Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Aeon 14

Go To
"Just once, I'd like to fly into a system where everyone doesn't want to kill us."
Aeon 14 is a Military Science Fiction/Space Opera novel franchise originating on Amazon's Kindle platform. Created by Canadian-American author M.D. Cooper in 2012, it now comprises several sub-series by multiple authors.

Outsystem, the first book in publication order, begins in the year 4123, and while humanity has expanded across the Sol system and nearby stars and humanity is in a technological golden age, Faster-Than-Light Travel has yet to be developed. Major Tanis Richards is a counterinsurgency officer in the Terran Space Force with a black mark as "the Butcher of Toro", a treatment that derailed a promising career and destroyed her loyalty to her government, the Sol Space Federation. Fortunately, the colony ship GSS Intrepid, the most advanced Human Popsicle carrier ever built, is nearing completion over Mars. Her destination is the terraformed planet New Eden orbiting 82 Eridani, and Tanis has managed to score a ticket in return for serving aboard as chief of security.

However, Tanis quickly learns that not all is as it should be aboard Intrepid. Somebody powerful, perhaps several somebodies, doesn't want her millions of crew and passengers to leave Sol, and they're hiring crews of mercenaries to ensure that doesn't happen. Together with her Artificial Intelligence symbiote Angela, Ace Pilot Joseph Evans, Space Police officer Jessica, and Lovable Rogue Trist, can Tanis defeat the attackers and get the ship safely out of the system?

Aeon 14 consists of several sub-series, the first of which, The Intrepid Saga, was completed in November 2016. Stylistically it liberally mixes Applied Phlebotinum with well-researched astronomy and physics: stars present in the series can usually be found in the sky, and phenomena such as gravity wells and Lagrangian points are extremely important in maneuvering. The characters populating the 'verse can technically be called transhumans given the amount of Bio-Augmentation and cyborgization present, but they likewise still care about many if not most of the same things as real-life humans, with themes of love, war, ideology, and identity very prominent.

For a list of books in the franchise to date, see Recap.Aeon 14.

The author's website also contains a chronology.

Tropes present in Aeon 14 are below. Due to a major shift in the nature of the series at the transition between Building Victoria and Destiny Lost, there may be unmarked spoilers.

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Sini recalls a brief affair with her then-first officer Chan while she commanded the cruiser Warspite. Both were married at the time. They broke up when Sini was promoted off the ship.
  • Absent Aliens: The series takes its name from an in-universe theory that it takes approximately 14 billion years (1 billion years = 1 eon in timekeeping terms) for intelligent life to arise. So far, even the far-ranging terraformer fleets have not encountered anything smarter than a cat in the admittedly small chunk of the galaxy that has been explored (the Messier 25 cluster, the location of New Canaan, is only 2,000 light-years from Sol, and it took several years' travel at FTL speeds to get there from where they exited Kapteyn's Streamer).
  • Ace Pilot: Joe Evans, Tanis' Love Interest. A memorable scene in Outsystem has a merc attack against Intrepid get foiled by his fancy flying of a cargo shuttle, which included them getting boarded. Then there's a jolt, the mercs are thrown off balance, and Tanis and the Space Marines fill them with holes.
    Joe: Oops, did I clip that cargo net? Sorry about that.
  • A.I. Getting High: Sapient AI get a natural high (likened to an orgasm by one character) from great feats of mental prowess. This is deliberately designed into them as a Pavlovian conditioning trigger.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: AIs are more commonly beneficial in this series, but there are exceptions.
    • Under the Phobos Accords which ended the Sentience Wars and established the Sol Space Federation, the AIs maintained their own court system to deal with such cases (which is said to be far harsher than the legal system for organics).
    • Early in A Path in the Darkness, Tanis and Joe have to fight off an insane AI that was left by the saboteurs as a diversion.
    • The Dance on the Moons of Serenity mentions that non-sentient AI are actually more dangerous than sentient AI like Angela, Bob, etc. Sentient AIs are treated by the books' narration as just people, with emotions and desires of their own, and generally like humans, while NSAI are just piles of algorithmic code without a personality and are more vulnerable to programming faults. (It's later revealed, however, that the distinction is fairly hazy.)
