Comic 4-45

Pex: So now the military is trying to kill you some other way? But that’s easy, we did it with an EMP.
Guy: Oh, sure, they can kill the nanites that way, but we’ve established symbiotic connections with the people of this planet. They know everything we know. Specifically they know that the council military is doing live weapons testing on large civilian populations.
Eddie: Do you know how they’re planning on killing you?
Guy: Nuking the surface out of existence would be the only way to be sure.
Pex: Awesome. Say, could you point us toward the spaceport?

Comic 4-44

Note: The interested reader may want to know that yes, the NRA does still exist, though it is now called the Galactic Weapons Association, and four of the Eclipse’s seven crew are members of it. In some backwater areas of the galaxy, Sir Heston is worshiped nigh unto deity.

Guy: We were sent down here as a test by military. They wanted to see if we were effective in a large population. They were going to take over the planet, control the population, then hit the kill switch with no one the wiser.
Guy: But we evolved, and as a hive became self-aware. We knew what the plan was, and we’d developed a desire to survive.
Eddie: But they still had the master switch.
Guy: And could kill us without any effort. So we started working with the people we were inside, and in the mind of a local engineer we figured out how to disable the comm band that a kill signal would be delivered on.
Pex: I’ll be that special gun would disable you.
Eddie: The gun is keyed to my genome. You couldn’t even use it if you pried it from my cold, dead fingers.
Pex: But if I take your hand with it...

Comic 4-43

Guy: I promise I’m not a threat.
Kid: You’re not infected by nanites?
Guy: No, I am, I mean, we are, but...
Guy: ...hold on, let me think.
Kid: I think the tiny robots are getting existential.
Eddie: I can see. It’s cute.

Comic 4-42

Eddie: We’ve moved out of the radio range on these suits. Anyone know which way the spaceport is?
Pex: I was a little more concerned with the zombies.
Eddie: They’re not zombies, they’re just being controlled by nanites. What I think is fascinating is that the nanites have figured out the speech centers on the the brain.
Kid: What’s really fascinating is how we’re going to get trapped on planet filled with nanite infested people who...
Dude: Please don’t shoot me!
Kid: Who apparently like jumping out of concealed alleys.
Pex: Did we all just miss?

Comic 4-41

Jackman: We’ve got the money.
Boss: All right, here’s how you do it; EMP’s.
Guy: How stupid do you think I am? EMP’s are conventional anti-nanite protocol, and I just said these are impervious. Mil-spec, based on the latest tech we’ve got. Give me that money back.
Boss: Relax, captain, relax. The internals are impervious to an EMP, but the communications aren’t. Knock out the comms, and they all shut down.
Guy: All right, we’ll give it a shot. Also, if you need a hardware engineer, I know of a few with experience in mil-spec nano-tech who are going to be unemployed in the near future.

Comic 4-40

Boss: What do you mean irradiate the planet?
Guy: Council orders. This infestation constitutes a galactic threat, and we’re to contain it. If you want to live, you’d better get off the surface.
Boss: Why do you have to destroy the planet to contain it?
Guy: These are military grade nanites. They’re impervious to conventional anti-nanite protocols.
Boss: How much is it worth to you to know how to kill them?

Comic Update!

Hey! It's been a while since one of these happened, so let's happen it on now!

Yes, I am sticking with that wording. Why do you ask?

The first order of business is that I am shutting down the Patreon page for A Starfarer's Guide to Freelancing. This is for a few reasons. First, while Patreon is cool and all, I've always thought I'd rather try and build up a community around the comic website itself and the Hawkingnet Hub, and Patreon is sorta geared around building a community there. Second, Patreon also tried to change the way they were processing payments. It was a little concerning, confusing, and I'd rather make money by selling actual merchandise or something, so I'll be looking into that route.

That news, even with Patreon’s retraction, has presented some serious issues for people who derive their livelihood from Patreon support, but I don't. So before the end of December, that page will just sorta vanish. You patrons shouldn't have to do anything.

