Chapter 5, Page 33

I said I’d update last Friday and forgot in last day Kickstarter fog v__v

Sorry bout that, makin’ up for it today~


  • Macca

    lol I know that Mike is your least favorite character in this comic but I relate to this poor dude a lot.
    I try to grow past my mental shortcomings and the depression wallowing but it’s hard! Mike, you can do it!! Help yourself to save yourself!!!

  • 1ore

    I really, *really* love this page.

  • hmantegazzi

    This is too sad and too lovely at the same time :'(

  • Margaret Hogg

    P sure he’s not even talking about the Mare here.

  • Pylgrim

    I feel this is good. Previous things that he said and do made him seem one of those people really cynical about his own mental health. This is first and foremost an admission that he, after all, wants to be saved, followed by the necessary realisation that salvation doesn’t come from outside. To complete the trifecta, he needs next to be made to see that it may come from the inside, but he needs to put the work towards it.

    • Richard Walker

      I agree.

      While I believe that more people should try to be more sympathetic towards those of disability or with mental health problems, I feel that it’s really our duty to at least try to work on overcoming our fears, flaws, weaknesses, and insecurities on our own first.

      Otherwise we’d be wanting everyone to step forward and help shoulder our burdens, without much regard for their own feelings and issues beforehand.

      Regardless, I’m hoping that Mike will have the inner strength to help himself get better and start taking control of his life again.

      • Shweta

        I feel that people need to be more sympathetic to brainbad illnesses in general whether or not we’re actively working on them (and whether or not they can see whether we are)

        But till now, Bex had no way of even *knowing*; what she’s seen of Mike’s actions so far could have been externally-caused despair over his career situation.

        I’m so, so glad he’s being honest with her about how much he’s struggling now. Makes me hopeful that we’re maybe not headed for a total tragedy ending :)

  • JJ

    I look forward to the next heart-to-heart between Mike and thighfriend

    • weirderthanweird

      Thighfriend is strong enough to save them

      • JJ

        And a good mother besides!

  • Some_Douchebag

    The real Hell was the friends we made (and murdered) along the way.

    • shingworks


  • Shweta


  • BlueFog

    I can really feel the gravitas of this scene through the imagery, (which is fantastic btw) but I don’t quite understand the interaction here? Mike keeps talking about how he needed/relied on Bex, but I don’t see how. He only knew her for half a day before they fell in, and once down in the sea he didn’t find her until she killed kalla. I kinda assumed he was harboring some sort of resentment over that, but I really don’t see how he has been anything but dismissive or standoffish with Bex.

    Like, I feel like i’ve obviously missed something, but I’m not sure what? Again, I’m not trying to poke at the comic or anything, I really do love it, I’m just a little lost here. Can someone please explain?

    • Nyzer

      I’ll take a stab at it:

      From what we’ve seen of Mike’s past, he probably has really severe issues with showing faith (or even just consciously having it) in someone to help him in a time of need, which contributes towards his caustic attitude towards Bex before they met the processor together.

      Despite this, he was actually impressed by Bex’s ability to survive completely on her own, unlike the way he only survived because of Kalla and all the various symbiotes now attached to his body.

      Despite THAT, he still mistrusted her because of the situation with her kids. Plus he was pretty fucking pissed about the time she killed Kalla, even if Kalla got better.

      So on some level, he simply didn’t like her. Yet he still considered her to be MUCH more capable than himself.

      There’s also the complication with how he feels about the situation here at Internum (that works as a name for this area, right?. Before Bex met the processor, he felt the processor was fairly benevolent. Yet the processor didn’t just turn Bex’s request down – it lied to her (consider the false sunflower) and then attacked her just to make sure she understood who was in charge.

      And, of course, Mike suffers from mental illness of some kind. The symbiotes in his body seem to have healed that to some extent, but it wouldn’t be surprising to find that it still contributes to difficulty figuring out how he truly feels about the situation.

    • zach

      He’s talking to and about his mother. Bex only knows he hates her for motherhood related reasons. Let’s see if she can do 2 + 2.

      • SSR

        Oh GOD! Is this what it’s been about all along, him thinking of her as a mother figure? Oh my god I totally didn’t get that. The whole comic suddently makes sense now.

