit, and took off out his window. Flying was the only way he would get there anywhere close to on time.
From below, he heard people exclaiming as he flew overhead.
"Up in the sky — look!"
Clark tried to keep below the sound barrier in the city to avoid sonic booms. Still, a flying human did tend to attract a bit of attention even without the noise.
"It's a bird!"
<That's me, the great Kryptonian Egret. Just how avian do I look, anyway?> Clark wondered.
"It's a plane!"
If anyone had been watching closely enough, they might have seen the Man of Steel's head shake in exasperation.
<Well, at least SOMEONE reads the Daily Planet,> Clark thought as he landed on the roof of said newspaper's home. Not wasting a second, he spun into his regular clothes and began a dash down the stairs at a speed a normal human might hope to manage. An Olympian having a good day, at any rate.
Arriving in the office only twenty minutes later than planned, he collected coffee for Lois and himself and dropped hers by her desk. The last few days had been a bit slow on the news-front, but who knew what might turn up?
Superman was not the only entity to take to the skies that day. Fleeing from a rather seriously-bashed door of the National Bank came something more likely to have elicited the "plane" comment. In fact, the shadow it cast looked rather like a crop-duster. If not for the odd whistle-hum of its circuitry, the whir of its propellers would also have contributed to that impression.
Unit Number Five whirred away from the rubble, its mission complete and its assigned cargo safely stowed in its chest. It took Unit Number Five only a few minutes to reach the mountain hideaway of its master, Dr. Unnamed Mad Scientist. As it approached, Dr. Scientist pressed a combination on his control panel.
The door hidden in the mountain unbarred and opened inward. Unit Number Five flew in, circled around inside the large space, and finally settled to the ground, arms still spread wide for stability. The propeller that circled its neck like an insane bow tie continued to whir fitfully, and the antennae that permitted Dr. Unnamed Mad Scientist to control it sparked like a bug zapper with a short.
A panel behind Unit Number Five opened, and as Dr. Scientist pushed another button, it drew it its propeller and the wing-like extensions to its arms. A compartment in its back opened, and stacks of money fell into the waiting bin.
Dr. Scientist pushed one more button, and Unit Number Five walked to its place among numerous other Units of his construction. Finding an empty space, it canted unsteadily to one side and went still.
He had been mocked in graduate school — his last name of Scientist an amusement to his fellows, his complete lack of first and middle names an ongoing hindrance to the administration. Signing documents "Unnamed" had simplified many things — and yet, no one could seem to pronounce it correctly. The Ph.D. had helped somewhat. It was slightly easier being Dr. Unnamed Scientist than Mr. Unnamed Scientist.
He stroked his mustache as he looked at the money his creation had brought him. He would show all those fools who had denied him funding! Indeed, his research had just begun to pay off.
Jimmy still didn't understand. "Chief, I don't get this headline. Isn't it a robot?"
"Listen, Jimmy," growled Perry White. "My informant at the Star tells me that *they're* calling this thing a robot. Which means we have to call it something else. Now, do the search and replace."
"But it *is* a robot…" muttered Jimmy, as he showed the City Editor how to make the software replace all occurrences of the word 'robot' in each front-page article with 'mysterious mechanical monster'.
After the morning's robbery, the Planet's afternoon edition proclaimed in huge print, "MYSTERIOUS MECHANICAL MONSTER LOOTS BANK". In smaller print, a quickly modified article had been bolstered with additional comments about the security, and had been emblazoned "HOUSE OF JEWELS — EXHIBIT OPENS TODAY: 50,000,000 Dollars of the World's Rarest Gems On Exhibit. Extreme Precautions have been taken to Guard against Mysterious Mechanical Monsters."
Meanwhile, Clark had been dispatched to the opening of the exhibit. When first he had been assigned to the story, Lois had denigrated it. "Clark, it's a bunch of jewelry! Of course it's pretty, but it's not exciting. It's practically a dog show, except everyone will be wearing a suit!"
Her tune had changed with the morning's robbery — compared to a small branch of the National Bank, fifty million dollars in jewels stacked in one place was an obvious target. <We may get to see this rob… Um, 'Mysterious mechanical monster' when it strikes again! Then we can start to get to the bottom of this. I've got to go to this exhibit. But Clark will never agree that I should partner with him on this — he'll be all uptight about me getting stepped on or something.>
So, a few minutes after Clark had left the newsroom, Lois slipped out as well. Hailing a cab, she had gone to the House of Jewels. Walking up behind her partner, she tapped him on the shoulder.
"Lois! What are you doing here?" Clark asked. <I thought Perry said he was going to assign her something else today!>
"Oh, just getting the woman's angle on this story," she replied evasively. She wasn't going to admit that she wanted to be there when this robot-monster made another appearance — Clark would just get over-concerned with her safety.