The second order of business! I'm kinda tired. You know that scene in The Bourne Ultimatum toward the end where Jason Bourne calls up Pam and they talk and then he finishes the call by creepily saying "get some rest Pam, you look tired" and she turns to the window in shock like "how could he possibly know that" and then that Moby song gets stuck in your head again? You could call me up right now and say that (why are you calling me Pam in your head, that's weird) and I'd do the same thing. Though, let's be honest, isn't that kinda how it is for all adults? I mean, you're feeling pretty tired. Go on, tell me I'm wrong.

Anywho, tangent aside, I'm going to be taking a little winter sabbatical for a couple of weeks at the conclusion of our current storyline. I'll still be working on the comic, but at a somewhat more relaxed pace until I get my buffer built up to where and want it and I'm ready to hit it again full steam. Again, I'm afforded this luxury because this isn't my livelihood. Hobbies are cool that way.

Never fear, the comic will continue updating again soon, there's still lots of stories to tell. And maybe by the time we're back in the swing of things I'll have a book you could purchase!*
*No promises, but wouldn't that be cool?

And in the mean time, get some rest. You really do seem tired.

Comic 4-39

Note: The interested reader may want to know that yes, Steinway is a vehicle manufacturer that specializes in military vehicles and artillery pieces. That wasn’t a typo. It’s been a thousand years since the Steinway you’re familiar with did business. Things change.

Jackman: There’s a ship in orbit, should we try to warn them?
Keith: Light artillery rolling in.
Boss: I figured it would only be a minute before they brought in some hardware. Anything to be worried about?
Keith: Mark 11 Steinways, might be an issue after some bombarding.
Jackman: That’s a big sucker. Is that a carrier?
Boss: We’ll be fine for now. We’ll leave as soon as the others get here. What’s taking them so long?
Jackman: Oh, a transmission. Hang on.
Boss: Were you saying something, Jackman?
Jackman: We’re screwed.

Comic 4-38

Note: The interested reader may be wondering how the Bender managed to bend the Boss and Keith back onto the ship without carrying nanobots with them. After all, it’s not like she can be especially choosy about what she carries, it’s anything that she’s got a conductive path to at the time. Well, the only nanobots that were able to make a conductive connection with the Bender during the few seconds she was on their surface either wound up in her lungs or on the exterior of her passenger’s armor. We’ve already established that the electrified skin of the armor is sufficient to neutralize any hitchhikers, and that the Bender’s immune system is equally up to the task. Fortunately Jackman is as perceptive as you are, and checked all this before authorizing any action.

Boss: Okay, we’re outside, but how are you going to get us inside without letting the bots in?
Boss: Did you hear me Jackman? You got a plan?
Boss fades through space and time as the bender runs past behind him.
Boss to Bender: Someday you’re not going to be able to solve a problem that way and we’ll all laugh at you.
Jackman: And then we’ll all die.

Comic 4-37

Jackman on radio: Kid, Pex, Eddie! Can...ny of Come in!
Kid on radio: This is the Kid, I’m barely reading you Jackman! We’re almost out of radio range! We won’t make it back, but we might be able to buy you some time to get the ship out of here! We’ll hold them for as long as we... Oh no, here come some more! Pex, watch that side!
Radio fades to static.
Eddie: You just won’t give up.
Kid: Everyone loves a martyr.
Pex: That little gun is the best toy ever.

Comic 4-36

Pex: Well, these rounds are proving more effective, but you pretty much have to hit them in the chest.
Eddie: Okay, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do this, but...
Eddie turns and disintegrates a huge crowd of followers with a tiny gun and a VWOOOOOW!
Pex: I want one.
Eddie: We don’t trust you that much, Pex. Now keep running.

Comic 4-35

Pex: This sort of thing is always a tough choice.
Kid: I know. Do I want tunneling circuitry, or impact warheads?
Kid: And there’s certainly a case to be made for tornado rounds.
Pex: There’s always a case to be made for tornado rounds!
Eddie, out of panel: Guys! Get a move on, we’ve got company! Lots of company!
Kid: Choice made. All of it.
Pex: That actually wasn’t that hard.

