SFP

sfp 6 80 for web

Heads up! I’ll be at the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland this weekend at table M9, It’s an amazing convention so definitely stop by if you’re in the area!

Also – we were nominated for an Autostraddle Sequential Arts award under the Best Webcomic category! If you’re so inclined, you can vote here~

-Molly

Show Comments
  • M. Alan Thomas II

    I see Max’s personal information on the table. . . .

  • ∫Clémens×ds

    “First: is it possible to scotch back together a check? Second: supposing you’ve managed to scotch back together a check, would the bank accept it?”

    Also I’m admittedly quite perplexed by the choice of strikingly right leaning indentation on that last panel. Is the huge white space supposed to represent an elongated time ellipsis or did Molly click Align Right instead of Center for that one

    I’m curious to hear what will be your thoughts regarding the content of that file. Prospective Business Associates sounds to me like it’s referring to Valkyrie, and we’re told that someone or something is keeping tracks on her operations that Patrick managed to obtain. Or maybe it existed before her idea and was part of the reason why Patrick threw a tantrum last time, forced to withhold information about how the Shadowy Conspiracy of Old White Men in Poorly Lit Rooms had ideas on who to associate her with for their shadowy “business” plans.

    • I think the white space implies a pause—she spent some time gazing at the file without looking, pondering what she read and what she must do—while the bleeding to the right implies continuation, hurry, dynamism—she came to a decision, now she’s rushing to it; it’s like catching her half-out of the door (an effect reinforced by the half-dressed sweater and the angle from the back).

  • Manuel Simone

    Well, she’s a girl with principles, when she takes a decision she doesn’t change her mind for sure. I appreciate this at her, she’s a worth protagonist (both strong physically and emotionally). Now I’m curious to see what is with that highly classified folder.

  • Lostman

    There going how millions of dollars down the drain (sigh). Also… Alison has black folder on her, interseting. So it seems like a government conspiracy after all. Whats next… it maybe very much wham.

  • Bo Lindbergh

    Just when everybody thought Max was out of the comic for good….

  • bta

    So what I’m getting from this is that even someone able to topple buildings still feels satisfaction from ripping a shitty letter to shreds.

  • GreatWyrmGold

    “…Okay, that was a bit rash and impulsive. Whoops.”

  • JohnTomato

    OK, you just may have got me attending a con for the first time in years.

  • Jon

    Annnnd called it.

    Congratulations Allison, you’re an idiot. You have now proven than your own moralizing bullshit means more to you than actually helping people. Great job.

  • Santiago Tórtora

    Allison also had trouble accepting the money for the documentary someone made about her because she felt it was undeserved, but I thought she got over it.

    Why is she regressing back to her childish mores? That’s people’s lives she just tore apart. It will take her a long time to recover that money and in the meantime Valkyrie won’t be operating at peak efficiency, so lives that could be saved by them won’t.

    • Weatherheight

      If this donation is the yummy cake concealing a poison pill, and if Patrick has shown a penchant for giving out poison pills, it makes sense not to accept it.

      Which leads to the problem you’re alluding to – can the source of funds taint the eventual use of those same funds? Is the donation just a donation or is it the opening salvo of a strategic campaign whose end goal Alison does not currently know? And should one allow uncertainty regarding those funds hold up the good that could be done with those funds?

      Tough questions.

      I also think there’s another issue to consider here, in that Alison is walking a tightrope between Lisa and Patrick. Patrick does not want Alison to ally with Lisa, and Lisa does not want Alison to ally with Patrick. Neither party is comfortable with how close Alison is witht the other. Taking this money could be interpreted by Lisa as Alison allying with Patrick, and that might very well cause Lisa to shun Alison to one extant or another, and that helps Patrick. Tearing up the check maintains the status quo in this issue.

      • Jeff W

        HI – curious to see how you read that Patrick / Lisa were not comfortable with Alison’s friendship with the other? I must be very clueless – I wasn’t even aware that both of them knew (I can assume Patrick read Alison’s mind, but how did Lisa know?)

        • Weatherheight

          It’s pretty clear in the context of the webcomic that Lisa and Patrick don’t get along.
          Patrick certainly knows of Alison’s friendship with Lisa (telepath’s are like that).
          There’s nothing in the comic that explicitly says that Lisa is aware of Patrick and Alison’s relationship “out of costume” but Alison is aware of Lisa pretty much hates Patrick and is unlikely to approve of Alison having any contact with him (given his talent for manipulating people, of which Lisa has had first hand experience).
          Alison has a pretty good idea of how both are reasonably likely to react – or at least how Alison thinks each of them is likely to react – upon her picking sides, which Alison has pretty much implicitly failed to do up to this point.

      • bryan rasmussen

        I don’t think Lisa really knows about Patrick. But yes, she wouldn’t want an alliance.

    • Izo

      I don’t think that’s ‘regressing to childish mores.’ I think it’s her wanting her group to be principled and not dependent on the money of a supervillain and noted terrorist, which could threaten the integrity of the group. I think it was noble and a hard choice to make, choosing morals over money.

      • Santiago Tórtora

        Choosing morals over money can be a terrible thing when you work for a charity. That money could have saved the lives of several people. Choosing morals over the lives of several people doesn’t sound so noble, does it?

      • Pythia

        Would you think the same if an eeevil source was providing a charity seeking to help starving kids with food instead of money? Would you really think it noble to say “no, leave with your soup, I don’t want your soup” with starving children who would very much like some of that soup right there? What if they were providing /the actual bodyguard people/?

        The truth is money here is resources. It’s not a bribe for her to use these funds personally, it’s not a paycheck after she did something FOR the company. This money is potential food, potential shelter, potential pay for people to work for her project full-time. Saying “no, I am not taking your money” is saying “the people whose lives I could SAVE matter less to me than the symbolic power of ‘taking your money’ does”.

        At the very, very least she should have consulted with Paladin before doing that.

        • FlashNeko

          To use your soup example, in this case it’s more “accepting soup cans from a company that has been sued multiple times for sending out cans with botulism in it.”

          Accepting resources from a tainted source just because they’re more resources is a very dangerous way of thinking and can make things worse instead of better.

