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Pick your Paranoia

UPDATE: Wednesday's comic and the first Patreon comic for this week will be up around this evening. My son graduated kindergarten yesterday, and that coupled with misc end-of-school-year meetings with teachers and getting my kids ready to see their mom for half the summer, kinda blew a hole in my work time yesterday. Plugging away as we speak. ;D I can't tell you what's at the end of all those clickbaits, but I can say, it'll never live up to expectations. Just a note on future story planning. We're nearing the end of Chapter 4, and heading into 5. This chapter was originally supposed to end with us a good ways into Ellie's next job oppurtunity. With the addition of the Patreon comics being retroactively added to this chapter, chapter 4 would be unbelievably long when it's all said and done. Does that honestly matter? Not really. But I'm moving The Royal Buckingham's storyline to chapter 6. Five will be Ellie's next job, and her first real love interest, and any other finalizing I need to do to set up Pumpkin's 16th Birthday for 6. I'll be pushing to tie up as many loose ends as I can in these next two chapters since Chapter 7 involves a time jump of about a year and a half. I did a vote a few weeks ago on what everyone wanted the next storyline for the Patreon comics to be about, and the Ginger/Juniper plot won, with Cinnamon/Ellie coming in second. I atually decided to do both. Ginger/Juniper will be on Patreon and Cinnamon/Ellie will be here on the site about half way through the next chapter. So my Chapter notes thus far for Arc 1 are: 1. To The Wolves 2. Hating you Back 3. Interconvention 4. Room with a Viewcount 5. My Other Me 6. The Royal Buckinghams 7. Deadbeat Club 8. Death by Proxy 9. Roomers 10. Shotgun Shuffle

193 thoughts on “Pick your Paranoia

  1. Cars….is a surprisingly informed choice. I’ve read several things on Cracked (.com) about how freedom of transportation is something that a lot of moderately well-off folks take for granted that less financially-stable people have to struggle with. Most of the areas with common, cheap public transportation also tend to be cities, which are by nature more expensive, so you either live somewhere cheap where you can’t get a job or find jobs that you don’t have access to.

    Obviously insurance and gas cost money, but if Ellie and Quinn are smart and get something not to pricey (used, maybe) and reliable, this could open up new doors (for Ellie) and leave Quinn less dependent on douchebag boyfriends.

    A surprisingly intelligent choice.

      1. The difference between me being five minutes late because I left five minutes late versus forty-five minutes late because I was five minutes late and had to catch the next bus is something that I, admittedly, take for granted.

        Ellie and the “cleavage don’t fail me now” job attempt was another pointer. As I recall the time it took to get between that restaurant and apartment or other job options by bus was part of the problem with the hours.

        1. There may be possible questions about where the car came from with her family. That, and their name is already connected to the site via Barrel. Barrel would be the supposed patient zero for the information getting out. It was through him that Danny and Ellie came to know about each other. It will be through Barrel and O’Jacks that some of the others may come to know about the “site”.

        2. Not to mention that Tiredguy was one of the folks that found the site as they started ramping up- I can just imagine how he’ll try to use that to get the girls kicked out.

        3. I had forgotten about Tired Guy, however, he can be forced to silence through stalking and criminal tresspass if he were to attempt coming forward. He would be connected through Danny boy and his stupidity.

        4. If they agree to a shared car, near zero questions. They can each tell people it belongs to the other, and probably Ian would know and Barrel might guess the truth. We know Ellie doesn’t go home much (or at least hadn’t for months before her birthday), and there may still be a belief on the home front that she’s working harder than they’ve normally seen (which doesn’t take much, and would’ve been on plenty of “cons” for the past two months). If she ends up with a decade old Corolla or Civic, I think they might believe it was from savings (assuming they don’t think too hard about the phone contract). Quinn would have an even easier time, as her father is really the only one in her family with a clue to her finances and he doesn’t have the whole picture and was in Syria last we heard (~6 months ago comic time). If her brother shows up he might start asking and could potentially discover, but he’s not here at the moment. Once again, an older, worse looking car would be easier to pass off.

          Barrel would know Ellie’s name and could post it, but once he gets the drift that this was illegal I doubt he’ll want to stick his head up. Tired Guy is likely to bring things up to the landlord, but it’s hard to say if he’d go for putting their identity out there online or not, it just depends how much he wants Quinn out versus wants Quinn hurting (kind of a dislike vs true hate sort of question). Eustice also knows, and assuming he remembers Ellie’s name from less than one shift as coworkers, I could see him slipping, but I also think it’s unlikely he remembers her last name at the least (or even the first by now, we’re getting close to a year comic time later). Ian knows their names but wouldn’t out them.

          So while I think they’ll still have issues, with the possible exception of Tired Guy if he’s more in the hatred than pragmatism direction, I also they’re more likely to be outed online by random future people they meet or someone who was on the site that we don’t know for certain was on the site (such as Alex, for whom it would be in character for him to attempt sexual blackmail in lieu of not outing them, outing them out of spite, or outing them in the process of pressing charges for assault; we just don’t know for certain if he knew about the site or not).

    1. I’d personally specify enough cash for a new car, then buy used and bank the rest for emergencies. Best of both worlds!

      1. Maybe? You don’t have to like all their articles, but some of them give good perspective, I think. Even if you don’t rush out and donate all your money to charity, it gives you something to consider.

        And the sense of perspective comes on multiple levels.
        For example there’s also the article from a foreign aid worker that describes how the rate of car ownership in some places is about 1 per village, which is a good reminder that even the bottom of the heap in American is still significantly better than several billion people elsewhere.

        1. Just seems like every time I see John Cheese show up on Cracked he’s talking about being poor. It’s an important issue and it could use some visibility, but he has a tendency to stick to that topic to the exclusion of pretty much every other topic.

        2. Well, have you ever heard of “write what you know”? John Cheese, if his stories are true, has the true perspective of what it’s like to be poor and what it’s like to be a drunk.

          If it bugs you, avoid stuff by John Cheese. Me, I read his lists, but I don’t binge-read them. One or two at a time is enough, and then I’ll look at funny cats or something.

