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Webcomic / Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger

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Quentyn Quinn Space Ranger, a webcomic by Ralph Hayes, Jr. and a Spin-Off of Tales of the Questor, deals with one of Quentyn's descendants centuries down the track, IN SPACE!!

A large part of the strips are based on parodying or straight-up mocking well-known Science Fiction works or tropes.

The first ones are also collected in a volume.

Provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Literally. The Warhammer 40k arc was abandoned because it sucked (in Quentyn and the Author's own words no less). This might have had something to do with Games Workshop enforcing the fanwork ban on their own property that year. Cue the warmongering forces spontaneously combusting.
  • Aesop Amnesia: The Federation expies clearly didn't learn any sort of lesson from their first encounter with the Empire, as the second time they're prosecuted for negligent genocide after letting another pre-FTL civilization fall victim to natural disaster.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The original Trope Namer, the Prime Directive, at least the version utilized in Star Trek: The Next Generation, is dissected, and called racist, unethical, and immoral. note 
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Of a sort. For the Federation expies, the tech, philosophies, and crew are all pretty blatantly based on those of The Next Generation, but the design of their ship more closely resembles that of the first six movies' Enterprise rather than the Enterprise-D.
    • Likewise, while most of the crew are instantly recognizable as the TNG versions (and the Worf Effect is in full swing), the medical officer is plainly based on "Bones" from TOS. This resulted in irony when fans of the comic — and the series — pointed out that a Bones Expy would have heard Quentyn lambasting the transporter and joined in.
  • An Aesop: At the end of "The Coldest Equation," the title character sums things up nicely.
    Quinn: Space is an unforgiving place. We all rely on each other out here, right down to the very air we breathe. That's why there's no room... for anyone who won't fight against all odds for every last breath, or for anyone who tries to turn someone else's survival into some cold equation.
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • During a chapter based around the story The Cold Equations, on cross-examination, the Transit General is asked a series of them: First, why haven't their ships yet been upgraded with zero-point energy systems, which would have prevented the fuel problems for the vessel in question? Better yet, why were there absolutely no contingency measures regarding life support or power supplies, which would be present even in 20th century space shuttles? The Transit General's only answer is that ZPE tech is in committee regarding possible adaptation... and has been for 50 years. He doesn't have an answer for why there are no backups.
    • From the space ranger himself: How much does the pilot's chair weigh?note 
  • Artificial Script: Ralph uses a few exotic "fonts" for in-universe writing: Racconan text is written in Lovecraft's Diary, while Cue's name is written in Roswell Wreckage
  • Audience Surrogate: Omnibus tends to act as a type 2, despite being essentially a sapient encyclopedia. Apparently his archived data requires a specific search, unlike organic memory, and learning to think more like that is one of the reasons he was assigned to Quinn.
  • Author Tract: Large swaths of the comic are summed up as long Take Thats to various sci-fi franchises, with some strong libertarianism on the side. "The Cold Equations" is a good example of both, starting out as a deconstruction of the original short story The Cold Equations and segueing into blaming the whole thing on a government butting into private enterprise. Indeed, the author is quite aware of this, and claims to do it on purpose to get past the "defense mechanisms" of fans of the aforementioned franchises.
  • Badass Adorable: Quentyn takes after his ancestor in looks but brings more expertise to the job.
  • Badass Boast:
  • Page 95 contains a short one. "I'm a ranger. My name means Justice!"
  • Blasť Boast: On Page 130, when Quentyn is asked "how often do you have to make life or death decisions on your job?" he casually responds with "Every day of the week and twice on Sundays."
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • The Raccoonans initially just warned the Kvrk-chk against trying their normal cannibalistic invasion techniques on them. After the Kvrk-chk massacred the inhabitants of one of their ships and sent them footage of the event, they destroyed one of their populated systems with a stellar lance.
    • More personally, for all his 3' size, adorable fuzziness and relaxed outlook, Quentyn can be downright terrifying if someone gets him really angry.
  • Bigger Stick: The Kvrk-chk are monsters from a Death World capable of shrugging off plasma rifle fire like it was rain. The Raccoonans have access to Star Killing artillery. One vengeful demonstration later, the Kvrk-chk's standard procedure when they see a Raccoonan (or anybody carrying a Space Ranger badge) is "run the hell away".
  • Biotech Is Better: No, it isn't. The strip points out that the easy replication and self-repair of biotech is attractive, its relative fragility, vulnerability to disease, incompatibility with conventional technology and need for constant care (not to mention the Body Horror factor) make it usually more trouble than it's worth.
    Fragile, vulnerable, high maintenance, almost impossible to store long-term, breakdowns are effectively permanent—so yeah, not exactly a real hot seller out here.
