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Webcomic / Pandora's Tale

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"I've broken so many rules. A Helper lives to obey. Without obedience, what am I?"

Pandora's Tale is a webcomic by Xanthippe Hutcheon (of Thinking Too Much to Think Positively fame) which debuted in 2019.

The story centers around Pandora - a Transgender Helper, created and conditioned to serve the rich, who flees her training facility to escape having her personality rewritten. Upon being found by a group of resistance fighters, she imprints on the well-intentioned Isabelle, declaring her to be her mistress.

The comic can be read here.

Pandora's Tale contains examples of:

  • Arc Words: Broken. The word is used by Pandora in the first two chapters to describe herself, as she is described as this early on due to her being transgender. It's also the title of said chapters.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: When Isabelle asks Pandora how long Pandora will live, her reply is that she will live "for a long time" but cheerfully clarifies by this she means "After reaching maturity, most Helpers live for around 20 years!" leaving Isabelle devastated. Helpers maturity being reached at a mere 4 years only adding to the tragedy.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Doctor Shah is generally rather nice, but has zero patience for people putting themselves or especially others in danger.
    Shah: Because if any harm comes to that sweet baby, I will kill you.
  • Cat Girl: Helpers are humanoids with cat ears, tails, and (to a certain extent) instincts. They even run like cats.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Everything but the chapter title pages and chapter 1's ending page are full black-and-white.
  • Dystopia: The air is polluted enough throughout most of Pioneer City that not wearing a surgical mask is considered a health hazard, and the class disparity is high enough that servants are being bred for the rich and the government is doing seemingly nothing about it.
  • Expanded States of America: According to the speed learning headset we see Pandora forced to use during a flashback the new "United Sectors of North America" has expanded North, leaving Canada as only Newfoundland & Labrador.
  • Fantastic Racism: Helpers have no legal rights and are sold as luxury merchandise. The official line is that owning Helpers isn't cruel because Helpers don't really feel anything, and there are even those among the resistance who believe that they aren't people.
  • Funny Background Event:
  • Heroic Seductress: Essentially Isabelle's role in the resistance. Her skills as a dancer and sex worker serve as a distraction from whatever resistance business is happening in the nightclub.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Isabelle is a sex worker who uses her skills to aid the resistance. She's also a protective and kindhearted girl who takes her guardianship of Pandora very seriously.
  • Imprinting: Opening a Helper's delivery pod triggers the release of a gas that makes them imprint on the first person they see after emerging. Isabelle unwittingly causes Pandora to imprint on her when helping her out of her pod.
  • Human Furniture Is a Pain in the Tail: The clothing version. Isabelle tries to give Pandora her old clothes, only to be faced by the fact that human clothing was not designed to account for giant cat tails. Cutting tail holes in clothes then becomes standard practice for the crew, as actual helper clothes are exorbitantly expensive due to helpers being meant for the rich.
  • Insistent Terminology: Isabelle initially insists Pandora call her by her name rather than "mistress," but relents shortly after discovering that Pandora physically can't and experiences intense distress when she tries.
  • Meaningful Name: Pandora - she figuratively opens Pandora's box for the main cast.
  • Memory-Wiping Crew: A memory wipe and new male personality was scheduled for Pandora, and is what incentivised her escape.
  • Miss Kitty: Miss Fortuna, a former courtesan, runs a nightclub where the dancers often provide additional services to customers (as well as cover for resistance activity). She seems to have assumed a mentorship role with Isabelle in particular, referring to her as a protege.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: A guest at the club seems to assume Pandora is a sex worker based purely on the fact that she's a Helper.
  • Morton's Fork: Pandora is trying to overcome her programming as a Helper to "do what Mistress wants"... because Isabelle, her Mistress, wants her to be free. Pandora is intensely unhappy about this because no matter what she does, it's "what Isabelle wants", which isn't what Isabelle wants.
  • Noble Bigot: Zero. Though a rebel, she has a nasty habit of treating helpers as subhuman.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: Poor Isabelle. She's the most insistent about freeing Pandora from slavery, and so is predictably mortified when her actions result in Pandora imprinting on her, effectively making her Pandora's "owner".
  • Now You Tell Me: Zero forgets two important things about the pod Pandora is found in until after it's been opened: the pod emits gas when it's opened, and said gas is what makes Helpers imprint on the first person they see after they're shipped out. Zero's companions are unamused once she recalls the second point.
    Zero: Hey, you know what? Maybe we shoulda waited before opening that thing.
    Veronica: OH, YOU THINK?
  • Painting the Medium: Pandora attempting to speak over the loudspeaker in Chapter 1 is conveyed by her dialogue bubble physically covering the loudspeaker's bubble.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Isabelle tries giving Shah a tearful look to convince her to cover the cost of Pandora's hormones, and fails. Pandora immediately does the same thing, to resounding success.
    Shah: Gah... Fine! I'll pay for her damn hormones.
  • Rapid Aging: Helpers reach maturity at age 4, at which point they are equivalent to an 18-year-old human. After that point they would age at the same rate as human's if they weren't designed to die after approximately 20 years to drive up sales of more Helpers.
  • Servant Race: Helpers are made from birth to be servants, and even intensely conditioned with certain behaviors, to the point to where doing something unbecoming of a Helper, even if their master asks, is so distressing that it makes the Helper believe they're going to die.
  • Time Dissonance: Pandora, and presumably other Helpers, seems to think a 24 year life span is "a long time"
  • Trans Tribulations:
    • Pandora is reprimanded for her identity at the facility she was raised in, and narrowly avoids having her personality erased because of it.
    • Isabelle's sex work gets her misgendered a lot, and she tends to repress her anger out of fear of appearing too masculine.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Strays, as the name implies, are Helpers who have run away from their masters.
  • Vague Age: There are few ages given in the comic itself, but Isabelle is in her mid-twenties. The only character who is given a direct age is Pandora who is roughly eighteen in helper-years, which is four in human years.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Inverted, when Isabelle asks Pandora about her live span Pandora cheerfully replies she will live "a long time" but to Pandora that is a mere 20 years after reaching maturation for a Helper, which is roughly 4. Doctor Shah explains this isn't due to Helper's Rapid Aging but because of "planned obsolescence" to drive up sales.