Before Clark could say anything, a strange buzz-hum and the whirring of a propeller blade filled the air. A policeman at the entrance blew his whistle and yelled, "The mechanical monster! Get down!" The police began to mass in front of the entrance, armed to the teeth.
Clark and Lois stared in amazement as a fifteen-foot robot strode toward the door.
Unit Number Five swooped down in front of its assigned target. Organic life forms were directing projectile weapons at it, but they did not trigger its threat-response programming. After all, the Maker had given it a solid outer shell that was impervious to the majority of risks it might encounter.
It ignored the organics and strode toward the items it had been instructed to appropriate.
Two organics stood in its path — the female exclaimed "Come on, you fool; do you want to get trampled?" as she pulled at the male. Both departed from its approach vector.
The collection bin on its back opening, Unit Number Five reached out and began grabbing jewels from the display. It deposited them steadily, ignoring the activities of the organics around it. They were not a threat.
Clark and Lois had run around the corner, where a telephone booth stood. Clark sensed an opportunity, and said "Now, you wait here, Lois — I'll phone this in." Lois sensed an opportunity of her own. She ran back out to where the robot — no, the *mechanical monster* — was stuffing itself with jewels. Climbing on a chair, she attempted to scale the robot and get a better look at its manufacture.
As it inserted the last of the jewels, however, the robot turned suddenly, causing Lois to slip and fall into the closing collection bin.
Clark emerged from the phone booth, already speaking. "All right, Lois, let's…" That's when it hit him that she wasn't there. "Lois!"
At that instant, the robot flew out of the House of Jewels, pursued by the police and their machine guns. They were obviously doing little good, but they hoped that they might hit some vital and exposed spot if they just kept trying.
Striding back into the phone booth, Clark declared, "This is a job for Superman!" Once in the phone booth, however, he realized he didn't have room for his usual spin-change. He'd have to do this at normal speed.
As he was in mid-change, one of the police officers from the House of Jewels strode by and saw the silhouette of Clark removing his clothing in the phone booth.
"Hey, buddy, what're you doing in there?" demanded the policeman.
"Uhh… I'm changing clothes, officer." Clark was in too much of a hurry to think up a good excuse — besides, the matter was a little too obvious.
"You can't do that in a phone booth! Get out of there. Who do you think you are, anyway?"
"I'm Superman!" Clark had the Suit on by this point, and his street clothes safely tucked into hyperspace, so this as well would be plain the instant he opened the door.
"Right — try again, buddy. Now get out of that phone booth!" The officer was amused. Superman dressing in a phone booth? Surely the guy had someplace better for a wardrobe.
"Really! I'll show you the red S on my chest." Clark stalled for time as he secured his belt and cape in the cramped confines of the phone booth, aware that the mechanical monster was farther away every second.
The officer had had enough. "I'll give you a red S, and a black I too, if you don't come out of there!"
Finally fully Suited, Clark opened the door of the phone booth, and dashed off into the sky after the robot, leaving a very startled cop in his wake.
Unit Number Five realized it had acquired an organic along with its assigned target, and thus might be under pursuit. It initiated its emergency camouflage routines. Landing briefly atop a building, it repainted its designation to the number 13. Unit Number Five might be pursued, but no one had any reason to think Unit Number Thirteen had done anything wrong!
Ascending high into the sky, Superman scanned the area around the city for the fleeing whatever-it-was-called. He quickly saw Unit Number Five-turned-Thirteen returning to Dr. Scientist's hidden lair. Squinting and contorting his face, summoning his X-ray vision proved difficult. Was the robot lined with some kind of lead, or did he simply need contacts? He decided to leave the matter for another time — he could see Lois huddled inside the body of the thing.
Clark landed atop the device and began pulling at the compartment door. He had to rescue Lois before he could think about the jewels.
Unit Number Five felt the organic attempting to breach its structural integrity. How had an organic seen through its flawless disguise? It transmitted a warning to its Master — using Thirteen's channel, in case anyone was listening — to inform him of the attempted interference. With the press of a button, Dr. Scientist authorized whatever protective measures Five deemed necessary.
Five flipped, surmising that the organic might be unable to follow again if it fell. It also concluded that the organic was likely attempting to retrieve the first organic it had mistakenly acquired. Therefore, Number Five opened the storage compartment, intending to dispose of the female organic.
Falling off the robot, which had suddenly spun him off, Clark attempted to slow his fall and return to his own power of flight. Before he could turn his downward plunge into headlong pursuit, however, he hurtled into a stretch of power lines.
Lois, meanwhile, was less than thrilled at the prospect of being dumped. She held onto the ro… MECHANICAL MONSTER… with every ounce of strength she could muster. As she watched the jewels spill out and plummet to the ground beneath, she decided that now might not be a good time to escape. When the machine righted itself, she fell back into the compartment with a grateful thump.
