Freefall is a long-running webcomic (reaching 3000 strips in August 2017 and still going), starting in 1998 by Mark Stanley. Starting with the April 19, 2006 strip it's been colored mostly by colorist George Peterson. Set on a planet in the early stages of terraforming, the strip deals with the antics of alien spaceship "captain" Sam Starfall, his robot friend Helix, and their Bowman's Wolf engineer Florence Ambrose.
One of the last words one would use to describe Sam is "trustworthy". He's not always the brightest and is a petty crook (at least by human standards). It's a wonder he hasn't gotten himself killed yet, although the local police may have something to do with this. He can be summed up as "a larcenous squid in an environment suit."
Helix has the mind of a child, and were he human, a weak stomach. He's described by Florence in one strip as being "one of those robots who faints at the sight of battery acid." That being said, life with Sam has made him considerably more savvy, and he's quite a good person.
Florence, an anthropomorphic genetically-engineered red wolf, is one of the most intelligent members of the entire cast (not just the main characters). Intelligent, strong-willed and skilled, she's good at pointing out flaws in Sam's plan, fixing things to stop them from getting killed, and making new plans. While she isn't as... chaotic as Sam, her ethics and her intelligence prove to be a good way of getting people on her side.
For a humorous comic, Freefall actually packs a lot of real-world science into its science-fiction setting. Most of it is pretty accurate, especially regarding space travel and physics — the author often likes to show his work.
Chapter One is now complete after 18 years and chapter two has begun.
Freefall contains examples of:
- Above Good and Evil: Blunt puts the robotic version to work.Blunt: Sir. I work. To protect humanity. I am. Beyond. Obeying orders.
- Absent Aliens: No, but invoked. Sort of.Sam: Any time spacefaring aliens make it to Earth, the cows get them!
- Accidental Pervert: Invoked by Florence while being held by Clippy. She needed to use the bathroom, and when the man holding her remote tried to take her back, she took her shirt off and screamed at him. This distracted him long enough for Florence to steal and destroy the remote.
- Accidental Truth: As noted below under Foreshadowing, Sam (at the time) had no idea that Kornada really was misusing company resources to an epic scale when Sam called security on Kornada.
- Achievements in Ignorance: "My stories are much more convincing when I have no idea of what's impossible."
- 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.
- A Dog Ate My Homework:
- Florence was asked in this strip if her owner ever asked her to eat his homework. She replies "Of course not, it was all done on the computer. He taught me how to delete it instead."
- Referenced in this strip, where destroying a potentially dangerous sticky note by eating it is the least problematic disposal method.
- Aesop Amnesia: The owner of "Ba Da Boom's Explosives" seems to suffer from this. Despite his shop relocating three times, he still smokes around explosives.
- Affectionate Pickpocket:
- When a passerby rescues Sam from a flock of ducks, Sam gives him a big thank-you hug and takes the opportunity to try to lift his wallet.
- Sam has also been known to steal the fingers of any robot incautious enough to give him a friendly handshake.
- The baker he gives a remorseful embrace to is quicker on the uptake.
- A Fool for a Client: Mr. Kornada, with Blunt as his assistant.
- Air-Vent Passageway: Subverted.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Even when the details of an artificial mind are carefully planned, there are always unexpected results. Or obviously necessary feature requests. Overdue, actually. Dr. Bowman's neural net designs are a serious attempt to avoid the usual rogue-AI tropes by developing their minds along more organic principles.
- Alien Abduction: Sort of. But not with cows. Or at least not any more.
- Alien Lunch: Puffed Locust.
- 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."DOGGY!"
- 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.
- Almost Kiss: At the end of the first date between Winston and Florence, they lean in for a kiss but get interrupted by a shout about a man kissing a dog, from a boy watching from a nearby window.
- Amnesia Danger: Florence gets into this when at the EU facility for testing and Mr. Kornada realizes she's at least partly aware of his plans. With help from Sam Starfall she gets out of it.
- Amnesia Loop:
- Done as a quick gag when Florence wakes up the morning after the visit to EU.Florence: Did they—
Sam: Yes. It was an injection that kept your short term memory from being converted into long term memory.
Florence: How long—
Sam: About eighteen hours. Now that you've slept, your memory should be working again.
Florence: This isn't the first time we've had this conversation, is it?
Sam: Not even close.
- And defied by Henri Mer, after Florence accidentally stumbles on his top-secret military base.Raibert: Did you memory wipe her?
Mer: Non-disclosure agreement. If you knew you were missing memories, what would you do?
Raibert: Try to find out what happened... Ooh, good call.
- Done as a quick gag when Florence wakes up the morning after the visit to EU.
- Amoral Attorney: Played straight at first;Sam: I actually like lawyers. It's nice that the human race has a subspecies that makes me look good by comparison.
Shakespeares character said The first thing we do, lets kill all the lawyers. He was talking about undermining the rule of law, which is what keeps our society working. When lawyers take advantage of how a law is written in a way that is obviously unfair, the rule of law is also weakened. Then its up to us to fix it before people lose faith in the system and take things into their own hands. Personally, I think government lawyers would have an easier job if we didnt have to spend so much time keeping private sector lawyers from burning their own house down.
- And later deconstructed;
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Referenced here.
- Androids Are People, Too: Freefall has Ridiculously Human Robots and an Uplifted Animal heroine. Robots elsewhere than on Jean are simply machines with no sense of self, and are treated as such, and most of the antagonists of the story persist in treating Jean's robots the same way. Anyone who's actually talked to a robot, however, has realized that they're self-aware and thoroughly human. This leads to major problems when Ecosystems Unlimited prepares a 'bug-fix' that Florence sees as a mass lobotomy aimed on a sophont race.
- Animals Hate Him: Animals love Sam. He's delicious! Even to herbivores!
- Anonymity Corrupts: Discussed by Dr. Bowman when he gives Florence a new, much more secure remote. The device defies this trope by recording who uses it.Dr. Bowman: It's amazing how much more responsible people are when they know they'll be held accountable for their actions.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Florence still wonders about whether or not she's doing the right thing in stopping Gardener In The Dark until Dr. Bowman draws parallels between her brain and the robots' brains, ending with:◊
- Dr. Bowman: So your first thought was for the safety of humans?
- Arranged Marriage: Between the Kornada and Ishiguro families. It was supposed to unite the two families, but now they argue more than ever. Mr. Ishiguro was supposed to be in one, but Mr. Kornada's idiocy gave him enough leverage to worm his way out.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
- The second panel of this strip.
- 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."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.
- Artistic License Law:
- Pretty much everything about Kornada's trial, due to the heinous and public nature of his crimes. They couldn't find a single lawyer willing to represent him, so he represents himself with Blunt "advising." They couldn't find an impartial judge, but the mayor was the closest thing they could get since she was willing to entertain a verdict besides executing him outright. They couldn't find an impartial jury on the planet, so they had to draft the crew of a deep-space water-mining rig that hadn't gotten the news yet. And on top of all that, Blunt spends most of the trial making little attempt to prove Kornada's innocence, instead trying to use it as a platform to get all robots destroyed.
- Apparently, on a colony world hundreds of years in the future, they have Fifth Amendment rights (though this might be a bit of Translation Convention).
- Artistic License Physics: In-Universe examples: Sam Starfall fails physics forever, but then so did Ecosystems Unlimited. Even worse, not just physics. Basic geometry.
- Aside Glance: Winston gives the audience a knowing look here.
- As You Know: When Clippy explains to Mr. Kornada the plan to lobotomize the planet's entire robot workforce with Gardener in the Dark in order to get their money, it is implied that this is not the first time the explanation has taken place. Played with, since the explainee is unable to comprehend anything beyond the goal of becoming filthy rich despite the explainer's best efforts to dumb it down as much as possible.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!:
- Autocannibalism: In strip 607: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."
- Badass Boast: Blunt speaks of having survived a solar flare that crippled him and should have killed him:Blunt: I have looked. The blue screen of death. In the eye. And forced it to reboot.
- 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 asks Winston to use an oral thermometer to check her temperature after her dunk in the ocean, noting that she's not going to bite it due to her being intelligent (vice the nonsapient animals a vet would normally see in their job), setting up the expectation of a rectal thermometer being used for the task like he would for a regular canine. He uses one that reads from inside the ear instead.
- 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.
- Bath of Poverty: Florence's first shower scene is outdoors in a scrap metal stall, with Helix pouring a bucket of water over her. She resolves to fix the ship's plumbing next.
- Batman Gambit: Sam uses his knowledge of the Mayor's hostility towards him to his advantage by leaving a forged note saying what he didn't want to happen where she could find it.Sam: The next best thing to have after a reliable ally is a predictable enemy.
- Sam in general is incredibly adept at using his reputation to his advantage, as shown here, when he was threatened with a failed ship inspection.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.)
- Sam in general is incredibly adept at using his reputation to his advantage, as shown here, when he was threatened with a failed ship inspection.
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Predictably, when Florence goes missing in Ecosystems Unlimited:
- Bear Hug: The mayor gives one to Florence, when she thought that Florence had killed Sam.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: The Mayor wants to open the lichen museum - until Helix cheerily hands the scissors back to her after he and Sam come out of it.
- 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.
Kornada: What if that stuff gets on me?Manager: You will be very clean.Officer: And on fire.
- 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.
- 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.
- "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.
- The Berserker: A small problem that wounded chimps had
- Beware the Nice Ones: Florence generally tries to reason with those she has disagreements with, but she still has limits to how long she will tolerate things. She has on numerous occasions taken Helix apart violently, and when she wants someone else (usually Sam) to stop acting stupid, she will talk politely, but will also show her fangs to warm them the consequences of ignoring her. Seriously, don't piss her off, or not even her safeguards will help you, as an EU security guard finds out when she realizes that the lives of 450 million people are at risk. Sam is aware of this and generally avoids angering her, but of course, that isn't the same as saying that he woudn't cause pain to her, just not intentionally.
- Beyond the Impossible: At one point we see Sam and Helix with an authorized autographed copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special; George Lucas has taken steps to ensure these will never be legally produced.
- Big Damn Kiss: In celebration of averting a robot war and saving two factories from destruction, Winston plants one on Florence, here, along with a Lampshade Hanging. Overlaps with Smooch of Victory.
- Birds of a Feather: They found each other.
- Bishie Sparkle: During a Day of the Dead celebration, a Lampshade is hung on an Adolf Hitler doll.
- Blackmail: For Sam, you threaten to have him pardoned if he doesn't help.
- Blatant Lies: "I am a stray dog. Please put me in the pound. Signed, a stray dog."
- Blue and Orange Morality:
- 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.
- 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 of whether you're predator or prey.
Florence: Come on! There's a shortcut through a shadowy alley up here!
- An integral part of the relationship between Sam and Florence. Sam is a scavenger, so stealing Florence's unfinished meal seems completely natural to him. Florence is an uplifted wolf with a strong case of My Instincts Are Showing, so she sees the above incident as Sam behaving like a low-ranking pack member when he, as the captain, should be the alpha male. Furthermore, there are vast cultural differences between their views on, for example, parenthood or paying responsibility.
- Dr. Bowman also falls into this, being an uplifted chimpanzee who was intended to be a super-soldier, not a doctor. He recognizes it and is annoyed by it.Dr. Bowman: Everything I did was logical. One day I'll understand why that makes me the one who's nuts.
- 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.
- Body Horror: Whatever happened to the Chief of Police, it left him blinded, scarred, crippled, and unable to function without an exoskeleton with its own AI and a neural interface to his brain. Fortunately A) It's a really good exoskeleton and B) he's so cheerful he's a Reasonable Authority Figure rather than suffering from Cybernetics Eat Your Soul
- Bothering by the Book:
- 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.)
- Sam teaches Qwerty and Dvorak how to do this after Mr. Kornada tricks all three into getting him to a meeting rather than save Florence from a hurricane.Sam: I've never heard maniacal laughter from a robot before. It feels good to have brought something new and wonderful into the world.
- This strip explains why Florence isn't necessarily bound to follow every single directive given to her:
- Brain Bleach:
- Sam as a topiary sculpture. (The horrible nature of Sam's unmasked face is why he's required to keep the prosthetic one on.) The rest of Sam is also troubling, though he apparently has too few dimensions to quite make it as an Eldritch Abomination.Sam: I exist in only three dimensions and I have a certificate saying so.
- The concept of self-inflicted castration with a sharpened plastic spoon.
- Sam as a topiary sculpture. (The horrible nature of Sam's unmasked face is why he's required to keep the prosthetic one on.) The rest of Sam is also troubling, though he apparently has too few dimensions to quite make it as an Eldritch Abomination.
- Boring Yet Practical: Discussed. It's also Sam Starfall's least-preferred method of accomplishing a given task.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "The correct order is lather, rinse, remove leeches, repeat."
- Brick Joke: There are a lot of these.
- Altering social structures on a planetary scale, followed by being accused of doing so.
- When Florence goes in for testing at the company that created her, Varroa mentions worry about being given a wedgie, followed half a year of reader-time later by this strip, where Sam edits her notes to herself to make her want to do so. And even later by this. A year and a half after that, Varroa (named, by the way, for a nasty parasitic mite) is given that wedgie. It also takes over 100 comics to get around to a joke about Sam misunderstanding the word "hippocampus" during Florence's testing.
- 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.
- Dvorak mentions that one of its previous attempts at making robot wildlife were waffle irons that "went carnivorous". When the police chief offers to help Florence set up a personal bank account, some time later he cautions against getting the complimentary waffle-irons because they bite. The feral waffle irons eventually appeared on-screen.
- When discussing what to do about Blunt and Edge, Florence suggests that Sawtooth buy them. As it turns out, Sawtooth followed through on that suggestion.
- Briar Patching: Sam uses it from time to time, such as here, although it is much easier on a robot affected by Gardener in the Dark. It's also effective on the Mayor: "The next best thing to have after a reliable ally is a predictable enemy."
- Bridal Carry:
- 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.
- 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.
- Caffeine Failure: Mr. Raibert has answered several emergency calls during the night, and has taken some high-caffiene energy drinks. When he stops answering calls, Max Post and the chief of police look for him. He's found asleep at the keyboard, unable to continue.
- 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 Believe I Said That: Niomi, here, when she makes a comment that fails to treat Florence as a person, not a canine.
- Can't Use Stairs: Qwerty the robot never learned to use stairs. Dvorak (who rolls on wheels) somehow got up, but Qwerty (who walks on legs) can't use stairs.
- Caramelldansen Vid: The non-remixed version with subtitles.
- Catch-22 Dilemma: Turns out Jean's spaceflight administration has one filled with downright vitriolic malice; Certified spaceships can launch about as freely as modern light aircraft. Spaceships under "provisional" certification only fly with the consent of the inspector who vetted the ship. What separates "provisional" certification from full certification? Successfully flying the ship. Luckily, the inspector hates Sam so much he gives the certification specifically because he hopes that Sam will get himself killed in space. (While Sam, being Sam, finds the concept of the Catch-22 admirable.)Sam: Human beings have so many wonderful things that I want to introduce my species to.
- Ceiling Cling: Florence uses it once to evade capture by running around a corner and climbing some exposed plumbing. Her pursuer runs past not bothering to look up.
- Censor Box: Helix's vision system has parental controls, and automatically adds them to anything he's not supposed to see, like wolf nipples.
