Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Those Who Laugh - Part Four

Their buildings were….different. Because they weren’t bipeds, the Squids apparently had different ideas about directions and construction. He had Bob bring him down in what had been one of the largest cities on the planet. It still was, Tucker supposed, but it had been covered in a velvety red something. He thought of it as moss, although it clearly wasn’t.

They hadn’t been dead long, as these things went. Bob said that the last of them would have died around a century before arrival, although general civilizational collapse had taken place quite a lot before that. It takes time for an entire species to die.

If you could compare things like that, Tucker would have said they’d made it to about early twentieth century earth levels of technology. Like their buildings, their mastery of tools had gone in different ways than Earth’s had. They had never developed spaceflight. never set foot or, rather, pod on any of the three moons that orbited their home. There were no man made satellites, no debris in space. They had lived and died on this one small world, alone in space.

The Squidworld was a particularly rich find for the Fermi survey, Bob told him. The way that the Squids had utilized data storage technology meant that vast chunks of it were able to be scanned and interrupted by Bob. None of the machines themselves worked, but the data endured. This was rarely the case with these worlds. Mostly they had to interpret the civilization from what remained after, educated guess from the manner of their lives and, quite often, the means of their deaths.

Tucker felt strange, walking through that city. Part of that was strictly physical; the planet had a different gravity and a different atmosphere than Earth standard and while it was subtle, he could feel it even with the encounter suit on. But the bigger part of it was the same feeling he’d had every time he’d visited a world like this. The sense that he was walking across someone’s grave. A sense of trespass.

He made his way to and up the tallest building. Eventually. The Squids didn’t believe in stairs, so he needed some assistance from Bob in getting to the top of it. He looked out across the city, which stretched as fat as the eye could see. He looked out at it and if he squinted, ignored the red moss and the encroachment of nature, what he saw looked very human.

The Squids were far, far removed from homo sapiens, but as Tucker looked at their works, trying not to despair, he couldn’t help but feel a kinship. They were Squids, but they were people. They’d lived, they’d worked. They’d even loved, Tucker was willing to bet. They were like us. And now they were gone.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Those Who Laugh - Part Three

They were squids. Okay, they weren’t squids, but that’s about as close as he could get to describing them. This was the 47th dead civilization their ship had studied for the survey, and what Tucker had learned was that tool using life came in a lot more forms than simply the bipedal.

The common requirement was they have something to manipulate tools with, which is about as obvious a fact as it was possible to get. But what they manipulated those tool with could vary, quite a lot, and Tucker had seen civilizations built by beings that you’d have imagined could have never managed such a thing with their physical requirements.

The squid/octopus tentacle arrangement actually happened to be one of the more common ones, which inspired a lot of theories among the scientists back home and a lot of intense glances at cephalopod life, who they suspected might be either hiding something or seriously underachieving.

The Squids actually looked surprising close to Earth squids, albeit large and land dwelling. Bob informed him that they actually possessed a rigid internal skeleton and were not especially close, biologically speaking, to squids. This cemented Tucker’s mental decision to call them Squids.

They were dead. The planet wasn’t. They rarely were. Every now and again one of the survey ships came across a world where there wasn’t any actual life left, but it was incredibly rare. Species come and go. Life persists. This was a problem for the survey actually.

They knew of a lot more planets where civilizations had come and gone and now there was nothing left to see or analyze but trace chemical and odd dispersal of elements. Time wiped away most things, and faster than people would like to believe. So what they knew of the dead civilizations was informed by a selection bias of sorts.

If they used materials that could stand up long enough to the tides of time, then the survey could find out quite a lot. Some of them, some of them they didn’t even know what they looked liked. That bothered Tucker. Someone should know. Even if they were dead and gone, someone should know that they were there and that they had been. Nobody deserved to be forgotten.

The Squids had based their technology around silicon, and the way they went about it was such that much of what they had built, much of what they were had endured. Bob had been in orbit for a while before he brought Tucker up, scanning. He could tell Tucker anything he wanted to know. He could tell him everything that was there to know.

“I want to see it.” Tucker said. He expected an argument from Bob, or some kind of obfuscating ignorance. But Bob simply prepared a shuttle for him without comment or question.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Those Who Laugh - Part Two

There were, of course, dozens if not hundreds of theories about why this was, and many of them were entirely probable. At least one of them was almost surely right. But it didn’t matter; the truth was, when humans found out that they were now alone in the universe, they need to see why. In person.

Well, some of them did. Somebody should be there, someone real, to look at what remained of their galactic neighbors. Someone should bear witness. Which is why Tucker Wells was so very far from his home.

He wasn’t alone. There were actually another eleven people that were under right now, and Tucker could instruct Bob to bring them up anytime. They wouldn’t mind. Twelve was determined by some sociology minded personality to be the optimum number for long term missions. Less, and the group could descend into group think in ways that would make the trip miserable for all involved. More, and they fractured into something resembling tribalism. Or so the idea went. Tucker, for his part, had his doubts.

But the protocol was that when they reached a new world in the survey, one person would be woken up first to observe first before everyone was awakened, and it was Tuckers turn in the rotation. He liked it. He enjoyed being able to think about what he saw and drawing his own conclusions.

And, frankly, it was just nice to spend sometime by himself. Tucker, like everyone else aboard, had the sort of personality that could be sent on a mission like this, where he wouldn’t get home for millennia, if ever, which meant he needed alone time.

