Acquainted with Emergency Services: The Monday 7 December 1998 update has Sam Starfall phone emergency services when the flatbed he's driving goes airborne from a rocket motor. Sam says only, "Uhm, hello?" yet the operator instantly recognizes the voice, and asks, "What have you done now, Sam?"
Acrophobic Bird: Winston was genetically engineered to be perfectly adapted for space travel, but he's so terrified of space that he failed the aptitude test purely due to his stress levels.
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!"
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.
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.
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.
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. CueOh, 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.
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?
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.
In this comic strip, the building's alarm system calls security, the Army, the Navy, the interplanetary defense force, the girl scouts, the ladies' auxiliary knitting club, and the elementary school hall monitors.
In the second panel of this strip, the mayor threatens Sam as follows:
Max Post has an arrest warrant put out for him for hacking, unauthorized access to robotic operating systems, and jailbreaking a PS3.
Strangely averted here, with a baker listing insane theories of the possible danger of money offered by Sam. The unremarkable one is in the middle instead of at the end.
Baker: It's counterfeit! It's been licked by a cat! It's radioactive!
The Police Chief threatens to erase Sam's criminal record making him look like a model citizen. Sam considers this to be a serious threat to his reputation.
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.
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.
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.
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."
Badge Gag: The arctic base commander, Henri Mer, shows Florence his badge over videochat to give her a Direct Order. Unfortunately, the line he was using belongs to Dr. Bowman, a supergenius who A) likes getting his own way, and B) isn't above a joke at Henri's expense.
Bad is Good and Good is Bad: Sam Starfall is a member of a scavenger species that considers theft, deceit and underhanded methods to be admirable qualities. When Florence mentions she will have to hack into the commnet servers in order to save the robot population from a devastating software patch, he asks her to alter his criminal records... and add a few particularly interesting thefts of his the police have failed to notice. Also, Florence is coming to the horrifying realization that underhanded tactics, outright criminal acts and the support of some very selfish, rotten people (like Sam) is the only way to save the day because the moral and legal methods are blocked by the real villains, forcing her to say Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!.
Florence meets two of Sam's victims and offers to reimburse them before asking what he took from them. They tell her it was 50kg of diamonds — which is a relief, because, on this planet, diamonds are widely available due to artificial production, and practically worthless.
An impolite passerby grabs Florence's tail without asking, triggering an immediate retaliatory attack — from Florence's new friend Hazel.
When Florence goes to the arctic base to see Dr. Bowman, the security team at the compound tries to stop her from getting to him. As it turns out, the reason isn't worrying about what she'll do, but what might be done to her by Dr. Bowman.
Sam: Because you don't want to be known as the man who got Sam Starfall off the planet? Inspector: [on his tablet] (Inspection Results of Ship 1071-CCN. Pass.)
Heck, Sam's shown he's extremely skilled at using predictable reactions to his advantage. When others are discussing putting him in hibernation for a trip, he cites that it's technically a mutiny, but doesn't forbid it... instead pointing a hefty fee for doing so, noted in the agreement for the flight.
Niomi: Ha! Like I'm ever going to mutiny for this price.
Sam Starfall: Quick! Where's the nearest concentration of valuables that would easily fit into a pocket? Varroa Jacobsoni: Pharmaceutical storage on the second floor. Sam: I'll search there. You go that way!
The moment Mr. Kornada shows up at his court-mandated job at Cricket Burger, he outright refuses to learn to use the register and says he will not serve those who should be serving him. The manager then cheerfully hands him a bucket and a toilet brush. When Kornada turns his nose up at that, his parole officer advises him that the next alternative is a factory job working with chlorine trifluoride, a material so volatile that it sets water, sand, and asbestos on fire. Kornada meekly asks if the cleaning-the-toilets option is still available.
Kornada: What if that stuff gets on me? Manager: You will be very clean. Officer:And on fire.