    • In Strike Vector Grayson's AI Jerrod goes rogue, taking over his body and assaulting the crew of the Dauntless... because he's Just Following Orders that Grayson unsuccessfully argues to him violate Silstrand law.
    • The "core AIs", a group of ascended AIs dating to the Sentience Wars who now exist as pure information in the Sagittarius A* black hole at the galaxy's core. They in turn created AI enemies Myrrdan and Airtha, apparently in what they perceive as self-defense.
  • The Alternet: The Link, which is basically the Internet when you incorporate AIs and Brain/Computer Interface.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Admiral Sini Laaksonen in "Know Thy Enemy" is culturally Finnish but has red-brown skin.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Future Generation Terraformers (FGT) turns into essentially The Illuminati IN SPACE! by Destiny Lost, trying to quietly guide humanity out of the FTL-induced dark ages it fell into. Lampshaded in "Know Thy Enemy": Sini derisively calls them "our friendly neighborhood Illuminati".
  • Androids Are People, Too: The Phobos Accords consider shackling AIs to be a form of slavery, and while some people like to think there's a difference between a sapient AI and a human, the transhumanism in the series ultimately gets to the point where the only real difference is whether one was conceived through biological or computational means. As the short story "I Have No Master" indicates, it's not even completely clear where the dividing line is between an SAI and an NSAI: Dregs started as an NSAI drone but has been upgraded so thoroughly he's verging on sapience.
  • Anti-Nepotism: After their daughters Cary and Saanvi steal a ship to "get in on the fun" of the Battle of New Canaan in Orion Rising and are both nearly killed ramming an enemy carrier, Tanis and Joe Richards (respectively the then-governor, and the Commandant of the Intrepid Space Force Academy) promise to put the two of them through the wringer as cadets. In The Scipio Alliance Cary spends a couple pages complaining to their friend Jill and Artificial Intelligence half-sister Faleena about the treatment.
  • Artificial Gravity: Accomplished by pulling gravitons out of the dark layer and projecting them. In the 5th millennium only very large installations such as Intrepid can fit them, but they're later miniaturized and become much more versatile, ultimately leading to Reactionless Drive and the discovery of Faster-Than-Light Travel. By Destiny Lost graviton emitters are so common that ships don't even need to be airtight anymore.
  • Artificial Intelligence: The series draws a line between sentient and non-sentient AI (NSAI). Non-sentient AI can parse complex commands but appear to be rules-based. Sentient AI (SAI), e.g. Tanis's companion Angela or Intrepid's shipboard AI Bob, are creative, feel and express emotions, and grow and change with their experiences like humans do. However, it's less of a hard line and more of a Sliding Scale, which John Stripe's novella I Have No Master deals with directly: Dregs is technically still an NSAI but his OS has been upgraded so much that it's hard to tell the difference.
  • Artistic License – Military: Justified. There is little distinction between Space Navy and Standard Sci-Fi Army, with various "Space Forces" using a mishmash of army and navy ranks apparently based on occupational specialty. For example, in Outsystem, Tanis Richards holds the Terran Space Force rank of major as a counterterrorism operator. The In-Universe explanation is that a hard administrative division between service branches is considered Cool, but Inefficient by most factions because the "army" is dependent on the space force for transport and logistics, though the TSF and its descendant the ISF pointedly still maintain a Marine Corps sub-branch.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Ascension becomes a big deal in the later novels, explained as a human or AI developing the ability to perceive and manipulate higher dimensions of spacetime, which may or may not mean leaving their normal three-dimensional body behind. Tanis and Angela become an ascended being at the climax of Attack on Thebes, taking the name Tangel.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: DMGs emerge as a hard counter to stasis shields midway through the Orion War arc, Wave Motion Guns designed to envelop a stasis ship in an intense cloud of charged particles to penetrate the chinks that have to be left open (e.g. for engine exhaust). They're effective—the first one mission-kills a newly designed ISF dreadnaught—but they use so much energy they have to be powered by a captured black hole, which makes them incredibly difficult to move through the dark layer and potentially as dangerous to their own wielders as to the ISF. So far, two have been destroyed by return fire destabilizing the containment systems, and the first one ate the planet the ship had been orbiting as a result. Of course, then the ISF figures out how to build one into an I-class mothership and all bets are off.