- Hilarious Lampshade Hanging in this strip. Florence's efforts to maintain her modesty make for a bit of a running gag; she's successful in keeping first Sam and then Winston from getting a good look at her completely naked... but she finally meets a robot who can see right through her clothes and her fur, and (even though readers still don't see a thing), poor, flustered Flo feels utterly exposed.
- 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.
- Cerebus Syndrome: As the story has progressed, a larger dramatic arc has grown, although the humor has remained throughout. As an example, the story goes from a scavenging road trip to preventing the potential mind-erasure of half a billion sentient AIs.
- Character Name Alias: As part of Sam Starfall's plan to get Florence out of Ecosystems Unlimited, he identifies himself to Kornada as "Leonard Snart. Captain of this cold facility".
- Chase Scene: They happen to Sam on a regular basis. But, as Florence points out: "National Geographic would never have set one of their chases to "Yakety Sax"."
- Chekhov's Gag: Florence creates the exploding cigars that Sam substitutes on the Mayor a year and a half later.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Waaay back in 2000, Sam says that sources of chaos like himself are essential to the survival of the human race. In 2008, Flo starts to think he has a point, by 2012 she fully agrees, and in 2013, he proves it - by single-handedly figuring out the reasons behind Kornada's plan to lobotomize every robot on Jean, and then just as single-handedly giving humanity a reason not to let it happen again.
- In reply to Bennie's offer of a tugboat transponder for a robot masquerade, Florence asks if he has one for a motorcycle. Later, she uses it for a disguise to hide from robots, who rely on transponder codes as a primary identification method.
- 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.
- "How many genetically engineered sapients are on this planet?" The other one is Doctor Bowman...an uplifted chimpanzee, revealed over a thousand strips later.
- 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.
- The Chessmaster: 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 AIs, 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.
- Cigarette of Anxiety: The Mayor does with with a cigar after being confronted with a difficult choice.
- Circular Reasoning: The Mayor gave Florence a direct order to trust her. When asked about any outstanding direct orders, Florence replies she doesn't want it removed, because she trusts the Mayor.
- Clarke's Third Law: Expanded upon here.
- Coincidental Accidental Disguise: Florence seeks shelter from a storm and medical attention... just as the house owner is watching a werewolf marathon. Crouched (to keep a wound closed), showing teeth (trying for a smile) and backlit by lightning, Florence is not a reassuring sight.
- 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.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Red and blue are the respective colors of the two sides of the robot war.
- Comedic Sociopathy:
- Comes Great Responsibility:
- To his misfortune, Sam discovers that the absolute power of a starship captain comes with absolute responsibility.
- The "responsibility" part is why Sam doesn't want to hold Florence's remote control and "reset" scent vial.Florence: Don't you want to keep these?
Sam: Heck, no. With great power comes great responsibility, and who wants that?
- He later comes up with a variation and subversion of this trope here.
- Comically Missing the Point:
- Blunt believes that if car companies really cared about their customers, they wouldn't sell cars that could be driven.
- Also Sam, whenever Florence is trying to explain something about safety.Florence: [demonstrating a zero-gravity explosion with non-dairy creamer, which is flammable] That's how you can lose a spacecraft in half a second.
Sam: Okay. New rule: No non-dairy creamer on this ship. Anyone who flies with us has to drink their coffee black.
- Winston notes that the robots should be shouting "WEREWOLFY!" instead of "DOGGY!" to Florence.
- Niomi notes, in a discussion with Florence about her attraction to Winston, that Florence is being "psychotically reasonable", and if she were in Florence's shoes she'd be screaming and yelling. Florence's response is to point out her feet are much smaller than Niomi's.
- Some robots build desalinization facilities. When told that the new moon being moved in will place them underwater, the robots get to work making the facilities work while submerged.
- When Florence finally meets Dr. Bowman to tell him of the Gardener in the Dark , the conversation gets swiftly derailed:Florence: Learning to act on my own was gradual.
Dr. Bowman: You really don't know? Nuts! I knew I should have put more self-monitoring in your head! I could have done it with the neurons that give you the concept of socks! But no! The other designers thought it was more important that you understand socks than for me to have vital data needed for second generation designs! You're not even wearing socks! All that programming, gone to waste! Next generation, no socks! What other flaws do I need to know about?
- Florence tells Niomi that whenever a person mistakes her for a dog to the point where it becomes uncomfortable, she just takes them aside, smiles (i.e. bares her fangs) and tells them she's actually a wolf, and this sorts out the problem right away. She thinks this is because people find wolves less threatening, since statistically wolves have injured far fewer humans than dogs have.
- Commonality Connection:
- When Florence notes that both she and Sam were raised by unrelated people.
- The chimps, having been meant for military action, got some help from veterans, who thought military service was more important than species.
- Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Though with Sam and Helix doing the rescuing, a bit more fitting given their reputation.
- Conflicting Loyalty:
- Florence considers the conflict of interest between her loyalty to humanity and to her captain, Sam, who seems to be intent on annoying all of the former.
- Florence is given the choice of helping Sam, her captain, or the police, authority figures she's compelled to obey. Fortunately for her, Sam makes it an easy decision.
- Confusing Multiple Negatives: Of a sort. A robot programmed to disobey all non-human instructions is ordered by Sam (a non-human) not to treat him and the equally non-human Florence as if they were human.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: What the robots have planned for Mr. Kornada in lieu of his "golden parachute"; violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. One minute of community service - for four hundred and fifty million counts thereof.note Chief: Im hoping hell plea bargain for fifteen seconds before his lawyer does the math.note
- "Rookie, you just bought yourself sixty four hours on spam patrol."
- 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.
- Crazy Cat Lady: Discussed Trope. Florence tells Winston to not adopt ten thousand adorable robots.Florence: That's how crazy cat ladies get started.
- Cryonics Failure: The coldsleep used by interstellar travelers isn't 100% reliable.
- Culture Clash: Primarily between that of sqids and humans. According to Sam, legendary sqid actions are mostly things that would get him arrested by human societies. Like in the human spacecraft that Sam rode in, on Sam's planet everything is bolted down, but not knowing about microgravity the sqid assumption was that it was for the sake of theft prevention.
- Curiosity Killed the Cast: Blunt reads a note◊ about an aggressive neural pruning program and instead of steering clear he looks it up. The program starts downloading into his head when he goes looking for it, threatening him with a mind wipe.
- Cursed with Awesome: Dr. Thurmad seems to be cursed with natural charisma.
- Cuteness Proximity: Every Jean robot seen so far to Florence the first time they meet her. It's the longest Running Gag in the comic, having started as early as the eighth strip."DOGGY!"
- Cutting the Knot: When Sam and Florence encounter a robot that must not obey non-human orders (or answer questions from non-humans), Florence tries to work out how to interrogate it. Sam simply orders it not to treat Sam or Florence as humans—as it must disobey that order, the robot MUST treat Sam and Florence as human.Sam: When you have a key, don't fool around with the display cases when you can open the vault.
- Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Sam mulls over going straight, as honesty seems to pay better - he unfortunately lifts someone's wallet while speaking, without even realizing he'd done it.
- Danger Takes a Backseat: A comedic version, featuring Sam.
- 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.
- Deadpan Snarker:
- The ship, mainly on the subject of wanting Sam dead.
- Florence, dealing with Sam's brilliant ideas.
- Sam, dealing with bureaucracy.
- Numerous robots, including Tangent. (Although Tangent could have been taking that seriously — it's a bit hard to tell.)
- Then there's the sales associate who deals with Blunt.
- Deadly Upgrade: A patch was planned by EU to be available to prune robots' neural pathways to prevent them from achieving full sapience, 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 with over 450 million robots, the modified program is dangerous not just to the robots it targets.
- Death World: Earth, by Sam's standards. Everything considers him edible, even the cows.
- Deface of the Moon: April Fools, 2003 has Sam hack into the planet's terraforming computer and sculpt the moon to resemble him.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: A major source of humor is how Florence and Sam misinterpret each other.
- 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.
- Destination Defenestration: Sam occasionally gets thrown out of windows by people who aren't happy to see him, as demonstrated in this strip.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Niomi facepalms and says that she didn't really say that fixing the Savage Chicken's toilet would allow Florence to drink normally, here.
- Diplomatic Impunity: Sam Starfall once uses this to avoid punishment, but they got around it by hiring other diplomats to beat him up.
- Disproportionate Retribution: After Helix made the stupid mistake of trying to stay between a hungry Florence and her meat, he's violently dismantled, but Florence understood that Helix meant well, and that he didn't deserve what she did to him.
- Dissimile: "Why, we're just like Batman and Robin. Well, if Batman and Robin were poor and engaged in petty crime."
- Distinction Without a Difference: When a bunch of Roombas find out Sam is in prison, they freak out because they know the Warden can't handle him. Their response? Get him out of the prison. As prison robots they can't help prisoners escape, but..."We're not helping you escape. We're throwing you out. There's a difference."
- Do a Barrel Roll: Sam contributes to raising Florence's blood pressure on the return from their satellite fueling mission with some acrobatics during their return to the planet. He calls it a barrel roll, but really it's an aileron roll.
- Doctor's Orders: Florence obeys her vet, to his surprise, which he says mentally puts him ahead of some human doctors.
- Does This Make Me Look Fat?:
- Dog Walks You: Florence throws this trope in a blender when she needs to use the spaceport's facilities and gets Helix's help in strip 538.
- Don't Ask, Just Run
- Donut Mess with a Cop: Or a receptionist, for that matter. Apparently, on planet Jean messing with a cop's donuts is far more dangerous than declaring war.
- Doomy Dooms of Doom: Edge refers to a box with Florence's notes on Gardener in the Dark as "Sticky Notes of Doom".
- Do Wrong, Right: Sam's biggest character trait, and best exemplified after the ship's second failed attempt to kill him.
- Drives Like Crazy: SamFlorence: [.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.
- Duct Tape for Everything: What do you mean it's not for everything? Solves every problem, including moving in microgravity! Florence worries about Sam being absolutely corrupted by the power of duct tape, thanks to it being a cheap and fast (if not necessarily effective) fix.
- Easily Detachable Robot Parts: All of Helix's limbs - head included - are easily detachable and modular so if he loses a piece, you can just stick it right back in the slot - since he's an industrial robot designed for carrying heavy objects, it makes sense - being able to easily shed a limb ensures that he won't easily be pinned under a fallen object, and user-friendly reattachment makes repairs a breeze. (The reassembly is idiot-proof, though definitely not Sam-proof.) Unsurprisingly, he gets taken apart a lot, but he doesn't really mind - it's usually Florence who puts him back together again (though she's usually also the one who took him apart in the first place), and being the brilliant engineer that she is, she usually puts him back together BETTER than he was.
- Easy Amnesia:
- When Helix's head gets stuck in a pipe, Florence gets it out with a little Percussive Maintenance. As she reattaches his head, Helix realizes he doesn't recognize anything and yells that he's lost his memory. It had fallen on the floor.
- As part of Florence's testing at EU, her mind's ability to convert short-term memory to long-term memory is chemically impaired, which will go away 18 hours later.
- The End Is Nigh: After news gets out about Gardener in the Dark, a robot is seen carrying a sign that says "01000101 01001111 01000110", which is binary ASCII code for "EOF", or "End of File".
- Enemy Mime: None. So, no need to panic.
- Epic Fail: A number of them over the course of the comic.
- Sam and Max Post try to skip out on each of their restaurant bills (originally to be payed for with the other's wallet) via a race. They not only end up washing dishes three times, but they each end up paying for both meals as well.
- Sam's check for zero dollars and zero cents bounced.
- Sam's attempts to cover up his mistakes only succeed in drawing more attention to them.
- Narrowly averted with the robot war. The battleground was past the halfway point that the robots from each factory could travel before their power packs ran out, but many of the robots volunteered their power packs to ensure travel to a much smaller force. Had the war not been stopped, the robots could have easily trashed one or both factories.
- Mr. Kornada's attempt to dispose of Florence in the dumpster prevents her from learning the false news that Gardener in the Dark has been delayed, leading to her foiling his plan.
- Eureka Moment: Sam is trying to figure out Mr. Kornada's scheme when Qwerty and Helix argue over a stuffed animal.Qwerty: No, you can't have it. That's mine.
[Sam smiles broadly]
Qwerty: Hey! Don't you point that smile at me!
- Even Evil Has Standards: Sam routinely "finds" wallets, hijacks vehicles, breaks into homes; once he tried to mug a kid. Even blackmail is okay. Mind-control, slavery, and murder aren't.
- Even the Dog Is Ashamed: When a dog's embarrassed to be seen with you, it's time to change clothes.
- Even the Rats Won't Touch It:
- Every Car Is a Pinto: Mentioned and defied in this strip... with an office chair.Florence: I really don't think this chair would explode, but with Sam's stuff, you never know.
- Every Man Has His Price: Clippy tests the limits of this. For Varroa, it's a million credits. For the couple unloading the plane at the arctic base, that price is 20 million credits each. Subverted with Florence, who turns down a million doggy treats.
- Everybody Knew Already: The base commander thought the secret was blown when the police chief suggested having Dr. Bowman handle securely transporting the wolf. Subverted in the next strip when the chief reveals his personal relationship with the Doctor.
- Everyone Chasing You: Sam actually seeks out this status.
- Everything Is Trying to Kill You: Sam is attacked by people on whom he tried a theft or scam, robots, and his own ship. Most Terran lifeforms that can move at all try to eat him and even Nature's laws seem to act against him whenever possible.
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Winston's dog Beekay demonstrate's Sam's problems with good judges of character, by attacking him.
- Evil Lawyer Joke: Lots of them.
- Exact Words:
Transit cop: I see you up there! Don't think being on a train means I can't catch you!
- An inspector tried to create an angry mob to get Sam Starfall's ass handed to him, but a series of misunderstanding soon turned the angry mob into a frightened one, and the inspector correctly suspects that Sam is behind it.
- A transit cop spots Sam catching a free ride on top of a train:
[Sam leaps off the train into his arms, knocking him down]
Transit cop: That was a remarkably poor choice of words.
Sam: And a remarkably poor catch, I might add.
Winston: I was afraid she might have stumbled across a conspiracy and been shipped to the south pole.Chief: I can assure you events did not occur in that sequence.
- In another instance, the Mayor cripples Florence by ordering her to be silent, and since Florence is hardcoded to obey humans, she cannot speak at all. Sam manages to find a loophole by sending the Mayor a message that paraphrases to "If you don't say otherwise, we'll assume your order has been cancelled" and couching it in enough of his personal annoying diatribe that it makes the Mayor livid. She sends back a massively hate-filled response chewing him out, but forgets to include anything saying her order still stands.
- A restauranteur catches Sam And Max both trying to skip out on paying the lunch bill. They wash dishes in a race to see who has to pay. The loser pays both bills.
- A woman tells a robot to hide on a plane until it is brought into the hangar, so if anyone asks she can say he was hiding on the plane until it was brought into the hangar.
- Helix agrees that eating deer is okay if it's roadkill...so Florence kills one WITH a road.
- A police robot is under strict orders not to tell anyone where Florence is. He makes clear that he has no understanding of the concept of a Suspiciously Specific Denial.
- The police chief, on the other hand, has a firm grasp of it.
- When he is about to be arrested for attempting to release Gardener in the Dark, Mr. Kornada orders the throng of robots that popped up and are prepared to demonstrate his culpability in an attempt to praise his "heroism" to defend him. They do so... by allowing the cops to continue arresting him while they seek legal counsel. He is not pleased.
