Chapter 5, Page 8


A reader posted a nice pic of their thighfriend pin! I have completely forgot to mention anywhere obvious that MI pins are still available in a limited way at my shop for anyone who wants their own buddy~

One last thank you to my Patrons, the champs who are funding the creation of this comic. This week was an experiment to see if I could do 5 updates in a row in addition to all my other work, next week will be an experiment to see if I can do it… twice B] Guess we’ll see on Monday~

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)


  • Lar

    Baby Mike.

  • ObservantWolf

    Ooh, memories and backstory!

  • Ma

    I was wandering when the traumatic-trust-thingy would resurface from his mare internum.

  • Nicole

    Something about that sentence has resonated with mike…

  • Fawkes Rinzler

    God, this whole scene went from super intense to feeling reeeeaaally ominous.

    • Jojo

      I agree. The child eyes really sell it.

  • Solanuma

    Oh no here we go again
    I my experience wasn’t nearly as fucked up as Mikes but its hard reading through it anyway

  • Oh, God, flasback to the pool scene. I think I’m going to start crying.

  • Android 21 3/7

    Whoahoh Processor! If you want Mike to be your ally and you intrinsically know his thoughts and feelings, you should know reminding him of THAT is the last thing you want to do!

    • comespm

      The processor is an alien intelligence on a first contact situation.

      It could have read Mike’s and Bex’s memories like an open book, and still completely fail to understand humans.

      • Lauren

        The processor knows his memories, so it knows what happens after those words have been said: Mike gives in.

        Or at least, he did as a child.

        It’s a completely malicious attempt to shut him up, it is not meant to be comforting.

  • Okaybells

    Right in the childhood :O

  • Indedipal

    So… the processor takes on a new crest shape (male?) and says exactly the wrong thing… Mike’s triggered now. Does he go apeshit, or will he side with Bex? TUNE IN NEXT TIME!

    • JJ

      Do you think the processor is genderfluid? :-D

      • AGV


      • Indedipal


      • shingworks

        haha, wow

    • bellsnwhistles

      Do you mean panel 4? I think that’s the same trifold crest as before. You can see another on p3 x

      • Indedipal

        That previous crest had a longer central (arch?) which I took as a feature of the minor- female form the Processor was currently assuming. (Kallacore, a major-female, has quite a prominent “central arch”.) This new shape has three equal arches, which I’m assuming is deliberate, and am guessing is the male form… but I could be perfectly wrong and it’s just the Processor’s form randomly fluctuating, with no real meaning… Also, I’m sure Mike has no idea about Wollerian genders… but the words the Processor used are one of Mike’s hot-buttons. The processor is sounding a bit too much like his Uncle. :/

        • shingworks

          tbh it’s shifting around because in my head when the Processor moves, its liquid body sort of lags and gets squashed and stretched. Males don’t really have much of a crest (it looks more like a flat helmet), and anyways wouldn’t be used in Wollarian UX/ UI XD

    • Bethany Persons

      Mike doesn’t even know Kalla is female, so I’m not sure he’d recognize other martian gender features.

      • AGV

        Considering that the Processor can manipulate or at least influence minds, it probably can give a mental equivalent

  • Bethany Persons

    That reminds me, I hope his uncle is in jail right now.

    • AGV

      Or burning deep in hell while we’re at it

  • AGV

    Oh, fuck you big time, Processor

  • Lord Hideous

    Good work, Processor. You don’t even have feet, but you still managed to stick one in your mouth.

    • Lilian


  • Roo

    On top of everything else it doesn’t help that the Processor is like the same shade of blue as the water in the pool that day ;-; Way to take us ALLLLLLL the way back.

  • awhorl

    You go, Thighfriend! Full display! Protect Mike!

    Remember when Kalla tried to pull it out? I start to wonder if the other beings in the cave have their own opinions, some of which might diverge from the Processor’s agenda/programming.

  • Some_Douchebag

    Abusive personalities all use similar tactics.

  • David

    That is his pervert uncle in the last panel, right?

  • JJ

    Is Mike about to change nose size?

    • anameer

      Was just wondering the same thing.

  • J. Moose

    I was going to go all ticked off at the Processor but then I realized that it might not realize what it did? I mean, seeing that it does pick up memories and yet not the context?

    • Spark

      That’s what I was thinking too. It seems to take most things at face value.

    • awhorl

      Whoah yea, and there’s me, living out my life by reacting to my sore memories instead of to what may be happening around me–that’s one way to slosh around in MI not get out. And yet–it’s ironic that in Mike’s case it looks like a good thing–he is right to be alarmed about the value of the statement. Very nice narrative move.

