Literature / Federation of the Hub
aka: A Tale Of Two Clocks
The Federation of the Hub
is a series of science fiction short-stories and novels by James H. Schmitz
. They are connected by their setting, an interstellar federation in the far future located toward the center of the galaxy. The series as a whole is considered memorable as one of the earliest in mainstream SF to feature strong female leads.
Almost all of the stories feature one or more of three different young women. The majority of the stories (and the majority of the words in the series) are about teenaged psychic Telzey Amberdon. There are also several stories and one short novel starring or co-starring the young student Trigger Argee, who gets caught up in interplanetary intrigue, and later in the series, becomes friends with Telzey. In addition, there is one short novel and one short story starring biologist Nile Etland; though Nile never encounters Telzey or Trigger. Beyond that, there are a handful of stories featuring other minor characters, some of whom have smaller roles in the main Telzey/Trigger storyline.Baen Books
have brought the series back into print in recent years. The reissue attracted some controversy among long-standing fans because of the editor's decision to tighten up a few of the stories, a process that in some cases more closely resembled major surgery. There were also some kinks in the release order: it was decided to release all the Telzey Amberdon stories first, with the result that every Telzey team-up story appears before the story introducing the character she's teaming up with. This doesn't really matter for the lesser recurring characters, whose stories don't have strong continuity or chronology; but volume 2, containing the Telzey and Trigger team-up stories, is definitely set after, and contains significant spoilers for, the solo Trigger stories in volume 3.
Novels in the series:
- Legacy (aka A Tale of Two Clocks). Stars Trigger Argee.
- The Demon Breed (aka Tuvela). Stars Nile Etlund.
Baen's collections (in publication order) are:
- Telzey Amberdon
- TNT: Telzey and Trigger
- Trigger and Friends (includes Legacy)
- The Hub: Dangerous Territory (includes The Demon Breed)
This series provides examples of:
- Absent-Minded Professor: Plemponi, Dr. Mantelish.
- Action Girl:
- The Alternet: The ComWeb, a Federation-wide email/instant messaging/videophone system.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: The Duke of Fluel, in "Lion Loose", is a sadistic torturer perfectly willing to blow up a hotel full of innocent people for financial gain.
- Badass Boast:
"You've definitely been wrong about me," Telzey told him. "You didn't know enough. I've been a psi, a practising psi, for almost a year. I can go through a human life in an hour and know more about it than the man or woman who's living it. I've gone through quite a few lives, not only human ones. I do other things that I don't talk about. I don't know what it all exactly makes me now, but I'm not a child. Of course, I am
sixteen years old and haven't been that very long. But it might even be that sometimes people like you and Wellan Dasinger
look a little like children to me. Do you understand?"
- Bluffing the Advance Scout: In The Demon Breed
- Chivalrous Pervert: Heslet Quillan takes instant advantage of the situation when the naked Action Girl falls into his arms—but never hesitates when a lady needs his help.
- Cloning Blues: In "Ti's Toys"
- Close-Call Haircut: "Baldy" Perk in "Lion Loose" has his nickname because a near-miss shot from a blaster left him with burn scars all over his scalp, leaving him entirely unable to regrow his hair.
- Cool Gate: In "The Lion Game", the civilisation on Tinokti is based on a planet-spanning portal network. Concerns such as hotels consist of 'portal circuits', a set of linked buildings dotted all over the planet. The antagonists make full use of the technology; they also use a device called the 'Vingarran Gate' to teleport to and from their spaceships, which are out of range for Federation portals.
- Cooperation Gambit: In "The Lion Game", Telzey assists the Alatta leader Kolki Ming (who originally kidnapped her, and who has no intention of letting her escape) with her goal of taking control of the portal circuit and Vingarran Gate.
- Curse Escape Clause: In "Child of the Gods", Telzey is mentally enslaved by another psionic, with several of her most potent skills locked away. When the man is incapacitated and a monstrously powerful alien is shortly due to arrive to enslave and/or eat them, Telzey breaks free when she realizes that his command to look after his best interests—without him conscious to decide otherwise—would best be served if she had full access to all her abilities and was free of his control so she could use them most effectively.
