Chapter 3, Page 9

Well when you put it that way.

Today’s closeup art




  • Lar

    Well, when you put it that way…

  • Mal-L

    Man Mike’s life seems to be an unending series of unfortunate events…

  • Khadyah

    Yikes, for someone with a background like Mike’s, I do not imagine being told you have no power in a situation does well for the nerves…

    • JJ

      He looks close to tears in panel 4.

  • addy

    please stop alien friend. you are doing me a frighten.

    • steffyanie

      this is the best comment, hahahaha

    • zerogee4me

      An Aggronaut, I take it?

  • sweet_gardenia

    Vaguely ominous threats: it’s what friends do!

  • chthonic fantasy

    it’s not a sci-fi story until this sort of conversation is had :)

  • Reign of Crows

    … Thrip.

    • shingworks

      Thrip is scared today!

  • Squish

    Except that is completely untrue…there are MANY things that Mike has in terms of information and human appearance that they cannot take.

    • Wood

      Yes, but then it doesn’t make any difference where Mike is. Armshark could have just jumped him at any moment and do whatever he pleased.

      • Tadrix

        Why carry your food home, if it can carry itself along?

  • JakeyBakey

    I want to hear what our alien friend sounds like now, I’m guessing a higher pitched Smaug

    • Intile

      Yeah, I’m really curious about that now too. In my head it’s always been kind of a low rumble that is technically the correct words and such but clearly is inhuman.

    • shingworks

      I have no idea, I never know what any of my characters sound like… but recently I’ve been imagining Peridot from Steven Universe just because it’s hilarious to think of that whiny voice coming out of armshark.

      • metna

        oh god

        now i’m imagining her voice and it’s…lmao. now this page reads as comedic, not terrifying.

      • Corbie

        hehe :D I sorta “hear” a snarly, edgy cat purr here. Not unfriendly, just *being* snarly and edgy.

      • Sabrina

        I’ve been reading it with Wan Shi Tong’s voice from Avatar

        • Me too! But now I’m going to have to imagine Peridot because that’s just too incredible.

      • I read Armshark as a high-pitched woman’s voice but with a kind of bubbly, underwater distortion. Probably because of the whole sea theme going on.

      • charles81

        Hmmm. It’s learned from a LEVi so I imagine something trying to mimic LEVi’s speech but within the limits of what that creature’s vocal cords and mouth can manage.

        Really, the almost clinical politeness is also in line with what I might expect from LEVi’s A.I. with perfect articulation but not necessarily a perfect grasp on the human emotions. I could even imagine LEVi being programmed to be just as inquisitive to better understand situations for future interactions.

        But if LEVi shows a clearly robotic voice like the First Gen then its probably just going off recordings LEVi could play back.

      • Rei

        I imagine Armshark has a kind of clicky, lower pitched parrot/corvid voice. Maybe a mechanical inflection.
        Mostly because I figure that Armshark talks like birds might.

      • TheWarDoctor
      • Vert

        I imagine Carl Sagan’s diction but spoken in an absurdly throaty contralto, because that sort of voice is probably what would mess with Mike the most and we’re all about messing with Mike.

        (Or maybe Armshark learned enough about human culture and stereotypes from LEVi to use a voice likely to appeal to the average human male, with the intention of keeping Mike off-balance or encouraging compliance.)

        • StClair

          If I recall correctly, that’s pretty much the voice that Puppeteers use (around humans), and for exactly those reasons.

          • Vert

            A fellow Niven fan! Yes, Puppeteers used sexy voices for manipulation, though, and mostly because they learned English with the intention of never being seen themselves.

            Certainly a factor behind why I make the same assumption of Armshark, though. While it’s clearly no coward, it’s definitely very, very smart, and the fact that it can imitate English apparently perfectly after such a short time implies that it either has a gift for mimicry and language assimilation, or is generally *way* more intelligent than humans. I have to assume it is tipping the scales in its own favor at every opportunity during this encounter.

          • shingworks

            Niven >:[ haha (I am not a Niven fan)

          • Vert

            ‘Shing doesn’t like Niven? I AM CRUSHED! D:

          • shingworks

            lol, I’m sorry… I like his ideas a lot, but his writing style just gets on my nerves. I’ve read a few of his novels and some short stories and I think I prefer the shorts that read more like a technical manual, cuz his storytelling is not so great (imo).

    • Joji

      Frank from Donnie Darko.

    • Hyperrion

      I imagine it sounding like the Hanar from Mass Effect for some reason.