Comic 4-34

Note: The interested reader may want to know that Eddie’s population number is a guess. He doesn’t actually have the population for every city on Terracore memorized. Also, he’s off by almost a power of ten. The capitol city of Terracore has six discrete space ports and three heliovators that lead to an array of orbital dockyards. All of this infrastructure exists to service the city’s 470-ish million industrial inhabitants. There are at least 13 other cities of approximately that size on Terracore. To Eddie’s defense, he doesn’t actually know that the larger “metropolitan area” of the city is all a single contiguous city and not divided into six cities around space ports like some planets are.

For perspective, Terracore isn’t even in the top 700 most populated planets in the galaxy (it’s like #758 or #759, depending on the year). The planet Eddie is from had a total population of just over 5 million. Galphus Prime, one of the larger and older settled worlds, has a total population of, like, 30 billion or something stupid like that. You humans are like spacefaring rabbits, all said and done.

Kid: Eddie! Over here! Pex found some ammo!
Eddie: Okay, but let’s move. This city has a population of something like 50 million, and I’m betting it won’t be long before...
Pex standing in a cowboy had, vest, and chaps.
Eddie: I’m sorry, I heard “gun shop.” Did you say “costume party?”

Comic 4-33

Jackman on radio: Eddie, can you here me? It’s Jackman.
Eddie: Yeah, I hear you.
Jackman: The Boss and Keith are on their way here, but the ship is surrounded. Where are you?
Eddie: Breaking into a gun shop for some more effective ammo. How’s the ship holding up?
Jackman: These nanite zombies keep trying to climb the landing struts and get fried by the shields.
Jackman: Actually, it’s kinda hilarious.

Comic 4-32

Kid: That...
Pex: Those nanites are persistent little buggers.
Eddie: No kidding. Even headshots weren’t bringing those people down.
Kid: That...
Eddie: My guess is as long as any part of their nervous system is intact, we’re not going to bring them down.
Pex: Well, that settles it. We’re finding a gun shop and stealing some explosive rounds.
Kid: That...
Eddie: You have any idea how to reboot a kid?
Pex: I’m pretty sure this one is just broken.

Comic 4-31

Boss: What did Eddie and Jackman say about these nanites? Any idea what they’re up to, or what they want?
Kid: Actually, there was an idea.
Kid: Shoot everything.

Comic 4-30

Boss: Eddie, how long with the hull of the Eclipse stand up against a cloud of nanites?
Eddie: I’ll radio back and tell Jackman to turn on the energy shielding. As long as it has power, it’ll be fine.
Boss: Good, do that. As for us, we should head back and get off this planet. We’ll report our findings to the Council, and they can hit the planet with an EMP. This whole thing just got way too expensive.
Voice from behind the Boss: Actually...
Huge crowd of people speaking in unison: We’d rather you didn’t do that.

Comic 4-29

Keith smashing open a door: Hey! When someone knocks, you answer!
Boss: Okay, thanks Keith. Let’s see if we can find anyone.
Boss: Does it look misty in here to anyone else?
Tiny voices being electrocuted on Boss’s armor: aaaaieeee! augh! wauuuuch!
Boss: I don’t think we’re going to find anyone useful in here.
Tiny voice: Oh, the mechanity!

Comic 4-28

Pex: So Boss, what’s our plan?
Boss: Simple, we find what’s left of the government of Terracore, and offer our services to them.
Keith: For money!
Pex: Okay, but what if they take the Eclipse while we’re gone?
Boss: We left the Bender and Jackman on the ship. It’ll be fine.
Guy standing next to a pair of smoldering boots: If that was the warning shot, I say we wait for backup.

Comic 4-27

Boss: Okay, Kid, you put us down. Where’s the city center?
Kid: The capitor is about two miles that way.
Shot of abandoned city street.
Pex: I’ve seen this movie. Half of us are going to die.
Eddie: You thermal optimist. Probably two-thirds.

Comic 4-26

Narration: The technology behind body armor has advanced considerably over the years. The suits used by the crew of the Eclipse are the latest military issue.
Narration: They not only stop most bullets, but include Humanoid Diagnostic and Repair (HDR) medical systems, a localized electrical field on the skin that doubles as a defense against microscopic threats (both mechanical and biological) and as a taser. It also uses a cadre of musculature fibers to enhance the strength of the wearer.
Narration: It’s essentially like granting a person super-powers, which could have some unforeseen psychological side effects.
Kid: It’s go time.

