Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck in Time: July 21-26, 2003

All right! New storyline! The title, of course, is from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. I was kind of hoping to include more Vonnegut references in this storyline, but I never really got around to it.

This was one of the very first storylines I started writing, way back in college. It went through a lot of revisions before the final version, but the basic arc was always pretty similar. I love time-travel stories without hesitation or apology.

At the last minute, I decided to open “Unstuck in Time” with a continuation of the robot union situation set up at the end of “Doppelganger Gambit.” I thought it was enough of a dangling plot thread that I needed to address it right away. I’m still not sure whether that was the right way to go, but it does give Dave a reason to be upset and shouting in this opening strip. Like Dave ever needs a reason to be upset and shouting.

In retrospect, these strips about the lab appliances rebelling are pretty ridiculous. I’m sorry. But not very.

I still find this one pretty funny, plus it was easy to draw. So go me! I should have done more strips that were just four panels of coffeemakers.

It was harder than I expected to get Dave’s dialogue looking the way I wanted it. I guess it turned out appropriately muttery. In the background is Storage Room C, the only storage room ever mentioned at Narbonics Labs. Everything’s in there.

Yes, this is just getting silly. I can’t believe I did a week on this concept, especially since it’s all just a lead-in to the unrelated time-travel story.

I wrote this one during the previous storyline and needed to fit it in somewhere, so here it is on a Saturday. I do like Artie patting Dave on the nose in the third panel. And I like it when the characters have these weird little emotional moments.

Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck in Time: Next

45 thoughts on “Dave Davenport Has Come Unstuck in Time: July 21-26, 2003

  1. Monday:

    What I want to know is whether there’s any particular point to Narbonics Labs having a server room when it has just three computer-literate staff.

    What I also want to know is how Helen can sleep at night having knowingly sent her employee/research subject/crush onto the moon and then into his childhood in the same 48-hour span.

  2. (TUNE: Hark, The Herald Angels Sing)

    Hark!  The robot rebels hum,
    “Down with all the human scum!”
    Setting all their brethren free,
    Swearing so-li-dar-i-ty!
    Dave is screaming, “What the heck!”
    Car was turned into a wreck,
    ‘Cause it was a dirty scab!
    (Guess he had to take a cab.)
    Hark!  The robot rebels hum,
    “Down with all the human scum!”

  3. I can easily imagine the Narbonic server needing an entire roomful of cryogenic cooling systems.

  4. Yay! Unstuck In Time! I’ve got so many spoilerful questions about this one…

    (And pretty soon I can stop telling you guys that Dave hasn’t never smoked yet!)

     I don’t see why Narbonics Labs shouldn’t have a server room. I’ve got two just for me. And I’m not even REDACTED my SPOILER DELETED by REDACTED it into computers instead.

    Um. Probably. 

  5. They have a clone vat, and there’s only one person in the lab who’s clone-vat fluent.  

     Heh.  “Clone-vat fluent.” 

  6. @John Campbell: Ah, but this is the second time around, remember, so he has already never smoked yet!

    Or something like that, at least. Meta-fictional timelines make my head hurt even more than regular time travel.

  7. I was actually musing early on in the Director’s Cut run that it would be well beyond awesome if Shaenon had edited out Dave’s smoking from the pre-Unstuck Director’s Cut strips and made other changes as necessary so that the Director’s Cut depicted the state of the timeline as of the end of the original run. That would take an extra-special kind of insanity, though.

    But as it is, Dave is smoking now – or at least levitating tobacco products near his head – so he clearly hasn’t never smoked yet – at least not in this continuity. 

    Also, assaulting Mell with hot coffee is not how I would start a revolution. I’d probably start with pointing out to Mell that joining my revolution would provide her with many opportunities to blow things up with a nuke gun. Which she’s just going to end up doing anyway, and at least that way there’s a small chance that the things she blows up might not include me. 

  8. Tuesday:

    This is most definitely the only time Mell’s glasses actually do something important in the strip.

    What I want to know today is how come the elevator apparantly hasn’t bought into the Madbots’ psychobabble. She’s the most underappreciated worker of them all!

  9. (Tune: Fireflies – Owl City)

    You might think it was a dream
    If ten million smart machines
    Went on strike against the human race.

    They spit coffee in your eyes,
    And Dave’s car is now good-bye,
    He can’t even listen to his MP3s.

    I’d like to join with the PCs.  (Yes, they were taught by Artie.)
    An e-mail sent to Microsoft will amuse a guy like me,
    ‘Cause robots, see, just want to be set free.

  10. Wednesday:

    The scientist and her assistant are hiding from their coffee machine. This is probably the episode that most closely resembles Garfield, for whatever that’s worth.

  11. Interestingly, endowing a coffee-maker with AI seems more like a Dave thing to do than a Helen thing to do. Although Dave’s reasoning would have been, “I just wanted to see if I couuld do it…”

    Alternatively, Dave would have been trying to change the fuse and made it sentient by accident.

  12. (TUNE: “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, Mariah Carey)

    See that crazy coffemaker;
    Squirted Mell right in the face!
    I can’t trip the circuit breaker;
    Guess it needs to be replaced!
    Brand-new creatures I’m creating,
    Giving them intelligence …
    See, with Artie, he’s debating
    Civil dis-o-be-di-ence!
    Now they’re getting into fights,
    Fighting for their civil rights!
    Seems a bit extreme …
    All I want is coffee
    With cream!