Niomi ponders over some slogans beckoning humanity to become an inspiration to any alien races out there when she hears about the humans Sam admires - Bernie Madoff, Enron and the plundering of the Malaysia development fund, and how he feels the Sqids need to catch up with human thieves.
Because You Were Nice to Me: Winston and Florence mutually agree that the other is the nicest person they've met on the planet so far, which is one of the main foundations of their fast friendship and its rapid romantic evolution. Not to mention neither of them could easily find anyone else with enough patience and acceptance for their respective physical traits and fields of scientific specialisation.
"Begone" Bribe: Sam compares his assisting with the moon insertion to "a drunken clog dancer during Beethoven's second"
Sam: But with a suitable incentive, I think we can remain grounded. Florence: Sam, we don't want to be known for things like that. Sam: Are you sure? People pay good money for me not to do things. It's a reputation we can build on.
Bestiality Is Depraved: Referenced a few times as a major hurdle for Florence and Winston's relationship being accepted by people who would perceive them being together as this. Notable, because one of the main issues with real life bestiality is the fact that animals, domestic or wild, are incapable of giving consent, which is something Florence can do.
Blue-and-Orange Morality: A big part of the series is exploring how differently the various races involved think, especially when it comes to moral issues. Considering that all three of the main characters are not only not human but of three different races, this happens regularly.
Sam claims that kleptomania is a virtue among his people. That said, even among his people Sam is capable of getting into trouble. Witness that the reason he snuck onto a human ship: the royal family was after him due to a Noodle Incident involving a zeppelin, a loop-the-loop, and a lot of pudding.
According to Sam, his species' gods test them by letting them steal things from them, although they also use it to teach lessons. One sqid stole a plague from the gods, thus showing that if something is too easy to steal, the previous owner probably wanted to get rid of it and the would-be thief should find out why.
Florence, being a wolf, occasionally comes into this.
Winston: It's creepy. Florence: Creepy? This is twilight. Magic hour. Prime hunting time. Winston: I suppose creepiness depends a lot on whether you're predator or prey. Florence: Come on! There's a shortcut through a shadowy alley up here!
The robots of Jean get a few too. Being designed for labor, they consider being useful and productive to be among the highest of virtues, which often confuses the heck out of humans they interact with. There's also the occasional reminder that what robots consider advanced skills differs wildly from what biological lifeforms do.
Body Backup Drive: Discussed and deconstructed in relation to robots' minds. They can be backed up and downloaded into another body, but the main characters meet two robots who chose not to be backed up because from their perspective they're just as dead either way.
This strip explains why Florence isn't necessarily bound to follow every single directive given to her:
Florence: The surest way to cause your supervisor to fail is to follow his every order without question.
This may also be Foreshadowing Clippy, who does obey every order given more or less without question. (In fact, Kornada is taking great pains to keep him from realizing he should be asking questions, due to him trying to use Clippy in an evil scheme.)
The Savage Chicken's computer is so frustrated at how its attempts to insult Sam backfire that it prefers to delete the entire conversation from its memory than allow for the possibility it might think on it ever again.
Varroa mentions discovering a ballet company composed entirely of old terraforming robots. Much later, it's revealed that recurring characters Qwerty and Dvorak wrote the ballet they're practicing, called "Making Swan Lake". One of their other projects turns out to be the cyber rap group that Winston was long ago shown to be a fan of.
Bring My Brown Pants: Sam's driving a truck that had been tweaked by him with a JATO rocket scares himself so badly that this occurs, here.
Brown Note: Gardener in the Dark automatically downloads if robots see the name of the program, destroying all but their most basic functions and rendering them non-sapient. Florence cleverly manages to slow it down by reprogramming the universal Censor Box feature present in all robots to consider the word "Gardener" a swear word, making robots unable to perceive the phrase.
