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Literature / The Company Novels

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The Company sequence of novels and short fiction takes place in a Science Fiction universe created by Kage Baker. They involve Time Traveling agents in the employ of Dr. Zeus Inc., and the various political maneuvers and conspiracies surrounding them.

Dr. Zeus Inc., known to its employees simply as The Company, operates out of the 24th century, using time travel and specially engineered immortal cyborg operatives to collect and preserve artifacts from the past, ranging from pottery shards from Neanderthal times to entire species of plants and animals rendered extinct in the past. Since living things cannot (in theory) be safely sent forward in time, these items are kept safe in various underground bunkers to be "discovered" in the 24th century.

Novels in the main series

  • In The Garden of Iden (1997)
  • Sky Coyote (1999)
  • Mendoza in Hollywood (2000) (British title: And the Edge of the West)
  • The Graveyard Game (2001)
  • The Life of the World to Come (2004)
  • The Children of the Company (2005)
  • The Machine's Child (2006)
  • The Sons of Heaven (2007)

Collections, novellas published as chapbooks and novels outside of the main sequence

  • Black Projects, White Knights: The Company Dossiers (collection, 2002)
  • "The Angel in the Darkness" (limited edition chapbook, 2003)
  • Mother Ægypt and Other Stories (collection, 2004) (title story features the Company)
  • "Rude Mechanicals" (limited edition chapbook, 2007)
  • Gods and Pawns (collection, 2007)
  • "The Empress of Mars" (novella version, 2009)
  • The Women of Nell Gwynne's (collection, 2009)
  • Not Less Than Gods (novel, 2010)
  • "Nell Gwynne's Scarlet Spy" (novella, 2010)
  • The Empress of Mars (expansion of the novella of the same name, 2010)
  • "Nell Gwynne's at Land and at Sea" (novella left unfinished at Kage Baker's death and completed by her sister Kathleen Bartholomew, 2012)
  • In the Company of Thieves (collection, 2013)

The Company Novels contain examples of:

  • And I Must Scream: Since Immortals can't die, Dr. Zeus arranges this kind of fate for Immortals who Know Too Much or Have Outlived Their Usefulness. For gruesome example, in The Graveyard Game, Joseph finds out that his father figure Budu was hacked to pieces so he couldn't pull himself back together without help and then buried alive several centuries earlier. Budu is still alive when Joseph digs him up and reassembles him. Also in The Graveyard Game, Dr Zeus hands Lewis over to the Homo umbratilis to be vivisected. The possibility that this hasn't finally killed Lewis is not at all comforting to Lewis's friends.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Crome's Radiation. Described as a blue glow occurring around certain places and persons, this is supposedly the source of paranormal abilities in humans and cyborgs. Bonus points are awarded for it accumulating in quartz crystals.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Two examples which compensate for each other;
    • Time travel itself does horrible things to organic material, and that's before you factor in the Butterfly of Doom.
    • The Immortality Process only works on a tiny percentage of humans, and even then only if the subject receives it in infancy(one account says the Company has never even attempted to immortalize a subject who had lost even one milk tooth; another details how the immortalization of a ten-year-old Went Horribly Right), which is why it's only used on Company employees. A less effective (but more widely applicable) variation is marketed as geriatric medicine.
    • Combine the two, and you can loot the past very profitably thanks to immortal slaves taking The Slow Path back.
  • Battle Butler: Sir Henry Morgan is an artificial intelligence who acts as Alec's factotum from childhood on, whose primary directive is to protect Alec by any means necessary including physical violence.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Dr. Zeus either causes or directly profits by a number of major historical events.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: William Randolph Hearst was a genetically-engineered immortal cyborg.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Mendoza is a quiet botanist who keeps to herself (except for when her love life gets dramatic). Kill her boyfriend, however, and suddenly she's throwing human heads around.
  • Bilingual Backfire: When Mendoza and her boyfriend attempt to discreetly make out in a gondola while visiting Venice, the gondolier alters the lyrics of the love song that he is singing in idiomatic Venetian-dialect Italian to loudly comment on that situation, assuming that the couple won't understand. Mendoza knows exactly what the gondolier is saying about them and tells him what he can do with his pole.
  • Brain Uploading: The Company makes computerized copies of the minds of certain historical figures, including William Shakespeare, so that they can make artificially intelligent holograms of them to put on display in the 24th century. The scientists in charge of the Adonai project make computerised copies of Nicholas and Edward's minds to study. Alec steals the copies when he raids Dr. Zeus and accidentally downloads them into his own body.
  • The Caligula: Labienus ruled the city that would eventually become Jericho with an iron fist, using the population as slaves for the Company's profit and killing people on a whim for his own pleasure. He was one of the few who didn't see the Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal coming.
  • Childless Dystopia: England of the 24th century had its population greatly reduced by plagues and earthquakes. Despite this, the government maintains eugenicist controls over reproduction and encourages Puritanical attitudes towards sex with predictable effects on the birthrate.
  • Cloak and Dagger: Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax is a dashing undercover operative working for the Gentlemen's Speculative Society through a front organization called the Imperial Export Company (the similarity to Universal Export from James Bond being a completely intentional In-Universe Shout-Out.)
  • Combo Platter Powers: Company cyborgs are The Ageless, can heal From a Single Cell, have Super Strength and Super Speed, have modified brains that grant them Photographic Memory and the capacity to become Instant Experts, and are equipped with a variety of Super Senses.
  • Compelling Voice: Edward Alec and Nicholas too, since they're clones finds out that he has this ability in Not Less Than Gods, and how he woos women has something to do with this. He can even talk his boss into finding maraschino booze (which he hates) really tasty.
  • Contemporary Caveman: The Company made several neanderthals into immortals, and they serve admin roles (but because of their appearance, don't really go into the open much). Joseph, one of the main protagonists, is also a former caveman- in fact, his father was the artist who did some now famous cave art in Basque Country and got killed for it, and Joseph would have as well, had he not been rescued by the Company.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Any Company employee with a rank higher than Facilitator is complicit in the Company's extensive use of slave labor by people they acquired as young children just from the premise before they even get into any of the plot-relevant evil plots. Some of the Facilitators are pretty sleazy, too.
  • Courier: the guy is literally named this. He's brain-damaged and goes berserk if he spends the night in the same place twice, hence his job.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Labienus, the series' Big Bad, falls in love with a man at the beginning of Children of the Company, and later sleeps with one of his female co-conspirators.
  • The Ditherer: In The Graveyard Game, Joseph explicitly compares himself to Hamlet for taking so long to do anything about the Company's betrayal of his Family of Choice.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Company operatives have access to tranmissions from all parts of history... except after a specific date in 2355...
  • Evil Jesuit: Played around with in the case of Joseph. He spent a significant period as a Jesuit (and rescued Mendoza from the Inquisition in this role), and has the perfect personality for it, being a sly covert operative. However, he feels bad about having to do evil things while in this role (i.e. allowing many others to be sent to their deaths) and likes the occasions when he can play a heroic role.
  • The Heretic: Nicholas Harpole was a devout Protestant in the extremely Catholic Bloody Mary I's England and was accordingly burnt at the stake.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Labienus and a large group of other villains are taken down by a modified version of one of the diseases he created.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Lewis is initially hopeful to start a relationship with Mendoza, but realizes that he'll never be able to compete with Dead Nicholas.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Lewis wants Mendoza to be happy, and if that entails her living happily ever after with Edward, Nicholas and Alec, so be it. Victor wants Nan d'Araignee to be happy enough to help rescue her husband Kalugin from the watery grave Labienus put him in.