  • ampg

    Check it out – that’s a brief about Max on the top of the pile. Low blow, Patrick.

  • Izo

    Annnnd… gotta respect her ability to stick to her principles there!

  • Pol Subanajouy

    I could explain how I feel about Al tearing up the check, or I could just post this image that sufficiently explains my feelings anyway. (Hint, I would Spiderman.)

    • Danygalw

      If anyone ever found out that Templar had given them that money, no one would ever trust Valkyrie again.

      • Santiago Tórtora

        Remember when Allison killed that guy at the hospital? You would think nobody would trust a charity founded by a murderer, but that issue never comes up.

        That isn’t because the author forgot about it. On the contrary, Moonshadow notices it and explains in the story why that is: People will trust Allison because they have no choice, even if Allison herself doesn’t like that.

        • Graeme Sutton

          Killing an armed mass-murderer in immediate self-defense or the defense of others isn’t murder.

          • Shjade

            Yeeeeah, but she followed up by threatening to kill an entire crowd if they didn’t come forward with info about the guy, which is less defensible as actions go.

          • Santiago Tórtora

            It’s not evil but it looks bad.

            And accepting money from an evil corporation to fund your charity isn’t evil either, but it looks bad.

            People are arguing that “no one would trust Valkyrie again”, “the press will ask difficult questions” and things like that. But that can’t be the reason Allison rejected the money, since she’s never been afraid of the press before.

            The press didn’t ask difficult questions about killing the guy at the hospital. People just assumed (correctly) that he was a bad guy because Allison wouldn’t kill a good guy.

        • Izo

          Killing a flamethrower-wielding maniac who had already killed three innocent doctors and was going to kill more people is a pretty good defense against a charge of murder. Defense of others.

    • Izo

      This is the most awesome picture ever.

  • Amal El-Mohtar

    Holy shit, is that highly classified information about MAX(imum jerkface)? WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING! Wondering if this is where we find out he did in fact set fire to that building in order to get Alison’s attention…

    Also in panel 1 I briefly felt like Alison’s anomaly was about to manifest laser-eyes.

    • Laurelinde

      Indeed, I didn’t even remember that Patrick would have known about Max to dig into him in the first place. Max may be a colossal ass but I’m not surprised Alison feels pissed off about the check and this invasion of both her and Max’ privacy (like, what exactly does Patrick hope to accomplish with this? Why send her info as though Alison is not capable of making her own decisions about Max without a telepathic background check?)

  • Philip Bourque

    Seems like a waste. Sure sure, it’s a ‘principles’ thing, but honestly, just take his money and put it towards something ‘good’. No one said you have to talk to the guy.

  • Lurker

    Well, I’m glad that all that all the people she’s been trying so hard to help don’t need any money to help get those problems fixed. Otherwise this little fit of check-tearing rage would seem to be incredibly selfish.

  • Ted Gold

    So, there’s a quote out there attributed to an unnamed Salvation Army officer about donations and their origins: “We would take money from the Devil himself and be only too glad to get it out of his hands and into God’s”.

    I get that Alison probably has the overall wherewithal and contacts to set up Valkyrie WITHOUT getting involved with Templar Industries in any way, shape, or form. I also get that there’s probably an argument to be made that association an with Templar Industries could come back to kick her in the keister. For all that, though . . . tearing up that check seems a wee bit self-serving? Those were a LOT of zeroes before the decimal point, and that’s all money she wouldn’t have to beg or borrow from charitable contributions or her more benevolent friends.

    Is there something I’m missing, or is this “Alison is human and therefore sometimes makes wrong calls based on emotion”?

    • youwish youknew

      I think there is something you are missing. Suppose this becomes a regular occurrence. Valkyrie accepts yearly humongous checks from Templar Industries. Valkyrie then expands to suit this massive income. Then Templar starts requesting small changes, or they will reduce/eliminate funding. Nothing major, and you don’t want to scale back in any way, because you are doing good work. So you comply. Then everyone in your organization who really hates Templar leaves. Now your organization is slightly less anti-Templar, so the next changes they suggest receive less argument, and are more substantial. Solve for equilibrium.

      This might not apply. 25 million isn’t “this year’s fundraiser” type money, its “our entire operating cost for the next decade” type money, especially for something as small potatoes as Valkyrie, which might only have a project life time of a decade.

      But projects have a way of expanding to fit the budget, especially if you are doing really important work, so unless we are exceptionally careful, we are back where we started. Stopping at any point is hard, and I would guess that most organizations that try to fail. If Allison thinks Valkyrie won’t be able to stop, she is making the right call. (Provided Templar would actually twist Valkyrie away from its goals, which I doubt.)

  • persephone_the_wanderer

    …somehow my stupid brain can’t stop imagining that what Alison read with such great intensity was “Highly Classified! Rogue Supervillain Needs Punching!” and BAM she’s out the door. She’s calling Rosenblum to ask her if it’s possible to punch someone so hard they go back in time, and if so, how to avoid this.

  • screechfox

    I love the mostly speechlessness of these last two pages, and the composition of the panels. They create such a wonderful feeling.

  • Steele

    Patrick sent Allison a file on the guy she was dating for 5 minutes? And what’s on there is important enough for her to take stock in it even after she ripped up Patrick’s ill-fated attempt to manipulate her?

    Wow, It’s gotta be something. I’m wondering if Allison is going to ask if it’s possible that some supers haven’t been detected or manifested yet?

    • SuddenFan

      It’s the dossiers she demanded the last time they spoke/fought.

      • pleasechangemymind

        I… Do not remember that, though it feels familiar. Are you talking about the throw-the-mug fight? Cause I just remember her being “you have 2 years to find the mastermind behind all the crazy cape-killing, and then I’m turning you in.”

    • Patrick knows what people are actually planning.

      I didn’t trust that guy from the minute he showed up – and if his family is so rich, what was he doing in a not-particularly-upscale apartment building in his underwear?

      And what caused the fire?

  • Chamomile Mint

    I think he likes her.

  • Balthazar

    I get it, taking from super villain, bad.

    But it would’ve been interesting to see a bit more hesitation in the decision.

