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Webcomic / Leaving the Cradle

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"Earth is the cradle of humanity; but one cannot live in a cradle forever."

Leaving The Cradle is an science-fiction Webcomic, attempting at bridging the gap between space opera and classical hard science fiction.

Gharr, an alien researcher, gets stranded on Earth after making one too many rash decisions. He has no way of calling back for help, and no certainty that the natives are to be trusted... So began the events that later would be known as the "First Contact Incident".

In August of 2021 it joined the SpiderForest webcomic community.

The English version of the webcomic can be found here.

The Russian version can be found here

Provides examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted - sapient A.I.s are present but are not a threat to all living things. Some of them even provide translation services.
  • All There in the Manual: The webcomic has an extensive wiki that hosts a lot of the information about the setting, that most likely will never have a chance to appear in the comic.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The Alliance have a directive that forbids contacting species below a certain development level, to not affect their culture and society. Guess if Earthlings qualify as advanced. Things get complicated when one of the researchers alongside one surviving military personnel accidentally gets stranded on Earth.
  • Artificial Gravity: It's of the Centrifugal Gravity variety. Standard artificial gravity depiction is absent.
  • Artificial Limbs: Hekaht have one of these.
  • Attack Drone: Takes up the role of a Space Fighter in the setting, and usually being deployed in massive waves designed to overwhelm the enemy's defenses.
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible: Nea. She decides to remain silent and not do anything to give the humans any intelligence about her until she gathers more intel about the others. This proves to be a problem as the Major is concerned that the aliens will attack humanity if the conflict isn't resolved. However, after her escape attempt fails, she changes her mind and starts to communicate with him.
  • Bee People: Zig-zagged. Insectoids have many similarities with ant society, but the differences are also major, with workers having full individuality and being the Queen, while prestigious, doesn't lend you any actual ruling power.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The alien script used in the comic is character-replacement cyrillic Russian. Approximate translations are available on SpaceBattles starting here.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Dan is deeply unimpressed by humanity's moral fiber, and is convinced that other intelligent species would be better people pretty much by definition.
  • Closed Circle: Gharr has no way to contact the fleet and he's essentially stuck inside of a house with three humans on Earth. His arm being broken doesn't help. Justified, although he falsified his report on humanity, he doesn't want to risk violating the directives any more than he already is, so his options are limited. Also applies to Nea for similar reasons.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Dan. Downplayed in that he's grounded in reality most of the time. However, when it comes to the government and aliens, he's pretty quick to jump to conclusions.
  • Colony Ship: The Dawn motherships are designed to roam space for decades without pit-stops and the population ranges from a few thousand to around ten thousand people.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Dan is this towards the government. His reasoning for taking the unconscious alien away from the crash site is that the military shot down the shuttle on the government's orders, they're going to take the creature to a secret laboratory to vivisect it, and they're going to search the area for witnesses and evidence. Although he's partially correct about the military being involved and completely right about them looking for witnesses, it's clear that his distrust of them is pretty extreme to say the least.
  • Cyborg: The majority of the population of the Alliance. Many have brain implants, and a complete replacement of the immune system is required for those who actively travel the galaxy and interact with other species.
  • Death Glare: The Major gives Zelenkov one of these after Zelenkov talks about the dead aliens like research rats and justifies it by saying "these things aren't human."
  • Deconstruction: Of First Contact science-fiction stories. The aliens aren't portrayed as absolute bastards or godlike. They can make mistakes just like anyone else, and the whole reason the webcomic even happens is because Gharr falsified his report on humanity so he can explore Earth. Likewise, humanity aren't portrayed as monstrous, morons, or special in some way. Sure, their technology and population doesn't come close to that of the Alliance, but most of them are not stupid or unreasonably aggressive. The alien shuttle was shot down because the Major thought it was a human aircraft making a re-entry. All in all, the conflict comes from a series of misunderstandings rather than malicious intentions on either side.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Gharr wants to explore the new unknown world that was just discovered. To do this, he doctors the data about humanity's technological development so that Zane can approve the expedition. While it does work, it also has the side effect of risking contact with a not-so primitive species and putting both of their careers in serious jeopardy as a result. Then their shuttle was shot down. It's implied that Gharr didn't think humanity was that advanced, however.
    • Also applies to the crew of the shuttle, and the wider alliance. It would be difficult to approach Earth without noticing our satellites, which should have set off a number of red flags about our ability to see and harm the shuttle. (We have orbital performance rockets, and guidance systems, and radar, etc.) This information was either not noticed, or not acted upon, for reasons unknown. It's also arguable that trying to land before you decode the language was possibly the wrong order to do things.
