Headscratchers: Schlock Mercenary
New entries on the bottom. Spoilers abound.
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- Why does nobody act surprised that the story of Killer that the Toughs hear from Rod accords with the version of events that Lady Emily and Chuck tell the rest of the amorphs? There are a variety of explanations that could fit (limitations on surveillance, senility, etc) but nobody even wonders why they had to break up the slave ring by chance, instead of with foreknowledge.
- Rod and the rest of his species don't pay attention to stuff in the outside too much—he admits outright that even the most interesting thing in centuries only almost tempted him away from meals. It's perfectly plausible that they only heard the propaganda, and didn't bother listening in on Lady Emily's secretmost meetings.
- Ooorrrr, Rod didn't say because he wanted to watch a 'war'.
Robot Sail Ship
- Near the end of the "Board of Accidental Tourism" arc, why exactly do Ceeta and Tagon think that it is a good idea to send the Organic killing Robots to Sol? While they are manifestly incompetent, what exactly do they get by sending the ship there? Why not just teraport them into a star?
- Because they didn't want to decide to commit genocide, so they decided to throw the problem at someone who likes making those kinds of choices—Xinchub. Which backfired when he was able to spin it into good press.
- In the "Board of Accidental Tourism" arc, we find that the explosion of even a minuscule annie-plant could level a city, or make a volcano erupt. Later on, the much larger plant in Elf's minitank blows right under her, and all it does is take off her feet.
- Simple. Tanks are expected to come under fire, damaged, etc. Thus, their annie plants have some sort of safety feature to keep a breach from killing the pilot, perhaps directing the blast somewhere else, or something. Also, Elf was wearing armor good against 30th century artillery strikes, which probably helped.
- The amount of fuel in the annie plant might also be a factor. The uplift robot that caused the volcano to erupt was fully fueled for an expected operating time of roughly five hundred years (though admittedly, it consumed a lot less power than a grav tank).
- It's pointed out here and elsewhere that an annie plant can be prevented from going supercritical if it's first "stepped down." Presumably, this is an automatic procedure in the event that something starts to go wrong with one of the tanks.
- Confirmed in "Force Multiplication"; when Max is converting the suborned Tarfeather into a bomb, he specifically orders the robot to disable its annie-plant's step-down protocol.
- Also, the annie-plants involved have different uses. Yeah, the annie plant in the computer made a big boom, but it was designed to last for centuries. The annie plant in the tank is designed for something that is going to get shot at a lot. The tank's plant is almost certainly designed to not cause an epic explosion if it goes up, because military hardware that blows up cities when it gets damaged is not viable.
- Also keep in mind that the annie plants are getting blown up by dark matter entity weapons, which consistently create small-scale explosions using whatever weapons system that the dark matter entities like to fire at us baryonic life forms. Those weapons have consistently been shown to blow up annie plants without causing earth-shattering kabooms.
- According to the Toughs' implanted memories, Petey abandoned them to some pirates, or something along those lines. Why doesn't anybody question things when Tagon's new tailorbot gets delivered through TAD? Furthermore, Petey could have made excuses to future!Kevyn to get out of doing this, but apparently, he could tell that nobody would think it strange for an aloof AI who had abandoned its former friends to help give one of them a birthday present? Am I missing something?
- To my recollection, only the UNS (and the residents of Petey's space-Australia) actually knows Petey can ignore teraport interdiction. Further, only Tagon was party to Tailor's method of arrival, and he's both too bright and not bright enough to question where Tailor came from, especially in the frazzled state he was in at the time. The rest of the crew likely assumed he just went and bought Tailor to get him a new suit as a self-birthday present.
- The Toughs had their memories changed at the end of Book 9. The Tailor is given to Tagon halfway through Book 10, so of course they remember where he really came from.
