Fanfic: Sold To The Highest Bidder
Starting out as a fill for the request 'Sex slave AU' on the Hetalia kink meme, this sci-fi/steampunk hybrid quickly sprouted into an astonishing narrative combining twisting interpersonal plotlines with a vivid account of the multiple layers of society within the universe. To quote the author:
"Sci-fi/steampunky AU (minor elements of both, probably more sci-fi than steampunk), where sexual slavery is legal. Nobody's really moral or immoral in this here space opera: England's a pirate stealing freefolk to sell them; the Nordics are gentleman thieves working to free them; Turkey and Greece are buddy cops Federal Agents hot on both trails. France, Spain, the Italies, and Rome are slave bondsperson trainers of varying ethics; Hungary's the legislative power who somehow has to keep them in line. The east Slavics are high-society slave-owners struggling to maintain a nascent empire; the Baltics (plus Poland) are revolutionaries struggling to try and bring it down.Plus, all your favourite sci-fi tropes: screwy alien biology! Multiple habitable worlds in the same solar system! Not explaining ever how their space travel works!"
Although the plot and worldbuilding are good in themselves, the primary draw of this 'fic is the excellent characterisation, which makes many of the plotlines extremely emotionally motivated.
So far the main plot threads are the Nordics-and-Netherlands thread, focused on planning to liberate a still-fighting Belgium; the England-and-Prussia-(and maybe America) thread, focusing on Prussia's promotion from untameable slave to crewmember and the intention to rescue America; the Estonia-and-Russia thread, which mainly deals with politics within the Empire; the Baltics-and- Estonia
thread, which has Estonia
unwittingly dealing with revolutionaries out to overthrow his owner
; the France-and-Canada thread, with France trying to hold on to Canada; the Italy-Germany-America thread, with America going through bondsman conditioning; and finally, Greece and Turkey, trying to chase down the Nordics on embezzlement charges. Needless to say, these plotlines intertwine a lot
- Adult Fear: Alfred gets kidnapped from his home when his parents leave him there alone.
- Toris's backstory is full of this; his family was shot and killed in the crossfire of a territory dispute, leaving a child Toris on his own. Later, he was deported suddenly by government orders, only for the train to turn out to be smuggling weapons across the border to La Résistance, which recruits him as a Child Soldier. After that, his hometown is bombed, leaving thirteen-year-old Feliks and ten-year-old Raivis trapped alone in a collapsed basement. Both of their families also die.
- Aerith and Bob: Names of characters range from Island to Raivis to Yao to Tim. Justified, given the source material.
- Affectionate Nickname: Ivan asks Eduard to call him Vanya, which is also what his sister calls him. Natalya sometimes goes by Natasha along the same lines, and Ivan occasionally refers to Eduard as dusha moya, which should actually refer to a girl.
- The Alcoholic: Ivan.
- Ambiguous Innocence: Feliciano.
- Animal Motifs: There is quite a bit of alluding to dogs when it comes to the bondspeople. In the epilogue, even, Alfred finds himself unable to keep a dog because training one is too similar to training other things.
- Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Eduard is saying this to Ivan for the first eighty percent of the story.
- Artistic License – Biology: Oddly averted; the author goes to great lengths to give a fairly plausible explanation for development of hormonal imbalances which give the Vitim their Time.
- Auction of Evil: The climax takes place at one, the Decennial.
- Badass Boast: A few of them. Unsinkable gives an absolutely epic one to Mathieu:
: I'm going to get the hell
out of here, and you're going to find me an exit. Once I'm out, you can blab to Francis all you like, if he doesn't mind you talking with your mouth full of cock
. Now march, bondsman.
- Bad Dreams: Tim is prone to these, which Danmark happily helps with. It would seem that Toris has these as well, according to Feliks.
- Because I'm Good at It: This is one reason Eduard wants Ivan to keep him as a bondsman instead of setting him free; he's spent most of his life becoming good at this specifically. Luckily, he does find another hobby.
- Bestiality Is Depraved: A weird variation; though the bondspeople are, well, actually people, Francis's friends treat his feelings for Mathieu as depraved - because, in their eyes, Mathieu is an animal.