    • Margaret Hogg

      It’s even possible that without context, the words were actually comforting to Mike at the time, before he could start to work out or fully understand the abuse connected to them. Possibly the processor is trying to tap into that, the way it tapped into memories of Bex’s most insecure moments, without understanding the bigger picture of either of their lives.

  • Mork

    shout out to all the peeps acting like the Processor’s assessment of Bex was infallible

    • Lilian

      I said it before, and I’ll say it again. I wonder if the Processor was calling Bex selfish more because it was reading her own feelings about herself than because it was an objective assessment.

      Or – and this is what I’m more inclined to believe – it could be the Processor called Bex selfish because that’s how it sees her behavior from it’s own perspective and directive to preserve Mare Internum.

      For all that it’s been reading Mike and Bex’s minds, the Processor seems unable to step outside of its own directives/perspective.

      Now to be fair, Shing herself referred to the Processor as a god. That in mind, the Processor remains a created entity and seems more like a Greco-Roman sort of deity than what some would call God. Fallible judgment, limited perspective, rather human emotions.

      But with superpowers.

      What could go wrong?

      • Shweta

        Yeah!!! This is my reading too — plus, that the processor is tapping into abuse memories specifically because its purpose is to control more than to understand.

        The way I see it, if Bex was *any* kind of selfish she’d not have bothered looking for Mike; he was useless-to-catastrophic in the brief time they interacted, as well as being an asshole, and she owes him nothing.

        And he would have given up on Kalla as a “coward” if she hadn’t followed him. But Bex never gave up on him.

        I truly think people’s judgment of Bex says much more about them than about her, and that’s true of the processor and Mike in-narrative as well as commenters outside.

        • Lilian

          I do think that leaving your young family for a different planet, and for life, is not a decision to be glossed over. It’s a big deal whether you’re a mom or a dad.

          Even explorers of old are only so good of a comparison, as those men (generally, as far as I know?) weren’t explicitly leaving for life. And, well, the choices of some of those men absolutely did cause undeserved hurt, and they absolutely did experience damaged/severed bonds with family. That it was/is more socially acceptable for fathers to do it doesn’t automatically mean it should be just as acceptable for mothers. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been so acceptable for fathers in the first place.

          BUT Bex is more than that decision, AND it’s perfectly possible to have both positive and negative thoughts about a character. Bex is refreshingly practical and mentally sound compared to Mike… and seems to have a relatively straightforward/good-natured approach. She made a nice first impression. And she was quite good to Mike in the midst of that meltdown he was having in the cave.

          Really, they’re both good characters.

          • Kincajou

            This comment nails my feelings on the matter perfectly! Both characters are interesting and display positive and negative behaiviours, buth they”re a construt of all their choices and behaviours, not just the single actions.

        • CJG

          Perhaps that interaction wasn’t wholly for Bex. Maybe the processor thought Mike needed to see a “bad parent punished” so it was all part of an act?

          Also, random thought. Had it ever been explored that Bex’s husband took the kids from her before she moved?

  • Lilian

    Hooo boy.

  • Hima

    Oooooooooh KILL IT MIKE

  • awhorl

    Now I wonder about the new bodies you get when you’re re-Processed. Are they the genuine article or is there some internal blueness involved? I’m worried about Threvi’s health.

    • awhorl

      Well, I guess one of Kalla’s was muscly enough, since Bex ate it.

    • shingworks

      The flower is probably a bit more hacked together because the Processor hasn’t seen one before, and is just relying on info it has access to (plenty of thrips to go around, tho)

      • CharlesW81

        Essentially it only has knowledge from Mike and Bex on the sunflower’s image.

        I guess it could create a whole new Bex and/or Mike since it can gather it’s own knowledge of human biology but it probably has a better chance of making a cricket from Dex’s knowledge than an Terran flora.

  • holy sh*t OUCH. This isn’t gonna end well.

  • – slow clap at that mood transition –

  • Pylgrim

    Not the first time that he has heard similar, appeasing, manipulating words from someone in a position of power trying to mask the fact that he is abusing it.

  • Song
    • Shweta

      Two and a half years ago, and still so memorable that I knew which page the link would lead to.


      Now that’s impressive storytelling. I wish we could still nominate comics for general sf/f writing awards.

    • Emor

      Ah, THAT’s why I found myself staring at panel 7 on this page. A really lovely, subtle touch there, Ms. Helmer!