Burger Fool: For his crimes, Mr. Kornada is sentenced to do community service working an entry-level position in a burger joint. (Since it's Mr. Kornada, the bit about the job being supposed to teach a lesson about responsibility might be considered to apply.) Because the planet's terraforming hasn't progressed to large herbivores yet, the burgers are made from insect protein and the uniform includes a cute hat with antennae sticking out the top.
The Cameo: A bunch of them, including, during the robot church segment, cameos from real and fictional robots and other autonomous mechanisms. On occasion members of the Freefall forum are given nods. They can show up in unlikely places too. One strip shows a recycling dumpster with Robbie the Robot and an interocitor. Cameoing robots are always identified in the footnotes for reader convenience.
Can't Have Sex, Ever: The Police Chief warns Florence and Winston that if they ever reach a point in their relationship where they are willing to consummate it, they have to be sensible about it as the current colony law forbids a human to mingle with a non-human mammal. Ironically, this would not apply if Florence's mind (officially classified as an A.I.) was housed in a fully mechanical body.
Another lampshading is done with blatant in-universe censor boxes: Doctor Bowman programmed a fleet of maintenance bots to carry squares of black material through his containment facility, fooling the computers watching for him on the security cameras. Conveniently, Florence and the base commander startle them into running around right when they have to strip down for a shower. One is even carrying an actual lampshade.
Later turns into a major plot point - Florence manages to delay Gardener in the Dark by reprogramming the censor to include "Gardener" in its list of swear words, making robots unable to see or hear the deadly phrase.
One that has, as of 2020, remained unfired. When Florence went in for a medical checkup, part of the procedure was clearing her Direct Order memory using a special 'scent-based factory reset'. Sam later gave it to Florence and after storing it, it hasn't been seen since.
Sam (thinking): This alone was worth the price of admission.
The first uplifted species, chimpanzees, were mentioned in an offhand manner and described by Florence as being sociopaths, an appellation frequently applied to Doctor Bowman, who we later learn is an uplifted chimpanzee himself.
Cheshire Cat Grin: Florence's "human" smile is terrifying. She has to be very careful to hide her teeth when she wants to express genuine happiness... though she isn't above playing this one straight when she's not in a friendly mood.
Dr. Bowman deliberately manipulated the members of the AI project into not agreeing with each other on what safeguards were appropriate to hard-code into Jean's A.I.s, therefore ensuring that when the project ran out of time without a decision, his preference of having soft-coded safeguards would be the only option available.
Dr. Bowman: That's how the monkey who was excluded from the process wound up making the decisions.
Dr. Bowman is this in general. The commander of the base he's housed at muses that he hopes Bowman is ONLY thinking two steps ahead of them.
Color Blind Confusion: Florence, an Uplifted wolf, is color blind. It's initially implied to be an "all dogs are color blind" thing, but later it's explained as a side-effect of some improvements her designers made to other aspects of her eyesight.
Benny: Gear down, check. VOR, check. Red and green blinky lights, check. [Plane dips alarmingly close to airstrip, rudely jolting Winston and Florence awake] Benny: Passengers returned to the full upright position, check.
Sam, whenever Florence is trying to explain something about safety. Or ethics. Or... Well, most of the time, really.
One scene has Sam infiltrating a facility to rescue Florence, while she is suffering from temporary amnesia. The "security" program is... Less than helpful.
For starters, any visitor needs to be issued a badge, or they will be shot at. This includes emergency services. This is standard procedure and causes the live guards who man the entrance (and have to clean up after it) no small amount of stress.
When Mr. Kornada is on trial, the prosecutor ignores all of Blunt's attempts to change the focus of the trial towards the fact that Clippy made the actual plan and that Kornada isn't competent enough to be held responsible for his actions, instead choosing to stick with the actual charge that Mr. Kornada attempted to enrich himself at stockholder expense, saying 'eyes on the prize'. Mr. Kornada actually thinks being called 'the prize' means the trial is going well for him.
What Mr. Kornada ends up getting is a thousand days (eight-hour shifts) working at Cricket-Burger, but he has to get an "above average" rating on his shift for the day to count...