  • Brian

    At least shouldercrab is on his side!

  • Ceceoh

    Hey, she’s smiling!

    • Esn

      How do you know it’s a “she”?

      • Metrophor

        Well, the title of the chapter is ‘Lady’ of the Rocks. One assumes that’s referring to Armshark, but you know what they say about assumptions.
        (Does the human concept of gender even apply to Armshark’s species?)

        • JJ

          Their species has the genders armshark, eardolphin and ankleoctopus.

    • StClair

      Smiling is a modified threat display.

  • Avery

    Oh dear, that’s frighteningly cheery. I imagine her tone is quite friendly

  • LostYooper

    I think I like snarky Armshark better than vaguely threatening Armshark.

  • Vert

    Piscivore teeth? Interesting.

  • LameFox

    Oh, well, that’s alright then.

  • Heron

    Okay sharkfriend there’s no need for that

  • Esn

    That was kinda obvious from the start, wasn’t it? I’m surprised that this comment surprised Mike at all, to be honest. I thought he had already factored that in…

    • Moddey Dhoo

      I don’t think it startled him because it was information he hadn’t understood or hadn’t processed yet. I think it was more that he was being told by someone who clearly does have more power in this situation that he has no power. You know, given his past.

  • Honestly Mike, there’s just no way that question was going to get a reassuring answer. This is actually closest to the best you could hope for, really.

    Reminds me of Joe Haldeman’s Mindbridge, where the aliens attack the human explorers. When later asked why they did it they say they read their minds and found the expectation of an attack so they just thought it was the polite thing to do.

  • Japanne

    “I just need to get my meat cleaver.”

  • Kizzysan

    armshark is obviously an apex predator. apart from the teeth, the sleek design of the head/body, his intelligence is also indicator that armshark is at the top of the food chain of his eco system. how could he not be?

  • Lorenzo

    The coldness in his tone reminds me of… well, robots. Those extremely advanced robots from sci-fi novels or movies. No feelings, no empathy, completely impartial and logical and so immensely superior in any aspect that would matter in any sort of conflict. I’m loving it.

    • Shooshy162

      That’s probably because they learned their speech patterns from a robot, not a person. I like it too.

  • David

    Armshark is fascinating. He is by turns super considerate and super creepy. I read him (?) as an alien that is trying to be nice, but doesn’t really understand human social conventions. Eg., you ask someone before you try and rip a chunk out of his thigh.

    He’s learned a lot from the robot, but clearly is misinformed about a lot of things.

  • Shooshy162

    Maybe I’m the only one, but… Their comment doesn’t really faze me? I mean, they’re not wrong, and the fact that they could’ve done something but didn’t makes them more trustworthy, to me.

    • Asterai

      Truth. But best case scenario, Mike has just realized what kind of situation he is in. The kind where he is basically helpless. So he’s having a nice alarming moment of readjusting his perception.

    • Moddey Dhoo

      Sure, but you have to factor in Mike’s past. He’s a victim. That reaction is probably partly being creeped out by the obvious apex predator calmly stating that it could have killed him or whatever else it wanted but also remembering what happened in a similar but different situation in which he felt he was powerless when confronted with a very different kind of predator.

    • StClair

      What all of you said.
      I mean, he’s vulnerable, and he may just be realizing just how much so. But “at least” his new companion’s being honest about it, rather than spinning some comforting, manipulative lie?

  • Karyl

    I think of Armshark as sounding like Alan Rickman! I didn’t realize it until now, but that Snape voice in particular seems really apt for the character, able to be charming but always sinister in some measure.
    If anyone else has ever read Octavia Butler, her alien characters are some of the best written to me-do you agree? I would love to see Der-Shing’s development of them in art.

    • Twyll

      Oooh, I’d love to see Der-Shing’s take on the Oankali. …Come to think of it, with all the frills and the being able to seamlessly integrate with a foreign organism, ThighFriend is kind of suspiciously Oankali-like, isn’t it…?

  • Spongegirl Circleskirt

    I’m hearing Armshark’s voice as HAL9000. Detached yet menacing. Probably from its conversations with the computer.

  • lou

    Oh, I could’ve killed you right at the beginning, but imagine dragging your corpse all the way over here… I mean, go ahead, I’ll be right behind you!

  • Unclever title

    Interspecies diplomacy continues to go well.

  • Nat

    Love that eye!

  • Alan

    I sure hope there’s something Mike can eat in there… ent-draught or whatever. How long has it been?

