Phule's Company (series)

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Phule's Company is a series of comic military science fiction novels by Robert Asprin, beginning with Phule's Company and ending with Phule's Errand.

The series takes place centuries in the future, where humans and other species have come together to form the Interplanetary Alliance, a federation government of numerous planets. The Alliance's military includes not only the Space Legion, but also the Regular Army and Starfleet. The Space Legion is considered the lowest on the totem pole, and the laughingstock of the armed forces. Space Legion protocol has all persons using a pseudonym chosen upon enlistment, and commissions are purchased. It is a violation of Legion rules to release another Legion member's real name, but not to reveal one's own.[1]

After being court-martialed for inadvertently ordering the strafing of a peace conference, Captain Jester is shipped off to command the Omega Company, a dumping ground for the Legion's foul-ups and misfits. Applying his well honed business sense to the running of the unit, he soon turns it around, winning the almost fanatical loyalty of his troops and turning the "Omega Mob", as it is affectionately nicknamed, into a crack unit. In each book, General Blitzkrieg contrives to send the unit on yet another 'impossible' assignment. They usually manage to come through unscathed.

The names of many in the series are based on puns.

Main characters[edit]

Willard Phule[edit]

Main article: Willard J. Phule

Willard J. Phule is the super-rich heir apparent of Phule-Proof Munitions, currently serving in the Space Legion. His Legion name is Jester, and holds the rank of Captain, being addressed thus as Captain Jester, and occasionally and inappropriately as Captain Phule or Captain Clown. Originally having the Legion name was Lieutenant Scaramouche, Phule was brought up on charges and to be court-martialed for ordering the strafing of a peace conference, owing, as he put it, to a “communications error.”

However, since Phule-Proof is the Legion's arms and munitions supplier as well as the largest employer of their retirees, Headquarters see court-martialing the owner’s son as potentially disastrous. He is instead promoted to the rank of Captain and shipped off Haskin's Planet to command the Omega Company, a dumping ground for the Legion's foul-ups and misfits. It is envisioned that the posting to such an unruly, undesirable outfit may encourage him to resign his commission.

Phule is no fool, and recognizes this promotions true intent. However, he decides to accept the challenge. Instead of the potentially abysmal assignment it was meant to be he sets out using his business acumen and determination to turn around the unruly “Omega Mob” into a crack military unit, giving the Jester the last laugh.

Phule is a strong-willed individual, with a strong dislike for stereotyping, and not infrequently finds himself in conflict with other authority figures such as his father. Although of a wealthy background, he takes pride that his own fortune is largely self-made: although he started his business empire with a loan from his father, that loan was swiftly repaid. He is also very loyal to his people, going far above what officers would normally do for their soldiers and reacting aggressively to insults towards them. However, Phule can be over-industrious: he has been known to work himself to the point of exhaustion. He is not above using his enormous wealth to buy his way out of a situation, but typically does so as a last resort. He is also not above using his real name and status to bully or cajole others into doing what he wants. However, regardless of how he wins a personal confrontation, he is always supremely magnanimous in victory and can usually manage to win over the person he's in conflict with. His not inconsiderable talents include finance, group dynamics, military tactics and strategy, leadership, and public relations.

Beeker[edit]

Phule's butler, confidante, and the narrator throughout the series. Though not technically a member of the unit, Beeker is highly respected by most of the company, and often provides the members with sage advice. While he has become quite wealthy in his years of service to Phule, he is still manifestly determined to continue his service to Phule out of companionship and friendship.

Top Sergeant Brandy[edit]

The Company First Sergeant, Brandy is the stereotypical hard-bitten veteran. In Phule's Paradise, Tusk-anini speculates that she is secretly in love with Captain Jester. She is one of three female members of Phule's Company who became centerfold models without his knowledge. Although a physical description is not given in the stories beyond the fact that she is a very big woman, but not fat, you get the impression that she is: very good looking, middle aged, over 6 feet tall, and thoroughly three-dimensional! She is also an old hand at brawling. In one scene she got in a scuffle with Tusk-anini, a 7-foot-tall (2.1 m) alien (see below) and even after he knocked her down with the first punch, she put him in the hospital with a concussion. All in all, a great lady to have on your side when things get tough.

Lt Rembrandt[edit]

The senior of Phule's two junior officers, Rembrandt is also an aspiring artist. Beeker notes that before meeting Phule she specialised in landscapes, but after he took over the company she expressed an interest in painting a nude portrait of him. Rembrant, or "Remmie", initially lacks confidence and is content to let the NCO's run the company. Phule's major concern with her is teaching her to develop the habit of command, to trust her judgement, and to learn to exercise her authority.

Lt Armstrong[edit]

The son of a heroic, but dead, military officer, Armstrong is initially an uptight caricature of the proper military officer. A rant he makes while intoxicated reveals he resents living in the shadow of his father, who he feels he can never live up to because of the mans legendary status. Once Phule takes him under his wing, he begins to loosen up and learns to mix his military bearing along with compassion. At first, Armstrong is jealous of and contemptuous of Lt. Rembrandt, and takes any given opportunity to show her up. He soon learns to see her strengths, however, and the two form an excellent working relationship, helping each other out whenever they can.

Tusk-anini[edit]

Tusk-anini or Tusk is a Volton, a race with warthog-like features. His species is large and imposing, but pacifistic by nature. He is paired with Super Gnat, and this pairing, like most of the other Omega Company partnerships, benefited him greatly. He doesn't like to fight but will if necessary, especially to protect his partner (often from her own temper). He is the most loyal Legionnaire to Phule. He is also quite intelligent, and since he only sleeps a few minutes a day, he spends his wealth of free time reading a daunting variety of human books to better learn the language and culture. He prides himself on not needing a translation device to communicate. Phule promotes him to corporal and makes him the company clerk. He plans to be a teacher after his enlistment is over.