    • The only piece of biotech Quentin encounters that's defies that is the snorf; the only thing better at tracking organics than other organics is an engineered organic. And even it has an AI grafted onto it.
    Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, lipids-for-brains....
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: A few times, like the Gestaltians.
  • Body Horror: One reason Organic Technology is not more popular.
  • Brain Monster: Gestaltians are a non-villainous example. They are born as just a brain with eyes and rudimentary limbs, and assemble a body out of various symbiotes.
  • Brain Uploading: It's possible to upload a person's memory into a computer. Uploading that memory into another body is considered a crime, tantamount to murder, even if it is a reconstructed clone body that may have been awake for only a few seconds. It's regarded as murder one, if the clone is a replicate reconstructed at the neural level. Uploading into a computer itself is rather horrendous as well; see And I Must Scream above.
  • Chiaroscuro: When ejected into space.
  • Broken Aesop : "The Coldest Equation" is a Take That! against government regulations and bureaucracy. Which is resolved by a higher government going in and taking over the Parodian government. The judges do cite the events of the case as a Godzilla Threshold: normally, they don't get involved in another civilization's government unless they've messed up that badly, but it falls a bit flat when we see the mistakes of one government being fixed by the decrees of another government.
  • Clone Degeneration: Using a Matter Replicator to make a copy of a copy is generally unwise — particularly if the thing you're copying is a Matter Replicator. A first or second generation copy is almost as good as an original. After the fourth, they start getting unreliable. Eventually, they end up producing toxins, or ionizing radiation, or who knows what else. Legally, then, replicated replicators are required to be labeled with their generation number.
  • Cloning Body Parts: Matter replicators can be used to make replacement organs, and at least one company gave employees full scans as part of their medical benefits. One character used those data to create a full clone of his dead wife.
  • Compensating for Something: A parody of a 40K ship called the "Obvious Overcompensation".
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment:
    • The Patoodines have a rather unique legal system: They launch criminals from a catapult a distance calculated by adding up the total and severity of your crimes. If you live, you're free to go.note  But if your crimes are severe enough, well...
      Quentyn: Two words: Lunar. Impact.
      Omnibus: The E.S.S. leased them their rail gun.
    • The Fedorks, after doing nothing to aid a bronze-age civilization that was annihilated by a comet, are required to completely rebuild the entire biosphere, sentient species, and civilization... down to the last piece of pottery. They're also going to be handed over to a new cosmic entity for handling in the future... one who is likely to be much stricter in regulating their behavior. And furthermore, once the terraforming is done, both planetary empires in charge of the area will step in for uplift/first contact procedures — again at the Fedorks' expense.
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Deconstructed. Rebels are treated fairly in certain, desperate situations (a far more detailed analysis would be Nip and Tuck: Rebel Cry) but doing it for the hell of it is considered childish, stupid, and even downright suicidal.
    • Quinn has to rescue wannabe pirates and expects no trouble from them.
      "Pirates and gangsters and other "outlaws" are nothing but arrogant children. They think that the rules are just there to spoil their fun, and that only wimps and losers live by them. And so they figure that being an outlaw makes them the biggest, baddest predators in the universe. They're dead wrong. What it makes them is rightful prey of the civilization they spurned- and of the things civilization protected them from without them ever knowing. There are powers and principalities out there that pick their teeth with the bones of "big, bad outlaws" that wander out past the fence. Our three-eyed little buccaneers just learned their worst nightmare is true: that the bars on the cage aren't there to protect the tiger. And the tiger isn't them."
    • Visited again with the Kalufraxian terrorists who try to kill Quentyn in a later arc. While they claim to be getting revenge for the alleged destruction of their civilization, they are implied to be descended from the Kalufraxian Oligarchs who all but plundered their planet's wealth and were leaving the people to starve, a.k.a. the ones that were rebelled against when the people used matter replication technology to fight back. Those rebels are portrayed realistically; desperate men with no choice but to rebel or watch their world end in fire and blood. And it nearly did anyway. Quentyn's assailants are less tragic victims and more spoiled whiners that hate how things turned out because they aren't in charge anymore and don't want to admit they screwed up. They are also apparently young adults, so they weren't likely to have even been born on Kalufrax.
  • Cool Starship: Both Quentyn's own ship, the Thunderbird, and the Sapphire Star — a luxury cruise ship with a diameter measured in kilometers.