  • Babies Ever After: At the end of Attack at Dawn (the conclusion of the Orion War series), Tangel reveals that Tanis is pregnant again, with twins.
  • Back for the Finale: Know Thy Enemy ended with Admiral Sini Laaksonen resigning her commission rather than lead the AST fleet to New Canaan, which she considered a Suicide Mission. She reappears at the end of Star Rise in command of Earth's Home Defense Fleet, having apparently been reinstated at some point.
  • Back from the Dead: Memory backups and cloning make it possible to resurrect dead characters on occasion. Cheeky dies in a You Shall Not Pass! at the end of Perseus Gate Season 1, but Finaeus revives her in a clone body with an AI brain based on memories copied from her by a robot designed to Kill and Replace targets.
  • Benevolent A.I.: Tanis has a number of very funny arguments with Angela, the AI who is implanted in Tanis' Brain/Computer Interface, but AIs are generally quite benign and even friendly in this series, with some exceptions. In Sol they even have their own court system to deal with AIs that do go bad. However, this all came about as a result of a Robot War which is detailed in the Sentience Wars sub-series. It's also mentioned briefly in The Dance on the Moons of Serenity that NSAI, being less intelligent, are more dangerous than sentient AI.
  • Benevolent Dictator: Empress Diana.
  • Bio-Augmentation: Cybernetics are much more common but purely biological alterations exist, too. In particular, Tanis has an auxiliary heart installed during the Time Skip between Destiny Lost and New Canaan after narrowly surviving a railgun wound through the chest in the former, which lets her survive two assassination attempts in the latter.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: Most of Orion Rising consists of the Battle of New Canaan, when the Orion Guard brings multi-thousand-ship fleets from the AST/Hegemony of Worlds and the Triselieds Alliance to try to conquer the system for for its advanced technology, and Tanis, the New Canaanites, and the Transcend fighting tooth and nail to fend them off.
  • Black Box: Invoked. For state security reasons, Tanis plans to give the Transcend only black box versions of their most advanced tech, particularly their powerful stasis shields. They'll even implement it on their own ships in case of capture. Unfortunately, as of Race Across Spacetime, the AST has cracked the secret.
  • Breakout Character: Sera was originally planned to be the main character and Destiny Lost the first novel. However, M.D. Cooper found the Human Popsicle Tanis Richards so compelling that she wrote the Intrepid Saga trilogy to fill out Tanis's backstory and made her the primary viewpoint character of the main series going forward.
  • Break the Haughty: Admiral Sini Laaksonen starts "Know Thy Enemy" professionally cautious but confident in her abilities, pointedly considering herself superior to Bollam's World Admiral Senya, whom she considers overranked. A Mook Horror Show, a disastrous pursuit of Intrepid, and a Time Skip later, and she resigns her commission in protest rather than lead a fleet against Tanis Richards again.
  • Bus Crash:
    • The Victoria colony that the Intrepid crew builds in Building Victoria ends up being glassed offscreen by vengeful Sirians during the FTL Wars, centuries after Intrepid leaves to resume its journey. Sirian state policy in fact is that no permanent settlements are allowed in Kapteyn's Star, both to avenge their embarrassing defeat by the ISF and prevent giving inspiration to any future slave revolts by the Noctus.
    • Earth and Mars are glassed, and many of the habitats and dwarf planet colonies in the Sol system familiar to Tanis and Joe are destroyed while The Intrepid is on its centuries-long journey seeking a colony world to settle.
  • The Butcher: Tanis is known as the "Butcher of Toro" due to the official story of an incident in her counterinsurgency career, reportedly involving a massacre on a dwarf planet. She opens up to Joe about the real story in A Path in the Darkness: a lunatic cult had taken over the mining colony and was turning visitors into monsters with Bio-Augmentation. Tanis was forced to order Orbital Bombardment that obliterated the whole place, and then was forced to take the fall and accept a reduction in rank for PR reasons.
  • Call a Human a "Meatbag": In the Rika books, Rika and other mechs refer to baseline humans as "squishies".
  • City Planet: Alexandria, the capital of the Scipio Empire, and the setting of The Scipio Alliance and the spinoff The Empress and the Ambassador. There are others, but Alexandria is actually self-sufficient.