A few minutes later, she was jostled as the robot landed on its feet. When it attempted to deliver up any jewels that had remained in its compartment, she was unceremoniously dumped to the ground.
"What a story this is going to make," she murmured, looking around at the robots arrayed around the room.
Dr. Scientist advanced on her with a menacing gleam in his eyes. "The jewels! What have you done with the jewels?"
Lois thought, <Sorry, buster, maybe you should ask your mechanical monster about that!> But deciding that might not be the most politic of responses, she said instead, "You'll read about it in tomorrow's paper!"
Dr. Scientist growled, "Are you going to tell me what happened to those jewels?" as he advanced on her.
When she continued to refuse, he tied Lois up and sat her on a platform above a vat of bubbling molten metal that served no apparent purpose besides the threatening of intrepid reporters. "So, you won't tell me?" he asked. "You'll soon change your mind…" With that, he pushed the lever before him.
Even had Lois wanted to tell him, being gagged effectively prevented it. But she could glare, and glare she did. Despite her glare, however, the platform began to lower slowly toward the slag.
Clark, meanwhile, was busy snapping the power lines that had apparently been tied in tight knots around him by some unknown poltergeist. Electricity sizzled around him, but he ignored its tingling flow.
When he arrived at Dr. Scientist's hideout, he found the door barred. That was no effective barrier, for he was in a rage of worry for Lois. He shattered the entrance to the secret hideout, in the process causing enough noise to summon Dr. Scientist away from his threatening of Lois.
Seeing Superman, he rushed to his control panel and activated every mechanical monster in the room. They charged Superman, flamethrowers blazing and taking turns pounding him with their fists. Though he was invulnerable and could not be permanently harmed by the flame or the blows, they weren't comfortable, and Clark had trouble keeping his balance amidst the onslaught.
Hearing Lois' heart in the next room beating faster and faster as her platform lowered unattended toward the waiting molten metal, he gathered his strength and began raining blows back on the robots. One by one, he met their fists with his own and sent them flying with a quick pair of punches, blasting them toward other robots to eliminate still more opponents.
Seeing his creations falling to the Kryptonian, Dr. Scientist fled his control panel just before Superman lifted the stack of mechanical corpses and heaved them at the controls, smashing them to uselessness.
Dr. Scientist escaped into the room where Lois was being held and barred the door, but the bar posed no barrier for Superman. Brandishing a knife to the rope supporting Lois' platform, he threatened, "Take one more step and she's doomed!"
<Oh, very melodramatic of you!> thought Lois. Of course, when she tried to suit words to thoughts, it came out as a muddle of sound around the gag. Clark thought this was a sound of fear and started toward her; Dr. Scientist slashed the rope.
Gravity began its fell task, but Clark's powers were equal to the challenge — he snatched Lois from the falling platform and set her down gently on the opposite side of the metal vat. Sure his trap was complete, Unnamed pulled a second lever, dumping the slag on the couple. Superman had no time to move, and instead took the flow on his back, forcing it to flow around the two of them.
Seeing his targets unharmed, our villain took off at a run. Superman leapt into the air with Lois, snatching Dr. Unnamed Mad Scientist by the back of the neck as he flew past. As they flew back toward Metropolis, the evil researcher continued to dangle, his shirt in the hand of the Man of Steel. Lois, however, had been shifted (or had shifted herself) so that her hero's arm was around her waist. She had also, somewhere in there, managed to remove her gag and bindings.
Clark, after delivering his passengers to the Daily Planet and the police, respectively, returned to the woods over which he had fought Unit Number Five. He recovered all the stolen items and returned them to the House of Jewels.
Lois wrote a story on the escapades of Dr. Unnamed Scientist, and the next morning's paper proclaimed, "SUPERMAN DESTROYS MECHANICAL MONSTERS — INVENTOR JAILED, MILLIONS IN STOLEN JEWELS RECOVERED."
Ralph, frustrated by Superman's reluctance to give quotes to reporters who had nothing to do with the story, wrote an invective and mostly untrue article entitled "SUPERMAN VANISHES AGAIN". He pushed Perry to run it on the front page, and to everyone's shock, he did — albeit heavily edited.
Unit Number Five crawled out from the secret hideout to a local Radio Shack, where his component parts were purchased by the military. He later took on the name "Johnny Five" and can be seen starring in the movies "Short Circuit" and "Short Circuit 2".
The police officer who saw Superman changing in the phone booth submitted the idea to Bill Cosby, who included it in his routine and paid the officer handsomely for his story.
Dr. Unnamed Mad Scientist discovered, to his chagrin, that parole boards routinely refuse parole requests from prisoners who do not have names. Since courts are often suspicious of convicted felons requesting a change of name, he seems unlikely to resolve this problem in the near future.