  • Corporate Warfare: About 30 years previously, a coalition of six stellar nations, including the Empire, declared war on the RIAA because they'd started brain-stripping elderly artists and scientists. They took the RIAA's heavily fortified central office planet in a week when it turned out that the nations they were counting on for defense hated them too.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat: Apparently the punchline of QQSR's riffing of The Cold Equations. Even the idiotic strawmen from the strip's Federation expy use the engineering parlance "a pair and a spare" — at least one totally redundant system for every vital one, with an extra 10% margin of error. The designer of the "Emergency Dispatch Ships" clearly states that they have no margin for error whatsoever; no backup power, no backup fuel, no backup life support, and what it does have is shaved so razor-thin that it's within centimeters of catastrophe even in ideal operational parameters. Even the most Dickens-esque caricature of greed would never use an EDS for anything — let alone transporting indispensable medical supplies — for the simple reason that a ship that will crash if the pilot ate too big a meal is a waste of money. They only could be built through institutionalized incompetence; corners cut and cut again for no other reason than that no one would have to answer for it. And that can only happen in a government bureaucracy; even Incompetence, Inc. would go out of business long before they built a lemon like an EDS, while government bureaucrats are immune from consequence right up until they utterly destroy the system they depend on.
  • Death World: The Kvrk-Chk homeworld features extremes of pressure, temperature, acidity, salinity, toxicity, and radiation unimaginable to most sentients. And an ecosystem so savage that they need to eat their prey alive before scavengers and parasites do. As a result, a single unarmed Kvrk-Chk can slaughter a group of wannabe pirates with artillery.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Quentyn describes the Parodian anti-piracy laws as a large-scale version: their shuttles were so poorly built that losing them was common, so they needed a fabricated "piracy" epidemic to cover it up. There weren't a lot of pirates willing to cooperate, so the big ships were allowed to hire migrant workers and the shuttles were left unguarded. Sometimes a worker would stow away and the pilot, under orders, would space said stowaway, keeping things from being cleared up and giving the illusion of a hijacking problem.
  • Destructive Teleportation: This form of technology technically exists, though use of it is banned by the Empire as it's literal murder. The Fedorks use it and suffer Clone Degeneration after repeated iterations.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Quentyn has to admit, the Fusion Powered Matter Disruptor Rifles caught him by surprise.
  • Digital Piracy Is Okay: The RIAA Wars. RH throws an anvil here - his opinion is that we either chill out about it or let the regulators eat our brains - literally.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • When the Kvrk-chk ate a Racconan colony ship's passengers, broadcasting every crunching, screaming second live to the Empire of the Seven Systems, with a stated intent to continue such practices, the Empire retaliated by roasting one of the more populated Kvrk-chk star systems with a stellar lance. The Kvrk-chk got the point, and did not do it again.
    • The Confidantines enact very severe penalties for anyone who abducts and/or interrogates one of their own. The reason for these penalties is rather simple: The Confidantines were the first species to perfect FTL communication, and share a collective memory that allows them access to a huge amount of information, a great deal of it classified or personal. They also hold a great deal of control over all hypernet access in the universe. To prevent that information from being used by unscrupulous sources, if one of their own is captured or interrogated, then either they are forcibly disconnected from the collective, or disconnect themselves. They consider this a Fate Worse than Death (since their mind exists outside of their own head, this basically reduces the person in question to a drooling infant, and while it may be possible to partially restore their faculties, they are never the same afterwards). For this reason, in order to ensure that no one tries, they will penalize not just the individuals responsible, but also their homeworld, any organization they work for, and potentially their entire species by cutting off their hypernet access for a century, if not longer.
      • This penalty can easily cause the bankruptcy of the company in question, cause the homeworld in question to fall into economic ruin, and change a species from a major intergalactic superpower to the equivalent of a third world country practically overnight. This would be the modern day equivalent of suddenly being banned from all internet, telegraph, telephone, television, and radio access, and having to rely on only postal communication for a century. This would be painfully slow, inefficient, and expensive, and in a competitive economy, the equivalent of a Game-Breaking Injury for a person, company, planet, and/or species. Even after the ban is over, it would be centuries before the economies affected would be able to catch up with the competition, and even then, odds are that they'll never reach anything approaching their previous ability in comparison to what was lost.
    • Because Pidorg let a pre-FTL civilization die, the entire Federation is barred from interstellar travel until they rebuild said civilization and assist the Empire in getting it modernized. In addition, the Federation is to be assigned another cosmic entity, that is implied to not be as lenient with them as Cue, as its guardian.
  • Distressed Dude: Like in an emergency evac suit in outer space with only a short range communicator and the ship swanning off without you.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The C'zan of B'dullah, terrorist religious fanatics who use a star-and-crescent symbol.
  • Driven to Suicide: Multiple internal systems of the Enterprise expy gained full intelligence... only to delete themselves when they learned their operation parameters.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Rasheed, the taxi driver, of course. This is incidental to the fact that he's almost blind, considering his electromagnetic proprioreception.
