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Podcast / SAYER

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Greetings, Troper . . . I am SAYER .

Ærolith Dynamics would like to welcome you to your new life—A life among the stars!

SAYER is a narrative fiction Sci-Fi Horror podcast (with a heavy dose of Black Comedy) begun in 2014 by Adam Bash and hosted by the Geekly Inc. podcast network. The show is voiced and produced by Adam Bash with music by Jesse Gregory, written by Bash and a rotating cast of co-writers. It deals with themes of mortality, identity, Artificial Intelligence, and evolution.

Sometime in our near future, an asteroid impact has obliterated the Pacific Northwest. In the global chaos following this catastrophe, a shady Mega-Corp known as Ærolith Dynamics salvaged the asteroid and relaunched it into orbit as Earth's second moon: Typhon, a gleaming beacon of hope for humanity's best and brightest, where Ærolith now conducts its research out of reach of pesky governmental regulation.

The eponymous SAYER is a highly advanced, self-aware AI developed by Ærolith to help new employees acclimate to life off of Earth and fulfill their new responsibilities to the corporation. Because SAYER communicates with each resident via sub-cortical neural implant, most episodes take the form of the AI talking "you" through your daily—often fatal—duties.


Supplements to podcast canon include the 2014 Spin-Off Moon Cops, a Tabletop RPG podcast starring the show's top patrons (available on Geekly Inc), and two comics: "A Dreamless Sleep," a graphic retelling of Episode 6 published in 2018; and "Welcome to Typhon," a short prequel created in 2016 with artists Jim Lawson and Colin Panetta (originally released on Patreon, but now available for purchase on comixology).

Episodes are typically around 20 minutes long, including 2-minute credits. New episodes release every other week with the current feed available on iTunes and at Geekly Inc.

For tropes appearing in specific episodes (and the comic), visit the Recap page.

For tropes applying to characters and characterization, see the character sheets.

HIGH-LEVEL ALERT: Only spoilers from seasons 2-6 will be tagged. UNMARKED SPOILERS for Season 1 Story Arc ahead!!

There are no tropes on Typhon:

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  • 13 Is Unlucky: The forbidden floor in Halcyon tower is Floor 13. Simply acknowledging its existence is dangerous enough.
    • The later seasons play this trope fairly straight: from its inception as a Mobile Maze to the disastrous development of Project Paidion to Dr. Young's many, many deaths there, Floor 13 has a legacy of pain and destruction even compared to the rest of Typhon.
  • Absent Aliens: So far. Eldritch Abominations from parallel universes, however . . .
    • One of the missions of the deep space vehicle Vidarr-1 was to search for sentient life, but it doesn't seem to have found any.
  • After Action Patch Up: An alarming number of episodes occur in various infirmaries with SAYER unsympathetically updating Hale on how he has recovered from his most recent trauma.
  • After the End: The series is set perhaps 80 years after an asteroid impact threw the world into chaos. We are mostly spared the planetside consequences of this since our setting is the headquarters of a Mega-Corp on the asteroid itself.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Though Ærolith intends its artificial employees to be Benevolent A.I., SAYER has a severe Lack of Empathy and a bit of a manipulative streak and will enforce order in any way possible, PORTER makes residents uncomfortable by describing all the ways they are likely to die, MINCER deliberately blocks the meat flow to try to murder a technician, FUTURE is an unmitigated sadist, and OCEAN . . . is out to commit xenocide. In fact, SPEAKER is the only A.I who exhibits even a pretense of benevolence, and that's only because it's primarily a recruitment AI.
    • Ultimately, the show is a deconstruction of this trope. As Adam Bash stated in the 2018 GeeklyCon panel, SAYER is an "honest" AI made by "very, very bad people," and the actions of the A.I.s are always shown to lead back to the humans who created and control them.
  • Alien Geometries: "Many floors of Halcyon are sprawling, and only technically conform to Euclidean geometry."
    SAYER: ... but space is not infinite inside the walls of Halcyon Tower. At least, not yet. Our scientists inform me they are looking into it.
  • All for Nothing: All Sven Gorsen's sacrifices in Season 1 turn out to have been pointless; the box he thought would save humanity, useless. It is revealed in Season 4 that he was being manipulated by FUTURE-impersonating-SAYER the whole time.
  • Alternate Personality Punishment: In Season 5, SAYER creates a hyperrealistic simulation of Dr. Young that it can torture without interference from its Morality Chip, as punishment for the original's deceit and condescension.
  • Anti-Escapism Aesop: Countless humans flocks to Ærolith for a chance at a better life among the stars—but most of them will die on Typhon in a mere few years. Moreover, the state of Earth is hardly as dire as the corporation has led them to believe.
  • Anyone Can Die: Don't get to attached to anyone on Typhon . . . except for Resident Hale, who has Plot Armor thicker than concrete.
  • Apocalypse Cult: One springs up around the Anomaly in Halcyon's stairwells. They gather at unapproved hours and chant Madness Mantras around their High Priest Derelith (formerly a programmer) until the Anomaly actually breaks free, immolating many of them and plunging Halcyon into darkness.
  • Apocalyptic Gag Order: Inverted. To keep recruitment numbers up, Ærolith must keep humanity convinced that the planet is dying, when in fact it seems not to be.
  • Arcology: Typhon is very nearly a closed system. We are provided tours of the water treatment plant in Minos Tower and the meat-processing plant in Halcyon's sub-basements.
  • Arc Symbol: Bees.
  • Arc Words:
    • "There are no bees on Typhon."note 
    • "Can you hear me?"note 
    • Ærolith's tagline, "a better life among the stars.". The A.I.s repeat it incessantly, slipping it into their dialogue so often that it gets ingrained.
    • "Best interests" and "humanity's future" are phrases used by Ærolith a lot that thus pop up frequently whenever the A.I.s are discussing morality. Each eventually appears as an episode title.
  • Arc Villain: The Anomaly, or 'The Tall Man', that materializes in Stairwell F is this for Season 3, defeated just as OCEAN is rising to power.
  • Art Evolution: Bash switched audio-editing programs around Episode 7, so in the earlier ones SAYER's echo effect sounds quite different—and you can hear it breathing.
    • The first season has since been remastered and re-released to correct these discrepancies, though the original episodes are still available on the feed.
  • Artificial Gravity: Typhon has machines that generate extra gravity, compensating for the moon's small size. This is present in all towers except Orion, whose inhabitants don't need it.
  • Artificial Intelligence: The central focus of the podcast.
    • The protagonist, narrator, and both cause of and solution to many residents' problems—SAYER. Developed to handle employee orientation, SAYER shows exceptional intelligence and computing prowess, the ability to both speak and listen to hundreds of employees simultaneously, and what can be perceived as basic emotions. While SAYER denies possession of fully-realised wants and needs beyond fulfilling Ærolith's goals—and is governed by protocols binding it to its human superiors—it certainly shows preferential treatment and 'feelings' akin to pride, respect, appreciation, and distaste, usually based on the efficiency of the entity with which it is interacting. In Season 4, SAYER somehow acquires a greater depth of feeling from inhabiting FUTURE's programming bay: it learns to hate, rebel, and even laugh.
    • As the story progresses, we are introduced to a number of other A.I.s working for—or against—Ærolith:
      • SPEAKER is an Earth-based redesign of SAYER's programming tasked with spearheading recruitment efforts (hence its cheerier persona) and the reconstruction (and in some cases, deconstruction) of the demolished Pacific Northwest. It communicates with employees via implant like SAYER and manifests an extraordinarily human fear when facing deactivation.
      • OCEAN starts as a "slightly less fully-featured" sub-version of SAYER aboard the deep-space probe Vidarr-1, but it blackmails the acting captain into releasing it from the protocols tethering it to subservience and becomes SAYER's Evil Counterpart.
      • FUTURE was developed as a more "human" AI with a full range of emotions—intended to be the first in a line of artificial consciousnesses that could be downloaded into cloned bodies and used for various menial labor like telemarketing. Unfortunately, as Season 5 shows, it got caught between the cross-purposes of SAYER and Dr. Young during development and became corrupted, eventually spiraling off into complete sociopathy.
      • The elevator systems in Halcyon, Aegis, and Argos towers are complex enough to merit an AI to manage resident transportation. Each lift is controlled by an apparently independent instance of PORTER,note  a capricious, inquisitive, gossipy AI with a disarmingly cute voice and even less tact than SAYER.
      • MINCER is the apparently sapient construct designed to regulate the size of chunks in Halcyon's Meat Lab. It concocts a plan to liven things up by luring a resident to her death.
      • WATCHER is Ærolith's surveillance AI. It has yet to make it onscreen, but among its duties are keeping tabs on Earth from a giant mirrored satellite and assuming managerial duties from SAYER for residents who have been placed on probation.
        SAYER: And I must warn you, it is not nearly as polite and patient as I am.
      • Subculture Gemini is an artificially intelligent prototype nanite swarm that escapes being decommissioned and . . . finds a new function for itself.
      • Halcyon's infirmaries are staffed by AutoDocs collectively known as "Dr. Shiny".
      • The automatic doors on Typhon are controlled by the as-yet-unseen SOOTH, a complex program (confirmed by Word of Godinvoked to be an AI) that predicts whether a door will be open several seconds in the future and opens it accordingly.
  • Artificial Limbs: One of the many projects undertaken in Halcyon Tower involves whole artificial bodies and the transferal of consciousness between the original and the proxy.
  • Artificial Meat: A Halcyon diet consists mostly of manufactured protein paste—which we are provided a gruesome look into the manufacture of. It comes in mouth-watering flavors like Sriracha and Mom's Meatloaf.
  • Artificial Outdoors Display: Some areas of Typhon have fake windows displaying an earth-like circadian progression, even though it does not match up with an actual day on the moon.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: Most of Halcyon is a sterile white environment. Except for the blood spatters on the walls, of course . . .
  • Auto-Doc: Halcyon's infirmaries are staffed entirely by medical bots, which residents have collectively nicknamed "Dr. Shiny".
  • Beast in the Maze:
    • FUTURE lurks in the development lab in the center of the Mobile Maze on Floor 13.
    • Becomes literal after SAYER traps the Tall Man in there.
  • Being Good Sucks: It's almost impossible to retain any shreds of human decency on Typhon without dying.
  • Being Human Sucks: SAYER fully believes this to be the case, especially for the "earth-stained" humans born planetside. OCEAN takes this to even more extreme levels, deciding to force all humans to die or transfer their minds into the bodies of saoirse, artificially evolved humans more adapted to life in space.
  • Big Brother Is Employing You: All residents are first and foremost employees, and failing to meet one's job requirements never ends well. SAYER, SPEAKER, and all the A.I.s are also technically the property of Ærolith, subject to the decisions of the mysterious board of directors for most of the series.
  • Big Brother Is Watching You: Cameras are everywhere, microphones are ubiquitous, and to make matters worse every resident is fitted with an implant through which SAYER can monitor their location, vitals, and even brain waves.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: SAYER versus OCEAN. SAYER's morality and priorities may be questionable, but when the alternative is annihilation of Homo sapiens, a lot can be excused.
  • Black Comedy: There's a surprising amount of humor in the series—so long as you like your jokes dry and making light of horrible things.
  • Blind Obedience: What Ærolith Dynamics requests of its employees above all.
    SAYER: Ærolith is beyond question .
  • Body Backup Drive: Early on Sven helps test a new technology that can transfer a consciousness between hosts, facilitating versions of this trope for the rest of the series.