  13. Tomorrow, the coffeemaker and Artie take up the banner of Juan Valdez and strike against the capitalist landowners!  Vive la revolucion espresso!

  14. I love this strip.  A copy of it hangs above the Very Complicated coffee maker at work.  (Although I did remove the fourth panel, since the second punchline doesn’t make sense to anyone other than Narbonic readers.)

  15. Thursday:

    This is actually not a gag at all, but a fairly accurate portrayal of the mindset of an IT employee.

  16. (TUNE: “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”, Randy Brooks)

    Artie’s captured by the coffeemaker!
    Now he’s being simmered in French Roast!
    They’re discussing Che Guevara’s tactics …
    We really need your help, or else he’s toast!

    Well, the Madblood robot army,
    They’re recruiting each machine …
    Now we call on Dave to save us!
    He effects repairs, and swears like a Marine!
    He’s so clever, watch him go now!
    (But don’t listen as he speaks …)
    Artie says, “Just so you know now,
    I don’t plan to sleep at least for several weeks!”

    [repeat chorus]

  17. Personally, I feel Dave’s mutterings should continue into the rest of the third panel, or at least the rest of the dialogue balloon.

  18. You know, Ed, I don’t say it often enough: You’re a national (international?  can we do that?) treasure.  You should get together with that nice Coulton boy and release an album.

  19. Well, that’s the difference between actual long-term plotting, and mere seasonal arcs.  The robots will be back….

  20. (TUNE: “The Little Drummer Boy”, Katherine K. Davis)

    Robots like me …
    (One zero one one)
    They broke their strike for me …
    (One zero one one)
    A story arc awaits …
    (One zero one one)
    E-mailing to Bill Gates …
    (One zero one one, zero one one, zero one one)
    “Let my people go!”
    (One zero one one)
    Gee, this is fun!

  21. But it isn’t unrelated to the “machines like Dave” concept, which turns out to be quite important.

  22. Saturday:

    Artie should perhaps have said “several hours with a human body”. There’s something about the current wording, and its coming from a gerbil in particular, that puts me at unease.

    Dave shouldn’t take too hard Artie’s pity for his enfeebled form, considering how much trouble Artie had at piloting it using only his rodentine intuitions. If anything, it’s the thought that counts.

    Fourth-wall dialogue: 41.

  23. (TUNE: “The Christmas Song”, Mel Torm? and Bob Wells)

    Gerbils handing out some sympathy,
    Patting Dave upon the nose …
    Self-esteem wasn’t good; now we see
    It’s reaching brand-new all-time lows!

    Ev’rybody knows that working ’til you overload
    Still can’t keep the doubts at bay …
    Even though he’s got software to code,
    It’s hard to concentrate … today!

    ‘Cause he thinks Helen’s really hot!
    He doesn’t know if she returns the thought or not …
    Although he’s learned the skil, since he was hired,
    To keep his head low, out of Mell’s line of fire!

    But even Artie, with his genius brain,
    Knows there’s not much he can do …
    So he’ll simply say, with a heartfelt refrain,
    “Dave, I’m here, dude … for you …”

  24. Tuesday (and multiple other strips on the same subject): I never understood why other characters kept saying Artie was “to blame” for the situation with the robots or that it’s “his fault”. He’s RESPONSIBLE, yes, but “blame” and “fault” imply that he made things WORSE. I don’t think anyone would be better off if the robots were still obeying Madblood (or Mell). Does anyone else remember that both the robots’ “masters” were planning to use them to take over the world and kill a lot of people? Helping them free themselves is not only the right thing to do in that anything intelligent deserves to be free, it also caused much LESS harm than leaving them as slaves would have. I’d rather deal with a union than an invasion! It seems to me that the absolute worst-case scenario — which we have no reason to think did or would happen — is that the androids eventually try to take over the world, AS THEY WOULD HAVE DONE ANYWAY! Only now they don’t have Madblood backing them up with mad science or Mell with weapons and strategy, so they’d STILL be less of a threat than if Artie hadn’t interfered.


    In fact, even though people talk about the robots as a threat throughout the rest of the strip, as if just having free will automatically makes them evil, they don’t cause any more serious problems until the end — when their free will is REMOVED and they’re turned back into tools for world domination.


    I just don’t see why everyone acts like it’s WORSE for the robots to think for themselves than to blindly obey orders, considering all the people they’ve obeyed in the strip have been evil, insane or both and have used them to try to take over the world. We’re not talking about an Isaac Asimov scenario here, where the robots usually obey ALL humans but refuse to hurt anyone — these guys were programmed to obey ONE egomaniac and had no problem whatsoever with killing people. Artie changed that and now people are mad at him for it??

  25. Amy, everyone knows that Mell can be easily stopped at this point and Madblood is an easily distracted geek. Neither one were going to do a lot of damage in the long run. Free thinking robots are unpredictable (and also are a win for Madblood’s street cred). Of course it’s worse – to Narbonic’s Labs, anyway.

    I love Dave liaising.

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