The ship had started out much smaller than it was now. Since Bob could scavenge raw material as he went, there was no reason to wait for the ship to be full constructed before they started. When Tucker went under for the first time, the ship was basically a sleeper core with an engine attached. The first time he was brought up, it had expanded. Significantly.

Bob, being a personality created specifically for the purpose of spending centuries at a time looking at nothing but the void, was not supposed to be able to get board. Nevertheless, there was no good explanation for what Bob had done to the ship aside from boredom.

Last time, the ship looked like a chrysanthemum that has in the process of exploding. It included a gym, an artificial mountain, and an exact replica of the Oval office. Tucker wasn’t sure why, and Bob’s answers had been unfulfilling.

The ship still looked like it had more dimensions than were strictly necessary but Tucker noted that the entire ship’s corridors had been covered in rugs that appeared to depict, and Tucker was not a historian, the history of Argentina in visual form. He was pretty sure he could feel Bob waiting for him to ask about that. Tucker didn’t give him the satisfaction.

Eventually, pondering whether the personality that was responsible for their survival had gone insane or, worse, hadn’t, got old and Tucker figured it was time to actually do his job.

“Show me” he said.

And Bob did.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Those Who Laugh - Part One

(Posting this as I write it, so expect more in the future)

Those Who Laugh

A billion light years from Earth, Tucker Wells stumped his damn toe. Hard. He went down swearing, and the floor managed to warm up enough between his ass moving towards it and his ass making contact that it didn’t feel cold. It could do that, but it couldn’t warn him he was about to jam his little toe into the doorframe with way more force than was comfortable.

Tucker was about ninety percent sure that the personality on the ship did this sort of thing on purpose, possibly as a result of being a mind that could perform factors of magnitude better than the meat monkeys it was tending to. He wasn’t sure that Bob, the personality, had a sense of humor, but he had his suspicions.

“Are you alright, Tucker?” Bob said.

“I’m pretty sure that your scans work down to the picoatomic level, so I think you know. I also think that you move the doors just slightly every time you wake me up.”

“Tucker, you know that your safety and well being is my highest concern. And yes, you’re fine. Won’t even be a bruise.” Bob said, in a smooth voice that, like the door thing, Tucker strongly suspected was designed to annoy him while simultaneously allowing Bob plausible deniability.

Tucker grumbled but didn’t actually say anything, rocking on his naked ass while cradling his toe. That he was so far from home, surrounded by the pinnacle of human technology or, at least, what had been the pinnacle when he started on the survey, and was sit buck ass naked grunting like an ape was not lost on him. He laughed. What else could you do.

“Once again, are you alright Tucker? Should I wake up the others.” Bob said.

Which was personality passive aggressive for get your ass up off the floor and do the damn work. So he did. Well, first he went to the bathroom and pissed, which was where he was going when the toetitanic happened.

After that he got dressed and went to see what Bob had done to the ship while he was under. He could have had Bob tell him, or even make a neural connection while he was under and have Tucker just wake up knowing, but Tucker was old fashioned, and preferred to see things for himself. He wasn’t alone in that, which was why he was so far from home.

The truly cost effective way to explore the universe was to create self replicating Von Neumann probes and, indeed, they’d done just that. They had refined the art of creating personalities down to the point where they could launch baseball sized probes cores and let them grow from there.

But the probes were just the scouting party. Their job was to find worlds that looked like they were or at least had been habitable. Preferably with signs of civilization. There was no good reason that the probes wouldn’t have been enough. Logic said that the quality of the sensor arrays that built was many factors of magnitude better than anything humans could parse, and that seeing these places through probe transmission wasn’t just the same as the real thing, it was better.

Except it wasn’t.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My Own Private San Diego

Well, SDCC has come and gone without me. I’ll give you a few minutes to stop the wailing and gnashing of teeth at my absence.

Since San Diego is the place for announcements, I thought I’d give a brief rundown of what’s coming up for me in the nearish future.

Projects happening:

Legend of Luther Strode – Starts on the first Wednesday of December. Like TSTOLS a six issue mini.

Team 7 for DC – Starts with the zero issue in September. Ongoing,

Secret Project for Secret Publisher – Should start in November. Hopefully will be announced this week. Also ongoing. Also awesome.

Secret Project 2 for Secret Publisher 2 – No set date, six issue mini.

Projects being pitched soon:

Tomorrow – Brent Peeples and I are working on this six issue miniseries about, sort of, the twilight of the superheroes.

Versus – John Amor and I follow a dueling pair of superhumans from their origins in the American Civil War to THE END OF TIME. Or, my excuse to do steampunk, golden age superheroes, modern superheroes, the not quite Legion of Superheroes and Jim Starlin COSMIC.

Other Stuff I’d like to do:

Digital comics – a couple of different things, actually. For one, I’d like to have a whirl at doing a direct to digital cheap as fuck to buy comic. Like a buck an issue, for a full size issue with extra trimmings.

I’d also like to do some medium length digital stuff that wouldn’t really work as print comic economically. So forty to fifty pages, done in one stuff, costing maybe a 1.99 or so. Ideas that I’d like to do that don’t quite have enough there for a miniseries.

And of course, all the other pitches I have that are in active development. Got lots going on.