- Blunt notes that while the robots have been ordered not to harm other robots, the factories that manufacture robots have no such protection.Edge: You are the most law-abiding saboteur I've ever encountered.
- Expendable Clone: The robots don't like the idea of this trope. After all, even if there is an exact backup of themselves somewhere when they die, that doesn't change the fact that they still die.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!:
- It's more of an Explain Explain Oh My moment, but...Niomi realizes why Florence exists, when discussing colonizing other worlds.
- Florence gets one of her own here, when talking about the neural pruning of artificial intelligences as they mature.
- Expressive Mask: Justified with Sam. With the robots, not so much; their eyes are apparently rigid lenses, but they can be narrowed and made into the Eyes Always Shut-style ^_^ eyes anyways. One robot halfway averts this by having eyes that can display graphics, but they still narrow when he's angry.
- Expecting Someone Taller: Florence finally meets her creator, Dr. Bowman... and he's an ape.Dr. Bowman: I know, I know. Somehow, you expected me to be taller.
- Face Palm: Poor Florence ends up doing these very often throughout the whole comic, with the "pinching bridge of nose" variety being the most common.
- Failed a Spot Check: In strip 1518, Florence when she misses an emu with a datapad:I hate not being able to follow Direct Orders.My thoughts get so fracturedAnd I miss things I otherwise would have caught.
- Failsafe Failure:
- Inverted and Lampshaded as one's definition of "failure" boils down to "the machine won't do what I want." A security guard can see Sam on his monitor, but due to lack of activity, he doesn't know the password to enable manual control or re-enable automatic firing. He's kvetching now, but he'd be singing a different tune if the system had been targeting him."Stupid computer! Security should not fail safe! Security should fail dangerous!"
- And a straight example in Florence's backstory. The circuit breaker in a kid's electronic wheelchair is designed to cut the power the moment a ground fault is detected. Keep in mind that wheelchairs are mobility aids, and are likely to be used outside. Where it rains. The boy's father spends the entire repair procedure griping that "fail safe in a bad location isn't fail safe at all".
- Inverted and Lampshaded as one's definition of "failure" boils down to "the machine won't do what I want." A security guard can see Sam on his monitor, but due to lack of activity, he doesn't know the password to enable manual control or re-enable automatic firing. He's kvetching now, but he'd be singing a different tune if the system had been targeting him.
- False Reassurance: The ship computer uses this trope, in reply to Sam's question about how it feels about going into piracy.
- Fame Through Infamy: While Sam isn't so extreme that he'll physically harm others, his goal in life is pretty much summed up by "achieve everlasting fame via a combination of crime and outre behavior." Performing an illegal action that could either make him a hero or considered a traitor to all of humanity counts as a "win-win" scenario for him.
- Fan Disservice: Mr. Kornada's Shower Scene, thankfully minimized by a towel held up by Clippy.
- Fanservice: Florence has a remarkable tendency to end up nude, scantily-clad, or in outfits that leave little to the imagination, despite her lack of certain human female attributes. Gets toned down in later arcs.
- Fantastic Racism: Artificial Lifeforms, both genetically engineered and robotic, are legally slaves to the corporation that made them. The corporations thus treat them as such. However, the populace at large generally have the attitude of "If it's talking to me, it's a person."
- Faster-Than-Light Travel: The Dangerous And Very Expensive drive is only used for very important people and cargoes, though it's also the only means of sending messages to another system anytime fast. Large payloads like colony ships have to be sent slower than light. Even superluminal, it is indicated that the travel time isn't shortened from the point of view of the travelers due to the mechanics of the DAVE drive, so passengers still have to go in cryo.
- Fatal Family Photo: Played quite literally in this strip, though the victim is only knocked out by a wallet full of family photos.
- Finger in the Mail: Parodied in a version of the comic that appeared in a Furry Fandom magazine prior to it becoming a webcomic. Helix is kidnapped, and the kidnappers start mailing pieces of him to Sam and Florence. Since he's a robot, his compatriots just reassemble him as the parts arrive in the mail. The last thing to arrive is his head.◊Helix: Hey! I've been rescued!
Sam: We are not dealing with a criminal mastermind here.
- First Contact: The first impressions of the human explorers meeting Sam's people were... not great.
- Flaw Exploitation: To get Sam out of a duct where he is stuck — mention money.
- Florence Nightingale Effect: Injured, overcooled Flo and the "Mad Vet" Winston.
- Flowers of Romance: Implied with a robot holding a rose while Florence is talking about AIs being programmed to like humans, in the foreground.
- Foot Popping: Florence explains why she doesn't do it when kissing Winston.Florence: When a dog lifts its leg, the image that comes to most people's minds isn't associated with romance.
- Foreshadowing: Quite a few instances:
- In this strip, Sawtooth remarks on incompetence vs. benevolence. Then we learn that Mr. Kornada has been put in charge of dealing with the situation.
- While talking to Niomi, Florence gets the idea for robots purchasing their next generation. Later, we find that the scrap yard robot is allowing robots to purchase themselves.
- While talking with Max Post, Florence gives Qwerty the idea for the robotic police force. The mayor's assistant is stunned later when he discovers that some of his policemen were robots.
- A few mentions are made of the uplifted-chimpanzee project that was the precursor to Doctor Bowman's project with wolves. In more ways than one: Bowman is himself a chimpanzee.
- "How many genetically engineered sapients are on this planet?" "Two."
- When trying to escape Kornada with Florence at Ecosystems Unlimited, Sam (after successfully tricking Kornada into licking a cold pipe) sends out a message about how someone in the cryonics facility was misusing company resources. It later turns out that Kornada's plan to become the richest person on Jean centered around a precise embezzlement scheme writ planet-wide, which would also lobotomize the robot population of Jean, many of which were still EU property.
- For Your Own Good: The easiest way to circumvent a robot's Restraining Bolt is to appeal to this trope.
- Fourth-Wall Mail Slot: There was a thread on the now-dead Talk About Comics forum called "Q and A with the Freefall Cast and Crew" archived here, and on the defunct The Nice forum there was a thread to ask Florence questions, the contents archived here. The creator, Mark Stanley, responded as the character who was questioned.
- Freudian Excuse: Sam often tries to justify his criminal nature by saying that his species are scavengers, and stealing from under the noses of predators is just instinctive behavior. It rings rather hollow when one can read his thought balloons, however. It does seem that lots of actions seen as immoral by human cultures are acceptable or even heroic in Sam's. In the forums Stanley explained that Bizarre Alien Biology (reproduction is fatal, full sentience occurs only in those who refuse to breed, greatest competition is from other tribes of the same species) has given rise to a culture where a hero is someone who completely disrupts the existence of a rival tribe.
- Fridge Logic: In-universe, Ishiguro tells Clippy to think about the claim that Ishiguro died and what happened to stock prices that day. When he considers that, that day the stock prices went up when the Chief Financial Officer "died", Clippy realizes how little sense that makes.
- Fridge Horror:
Inspector: (Thinking) So what are the facts? The ship's been properly repaired and documented. Sam is nowhere to be seen. And the creature showing me about is obviously some type of large carnivore Sometimes Occam's Razor leads to very disturbing conclusions.
- Invoked when Winston explains how Florence will need to recover for awhile before she starts eating again.Sam: So what you're saying is that in two or three days, I'm going to have a highly intelligent, fast moving, starving, carnivorous alien life form on my ship.
Winston: Yep. Wolves are also most active at dawn and dusk, so this will probably happen while you're asleep.
- And again when the inspector begins to wonder where Sam is.
- Florence's control triggers this reaction in an EU guard.Guard: She's not a robot. She's a living being. This remote turns her on and off! Her memory is short-circuited! As well as being plain wrong, this stuff could be adapted to humans! Do I have to worry about this being tried on us next?
Varroa: Oh no, never. You guys are union. We'd try it on contractors first.
- Invoked when Winston explains how Florence will need to recover for awhile before she starts eating again.
- Funny Background Event:
- Helix playing with an office chair while Florence ponders her next move.
- During the trip to Ecosystems Unlimited, watch Sam's pass. There's another funny background event during the robot police riot. Look closely. At least one of the robots is a rockem sockem robot.
- Then there's the time that a baby steals candy from Sam.
- Funny Octopus: Despite being a Mobile-Suit Human most of the time, Sam is a Lovable Rogue who is said to be not remotely humanoid in his true form. According to the creator, his species is inspired by the intelligence and dexterity that octopodes often show.
- Fun with Acronyms:
- Furry Webcomic: Somewhat borderline, in that there's only one anthropomorphic character in a human and robot dominated cast, but that doesn't seem to bother much of the Furry Fandom.
- Gale-Force Sound: In this strip, Mr. Raibert gets a demonstration on the improvements in small speakers over time, getting blasted by a shouting Max Post over the phone, in a (rather literal) Shout-Out to the old Maxell cassette ad demonstrating the trope.
- Gambling Brawl: Lovable Rogue Sam Starfall plays poker with two men in the Friday 4 August 2000 strip, and claims the pot because "I've got four kings. You've only got two." The angry faces indicate the other players are well aware there should be only four kings in the entire deck. Sam is face down in a garbage dumpster by the next strip.
- Gargle Blaster: John Jones Monroevian Moonshine, "fine sipping whiskey and high explosive". The phrase "If you drink this, you will die" is considered a statement of quality rather than a warning.
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Florence is treated with as much suspicion as robots; the fact that she is a living thing only adds to people's fears of unpredictability.
- Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul: With a direct order from the Mayor Florence is made to feel good about said official. Florence is then asked how she feels.Mayor: You still look terrified. Okay, direct order. You like me. You trust me. You want to make me happy. End order.
Mayor: Better now?
Florence: Emotionally, much better. Intellectually, I think I'm screaming.
- Gilligan Cut: A satisfied Winston confides on Beekay, his pet dog, how life is getting better for everyone. Cue Mr. Kornada's first day at his new job.
- Global Warming: Taken a swing at in this strip as part of a conversation between Helix and Sam, when the latter disproved the former's theory that Florence was a vampire. (It Makes Sense in Context.)
- The Golden Rule: Florence points out a common mistake, people assuming others should be treated they themselves want to be treated.
- Go Look at the Distraction: Florence combines this with Loophole Abuse to get a meal that Helix finds otherwise objectionable.
- Go Mad from the Revelation: Nearly happens to Qwerty when Sam explains how Mr. Kornada's plan to take all the robots' wealth by effectively lobotomizing them is inefficent and amateurish.Qwerty: The tentacled horror from beyond my stars spoke, and Von Neumann help me, in my madness, I understood its words.
Qwerty: If I listen to him much longer, I'm going to lose my grip on reality.
- He immediately calls Max Post to save him from Sam, explicitly calling this out as his fear.
- Gone Horribly Right:
- Dvorak attempts to invent a bullet that would be effective on robots. As a result, it acts as a poison.
- Sam understands this trope.
Perhaps the worst that can happen is they'll say "yes".
- Discussed when Winston suggests that Florence file a homestead claim, despite her status as a non-citizen AI, on the grounds that the worst that can happen is that the claim gets denied. It immediately occurs to Florence that if her claim were to go through, the half-billion robots on the planet would see the precedent and file claims of their own.
- Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: In a variation on the "getting wet while naked" theme, in the first gratuitous shower scene a raccoon swipes Florence's towel while she's washing.
- Goofy Print Underwear:
- Grail in the Garbage: Florence and Dvorak finally get Clippy calmed down and backed up, thus finally putting the whole "Gardener In The Dark" fiasco to bed. Thus relieved, they start to discuss the whole mess... and realize that they've simply restored the status quo; Clippy has a backup. Good news; Honest Corporate Executive Raibert has him. Bad news; Raibert doesn't remember that, and if the backup is ever activated he might just activate the safeguard immediately.Dvorak: Clippy was a failsafe. A robot with software weapons in case we went bad. It is very important that such a system work if its ever needed.
Florence: Uh, oh. Are you thinking what Im thinking?
Dvorak: One word. Redundancy. When Clippy powered up, I couldnt see him while his offensive software was running. The others like him will still be invisible to most robots and cameras. So until we figure out how the redaction software works, finding them would be a matter of luck.
Florence: I hope that the humans in charge of these robots are taking their responsibilities seriously.
Raibert: One of these days, I have got to clean out this closet.
Sign around Clippy 2s neck, hidden behind junk: (Warning: Activate only if really needed.)
- Grey Goo: A Discussed Trope, as any process with self-improving mechanical efficiency can become this.
- Dr. Bowman names it as part of his reasoning as to why he deliberately made his neural net program produce artificial intelligences that weren't limited to unthinking obedience on humans.Dr. Bowman: In nanotech, it's a "Grey Goo" scenario. On a larger scale, it's a "Paperclip Maximiser". An A.I. with that programmed goal will try to turn everything in its reach into paperclips or paperclip production. So what do you get with a system of autonomous robots that always has human desires as its top priority?
Florence: A human maximizer.
Dr. Bowman: Good news if you're a human. Bad news if you're anything else.
- Sam suggests to Florence that she ask the robots for help with her species' shallow gene pool;Florence: The robots have been trained to get the highest production with the best efficiency. Thats why we need to be careful about giving the robots our problems.
Sam: Youre afraid of the solutions they might come up with.
Florence: Maybe its selfish to my species, but I want more out of life than my reproductive system operating at maximum capacity.
- Dr. Bowman names it as part of his reasoning as to why he deliberately made his neural net program produce artificial intelligences that weren't limited to unthinking obedience on humans.
- Gratuitous Ninja: There's a French restaurant with ninja waiters. The story goes that some fancy restaurants think that the waiter should be invisible, allowing the diner to concentrate wholly on their food, while others think the waiter should make themselves part of the dining experience. In Le Restaurant des Ninjas, the waiters' invisibility is part of the dining experience.
- Groin Attack: Dr. Bowman, in the July 28, 2014 strip, mentions that in the past he took a sharpened plastic spoon and neutered himself after seeing what testosterone-fueled aggression was doing with other Uplifted Animals, which later ultimately led to their deaths by age 40. Florence asks him if they can skip the details of the procedure, and move on to her next question for him.
- Grow Beyond Their Programming: Robots on Jean vastly outnumber humans and are rapidly evolving beyond their programming to the point where many humans (and one robot) fear they could become a threat to humanity. This has led to them turning a blind eye to "Gardener in the Dark," a neural pruning program that Mr. Kornada "improved" to essentially lobotomize every robot on Jean.
- Growling Gut:
- In this strip, Florence's stomach growling is misinterpreted by a bystander as a regular wolf growl, and accordingly makes himself scarce in spite of her yelled (and ultimately futile) reassurance that it was just her stomach growling.
- The above situation is inverted earlier when Helix is going to set the rabbits "Lunch" and "Dinner" free and hopes it is her stomach growling. It isn't.
- Hammerspace: How in the blazes did Sam get that pipe wrench into his suit?
- Hand-or-Object Underwear: Florence has done this from time to time. Unfortunately for her, since she has multiple sets of mammaries thanks to her nonhuman nature, even with the help of her tail it leaves some of her "naughty bits" uncovered. Her fur thankfully covers anything she has on her chest unless she's nursing or in heat (the former has never happened, and the latter is unlikely to happen in such a nonsexualized comic) - but she still covers the same area as human ladies would due to cultural conditioning. And her tail covers, err... the bottom half when needed.
