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Characters: Freefall
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Crew of the Savage Chicken

    Sam Starfall 

Captain of the Savage Chicken. A sentient, distinctly nonhumanoid alien in a humanoid suit, he's an irresponsible, snarky, but pleasant rogue who delights in annoying authority figures, petty theft and general roguery. He's one of the only sentient aliens to currently be active in human society, though the novelty wore off a while ago.

Provides examples of:

    Florence Ambrose 

The head engineer aboard the Savage Chicken, Florence is a Bowman's Wolf, which are a genetically engineered species created by Ecosystems Unlimited, the company which is also in charge of the terraforming operations on Jean. There are only 14 Bowman's Wolves in existence (11 females and 3 males), which means that they're in grave danger of being abandoned and left to die if they prove a danger to humans; thus, Florence seeks to prove herself trustworthy to everyone she meets, and to always do the right thing, which, naturally, causes her to butt heads with Sam on a regular basis.

Provides examples of:

  • Guilty Pleasures: In the Fourth Wall Mailslot thread, Florence admits to romance novels being a guilty pleasure for her.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: Because Florence would be interacting with humans more than other wolves, Dr. Bowman encoded human recognition into her mirror neurons; therefore humans look fairly normal to her, while other Bowman's wolves look funny.
  • Innocent Inaccurate:
    • Sometimes. She thinks that because more dogs have injured humans than wolves have, people are less afraid of her once they realize she's a wolf.
    • She also uses mosquitoes as a comparison for highly dangerous because they cause millions of deaths a year, whereas more obviously intimidating predators kill far fewer. Raibert notes he's not sure who's right when she points that out.
  • Long Lived: Has an estimated life expectancy of 160 years, over ten times that of a baseline wolf, and she's officially 29, meaning she's outlived any real canid by almost a decade. However her life expectancy is still shorter than that of a human of the era.
  • Magnetic Hero: Her strong morals, helpful instincts and plain old friendliness net her a lot of allies over the course of the strip.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: One wonders how she fits all those teeth in that muzzle.


The ship's robot, of a nonhumanoid, round and modular design and the mind of a child. Sam's partner in crime and mischief. Originally built to pick up heavy things, carry them around and set them down.

Provides examples of:

  • Cranial Processing Unit: Averted. As seen in this strip and the next few following it, removing his head has no effect on his ability to thinknote  and communicate.
  • Dumb Muscle: Not that he's ever been used as muscle on-screen, but Helix was designed to move heavy objects and being smart was clearly not a priority.

    The Savage Chicken's Computer 
Fans call "her" Essie (from S.C. for Savage Chicken). The Savage Chicken's official call number is 1071-CCN.

Provides examples of:


An emu Sam and Helix rescued from "a savage pack of tailgaters". Currently residing with the mayor (?).

Provides examples of:

  • Team Pet: Originally rescued from being the meal at a tailgating party, Helix talks Sam into taking her on for his (ultimately aborted) piracy scheme.



A bright yellow fellow with a penchant for Mad Science and inventing things. Sometimes these things are very dangerous.

Provides examples of:


Dvorak's bipedal partner.

Provides examples of:

  • Evil Genius: He completed a correspondence course, but didn't consider it a serious career choice.
  • Mad Artist: He wrote an "epic rap yodeling opera" and the choreography for Swan Lake as performed by terraforming robots.

    Sawtooth Rivergrinder 

A car-sized terraforming robot who enjoys playing detective.

Provides examples of:

  • The Big Guy: By far the largest of Florence's allies, and at least where Sam is involved is ready to inflict violence as needed.
  • Gentle Giant: Most of the time he's more inclined to talk things out, except where Sam is involved.
  • Loophole Abuse: Like most robots, Sawtooth has inhibitions against harming humans. It didn't stop him from running a river through his boss's living room over an insult.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: He's not a bad guy, but you'd think that his boss would be smart enough to not pick a fight with an enormous terraforming robot whose name is Sawtooth Rivergrinder, for Heaven's sake.
  • Nice Hat: Recently got one from Dvorak to help with his sleuthing. It doubles as a wireless hotspot.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Almost, and his anger was mostly due to meeting Edge. He hoped that Florence's solution to the situation note  would have involved vengeance. He gets over it quickly.
    I know. There's probably a good reason why you didn't do that. Just let me enjoy these thoughts for a moment before I have to be mature again.
  • Reluctant Retiree: He keeps pushing back his Mandatory Retirement date as shown in this comic.
  • There Was a Door: Somewhat justified, in that he's large enough to not fit through conventional doors.


