Updates Tues-Fri
I admit that 'frequently' in this case means 'once, if that', but nevertheless: a collections of questions from the comments section.
  1. Character Questions
    1. Alain
    2. Ana
    3. Blaine
    4. Ellen
    5. Fausto
    6. Iris
    7. Lena
    8. Murdoch
    9. Pitt
    10. Rafe
  2. Story Questions
    1. The Help Doesn't
    2. A Little Green
    3. Lost in the Flood
  3. World Questions
    1. Gang Politics
    2. Holidays
    3. New Ozark
    4. Saints
    5. Technology
    6. The Empire
  4. Other Questions
    1. Backstory
    2. Making the Comic



At one point you say 'Savoy's married to Alain' but in another 'Gabrielle's married to Alain'. Is there more than one Alain?
Alain is married to both of them, and yes, that's legal (and relatively tame, if less common than a more standard one-on-one marriage.) Making it work is your own lookout.


Does Ana have any relatives on the wharves? Would they be willing to cut her some slack about her friends? Does everybody on the wharves have to KNOW about her friends? I hope she does have more friends than Sal.
Ana does have relatives in the Greenwharves, but she hasn't talked to them since she left as a teenager; she doesn't have a lot of friends, and most, like Sal, come from her Army days. Some are Sunlanders, most aren't. Essentially she abandoned her culture (at the wonderfully rational age of 16) for the promise of a mixed-race, multicultural life in the Army, then got stranded on the beach when the tides of governmental policy turned. It's sad, and it's made her lonely and more than a bit bitter. On the other hand, Ana is someone to be pitied only at your own risk. Or, preferably, a great distance.

Are Sal and Ana married?
They're not married, but they run a business together and live in the same house, so it's close. Partly the chemistry never went that direction: partly the Sunlander taboo against marrying cangrejo is too deep for Ana to break. Which may or may not have something to do with the lack of chemistry....


What is Blaine's exact relationship to Darwin?
Blaine and Darwin have the same father but different mothers; however, both Darwin and Edie were taken in by Blaine's mother as preteens after their own mother abandoned them.

I'm now curious about Blaine's age, and just what were the circumstances that resulted in the two younger siblings being dumped on his mother.
Blaine is twenty-two. As for the family thing -- eh. The short version is that their mutual father was of the rootless-but-charming sort, and Darwin and Edie's mother was young, high-strung, and not particularly balanced. The whole thing sort of teetered along while the father was around but when he went to jail she found herself alone with two kids she hadn't planned on and didn't really want, so she dumped them on Blaine's mother and vanished. Darwin would have been nine or ten at the time, and Edie twelve.

So Blaine can be a bookie and just pay a beef like any other enterprising businessman?
Blaine pays a beef to his tete, just like everyone else, except that when your tete is also your baby brother you get a little more room for negotiation. :P Bookies do typically have a closer relationship with the criminal underground than a more 'straight' business: gambling is legal in Kieselburg, but gambling on sporting events (the backbone of Blaine's business) is heavily restricted -- either to prevent match-fixing, or to make sure that the large, professional gambling outfits keep a monopoly on it, depending on how cynical you are. I think you can guess the status of Blaine's licenses. :) Typically a bookie pays their beef partly in cash and partly in favors like 'fix tips' and money laundering. This doesn't make them members of l'affaires, though, just businessmen with a better-than-normal exchange rate.


Now I'm curious about how old Ellen is.
At comic's beginning she's fourteen; however, by the time she becomes a major part of the plot (is kidnapped by Darwin), she's turned fifteen.


Why didn't Fausto get cyborg legs?
Fausto's plan is to save up and buy real new legs. This isn't hugely likely on a cab-driver salary, but then again, he bets with street bookies. Realistic odds aren't his strong point. Getting cyborg legs would essentially be 'giving up', since the implants almost always cause nerve damage that makes replacing them with flesh impossible. The stigma against cyborgs is also strong enough that he'd have a hard time finding a job, an apartment, a place to drink in peace....


What keeps Iris in St. Louis?
Iris stays in St. Louis because she's a trained medic and they kinda need those there. She gets money from her clients (some of them, anyway) but because it's a war zone she's also getting a monthly stipend from the Cold Mothers, the Red Cross-ish organization who trained her. If she moved, no stipend, and also a lot of people with no access to medical care unless and until the Mothers trained someone else and moved them in.


Why does Lena dress the way she does?
Clothes are Lena's weak point. In every other of her life she is strictly utilitarian, spending and getting only what she needs, but she really, really likes pretty clothes and occasionally loses her save vs. will roll. She's also not terrifically modest (at least in the Grill: she does tend to wear more modest clothes when she's, say, at school, but then again she doesn't feel safe there) so 'pretty' frequently translates to 'pretty revealing'.

The tips are better too. Hey, textbooks don't pay for themselves. :)


How old is Murdoch?
At comic's start he's twenty-three.

How long has Murdoch actually lasted as a tete?
Murdoch's been a tete for about five years -- not a legendary feat, but certainly uncommon. Partly he's just been very prudent. Tetes who survive the initial instability tend to hit a balance point where their finances are stable, their alliances are solid, their enemies are few, weak, and sufficiently cowed... and most blow right past it in an attempt to grab more money, territory, alliances, and power. Murdoch has picked up a bit here and there, but he's largely holding the same amount of territory that he was five years ago. He's formidable, but in a very limited sphere.