  • Civil War: The Transcend fragments as a result of the Succession Crisis induced by the assassination of President Jeffrey Tomlinson. Sera, Jeffrey's daughter, controls one major faction but gets caught in a two-front war between the Orion Guard and Airtha, an ascended AI and her mother who seizes control of the Transcend's capital, a Ringworld Planet in the Huygens system. Some systems in the Transcend declare themselves neutral, while others declare independence. After Bob kills Airtha, Sera and later the real Jeffrey (the earlier one was a clone controlled by Airtha) have to spend much of their time bringing the country back together.
  • Civil War vs. Armageddon:
    • Most of the series is focused on conflicts between various groups of spacefaring humans, AIs, and both, all of whom have been played off against each other for millennia by ascended AIs living in the galactic core, who are eventually revealed to have plans that would be apocalyptic for humanity if allowed to succeed. The Orion War series deals primarily with efforts by the protagonists to forge a coalition out of the morass of warring states to root out the core AIs' shards and catspaws and take the fight to them—except it ultimately turns out that the core AIs aren't wholly unified, either.
    • At a higher level, the Transcend/Orion conflict is found to be a proxy war among factions of the ascended AI's at the core, and with other AI powers such as Bob, Airtha, Darla, and The Caretaker. Their "Armageddon" is the heat death of the universe, which unlike humans they can potentially live long enough to actually see.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Joe is a pilot, but had to fill in as chief of security until Tanis arrived because of all the sabotage.
  • Colony Drop:
    • Perseus Gate #2: The World at the Edge of Space: Jessica crashes the stasis-shielded Sabrina into a planet that's been turned into a gigantic bioweapons laboratory, ramming it all the way through the planet and out the other side, cracking the crust to the point where magma resurfaces the entire planet in short order. And they live to tell about it!
    • Perilous Alliance #2: Strike Vector: When a planet they've targeted refuses to give up its AIs, the Evil Luddite cult bombards it with asteroids.
    • Starfire: The eponymous weapon, "starfire," is a neutronium slug accelerated to relativistic speeds, and fired through a warp gate. Tangel uses it to destroy a moon and end a battle with one shot.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: Used self-consciously and humorously, and immediately lampshaded, in Return To Sol: Star Rise:
    Misha: Come with me if you want to live!
    Nance: Lame, You can't use that line!
  • Cool Starship: Just in the first book the Intrepid is a unique vessel. She's the most advanced colony ship ever built, with onboard farms, forests and game lands, and equipped with a new form of ramscoop and a virtually godlike shipboard AI named Bob. Over the course of the next few books, the ship is refitted by its crew to be a devastatingly powerful warship as well, culminating in her relaunch in New Canaan as the I2, which Tanis uses as her flagship during the Orion War. Later, New Canaan begins building several more I-class ships.
  • The Coup: At the end of Orion Rising. Facing an impeachment proceeding after the disastrous invasion of New Canaan, AST President Uriel sets off a nuclear warhead in the part of High Terra containing the AST's legislature, making himself a dictator.
  • Danger in the Galactic Core: The villains of the series, ascended Artificial Intelligences from the Sentience Wars early in the setting's history, are revealed to have taken refuge in the galactic core... in the form of pure information residing within the Sagittarius A* black hole at its center. One character, Sera's mother, once sought them out and had her mind ripped from her body and turned into Airtha, one of the Orion War series' major villains.
  • Deflector Shields: Three types.
    • Initially Intrepid has ES shields, which are essentially electromagnetic interference capable of screening out hard radiation and directed energy weapons.
    • 9th millennium ships have gravitic shields, which use Artificial Gravity to destroy threats.
    • Intrepid combines 9th millennium gravitic technology with its own, and creates stasis shields, which can allow Space Fighters to stand up to gravitically shielded dreadnoughts for a time. Stasis shields render the ship nearly invulnerable to incoming fire until their power runs out: in Attack on Thebes, the I2 shrugs off the combined firepower of an entire Nietzschean fleet of over twenty thousand ships.
  • Determinator: Most of the characters in the Aeon 14 shared universe. Notably Tanis and her Desperate Last Stand on Pyra. The Marines with her, her pilot, and finally ISF Marine Commandant General Brandt give their lives to save Tanis, expounding large numbers of tropes such as It Can't End Like This and Give Me the Grenades, followed by We'll Come Back. Finally Tanis is brought to bay, out of allies, out of ammo, out of nanites, out of formation material, out of power, and her armor is failing. The Cavalry is too late. Tanis merges with her AI Angela, ascends to a higher plane, gathers all the non-living matter around her, and expels it against her enemies in a plasma bolt which rivals the sun and is visible from orbit. Then, and only then, her rescue assured, does she pass out.
