Well, I was working on turning it into a comic. I had a series of them planned out, following Simsa forward through time on the world where whole cities stand on the back of the great lizards, and the space elevator of the arctic plateaus were the subject of a failed terrorist assault.
I turned it into a comic script. I thought the world wanted to be written about in that form. It solved some of the niggling things I felt with the story, that I could improve.
After I wrote the first, looked around for an artist, and found none. The second, called “Communist Manifesto”, got written, as well. I don’t really know what to do with a comic script that has no artist.
Any artists out there, feel free to pick this up and do something with it. Let me know if you do, and I’ll kick the comic of the first one your way, maybe, and maybe I’ll write the rest of them.
Page 1 (3 Panels)
Panel 1. Simsa, as a boy, stands before two clone tanks in a hospital. He is staring into the glass, but it is still indistinct and the body that is growing is still fetal. The head inside the tank is masked by a complex medical helmet device, full-sized, that is clearly containing the head from the prior comic. The other clone tank contains a fetus.
To the side of the clone tanks, a doorway is open to a medical office where Simsa’s father is in a quiet discussion with a medical doctor.
Caption: The Tigers of Samarkand did not wish to discuss what happened.
Panel 2. On the other side of the clone tanks, there is a window that opens to a series of trees and bushes that pulse with red blood up and down their trunk and limbs, a bus stop and a hovering bus-like vehicle there.
Caption: Why should I have stayed where everyone wanted to talk about it?
Panel 3. Simsa gets on the bus-like vehicle. There are miners on the bus, standing and sitting, packed in like sardines.
Page 2 (5 Panels)
Panel 1. Simsa is sitting in a crate, in the shadow of the space elevator, at sunset. He is hiding from the main road, where people are bustling in and out of night clubs. Simsa is clutching his stomach.
Caption: I was starving and I was twenty feet away and no one cared.
Panel 2. A vending machine has been knocked over, its contents thrown onto the dark, night street. Simsa is in the distance running away from it.
Caption: I managed. But I knew it wasn’t a good plan. I’d get caught if I kept at it.
Panel 3. In his crate, Simsa is sleeping, curled into a fetal ball surrounded by empty wrappers.
Panel 4. Simsa shields his eyes against the rising sun.
Caption: The Tigers of Samarkand complained about the wildcatters, out mining on the rump, hiring anyone for hard labor. My father complained about them, too.
Panel 5. Simsa is back on the bus, with the miners, he’s looking up at them with a hard face, like he’s daring them to stop him. They don’t seem to notice him, at all.
Caption: Good money out on the rump, if you can work. I was a rancher’s son. I could work.
Page 3 (1 Panel)
Panel 1. A huge mine is carved into the forest with the blood-veined trees. Rust-red-stained men move buckets of flesh up from the ground. The cave is dug into a hill that would be hard to see from the sky, but the operational structures are dead giveaways of the mining. An overseer with blueprints in his hand and an evil-looking moustache has his hand on his sidearm, watching Simsa walk in. His name is GREGORY.
Gregory: Boy, why don’t you clear out? This is a colonially-supervised facility, not a playground.
Simsa: I would, but… I’m so hungry. I’ll work hard. I know ranch work. I know work.
Page 4 (5 Panels)
Panel 1. Gregory relaxes his hand on his sidearm. He has rolled up his blueprints and eyes Simsa shrewdly.
Gregory: Ten dollars a day, plus all the meat you can eat.
Panel 2. Simsa reaches for a hunk of meat in a passing cart.
Simsa: I’m in.
Panel 3. Gregory snatches the meat from Simsa’s hand.
Gregory: Work first. And, you only get gristle, not sirloin.
Panel 4. Gregory leads Simsa by the shoulder into the mine. Just inside the shaft, a large man with one arm and a pickaxe sees the boy.
Panel 5. The one-armed man gives Simsa the pickaxe. This is up close. His hands look like they’ve been burned with acid. The pick-axe is stained rust-colored from the blood down the shaft. The head is so clean, it glistens.
Page 5 (3 Panels)
Panel 1. Simsa is hard at work burying his axe along the meat. He’s up to his knees in rusty blood. Other men are there, around him, working and sweating. A few of the men have gas masks on. Probably, from the way it looks in there, hot and full of blood, everyone should have gas masks, and hazmat suits. Most of the workers don’t.