- Decapitation Presentation: The expected conclusion of Elaigar ritual combat in "The Lion Game".
- Designated Girl Fight: In "The Lion Game", the Alatta infiltrators have one female member and (initially) three male. When they challenge the Sattaram leaders to personal combat, it so happens that the battles align by gender; so Kolki Ming and Telzey get to face the female leader, Stiltik. The Sattarams are certain that Stiltik will curbstomp them both.
- Drives Like Crazy: Dr Plemponi in Legacy.
- Dolled-Up Installment: The Baen reissues include a non-Hub story, "Planet of Forgetting", rewritten as a Hub story, "Forget It". The theory here was that it may well have been a Dolled Down Installment in the first place.
- Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off: Used as a threat in Legacy, when Trigger is placed under guard. Her guard, who's also her self-defence instructor, gives her terms: If Trigger tries to escape and succeeds, no hard feelings. If she tries and fails, she gets spanked with whatever's closest to hand.
- Energy Beings: The goyal in "The Searcher" appears as a luminous purple energy field.
- Extra Eyes: In "Company Planet", a surgeon has an additional eye in the centre of his forehead, which Telzey guesses might act as a magnifier for close-in work.
- Famous Last Words (also Tempting Fate): "And now, if it is within the power of a Tuvela to defy our purpose, show what you can do." note
- Fantastic Slurs: The Parahuans have 'Hulon' for humans (at least, the ones they don't believe to be super-powered Tuvelas). One of them explains it was originally the name of a race that they wiped out.
- The Federation: The Federation of the Hub.
- Framing the Guilty Party: Telzey does this in "Undercurrents".
- Giant Mook: The Parahuans' tarm in "The Demon Breed" — a 'most efficiently destructive giant beast'. The viewpoint humans aren't sure if it was engineered from a Parahuan sea creature, or from the Parahuans themselves.
- Grand Theft Me: In "The Symbiotes".
- Heroes Want Redheads: Trigger and Heslet Quillan.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Played with in "Novice" (the first Telzey story) with humans hunting crest cats, who (unbeknownst to the humans) are intelligent beings. However, the crest cats are having enormous fun hunting the humans right back.
- Human Aliens: Maulbow in "The Winds of Time" looks human, but his body chemistry is sufficiently different that human anaesthetic has no effect on him.
- Humans Are Psychic in the Future: The Hub stories have a significant number of psychic characters, even though psis are still only a tiny fraction of the human race. However, they are numerous enough that the Federation Psychology Service has spent centuries making sure that rogue psis don't screw up the status quo too badly. A character in one story explicitly mentions that humanity only developed psi powers when it started spreading to other planets, and speculates about how the two events might be connected.
- Humans Are Warriors: the epilogue to The Demon Breed concludes that Humans Are Dangerous, Leave Them Alone.
Lord Toshin: There remains, as the Lord Gulhad indicated, a third possibility. I find it perhaps more disquieting than the two we have considered. It is, of course, that Dr. Etland is precisely what she seems to be—an exceptionally capable human, but one with no abnormal qualities and no mysterious authority.note
- Humanity Is Infectious: In The Other Likeness.
- Hyperspace Is a Scary Place:
- "A Nice Day For Screaming" has this in spades: the space itself is inherently hazardous, and then it turns out there are things living in it... although they aren't malicious.
- "The Winds of Time" has the Great Current, which is a hyperspace-analogue for time travel. There are things living in it, too, and they don't welcome visitors.
- Immortality Seeker: Ticos Cay. This makes him a rarity among Hub citizens, who are mostly affected by Who Wants to Live Forever?.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: One of the rare plants in Ticos Cay's laboratory is known as a Harpooneer. It's harmless for as long as it's kept in suspended animation — and not a second longer. Ticos keeps it next to the platform where his interrogators stand.
- Intrepid Reporter: Keth Deboll.
