Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Schlock Mercenary is a web comic by Howard Tayler. It follows the adventures of a mercenary company aboard a starship in a 31st-century space opera setting. Despite the narrative following a band of military freelancers, it's mostly family-friendly entertainment.
It debuted on June 12, 2000, with relatively crude graphics. Over time, Tayler's artwork improved from bad to "marginally less bad." Beginning on February 9, 2003, Jean Elmore served as colorist for the strip. This ended in the spring of 2004 when she developed a repetitive strain injury from her work.
On March 9, 2003, the comic reached its 1001st strip. Tayler marked the milestone by "re-launching" the comic. With the relaunch, Tayler reoriented the strip slightly for publication, organizing the comic's story into "books". Each book has a fairly self-contained story, although they are still chronological and connected. As of January 2005, Schlock Mercenary was on Book IV: Mad Science Means Never Having To Say "What's The Worst Thing That Could Happen?"
In the distant future of Schlock Mercenary's setting, many changes have faced terran society. Faster than light travel has been attained, alien races have been contacted, and technology has undergone radical improvements.
Alien species have varied from fairly humanoid to almost unrecognizable. There have been eight-limbed Gatekeepers, two-bodied Uklakk, and carbosilicate amorphs with no easily definable limbs or organs to speak of. Creatures made of dark matter have been revealed to exist, but details about them are largely unknown.
The number of sapient species descended from terran stock has increased as Earth's genetic engineers refined their craft. Enhanced chimpanzees, gorillas, and members of both species of elephant now have citizenship. Genetic enhancement of the human population has resulted in the blue-skinned photosynthetic "Purps", along with more general improvements to the population.
Like most science fiction stories, technology forms a large part of Schlock Mercenary's storytelling framework.
Travel between the stars is accomplished through the use of "wormgates", large wormhole generators controlled by the mysterious Gatekeepers (properly known as the F'sherl-Ganni). As the story progresses, use of wormgates is largely supplanted by the "teraport", a device that allows for near-instant travel between any two points.
Computer hardware has progressed to the point where true artificial intelligence is possible, and several have been main characters in the story.
Gravity has been tamed and is now controllable as a means for propulsion, a weapon, and shielding against other weapons. Other forms of weaponry have improved as well, and a mercenary's arsenal can include railguns, lasers, and plasma cannons. Old-fashioned bullet-firing firearms are still in use as they continue to be effective against unprotected targets and are less likely to rupture a hull than a plasma bolt.
Energy to power the various devices generally comes from miniaturized fusion reactors, or massive annihilator ("annie") plants. Annie plants unleash massive amounts of power by converting mass to energy.
Schlock Mercenary opens with the title character, a carbosilicate amorph named Schlock, attempting to enlist in the mercenary company Tagon's Toughs. The Toughs are captained by Kaff Tagon, who is fond of quoting The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates (Rule 35 - That which does not kill you has made a tactical error).
As the comic gets underway, Tagon's Toughs finds itself the victim of a hostile takeover. The takeover is led by Breya Andreyasn, who is looking to use the company as a means to promote her brother's newest invention. Genius engineer Kevyn Andreyasn (who bears a strong resemblance to the comic's artist) has developed the teraport, which allows for instant travel throughout the galaxy.
Species (including subcategorical organizations) in the Schlockiverse
Mentally, all of the extraterrestrial sophont races basically have the same sensibilities and emotional makeup of human beings, in that they group together, love, hate, fear, scheme, complain, and make sarcastic cracks. Physically, the different races range all over the board, with some wildly improbable shapes at the far ends of the probability curves.
Species originating from Earth and inhabiting the Sol system. Mostly humans, but sapience has been genetically granted to several other natural species.
- Tagon's Toughs
The company of mercenaries that the narrative focuses on. Speciesism is not reflected in their hiring practices: they're an equal-opportunity employer. The grunts are all augmented with pharmaceutical soldier-boosts, powered armor with hydraulic muscle assists, and training in the principles and practices of unarmed combat by Shodan.
When on missions, they use code words and phrases for certain things with each other for the sake of discreetness, quick understanding, and brevity. For instance, "half-court playground ball" means "indoor voices, no shooty." Sergeant Schlock's favorite word in Galstandard West is "jungleball."
- Intergalactic Health Care™
Tagon's Toughs' HMO. All you need to hear about these guys is in the medical technology section.
- Planet Mercenary
Perfect for all your high-caliber tactical needs.
The Partnership Collective™
A hivemind of lawyers. Physically, any given Partnership Collective™ Attorney Drone is literally a large snake in a limbless business suit and tie, usually carrying a briefcase with the end of its tail. The Partnership Collective™ clones them by the millions. Mentally, they are completely conscienceless (they have a reputation for being behind all frivolous suits), and have Hypernet nodes implanted in their heads granting them instant access to the collective legal expertise of every other drone in the universe.
- Today [the PC™'s] attorney drones are found in the highest level of government, and in the lowest levels of criminal defence.
It isn't considered a problem when there are drones on both the defending and prosecuting sides. Each PC™AD has just enough of a spark of individuality to justify individual ties and their talking to each other for plot exposition, but just little enough not to justify having individual names.
No homeworld has ever been mentioned; just a Mother-Cluster ship.
Ice Kreely young don't grow up to be sentient unless they go through a certain mutation, which is technically initiated by a certain microbe, during a certain stage of their life cycle. The ones who grow up dumb are kept by some as exotic pets, and can still live to be one hundred years old, talk, obey commands, and play chess. They just won't be any smarter than Lassie. According to Sergeant Schlock, the babies have just the right amount of crunch.
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