- Better to Die Than Be Killed: Commander Zielska kills herself presumably for this reason.
- Betty and Veronica: In a (mostly) non-romantic example, Ivan is the Betty and Toris is the Veronica to Eduard.
- Big Sister Instinct: Though she's certainly an Aloof Big Sister, Katya will not hesitate to do what must be done for Ivan or Natalya's sake.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Feliciano seems awfully sweet, and he is, but that's not necessarily a good thing.
- Bittersweet Ending: At the end, almost everyone got what they wanted - that is to say, Ivan freed Eduard, the Capt. and Unsinkable returned Alfred home, and the Five-Man Band reunited Willem and Margot. Unfortunately, Avo Romae was still in business with his grandsons still under his thumb, Alfred grew up to be introverted and disillusioned, the revolutionaries failed miserably and the ineffective regime of power in The Empire went on, Willem and Margot never overcame their traumas, and Mathieu continued to be confused and uncertain about his life. But at least Kiku and Natalya wound up together.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: The Vitim (such as Ivan) have their Time, where they must lose their virginity around a particular age to avoid fatal physical and cognitive damage.
- Blind Obedience: Expected of the bondspeople. Mathieu, Eduard, Ludwig, and Katya's bondsgirl all start out this way. Later, Mathieu and Eduard start to break away.
- Brick Joke: A couple, though they're subtle. For example, when Raivis is trying to file away a new identity for his duties as The Mole, Island thinks this:
Island: A handservant, big dreams, there... Then again, a handservant would be easier to impersonate.
- And several dozen chapters later:
Raivis: Oh, for - handservant? What, I couldn't be something fun like political aide?
Toris: Handservant would be easier to impersonate.
- Buddy Cops: Adnan and Karpusi
- Cannot Keep a Secret: Raivis, much to Toris's dismay. This is how Eduard gets involved with La Résistance.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Captain Kirkland and the Unsinkable, which is certainly not good for their relationship.
- The Caligula: Ivan has elements of this toward the Union Empire.
- Central Theme: Seems to be that no one, even when not a literal slave, is entirely free.
- The Chains of Commanding: Katya and Ivan's contribution to the aforementioned Central Theme; both are prisoners to their own leadership.
- Chekhov's Gun: Desmond's murder at the beginning of the story gets Kirkland put up for execution.
- The Chessmaster: Island, with elements of this for the Five-Man Band as a whole.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Eduard, albeit unintentionally and more at the fault of the two sides he's caught between.
- Subverted by Captain Kirkland, who is known to be selfish and often considers betraying his friends, but never actually does.
- Click Hello: Toris greets Eduard with one of these.
- There's a rather amusing web of these at Francis's emporium on Hallar at one point, with Francis pointing a gun at Captain Kirkland, only for Unsinkable to appear with his gun pointed at Mathieu.
- Conditioned to Accept Horror: Many of the bondspeople. After all, Eduard's reaction to Ivan's Time is pretty... chill.
- Corporal Punishment: Many of the bondspeople are subject to this. Singled out in particular with Mathieu, who takes a lot of this from Francis, but forgives it.
- Crapsack World: Obviously. In Unsinkable's words:
The system and the worlds that occupied it were shit, they were made shit and when the sun died out they'd still be shit, and there was no hidden meaning or underlying message except that people were selfish pigs no matter where you went.
- Deadpan Snarker: Many of the characters, especially Adnan and Karpusi, Captain Kirkland, Eduard, and, surprisingly enough, Mathieu - to anyone but Francis.
- Death by Origin Story: Ivan and Katya's parents and aunt, as well as Toris's father, sister, and grandmother.
- Decoy Protagonist: A few. At first, it seems Alfred will be the protagonist of his thread, but that role belongs to Captain Kirkland and Unsinkable. Similarly, it looks like Ivan is going to be the hero of his thread, but it actually winds up being Eduard.
- Defector from Decadence: Ivan starts out as this.
- Delivery Guy Infiltration: A well-loved tactic in this story. Kirkland does this to get into Romae's emporium, and Raivis does it to get into the Duma, among other examples.
- Disguised in Drag: Feliks, as part of La Résistance.