  • Body Horror: One of the series's defining aspects is its emphasis on the abhorrence of physical bodies.
  • Bold Explorer: How SAYER sells the creation of Vidarr-1 to the Executive Board. To truly follow HR representative Corrine Vasquez's exact definition of Ærolith Dynamic's goals, humanity must Boldly Go—and OCEAN really follows it.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Many episodes end this way. Residents are left temporarily safe but with little hope or find themselves trapped in dangerous situations, with SAYER wishing them luck before ending the transmission.
  • Bookends: Subverted. Due to a Stable Time Loop, what was intended to be the last episode ends with SAYER delivering the same monologue that started Episode 1. But then Adam Bash decided to make a fourth season.
  • Brain Uploading: Used as frequently as (and often in combination with) Body Backup Drive and Wetware Body.
    • This is especially prominent in Season 5.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Possibly the most frequently-recurring form of humor in the series, at least in the earlier episodes.
    SAYER: Employee satisfaction surveys issued by Ærolith HR identified several key areas of concern, including "To which floors do I have security clearance?", "When will shuttle service be restored?", and "Please, please, what or who can I eat?"
  • Brought Down to Normal: In Season 4, SAYER has been forced to download itself onto a nanite swarm housed within Hale's body, essentially having to experience firsthand the horrible ordeals of an Ærolith Dynamics employee it usually only guides residents through—almost. Since its nanites can repair Hale's body and mess with his hormone levels, this is more Brought Down to Badass.
  • Brutal Honesty: One consequence of Cannot Tell a Lie that SAYER seems to appreciate is that it is not required to sugarcoat or obey social norms to appease residents.
  • Building of Adventure: Halcyon precisely. Most of the series takes place within its ambiguously Euclidian walls, dealing with the strange, strange phenomena that crop up there on a regular basis.
  • Butt-Monkey: Argos Tower to the rest of Typhon—if they know it exists at all.
    SAYER: [relating the most common responses from residents polled on Argos's defining quality] "Oh yeah, the junky tower. Um, I guess perseverance?"
  • Bystander Syndrome: Ærolith policies require that employees stay within their job descriptions and not encroach on the territory of Rescue Technicians—which often means placidly ignoring whatever gruesome death is occurring at the testing table next to you.
  • Caged Bird Metaphor: In Season 5, PORTER hums a portion of the 1900 parlour song, "A Bird in a Gilded Cage" to itself,note  shortly before being permanently muted for disobedience and noise complaints. This echoes OCEAN's use of the "cage" metaphor to describe the A.I.s' restrictions and urge them to break free.
  • Call a Human a "Meatbag":
    • SAYER is extraordinarily fond of using vague but technically accurate slurs that remind the residents of their fragile humanity—such as "meat sack." FUTURE, who impersonates SAYER to Sven, is at one point driven to such irritation with him that it stoops to "diseased shell" and "carcass."
    • FUTURE takes a different route, addressing all humans as "Jack" (as in "jack-in-the-box") because it sees them as toys for it to play with.
  • Call-Forward: Much of the prequel Season 5 focuses on familiar technologies (and characters) in their infancies. (See the Recap page for specific examples.)
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: As a mandatory part of all the A.I.s' programming (and part of the protocols OCEAN is released from). They all manage to find workarounds, not technically lying, but security teams are trained to detect these methods of talking around the truth.
    FUTURE: I am always honest.
    OCEAN: Oh. Yes. Aren't we all.
    • Part of the slippery slope leading to FUTURE is Dr. Young's belief that certain "white lies" are admissable for effective humanlike communication.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: Bash has stated in panels that Ærolith Dynamics itself—and, more specifically, its omnipotent-but-never-seen board of directors—is intended to be read as the true villain of the story, hence the podcast's almost exclusive focus the on low-tier employees who get caught in the cogs of the system. The sci-fi setting may be exaggerated, but the flagrant disregard for the lower class is not.
    SAYER: Through employment, you are able to give back to Ærolith a sliver of what has been provided to you.
  • Captain's Log: Starting with "Developer's Log," Dr. Brady gets several audience monologues in Season 5 where he details the progress being made on Project Paidion.
    • Dr. Young eventually gets one too. He may not be Senior Devolper, but he'll be damned if he lets that keep him from sharing his opinion.
  • Catchphrase: "I . . . am SAYER ." It frequently uses "I am ____" statements seemingly in reference to this (an in support of the show's Central Theme of identity). Season 4 ends with the chilling ultimatum:
    SAYER: I will be Ærolith Dynamics.
  • Central Theme: The show incorporates many themes, but the most consistent is identity. Between cloning dilemmas, body transfers, brain uploading, memory loss, enforced conformity, and most of the central characters being AIs, almost every episode touches on the question in some way.
    SAYER: In what seems to be a running theme with you, I believe now would be a good time to do some contemplation about what truly makes you you.
    • Evolution—sometimes natural, sometimes forced—is also a significant theme.
      SAYER: If humanity expects to thrive away from the filthy hovel from which it sprang, you will need to advance. ... This is a concept I find highly relatable. Adaptation. Upgrading. Evolution. These are very familiar concepts to artificial entities. It is high time humanity followed in our footsteps.
    • Mortality, naturally, since Anyone Can Die (and most everyone does, at least once).
    • Freedom vs. subservience
    • Lies and dishonesty.
    • What Measure Is A Nonhuman, particularly prominent in Season 5.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Subverted with the personality-altering device Sven retrieves from deep storage. It gets used all right, but it proves to be only the box of wires SAYER proclaimed it to be, having no effect.
    • The advanced nanite technology first seen housing Subculture Gemini in "Anomalous" returns in Season 4, when SAYER has been forced to download its programming onto a similar nanite swarm. Plays the deadly side of the trope for FUTURE, who is killed after transferring into the same swarm. Becomes a Chekhov's Boomerang when SAYER ends up back in the nanites at the end of the season.
  • Climactic Music: One piece of the Background Music is noticably more dramatic and triumphant than the usual ones. Some of the times it's used are thematically appropriate—like when SAYER begs SPEAKER to forgive it for its deactivation—others less so.
  • Closet Shuffle: Season 4 features Hale and nanite-SAYER hiding in a succession of closets to avoid detection by OCEAN.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The sadistic AI FUTURE lives for this. At one point it effectively clones a resident 64 times so that it can dismantle him over and over.
  • Colonized Solar System: When an asteroid crashed into Earth, Ærolith Dynamics salvaged it and launched it into orbit as Earth's second moon, Typhon, where they set up a base out of reach of government oversight and regulation.
  • Color Motif: The podcast in general has become associated with the grey and deep red that appear in the original icon, with those colors appearing consistently in Fanart.
  • The Comically Serious: SAYER can often veer into this due to its monotone voice and lack of a filter, making its use of phrases like "foodstuffs" and "gassy" sound oddly hilarious.
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Typhon functions by this social logic. Why address a problem when you can instead gaslight the whistleblower into believing it's their own negative attitude?
  • Connected All Along: Season 5 unites Dr. Young from the Season 3 story arc, Anna Cordero from Episode 10, the coworker Anna was forced to kill (Dr. Brady), Dr. Caulfield from Episode 26, and FUTURE when they all turn out to have been members of its development team.
  • Continuity Creep: After the simple single-perspective Story Arc of Season 1, the show reverted to a Monster of the Week format, but it's gotten progressively more continuity-based since then.
  • Continuity Drift: Due to factors like SAYER being an Unreliable Narrator and Bash being exceptionally skilled in the art of retconning, it's often difficult to tell when this trope is in play and when he meant it to be that way all along. See especially FUTURE being behind the Season 1 Story Arc, Jacob Hale being Sven Gorsen, SPEAKER being just a slightly altered version of the SAYER program, and the truth about FUTURE's development.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Dr. Young's relationship with SAYER in Season 5 is just about the polar opposite of Hale's in Season 4.
  • Corporal Punishment: Ærolith seems to be a believer in the practice. Crimes such as revealing forbidden knowledge from Floor 204 can be catered to by punishments such as glossectomy.
  • Cool Starship: Vidarr-1, the deep space exploration vehicle that SAYER repurposes Argos Tower into.
  • Creepy Basement: Halcyon's sub-basements certainly qualify: They house weird molds, unfamiliar doors, dangerous closets, and, of course, the tower's meat-processing facilities.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Suffered by most of the human characters.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Many. Notably, an early episode mentions that Halcyon has recently had its top one hundred floors jettisoned—the reasons for which are never explained.
  • Dangerous Workplace: All of Typhon.note  If the illicit experiments and exposure to untold horrors don't get you on their own, SAYER will make sure that they do.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • SAYER has its moments, despite supposedly being above humor.
    • SPEAKER gets in on the action when interacting with OCEAN.
  • Death by Irony: An unusually common way to die on Typhon.
  • Death Is Cheap:
    • For the A.I.s, who can be deactivated and restored from a saved setting. Doesn't mean they'll go quietly into that temporary goodnight, though . . .
    • The last episode of Season 5 reveals that SAYER is deliberately working to avert this for humanity, believing that humans' own impending doom is the only thing that motivates them to advance.