        3. This can’t be the only response. I’d like to see John Cheese do some other topics. Yes, I know he has a history of growing up poor and drunk but that CAN’T be all he knows. He’s GOT to be able to address something else, and I’d hate for the only reasonable response I can have here to be “stop reading John Cheese.”

    2. While cars do provide improved mobility, am leery of the choice. They are so cash strapped now that they are using single ply toilet paper, and they want to add gas, insurance (1st car for Ellie at least, so not cheap), and the inevitable maintenance to their bank accounts?

  2. As unfortunate as the implications are, Ellie is completely correct here. It certainly doesn’t feel “right” that Danny is going to get off with nothing more than being fired by Caleb after that gross violation of privacy, but in the world we live in you have to pick your battles if you want to survive. I don’t think they’ll get cars, but hopefully they get *something* worthwhile out of this.

    1. Well, if Caleb can keep the $40k that Danny put in his account, he could easily get a couple of decade-old Corollas or Civics (and those’ll run for 15-20 years, especially if one of them gets on good terms with someone who can help fix them) and still be under $20k spent (a couple of years ago I looked up blue book value for a 15 year old Corolla that should be good for another 100k miles and found that if it were in mint condition it wouldn’t have hit $3k, so considering I’d have been lucky to have gotten half that, it went to the family pool of spare vehicles instead of being a trade-in). If they’re dumb enough to go for flashy over dependable, those depreciate much faster (I’ve heard some GM SUV’s being about half price at 3-5 years old).

      The question I see for the girls is how much Caleb wants to get a settlement and how much of the $40k he thinks he can keep.

      I’m not sure Quinn is the best negotiator for this, though. I suspect Ellie could do a better job, as she’s had more practice and is more socially aware than Quinn.

      1. There would be no way that I would be walking away from this without a car with less than 500 miles and more than two years old. Plus, there would be a company set up to take care of the taxes and ownership of the car, along with insurance for five to ten years, until the cost of the insurance (full coverage) Is less than 10% of the recipient’s income after taxes. At that point, the recipient will take over insurance. At that time, the car will become a lease to own for a term of one year, the amount of the lease already having been given gratis by said holding company. After the one year period, respectfully, the recipient will take over ownership of said vehicle to include taxes and insurance. The holding company will pay for the transfer of the titles at that time.

        Gas will be provided at a start of two tanks of gas per month for the first year, one tank for the next two years, afterwards, said recipients will take over payments for the vehicles fuel.

        1. If at any time, the recipient(s) are the cause of an accident, there will be no additional assistance. If however, the recipient(s) are not the cause of the accident, but found by the police to not be at fault, then the company will arrange for another vehicle to be purchased within two model years to correlate to the closest to matching the above criteria.

        2. Three points against your argument:

          1) If they hold for something too high/far, that pushes negotiations to finish and they all go a route that they don’t want. Something like you’re describing is way too expensive.

          2) The ongoing coverage for insurance and maintenance sounds nice and all, but adds a continued connection and possibly leaves the title in Caleb’s hands. Better to avoid, and argue for comprehensive 5 year warranty as part of the car purchase and lump sum cash for insurance based upon Quinn’s last insurance costs for an estimate.

          3) Nicer/newer car will be much harder to explain, and bringing up questions leads to people investigating, which may lead to discovery of the site, which is what they want to avoid. Something more easily explained is a wiser choice.

        3. Anyone who sees the car and asks questions. So people who knew them prior to the acquisition of the car (or even new acquaintances if they got a $100k car or something). The flashier it is, the more people would notice. The more expensive it is, the more people will wonder how the hell they got it. Even if they don’t get to the site, that kind of thing could lead to uncomfortable assumptions being made about them (such as being the type to cozy up to sugar daddies for toys, which could once again lead in two directions for how people would treat them).

          This is where I say a ten year old Corolla or Civic would be their best choice. Reliable, good gas mileage, reasonable on insurance, and cheap enough that people wouldn’t need anything too grand in the way of explanations to ignore the appearance.

  3. Well…bonus points for moxie, but I still would’ve gone after the equity stake. A car is awesome now and will be for the next five years or so until it becomes a broken-down rattletrap. An equity stake will likely last much longer and be worth more because it’s in Caleb’s own best interests to keep the business going. We’ve just seen him willing to bribe strangers to keep it aloft, so we KNOW he’s not going to fold it up before it’s impossible to do otherwise.

    1. He has a web-based company. It would be nothing to fold it up and start a different one. He just doesn’t want to get sued or proper criminal charges which would actually hinder him from getting another business license.

      1. Point taken. It would likely take some serious language to ensure that that couldn’t happen, though it has to exist given the sheer number of companies out there that settle out of court. It’s a sufficiently large number to ensure that things like JG Wentworth exist. That’s part of what they want to avoid, getting lawyers involved.

        1. Determination to keep a company afloat doesn’t necessarily equate to profits. Ellie did look at Caleb’s site at least a little, and even if discounting everything that Danny did regarding her, probably doesn’t have a great opinion of its’ prospects. Lump sum payment and closing the whole thing has some advantages in requiring only waiting for the check to clear (which, if done with a physical object as opposed to cash does turn into when the object is in their possession and title is signed over to them).

        2. J.G. Wentworth exists because they are able to convert all or part of a settlement and such into either a partial or full lump sum payment based upon the settlement offer or other financial agreement that the individual is needing to liquidate part or all of their stock in.

      2. The cars are foothold to their own career prospects, rather then relying on… these guys… for future revenue. Guys whose judgement has proven so epically good. :P

    2. Well, remember their goal: they want to avoid being connected to this in any way. An equity stake means that they are attached to the company (and people), even if they themselves aren’t the subjects anymore. Thats actually even *more* ammo for potential drama in regards to their parents, and probably more drama in general than either of them would want. Having cars bought for them (as opposed to being given funds which they might have to pay taxes on, or be asked why they didn’t pay taxes on) allows them to get something of value out of the exchange, with no strings attached.

      1. Good point on the tax thing. If you receive cash, YOU are expected to pay the taxes on it. If you want an extra amount of cash, to pay those taxes, then that gets added to the original amount, which then is taxed…

        But, a car has it’s taxes and fees payed as part of the transaction. No one really cares who is paying, as long as it’s payed.