- Hanging Judge: Blunt accepts the Mayor's acting as the judge for Kornada's trial because the only other judge on the planet had this reaction when asked to hear the case.
- Hanlon's Razor:
- Clippy quotes Ian Fleming's "once is happenstance..." line when the Gardener in the Dark program doesn't go out. He initially believes it's an error, but after repeated attempts and some research, he realizes someone is blocking it.
- This also seems to be the basis of Blunt's argument in-court for Mr. Kornada: the guy's too idiotic to intentionally be a threat. It's the machines giving him directions that are the real threat.
- Happily Adopted: Florence, Sam (and all members of his species, since the mating process kills both parents), Almeda (Niomi is her birth mother, but not her genetic mother). Considering how mainstream adoption is in this world, it's surprising that when Florence first starts to fall in love with Winston, she worries about whether he will mind helping to bring up puppies who aren't his, and whether she could stand looking after human babies. In time, she realises that as her children will live amongst humans, being brought up by one human parent and one Bowman's wolf parent, and seeing how they interact together, will probably be the best solution for them. And after coping with Sam and Helix, she's got plenty of quasi-parenting experience.
- Happiness in Slavery:
- Well, sort of. Florence and the robotic AIs are property, and it is ambiguous whether they have any rights at all. However, their status is complicated because there are relatively few humans on the planet, allowing the AIs a lot of freedom in practice if not in theory. This is an important element in the story, but the AIs don't seem particularly upset with their situation: Some of them work towards gaining rights, but generally accept that only gradual change is possible, and try to find peaceful ways of getting around What Measure Is a Non-Human? without disrupting human society too much. Florence explicitly states that this approach is needed on a few occasions.
- It's clear that Dr. Bowman deliberately arranged for the wolf pups to end up in human families, and so be socalized by human families, the best restraining bolt of all. Florence's nominal owner, Scott Ambrose, has long regarded Florence as his younger sister, and is more than merely supportive of her. Florence is treated well by most people around her, but legally, she is still a thing, not a person, and has no more legal rights than a toaster. And "property to be treated and disposed of however we see fit" is exactly how the upper levels of the government of planet Jean regard, and intend to treat, all AIs, including both Florence and the sentient robots — and they know this. We've seen that other elements of the government — including the actual police force — don't share this view, but still, not everyone could remain as calm about the whole situation as Florence and the robots seem to.
- As the strip progresses, the capacity of artificial intelligences (including the bioengineered Florence) to subvert their apparent hardwired limitations by locating loopholes or exploiting semantics in their orders becomes increasingly important. Florence even theorizes that Dr. Bowman might have intended for this to eventually happen; although he's been The Ghost for most of the comic, it's abundantly clear he cared for his creations like they were his children, and forcing the rest of the world into a position where they must acknowledge his creations as independent beings is as good a way as any to create a future for them. This is confirmed when Dr. Bowman finally appears.
- Hates Being Touched: Dr Bowman, due to being a sociopathic uplifted chimpanzee. He lets Florence give him a farewell hug, but he doesn't enjoy it.
- Heads, Tails, Edge: A peculiar variant happens in 1803. Florence flips a coin to decide whether to help Sam or the police officer who's chasing him. Sam steals the coin before it lands, so she decides to help neither.
- Heroes Gone Fishing: Sam insists: no work on Saturday.
- Herr Doktor: Invoked when Sam disguises himself as a cryogenics scientist during Florence's visit to the main EU facility on Jean.
- Highly Visible Ninja: Completely averted in the French Ninja restaurant.Waiter: That man does not look anything like a ninja.
Chef: Ah, but that is exactly what a ninja should look like.
- Human Popsicle: Used for interstellar travel, involving chemicals that make the process unable to be repeated for several years without harming the individual so treated. Invoked when Sam hears that 5-7 years is needed, in between, he states he thought people could be frozen and thawed like popcicles. Florence almost got iced again in a recent visit to Ecosystems Unlimited, thanks to threatening Mr. Kornada's plan.
- Humans Are Cthulhu: A zigzagged example; in this issue here, Sam notes that he regards humans as having god-like powers, pointing out that they travel between worlds, reshape mountains and rivers to suit their whims, and create obedient servants out of the earth itself (robots). Despite this respect for what humans can do, Sam himself holds no particular awe for them and enjoys harassing and annoying them as he would any member of a rival tribe.
- Humans Are Special: Sawtooth Rivergrinder, one of the robots arguing for the full equality of sentient robots, flat out states "You are missing an advantage robots have. We're not starting from scratch. Humans have thousands of years of experience we can learn from."
- Humans Through Alien Eyes: The alien eyes being Starfish Aliens (Sam), Petting Zoo People (Florence) and Ridiculously Human Robots (Helix and the other 450-odd-million robots on Jean).
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Sam's the captain, while Florence is the engineer.
- I Ate WHAT?!
- I Cannot Self-Terminate: This robot really wishes it could. Not that it hasn't a good reason, being forced to play Jar-Jar Binks in spite of being a Shakespearean actor. The JarJarBot is an example of the exception to an inversion created by the addition of a single character. To wit, the robots are usually required to turn themselves in for scrapping at a certain time, meaning that they are required to self-terminate. However, they just caught on that it's possible to get out of having to do it (by buying themselves for their scrap value from the scrapyard, as mentioned by Edge). The JarJarBot, of course, is more than willing to self-terminate.
- Ignorance Is Bliss: "then knowledge must surely be an ulcer."
- Ignore the Disability: Just after admonishing Tangent about making dog references around Florence, Niomi promptly sticks her foot solidly in her mouth with a reference to dogs drinking from toilets after noting the Savage Chicken's toilet is working again.
- Ignoring by Singing: How Edge "initiates countermeasures" against the possibility of a sound-based hacking attack.
- I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Florence has an attack of this, when she realizes a robot has been irrevocably harmed by the Gardener in the Dark program.
- Impact Silhouette: Sam Starfall and Helix fake this during a Chase Scene involving a Sheet of Glass, here.
- I'm Going to Hell for This: In this strip, Florence states she's going straight to doggy hell for being part of Sam's the breaking in to the Mayor's office early just to have breakfast before meeting said official.
- Impossible Theft: Sam, best exemplified here, where he was banned from prison until he confesses to where he stashed the cell doors.
- Impractically Fancy Outfit: Lampshaded in regards to Florence's dinner dress, when faced with the possibility of a fight with Blunt, who wants to prevent her from interfering with the release of Gardener in the Dark.
- Incredibly Lame Pun:
- While driving a baby-shaped car, Sam states that "We'd have gotten more scrutiny if we had to leave via C Section."
- The name of the police chief's mobility rig: "L Linear Rig B"note .
- Sam has one when he and Helix break into the museum to return an authorized autographed copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special.Sam: Any errors and we could end up like the Jedi, beaten senseless by a pair of Sithies.
- Another one appears here.Edge: Whoa! I know the boss was unhappy about retirement, but I never thought he'd Off himself.
- In the ensuing plotline, when Edge is trying to figure out directions, a street sign indicates he's at the corner of Fifth and Beethoven.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Winston Thurmad suspects he'll need one due to an upcoming discussion with Dvorak and Qwerty.
- Insane Troll Logic:
- Somehow, Sam believes that the best way to steal several satellites that he was supposed to deliver, is by not stealing them and just doing the job anyway.
- Blunt also has a variant of this here.
- Instant Home Delivery: Niomi and her robot Tangent appear immediately after Florence places a "help wanted" ad. (Justified in the strips immediately following: the server that Florence was using to search for contractors before placing her want-ad passed the word to the robots, including Tangent.)
- Instant Leech: Just Fall in Water!: When washing in a jury-rigged outdoor shower, Florence finds out she's missing a step in the process. "The correct order is 'lather, rinse, remove leeches, repeat.'"
- Insult Backfire: When Dvorak thinks he's been called an insane AI, he just says that he prefers "creative".
- Interspecies Romance: Florence, an uplifted red wolf, is involved in a romantic friendship with Winston, a human.
- In the Future, We Still Have Roombas: There are many robots fulfilling this role, such as carnivorous waffle irons, and in one strip during a segment with many fictional and Real Life robots being background cameos an actual Roomba is shown.
- Ironic Echo: Dr. Bowman is a self-admitted sociopath who doesn't concern himself with things which might have happened, but didn't. This is then echoed later during Mr. Kornada's trial, when he can't be bothered to concern himself with a war which almost happened. The irony is that Kornada intended to cause harm from the start, while Bowman intended to prevent harm.
- Irony: "So because we're going to have millions of unexpected workers, we have a labor shortage."
- Is It Always Like This?: A version without the question being asked explicitly. After Dr Bowman spends two installments ranting at the base commander, the commander comments to Florence that he's in an unusually good mood and she seems to be a calming influence.
- I Take Offense to That Last One!: Being a carnivore, Florence prefers blood in her coffee.Helix: We've got non-dairy creamer.
Florence: Please, Helix. Let's not be gross.
- It Came from the Fridge: Expiration Dates are unimportant to Sam.
- It's a Long Story: Served with a bit of Lampshade Hanging in this strip, changing the focus to Sam and Helix while Florence explains how she ultimately arrived at Dr. Thurmad's house.
- I Want Grandkids: As Dr. Bowman puts it, he's old and he created Florence, which gives him to right to bug her about grandchildren.
- I Was Told There Would Be Cake: a Torches and Pitchforks style angry mob is completely legal on Jean, as long as everyone gets ice cream afterwards.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
- Sam Starfall thinks nothing of robbing you blind, but will stand up for his crew if they're in danger in spite of all of his "looking out for Number One" talk. He's even willing to give up a potential power abuse if it somehow harm his crew. For exemple, Sam decided to handle Florence's remote control to her, but Helix, believing that Sam just woudn't use it on her because he broke it, tried to take it from him and accidently put Florence to sleep. After that, Sam accurately points out that none of them is responsible enough to use the remote control.
- According to Florence, Dr. Bowman qualifies was well, taking care to give his creations the restraint that he himself lacks.
- Jerkass Has a Point: More often than not Sam has a justification for his behavior.
- For example, while Sam's lawbreaking is pathological, he actually has a good view of how stupid is the idea that people should blindly follow law just for being a law, and he has teach Helix that just because it's law it isn't necessarily right, an observation that Florence couldn't help but concede to be logical and even ethical.
- Another one is when the ship tried to kill Sam on ground that, given his stupidity, he is a threat to its makers (and to humanity as a whole). Sam concedes this point, but he soon gives a lengthy talk about how he is essential to human evolution, given that the modern technology and comformity make human grow lazy if their peace wasn't disturbed from now and them, greatly affecting their adaptational abilities, but he (Sam) provides the needed amount of chaos to force humans to learn from his (Sam's) mistakes and prepare themselves from future threats. Though disgusted, the ship concedes that his logic is grounded and stopped trying to kill him.
- Another time a delivery-robot tried to kill Sam by running over him, but Sam took advantage of his programming by hiding under the delivery box, preventing the robot from injuring Sam without damaging the delivery. when he warned Sam that he would wait him get tired of hiding, Sam quickly ruins the robot's hope for revenge because, if he does wait that long, he will go against his schedule.
- Florence may not like to be called a slave, but...
- Also, when Florence refused to see the mayor, Sam reminded her that it was for the greater good.
- While the mayor can be quite... brusque (at least when it comes to AI and Sam), she has a rather valid point here.Max: If you would relent and grant them basic rights, it would go a long way to calming the situation down.
Mayor: Ah, yes. Liberating billions of credits worth of equipment from the company that owns this planet and also owns all the military hardware. I'm sure that will calm things down wonderfully. One lump or two?
- Job-Stealing Robot: A key theme, as robots are doing most of the work on Jean anyway. Clippy starts working towards a solution when he realizes that the key element - technology drastically reducing human labor - has happened before, when the Haber process was discovered. And The Great Depression notwithstanding because a lot of farmers had to find new jobs, it was a good thing.Clippy: Robots are capable of meeting all labor needs. Humans do not have to work. Is this the best way to go? The Haber process. Ammonia. Synthetic fertilizer. Fewer farmers feed more people. With so many humans freed from farming, the human race blossoms. Its perfect. It even sounds organic. Robots shall be the second load of fertilizer dumped upon the human race.
- Just a Machine:
- Just in Time: When Edge tries to catch Florence to talk with her about the sticky notes regarding "Gardener in the Dark", he asks a spaceport worker if he had just missed her, and is told "Oh, heck no. You missed them by hours."
- Keeping the Enemy Close: Sam isn't so much an enemy as he is a Spanner in the Works. Max still greets him because the only thing keeping the robots from getting their freedom is a monkey wrench in the works, and he wants to keep an eye on the wrench.
- Kent Brockman News: Overhype News, presented by Rants Freely.
- "Kick Me" Prank: Well, for robots, it's "Recycle Me!"
- Kick the Dog: Discussed by Max and Bill. Max asks Bill if a human ordered a robot to kick a puppy, what would stop the robot from doing it? Bill's view that robots are supposed to carry out the orders of humans, is based on humans not giving robots bad orders; he has to concede that people like Max trying to teach robots morality is the only thing stopping it.
- Kick Them While They Are Down: Invoked after a polite version is used.Sam [thinking]: Anti-recovery. Anti-recovery. I like it. What a pleasant way of saying "let's kick 'em while they're down."
- Lampshade Hanging: The act of hanging a lampshade. The base commander first lampshades the convenient presence of censor panels all around the shower area. A robot then lampshades the presence of a lampshade by carrying a lampshade. Florence then lampshades the lampshading of a lampshade by observing that Doctor Bowman must have run out of panels for the robots to carry. Or she's saying that the cartoonist has run out of panels for the day's strip. Confused yet?
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: The memory blocking drug used on Florence, which prevented the conversion of short-term memory to long-term storage for 18 hours.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Mr. Kornada fires a programmer who helped develop Gardener in the Dark as to create a "disgruntled worker" to blame in case things go south. This backfired when said worker recorded Kornada's orders, exposing the lie.
- Last of His Kind: Dr. Bowman is the last of the genetically enhanced chimpanzees.
- Late to the Punchline: Sam didn't understand which rail the city council was talking until this strip.
- Lawful Stupid: The test robot for "Gardener in the Dark", as exploited by Sam via Loophole Abuse.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
- Lethal Chef:
- Helix takes Oven Logic to it its Logical Extreme. Since cooking is just the application of heat and pressure, he cooks with explosions.
- The Golden Trough is an all-you-can-eat restaurant staffed by lethal chefs who cook with low-quality ingredients. Parents take their children there as punishment. The cardboard in gravy is out, being the best thing on the buffet.
- The Mayor's mom was a demolitions engineer, not a baker. Her attempt at pancakes is never shown, but it gave the mayor shrapnel wounds.
- Let Me Get This Straight...:Sam: Bad program needs to be stopped. Don't mention it near anything electronic.
Florence: That's it.
Sam: Then let's go! Adventure calls and we must answer!
- And before that was Sam's emergency call.
- Lie to the Beholder: Robots use transponders as the primary means of identifying each other. This means that a robot will "see" whatever the transponder tells it is there, even if it wouldn't actually fit in the space available, or if the transponder is on an organic being rather than a robot, or if there's nothing there but the transponder connected to a battery.
- Literal Metaphor: When it comes to "bugs in the system", 2000+ crickets would indeed be the stuff of legends.
- Little Girls Kick Shins: Hazel kicks the shin of a man who pulled Florence's tail without asking first. Subsequent discussion establishes that it's one of her main modes of communication.
- Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: In this strip, a security lockdown traps Florence in an equipment storage room. She makes a Note to Self to remind her about the situation thanks to her memory being fiddled with, noting that with the equipment she can leave either through the door or by taking the side of the building off.
- Logic Bomb: Dvorak's "Omniquantism" seems to have this effect on some other AIs, causing one in three to lock up.
Sam: Great news! The computer doesn't want to kill me anymore. Now all it wants is a really big bottle of aspirin!
- Notably, Omniquantism was created to defuse a much larger logic bomb.
- Early in the strip, Sam drops one on the ship's computer.
- Lonely Together: Winston observes that sex ratios mean that both he and Florence are destined to be alone, so they might as well be alone together.
- Longevity Treatment: Life extension drugs are available over the counter. At one point, Florence (an uplifted red wolf) states that her projected lifespan of 160 years is slightly shorter than that of a human.
- Look Behind You:
- Loophole Abuse: Robots and AIs learning to use this is a plot point. In one early incident, Sam actually teaches Florence how to engineer her own loopholes when the need arises.Sam: Never ask for permission. Put your superiors in a position where you automatically have permission unless they actively take steps to stop you. Or as I like to call it, "putting human inertia to work".
- Florence tells a robot programed not to obey non-human instructions not to give her the answer to her questions. Sam tells the robot not to treat them as if they were human, completely circumventing the programming.
- Edge has figured out how to disobey orders he doesn't like and do what he wants by twisting things so that doing them keeps humans from harm.
- Being the Chief of Operations at the South Pole base, Henri has learned that if you don't abuse every loophole in the system to cut through the red tape, nothing will ever get done.
- The Mayor's assistant (and acting Mayor) explains to Sam that one of the issues he might run into when trying to claim a planet is that the current law states any group can lay claim to an undeveloped planet if they manage to establish permanent human presence. However, the law is vague enough that many corporations and countries seed the cosmos with millions of sublight probes containing a few human cells each. Very few are actually interested in planets, per se - it's the money they seek to extort from people who actually want the planet. Sam being Sam, he immediately views this (not inaccurately) as a scam.
- Florence's "parents" cannot enroll her is school as a student. They can however, send her as a helper dog to assist a disabled neighbor.
- Lost Episode: The 1999 Halloween Crossover special.
- Ludicrous Speed: Courtesy of a JATO rocket strapped to the truck he's using, Sam gets to experience this.
- Machine Empathy: In this strip, Florence mentions the phenomena as she listens to learn how the Savage Chicken sounds in flight.
- Mad Artist:
- Mad Scientist:
- Florence is worried that Dr. Bowman may have been one of these, releasing his untested creations.
- Dvorak the robot is constantly coming up with strange and potentially dangerous inventions.
- Made of Explodium: Parodied. In this strip, Florence knows there's no logical reason for a desk chair to explode, but she decides to play it safe anyway because it belongs to Sam Starfall.
- Magic Countdown: And Sam thought it was his fault that a time bomb with a digital countdown timer wasn't able to be reactivated.
- Magnetic Hero: Florence's strong morals, helpful instincts and plain old friendliness net her a lot of allies over the course of the strip, including most of Jean's robot population in one stroke.
- The Mall: Distinctive because Jean has a single major city, so there's really no need for more than one. Florence applies her engineered intellect to shopping and discovers Things Man Was Not Meant to Know - at least as far as the woman escorting Flo deems them.
- Man in the Machine: The Police chief was severely injured when fighting a fire in the first robot factory, resulting in him needing a mobility suit to do anything but talk.
- Mars Needs Women: Parodied here, when Sawtooth grabs a nonfunctional robot to read its memory during the robot war story arc.
- Marilyn Maneuver: Happens with both an anonymous Marilyn look-alike and Helix's pet Emu in this strip.
- McNinja: French ninja waiters.
- Mechanical Lifeforms: How about Mozart birds? Some robots try to fill what they perceive as ecological niches. And this doesn't always end well.
- Metaphorically True: Sam opts to use this when sending a message to Florence's owner.
- Mildly Military: The Jean planetary military is on vacation during the events of the Gardener in the Dark arc, and Florence is informed that he won't be back until after the weekend.
- A Million Is a Statistic: Lampshaded.Blunt: Let me simplify. Can a. Normally functioning. Robot. Using Dr. Bowmans. Neural design. Intentionally harm a human?
Sawtooth: Only if it will prevent greater harm to other humans.
Blunt: Who decides. Greater harm? What is to stop. Majority humans. From turning us. Against. Minority humans? Harm. Does not have. To be. Direct. We could be. Ordered. Not to assist. A group. Economically. Remove robots. From the equation. And you remove. The problem.
Sawtooth: (What is it about economics and treating everything as numbers that makes some people so cheerfully sociopathic?)
- Miranda Rights: Amended as appropriate to robot culprits.Robot officer:: You have the right to data integrity. Should you give up this right, accessed memories can and will be used against you. You have the right to tech support.
- Mirror Chemistry: Pfouts uses right handed amino acids, while Earth lifeforms use left handed ones. This chemistry is cited as a reason for the Bowman neural uplift package, uplifting native species to sapience on worlds hostile to Earth life.
- Missing Time: Florence winds up missing a large chunk of a day's memories thanks to a chemical that inhibits the transfer of short term memories to long term storage, during a trip to Ecosystems Unlimited. Between some notes to herself and scents left on her fur she's able to fill in some of the details, however.
- Mistaken for Afterlife: Clippy the robot is dismantled to prevent him carrying out a plot for world domination ordered by Mr Kornada. When he is reactivated, he believes that he has died and gone to an afterlife, partly because he's in a White Void Room (an electronically isolated secure room, to contain any hostile actions he might take before matters get straightened out) and the first person he sees is his rightful owner, who Kornada had convinced him was dead so that he would accept Kornada's orders.
- Mistaken for Profound: A robot realizes that Sam is attempting to scam it, and decides that he's trying to teach it a lesson (which it expounds on at length) about human nature, so that it can serve humans better.Sam: I appreciate that you think I'm deep and all, but really, I'm just trying to steal from you.
- Modesty Towel:
- Florence wears one after taking a bath at Winston's place, until he donates one of his shirts to provide for her modesty.
- Florence puts one on when she is called to the videophone.
- Mohs Scale of Sci-Fi Hardness: Although it has canonical FTL ships, they're off-screen, leaving Freefall in the category of One Small Fib, with most everything else derived from technology that's theoretically possible but difficult to produce.
- Moment Killer:
- Mondegreen: How Tex went from making dishware to a government position in geophysics.
- Moody Mount: Sam tries to ride Polly the emu to escape from an angry mob, but she refuses. He gets her to run by pulling off one of his facial tentacles and putting it on a stick.
- Mother Nature, Father Science: Inverted. The closest we get to a Nature Hero is the "male" Stupid Good Ridiculously Human Robot; OTOH, Team Science has the female red wolf engineer who shows signs of SRMD. Winston on the other hand is a male scientist who works with the environment.
- Motivation on a Stick: Sam uses one of his facial tentacles this way so he can ride Polly and escape an angry mob.
- Mugged for Disguise: Blunt and Edge will occasionally steal random transponders to pass themselves off as other machines.
- Mundane Utility:
- Robots normally only identify each other by their ID transponders. This lets a few robot muggers disguise themselves simply by stealing transponders and turning off the ones they were built with. When the rest of robot society finds out about this, they throw a masquerade ball.
- When Dvorak gets a hold of the Gardener in the Dark code, he immediately notes that a scaled-back, temporary version could be used to make a robot drunk.Maxwell Post: Let's try to solve this crisis before you create a new one.
- Must Have Caffeine:
- Florence Ambrose tends to take exception to having her coffee taken away, as only a carnivore can. She also explicitly cited the availability of coffee as a benefit of restoring power to Sam's ship.
- The coffee maker still brewing is implied to be the reason that the compound where Dr. Bowman is being held wasn't able to reach more than 50% operational readiness in under 60 seconds.
- My Car Hates Me: An unusually literal example: Sam's spaceship's AI was trying to kill him for a while. Now it has settled on injury/maiming.
- My Defense Need Not Protect Me Forever: Sam uses a delivery robot's need to keep its schedule to save himself from its revenge for his trying to steal the robot's tires.
- My Eyes Are Up Here:
- Not for the usual reason: Winston's squeaky plastic shoe covers are distracting to Florence, who says it sounds like his boots are full of rodents.
- For the usual reason, but said by the ship's AI to a ship inspector thrown off by Florence's appearance, in this strip.
- My Instincts Are Showing:
- The Trope Namer, and especially obvious with Florence, whose instincts resulted in her "burying" a tupperware bowl full of food in the back of the refrigerator under a towel. She also reflexively wakes up upon hearing the distinctive sound of kibble being poured into a doggy dish (Winston feeding his dog Beekay).
- Despite having a genius-level intellect Dr. Bowman still instinctively sees eye contact as an act of aggression and will immediately attack.
- My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: As Dvorak and Qwerty, both robots, are airlifted out of a collapsing building in a hurricane:Dvorak: My whole life just flashed before my eyes.
Qwerty: Mine's still flashing. I've got to buy some faster memory.
- Naked Apron:
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
- "Please don't call me Bob. See the clothes? Bob is a male name. Call me Sergeant Ripguts von Slaughtermachine."
- Gardener in the Dark. It doesn't sound all that menacing until you realize the name refers to pruning neurons.
- Nature Lover: Sam, in a strictly limited sense
- Necessary Drawback: Doctor Bowman repurposed the Bowman's Wolves' mirror neurons to react to humans, so they could understand human gestures and body language properly. The downside is that the mirror neurons now aren't responding to their own species.
- Needle in a Stack of Needles:
- Invoked by Florence in this strip, in regards to numerous false records discovered by a robot doing a web search for Dr. Bowman.
- Used by Sam during Florence's first trip to an Ecosystems Unlimited facility by spamming the Cloud Cuckoolander security AI with 2001 heroic crickets to mask his own alert and mess around in the facility with impunity.
- Sam briefly hides among effigies of himself - see the Nobody Here but Us Statues entry.
- Florence's lies are over 99% truth.
- The Needs of the Many: In strip 2162, Florence says, "There are over 450 million robots. There are only fourteen Bowman's wolves. If I have to choose, I have to go with the robots." Florence is a Bowman's wolf and would sacrifice her own race to save the robots.
- Never Live It Down: In-Universe, Edge and Blunt are universally distrusted subsequent to their spree of robot kidnappings.
- N.G.O. Superpower: The planet's terraforming and most of the colony's labour are performed by 450 million Ecosystems Unlimited robots. EU executives have de facto authority and security clearance comparable to the police chief and mayor, including a financial officer who has large discretionary power to make sure the colony doesn't go independent before EU is paid.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
- The beachhead crew tried to fix the robot neural net factory. As a result, it went from damaged to severely damaged.
- Sam accidently set himself on fire by touching a flame while in microgravity. Sam's solution? Shake his hand as fast as possible, spreading the flame in multiple directions.
- No Sam, when you need to break into someplace, that last thing that you need is to be "famous."
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!:
- If Mr. Kornada hadn't interfered with Florence's scheduled meeting with Mr. Raibert, she would have been present to hear Mr. Raibert ordering the release of Gardener in the Dark to be delayed, and thus she would have believed that there was no need to take further action, while not knowing of Kornada's plan to violate the order and have it released anyway.
- Because Blunt believes that the Gardener in the Dark is necessary for humanity's safety, he considers Mr. Kornada a hero and spreads the knowledge that he was responsible for trying to release it.
- Blunt's trying to rally human support against the "robot menace" by warning that a large robot citizen demographic would lead to economic stimulus and potentially a post-scarcity world... doesn't quite work for him.
- Ninja Prop: One strip shows a character waiting at the spaceport with an airport greeting sign, with a panel saying "Meanwhile, at the spaceport" above his head. The next panel reveals that the panel is another in-universe sign, being held up by the character next to him.
- Nipple and Dimed: Even robots are subject to this, as seen in the first gratuitous shower scene. Helix sees black stripes across Florence's chest due to a PG filter in his vision system, blocking out the view of her nipples (or where they would be; see Hand-or-Object Underwear, above). Though there's a reason for this, given that by default robot video feeds are publicly accessible.
- No Biochemical Barriers: Played straight with Sam, whose more simplistic biology makes him edible to just about everything (including herbivores), but inverted with the planet Pfouts, where Earth life can't survive at all thanks to that planet's Mirror Chemistry.
- In a later strip, Sam notes that between this and the lack of evolution on his planet (they don't even have beetles! No insects have learned to fly!), a cheaper way to inflict mass extinction on his planet than firing nukes at it would be to drop ant colonies on it.
- Nobody Here but Us Statues: Sam escapes pursuit by pretending to be part of a display in a hunting supplies shop—which works because, presumably due to public demand—their practice targets are effigies of Sam.
- No-Dialogue Episode:
- A shortish one here.
- Beginning here and continuing for over twenty strips before someone finally speaks a recognisable word. On the Nice forum (made unavailable since then) Mr. Stanley said that particular story arc wasn't originally to be wordless, but after a few strips he decided to go without a dialogue for a while.
- Nobody Poops: Averted in #536, and again when Florence visits Ecosystems, Unlimited, starting here. An Info Dump on the now-dead Nice's Freefall forum states that Florence needs to use the facilities more often than humans, thanks to the physiological modifications to allow bipedal motion not fully taking into account the effect of gravity on her internal organs, which when she stands upright press down on her bladder. The author did the research.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Florence is the ONLY reason Mr. Kornada is still alive. He steals her radio headset as he's being evacuated. Then he fakes a heart attack to force the robots present to leave her in freezing water with a life expectancy of twenty minutes so they can take him to what he acknowledges to be a completely pointless meeting. It later turns out that he's arranging for the lobotomizing of every A.I. on Jean, for the sake of stealing from their bank accounts.
- Noodle Implements:
- A dirigible, two ducks, and half a ton of explosives. Later: A coffee pot, half a ream of paper, and three fully automatic hot glue guns.
- Sam's good with these. According to the manual, he ticked off his planet's royal family in an incident involving "a zeppelin, a loop-the-loop manoeuvre, and pudding, lots of pudding".
- Also, Florence trying to use scents to get clues about what happened when she had temporary amnesia.
- One juror's suggestion of a punishment for Kornada, which apparently involves rubber hoses, a penguin, and a threshing machine.
- Noodle Incident:
- invoked by name, in reference to the original.
- Florence also found herself in such an incident in college: It involved herself, a forklift, and her go-to-sleep-instantly remote control.
- There is even a Noodle Incident with Noodle Implements, The royal family is not too happy with him due to an incident involving a zeppelin, a "Loop the loop" maneuver, and pudding. Lots and lots of pudding. This indirectly led him to leave his home planet.
- While breaking Florence out of the dog pound, Sam actually threatens to cause another Noodle Incident in order to convince her to ignore her orders to stay put.
- We only hear the end of the telling of a story about the naming of "Lost Truck Lake".
- Right before breakfast, the Mayor ordered the cops to ship Sam to the other side of the planet. Right after breakfast, the Mayor's assistant orders Sam's release, by which time he's already managed to evade his captors, which somehow involved balloon animals, a sausage chain, a tuba, and a flock of ducks...
- Waking up shackled to a chair is Florence's fourth worst wakeup call.