    I mean who is Alison to deny money that would be used not to help herself but others?
    Mother Terisa took money from dubious sources in her mission to help the poor…

    …Would be what someone might say to convince her not to rip it to shreds.

  • Geary

    Always lovely seeing Alison sticking to her moral code, even when it leads her down a harder road.

  • Mechwarrior

    You’re going to Maryland?

    Watch out for all the feral ghouls and crazy cultists at Lookout Point.

  • Anna

    MAX??????????

  • Loranna

    Huh. I just noticed, Alison’s apartment is rather . . .drab. The place only comes alive when she’s angrily tearing things to shreds.

    I wonder if Patrick will ask Alison if she lost or damaged the check, when he notices it hasn’t been cashed. He DID remind her not to forget her present last time, after all.

    Loranna

    • Mitchell Lord

      …Hehehhee.

    • Weatherheight

      Nice new shiny Avatar!

      • Loranna

        Thanks ^_^ Felt it was time for a change.

  • DaktariD

    Oooo. Someone’s been checking up on Alison. Line crossed!

  • Shjade

    …so that’s a “no” on getting sleep tonight, then?

  • ClockworkDawn

    “Would it be possible for me to punch money into existence?”

  • Santiago Tórtora

    Yes, the difference is that accepting money from someone who has wronged you literally has no downside.

    The person who wronged you has less money and you have more money Sure, the bad person gets reputational rewards for doing a right thing, but that is a good thing. It incentivizes them to do more good things in the future.

    • Subbak

      Maybe you feel the bad things they did are bad enough that they don’t deserve to use your cause as a PR stunt, or at least not at the price they’re paying.
      Maybe it would work if everyone in the world only cared about how many goods and services they can afford, but we all know a huge part of society is signalling and you just can’t decide that signalling doesn’t affect you.

    • Mechwarrior

      Accepting their money implies forgiveness. It also implies that you’re accepting or implicitly endorsing their behavior. Alison has very good reasons for not wanting her charity to appear to have strong ties to Paladin Industries.

    • 3-I

      Actually, it can. Acceptance of the money, even given what the memo said, is often seen as an act confirming the existence of a contract. It’s “contract-like behavior.”

      Being that Patrick is a master manipulator who bought and shut down the company…

      • Jon

        Law guy here. Putting the words ‘charitable donation’ at the bottom of the check explicitly avoid that. Charity by both common law and statute cannot establish a contract.

        Also contracts require consideration on both sides, as well as a meeting of the minds on what is being requested for what compensation. There is no way ‘random check in the mail’ qualifies.

        • 3-I

          Yeah, uh, law chick here, and “random check in the mail” sort of ignores the history between Patrick and both of the people working for this project. Especially when dealing with a new charity which is not following in the footsteps of established charitable purposes. It’s not difficult to cast enough shadow on all this to cause a fledgling charity serious problems with its tax-exempt status and inability to contract. The issue isn’t “will they win a case,” it’s “will Patrick be able to get them into court in the first place, costing them time and money because he doesn’t believe they’re REALLY saving the world.” Cashing the check has even been seen as proof of a meeting of the minds in multiple cases.

          Congratulations on passing your Contracts class, though?

        • 3-I

          I mean, if you want to REALLY push it, the court would want to see a contract in writing for this amount of money, but the fact of the matter is that the court is going to ASK to see it, and that eats up time. Discovery is not quick, nor is it cheap, particularly with the history between these groups.

          “Explicitly avoid” is a phrase that you really should not use, because just because a court won’t find for you doesn’t mean they won’t humor you. As you know, I’m certain.

  • Santiago Tórtora

    Allison maybe just didn’t think of doing those things, or she tried off-screen and didn’t work well, or another superhero (say, like Paladin but for medicine) already cured malaria. I can accept that.

    But Valkyrie is a project she started herself and she just said she needed more money a couple of strips ago. She has no excuse.

    • Ben Posin

      Sure she does. She knows that Templar is secretly owned and run by supervillain Menace, literally public enemy number 1. She also currently has not turned Menace in to the police, and doesn’t plan to for another 2 years. If she accepts all of this money from Templar she will be in a pretty awkward situation.

      • Jon

        I’m glad to know being put in an awkward situation is a valid excuse for allowing people to die.

        It’s good that a slight feeling of embarassment on Allison’s part is more important than the dozens or hundreds of lives which could be saved by that money. Very clear and effective moral reasoning.

  • Santiago Tórtora

    If Alison takes Patrick’s money, how is she’s allowing him to manipulate her?

    Allison could take the money, wait for the devil to inevitably ask for a favor in return, and just say NO. It’s not like Templar can take the money back if Allison doesn’t do what they say.

    The highly classified envelope is much more dangerous. Patrick might even have sent the check as a distraction, knowing Allison would think *that* was the trick and lower her guard for his other, more dangerous present.

    • Just accepting his money is a manipulation, he’s provoked a reaction. And Alison is precisely the kind of person likely to feel herself indebted as a result. Which of course Patrick knows at a level beyond anyone but Alison, perhaps even moreso than Alison herself.

      I agree completely with you on the intelligence, it’s a far more insidious manipulation. Particularly if some of the data has itself been manipulated.

    • Charles Moore

      But in a year she is going to the authorities to tell them that he is/was Menace. They will only have her word. There is no physical evidence and Patrick has _strong_ political connections. There are already going to be a lot of questions (how long have you known, why didn’t you tell us sooner, why did you lie earlier, etc).

      Accepting that check would make her look worse that she already does.

      But I’m not convinced of that. More likely she tore up that check because she lost her temper.

  • Santiago Tórtora

    The information is for her personally, while the money is ultimately for the benefit of other people.

    I don’t want to believe Allison is that selfish intellectually, but as an emotional reaction it can be believable. She might even break the classified info next strip.

  • Santiago Tórtora

    Paladin is dangerous. She is building prototypes for Artificial Intelligences without fully understanding how they work. Remember those cute robots who thought that destroying themselves was hilarious?

    You and Allison might not agree with Patrick (because Paladin is Allison’s friend and she is the protagonist) but that doesn’t mean Patrick is evil.