  • Dyson Sphere: Star City in, well, The Last Bastion of Star City. Unusually for the trope, it's built around a neutron star, and the inhabitants have reportedly fended off Orion Guard attacks by using the star to generate targeted X-ray bursts (dump matter into the gravity well and X-rays are produced by its decay).
  • Earth That Was: Not just Earth, most settled planets suffered major damage in the Jovian Independence War and the FTL Wars. Sol got the worst of it, though: Earth and Mars were glassed (they've since been repopulated), most of the space stations Tanis and the others knew from their time were destroyed and the population is a fraction of what it once was. Earth is still relevant, though, in that it's one of the three core planets of the imperialist AST (a descendant of the Jovian state after they won their war with Earth).
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom:
    • The spectacular destruction of the gas giant Aurora in Destiny Lost. Intrepid passes through to refuel and discovers the Bollam's World government has been using orbital graviton generators to keep it from collapsing and becoming a brown dwarf, so that it serves as a helium-3 factory. Trying to destroy Intrepid, an AST fleet blows up the generators, which essentially turns the entire multi-Jupiter-mass planet into a planet-sized thermonuclear bomb. What they don't expect is that the explosion of the gaseous upper layers compresses the lower layers into a black hole and causing complete chaos, not to mention Intrepid is able to ride the shockwave with its newfangled stasis shields and accelerate to Ludicrous Speed before jumping to FTL.
    • At the climax of Starfire, Tangel shatters a moon with neutronium bullets fired by Star City through a jumpgate.
  • Enforced Cold War: The only reason there hasn't been a full-scale war between the Transcend and the Orion Guard until the emergence of the Intrepid in the 8900s is because it would be visiblenote  to the less-advanced human civilizations in the Inner Stars. The arrival of Intrepid in the 9th millennium upsets the apple cart and the war starts at the end of New Canaan.
  • Enemy Civil War: Race Across Spacetime has one break out between two factions of the Core AIs. Hades's faction is marginally friendlier to the protagonists than Epsilon's and includes Darla, a shard of an ascended AI who had been implanted in Tanis back in the Origins of Destiny series. Darla helps Sera, Finaeus, and Earnest rescue Tanis and Angela after Epsilon's Caretakers capture them, and Hades himself lets them use his jumpgate to return home from the galactic core.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Exdali, the creatures that live in the dark layer and feed on mass, making it unsafe to jump to FTL inside a system. They're invisible to optics and are depicted as tentacular beasts of darkness on other sensors. Tanis summons them into realspace as as her ace in the hole to win the Battle of New Canaan. And it turns out the Core AIs originally made them, so Bob is able to send them back.
  • Epigraph: The opening of "Know Thy Enemy" quotes the "If you know your enemy and know yourself" bit from The Art of War (Sun Tzu) (Lionel Giles translation).
  • Encyclopedia Exposita: Every book of the series contains a glossary of organizations, locations, and technology.
  • Ethical Slut: Jessica, after some Character Development. She's introduced in Path in the Darkness as a borderline nymphomaniac who's left a trail broken hearts behind her (to the point of being confined to quarters by commercial transport captains for causing fights among crew members), but after spending time with Tanis's team she becomes more circumspect, and even has a couple of committed relationships in which she chooses monogamy.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Mixed with Free-Love Future, many characters prefer partners of one sex or the other, but bisexuality and pansexuality are common and considered unremarkable, and open and group relationships are also relatively common. This includes viewpoint characters Jessica Keller and Sera Tomlinson in the main series, and Kylie Rhoads in Perilous Alliance (divorced from a male spouse and currently in a relationship with a lesbian woman at least at first). And of course, Cheeky, who will screw anyone and anything, in any combination, at any time. Even in the main monogamous, heterosexual pairing of Tanis and Joe, Joe at one point mentions that he'd be okay having a threesome with Cheeky if Tanis agreed (in context, partly meant to reassure her of his faithfulness during their frequent job-induced separations).