  • Everyone Has Standards: The Fedorks, local straw federation, have no problem strapping magnetic bottles of antimatter to their ships, but ships with zero margin for error anywhere is so ridiculous that the engineer testifying about it spends most of his testimony under the impression that they're some kind of joke.
  • Experienced Protagonist: Unlike his ancestor's comic, QQSR starts off with the titular character several decades into his career.
  • Face Palm: When Judge Bob learns that Galacti-Transit doesn't even put so much as a simple padlock on the hatch leading to a shuttle.
  • Fantastic Racism: Not so much subverted or inverted as turned completely inside out with the W'naybeans, a race of behavioral and cultural mimics (modeled on the real life Mimic Octopus.) Their habit of imitating not just other races and ethnicities but other race and ethnic STEREOTYPES caused them a great deal of trouble with various easily offended PC types, but eventually they became so ubiquitous that they are routinely employed in various tourist traps preferentially over the very natives they imitate as being "more authentic." The author's point is that "nobody seemed to be too upset as long as it was SOMEBODY ELSE being mimicked..." Ergo, if seen humorously, both racism AND ethnic hypersensitivity are easy to recognize as ridiculous.
    • The Federation's "Prime Directive" (not interfering with pre-FTL civilizations, to the point of intentionally not saving them from global-destruction disasters) is regarded as nothing but racist xenophobia by the Seven Systems.
  • Fashion-Victim Villain: In-Universe; Omnibus and Quentyn mock the pirate captain's get-up; Quentyn comments that apparently megalomania and terrible fashion sense go together.
  • Flat "What": Just look at the faces of the three judges here.
  • Flaw Exploitation: How he defeats the Star Trek parody.
  • Force-Field Door: Unlike in most common fiction, the Space Rangers have a strict policy concerning Force Field Doors.
    Quentyn Quinn: "Ranger Cadet Rule #1: No matter how shiny the force field is, keep your helmet on 'till the airlock is closed."
  • Foreshadowing: Quentyn is furious that the shuttle pilot didn't even bother to shoot Nikki Blackcat before dumping her into space, and it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense given that standard procedure in such cases involves shooting the stowaway. While Quentyn is lambasting the pilot, Nikki speaks up and tells the court that she spaced herself, which makes sense of the bizarre situation.
  • Funny Animal: Quinn is a Raccoon-like example, and his race is far shorter than the humans on the Sapphire Star.
  • Gendercide: The F'ving used a nano-plague to wipe out the female Gestaltians, though apparently they didn't realize that they were anything but lux-manipulating symbiotes. Which was why Ylvir went to such lengths to obtain a cloned female "tree" from Sebak.
  • Gender Scoff: Quentyn drives off the Planet Eater by exploding the expelled warp core with torpedoes. When the Troi stand-in asks why he didn't just detonate the core remotely, Quentyn says it was cooler this way, which Ensign Dweebly enthusiastically seconds. She scoffs "Men!"
  • Genre Savvy: Quentyn is fully aware of the flaws of a Force Field door, which is part of the reason he beats the Federation expies.
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Seemingly inverted, the hero works for the "Empire of the Seven Systems" while the Star Trek Parody Federation is highly incompetent (and socialist). But according to Word of God the Empire is a parliamentary republic and the emperor is mostly there to look good on TV. IE think less Galactic Empire and more modern day Japan.
  • Gunboat Diplomacy: Part of standard Imperial First Contact procedure
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: The Serqeti assasin uses her arm and tail to do this.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am a Dwarf Today?: In the Federation arc, Groonch the G'norch makes a point of emphasizing his warrior-race pride (his hat, given by Captain Pidorq, is "token noble savage") — only to have it subverted when it's pointed out that his "race" has dozens of languages and hundreds of cultures, and "noble warrior" isn't even in the top 10....
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Upon learning that her being a stowaway on the shuttle put a medical delivery that thousands were depending on in jeopardy, Miss Blackcat jettisoned herself to prevent that from happening. Somewhat subverted in that Quinn saved her at the last second.
  • Home Sweet Home
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: That have shells worthy of being used for the hull of a spaceship.
  • Hulking Out: See Shapeshifter Baggage.
  • Identical Grandson: Commander Quentyn Quinn of his great-great-great-grandfather Quentyn son of Quinn. Though he does seem a few decades older and more experienced.
  • Indentured Servitude: Turing-level A.I.s have to serve a period of indentured servitude to pay off the cost of their manufacture. After that they're free citizens. But some unscrupulous owners tamper with their clocks so they think they still have decades left on their term or replace their cortex with a copy printed off their Matter Replicator that thought it was fresh from the factory.