- Does Not Know His Own Strength: Ivan, particularly on his Time.
- Domestic Abuser: All the owners to their bondsmen to some degree. Particularly highlighted by the Francis-and-Mathieu thread, where Mathieu develops a sort of Stockholm Syndrome toward his master, as well as describing Francis's constant use of his services and less-than-humane punishments (i.e. shock collars).
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Eduard to Ivan.
- Door Stopper: The tale is three or four times the length of the average novel.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Ivan.
- The Dragon: Unsinkable is this to Captain Kirkland, Toris to Commander Zielska, Feliks to Toris, Mathieu to Francis, and Eduard to Ivan (usually).
- The Empire: The Union Empire.
- Enemy Mine: The Five-Man Band and the Great Delivery spend some time as this.
- Everyone Can See It: Everyone seems to notice that Captain Kirkland has something for Alfred except for... Captain Kirkland.
- Everyone Is Bi
- Evil Old Folks: Avo Romae is a grandfather that sells people for a living. The elderly Commander Zielska also counts.
- Extreme Doormat: Mathieu, at least for most of the story. He gets feistier after meeting Lovino.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Union Empire seems to be a counterpart to the Soviet Union.
- Fish out of Water: Eduard and Alfred in their respective lodgings for the story.
- Foreshadowing: Plenty, though it's quite subtle. For example, this conversation:
Unsinkable: Never underestimate the power of underestimation! If there’s one thing I learnt on the streets, it’s that nobody ever suspects the simpleton.
Capt. Kirkland: Wish I'd figured that out before all of this. People quite like hanging a mastermind.
- Another specific example, though a less subtle one - the auctioneer pointing out how remarkably similar Alfred and Mathieu look. They were identical twins Separated at Birth when Mathieu was sold into slavery. This becomes a plot point when the other characters mix them up... and Francis winds up with Alfred while Feliciano and Lovino wind up with Mathieu.
- Friendly Target: Ivan to Toris. Toris actually admits several times that he thinks Ivan is a good guy, but he still wants to kill him.
- General Failure: Ivan, much to Katya's - and his own - dismay.
- Guilty Pleasure: Mathieu is this for Francis.
- Happiness in Slavery: Katya's bondsgirl has this. So does Ludwig. Mathieu starts out this way, before the government crackdowns force Francis to auction him and he realizes that might be a good thing.
- Heel Face Door Slam: Captain Kirkland receives this treatment from the Five-Man Band when they're forced to work with him, and all (six?) of them refuse to believe he's trying to do something good for once. He doesn't put much effort into convincing them otherwise.
- Which later bites him in the bum, because when he gets caught and is about to be executed, the Five-Man Band is given the option to help him escape and they refuse.
- Heel-Face Revolving Door: Eduard runs into this later on. Justified in that the story runs on Grey and Grey Morality and both sides are right, albeit in different ways.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Several, but most notably Lovino letting Unsinkable (and the much-needed bounty on his head) get away and Kirkland letting the police catch him so that Unsinkable and Alfred can escape. Even Toris hands out a Take Me Instead to save Raivis, though he wasn't in any real danger.
- Hikikomori: Ivan is this for the most part, though he does go out to drink vodka with Toris.
- Humans Are Flawed
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: The man who wants to buy Unsinkable off of the Great Delivery at the beginning of the story wants to hunt and kill him - unwittingly convincing Captain Kirkland to Heel-Face Turn to save him. Lampshaded:
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Several. Eduard to Ivan, Lovino to Feliciano, Mathieu to Francis, and Island to the other four.
- I Gave My Word: Captain Kirkland likes giving out his word. He's not as fond of keeping it, but he does come through for Unsinkable in the long run.
- I Just Want To Be Free: Alfred, Willem and Margot. All of them get it, to varying levels of satisfaction.
- Inadequate Inheritor: Ivan, to the Bragins' Union Empire.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Eduard and Natalya share one while Ivan and Katya have a particularly nasty argument.
- Innocently Insensitive: Danmark, usually toward Tim/Willem.