- It Can Think: In "The Winds of Time", the protagonists come to the realisation that Maulbow's giant snake monster is not just a dumb animal. In fact, Maulbow belongs to it.
- Kaleidoscope Hair: Danestar Gems, in "The Searcher", always wears a wig of the same colour as her outfit.
- Klingon Promotion: Practised by the Parahuans in The Demon Breed.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: In "Harvest Time", this seems to be standard operating procedure for Precol Academy graduates, particularly Commissioner Ramog. When Ramog tries his technique on Holati Tate, it's Ramog who ends up having the 'accident.'
- Make the Dog Testify: In "Undercurrents". Subverted in that the dog didn't actually know a damn thing, but Telzey knows some people who can implant fake memories really really well...
- Mister Big: Parahuan leaders in "The Demon Breed" are smaller than their underlings; the physical changes they undergo are part of their advancement towards what they consider to be the ultimate form of life.
- Mook Horror Show: The epilogue to "The Demon Breed" retells the story from the aliens' point of view.
I must emphasize strongly the oppressively accumulating effect these events produced on the Parahuans during the relatively short period in which they occurred. As related by the survivors, there was a growing sense of shock and dismay, the conviction finally of having challenged something like an indestructible supernatural power. At the time they were questioned, the survivors still seemed more disturbed by this experience than by the practical fact of their own impending demise on orders of Porad Anz, of which they were aware.
- Mugging the Monster: In Lion Game two street thugs stalk Telzey...very briefly.note
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Telzey is rather prone to this.
- One Riot, One Ranger: Well, one invasion / one Guardian, is the Parahuans' conclusion from their debacle on Nandy-Cline. "Guardians" being their hypothesized superhumans who secretly rule the Federation.
Evidently the Guardians had considered it unnecessary to employ one of their more formidable members to dispose of the invasion forces; and evidently their judgement was sound.
- But other aliens think — correctly — that the ratio is even worse: one invasion / two more-or-less ordinary humans.
- Our Giants Are Bigger: One Federation member race is the Sparans, who grow to about eight feet tall. In "The Lion Game", the Elaigar are of similar size — the Otessans and Alattas retain human proportions and (suitably disguised) can pass for Sparans, while the Sattaram leaders are much more massively built.
- Power Perversion Potential: In "Glory Day", Hatzel has the psionic ability to teleport objects. He demonstrates this by stealing the gun Trigger's holding — and the underpants she's wearing.
- Precursors: Their remnants feature in several of the Trigger Argee stories.
- Private Detective: The agents of Kyth Interstellar Detective Agency, who appear in starring or supporting roles in several of the Hub stories.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Elaigar in "The Lion Game" prize death in combat and have elaborate codes of formal duelling.
- Psychic Block Defense: Mind shield devices were commercially available, and creatures known as Old Galactics could provide them to their symbionts (such as humans).
- Psychic Powers
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Although the Federation's Psychology Service originally comes on like Psi-Corps, we rapidly see that if a psi shows a reasonable measure of self-control and responsibility the Psychology Service is entirely willing to leave them free to live their own life, even if their actions were technically illegal. The Psychology Service's motto might as well be "Every case is on a 'case-by-case basis'."
- An example is that despite the fact that Telzey originally fought for her freedom by blackmailing the Psychology Service, they've been entirely willing to help with the damage control on other crises she's helped bring to their attention, no strings attached, to the point of temporarily giving her official status as a Psychology Service field agent and then cutting her loose again rather than forcing her to stay when the case was over (despite the fact that they have the legal authority to draft her at any time). Then again, her case manager seems to be taking the tack of 'When Telzey finishes growing up, she'll probably come to me willingly... after all, she does enjoy the work.'
- Really 700 Years Old: Pilch, possibly to the point of being a Time Abyss.
Telzey: You were there before they founded the Federation.
Pilch: If you saw that, you've also seen that I helped found the Federation. And that I maintain it.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: When Telzey & Trigger team up, the calmly cerebral and ruthless Telzey plays a classic blue oni to Trigger's cheerful, outgoing, and Hot-Blooded red oni.
