A Girl and Her Fed (AGAHF) has been an ongoing webcomic since April of 2007. It’s grown in scope since then, and the world has spilled into novels and short stories. But the webcomic is the core of the story, and is the best place to start. The comic’s story takes place in three acts:
A conspiracy theory. Introduces the four main characters, and how their lives came together.
At the end of Act 1, our heroes had to make a decision about what to do with the information they had won from the bad guys. The result was the Office of Adaptive and Complementary Enhancement Technologies (OACET), a new division of the U.S. Government.
A political thriller with a subplot of manhunt. Begins five years after Act 1 ends, and follows the members of OACET as they struggle to establish themselves as a viable government organization.
Will be set fifteen years in the future.
Spoiler-Heavy Reader Guide
Stop! Plot ahead!
are organized by chapter and scene
if you don't want spoilers.
A Girl is surprised and horrified to discover she’s been added to a government watchlist and is considered a potential terrorist threat. The agent assigned to watch her is far more surprised to learn she is haunted by the ghost of Benjamin Franklin, and that both the Girl and Ben are able to interact with an invisible personal data assistant installed directly into his brain. After a drinking bout ends badly, the Girl and the Fed angrily go their separate ways. (NOTE: The first 300 strips are being redrawn).
Several months after the events of the Introduction, the Girl is sent to cover the death of a Senator’s aide for her newspaper. When Ben gets her thrown out of the police station, she sends him away. Later, she is arrested for trespassing at the aide’s home, and is released into the custody of the Fed. He confesses that his implant, a device called the “Pocket President,” never functions as intended and he has struggled with it for the past five years at the expense of his personal life and his career. He has become suspicious of the Pocket President program with good cause–-the dead aide was also a participant in the same program and had a similar implant, and many of the other participants have likewise died from suspicious suicides or accidents. The Fed enlists the Girl’s assistance as he is able to control the PDA when either she or Ben are present. Later, the Girl is again arrested; when the Fed bails her out, she reminds him she has extensive training in judo, a fact he has missed in spite of eighteen months of active surveillance. At the close of the chapter, the Girl resolves her relationship with Ben.
The Fed and the Girl make plans to investigate the supposed suicide of the Senator’s aide. They take an encoded message she found at the aide’s home to a freelance consultant with excellent language skills. The consultant, a hyper-intelligent koala named Speedy, is able to partially decode the message and suggests that the aide had an affair with an unknown woman. This woman is now their best lead for additional information on the Pocket President program. The Fed, who has been suffering from persistent headaches, uses the Pocket President to contact his supervisor, Assistant Director Smithback. Smithback orders him to stay with the Girl, and recommends they travel together to collect more information about her activities as a terrorist. While the Fed recognizes this is not standard policy and is immediately suspicious, he is not aware that Smithback has a separate agenda. The Fed asks Ben to check if his implant allows Smithback to spy on him. Ben confirms that it does not.
The Fed and the Girl pack up her car and head towards Las Vegas, with the hope that Speedy can pick up the trail of the unknown woman once they are there. After some light conversation, the Fed tells the Girl what the past five years of his life were like and why it has been difficult for him to recover from the effects of the implant. When he leaves the car, Speedy tells her that the Fed does not fully recognize the extent of the damage that was done to him; Speedy also points out that when the Fed recovers, he will become enraged at the people who hurt him. Once they reach Las Vegas, the Girl leaves to catch up on some sleep. Ben discovers how the Pocket President functions and reprograms it; doing so enables the Fed to have total control over the implant and its abilities.
While Speedy gets to work, the Fed and the Girl come to a mutual understanding about their underwear and make plans to remove it at a later point in the day. In the meantime, they head off to explore the city. When the Fed activates his implant, he learns that Ben blocked the full sensory impact that occurs from immersion in a constantly changing digital environment, and is instantly overwhelmed. The Girl takes him to safety and gets him to turn off the implant when it threatens his health; she suggests that the implant draws power from the Fed’s body and throws off heat as a byproduct, thus overusing it could damage his brain. Meanwhile, Speedy and Ben discuss Ben’s time-traveling skills and how ghosts might fit into the grand scheme of things. Another agent in the Pocket President program, Rudy, arrives at the hotel. Speedy asks Rudy questions about Smithback and a very nasty fellow agent who refers to herself as Agent 146. When the Girl and the Fed return to the hotel, they spend some time in bed; the Fed finally recognizes what was done to him over the five years when he was under the influence of the implant. The Girl manages to calm him down.