    Plenty of other things might mean Patrick is evil, but not that. And not the donation to Valkyrie either.

    If people shit on Patrick even when he is doing good things, why would he ever bother doing good things again? That will mess up his already flimsy “reformation”.

    • bta

      1) Artificial Intelligence is completely dwarfed by time travel in terms of possible dangers, and Lisa’s robots seem more a danger to themselves than to humans so far. Also, robots don’t have superheroes in their ranks.

      2) Patrick doesn’t really bother to hide that he’d rather take over the world and force everyone to do things his way, and that he’ll kill without a second thought to reach that goal. He’s way past the point where you can give him the benefit of the doubt, the only reasonable thing to do is hope you can stop him once he becomes too dangerous. By contrast, Lisa is pretty much defined by how much she’s willing to hold herself to a higher standards for the sake of improving the world in an ethical way.

      • pleasechangemymind

        Dude, remember that whole talk with Alison and Cleaver about her wanting to kill every single evil person in the world? Of COURSE he *wants* to. Of course it would be easier. That seems obvious, to me, and not a reflection of his morals so much as of his perspective.

        Given how blasé Lisa was about “what, are they gonna make a doomsday machine? We already did!” I am kiiiinda trepidatious about her, actually. I love her to bits, but I worry that something is going to go very very wrong. I don’t trust either of them to study this technology by themselves. Actually, I think Patrick has a better grasp of caution and Lisa a better grasp of morality. Unlikely team-up, plz?

      • Tylikcat

        I can’t see condemning AI research because of every bad SF trope ever.* Now, there might be something to be said about whether The New School is best situation to provide support and oversight for Lisa… but I don’t see Patrick as the answer.

        That all being said, I think Patrick is a character who is also growing up and coming into his own, and I wouldn’t want to make to many statements about exactly what he’s doing. I think there’s a fairly good chance that by the time he’s thirty, he’s going to be a completely reasonable, decent person. I still think he needs a huge major series of slappenings from the world on the way there – and probably the tailored to telepaths equivalent of a lot of long talks, cups of hot chocolate and hugs or something. The kid is not all right. But then, his teenage years make mine look prosaic**, so if he can just stop it with the body count, I kind of feel like he gets to have some room to work shit out.

        * Part of my research is in computational neuroscience, and I hang with AI folks, so this isn’t an entirely uninformed opinion. Sure, there are precautions we should take. But even now I’m seeing people use their platforms as being perceived by the public as “very smart” to advance the idea of that AI research is very scary in ways just not supported by the science.
        ** Yes!

        • Santiago Tórtora

          AI is scary in the real world already, but in that story it’s more dangerous than in reality.

          Consider that Lisa’s knowledge is supernatural, and nobody knows for sure where powers come from. That means nobody in the world is qualified to audit Lisa’s work and check that she is not making a mistake.

          Also, robots with a sense of humor? Seriously? That exposes the world not only to “every bad SF trope ever”, it exposes the world to this (skip to 7:27):

          https://youtu.be/OwrJxx0BHs4?t=448

          That’s ridiculous, of course, but her robots thought killing themselves was hilarious. Orthogonality Thesis applies to them.

          https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Orthogonality_thesis

          • Tylikcat

            Well, if you’re looking just as economic impact, I’ll grant you that. (Though I don’t know if AI is the root problem so much as the accelerant, but that’s really splitting hairs.) Other than that? How so? Is this the fairly rudimentary decision making that is currently in use that bothers you?*

            * And yes, this decision making is being used in important ways. But the decision making itself is still pretty darn rudimentary. In many cases this isn’t an AI question at all but an application question.

          • Santiago Tórtora

            You mean in the real world or in the comic?

            In the real world people are worried that the invention of AI, instead of being a gradual process like one would expect, happens all of a sudden because some mad scientist has an epiphany or something, and we won’t be able to control its development. So we go from harmless domain-specific AI like Watson or a self-driving car directly to powerful general AI with no time in-between to really make sure its goals are well-defined.

            In this comic, we *know* that AI will happen all of a sudden as soon as Lisa’s power develops further, like it happened to almost every other dynamorph.

            Consider also that the most dangerous super-villain a super-strong guy nor a woman who shoots laser from her eyes. It was a guy with a *mental* super power that let him to make lots of money, outwit people like Lisa to buy weapons, acquire knowledge from experts in different disciplines, subtly manipulate people and so on. If Menace had been a disembodied mind in a jar (or an AI) it would have made almost no difference to his plans because he only relies on intelligence and mental superpowers that an AI could emulate.

            Intelligence is dangerous when a bad guy has it.

        • Yeah, our progress on generalised AI, as opposed to role specific AI, is arguably pretty trivial to date in terms of getting anything actually recognisably intelligent.

          And role specific stuff is arguably much more common than people realise. I once explained our flight control computers to a distinguished Spitfire display pilot as “you move the controls and then it decides what you really wanted to do”. She wasn’t impressed (nor were the directors escorting her) 😉 And we might not all have airliners, but we do have cars and brake by wire is increasingly common, deciding how you really want to brake. OTOH, that kind of AI isn’t suddenly going to suddenly declare Vive Le Singularity! and fly itself to Cuba.

    • We don’t understand the complete behaviour of most of our complex machines, so Lisa’s AI* demonstrators are just more of the same.

      Before I stopped working I was working in a CMM Level 4 organisation doing real-time, safety-critical (SIL 4) flight controls work on airliners and fast jets. The shuttle and nuclear reactors were about our only peers for complexity and safety, in fact I was asked to supply some figures for a bid for nuclear work. CMM Level 4 says our procedures were as good as they get, and SIL 4 the level of risk as high as it gets (in fact one of my managers reported seeing managers from other SIL 4 projects go pale when he discussed our safety constraints) but those procedures explicitly recognised complete testing is impossible. We could test each decision state, but we simply couldn’t test them in combination, the remaining life of the Universe wasn’t long enough. It’s quite possible there are combinations of internal and external states that will simply cause our aircraft to fall out of the sky.

      We were as good as it gets at testing, and light years beyond the rest of the software industry, but we recognised our limitations and it’s clear Lisa does too.