    • Nea tries to escape after finding out Gharr is not with the military and takes the Major as a hostage. She almost gets shot in the head, but she manages to make it outside. She doesn't make it more than a few steps before eight armed soldiers quickly surround her. It is a heavily guarded research site, after all. Seeing that there's no other option, Nea lets the Major go and surrenders.
  • Dope Slap: Val gives this to Dan when the alien wakes up and makes it clear that he doesn't have telepathy like Dan thought.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: That raharr to the left of the one with his helmet off back on page 13? That's Nea. The face is obscured, but she's the only female in the team.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Spaceship have FTL capacity through devices called "hypergenerators". They are rather standard variation of the various hyperdrives, as the name indicates.
  • The Federation: The Alliance.
  • Fiery Cover-Up / Destroy the Evidence: An insectoid suggests a precision kinetic strike on the crash site to erase the physical evidence of their existence. Zane immediately shuts that down since there might be survivors.
  • First Contact: It and its consequences is the main scope of the story.
  • From Bad to Worse: From Zane's perspective. First, he finds out that Gharr falsified the report, putting both of their careers in serious danger. Then the shuttle crashed, further complicating matters. Then he finds out that the natives attacked the shuttle, making it next to impossible to rescue any survivors without further violating the directives.
  • Funny Background Event: The part where Nea tries to escape is pretty serious, but at the end of it, it's clear that one of the soldiers was in too much of a hurry to worry about putting on both his boots.
    • During a UN meeting, the various representatives are shown to be normal-looking...except for the one from Japan, who has Anime Hair.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We don't see the full bodies of the alien security team when the general sees it, but from what little we do see after the missile hits the shuttle, it certainly isn't pretty. The soldiers mention that they had found a total of six and a half bodies.
    • It gets more visual on page 99: while all bodies are mercifully covered with blankets, one visibly has its entire middle part missing, and there seems to be no head.
    • Dan's vivid imagination of what would be the consequence of Gharr falling in the hands of the government: Gharr's exposed innards are obscured by both the figure standing in front of the table as well as the TV static effect.
  • Holiday Mode: For Halloween 2021, the creator did something unique to celebrate and it's pretty creepy for a webcomic: Having every single character disappear from the comic without a trace, leaving only the backgrounds. Everything else stays the same and the readers would wonder what the hell is going on. A comment left by the creator adds to the spookiness:
  • Hartman Hips: Ahshu has quite a waist. Nea does as well. Additional materials suggest that this type of figure is the norm for Raharr females.
  • Hit So Hard, the Calendar Felt It: the wiki describes the raharrs as having this when they discovered the stabilizers. The realization of their artificial nature threw the world into chaos and it led to mass hysteria, riots, and suicides. Their calendar got reset afterwards and they now refer to their history with P.R. and A.R. (Prior Realization and After Realization, respectively.) By the time the webcomic started, it's been 756 years since then.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: The story focuses on first contact with the humans, so this is to be expected:
    • During Chapter 2, when Zane Htrua Sha asks Quantum, an artificial consciousness, for a progress update on translating our language families, he's taken aback when he learns that there is around 150 of them. The reason he's shocked at this has not yet been revealed.
    • On the next page, Quantum manages to gain access to our network and they grow worried upon seeing our stories on the subject of aliens, as it depicts them as malicious invaders and monsters. For the AC personally, they are especially concerned on stories with or about artificial consciousnesses being treated as either nothing more than slaves or as a threat that needs to be put down, and overall fears a potential repeat of the Vainur incident. Zane is quick to call them out on their bias and points out that his species were making fiction similar to ours before the Space Age.
    • A more humorous example happens in Chapter 4. Since the aliens are already well into the Space Age, Ahshu is naturally shocked when she learns about some humans believing that their world is flat, and spends most of the next page being bewildered about it.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After Mark helps bring the unconscious alien to their house, the very next thing he does is to take out a bottle of alcohol from the cabinet and start drinking.
  • Internal Reveal: When Gharr wakes up for the second time, he notes that he doesn't remember what happened during the crash and thinks that his team is still alive. In Chapter 4, after he spends around a week in-universe learning our language to communicate with Dan, Val, and Mark, they finally tell him about how his shuttle was shot down and that he's likely the only survivor (albeit after Dan lets it slip during one of his rants.)
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: When the Major and Zelenkov are arguing about the alien research:
    Major: I have placed these restrictions in order to preserve the ethics of the research. We are civilized people, not Third Reich vivisectors!
    Zelenkov: Excuse me, I'm not a vivisector!