Poor Murdoch. How did he end up being the neighborhood wailing wall, anyway?
Unless circumstances require otherwise, Murdoch is a very quiet and generally polite guy. Unfortunately he has a little too much presence to fade easily into the background and projects enough self-confidence to give people the idea he's good at solving problems. Unfortunately for Murdoch, people immediately follow this up with 'perhaps he'd like a go at mine!', and I know from experience that it's then too late to start being rude.

Has it been explained what the Psi around Murdoch's neck means? Or is that just an affectation?
The psi became associated with the santos cult of St. Louis some time ago (not to be confused with the actual Catholic saint; it's what's known as an accretion cult, meaning people said, 'I dunno, they named a city after him so he must have been important, I think he was a king? And he flew across the ocean, but that doesn't sound all that impressive to us, so maybe it was around the world. And had adventures. And we'll throw in some Greek symbols because someone put them on a building and they look kingly. Why is that historian crying?') It's classified as a questor-saint cult, and the symbol is technically supposed to bring you light in dark corners, but Murdoch wears it because it belonged to his grandfather, his grandmother told him to wear it, and his grandmother was the sort that people continue obeying long after she's dead just in case.

What's with the jackets Murdoch (and other characters) wear?
The jackets (model here) are psuedo (vat-grown) leather. The basic design is the same as the jackets that were the semi-official uniform of New Chicago's BR5s, a mixed military and civilian force of blockade runners that gained a quasi-cult following during the ten-year seige of New Chicago by Bastion forces about thirty years ago. BR5 is still active (usually they work humanitarian relief missions now) and the city-state of New Chicago is a northwards neighbor of New Ozark, so there are quite a few of these jackets floating about. Most are imitations or variant designs, but Ian's (and Murdoch's) are close enough to the original design that they may well be second-hand or surplus (they're not armor or anything, but the military-issue ones are pretty damn tough.)

Most of the wearers know very little about the history, of course -- it's something like wearing a bomber jacket in the mid-seventies... a vague association with a group you sort-of-knew had done things that were heroic, but mostly you'd just seen Cool People wearing them on tv. Given that Murdoch is from St. Louis -- a city that has been blockaded more than once in its recent history -- he at least might have a clearer idea what he's wearing. But the picture is still pretty hazy. I don't think war history, or even war current events, is Murdoch's strong suit.


Is the dragon tattoo on Pitt's arm indicative of belonging to his cadre, the Dragonkiller?
Yes, you're dead on with the tattoos: they're common for members of the cadre's household, with the forearm and hand positioning reserved for the droitemen. 'Belonging to her' is a particularly apt term there -- a droiteman's position in his cadre's household is a very... odd one, with one of the oddities being that while they have nearly unlimited access to the cadre's resources, they don't get paid per se. The money they spend is the cadre's money; everything they have belongs to the cadre. They have an immense amount of power, but it's all borrowed; they're simultaneously given a great deal of discretion and kept on a very short leash. So, yeah. 'Owned' pretty well covers it.


How old is Rafe?
At comic's start he's nineteen.

If word gets out that Rafe is willing to drop his main girl for a brainless, flashy piece of ass, what does that say about him as a tete? At best, that he's new and stupid. At worst... is he worthy of trust as a tete, if this is how he treats someone this deserving of his loyalty?
Sadly, the gangs are not that idealistic. Betraying fellow gangsters is bad, but (unless they're also gang members, like Alain's girls) spouses and lovers are accessories, either background figures or arm candy. Ellen's a weird case because she was essentially hanging out on the fringes of the gang, not quite a member but edging towards it, and her current status as gang/not gang is still fluid. If he dumps her, most will be inclined to see it as a personal matter, not a betrayal of his gang.

There's a quiet minority that will see it as a sign of poor character, and Rafe's certainly going to look bad for handling things so gracelessly that he ends up facing a gun, but for most his 'trade up' on a better model of girlfriend to go with his better rank will seem natural and obvious.

I wonder why Rafe hooked up with Ellen in the first place if what he wants is flash?
Ellen was the aggressor in starting their relationship, and Rafe is not one to turn it down when it's offered to him on a platter. He didn't think of it as a long term relationship, although really, given that there's sex involved, you can pretty much stop after 'didn't think' with Rafe. Another important factor, though, is that Rafe was not a tete when he and Ellen started dating. As far as Ellen's concerned that didn't change anything, and as far as Rafe's concerned it opens up a whole world of girl-shaped shininess that she's getting in the way of. They... really don't think alike, at all.

In an odd way I suspect Ellen intimidates Rafe. It's a bit of the same impulse that keeps him telling the truth where others would lie... he's basically a very uncomplicated person -- not stupid, by any means, but very straighforward. Girls like Corinne want very straightforward, tangible things from him. Ellen, as he's got to know by now, doesn't; she wants the complicated, emotional stuff, and that's not something he's prepared to deal with.


WARNING! These questions and answers frequently contain spoilers!

The Help Doesn't

Is a greenie cook that bad?
The trouble is that the Grill is mostly open at night, so anyone working there as a cook is by definition breaking curfew. 'Working there' and 'part-owner' are largely problems in terms of general prejudice, racism, and the trouble a prejudiced, racist person with power can make.

A Little Green

It occurs to me that I'm not exactly sure what the charges against Cedric (Ria's ex-boyfriend) are.
Technically, the only thing Cedric did 'wrong' was to get Ria pregnant -- Imperial officers are expected to be grown-ups about their birth control. However, that would have been a slap on the wrist. Messing up with a touchy political group like the Sunlanders would have made it a formidable slap on the wrist, and he probably wouldn't have seen a lot of promotion options for a while -- it'd have been an embarrassment and a black mark on his record. But it wouldn't have ended his career. That, he did to himself once he started lying to Ria about what the Empire was going to do to her and lying to his superiors about Ria.

