Interlude 4, Page 2

That’s a lot to ask…

Final update in the interlude up soon.

47 Comments

  • Glavos

    It’s a bad time to be Bex.

  • Ben

    No, sorry, Bex. Trust is gone, now. Once you have made the step once, you can’t just reset as though it never happened.

    • Nicole Song

      Oh, come on. Don’t be so harsh on Bex.

      • Kit

        It is kinda hard to go back on “I’d rather be on another planet than with you”

        • KigV2

          If he *realllllly* super loved her, he’d want her to pursue her passions instead of settling for whatever lesser goals she can achieve anchored on Earth as a mother. No hate on mothers.

  • CharlesW81

    Yup. Love the driverless car.

  • Kyle

    Oh gosh, this is horrible!

    It’s horrible because it’s realistic.

  • Spark

    Call me optimistic, but I think this will end on a positive note. Or I guess supportive? Otherwise I can’t see why she would contact them about her safe arrival back in chapter one, given the first panel’s dialogue

    • BigDogLittleCat

      Agree. Chapter 1, pg 14, she talks about talking to her children. So either this ends well, or Bex was lying/delusional as soon as she arrived.

      • CharlesW81

        Well… She has all those pictures but I notice a woman kissing Olufolarin (Folarin I think someone said is the proper shortening?) in page 15 and… I don’t think it’s her.

        The Skeleton holding the kids hands and her breakdown at the baby place, I could easily imagine her now as someone who has somewhat deluded themselves over her relationship with her kids.

        Also, messages from that distance to let her kids know she arrived safely are likely not live considering the delay, so it’s probably a case of sending an e-mail/recorded message. If her kids bother to read/view it or simply delete it unopened is another matter.

        • Android 21 3/7

          I think it’s her. Just because she has short hair now and while she was pregnant doesn’t mean she didn’t let it grow out before she got approval for Mars.

  • Luces

    From the (male) early explorers to the austronauts it was always a given that they could leave women and children behind, often in very poor circumstances, and nobody ever asked if they weren’t simply escaping the stress of everyday life.
    But there still seems to be no place in society for a woman who can’t cope with her mother role – and yet loves her children, in her own way!

    • Grawuar

      I don’t know about the history of the first austronauts, but I assume they weren’t wishy-washy about their journey like Bex here is. She wants someone else to make a decision for her, to be pushed; somehow I doubt the men you’re talking about were just “escaping their lives” – they were brave and bold, but it was their role to leave women and children at safety (sailors were paid in advance before their journey, so they wouldn’t leave their family in poverty in case they don’t make it back, I don’t realy think austronauts were different). Their role was to suffer, even die in some unknown lands instead of their beloved family. I don’t think the thought like “oh, I’m sure any woman would gladly take my place” didn’t even occur to the starving voyagers. It wasn’t all about the glory or adventure, it was sweat, blood and tears. But I’m talking about the old times, the rules of society were different back then. In this story – it’s so far in the future, it’s probably different from our perspective too. I wouldn’t mix it all like that, I don’t think it’s fair. What I’m trying to say is, in my opinion Bex doesn’t seem to be cut out for her job in this moment, nor she’s a good mother (and she knows it). She’s in-between, undecided. She’s lost, that’s not a sign of readiness nor dedication.

    • Shweta

      Yeah the anger/hate Bex gets for doing what men do all the time with no criticism at all is kind of staggering.

      I think part of it is we don’t see narratives about women like her so we struggle to slot information in according to stories we already know well. And those tend to judge women hardly for rejecting repressive roles.

      And it’s a painful narrative seen first from the viewpoint of Mike, who seems to project his own trauma narrative on everyone else – not just Bex, he’s done the same to Levi when he send it away, and to kalla when he called her a coward for not wanting to escape — and in most stories the suffering white guy turns it to be right about everything, he’s not normally allowed to be merely human and messed up and wrong.

      So it’s easy to see his viewpoint as objective even though the story tells us so clearly that it’s not.