      • ledaeth

        The shape of the cave makes it clear that he’s talking about his mother. ;)
        Strong imagery here. Mike never came fully to this world.

    • shingworks

      It’s only been a day, and this page was a long time ago, but I guess keep in mind that right before he met her he was about to go jump off a bunk bed. The reason he didn’t was because of a very short conversation, and when he found out later in the chapter that she hadn’t been whatever he assumed she was, it put him back to square one. Maybe that gives a bit more context to the weight of whatever she represents to him in his head, although you’re right, it hasn’t been that long.

      • BlueFog

        Woah, Ok. I did not realize that was what was happening in that scene at all. That definitely changes the dynamic here, and in all their interactions after that really. I’m gonna have to go re-read the whole thing again.

        Thanks for pointing that out to me. :)

      • Ben

        I must admit, I’m confused about the time span. Mike’s bodily changes are pretty substantial, although Bex doesn’t show any significant changes – even obvious signs of lack of sleep

  • Ben

    Ok, the comic has found its way again…. great stuff.

    Re Bluefog, above, my reading is that once Mike had survived the fall into the cavern, and began to realise the nature of the choice confronting him, he reacted by projecting his fears and hopes onto those he met – first, Kallakore, then Bex in turn. The fact that he didn’t actually know Bex at all well, isn’t important in that context.

    The processor appears to regard Mike as a candidate, but not Bex.

    Bex has been brought to a realisation of her true priorities. Mike, not so much, because he can’t define them.

    • Raigh

      “ok the comic has found its way again”

      Ben shut up.

      • Ben

        I don’t know much research the author has done for this comic, but I’ve done a lot of time over the years in isolated, professional communities in various locations and trust me, there’s a lot of believable detail in this comic.

        Ok, it takes liberties with the science, but so does The Martian, and so what? The story has to progress. The section about Mike allowing his relationship with Commander to deteriorate for his own reasons, I’ve seen that sort of thing happen. I liked the interior design of the habitat, a lot of remote environments look pretty much like that. Mike’s dress – t-shirt, sweatpants, socks and sandals – is just how people dress in those places.

        I thought, at first, Mike had “cabin fever”… but quite a lot of people in those environments are pretty dysfunctional. The idea that Mike never spoke about his background to his colleagues, that’s about right too. You can work and live with someone for a long time, and really know very little about their background, in such a place.

        Same goes for the issues of Bex and her family. Unsurprisingly enough, it’s a common issue which a lot of people in that environment need to resolve to their own satisfaction. Some are leaving failed marriages behind, some are just troubled that they feel they should be with their kids. Many DO reach that conclusion, and DO opt for personal life over professional commitment.

        Plus, the LAST person you want as a colleague in that environment is some whiny SJW, or permanently offended liberal, trust me in this. You don’t want gamblers or other addictive personalities. You don’t want depressives, although they tend to develop due to stress. You want people around you who can do their jobs and not leave the airlock door open when they put the cat out, and otherwise mind their own business.

        I was quite absorbed in the whole comic, and drifting in and out of thoughts about such-and-such a person, in such-and-such a place…. so Bex’ outburst to Mike was really jarring and out of character.

        So I’m now back to feeling engaged with the comic, because it seems to be back on track again. I still can’t work out the ending, although the options are closing… I can still see Bex abandoning Mike to the Internum because she has no viable option, and clear orders to do so. Let’s see.

        • Raigh

          yeah I tuned you out. Anyone who sincerely uses the term ‘sjw’ has no credibility and I’m not wasting anymore time with your faux intellectualism.

          You pretentious boy.

          • brokenidealist

            “Anyone who sincerely uses the term ‘sjw’ has no credibility”

            Quoting again for truth. Wishing these dudes who live in echo chambers would realize how they appear to rest of the world, and keep their nonsense confined to their echo chambers.

          • Jean

            You may have thought you were making a brilliant point, but your reaction proves exactly why managers don’t want certain personality types in these work situations, and why they function poorly with others.

          • Zach

            You have examplified the person who thrives on indignation that he spoke ill of. I got to give you credit for metatrolling!

