I’m roughing out the structure of a Hope Blackwell novel. The Rachel Peng series will have neither ghosts nor koalas; this Hope Blackwell novel will have both. Here’s Speedy’s introduction. As always, this is a draft and will be fine-tuned for phrasing and punctuation if I decide to take it through publication.
For readers of the novels who aren’t also readers of the comic, I’ll also note that Hope has ADD and swears like a sailor on fire.
There was too much sun when I woke up.
The curtains are open, my subconscious informed the rest of me. You closed them when you went to bed, and Sparky wouldn’t have opened them, not when you went to sleep at dawn…
My body didn’t want to be awake, and it told my subconscious to shut up and deal with it. The cunning application of pillow to eyeballs would solve this problem. The pillow didn’t even have to be moved. No, I could just turn over, and—
My subconscious had me up and rolling into a zenpo kaiten before I could drop back into sleep. I was halfway across the bedroom before the crowbar crashed into the exact spot on the pillow where my head had been.
Let me tell you about sugar.
My high school history teacher used to say that sugar was the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution. I checked his dates and he was off by a few decades, but sugar plus coffee did hit Great Britain right around the time that steam engines finally got their act together. Imagine that for a second: the British and stimulants, together at last!
Shit got done.
Now, let me tell you about koalas.
Cute? Yes. Cuddly? Definitely. Stupider than rocks? Fuck yes. They have some of the least-developed brains in the mammalian kingdom. Their brains are so tiny that they’re basically bobbing around in the koala’s skull. When a koala does manage to process a thought, it’s almost always focused on one of three basic drives. They eat, sleep, and procreate, and they do this with the literal single-mindedness of a brain capable of holding one thought at a time.
They are fairly durable, though. If you were a mad scientist who wanted to poke at a blank slate of a brain and see if you could enhance intelligence, you couldn’t pick a better test subject than a koala.
Except, around your third koala, you’d realize that the animal’s metabolism is causing problems. The creatures only eat eucalyptus, and when they’re not eating or fucking, they’re asleep. So you start to tinker with the koala genome so they can live on a variety of plants, and don’t need to sleep twenty-two hours a day.
At Koala No. 4, you decide to see if you can also get them to metabolize grains. Fresh vegetation is hard to find, but every supermarket has a cereal aisle.
By Koala No. 17, you’ve gotten the process nailed down. Brains, guts, everything works. You start to test the limits on what can be done to a koala’s brain. Under the right conditions, can a koala become as intelligent as a dog? A monkey? A great ape?
These experiments go great. So great, you run into communication problem. It’s harder to test the intelligence of animals that can’t vocalize or mimic sign language. You decide to tinker with their vocal cords.
Finally, you get to Koala No. 26. This one’s a total dud. Every single modification went right—better than on any previous test subject, really!—but the animal is a lump of stupid squeaking fur. You decide to euthanize and start from scratch.
Except Koala No. 26 beats you to it. The little bugger has been playing dumb all along. You’re proud of him, probably, in the instant before he shoots you between the eyes with your own gun.
Young Koala No. 26 then spent a rough couple of days running scared in suburban Missouri before he was captured. And escaped. And captured, and escaped, and captured, and escaped, and captured… and finally, a certain government agency got news of this “speedy devil” that could find a way out of any cage. They took him away to one of those subterranean buildings that form the stuff of nightmares, and performed unspeakable tests to discover he had about 200 IQ points more than the average Harvard graduate.
Koala No. 26 sat in a cage and broke codes for years. Sparky rescued him. This… um. Yeah. This probably wasn’t the best decision Sparky’s ever made. It’s not like he could release this koala into the wild, or even put him in a zoo. For a while, he made sure the koala had his own apartment. These days, the koala lives with us.
I love the little fucker, I do, but let’s face facts. If the entire Industrial Revolution was the outcome of moderately caffeinated cultural sugar high, a superintelligent animal with three all-encompassing drives and regular access to Cap’n Crunch becomes its own force of nature.
And he is an asshole.