Why is it a big deal that Ria keeps escaping from Imperial protection? She's not under arrest is she? She went to them for protection. If she wants to leave it, is she not entitled?
Ria can go anywhere she likes. Travis is under orders to guard her no matter where she goes, and Ria is not in his chain of command. If she decides she doesn't want protection any more, she'd have to go to Isidro or the Commander; if she just gives him the slip, he's in a lot of trouble. She's not in trouble, but it may explain why the people who guard her are rather concerned.

Lost in the Flood

Would Murdoch take over Lafayette if he killed Darwin, or is that only if he wants to?
Murdoch doesn't have to take over Lafayette if Darwin's killed, nor is he likely to, any more than he did after killing Edie. In general a flat-out takeover is trouble, because you need to either double the size of your gang really quickly or take in your victim's gang -- both of which are tricky business -- and you're likely to draw some unfriendly attention from your cadre. He might take advantage of the confusion to add a block or two of former Lafayette territory to his, but anything further would be an odd move for him.

Why do Murdoch and Darwin keep saying that Darwin can't return Ellen?
Hostage and kidnappings are tricky. The ideal situation is a) everyone involved (especially the kidnapper) is a pro, b) the kidnappers are demanding something the victim's near and dear can realistically do without, and c) kidnappers do not have to deal with the victims ever again -- they vanish. In this situation none of those things are true. Darwin might just have managed to pull it off with mild bad feeling if he'd killed Murdoch immediately, but now he's put Rafe in a very bad position (at semi-war with Murdoch) and the only slim chance he has of ending up with a second war is continuing to threaten Ellen. Which is also not a great plan.

Why didn't Blaine take Edie's place as tete instead of Darwin? Is that just a matter of personal ambition, or is there more to it?
Blaine is a bookie. While his profession does have traditionally close ties with organized crime, he's an independent businessman; as such and so wouldn't have been able to take over after Edie died if he wanted to, which he emphatically didn't. The level of involvement he has in gang business during the Lost in the Flood storyline had more to do with his desire not to see Darwin dead than anything.

What, precisely, is Faden's role in Darwin's gang? Apart from stupid, stupid muscle?
Information. Faden was a tete already when Murdoch came to power; he knows quite a bit more about him and the others than Darwin (who would have been eleven at the time.) And he does have connections with a lot of other people in the area. Between the jail time and, well, being Faden, they're not very strong connections, but it's enough to appeal to a very new and very young tete.

I don't think the relationship worked out how either of them planned though. Faden wanted someone young and easily influenced; Darwin wanted someone he could tap for knowledge and dirty jobs but keep on the periphery (note he never trusts him with any of the real gang business). So neither of them are real happy with it.

Did Sullivan/Murdoch actually expend a lot of resources in this war?
Think less 'expend resources' and more 'lose business.' I haven't referred to it much because honestly I did not need more side-stories or more characters, but there's been a ton of low-level raiding and border territory aggression as background to the clashing between the tetes. Then there's this strip from back in January, where Alain talks about reorganizing the whole hustle, and this one where the legitimate businesses are worrying about what the whole mess will do to them. That's not cheap. It costs in lost business, in time, in resources. So yeah, Murdoch's probably looking for ways to get his revenue stream back in the black.

What does it mean for Sal that he's refusing to pay Rafe protection money? Will he be in trouble with the cadre? Will he be in trouble with the droiteman?
Pitt -- the droiteman -- is unlikely to care because the business does not require the tetes to demand protection money. The business just requires tetes to pay their beef to the cadre, which for pretty much all tetes means they'll need to be squeezing beef out of folks on their territory. Making the cash simply from goods trading or whatnot is technically possible, if you're really good at money, but Rafe... well, yeah.

So what Rafe should be worrying about with regards to Pitt is 1) not making enough money to pay his beef to the cadre, or 2) having Sal's little rebellion spread to the point that people are openly disrespectful of Tom Thorn's business. Either case might involve Pitt taking direct action to put Rafe out of commission, although honestly, even there, he's still more likely to sit back and wait for an ambitious underling or neighbor to take care of the problem for him.

Insofar as the cadre is concerned, this whole war is small potatoes -- worth keeping an eye on, since even a small cut can turn septic if you don't pay attention, but not really her problem. In fact the cadre herself probably doesn't know the whole war exists. That's why one has droitemen: to keep the foot soldiers from becoming an embarrassment. The only reason Pitt's getting dragged in is because of this. Calling a truce 'before the cadre's hand' means that if you break the truce, you're dissing the cadre, also known as 'signing your own death warrant'. It's something a gang does to prove they're serious.

What happened to the flashpaint? Did they use Alene's Biodegradable Flashpaint Remover?
The flashpaint got cleaned up eventually, yes -- it's a two-step process, applying first a chemical compound that makes the stuff visible, then a solvent that lets you painstakingly scrape the stuff off. Possible and necessary, but not fun. I don't think the owner of that club is harboring many fond feelings about l'affaires just now..

At the end of the story, does Darwin take the money, or does Murdoch actually get out of the whole affair - well, for free as far as money is concerned?
Yes, Darwin takes the money. It's slightly less money than he asked for in the beginning, and he gave up on the idea of also claiming territory from Murdoch as part of the blood price -- but Sullivan has still paid a fairly steep cash price to end that war.