            His use of SJW was mocking, and anyone who’s been around a teen when they realize what ethics are knows how short sighted, short tempered, self aggrandizing, holier than thou, and nagging they can be. And how dismissive they are of those they disagree with or have defined as ‘enemies’.

            TLDR: Stop being pretentious, it makes you seem a mear boy.

          • Lilian

            “yeah I tuned you out. Anyone who sincerely uses the term ‘sjw’ has no credibility and I’m not wasting anymore time with your faux intellectualism. You pretentious boy.”

            Quoting again for emphasis on the unhelpful comment to which I’m replying.

            It would be no more useful if I replied to someone with a, “yeah i tuned you out. Anyone who sincerely uses the term ‘intersectionality’ has no credibility and I’m not wasting any more time with your faux morality. You sanctimonious tyrant.”

            This is a nice example of combative reasoning. Think the mud-slinging, blind confirmation bias, false dichotomization, and narrow-mindedness that has dominated cultural and political conversation (in the U.S. anyway) for the last several years.

            If we want to get anywhere, we’re going to have to learn to dialogue with people we disagree with without immediately insulting them, lecturing them, or accusing them of the worst motives supplied by our minds.

            Even people we disagree with on emotionally-charged issues. Even people we disagree with on fundamental levels.

        • Margaret Hogg

          Lolol I’m sorry are you actually looking at this comic from Mike’s point of view and saying “you don’t want depressives” around you in reference to Bex? Like… Mike isn’t “a depressive” in your mind? Despite starting the whole comic off with attempted suicide?

          “I thought, at first, Mike had ‘cabin fever'” Really? Nothing else? Not an abusive past? Not a diagnosed mental illness that requires medicine, which he’s now off of? Just gonna off it because he’s sick of working with the same people?

          I like to allow people their interpretation of a work, but I’m just surprised you can have such a surface (imo mis-)reading of such a deep and intricate narration. Mike is totally rational good guy and Bex is just a whiny SJW who won’t listen to him? The world you’re living in must be wild.

          • Ben

            You don’t appear to have understood my post.

            As a general comment, gamblers, addictive personalities and depressives are undesirable in such an environment, as are strongly opinionated personalities who regard anyone who disagrees with them on a range of self-defined issues, as inherently wrong and at fault.

            But depressives in particular, tend to develop due to the stresses of such a life. “Cabin fever” is an expression used to denote the sort of obsession with trivial details, often combined with reclusive and/or irrational behaviour and inability to engage with others, which Mike displays at the outset. I can’t imagine he was on medication when he arrived on Mars.

            We aren’t shown his abusive history at first. All we can see is that Bex misleads by omission (for her own reasons), which proves to be a trigger for Mike’s escalating breakdown, starting at the base of the cavern entry.

            We also aren’t shown Bex’ personal issues, which prove to be material to the unfolding plot. What DOES emerge, almost as a Deus ex Machina, is that Bex concludes that her responsibilities as a mother over-ride both her professional ambitions, and her “it’s all about me” response to the (actually quite common) post-partum crisis which she seems to have experienced.

            Whether her family will accept her back, I don’t care to predict. It depends to some extent, on the narrative the author wishes to tell.

          • Margaret Hogg

            Lol @ Ben I feel like I’ve seen you post “you appear to have misunderstood my post” like three or four times. D’ya think maybe, possibly, people DO understand what you’re saying and just… don’t agree?

            Mike’s getting drugs shipped to the base, so I’ma assume he was on them when he first joined. He’s also mad at Penelope Goh for looking into his files. That seems to me like something that predated his time on Mars.

            We are shown Mike’s past before we’re shown that Bex’s statements were an “omission.” (which, from the last couple of pages, they weren’t actually an omission. She does intend to return to her children) If you’re not completely dense or if you’re at least a little open to empathizing with other people’s experiences, it’s not hard to read “Once the baby’s here, what happens to me?” and “I feel like I’m dying” and catch on to her personal issues. This is so not “it’s all about me” it’s “it’s still at least some about me” and I feel like anyone struggling with these added expectations of society–to be wife and mother before all else, to want that no matter what else happens in your life–can read this story and at least somewhat feel for her.

            And she just says she doesn’t need to be accepted. I have a feeling her family won’t ever be what it was. I will hope she can make good with her children but I don’t know if her husband would accept her back. But again, she doesn’t need that.