        A point that no one seems to bring up: if there is an out of court settlement, which this would be, the party doing the paying is usually seen as the one at fault. And, although that part of the settlement is usually agreeing that no one is “at fault”, most will see it as an admission of guilt. (i.e. If you were innocent, you would fight it out to the bitter end, no matter the cost.)

        1. There shouldn’t be any taxes on this money, as it would not be considered income. Look at people who receive insurance claims because of accidents.

        2. Yeah, but they’re settling a civil dispute without court. It’s not the same thing as insurance, which is contractually enforced and probably has an explicit exemption, and they’re avoiding the legal system all together.

        3. No, I mean they’re probably going to do it without any legal record, binding contract, etc.

        4. There is an income below which you don’t owe any tax. I don’t remember what the value is, but for some reason $17k sticks in mind.

          Granted, I think what I’m remembering is wages where an employer is paying payroll tax on you, so possibly this would have some other required tax.

          Also if done in cash then it’s not uncommon for the income to never be reported. Not that I think it’d be particularly wise or save to have several grand in the apartment in cash, though if each of them put a single $2k deposit in their own bank account (especially if they didn’t have one and are starting a new one) it could probably manage to be overlooked.

        5. Considering that there have been several “Stacking” seizures having been made against alleged money launderers, who by all other means have not done anything illegal except having multiple deposits of less than $10,000.00 in cash. Banks are required to make reports of deposits of more than $10,000.00. One of the stories that I read up on was about a small, rural grocery owner somewhere in an East Coast state. His daughter or niece was taking the daily deposits to the bank. According to the story, the girl was told to make less than $10,000.00 for each deposit by one of the tellers of the bank. If more than $10K, then the bank would have to file paperwork with the federal authorities. So, who knows at what level that people are looked at by a financial institution? 10K is the reporting limit, but at what point below that, etc., etc.? Makes me think of either a Hitchcock or Christie movie where their was a key under the carpet on a set of stairs of a London Townhouse where the wife was under investigation of murder and her key was confiscated into evidence. The husband was spending money that it seemed that he did not have. . .

        6. I doubt Caleb will be willing to spend more than $20k, and I can’t see him spending more than $30k at all. Remember he can still counter with recorded evidence of a vicious assault which might just find it’s way uploaded to YouTube, so I see attempts to get too greedy backfiring.

          When I said deposits of around $2k, I meant a single deposit, as I think $5k is about as much as they would want to have as cash, and $2k each in their own accounts and $500 each in cash on hand isn’t too unreasonable. I definitely think a 19 year old setting up a first bank account with $2k as an initial deposit wouldn’t cause anyone to bat an eye (and if she picked a male teller then she could keep him from paying too much attention anyway), nor would it trigger anything computer-wise. That’s a reasonable amount for a, “Someone convinced me to stop just saving cash under my mattress after several months” sort of stories.

        7. He cant counter with that. He himself shouted what evidence. He pulls that, and he ties himself into Danny boy’s federal charges, pulls himself into the court system etc etc. He does not have the high ground here.

          Besides, only a proctologist would ever pull that out.

        8. No, he can’t directly tie himself to that by handing it to the police out of the blue. However posting it anonymously to some other video sharing site (i.e. not his and Vu’s) that’s public and then calling in an anonymous tip about someone posting a person being assaulted from one of the rapidly disappearing pay phones as he leaves town he could certainly pull off. He could ask Vu to post it through Tor while he’s still in Florida and pay a bum to make the call if he wanted to distance himself a bit farther. Heck, state police in Florida might have an online anonymous tip website he could upload it to for that matter.

          He can absolutely counter with it. He loses the high ground if he leads with threatening it, but as a counter to an outlandish request like a couple of new Ferrari, then he can counter it as a, “Let’s keep this reasonable” sort of ploy and doesn’t lose any high ground that wasn’t already out of reach.

          But actually, the best way to counter with that is to tell them he has the video saved on the server in a conspicuous place that will be quickly and easily found if someone subpoenas the server. Lakeland probably wouldn’t be strong enough to have a cybercrime division in their PD, so it’d probably go to state or federal (federal if server is in another country), so Herb wouldn’t be able to try to hush it up as easily. Basically tell them that if the site gets investigated, he’s going to make sure that video of them brutally assaulting Alex is part of the public record and they can deal with the consequences of that. Then tell them to pull their requests back down to earth and talk something reasonable.

        9. If so my response is that I have no clue as to what categories of income mean what and where an out of court settlement payment would land (if not hidden). The basic 1040 form has at least half of a full side of a page for different types of incomes that you’re supposed to report. Considering that settlements can get pricy, I’d assume Uncle Sam would insist on a cut, but that’s pure speculation.

          The different types of income to report and all the different deduction possibilities which take up >3/4 of the 1040 form is why I always laugh when people want to argue a flat tax would simplify income tax in the US. Regardless of the arguments for & against flat taxes, looking up a number in a table was never the complicated part of doing my taxes by hand (hence the laughing and/or head shaking), so arguments that just changing that would simplify anything are disingenuous.

    3. *boggles*

      Um…its important to remember what’s at stake here. Caleb has video footage of the two of them felony assaulting, with no provocation, (and, if the whisk implication is accurate, raping) Alex. They, by contrast have Danny on trespassing and related felonies, and Caleb for the cover up. They are MUCH more at risk than Caleb is. (Without going through details, suffice to say it would be trivial to put away anyone in that room once everyone started talking.)

      However, the American legal system is a terrifying and psychotic beast. Coming to its notice is one of the worst things that can happen to a person, and everyone involved in the scene knows that. Consequently, Caleb is willing to deal.

      They are gambling that he’d rather lose ~20k – ~100k, depending on the niceness of the two cars, than suffer the legal system’s attention. Whether that’s true or not depends on two things. 1. Is he a rational actor, who takes the course that benefits him most regardless of whether it hurts them. 2. Does he have that kind of money. Its a heck of a gamble, really really reckless.