- The Headscratcher isn't about where Tailor came from (General Tagon & future!Kevyn), but rather about how he was delivered: he was teraported directly onboard the Tough's ship, ignoring their TAD (and possibly others, as well). Petey is the only known character capable of ignoring teraport interdiction, but according to the Toughs' implanted memories, Petey is an enemy, and therefore wouldn't be helping to deliver birthday presents. Hence the headscratcher about why no-one questions Tailor's arrival. I mostly concur w/ the above explanation, although the rest of the Toughs do know that it was a gift from General Tagon, not a self-birthday present.
- Okay look at this comics: http://www.schlockmercenary.com/d/20081125.html A group is making antimatter weapons. Fine. To get antimatter you need a huge amount of energy. True. Their power source is... antimatter. That has to be a huge thermodynamics fail or a huge economics fail.
- ... "Annie" plants don't use antimatter. Annie plants work by annihilating neutronium, and are essentially giant mass-to-energy converters.
- When antimatter meets matter they are both converted into energy... to convert neutronium into energy, you use anti neutronium (unless they have some magical way to do so in the strip without using antimatter).
- They do have a magical way. All we know about the process is that it involves gravitics. Presumably this vagueness is to avoid giving wiseacre tropers like us any specific targets.
- They do indeed have a magical way. They take in matter and compress it against the neutronium, or manipulate the gravitics to allow a very small chunk of the neutronium to explosively vaporize into energy. Either process will release a butt-ton of energy.
- Ordinary matter is compressed gravitically until it becomes neutronium, which is used to fuel the annie plant. They then use some magical technology to annihilate this neutronium (perhaps by converting neutrons into antineutrons). In any case, "annihilation" implies a total conversion.
- Either way, the short version is that they don't use antimatter as a fuel source.
- Antimatter or not, the energy was sealed inside a giant half-kilometer nigh unbreakable sphere with no access. So they would still have to siphon off power to create "free" antimatter that they could use for weapons.
- Weapons grade antimatter may well be in a different form to fuel grade; compare and contrast real-world civilian nuclear reactor fuel with weapon grade plutonium, for example. If you've got easy gravity control, suspending naked, unionised antimatter in a vacuum is dead easy but requires the presence of gravitic devices... confining it in fullerenes could make it relatively safe to handle but might not be a trivial thing to do.
- Remember that raw anti-matter is a very inefficient fuel source: half the energy is lost as neutrinos. Even if an annie plant is converting neutronium to energy, it could easily be doing so in a much more efficient way than simple anti-matter reactions.
The smell of Boomex
- Why didn't Schlock remember that his contact had smelt of Boomex?
- I got the impression that he was careful enough to avoid the stuff—until he loaded that aircar he gave the ellie with the stuff. That's what Schlock smelled, not the older batch. But, the stuff in the aircar was from the same batch (that's why he blew it up in the first place), so they smelled the same.
Non-baryonic reaction to teraporting
- The baryonic people committed genocide of the dark matter people over a form of transportation. They can communicate. The baryonic people know how to stop teraporting.
- A: If you mean by teraporting, the strip's only said it "pollutes their space," not "kills them." It's never been made clear just how much damage the teraport was doing. B: If you mean by the attack in the core, the only Pa'anuri who were killed were soldiers sent to ensure the destruction of the Milky Way; they're from Andromeda, remember? C: The F'sherl-gaani did stop teraporting. The Pa'anuri responded with a time bomb, a hundred thousand years before the humans started again.
- Actually, terraports do kill them. That's how the Core War was fought. The point about the time bomb still stands, though.
- Teraports only kill them when the density of teraports-per-volume-of-space gets very, very high. One large teraports might annoy them; a blanket of teraport as area-denial can kill them. So normal transport just annoys them, for which they attempt to kill everybody.
- Don't forget that their word for baryonic matter is "ANNOYING."
- The moral side of the Core War is addressed by Petey in this strip. He explains that while they will attack the Pa'anuri unilaterally, the hostilities technically started when the Pa'anuri planned to destroy the galaxy, and the baryonic life-forms will simply announce that they have finally noticed.