      I think the only real fix is, we need more wonderful stories like this & the Meek, which reject those… really quite cruel expectations we are used to putting on characters.

    • Lilian

      I think it’s safe to say that I would be utterly furious if my husband decided to leave me and our young children behind, for life, to live on another planet because it involves projects he cares about. At least if this was something that wasn’t communicated early in the relationship.

      Bex may not mean to cause this pain, and it may tear her apart to do so, but she has wounded her family. That’s the sucky part about having agency. You hurt people even when you don’t want to.

      Even if she was Brett instead of Bex, he would be wounding his family. That it might have been/be more socially acceptable for a man to do such a thing doesn’t mean the pain didn’t exist and damage wasn’t done.

      • Shweta

        But would you marry someone who really needed their research/professional life, then try to change them?

        Even in interlude 1 for Bex the husband is minimising her fear over losing what she feels is her core self.

        • Lilian

          I would not recommend that kind of a marriage, no. Not if those conflicts haven’t been addressed in a manner suitable to both parties.

        • KigV2

          Exactly. When she faked that smile to the popsicle, I was like “…damn dude…can’t you see your wife is having something a little more than severe than nervousness or cold feet?”

    • Lilian

      I think some of the pain here can be explained by the differences between project-oriented people and more relationship-oriented people.

      I have family members (one male and one female) who are very project-oriented. They can get a lot of crap done, and their dedication to their work is admirable. However, they’re kind of clueless when it comes to facilitating an environment in which everyone feels valued.

      It is not natural for them to see that for some of us, the fact that quality time with loved ones is a thing on their to-do lists – often second to projects/work – is a source of deep hurt. And feelings of not being important to them.

      But for all of the fuss Bex has generated, people are adaptable. It may be that one of Bex’s sons ends up having more trouble with it than the other. It may be that they both do just fine with it. Different temperaments find different things more hurtful.

      Her children certainly can grow up to process this all in a healthy way.

    • John Yut Sang Cheung Groenvold

      Suuuure she loves them. Could you possibly not make the exact opposite mistake of saying it’s bad of men to leave their families but it’s ok for Bex because she’s a woman?

      • Lilian

        It causes pain and hurt when men leave their families. And does a lot of damage. Gender theory shouldn’t be the only thing Bex’s character stirs up.

  • Android 21 3/7

    Hello, Doctor? Yes, I’m pretty sure I’ve come down with a bad case of The Feels. Your medical recommendation?

    • Shweta

      Reread the Meek?

    • AGV

      Cute animal picture therapy I’d say

  • R C

    I just figured out why I’m not unhappy with Bex and her decision to go (the way most of the readers here seem to be). I grew up with my father doing this ALL the time. He’d be gone six, eight months at a time (yes, I know, not as long as Mars) and then my husband spent the first few years of our marriage mostly gone, working on boats.

    NO WONDER I’ve been puzzled by the reaction to Bex going away for work. It seems totally natural to me.*faceplant*

    That said, she really left it to the wire on this.

    • Caracan

      Finally someone who puts it into perspective.
      Yes, in a ‘normal’ relationship just leaving for a long time can be considered heartless. But with people that work casually in far off places, this is normality.

      There is also this strange notion that families must consist of both parents to give children a good home. Something that gets proven wrong every day by thousands of single parents. Especially when the other parent is still part of the equation financially.

      Additionally, there are many families that suffer from a parent that is very unsatisfied with their situation, projecting that onto the rest of the family. I’d say, that is worse than having that person go their own way and maybe support from afar.

    • Shweta

      Right? And I keep coming back to the fact that the dude must have known this when he married her, and just assumed she would adapt to his way…

      • R C

        I know right? I mean, reading the next page, some light is shed on this. But my husband asked me what I would think of him being gone on boats (for months at a time) looooong before we started dating. I knew what I was getting into.

        • Shweta

          I don’t see much light on the next page. I see a man who thinks he just… Failed to control her for her own good.