      *In fact we don’t even understand the behaviour of most AIs in consumer goods. AIs based on fuzzy logic, such as in camera rangefinders, are typically developed through an evolutionary process that automatically selects the best performers in each generation without analysing how they work.

  • Weatherheight

    Okay, that was easily predicted, I suppose.

    This entire move seems incredibly stupid on Patrick’s part, so obviously all of this is operating on more than one level. What this seems to be is not what it actually is. And there are too many possibilities to easily predict what the end goal is (actually, strike that – end goals. Patrick appears to always have a bunch of balls in the air in the juggling act that is his plan for world domination).

    This seems a good cliffhanger to end this chapter – unless, of course, Alison needs to go talk to Guwara and ask him to help her explore her values and help her define them more concretely. Admitting she hasn’t got it all figured out to someone she doesn’t want to admit that to would give her another step in the direction she wants to go.

  • Weatherheight

    Of course, if Patrick planned for her reaction, then she’s allowing Patrick to manipulate her (albeit unknowingly). 😀

    Wheels within wheels…

    • Mechwarrior

      If Alison watched Gargoyles as a kid, she might realize that the way Goliath could have stopped Xanatos from winning would have been to punt him off the roof.

      • Actually, if you observe the box at bottom right on the TVTropes “Xanatos Gambit” page image, even that sort of outcome may be programmed in, depending on what the planner’s ultimate goal is.

        • Mitchell Lord

          It’s also a related Batman Gambit…

  • FlashNeko

    Keep in mind everyone, and this is something the man himself has admitted, Patrick is pathologically incapable of doing ANYTHING without some form of strings attached that benefit his need to control everything around him.

    The check is no good because it implies the strings are that Valkyrie is heavily indebted to Templar at the very least and, at the most, he probably has an obscure federal law highlighted that donors over a certain monetary amount get a say in how it is spent by the organization, thus giving him control over Valkyrie and an in to manipulate it to his own ends.

    And lets face it, given what he’s done to Paladin in the past, can you really believe he wouldn’t try a different way of keeping her down if he could?

    The files are… a tad more nebulous because the most likely string there is “and now you’re looking out for the conspiracy I believe in too, which would benefit me if you managed to root it out”. There may be more to it than that, of course, but it’s nowhere near the naked power grab the check is so you can at least humor it a little bit.

  • Eric Meyer

    I’m still super-confused. I probably ought to re-read, but… Didn’t Patrick get shot in the head or something?

    • Charles Moore

      No, but she did throw a mug at him.

  • Tylikcat

    I’m wondering if Patrick saw Max as being courted as a potential donor for Valkyrie. (I would be surprised if the thought hadn’t crossed Al’s mind. She was certainly stressing about money after she found out about Max’s familial wealth.)

    • Stephanie Gertsch

      I also feel like if he knew about a romantic relationship he would probably focus more on Max as a potential donor in order to look less stalky 😛

  • bta

    I’m not quite sure Allison could destroy humanity even if she tried. She’s strong, yes, but probably not enough to do extinction-level damages. She would have to methodically kill every local human population she could find, and that sounds like something even a superhero going postal would find tedious.

    • Emi

      Are you kidding me? Alison is functionally invulnerable and has fast travel. She can go around and physically smash nuclear reactors. Hell, she can smash all power generation and trigger a hundred wars. She can punch holes in oil supertankers. She can probably carry the tankers to forests, throw them down and cause oil-backed megawildfires. She can probably single-handedly trigger Kessler syndrome. Or break every dam on the planet. Or smash up a smallpox lab and throw the vials around JFK and Heathrow.

      No question. This girl could end the world.

      • Weatherheight

        And with a little research, she could begin pounding fault-lines until they cry Uncle, to boot. (Wow, this is a really dark thread all of a sudden.)

    • chaosvii

      All she has to do is ruin all infrastructure ever, and let nature finish the job.
      Punching humanity back to the bronze age has a very high probability of either extinction, or revitalizing a tribal-warrior organization of human society that would kill itself off or succumb to disease.

  • Dogwood

    The prior chapter mentioned some biodynamics’ powers were increasing. Furnace was having trouble keeping his abilities under control, and Allison now can fly. Is Patrick able to mind-read across miles and continents now?

  • Subbak

    It makes sense. If the people you don’t want to associate with really want to help your cause, they can do anonymous donations. If they ant their name on the donation, it means that they want some sort of publicity out of it (in a broad meaning), and you might not want to give it to them for any price.

  • T’would appear that he is Not Yet Forgiven.

  • pleasechangemymind

    Am I the only one who remembers Patrick trying desperately (and Alison even recognizing this) to MAKE her hate him? And admitting that he can’t read his own mind, and doesn’t even understand why he’s doing that? How panicked and distraught and stupefied he looked, not to mention how satisfying it was to see Alison tear him a new one?

    Dude *hates* himself.

    Honestly? He reminds me of my autistic partner. Quite a bit more more sociopathic and murderous in behavior, obviously (heh), but someone who is generally trying to do the right thing in a world where they don’t understand people (or at least they don’t understand people in a natural sense, but rather in a learned one). I mean, he said it himself: he was a mentally unstable 14-year-old trying to fix the world because he didn’t know how else to live in it. He wasn’t trying to be evil. He was trying to be good, and failing miserably.

    I genuinely don’t think this is an attempt to manipulate her. I think it’s genuinely an attempt at an apology from someone who doesn’t know how to talk to people. And once again, he’s fucked it up.

    Edit: to be clear, Patrick is absolutely a villain and needs to be held accountable for what he’s done. But at the same time, I find him incredibly compelling and sympathetic.

    • Tylikcat

      I think there are pretty large sphere of social interaction in which Patrick is quite sophisticated (though, of course, always, the telepathy helps.) Alison happens to be in the middle of one of his dark pools of utter cluelessness. I both agree with you on the self loathing… and suspect (okay, and kind of hope) that it’s no where near anything as simple as self loathing. There’s a lot of backstory we don’t have.

