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that doesn’t sound good.

A Question of Promise #6

a comic by thuyen nguyen


What i remember most about that night was not the cold.

it wasn’t the trees, even though i was completely surrounded by them.

it was dead silent, yet that didn’t leave much of an impression either.

no, what i remember most was the grass.

it wasn’t nice manicured lawn grass. it was tall, rough forest grass.

it felt like every single blade was pulling against my feet, holding me back.

But I kept on running.

it was so dark. i didn’t see it. that’s why...

One year ago

thump.

ck!

cra

it was then, when i raised my head from the grass...

...that I saw it.

01


Muddy pants...

this night keeps on getting better and better.

sore arm...

ck kno knock!

lights are on, though.

no answer.

ck kno knock ock! kn

unlocked...

hello? anyone home?

a seemingly empty log cabin in the woods...

k! clic

i can’t just barge into someone’s place...

...but I need to hide somewhere. 02

okay eric, but if you find porridge on the table, you’re outta here.


hello? I’m sorry to come in uninvited...

that sound... running water?

Where’s it coming from?

bathroom?

hello? is someone in there?

Splash... Splash...

not the kitchen.

only one way to find out...

... ... ash spl splash

03


okay, seriously, you don’t need to hammer on my door like thatalvin? it’s me, eden!

Today ! ck! kno knocknock!! k

what’s wrong? you sound-

eric was supposed to be home a while ago.

wait, slow down. what happened?

i went down to the basement...

eric! he’s gone! someone’s-

his car was open, and his stuff was on the ground.

he’s... gone.

eden, i need you to wait inside eric’s apartment...

mcmahon!

i heard.

...while we go and check out the basement.

oh, and one more thing... lock the door.

okay.

k.

do you think they found him?

clic

04

no, but i think they’re getting close.


!

ding

it isn’t like them to stoop to kidnapping.

...i’d say we have a problem. well, unless eric was planning to have a picnic down here...

maybe they’re getting desperate.

.

slam

i wonder if they’ll be glad to see us again?

looks like a reunion is in order. indeed.

k! knoc knock!

eden, it’s us.

did you find something? 05

let’s talk inside.


where’s dice?

over here. so, where’d eric go?

did he win the lotto and skip town?

i’m afraid it’s more serious than that.

keep it short and to the point: what’s going on?

an organization called “int.dir” have taken eric in the hope that...

oh, that’s just...

let’s just say that we had a feeling this was going to happen.

eric’s been kidnapped. well, interrogated actually, but kidnapped nevertheless.

...he will lead them to their real target...

kidnapped!? oh my god... why?

...you.

how do you know all this?

GREAT!

where is he now? right now?

probably in a dark room... 06


... .. ash lash. sp

spl

h... splassplash...

kkk!

sshhiiiil

the bathtub...

GRRRR!

Holy crap! aarrrggghhh!!

!

argh!

ip!

sl

please don’t eat me!!

welcome to my lair of doom! 07

muhahaha!

slam


Hey, just kidding.

there’s earl grey and exotic chai.

i suspect people from india would put the “exotic” in front of “earl grey.”

Tea?

...what?

umm... i don’t mean to interrupt, but where are your fangs?

fangs?

oh, they were just shards of soap.

but soap dissolves in water...

i can’t see them anymore. they must have dissolved already.

why should i tell you?

Wait a minute! what are you?

coming in unannounced... you should be explaining yourself to me!

true, but I asked you first.

08

good point.


“int.dir” is short for “international directorate.”

a secret quasi-governmental angency that-

no, actually. they’re into financial acquisition.

they’re bankers?

let me guess: they’re interested in paranormal activity; x-files style.

mcmahon is being polite. they are glorified treasure hunters.

treasure isn’t always a pot of gold.

this is insane. eric doesn’t have any “treasure.” that’s true. i checked.

to int.dir, treasure is anything that can be sold on for maximum profit.

we learnt a few weeks ago that they were in town.

we can agree that dice would be very valuable to science or the military, no?

the word was that they had found something of “cosmic importance.”