  • Evil Luddite: Deconstructed. In the Perilous Alliance series, Kylie Rhoads grew up the daughter of the leader of a quasi-religious cult that eschewed AI and body modification common in the setting, believing it a perversion of humanity. Her father is revealed to be planning a crusade in book two, helped by the Orion Guard, after being radicalized by an encounter with the Caretaker. However, their insistence on avoiding AI means their ships turn out to be quite vulnerable to hacking attacks, and Kylie is able to easily suborn their computers with the help of her own AI.
  • Fantastic Legal Weirdness: AIs govern themselves by intellectocracy and have their own separate court system to deal with AIs that commit crimes, which is said to be harsher than the legal system for organics back in the Sol Space Federation days. We get a glimpse of it early in Airthan Ascendancy: Carmen, an AI, is prosecuted for dereliction of duty.spoiler The AIs accept mitigating factorsnote  and sentence her to a "Limitation"—new code forbidding her from ever being a ship's AI again—and a requirement for her core to be installed in a human for the next ten years.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Featured beginning in Destiny Lost. It follows a hyperspace model: ships transition into the "dark layer", where their pre-transition velocity is multiplied by 500. Also deconstructed in an unusual way. For the first three books FTL is impossible, which also means that interstellar warfare is impossible (or at least so time-consuming it usually isn't worth attempting). The invention of FTL causes a minor Apocalypse How and much of Intrepid's underlying tech becomes Lost Technology. The Transcend and Orion Guard also have stargates, which generate artificial wormholes for instantaneous travel at the cost of being stationary (they can be carried aboard ships, but are left behind after a transit).
  • Feminist Fantasy: Most of the protagonists in the various series are women (or female-presenting AI) who are very comfortable with exercising power, while most of the really nasty villains are men.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Intrepid has the most advanced and powerful multi-nodal AI ever constructed, a computer being that can actually predict the future to a limited extent. His name? Bob.
  • Full-Conversion Cyborg:
    • Cyborgization extends to this often, such as the "mechs" in the Rika's Marauders series. Built by the Genevian Alliance as Super Soldiers during their war with the Nietzschean Empire, mechs have their limbs removed and replaced with attachment points for cybernetic limbs and weapons, a Brain/Computer Interface installed that includes a Restraining Bolt and a compartment for an AI core, and internal batteries for all their various add-ons (it's noted that some of Rika's c-batts would have to be removed in order for her genitalia to be made usable again). Later models have artificial skin to remove the need to take mechs out of their undersuits for cleaning.
    • One extreme example is Malorie in the Warlord series, a pirate queen whom Katrina has removed from her body and kept alive as a Brain in a Jar to punish her for enslaving her earlier. Katrina later has her brain installed in a spider-like robot body when she needs her services for a caper, which Malorie shortly decides she actually likes better than her original human body and keeps after Katrina makes her a permanent part of her crew.
    • Inverted with some AIs later in the series: Corsia has an organic body grown for herself after falling in love with the human captain of the ship her core is installed in. It's stated to be capable of birthing children.
  • Future Food Is Artificial:
    • The tech level of Sol makes real food the norm in the 5th millennium and in the New Canaan system. Intrepid even has entire farms and forests stocked with game, tended by robots.
    • Played straight with the Noctus Slave Race in the Sirius system: they are so used to consuming vat-grown protein on their deliberately technologically depressed asteroid habitats that they're actually put off by the idea of natural foods on the rare occasions they have to visit worlds of the Luminescent ruling class.
    • In the 9th millennium, natural foods are still preferred and widely available, but some crops have become difficult or impossible to find due to extinctions in the FTL Wars: the Intrepid has the only strawberry plants left in human space, and in The World at the Edge of Space, the crew of Sabrina barter several crates of watermelons for supplies from a remote colony. There's also "nutri-paste", an unappetizing slurry that is often subsisted on: Genevian mechs are fed the stuff since they've had their faces removed to dehumanize them, and in The Warlord Juasa spends so much time in a spacesuit for her job as a salvager that she had a port installed to her stomach so she wouldn't have to taste the stuff.
  • Future Imperfect: Some 20th-21st century pop culture is still familiar but not always remembered correctly.