    • Happy

      On top of this I just reread the scene of bex talking with mike on the ship and she says her contract is six months. Like I’m laughing, slow down husbandy, with all the intensity I had come to believe she was gone for life? (not ignoring that she’ll come and go, but like.. she’ll be back) But of course the context of bex & her husband’s relationship, what they personally value (as others have said), other things we havent seen that mightve inflamed tension etc. can all inform the scene, and I get it’s thematically important for it to have gone down this way! A couple of ways I read texts that I only learnt weren’t universal in the age of post-“cat person”. Anyway, same @ everyone here is what I’m saying, but also yaay reading about things that differ from & challenge us.

      • Grog

        When they’re down, ch1 page 32, it’s revealed she’s part of first wave, she’s a permanent colonist, she’s not going back to earth, ever. The husband is treating it as divorce because that’s what it is. He’s not taking it well, but i can’t blame him for that, that being said not letting the kids talk to her is definitely a shitty thing to do.

  • Ben

    Leaving aside the “ra ra, white men always wrong” angle, I’ve spent a good deal of my life ether at sea or working away, and what Bex is going through is a common problem. Separation is rarely easy, and often doesn’t work at all. “Space Is An Ocean” is something of a cliche, but it contains a lot of obvious parallels. Seagoing isn’t a job, it’s a way of life, and I’ve known a lot of colleagues who have been unable to reconcile the two.

    Joseph Conrad, who WAS a sea-captain, wrote this in Lord Jim “ne knew the magic monotony of existence between sky and water: he had to bear the criticism of men, the exactions of the sea, and the prosaic severity of the daily task that gives bread- but whose only reward is in the perfect love of the work. This reward eluded him. Yet he could not go back, because there is nothing more enticing, disenchanting, and enslaving than the life at sea. Besides, his prospects were good“ and this seems to sum up Bex’ position, here.We can be sure that professional success will follow for
    Bex, unless she does something very badly wrong.

    Not so for Mike. His historic issues have already destroyed his personal life, and spilled over into his professional life, by provoking the feud with his commanding officer (which seems to me, like a case of “cabin fever”, disproportionate action arising from the stresses of a confined, stimulus-poor environment with high objective and subjective dangers.

    So Mike and Bex have very different positions. He might, or might not have been a reliable narrator, telling Bex he was “not straight”: Bex may well, on the evidence, have been an unreliable narrator in return.

    • Wait. Why is Mike not a reliable narrator when he told Bex he wasn’t straight? I have seen absolutely nothing that would contradict that statement. Even if he had a crush on that study partner (which isn’t a guarantee as he could have asked her out as an attempt to prove to himself that he was straight if he didn’t want to be gay [which, given his streak of self-hatred is not a stretch to imagine] or for any number of other reasons, for that matter), or whatever she was, sexuality isn’t necessarily as black and white as gay or straight. There’s bisexuality, pansexuality, etc., etc. Unless there’s a further plot point directly correlating with his sexuality, I don’t see any reason why he would be lying at that point.

      • Ben

        All we REALLY know about Mike’s past, prior to entering the cavern, is that he suffered a past trauma involving the breakdown of trust in the family, in various ways. He has self-esteem issues and is prone to self-destructive behaviour, including a breakdown of trust with his Station Commander (which led her to believe that he could not be allowed to remain at the station). He has medication, which he stopped taking at some point. He appears to have misled or misreported the events leading to the loss and destruction of Levi. Was he telling the truth when he said he “wasn’t straight”, which might simply have meant he was habitually asexual? Was he simply challenging or obstructing Bex’ enquiry, which was really only small talk with a newly introduced colleague? We have no further evidence.

        Bex appears, on current evidence, to have been untrue in presenting herself to Mike as a wife and mother who had made her peace with her family about her mission (remember that from various internal evidence, the time lapse between the conversation in the car, and the conversation with Mike, must have been several months). She didn’t SAY she was a permanent colonist, but she WAS carrying a mission logo – and the way news travels in a small environment like that, it’s probably more due to Mike’s insular behaviour that he didn’t already know.

