Saturday, January 17, 2009

"OMEN ANDERSON" © 2012 Chris Browne

Here are my sketches and notes for my graphic novel work-in-progress. It's a large story about the entire cold war between the US, USSR and China. It's also a small story about three friends whose little, nuanced relationships end up effecting us all, both for good and for ill.

Augustus Merwin was a strategy and probability consultant to the Pentagon and a special adviser and friend to General Black. He had a huge book of graphs and grids containing various event tracks and probable outcomes. This day he was trying to express to the General the importance of gathering the most brilliant minds together... "to work for the good of all," the General finished his sentence. "Well, " Merwin corrected, "to work for us, but let us for the moment assume that we are are, in the grand scheme of things, the good guys..."

"Assume away," said the General.

"There are about a dozen serious geniuses about the graduate MIT and CalTech. Let's say some of them go into the private sector here, for Dow Chemical or Union Carbide or what have you. The balance get picked up by foreign corporations and one of them is in Hong Kong. But what if in fifty years Hong Kong becomes part of Red China and the work of that American genius then will belong to a powerful enemy of the U.S?" He grinned as he spoke as if pleased with a particularly savvy chess move. The General smiled, too.

"This is why I love working with you, August. I'm not used to thinking 50 years ahead."

"You should," said August, "Your enemies do. They are wondering how to feed their billions when their economy fails as it will. How to feed them in fifty years. In a hundred and fifty. Right now you have me working for you but I will not always be here. You should fill your ranks with geniuses and deny their powers to your enemies. The great chess games are won and lost in the early moves. I have a list of four names that I feel are critical to the future of America and the world..." An envelope changed hands. The General looked at the tall, stolid older man.

"Are you alright? How is you're health, August?" August looked down at the large book and ran his hands over it's parchment pages...

"My father told me that the old gods have a book like this. The Book of Life. When you are born your name is entered in the book, and when you die a line is crossed through it..." He closed the big book ceremoniously. "No one has crossed your name out of the Book of Life, August," the General said.

"No," he said, smiling warmy, "but the cap is off the pen."

How often have we heard it said that life is as uncertain as a gravitational field in a fluctuating high voltage x-ray well? You know, that old saw. Well, I am being pulled in two directions at once- children's books or this graphic novel. I want to pursue both. I wish to pursue both. If I live long enough I will. But which comes first? The anthropomorphic chicken? Or the cosmic egg? Hmmm....

I had this idea today that since the core of my story is in the 1960's, Dr. Omen could be interviewed by Tin Tin, who did a lot of scientific investigative reporting back then. I'd have to work it out legally, but it's an interesting idea, bookending the first and the latest graphic novel.

Hugo Bliss meets with Lady Jiang

This is where I post the work in progress for what I hope will be my first graphic s-f novel. Man does not live by little vikings alone!

The screwdriver clattered to the linoleum floor between the bear and the doctor. Iann the bear looked up plaintively at Omen and held his little mittens up grasping at the air in time to the soft hiss of servos.

"What is it, Iann? What's wrong?"

"I keep dropping things, Omen. It's frustrating."

Omen picked up the little robot and carried him as you would a child to the lab table. The doctor reassured the bear in a soft voice and gently examined the little paws. Tenderly.

"I think I see what the problem is. Some of your original terry cloth has pulled free of your exoskeleton, makes it hard to get a grip... and I can put some fresh silicone on your paw pads, that'll help too. Let's do it now, okay?"

The bear whispered back okay, mirroring the doctor's tone. Mirroring was one of the behaviors Omen had steeped into Iann's programming, but even so the effect was one of a powerful emotional moment, the kind roboticists dream of but dare not trust to be true.

"There, all better? How's that?" said Omen. The bear sat before him on the examining table, legs dangling. Iann picked up a tongue depressor from the table and looked at it, felt it in his hand. It felt better. He reached forward and handed it to Omen, who smiled and slipped it into his pocket. He went to lift the bear down and it hugged him.

It hugged him just like a grateful child.

In 1972, Omen Anderson's friend Hugo Bliss, defected to the People's Republic of China taking with him massive amounts of stolen data and technology and his own enormous intellect. The end result of this move would be what we call The Great Disaster. Hugo Bliss designed for the Chinese a device called the PrepCags System, also known as the Hugo Device. It became the greatest weapon ever used.