  • In Harm's Way: A space ranger has got to love it. In main character's own words, they're Oops Boys, as the most common last words on their black boxes tend to be "Oops".
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Quentyn states that as an Imperial Ranger he has the authority to act as judge, jury, and executioner in cases of extreme lawlessness, e.g. The Serqeti and Gestaltian ambassadors illegally cloning assassins and neurally templating them with the Serqeti's wife's "backup".
  • Late to the Tragedy: By about a half hour. And only there by a contrived coincidence. Triggers the assassin arc.
  • Lost in Transmission: Why he should keep an assassin alive.
  • Matter Replicator: Like in Star Trek, but with sufficient resolution to copy living things.
  • Mega-Corp: The RIAA. Eventually they started destructively uploading elderly scientists and artists and the Empire declared war.
  • Mook Horror Show: The pirates get one when they force down a Kvrk-chk colonist.
  • Multicultural Alien Planet: Ralph is on record as stating that monocultures can only exist under fascism.
  • Murder by Inaction: The Fedorks are found guilty of failing in their duty to save a primitive species from a comet impact. They're only charged with negligent homicide rather than genocide because the Cosmic Entity guarding their Federation has been neglecting its duty to teach them morality.
  • My Greatest Failure: Cmdr. Quinn gave Kalufrax replicator technology so they could weather their economic collapse and fight back against oligarchs attempting to maintain the status quo, but one nation of religious extremists used the tech to bring down one of the planet's Floating Continents, and the other nations nuke-glassed them in response. Quinn needs a Seda-stick before telling the story. Downplayed in that Quinn and even his commanders conclude that Quinn't solution was the best (ie, least destructive) one overall that he could've gone for. You canít fix a broken culture with technological uplift.
  • Necromantic: Three times over during the Sapphire Star arc. Sebak's wife, Anippe, died in the RIAA wars at the hands of mercenaries sent to protect the corporation's IPs. After discovering the genome archive for an extinct Gestaltian subspecies, he trades it to the Gestaltian ambassador for Anippe's biomedical data and neural template, planning to clone her and download the template into the clone's brain. In an odd examination of the trope, two of the cases are pretty much failures but one of them succeeds spectacularly.
    • The clone was successfully replicated, but it was made from a biomedical scan so detailed it already had Anippe's memories, but no memory of Sebak, as it had been taken years before they had met. Imprinting the template would thus be killing that woman. This utterly horrifies;
    • ...the template itself, which was taken moments before Anippe's death - but upon being booted up, she emphatically believes she's not Anippe, but merely a copy of her memories. Her very existence disgusts her, so she takes steps to remain conscious and learn more about her situation. When she realizes that a younger copy of Anippe was going to be murdered to provide her with an organic body, she allies herself with the clone to make a giant mess of the whole deal, aided by the third party involved;
    • ...the "Gestaltian subspecies" AKA the "bio-armor" that the clone has been wearing throughout the arc - which turns out to be the female of the Gestaltian race, exterminated in a recent war by an enemy that only believed it to be the Gestaltian "subspecies" capable of manipulating Lux. Having never actually met a female before, the Gestaltian ambassador inadvertently terrified her during the process of cloning her, thus driving her to bond with the clone in order to escape her tormentors. Luckily, he is able to reconcile with her, saving their species from extinction.
  • Never My Fault: Quentyn discusses this trope with Omnibus, saying that some people find it easier to blame those who cleaned the mess up than take responsibility for their own actions.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Nikita Blackcat is not a black cat. Her husband, however...
  • Not His Sled: The comic's take on The Cold Equations has the stowaway survive. It also turns out she jettisoned herself rather than being spaced by the pilot for the "greater good."
  • No Water Proofing In The Future: Quentyn escapes the Glorious Undertaking's brig by ordering a pitcher of ice water from the replicator and soaking the force field controls, shorting out the door. He smugly comments that this is why using force-field doors for brigs is a bad idea.
  • The Oath-Breaker: A confidantine skirts the edge of her vow, which is an important clue about the severity of the crime she witnessed.
  • Older Than They Look: Most would put Quentyn Quinn in his twenties or early thirties. But he has been a Ranger for at least fifty years, presumably a combination of Time Dilation, Racconan longevity, and Rejuve.
  • One-Way Visor: The cabbie mimic, despite his eyes being on the ends of his "Rasta dreads".
    • Another of his species wears sunglasses. Presumably they do this to avoid presenting an Eyeless Face.
  • Only Sane Man: The titular character and his AI companion seem to be this most of the time.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Chief Justice Bob has been known to hurl his gavel at the exceedingly guilty, such as Pidorq and his failed attempt to save face for letting a pre-FTL civilization die, but the other justices manage to restrain themselves even in the case of the aforementioned negligent genocide. So it tells you just how incredibly screwed Mister Clotworg is that all three of them throw their gavels at him.