        This is the problem with viewing life through a politically correct, ra ra feminism racism sexuality, prism. Mike and Bex are both, in their respective ways, damaged people. Mike has become maladaptive and anti-social, sometimes self-destructive, as his coping mechanisms have broken down (remember that he was clearly, at some point, a valued member of the team held in high professional regard, or he would never have arrived). Bex has suffered the sort of emotional crisis which is actually quite common among expectant mothers (as seen, for example, at the baby ware shop) and followed that by allowing her professional ambitions (and quite possibly, the fixation which space exerts, as does the sea) to lead her to take a major step which she believes (quite rightly) to constitute a violation of trust or good faith with her family. Believe me, people who present slanted or incomplete pictures of their family relations (especially with their children) are VERY common at sea…

        Both appear to be very credible examples of the sort of game-playing which goes on in small groups of highly motivated people, often not particularly noted for their social skills, in enclosed environments and under considerable stress. I’ve seen quite a lot of this over time, and it’s well presented.

        I’ve been following this comic because I find the central characters interesting and credible, and the overall premise sufficiently absorbing that I want to see how it is resolved.

        • Android 21 3/7

          In retrospect, it’s actually quite interesting. Despite the fears and doubts she had about motherhood and childrearing, she put pressure upon Mike to find a wife and father children because he wasn’t getting any younger. So Mike might have said he wasn’t straight just to shut her down, but it might also had made Bex realize she was putting undue pressure on him that she easily could have experienced at other people’s hands.

          • Ben

            There’s a lot of detail that needs putting in context. Mike describes Bex as “a permanent colonist” while Bex herself, refers to a “six months contract”. However, assuming that physics and biology are sufficiently similar to “our world” (except where the story requires otherwise” Bex COULD be on a six-months rotation PLUS travel (which we know to be a period of several months, both ways, with travel windows defined by the juxtaposition of Earth and Mars) because of the medical effects of low-gravity life and/or working up the results of her field studies, with a subsequent return.

            So, a long-term commitment with regular, extended absences, but not actually permanently on Mars. Something like the various Antarctic Survey stations, in fact.

          • shingworks

            Yeah, a lot of the 1st chapter needs tweaks to make certain things clearer, it’s all on a list for my final round of edits. For the 6-month contract thing though, First Wavers are people with an area of specific expertise who travel around to different bases, train people and establish [thing they do] at the site. In Bex’s case she’s been sent to establish a farm of crickets for the base so they can use it and maintain it after she’s gone. I might cut the contract time down for the edits and clarify that she’s not going to be at the base for longer than a few months before moving on to the next one.

    • JJ

      (I dont’t think this comic has a narrator.)

      • Spongegirl Circleskirt

        They mean narrators of their own lives, I think. :)

        • JJ

          Someone on the internet was wrong; evidently I had to step in ;-)

  • Cheri

    oops now i’m depressed

  • Lilian

    On a side note, nice car.

    And nice airport. I love airports.

  • Jaibyrd

    Ooh, that’s the Buoy symbol from the beginning of the comic!

    • Ben

      Nice spot! So, the car is a pool car from the project, which indicates that it is collecting her from the airport and taking her to the project facility prior to takeoff, and the departing plane represents her break with her past life.

      Or, it’s like an Apple or MS symbol, and they are suppliers to the project.

      Of course, BOTH statements could be true.

  • Ben

    Re the explanation of Bex’ contract period, beware of Niven’s Disease… trying to wrap up things that are just inconsistent because of the way the story works, or because they were overlooked and/or just can’t be reconciled. It’s a comic….

    Since Bex can’t POSSIBLY be on a six months contract, because the travel is twice that, why not just have her say “… six months here” or something similar,at, and leave it at that? The only relevant thing about First Wave is that they are part of the permanent colonisation programme, and Mike points that out.

    • shingworks

      No suggestions needed, I’ve already got a lot of edits planned to tighten the story for print.

  • evileeyore

    Every reveal about Bex’s past and personality endears her to me more and more.

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