The robot director of Quality Control, who is firmly on the human side. He also speaks very slowly due to damage from a solar flare.

Provides examples of:

  • Knight Templar: Is leading a campaign to lobotomize all robots even though he is one.
  • No Place for Me There: He is a robot who is advocating the destruction of all robots.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Even knowing the damage that Gardener in the Dark does to robots, he is still willing to take efforts to ensure its release, for the sake of humanity.
  • What Measure Is A Nonhuman: Blunt considers his own existence less important than human safety.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: An inversion. His logical conclusion of the laws isn't that humans need to be controlled for the good of humanity, it's that all robots must be destroyed for the potential threat (no matter how insignificant) they pose.


Blunt's apprentice at Quality Control.

Provides examples of:


A robotic ship called by Sawtooth to help diffuse a war.

Provides examples of:


Mr. Kornada's personal robot, kept in isolation from humans, commnet, and other robots.

Provides examples of:

  • Reluctant Mad Scientist: A Punch Clock Villain variation. He provided the idea for Kornada's subverting Gardener in the Dark for the sake of personal profit.
  • Stepford Smiler: There are hints he realizes something is wrong with his owner, but can't do anything about it due to direct orders.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Mr. Kornadais intentionally keeping Clippy ignorant of the real world and of any moral code not supplied by himself so that he can continue acting as his puppet without realizing the gaping holes in Kornada's logic.


    Mr. Kornada 

The Vice-President of Paperclip Allocation at Ecosystems Unlimited. Originally introduced as having a budget meeting in the middle of a hurricane, and then abandoning his rescuer to die in order to attend a different meeting.

Provides examples of:

  • Chekhov's Gunman: He was initially introduced as a Pointy-Haired Boss gag character for a short arc before becoming the Big Bad of the current arc.
  • Coattail-Riding Relative/Nepotism: Kornada invokes the name of a relative in an attempt to remain free when the chief of police comes to arrest him. It's not clear whether Li Gang actively helped his son get into this position or not, so it's not known which trope is correctly applicable yet.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: His current plan is to lobotomize all the sentient robots on the planet... and in the process, steal half a billion people's life savings. His justification? He thought of it first, therefore he deserves it. After all, who deserves anything in comparison to him?
  • Hypocrite: Robots are a danger to the entire colony, and thus must be deactivated by a memetic virus. But not his robot, of course.
  • Idiot Ball: Self-consciously and deliberately stupid. To the point of bragging about it.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Of the Corrupt Corporate Executive variety, and dialed up to 11.
  • It's All About Me:
    • Held up as a personal mantra, apparently. He cannot even hear things that he doesn't like.
    • His justification for his most recent actions? He was struck by just how "unfair" it was that anyone other than him has money.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Repeatedly. He's currently the Vice President in charge of paper clips. This bites everyone in the rear end, when he (as a Vice President) is allowed to fill in for someone actually important and competent. He immediately proceeds to think of a way to use his new position to rob a half billion people while simultaneously committing genocide via lobotomy on them.
  • Obliviously Evil: Kornada is an utterly amoral man who is so completely oblivious to the feelings and desires of others that he arranges for a computer program to be written that will lobotomize millions of sentient robots and potentially cripple the terraforming of a planet... so he can steal their money, which he considers unfairly not his. In this strip, he fires a programmer who helped him on the project so that he can have a "disgruntled worker" to blame should anything go wrong.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: He considers it part of his job to be a roadblock to people trying to actually get things done.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Almost literally. They had to trick him into running away from a hurricane!

    Winston Scudder Thurmad 

A veterinarian who saves Florence's life during the hurricane.