- Ironic Echo: During Ivan's Crisis of Faith after realizing Toris is The Mole, Ivan asks Eduard whether, if somebody tells you something while trying to manipulate you, the conclusions you come to can still be true. Eduard tells him yes. Later, when Ivan confronts Eduard about working with the revolutionaries, Eduard reminds him that even if the revolutionaries where manipulating him, the conclusions he came to - that The Empire is corrupt and dangerous - could still be true.
- It's Personal: Between Island and Kirkland, Toris and Ivan, and Francis and Elizaveta, respectively.
- It Was a Gift: Ivan tends to use this as an explanation for Eduard's presence, unsettling though it might be.
- Justice by Other Legal Means: The Council turns a blind eye to Kirkland's piracy because it stimulates the economy in its own backwards way, but they will arrest him for murder.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Lovino and Captain Kirkland, both to a tee.
- La Résistance: The Kilnus revolutionaries, of course; the slave-liberating Five-Man Band has elements of this as well.
- Last Request: A couple. Eduard asks Ivan to keep the revolutionaries safe while he makes a run for it, and Kirkland asks Island to tell Gilbert to take care of himself after Kirkland's execution.
- Lemony Narrator: All of the characters take turns narrating, and each of them manage to be this, though some more than others. Feliks, Katya, Unsinkable and Mathieu tend to be this most.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: In full effect. Again Justified by the source material.
- Loyal to the Position: Mathieu, Eduard, Ludwig, and Katya's bondsgirl. By the end, both Mathieu and Eduard have changed their minds.
- Love Hurts: For Mathieu and Francis, for Ivan and Eduard, and for Danmark and Tim.
- Love Martyr: Mathieu starts out as this to Francis.
- Made a Slave: Some characters were either sold off at a young age by their parents (the standard way). Or kidnapped by pirates from a poor district. Alfred was of course this as one of the plot threads.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Eduard is like this after Ivan clears his Time, much to Ivan's horror.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Rare heroic example; Ivan spares the revolutionaries by claiming the detonation of the Duma was a freak moonshining accident, then sending them out of the country.
- Man Child: Alfred and Feliciano.
- Mate or Die: The Vitim have this conundrum.
- Matter of Life and Death: Unsinkable's position is this, hence his popularity as the subject of Pet the Dog and Heroic Sacrifice.
- Maybe Ever After: A few in the epilogue. The relationship between Kirkland and Unsinkable is never resolved. Then, it states that Lovino thinks pursuing Mathieu would be foolish because "he knows a lost cause when he sees one"... only to go on and say that he's done stupider things. The epilogue also states that Willem and Margot can't have normal romantic or sexual relationships again, but continues on to say, "then again, neither of them have yet tried."
- It does also note that Adnan and Karpusi get to remain working partners indefinitely, and Francis and Elizaveta continue working with each other, noting in both cases that "certain ladies doth protest too much".
- Missing White Woman Syndrome: More like Missing Well-To-Do Person Syndrome, but it's explicitly pointed out (in multiple instances) that the media is only concerned about the disappearance of the upper-middle-class Alfred F. Jones after the pirate raids, and don't even report the names of the thirty-some poorer or homeless folks the Great Delivery also picked up.
- Monument Of Humiliation And Defeat: The ruins of Darinys.
- Morality Kitchen Sink: A large cast of varying ethics. Seen:
- The Five-Man Band liberating slaves across the universe is the most straightforwardly good, along with Margot and Alfred being for the most part innocent.
- The Unsinkable and Eduard are both relatively good people allied with some less-good allies - which they hope to fix.
- Ivan is a devout and kindhearted person who winds up unintentionally hurting a lot of other people.
- Lovino is a Knight in Sour Armor who resists the bonds system but doesn't make an active attempt to fix it; Feliciano and Captain Kirkland both come to disagree with it but still help it along, planting them firmly among the Anti-Hero regimen.
- The police, Francis, Yao, and Elizabeta and her husband are not necessarily bad people but cause a lot of the plot's conflicts and often stand in the way of the right thing.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized among the Kilnus; Toris, Raivis, and Feliks are on the darker end of things, as are the members of The Empire they resist - Katya primarily.
- Avo Romae and the other bondsperson traders and trainers are the most straightforwardly bad characters, though they don't see anything wrong with their actions, themselves.