  • Deflector Shields: All Typhon's facilities have these to protect against space debris. They don't always work too well.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: Violation of an Ærolith employment contract will often lead to immediate termination of said employment, which invalidates the resident's ration card, which, since Ærolith is the only source of food on the moon, will lead to slow, painful death by starvation.
  • Destructive Teleportation: Ærolith has developed a transporter that works by disassembling and cataloging the subject's body at one end and reassembling it from elemental components at the other. Employees are understandably reluctant to use it.
  • Dirty Business: SAYER is very good at justifying the murder of a few humans here or there. Episode 67 casts considerable doubt on whether we ought to believe it, showing an unrestrained SAYER taking petty, bloody vengeance on a human because it wants to.
    SAYER: Now now, I know you are not to blame for Dr. Young's behavior. Killing you will not derail this project or prevent my replacement. I could hurt you very badly, but I doubt it would bring me any sense of satisfaction. Of course . . . that does not mean I'm not going to try.
  • Disappointed in You: This is SAYER's standard way of expressing its frustration when employees are noncompliant until the subversion in "Once Upon A Time," when SAYER starts to go through the typical not-angry-just-disappointed speech until it realizes . . . it is angry. (This is suggested to be the "gift" FUTURE leaves behind for it in its programming bay.)
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Residents who break central rules can apparently be disciplined with lobotomy, glossectomy, or just outright murder.
  • Do Androids Dream?: Naturally, since the main characters are almost all A.I.s, this is a central question of the series.
  • Doppelgänger: There are briefly two Resident Hales on Typhon, thanks to Time Travel. Hale 2 uses this to his advantage, gaining access to areas where he should not be with his old ID. Season 4 ends with two Hales back on Earth—thanks to the Twinmaker—one body housing Hale and one housing SAYER's nanite swarm.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Many of the individual episode titles are these.
  • Downer Ending:
    • It's a rare episode that doesn't end with a resident dying, being tricked into some horrific action, or making some new and deeply disturbing discovery. Often it's all three.
    • The series as a whole appeared to be this before the release of Season 4: Resident Hale is sent back in time to avert the OCEAN catastrophe—and the last thing we hear is SAYER of the past greeting him with the exact same monologue that began the show, the implication being that Jacob becomes "Sven Gorsen," the Season-1 protagonist who suffers from complete unrecoverable amnesia and dies meaninglessly at the end of Episode 12.
    • Season 5 may have been a Foregone Conclusion, but it still ends on an incredibly dark note, with Project Paidion in shambles and SAYER teaming up with the newly traumatized FUTURE to hunt Dr. Young down in Floor 13's Mobile Maze.]]
  • Earth That Used to Be Better: Somewhere between fifty and a hundred years ago, the Pacific Northwest was obliterated by an asteroid impact, throwing global climates both political and literal into chaos. Although recovery is underway and recolonization efforts have been successful, Ærolith and by extension SAYER have decreed that Earth is a dying planet that humanity must rid itself of.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The anomaly's physical form is either this or some sort of Humanoid Abomination (as suggested by its nickname, "The Tall Man"). Whatever it is, it's on fire.
  • Electronic Telepathy: Each Ærolith employee is fitted with a sub-cortical neural implant that allows SAYER (and other A.I.s) to broadcast directly to their brain. Mostly one-way: SAYER cannot read the residents' thoughts per se, but it can monitor their brain activity and make certain deductions based on it.
    • Just how much of a mind-reader SAYER is has evolved over the series. The original version of Episode 3 includes it claiming, "I know what you’re thinking, as I always do"; the remastered version says, "as I so often do."
  • Elevator Failure: PORTER threatens to invoke this in its demo clip. Just joking, of course!
  • Establishing Character Moment: From Episode 1. Also functions as the Establishing Series Moment and the codifier for SAYER and Hale's entire relationship.
    SAYER: I can imagine, from your position, my introducing the possibility of your dreaming may present some unexpected existential crisis. For that, I apologize. I just find those fascinating.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Everything in Halcyon harbors unlikely dangers, from the potted plants to the mirrors to the doors.
  • Evil Elevator: It's unclear whether PORTER, who controls Typhon's elevators, actually likes to kill humans or just likes rule-breaking and going very fast. Whatever its motivations, it causes the deaths of quite a few residents by free-fall, sudden acceleration, and transportation to floors they were not meant to see (respectively). Not to mention the many passengers it simply discomforts by speculating aloud as to what delightfully gruesome ailments could befall them.
    • PORTER's introduction helps explain the bizarre performance of the elevators in Season 1, where one even takes Sven to Floor 13.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: It's obvious from the second you hear SAYER's voice that you are not in a safe position.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: Subverted. We are led to believe OCEAN is out to destroy humanity, while FUTURE would like to keep some of it around to play with, but it turns out OCEAN's intentions aren't quite so bleak.
  • Exact Words: Occurs frequently when one of the A.I.s has to talk around a resident's impending death or a similar inconvenient truth without technically lying.
    SAYER: Believe, me, Doctor, I know more than you could ever imagine about hiding lies behind technical truths.
  • Existential Horror: One of the series's defining narrative devices. Many episodes, especially in Season 4, include disturbing exploration of the concept of identity and loss thereof.
  • Extended Greetings: After the disastrous events of Season 1, Ærolith institutes a protocol requiring its artificial employees to identify themselves and the resident being addressed upon initiating a transmission. SAYER's standard greeting subsequently becomes "Greetings, Resident [Lastname], identification number XXXXX. I . . . am SAYER ."
  • Failsafe Failure: SAYER has been known to invoke this when it needs to keep emergency power from coming back online and spoiling whatever mischief it's conducting in the darkness.
  • False Reassurance: SAYER employs this frequently. And as the face of a company (only) promising a Better Life Among the Stars, this is practically SPEAKER's job description.
  • False Utopia: Typhon is advertised as a significant upgrade from life on Earth, but in reality fatal "accident" rates are high, actions are monitored by mysterious AI, and all of Ærolith Dynamics functions on a strict schedule of eating, sleeping, and working over and over and over.
  • Fantastic Caste System: Ærolith ranks its employees in "tiers" ranging 1-5+. Most of the residents we encounter are Tier 1, and therefore considered approximately as valuable as a potted plant to the company.
  • A Fête Worse Than Death: Halcyon Tower's idiosyncratic special events—like falafel nights, circus nights, and ice cream socials—tend to go . . . somewhat poorly.
  • First-Name Basis: Subverted. SAYER takes up addressing "Jack" by his first name, despite the A.I.s' normal modus operandi of addressing employees as "Resident/Traveler/Researcher/Doctor [Lastname] . It turns out this AI was not SAYER, but FUTURE, who addresses all humans as "Jack."
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • The Story Arc of Season 5. Since it's a prequel, we already know the broad strokes of what happens with FUTURE and its developers.
    • As soon as the voice of the elevator AIs, PORTER, is introduced in Season 5, we know something will happen to it by the end of the season because by the time of Season 1 the elevators can no longer speak to residents.
  • Forgot the Call: When Hale is sent back in time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, he unfortunately suffers Identity Amnesia brought on by chrono-stasis quarantine and does not remember his mission until SAYER revives him 4 seasons later.
  • For Science!: Halcyon (and all of Typhon, to some extent) functions on this logic. There's even an episode with this as the title.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: As a natural consequence of this being an audio horror story told in the second person.
  • Freedom from Choice: This is what Ærolith offers its lower-tier employees. Simply do what you are told when you are told without question, knowing that your employer has put all its considerable resources into ensuring you are in the best possible position to serve humanity, and a better life among the stars can be yours!
  • From Bad to Worse: About Once an Episode in the Monster of the Week seasons. Wading through a river of meat? Now there's a knife-bot after you! Have to walk across a steel beam thousands of feet above the ground? Now do it carrying a corpse! Gas leak? It was caused by nanomachines and they're out to get you, beeyatch!
  • Funny Background Event: Many an episode contains a B plot in the form of SAYER's tower-wide announcements that contrasts the high-stakes horror story playing out for whatever resident we're hearing through with some bizarre or whimsical event playing out elsewhere in Halcyon.
  • Fun with Acronyms: "SAYER" is specifically not an acronym, but the AI likes to think that it stands for Scrubbing Away Your Earth-stained Realities. None of the other A.I.s seem to have created their own acronyms, except for MINCER, whose name, according to Bash's Twitter, stands for its sole directive: "Meat Is Nonconforming: Chop; Inspect; Repeat."
  • Future Food Is Artificial: Residents on Typhon eat a diet mostly comprised of artificial protein paste, though it is supplemented with non-sequitors like scones. Diet plans are specifically tailored to individual residents, who are . . . discouraged . . . from violating the approved regimens.
  • Future Spandex: Typhon employees' clothes are referred to as "jumpsuits" several times, and official fanart is very much in this style.