Panel 2. Simsa is pushing a mine cart up the tracks full of meat. It’s hard, heavy, dirty work, and he struggles with it. He’s passing a bone vein, where a man has collapsed, after puncturing a bulbous organ.
Caption: If someone punctures a lubricant gland, it can steam out.
Panel 3. Simsa collapses behind his cart. The one-armed man is rushing to help.
Caption: I nearly died.
Page 6 (4 Panels)
Panel 1. Simsa is lying on the ground outside the mine, with the collapsed miner. The one-armed man is holding a canteen out to him.
Simsa (weakly): Thanks.
Panel 2. Simsa reaches for the canteen, but he’s too slow. The other miner has it.
Caption. Immigrants have no people to care, or clone them. Most deaths go unreported. I heard eight miners died a day, in school. It was three a day, in just this one mine.
Panel 3. The miner in the light has a green, sickly face, and a ragged off-world appearance. He pours water down his throat. It streams down the side of his mouth.
Panel 4. The one-armed man turns and looks towards the mine. Let’s call him Uno, for want of a name in the script.
Uno: Gregory won’t pay you if you collapse, but he will still feed you. He’s not as bad as some of the others.
Page 7 (6 Panels)
Panel 1. Simsa holds an under-cooked-looking gristly lizard-meat sloppy joe in his hand. There is a bite in it.
Panel 2. Simsa, chewing and with his mouth full like a chipmunk’s, is at a bus stop, where a flyer approaches.
Panel 3. Simsa is back at his crate, exhausted and covered in lizard blood.
Panel 4. Morning comes too soon. Simsa’s squinting against the light.
Panel 5. Simsa is back on the bus, with all the miners there.
Panel 6. Simsa is in the mine, ripping meat out of the inside of the lizard, surrounded by hard-working men and boys.
Caption: It was like sleep walking, this work I did when I was still so young.
Page 8 (3 Panels)
Panel 1. Simsa looks thinner, harder. He’s sitting at a campfire in front of a ramshackle hut that has a sign posted – HOT SHOWERS 3 DOLLARS, COLD SHOWERS 1 DOLLAR . Two miners are with him. The one-armed man, whom we shall call Uno, and a new man, an African with hair like a medieval monk and a nose ring.
Simsa: Of course it’s illegal to hire me. I’m too young to work on this planet. It’s illegal to hire you, too, off-worlder. We still have to eat.
Uno: I’ve seen worse. We’re still cheaper than robots. What else would we do?
Panel 2. The African has a translucent tablet computer that he pulls out from his coat. His name is Jernigan. He’s the off-worlder. He doesn’t look like he belongs among meat miners. His clothes are too clean.
Jernigan: On other worlds, there are Unions.
Panel 3. Uno looks up to the starry sky above them all. The space elevator is alight in the distance like a gorgeous, endless skyscraper, and huge ships hover at the top of it. He has this look of terror on his face, like staring into an abyss.
Jernigan: The workers unite together. They make demands. Fair pay. Safety measures. More water. My name’s Jernigan, by the way. I am a priest of the revolution. I came here to work beside you and help you organize for the benefit of all mankind.
Page 9 (2 Panels)
Panel 1. Jernigan is working in the mine beside Simsa. He looks out of place. He’s worn out too soon, drenched in sweat and gristle. Simsa looks at him with a barely-contained disgust.
Caption: Do you know what Guj Sarwar, the Tiger of Samarkand, thought about this job?
Panel 2. Flashback to a news story: The Tiger of Samarkand in the moonlight gazes down upon a mine from the woods, with his scimitar prepared to strike. Mine guards lie dead, bleeding all over the mining equipment. Their bodies are hacked apart. Uno is with them, clutching at the stump where his arm used to be.
Caption: Criminals have no worker’s rights.
Page 10 (5 Panels)
Panel 1. Jernigan is standing on a soapbox in front of the shower shack. He is trying to gather a crowd around his tablet. It projects a soviet sickle and star upon the dirty hut. The miners aren’t really listening. Uno and Simsa stand at a fire, eating their meat sandwiches. Uno’s head is turned.
Simsa: I hate him. I wish he would just shut up.
Panel 2. Uno’s looking intently at Jernigan, with a numb kind of hope.
Uno: Gregory will find out, soon.
Panel 3. Simsa is sneering into his disgusting sandwich.
Simsa: Off-worlders should mind their own business.