    • Moddey Dhoo

      Considering that the parasite seems to thrive pretty alright in his leg, the biology of Martian life probably isn’t too different from Earthling life. Which means he could probably eat the stuff here. Proteins are pretty hard to mess up, and there’s a reason life here settled on carbohydrates and lipids for storing energy. I’m not a biologist and I’m even less a xenobiologist, but I think he could safely eat something that the armshark gives him. You know, unless it’s got some chemical in it that is completely normal for Martian life but toxic to humans.

      • Vert

        They’re close enough, appearance-wise that I wouldn’t be surprised if Martian and Earth life have a common ancestor at the microbial level (or, given the quadrupedal bodyplan of Armshark, maybe even more recent than that), which means that there’s probably lots of nutrition to be gained by either side consuming the other.

        Unfortunately, there are probably also plenty of toxins. We’ve already seen that the air here isn’t *really* breathable for humans, which kind of implies that most of the life probably wouldn’t be edible without treatment of some sort. Can Mike even drink the water?

  • oeste

    armshark/thrip 2016

    • shingworks

      I think Thrip chose Mike as its running mate :[ Politics are so backstabby.

    • Ceceoh

      (Sung in teeny-tiny thrip voice) “Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes, together!”

      Yes, Mike feels the burn.

  • Carolyn

    Geez. Considering Mike’s background as a survivor of sexual abuse, Armshark chose some very unfortunate words.

  • Kiki

    I like Mike’s new Slime lobster on his back. it looks like it crawled up onto his shoulder in the last panel.

  • Brad

    Does Armshark have much binocular vision?

    • shingworks

      A bit. It’s not very strong, so a full-regard sort of look requires turning the head. The crest and arms are wideset to aid in another layer of social signalling. When the crest is deflated it either means there is a practical reason (like on the previous page while climbing, to avoid bumping it), or the owner is feeling annoyed/ evasive/ aggressive.

      • LostYooper

        The constant head movement kind of reminds me of how smaller birds move their heads a lot to get full visual coverage of their surroundings and things that interest them.

        • StClair

          Birds and other small dinosaurs, yes…

  • Lilian

    Wonder if Armshark has any way of understanding sexual abuse.

    • Moddey Dhoo

      It’s a concept that might not exist for his/her/its species. It has a capacity not only for understanding language, but learning and speaking it, which suggests the species is highly social and very intelligent. Like humans. But that might be where the similarities end. They might be a species where sex is as common and formal and used as freely as saying hello, or one where sex is used as a dominance ritual as much as it is for procreation, i.e. more dominant member of the group either puts a less dominant member in their place with sex or uses sex to punctuate some other method of putting them in their place. In either event, sexual assault as humans understand just doesn’t apply.

    • Vert

      If it’s as intelligent as it appears to be, then it can probably at least understand a metaphor of it.

      “Psychological damage caused by past trauma, resulting in chronic, non-optimal changes in behavior” might be a terribly clinical way to put it, but not an inaccurate one for the purpose of comprehension. It’s hard to see how anything with a brain couldn’t occasionally encounter such a circumstance.

      I’m more worried about what Armshark civilization does about “non-optimal” individuals.

      For an Armshark, the most moral course of action to stop the suffering of a malfunctioning organism might be a quick and merciful death. Or immediate and invasive surgical corrections. Armshark may have no concept of “pain” as we understand it. That pain hurts us is an accident of our evolution; pain could just as well be a strong aversion response with no psychological component. Hence, “hold still and let me rip this thing out of your leg….”, and bafflement as to why Mike might not want that to happen…

  • Amelia

    Armshark seems very removed from social situations. They appear to have a basic grasp of them but reading them in person seems to pose some difficulty. Thus the general threatening and miscommunication with Mike. I think that Armshark would have a monotone low voice, the inflection on words wouldn’t be present.

    • StClair

      Well, at the risk of stating the obvious, it’s an alien. (A well-drawn/written one, IMO.)

      • Jac

        Technically, Mike is the alien here.

      • Amelia

        Well I mean humans are very social. While apex predator aliens probably aren’t. Armshark would have had to learn about alien social constructs, something they’re (probably) unfamiliar with.

  • Jac

    Well, that was as reassuring as it was unsettling.

  • Camolot the Creator

    ….. Okay, fair enough.

  • Sara

    I keep going back to re-read this page. So well done, such great execution and depiction of how powerless Michael really is…

  • Allen

    His blood is glowing? Is that from the water??

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