      But then, part of what makes this so complicated, is that they were all so bloody young. I mean, the people I knew who went through pretty fucked up teenaged years did things like make explosives, and do a lot of hacking, and spend time trying to talk their friends down from being suicidal, and, some actual suicide attempts*, and a lot of running around in dubious places in the middle of the night, and maybe a bit of random violence, but not all that much really. I mean, we did build some robots that didn’t do a lot, and and other various electronic equipment (I still remember the biofeedback mouse fondly – hey, this was the late eighties! that biofeedback mouse was bleeding edge!)…

      …but we did not build giant robots that attempted to level cities, or enact our teenage angst in ways that put large parts of the population at risk. I’m not totally ruling it out, had we had actual super powers. (Though probably not, short of actual super villains? We did some crazy shit, but we were all about the discretion, mostly.) And that puts people like Patrick in a pretty bad position, because how do you come back from that? What if all your teenage angst came with an actual body count?

      I look at Patrick, and he reminds me so much of some of the more fucked up members of my own cohort.** Most of whom made it, in the end. I wish we had more backstory, because I’d like to know more about how he ended up making the choices he did. And I’m corny enough that I do kind of want to see him through his own redemptive arc… but he also reminds me enough of people who have gone through extensive fuckwit phases that I don’t want it to be easy. Scratch that, I want it to be gruelingly brutally hard. Makes for a better story.

      * This was a serious problem in the program I was in, and I’m still pretty pissed off about it.
      ** Look, I am not excluding myself from the fuck-upedness, okay? My path went in a slightly different direction, but it is kind of famous in that crowd for, um, high drama. *headdesk* (Sometimes it is kind of painful when a substantial chunk of your social circle has known your for thirty years I’m just saying!)

      • pleasechangemymind

        …basically all of what you said, yes. Yes to all of it. I was friends with a lot of self-destructive people when I was a kid, and was constantly trying to ‘save’ all of them (and hell, I was one of them myself), so Alison’s arc with Patrick really breaks my heart. Because there’s a time when you have to completely remove yourself, and it’s always painful… And you can never be certain that it was the right decision.

        Patrick himself described himself as a “mentally unstable 14-year-old,” and I think he has enough self-awareness to know that what he did was wrong. But much like Daniel’s people-can’t-be-good attitude, I don’t think he can really let himself accept or process that because of the massive guilt that would be attached to it. For now, he’s caught up in protecting his own psyche with this moral relativism bs (“sure it was wrong in retrospect, but would it still have been wrong if I won and saved the world” kinda thing), and it’s just awful.

        I love him as a character. I want him to be redeemed. I don’t think he’s a bad person. I just think he’s really, really broken and has hurt a lot of people, and needs to do a lot of work to redeem himself. Like, a LOT. As you said: it needs to be long, grueling, and painful.

        But I want it to happen.

    • Richard Griffith

      He tried to make her hate him because he could read her mind and saw she was attracted to him.

      • Tylikcat

        Mm, I really don’t think so. Because that had been going on for a really long time, as Alison explained, and let’s face it, was pretty obvious. Though it’s possible it had something to do with his feelings for her – his behavior right beforehand was all over the place, but that seemed like a pretty major component.

        • Weatherheight

          Being the untrusting person I am, I’m seeing two things driving that scene.
          1) Patrick genuinely likes Alison because she dissociates his actions from him – she “hates the sin but loves the sinner”, to use an overworn phrase. He sees what she sees in him and that helps him feel good about himself (and people who think we’re awesome are such awesome people, aren’t they? 😀 ).
          2) He’s got a plan in which he is entirely invested, in every sense of the word. And that plan involves using Alison egregiously at some point in order to fulfill his goals.

          Instant cognitive dissonance – he wants her to continue to like him but he knows that at some point, for his greater perceived good, he is going to betray her on a scale that will brook no redemption or forgiveness.

          It may be easier for him to cut her loose now before he begins to like her too much. Not unlike breaking up with someone who is totally into you but from whom you’ve begun distancing yourself. “It’s better this way in the long run”, you might tell yourself (and probably rightly), but this doesn’t mean it isn’t going to hurt, probably on both sides.

          My take, anyway.

      • pleasechangemymind

        To an extent, sure: because he knows she shouldn’t be with him. She’s too good for him, it’s unhealthy, and he’s deep into the self-sabotage. He’s scared of how much she cares about him. And they’ve both known for a while that she is attracted to him.

        So… To a degree, you’re absolutely right. It’s definitely still borne out of self-loathing, though, IMHO.

  • 3-I

    Seriously, they outright turn people away and leave them on the street for not fitting into their model of righteousness. That is not a good example.

  • KatherineMW

    He’s sending her a file on the guy she went on TWO DATES with? Patrick, that qualifies as stalking.

  • Simeon

    As an NGO director, I’d say that she should take the money but be very public about it. Full disclosure and transparency. $25 million is an enormous amount of capital and Valkyrie can ostensibly do a lot of what it considers “good” with it. The key is to be utterly transparent and make it clear that the money comes with no strings attached. What if she had gotten a government grant from a hostile politician? Would she return that money? The only downside for accepting a donation is in the court of public opinion – i.e. how the funder chooses to publicize the contribution. As a civic organization, Valkyrie must engage the public in order to win its support – and part of that is telling its own story. This is an opportunity for Valkyrie for both needed funding and projecting its voice.
    Or Alison could just fall back on her instincts and try to punch morality into the world.

    • Weatherheight

      Given the amount of hubbub in the current US presidential cycle over which candidate gave to which agency or accepted whose funds and for what reasons and for what outcomes, that court of public opinion is… considerable.

      I like this post very much, however – especially the idea that a charity / civic organization needs to be fully transparent and to communicate clearly and often with the public, anticipating dilemmas and acting responsibly ahead of potential problems. You’ve done a good job of effectively making a point that needed to be made.

      I submit your NGO is quite lucky to have your services. 😀

  • Santiago Tórtora

    And a lot of real life charities accept that money. Did you know the Koch brothers are big philanthropists? If they are giving lots of money to charity, that means some charities are accepting lots of money from them.

    Do you know what those charities are? Are you going to stop supporting those if you find out?

  • Mitchell Lord

    *Looks at the “Prospective business associates” thing* And…there’s the stick.