Panel 4: Uno turns his head suddenly. He sees Gregory, the mine manager, at the edge of the shadows.
Uno: Jernigan’s right, though. We ought to have gas masks. We ought to earn a cut of profits. The overseer ought to work by our side. He’s found you, Jernigan.
Panel 5. Simsa is in his crate again, sleeping. He has a pillow, now, and a blanket. He has a rusty pickaxe in his hands.
Caption: I should have gone home.
Page 11 (4 Panels)
Panel 1. Simsa is working hard in the mine. He has acquired a gas mask, and it protects his lungs from the blood spray of the pickaxe. There’s a dead body rotting in the chamber, being consumed by the very walls of blood and meat that Simsa mines.
Caption: I should have gone home.
Panel 2. Jernigan touches Simsa’s shoulder. He’s also wearing a gas mask.
Jernigan: You’re a runaway, aren’t you? You’re not an immigrant.
Panel 3. Simsa looks like he wants to punch Jernigan.
Simsa: I’m here to work.
Jernigan: Brother, we are all suffering side-by-side. The Revolution is here for you.
Panel 4. Gregory is observing the exchange from farther down the mineshaft. He’s got his hand on his pistol.
Gregory: Simsa, come over here.
Page 12 (5 Panels)
Panel 1. Gregory has led Simsa to the front of the shaft. They’re outside of it, watching a huge flying truck fill up with meat from a bloody pile. Uno and a few other miners are moving it by hand. Blood everywhere. Simsa has his gas mask up and off.
Gregory: What’s the new fellow’s name? The off-worlder?
Simsa: Jernigan. You should fire him.
Panel 4. Uno is loading the meat, with Gregory and Simsa behind him. Uno is clearly eavesdropping.
Gregory: I might. It has come to my attention that you’re underage. The company says to let you go.
Panel 5. Uno frowns. He is still eavesdropping.
Simsa: I’ll work for half pay. You keep the other half.
Page 13 (4 Panels)
Panel 1. Simsa is handling heavy machinery with Jernigan. They are drilling through cartilage. It’s making a loud, keening sound. They are both wearing gas masks, safety goggles, and heavy, dirty gloves. It takes two of them to steady the machine. The organs and blood vessels drip and ooze.
Caption: Every man in those tunnels was a runaway, like me.
Panel 2. Simsa is back in his crate. He’s put old wrapping paper up around the sides for insulation. He’s set up a “blind” with loose paper and trash to mask his hut from the street. He’s drinking chocolate milk, and looking at a small cut on his hand, that reminds him of his brothers’ from the prior comic.
Caption: The difference was the other men were older.
Panel 3. Simsa’s father’s ranch in Simsa’s mind, beautiful and stately, with smoke rolling out of a smokestack gently and cattle grazing among the grass between the trees with blood veins.
Caption: We were Jernigan’s proletariat. We were the hands that cut the meat. We had nowhere else to go.
Panel 4. Simsa’s bedroom, again in his mind, where he is sleeping in a bunk. His brother is already awake, his legs jutting out in a stretch. Sheila is in the hall with two glasses of milk on a tray, peering in to see if the boys are awake, yet.
Caption: If I went home, nothing would be like it was before, and everything would be strange.
Page 14 (5 Panels)
Panel 1. A Union meeting. Angry men are holding picket signs. They want to strike. Uno is giving a passionate speech, with Jernigan beside him.
Uno: We’re destroying everything for these men. They line their pockets with our world and our blood.
Panel 2. Uno shakes his fist in the air.
Uno: Look at me! Terrorists did this to me, because the mine owners don’t protect us! If they worked beside us they’d protect themselves!
Panel 3. Gregory takes the stage to loud boos and hisses. He raises his hands to settle people down.
Gregory: Listen… Listen…
Panel 4. Simsa is eating a sandwich in back of the crowd, not particularly interested.
Gregory: We all want the same thing. We want to work. We want to be safe. Our interests are aligned. As long as the meat makes it out, we’ll find a way, together.
Panel 5. Jernigan is on stage, smiling. His plan is working. He looks almost serpent-like when he smiles.
Gregory: Jernigan has been promoted to my assistant and liaison with the communist church as I am a liaison with the local inspectors. Together we’re going to find a way to balance the needs of the company with the needs of the workers.
Page 15 (3 Panels)
Panel 1. Simsa walks the street alone in his filthy clothes. The streets are mostly empty. A police hover cruiser floats around a corner behind Simsa.