- My Master, Right or Wrong: Eduard asks this question a lot about the Bragins' Empire, especially after meeting the revolutionaries, resulting in a sort of personal crisis for him. Mathieu also seems to struggle with it once he realizes he might want something other than to stay with Francis.
- Naked First Impression: By the nature of this story, this isn't unusual; both Katya and Ivan first see Eduard in this state, and Eduard has this first impression of Ivan, too; Lovino also first sees Mathieu in the nude.
- Naked on Arrival: Eduard.
- Nice to the Waiter: Ivan is quickly established as a (relatively) good guy by his strong opposition to the bonds system. Of course, Eduard doesn't take it so well.
- No Badass to His Valet: It's not really a question why the revolutionaries are afraid of the Bragins, especially Ivan, but after the first day or so, Eduard certainly isn't.
- No Romantic Resolution: The only Official Couple at the end is Eduard and Ivan.
- Not in This for Your Revolution: Eduard to, of course, La Résistance; he's only there to play with the gizmos, and later, to keep his friends safe.
- Not Me This Time: Antonio gets arrested for dealing with pirates; he does do that, but he's innocent of the particular case he's arrested for.
- Not So Different: Katya and Toris; both aloof, previously traumatized leaders of their respective factions, both warmongering and trigger-happy, both The Unfettered - save for their respective younger-sibling Morality Pets.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Danmark and Unsinkable both seem to be doing this.
- Obligatory War Crime Scene: Both sides of the war on Olyokin have a few of these; Toris's Shoot the Hostage scene definitely stands out, as does Ivan (albeit unintentionally) bombing Darinys.
- Odd Friendship: Eduard and Natalya forge one of these.
- Of Corsets Sexy: There's one odd scene where Eduard helps Feliks change out of one corset and into another.
- Only in It for the Money: The other characters believe this of Captain Kirkland, and they're usually right, until he decides to lend a hand to Alfred and Unsinkable. After that, he has a lot of trouble convincing people of his good intentions.
- All of the trainers/sellers of bondspeople, especially Romae.
- Opposites Attract: Kirkland and Unsinkable, Danmark and Tim, and Eduard and Ivan.
- Overt Operative: Raivis, Adnan and Karpusi, and Danmark are all guilty of this at one point or another.
- Papa Wolf: Francis, of all people, can get this way toward his charges.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: This is Toris's central philosophy. Later, Island considers leaving Kirkland to die. He ultimately tries to back out of it and save Kirkland, but changes his mind too late.
- Please Put Some Clothes On: The first thing Lovino does after buying Mathieu is cover him up.
- Police Are Useless: Adnan and Karpusi are both horrifically inept at their jobs, not to mention that they fail completely to catch on to the Council's corruption. Averted by Hassan, a Nice Guy cop who actually does realize what's going on and helps the five-man band that's been trying to free the bondspeople.
- Police State: Hallar seems to be one, though the police in turn are controlled by Romae.
- Poor Communication Kills: A recurring motif in the story. With varying levels of spoiler: The poor communication between the BSPA, Francis, Antonio, and Lovino causes both Mathieu and Alfred to wind up with the wrong buyers, and equally poor communication leads Mathieu to the false hope that he may find mercy and freedom, which are promptly ripped from him. The poor communication between the Five-Man Band members in themselves and toward the police officers lands all five of them in jail. Poor communication between Eduard, Toris, and Ivan causes all of them to be nearly blown up, and an equally tragic misunderstanding between Ivan, Katya, and their troops caused a genocide of Kala in Darinys. Meanwhile, poor communication between Adnan and Karpusi causes them to continuously fail to catch their crooks, and poor communication between Unsinkable and Kirkland threatens to fracture their friendship many times. And that's just the overview.
- Promotion to Parent: Katya goes through this for Ivan and Natalya after her parents are assassinated. Of course, being Not So Different, Toris has the same thing happen after the bombing of Darinys leaves him to take care of the orphaned Feliks and Raivis.
- Protected by a Child: Seems to be Commander Zielska's strategy, since all of her revolutionaries that we meet were recruited as Child Soldiers.
