Machine Winter #0
PAGE ONE (3 panels)
Panel 1. A wide shot on a barren white landscape, noon time. Even now it continues to snow. A ragged knitted doll missing an eye sits in the foreground, indicating we are not in the Arctic or any other naturally cold place. There are three objects in the background, but at this distance, they appear as little more than dots. Also very far away is a farm silo. No dialogue.
Panel 2. Closer in on the three objects. They are mobile and leaving tracks in the snow, though their identities are still indiscernible. They are draped in torn black cloaks that cover their heads and bodies. No dialogue.
Panel 3. Close-up frontal shot of the three objects, which of course turn out to be robots. The three robots stare right at us, the readers, with haunting, glowing eyes. They trudge on in dreary silence, their heads and shoulders uniformly hunched forward toward us. The specific details of their bodies are not yet apparent, as the black cloaks still cover them, but one of the robots not in the middle is a lot chunkier than the other two. The one in the middle is the tallest. These robots will turn out to be the good guys, but for now, there’s no reason why we can’t spook the reader with this cool visual. No dialogue.
PAGE TWO (4 panels)
Panel 1. The robot in the middle stops to analyze his surroundings. He stands strong and erect to demonstrate his leadership role, but the cloak still covers his body for now. Let’s call this guy TRIGGER. The other two robots, still hunched over, look to him for direction. We’ll call the chunky robot NOVA. The other robot who so far remains non-descript will be called LIGHT.
There are three of them.
Panel 2. Although they are attempting to have a “normal human” conversation, none of them can replicate human mannerisms very well. They tend to stand still as they talk, which, to be fair, helps them to conserve energy. Light, however, will lean forward or backward when he speaks, or he might raise a hand. He tries to be animated, even though he understands such movement is arbitrary.
Three! What are the odds?
Odds are incalculable due to insufficient data.
It was just a figure of speech.
Panel 3. Nova holds his waist. His thick, round body is hinted at by the way his cloak hangs. He was originally designed to work with power generators, and as a result, he processes and uses energy much more efficiently than other robots. If starved of power sources, Nova will outlive his comrades by a long margin. In spite of that, since Nova’s natural function involves power generation, he obsesses over locating power sources more than his comrades. His waist is where his excessive energy supply is centralized.
Oh, my circuits churn at the prospect of three. I am so hungry.
Panel 4. Trigger points a finger toward the farm silo, which is damaged on top but still standing amidst the snow. There is a long, winding gash along its wall that begins from the top and travels all the way down to the bottom, providing a means of foot access without needing to climb its ladder.
Your girth belies your fragility, Nova.
7 TRIGGER (connected):
At any rate, our destination appears yet undisturbed. It bodes well if we are the first to come across it.
PAGE THREE (6 panels)
Panel 1. The shot for this panel is set inside the silo, high up and angled down. Through the gash in the side of the wall, we can see the robots approaching closer. No dialogue.
Panel 2. Light leans in toward Nova as they walk.
So, how about it? What are you hoping to find this time?
Panel 3. Nova holds his waist again. Light turns away from him. The silo is very close now.
What else, Light? Information about power generation, of course.
Oh, you have no imagination at all.
Panel 4. Trigger does not look to Light as he speaks, but Light looks to Trigger.
A strange sentiment, coming from a robot.
Well, isn’t that the point, Trigger?
Panels 5 and 6. These panels make up two halves of the same image, but the panel borders slow down the pacing. Trigger, Nova, and Light stand before the silo. It is pitch black inside. Trigger occupies Panel 5 while Nova and Light occupy Panel 6.
The memories seem to have congregated here.
It must be a family. Only families congregate.
I hope there is a child. Their use of language is fascinating.
PAGE FOUR (4 panels)
Panel 1. The shot is again set inside the silo, this time at the robots’ eye level. Trigger sticks his head through the gash to analyze the space. It is still disturbingly dark inside the silo.
Something is wrong.
2 TRIGGER (connected):
My spatial scanners are experiencing interference.
Panel 2. Same angle as the last panel. Light sticks his head in next.
Well, we seldom ever interact with three memories at once.
4 LIGHT (connected):
Distortion might merely be a side effect of congregation.
Panel 3. Pull the angle back out of the silo so we see them from behind. Nova pushes Trigger and Light inside the silo through the gash.
Do not worry yourselves! Memories cannot harm us.
Panel 4. They are all inside the silo now. Since there is little light, we cannot make out much more than their silhouettes. Trigger stands wearily, recognizing the sudden danger. We cannot see the entity to which the first voice in this panel belongs.
6 ENEMY (off-panel):
No, but we can.
PAGE FIVE (1 panel)
Splash page. A very FAT ROBOT dangling from a harness attached to a lifeline in the silo activates a spotlight in his body (sound effect), lighting up the entire silo. An RPG rocket launcher is at his hip. Six more menacing ROBOTS can now be seen inside the silo, preparing to attack. Their appearances are totally up to you. Trigger, in the middle of the foreground, throws off his cloak, revealing his body. Trigger is a state-of-the-art combat robot with sophisticated AI; nobody here is anywhere near as capable a fighter as Trigger. Nova and Light also toss their cloaks aside so that their forms are visible. We know Nova’s deal; he’s basically a walking generator. Light meanwhile was designed to aid in the construction of other robots, so he has a working catalogue of information regarding types of robots, as well as built-in tools to aid in maintenance or repairs. Light has modified Nova and himself to have combat capabilities.
2 TRIGGER (burst):
3 TRIGGER (burst) (connected):
This is an ambush!