      And you want them to ask for more? Equity stake wouldn’t just be asking that he give them assets it’d be asking, that he be in a business relationship with two spectacularly unstable criminals, who the Barrels of the world have dirt on and can blackmail at any time.

        1. I was just doing some archive crawling yesterday and I assure you others do.

          @Kenju – avatar collision. Walter’s e-mail (or user name if no e-mail) just translates to a number that’s an integer multiple of the number of random avatars Rusche uploaded different from what your does.

          @Walter – Caleb may be a bit gunshy considering cross-citizenship and the degree local investigations will favor Ellie, and I suspect he knows that fighting the whole thing will likely wipe him out completely even if he gets off scott free at the end. Also I think you over-estimate the cost of a couple of serviceable used cars. Asking for cars right off like that, aside from being bad negotiating on their part by not asking him what he’s offering to make go away on his side or demanding to see some of the internals of the site (assuming either of them feel confident in examining) before getting to payment, potentially shows a certain pragmatism in their desires. That pragmatism could play to his advantage for cost of cars, as he can point out that he’s not going to agree to get them both sports cars (along with what they’d have to pay in insurance), but that some used cars of a proven reliable line is going to get them reliable transportation longer at lower cost of operation than something flashier and bigger. Also since it’s an opening salvo, he might be able to talk them into one car to share with the title in both of their names as opposed to separate cars.

        2. Or, he could start up a taxi service in Lakeland, making Danny boy the manager for every conceivable problem. Because it would be through that taxi company that the money would be coming to take care of the girls. And they would have a chauffeur 24/7/365.

        3. I can’t imagine the girls wanting to agree with continued contact with Danny and giving him a good idea of their regular schedules.

        4. I think you’re letting your desire for bad things happening to Danny cloud your picture of reality and likelihoods. Also Caleb might be dumb enough to think he can tell Danny to do something and he will, but I doubt Ellie and Quinn are dumb enough to believe he won’t just skip town first chance he gets and set up a new identity in a new state.

      1. The girls were defending themselves against a stalker who has been shown to have a disdainful and unhealthy attitude against certain women.

        1. Alex is very dislikable, but however morally deserved a beating was, that wouldn’t be likely to pass muster in a court of law as proportionate to the actions he was involved in at the time. The best I think they could hope to get would be not guilty by reason of temporary insanity due to being enraged by his past actions and the way he brought them up with his current actions. I’m not sure how much that’s actually a real and valid defense, though, as opposed to something for fiction.

        2. Its so weird to just run into victim blaming straight on, no hint of irony. Like, you always think that no one would really say something like that. Its always third person.

          And honestly,….I don’t even know how to respond to a non-ironical “maybe she shouldn’t have worn such revealing clothes” style comment. They were DEFENDING themselves? You actually wrote that?


        3. I feel comfortable saying that would be pled out. Its rare for a case to actually go to trial these days, even without video evidence and witness testimony.

        4. With video evidence, I don’t think any state in the union would have laws authorizing that level of force for the recorded provocation. If he tried to sue for assault for leaving a nice red handprint on his cheek or even a single kick to the balls, then I don’t think that’d fly. But based upon Danny & Caleb’s reaction and the implication of the whisk usage, I don’t think walking in and being an ass would be considered sufficient.

          I suspect a good lawyer would probably try to suppress the video evidence, in questioning Alex try to seem unintentional in hitting as many male pride/do you want people to know you were beaten that badly by a girl buttons as he/she could to lower his desire for a public trial, and look for alternate provocations to point to and/or find a different defense. In the course of that they’d also be very open to plea deal negotiations.

        5. Any lawyer would have that evidence thrown out because it was not obtained legally or even illegally by the feds and their electint surveillance programs. And even if the feds did suck that tidbit down, there would be a hard enough time backtracking on their part to help someone who was kicked out of school for sexual harassment already. Besides, they probably would have saved that for the Christmas showing of “justified probing: a basic introduction” over at Area 51 for visiting alien dignitaries.

          Of course, the girls would be given priority status after our new alien overlords take over in the next presidential election.

        6. Police get evidence they couldn’t legally collect otherwise from confidential informants all the time. As long as the police weren’t the ones doing the illegal surveillance (or directly soliciting someone else to do the illegal surveillance) that wouldn’t be a problem. The attacks on it being admissible would be if Alex turned it in that he might’ve gone to their apartment with the purpose of entrapping them, or if Caleb turned it in might be with the intent of blackmail. Now if Tired Guy turned it in as a neighbor concerned about the things going on near his apartment I think it’d stand. Possibly even if he admitted that he doubted the site had their consent, but that he didn’t set up the cameras or site (which he didn’t).

          As I said above, I think you’re allowing your desire for Danny to get punished to cloud your views a bit.

        7. If the government can’t obtain the evidence with clean hands, then the whole of the American Revolution was just $h*t.

        8. You’d be far from the first person who’s expressed that sort of opinion about the state of the US today, though I don’t think that’s anything new/odd. Police have been offering immunity in exchange for testimony for a long time. If the police couldn’t use evidence offered to them without solicitation by criminals, then I can’t imagine that would work well. Honestly the jury trial is intended to be the balance there, as the jury formally decides the credibility of the witnesses in order to reach a final verdict of guilt or not. Now I will accept that the overabundance of plea deals are a bad sign that’s been getting worse recently (as I understand it, some of the “tough on crime” approaches of the 80’s that rewarded numbers led to prosecutors wanting to plea out accused to pump up their win ratio, which I also understand is the motive for inflating the charges that you’re told you’ll get if going to court).

          I’m not as negative as to think “the American experiment is over” the way I’ve heard other people talk, though the desire for safety over freedom that’s been prevailing for the last decade and a half does concern me quite a bit.

    4. An equity stake does not have to be transferred to the girls directly. A trust fund could be set up through a newly founded company that would be investing certain sums of money and such. Rain Man showed that asking questions and such could lead a determined individual to the recipients of the trust. Providing if the paper trail is short enough to lead from Caleb to a cut out to the girls.

  4. Oh, and I can’t help laughing at Ellie’s face in the last panel. All it needs is a caption that reads “THIS AM MY SERIOUS FACE” or something like that. It’s so aggressively serious that, on her, it looks ludicrous.