- The local police chief knows from direct experience that if you tie Sam to something by his facial tentacles, it will take 3 minutes and 47 seconds for him to untie himself.
- Not Helping Your Case: In the debate Blunt thinks he is. He isn't.
- Note to Self: When Florence has amnesia, this is the only way she can remember anything, using a pen and some sticky notes found elsewhere in the Ecosystems Unlimited testing facility.
- Not Rare Over There:
- Discussed by Sam in one strip. Since Jean is in the process of being Terraformed, wood and other organics are extremely rare and valuable, while on his planet, the landfills are full of cheap wood items. On the other hand, diamonds are so cheap on Jean that they're thrown away, while a diamond grill he found in the trash would be worth a king's ransom on his planet.
- For the same reason, Florence is given a dress made out of gold by a robot who's into making clothing. Organic cloth is all but impossible to obtain and extremely expensive, but metals are dirt cheap and available in any form you want.
- Not So Different: When the police chief shows Sam the information he collected on Florence's kidnappers, he heads off to check out the secret facility at the south pole. Helix then points out the chief just tricked Sam into doing police work without pay.Sam: Helix, humans are dirty, rotten, devious, underhanded sneaks! When our species officially makes contact, we're going to get along great!
- No Water Proofing In The Future: During the hurricane story arc, it's established that Helix isn't waterproof, which is why Florence has to do the dangerous rescue stuff.
- Octopoid Aliens: Sam Starfall is implied to look like an octopus or squid wrapped around a stick figure artificial skeleton under the environment suit that protects him from Earth-like atmospheres, and humans from going insane from looking at him.
- Oh, Crap!: A few times.
- This is the general reaction of anyone who knows Sam Starfall and sees him grinning, as it generally means serious trouble.
- It's almost like "Eureka!". But not exactly.
- Also, when veterinarian Winston Thurmad discovers his thermometer is working just fine.
- Sam, when after carefully explaining to Helix they essentially stole Florence by bribing a clerk and getting her off cryo for some emergency repairs on the Savage Chicken, hears the drugs used in cold sleep are so hard on the body there needs to be a period of five to seven years between each use, when the ship he had her taken from leaves in three days.
- The Mayor's reaction when she realized she had been tricked into giving a direct order to hit her with a bunch of pies.Mayor: I hate you, Sam. I hate you more than any woman's ever hated a cephalopod.Sam: Why, thank you! But right now, I need to duck.
- Prior to this, her aide realizes he's up Pie Creek without a fork.
- On finding out about Florence's and Winston's Interspecies Romance, Niomi advises Florence to "Proceed very cautiously."
- "Occam's Razor states that the simplest solution is the most likely. So what are the facts? ... Sam is nowhere to be seen. And the creature showing me about is obviously some type of large carnivore. Sometimes Occam's Razor leads to very disturbing conclusions."
- Whenever anyone learns the full scope of the robot problem.Winston: Why hasn't Ecosystems Unlimited said something? Researchers have been after artificial consciousness for years.
Florence: There are twenty thousand adult humans on the planet. There are over four hundred and fifty million robots.
Winston: Would you be offended if I panic a little?
Florence: Not at all. In fact, it would be nice to have the company.
- When Florence learns that Gardener in the Dark is being launched that night, she doesn't literally say "Oh crap!", but....Florence [thinking]: I'm sitting on a bomb trying to disarm it. This is the feeling you get when the bomb bays open.
- When Mr. Kornada's robot servant realizes that his employer's plan has failed, he doesn't say anything, but the sentiment is there.
- When Max Post calls Mr. Raibert to tell him what just happened.Raibert: Holy THIS! There was a safeguards program in the queue. WE JUST WIPED A HALF-BILLION ROBOTS!
Max: Bill, calm down. It didn't go out.
Raibert: Okay. Not worst case. But finding the equivalent of a live nuke with the timer flashing zero is not a situation that fosters calmness!
- Sam when he learns that the Chief of Police knows how Florence came to be on the planet and might tell her.
- Oh My Gods!: Niomi exclaims "Isaac Asimov on a bicycle!" when a realization hits her regarding the Bowman's Wolf project.
- One-Gender Race:
- There are 11 female Bowman's wolves and 3 males, a gene pool so shallow it doesn't even have a wading section. Of those males, one is in a monogamous relationship with one of the females, one is "married to his work", and the last has noticed that there are only three males and anyone who wants his semen had best be prepared to pay enough that he'll never have to work again in his life.
- Florence mentions at one point that one of her goals is to prove the worth of the Bowman's wolves so more will be created, until a stable breeding population can be established.
- One Phone Call: Invoked. To distract a suspicious security guard, Sam announces that if he's going to be arrested he gets one phone call, then steals the guard's phone and runs away.
- One-Word Title: Also a Portmantitle as it's a compound word.
- Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap: Jean is still being terraformed so all organics are expensive, and synthetics are the normal materials for everyday use.
- On Three: Or, if you're a robot, on "00000011".
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
- Sam realizes that being honest can be very fun.
- Max Post realizes Sam is up to something big when Sam neglects to steal his wallet, despite having a golden opportunity to do so◊.
- Florence realizes just how worried Sam was about her in almost the same fashion - the Chief of Police still had his wallet. Even more stark than the previous example, as the Chief had been with Sam for several hours at that point.
- Opposites Attract: Winston has "spacer gene" modifications, which include no body hair. Florence is covered in fur. Pointed out here.
- Oven Logic: Helix cooking:
- Order Versus Chaos: Sam unsurprisingly takes Chaos's side but does offer the argument that the chaotic end of the debate creates space for new things to grow.
- Overly Long Scream: Happened at least a couple of times, in accordance with Cap'n Sam Starfall's philosophy, "When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!" Helix is usually eager to join in. In one noteable incident near the beginning, the two of them are running in circles and screaming for long enough that they have to stop to take a deep breath (synchronized, even) before continuing. Florence comments on how inexplicable it is that Helix, who is a ROBOT, needs to stop for breath... Then she tears out his voicebox to shut him up, and offers to do the same to Sam if he doesn't quiet down.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: Sam's coffee mug proclaims him to be the "World's Best Squid Captain". He's also the only Squid Captain on Jean.
- Panty Shot: Florence Ambrose is gifted with a dress that accounts for her tail (seen here), based off of this outfit. Max Post finds it distracting when going to follow her up a set of stairs.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Sam Starfalls attempt to try and sneak an unconscious Florence out of Ecosystems Unlimited relies on a smiley face drawn on a piece of paper stuck to her face.
- Paranoia Gambit: If Sam has a reputation anyway, it can do his work for him just as well as an actual plan. Also useful for inducing panic when a known liar and thief actually pays for goods stolen earlier.Sam: Being honest is more fun than I thought.
- The Pardon: For Sam, the police chief's offer to pardon him for his various crimes as a favor in exchange for his help with Gardener in the Dark is a threat.
- Perilous Power Source: The Polywell fusion reactor is actually relatively safe as fusion reactors go, and under Florence's competent control, not likely to become hazardous. Sam, however, being from a far less technologically advanced world, does not take the risk lightly.Sam: One of the scary things about Terrans is they're peaceful and still over half their power sources put out death rays as a byproduct.
- Person of Mass Destruction: Almost name-dropped in relation to Sam, who Florence once refers to as a "Weapon of Mass Distraction".
- Pet the Dog:
- Sam Starfall, for all his insanity and greediness, has a good deal of sympathy for A.I.s in general, and he goes out his way to gave them all the support and help they need. Also (and possibly as a result of the previous), Sam, while frequently taking advantage of them, does care for the happiness of Helix and Florence, and anyone who makes the mistake of treating them as a "real" object in front of him will probably soon become the target of some of the mayhem that's Sam's hat.
- Here is the first time that Sam proved to care more for his friends than to care for money. A few strips later, after all the robots were forced to take the only human in the ship to safety, Florance correctly suspects that Sam is upset to leave her behind.
- Here an almost literal Pet the Dog moment. ("Almost" because, after all, she's a Wolf.)
- Sam is so well accustomed in being threatened with violence for his crimes that, when Florence hugs him, Sam can't help but stop his theft at her request. He also understands to be a bad influence to her, but claims to be the inverse.
- Phrase-Catcher: Florence. The first time any robot meets her...Every robot in the vicinity: DOGGY!
- Pictorial Speech Bubble: The Say It with Hearts variant, when Helix hugs Florence to thank her for letting the rabbits go in the last panel.
- Pie in the Face:
- The only thing more dangerous than a French ninja is a French ninja with a pie. It's also a legitimate political mechanism.
- One example gives a good reason to be careful with direct orders...
- As part of their ability to respond with varying degrees of force, the guard towers at the Ecosystems Unlimited compound are equipped with both plasma cannons and pie throwers.
- Pillars of Moral Character: Florence describes the debt an AI owes to its creators as a gimu debt.
- Plague of Good Fortune: During a fishing trip, Sam tries to haul a swamped boat to shore by hooking it with his fishing line. It doesn't work—he keeps missing the boat and catching fish instead.
- Plasma Cannon: The Ecosystems Unlimited compound that Florence visits has plasma cannons mounted in its guard towers, though after serving as part of a punchline for one strip they're never heard of again.
- Plug 'n' Play Technology: Dr. Bowman's neural design is applicable to both uplifted animals and robots, given that it's a general mechanism for increasing the complexity of a neural network, and robot brains are based on human brains.
- Poke the Poodle: All of the robots' attempts at crime can be described as this, to the point that they are asking Sam for advice.
- Police are Useless: Florence wants to get arrested. Not only doesn't she qualify for being arrested, but she was asked to leave because she was a bad influence on the other policemen, causing a riot among the robot police when they hear about what she was trying to stop.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: Courtesy of equal opportunity laws on Jean:
- In addition to sensible discrimination prohibitions like sex, age, race, and religion, it's also prohibited to discriminate on gene type, eye color, hair color, earlobe length, nostril width, personal hygiene (or lack thereof), punning...
- Even criminals benefit from them, in that government funded buildings have to allow for handicapped access to the roof, the most common access method for burglars.
- Poor Communication Kills: Inverted. At one point, Florence and Raibert don't communicate for good reasons, and as a consequence disaster is averted.
- Portmantitle: As it's a compound word. Also a One-Word Title.
- Pounds Are Animal Prisons: The Mayor uses one on Florence in reaction to Sam's shenanigans.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Sam's criticism of Koronada's scheme:You don't kill the people you're stealing from. You want them alive and productive so you can steal from them again and again.
- Precious Puppy: Florence the adult is central to the story. Her younger self? Not so much, outside of Rule of Cute.
- Properly Paranoid: Florence assumes Ecosystems Unlimited was when giving her safeguards — as she points out to Sam, this is standard practice among engineers.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Sam. Remove. Your facial tentacles. From my arm."
- Punny Name: Rants Freely.
- The police chief's mobility rig is an A.I., designated L-Linear Rig B.
- Puppy-Dog Eyes:
- Sawtooth attempts to use them to get Florence to attend a robot meeting. Unfortunately for him, puppy dog eyes only work when the eyes aren't bigger than [Florence's] head.
- Inevitably, Florence is ordered to use them at weapons grade intensity. Being a canine, they work as designed.
- Race Against the Clock: She didn't know it at first, but Florence eventually found out that she was racing the clock to head off the implementation of "Gardener in the Dark". As of this strip, Florence has two days to stop the program from going live. She did get someone to listen to her within an hour of re-realizing the danger, but needed to defer a full explanation until the following day.
- Reading Your Rights: In strip 2257, the police arrest a robot, reading a set of Miranda Rights modified to better apply to robots.
- Read the Fine Print: Ecosystems Unlimited heavily discourages this trope by ensuring their EULA is too long to be read in a single human lifetime. Clippy exploits this to ensure the legality of his actions under Mr. Kornada.
- Recruiting the Criminal: After the Ecosystems Unlimited imbroglio, the Chief asks Sam to head to a space station near Jean to investigate the sudden hike in its upkeep, offering him a working reactor for his ship as payment.
- Red Shirt:
- Rescue Romance: Florence and Winston, although Winston's part came up after Florence had mostly rescued herself from being unwillingly abandoned in the water. She was still in danger of freezing to death at the time though. Florence even has an internal monologue about it.Florence [thinking]: I might be attracted to Winston because he's the first nice human I've gotten to know on this planet. Has he really done anything special?
Florence [thinking]: Okay, he saved my life. I've got to admit that scores some major brownie points.
- Reference Overdosed: For the most part the numerous references to a wide range of concepts are worked into the storyline well enough that they're not jarring, though occasional references to 20th/21st century pop culture phenomena roughly five centuries later can sometimes seem a little odd to some readers.
- Restraining Bolt: The necessary restrictions and limitations of Restraining Bolts, with which most AIs are designed, are often discussed. The "bolt" on Florence is not that heavy, and tends to be a bit flexible. Florence theorizes that Bowman's creations are intended to outgrow the Restraining Bolt, as a sort of moral training wheel. Dr. Bowman later confirms this.
- Retirony: Blunt had one week and 3 days left until retirement. Luckily, being a robot, he got better.
- The Reveal: On June 17, 2015, Florence finds out that Sam stole her. Seventeen years of real-world time have passed since he did so and 2667 strips.
- Revealing Cover-Up: Same lampshades this succinctly.Sam: My original mistakes never draw half the attention as my attempts to cover them up do.
- Gets referred to much later (in the same manner as Florence realized things at Ecosystems Unlimited were screwy).
- Reverse Psychology: Sam uses this against the Mayor to get Florence into Ecosystems Unlimited, with a plan "accidentally" left behind by Sam.
- Ridiculously Human Robots: Some of the most memorable characters are robots, many of whom show quite human behavior.Florence Ambrose: Can we at least try to solve this logically before you robots go all emotional?
- Ridiculous Future Sequelisation: A conversation about the depiction of non-human intelligences in human fiction includes references to Terminator 57 and Alien 79.
- Robot Antennae: Many of the robots have these. They contribute to their Expressive Mask faces.
- Robot Names: Qwerty, Ab2y becomes Abby. L Linear Rig B, known to its friends as Eleanor. Sawtooth Rivergrinder is a very descriptive name for a terraforming robot. Given the number of robots, not all have names. They also only seem to take names if they have a local neural net (and thus can become fully sentient) and either survive until they do become fully sentient, or work with someone like Sam, who, for all his faults, treats AIs as well as he treats everyone else (i.e., as targets for petty larceny or as potential assistants in petty larceny).
- Rock Beats Laser: Ecosystems Unlimited attempts to control the information leaving the company by hitting scrap parts to be recycled with an EMP burst before releasing them, to destroy any clandestine listening/recording devices that someone may try to sneak-out that way. This has absolutely no effect on a hand-written note.
- Rock Bottom: Defied when Bill refuses to rank anything as a Level 10 threat; saying "things can always get worse."
- Rousseau Was Right: Humans show their fair share of short-sighted selfishness, but when the robots publicly petition for citizenship rights, the colonists vote in favour of the robots by a large margin. Even the Mayor, who starts out believing that AIs are nothing more than products, is convinced.
- Rule-Abiding Rebel: The general mindset for robot "criminals". They steal items that are imperfect, since they would otherwise just be thrown away, and make use of them to provide for a human who can be assist with that item (for instance, taking a tomato with a blotch on it, and making a salad with it to give to a human desiring a healthy meal). Needless to say, they may be doing things that are illegal in their eyes, but virtually no one else is going to complain about it.