            But like, whatev. Whatev.

          • Corbie

            Well, I can imagine that sharing personal experiences and being devaluated by means of addressing one in the answer (being loled at time and again, being dismissed as a pretentious boy due to someone else’s habit to read from the use of one acronym that the person who used it cannot be who he says he is) and oh, ere I forget, of course everything about the person must be wrong from now on.
            I’ve been there and I can read Ben’s posting perfectly clear. That someone sticks to rationality when talking about something like a Martian habitat is simply … duh, rational. There is no reason to declare this person had no empathy. In contrary, empathy is highly valuable. What is not helping is being carried away by emotions and making interpretations of others way beyond the own experience. That includes judging “cabin fever” instead of asking “don’t you think that’s a lil more than cabin fever?” … and learning about it’s use among the people who use it in a certain way for reasons. I don’t know these, but I know some pretty cold or even diminutive medical terms which I understand drive the ones affected crazy when they hear them. The one who uses them does not need to be cold. It’s likely they’re not. Speaking of means for compensation, it’s better to remain rational for a bit before jumping at other people’s throats eben but verbally. Think about it and what ensures teamplay when your life depends on it.

      • Sheridan

        Morgan Freeman Narrator: “It turned out that Ben cared after all.”

        • Shweta

          Given how many words he poured into not caring on previous pages, everyone was terribly terribly shocked.

        • Ben

          Well, so I did. I wouldn’t have commented otherwise. See above..

          • Roo

            “Ok, the comic has found its way again…”

            Actually the comic never lost its way, you just made assumptions in previous pages based off not being able to see the entire picture, and that partial picture not falling in line with what you expected. Turns out you were simply incorrect in you bemoaning the entire time.

          • Corbie

            I want to add to my rant above that I thought some pages ago, when Ben was disappointed, that I was as well (without ever reading his comment then), for reasons of a great narrative sinking into “and now we explain it all” as it happens way too often. But Der-Shing proved to be a great narrator so far, so I didn’t take this for granted on one page or two and decided to wait.
            Now I think it’s still worth a mention since said page had this effect on me and obviously Ben even way more. Yes, I stumbled over that dialogue. It is only this page here (Ch5 /33) which turned the comic back on track for me.
            You may blame that on my reading and my personality etc, but I think it’s up to Der-Shing as the writer to make use of such feedback or not. Said feedback is basically only opinions – just as everyone else’s here. So please, folks, stop judging opinions, everyone’s allowed to have theirs no matter whether you like it or not.

  • Okay, nobody ever questioned if Mike could be able, with all those symbiotes rooted in his flesh, to survive in an Earth-like environment? He just lost his left eye! How could he lay and sleep with a coral growing on his skull?

    • egg

      Strategically placed pillows? I’m more concerned about the glowing bodily fluids tbh — does he now contain Processor??

    • shingworks

      YEAH it’s a good question! Going to be hard to find maternity pants, lol

      • Android 21 3/7


  • egg

    god DAMN i cannot wait to receive my copy of this book

    • Sheridan


  • Hima

    Oh God, that’s… that’s heavy… The feels…

  • brokenidealist

    This. Is. Awesome.

    Side thoughts: I wonder if the Processor has been steadily incorporating Mike into the Martian ecosystem partly because Mike’s psychological issues, including a deep sense of isolation and loneliness, make him vulnerable to manipulation and control. Bex has her own issues, but is determined not be assimilated, despite surviving alone in a hostile environment. The Processor reminds me of cult leaders; I really wonder what the last days of Martain society were like.

  • ledaeth

    Mike cowers down in a vagina, so this is about mother. He never fully came into this world, he never really belonged.
    Simple and strong. Great stuff.

  • anomalaic

    This is an incredible story and work of art you’ve put together (which I’ve been binge-reading in one sitting all night…we all have our problems), and now I’m upset that I’m all caught up and there’s no more yet :P . I will be _very_ intrigued to check out your other work, and keep track of your goings-on in the future.