Comic 4-25

Jackman: Like all nanites, these function as part of a hive mind. That’s how we managed to even kill them. I dissected one, and it turns out that their internal circuits weren’t affected by the EMP’s, but their external radios were fried. They shut down when they lost the hive connection.
Eddie: Thing is, we can’t see any reason for them existing. They don’t have any medical equipment, all they can do is multiply and bind to pathways in the brain. The only possible use for that tech is to conquer a planet by using the inhabitants as your army, since they won’t attack each other.
Kid: Actually, maybe it’s a good thing those three weren’t here when you told us that. All they would have heard was “shoot everything.”

Comic 4-24

Eddie: As soon as Pex, Keith, and the Boss get here, we’ve got some news.
Jackman: We’ve been studying the nanites, and we’ve learned a little about their behavior.
Keith, the Boss, and Pex run past shouting and cheering.
Kid: I think we can go on without them.
Eddie: Yeah...
Jackman shouting: Ignorance is not bliss in every case!

Comic 4-23

The Eclipse falling in a ball of flames into the atmosphere of a planet.
Narration: Large cargo ships often use some sort of space station to dock and unload at. Most smaller ships, like the Eclipse, are designed to land.
Narration: A typical ship the size of the Eclipse uses gravity manipulation to descend gently to rest on pneumatic struts.
The Eclipse sitting in a crater, smoking.
Narration: The Eclipse, to save on valuable cargo space, just uses massively over-engineered pneumatic struts.

Comic 4-22

PA Announcement: Okay, everybody, we’re approaching Terracore. I want full armor before we embark.
Jackman: Bender, didn’t you hear the Boss? Full armor for everyone.
The Bender shrugs.
Jackman: Don’t tell me you’re immune. I swear, I will find something that makes you sick.

Comic 4-21

Boss: Pex is still recovering from the nano-bot infection. Do you feel up to landing the ship?
Kid: Oh, I’ll taker her down as gently as a feather.
Boss: That I would genuinely like to see.
Kid: Assuming, of course, that Eddie installed a proper gravitic lander while I wasn’t looking.

Comic 4-20

Eddie: I’ve searched the hold. There’s no sign they came from something down there.
Boss: Then how did they get aboard?
Jackman: They probably came on with one of us. Pex bought ammo back on Terracore. It could have been on the ammo he was given, or in one of the places he went.
Boss: Somebody find me the Bender. We’re turning around and going back.
Eddie: Boss, those bots almost got us killed and we just finished sterilizing the ship. Why are we going back?
Boss: If there’s an infestation going on, odds are somebody will be willing to pay to get rid of it.
Jackman: Oh, so we’re exterminators now.

Comic 4-19

Boss: Urgh. What happened?
Kid: We shot you with an EMP and killed the nanites.
Boss: Good. Now stop pointing your sidearm at me.
“Kid did the right thing again today. Gotta raise his pay, but do it in small increments. Maybe he won’t notice.” - Boss personal recording #196

Comic 4-18

Kid: This will only take me a few seconds! See if you can...
Bender punching the much larger Keith across the room.
Kid: Um... yeah. See if you can do that.

Comic 4-17

Kid: Okay, that won’t hold long. You go open the shielding. I’ve got armor, I can hold him for a few seconds.
Bender writing
Kid reading writing: “I don’t do engineering.”
Kid: The Boss said “everyone trains for everything.” Great time to find out you’re an exception.

Comic 4-16

Bender and Kid running down a hallway away from Keith while the Kid shoots him with stunners. They are apparently ineffective.

Comic 4-15

Kid: The QVC at the back of the ship generates an EMP at something like 30 hertz. If I can open the shielding just a crack, we could probably blast just one person with it and not damage the rest of the ship.
Kid: Let’s start with Jackman or Eddie, I’m pretty sure we won’t have a hard time restraining them.
The giant dark shape of Keith standing up looms in the background.
Kid: Or, you know, we could start with the big guy.

