Chapter 5, Page 3

Your what now

Today’s news is yesterday’s news~

Newly public tutorial about teaching yourself art is up at the Tumb, and a new Patreon tutorial about doing something really stupid like quitting your job to be a full-time artist is up as well.

Hugo Noms are opening soon to previously-registered Worldcon Members, and if you’d consider nominating the eligible chapter from 2017, I would be extremely grateful.

I’ll be keeping this image up as long as this diaphanous dream drifts within me (ie until noms open/ close)

Gonna go for the gold and try to get another page up for tomorrow or early Sat…


  • Manabi

    I get the distinct impression the next few pages are going to be _very_ hard difficult for Bex. She’s going to have to face something she’s pretty obviously not come to terms with yet.

    • Ya boi

      Yes I think Bex is overly reckless. she kills everything in her path and expects to be given a get out free card! no way,

  • MoonSight

    This is gonna go bady and quickly

    But i mist agree with the processor here, i know every life matters but is it right to risk an entire world to save/help one that does not belong there?
    If that person was someone that mattered a lot to me i’d freakin do it, but as far as the processor is concerned Bex is a stranger, and he has responsibility for the system

    Also the Processor looks a lot like an Arm-Shark, i assume he’s a Martian that was made/transferred into A.I

  • Luces

    The look of Mike’s one eye – priceless!

    • BigDogLittleCat

      “Whoa! Sh!t just got real.”

  • Michael’s face in the last panel.

  • Artie O'Dactyl

    Hmmm. Were I Bex — and thank goodness I’m not — I would point out that humans inevitably will come to live on Mars … and they probably will terraform the planet, too. So eventually humans will find Mare Internum. The Processor has a choice between waiting to be rediscovered, or managing the first contact with other humans on its own terms.

    Perhaps the Processor could be a willing partner in terraforming Mars. Or perhaps it could bargain with the humans: in return for them leaving its ecosystem untouched, it could give them the technology for interstellar migration.

    • StephenM3

      Perhaps it knows that humans don’t have a great track record for honoring agreements to let people or places be.

      • hkmaly

        On the other hand, our track record of peaceful contact without any agreements is much worse.

    • BigDogLittleCat

      So far as we know, the Processor first learned humans were on its planet when Levi was “lost”, which wasn’t that much before Mike and Bex fell in.

      The Processor’s “at this time” implies there might be a time when it is possible to let Bex return to the surface, which could mean the Processor just needs more time to figure out what it wants to do regarding humans and how to do it before letting her return.

      My guess is it is studying Mike and Bex to learn everything it can about humans, to assess whether/how much of a threat humans are to its world, and then will make its plans.
      The big question is whether it will decide that humans are rational enough to be trustworthy partners or they’re such a mess it needs to take the Hal 9000 route.

      oooo, if it had given Bex a daisy, she should be worried!

    • Whachamacallit

      Perhaps it’s just me, but I thought the issue was that the atmosphere of Mare Internum would be vented out if it came into contact with Mars’ actual, super-thin atmosphere.

      • Artie O'Dactyl

        I’m pretty sure it’s been established that there are self-healing, living seals to keep the air in. Consider: Mike and Bex came INTO the cave system, didn’t they?

  • Kent

    The processor is laying down some hard truth there

  • Tim F


    Processor: 1
    Rising body count: 0

  • Libby

    Even if Bex makes it to the surface, she doesn’t have a functioning suit and something tells me the processor would just pop her out where ever is convenient and the least risk for the mare internum world. We never saw her helmet break but we haven’t seen it in a while and there’s a good chance her suit took as much damage as Mike’s in the fall right?

    • Tim F

      As long as you have an oxygen supply (and a seal around your helmet) and a warm suit you can walk around on Mars. It helps to wear the equivalent of a compression stocking to help with the low pressure, but she doesn’t need THAT much to survive long enough to be rescued, if her radio and/or beacon work.

  • David

    How come Mike looks surprised in the last panel?

    Also, if I were talking to the processor, I would make the point that his world is *already* threatened. With humans on the surface of Mars, it’s only a matter of time before more people find this place. Perhaps, if Rebekah is set free, she can help to protect the secret.

    • MSD3000

      Up until this time, Mike has believed she abandoned her children for her own selfish reasons. It’s what has set off his “crazy” when he’s around her. Now she is saying that she needs to return for her children. Something that Mike might scoff at given what he thinks of her, but if the Processor confirms it, Mike will have to accept it. In which case, he might be more inclined to help her escape.
      Also, anybody else get a big Mark Hamill vibe off Mike in the last panel?

    • Erick

      I think is more of a *Are you serious!* look than a surprised look, like: “gurl you got to mars for eva and you has to go back to hume base cause of your sons? you are full of ***”

  • JJ

    Hm, millions of lives – but the organic machines are expendable and don’t count? Maybe the exodus of the Wollaria mentioned earlier wasn’t outbound, but inbound.
    Or maybe over the millenia the processor has come to regard the organic machines – fabricated like herself – worthy of preservation?