  • Organic Technology: Deconstructed with the usual thoroughness here
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Averted. A few background mentions illustrate that the Sojourner Church variant of the Christian faith (and presumably others, but this is the only one that's actually shown up), is still alive and well.
  • Pleasure Planet:
    • The Sapphire Star, though actually a massive starship.
    • Also (mentioned in passing) "Queela Quoola," which translates roughly as "Planet of casual sex and cheap beer..."
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Subverted with the Fedorks' Worf counterpart. Groonch evidently knows very little about his home planet, justified as Groonch was raised by foster parents, which Quentyn says has no thriving warrior races. In fact, Quentyn suspects that Groonch's exact culture is one best known for macrame.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Cue, the cosmic being in the "Glorious Undertaking" arc, who, out of pity more than anything, basically took an entire civilization under its wing and gave it interstellar travel in the hopes that space travel would broaden said species horizons and help them to correct the shortcomings of their society.
    • 400 years later, they still haven't improved any.
    • At the beginning of "The Coldest Equation", Cue apparently approached the High Imperial Court to get a legal assessment of its performance as the Fedorks guardian. Apparently, it's customary among Cue's collective to do so.
  • Ridiculous Future Inflation: The "Ridiculous" part is lampshaded in the arc where Matter Replicators are discussed; when the most politically powerful currency on the planet Kallifrax loses 95% of its face value in less than a century, the inflation is stated to be purposeful - the result of the planet's oligarchy attempting to Take Over the World by scamming its citizenry into trading all the physical resources for fiat currency. In-Universe, the ESS has a term for the process - a "Keynes Swindle" or "Frac and Fee" AKA "Fractional Reserve" and "Fiat Currency" - and consider it to be a criminal act identical to counterfeiting.
  • Rule of Cool: Quentyn fires torpedoes to detonate the warp core as the Planet Eater is trying to consume it. When asked why he didn't just remotely detonate the core, he says that this way looked cooler. A female bridegecrew member finds the whole thing exasperating.
  • Sacrificial Planet: A Planet Eater eats a system's outer planet, moons first and then the main world a week later. Then it ate the life-bearing planet's moon, and that was a week ago....
  • Sadistic Choice: When it's revealed that Nikki Blackcat spaced herself, two judges question why the pilot didn't mention this, given that it would have exonerated him. The third provides the reason: under Parodian piracy laws, any pilot who fails to kill a stowaway is assumed to be in on the job. The pilot had the choice of either implying he had spaced an unarmed woman, putting himself in the crosshairs of an Empire court, or admitting he hadn't followed procedure and getting charged with piracy by Parodian courts.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: The snorf can pick up a scent from a description of whom they are looking for.
    • More like he could remember all the scents that match the description of "Serqeti, female, lux user, in bio-armor." A perk of being sapient.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Kvrk-Chk are explicitly stated to be under the Nazi category, with their entire civilization being under an absolute dictatorship that allows no variation in culture, law, beliefs, anything in their society. This is a society where the nail that sticks up isn't just hammered down, it's violently ripped out and eaten on sight. And this is a civilization that occupies multiple star systems.
  • Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: Averted in the Sapphire Star arc; Quinn asks the ship's monitoring officer to help him track down an assassin, and is told that scanning a thirty-kilometer sphere for one lifeform - among twenty million others - makes finding the proverbial "needle in a haystack" seem as simple as picking raisins out of cereal; such a sphere has a volume of FOURTEEN THOUSAND CUBIC KILOMETERS. Just the top deck of the ship has an area of over 2800 square kilometersnote  - and there are fifty more beneath it, along with myriad maintenance areas and a 10 kilometer block of reactors and generators at the core. System check sweeps run 24 hours a day because that's how long it takes to complete one sweep. It takes five hours just to ping all the doors.
  • Secret Art: Lux spells. When the Racconans Sufficiently Analyzed Magic to the point that Magitek became commonplace, the development of natural lux talents fell out of use. Why spend decades learning how to throw steel-smashing lightning from your fingers when handguns exist that permit anyone to do it after a week of training? Military forces train lux users in down-and-dirty techniques that prove why it's a stupid idea to attack an "unarmed" Racconan, but the dazzling displays of power exercised by Quentyn's ancestors are all but unknown. This just makes the few who still practice the arts among the most lethal beings in existence. One adept demonstrates this by walking around invisibly without 50 kilos of atomic crystal arrays, then catching a sizzling stun-bolt in her hand, reshaping it, and tossing it aside in a single motion.
