THE PILLAR by Ely Buendia and Jason Moss

a graphic novel
written by Ely Buendia
illustrated by Jason Moss

Based on the a short story by Ely Buendia.
The story first saw print in Rogue Magazine

The Boeing 797 Harrier’s engines sputtered and wheezed in midair. It was showing its age. In the thick smog, the aircraft’s red spotlight moved across the black swirling waters like some giant eye weeping in the night. An electronic female voice filled the cabin.

We have reached Island One of the Solimar Clusters, Drop Zone 1. It is now 9:45 in the evening. The temperature outside is 25 °C. Passengers 34, 35, and 40 please prepare for deployment.

A young couple in front quietly reached for two identical briefcases in their compartments and hurried back to their seats, clutching their precious cargo tightly to their chests. I wondered what brought them here. They looked like tourists—an absurdity in these parts. Although this was my first time to set foot on the Clusters, the birthplace of my forefathers, I was not exactly here for the sights.

30 seconds to deployment. The hatch at my feet silently slid open.

“Goodbye and good luck,” chirped the German woman beside me, flashing her perfect 200-year-old teeth. It was still disconcerting to encounter a Bicentenarian, let alone spend hours in a cramped space beside one. With their veneer of casual artificiality they were as insufferable as bots and clones. I strained for a synthetic smile of my own but abandoned all effort as my seat straightened itself and I finally slid through the opening on the floor and into the relative comfort of the egg underneath.

Depressurizing. Ten seconds to deployment. Please standby. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Zero. Three loud pops in succession as the eggs, baggage in tow, shot from the Harrier’s belly. A few seconds later I was bobbing pleasantly on the waves, watching through the egg’s translucent steel shell as the Harrier finished rehydrating. With a burst of blue flame it shot into the night sky. Please remain seated, scanning vitals. Processing. Please standby, you will be harvested shortly. Thank you for flying Virgin Galactic. Welcome to The People’s Republic of Solimar. I took my phone out of my jacket and called Maria. She was clearly still very upset.