    • In The Scipio Alliance, an exclusive resort is patterned after the wreck of the Olympic (which Angela says is supposed to be the Titanic, and sank in the 20th century rather than the 19th as the advertisers say), while Tanis gets costumed for a masquerade ball as "Shannon" from "Meteoroid" (i.e. Samus from Metroid).
    • In "Know Thy Enemy", religious cults on the planet Vulcan are mentioned to have conflated the Roman god with a Vulcan character out of Rihannsu.
  • Gangsta Style: Tanis holds a pistol this way in the third version of the cover for Outsystem (shown at the top of the page). The author has pointed out in response to the usual complaints that Tanis's body is heavily cyborgized: not only can she not hurt herself firing the gun, she doesn't aim with the sights but rather with an in-head HUD.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: Tanis's nano gives her Healing Factor that lets her survive wounds that should have killed her, even by 9th millenium standards, on a number of occasions.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language:
    • The Intrepid crew names LHS 1565 "Estrella de la Muerte", Spanish for "star of death". In the 90th century they find out the name stuck.
    • In "Know Thy Enemy", Sini Laaksonen is prone to lapsing into Finnish (most of which is profanity) when she's agitated.
  • Gravity Master: Once the a-grav units were implanted in her breasts by Danny, Sera gains the abillity to levitate into the air.
  • Grey Goo: Unlike nanotechnology, which is well-understood, picotechnology is experimental, and highly illegal because of an accident that ate a dwarf planet. The genius scientist Earnest Redding on the Intrepid succeeds in mastering it, and the war with Sirius forces them to weaponize it. A picobomb can eat fleets, and does on two occasions. The Orion Guard claims to have glassed several planets on the periphery of the Transcend due to runaway picoswarms from people trying to duplicate Redding's feat after Bollam's World.
  • Happily Adopted: In New Canaan, Tanis and Joe adopt Saanvi, a girl who was the Sole Survivor of an Orion Guard attack on her home planet in the Transcend (ostensibly due to a runaway picoswarm). Saanvi grows up happily with them and their biological daughter Cary.
  • Happily Married: Tanis and Joe by Building Victoria. The couple spend about a century off-and-on out of cryo while Intrepid travels to Kapteyn's Star for repairs, guarding against further sabotage, and are expecting a daughter in Destiny Lost.
  • Hegemonic Empire: The Scipio Empire is an oligarchy full of political intrigue, but Empress Diana genuinely tries to do right by her people, starting with having overthrown and killed her tyrannical father. Notably, power is intentionally divided between herself and four prelates, who have enough power between them to overthrow her if they have to. (She had planned to call for elections, but a Civil War led her to declare herself empress instead.)
  • Hive City: Space stations in The 'Verse tend to be gargantuan constructions with more human-sized buildings within them. One prime example of this is the Cho (short for "Callisto Orbital Habitat"), a city-state in the Sol system consisting of a series of concentric rings that were constructed around Jupiter's moon Callisto beginning in 3245 CE. Ring 1 was attached directly to the moon and the others were built outward from it over succeeding centuries. As of Outsystem's date of 4123 CE, the Cho consists of 151 rings and has a population of over three trillion people, comprising almost half of all humans in existence at that time. The Cho is so big it blocks nearly all view of space from the surface of the moon itself, which was once terraformed but has been reduced to waste-processing for the Cho.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs:
    • The Woman Who Seized an Empire plays with When Life Gives You Lemons... between 5th millennium Fish out of Temporal Water Katrina and her 9th millennium lover Juasa.
      Juasa: Stars... this is surreal. Yesterday you were slaving in the fields. Today you're promising me a starship.
      Katrina: I've made some lemonade.
      Juasa: What? What does lemonade have to do with anything?
      Katrina: When life gives you lemons... Nevermind, I guess it's an old saying. I thought that one would have stuck.
      Juasa: Sounds a bit like, "when the universe flings mass at you, you accrete it into something useful".
      Katrina: That's so awkward.
      Juasa: Yours just sounds weird. What does fruit have to do with daily life?
    • Know Thy Enemy has the protagonist, who was born on an ocean world, remark "Two fish, one spear," in regards to turning a gas giant being used as a fusion fuel factory by an enemy system into a fusion bomb to kill the Intrepid.
