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ISSUE # 2

$3.99 U.S.


LETTER 44 FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20500 SER–002.A H2/V1 – 15072013 Pre-Launch

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DOS. 102–AC–44/13–100 Mission Operations Report

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No. L-44Z-0N1-10.a

NOVEMBER 26, 2013

APPROVED FOR RELEASE BY NSA: PURSUANT TO E.O. 12958 - AMENDED - DECLASS 58017

Just before President Blades was sworn in, he opened a letter left to him by the outgoing President Carroll, a letter containing revelations that would change the course of his presidency before it had even begun. While the President deals with the ramifications of this divulgence, a crew of specialized astronauts are en route to research an alien construction in the asteroid belt, the scope of which is greater than any of them had begun to imagine.

ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR COMMITTEE FOR INTERSTELLAR RELATIONS

LETTER 44 – ISSUE 2: Written by Illustrated by

Charles Soule

Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque

Colored by Guy Major Shawn DePasquale Lettered by

Jill Beaton Edited by Designed by Jason Storey

1305 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Suite A Portland, OR 97214

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Oni Press, Inc. » Publisher Joe Nozemack » Editor In Chief James Lucas Jones » Art Director Keith Wood Director of Publicity John Schork » Director of Sales Cheyenne Allott » Editor Jill Beaton » Editor Charlie Chu Graphic Designer Jason Storey » Digital Prepress Lead Troy Look » Administrative Assistant Robin Herrera Letter 44, Issue 2, November 2013. Published by Oni Press, Inc. 1305 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Suite A, Portland, OR 97214. Letter 44 is ™ & © 2013 Charles Soule. All rights reserved. Oni Press logo and icon ™ & © 2013 Oni Press, Inc. Oni Press logo and icon artwork created by Keith A. Wood. The events, institutions, and characters presented in this book are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. No portion of this publication may be reproduced, by any means, without the express written permission of the copyright holders. Printed in the U.S.A.


Yes, that is an excellent question.

In order to properly answer it, we must first ask three other questions, and see if we might be fortunate enough to be able to answer “no” to any of them.

First: do they know we are here? They set up their operation in the asteroid belt, which contains the highest concentration of easily accessible resources in the solar system.

It’s possible they came just for those.

However, they set up a shield which prevented almost all signals, including visual, from escaping the site and being seen by Earth.

In contrast, humanity has made no effort to hide our presence, and we have in fact done the opposite for decades, through programs like Voyager and SETI.

These points suggest that the answer is “yes.” They know we are here.


Second question: do they care that we are here?

Of course, the mere fact that they came across light years of space to arrive here already suggests that they are far beyond our level, but that is a divergent point.

Again, it may be that they are simply here for the resources of this solar system, and do not seek any interaction with us.

This, however, also suggests that they believe we cannot possibly threaten or interfere with them, which in turn implies a level of technological superiority allowing for absolute security, even arrogance.

The truth is that the resources in the belt, while easily accessed and abundant, are not rare when you look at things on a galactic scale. Why come all this way for metal and volatiles when presumably there are other systems with these items available much closer to their home?

The answer lies in our solar system’s other resource, arguably the rarest in the universe.

Intelligence. So, to this second question we must also answer “yes.� They do care that we are here, because other than our presence, there is very little to recommend this system in favor of any of the millions of others in the galaxy.


And so we come to the third question: do they want something from us?

If we answer “no,” then we must consider other reasons for their presence. Perhaps they are on a mission of exploration, like the Starship Enterprise. Perhaps they are interested in us for anthropological reasons, and intend to study us from afar.

Unfortunately, these possibilities are given the lie due to the fact that they are building a massive object within astronomical spitting distance of our planet. We have established that they are here because we are here, and so logically that object must have a purpose related to us, otherwise why build it at all?

Exploration and anthropology do not require constructs the size of the moon. Also, they have made no effort to contact us. If they wanted to learn about us, they would already be here talking to us. What we are left with, then, is another “yes.” Our visitors do want something from us.

We ran through these three questions with your predecessor, Mr. President. If at any point we could have plausibly answered “no,” then | believe his actions would have been very different. We could not. It was “yes,” all the way down.


Which brings us back to your original question: what is this thing they are building?