Caption (Jernigan): “We are the proletariat because we are the meat machines at the bottom of the world.”
Panel 2. The cruiser passes in front of him, and it startles Simsa. His eyes widened and he nearly bolts.
Caption (Jernigan): “Whoever does not serve the bottom, serves the top. They are not our enemies, but they do not know what they do to us, their brothers.”
Panel 3. The police car flies through, without acknowledging Simsa at all. Simsa pauses, half-expecting them to turn around and drive towards him.
Caption: I used to wave at policemen.
Page 16 (5 Panels)
Panel 1. Gregory has pulled Simsa aside, again, outside the mine. He’s got his hand resting on his sidearm.
Gregory: Your picture is all over the place. Your family’s looking for you.
Simsa: I don’t know what you’re talking about and I don’t care.
Panel 2. Gregory folds his arms.
Gregory: You should go home. Why don’t you?
Simsa: It’s none of your business.
Panel 3. Gregory and Simsa are being watched. Guj Sarwar, The Tiger of Samarkand, is watching them hidden among the trees.
Gregory: Well, you can’t work with everyone looking for you. We don’t want to attract trouble. The off-worlder already has things riled up around here.
Simsa: I’m already working for half pay. You expect me to work for less than that?
Panel 4. The Tiger of Samarkand leaps lithely over his hiding place and slips into the edge of the mining facility, near a truck full of meat ready to be shipped.
Gregory: I feel bad. You’re a hard worker. You’re no trouble to have around, I can tell you that much.
Simsa: Robots won’t work for half pay. Neither will any of them.
Panel 5. Guj Sarwar grabs a huge chunk of meat in his teeth and runs back into the woods at the edge of the camp. No one sees him. Gregory and Simsa are talking to each other.
Gregory: It’s not about the money. It is and it isn’t. Why don’t you come back at night and we can talk about this some more? Some folks’ll be here, and they’ll show you what to do.
Page 17 (4 Panels)
Panel 1. It’s late at night. Ragged, sickly men with taut musculature line up. Uno is there, the boss of the late hour.
Uno: We’re loading up three trucks, tonight. If you fall asleep, you don’t get paid.
Panel 2. Uno sips coffee. He has a pickaxe hanging from his belt.
Caption: Every Thursday night he shouts the loudest during Jernigan’s meetings, and here he is running the illegal work crew running over quota.
Panel 3. Simsa works in the tunnels with a ragged men, who is so hungry he is trying to cook a piece of meat with a lighter.
Panel 4. Uno slices him through the head with a pickaxe. Simsa is startled, by the sudden, brutal act.
Uno: Robots don’t steal company meat. Remember that, kid.
Page 18 (3 Panels)
Panel 1. Simsa turns and looks at the body.
Panel 2. Uno sneers down at it.
Uno: First time on night shift? Don’t steal anything. Gregory isn’t here. Don’t run your mouth, either. Just work.
Simsa: I… uh…
Panel 3. Uno slips his pickaxe back into his belt. Simsa is clearly shocked, terrified.
Caption: We’re only a few hundred miles away from my father’s ranch. I could leave right now. I could walk through the night. No one would stop me.
Page 19 (1 Panel)
Panel 1: Samarkand walks overland, at night, a huge lizard with forests and cities on his back. The space elevator rises up from a plateau in the distance, with the huge spaceship above it. On the very top of the lizard’s head, minute and hiding on the ridge of a hip near the mine, where the habitable ground becomes a precipice, is Guj Sarwar, the Tiger of Samarkand. He lurks, no larger than a flea on the tail of a dog. Down towards the tail, three tiny transports full of mine meat take off in the dark, towards the space elevator with their running lights off.
Caption: Samarkand heals. We take so little from the strong muscles where his tail and leg merge, and he heals. A council of scientists monitors the excavation. They’re supposed to, anyway. I think Gregory is supposed to be monitoring our operation for the government. If we take too much, we’ll injure the lizard. He could get infected. We are supposed to be spraying once a week to prevent infection. We are supposed to be careful, methodical. We are supposed to not hire child runaways or mine late into the night beyond the daily quota. We aren’t supposed to kill men in the mine, leave them to rot where they fall. Jernigan operated like everything was supposed to be honest. We weren’t.
Page 20 (3 Panels)
Panel 1. Jernigan is setting up chairs for a rally in front of the shower shack. Simsa touches his arm.
Jernigan: I’m very busy, little boy.
Simsa: I have to tell you something.
Panel 2. Jernigan pauses. He hears something in the way the boy speaks. His face is pensive, calculating. It is not a trustworthy face.
Jernigan. You’re the runaway, aren’t you? You used to work in the mines before we organized. I had hoped you had gone home.
Panel 3. Simsa looks sideways, at the other men.
Panel 1. Do you care about Samarkand, or do you only care about the workers on his back?
Page 21 (5 Panels)
Panel 1. Jernigan folds his arms. He has given Simsa his full attention.
Jernigan. Without Samarkand, there is no meat to mine.
Panel 2. Simsa holds out his bloody, calloused hands. Meat miners hands. Scarred and hard.
Simsa: I’ve been mining at night, with a few others. It’s illegal. They killed a man, in the mine, for stealing. We’re taking too much. Samarkand won’t heal if we take too much.
Panel 3. Jernigan’s face softens. He sees the boy for what he is, a frightened little boy, in far over his head, and Jernigan’s mouth opens a little in shock.
Jernigan: I care. I definitely care. It must be stopped.
Panel 4. Simsa is trying not to cry.
Simsa: I want to go home. Gregory told me about it, but he’s never there. That man’s the leader. Him.
Panel 5. Uno is smiling and chatting with other workers.
Simsa: He killed a man right in front of me. He hit him with a pickaxe on purpose for trying to eat meat at night.
Jernigan: Show me the body.
Page 22 (3 Panels)
Panel 1. Jernigan has pulled the dead man up from the tunnels, where he was murdered. Simsa points to the death wound. The body has been partially-devoured by the meat walls of the lizard.
Jernigan: It could have been done by anyone. It could have been anything.
Panel 2. Simsa looks into the mine mouth.
Simsa: Nobody cares about Samarkand, about us.
Panel 3. Jernigan drops the body. He is using his tablet to capture a picture of it.
Jernigan: I’ll file a report with the Bishop, and see what he says. It’s all I can do, right now. We at the bottom of everything must band together. As long as one man stands above another…
Page 23 (3 Panels)
Panel 1. Simsa isn’t listening. He’s staring at the dead man’s head.
Jernigan: With a strong foundation of workers…
Panel 2. Uno arrives, with armed miners.
Uno: Why don’t both of you come with us.
Panel 3. Jernigan and Simsa are led to the edge of the lizard’s back, where his leg ridge drops off into the continent.
Page 24 (3 Panels)
Panel 1. The meat they mined, carried in the ship, passes by the crowd of men at the edge of the world. Simsa and Jernigan are held hostage by Uno and the group.
Jernigan’s tablet is in his hand. Gregory is looking up at Jernigan, and the group.
Uno: Did you squelch the report?
Gregory: No need. Mining accidents are common enough.
Panel 2. Jernigan is desperate, staring over the edge, surrounded by men determined to kill him, and Simsa, who is cold and calm at the edge of the world.
Jernigan: We must unite against evil men! Corruption preys upon the weak willed! Do not be bribed like this!
Uno: We are on the eve of a revolution. Once the great lizards are dead, everything will change. Everything will get better. The landlords won’t push the immigrants back.
Panel 3. Pushed quite nearly over the edge, Jernigan’s foot bumps a claw that is hanging onto the edge of the cliff.
Caption: I was trying to remember what home smelled like when it happened. I was silent, and wanted only to collapse into a ball and remember what home smelled like. It did not smell like the mines. There are trees.
Page 25 (2 panels)
Panel 1. The claw belongs to the foot of Guj Sarwar, and he dangles in hiding, upside-down like a bat there. He has an inscrutable expression, but he is unsheathing his deadly scimitar, and prepared to attack.
Panel 2. Simsa ducks into the fetal position, while the deadly blade slices over his head. The Tiger of Samarkand cuts through the miners with a speed and ferocity that catches everyone by surprise. Gregory is still on Jernigan’s pad, looking up and confused.
Ambient sounds of screaming and dying men.
Gregory: What’s going on? Is it done?
Page 26 (1 panel)
Panel 1. Simsa is alone among the dead. Some of their bodies are half-hanging over the side. Gregory is brutally crucified upon a tree with pickaxes.
Caption: Guj Sarwar passed over me.