Comic 4-14

Kid: You’re suggesting some sort of EMP!
Kid: It follows that nanobots would be too small to effectively shield against a focused electromagnetic pulse, even if they are military spec!
Bender holding a pad in front of the Kid.
Writing: “Don’t get cocky.”

Comic 4-13

Kid: Okay, how do you kill a bunch of tiny robots?
Bender hands Kid a pad with writing on it.
Writing: “How do you kill normal sized robots?
Kid: I mean, with guns I guess.

Comic 4-12

Kid: Wait, if your immune system kills nanobots...
Kid: Maybe I can synthesize a serum from your blood that will kill them in everyone else!
Narration: Sorry, kids, you're going to have to keep your sci-fi a little more realistic than that.

Comic 4-11

Kid: Bender! Are you...? You're not going to kill me?
Bender spits on a microscope tray
Kid looks into the microscope
Kid: Okay, immune system kills nanobots. I'll add that to you list of super-powers.

Comic 4-10

Kid looking into a microscope.
Kid hears a rustling behind him.
Kid turns quickly to point a gun at the Bender.
Narration: This would be a more effective standoff if the Kid were anywhere close to as fast as the Bender is. Also, if the Bender were actually infected.

Comic 4-9

Kid thinking: Okay, the entire crew is compromised. I need to figure out how to kill aggressive nanobots without killing my friends.
Kid thinking: All I have are my wits and this 47.09-classic loaded with stunners.
Shot of the kid looking at a huge dark shape laying on the floor.
Kid thinking: Also a fully stocked medical bay with a super-soldier unconscious and probably compromised on the floor.

Comic 4-8

Kid: Okay Eddie, I’m decked out. Let’s go see what’s up with Pex.
Kid: Uh, Jackman? You okay?
Jackman lunges at the Kid.
Boss punches her to the floor.
Boss: Kid, I probably don’t have long to talk.
Boss: Nanites have infected those of us not wearing armor. They’re taking control of bodies.
Boss: Pex, Eddie, and Jackman have all tried to kill me. Keith is unconcious, not sure why. My engineering is probably the only reason I haven’t turned yet.
Boss: Kid, it’s up to you to figure out how to kill these things, or shoot us out an airlock. I may not have much...
Boss shudders
Boss: In fact, you should probably knock me out right now.

Comic 4-7

Jackman: Boss, this is bad.
Jackman: Some nanites are very aggressive. We don’t know where these came from, and they might not exactly have our best interests in mind. I’d recommend quarantine for him and Pex. No one goes near them till we figure out what’s going on.
Keith: So, Eddie just bit me. I laid him out, but I might have broken him a little.
Jackman: Screwed. We’re screwed.

Comic 4-6

Boss: ...So either Eddie has acid blood, or the bullet fell out. Jackman is running tests now.
Jackman: I’ve got some bad news. The bullet didn’t dissolve, it was taken apart by nanobots now rapidly reproducing in Eddie’s bloodstream.
Keith: Rats, I was hoping for acid blood.
Jackman: I think you may be missing the point...
Boss: So, how about it? Any way to weaponize this?

Comic 4-5

Boss: Pex shot you?
Eddie: I can’t imagine it was anyone else.
Jackman: Eddie, there’s no exit wound.
Eddie: So?
Jackman: There’s also no bullet.
Boss: On a scale of 1 to 10, how unusual is that?

Comic 4-4

Eddie: Dude, stay away from Pex. He’s on the warpath.
Kid: What happened?
Eddie: I just has my roof-boots on and surprised him while he was coming out of the head. Not the worst thing I’ve ever done to him, but this time he pulls out his gun and sticks it in my face!
Bang! A bullet hits Eddie’s arm.
Eddie: Hey look, that came right through the wall.
Kid: Excuse me, I’m gonna go put on some armor.
Eddie: Also, ow.