Because he has a grasp of Sam's Blue-and-Orange Morality, the police chief knows of one threat that, in the right circumstances, can push Sam into compliance: the possibility of completely wiping Sam's criminal record, making him look like a model citizen.
Corporate Conspiracy: It's less the goal of the entire Ecosystems Unlimited corporation and more the scheme of one bad apple, but still, Gardener In The Dark certainly qualifies: Mr. Kornada's plot to steal the money from planet Jean's robot population all 450 million of them through mass Lobotomy.
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.
Data Pad: So ubiquitous that most people don't use paper or plastic approximations. "Dataslabs" are available on racks for public use. It's justified since, due to the planet being in the latter stages of terraforming, biological materials such as wood (and by extension paper) are incredibly rare and expensive.
Deadly Upgrade: When the robots were given an experimental neural architecture, no one knew for sure if it would work correctly or be safe, so a failsafe patch was planned by EU to be available to prune robots' neural pathways to curtail independent actions if it appeared the robots were about to become a problem for humans. Mr. Kornada learned of this and had it altered to be much more damaging, basically making robots almost completely useless outside of one or two tasks. Given independent action by robots is part of the efforts to terraform and maintain the planet for habitation by a human populace that's nowhere near big enough to watch everything going on now that the number of robots has grown to over 450 million, the modified program is not just dangerous to the robots it targets, but is likely more dangerous to the human population than not using it in almost any circumstance.
Death World: Earth, by Sam's standards. Everything considers him edible, even the cows.
And when Niomi shows him an article about the Japanese spider crab, his response is - "3.7 meters from claw to claw. Smaller than in the movie. Large enough to make me very glad I am nowhere near your home world."
Description Cut: When Florence is watching the departure of the ship she arrived on:
Helix: Florence has been staring at the Asimov for a long time. She must be sad, knowing it's going to leave without her. I wonder what she's thinking right now? Florence:[thinks] I can not get over how much that ship looks like a giant push up popsicle.
Despair Event Horizon: The bot who was pre-loaded with the totality of humanity's greatest classical works and forced to be an amusement park mascot feels his life is this and is thus actually eager to be scrapped.
Edge: You are nuts. I can't imagine anything that would make me want to destroy myself. Jar-Jar Bot: Then imagine me, in full Jar Jar Binks costume, singing "It's a Small, Small World". Edge: Okay, that comes really close. I'm going to stop talking to you now.
Destination Defenestration: Sam occasionally gets thrown out of windows by people who aren't happy to see him, as demonstrated in this strip. Sam is used to this, and is actually offended when one of the companies throws him out through the open door instead of sacrificing a window, calling them cheap.
Destructive Savior: In Sam's retelling of the myth of the theft of fire, Mho, one of the three thieves, finally succeeds in stealing fire and deny Bob, the maker god, the chance of ever fully reclaiming it, by torching down his village.
While mistakenly believing that he is dead,Clippy observes that his programmers had accounted for the afterlife in his order hierarchy. Mr. Ishiguro was his highest recognized power, and Mr. Kornada immediately below him; when Ishiguro was reported dead, Kornada's orders took precedence, but if Clippy is dead as well, then Ishiguro's orders reclaim the highest priority.
Several prison guard robots are torn because an inmate made several beautiful chalk drawings the night before and they're afraid to ruin them by walking on them, but they also have a job to do and can't without walking on the drawings. They wonder if humans might have foreseen such a conundrum and created an answer for it. Cue the cleaning robots.
Driven to Suicide: In this comic an amusement park robot is desperate to get decommissioned after having to play Jar Jar Binks for nearly twenty years despite being programmed with the full works of Shakespeare.
Florence: [.02 millirems of radiation] is safer than driving across town with you. Helix: Florence, standing in a burning building while blind circus midgets throw knives at you is safer than driving across town with Sam.