The Complete DEEP MAP PILOTS by Eliza Gauger & Warren Ellis

All of these are available as prints and postcard sets from Eliza.  You can find Eliza at @3liza and tumblr.

DEEP MAP PILOTS: A Series Of Five Pictures From Words

MARENKA flies the sailplane service that skims the Neptune atmosphere on a loop that brings it back to the thaw station on Triton. All the many photos taped to the walls of Marenka’s cockpit flutter like dead leaves in a cold breeze when she bounces out of the atmosphere, and when the harsh thermal exchange beats the boat about on its descent to Triton. Triton is a moon of frozen lakes and a hot core. The sailplane delivers scooped helium-3 to the fusion engines that are re-routing core heat to the surface. Soon, Triton will be a subtropical worldlet on the edge of the solar system.  That’s when Marenka will leave. She has a cockpit full of photos of all the things she never wants to be near again, and soon Triton won’t be a cold enough place for her.

REHANI saw space before she saw the sea. When she finally stood at the edge of an ocean, at night, all she could really see was something black and chilly and sparkling, with the sketched suggestion of islands out in its deeps. Rehani was disappointed. She flies for Big Island, a great floating city that surfs the cloud-tops of Venus at two hundred miles an hour. It’s wider than the Central African Republic, and moves across a misty vastness you could lose every ocean on Earth in. And it spins in something that is blacker and colder and more sparkling than anything, anything she’s ever seen. It’s never disappointed her. It’s the only sea she needs.

JINJING makes the jump from Titan to Enceladus the same way, no matter what their relative positions might be on launch day. She’ll make her approach trajectory for Enceladus while she’s on the other side of Saturn from it. Enceladus is in the E Ring, the one furthest out from the planet. So Jinjing gets to spend a whole half-orbit skipping across the top of the E ring. It’s a glittering ghost road three hundred thousand kilometers wide. There’s not a children’s story, nursery rhyme or fairy tale that ever competed with riding a road of diamond dust to a moon where stations drift across a wide warm underground sea. Sometimes Jinjing laughs out loud, at the thought of having grown up into a life that no childhood dream was ever big enough to capture.

CAMEO is a rock dancer. Not everyone wants to make the run to Ceres. You have to like scientists, for one thing, because there’s nothing inside Ceres but hermit physicists and their weird globular microgravity labs. You also have to like dancing with rocks. On a good day, Ceres is riding between Mars and Jupiter with a family of a thousand other objects. On a bad day, it’s like being shot at by seven armies. Shot at with asteroids. It takes a lot of craft and more art, and no-one gets through even the first month without picking up some bulletholes and powder burn. They say that, to do the Ceres run, you either have something to prove or you want to die. Cameo says she just likes dancing.

ASCENCION is four billion miles away from home, and that’s the way she likes it. She’s seen the stained egg of Haumea, and the misty red lump of Makemake, and dozens of other things that no-one had ever laid eyes on before. Ascencion dives the deeps of the Kuiper Belt, beyond Neptune and Pluto. It’s the graveyard at the end of the solar system. Failed planets, dead comets, lost moons and all the strange dark rubble left over from the formation of the worlds we know. She’s out among the spectres, flying through ultimate history to places where, quite literally, there have never been eyes before. The Kuiper Belt is vast. She wants to see it all. She wants it all to herself, in a way that no-one else has ever been able to understand. She never wants to go home again.

Art © Eliza Gauger 2012. Words © Warren Ellis 2012

[all DMP posts]

DEEP MAP PILOTS: Extended Flight Log by Eliza Gauger

This is Warren.  Eliza Gauger and I had been vaguely kicking around the notion of adding to our five-piece DEEP MAP PILOTS series, under the subtitle XFL – eXtended Flight Log.  And then Eliza wrote and drew what follows, yesterday, just for the hell of it.  So here it is.  You can find Eliza at tumblr and @3liza.

You can also buy the DEEP MAP PILOTS pieces as posters or postcards.  And now, Eliza:





Kuiper homesteading program, 2176 AD: start life anew in the off-off world colonies. Smiling posters, Leyendeckeresque, urge the new generation of hopeless intelligentsia to never go home again; There Are No Jobs, anyway, so bootstraps yourself right out of Sol and claim your slice of the diamond studded garter of our mother system. Join the space cowboys, rolling in the deep.  Billions of ice and mineral bodies are loitering unclaimed in the deep system!  The United States Federal Homesteading Office is prepared to award low-interest loans to every hopeful who has the cojones to shuttle hop to Styx Station 14 and hire a charon to buzz them into the denser regions of the Disk–maybe the site of a recent collision’s debris field, or the rumored location of a really big body, maybe a comet or a big iceball–the kinds of tips you pick up in mining canteens a little farther in, from men too old or too smart to go after it themselves. It’s the closest you get to a sure thing, and its better than trying to claw a smaller, surer claim away from someone who got there first, in one of the already-plumbed regions. You’re sick of neighbors. So you cram into the tug with the stinking pilot who doesn’t bother learning your name (he learned his lesson about that early on), clutching your Homesteading Kit™ in your lap and your scanner on top of that, and he flies you out in the direction of your choosing until you tell him to stop, and lets you out.

The kit’s autodrills will bite into almost anything, kicking up little jets of dust or vapor. You pick something mostly spherical, a few meters across, an object the scanner tells you is made of something that won’t shatter if you hollow it out, and when the drills are done they ping your HUD and you squeeze yourself, in your long-haul sumo suit, into the tunnel they dug for you. The homesteading kit’s cabin bladder is rubbery and flexible, some kind of self-repairing plastic, about as thick as a gym mat. It unflops fatly into your rock’s empty belly, and when you find the airlock attachment you stuff it through best you can into the hole, pull the long neck (like a balloon) back out into space, and then turn around and climb inside, pushing your canisters and flashlight ahead of you.  You’ve heard this is when most of the freakouts happen, the rubber cabin bladder and the sumo suit and the vast, vast emptiness all pushing in on you at once–people can’t handle it; tear their suits off, scream into long range channels, kick off from their rocks and throw their kit components away from them, one at a time, just to get some extra velocity in the direction of "home".  They never make it, of course.

The atmo canisters strain at their leashes, gouting oxygen and your other favorite gasses, and gradually inflate the bladder from a body bag into something like a "room", but you wait many minutes after your HUD gives you the go-ahead before you dare to take off your helmet. Your ears pop painfully, your sinuses empty, the smell of new plastic is almost overwhelming, but you’re breathing.  Exhausted, you decide to rest before you set up your rocket crawlers and dashboard.  The silence is deafening, but it means you aren’t hearing leaks, and the wet throb of your heart in your ears keeps you awake for a long, long time.

Art and text © Eliza Gauger 2012