  • Language Barrier: Nobody can understand each other initially. Since humans have a massive number of languages compared to the Alliance species, Quantum decides to focus their attention on creating translation addons just for the three most popular ones. Gharr also can't understand anybody when he's rescued by Dan, Val, and Mark, and part of Chapter 3 is about them working to resolve this so they can finally communicate.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Inverted when Zane finds out that Gharr lied in his report. He decides to keep the deception a secret from the rest of the crew so he can figure out a way to save both of their careers. The shuttle crashing makes things a lot more complicated.
  • Masquerade: From the alien's side of things, it's standard protocol to avoid making contact with another species if they aren't space-faring, so as to not interfere with their culture and cause mass panic. Humanity is no exception, but it remains to be seen if it will stay that way after Gharr gets stranded on Earth. As of Chapter 4, the UN Security Council decide to form an international organization focusing on the aliens while also agreeing to keep it top secret, at least temporarily.
  • Mile-Long Ship: While it's definitely not planet-sized, the Dawn mothership is around the size of a small mobile city. Needless to say, it's very big. Just compare the human's International Space Station and shuttle to the mothership itself.
  • Militaries Are Useless: Averted. The only big screw-up that was made is shooting down the shuttle, and that's only because the Major had absolutely no idea that it was an alien one in the first place. Once it's been shot down, the crash site is quickly locked down and, upon finding out that there were witnesses, he has the soldiers patrol every nearby place in search for them. Even when they were initially taken by surprise in regards to Nea's escape attempt, the soldiers don't waste any time in surrounding her and forcing her to surrender.
  • Mirror Chemistry: The insectoid species are D-chiral, which makes them incompatible with other species biochemically, much like turians from Mass Effect. This sometimes causes some political problems, since their preferred method of colonizing other life-supporting worlds is to terraform them by blazing large patches of the continent to cinder and reseed it with samples of their own ecosystem.
  • Mind Rape: Most people in the Alliance have brain implants, but those don't have wireless connections. This is to prevent this exact trope from happening, and this regulation was installed after a rather nasty case in the past when a spam virus discovered a way to hack the implants, and therefore the host's brain, to spread itself further, with the side effect of an immediate death of the host due to resulting brain damage.
  • MegaCorp: Science Corporation is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, a huge corporation that holds and enforces monopoly on owning and researching artifacts left by Precursors and developing tech based on them. Naturally, its actions are not always ethical or legal, but it is so huge at this point that it's considered to be as influential as some entire species of the Alliance.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Type 4, maybe veering into type 3. The most blatant deviations from realism are antigravity, FTL flight, and fictional gas-like substance that is required for most of the unrealistic tech to function. Both the substance and the physic laws that allow FTL are suggested to be artificial in nature, created by a long-absent race of hyper-advanced Precursors.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Averted. None of the species in the setting appear to have breasts on females.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: In regards to the raharrs being able to eat human food and even then it's downplayed. Gharr doesn't try to consume anything until he uses a device to test a sample, which thankfully proves to be safe to eat.
  • Noodle Incident: When Dan is shown for the first time, he's in the middle telling Val and Mark a story about how he left somewhere undetected and did...something. We aren't given any details other than it involved the government in some way and he would've gotten arrested if he was spotted before he gets interrupted by the alien shuttle crashing near them.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: The majority of the Alliance is atheistic.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Gharr, wanting to explore the unknown, doctors the data in his report about the human's technological level to increase the chances of Zane authorizing the landing expedition. It worked. Needless to say, when Zane realizes the deception, he isn't happy.
  • Post-Cyberpunk: Cybernetic implants are heavily used through the Alliance, sapient A.I.s exist and there's strong indications that corporations have way more power than they should, but the overall setting is not portrayed as Crapsack World.
  • Precursors: The Ancients are both responsible for the existence of the majority of habitable worlds with biospheres, and the very physical possibility of FTL flight. They vanished from the face of the Galaxy millions of years prior to the webcomic events.
  • Projected Man: Quantum.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Zig-Zagged. Most ancient alien civilizations' legacy is ground to dust in a relatively short time, and on the timescales of tens of thousands of years, the only way to know something was even there is through a geological survey. But then there are the artifacts and buildings of the Ancients, that stood literally without a scratch and perfectly functional for billions of years.
  • Rubber-Forehead Alien: Averted. None of the known sapient species can pass for a human even from a quick glance, save for Raharrs being bipedal and with upright stance.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Val to Dan on page 28, to the point where you can even see it on her face.
    Val: So what's next in your genius plan?