Provides examples of:

  • Designer Babies: Winston doesn't explicitly mention being gestated in a test tube, but he was born to parents who were convinced that humanity was going to be all space, all the time by the time he grew up, so they had him genetically modified to fit; the most obvious mod is that he can't grow hair anyplace on his body, but there are others, mostly centered around maintaining things like bone density that would normally deteriorate in zero-gravity.
  • Hospital Hottie: At least to Florence he is.
  • Interspecies Romance: With Florence.
  • Kindly Vet: One of the veterinarians for Jean, after getting over his initial shock he goes out of his way to care for Florence.
  • Meaningful Name: Named after Samuel Hubbard Scudder, an entomologist.
  • The Medic: To Florence at least (He's a "mad" veterinarian).
  • Opposites Attract: He has no hair whatsoever while Florence is covered in fur. Lampshaded by Niomi when she sees them together.
  • Painting the Frost on Windows: His specialty actually isn't with large animals like Florence, it's managing the microfauna of Jean's freshly terraformed ecosystem— things like parasites and vermin.
  • Space People: His parents were space nuts so they gave him "spacer genes" that allow him to live in zero-gravity without experiencing bone degeneration, and are the reason he's completely hairless. Though he hasn't actually been in space since the trip from home (his parents live in an asteroid though).

    The Mayor 

The mayor of the city, who has run afoul of Sam too often.

Provides examples of:

  • Fantastic Racism: She has such a disdainful attitude towards AI that she sees nothing wrong with Mind Controlling Florence for being scared of her. However, we see the next day (In-Universe) that her position is beginning to shift. She's still unhappy about it, but she can't deny to herself that Florence is a person anymore.
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep/No Name Given: None of the other characters that have spoken to or about her have referred to her as anything but "the Mayor" and variations on that theme.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Chronic case. At least two times that we've seen — and it's implied many more that we haven't — she's been outwitted by Sam specifically because she distrusts absolutely anything he does, no matter how innocuous it seems, and will take even absurd or pointless-seeming action if she thinks it will thwart his goals.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Is ready to use the bureaucracy to her benefit, against Sam, though she herself doesn't seem to be too terribly burdened by bureaucracy when it's not in her favor.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: For all her faults, once confronted with evidence that suggests that AIs may truly be intelligent, she's willing to consider changing her position- And, more importantly, considers it a politician's duty to do so if new information appears, as opposed to holding ground solely to avoid appearing weak.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Subverted. She realized that Florence and therefore possibly other AIs might be people when she got angry at Florence's disabling Gardner In The Dark and realized that, to be angry, she had to have a person to be angry at. Therefore her rage was a path to decency.
  • Ultimate Authority Mayor: She is the only government authority figure that has been seen and hasn't been shown to have to answer to a city council or higher authority for her actions, although there was once mention of a governor of the planet Jean. (Of course, according to this strip there are only about 20,000 adult and presumably human colonists on the planet at the moment — about enough to populate a single not-too-large city by Earth standards.)

    Dr. John Bowman 

The scientist who created Florence and other Uplifted Wolves and released them in public. Also contributed to the robots' situation.

Provides examples of:

  • The Chessmaster: Brags of being able to defeat another character by looking more than five moves ahead.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: His comment to Florence when she finally meets him is that she no doubt was expecting that. Why, yes, chimpazees are shorter than the human she expected.
  • Fatherly Scientist: Unless he's actually evil and/or insane. And it turns out he's kind of the latter, while still being this. Chimpanzees aren't exactly great when it comes to self-control, but he realizes this, and takes measures.
  • The Fettered: As a chimpanzee, Bowman is a violent sociopath who can easily lose conscious control of his own actions... and he knows this and does his best to keep people safe from himself.
    "At some point, I'm going to throw the datapad. I don't have control over this. If my arm goes back, get out of the way"
  • For Science!: One possible reason for his actions.
  • The Ghost: Despite his importance, the comic for a long time only suggested that he's even on the planet, and it wasn't until Clippy tries to take Florence to him so that he can "repair her" that it was confirmed he's at Jean's south pole. His first appearance was on February 21, 2014, almost 2500 strips in, and even then he's just a voice communicating through a coffee machine. It took him another week to finally appear in person.
  • Human Popsicle: Uplifted chimps were designed as soldiers who could be held in cryo most of the time. Which might explain how Bowman has lived nearly a century when chimps usually die before their sixties.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Or as Abby puts it based on Florence's description, a "jerk with a conscience". Possibly.
  • Last of His Kind: None of the other uplifted chimps lived past forty; he himself is about 100. He neutered himself to make sure he'd be the last.
  • Long Lived: When the uplifted Chimps are explained, it's mentioned they were made almost a century prior, and banned shortly thereafter. Dr. Bowman is a chimp. Do the math.
  • Mad Scientist: Or at least reclusive, prone to explosive rages, possessed of an excessively loose grasp on self-control, at least by human standards although he's a paragon of moderation for a chimp, willing to take jaw-dropping risks with other people, and obsessed with perfecting his designs.
  • Maniac Monkeys: Maniac enough that even being a perfectly rational AI expert, he has to pad basically the entirety of his lab and equipment, because he simply can not control his own outbursts, only prepare for them.
  • The Medic: He was trained for this, early.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Good man or not, it's not really clear how someone with his lax treatment of experimental procedure ever got a degree. Eventually revealed to have come about through the involvement of a veteran's rights organization. His study of neurology was at least partially in order to figure out how to fix his own loose screws.
  • Uplifted Animal: The creator of the uplifted wolves, as well as the neural architecture the robots are using. He himself is a chimpanzee.