The Chinese told Hugo Bliss and his team that he was designing an Asteroid Deflection Device to be used to protect Earth from direct trajectory impacts with asteroids. But Bliss suspected the same devive could be used to wipe out China's global foes. So he hardwired into the device an insidious Trojan Horse he called The Magic Square. The Magic Square worked on the arcane principal that Black Magic directed at a White Magician could be turned back upon the magus with the evil intent. As long as the device was used as a deflection device, it would work properly. But, if anyone ever directed the asteroid to crash into any place on Earth, the Magic Square would secretly take over and send the huge. tumbling rock hurtling toward the People's Republic of China.

It came to pass that the device was sent in 2010 to intercept the 850 ft long Apophis Asteroid, in a joint venture with the Russians. The plan was to divert the object from striking the Earth in 2029 by gradually changing it's course. But when Chinese techs altered the program to use it as a weapon against the United States, the Magic Square became operational. No one ever suspected a thing before the impact destroyed most of Mainland China. Hugo Bliss was among the millions of people who died on that terrible day.

The moment Caleb realized that he was standing at the very edge of the Abysmal Trench, he was attacked by a large and powerful Humbolt Squid. Alone in the dark, Caleb felt a stab and a wetness at his side and realized he was bleeding into the suit.

1969, Georgetown, Washington DC: A party

The three smartest people in the room were also the three smartest people in the world.
The smartest of those three was Omen Anderson. Omen, Higgs and Tova were trying to comfort their friend and contemporary, Hugo Bliss. Bliss was a computer programmer who had cut his teeth on the Univac and Colossus government supercomputer projects. He was the inventor of the lasar microphone which changed surveilliance forever and brought him to the attention of DARPA. Now he worked at AS/IF, until tonight. He was in crisis now and his life and our world were going to change for it.

Once there lived a man named Omen Anderson who made robots. He made fabulous robots that looked like animals, like dogs and cats and mice and rabbits and birds and fish. And more. They were the perfect spies.

And a great General came to Omen and said "How much money would you want to come work for me exclusively?" And Omen said, "I don't know, General... how much have you got?"

Inside the lava tube, a cowgirl sat astride a giant blue crocodile, firing handguns into the air. The crocodile heaved himself up out of the muck and fixed his eye on Dr. Omen... "We've been expecting you," he said.
Dr. Omen and General Black catch an assassin...
Predictably, Omen and Higg's daughter was a genius. Her name was Destina Olivia Anderson. But Higgs and Omen called her Tina.
In 1965 Omen created TNDCR-6, the smallest pre-nanotech robot ever made. It could detect body heat, leap and hold onto a target and could transmit encoded audio up to a quarter of a mile for 10 hours. It's most famous use was in gathering intel in Cuba and Hanoi by attaching itself to the pets of opposition leaders; rumored among them Fidel Castro's dog and Ho Chi Minh's cat.
In 2029, the year of The Great Disaster, COMRADE HUGO BLISS came to be known as the most hated man in the world because of his crimes against humanity. He apparently caused the deaths of 2.7 billion people, a third of the Earth's population) by diverting Apophis, an 850 ft long "Near Earth Asteroid" from it's path, to strike China. Bliss himself died in The Great Disaster, which he is widely believed to have caused. Omen Anderson's friendship with Bliss decades before brought Omen under profound scrutiny in the years that followed and resulted the World Court's draconian persecution of the man in his declining years.

These pictures are "roughs", not finished artwork. It will be a graphic novel covering a large period of time for a small group of characters. (Basically the 80 years from 1952 to 2032: The Cold Ward, the Sixties and on up to the post-modern era.

"Across the gulf of space, intellects vast, cool and unsympathetic, regarded our world with envious eyes and slowly but surely drew their plans against us..." H G WELLS

Omen faces the World Court.
All robot programmers at As/If were required to wear the Brazil Synthesizer to establish a bond, record engrams and develop empathy in the new entities. These devices alone were a huge leap ahead for robotics and were as amazing as the robots themselves.

Omen on Lincoln Island
The Steam Punk Robot seemed like a novelty amid all the hyper tech bots and droids of the ASIF Corporation. But he did have a function.

Tova's escape from the USSR involved love and death.

Omen recruits Higgs Boson at the Tiptree Federal Institution for Women in West Virginia.

Brilliant, angry, dangerous nano-roboticist Tova Romanov.

Omen's ultra=loyal lab assistant, Higgs Boson.

Iann threw the Pulse grenade into the air...

Tova's nanotech knowledge opened new worlds to Omen.

The As/If Building in Manhattan.

Omen would never truly recover from Olivia's death.

When he was a child, Omen's parents took him to see the animatronic Presidents.

In the Aviary, Young Eldon Tyrrell orders the robotic birds to kill General Black.

The Doctor threw the gray composite grenade high in the air and it exploded just ahead of the mammoth...