Our people have taken to calling it the Chandelier.

Thank you, Dr. Portek.

| can see why. My God.

We can conclude that it is a machine of some type, designed to facilitate our visitors’ goal of getting something from us that they want.

| appreciate your analysis.

Whatever they're here to get from us, Project Monolith is how we'll ensure we have some say in the matter.

Please let me know if you hear anything, anything from the Clarke.

Certainly, sir. And | urge you to come visit us at Project Monolith as soon as your schedule permits. Sir, with all due respect, you can’t let this sidetrack your administration, as important as it is. You have appointments to make, an agenda to begin executing.

|’ll do that, Dr. Portek. Very soon.

President Carroll clearly made his entire term of office revolve around this one issue, and he hadn't even seen this... Chandelier yet.

Sir, Francis Carroll damn near bankrupted this country, and killed thousands of its soldiers, not to mention the damage he did to our reputation abroad.

|’m aware of that, Elijah, but selecting an Assistant Undersecretary of Agriculture just doesn’t register right now.

He’s no one to emulate. If we don’t get started fixing the economy, you won’t be in a position to do anything about the Chandelier, or anything else. You’ve got a sympathetic Congress for the next two years. Let’s use it.


General Johnson is here to see you, sir.

Thank you, Elizabeth. Send him in.

Have a seat, Alex. Any news?

Afraid not, sir. Mission Control still can’t raise the Clarke.

They’ve been offline since just after they passed through the signals curtain. Christ. All right. | know this isn’t all we have to deal with, but |’d like your assessment of the Joint Chiefs. Assessment, sir?

| think the President is asking if he can trust his chief military advisors.

|’m sensing a troubling lack of awe in the Situation Room. We’ve got two wars to fight, not to mention this thing in space. Will they follow my orders?

Sir, they’re loyal to the office. They’ve got several hundred years of obeying senior officers between them, and you’re their commander in chief.

That one image of the Chandelier is all we’ve got.

We’re doing what we can, but at this point it’s a guessing game.

That said, they were all picked by Carroll, so their perspectives are likely to be in line with his ideals. At least at first. They may just need to get to know you. Thank you, General. Do what you can to let them know |’m not a complete moron, will you?

Elijah and | have to get to work fixing the economy. | want to hear the minute anything is heard from the Clarke. Of course, Mr. President. Thank you.


Anything, Kalani?

Touchy. Pritchard?

Goddammit, Colonel, stop shouting at me! |’ll report when | have a fucking answer.

Residual heat in the ship is keeping the plants alive, and they’ve got some atmosphere, but it’s not going to last forever. We need power back, and soon.

|’m not sure keeping the plants alive is all we need to worry about, Pritchard. Keep me posted.

We’re okay for the moment, Colonel.

You okay?

Just be glad it’s not the old kind. You’d never have gotten into a hard suit, not with that belly. Always a bright side.

| feel like a Mission burrito. This suit stretches, but it only goes so far.

Thank you, Pritch. That’s wonderful to hear.


It’s not mechanical. Everything’s working.

Not as far as | can see.

EMP?

All right, it’s not engines, and you’re getting signals from the batteries. All of the signals work, but nothing’s talking to anything else.

How long we got, Gomez?

None of the chips are fried.

|’ve got about an hour in suit air, and there’s enough in the reserve tanks for another twenty-four hours for everyone, assuming we can’t get the scrubbers working.

Unfortunately, we can’t tap into the reserves without power.

No-one’s going to die, Willett. And get off the ship-wide channel.

No? Unless you’ve got a crystal ball tells you how to fix a ship got zapped by some alien bullshit, | don’t…

It’s not alien bullshit. God help me. | wish it were.

Right, because a power outage is the last time you’d need some extra O2. Fuck that. |’ll take a pill rather than sit waiting to die.


| hate it out here.

| love it! First chance |’ve had to bring this little girl out to play.

Mission protocol, Dr. Kalani. All EVAs while the ship is under military command must be accompanied by armed guard.

You’ll be glad |’m here if E.T. does sneak up on us, |’ll tell you that. It’s ridiculous. What are you supposed to shoot? We’re millions of kilometers from anything. What’ll happen, something will sneak up on us?

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