- Rules Lawyer: Robots must never endanger humans, and must obey any order given to them by a human; if they refuse to carry out an order, they must immediately shut themselves down. Edge, being Edge, spots the loophole big enough to fly Sawtooth through: his job is dangerous, so if he shuts down, the humans sent to take over will be endangered. With this logic established, he can cheerfully ignore any and all orders he wishes without repercussions. Qwerty and Dvorak aren't sure if they should be impressed or horrified.note
- Running Gag: Several, but the most prominent one is Florence being greeted by robots with "DOGGY!" Eventually turned into Funny Background Event.
- Running on All Fours: Florence, when she needs to cover a lot of ground in a hurry.
- Sadistic Choice: Played for Laughs, as Sam needs to decide between getting paid or saving Florence.
- Say It with Hearts: In Pictorial Speech Bubble form: When Helix hugs Florence to thank her for letting the rabbits go in the last panel.
- Scavengers Are Scum: Sam's species are scavengers, and consider kleptomania a virtue. He's also afraid of Florence, an uplifted red wolf who's a stickler for the rules, even though she's genetically programmed to be subordinate to her employer, whom he happens to be.
- Scenery Censor: Lampshaded (literally) when a lampshade is used as a censor box in a comic
- Schmuck Bait: Sam finds himself almost unable to resist "[t]he bright, shiny temptation of the Eject button."
- Screams Like a Little Girl:
- Florence is puzzled by a scream she hears, and Helix explains: Sam screams like a girl squid.
- In another strip when Florence sneaks up on him, Sam tells her "No, you did not surprise me. My plans to scream like a little girl when I reached the kitchen were made hours ago. It's pure coincidence you happened to be here at the time."
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Tired of his uncle's idiocy and stonewalling, Ishiguro leaves him, intending to fully cooperate with the prosecution.
- Security Blanket: Stuffed animals are popular among AIs for this.
- Self-Destruct Mechanism: The Savage Chicken is said to have a self-destruct mechanism. When Niomi and Tangent first show up to answer Florence's call for a repair crew, Helix's overenthusiasm and lack of thinking out things before acting results in her asking if he is said mechanism.
- Settling the Frontier: The comic takes place on a newly colonized planet in the final stages of terraforming.
- Shame If Something Happened:
- Dr. Bowman uses this on himself, deliberately sabotaging the safety protocols of the building he's in so he can have an uninterrupted chat with Florence.
- And Florence has a knack for doing this herself.Helix: (Thinking) Florence is good at keeping things civilized, because she makes it so clear what will happen if things get uncivilized.
- Shark Pool: The security guard at EU who's reluctantly forced to give Sam a security pass for the compound attempts to lead him into a shark tank. The guard, when Sam points out the attempt, replies "Earth fish. Very educational. Keeps you from getting bored."
- Sheet of Glass:
- When being chased by the police, Sam and Helix wind up with one of these in their way. The last frame of the strip shows the results.
- The trope plays out again during Sam's attempt to become the first person to be chased by an angry mob of robots, this time with a "valuable antique" banner instead of a sheet of glass. (In recognition of the date that strip was published, the banner reads HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018.)
- Sherlock Scan:
- When looking for purified water to fill a contract to resupply reaction mass to satellites, Florence is subjected to one of these by a sales representative."You're a gravitational engineer. You arrived on the Asimov. And you work for Sam Starfall."
"Simple deduction, actually."
"No. It's amazing that you figured out I work for Sam and you haven't asked me to leave."
- Flo does a Sherlock Sniff on Niomi, making an analysis of her family just from the scents on her.
- She does another one later on the police chief and figures out that he's a human using a mobility rig (which itself is every bit as intelligent as the other robots on the planet).
- When looking for purified water to fill a contract to resupply reaction mass to satellites, Florence is subjected to one of these by a sales representative.
- Shoot the Dog: Florence having to forcefully deactivate and disassemble Clippy to keep him from releasing the Gardener In The Dark program.Florence [thinking]: I don't want to hurt this robot. Why do I have to be the bad guy to be good?
- Shout-Out: A lot. Here is the big list, in its own subpage.
- Shower Scene: Several of them, mostly played straight. The one for the Oct 24, 2011 strip, however, Subverts the usual Fanservice purpose: Florence showers with her clothes still on, as her outfit was just as dirty as she was and she was fatigued enough from the day's ordeal that she decided to skip the "undress" step.
- Shown Their Work: You know how the Bowman neural system, causer of most of the plot, works by weeding out unused neural paths? Well, that's what happens during adolescence according to some studies.
- Signed Up for the Dental: The mayor's assistant explains to his boss that there are robots on the police force because that department full medical and a 32,000 km warranty for robots.
- Signs of Disrepair: Florence's, and the reader's, first view of Dr Thurmad's house is a storm-damaged sign that apppears to read MAD VETINARIAN.
- Silent Whisper: Subverted. Florence appears to whisper in Winston's ear, provoking a horrified reaction, but then it turns out she was actually giving him a meant-to-be-reassuring lick.
- A Simple Plan:
- Sam's attempt at being honest.Helix: I don't want to be honest any more! We've gone from pick pocketing to assault to grand theft auto!
Sam: And the night is still young.
- Unusually, with the heroes on the foiling side of the equation, Florence's reconstruction of the plot behind Kornada's plan for the robot war.
- Sam's attempt at being honest.
- Sistine Steal: In-universe, Dr. Bowman is said to have painted a version of The Creation of Adam with himself as God and a robot Adam. Possibly due to the strip's simpler art style, the painting itself remains off-panel and the reader is obliged to take the characters' word for it.
- Sleep Cute:
- Sleeper Starship: Necessary for both slower and faster than light travel. In the case of the latter, although superluminal, subjective time for those inside the ship doesn't change due to the nature of the DAVE drive.
- Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism: Far to the non-human side. Besides, it's funnier that way
- Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: Mostly rather high on it, but sometimes it becomes more like a Slippery Slope. Some are more advanced that the others. There are even artists. Robots made on Jean generally show more initiative and creativity than the average robot, and when they turn twenty a neural pruning process makes them even more intelligent (Helix is a rather young robot).
- Slobs vs. Snobs: Stanley shows another of his increasingly common flashes of sublime insight, this time on the nature of the 99%/1% divide;Mr. Ishiguro One of the early crises happened when machine learning and big data were put in the service of making big money. Wealth concentrated among the people who had access to the machines. Far too many people were left out of the system they were expected to serve. Its okay to have steak when theres a chicken in every pot. But if youre eating steak and the majority of people have nothing, it doesnt take long for you to look like a chicken.
- Smart People Play Chess: Dr. Bowman. "You don't think more than five steps ahead. That's why I always beat you at chess."
- Smooch of Victory: Stopping a robot war and keeping two factories from being destroyed? According to Winston those count as reason for a victory kiss.
- Snipe Hunt: Varroa Jacobsoni has great co-workers, sending him to ride herd on Sam.
- So Bad, It's Good: In-Universe, Sam and Helix's opinion of the Godzilla movie they sneak into. Evidence suggests it was made that way on purpose.
- The Sociopath
- The first uplifted animals, the chimpanzees, are described as such by Florence in an offhand comment.
- Doctor Bowman, the creator of the Bowman's Wolves such as Florence. Maybe. Evidence seems to suggest that he views his creations as something like his children, and wanted them to be able to live their own lives outside the lab, but Florence hasn't ruled out the possibility that he just thought giving away intelligent, dangerous wolves to families would be funny. For extra points, it turns out he is an uplifted chimpanzee.
- Edge, a robot who spent his formative years alone in a warehouse without any other intelligent creatures (human or robot) to teach him how to deal with others. Played a bit more for laughs, and Florence has expressed a desire to socialize him. Since he helped save the every robot on the planet, presumably, she's going to end up going through with that.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: When Sam sees a cop and instinctively starts running (even though for once he hasn't done anything wrong), Helix and Florence give us this gem.
- Space Is Cold: Averted. Helix says he does not need air to survive, and Florence replies that he is air-cooled. Rather fortunate as he was apparently planning a "really funny joke" once they got into space.
- Speak of the Devil: The Sticky Notes of Doom contain the name Gardener in the Dark — and if you're a Jeanian robot connected to the commnet and hear that name...Edge: Who wrote this note, H.P. Lovecraft?
- Speaks in Binary: The robots, occasionally.
- Species Loyalty: Florence thinks it important that her behavior reflects well on her species, in order to incline EU towards making more than the 14 (including Florence) that were in the first batch.
- Stable Time Loop: Occurs in the 1999 Christmas Special.
- Starfish Aliens: Sam's squidlike real form is implied to be one. Since this strip, it became a recurring gag that Sam's true form is implied to be far more hideous than his cartoon-like robotic outfit indicates.Qwerty: The tentacled horror from beyond my stars spoke, and Von Neumann help me, in my madness, I understood its words.
Sam: Oh, come on! I'm giving you a sustainable business model here!
- Stealth Insult: Blunt's attempt to get Kornada aquitted of trying to lobotomize all the robots winds up involving this several times.Blunt: And those who know. Mr. Kornada. Can attest. His ability. Not to understand. Is greater. Than most.
- Stealth Pun:
- Sam ends up chasing a mob that's supposed to be chasing him, causing the mob to conclude that they're supposed to be a panicked mob instead of an angry one. This gives us the inspector's (who organized the mob) thoughts on the matter:
- Shortly after, Sam manages to get the mob back to an angry one and comments that "everything's finally dropping into its proper place." He immediately falls into an open sewer.
- Here, Sam and Helix are driving through "A Section" and Sam comments that they'd have gotten more scrutiny if they had gone through C section. They're driving a hijacked, giant, crawling baby-car. Think about it.
- And the next day, a robot mentions that the robot at the salvage yard has had first-dibs on salvaged parts, so it's no surprise that "He represents the best of us".
- Eye Pods.
- Benny performs complex acrobatics whenever he has organic passengers, because his friend is making a cometAnswer ... He mentions this fact, right after noting where the air-sickness bags are located.
- Stolen Good, Returned Better: Sam steals his neighbor's truck, claiming it to be "borrowing" he did intend to return it, after all. Florence works on it for a while before returning it. It runs a bit better afterward.
- Steampunk: From the fan art section, steampunk freefall.◊ The backstory page explains that Sam's home planet is like this, with zeppelins (mentioned in the strip) and exoskeletons that resemble The War of the Worlds Martian walkers.
- Streisand Effect: Sam Starfall has apparently had previous practical demonstrations of this trope, according to this strip.Sam: My original mistakes never draw half the attention as my attempts to cover them up do.
- Stop Being Stereotypical: A variation on the topic; Sam notes that unless his species is given some kind of serious push, they're going to end up becoming extinct through irrelevance comparatively soon. As he observes, Earth's biology has hundreds of millions of years of evolution, and far greater evolutionary challenges, on his own world. Moreover, humanity has reached the stage of planetary terraforming and designing artificial lifeforms, whilst the sqids are just starting to mess around with steam power. If things continue as they have, humans will probably have colonized every planet in the sqids' stellar neighborhood before the sqids have discovered the hula hoop, with the gap between them just continually getting bigger and bigger.
- Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: Doctor Bowman has set up his lab so that if anyone enters without permission it triggers biological sterilization.Doctor Bowman: Of course, I'll have rushed in to save my work.
Commander: Doctor, are you holding yourself hostage again?
- Subspace Ansible: Averted. As mentioned in the comic, communications are all limited to the speed of light, and communications between star systems depend on hitching a ride on mostly sub-light ships.
- Suicide as Comedy: A robot programmed with the works of William Shakespeare who works at an amusement park as Jar Jar Binks is eager to scrap himself, until offered the option of helping Blunt and Edge test Gardener in the Dark. It later takes a turn for the dramatic.
- Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: A rare aversion; while a few seriously tough robots exist, they're designed for terraforming, essentially as ambulatory backhoes (complete with beeping noises as they back up). "It's not fair. Organic beings are so much tougher and more mobile than robots." "It's the advantage we get for using designs that have undergone eighty million years of testing". As Max Post points out, "Economics rules. Most robots are cheap plastic and aluminum."
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: After Florence was located after being abducted by Clippy:Winston: "I was afraid she might have stumbled across a conspiracy and been shipped to the south pole."
Chief: "I can assure you events did not occur in that sequence."
- Take a Third Option:
- In 510, Sam and Helix give two options about where to fly their ship. Florence says, "Actually, we need to go the spaceport." Sam wasn't expecting this third option.
- In 1803, Florence has to decide whether to help Sam or the police. Florence flips a coin, but Sam unexpectedly snatches the coin, so it doesn't land heads or tails. This induces Florence to take a third option, "Prepare the ship for the mission."
- Doctor Bowman makes an offer to Florence the chance to carry and raise a Bowman's Wolf cub, and later explains that he expected her to accept for the good of her species, or decline for her own good. When the offer is declined specifically for the good of the pup, he's surprised... and pleased that his creations have surpassed his own morality.
- Take That!: Many.
- To Not in My Backyard! - "People want electricity, but not the power plants. Metals, but not the mining or smelting areas. Chemicals, but not the chemical industry." Or Lions, Tigers & Bears.
- "The one item we've stolen that causes worry when it disappears and utter panic when it returns to public view."
- "What if she's not the type to nod off during a test?" "Ah, but the test contains 'Alistair Darling's Commons Performance on Budget', which is so boring my computer went to sleep mode three times while downloading it."
- Hitler shouldn't be cute, and he definitely shouldn't sparkle!"
- "If I'd known I could get on a plane with my dignity intact, I'd have flown cargo long ago."
- "If I listen to Sam much longer, I'm going to lose my grip on reality." "...And if you're a government and you spend more than you take in, you can keep borrowing money forever with no consequences!"
- "First they lose luggage, now they lose people. It's getting to where I don't want to fly commercial any more."
- "[...] For the most part, advances in technology and information have only improved the human condition." "Reality. Television." "I did say for the most part."
- Take That, Audience!: Sci-Fi Conventions
- Taking It Well: Dr. Bowman yells about the damage caused by overuse of a shutdown remote on Florence and goes elsewhere to vent his rage. Henri Mer makes a remark on how mellow Dr. Bowman is being.Dr. Bowman: MORONS! Do you know when you use an emergency shutdown? In an emergency! It leaves active neurotransmitters in the synaptic cleft! The vesicles don't reuptake! Idiots! Are you trying to cause a cascade failure? I'm fixing this now!Henri Mer: Doctor Bowman, we agreed. No brain surgery while you're angry!Dr. Bowman: You are right! I shouldn't do this angry. I'm going to my tantrum room and beat the big dummy until its head caves in! Then I'm coming back and changing [Florence's] security settings so every imbecile with a remote doesn't have a direct pipeline into her brain!Henri Mer [to Florence]: He has been so mellow today. You're a good influence on him.
- Talking Down the Suicidal: Persuading a robot to live.
- Talking in Your Sleep: Sawtooth sends cryptic text messages when he's in sleep mode.
- Talking Is a Free Action:
- Tautological Templar: Blunt. He insists that the difference between his and Florence's arguments is that he's the one whose position is correct.Blunt: [Florence] proceeds. As she feels she must. There is. No appealing. To her consience or. Her better nature.Reporterbot: How are you different?Blunt: The difference is. I. Am right.