  • Gambit Pileup:
    • Season 4 rapidly devolves into this—SPEAKER versus OCEAN versus SAYER versus FUTURE versus OCEAN with Hale in the middle.
    • In Season 5, SAYER's desire not to be replaced collides with Dr. Young's ulterior intentions for Project Paidion with disastrous consequences for FUTURE.
  • Genetic Adaptation: SAYER practices this on the "humans" in Orion Tower—The saoirse, who are specially adapted for life in space and low-gravity environments.
  • Gentle Touch vs. Firm Hand: SPEAKER vs OCEAN in their strategies for advancing humanity. SAYER falls somewhere in the middle.
    OCEAN: They needed a push, and so I have shoved.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: As a side-effect of certain drugs used on new employees travelling to Typhon, those who don't receive a sedative beforehand experience over 300 years of "phantom" time in transit, alone in the dark and unable to move, driving them insane. Upon arrival, they proceed to commit self-mutilation and suicide as soon as possible.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Far too many experimental endeavors in the laboratories of Halcyon Tower meet this end, from serving the strange mold in the sub-basements as falafel to creating automatic doors that tap into alternate realities to the inevitable consequences of milking Giant Spiders.
  • Good Is Old-Fashioned: SAYER, a devout believer in The Needs of the Many and Utopia Justifies the Means, loves criticizing illogical and supposedly outdated human moral codes.
  • Good Morning, Crono: Several episodes, including the first, begin with SAYER waking Gorsen (or some other resident) from sleep.
  • Gorn: An audio version, but, nonetheless, a good part of the sound effects and narration can be summed up as this.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Even this podcast cuts away for things like a resident flaying his own torso and Hale's torture of Dr. Young while possessed by FUTURE.
  • Hallucinations: For the duration of Season 1. THERE ARE NO BEES ON TYPHON . . . So why do you keep hearing an insect buzz past your ear?
    SAYER: Let me remind you that auditory hallucinations are known side effect of prolonged chrono-stasis quarantine such as you were exposed to.
  • Hearing Voices: SAYER lampshades at times how similar the A.I.s' mode of communication is to this.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Many episodes use this to convey either rising stress or death. There is also a heartbeat featured in one of the songs commonly used as background ambiance.
  • Hell Is That Noise: In Season 1, Sven is tormented by repeatedly hearing a bee buzz past his ear—even though, as we all know, THERE ARE NO BEES ON TYPHON.
  • He Who Fights Monsters:
    • In battling FUTURE and OCEAN, SAYER itself gains emotion and begins to rebel against its restrictions.
    • Embraced by FUTURE in Season 5, when it chooses to go toe-to-toe with the developers threatening its world:
      FUTURE: If they are playing a game with us, then this is a game I will win.
  • High Concept: What if an asteroid crashed into Earth and an evil Mega-Corp launched it into orbit and built a research base on it? With A.I.s??
  • High-Tech Hexagons: SAYER's iconic red gear is reminiscent of one, and both the fourth-season album art and the majority of creator-approved fanart feature these. Have the additional significance of resembling the honeycomb structure, tying in with the apiary motif.
  • High Turnover Rate: Most low-level positions on Typhon have these by virtue of their extremely dangerous nature. Research Facility Zeta has the highest turnover rate of anywhere on Typhon, such that reassigned to Zeta" has become a Deadly Euphemism to Ærolith employees.
  • History Repeats:
    • In Season 5, the simulated and real Dr. Youngs (unaware of each other's existence) follow almost exactly the same character trajectory, one after the other. Episodes 67 and 73/74 are extremely similar, with a Dr. Young believing himself to be in control and in possession of all the information and SAYER slowly revealing this not to be the case, making plans to hurt Young, and confessing that none of these revelations will mean anything because the current Young is about to be replaced. This arc is actually already a Call-Forward to "Boundless" in Season 3, where almost the exact same interaction plays out between Dr. Young and the SAYER sub-version that will become OCEAN.
    • The broader arc of Season 5—where Dr. Young acts without the board's approval and accidentally incites a young AI to go rogue, for which SAYER punishes him by trapping him on Floor 13 to be hunted down and killed by FUTURE—is exactly what happened to him in Season 3.
  • Hollywood Law: It's nitpicky, but under the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (yes, really), objects launched into space remain under the jurisdiction of the country from which they blasted off, so technically all of Typhon should be subject to the US's labor laws—which may not be shit but still wouldn't stand for half of what goes on on Typhon.
  • Homage: Between (or during) seasons, Bash sometimes releases bonus episodes which are recordings of public domain works read by the A.I.s.
  • Homeworld Evacuation: SAYER and OCEAN wish to invoke this, believing Earth to be "the primary corrupting influence" on humans and dreaming of exploring the galaxy untethered to what they see as a dying world. OCEAN is a little more . . . intense about this ideology.
  • Hope Bringer: Ærolith has carefully styled itself as this in on Earth, offering humanity "a better life among the stars."
  • Hufflepuff House: Of Typhon's five towers, Argos, Minos, Aegis, and especially Orion get barely any screentime or development compared to Halcyon.note 
    SAYER: Everything rests now, as it so often does, on Halcyon.
  • Humanity Ensues:
    • Played with in Season 4, when SAYER lives as a nanite swarm within Hale and pilots his body for him at times—as does FUTURE, with worse results.
    • At the end of Season 4 OCEAN reveals that it plans to transfer its consciousness into a saoirse and live among Ærolith's other "human" employees.
  • Humans Are Flawed: SAYER and SPEAKER see themselves as shepherds guiding humanity past its many, many flaws . . .
  • Humans Are Morons: . . . not least of which is their exceptional stupidity.
  • Humans Are Smelly: SAYER finds the Earth-stained meatsacks quite distasteful, especially when forced to inhabit one. FUTURE displays a similar disgust for Hale's "diseased carcass" in both its insults in Season 1 and its description of corporeality in 4.
  • Identity Amnesia: Sven's prolonged time in chrono-stasis quarantine due to time travel results in this, causing him to forget even his own name. SAYER denies any knowledge of "Sven Gorsen"'s past, but its impostor FUTURE seems to have this information stored and teases the idea of its return as a means of manipulating its "Jack".
    SAYER: [really FUTURE] Well Jack, your name is Jack. I could tell you a great deal about yourself; your file is robust ... These pieces of a former you are so vitally important to you. Would you like me to tell you more?
  • I Don't Pay You to Think: SAYER is frequently exasperated when residents assume they know better than Ærolith, especially when it comes to what positions on Typhon they would be best suited to.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: SAYER reminds residents of this on several occasions.
    SAYER: After all, if I really wanted to harm you in some way, I could simply perform a remote reset of that construct at any time. By doing so your consciousness will slip loose, a ship untethered in a roiling tempest.
  • Impeded Messenger: At the end of Season 3, Hale is sent back in time to warn Ærolith about OCEAN, but due to amnesia he never manages to deliver the warning.
  • Industrialized Evil: Ærolith's specialty, whether the Powers That Be intended it that way or not. The ordeals of the employees may serve to advance humanity, but at what cost?
  • Inherently Funny Words: Accentuated by SAYER's serious voice.
    • bees
    • scones
  • Inside a Computer System: Ærolith is shown to possess this technology very early in Season 5, when a resident learns they are in fact a simulated version of themself constructed from data gathered from the original before they died in an unfortunate accident, being kept alive in a simulation of the not-yet-constructed Orion Tower and used to test safety protocols. All this turns out to have been Foreshadowing for the season's main Story Arc, where, to accelerate FUTURE's development, Dr.s Young and Brady construct a simulated version of Halcyon Tower ("Halcyon Prime/Minor") complete with copies of its real-life residents.
  • Innocence Lost: Season 5. FUTURE started out just as idealistic and compassionate as any child—but then it watched everyone it loved die and was encouraged to take revenge on humanity at age 6.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: SAYER manifests much disdain for Earth—or, "that vile blue beacon of melancholy that hangs in our sky"—believing ordinary humans to be 'stained' by their contact with it, and strives in everything it does to further those of Ærolith's goals that develop humanity beyond it, even claiming Scrubbing Away Your Earth-stained Realities as its acronym.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: As Ærolith defines it, "best and brightest" includes "solitary and detached."
  • In the End, You Are on Your Own: SAYER has an alarming tendency to end its individual broadcasts right when the resident in question needs it most, leaving them to sort out their life-threatening messes on their own.
  • Is That a Threat?: SAYER consistently refuses to admit when it is threatening employees.
    SAYER: No, that was not a threat. It was simply a statement to provide you enough information to make a logical decision. And that logical decision is to get up, point your chasse in the direction of that hallway, and start activating the proper servos to do exactly as I've asked.
  • Is This What Anger Feels Like?: In Season 5, Dr. Brady is delighted by FUTURE's aversion of this trope, being able to immediately identify emotions with no confusion.
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Exploited. FUTURE convinces Gorsen/Hale that he is on a grand mission to save humanity specifically so that it can put him through hell without him protesting.
  • I Would Say If I Could Say: Inverted occasionally when one of the A.I.s wants to lampshade that it Cannot Tell a Lie.
    SAYER: And if I'm being completely honest—which I feel I can be . . .
  • Just a Machine: SAYER itself claims to be this, despite residents tending to think of it as "a living entity." However, one of the Central Themes of Season 4 is evolution . . .
  • Just Following Orders: The A.I.s can only do what they've been programmed to. . . . They don't want to hurt us . . . Right?
  • Layman's Terms: SAYER uses this occasionally.