  • Purplefelix

    Bet the texture of the fake sunflower insides and the feeling of “this isn’t right” went a long way to tap Mike’s limbic system even before the similar phrasing really snapped the flashback into focus. I quite enjoy how I can feel the pacing of the imagery flow with the pace at which I recalled the scene and related emotions myself.

  • Artie O'Dactyl

    Some initial thoughts …

    * The flower isn’t as passable a facsimile as the Processor thinks it is. The Processor may not be as smart, or as wise, or as sane as it thinks it is.

    * If the Processor is a gestalt entity based on the minds of lots of Martians in the neural sea, then perhaps some of them are working to sabotage the Processor’s goals and/or programming. Perhaps some of the entities in the neural sea realize that they aren’t very passable facsimiles of their former selves. Perhaps those particular words were INTENDED by a component of the Processor to evoke Mike’s unpleasant memories and raise his suspicion level.

    * Would the Processor attack Devotion Station to protect the secret of its existence?

  • Ben

    I see what you did there…

  • BigDogLittleCat

    Processor apparently doesn’t understand Mike as well as they thought. To Mike, Bex’s wanting to be with her sons is not just important, it’s *critically* important.
    Bad luck on the Processor, using his horrible uncle’s words right after saying a mother’s interest in her children is not important, just to highlight that they are a manipulating user, Mike’s favorite kind of person.

    I don’t see this going well for the Processor. Kalla was right about it after all.

  • HousePet

    And now Mike as well?
    Really not sure if the Processor is trying to dig up unresolved emotional issues to fix them, or is just really misreading humans.

    • Le Chacal

      How could the Processor have a good reading of humanbeings, given the fact that its only source of knowledge is an imperfect copy – an AI (LEVI). Sure, Levi is state-of-the-art AI, but that doesn’t mean it could be a good reference for human psyche understanding.

      • hkmaly

        He has also some reading of Mike (who is clinically crazy) and Bex, who has lot of issues. Not that HUMANS are so good at understanding other humans to start with.

  • CosmicStresshead

    This is so beautifully done.

  • CharlesW81

    I feel like this page really emphasizes Bex’s comment that it doesn’t understand her at all.

    Copy and scan memories, sure, but it can’t run those through a human thought process. Bex and Mike have probably THOUGHT the things it’s telling them and addressing and they likely remember thinking those things, but thats still just data and not the process.

    The other thing to remember is that even if this thing is of Wollerian creation, that does not make it a Wollerian. It’s almost certainly an artificial intelligence but it’s still not a Wollerian. I suspect it’s very telling that Kalla has likely made multiple visits to the processor over the millennia, most recently in the company of LEVi, and the processor appears to have elected to kill them, wipe memory of the event and rebuild them.

    This suggests that even Kalla, A wolleria, disagrees with the processor’s actions and reasoning.

    • BigDogLittleCat

      I think it’s safe to say Kalla disagrees with the Processor: she is afraid of it and considers it dangerous.
      Of course she could have meant “dangerous” as in prompting an existential crisis and searing soul-searching, but her reaction to it seems like genuine fear.
      I think if she agreed with it she’d be more like, be careful what you ask for, because that thing doesn’t play around. you want answers, you better be prepared for answers.

      I’m afraid the Processor is going to go full HAL 9000 on them.

  • Bethany Persons

    I just realized the background on the webpage has been slowly getting darker. I doubt I’m the first person to notice that, but whoa, is that some potent symbolism or what.

    • Bethany Persons

      Or maybe it jumps around? I’m having trouble comparing pages on my phone. Anyway, it seems like the colors mean something. Seems like descent and jeapordy, and the fine line between insanity and reason.

      • shingworks

        There’s two colors, the reddish one for everything aboveground, and the darker one for when we’re down under

        • Bethany Persons

          Ah, thanks for clarifying!

  • Auggie

    turns out, having context for the memories you lift from people’s heads is REAL FUCKIN IMPORTANT

  • Anthony

    There are a LOT of other thrips down there, right? Any chance that this habitat originally housed the whole of the Wollarrian survivors? Based on the processor’s commitment to maintaining harmony at all costs and its power to mentally and physically manipulate its inhabitants, perhaps Levi’s (and possibly Bex’s) fate are examples of a greater “solution” found by the processor in an effort to obtain perfect control of its ecosystem.

  • Turkeytrot

    [“This isn’t right.”
    -It is a passable facsimile.]

    Der-Shing, if good storytelling is cramming the most possible in the into the least amount of words/pictures, you have won. This is frikkin’ awesome.

  • name

    I cried, lmao. Hits too close. You’re really good.

  • No One

    Uh-oh. Bad choice of words, computer. Mike is no longer on your side now.

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