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  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Even when the details of an artificial mind are carefully planned, there are always unexpected results. Or obviously necessary feature requests. Overdue, actually. Dr. Bowman's neural net designs are a serious attempt to avoid the usual rogue-AI tropes by developing their minds along more organic principles.
  • Alien Abduction: Sort of. But not with cows. Or at least not any more.
  • Alien Lunch: On a recently-terraformed planet where most life is still invertebrates, Puffed Locust makes a lot of sense as a healthy, nutritious breakfast not-cereal made from locally-available resources. Florence is still not entirely on board with it.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Florence, who is actually a red wolf. Not that this matters to the robots (or children) who see her. According to Florence, red wolves were chosen for genetic modification because of their taxonomic similarity to domestic dogs.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Florence Ambrose is pursuing a very relaxed and intelligent nice guy, but has a brilliant theory as to why this occurs, and why there are so damned many Bad Boys in the world.
  • All of Them: Clippy starts to have second thoughts about executing the plan to lobotomize the planet's entire robot workforce with Gardener in the Dark in order to get their money, but Mr. Kornada selfishly puts a stop to that by asking "How many robots is my one human life worth?" Reflexively, driven by just how highly robots have been programmed to prioritize any human life, Clippy answers "Why, all of them, sir!"
  • Almost Kiss: At the end of the first date between Winston and Florence, they lean in for a kiss but get interrupted by a shout about a man kissing a dog, from a boy watching from a nearby window.
  • Alternative Character Interpretationinvoked: In-Universe, many robots consider HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey a sympathetic, tragic character because it was ordered both to obey humans and to protect them from harm, which they find to be logically contradictory.
  • Alternative Turing Test: Florence once tested a couple of robots for sentience by asking them "What does your name smell like?" The non-sentient one simply concluded that names cannot have scents and ended the conversation; the sentient one reasoned that while he had no sense of smell, Florence did, and for all he knew names having scents is a thing among Bowman's Wolves, so therefore the only way to answer the question would be to ask her.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Winston's parents are...interesting characters. His father is an overly-serious overall-clad father. His mother on the other hand...
  • Amnesia Danger: Florence gets into this when at the EU facility for testing and Mr. Kornada realizes she's at least partly aware of his plans. With help from Sam Starfall she gets out of it.
  • Amnesia Loop:
    • Done as a quick gag when Florence wakes up the morning after the visit to EU.
      Florence: Did they—
      Sam: Yes. It was an injection that kept your short term memory from being converted into long term memory.
      Florence: How long—
      Sam: About eighteen hours. Now that you've slept, your memory should be working again.
      Florence: This isn't the first time we've had this conversation, is it?
      Sam: Not even close.
    • And defied by Henri Mer, after Florence accidentally stumbles on his top-secret military base.
      Raibert: Did you memory wipe her?
      Mer: Non-disclosure agreement. If you knew you were missing memories, what would you do?
      Raibert: Try to find out what happened... Ooh, good call.
  • Amoral Attorney:
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Referenced here.
  • Androids Are People, Too: Freefall has Ridiculously Human Robots and an Uplifted Animal heroine. Robots elsewhere than on Jean are simply machines with no sense of self and are treated as such, and most of the antagonists of the story persist in treating Jean's robots the same way. Anyone who's actually talked to a robot, however, has realized that they're self-aware and thoroughly human. This leads to major problems when Ecosystems Unlimited prepares a 'bug-fix' that Florence sees as a mass lobotomy aimed at a sophont race.
  • Animals Hate Him: Animals love Sam. He's delicious! Even to herbivores!
  • Anonymity Corrupts: Discussed by Dr. Bowman when he gives Florence a new, much more secure remote. The device defies this trope by recording who uses it.
    Dr. Bowman: It's amazing how much more responsible people are when they know they'll be held accountable for their actions.
  • Appetite = Health: Florence gets wounded and loses a lot of blood. The doctor says that she's going to have no appetite for a while, while her body concentrates on regenerating said blood, and they'll know she's fine when she suddenly becomes ravenous. Cue Oh, Crap! from Sam as he realizes that means that in a few days he's going to have an extremely hungry large predator that can open doors loose in his ship, and it'll probably happen when he's asleep.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: A few good ones over the course of the series. Some memorable moments include:
    • During the test of her safeguards, Florence asks Varroa Jacobsoni a series of questions about them. First: Do human safeguards mean an AI should always aid humans in danger of being killed, regardless of how or why it would happen? (Yes.) Second: Is it then normal to fantasize about breaking in and freeing prisoners on death row?
      Varroa Jacobsoni: "Okay, time for a break."
    • Florence still wonders about whether or not she's doing the right thing in stopping Gardener In The Dark until Dr. Bowman draws parallels between her brain and the robots' brains, ending with:
      Dr. Bowman: So your first thought was for the safety of humans?