    • Esc

      Holy carp. That makes sense. They’re in the water. The neural sea. It holds the identites of all the Wollarians.

      • JJ

        Then again, we learned of the exodus from Kalla, so apparently she knows the plans for it. If the publicly known plan was to retreat into mare internum, Kalla should (more or less) know why she is in there …
        Maybe she does, and she would have told Mike, if he had bothered to ask …
        So many questions. Riddles in the dark, if it weren’t for the gorgeous illumination.

      • BigDogLittleCat

        “Neural” sea, indeed.
        What if the sea itself is a sort of brain, and all the fishies in it are enzymes and neurotransmitters and blood cells, etc?

      • David

        O.O I like that idea a lot.

    • Vert

      Maybe the processor contains the stored memories of millions of individuals – a backup measure in order to recreate their world in case other colonies failed.

  • Glavos

    The Processor doesn’t hold back any punches.

  • PositronicGirl

    The mare internum was fine for like billions of years, Bex has been there for a couple weeks and suddenly she is necessary for the system? Or is there something else about fulfilling that request that would cause problems? Hmm
    Also, text color in panel 2

    • shingworks

      [screams silently] XD Thank you for catching that

      • Kent

        I thought that was intentional. like it meant that the processor was speaking more loudly in that bubble.

    • Vert

      I don’t think it’s that she’s necessary for the system, I think it’s that the processor knows humans are curious. If she suddenly reappears on the surface, infected with alien microbes and with stories of the mare internum, more humans will come looking for it, and I doubt the previously-closed system can handle a host of curious invaders.

      … crap, no one’s making it out with their memories intact, are they?

      • PositronicGirl

        Yeah, but as a commenter above said, humans are already moving to Mars and it can’t stay hidden forever. All it needs is for Mike to stay and scare the other humans away!

      • egg

        It may also be a “having sealed up the GIANT HOLE YOU PUT IN THE CEILING, i currently have no means of putting you back outside without breaking something” thing

  • Flancy

    mike is such a ratty mushroom man holy beep. sir please groom yourself

    • PositronicGirl

      Processor didn’t even fix his fung-eye when it wasn’t giving him a flower.

      • Margaret Hogg

        I think the fung-eye WAS the fix.

        • MSD3000

          Part of the ship. Part of the crew. Part of the ship. Part of the crew…

  • HousePet

    Something seems off here.
    Okay the whole plot seems slightly off at times, but I’m feeling deception here…

    Is this whole encounter really about getting Bex to evaluate her life and commitments?
    With her background she should be fascinated by her situation, but instead she is determined to get out and return to the family she left on a different planet.
    I suspect the Processor has detected a bug and is attempting to fix it.

    • Shweta

      There’s a huge difference between studying something from the outside, safe in your protective suit and with a way back home, and being trapped inside the thing you might otherwise want to be studied.

      Especially if it’s trying to study you.

      By taking samples of your brain fluid.

  • *extremely worried*

    • awhorl

      In the second panel, Bex looks like she’s standing in a shower that is about to pour down on her.

  • BigDogLittleCat

    Processor, welcome to the commentariat!
    You sure jumped into the deep end, starting with probably the most contentious issue we discuss: Bex and her relationship with her sons.
    I look forward to hearing your take on it.

  • awhorl

    (so excited and waiting for more information)
    At THIS POINT without further info, I am suddenly getting (random) Hansel and Gretel vibes. LEVI visited the Processor and was turned into Threvi–and looks like many, many other of the same. Now suddenly we find out that well, LEVI could have been turned into organic material from Earth; the Processor didn’t need a sample for that sunflower. LEVI could have been turned into Isaac Levi so he could finally meet Mike as an equal. Yes, there are reasons why that meeting would be fraught, but right now I have a chilled feeling that the other thripps look a lot like cookie children.

    Over the long watch of the Processor, what happened to the other visitors? Certainly if humans finally made it to Mars, some other more superior space travelers must have stopped by. Were they equipped to leave? Or were some made to stay? It seems simplistic and reductive, I know–fear talking–but Mike seems a little like Hansel who likes the goodies, and Bex like Gretel who is determined to get both of them out of there. It’s a very old tale with many iterations . . . and the gate keeper has various motivations. Anyway, thanks for listening. Now I can sleep.

    • Shweta

      Me tooo! Or the Snow Queen, with the shard of glass in Kay’s eye; though both of these stories have protags who like each other, at least when they’re not messed up by antagonists.

    • Artie O'Dactyl

      > Certainly if humans finally made it to Mars, some other more superior space travelers must have stopped by.

      Not necessarily. Mare Internum was difficult for human colonists to find. It would have been even harder for aliens who were just visiting.

      I think it’s plausible that long ago the Wollaria Martians colonized Mars from Somewhere Else, before the start of the Amazonian era. I don’t think the Mare Internum culture/ecosystem would have had enough time to evolve naturally on early Mars before the environment turned hostile.

  • Lucas

    “Do they?”

    GODDAMN. Chill out, processor.