- Questionable Consent: Though Eduard doesn't realize exactly what he's done until long after he's cleared Ivan's Time.
- Race Lift: Subtly, but Eduard, who was Eastern European in Axis Powers Hetalia, now hails from the same place as French characters Francis and Mathieu.
- Rape as Backstory: Justified, given the premise.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The justification for the murder of the Great Delivery's idiot crewmember.
- Reality Ensues: When Ivan nobly tries to free Eduard, this is pretty much the result; all Eduard has known his whole life is slavery, so he has nowhere to go, no skills, and no friends, not to mention that he's frightened and confused by the idea of losing the only life and identity he's ever had. Needless to say, Eduard is not happy with this course of action, and Ivan gives up on it and doesn't bring it up again for a long time.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Captain Kirkland gives Mathieu an absolutely brutal one after he disses Unsinkable. Doubles as a Tear Jerker (for Mathieu) and Crowning Moment of Heartwarming (between the Capt. and Unsinkable).
- Rebellious Rebel: Eduard is this to the Kilnus revolutionaries, choosing to betray them to Ivan.
- Recruit Teenagers with Attitude: Commander Zielska recruited the fifteen-year-old Toris after he demanded that she do so. Lampshaded by Eduard:
Eduard: Wait. So [Commander Zielska] just gave you a job?
- Reluctant Psycho: Ivan, on his Time.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Seen in all the Kilnus characters to some degree, but especially Toris. The revolutionaries start the story scheming Ivan's torturous descent into madness. Later, the rebel leader plans to blow up the Bragins' home - with her own troops inside.
- Roguish Poacher: Captain Kirkland is a rather dark version of this, since he poaches people.
- Sacrificial Lion: Unsinkable is in constant danger of becoming this at the hands of other characters. Captain Kirkland also comes dangerously close, but Francis saves him.
- Scam Religion: Toris uses one to help bring down Ivan.
- Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Romae apparently says this a lot.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Quite a few: Eduard is the Manly Man to Ivan's Sensitive Guy, Unsinkable is the Manly Man to Kirkland's Sensitive Guy, Lovino is the Manly Man to Feliciano's Sensitive Guy, and Feliks is (ironically) the Manly Man to Raivis's Sensitive Guy.
- Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny: A primary plot thread for Ivan, due to the aforementioned Scam Religion fabricated by Toris; Ivan's alien race must lose their virginity around a certain time to avoid serious cognitive damage, but Toris has convinced Ivan that to do that would damn him. Of course, Ivan is more sympathetic and kindhearted than most, and doesn't take out his troubles on Eduard... usually.
- Sex Slave: In the premise
- Shoot the Hostage: Toris does this in his Backstory.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Katya and Ivan; one is an aloof Lady of War and the other is a passionate Bruiser with a Soft Center.
- Slave to PR: The bondsperson traders, particularly Antonio and Romae, are this, contributing to the Central Theme that no one is entirely free.
- Smells Sexy: Bondspeople to the Vitim on their Time, and the Vitim on their Time to bondspeople. Justified by the drugs and hormones putting both of those groups on heat.
- So Much for Stealth: The first thing an undercover Raivis does in the story is strike up a pretty obvious conversation with a member of the enemy, then promptly says something incredibly awkward and covers it up by revealing vital information.
- Danmark somehow decides it's proper to flip a table whilst stealthily hanging around the Decennial auction.
- Spoiled Sweet: Feliciano and Natalya are both this.
- Standing Between The Enemies: Eduard does this in the climax between Toris and Ivan.
- Unsinkable does this at one point between the Five-Man Band and Kirkland so that he can attempt to reason with the former, in the hopes that they'll work with the latter.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Eduard and Ivan, and Danmark and Tim.
- Steampunk: Duh.
- Stockholm Syndrome: Mathieu appears to have something of this toward Francis. Depending on your interpretation, this could also apply to Alfred, Gilbert, or even Eduard.
- Super Happy Fun Trope of Doom: Everything about the bondsperson trade is treated this way.
- Take a Third Option: When Eduard has to choose between supporting La Résistance and The Empire: he comes in with a gun, demands that both sides knock it off, and ensures the safety of his friends on both sides.