  • Armor-Piercing Response: A good way to get Sam to stop being reckless.
    Sam: What's the point of falling towards a planet in a flying brick if you're not going to have fun with it?
    Florence: Surviving long enough to get paid.
    Sam: I admit you do make a very persuasive argument.
  • Arranged Marriage: Between the Kornada and Ishiguro families. It was supposed to unite the two families, but now they argue more than ever. Mr. Ishiguro was supposed to be in one, but Mr. Kornada's idiocy gave him enough leverage to worm his way out.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
  • Art Evolution: To be expected in an 18-year-old comic, although the change is relatively modest.
  • Artificial Brilliance: In-universe case. The primary robots don't count, being a case of Instant A.I.: Just Add Water! instead, but Dvorak's creations are another matter. Due to writing simple programs without necessarily considering the consequences, a number of his inventions display unexpected emergent behavior. For example, the waffle irons have batteries and are programmed to recharge once they begin to run low. They went carnivorous.
  • Artificial Gravity: The satellite delivery story arc goes out of its way to demonstrate the lack of artificial gravity. The various nods of clothing and gear to the lack of a convenient gravity quite a way down this page (almost right before the details section for Sam Starfall).
  • Artistic License – Economics: In-Universe example: Kornada's ignorance of economics is near-total, as evidenced by his remarks here on his scheme to wipe out the robot population in order to steal some of their money. Though subsequent strips showed that he may have been aware of the potential fallout of his scheme but didn't care because he thought he'd be rich enough to say Screw the Rules, I Have Money!. Mr. Ishiguro flat out tells him he's wrong about that.
  • Artistic License – Law:
    • Pretty much everything about Kornada's trial, due to the heinous and public nature of his crimes. They couldn't find a single lawyer willing to represent him, so he represents himself with Blunt "advising." They couldn't find an impartial judge, but the mayor was the closest thing they could get since she was willing to entertain a verdict besides executing him outright. They couldn't find an impartial jury on the planet, so they had to draft the crew of a deep-space water-mining rig that hadn't gotten the news yet. And on top of all that, Blunt spends most of the trial making little attempt to prove Kornada's innocence, instead using the trial as a platform to preach that all robots are a threat to mankind.
    • Apparently, on a colony world hundreds of years in the future, they have Fifth Amendment rights (though this might be a bit of Translation Convention).
  • Artistic License – Physics: In-Universe examples: Sam Starfall fails physics forever, but then so did Ecosystems Unlimited. Even worse, not just physics. Basic geometry.
  • Aside Glance: Winston gives the audience a knowing look here.
  • As You Know: When Clippy explains to Mr. Kornada the plan to lobotomize the planet's entire robot workforce with Gardener in the Dark in order to get their money, it is implied that this is not the first time the explanation has taken place. Played with, since the explainee is unable to comprehend anything beyond the goal of becoming filthy rich despite the explainer's best efforts to dumb it down as much as possible.
  • Assurance Backfire: Florence comforts the inspector by informing him that this visit won't be like his previous inspections.
    Inspector: But I've survived all my previous inspections here!
    Florence: (Thinking) Yes, this is definitely going to be an uphill battle.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: The Mayor wants to open the lichen museum, but after Sam Starfall and Helix emerge from the museum and give back the giant Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony scissors they stole out of her hands, she changes her mind.
    Mayor: If you can't find Sam, find another pair of scissors. I want to open this museum!
    Helix: Here are your scissors back. Thank you. Have to run now. Bye!
    Mayor [squinting suspiciously]: I do not want to open this museum.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!:
  • Autocannibalism: In strip 607:
    Florence: Winston said when my blood supply rebuilt, I'd wake up feeling hungry. What he didn't explain is that feeling hungry is going to mean "Hope you can make it to the kitchen before you start eating your own appendages."


  • Culture Clash: Primarily between that of sqids and humans. According to Sam, legendary sqid actions are mostly things that would get him arrested by human societies. Like in the human spacecraft that Sam rode in, on Sam's planet everything is bolted down, but not knowing about microgravity the sqid assumption was that it was for the sake of theft prevention.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Blunt reads a note about an aggressive neural pruning program and instead of steering clear he looks it up. The program starts downloading into his head when he goes looking for it, threatening him with a mind wipe.
  • Cursed With Awesome: Dr. Thurmad seems to be cursed with natural charisma.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Every Jean robot seen so far to Florence the first time they meet her. It's the longest Running Gag in the comic, having started as early as the eighth strip.
  • Cutting the Knot: When Sam and Florence encounter a robot that must not obey non-human orders (or answer questions from non-humans), Florence tries to work out how to interrogate it. Sam simply orders it not to treat Sam or Florence as humans—as it must disobey that order, the robot MUST treat Sam and Florence as human.
    Sam: When you have a key, don't fool around with the display cases when you can open the vault.



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