  • Serial Escalation: Played With with the "assassin" on the Sapphire Star;
    Rasheed: Ey, first dere were just a suspect, den she were an assassin, den she were an assassin wit weird alien powahs, den a whole school of assassinsÖ tings goiní downhill fast aní I ainít even gone nowhea yet!
    • Turns out she's just a clone of an ambassador's wife who didn't want her brain overwritten with the woman's later memories, symbiotically bonded to a newly-grown alien "female" with an instinctual talent for Lux manipulation.
  • Shapeshifter Baggage: Averted and lampshaded here. Quentyn states that no one is 100% sure how that species does that, but they still punch pretty hard when they do it.
  • Shout-Out: Among the few references that aren't take that is one to Schlock Mercenary.
    "Telepathic" Schlockiverse alien: Do you believe in radio?
    "Telepathic" Questorverse alien: Do you believe in subspace radio?
  • Space Pirates: The first arc deals with them.
    • Along with an object lesson in why it would be a seriously bad idea to take it up as an occupation.
  • Starship Luxurious: The Sapphire Star. Those sapphire skylights that make up most of the outer hull, actual sapphires.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security:
    • The Federation expies. Omnibus hacked into their mainframe and downloaded everything while the Geordi expy was specifically watching for hacking attempts.
    • The Parodian's security on their shuttles is even MORE ridiculous. As an analogy, imagine Swiss cheese, with more holes than cheese. Then eat all the cheese. What you have left is, quite literally, all of the security they have on their shuttles. There wasn't even a lock on the door. All done intentionally with the aim of luring hapless drifters to be stowaways in order to fabricate a piracy epidemic.
  • Take a Third Option: Standard Space Ranger procedure; part of their training involves putting them in a simulated "no-win" scenario and seeing how many third options they can find to win it anyway. Quentyn gives a prime example of this in the "Coldest Equation" arc when, presented with the shuttle pilot's option of ejecting a stowaway into space or crashing a shuttle full of vital medical supplies, he would have opted for throwing out his chair.
    • Later on, we find out that the shuttle pilot also tried to take one: when his efforts to save himself, Miss Blackcat, and his shipment of medical supplies failed, he was left with a choice: throw her out the airlock or face conspiracy charges. His choice: show her how to land the craft and then jettison himself. Before he could, however, she took the first option upon herself.
  • Take That!:
    • A big one directed at Star Trek runs from Page 14 to Page 44. The author's politics are on full display. Most of the subjects he brings up were addressed by either Deep Space Nine or the TNG movies.
    • A later storyline includes a shot at the RIAA.
    • In an arc regarding The Seven Systems judicial system, when the "Prime Directive" is taken to its natural conclusion (meaning that nobody interferes, even if it would save an entire sentient species, when a comet strikes a planet), the Prime Directive gets dissected, and stated to be racist, hypocritical, and downright unethical. Followed up by another low blow when the official name of Pidorq's (a blow with the subtlety of an avalanche in and of itself) race is revealed to be "the Fedorks."
    • However, the storyline "The Coldest Equation" is primarily directed at The Cold Equations, to the point where a Fedork expatriate takes one look at the schematics for the shuttle and declares that the Federation, which flies around with magnetic bottles of antimatter strapped to their backsides, would not consider it fit to fly. Then it spins off into a full on Author Filibuster on Government vs. Private Industry. Or perhaps just a Take That! against government bureaucracy.
  • Technology Uplift: It seems to be the Empire of the Seven Systems' preference with newly contacted species. And frequently worked into the frequent Author Tracts.
    • At the end of the arc parodying Star Trek Cmdr. Quinn tells a member of a species that the Federation left to the mercy of a Planet Eater because they were pre-spaceflight that the Empire will help them rebuild, and that their presence will no doubt screw up what was left but at least they'll treat them like people.
    • Another time, a member of a species the Empire had contacted fifty years earlier accused the Rangers of destroying his civilization by downloading blueprints for Matter Replicators into their network and causing an economic collapse. Quinn retorted that the real reason for the collapse was the native oligarchy's use of fiat currency to pillage the commoners, and that he had given them the technology they needed just to survive.
  • There Are No Coincidences: Quinn realizes foul play was involved in crashing his ship because all the systems went off-line simultaneously.
  • They Have the Scent!: The snorf announces it.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Cosmic Being gives a rather severe one to the captain of the Glorious Undertaking, in front of his own crew, outlining every flaw and shortcoming of their civilization, and everything that he has to do to keep their entire civilization from collapsing upon itself. Again.