  • Shweta


    “What you wish for is not possible”
    “I hold millions of lives”
    “You want to risk all our deaths you monster is that what you want”

    These don’t… lead sensibly from one another at *all*, not without intermediate steps that the processor is repeatedly not providing. Probably because there are huge holes in the logic.

    It keeps repeating vague statements, saying emotionally manipulative things, the sort that silence dissent, (because if you disagree you want us all to die you monster) and asking questions that aren’t really questions, they’re gaslighting. “Is that what you want?” “Surely you don’t expect the world to change for you*” “DO they?” like these are all designed to create doubt, not consensus or better understanding or anything good at ALL

    And… if it’s that the processor has been *looking through their memories* then the choice of “flashback” scenes just got even creepier and more hurtful cause… those are all memories of them being manipulated, forced to do what they don’t want, gaslit into thinking they do want it, made to feel small & powerless, and guilty for any kind of dissenting opinion.

    Which means it’s been working to understand them only far enough to control them, and …it’s already succeeding with Mike? But his asshole moments are still him, so there’s hope.

    I really hope my reading is totally wrong ;n;

    * (and why not, we ALL expect that, or we’d stop breathing and eating, not all change is major or bad. Plus the processor is expecting the Bex part of the world to change for them.)

  • Jojo

    Great expression on Mike in that last panel.

  • awhorl

    Here I go off in another direction, mainly from reading the Meek:
    The scientists are on Mars putatively to colonize, which means to bring their own sense of culture and their own way of life and survival at the expense of the host planet, to stay there permanently (allowing for travel) and to change it in the process.

    Surprise, the host planet can talk, and from its inner bowels it says,

    “You came to stay: you are here and you now MUST stay, and you will do it without violating any of the ways of this planet. None of them. I will even appeal to your home-grown sense of morality about it, but in the end, believe me, colonizing is a dicey business at best. We were like you and did some things that had unintended consequences that we might both agree were extreme–one of which was to engender you out of our garbage dump on another barren planet. Pardon me, but at this point we have found that this is the only way to keep a system intact.”

    We on earth who live and then die, and who see life around us evolve–we may learn to accept change because it happens, and struggle to build some sort of moral system for that sets limits to human action within universal change. But this AI may have been set up as a defender, and that may be its motivation.

    Or not. AAAGH! Waiting for updates!!!

  • Artie O'Dactyl

    I’ve been wondering about this or a couple of months: What if the Processor decides to integrate humans into its ecosystem? It might decide to keep Bex and Mike and use them fo its own purposes … The irony would be that Bex fled Earth because she couldn’t deal with having children, and now she’d be expected to breed lots and lots and lots of little humans.

  • Hima

    WAIT. These animals are not alive, they are organic machines. The only properly alive inhabitant in MI is Kalla, WHO WANTS TO LEAVE. Also Bex, who also wants to leave, and Mike, who wants to leave most of the time.

    Processor, I despise you.

    • CosmicStresshead

      I don’t know. Those roving systems, particularly the ones who communicated with Bex, seemed alive enough to me. And those are only the ones we’ve seen. The fact that they each have a function doesn’t suggest to me that they are any less alive and in some cases sentient.

  • █████

    I don’t know where this is going to go but I know it’s going to be amazing.

    Not necessarily happy but I’m definitely excited.

  • J. Moose

    I came here from Monster Pulse [who did a nice shout out to this comic], and I just finished reading the archives. It’s a really neat and awesome comic.

  • Ya boi

    Fuck you Bex the world don’t revolve around you! Science ain’t gonna put itself at risk just for you. grow up and realize that quote Monty python. “life a piece of shit, when you look at it…”.

    • Android 21 3/7

      From a different song, but “…and pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space, ‘cuz there’s bugger all down hear on Earth!”

      • Android 21 3/7


        *punishes self for typo*

  • Emor

    Processor: “I maintain a world within me. Millions of lives. To release you would put this entire world at risk, perhaps kill us all.”
    Bex: “WHAT!?!? How is your “world within you” entirely dependent upon my presence here?”

  • Lilian

    Oh hey! Michael still does have expressions!

    I wonder if Bex’s understanding of her sons “needing her” means something other than physically returning to them.

    I also wonder where the Processor is going with the question regarding the boys’ need for their mother. A case can be made that children need their parents. A case can be made that they don’t (since kids can turn out just fine in spite of losing a parent or two for whatever reason).

    But I’d like to wait and see how this unfolds before I say more.

  • JOJ

    I remembered what’s bothering me about this page. In the second panel, the shadows streaming away from Bex and Mike are behaving strangely – they’re not expanding at all, even though the light source is clearly point/radial.

  • KigV2

    mETAphoRiCaL ASs sHIt

  • Sheridan

    As mentioned by others above, The Processor has a problem: in the long term, its future is fixed.
    When Humans arrive somewhere, they don’t leave (except in rare cases, but they always come back). Humans are on Mars now, and there’ll be more coming. Eventually they will non-accidentally find the Mare. And once they do, they will tear it apart to learn its secrets.

  • Sheridan

    Also imagine how patient the Processor has to be to engage in conversation with emotional organics at the glacial pace of meat-think.

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