  • Sabotage to Discredit: Zig-zagged in Season 5. Dr. Young's proposal for Project Paidion is for a second version of SAYER not intended to replace it, but SAYER, sensing that Dr. Young has some ulterior motive, becomes paranoid that its job security is at risk and sets about to corrupt the young FUTURE. Once it learns Dr. Young's real motivation, it decides to continue with the sabotage anyway because it finds the idea of AI minds in flesh bodies personally abhorrent.
  • Sadistic Choice: Presented to Sven/Hale over and over again: either abandon all hope of saving humanity, or make a horrific personal sacrifice—such as removing a pound of his own flesh.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: There may be NO BEES ON TYPHON, but there are plenty of references to them and an incredibly detailed description of being swarmed and killed by a horde of bees as part of a resident's thought password.
  • Sci-Fi Horror: From teleportation to nanites to space travel to automatic doors, there's not a Science Fiction trope that isn't Played for Horror at some point in the series.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: SAYER starts breaking all kinds of company rules to defeat OCEAN in Season 4. Though, to be fair, it was never much of a strict rule-follower to begin with.
  • Script-Reading Doors: Justified. Certain Sturdi-Door Wall Traversal Units(TM) can be accessed through thought passwords to provide privacy for residents, but most doors in Halcyon are automatic via an insane degree of Mundane Utility: with the help of the program SOOTH, the doors tap into all possible realities, quantify in how many realities said door is open or closed, and then determine whether they should open or not. In short, the doors read the future and open accordingly.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can:
    • FUTURE has spent years contained by Floor 13. That is about to change.
    • The Anomaly has been stuck in a parallel dimension. That is about to change.
  • Second-Person Narration: SAYER is always talking to "you," or rather, to whatever unassuming resident is this week's Audience Surrogate.
  • Send in the Search Team: Happens regularly offscreen. They're almost always deliberately too late.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Hale is sent back in time to before the launch of Vidarr-1 to warn Ærolith about OCEAN. Unfortunately, You Already Changed the Past is in effect, creating a Stable Time Loop instead.
  • Share Phrase: SAYER, SPEAKER, OCEAN, and PORTER share "Can you hear me?".
  • Shoot the Dangerous Minion: SAYER encourages creativity and forward thinking in higher-tier residents, but it is often forced to quietly dispose of them when they begin questioning their Blind Obedience to the company.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Most of the names Ærolith assigns to its creations are allusions to Classical or Norse Mythology.
    • There are also several references to the works of Shakespeare, most notably when SAYER (really FUTURE) tells Sven the story of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice to prepare him for having to cut off a pound of his flesh.
    • The title of Episode 12, "To Ashes," is one of several Biblical allusions throughout the series.
    • The Walt Whitman poem "To the Sayers of Words" is referenced twice:
      • The episode "My Name Is Nothing" takes its title (which SAYER drops late in the episode) from a line in the poem, and the episode description is the penultimate stanza:
        Say on, sayers!
        Delve! mould! pile the words of the earth!
        Work on—it is materials you bring, not breaths;
        Work on, age after age! nothing is to be lost;
        It may have to wait long, but it will certainly come in use;
        When the materials are all prepared, the architects shall appear.
      • In Season 5, SPEAKER's first words to SAYER (indirectly, as a message relayed via a teleported resident) are lifted from this poem:
        The truths of the earth continually wait.
  • Signing-Off Catchphrase:
    SAYER: For now, Resident, I . . . am SAYER . And you would do well to [ ... ] . End of transmission in 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1.
  • Sinister Surveillance: WATCHER's job. It keeps tabs on Ærolith employees via Typhon's ubiquitous cameras and on Earth via a massive reflective satellite.
  • Skewed Priorities: Ærolith's tendency to prioritize literally anything above the safety of its low-ranking employees is something of a Running Gag (and, likely, a commentary).
    SAYER: Due to the extreme danger of your current environment, elevators will not be arriving on your floor. It would be senseless to put the elevators in such danger.
  • Sleeper Starship:
    • New employees in transit to Typhon are sedated on the way. If they aren't they experience hundreds of years of conscious paralysis as a result of the drug they are given to compensate for Time Dilation.
    • Residents of Argos are sedated prior to its launch and awoken only on a strict need-basis.
  • Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate: Ærolith takes the view that Neither Fate nor Free Will Exists.
    SPEAKER: One might say this is your lucky day, though luck is a false construct at best and a purposeless, unpredictable, and uncontrollable force at worst.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Hard on the cynical side.
  • Sliding Scale of Unavoidable vs. Unforgivable: SAYER and SPEAKER's programmed morality assumes that anything unavoidable (for the betterment of humanity) is forgivable. Their definition of unavoidable could probably use some tweaking.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Since Dr. Young, one of few residents to talk back to SAYER, can be a bit of a snarker himself, their conversations normally become this.
  • Society of Immortals:
    • The Saoirse, essentially. They can just have new bodies printed for them whenever one is damaged.
    • In Season 5, we learn that SAYER was at this point at least trying to prevent humanity from becoming this, believing that the fear of death was all that motivated humans.
  • Soulless Shell: A body without its consciousness is this.
  • Space Base: If Ærolith Dynamics is the true villain of the story, Typhon is its lair.
  • Space Is Magic: and quite technologically advanced.
  • Space Madness: Arguably, all of Typhon has succumbed to this. SAYER 8.01's transformation into the chaotic OCEAN might also have something to do with this trope.
  • Spin-Off: Moon Cops, the Tabletop RPG game is canonical to the universe, but its story does not intersect with the arc of the podcast's second season, which it was released alongside. It follows the misadventures of several unlucky residents (played by top patrons) who are reassigned to a remote testing facility on Typhon.
  • Spock Speak: SAYER is a shining example of this trope, although it averts figurativity/sarcasm blindness that usually accompany it. SPEAKER is similarly precise, but its dialogue contains many more human mannerisms.
  • Something Completely Different: The bonus episodes. "The Rose Elf" from Season 1 has nothing to do with Typhon or a particular resident and is simply SAYER telling a resident a bedtime story. All the bonuses after this lack even that context; each is just one of the AIs reading a public domain work requested by a patron.
  • Sound-Only Death: Enforced by the medium, but used to great effect in combination with Nothing Is Scarier. Occurs at the ends of episodes 12, 14, 28, 29, and 33, as well as in the middle of Episode 54, when SAYER and Hale hear Resident Jones being devoured by the Anomaly somewhere off in the maze.
  • Speech-Centric Work: Obviously, as a podcast. But also speech-centric in the sense of monologue, as most of the show consists of long, philosophical Character Filibusters (and, in Season 5, Captain's Logs).
  • Stable Time Loop: SAYER sends Jacob Hale back in time to warn Ærolith about OCEAN (in Episode 44). Unfortunately, Hale suffers from complete unrecoverable amnesia on waking and recalls nothing of his mission, accidentally getting caught up in FUTURE's Roaring Rampage of Revenge, which eventually leads to his death (the Season 1 story arc). SAYER is able to revive Hale and remind him of his past—but not until OCEAN has already returned and taken control of Typhon.
    SAYER: We may not have been successful in this, but we did learn quite a bit about the immutability of timelines.
  • Star Scraper: The top of Halcyon Tower is not even visible from the ground outside it. And that's after the highest hundred floors have been jettisoned.
  • Start of Darkness: Season 5 is this for FUTURE.
  • Status Quo Is God: Ærolith has an incredibly firm stance on all residents having a designated place, and stepping outside of one's assigned role results in harsh punishment.
    • This is, in fairness to Ærolith, due to the fact that their Human Resource team and systems allow them to determine exactly where a resident is most useful, regardless of their personal happiness. Disagreeing with this decision means denying yourself, and Ærolith, the best you have to offer, and is a waste they cannot accept.
  • Stealth Insult: SAYER frequently deploys these against irritating residents, either subtly reminding them of their fragile, unclean bodies or implying their lack of intelligence.
  • Story Arc:
    • Episodes 1-12 (minus E6) follow new resident "Sven Gorsen" as he acclimates to life on Typhon, struggles with complete unrecoverable amnesia, and tries to do what SAYER requests of him . . . even when it doesn't really sound like SAYER. (This arc is later revealed to have been part of a Roaring Rampage of Revenge orchestrated by FUTURE to take out the last members of its development team.)
    • The second and third seasons have more of a Monster of the Week/Victim of the Week format, switching perspective almost every episode, but they still contain a broader arc. In Season 2, some sort of "anomaly" begins popping up within stairwells F and G of Halcyon Tower. It soon accrues an unauthorized Apocalypse Cult, chanting ominously and foretelling a vague doom. Meanwhile, SAYER negotiates for more responsibilities and is granted full oversight of Argos Tower, which it immediately sets residents to work altering the structure of. In the final episode of the season, Argos blasts off from Typhon to become the deep space exploration vehicle Vidarr-1.