09

this phrasing leads us to suspect that they don’t exactly know what they’re looking for.


unfortunately, what they do know is that eric knows something.

but to kidnap someone on the hunch that they might know something?

eric does know, though.

i know he knows, but do they know he knows? they know enough to-

who cares about the workings of some imaginary organization?

eric is missing.

but that doesn’t make me feel better nor help the situation.

STOP IT!

eden, i can assure you that int.dir is quite real-

his life is in danger, and the three of you argue about semantics!?

interrogating... isn’t that slang for torture nowadays?

fine; i believe you, alvin. “int.dir are interrogating eric.”

you have to trust us when we say that eric is unharmed.

they’re just talking.

10


...and that’s my story.

all you said was that you are a sentient pool of water.

that’s it? but you didn’t tell me anything.

doesn’t that speak for itself?

well, I suppose so...

nice tea, by the way.

thanks.

Why are your clothes wet and muddy?

so, why’d you break into my house?

the door was unlocked.

i tripped. couldn’t see where I was running.

why were you running?

i don’t know, really.

What did you see?

11

i... saw something.

but i’m pretty sure i wasn’t meant to see it...


i heard something behind the nearby trees.

i turned and saw bright light shining through the branches.

i was walking through the forest.

i hid behind some leaves and had a closer look.

there were people standing around a hole in the ground.

i heard a woman’s voice.

we’ve found it...

but then someone spotted me... she shouted, “get him!”

so I ran.

what a night this has turned out to be.

i see...

well, the night’s not a total loss.

pants wet, arm sprained, chased...

that’s good, right?

you’ve made contact with a non-human lifeform!

i’m kinda numb at the moment.

12

and here I was expecting you to grab the phone and call a newspaper with the scoop...


whoa, you can’t do that.

i’m calling the police.

where are you going?

if eric’s been kidnapped, the police have to know-

he’s only been gone for a few hours. the police won’t do anything yet.

we have to do something!

how can i be calm at a time like this?!

we will do something, but you need to stay calm-

you have to take my word for it: we will get eric back.

speaking of being calm; you guys don’t seem fazed by this int.dir business...

we used to work for them.

why is that?

what-?

eden, wait-! ring! ing! r

eric?

13


Hi! is that you, eden?

do you know where eric is?

Oh, hey eve. what can i do for you?

we were supposed to work on our wax class project, but he hasn’t shown up yet.

friend from school.

who is it?

what? why?

don’t tell here about eric.

Please.

umm...

hello? you still there?

that doesn’t sound good.

eric had to go to sydney. his mum’s sick.

yeah, short notice. sorry about that.

so he’s not home then, eh?

14

No... he’s not home.


listen. i think it’s in both our interests to get out of here.

wait a minute.

okay. sounds good to me...

isn’t this your house?

wherever the wind takes me, stranger. where are you going to go?

don’t be daft. how can i afford a place like this?

don’t read anything into this, but you could come with me...?

really? why the offer?

you gave me a place to hide and catch my breath.

and you didn’t eat me, which i’m grateful for.

Besides... Safety in numbers, right?

so, how about it?

saddle up. let’s ride.

15


anything...? no... nothing.

My car’s parked at the forest entrance.

how are we getting back to your place?

we’d better take the long way, just in case.

follow me.

you feel like putty. you feel like a cow.

it’s getting really dark. i can’t see where I’m going.

sure. rain doesn’t stop falling at sunset, does it?

don’t worry. I can see fine.

really?

i’m always reminded of that night when i close my eyes.

16

the pitch-black darkness... not unlike where i am now.


... tap tap...

A few hours later

shhriigkk! shhriigkk!

i wish that guy would stop doing that.

shhriigkk!

.. ... mp. p clo clom

absolutely not.

sorry to keep you waiting, eric.

do i know you?

like any good fan, i have a keen interest in who you are and what you do.

what do you mean, “fan?” 17

my name is madison, and I’m a big fan of yours.

i think you’ve got the wrong person. i’m not famous and i don’t do anything of note.


you sell yourself short, eric. i love watching you do the things you do.

a few days ago, my friend was lucky enough to bump into you.

i’ve tried calling you once or twice. click-click-click beep...beep...

m!

sla

i knew i recognized him...

i’m sure you’d rather be somewhere else, so let’s cut straight to the chase.

and now, we finally meet.

i... have no idea what you’re talking about-

where’s the alien?

you’re not leaving this cell until you tell me what i know you know.