- Sapient Pet: Telzey Amberdon's pet crest cat Tick-Tock in "Novice".
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Averted. Telzey's father is a highly wealthy and influential man, and her mother is on the Federation High Council... and neither one would have been able to do a damn thing to help fight the forces she's been up against, both official and otherwise.
- Well, her dad comes in handy on one of her early cases by introducing her to the Kyth Detective Agency... and paying their bill.
- Also, Telzey's mother, Jessamine Amberdon is on the board of the Hace Committee, which is an ethics committee.
- Seriously Scruffy: In The Demon Breed, the Parahuan leaders wear elaborate outfits — except for Koll, the principal antagonist, who's so focused on conquest (possibly to the detriment of his sanity) that he takes no trouble over his appearance.
- Sexy Walk: Trigger apparently has one.
- Smart People Play Chess: Telzey Amberdon is a superpowered Teen Genius telepath, introduced in one story playing in the planetary championship games. (Made it to the semifinals, then had to drop out due to being interrupted by a case.)
- The Spymaster: Senior Commissioner Holati Tate.
- Stealth Expert: Corvin Wergard of the Kyth Agency.
- Sugary Malice: The default state of being for Telzey's Aunt Halet in "Novice".
- Superweapon Surprise: In The Demon Breed, militaristic aliens land a scouting force on a quiet ocean world on the periphery of the Federation — and are handed a stinging defeat by Ticos Cay's and Nile Etland's abilities to weaponize the local lifeforms.
- The Swarm: In "The Searcher", the goyal is a swarm of tiny energy creatures that act as a single mind.
- Taking You with Me: In The Demon Breed, Ticos Cay's collection of biological specimens was assembled with this in mind, if he ever outlived his usefulness to the alien invaders.
- Teen Genius: Telzey starts out as one.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Endemic among the Elaigar in "The Lion Game"; they're constantly jockeying for position among themselves, and not paying enough attention to outside threats.
- Tele-Frag: In "Sleep No More": Telzey is being chased by a teleporting monster that homes in on her thoughts. She finds that by imagining a location, she can trick it into appearing there. So she projects the mental image of a cave in a nearby cliff. Except there isn't a cave in the cliff, and the monster materialises in solid rock.
- Touched by Vorlons: How Telzey gets her powers. More precisely, Telzey was born with her powers but didn't consciously realize she had them until telepathic contact with an alien race "unlocked" them for her. However, the "unlocking" procedure went on for longer than it was supposed to, meaning that she gained access to some powers most humans didn't or couldn't.
- Transhuman Treachery: “The Machmen” claim they have this rather than brainwashing.
- Trouble Magnet Gambit: Used by Holati Tate in "Harvest Time", with a slight variation: Rather than hand the trouble magnet to the victim, he gives the victim the opportunity to steal it. If the victim was an honest man, he wouldn't be endangered.
- Turned Against Their Masters:
- The Elaigar were created by the Grisands, a cult of mad scientists, as a race of psionic Super Soldiers they could use to dominate their planet. It didn't end well for the Grisands.
- In "The Searcher", the goyal was created by a race known as the Builders. It promptly consumed them all.
- Uplifted Animal: Nile Etland's hunting otters.
- World of Badass: This is a deliberate policy of the federation goverment, which permits private wars to keep the people prepared for outside menaces.
- Wrench Wench: Danestar Gems is the electronics-expert variation: an expert on communications and surveillance systems.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Danestar's wigs aren't limited to the natural range of human hair colours.
- Younger Than They Look: The oldest Sattaram Telzey meets in "The Lion Game" is the elderly, senile Korm; he's later revealed to be no more than twenty-four years old. The same applies to the other Sattarams: their joint leaders Stiltik and Boragost are seventeen and twenty, respectively.
- You No Take Candle: The otter characters speak a pidgin version of human language, without such things as verb tenses.
- You Wouldn't Shoot Me: In The Lion Game, Thrakell Dees tries this on Telzey. The key word being tries.
- Zeroth Law Rebellion: In Child of the Gods — see Curse Escape Clause above.