  • Arianwen

    I accidentally had this track playing when I switched to this tab and FUCK

  • KE Karlsen

    Hello, I just sat down and read this whole comic finally (I’ve had it saved in my ‘to read’ section for awhile but never got around to reading it until now – I have read the Meek though!!) and wow, this comic is absolutely beautiful. Everything from the art to the story to the characters to the world is just stunning. I’ll definitely be keeping up with this one, I’m a little mad at myself for putting it off for so long!! Thank you so much for making it <3 This is a side of sci-fi I would love if people made more… I say to myself "I don't like sci-fi" and then I read this and thought "hm maybe I do actually like sci-fi". Anyway, just wanted to comment and say that this story is very beautiful and your art is gorgeous and you are amazing at creating atmosphere <3

    • Eversist

      “I’ll definitely be keeping up with this one…”

      I’m not sure if you managed to read the authors notes alongside the pages but we’re in the home stretch, with the book releasing relatively soon! Good to have you along.

      • KE Karlsen

        I know (: I actually preordered the book immediately after I commented this and I’ve also been aware of this series for awhile, just actually took the time to sit down and read it finally. You can still keep up with something, even if it’s nearing the end. (:

    • Shweta

      I’ve had the same reaction — I thought for a long time I’d stopped liking science fiction, but it turns out I’d just gotten bored with same-old by the numbers SF.

      If you like prose fiction, you might want to try Nisi Shawl’s stories; she’s also got note-perfect character depth in situations/settings that feel both real & alien, and my love for her work feels similar to my love for Der-shing’s.

  • J.A Kooistra

    Tears like that would be so dope at a rave

    • Anton Kooistra

      I meant this to go to the previous page but it’s 1:48 am and I have to be at a lecture at 9.00 am @_@

  • weirderthanweird

    It’s fine Bex. You probably can’t catch all of his weird parasites (symbiotes?) through your suit. Just keep your head far, far away from him while you comfort him.

  • Ben

    Well, people are free to disagree. The question is, whether they are thinking, drawing on experience, or just unquestioningly repeating the “party line”.

    One contributor, above, uses the phrase “posting again for truth”. Does this mean that things become true, if repeatedly sufficiently often?

    Bex, on her first meeting with Mike, refers to her kids but doesn’t inform him that she is a permanent colonist – that emerges when he sees the logo on the torch. We see her describe, or experience a flashback of her having a highly negative experience in a shop, involving children. We see her having an emotionally-charged conversation with her husband (in the driverless car). She had several occasions to tell Mike she intended to return to Earth, to her family, but did no such thing.

    I can only read her latest statement as a change of heart, a change of priorities, in which she resolves her inner conflict in the only way possible.

    Was Mike on medication, before he came to Mars? Good question. It would be against all practice IRL, but that’s for the author to confirm, or not. There certainly appears to be reason to believe that Commander Goto was looking for something of the sort in his past history. He has been on Mars for a year, plus six months in transit, as near as I can understand it? Plenty of time for something to develop … surely any known medication would have been pre-packed?

    • Corbie

      Hi Ben, I agree: Someone who bases truth on who cries loudest / longest / most is not the person one wants around in high risk situations.

      About Bex, I also staggered through her change of mind, it came quite a-sudden for me. Not surprisingly, just a bit – though I remember thinking: “Now she’s a mother either way” when she was on her way with Threvi. She can’t escape that role as much as she’s trying to be herself … or rather: Not to be a mother? Since this role has been posed upon her disregarding her own wishes and feelings. “It’s okay” when it was totally not okay. She wanted to be respected by someone whom she respected … and this someone turns out to need a mother.
      I think Bex’ wish to get respect from Mike might have gone unnoticed by me for quite some time since she’s walking the colleague way quite surely for a long time, and since they won’t have much time together: When she arrived, he was about to leave. Or I’m simply wrong with this way to read her at all.

      As for Meds for Mike: I suppose he was only diagnosed as far as possible when he already was on Mars. I doubt he’d have gotten the job if he’d been treated for severe mental illness after having grown up again. A company invests a lot of money in his work, and the people on the board are likely not to risk this money to someone unstable, which is an awful capitalistic point of view, but only too common.

      • Ben

        The internet contains obsessive ideologues? Who knew?