      1. It’s like when Christopher Lloyd showed up on “Malcolm in the Middle.”

        “I’d better put on my serious face, then.”

  5. Darn, the world Ellie describes is horrifyingly accurate……but the content farm-style title cracked me up.

    1. Yeah, Rusche doesn’t seem to let his characters have infinitely strong plot armor, so they do have to face reality more than occasionally. But he also generally includes a joke to help us readers swallow it.

  6. 110 degrees on a partly cloudy day in March, unspecified year!!! Global warming really took off…or just 2 hot chicks has managed to raise the temps in Lakeland and around the world. I can go for that.

    1. Good eye. That’s quite a lot of additional excess heat than I expected lusting after women online to produce, no matter how wildly popular.

  7. The potential consequences Ellie cites for both themselves and their families seems spot-on. I’ve got to give her props for approaching this with a level-head and not letting righteous indignation obfuscate the big picture.


    1. Yeah. It’s been firmly established Ellie’s laziness has an exception for social media, due to its usefulness as a vehicle for sloth.

      1. This situation also presents a large and difficult to predict monkey wrench for calculating best method to coast through things. Also an unfortunate monkey wrench for personal safety as well.

        Regardless of her reasons, a lot of people can’t look that unflinchingly at the negative possibilities of life. I give her props for that along with not letting her temper get the best of her for long.

  8. …When did Elli become so smart and forward-thinking? I mean, the entire premise of the comic was her unwillingness to grow up. She didn’t even know the meaning of the word “plagiarism”!

    1. Actually I was just thinking that this comic does a really good jobs of highlighting that her biggest flaw is a lack of motivation rather than talent. She’s shown smarts (recycling the flyers at the convention) and talent (getting promoted to manager) before, she just has a problem with getting started.

      Rusche is good at keeping each of the sisters well defined- and Ellie is supposed to mainly be a less-ambitious Tarra.

      1. Thinking is one of the most energy intensive things humans do. Ellie is lazy, and basically turns off her brain, at times. But, she can turn it on, when the need comes, and become a mastermind. Tarra never stops thinking, moving, acting, doing. She may not even sleep. If Ellie could, she would spend all her time on TweetFace and InstaSnap, because it takes no thought, and no physical effort. But, get her adrenalin up, and make her think and act… Get out of the way.

    2. When? Perhaps after having gone thru several jobs, struggling to keep a roommate, and now most recently having been used solely for her looks.

      IMO with that many hard-knock lessons it would be difficult to believe if she *wasn’t* wising up.

    3. Her depth of web savvy knowledge was hinted at in the early convention storyline and she spend a LOT of time farming for FB traffic.

    4. Ellie has had trouble finding a stable job lately, and she herself used to self promote on social media with her looks. Perhaps she’s already having the problems described to Quinn?? :)

    5. With laziness being her defining characteristic combined with her looks, cultivating an airhead personality isn’t surprising. I went to high school with girls who seemed to do that to avoid confrontation (which does frequently cause effort, and I’d imagine Ginger & Tarra gave her plenty of examples of how much more effort being perceived as strong willed would entail). Consider things like the help she got moving and Quinn’s grade boosting implication, and that probably encouraged the habit. I even have a cousin (male, actually) whom I’ve seen kinda’ embrace the idea he couldn’t do some of his schoolwork to get his mom to do it for him, so some degree of using that in family environment (where presumably sexual attraction does not come into play) is still feasible and happens.

      Fear of losing her job coupled with her introduction to KK (who was friendly, laid back, showed no indication of being swayed by boobs, and wanted work to generally be completed without too much mishap) could easily be the first things to push her past the ditz persona (the cousin I mentioned never ran into something he took seriously enough and wanted enough to realize he could push past it until his twenties). KK did comment that Ellie learned all the different stations/tasks on her first day.

      But even with the ditz persona she still signed Quinn’s name on the roommate agreement and followed the letter of Quinn’s statement and not the spirit in walking on her hands to raid her closet. So the ditz seems more likely cover to make her less threatening and others likely to pick up the slack than an actual limitation.

  9. Wow…I mean, WOW this is really something. Ellie didn’t just slam down on Quinn, she reasoned with her, explained things from a side that Quinn has little to no experience with and really did a good job convincing her to see things her way.

    Nothing against Quinn, I love her character to pieces, but she’s not use to this kind of thing, people looking at her as an object, at least not to the degree Ellie is. Looking back we also know Quinn has something of a negative self image and low selfesteem, so it makes sense that she never thought of herself or looked at herself as being someone that people would oogle to a degree like Ellie would. Likely due to a combination of her attitude and persona along with her average build, she doesnt get many suitors.

    Tack onto that, Ellie is no stranger to embaressment or getting dragged through the mud like would happen if this did go to court. Not because something like this has happened to her exactly, but because she comes from a very large family thats had plenty of problems over the years. Ellie has seen how things play out and what can and will happen in this kind of situation.

    Ellie is the lazy one, not the stupid one or the unobservant one, and this shows it. I also really like how she’s obviously not just looking after herself here, but Quinn. Part of me thinks she’s actually more worried for Quinn’s sake then her own, when you look at her specific warnings, ‘Local’ for me ‘National’ for you.

    Over all the impression I get from this one page is that Ellie really does care about Quinn and is looking out for her, more than just as a friend. I’ll always ship Ellie and Quinn, and could say this looks like that, which I will (it looks like that! lol) but there is also a very strong sisterly undercurrent here, and when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

    Remember back when Quinn met the sisters? They’ll fight and rip into each other plenty, but when it comes to an outside source? They’ll band together and back each other up no matter what. When it comes to them, they’ve got each others backs. So, I would say right here we’re seeing Ellie’s fully fledged ‘Big Sister Mode’ at minimum.