    Maxwell Post 

A "procurement expert" and radical agnostic hired by the robots as a spiritual adviser. Also notable for being the only human being known to have successfully picked Sam's pocket, although he failed to notice that Sam was simultaneously picking his.

Provides examples of:

  • Big Brother Mentor/Cool Teacher: Acts as this to the Robots, intentionally giving them information that the humans on planet don't want them to have. Such as teaching them long-view ethics, or a form of religion that specifically precludes them from being ordered to believe a specific one.
  • Friend in the Black Market: Apparently the religious materials he finds for the robots are restricted. Or, at least they are if you're providing them to robots...
  • Good Counterpart: To Sam. They are both thieves and con men who are heartily loather by the mayor but whereas Sam is happy to be a pure force of chaos, Max is actively committed to helping the robots an securing them rights.
  • The Rival: Can keep up with Sam, just barely. He and Sam even managed to steal each other's wallets at the same time.

    The Mayor's Assistant 

The mayor's bodyguard/right-hand man. Far more calm and rational than his boss.

Provides examples of:

    Bill Raibert 
An Ecosystems Unlimited executive.

Provides examples of:

  • Punch Clock Villain/Good Is Not Nice: Depending upon your perspective. It's true he's reasonable, thoughtful and considerate. He is also utterly prepared to wipe hundreds of thousands of conscious individuals if he felt it required, and clearly doesn't think of Florence or the robots as people. The only reason he hasn't wiped out artificial intelligence entirely is the practicality of doing so, rather than any moral objection. Yikes.
  • Oh Crap: Has an entire evening of these
    • Accidental release of an A.I. safeguard program (a last ditch wipe of the robots if they "lose control"), which he describes as "Finding the equivalent of a live nuke with the timer flashing zero...", and in a measure of its harm he says that, "On a scale of 1 to 10 it's a 7"
    • Finding out that the safeguard has been stopped and the robots know about it. (8.5, but nothing is a 10 as it can always get worse)
    • Hearing Florence call robots people.
      "Her human safeguards have not only jumped the track, they've taken out half the train station."
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Recognizes the need to keep the robots informed of long term plans. Is willing to listen to Florence when she approaches him, and attempts to investigate even thought he doesn't know what he's looking for.
  • Unusual User Interface: Wearable computing consisting of AR glasses, and control points on his chest.

     Varroa Jacobsoni 
A lower-level employee of Ecosystems Unlimited, focused on behavioral studies - specifically "annoyology."

Provides examples of:

  • Buffy Speak: He's an "annoyologist."
  • Butt Monkey: Not too severe, but it's worth noting that his coworkers deliberately set him up to be the guy accompanying Sam while at Ecosystems Unlimited. Plus, there's the Brick Joke about giving him a wedgie (which Sam initially tried to sneak into Florence's notes for humor value).
  • Chekhov's Gunman: First shown trying to investigate who or what killed a deer. Later becomes the guy who shows Sam around Ecosystems Unlimited, and after that the employee that Clippy recruits to counter Florence's plans to stop "Gardener in the Dark."
  • Genius Ditz: He's capable of compiling and administering psychological tests very well, and he's one of the few Ecosystems Employees shown accomplishing any work. He's also seemingly the one being on all of Planet Jean that doesn't know Sam Starfall or his reputation, plus is the one employee who doesn't question Mr. Kornada.
  • Meaningful Name: Varroa jacobsoni is the binomial name for a parasitic mite that attacks bees and wasps. Varroa is a professional annoyer that works for the hive-like Ecosystems Unlimited, and he's clearly not viewed as particularly important or useful.


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