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Author:Before we begin today's regularly scheduled comic, I, the cartoonist, have an announcement to make.You see, today is web cartoonists appreciation day, and it therefore behooves me to remind all of you readers how very fortunate you are to get schlock mercenary online every day.
Author:At last count, I was spending close to twenty hours per week on this project, which, figuring a reasonable sort of hourly rate ($500/hr) for this kind of creative genius, means i'm spending nearly half a million dollars a year entertaining you.
Author:It's a labor of love, though. I'm not asking to be...What?
Schlock:Less talk, more BLAM. Get on with the strip, toon-boy.
Author:Today's strip has no 'blam' in it. We're driving the story forward today. It's more expositionally dramatic in nature.
Schlock:Riiight. I can put some BLAM in it, you know.
Schlock:Writing this stuff isn't rocket-science. You introduce a bad guy, and then I shoot him. BLAM.
Schlock:Another bad guy comes along, and I shoot him, too. BLAM.
Schlock:Then, ooooh! SNEAKY! The first bad guy clones his dead self, learns my secret weakness, and comes back for revenge.He and his evil minions creep up behind me, and at the last possible moment I turn around and shoot them. BLAM!
Author:Yeah, Uh-huh. Except that if you actually read the scripts, you'd know that your weapon of choice goes 'Ommmminous Hummm' and 'Thoooom,' not 'blam.'
Schlock:Still, my script could work, right? The BLAM was just a typo.
Author:Never mind. On with the comic.
Footnote:Before you proceed to today's comic you really should make a note to check out all the other fine and clever tributes to webcomics. Sure, what we're doing is a little bit like patting ourselves on the backs (okay, it's EXACTLY like patting ourselves on the backs, only in public, and with a brass band as backup), but that doesn't mean you can't join in the fun. Hop on over to the WCA 2002 Hub and look around. You'll even find me cameoing in a panel or two if you look hard enough.
Narrator:Petey, the artificial intelligence in control of the mercenary superfortress Post-Dated Check Loan, has a plan. Step one in this plan: Contact every other capital ship intelligence in the system, and brief them all...This takes a fraction of a second, and leaves behind enough of that second for some twelve hundred A.I.s to perform the hyperintelligent equivalent of 'mulling it over for a few days.'
Narrator:Step two begins just under a second after petey got carte-blanche from his captain. In what would be considered by the biological life-forms to be a security breach of the highest order, new lines of communication are opened, and a hypernet-powered mind-to-mind channel is formed. After all, to accomplish what they have in mind, these hundreds of capital warships will have to work as one.
Narrator:By the time any of the biological entities ostensibly in command of these ships knows anything has changed, the warships are all moving in concert.They are one. They are the fleetmind.
Jaksmouth:Admiral, the fleet is moving. What's going on?
Breya:I don't know. I didn't order fleet movements.
Athens:Actually, Admiral, you did order the fleet to recover as many prisoners as possible. A congress of fleet intelligences has found a way to save all of them, and so we are carrying out your orders to the fullest.
Breya:Athens, why did you not explain this plan to the command staff first?
Athens:There was no time for that. You think too slowly.
Breya:Would you mind explaining it to me now?
Athens:Well, it involves flying very, very quickly, and reconfiguring certain weapons systems.
Breya:Can you try that again without patronizing me, athens?
Athens:I'm afraid there are several flavors of very complex mathematics involved, Admiral.
Breya:...And without the tone of injured condescension?