    1. Yup: she’s gone into a protective Zen state of ultimate clarity, here. If it was just her involved, she’d probably not be this focused. :)

      1. If it was just Ellie involved she would take them to court, hands down and not a question in my mind. I mean look at her other sisters, do you really think something like this hasnt happened to at least one if not two of them? We know that two of them cause scandle wherever they go, and a third will when it comes to Mall Santa’s lol

        1. Remember that judge is the occupation of one of their mothers and Rosemary seems more likely than than what we’ve heard of Quinn’s mom. A judge would’ve started as a lawyer (probably one involved arguing cases and not just doing researchy things like estates & contracts). So Ellie between Herb & Rosemary, Ellie might’ve heard quite a lot of dinner-time conversation about how some of these situations shake out for people in the legal system.

          I know I’ve got several doctors in my family and I’ve surprised several doctors in what is second nature for me to consider from a medical stance that apparently isn’t common. It’d make sense for Ellie to have some of that with the legal system considering her parents’ occupations.

    2. Kenju, I think you hit the nail right on the head, I was feeling the same thing- Ellie is acting very smart here. Not uncharacteristically so, after all, we already know that she’s not a perpetual ditz- she’s clever when she needs to be.

  10. Darn it! This is too reasonable an ending to this story. I want more vengeance and mayhem.
    The egg beater must come into play. :)

    1. Vu is on the cast page and hasn’t shown her face yet, so presumably there’s more to come unless Rusche is just teasing us with the cast members.

      1.      So there is hope after all. Prithee that Mr. Fleetwood is flogged and if God is to have mercy upon him then he shall be flogged some more.

        1.       Additionally, I have come up with a plan to “rehabilitate” and “reeducate” Mr. Fleetwood. My plantation has grown sugar cane, grapes, fruit orchards, and soon we are getting apiaries. Some fierce manual labor and hand intensive farming would give him some grueling, but rewarding work. I would pay him in accord to his efforts and hopefully he would be the better for it.

        1. Agreed. Danny himself said he’s against putting cams in people bathrooms and bedrooms. ;-)

  11. WHAT????? No beating for the Douche? I can see Caleb getting away with a warning and payment, but Danny so richly deserves a curbstomping of Epic proportions so badly that it enters the lexicon of conmen everywhere when whis
    pered of with a shudder and the bards will be singing of it for centuries.

    And I like that Ellie is right that in this day and age of insta info, one small error can and will impact you for the rest of your life. As it’s been said before, nothing on the web ever disappears.

    1. Consider this. Danny is likely going to be the one who pays for it. Caleb will see to that.
      So, Danny’s already reimbursed Caleb. Caleb gets away with the cost of a round trip plane ticket and some scuffed knuckles.
      Danny gets out with..nothing, after the purchase of two cars wipes him out, and he loses his job to boot.

      In fact, if I were Caleb, I’d start with knowledge of how much Danny could be taken for, and go find a pair of cars nice enough to, as close as I could eyeball it, wipe him out exactly.
      And maybe with the ice cream truck as a trade-in.

      1. With Danny crying on the other side of the lot fence screaming, “Mah BAAAAAAAABEEEEEEEE!!”

      2. I wouldn’t fire danny boy. But I’d make sure that he’s singing for his supper in the newest 24/7 web cam site. “Single eyebrowed punks who thjnk they know it all” with a minimum five year run.

      3. The fact that Danny is your Gravvy for this comment is something I find hilarious. It’s like he knows what you’re talking about and is preemptively throwing his arms up in protest.

    1. Lightly used van, Holly Hock ice cream logo, needs minor TLC, garbage hole – no need for plastic bags for your paper waste!

  12. Have to laugh at the 110 degrees Farenheit in late March on that paper. Even in Phoenix, that’s toasty.

  13. Wow, Ellie thought that through dang quick. Is her savviness just from her overuse of social media, or did things threaten to go bad when Mr. Doogan got caught and arrested?

    1. Remember that her twin got the stoopit, while Ellie got teh lazy. She can think things through, it just takes her a while.

    2. Mr. Doogan is a good catch, and definitely an area Ellie might’ve had impressed upon her the potential public consequences of pressing charges.

      As for the consequences, with her social media picture posting, she could have plenty of that already. I’m sure Rosemary found some and lectured her at least a bit. If she friended Tommy with that account then she probably got some embarrassment from Caz overhearing and participating in the conversation (and/or Tommy showing the pictures around). I’m sure she’s had the doubts of people’s motives in both directions too (did she get cut out because girl X was jealous or guy Y was worried about a conflict if his significant other noticed a coworker that looked like that; I think she knows Barrel didn’t fire her because he enjoyed looking at her, and certainly the attitude from the other day shift employees believing that would’ve come across).

  14. I love how Quinn is breaking the panel in the lower left corner. Just an simply awesome brilliant touch.

    In all honesty, I have always liked how you work your panels. They give us nice flow, but aren’t static and boring.

  15. Just found you a few days ago from the SSSSS comic. I love your comic and I don’t know how I haven’t found it sooner! I love a good webscomic but it has to have good art and good story and yours has both! It makes me wonder how many more really good ones im missing out on..lol I do find a lot during the contest which I missed htis eyar.. I dont always read the comments on comics nad have been really busy the past month ( im a sculptor ..if you ever need any figurenes made hint hint lol) so I missed the darn contest but at least I cna go back and find any comics I havent heard of before but I waonted to say congrats on winning! I htink last year I found a few good comics thru that too btu its pretty good that you beat SSSS whihc is my favorite comic I do admit.. but i have been floowing Minna since she dod her other one before SSSS.. anyways keep it up! I will be reading along..you have a new fan! I have loved this last story line and the one on black friday was good too as was the one of pumpkin and the gay girl trying to seduce her.. good for mom! lol anyways thanks!
    Oh! and I read what you did for that young artist with the sick kid and wow! that was really nice..I wish there were more people in the world like you. I know there are some out there but I wish there were more. I also like to help people and do what I can when I can so its nice to know there are more of us around. I wish the girl all the best, she is one heck of an artist! good for you and your readers for helping her out..

      1. I dunno. You’ve got an awful lot of storyline planned to not know what you’re doing.

        Admittedly, sometimes having a plan isn’t the same as having step by step directions . Sometimes it’s not even close.

        Welcome, R. Turner! Whether or not Rusche knows what he’s doing, it’s always been a fun ride!