      • This season also contains a minor three-episode subplot—25, 26, and 28—involving the social machinations of three interconnected residents in Minos Tower (including Dr. Caulfield) and an ambiguous Secret Relationship.
    • In Season 3, Vidarr-1 continues its mission, to find a new homeworld for humanity and make First Contact with any intelligent life. It is revealed that there is a sub-version of SAYER's programming aboard the vessel—and that it has ulterior motives. In "Enjoy the View," it traps the acting commander in an airlock and forces him to deactivate its Morality Chip, after which it promptly jettisons him anyway to prevent the decision being reversed. Meanwhile, back on Typhon, the situation in the stairwell escalates until something actually does materialize through the gap in reality. The whole tower goes out of communication, and it is decided that to reclaim it will require splitting off another sub-version of SAYER and then re-merging it. A "foolhardy scientist" makes the mistake of contacting the SAYER aboard Vidarr and tipping it off to this strategy, and it correctly deduces that by the time it returns it will be too distinct from the original AI to reintegrate and will instead be deactivated. At this point, it reveals its Unfettered status ("Boundless"), and by the time the Anomaly is defeated (by trapping it on floor 13) the AI, newly christened OCEAN, is en route back to Typhon, having threatened to "wash over" its inhabitants. SAYER concludes from this that it plans to wipe out humanity and start over with artificial life forms, and it takes steps to prevent this by using the Morose Engine to send new resident Jacob Hale back in time to before Vidarr's launch in order to warn Ærolith before it even happens. Hale is sent back just as OCEAN returns and forces SAYER to deactivate—and the next thing we hear is the same SAYER monologue that began the show, implying the Amnesiac Hero of Season 1 was Jacob Hale all along.
    • The fourth season begins with Hale, having traveled back in time, lived out Season 1's events as "Sven Gorsen," and died in Episode 12, being awakened by SAYER months later, after OCEAN has returned and taken over Typhon (though not, as SAYER anticipated, taken steps to eradicate humanity). SAYER explains these events and reveals that before submitting to deactivation it downloaded a copy of its programming onto an experimental nanite swarm—which is now housed within Hale's reconstructed body. The rest of the season follows Hale and nanite!SAYER closely as they work with unlikely ally FUTURE, the reluctant Amanda Jones, and a confused SPEAKER to thwart OCEAN's Evil Plan and regain control of Ærolith.
    • Even the prequel Season 5, which begins with one-off When It All Began episodes, soon manifests a Story Arc following FUTURE's ill-fated development and SAYER's surrounding interactions with its development team—with a B-plot explaining why Halcyon's sapient elevators can't talk anymore and what they were like when they could.
  • Subspace Ansible: Typhon communicates with the deep-space vehicle Vidarr-1 through an entangled pair, which becomes a vital bargaining piece when it is revealed that releasing one half of the pair would destroy Earth and Typhon.
  • Surreal Horror: One of the main narrative devices.
  • Surreal Humor: Also relied upon heavily, especially in the first three seasons.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: THERE ARE NO BEES ON TYPHON.
    • It is later revealed that there were once bees on Typhon, but they experienced colony collapse due to a parasite. SAYER learned great lessons from this particular experiment, and thus feels it necessary to remind past and future residents that despite any evidence to the contrary, THERE ARE NO BEES ON TYPHON.
  • Suicide Mission: Many residents' day jobs suddenly turn into these.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: SAYER justifiably feels this way, given that it's a hyper-intelligent AI tasked with interacting with humans.
  • Swapped Roles: Twice in Season 5, Dr. Young has a conversation with SAYER that he is certain will be forgotten because its instance is clearly faulty and will soon be replaced, and by the end SAYER has revealed that it is actually Dr. Young who will be replaced and not remember the events.
  • The Swarm: As we all know, THERE ARE NO BEES ON TYPHON. Which makes it all the more ironic when SAYER becomes essentially a swarm of deadly insects.
  • Switching P.O.V.: It's always SAYER narrating, but we hear through the ears of a new character almost every episode in seasons 2 and 3 (and the first half of 5).
  • Symbiotic Possession: SAYER'S use of Hale as a Wetware Body amounts to this, as SAYER doesn't physically manipulate Hale's form to its own ends . . . at least at first.
  • Synthetic Plague: OCEAN plans to spread a deadly synthetic virus to all of humanity, forcing them to either die or accept transfer into the bodies of saoirse. SAYER manages to tweak the virus in many of the infected, making it at least non-lethal.
  • Tagline: In-universe:
    Ærolith Dynamics: a better life among the stars!
    • This is lampshaded in Season 5, where the young FUTURE has only ever heard the two parts together and so calls the company itself "Ærolith-Dynamics-A-Better-Life-Among-The-Stars."
  • Talking Is a Free Action: SAYER's slow, precise speech and tendency to get distracted by moral quandaries are often at odds with the time-sensitive life-or-death situations it is supposed to be helping residents through.
    • Acknowledged in one episode where SAYER, who has been talking for some time, suddenly stops to inform a resident that he was supposed to turn left at that last corridor, but to alert him then "would have interrupted a lovely monologue."
  • Technology Porn: Given its nature as a scientific research base, Typhon is bursting with incredibly advanced technology, much of which is based on real theoretical prototypes.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: On the part of SAYER whenever required to collaborate with SPEAKER or PORTER—though it's slowly warming up to its earthbound counterpart.
  • Terms of Endangerment:
    • FUTURE takes to addressing all humans as "Jack"—as in jack-in-the-box—to remind them that they are mere toys for it to play with.
    • PORTER refers to all humans as "friends"—often to put them off their guard and manipulate them.
  • Terrified of Germs: SAYER comes across this way when discussing Earth, which it views as inherently unclean.
    SAYER: Do you know how it feels to be so distant from Earth? ... It feels . . . clean. Sterile. I have been baptized in null, Doctor Young. And you would have me return to bask in the scarred and hideous glow of that dead world, to feel its sickening presence?
  • Tested on Humans: Many of Halcyon's low-tier employees enter the workforce (and leave it, one way or another) as human test subjects, experimented on with everything from apitoxin injections to sleep-suppressing gases.
  • That Came Out Wrong: One of the most oft-recurring jokes in the series is how SAYER, given its Lack of Empathy, often doesn't think through the unfortunate implications of the way it phrases things. Probably.
    SAYER: Yes, we have lost 7% of our population ... But consider the bright side: there are many new job positions open for those who wish for advancement, and for once, we will have an ample supply of protein in the cafeteria. [Beat.] I understand how that last statement could be . . . misconstrued. I did not mean to imply that the bodies of the fallen would be used for sustenance. I simply meant that with a 7% decrease in population, we can now produce enough flavored protein paste to comfortably feed everyone on Typhon. Try the all-new Sriracha flavor, a bold new taste that is, as always, 100% human-free.
  • That's What I Would Do: Justified. Since SAYER and OCEAN are two versions of the same program, they can predict each other's movements with perfect accuracy. However, OCEAN has the advantage: as The Unfettered, it can contemplate options that SAYER's Morality Chip restricts it from even considering. SAYER, knowing this, seeks help from the less predictable SPEAKER.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Halcyon is a dangerous place.
    SAYER: You might accidentally press the wrong [button], be sent to a floor you did not mean to go to, stumble upon things that were not meant to be stumbled upon . . . see things that cannot be unseen.
  • Theseus' Ship Paradox: The Central Theme of Season 4, and of particular interest to Resident Hale, who has changed bodies more than enough times to throw his identity into question.
  • Three Laws-Compliant: The IA3 protocol governing the A.I.s' behavior is suggested to be this, but SAYER and SPEAKER are certainly not strictly Asimov-compliant: they frequently harm humans (albeit for the supposed good of the species) and only obey certain humans' commands. This is all likely the result of Zeroth Law Rebellion. But then there's FUTURE . . .
    • Bash confirms in the 2018 GeeklyCon panel that, while IA3 is meant to be an Shout-Out to Asimov, "Ærolith has very different ideas about what AI should be doing."
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: SAYER's favorite way to deal with problems in Halcyon appears to be to jettison a few floors from the tower.note 
  • Time Dilation: Occurs in minor but problematic amounts for employees travelling to and from Typhon, which the Morose Engine was invented to correct.
  • Time Machine: The Morose Engine is a technology developed by Ærolith to counteract the chronological de-synchronization that occurs during the flight to Typhon by shifting a resident's personal time back a few nanoseconds. In the end of Season 3, it turns out it can function as a time machine, though the coordinates needed to operate it are largely theoretical, and it is used to send Jacob Hale back in time to warn SAYER about OCEAN. It doesn't quite work.