Omen meets Teddy

Making Friends.

Omen's Parents, Olivia Batra Anderson and Orpheus Anderson.

Dr. Omen with Cardinal Sin, the first truly autonomous robotic bird.

OMEN will be my first graphic novel. I like to think of this particular work as my version of Michael Crichton for the Harry Potter generation.

A mammoth event. General Black first met Dr. Omen at the Pantheon Twin Lake Mall in Tokyo, Japan. The Doctor was controlling a giant wooly mammoth robot named Adrien. Dr. Omen's company was licensing the robot to the biotech company MEMTECH to promote their genetic research. Hundreds of people in the courtyard pressed forward to see the amazing creation. They snapped photos and waved their banners and free MEMTECH t-shirts at the behemoth's camera eyes. It shook it's massive head and trumpeted. And then suddenly, it was running towards the crowd.

"Mother Russia," Tova said. "Yes, Russia is like a mother. A mother who steals from you while you sleep, who screams at you to wake up, who drives your boyfriends away. That was my Mother Russia."

Much of the magic behind Omen’s robots was his clever “Swarm” software that allowed several bots to work together as one. Iann noticed the Doctor looking for his pocket watch. A moment later Maggie flew into the room and brought the watch to Dr. Omen.

Dr. Omen labors through the night to save Cardinal Sin, a wounded $600,000 cybernetic male Northern Cardinal (cardinalis cardinalis) complete with a high def night vision camera eye, a GPS guidance system and a quantum bandwidth transceiver.

"Iann is a cybernetic bear with a massive quantum memory and a corpus colloseum brain structure based on Albert Einstein's. Other brain features were a truncated Sylvian fissure and a wider inferior parietal lobe. The earliest version was built by Omen Anderson when he was ten years old, the summer his mother died. The early servos and clunky Intel chips and drives gave way to higher technologies as the years passed. He was Omen's hobby for years, then obsession, always best friend and eventually his personal assistant (unpaid but still the most expensive PA on the planet).

Iann stands for Independent Automatomic Neural Network. He became self aware in the Anderson-Romanov robotics lab at MIT in 1965. To say that he has emotions might be going too far, but he has demonstrated a bond and loyalty to Omen that many would envy. Some say it resembles love."

A Cleaning Bot slid into the room unobserved, made it's way to Dr. Omen's desk and exploded.

Iann couldn't carry the doctor out of the burning lab himself and the humans ran in panic as the alarms blared and the labs filled with think black smoke. He looked down at his own paws, terry cloth and cotton batting over steel fingers. Powerful, but not strong enough to carry the doctor to safety. Then he saw the giant, remote control grizzly bear standing in the lab just beyond the flames. Iann scrambled up onto Dr. Omen's desk and picked up the control unit...

There comes a time in every young robot's life when he must throw caution to the wind and step boldly out of the lab to explore the larger world first hand. Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics allowing, of course. So it was with Iann the Bear. Dr. Omen, Iann's father, lay unconscious in his burning laboratory, a crimson new moon gash across his forehead. Iann was unable to revive him- or even to drag him to safety. He had to get help. He looked up at the impossibly big armored door and simulated the chirp of the doctor's Security Badge. The door popped open with a crisp hydraulic hiss.

Iann stepped out into "the world", as father called it and thinking that, also thought this: "O brave new world, That has such people in it!" from The Tempest.

Appropriate enough, for the little bear was headed for a storm...

The Plaid Pig

He was a spy in the house of love.

The General looked around, but no one was there.

Cat and Mouse

The cat was his pet project.

After a while, General Black started to notice that the cat wasn't really answering any of his questions.

The cat dashed past the couple, the mouse holding on for dear life.

Leviathan in dock on Lincoln Island.

The Navy was happy, but only Dr. Omen knew what it was for.

Dr. Omen at the helm of the Leviathan.

"Tova was trapped now. She was trapped in the great steel fish with no hope of up or out and a billion tons of water pressing in on every side. But more than this, Omen knew Tova's every secret, in a world where her only armor had been her great and opaque mystery. And there was no going back to not knowing, for either of them. Ever again."

Tova was saved.

The spy mice.

It looked so real.

It was then that he realized: this was a war.

OMEN is about love, loyalty, robots, teddy bears, genius and wisdom. I am hoping to find a good publisher for it in 2009.

A work in progress is about a naive, yet subversive robotics genius who falls into the hands of a secret military project. It's been said that the problem in riding a tiger is getting off the tiger. The same may be said in this story.
The question then arises: who's riding whom?

I have no publisher for this work as yet.
But until one finds me, I am having a lot of fun!