Comic 4-3

Narration: The system that powers the Eclipse is none other than the latest and greatest in power generation. Most ships of her size are powered by singularities similar to those found in ASpec batts, though considerably larger.
The Eclipse, however, is powered by a quantum vacuum cell (QVC), commercially available from VacTech Corporation. The Q-Vac line, the only commercially available QVC, draws energy from the zero-point field of a suspended micro-verse. Think of a universe in a bottle, running through its trillion year life in a few decades as the cell pulls all of the low intensity energy out and converts it into power.
There are, of course, moral implications involved that keep the majority of interstellar ships and planetary power grids running on alternative sources of energy.
Narration: Morals aren't really an issue on the Eclipse.
Pex pointing a gun at Eddie.
Eddie: Dude, it was a prank, relax.

Comic 4-2

Narration: The Eclipse employs several kinds of advanced interplanetary technology.
Narration: Her sub-light engines generate thrust through focused fusion reactions, and are capable of pushing her up to .84 C before the matter-dilation effect counters the thrust of the engines.
Narration: The mass of the fuel doesn't come into account either, due to the use of bussard collectors in place of on-board fuel storage.
Narration: Localized gravity manipulators in the deck plates generate controllable gravity wells. Gravity manipulation is never perfect, however, and with a great amount of care and some exceptionally dense boots, decently unexpected pranks are possible.
Eddie hangs upside down in front of a door from which eminates a flush.

Comic 4-1

Book 4: Hamscrambler and the Planet of Doom

Note: The interested reader may want to know that matter-manip arrays are typically used in both recycling and assembly. Assembly requires large facilities in order to handle the power generation and computer finesse required to render something from the subatomic level up. De-rendering takes significantly less power. The interested reader may also want to know that ASpec batteries are approximately the size of a AA battery from the late 20th century, and house a micro-singularity. The radiation, heat, and rotation of the singularity are all harnessed to generate about one terawatt of electricity. Four ASpec batteries would match the Hoover dam's power generating capacity, watt to watt, for up to a decade before the singularity inside became starved for mass and evaporated into dark matter.

Eddie to Boss: Boss, we've got to get one of these.
Eddie: It's a fully contained matter-manip array, powered by four ASpec batts capable of complete de-rendering from over 5000 meters line-of-sight!
Eddie: It's a hand-held disintigrator ray-gun called the HamScrambler.
Boss: You should have led with that.

Comic 3-36

Kid walking up to Eddie holding one of the Bender's swords: Dude, check out this weird sword the Bender just gave me. Looks like it was forged from some kind of fiber.
Eddie: Oh, that's her hair. She's always knitting us stuff like that.
Kid: I've been here for a year and I've never known that's what she was knitting?
Kid looking sad: And why hasn't she made me anything?
Eddie: I think she just did.

Comic 3-35

Narration: A short, bloody confrontation in the cargo bay later...
Boss: Okay, look around down here, figure out where these things came from.
Eddie: Boss, this says 'G.E. Beetle Eggs' and has a refrigeration decal on it.
Boss and Eddie looking at a broken lid of some sort.
Boss looking sheepish: Okay, what idiot cleared that to come aboard?
Narration: The same idiot that hasn't bought a cargo fridge yet, maybe?

Comic 3-34

Kid: Okay, Boss, we're coming down the hallway hot. Are you all still in one piece?
Kid draws up short in front of the Boss.
Boss: We're fine, thanks, though Pex might have a case of flanking PTSD.
Pex with a bullet lodged in his helmet visor: You are so lucky these things are bulletproof.
Jackman: Pretty sure he wasn't the lucky one.

Comic 3-33

A single panel with Jackman, the Kid, and the Bender all running toward the viewer. Jackman is hosing something down with a flaming plasma beam, the Kid is letting loose with the MD-D00 gattling gun (the doctor), and the Bender is throwing sprays of bug-blood with her two swords.
Caption: "Note to self. Build some recording drones that follow you around during fights. I've got a feeling that I missed some pretty epic shots today." -Kid personal recording 10

Comic 3-32

Boss over radio: Kid, if you're going to save the day, now would be a good time.
Jackman hoisting a hose attached to a backpack she's wearing: We're on our way, and I'm packing plasma.
Radio voice: Jackman, this is Eddie. If you so much as warp one bulkhead with that backpack, I'm installing a vent in your room.
Kid: He means a vent into space.
Jackman: I know what he means!