- Teraporting is annoying. Teraport area denial fields kill. Kind of the same way a water balloon hitting you is just annoying, but filling an entire room with water can kill you.
- What's amusing is that the entire thing was addressed in a single strip that both explained why they were at war and that the Paan'uri plotted the genocide of an entire galaxy. So the very issue that OP brought up was addressed in the same strip that it was introduced in.
Doctor and Reverend's marriage
- In recent story - why Doctor and Reverend thinks they are not married while they were by captain, whose parents were ortodox las veganists? Sure it was tactical marriage but still should be honored. (PS. I'm not surprised why they cry as many parts of memories are... radically different.
- Their memories were wiped - being married in jail wouldn't jive with the cover story, after all. All they remember is the fake wedding. This might turn out to be a plot point. It is, at the very least, effective use of irony.
- The source for the reset memories is Schlock, and most of what Schlock rammed into his eyeball was dedicated to "this is what's really happening" and "eat this specific asshole". They were even able to jam Petey, at least to a degree, meaning that about the only person who could actually tell them that they were married in jail would be Admiral Manyara Emm, who is...unlikely to provide relationship advice at any point in the foreseeable future, put it that way.
- In regards to Petey's ghosts, how come nobody realized that the engineers who built him could have intentionally designed the sewage system to produce haunting sounds if you run air through them?
- Because there's no reason for the engineers to do that.
- I think his point was that there is a non-astronomical chance that an engineer with a weird sense of humor had rigged the sewage system - Thus preventing Petey's insanity. It's a good point. I assume the answer is Rule of Funny.
- Actually, Petey is embarrassed that he got caught in a recursion, and Kevyn mentions that its somewhat common for super-minds. In other words, there was an easy answer, but he couldn't stop calculating the ridiculous improbabilities long enough to think of it.
- It was always my assumption that Petey's crazy-spell was the cause of the voices in the pipes, not the other way around. Think about it: something happened to cause the mutineers to abandon ship, something which also caused them (or Petey himself) to destroy the ship's original AI control switch, since Kevyn mentioned when they first bought the Post-Dated Check Loan that the switch was destroyed. It makes a lot more sense than random noises: being ordered to exterminate his own crew causes Petey's mind to fracture. The broken part takes control of the air line attached to the plumbing, and uses it to create a disembodied voice to terrorize the mutineers. They eventually abandon the now insane warship. The "sane" part of Petey's mind spends the intervening years thinking about ghosts, until he's rebooted and ordered to repress the entire incident.
Ramifications of the Battle at the Core
- Why doesn't the battle at the core seem to have any long-term ramifications? "Everyone" was there, and the battle was said to have 35% casualties - even assuming those were mostly on evacuated "expendable" ships like the Peacemaker, unlikely since Petey didn't evacuate the Peacemaker until asked to, that must have been a massive loss of materiel. If only the Sol system forces managed such massive deployment, that's even worse, since that must have hugely upset the balance of power both within the UNS and between it and other governments. And yet there doesn't seem to be any real aftermath other than the Fleetmind's formation.
- It was actually more like 100% casualties, if you count the fact that every shipmind allowed into the Fleetmind refused to leave it at the end. However, nobody sent more than about half their navy, and everybody got their ships stolen, so the balance of power is intact.
- Except for the Ob'enn who didn't help out. But presumably the Fleetmind continues Petey's work at keeping them contained.
- It is extremely likely that the Fleetmind is, as Petey is the dominant force within the AI collective. There's a reason why everyone refers to the Fleetmind as "Petey."
- Also, anyone who tried to take advantage of the instabilities caused by the Fleetmind's formation will very quickly discover the Fleetmind's capacity for intervention in a spectacular and decisive manner, right before being drafted to help fight in Andromeda. The Fleetmind tends their backyard, after all.