  • Mitchell Lord

    Yeah…and, the main issue with guys like Christian Grey? The best response is to GTFO…

  • Richard Griffith

    PR statement, “While the Templar robots were once used by the villain Menace, That is long behind us and Templar is now a good corporate citizen. At Templar we put these technologies to good economic use. As part of our positive progress and with the biodynamic community and the world in general in mind we make this contribution to the Valkyrie project. We at Templar hope that all women can walk safely in the world, knowing that not only is Templar industries no longer controller by Menace but now positively supporting organizations such as Valkyrie.”

    • CrimsonCarnivoreOnAClayCourt

      You know, now that you say it out loud, Templar Industries still existing and apparently having a healthy income in spite of being party to a honest-to-god supervillain who attacked American soil might be the strangest thing about this setting.

      Yes, I know, real life scumbags exist. But again, supervillain.

      At the very least, they should change the name.

  • Edward L. Howell

    THANK YOU. I was wondering if someone would point this out. All she needs is a spacecraft and she can launch it herself.

    • Olivier Faure

      Well… not exactly. She’s probably the cheapest solution on the planet for mining asteroids, but there are still difficulties to overcome : she can’t breathe in space, she has to keep food available, to bring the mined ores back to earth, etc… Not really a walk in the park.

  • Santiago Tórtora

    Do you think Paladin also tears apart the checks she receives from Templar Industries?

  • Sending it on to another charity would potentially be theft.

    Valkyrie already exists as an organisation beyond Alison. It’s possible Alison has some authority to spend on its behalf, but if they’ve done the legal setup correctly then she won’t have the authority just to give money away.

    In fact ripping the cheque up is potentially also a legal problem; it wasn’t made out to Alison, it was made out to Valkyrie, and Alison and Valkyrie are legally distinct persons. I’d presume Alison and Lisa are acting as Valkyrie’s board, at least pro tem, so Alison should have gotten Lisa’s agreement to destroying the cheque.

    • Jon

      This is exactly my issue.

      Actual law guy here: Alison as ‘director’ or whatever her title is at Valkyrie has what is called a fiduciary responsibility to the organization.

      What that means in a nutshell is that while she is operating in her position as director, she is legally obligated to act in the best interests of the ORGANIZATION, not her own best interests.

      Her organization has a very low budget, is not fulfilling its mandate, and could desperately use that cash infusion. People’s actual lives could depend on that money. And she destroyed it in a moment of spite.

      This is not only dumb, it’s actually illegal, and the legal entity of the charity would have a valid case against her for the value of that check if her actions made that money uncollectable.

      It’s also a clear indication that she is neither mature nor level headed enough to be in a decision-making position, especially for a large organization.

  • Johan

    At this point, everything will blow up between them anyway when Paladin learn the truth. Might as well take this and help people in the meantime.

  • Johan

    That’s most likely what’s going on in her head XD

  • Johan

    I hate that trope … I don’t read superhero comic books to watch what I can see from my window.

  • Hiram

    “She could spend her time throwing giant satellites into orbit.”
    Well, not exactly. Throwing things would encounter the same high Q and stress issues as an orbital cannon. She could be given stuff to fly -to- orbit, but she would have to float things outside earth’s atmosphere and then add delta v or risk popping her shoulder again. Even THAT has some serious risks since she would be putting herself in the path of objects orbiting at 8kps and up. Those velocities could put her durability to the test, and easily ruin any gear she’s relying on for air. Of course that assumes her TK flight doesn’t have to leverage the air or ground to preserve second law consistency.

    Really though, I doubt it will come up. There are many reasons to love this comic, but it’s attention to mechanics is not one of them.

    • Olivier Faure

      Yeah, I didn’t literally mean “throw them so hard they orbit the planet”. She could probably lift a rocket pretty high without putting herself in any danger, though. Then she drops the rocket, which ignites and put itself into orbit through conventional propelling. She’s still bypassing millions of dollars of fuel and discarded rocket parts that way, especially if she can catch the rocket on its way down.

  • Santiago Tórtora

    Moreover, he is researching by reading the minds of people smarter than him who are specialists in relevant fields. Lisa is developing AI by directly tapping into a supernatural power of unknown origin and purpose.

  • Urthman

    Alison has been taking an enormous risk to her reputation and friendships just knowing who Menace is and not arresting him. Can you imagine the furor if people found out Valkyrie was *funded* by Menace?

  • Weatherheight

    I like this point. A lot.
    In fact, when combined with the possibility of Paladin developing technology to detect psionic activity…
    Yeah, this makes a lot of sense.
    Neat.

  • Santiago Tórtora

    Once Valkyrie becomes a household name, a known brand so to speak, it will be easier to raise more money.

    They have a hard time now because they are new and people are skeptical, not sure if it will work.

  • Santiago Tórtora

    What would happen if a large group of people saw her carrying the burned and beaten corpse of a civilian?

    Nothing, as it turns out. To the public she will always be Mega Girl and to the authorities she will always be a walking potential extinction event who should not be annoyed with needless questioning.

  • BaalBereth

    Now, why in the nine hells would Allison tear up a promise of $25,000 to a fledgling charity?

  • Tylikcat

    Oh, I like that one!

  • Mechwarrior

    But it’s probably just as cathartic.

  • Is Max… super?

  • Santiago Tórtora

    Did reporters ambush her to ask difficult questions when she killed that guy who attacked the hospital in front of all those people?

    Then why would they do so just for accepting charity money?

  • Izo

    I think I mentioned that trope last strip. 🙂

  • Weatherheight

    Oh, none of my post is conscious thought. I think you’re absolutely correct that this is essentially an emotional reaction. But are emotions are informed by our circumstances, and Alison dwells on her circumstances. these elements may very well underpin her moment of anger (or not – I could be reading way to much into this 😀 ).

  • Jon

    That’s not how people actually work in the real world.

    People respond to incentive structures. If you incentivise them to do good, they will try to do good. If you punish them for doing good, they won’t.

    This is why the recidivism rate for convicted criminals is so high. They can be as atonement-filled as they want, if finding a job or existing in society is as hard as it is, most of them will just say ‘fuck it’ and go back to crime.