Gang Politics

Is a tete like Murdoch likely to be treated as a threat to Tom Thorn? What about l'affaires middle management: the cadres and their droitemen?
Thorn has no idea Murdoch exists, nor is he likely to; he's past the point where a simple tete can do much to him, and remember that Murdoch's situation here is unusual, not unique. There's easily dozens of semi-stable 'old men' scattered around the hundreds of tetes operating in the city. Also, dealing with tetes (uppity or otherwise) is something Thorn's largely farmed out to his cadres.

Murdoch's cadre and droiteman absolutely do know who he is and keep a sharp eye on him. The kind of deal Murdoch has with Rafe is, again, unusual but not unique, and alliances between tetes come and go -- but that he's capable of forming alliances and short-circuiting hostilities quite that easily would concern them. The cadres are not fans of freelance charisma. On the other hand, he's notably unambitious, pays his dues on time, and generally keeps his head down, something anyone in charge of managing an ever-changing crew of adrenaline-crazy teenagers appreciates.

Under some of the cadres Murdoch might still be looking at a one-way trip to the lake some night, or at the very least an ever-escalating series of demands for beef designed to drive him out. But the Dragonkiller's reputation can be summarized as 'ruthless but fair.' Murdoch will have to actually fuck up to draw punishment down on himself; she doesn't pre-empt under usual circumstances. And Murdoch, being Murdoch, is smart enough to keep a weather eye on the cadre and keep himself well clear of her temper.

Has anyone bowed out of being tete when confronted with being killed for it? And, if so, have they lived long enough to 'tell the tale' as it were?
It's happened. It's generally less a 'bowed out' thing than a 'vanished in the dead of night with what was left of the money leaving a few unlucky stooges to hold the bag' kind of thing, and it's considered cowardly, but it's happened. A very lucky and rare tete may also retire, passing the title to their lieutenant, and there's a few other ways to leave the job (jail, getting promoted upwards, et cetera) but in general one does tend to leave either feet first or running.

So, street gangs being a fundamentally for-profit endeavor, is there a ready reserve fund that can be used for wounds taken in the line of duty?
In general yes, the gangs try to pay for these things. But there's a limit to just how profitable a street gang is. They see a lot of money come in, but most of it goes right back out again -- keeping their troops happy, paying the 'beef' to the higher-ups in l'affaires, buying more stock, buying weapons, paying bribes, and so on, and so on. Also remember that most of these gangs don't stick around for long. Murdoch might have a decent stash, having been tete for five years... but Rafe and Darwin's tenures are measured in months. Remember, too, that Rafe's replacing a guy who couldn't even pay his troops. He's actually more fiscally responsible than his predecessor. Just because a gang is for-profit doesn't mean they're any good at it. :)

How does one become a tete? Go up to the droiteman and hand over an initial beef? Or do you have to have some territory first? If someone does something stupid in front of the droiteman, could someone else with more ambition than sense offer to take his place?
You need a territory. L'affaires is making some inroads into new territory, mainly Midtown, but mostly this will mean you've succeeded, displaced, or otherwise taken territory from another tete. If you were already a gang member before you became a tete, and particularly if you are replacing your previous tete, this is a pretty simple process. You probably already know roughly how much your beef should be; you bring it in, you and the droiteman have a little chat wherein you make clear that you understand how this loyalty-to-the-cadre thing works, and -- unless you've managed to put your foot in your mouth in a truly stupendous way -- you leave. Congratulations, you're a tete. Both Rafe and Darwin have gone through this.

Less commonly, a tete will be displaced by someone who has no gang history. This is slightly more complicated. You still bring your beef (or, if you're particularly dense and/or ignorant about how l'affaires works, you and your beef are brought) to the droiteman, but the chat will not be little, and neither will your chances of leaving feet-first. If you're very lucky and convincing, you'll get off with a year or so of paying higher beef and the unsettling (but accurate) feeling that you're being closely watched. If you're not so lucky, there will also be loyalty tests, 'favors' ranging -- depending on how sure the droiteman wants to be of you -- from inconvenient to the sort of tests that, if you survive them, will certainly guarantee your loyalty to the cadre, given that she is now the only thing standing between you and a lengthy stay in jail. If you're unlucky, you'll be dead.

As for the situation you're describing, well, you could volunteer, but until you actually take the territory no one's going to care much. Very practical people, gangsters. :) Death by droiteman is one of those situations where -- unless there was a really pressing reason that the cadre needed a tete in that spot right now -- the droiteman would leave the power vaccuum to sort itself out. Someone in the gang steps up to take the dead tete's place, a new gang moves in, the surrounding tetes absorb the abandoned territory -- it's all the same to the cadre; as long as she gets her beef, no one's carrying out massacres or amassing enough territory to present a credible threat, and no one's disrespecting the business, she will rarely care enough to interfere. At the street level, l'affaires is very hands-off.