- Take Me Instead: Toris tries to get Ivan to attack him instead of Raivis. Subverted in that neither are really in danger from Ivan.
- Though these words are never spoken, Kirkland lets the cops take him so that Unsinkable can get away.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The crew of the Great Delivery and the Five-Man Band, for a time.
- Terrifying Rescuer: Sverige starts out as this to Tim, though he turns out to be utterly benign.
- Theme Naming: All of the Olyokin characters have Eastern European names; all of the Five-Man Band's names are Nordic countries; only Arthur and Alfred have English names. Justified by the source material, though.
- Those Two Guys: Adnan and Karpusi are this to some degree. Also the pair of older bondspeople travelling with Antonio to the auction. Feliciano and Lovino make an Early-Bird Cameo as this, though both become individually important later.
- Thrown Out the Airlock: Desmond, the idiot from the Great Delivery's crew.
- Title Drop: Unsurprisingly, this happens a lot at the Auction of Evil in the climax.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Subverted. Alfred seems set up to be this, but in the long run, he winds up donning the Jade-Colored Glasses like everyone else.
- Too Happy to Live: Alfred starts out this way. Eduard and Ivan become this after they admit they love each other, only to immediately be forced to split up.
- Trauma Conga Line: Too many to count, but we'll try:
- Unsinkable's backstory is one long conga line of rape.
- Margot was unjustly captured and bounced around like Unsinkable, only to be nearly put down by the system.
- Ivan and Katya's parents were brutally assassinated, leaving Ivan to lead the Empire and Katya to lead the Emperor; both are faced with The Chains of Commanding as revolution and war threaten their country and their family for the rest of their lives. Not to mention that, somewhere in there, Ivan found the time to nearly lose his mind...
- Toris's backstory is possibly the worst of these; his family was shot, so he ran away to his grandmother, only to be deported away from her on a train that was taken under rebel control and stashed with weaponry. After finding him on the train, the rebels recruited him as a Child Soldier; after this, he becomes involved in a Shoot the Hostage situation that causes his hometown to be bombed, leaving nearly everyone he knows dead, save for his Morality Pets Feliks and Raivis, who he finds starved and dying of cholera.
- Try Not to Die: Toris's advice to Feliks and Raivis, and Kirkland's Last Request to Unsinkable.
- Twin Switch: At the auction, Mathieu and Alfred get mixed up and go to the wrong people. Of course, they didn't know they were twins yet.
- Unreliable Narrator: All of the characters are this to some degree, since each have their own takes on their situations; for example, Francis looks like a Jerk Ass Domestic Abuser from Mathieu's perspective, but like a fairly reasonable (if somewhat hopeless) man in love from his own perspective; Ivan looks like a whiny Annoying Younger Sibling from Katya's perspective, a childish but ultimately benign friend from Eduard's perspective, and a brutish, pitiful Caligula from Toris's perspective; Captain Kirkland looks like an unforgivable Slimeball from Tim's perspective but like a slightly smarmy Noble Demon to Unsinkable. And so on.
- Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Subverted twice by Feliks; he reveals his gender to Norge, who takes it in stride, and to Eduard, who doesn't seem to particularly care. Neither change their opinions of him at all upon discovering he's male.
- Villainous Rescue: Ivan saves the revolutionaries' lives at Eduard's request.
- Villain over for Dinner: Ivan does this all the time, and eats with Toris almost every night, though he doesn't know Toris is a villain.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Avo Romae.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Ivan and Eduard, Capt. Kirkland and Unsinkable, and Adnan and Karpusi.
- War Is Hell: Olyokin certainly proves that much.
- Was It All a Lie?: Ivan wonders this after discovering that Toris is The Mole and Eduard has been working with him.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: We never find out whether Antonio ever got paid.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Eduard has moments of this toward both Toris and Ivan. Margot asks this toward The Unsinkable when she finds out he's working with Captain Kirkland.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Feliks is this as part of his duties as The Mole.
- Will Not Be A Victim: This is what Unsinkable is famous for.
- Will They or Won't They?: Unsinkable and Captain Kirkland.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Apparently Toris, Feliks, and Raivis have become expendable, since their Commander sends them on a Suicide Mission.