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Seems to be the consensus of Ahshu, Quantum, and Hekaht after some reluctance. Since Zane still wants to follow the directives in spite of everything that's happened, they want to find out if Gharr and his team survived the crash and force Zane to start a rescue operation if they did, especially since Zane brought up the possibility of having to leave them.
    • When Nea realizes Gharr is still alive and unaccounted for, she decides to throw the directives in the trash and tries to escape using the Major as a hostage. After that fails, she cooperates with the Major and starts to communicate with him.
  • Shout-Out: On pages 47 and 48, Quantum uses a few examples of certain media to explain his first impressions of humanity.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": One of Gharr's arms was broken in the crash, as he finds out the hard way after he wakes up.
  • Standard Human Spaceship: Or, rather, Standard Raharrian Spaceship in this case.
  • Starfish Aliens: All of them, from four-meter-tall squids to Energy Beings.
  • Starfish Language: When shown from the human's point of view, the aliens are speaking in... something.
  • The Singularity: Azinarsi are a race of fully digital species, living in Dyson swarms around their home stars, and is vastly technologically superior to the rest of the galaxy.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Averted. Spaceships have no clearly defined top or bottom, and there is no uniform plane of reference.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: Played With. Spaceships more or less follow the standard naming scheme, but there's differences in roles usually assigned to these names in space opera - a "destroyer" is a rocket boat, for example.
  • Stumbled Into the Plot: Dan, Val, and Mark were just regular people on a camping trip and happened to be nearby when the shuttle crashed.
  • Subspace Ansible: Averted. At one point Quantum mentions that it would take couple of hours to just get a ping from a satellite the aliens had put in orbit around Earth. They themselves are in orbit around Jupiter, and light takes about 50 minutes to reach it from Earth on average, so considering that the signal would have to travel there and back, this checks out with the reality.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: Ahshu and Hekaht made a bet off-screen regarding whether or not humanity's network is filled with porn. Ahshu naturally won, much to Hekaht's annoyance.
  • Time Skip: In the third quarter of Chapter 3, the webcomic jumps forward by two weeks.
  • Translation Convention: It's made explicitly clear that the aliens are really speaking in the Alliance's common language, not in any human language. It's been translated to English/Russian for the reader's convenience whenever it's following their point of view. See Starfish Language for when it follows the human's point of view.
  • Vertebrate with Extra Limbs: Raharrs are of "four-armed" variety.
  • Webcomic Time: The webcomic has been running for four years. Due to the author's initially irregular upload schedule and initially not making any profit from it, this is bound to happen:
    • The shuttle was shown being shot down five pages in. It took almost a year and a half in real time to see it from the alien's perspective.
    • A more egregious example happens when Dan, Val, and Mark witness the crash and rescue Gharr. In-universe, it took a little more over five minutes for them to move the alien to the truck. In real time, starting from their introduction, it took six months.
    • Overall, while the expeditionary fleet discovered Earth one month before the prologue, the First Contact Incident is still ongoing.
  • Wham Line: Halfway through the first volume, after Ahshu, Hekaht, and Quantum get a lead regarding the city of N, Quantum informs the pair that there's been unusual anomalies and inconsistencies regarding humanity's network that doesn't match up with their signature, as well as signs of someone covering their tracks. Since whoever is doing it can't be on the fleet as it's too widespread, that leaves only one conclusion:
    Quantum: In other words, we're not the only visitors here that are trying to act covertly. There's somebody else in this system.
  • Wham Shot: The third page of Chapter 3 shows that Gharr wasn't the only person who survived after the research shuttle got shot down.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: When the Major asks Zelenkov for a status report on his research of the bodies of the aliens, Zelenkov proceeds to excitingly describe them like research subjects instead of actual people. The Major calls him out on it to which Zelenkov replies that they aren't human. Zelenkov wisely shuts up on that front when the Major gives him a Death Glare in response.
    • A brief moment of this happens during Nea's escape attempt. As she's running for the exit, one of the pursuing soldiers takes a shot at her and nearly blows her head off. The major calls them morons and yells at them to not kill the alien.
  • What Were You Thinking?: Said pretty much outright when Zane learns about the doctored data in Gharr's report.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Outside of the expeditionary fleet, the story takes place near the city of N on Earth and that's all the reader knows about the setting outside of it being "somewhere middle European-ish" and within a couple thousand-kilometer radius from the city of Volgograd in Russia.
  • Year X: The story takes place on June 12, 20XX. The scope is somewhat narrowed down in page 70 with the mention of the Chelyabinsk meteor, meaning the webcomic takes place somewhere after 2013.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: The Azinarsi mastered Brain Uploading long ago and live in cyberspace hosted in Dyson swarms, but the rapid changes as a result of the computational power available to them means that any Azinarsi who leaves would be a stranger upon returning. One character even notes that any Azinarsi that choose to leave have basically sentenced themselves to exile.