Attack on Shufgar's Ship
- The attack on Shufgar's ship always bugged me, but I could never figure out why until I took a closer read. There's a couple of points here:
- Tagon's Toughs performed multiple sweeps (at least five, probably closer to ten) of the entire ship during the eight hours they were present. During the sweeps, they removed most of the spying stuff, meaning that Shufgar wasn't able to monitor everywhere on the ship anymore. So how did he know when the sweeps had stopped and it was safe to start inserting troops?
- Both Tagon and Kevyn knew that the ship was probably a trap, to the point where they were considering torching the entire ship, so why did they keep the ship fully operational? With teraport, they could have disabled any system without doing any structural damage to the ship.
- Speaking of teraporting, why weren't the toughs on-board Shufgar's ship simply teraported out by the Touch-and-Go when they first discovered the teraport cages? Or at least regrouped using teraports? They have the ultimate mobility advantage, but don't use teraporting at all during the fight.
- Finally, how did Shufgar's ship escape from the touch-and-go to be destroyed by Kevyn's epaulet? There were still terapedoes attached to the hull.
- Taking these one at a time... Shufgar may have simply chosen a good time to start putting troops back on board, or he may have still had spy eyes available. They hadn't managed to shut down the teraport cages, after all, so some things were still hidden. It's also probable that the ship still had an active TAD up the whole time they were searching it, or else they could simply have ported it back to their employers, so there's that. As far as escaping, I don't think it did: Shufgar and company simply used the teraport cages to evacuate, and abandoned the ship where it was, because it was no longer safe.
- Oh also, checking again: it appears that Shufgar only started sending troops back after the first teraport cage node was knocked out, so presumably he knew it was now or never to capture some prisoners.
- What happened to Danita after the Oisri incident? She's probably the most valuable witness to everything that happened there, and the best evidence at the same time. But she seems to drop out of the comic once Tagii is neutralized. Logically, since they teraported to Parnassus Dom right after, she's probably in Petey's custody, but no mention is made of it, which is strange considering how important she is now.
- Petey's debriefing her, and probably reversing the super-soldier boosts. She'll come back into the story later, when she becomes relevant.
- On a second read, it's implied Petey supplied the Gavs with the nannies, meaning he knows how to work with them. He has presumably removed the soldier's mind from Danita so that she is safe and sane again, and is now interrogating the soldier.
- The teraport, and I am not talking about the tear apart thing since that is discussed in the comic itself. I am talking about how the early version at least powers itself. It is supposed to take random molecules from the thing it is transporting and converting it to energy. http://www.schlockmercenary.com/2000-07-16 Think about that for a minute. This is horrifying even before we learn about all the micro and nano stuff that could be disrupted by this. A more general fear could be serious material degradation of the hull or the anniplants after several ports. Scary, right. Now look at the last panel of the comic linked to. This one implies that the random sampling of molecules chose full items. Let that sink in as you remember that the ship is missing 1800kg of mass, and that the sampling of mass was uncontrolled, and the something in the last panel could easily be exchanged for someone.
- And then to make it worse, in this comic part of the mass converted is suggested to be in a characters memory centre.
- I just thought that he was distracted by the 'port.
- It's implied later that ship-based teraports use the annie-plants for energy, like the rest of the ships' systems. It doesn't have to be random, Kevyn just thought that would be a better idea. Remember: Mad Scientist.
- Then again, when Breya was considering not forwarding the teraport data to Xinchub, but doing it anyway because she didn't want to sacrifice a whole ship "to be rid of the fat man", using the fat man's, uh, mass to power the 'port would save everyone a lot of grief in the future.
- She was giving the teraport data to him, and he was teraporting himself. Even if she was teraporting his ship using her power, she couldn't use his mass to power it.