The Fed finally discovers the true purpose of the chip--it's a weapon for the Information Age, and allows him to communicate with, and take control of, any machine with networking capacity. While Ben helps him learn how to master the chip's abilities, the Girl leaves to meet Mike, a friend of hers who can also see ghosts. The Fed recognizes that the chip has great potential for both good and evil, and becomes concerned that he might misuse it. Several days pass, during which the Girl and the Fed meet the Senator's wife to discuss the chip, and Mike talks to them about what is known and is unknown about ghosts. Back in the city, Smithback greenlights their capture and sends Agent 146 to bring them in, but also warns the Fed to run before Agent 146 arrives. The Girl, the Fed, Ben, and Speedy escape and leave Las Vegas.
The Girl, the Fed, and Speedy go into hiding while they decide what to do about the chip and the four hundred cyborgs still in psychological limbo. They join Rose, the woman who trained the Fed before he was recruited to the Program. With help from Rose, they storm a safehouse and retrieve documentation on the Program. The Girl fights Agent 146 and incapacitates her, but Agent 146 is rescued by the Rogue Ghosts before she can be turned over to the authorities. The Fed discovers Smithback in the basement, along with a trove of top-secret documents. There, Smithback confesses he's orchestrated the Fed's escape from the Program, and that he's turning control of the Program over to the Fed. He tells the Fed that the cyborgs' abilities are too powerful, and that they must be kept hidden for the greater good.
Patrick Mulcahy (formerly "the Fed") has taken the Office of Adaptive and Complementary Technologies public. He and Hope Blackwell (formerly "the Girl") have married, and are responsible for the 350 federal Agents in OACET. There are multiple side stories which take place during this five-year intermission:
The Rachel Peng novels
--Can be read separately from the comic. Full-length novels, between 110k and 120k words. Mystery-thriller science fiction, with a central crime that sets off the action and must be solved over the course of the book. Over the seven books in the series, Rachel Peng takes down Richard Hanlon, the Senator who tortured and manipulated the 500 young kids who would grow up to become OACET. DIGITAL DIVIDE, MAKER SPACE, and STATE MACHINE are out, with four more books to come. Links to purchase these books can be found here.
The Josh Glassman novellas
--Can be read separately from the comic. Short pulp novellas, between 35k and 50k words. Sex comedies featuring our favorite Pornomancer, and told as a retrospective fantasy to Mare. Josh has been married eight times, to seven different women (and Mare twice), and this is how he bedded and wedded each of them. THE RUSSIANS CAME KNOCKING is the only one out so far.
--Should be read after the comic. Short stories about the Agents who appear in the comic but don't get enough screen time. Usually prose with light illustrations. Available exclusively in the AGAHF store.
Note! I've gotten negative feedback about selling these novels and stories. I've been told that holding these projects "hostage" is done to "punish" loyal long-time readers (yes, I'm quoting an email here). First, you don't need to read these side projects to understand the comic; these are set in the same universe but are separate from the comic. Second, I don't make enough money from the comic to survive as a creator. If it weren't for these side projects, as well as my Patreon, I wouldn't be able to afford to do the comic at all. Please don't yell at creators when we try to earn a living. We'd love to give everything away for free, but we can't.
After taking OACET public, Mulcahy and the other Agents are called to account. They have spent the last five years enduring Congressional hearings to decide whether OACET is a legitimate government agency. After these hearings conclude and OACET is found to be legitimate, OACET continues to form alliances with members of Congress. At a party celebrating OACET's new formal status, Agent 146 reappears and threatens Hope and Speedy. Agent 146 has been learning about the ghosts' abilities, and claims to have found a "battery" that can destroy OACET. George Washington appears and gets in a hell of a fistfight with Mulcahy, and reveals that the source of Agent 146's power is Abraham Lincoln. As Lincoln was psychic in his life, and remains famous after death, he is the most powerful of the American ghosts.
Mulcahy and Josh decide that Agent 146 showed up at their party to test Mulcahy and see how he would react. They do the unexpected--rather than staying to fight, Mulcahy takes several members of OACET and their friends to Australia, and leaves Josh and Mare in charge of OACET. George Washington and Mulcahy meet, and Mulcahy says that he planned to use the overseas vacation as a diversion, and was planning to sneak back into the U.S. to try and make contact with Lincoln. Meanwhile, Speedy is founding a dynasty.
While Mulcahy attempts to contact Lincoln, Hope sets out to learn what she can from Australian psychics. Mulcahy finds Lincoln to be struggling with his sanity, and helps Lincoln find a way to break his connection to Agent 146's ghosts while still honoring his promises to them. In thanks, Lincoln gives Mulcahy a prophesy of the future. Later, Lincoln approaches Hope, and asks for help finding his way back to his rational self. Back in the U.S., Mare has an odd meeting with General Jennings, a possible new ally of OACET.