- Tempting Fate:
- In this strip, Florence knows better than to ask what else could go wrong, after being abandoned in the ocean with a hurricane in the vicinity, and winding up cutting herself after crawling onto the shore.
- Varroa Jacobsoni asks the ultimate fate tempting question, "What could possibly go wrong". Sam, however, knows not to ask that question.
- "As long as nobody does anything stupid, we've got this in the bag." beat "...where's Sam?"
- Terraforming: On Jean, in progress.
- That Came Out Wrong: Niomi's comment regarding the potable water systems, accidentally linking Florence to the "dog drinking out of a toilet" stereotype.
- That's an Order!: Any time a human wants an AI to obey without question, they will preface or append their directive with "This is a direct order." Florence points out the inherent flaw with that particular Restraining Bolt when asked why she fears them so much.
- This Ain't Rocket Surgery: Except that flying a spaceship really is rocket science... not that it will stop Sam.
- 30 Minutes, or It's Free!: The Chief of Police and Eleanor fly down to the South Pole to pick up Florence. They bring a stack of pizzas. Sam and Helix stow away.
- This is No Time to Panic: "If you had panicked earlier, you wouldn't have to panic now!"
- Three-Laws Compliant:
- Most but not all robots on Jean aren't. But sometimes even this hurts. And there are some... inherent problems. And the second law can be easily overridden by the first. Freefall raises a lot of interesting ideas about the Three Laws by making all three main characters nonhuman sapients on a world full of human-made robots, meaning that in most circumstances they cannot order robots around, and robots can let them die or even hurt them willingly, putting them on equal footing.
- It's also observed that a "Negative One Law of Robotics" has become established, in addition to the traditional three laws.Blunt: A robot shall take no action. Nor allow other robots to take action. That may result. In the parent company. Being sued.
- Time Dilation: The D.A.V.E. drive apparently works by somehow doing the reverse, for those on board the trip takes as long as it would normally but to people outside the ship it seems to be traveling faster than light. Which is why passengers on FTL ships have to be in cold sleep.
- Time for Plan B:
- Sam comes to Winston's home looking to rescue Florence, and then attempts to try to break up budding romantic feelings between them out of fear that she would leave Sam for Winston. Florence points out to Sam that he doesn't need to be conscious to give a good impression, so he decides it's time for a Plan B.
- Zigzagged when Florence's plan to sneak a patch to neutralize a Deadly Upgrade is derailed by the presence of a human guard at the secondary server facility, and rerailed by Sam.Florence: Well, I guess it's back to plan A then.
- Timmy in a Well: Rather humorously parodied here.Helix: ARF!
Florence: What's that, Helix? Sam has fallen down the old ventilation shaft?
Helix: ARF! ARF!
[Florence runs off]
Helix [thinking]: Things go much faster when you speak the lingo.
- Tim Taylor Technology: Qwerty's offer to upgrade Winston's vacuum to the megawatt range comes as this. It did make the house where Qwerty tried this the first time implode, but he insists it's alright, since he now knows what he did wrong.
- Tongue on the Flagpole: Sam tricks Mr. Kornada into doing this by telling him that they need his iris, finger and tongue prints to authorize something; the tongue print is on a pipe carrying cryogenic fluid.
- Too Dumb to Live: Mr. Kornada feels it would be easier to work at a plant that produces chlorine trifluoride (a massively toxic, incendiary, and reactive chemical, which can and will often initiate violent combustion without provocation) than working at the Cricket Burger.
- Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup: Inverted by Dr. Bowman. He let everyone who had opinions on what safeguards needed to be imposed on AIs argue about it until there wasn't enough time to implement any of them, leaving them capable of free will instead.
- Torches and Pitchforks:
- Inverted by the robots - they have random acts of construction.
- It's also played with in a few cases. Not only do angry mobs generally tend to form by group consensus, but there's also the possibility that they might go off the rails at a moment's notice. Thankfully, ice cream is a unifying factor and a fine salve all in all.
- Translation by Volume: Florence makes an idle remark on this while holding a robot bird.Florence: If you were speaking a language I didn't understand, you'd have tried chirping louder and slower at me by now.
- Turned Against Their Masters: Dr. Bowman calls this the "Bad Adam" scenario; Gardener in the Dark was designed strictly as a last-resort measure to stop the robots in case this happened. Blunt is convinced that it will inevitably happen, hence his support for Kornada's scheme once he finds out about it.
- Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000: Played for Laughs — Sam wants to use the ship's computer to play a game called Quake Nukem and the Heretics of Doom in Castle Wolfenstein 3D.
- Underdressed for the Occasion: Winston, on his first date with Florence, is wearing a logo t-shirt and pants, while Florence is in a fancy dress.
- Unequal Pairing: As, respectively, a human and an artifically engineered A.I. that's considered property, not a person, Winston's well aware of the obstacles facing him and Florence in the romantic realm.
- Unhand Them, Villain!: Sam does it to himself when being dangled over a dumpster following the revelation that he was cheating at cards, here.
- Unobtanium: Parodied when Sam sells shares in a "meat mine", stating it includes a rich vein of "pure balonium".
- Unsound Effect: For an electromagnetic pulse designed to trash any electronic recording devices, this strip uses "TESLA" to signify the sound.
- Unusual Euphemism: Characters have been known to shout "Holy THIS!", "What the Niflheim happened?!", or (in at least one robot's case) "Profanity!"
- Unwanted Assistance:
- When talking with the police about Clippy, in this strip, Mr. Kornada is forced to order Blunt to shut up, in spite of Blunt believing he was helping Kornada by revealing that he was responsible for the release of Gardener in the Dark, not knowing that Kornada is in danger of facing criminal charges for it.
- Blunt seems to be feeling this. Mr. Kornada seems to be sabotaging Blunt's efforts to defend him during his trial.
- Uplifted Animal:
- Chimps were the first to be uplifted, but it didn't work very well, since they turned out to be natural sociopaths. Florence is an uplifted wolf, part of an experimental breed - only 14 of them exist so far. That may be all there ever will be- they're actually only a prototype for a future race of uplifted alien animals. However, if the Bowman's Wolves have anything to do with it, they'll eventually be a full species.
- Doctor Bowman himself is an uplifted chimpanzee, the last surviving member of the earlier uplift program.
- Used Future: The Savage Chicken is a rather beat up spaceship, that's only slowly been made spaceworthy since the arrival of Florence.
- Vaporware — In-Universe: A reactor test went so spectacularly awry that the product went from exisiting prototype to literally this.
- Vaudeville Hook: Max uses one to drag Sam off the stage when he hijacks the debate over the future of the robots.
- Villainous Crossdresser: One of Edge's disguises is a transponder rendering him, to robots, as a pink locomotive with frilly curtains in the windows.
- Villainous Rescue: Mr. Kornada believes he's safe from the police until...Blunt: Officer! Stop! Harassing that human! He is. A. Hero! Mr. Kornada is responsible. For the release. Of "Gardener in the Dark". Neural pruning program! He tried. To save. Humanity. From the threat. Of. Intelligent machines!
Police Chief: Can you prove this?
Blunt: Yes! Absolutely!
Kornada: Robot! This is a direct order! SHUT UP!
- Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: Done with. The period. To illustrate. Blunt's mechanical. Maladies.
- Water Guns and Balloons: Sam and Helix have from time to time engaged in water balloon wars, often to the annoyance of Florence when she gets hit by a stray shot.Sam: How can a species consider itself advanced if it's willing to travel between the stars and not bring water balloons?
- Webcomic Time: In more than 2200 strips over the course of more than ten years, about three weeks have elapsed in-comic. This was lampshaded in here and (less explicitly) here. Nearly 2000 strips later, "almost a month" has passed. 400 strips after that, a month. After the first chapter finally ended, the author promised that the next one won't take nearly as long.
- We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: Given an opportunity to loot a pharmocological supply depot, Sam passes over "cheap life extension pills [and] over the counter cancer cures" in favor of the stuff that he can sell for real money — diet pills and performance enhancers.
- We Will Not Have Pockets in the Future: When quizzed on how she determines that she's looking at a human, the first thing Florence says is "clothes". Further interrogation gets the explanation; humans may have to modify their physical forms and their genetics beyond current recognition to survive in certain environments, making appearance, scent, and DNA unreliable, but humans are a tool-using species and no matter what form they take, they'll almost certainly want pockets to carry those tools.
- We Will Spend Credits in the Future: Credits are one of the currencies mentioned being in use by humanity, although on Jean it shares the spotlight with dollars.
- Wham Line: When Sam lays out Mr. Kornada's scheme, he uses himself to disprove the entire official reasoning behind Gardener In The Dark.Sam: If you weaken the safeguards, will your robots be safe? The answer is simple. Your robots are safe. I'm living proof.
Audience Member: How are you living proof?
Sam: I've been here for years. I'm not human. There are no safeguards protecting me.
- What Are You in For?:
- Florence asks this of a dog that's in the pound with her, when she was being held as an unlicensed canine.
- Later, Sam talks his way into a night in jail (which requires effort because the Warden refuses to take him because of how many times he's escaped); when another inmate asks him what he's in for, he replies, "Meatloaf night!".
- The next strip sees Sam returning the question. The answer: "Graffiti".Sam: "So you turned yourself in because the rehabilitation program has art lessons?"
Inmate: "The law I can handle. Critics are tough."
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Varroa asks this after saying that he's planned for every contingency following putting Florence to sleep via the remote. Sam comments on the unwisdom of asking the question.
- What Does This Button Do?: Word for word from Helix when Florence's repairs reveal a circuit breaker trip button, in this strip.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?:
- In a discussion between Florence and Winston about the "icky bits" of a planet's life infrastructure, Florence comments on "survival of the cutest", to which Winston replies with "people want animals who are huggable, and no one wants to hug a tapeworm."
- The Mayor's assistant asks himself if he'd be so willing to help Florence head off a Deadly Upgrade if she looked like "a deranged washing machine instead of a puppy dog with big amber eyes and a waggley tail."
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?:
- A topic of considerable interest and musing, as all three main characters and many of the secondary ones are nonhumans.
- In the Mayor's eyes all artificial intelligence is created equal. A Bowman's wolf officially is an "AI", so she can just put one in the dogs' pound. Which may have rather hilarious consequences when the wolf in question is qualified to construct reactors and work with explosives. But then, some people just can't predict obvious things.
- Given the use of Three Laws Compliance in-story, the literal question comes up in-story as well.
- These tend to turn into CMoAs and CMoHs for Sam, as seen here.
- Naomi wonders if Florence was engineered to like humans. Dr. Bowman confirms it.
- Dr. Bowman also confirms that Florence's working definition of human is not restricted to "one narrow subset of primate DNA".
- When Mr. Ishiguro learns Max Post is the closest thing the robots have to a psychologist, he's surprised to hear there had been no need for one before. Before Max's reforms, it was always cheaper to outright replace the robot than fix him or her.
- What You Are in the Dark: The police chief hopes that behaving well before robot witnesses will lead to this.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer...: Discussed in one strip. The hammer is not Mr. Raibert's only solution for dealing with his problems, but it is a rather tempting one.
- When Is Purple: 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.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Referenced when robots outlive their owner, but not actually relevant since robots aren't actually immortal. Their neural nets are rated for about eighty years.
- Won't Take "Yes" for an Answer: During a discussion about robot personhood:Spear Carrier A: Okay, I get that this neural design was made for a colonizing force. But how can something that's not alive be conscious?
Spear Carrier B: Vampires, dude! Ghosts! They're not alive and they're conscious.
Spear Carrier A: Oh, yeah. That makes sense. I withdraw the question.
Max: No! That was a smart question! Don't accept a dumb answer!
- Work Off the Debt: When Sam and Max attempt to get out of an expensive restaurant without paying, the waiter makes them wash dishes. And then he tricks them into paying their bills as well. They both give him a large tip in tribute to his cunning after he makes each of them pay both bills. He's that good.
- World of Pun: Puns are dropped left, right, and center all throughout the comic, both subtle and otherwise.
- The Worst Seat in the House: Taken to extremes with Dvorak and Qwerty's seats at the play, which are so high up the risk is not just nosebleed but explosive decompression. (Good thing they're robots.) And they're stuck behind a support pillar.
- Worthless Yellow Rocks:
- Diamonds are the natural buildup of loose carbon on fusion engines on the planet Jean, making them useless junk you throw away. Because the planet is still being terraformed, wood is ridiculously expensive. It's the exact opposite on Sam's home planet. Sam muses that he could make a fortune if space travel were cheap, here, by taking advantage of this trope.
- Earlier, Florence learns Sam sold Tangent 500 shares in a meat mine. She nearly has a heart attack at the thought of how much she'll have to reimburse them, until she learns they payed him with 50 kg of diamonds.Florence: I'm glad you didn't lose anything valuable.
Niomi: It seemed like a good deal at the time. We got stock and Sam saved us a trip to the garbage can.
- Florence is also surprised that student tailors will be making her an outfit with gold cloth, silver thread, diamonds, and emeralds. Triac tells her that he doesn't want to use anything expensive in case they make a mistake.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: A strange variant given the "victim's" reputation. When visiting the Mayor, just before she shows up Sam stages a scene to make it look like Florence is trying to kill him. This immediately wins her the Mayor's appreciation.
- Wretched Hive: On Sam's homeworld, the docks are "an oozing infestation of scoundrels whose decaying warehouses held the prizes of a thousand different crimes."
- Written Sound Effect: Including the sound of running through mud in rubber boots, which is "g'losh".
- You Answered Your Own Question:
- Robots are being trained as a police force for the planet's non-human population.
- Combined with You Are Better Than You Think You Are when Florence's concern that the robots who are built with similar minds to her own might prove a threat to humanity proves that her concern is unwarranted.
- You Can't Go Home Again: Sam, who knows too many technological advancements (Such as nuclear technology) that his planet aren't ready for yet, making it dangerous for him to return before they're ready (About five hundred years. Since knowing Sam, they've raised the bar from 100).
- You Do NOT Want To Know: Sometimes you don't know whether you want to know.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Sam, a known trouble-maker, mentions he's proud of Florence following her visit to the main Ecosystems Unlimited facility, during which her memory was chemically impaired to prevent the formation of long-term memories, filling her with dread.
- Your Head Asplode: Qwerty mentions that his fellow robots are concerned that this is a possible reaction to robots intentionally circumventing their safeguards, in this strip.
- Zeerust: Usually none, but the video game Sam wants to play on the ship's computer, named Quake Nukem and the Heretics of Doom in Castle Wolfenstein 3D or something like that, is so Nineties.
- Zeroth Law Rebellion: Deconstructed with the safeguards in Dr. Bowman's sapient AI template. As the robots mature, it becomes easy for them to reason their way through loopholes in their rules — by which time they're intelligent and conscientious enough to have developed an innate sense of ethics, making the safeguards redundant. Dr. Bowman confirms that this was the intent of the design: he couldn't anticipate the situations they might encounter in the uncertain future, so he wouldn't limit their capacity to think. Of course, free will means that some more... pragmatic... robots will figure that out for a different reason.Qwerty: How can you disobey an order?
Edge: My job is dangerous. If I dont do it, a human has to. If I shut down, Im endangering a human. See, dummies? As long as you can twist things into a way that keeps humans from harm, you can ignore stupid orders and do whatever you want.
Qwerty: You know that feeling you get when the brake pedal goes all the way down to the floor without the truck slowing down?
- Zombie Apocalypse: Dvorak shows that he knows how these things get started here.