Planetary: "Highly Evolved"


Well-Known Member
Feb 28, 2005
Metro Manila, Philippines
PLANETARY: Highly Evolved
A Story Treatment by PAOLO JOSE O. CRUZ

Summary: A fic set in the universe of Warren Ellis' Planetary. Elijah Snow's field team meets with a New York City tabloid reporter who holds the key to a shocking experiment that was unknowingly carried out beneath the streets of the Big Apple. A cautionary tale of evolution, social theory, and... pizza?​

NOTE: I'm not sure whether this qualifies as a "real" fic, because it's more of an extended plot outline than a coherent short story (which it could have been, with a little more effort).

New York City. No date specified. (However, Elijah Snow's memory blocks appear to still be in place.)

Elijah arranges for a meeting between the Planetary field team and a tabloid reporter named June Neill. The paper she works for is ostensibly a trashy supermarket-counter hack publication that documents obviously fake "weird happenings": Bigfoot attending a Bar Mitzvah; Elvis sightings in Beijing. That kind of thing. It's sort of the anti-thesis of the wonderous truth-telling that Snow engaged in, with his Planetary Guides.

Neill is reluctant to cooperate, but she agrees to help Planetary because Elijah seems to know about her greatest secret: her former life as May Laird, lab assistant to missing South African defector, biologist Bastian Eastman.

Eastman disappeared in 1993, after the rushed deactivation of Hard Shell, the classified project he had been working on, for the US Government. Aside from a handful of spooks who have since begun untraceable new lives, Neill/Laird is the only person other than Eastman who is privy to the details of the operation.

Neill brings the field team into a massive sluice gate near the Hudson River, leading into New York's extensive sewer network, as she begins to narrate the details of Hard Shell.

The project was borne of prevailing cultural attitudes in the late 80s and early 90s empasizing the need to accelerate the pace of life: quicker sleep cycles, freeze-dried instant food, content on demand, blipvert-style media, and so forth. Initially, the aim of Hard Shell was purely scientific: to replicate an accelerated version of the evolutionary process (both its biological and sociological aspects) within a controlled lab set-up, creating a kind of synthetic "instant civilization".

However, rather than using primates as the basis for the dominant species, they would use amphibians, specifically a terrapin, a tortoise, a sea turtle, and a snapping turtle, because they are popularly regarded as the most slow-moving and 'retarded' beasts of the animal kingdom.

Using a complicated device that speeds up the evolutionary process, Eastman's turtles rapidly grew from ordinary lab specimens into intelligent creatures, as they absorbed centuries worth of knowledge and learning.

In a matter of weeks, the breadth of their understanding spanned entire belief systems and epistemes, ranging from the "high" (classical philosophy, the Jewish Kaballah, Zen koans), to the "low" (Married... With Children quotes, pro wrestling trivia, surfer slang, a taste for deli pizza). They were each named after the thinkers whose beliefs most accurately reflected their individual outlook in life: cynical Hobbes, tolerant Locke, speculative Descartes, and utilitarian Hume.

When the Pentagon learned about this amazing breakthrough, they recognized the obvious military application. If they could weaponize the turtles, the Army would have an effective replacement for human cannon fodder on the battlefield. However, sensing that it may cause initial controversy, the project's new handler, General Wolf, opted to use the turtles as black-ops fighters, exploiting their advanced capacity for learning to make them skilled in covert operations, from guerilla warfare to ninja techniques.

However, after several initial victories -- including successful tours of duty in Operation: Desert Storm and the first Gulf War -- the limits of the Hard Shell project became clear. The increased rate of evolution also caused the turtles to age more rapidly, exponentially reducing their lifespan. Numerous efforts were made to replicate Hard Shell's initial success, even using other animals, but the results showed diminishing returns, in spite of the relatively cheap price of acquiring new specimens. By the time the new Administration took over in 1992, priorities were very different; government funding was cut, and Hard Shell was decomissioned.

Amazingly, Hard Shell's base of operations was located within the sewer network underneath the NYU campus, blocked off from civilian access by a cloaking field of constantly moving hyper-fast particles that renders it invisible to the naked eye.

The Planetary team arrives at the Hard Shell headquarters. Jakita Wagner uses her speed powers to rush the group beyond the lab's defense systems.

Inside, they find a disgusting sight: a room full of semi-preserved ultra-evolved animal corpses, left to the elements for several years, rotting at one millionth of the speed it took to create them. Huddled amidst the carnage is the emaciated, crazed Bastian Eastman, feverishly, sleeplessly attempting to undo his life's work.
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This is the last time I'll speak to you about sociological influences that created Saturday morning cartoons. Ever.
So, is this like that Planetary version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/We3?
compound said:
Yup! That's precisely what I had in mind. :D

I don't get it? :?

My real name? Or the title of my fic?

Your real name.
I'd not read this before, as soon as I saw her name was "June Neill" I laughed a lot. And kept on laughing. Until the tragic ending. *wipes away tear*


What I love is that you went to a place Ellis didn't in Planetary. The synopsis isn't really that good, but the fact you went to sunday morning cartoons is genius. I wish there'd been a Transformers Planetary issue now... :(

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