What happens if you take a _small_ territory? Like leading a rebellion and ending up with only half of an established tete's territory by the time the dust settles - would the droiteman insist on a normal-sized beef from each of you and let you two discover who's gonna fail with regard to that?
The beef is... well, it's best to think of it as percentage-based, albeit a 'percent' heavily influenced by how much the cadre needs money, how annoying you've been lately, droiteman whim, et cetera. A situation like you describe, with a minor civil war leading to a split territory, isn't uncommon, and the tetes wrangle and snip bits off each other's border territories and so on pretty much constantly. Keeping up with the changes would be nearly impossible, so most droitemen don't try; they simply keep tabs on how much the tetes are buying. Territory in itself isn't valuable -- what the tetes are fighting over, essentially, is the right to supply black market goods to a given region, and the vast majority of those goods will be sold to them by the cadre. The more goods they're selling, the bigger their territory must be -- or the richer, or the better their salesmanship; the cadre doesn't care, as long as she gets her cut. There are numerous potential loopholes, of course, but they're generally closed by using the rule 'when in doubt, charge the higher beef.' That's why protection money (which the droiteman can guess at, but not know for certain), secondary supply chains, and the various cons and money-schemes are so important to the tetes. They need that cushion against upper management whimsy.

In the case of the Sunset Grill, you are pretty much talking a chunk of territory too small for the droiteman to care about. A single renegade business isn't going to attract his attention and it certainly won't require him to treat the business owner as a tete --at least, not a business the size of the Grill. The extremely profitable clubs, brothels, and casinos on the Rue de la Monde are treated as distinct territories, complete with a house boss, or tete d'maison, as are a few other specialized businesses around the city. But then la Monde is a special case in many ways, and any one of those businesses can pull down the Grill's yearly profits on an off night.


Why is the Grill closed on New Year's?
The major holidays tend to be pretty rough in Lowtown, with New Year's the roughest (the holiday atmosphere plus politics plus it's the middle of winter and people are going crazy -- and, in harsher years, have probably been struggling through blackouts and brownouts in sub-zero temperatures for the previous month.) Brawling can very easily turn into shootouts or riots, complete with killing, looting, burning, and basically turning the place into a minor hell for a few hours or a few days. And there's no one to stop it: what little police presence there is in Lowtown sensibly shutters the windows and bolts the doors on holidays.

There is some policing done by the tetes, because there was a bit of an incident about ten or twelve years ago where the New Year's riots went ultra-critical and the Army was called in, with... less than pleasant results all around. Since then the cadres have started stepping in and putting down anything that showed signs of getting out of hand (the Masquerade riot would have been one such incident, though a minor one.) And if the cadre has to put out a fire in your territory, you will be having a meeting with the cadre, one that you may or may not leave with all your body parts still attached. It puts a damper on the holiday spirit for the tetes, and most that enjoy breathing will spend holidays working, but they aren't police, and frequently they do as much damage stopping riots as the rioters would.

So, yes, the Grill closes on New Year's. Even if there isn't an actual riot, the property damage is just too likely to outweigh the profits.

New Ozark

Do elections even matter in New Ozark? Or is it all really just a big pseudo-participatory distraction for the masses while real decisions are made elsehow?
New Ozark has four City Councils and six Regional Councils -- these are basically like states, or city-states in the case of Kieselburg and the other three cities. Councils are made up of ward representatives, and there's also a mayor (for cities) or governor (for regions). The national Assembly is made up of three parts: the Commons, who are elected by their districts and whose number varies based on population; the Senate, which has four members per region, two appointed by the mayor/governor and two appointed by the Council; and the House. House seats are awarded based on the percentage of votes your political party musters in the national elections and are appointed by each political party to party members via an in-party vote. The Assembly's Prime Minister is always from the House. And, finally, there's the President.

Decisions have to pass two of the three legislative bodies, or all three for certain things like impeachment, overriding a presidential veto, and their equivalent of Constitutional amendments. It wasn't originally this uber-complicated; in the early days of New Ozark there were only two chambers, Senate and Commons, with half the Commons seats filled by voting and the other half awarded to parties. The argument was that it was unfair for the very large Commons to be consistently blocked by the much smaller and not directly elected Senate (after a string of such blocks). So the chamber was split. In practice the main effect has been to strip power away from the rural regions, which while they have little population could at least count on those four senate seats, and leave the cities essentially running the circus. But within the biggest city of Kieselburg at least this isn't counted a problem.

Elections do matter, because which party hold power matters, and the government is... not exactly a distraction, more an overly complicated mess that lends itself heavily to corruption. It's very difficult to get anything done in the New Ozark government any more without shortcuts. The easiest and most common shortcut being, of course, to buy enough politicians.

TL;DR: New Ozark has a lot of elections. They matter a little.

How big is New Ozark? Is there some place of note that isn't St. Louis and isn't Kieselburg?
New Ozark is roughly the size of the modern-day state of Missouri, give or take (that's where Kieselburg would be located, though New Ozark doesn't extend as far south and goes a bit more west.) Aside from Kieselburg and St. Louis, there are two other major cities, Arkadia and Twain. Twain is the smallest, and generally suffers the least from the overriding corruption (though that's not saying much). It's seen as something of a backwater. Arkadia is a military town, site of the main base and training ground for both the Army and the Air Force, and the second-largest city. But Kieselburg is the elephant in the room -- the capital, the only spaceport, and a population nearly triple Arkadia's.

The rest of New Ozark is sparsely populated: some small towns in the eastern half, a number of tallboys (giant solar collectors) with the associated personnel and settlements, in the west, mostly Sunlander, and some semi-permanent large military bases with, again, associated civilian sprawl in the southwest. But overall, most (roughly 90%) of the population is concentrated in those four cities.