PAGE SIX (4 panels)
Panel 1. Light, hiding behind Nova’s bulky frame, shoots over Nova’s shoulder at enemies with small energy blasts (sound effect). Nova uses his power to put up an energy barrier to protect them from any incoming attacks. How the heroes and enemies use weapons is up to you. Maybe they fire blasts directly out of their palms or their hands can transform into guns, or maybe some of them have mounted weapons on their shoulders or heads, etc. Melee weapons can be as simple as metal pipes or as intricate as laser swords. But most robots should probably not be using extremely advanced weapons unless they have been modified to use them.
Didn’t see this coming!
Of course not. Our scanners were jammed.
You are so square.
I am actually more of a sphere.
Panel 2. Trigger punches an enemy’s head off in one clean swipe (sound effect). His other arm is transforming into something.
You really must be starving for energy!
Panel 3. Trigger turns his arm into a gun, either a powerful beam cannon or a huge Gatling gun, and unloads on three of the enemies, blasting them to pieces (sound effect).
RACKA TACKA RACKA
Perhaps you will welcome termination as a relief?
Panel 4. Light points up toward the big spotlight robot, who is suddenly pointing the rocket launcher down at them.
Trigger! Above us!
PAGE SEVEN (3 panels)
Panel 1. The spotlight robot fires his rocket (sound effect), leaving a trail of smoke behind it as it descends toward Trigger and the others.
Panel 2. Trigger leaps into the air and literally slaps the rocket (sound effect) into a new direction, toward the remaining two enemy robots on the ground.
Panel 3. The rocket reaches the ground and explodes (sound effect), destroying the two robots and blasting a new hole in the side of the silo. This hole provides a second light source.
PAGE EIGHT (5 panels)
Panel 1. Trigger has one hand on the lifeline that sustains the spotlight robot. He hangs directly in front of the spotlight robot, who has dropped the RPG.
What did you hope to accomplish here?
2 SPOTLIGHT ROBOT:
Please! Spare me.
3 SPOTLIGHT ROBOT (small) (connected):
We were just so low on power sources.
Panel 2. Nova lowers his head. Light has his arms crossed in silence. Nova’s energy barrier is dissipating.
As are we all.
Panel 3. Trigger is physically on top of the spotlight robot now, his hands digging into the robot’s shoulders.
We have seen a great deal of cannibalism in our travels--
Panel 4. Trigger rips the spotlight robot in half down the middle with his hands (sound effect), parts spewing all over the place. The spotlight continues to shine, however, like the yolk left behind by a cracked egg.
--But this is a new low.
Panel 5. Light uses his foot to nudge a piece of the wreckage left by a destroyed robot.
It would appear not even machines are immune to the effects of desperation.
PAGE NINE (3 panels)
Panel 1. Trigger lands back on the ground.
The memories were not a fabrication.
2 TRIGGER (connected):
There truly are three present at this location.
Panel 2. Nova looks on toward the center of the silo.
Yes, I am already beginning to detect them.
Panel 3. The ghosts of a man, woman, and little girl appear before Light, Nova, and Trigger. The ghosts glitter in the spotlight. They were a farming family, so they are all dressed rather plainly—overalls, etc. The little girl is barefoot. The man has a fiercely grave expression, but the mother and child are in good spirits. None of them have pupils in their eyes.
Magnificent. A child.
We will be able to trade these memories for an abundance of energy.
Perhaps, but what the memories might teach us will be of even greater value.
Quiet. Let them express themselves.
PAGE TEN (4 panels)
Panel 1. Pan in on just the man. The first three panels here should run vertically down two-thirds of the page, while the fourth panel is horizontal and takes up the remaining space at the bottom.
I lied to them. I told them we were out of anybody’s blast radius.
2 MAN (connected):
But the whole country is the blast radius! The whole world, maybe.
3 MAN (connected):
I’d be the biggest sinner of all if I robbed the smiles from their faces now.
Panel 2. A shot of just the woman, who appears warm and cheerful.
♪ Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, ♫
5 WOMAN (connected):
♪ Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream. ♫
Panel 3. Just the little girl, looking whimsical.
Daddy says I always run into Miss Chief playing in the field.
7 GIRL (connected):
But that’s silly. The dolly’s name is Miss Susie!
Panel 4. Light turns excitedly to Nova and Trigger. The voices of the ghosts can still be heard even though they are off-panel, indicating that ghosts can only ever repeat the last thing on their minds before death.
What a find. Is that woman singing?
9 MAN (off-panel):
--whole country is the blast--
Memories of music are exceedingly rare.
11 WOMAN (off-panel):
--life is but a dream--
Which means they will trade exceedingly well!
13 GIRL (off-panel):
--run into Miss Chief--
PAGE ELEVEN (3 panels)
Panel 1. The robots stand back outside the silo. They are wearing their cloaks again, which might be even more tattered than before. It is still snowing. Light marvels at what the ghosts related.
How delightfully peculiar the little girl’s memory was.
2 LIGHT (connected):
It will take time for my systems to interpret the nuance in her words.
Panel 2. The robots begin moving, headed off in some new direction. Zoom out on them so that they are receding into the distance. They are positioned left to right in the order in which they speak (a general rule for every panel).
Take all the time you like. We will have energy for weeks after we make this big a trade.
Perhaps, or we could use the surplus to trade for more memories.
5 LIGHT (connected):
What is your opinion, Trigger?
My opinion? My opinion is that we robots become more like our extinct progenitors every day--
Panel 3. Zoom out so that the robots have become dots again in the distance. The doll returns to the foreground. At least Miss Susie survived the fallout.
--And I do not know if learning from their memories will be our salvation or our damnation.