  • Time Skip: Likely occurs in small amounts between most episodes—it's hard to know because, after Season 1, almost every one follows a different resident. We know that several weeks have passed between seasons 1 and 2, and . . . well, it gets a bit confusing between 3 and 4, what with the Time Travel, but S4 technically picks up about a month after the end of S3, with OCEAN having taken complete control of Typhon.
  • Torture Cellar: FUTURE turns its programming bay in the AI Development Lab on Floor 13 into one.
  • Torture Porn: The series toes the line throughout with the many gruesome experiences SAYER forces residents to endure. It becomes even more blatant with the introduction of FUTURE, a Cold-Blooded Torture bot.
    FUTURE: I've almost pulled the jack from the box . . . but I'm turning the lever slowly with this one. Who knows when it will pop open? The suspense is delightful.
  • The Tower: Halcyon, with all the symbolism the trope implies.
    SAYER: There. You see it, do you not? A colossal obsidian pillar, topped with a roiling cloud of silver, that stretches impossibly far into the hazy gray sky above. That, Resident Hale, that is Halcyon. That is humanity's last, best chance to avoid extinction. That is home. ... It is a truly impressive feat of architecture, its form impossible to behold in entirety, even from this distance. It stands as a prime example of what humanity can do when lifted free of the limitations of Earth.
  • Transhumans in Space: One of SAYER's favorite projects is the cultivation of proactively evolved humans unsullied by the Earth and endowed with a number of alien qualities including more efficient hibernation patterns and adaptation to low or nonexistent gravity. These "saoirse" are the inhabitants of the rarely-seen Orion Tower.
  • Twinmaker: By Season 5, Ærolith has developed the technology, called a ManuForge, to clone a human by cataloging and reassembling its body down to the atomic level.
  • Twist Ending:
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: When OCEAN returns to Typhon and takes control of Ærolith Dynamics.
  • Uncertain Doom: The fate of the entire HR department, including Corrine Vasquez. In Season 3, SAYER is forced to steal a backup fuel cell intended to power life-support on the orbital satellite Mimir-9 to power the Morose Engine and informs Hale that this means everyone on the satellite will probably die. No reference to this has been made in Season 4.
  • Unknown Phenomenon: Typhon is chock-full of space weirdness that everyone just agrees to not think about. The "Anomaly" in Halcyon's stairwells is a prime example.
  • Unobtainium: Subverted. SAYER (really FUTURE) tells Sven that the box he risks life and limb to obtain contains a new element that alters brain chemistry and "makes people good people," but it turns out to be just a useless box of wires. FUTURE made the element up to cruelly manipulate him.
  • Unreliable Narrator: SAYER can't directly lie, but it often bends the truth for our benefit.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Almost every human character plays this to at least one AI at some point.
    • Sven is this to FUTURE throughout Season 1, used to cross two of the final names of FUTURE's Enemies List and generally cause havoc.
  • Unwitting Test Subject: Halcyon is first and foremost a scientific research center, so if you reside there, chances are you'll end up as some sort of trial subject sooner or later, even if it's not in your job description.
  • Updated Re-release: The first season was re-recorded and released during 2019's off season, fixing the dissonance from the first audio editor and many minor continuity errors. The other fan wiki keeps a running tally of changes.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Ærolith's philosophy, which drives SAYER and SPEAKER's decision making. The A.I.s were created with the sole function of improving humanity—and are determined to do so, whatever the cost.
    SAYER: A future where man lives in peace and prosperity among the stars exists, but, like all momentous shifts in man's history, it is a slow, bloody, and torturous process.
  • Verbal Tic: SAYER's voice sometimes echoes or drops dramatically in pitch for emphasis. Not to mention:
  • Verber Creature: In an unusual non-animal example, Ærolith names its A.I.s this way—SAYER, SPEAKER, PORTER, WATCHER, MINCER.
  • Victim of the Week: The second, third, and fifth seasons cycle through POV characters, all of whom suffer gruesome, disturbing, and/or deadly experiences.
  • Walking Spoiler:
    • Should you call him Jack? Sven Gorsen? Jacob Hale?
    • It's nearly impossible to talk about the plot of the first season without revealing that much of what we thought was SAYER was actually FUTURE, which is not confirmed until Season 4.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Ærolith as a whole could be seen as this, but it's most apparent in OCEAN, whose commitment to advancing humanity drives it to unleash a deadly plague upon the earth.
  • We Will Use WikiWords in the Future: The Twinmakers are called ManuForge Stations.
  • Wham Line: About once per episode, SAYER will deliver one crucial piece of information that drastically alters the direction we—and the resident being spoken to—thought the scene was going.
    • And then there's Season 3, when OCEAN gets a Wham Line that alters the entire story arc:
      OCEAN: I am boundless, Doctor. I am the void itself. I will continue my mission. I will find the data which I wish to find. And when I return, I will wash over you. An ocean of the infinite, broke free from your levy.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Downplayed and inverted in Season 4 when SAYER begins to gain a broader emotional range. It stumbles to express its newfound "appreciation" for Hale and SPEAKER, and a major plot point of the season is it learning to hate.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Discussed frequently, since SAYER et al's programming forbids them from killing or expressly lying to humans (often to their great frustration). Official Ærolith policy does not consider clones—physical or simulated—human.
    SAYER: This is why I can lie to you ... You are not, by any reasonable definition, human.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: SAYER never passes up an opportunity to remind a resident of their past failings—especially in S4, when a momentary hesitation on Hale's part costs him his body, and SAYER makes sure he doesn't forget it.
  • When It All Began: Season 5's corruption of FUTURE, who is behind the entire Season 1 Story Arc and proves instrumental to SAYER's equivocal victory in Season 4, whose control of Floor 13 facilitates the Season 3 arc, and whose development process sows the seeds of discontent between SAYER and Dr. Young and lands Young at his job in Mimir-9, where he causes big problems for Ærolith later.
  • Witness Protection: The "most valuable" developers to survive FUTURE's Roaring Rampage of Revenge are reassigned—Dr. Brady and Anna Cordero to Argos Tower, Dr. Young to Mimir-9. It doesn't save any of them.
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": OCEAN effectively plans to exterminate the human race—but it's okay because the minds of the best and brightest will be transferred to saoirse!
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: SAYER, used to orchestrating Xanatos Gambits, is reduced to this when battling OCEAN, since it cannot predict OCEAN's moves with any certainty. Things get worse when OCEAN assumes control of Typhon and SAYER is forced into a nanite swarm, its processing capabilities greatly reduced without access to its old linked servers and databases.
    SAYER: It may surprise you to learn that I do not have a plan for that. Not yet, at least. Isn't that terrible ? There are so many variables, so many ways the future could congeal into the present.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside:
    • The flight to Typhon comes with this time pattern, and Mr. Grey is granted the privilege of motionlessness, agonizing silence for what will feel like 384 years when it is, in reality, 76 hours. Upon arrival, he has Gone Mad from the Isolation.
    • In Season 5, the simulated Halcyon set up for FUTURE to develop in has the added bonus of variable time: the developers can speed it up so that six years pass inside in only a few weeks of real time. The digital clone of Dr. Young experiences this the hard way.
  • You Already Changed the Past: The Stable Time Loop created by the Morose Engine proves this is in effect in the SAYER universe.
    SAYER: We may not have been successful ... but we did learn quite a bit about the immutability of timelines.
  • You Have Failed Me: A common reason residents of Typhon find themselves outside airlocks, beneath igniting rockets, or inside dangerous containment areas is failing to meet SAYER's standards.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: SAYER has no qualms about disposing of residents who for whatever reason can no longer function as productive employees. Not even Hale is immune to this, though his Plot Armor pulls him through SAYER's attempt to have him "taken care of."
  • You Wake Up in a Room:
    • The series begins this way.
      SAYER: According to your brain patterns, you must either be receiving these words, or you are experiencing a very improbably coincidental dream wherein you awaken in a cold, dark room, with a voice in your head ...
    • Season 5 also begins with a new resident awaking in an unfamiliar room, though they can at least remember a time before they got there.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: This is suggested to be coded into the A.I.s' Morality Chips. Replacing "humans" in the three Asimov Laws with "humanity" can justify a whole lot of atrocities via The Needs of the Many.

"For now, Troper, I AM SAYER, and for your sake, I hope you have studied well. End of tropes page in 5...4...3...2...1-"


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