        Bex’ sudden change of heart didn’t surprise me. I’ve been reading this story as quite realistic, on one level – about committed, often rather dysfunctional people in isolated locations. I have quite a lot of experience of this over time and on that level, it rings true. I’ve seen people experience this sort of “loss of faith” and they often decide, or realise that their family is what really matters – at which point, they have the further problem of knowing that THEIR actions have hurt other people.

        She also has the problem of having wanted respect from Mike, but “don’t meet your heroes” is old news.

        Mike is a case of the extent to which old news is still important. The Company MUST have known about his past history, to some extent. There’s a fairly clear inference that Penelope Goto was looking for something of the sort in his history, and Mike tried to prevent her finding it. The Company appears to have decided, or taken the risk that Mike’s past history could be contained sufficiently for him to produce something of financial value (another fairly clear inference, is that the LeVi programmes are a valuable commercial property) and that didn’t work out too well.

    • PJF

      I agree with some of your points Ben, but I hope you’re not surprised that your critical analysis stirred up some of the hardcore fans.

      Personally, I’ve had a hard time relating to the story since they met the processor. I can get that Michael wanting to stay and Bex wanting to leave is going to equal conflict, but I don’t understand how that conflict got to such a deep psychological level so quickly.

  • Rejutka

    Well, finally they both opened up.
    Things should go up from here – hiding that you’re broken makes it impossible for others to know it – still expecting others to *know* is futile.
    As we have seen here.

  • Lost Yooper

    If NASA’s InSight lander starts sending back info about a large underground cavern after it lands on Monday I am going to book the next ticket there (Though I will do my best to avoid said large underground cavern!)

  • Magdalene
  • Herbevore

    I just found this web comic thanks to a link shared by David Brin on FB. Has been quite a good read and I look forward to seeing it through to the end.

  • Some_Douchebag

    I’ve been rereading this comic, and another question occurs to me. How smart is the processor, exactly? Is it just beep-boop robot smart, having trouble understanding human emotions despite its analytical abilities? Or were its earlier interactions with the main characters part of a long-term manipulation? It can see into the minds and memories of those under its influence, and it *seems* to still have trouble making sense of the gestalt individual. Was this a lie? Was every word and gesture carefully chosen to make our heroes think of it in this way?

    If it was honest in its stated intention to preserve the MI, and that’s probably true, it likely knew Bex wouldn’t initially be compliant. It could obviously force Bex to submit to it, but it would also know that she could cause trouble for it later if she didn’t feel like she made the choice to stay on her own. However, Mike is definitely fine with staying, and could be useful in making her feel like she had some connection and responsibility to MI. Did it choose its last words to Mike to deliberately stir up memories of his abuse to make him feel more vulnerable and conflicted? Did it know that this inner turmoil would eventually motivate him to try and strengthen his relationship with Bex? Did it know that Bex would respond with some sort of sympathy, which could be used to make her think she would be in control when she “chooses” to stay for his sake? Was the “threat display” from before only meant to put pressure on Bex, or to also make Mike fear for her safety? Is this moment of them mutual understanding and strengthening of their friendship truly organic, or part of the processor’s machinations?

    If they come to value each other, this would soften the blow of being disconnected from the rest of the world. This could be exploited to make Bex feel like there’s a place where she’s both welcome and needed, playing on her sense of responsibility to others. After all, she’s already chosen her career over those she cares about *and* apparently flip-flopped on that decision. She’s capable of sacrificing things that are important to her, and is now reconsidering what her priorities are. It’s not completely inconceivable that her newfound desire to care for those close to her could be something the processor is trying to redirect by giving her a new “child” who needs her in the form of Mike. This could culminate in her “deciding” to stay in the MI without resistance, if only to protect Mike.

    If so, all of this would be *profoundly* unfair to both of them. In a story about agency and connections, this alien super-intelligence could be using one to create the illusion of the other, while denying both of them what they truly desire. Mike would have no “equilibrium” if he’s under the purview of another abuser, but would find protection and support in Bex, who in turn would be denied both her family and her career.

    Granted, this would all be too overcomplicated for a person to devise, and clashes with the themes of the story, but it’s a possibility. It would also make for a horrifying twist better suited to an edgy fantasy series than a grounded sci-fi story. I happen to love edgy fantasy stories though, so its no surprise that I’m seeing things this way.

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