    • Three Seven Systems judges basically outline everything wrong with the Prime Directive, when taken to it's natural conclusion, resulting in the Enterprise Expy sitting idly by and watching the complete annihilation of a sentient species without bothering to warn them, notify anyone of their impending destruction, or even attempt to divert the comet that was about to destroy them.
    • Quentyn laces into Eugin Atrix for lacking the presence of mind to take any precautions that would keep Nikita Blackcat from boarding his shuttle (which resulted in her getting Thrown Out the Airlock without a space suit), or even attempting to Take a Third Option that would allow him to safely land his decidedly unsafe shuttle with both of them onboard (such as jettisoning non-essential weight and overclocking the life-support systems, or at the very least just shooting Nikita before spacing her). However, when it's revealed that Nikita spaced herself and that Eugin was planning on spacing himself instead before she did, he rescinds his statements, noting that while Eugin is incompetent as a pilot, it isn't his fault (he wasn't given enough training due to bureaucracy), and that ultimately his honor is unbesmirched.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: The assassin manages to eject Quentyn out a hazmat disposal at one point.
    Quentyn: [narration] Ah, the Sapphire Star. Much nicer from the inside.
    • More ominously, the "Coldest Equation" arc begins with someone being blown out an airlock without a low-profile evac suit like Quentyn's.
      • Takes a sharp twist when we learn that it was a self-inflicted spacing, done as a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Time Dilation: A narratively brilliant example, which should be used more often - though Faster-Than-Light Travel is fairly casual, the amount of time trips take is randomly inconsistent, since time doesn't "flow" homogeneously through the galaxy, due to gravitational anomalies, the rotation of the galaxy, and distance from the galactic core. An interstellar traveler can journey for months while years pass on their homeworld — and vice versa. It forces more independence on the setting, and hardcore spacers Can't Go Home Again.
    • Truth in Television: Gravitational time dilation is a very real phenomenon. Relative to Earth's age in billions of years, Earth's core is effectively 2.5 years younger than its surface. To give the reader some perspective, the mere gravitational difference between the Earth's surface and orbit is high enough that it is proven that time moves faster in orbit; the atomic clocks on GPS satellites have to be readjusted by software on a continual basis, otherwise the satellites would be off by 38 microseconds — and their coordinate readings by 10 kilometers — in a single day.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Somehow a large portion of the universe's population seems to fit into this category. Thankfully, there appears to be a large number of unimaginably powerful beings that roam the stars, taking care of species like this.
  • Ungovernable Galaxy: A Discussed Trope in the initial Space Pirates arc, the current Warhammer 40,000 parody arc and the Tales of the Questor crossover;
    • Most civilizations settle for their star system of origin and trade with their neighbors for what they can't produce themselves. The Empire of the Seven Systems is a galactic power because it actually manages to govern seven star systems efficiently without claiming territory they can't police or strangling themselves with bureaucracy.
    • There are a few expansionist empires such as the Draco Confederacy trying to gobble up as much of the galaxy as possible, but the ESS considers them only a short-term problem which will solve itself through over-extension as long as the ESS can avoid being conquered before they collapse under their own weight.
    • As for ungoverned space? In this 'verse, it is deeply stupid to wander around outside charted space playing outlaw; you're swimming past the shark nets and easy prey for barbarian hordes who have been playing outlaw for a lot longer than you have — such as the Kvrk-chk, giant nazi cannibal bugs that are individually capable of destroying and eating main battle tanks.
  • Unwinnable Training Simulation: An Invoked Trope in Space Ranger Training; part of the training regimen is to be put in unwinnable training simulations... and told to win anyway. If they do, then the instructors correct for the solution and make them do it again. They're graded on how many times they beat the odds. A Ranger has to go Beyond the Impossible just to become a Ranger.
  • Walking the Earth: The Rangers' jobs pretty much require it. Running around the frontier exploring new systems, making First Contact with unknown alien races, and occasionally acting as lawmen. Plus the effects of Time Dilation listed above.
  • The Watson: Omnibus, his frequent role seems to be to ask Quentyn questions, justified as even though as a Galactopedia AI he has an extensive archive of information he doesn't collate and cross-reference like organics do. Which is actually the reason why he was partnered with the Commander.
    Omnibus: On a personal note, I'm finding your associative processes to be more... complicated to follow than I ever expected.
    Quinn: Heh. You're lucky I choose to take that as a compliment.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The source of much debate on the cartoonist's own forum. The Kvrk-Chk are made of pure Obviously Evil, and they commit a truly grotesque act of aggression. Even so, it's disconcerting to see the heroic Empire of the Seven Systems unleash a Class X-2 Apocalypse on "one of (the Kvrk-chk's) most heavily populated solar systems."
  • Wham Line: "I jettisoned myself."
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: The effect of time slips on the traveler.