DON’T PLAY AROUND WITH ME, ERIC. i know aliens don’t exist. 18


the fact of the matter is; i know that you’ve had direct and regular...

don’t make this difficult for yourself.

co-operate, and you’ll be home in time for “late night talk.”

...contact with an alien lifeform for at least the past several months.

enjoy your cell. i hear it’s quite lonely and dark.

listen. seriously, I don’t know anything-

shhriigkk!

well, at least it can’t get any darker-

g!

ngg

khu

that’s just great.

shhriigkk!

perhaps i haven’t explained the situation properly. 19


it was perhaps overkill to bring you here the way that we did.

but you must understand that we are facing a serious public health issue.

first, let me apologize for the treatment you’ve received thus far.

imagine if a wild tiger suddenly found itself in the city.

“public health issue?”

the tiger could hurt a lot of people.

a dangerous situation, would you agree?

of course.

indeed. the tiger might actually be quite nice, but in unfamiliar surroundings...

...it could become aggressive and violent. so we should kill it, yes?

and if the tiger lashes out at the people that are trying to help it?

but it isn’t violent yet. the tiger’s probably scared & being naturally defensive.

you should try to catch it and get it out of harm’s way.

that could happen, but again, the tiger’s scared.

it doesn’t mean to hurt anyone intentionally. 20

very astute, eric.


i’m sure you realize by now that my tiger story is an allegory.

your alien is a public health threat, eric.

how many times do i have to tell you?

my “tiger” is your “alien.”

i don’t know any aliens-

what’s it going to do? fire ray-guns and incinerate people?

use the telepathy in its oversized brain to make me drop my pants? ha!

we believe that mere exposure to the alien can have damaging effects.

yeah right.

Why are you making me look like an idiot in front of her?

tell me eric, have you experienced any of these symptoms?

any teenager will tell you that’s a daily occurrence.

Unexplainable mood swings?

Difficulty in remembering tasks or appointments? 21

oh man, i forgot that too!

p!

sla


well, i am getting forgetful in my old age!

Long periods of lasped concentration?

joke all you want, but what about your friends? loved ones? they’ve been affected...

now... what floor do i live on...

really? what do you actually know about him?

i’ve never met a beer i didn’t like!

there are other symptoms that i haven’t mentioned. painful symptoms...

another headache...

did you see this ticket machine before? no...

with prolonged exposure, symptoms are only going to get more painful & danger-

wait a minute! you’ve never even seen this supposed alien.

like the tiger, your alien may unintentionally be hurting those around it.

but think about this:

everything you’re saying is just pure speculation.

shhriigkk!

what if all of the pain that it has & will cause... 22

...was intentional?


City port

never thought i’d see this ship again.

then let’s make sure that this is the last time.

there she is: “I.D. Fireball.”

think it’s changed much since we were last on it?

find eric.

well, no time like the present. i doubt it.

i’ll take care of madison.

Eric’s place any chance you could stop pacing back and forth?

i can’t stay here. i have to do something.

you’re internalizing an external event that you had no control over.

alvin and mcmahon told us to stay put until they contacted us-

maybe, but that doesn’t mean...

it’s my fault. if we hadn’t had that stupid fight, eric wouldn’t be in this mess.

...i can’t have any control over the outcome.

where are you going?

23


i’m going to help find eric.

hold it! what about me?

you’ll be okay. no one knows you’re here.

i’ll be gone half an hour; tops.

but i’m in danger here!

look, the door will be locked and only eric has a key. no one’s getting in.

erin? it’s eden. i need you to do something for me...

!

k clic

712

k! clic

Uh-oh.

24

i’ll be back as soon as i can. i promise.


Eric's disappearance has Eden and Dice worried. Eden asks Alvin and McMahon for their help. They know where he is, but the truth is rather unbelievable, and something that only they can deal with. Eric, in an unfamiliar and helpless situation, takes time to remember days past. How did Eric and Dice first meet?

Story, Art and Created by Thuyen Nguyen Copyright Š2008 Thuyen Nguyen www.devinquest.com


A Question of Promise #6