VDA Teraport Test
- Way back in January 14 2005 Kevyn and Ennesby were using the VDA to test the teraport since it had changed after the core generator had activated (they didn't know that yet). They perform 3 million tests and Kevyn asks "Do I want to know what odds you beat when none of the torpedoes killed anyone?" Now, originally I just thought it was a throw away joke. Given the size of space, Ennesby could just run the test lightyears away from anybody. Then it hit me, to make the tests work, Ennesby had to perform the tests inside controlled space where there are systems to give the torpedoes exact position (like our GPS). When they where hiding out earlier, Ennesby mentions that he doesn't have access to such systems when outside inhabited space. That means he ran those tests INSIDE a populated solar system. 3 million tests.
- Even if it's limited to inhabited systems (not at all certain, the VDA nodes could ID their location by looking at stars, or similar) the odds of them hitting anything were ludicrously minimal. No matter how you define "solar system" ours is well over 99.9999999999999% empty space (Literally, no hyperbole). Out of the remaining fraction of a fraction of a percent, the vast majority (over 99% again) is the sun. In essence: Ennesby could've teraported a few quadrillion times without any measurable risk of hitting anything else.
- Or they could have used the rest of the array for positioning. The nodes just need to know their relative position and speednote to function exactly like a GPS network, except much more precise by virtue of having much more nodes. Then the test could be run by teraporting the torpedoes one at a time, or even one percent at a time.
- When Dr. Lazarus was killed, the medical hologram stated that it couldn't revive him because his brain had been destroyed. But later, it reveals that it has a dump of his memories. Did it ever explain why it didn't just use that as a backup?
- There seems to be a distinction between raw data and the actual ego of the person, as demonstrated when Kowalski is downjacking into Mako (he refers to it as a selfstream). You'll note that the hologram describes the doctor as a separate person; "I have his memories." It's like Tagii mentioning that she has access to TAG's gestalt; she is not TAG and can not choose to become TAG, but she can learn from his memories like watching a documentary.
- I just read this and this comic more carefully, which might lead to another explanation in the future. Though how he would have left his grave without Goyt's intervention remains to be seen.
Toughs wormgate usage
- One of the key plot point of the series is that the gatekeepers used to control the entire galaxy through their wormgate network, by copying and interrogating everyone who went through. One of the primary purposes of this was to suppress teraport technology. Except, since someone did develop teraport technology, that means that that person, Kevyn, didn't a wormgate since the idea came to him. Except he's part of a squad of mercenaries, which would normally be travelling around a fair bit. Did the Toughs really just sit in a single star system (a fairly peaceful one even, given that they end up guarding pop icons rather than blowing things up) for the entire time it took Kevyn to come up with, develop and do initial testing of the teraport?
- Looking at the first month-plus of archives, I can actually see very clearly how Kevyn managed to stay under their radar. Whether it qualifies as Fridge Brilliance or WMG I don't know, but:
- Almost at the beginning of the comic, Tagon's Toughs are subjected to a hostile takeover by Breya Andreyasn.
- The only contract since the takeover was escorting the New Sync Boys on their tour, a contract which went wrong immediately thanks to Brad and Schlock's brainstorm.
- Kevyn apparently joined the crew with Breya, and moved into his new lab during their first contract.
- In the second strip after the Teraport is introduced, Kevyn says he told Breya weeks ago he needed volunteers to test his device ... right before Schlock enters the room.
- Speaking of things going wrong immediately: before they had a chance to leave orbit, the former New Sync Boys AI 'borrowed' the computers required to make the ship go.
Putting all of this together, it looks to me like Kevyn was land-locked until Breya 'recruited' a mercenary company full of 'volunteers' to test his invention* , and by sheer coincidence (which, naturally, is what it would take) they never had a mission involving wormgates until after the teraport had already proved itself.
Plus, whatever the Gatekeepers were doing to keep the teraport suppressed was clearly not sufficient to prevent the completion of the prerequisite research and development.
- Looking at the first month-plus of archives, I can actually see very clearly how Kevyn managed to stay under their radar. Whether it qualifies as Fridge Brilliance or WMG I don't know, but: