Monday 6 August 2007

Felix and the Frontier - Part One

Felix and the Frontier is a story told in six episodes, posted serially by me, your willing scout in the depths of space, Cheeseburger Brown.

Chapters: 1|2|3|4|5|6
Related reading: Simon of Space, Free Felix, Life & Taxes

And now, our story begins:


Felix is far. West he goes, into ever. And still further.

It's always sunny out when you see X-rays. Felix loves the light. It makes him feel less lonely and less cold, though he thinks he ought not complain about the weather -- the Local Fluff is a balmy place nestled at the confluence of two dark and unhappy voids yawned open ages ago by some fat stars sloughing off their skins. The voids are bubbles in the galactic medium, and it's cold as Hell inside them.

Where these hollows touch there's a slow rolling ripple of compression, and that's home -- for Felix, for you, for me. For everyone you know, forever. The Local Fluff, this whisp of gas and sparks and pebbles, is bigger than you can comfortably imagine.

Felix, on the other hand, must imagine it. It's his job. He's charting the wilds of the Milky Way while you and I listen to music and eat lunch. Felix is dozens of lightyears away from either of us, and he's going farther every day.

He writes home. That's how we know he's still there.

Have you seen the latest? On the map you can follow his mark, winking in measured hops against the galactic current, westward to the ends of our fluff. The stars he comes to now have no proper names, but rather catalogue labels. The planets are mere numbered footnotes, their continents only albedo scores...

Felix is the first to ply them with eyes and mind.

He walks through a rocky valley. The sun overhead is blue and tight, the sky a rosy kind of tan cut by long, smeared streamers of white cloud. The air is thick, so his footfalls sound heavy and mumbled, like hearing underwater. Motes drift on the breeze.

He pauses at a crag, a local basin in a series of eroded pathways describing patterns along the valley floor. The crag glitters: reflections from a shallow pool of murky liquid at its bottom.

Felix sniffs.

The wind shifts and a puff of motes are blown into the crag. They stick to the surface of the pool, swells of surface tension glistening at the edges of each tiny particle.

A halo of matte material accumulates around each speck. It's a gradual process. Felix watches for hours, noting the fractal filigree of the leading edges of radial growth. The shadows clock around him as the day ages. Soon the entire pool is coated in a thin, dull material that has thickened into denser lobes around the landed motes. When the sun sets the formation instantly dissolves and sinks beneath the surface, leaving nothing but a fart of bubbles.

Curious, Felix squats.

It's at times like this that we can't forget that Felix really is one of us -- just as Solar as ants and dogs and apples. It suddenly doesn't matter that beneath his armour is a body of carbon nanotubes, crystal register arrays and coils of intelligent plastic: when he sits on his haunches and sticks his finger into that pool, he's every bit as much an ape as you and I.

The matte material gathers at his fingertip. Felix can feel it attempting to break down the surface of his digit. It tickles, not simply because of the chemical reactions involved but because it makes him feel like laughing when he realizes that he's being digested.

Somebody is trying to eat him, and it fills him with joy.

He sits by the pool for many days. When the rain comes the channels in the valley floor flood and become networked. The organisms in the pools commingle -- forming lobes and rings, and tendrils that entangle. Over a period of hours these collective constructs swell and ripen, then gush forth floating clots whose edges bleed a cloud of dancing specks: the offspring are bright pink when freshly fissioned. To Felix's great delight he watches them shepherded to smaller nursery pools as the floods drain, then barricaded inside by a crust of dead adults, sacrificed to become a protective organ for the young.

It's life. Sweet, precious life. Felix has stood on so many, many planets without seeing it. Even its simplest manifestation refreshes him to the core.

Though he knows his message cannot be heard, he feels the need to speak anyway, to commemorate the happy occasion. He kneels over the pink pool.

He says, "Hello. I represent Solar life. My name is Felix, and I come in peace."

His voice sounds funny in the thick atmosphere, as if he's speaking through wool. The organisms don't respond. They just sort of clot along the bottom of the pool, their fringes jostling in the gentle current of the departing rainwash.

Felix stands up. He stretches. After a moment he walks back to his camp.

It's time to move on.


Teddy said...

Life! Is this the Hennisphere? They're certainly not the Pegasi. Also, did you get into the convention? It's looking like I won't be able to make it. First weekend of the schoolyear, all that. Perhaps another con, another time.


Anonymous said...

Weehee*! The Burger is back, and he brought Felix! How was the camping trip?

* (that is the happy noise that I would make right now if I weren't in my office working... er, planning to work soon)

Teddy, I'm guessing this isn't either of the other intelligent species known in the Neighbourhood. After all, Felix is out in BFE; nothing is known about this area yet. Interesting that he's actually stopping on planets; I got the impression that he was going so far and so fast because he just continually accelerated.

By the way, was Felix fissioned like the others, or did he leave too soon? Hopefully the former is true.

One wonders if this is before or after the message about Something Wicked. My vote is before, with the revelation happening in the course of this story.

Cultural side note: I was at Fuddrucker's yesterday in Dallas, and I saw a fellow with a faded Tim Horton's shirt; too bad I didn't get a chance to talk to him.

Anonymous said...

Considering the nature of your trip, I think I can guess the inspiration, tell me if I'm right.

You were camping, somewhere with a lake, pond, or river and your little girl saw something in the shallows at the edge of the water, I'm guessing tadpoles. She sticks her finger or hand in and feels the tickle of them investigating her for edibility. I remember such a feeling myself when I were but a nipper, mad me giggle.

Good to have you back mate, you were missed.

veriword: Icoqop, the really irritating program in windows that tells you that you have unused icons on your desktop and asks if you want to tidy them up. (the I is a lower case L but I'm using some artistic license)

Dan said...

I believe Felix is monitoring the "Genesis" of other planets such as the one Kreskin was driving a cab on. obviously Kreskin's (wish I could remember the name of the red, ant rich planet. It's on the damn tip of my tongue.) was much further along the time line.

I was giddy when I saw the post. My life can now continue. Hope camping was good.

THE Danimal

Anonymous said...

Greskin Mile (not Kreskin, the hypno-guy with the crystal) lived on Annapurna, a relatively newly-colonized planet which was being terraformed. This, however, is supposed to be the beginnings of life all on its own, rather than transplanted from another world.

Fantasy is so much fun.

Mark said...

Nice start to this one. Glad to see Felix out of the garage.

James Andrix said...

Sheik: but in this story, Felix is only dozens of lightyears away from the furthest-out H. sapiens, which to me suggests that this is relatively early in the expansion.

dan: I don't know of any solar life that uses adult corpses to create nursery pools.

Dan said...

Sheik - I'm an idiot!

James - Did I miss something? Adult corpses?

THE Danimal

Simon said...

I kept checking back, thinking (hoping) that my feed reader just wasn't sending me the messages that CBB had updated. Don't know sometimes that you're hooked until the fix is taken away. It's even worse when you DO know you're hooked. No help but to accept the jitters (in the mousing hand) and wait it out.

Nice to see Felix again.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Teddy,

This is not the Hennisphere. That meeting, and meeting with the Pegasi, are in the past from the point of view of this story.

Yes, the convention is a go, noted in the NEWS section, right-hand sidebar on the blog.

Those who contributed financing will be receiving thank you gifts, but likely not until after the convention has ended. If you chipped in, please be sure to e-mail me the mailing address to which you'd like your gift delivered.

Dear Sheik,

This camping excursion was the single most stressful trip of my entire life, mostly due to trying to stop my youngest child from running off into the wilderness to become bear stool (there were black bear warning signs everywhere due to recent incursions). When he wasn't attempting to be eaten, he was trashing our camp-site by spilling everything or trying to throw our possessions into the fire. Hopefully he should be a little easier to control next year!

Felix's famous warning message will indeed be transmitted in the course of this story. Ooooh yes.

Dear Mandrill,

You know, it could've been but, to tell the whole truth, wasn't. I actually wrote Chapter 1 before I left for my camping trip.

It's good to be back. I'm stoked about the expo!

Dear Dan,

As pointed out above, that planet was called Annapurna it was lifeless before the terraforming process got underway.

Dear Mark,

Yes, it's nice for everyone to get a more serious chance to know him -- to see how he both resembles and yet differs from Jeremiah.

Dear James,

Felix is nearing the edge of the Local Fluff which, at the time of Simon of Space contains most but not all of the worlds claimed by Solar life. The warning message he will send in this story is received "about a century" before SOS, according to Jeremiah.

Dear Dan,

I think he's referring to the reproductive activities of the clods of crap in the ponds.

Dear Simon,

Plus, there's no dirty swears in this one so you'll probably even be able to see every chapter from work!

Cheeseburger Brown

Simon said...


I love taking opportunities every day to read on the company dime. Your own contributions to my misappropriation of the company's temporal fodder are nearly always my favourite. Nice to know I have at least two more weeks of unblocked Burgerverse to ingest here at my desk.

Anonymous said...

CBB, I'm sorry to hear about your lost relaxation time. For what it's worth, I can empathize (though not about the bears). For us, one of the greatest things in the world would be to sit down for a meal... and stay seated the entire time.

Simon, if you want more reading, here's a new blognovel for you to sample. I don't know how frequent it will be -- the author is a full-time teacher with some very active grandchildren -- but it looks like an interesting tale.

Anonymous said...

I just pulled out my copy of Simon of Space to read the other day! Multiple stories in the same universe rock.