If they all suck so much, you would think that the middle class would be sprawling and making edge cities like there's no tomorrow. There has to be something keeping them from doing that and replicating Twain in a thousand different variations. One or two of them might even work and scale up, draining population from other areas. So why isn't this process going on?
A mix of reasons:

- Lack of transport. Cars are slightly uncommon: if you own a personal vehicle, you're likely either a fanatic willing to pour stupid amounts of resources into it (like Roger and the racers) or upper-middle class. People own cars in pools or take public transport. This makes suburban-style commuting markedly less attractive... and moving notably trickier.

- The middle class is somewhat insulated from the suckage (though less so in St. Louis, and increasingly less so in Kieselburg.) And as usual, the upper class is entirely insulated, and the lower class has no way to leave and no resources to do anything when they get there.

- The suckage is institutional. It's not particularly nicer in the rural areas -- in many of them, it's worse. Politically the Regional Councils get trampled by the City Councils, and small town corruption is no less ugly or more fun than inner city corruption (see also: Hampton, Florida, since it's been in the news a bit lately). If you wanted to spawn a new city you'd be going through the same bureaucracy and dealing with the same corrupt government, and likely you'd end up in the same old place.

- They sort of are spawning edge cities, except the trend is to move up, not out. Kieselburg is... sort of a mushroom shape. :) There's a lot of floating 'suburbs', gated communities a lot of the time, orbiting the outer edges, close enough to make public transit still work but far enough to get some separation from the city. The further out, the more wealthy the suburb, in general, as the closer-in ones slowly get subsumed into the city proper.

- And our old friends inertia and opportunity. Kieselburg is big and has a lot of opportunities. Twain might be less corrupt, but it's because there's less to corrupt -- it has the reputation as a backwater, and there's not a ton of jobs or money or opportunities (Portland, in certain years, isn't a bad analog: cool town, but the economics are not so cool.) Without a center of opportunity to gravitate to besides 'it might suck less than here', people tend to bed down and convince themselves that whatever's going on won't affect them or isn't that bad. And realistically, on a day-to-day basis, it's not: Kieselburg isn't great, but it's probably not much worse than, say, Miami, and considerably better than Rio de Janeiro or (at times in the past 20 years) Moscow. People get used to things. It doesn't make them right... just makes them people.

What's the deal with St. Louis?
St . Louis is in a situation similar to, say, Palestine, or Belfast in the eighties and nineties: periods of calm broken with brief, intensely exciting periods of not-fun. It's disputed territory between New Ozark (of which Kieselburg is the capital), the Republic of Jakestown, and the city militia (l'milice), who thinks both sides are assholes. There are occasional strafing runs from Jakestown whenever that conflict heats up, or strikes from New Ozark when Jakestown manages to get some territory and hold it, but more frequently you're seeing relatively low-tech l'milice bombings followed by retaliatory action from New Ozark. The city's been under military occupation for decades but it doesn't seem to be helping much.

The shelter system was set up by Jakestown during its occupation and has been added to, sporadically, by both sides during their respective occupations, but realistically it's maintained by l'milice. Civilian loss of life is actually pretty low from the bombings per se, but there's a lot of collateral deaths and maimings (like the kid picking up unexploded munitions that Lena talked about once) and the constant smashing of infastructure is slow death. And l'milice, while somewhat more civic-minded than l'affaires, are still not nice people particularly.

So yeah. Street level St. Louis vs. street level Kieselburg is pretty much frying pan vs. fire.

What is the relation of Port Town to the Green Wharves?
The Wharves are ground level and lakeside. Bodies of water aren't hugely trade-worthy in this setting anyway, and in the case of Kieselburg it's simply an elderly hydroelectric dam that they're sitting right beside, so lakeside property doesn't have a lot of value save aesthetic (which, given what the good citizens of Kieselburg tend to dump in the lake, most prefer to appreciate from a greater distance.) The Wharves ended up there because at the time the Sunlander refugee camps were founded it was a low-value area. As time has passed and the population has grown, it's expanded out over the lake somewhat because, essentially, there was no other direction to go.

Porttown is an entirely different and much higher-up section encompassing both the spaceport and the predictable mess of businesses that have grown up to service Kieselburg's meager tourist industry and the not-so-meager demands of starship crews and offworld mercenaries on shore leave. It's Lowtown less by location than by reputation: it's a very rough part of town, with the decent establishments far outweighed by bars, casinos, strip clubs, bordellos, and the like. It's neither as decadent nor as organized as La Rue (think less Las Vegas showgirls and more biker bar) but between that and revenues from the spaceport itself, it's a notable cash cow.

Why isn't there a revolutionary movement currently active in kieselburge, if the Uptowners we've seen are the cream of the elites?
There are several revolutionary movements active in Kieselburg and New Ozark as a whole. But none of them (save the Tallboy Revolution) have really managed to get things off the ground.

There's a couple of problems. One is basic apathy -- a lot of the population takes the view that politics is upper-class bullshit so why bother even trying or paying attention. Another is l'affaires. Not that l'affaires has much taste or patience for the upper class, but they've consistently bled off the smartest and most motivated of those being the most screwed by the current system by involving them in a criminal underground that operates in a stable parallel with Uptown. Tom Thorn's Business has usurped a certain amount of the power the politicians consider their own, and that's resented, but it's also acted as a weirdly stabilizing force.

A final issue is what shape the theoretical revolution would take, and that's the one where many people get nervous, because New Ozark is sitting right up against a Leagua country and a decent percentage of the revolutionary activity is pro-Leagua. The Leagua promotes what is basically a stratified false meritocracy with the descendants of bluebloods firmly on top, the human-normals in the middle, and the former slave races down on the bottom in a new virtual slavery. (Cyborgs are, uh, somewhere underground.) So you end up with one of those weird deal-with-the-devil situations where people end up propping up the current government more than it deserves simply because the alternative is potentially worse.