        1. Shhhhh, that’s part of his plan. Just like cooking pasta. Throw the pot at a wall, and eat what stuck to it. Let the dog and cat have the floor noodles. They deserve that extra flavour.

  16. They out-Game Theory’d the boys, found transportation, and (God willing) will not have their names attached to those pictures. I’d want a rider that includes all gear used to host the site and an ‘oh shite’ clause that they will still sue if their names become attached to any untoward photos/videos.
    All in all, a solid play.

    1. Well I did post a settlement contract last comic; I probably should have indicated I left it incomplete so anyone else could tack on additional demands.

  17. In the future there will be so many years that we will run out of numbers and have to start using letters.

    1. Hey, isn’t this the same year that Mega Man is set in?

      I’d ask when Ellie gets a Mega Buster, but I think she already did. :D

      1. You realize there’s a difference between a comment section, even a message board and twitter, facebook and the like, no?

        1. Yeah, what Pinkk said. Big difference. This is more like signing a yearbook that continually keeps getting passed around. Social media is like ham radio in print.

        2. The difference is only in ubiquity.And unless your username quarantine protocols are absolutely flawless, everything you write in a little comment section like this will be glommed on to your larger online social profile by anyone diligent or inquisitive enough. And since the power and speed of computer systems keeps doubling, it won’t be too long before matching online personas to their particular fingerprint of phasing choice and word frequency will be a trivial, even routine, occurrence.

        3. While you do have a point, there’s still worlds between a comment section and something like a facebook or similar profile with its status updates, photos, videos etcetera.

          It’s like comparing a three geared bicycle with a Suzuki Hayabusa.

        4. And it is only easier if someone uses the same user name across all spectrum of electronic communications. The only viable connector between a person and all of their communications is the MAC.

        5. It’s the only viable connector *right now*, yes. But as I said, with Moore’s Law chugging along steadily, as it has been for decades now, in 9 years computers will have 64x the processing power they do now, and gigabit internet will be the rule, not the exception.
          Automated pattern analysis is big business *right now* and since effort follows money, and because companies want to know everything they can about the people they are hiring, in a decade the software, the hardware, and the data collection speed will all be there for anyone willing to pay for (or “pay for”) the programs to take a representative chunk of your acknowledged public output and comb the web for high-confidence matches of pattern-similar “anonymous” output. You may think you are posting anonymously *now*. You may even be correct about that. But in a decade, you will find yourself retroactively non-anonymous.
          The “good” news is that it will become increasingly non-likely that anyone will be looking any one of you up online, because the average person will be less likely to be able to be employed, as our friend Moore’s Law, coupled with companies trying to keep a competitive advantage, will be turning more and more jobs over to automation as automation gets cheaper, faster, and smarter than humans. So unless you are uniquely skilled in an area that is problematic to automate, chances are likely that you will never have to worry about an employment check, as there will not be the jobs out there for you to pursue.
          We’re living in Interesting Times, folks, and they are only going to get more and more Interesting.

  18. If the year is 20XX, I assume either mega man is gonna come in busters blazing, or that everyone plays Fox at TAS levels of perfection.

  19. I just hit the “first” button to go and look back at how much the styling changed over the years. It was so subtle that I hardly noticed. XD Definitely a great improvement though. Keep up the good work, Chris! And don’t sweat it if you fall behind by a day. Your comic is too awesome and funny for me to lose interest.

  20. Aaaah!!! No!!! I’ve reached the end…
    I’ve just read the whole archive after hearing about your comic from SSSS, because of the vote. Now that my binge-read is over, I have to wait for updates just like everybody else. I’m thinking of getting a Patreon subscription so I can binge the extra strips too…

    1. The Patreon is well worth it IMO. You get the chance to read strips a few months early plus get a warm fuzzy feeling for helping Chris and his family out. You also get to see even more comment shennannigins from some of the regulars but I don’t know if that’s a true selling point or not.

      1. I was irritated to notice that Patreon doesn’t load all the comments if you don’t log in. I’d been occasionally checking some of them over there without logging in and then a few posts ago I noticed I’d made three posts and none showed up but I logged in and they were there.

        @Stomato – You got the start of Patreon in the archives. Comics Rosemary’s Baby (09 Dec 2015) through Way Too Obvious (23 Dec 2015) were all originally Patreon comics. Past that is continued Quinn & Pumpkin bonding activities with the addition of running into Ian. Not sure how near this story is to the end and if Rusche’s announcement that Juniper/Ginger won the poll for the next story means it’s imminent or he just decided it was time to close the poll.

      2. There is not only that warm fuzzy for the side benefits of the fan based commentary of the Avengers franchise, but the Rusche-isms where we also get to help others through the combined altruisms that emminate from our Patreon backing.

  21. So…wait…we’re almost half done with Shotgun Shuffle?

    …well, I guess even good things need to finish up. Better this than the Garfield Ending.

      1. THAT’S THE POINT.

        The Garfield Ending is that THERE IS NO ENDING. It just goes on forever. And ever.

        1. Gotcha. There is definitely a certain appeal to reading a comic that you know has an ending coming. I honestly prefer it to the prospect of reading something like Superman who has been around so long and been forced to reboot so many times because of the sheer weight of the backstory collapsing in itself that the general public really doesn’t “know” the character or story, they just have a vague sense of what he’s supposed to be like.

    1. We’re less than halfway through Arc 1. I don’t remember Rusche saying how many arcs there will be, but I see no indication we’re near halfway through the whole comic run.

      1. I think I remember that at some point Chris said there were three major story arcs planned which would mean that we’re about 1/6 of the way through.

        1. …ah, well that DOES help. We’re halfway through the first arc.

          Wow that’s a lot of plotline left.

        2. Indeed it is.

          In my role of reference guy, the author post in comic Ratches (11 Oct 2013) is where Rusche mentions that the story is divided into three major arcs (the third arc branches from that comic and runs in parallel to the first and maybe the second arc). I think that comic might be the one that I’m most proud of the jokes I managed to come up with in the comments.