  • Jon

    If they made sure not to do so, they wouldn’t.

    This is not actually hard if you can predict that happening ahead of time. The trouble is the sudden about-face. It is perfectly possible to set up a funding scheme immune to such manipulation, even if that involves properly investing this donation and expanding slower than normal to offset the cost.

    Of course, as we can see, Allison is not a person who should be in a position of power or making decisions, and is not exactly a long-term thinker.

  • Jon

    Well, as the whole Menace thing is still a secret, and the check is made out by the new CEO, I’m guessing not much.

    There is no evidence that Templar still operates on the proceeds of crime. The sketchiest thing we’ve seen Patrick do with our 3rd person omniscience powers is trade some money for some information with some agents of the Chinese government. That Patrick still has criminal connections is obvious, but there is no evidence that it is effecting the company. Patrick has an incentive to not rock the boat anymore, since a new investigation might discover that he’s still alive.

    Nor can I imagine there would be any evidence. If your boss can read your mind, good luck whistle-blowing even if it was happening.

    Templar in fact has already had anything the government was going to do to it done to it when Menace fell the first time. At that point they had carte-blanche to do whatever they wanted – about 10 seconds could have convinced Congress to declare it a terrorist organization and appropriate assets. As far as the government and the public is concerned Menace is dead, and Templar is reformed.

    As to what actions they could take if they wanted to, many and varied. They could shut the charity down, but they would have to prove that the charity knew the money was stolen or corrupt when they received it, which isn’t happening without Allison’s testimony, and she speaks for the angels as far as the populace is concerned. They also have no way to compel her testimony.

    That’s not even getting into the fact that the social justice scene exists in this world as well, seemingly even moreso, and so attacking a charity which supports and protects battered women is a hilariously bad idea from a political perspective unless you have diamond hard evidence. Even then you’re looking at a huge political backlash. Add in Mega Girl and Paladin to the list of people you’re fucking with and this spells political suicide with a capital P.

    Again, you are assuming that the rest of the world knows what we know about Allison’s first person perspective. They don’t.

  • Jon

    First of all, the check is from Paul Duval, the CEO of Templar. And its from Templar Industries, a fortune 500 company which is a distinct legal entity. As far as the law is concerned, this is from the company, not anybody else, and as far as the government/world is concerned Menace is dead and Templar has gone straight.

  • Santiago Tórtora

    Then don’t shred the evidence, I guess.

    If the authorities find out that Templar is doing illegal stuff, that check could be proof that they intended to launder money, so they can pin an additional charge on Templar, Al Capone style.

  • Santiago Tórtora

    They didn’t see Allison kill the guy in the act. We did, and some doctors and nurses (who then died). The people outside only saw fire, an explosion, and then Alison holding a dead body.

  • Jon

    If you want to run a charity but never take any money from rich people, I have some bad news for you.

    Also if you are more concerned with punishment and treating people who have been assholes like you believe they deserve, instead of actually achieving results, your charity isn’t going to end up very effective.

    Look at the pushback from the current way the social justice movement operates. The confrontational everything-you-are-is-wrong attitude is pushing as many people away as it is getting people involved. Black Lives Matter is a great example of this problem – the confrontational angle taken to an absolute extreme such that they are tanking their public reputation. Part of this of course is the issue with an open movement – anyone can claim to be a part of it, and so you have rotten apples spoiling the whole bunch – but it especially holds true for new and still weak organizations.

    Again, I’m not talking about what you would consider morality here. I’m talking about effectiveness. You’re falling into the same dark hole that those people in the 1970’s did when they created the current ‘tough on crime’ prison system- you’re caring more about punishing the guilty then on actually convincing them to change or in being effective at your goal (reducing crime/discrimination).

    As much as I hate to Godwin, this is the attitude which led to the Treaty of Versailles, which placed the entire burden and blame on the German people for the first World War. They also wanted to punish the ‘evil’ side of the conflict, and argued that they had to pay for the wrongs they had committed. They used many of the same arguments you are espousing now.

    That treaty was a direct cause of the social unrest and financial collapse of Germany in the next decade. That feeling of being downtrodden, the feeling that they were being made to pay for the actions of others, that nothing they do will even meet the burden imposed upon them.

    It was in that environment that a charismatic leader emerged, promising jobs, the disenfranchisement and expulsion of the underclass which he claimed was causing the cultural and financial issues, along with punishment to their enemies and a reclaiming of the glory and traditions of the past.

    That man was Adolf Hitler.

    And does that description of his sound familiar at all?

    I’ll give you a hint, it has a bad toupee, it’s orange, and it wants to build a wall.

    Again, I hate to Godwin, but this line of thinking has been tried before many times, and it always leads to the same point. Resentment, recrimination, and pushback. You can’t keep battering people with how horrible they are and expect them to respond positively. Maybe a very tiny percent will, but the vast majority of people do not work that way.

    At some point, someone has to forgive and trust, or we both just start slamming the ‘defect’ buttons on our prisoner’s dilemmas for all eternity, and everybody is worse off. This is basic game theory. This is why the US won the Space Race, because they adopted and forgave German scientists who worked for the Nazi’s on U2 bombs and missile weapons, who then went directly to work for the US Space Program. Look at the history of Wehrner von Braun for an example of that. There are times when this can go too far, and for that look at what happened to some of the Japanese biowar researchers, but that’s realpolitik and a bit different.

    My point is that the concept of forgiveness needs to at least be thinkable.

    I’m a consequentialist. I judge what is moral based on the expected and actual outcomes of a decision. I believe the decision which leads to the best outcome for the most people is the one that is the most moral. I flip the switch on the trolly problem everytime. As that green-blooded hobgoblin said “The needs of the many far outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”

    Effectiveness is what ultimately matters – if you have set your goal, if you’ve accepted that goal as an axiom and that it is a thing worth pursuing, you should be doing whatever you can to reach that goal in a way that maximizes benefit and minimizes harm. This can be a problem if you have very shitty goals, but that’s a different argument entirely. Everyone tries to accomplish their goals in one way or another, but many go about it in a way that ‘feels right’ and not one which is actually effective.