Why is the New Ozark government splitting the Sunlander vote up rather than gathered up in one district, where they happily vote in one of their own who is overwhelmed and ineffective and excluded from anything of consequence in the legislature?
There are apparently semi-official terms for this stuff -- 'packing' is the method TMLutas is talking about, 'cracking' is what I and antikytheros have been describing. Cracking is being employed here for a few reasons. One, while New Ozark is not in the least a one- or two-party system, it is the sort of system where all governments are formed by coalition. Getting a majority can very easily come down to a handful of seats. Having two or three wards (wards are population-based; there's no way they could pack all the Sunlanders into a single ward without revising their Constitution) in a wild-card situation where they would likely join any coalition that offered better rights to Sunlanders could throw a potentially very severe wrench into the works. Unfortunately for the Sunlanders, nobody who sees this as an advantage has yet gotten enough power to revise the electoral wards.

Two, the Sunlanders are not being entirely smart about this: if they can't vote in 'their' candidate, they won't vote at all. There is a prevailing view that government is a cangrejo game, and the only way to win is to not play -- to give them no power, no say, to chase out any government that tries to operate in the Greenwharves but otherwise to ignore them, to treat all cangrejo -- even potential allies -- as the enemy. In a way this has worked: the government is perfectly happy to let the Sunlanders alone in return for political apathy. But it means sacrificing their potential power as kingmakers. There's some elements in the Wharves who see the advantage and are trying to turn things around, and if they do, the Kieselburg government may indeed find their 'cracking' strategy has bitten them in the butt. But at the moment the spread-out Sunlanders are essentially dead weight, non-voters, in their wards.

And finally... one of the prevailing undercurrents of a great deal of the racism against Sunlanders -- one of the primary beliefs of the Leagua, which does have significant power in Kieselburg, and has managed to spread this line of thought far beyond its actual allies -- goes like this: they were created to be slaves. They are inferior. And they aren't capable of self-rule. This idea -- that Sunlanders are actually unable to govern themselves -- is deep-rooted in most of the government's attitudes and policies towards Sunlanders, and even a single Sunlander politician would be a massive, unthinkable threat to it, because if they were even semi-competent that myth would become almost impossible to shore up. As antikytheros says -- it gives them a platform and visibility. It gives them legitimacy. And at this point most of New Ozark's political elite would respond to that with a gut-level, reflexive 'no.'


Are there 'bad saints'?
Depending what you mean by bad, the answer is differently yes. Humans are really good at glorifying shitty behavior, so most groups of 'bad' people have an iconic figure that puts a good spin on their racist/xenophobic/criminal/greedy/violent/etc. behavior. I'm pretty sure everyone can come up with a real life example quite easily, but Google 'narco-saints' if you're interested in seeing this sort of thing in the making.

There are also the bargaining saints. This is a very grey area because people try and bargain with almost all saints to a degree, but there's a few for whom very large, very ugly bargains are iconic. The saint known simply as the Fiddler, for example, gives material wealth and power, but takes immaterial things -- like the love of one's family, or sanity -- as his price, as well as claiming the soul of the bargainer. (Anyone familiar with a certain branch of folklore will recognize the roots here....) Or there's Bel Bel, the Two-Faced saint, who lets you exchange your own death for the death of an enemy. Note that you don't have to pray to get these saintly, um, gifts: actions are considered as good or better than words in matters of religion. If the war had gone differently, and both Darwin and Murdoch had died, people would simply have said that Darwin pledged his soul to Bel Bel.

And then there's the punishing saints. As with the bargains, most saints have a punisher aspect, but there's a few that are defined more by who they go after than who they protect. Mary Mercy, the death saint who I've mentioned before, is the primary one of these: she exacts revenge for 'unclean' deaths (slow death, death by torture, mass killings, and treasonous killings, among other things) both in this life and -- if you don't properly pay back the debt -- by claiming your soul when you die. Erin Hungry-Eyes punishes the greedy (again, in life and death), and there are plenty of very, very successful businessmen who set aside a bit of every deal 'to feed Erin'. Black Mac goes after oathbreakers. And so on.

These latter two types aren't 'bad' saints exactly -- they're not pleasant, you don't want their attention, but they aren't considered evil per se; even the bargaining saints are simply extracting price for value paid. But they may be closer to what you're looking for.

How do the saints receive the young and murdered?
Depends on how young. With infant deaths, there's a certain amount of debate (among Universalists) as to their fate; some say they're so unmarked by life that they go back into the Well and are reborn, while others say it doesn't matter how short the twig or small the leaf, all bring equal glory to the Tree. Both infants and children are the provence of Mary Grace.

Where childhood begins and ends is another story. Many of the gangster-types would be children in our society, but they're considered adults by theirs. If the priest decided to name a saint for such a child-death, and had determined (gently and subtly) that the parents didn't have a different saint in mind, he would probably call on Robin le Loup -- a local variant on Robin Hood. The legend, as always, has been rather updated and mixed up with others, but the essential core remains attractive and flattering to those on the wrong side of the law, and it's a common way to put a more positive spin on a dead youngster's involvement in shady business.