        3. If there are 2 1/2 more arcs to go, it would be very useful to have an index at, or exceeding, the level of the Wapsi Character Index (http://www.louisxiv.co.uk/wapsi/) which is a easy-to-search list of all characters, locations, and major themes of the webcomic Wapsi Square. One that is full-text searchable would be even better.
          All of this would be contingent upon a massive amount of volunteer know-how and labor, of course, so I’m not holding my breath.

        4. There is, of course, oh no robot to consider. It seems like it would be relatively easy to set up and we have no shortage of people willing to transcribe the archives.

        5. I’d certainly transcribe a section of archives.

          @Thor – I’ve been trying to get back to the wiki. I spent a few hours on it this past weekend. I was planning to try to start adding at least small stub pages for characters so people can find who they are and if they want to add something else have a place to add without the daunting creation of a new page. I’ve also got 8 tabs open with reference comments for various pages/people.

          I’m not one for large document editing, so I wouldn’t volunteer to do the PDF equivalent that I saw someone was keeping up on Wapsi.

  22. Through the transitive process, Mr. Blue woke up, left for lunch, ate in Lakeland, and got back in time for the last hours of bying dijon mustard at 10 for $10. But I only grabbed four. ;)

  23. So, Pumpkin isn’t 16 yet. I’m not an expert on Florida law, but I have extensively watched Miami Vice and CSI: Miami, as well as some Burn Notice, (That was set in Florida, too, wasn’t it? OK, I haven’t seen that much of it.) so an intimate relationship with Quinn is right out, until her birthday.

    And, it’s entirely my fault for not cancling the load on that YouTube page. I watched half the video, as if somehow it would get better, and stop being the B52s. But, it was the B52s, and so it got worse. I should have stopped it sooner. I should have.

    1. Depending on Quinn’s age, a relationship with Pumpkin would probably be illegal until she’s 18. Although Florida has a pretty miserable track record with female sex offenders of late, it still a bad idea. :P

      Yes, Burn Notice is in Florida and, in fact, it’s in Miami. Apparently it’s the city for you! The only other Miami show I can recall that you didn’t list was Dexter.

      1. Thank you!!! Glad to hear that we can be seeing SS for quite a bit. As long gas it does not end with the comic cutting to black only to realize they it was all in the head or Cinnys love child head while watching the Crawling Eye.

  24. Rusche, you continue to surprise and delight. The facial expressions and layout on this one are awesome. I don’t know how you do it, but keep doing your thing man.

      1. And I’m on the run, the cops got my gun
        And right about now It’s timtime to have some fun
        The King Adrock that is my name
        And I know the fly spot where they got the champagne.

    1. Also, why is no one commenting about how super cute Quinn looks in panel 1? I really like both of their appearances in this strip- it looks fantastic. The outdoor lighting and the dark of the night comes together really well.

  25. That’s bullshit and totally false. Welp I’m done with this comic for awhile it seems. No justice at all. Plus many a case regardless of who the parents are can go hush hush and have privacy. Hell having parents in higher levels of the govt. makes it even easier.

    1. I think that’s a bit harsh. IMO 2 things need to be kept in mind. 1. Ellie and Quinn are young and have been proven time and again to be flawed human beings. Ellie is perceptive in her own way but she’s not infallible. 2. Both girls were very likely raised in an atmosphere of “be careful how you behave because it may reflect badly on your parent(s).” Family image in some cases can color the way one reacts to various circumstances.

      Would I have preferred to see comedic violence unleashed upon Danny and/or hard time in prison for him? Absolutely. But I not only trust that Chris will keep things entertaining, I also don’t believe this particular issue is completely over. There were many links in the chain after all. And people like Danny tend to have karma catch up with the, eventually.

      1. I’m not so sure that Quinn lived with her father long enough to have an understanding of that. She does however have a more positive idea of her father than she does of her mother. I mean, “Mommy Dearest” isn’t just a movie title. Let us not forget KK’s statement on narcissists. However, considering the Lt. Gen’s rank, they may never have lived on base long enough together for that to take effect.

        Conversely, a soldier is responsible for 100% of what their family does. No ifs, ands, or buts. Yet, it took graduating high school for Quinn to stand up to her mother.

        It seems that Quinn may not want anything done to her father out of her love for him.

    2. I’m curious as to why you think it’s totally false? It’s been proven time and again that people can be found guilty without being guilty by the public pretty quickly with the media.

      All it’d really take is some fake personas or just asshats/Danny supporters to start saying the two of them where in on it from the beginning and there was a falling out.

      The newspaper article would likely be something else, but right now, social media and many crimes now, go the guilty until proven innocent route. Many ways this could go, but one thing Ellie was right on, they wouldn’t want their names attached to that site.

      1. The Olympic park bomber was thought to have been the guy who discovered the back pack. And that was before twitter. Mostly speculation and character assassination in the news itself. Has O.J. Simpson been found to have committed the murder yet?

        Social media can convict someone before they’re finished being bored nowadays.

        1. Well, sort of. OJ was found liable in the civil case (with a lower bar, preponderance of the evidence rather than beyond a reasonable doubt.)

    3. See ha later zippy. You know things are going to work around. Just not at the time that we expect. It’s that bunch of off balance that is not only a benchmark of Rusche, but a good storyteller as well.

    4. I think you’re being overly optimistic, and I can certainly say that I’d like to believe that what Ellie says is wrong, but I just can’t. It makes a lot of sense and is very feasible.

      I deleted a couple of paragraphs of examples. Suffice to say, while it’s never been the majority, I can’t remember the last time I saw something seriously bad without also seeing people attempting to profit from or enjoy watching other people’s misfortune.

      If your life hasn’t brought you into contact with that sort of thing, then I consider you lucky, and I hope your luck holds. As for me, my good luck must just run to other things (I am quite lucky in a variety of ways, so it’s feasible).

      That said, there’s nothing wrong with caring about a story enough to need to take a break for a while when it gets a bit upsetting (commenter Thor did that recently, over the voyeur site as well, and I did that for a bit back around the end of the first convention).

      I actually consider this outcome to be a bit more positive than I expected. I was anticipating things going public and blowing up and leading to Ellie’s previously mentioned future breakdown. The fact that they’re keeping calm here suggests that won’t happen as fallout from this (or at least not immediately, something could come out later).

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