Super Gnat[edit]

The shortest Legionnaire in the unit, the diminutive Super-Gnat has the biggest temper. In the first book, she often exploded at the mere use of the word "short", even if it did not concern her. Her partnership with Tusk-anini calms her, and while she still maintains a fiery temper, she learns to control it once she finds that Tusk-anini is fighting people who make fun of to keep her from getting hurt. It is revealed that she was married to a martial arts instructor, and is a black belt in multiple disciplines. However, when she loses her temper, she usually is unable to call upon these skills. and thus loses most of her impulsive fights. Super-Gnat has taken fencing lessons from Phule and is one of three female members of Phule's Company who became centrefold models without his knowledge.

Sushi[edit]

The product of a wealthy family, Sushi was acquainted with Phule socially before they separately joined the Space Legion. In Sushi's case this decision was made after he lost a fortune he had embezzled to gambling debts. Sushi eventually initiates a one-man takeover of the Yakuza, the Japanese mafia.

Do-Wop[edit]

Do-Wop is something of a kleptomaniac, and Phule's reason for pairing him with Sushi was similar to the reasons he paired up other members of the unit; to balance each other out. In this case, he hoped that Do-Wop would teach Sushi to learn to have some fun and relax, and that Sushi could teach Do-Wop to aim a little higher than petty thievery. Unfortunately, it succeeded entirely too well- now, instead of a petty-grade kleptomaniac and a cold, calculating risktaker that usually held back, Do-Wop and Sushi are now Omega Company's greatest masters of larceny.

Rose/Mother[edit]

A female Legionnaire, the only original member of Omega Company without a partner. She is terrified of others and is only capable of mumbling incoherently when addressed directly, except when the speaker is a woman. She is very skilled at being the communications director for the company; the lack of face to face contact is the defining factor. She is one of three female members of Phule' Company who became centerfold models without his knowledge - to his surprise, it was her idea.

Escrima[edit]

Named after the Filipino form of martial arts, Sergeant Escrima is the company's mess sergeant. He is a talented chef; he dislikes insults towards his own food or food in general. He is a master in all forms of Philippine martial arts: hand to hand combat, knife fighting and especially arnis, Philippine stick fighting.

Chocolate Harry[edit]

Also known as C.H. The company supply sergeant, who has a talent for black-marketeering. He is a former member of the Outlaws,[2] a criminal hover-bike club and still maintains his personal bike. One of his trademarks is wearing sleeveless uniforms. He is partners with Louis, one of the Legion's two Sinthians, who rides in a side-car on Harry's bike, wielding a shotgun. Initially, C.H. doesn't think much of Phule and plans to take advantage of him, but soon learns that Phule is far too intelligent for this and can in fact teach him to play in the big leagues if he toes the line and operates within the parameters Phule gives him.

General Blitzkrieg[edit]

A senior officer and one of the three Directors of the Space Legion, Blitzkrieg takes a personal dislike to Phule and would very much like to force him out of the Legion. His preferred method is to assign the toughest of assignments to the Omega Company... a strategy that has thus far failed to do anything more than cement the reputation of Phule's Company as an elite body of troops.

Colonel Battleaxe[edit]

The officer who originally assigned Phule to the Omega Company, Battleaxe fully expected that the tough duty would lead to his resignation. She was surprised but pleased when he instead turned them around and has since become his staunchest defender in the Space Legion, to the point of breaking off her first vacation in years to cross the galaxy and assist him against one of Blitzkrieg's schemes.

Flight Leftenant Qual[edit]

The company's Zenobian contact. Though not a member of the unit, he is nevertheless indebted to Phule, whom he met during the first book, with pulling him out of disrepute due to his mistaking a ceremonial vase for a waste receptacle at a prominent reception. This incident led to his placement on an exploration team which crash land upon the swamp planet, Haskins, whereupon their outfit was discovered and fired upon by Do-Wop of the Omega Company out of ignorance. His species resemble miniature allosaurs.

Rev[edit]

When the captain requested a chaplain, General Blitzkrieg sent him the Reverend Jordan Ayres,[3] of the Church of The King. He is somewhat pudgy with black, slicked back hair and an all too easily recognized face.

Planets in the series[edit]

  • Haskin's Planet - swampy planet that exports gems
  • Landoor - Former mining planet
  • Zenobia - Homeworld of the Zenobian Empire
  • Cut 'N' Shoot - old west-style tourist planet
  • Rot'n'art - tourist planet
  • Hix's World - tourist planet
  • Old Earth - tourist planet

Books in the series (in chronological order)[edit]

  • Phule's Company (1990)
  • Phule's Paradise (1992)
  • A Phule and His Money (1999) with Peter J. Heck
  • Phule Me Twice (2000) with Peter J. Heck
  • No Phule Like an Old Phule (2004) with Peter J. Heck
  • Phule's Errand (2006) with Peter J. Heck

References[edit]

  1. ^ Robert Asprin, Phule's Company, Ace Books. ISBN 0-441-66251-X
  2. ^ Asprin, Robert L.; Peter J. Heck (1999). A Phule and his money. New York, NY: Ace Books. p. 57. ISBN 0441006582. 
  3. ^ Asprin, Robert L.; Peter J. Heck (1999). A Phule and his money. New York, NY: Ace Books. pp. 10–11. ISBN 0441006582.