That far into the future, do they still have doors one can claim to have walked into? (in reference to this strip)
Most doors in Lowtown don't [swish open], at least in the residential areas; if they were supposed to, they've long since stopped operating. And oddly, most doors in Uptown don't. They're automated to a degree, yes, but they're built to look and operate like old-fashioned doors. 'Swish' style doors are ubiquitous in shops, malls, middle-class housing and apartment buildings, Porttown, and any kind of public buildings, with the result that they're seen as 'common', and swinging doors (often quite technologically advanced ones) are a mark of class.

So Kris might think it was a quite poorly programmed door, to let Lena walk into it, but it would seem like a perfectly logical explanation. If you're, um, Kris.

What's with some of the characters wearing glasses?
The glasses worn by some of the characters (Quinn, Grace, Aime) are essentially a futuristic palm pilot, capable of recording data, taking visual calls, and streaming whatever data you like directly onto their lenses. They're not terrifically common in Lowtown, however, because they're very easy to steal; most people stick with the bracelet-and-earring rigs, which, while less powerful and convenient, aren't as likely to take a walk.

If the glasses are the viewer [in a visual call], where is the camera?
There two options. The first is that if your viewer is within range of a camera that you have access to, it'll interface with that and send live footage. The second is that there isno camera -- the glasses simply pop up a stock picture of you, which saves worrying about how you look. If you upload some footage of yourself talking, the more sophisticated models will attempt to make your picture's mouth move in an appropriate way, although there is a direct correlation there between 'expense of software' and 'creepy weirdness'.

Regarding flashpaint, I frankly do not see why a normal overt military force would develop something like that?
Well, it's used for traps of one sort or another... lure a group of combatants into a flashpaint area and then shoot into it, lure them in and wait for one person to shoot, et cetera. But it's mostly used to 'paint' a target for air strikes. I mentioned once, back when I was talking about what Zeke did (oh god that was a long time ago), most military weapons still don't do as well as you'd like with precision when the target is in an urban area, a swampy/watery area, underground, et cetera -- and a lot of the Kieselburg military's current conflict fits into those categories -- particularly the urban one. So to avoid those unfortunate 'we killed who we wanted and also several dozen photogenic civilians' incidents, they'll send in a brave idiot with a pint or two of flashpaint (in a rupturing bag -- generally the idea is to throw the paint at the wall and run away quick, not stand there delicately painting it on or anything). Then they shoot a low-power beam. Whatever they actually hit suffers minor damage, and as long as it hits in the general area of the flashpoint, the intended target goes up quite impressively.

I have no idea if this actually works from a military standpoint, mind you, I just hear about drone strikes on the news and think a lot. :)

The Empire

Are sidearms standard issue for all Imperial personnel?
Sidearms are standard for all Imperials stationed in Kieselburg. They're an elite force, so they are expected to use the damn things, and in the same way that they're all required to wear their armored uniform all the time Kieselburg is considered just too dangerous to walk around unarmed. Rather like police, though, they all know they're going to be facing massive piles of paperwork just for firing the thing, much less hitting anyone. And the Empire has really sophisticated methods of tracking that.



I've noticed that your stories seem to feature a quite inordinate number of people who either are or have been involved in some military organisation or another. Is this because the culture you're describing is excessively militarised, because the Sunset Grill is the local watering hole for veterans (possibly due to the proprietors), or is it just because veterans make up a large part of the main characters' social network (and/or have more interesting stories to tell than the civilian patrons)?
Kinda 'all of the above'. I like my setting, but it's easiest (and most interesting) to write about people who are moving or have moved through various layers of said setting easily. In my area at least (rural America) there's only a very few ways to 'get out' if you're born poor -- mostly it's school, sports, or the military, with the military by far the most commonly successful. You want to find a veteran in a factory town? Throw a rock. ;) And once I had two veterans, in the form of Sal and Ana, the others seemed to... accrete.

Making the Comic

How long does it take you to make a character with DAZ?
A couple of hours usually -- a bit less time if they're just a one-time character and I don't care how they look, a bit more if they're 'unusual' by DAZ standards (middle-aged or older, children, non-skinny, non-white.. the range of body types most people using these models want is apparently limited.) Once they're done, though, I can just change their clothes and merge them into scenes, which is rather a massive time-saver.

Do most of the women really need to have improbably large breasts?
Ah, the breast problem... the trouble here is that most of the model-makers have certain... assumptions. I do okay with the base models (or at least I think I get a range of sizing... another problem with not having an artistic background: sometimes my sense of perspective is a bit off), but the clothing options start at OMG and skintight -- it takes careful searching and work to get it down to merely indecent. I have a vast shortage, basically, of clothing that I personally would wear out in public, and I'm not quite good enough to fix it.

And yeah, even when the base sizing is there... Lena, for example, is supposed to have big boobs. She's got the body type where big boobs come with the territory. But getting the rest of her body correctly portrayed is a struggle, because while the model-makers are perfectly happy to provide you with 8 (!) separate morphs to make big boobs, my options for waist size are limited to 'nonexistant' and 'obese'. Thanks, morph-making people, that's not limiting at all.

Finally there is what's known in 3D as 'boob cling'. Clothing is made by basing it on the model's geometry, which means there's a dip between the breasts that naked chests have and clothes don't. Good creators fix this; lazy creators don't. And because the same 3D community will go absolutely bonkers complaining about barely-noticible texturing bumps as 'destroying the realism' is largely mute on boob cling (or even want it. No, I don't get it either), there are a lot of lazy creators.

From 2013 on, this gets better, because the newer model (Genesis) incorporated much better morph support and a wonderful vendor named Sickleyield put out a product that fixed boob cling for good. HOORAY.