  • Idiot Savant: Most, if not all, of the people who designed the Company's technology. The homo umbratilis take this to extremes: the main class can produce technological marvels when commanded, but is totally incapable of original thought.
  • The Illuminati: Dr. Zeus, Inc. is described thusly in "The Hounds of Zeus":
    "[A] secret fraternity made up of scientists and businessmen, the secret fraternity for which all other so-called secret fraternities are merely decoys. Its members rule the world. They have unlimited power."
  • Immortal Procreation Clause: Dr. Zeus requires immortals to.have permanent contraceptive symbiote implants. Mendoza's implant is removed as part of the plan to allow Alec, Edward and Nicholas to have separate bodies again.
  • Mandatory Motherhood: Roger Checkerfield got a vasectomy, and his wife was similarly inclined to not have children. This didn't stop the Company from forcing them to adopt a kid, which they hated and avoided as much as possible. Part of the aversion is eventually revealed to be guilt over their complicity in Alec's kidnapping.
  • Mars Wants Chocolate: Chocolate is the one substance that can intoxicate the operatives. One novel refers to a character having a "dealer" in premium chocolate
  • Mayfly–December Romance: It's noted that Mendoza's relationships were going to turn out with the partner dead one way or another. She manages to get them back, though.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: The cyborgs in the Plague Club consider mortals to be pests to be exterminated.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Alec inadvertently gets so many people killed at one point that he tries to kill himself when he sees the result. Also, Dr. Zeus the AI relies on the threat of this to preserve himself after his period of omniscience comes to an end. It doesn't work.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: The text indicates that a 'coercive sex' scene in The Sons Of Heaven is definitely not rape because of the act itself was done tenderly.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Alec Checkerfield maintains a facade of being an Upper-Class Twit to avoid suspicion that he is both a Venturous Smuggler and a genetically modified organism.
  • Only One Name: Most of the older immortals pre-date the introduction of surnames to their cultures and thus don't have them. Their influence in immortal cyborg culture normalized the practice of using only one name.
  • Original Position Fallacy: Dr. Zeus scientists Rutherford, Chatterji, and Ellsworth-Howard consider the fates of historical people to be predetermined and thus think that it's all right to cause some of them to suffer and die to further their projects. None of the three scientists think about the fact that Dr. Zeus's historical record extends into their own future until after Dr. Zeus facilitates a terrorist attack for profit in their time.
  • Other Me Annoys Me: Nicholas, Edward and Alec are genetically identical clones brought up in three different centuries. Put into the position of sharing a body and their memories, they immediately hate one another out of Values Dissonance.
  • Pineal Weirdness: The hormone that makes the cyborgs eternally youthful is called "Pineal Tribrantine 3."
  • A Pirate 400 Years Too Late: Alec Checkerfield is a 24th century man obsessed with the aesthetic of the Golden Age of Piracy.
  • Plague Master: The Big Bad is trying to exterminate humanity through a series of devasting plagues.
  • Poisonous Person: Hendrick Karremans, the first publicly-known genetically-engineered child is widely believed to have the uncontrollable power to create and spread novel diseases after an unknown illness kills many of his classmates immediately following his first day of school. This belief leads to the murder of Hendrick and his adoptive parents (who are also the scientists who engineered him) and a ban on genetic engineering. The Company deliberately caused this in order to maintain their monopoly on genetic engineering. Victor, embedded as Hendrick's bodyguard, actually does involuntarily create and spread novel diseases at the Company's command, unbeknownst even to himself, and the incident gives him the information to finally figure that fact out, to his utter horror.
  • Shipper on Deck: Lewis ships Mendoza/Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax because He Wants His Beloved To Be Happy.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Not even the Company's inner cabal knows all its secrets.
  • The Slow Path: Back Way Back is a project where Immortals who are moderately inconvenient to Dr. Zeus's plans are sent 150 thousand years back in time to do manual labor while they return to the present the hard way. Mendoza is sent to a Back Way Back site after the events of Mendoza in Hollywood.
  • Steal It to Protect It: This is Dr. Zeus's initial justification for their use of time travel to collect mysteriously disappeared treasures from history. In the course of the stories, it becomes increasingly apparent that the original cause of many historical disappearances was theft (and in the case of people, kidnapping or murder) by Company operatives.
  • Super Mode: The cyborgs can go into a "fight mode," in which they sprout Wolverine Claws and long, sharp teeth, protective coverings slide over their eyes, and their skin turns bone white.
  • Time Abyss: Several of the Executives are tens of thousands of years old. The Enforcers are even older.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Pretty much all of the Executive-ranked cyborgs are plotting against the Company's human owners (who are plotting against them right back).
  • Villain Episode: The Children of the Company focuses on the Big Bad Labienus.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Alec and Nicholas do not react at all well to the knowledge that they and Mendoza are not technically human, to the irritation of Edward, who is stuck sharing a body with Alec and Nicholas and would gladly welcome the prospect of an immortal transhuman life with Mendoza.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Super?: The majority of Immortals can be divided between those who view Muggles as slaves to be ruled and those who view them as vermin to be wiped out. Those who actually like ordinary humans are few and far between.
  • Working for a Body Upgrade: The Company's immortal cyborgs are recruited at a young age (typically in a precarious situation) and offered rescue from the immediate crisis as well as immortality and a future place in a utopian project. Mrs. Corvey in the Nell Gwynne stories is also technically a cyborg and likewise was recruited via body upgrade. She lost her eyesight as a child laborer and was found by the Company's front organization the Gentleman's Speculative Society. In exchange for working for them, they gave her a better life, cured her syphilis, and replaced her nonfunctional eyes with Electronic Eyes that not only allow her to see perfectly, but also have telescopes and night vision built in.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Several of the cyborgs try very hard to end their immortality. One of them tries to disintegrate themself by standing at ground zero of a nuclear bomb blast. It doesn't work.