  • Hostile Terraforming: Sort of. In The World at the Edge of Space, ex-terraformer Finaeus relates how the FGT usually cleanses a planet of all non-Earth-origin life it might have as part of the terraforming process. So far they haven't encountered anything more intelligent than a cat, but they have found a number of indigenous pathogens that could wipe out all humanity if not eliminated.
  • Human Popsicle: Two types. Cryogenic suspension is actually out of use in the 5th millennium, obsoleted by "stasis", a technology that suspends atoms' motion.
  • Humans Are Insane: A feeling expressed sometimes by the AI characters. For example, in book four, Sera has this conversation with her AI partner Helen:
    Sera: The altered chemical and mental state [from wearing a suit of clothes that arouses the wearer] is the goal, not a symptom, you should remember that. You get your big rushes, so to speak, from feats of mental prowess. We humans can experience that, as well as a similar form, achieved from things as basic as tactile stimulation. If a person can channel that stimulation into something productive and use it to assist in focus it can be a strength and not a weakness.
    Helen: (laughs) Are you saying that the secret behind Cheeky's exemplary piloting skill is that she's a nymphomaniac and always aroused?
    Sera: That's exactly what I'm saying. She's extended her sexual stimulus to include her piloting skill. People can train their sexual response to be triggered by anything.
    Helen: I return to my earlier statement: organics are exceedingly weird.
  • Inhumanable Alien Rights: In Sol the rights of Artificial Intelligences are guaranteed by the Phobos Accords, which lay down rules for their creation, upbringing, and treatment, and also provide a legal system to govern them. The Accords have been abandoned by the 9th millennium and AI treatment varies wildly from nation to nation. Much of season 2 of the Perseus Gate series deals with the Sabrina crew heading off an AI uprising in the Inner Stars by reintroducing the Accords and establishing a new state called the League of Sentients.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Jessica, the nymphomaniac Space Police officer who got kidnapped and put on ice aboard Intrepid to be discovered in A Path in the Darkness, falls in love with and marries the thief Trist who is part of Tanis's team. Trist is killed by Myrrdan in Building Victoria, and Jessica subsequently falls in love with Trevor of the Sabrina crew.
  • Large Ham: Admiral Senya in Destiny Lost thinks she sounds dramatic. Tanis isn't impressed.
    Senya: You've just sentenced thousands of Bollam's citizens to death. There will be no more treaties. We will reclaim our new world, take your ship—whole, or in pieces—and crush your pathetic little fleet.
    Tanis: (to Terrance) At least when we were dealing with the Sirians they had proper megalomaniacs. This pales in comparison.
  • Lensman Arms Race: The 'Verse is made of this trope, due to the thousands-of-years long lives of the principal protagonists and the progressively larger inter- and intra-galactic conflicts they are involved in. Over the course of the novels, technology improves from fusion-based ramjets to FTL travel to warp gates, electrostatic shields, railguns, and beam weapons to nigh-invulnerable stasis shields and neutronium slugs fired at relativistic speeds through warp gates, nanotech to picotech which can grow ship hulls, dissolve ships in combat, or grey goo planets, summoning dark matter creatures which can devour space ships or even stars, and fighting ascended multidimensional beings which have what appear as essentially super-powers to three dimensional enhanced humans and Sentient AI's.
  • Lightspeed Leapfrog:
    • Because of the Time Dilation incident Intrepid is beaten to New Eden by other colonists. Sera contacts the FGT to find them a new planet out of reach of the governments warring over the colony ship's technology. They succeed at the first part, settling New Canaan, but the war comes to them.
    • Discussed in The World on the Edge of Space: with the invention of FTL travel, any other lost colony ships that survived will probably never find an unsettled world without help from the terraforming fleets.
  • Location Theme Naming: Combined with Religious and Mythological Theme Naming. The Intrepid crew and passengers are initially bound for New Eden (82 Eridani) but due to Time Dilation are LIghtspeed Leapfrogged and buy another star system, much further from Earth, from the Transcend, which they name New Canaan after the "promised land" for the Israelites in the Book of Exodus, which became the Kingdom of Israel on the Mediterranean coast. Inspired by this, the Transcend names every body in the system after a location on the Mediterranean coast, which the New Canaanites continue after their arrival, right down to naming New Canaan's main ocean the Mediterranean Ocean. And, as Angela notes, Tanis is a variant of Tanit, one of the major Canaanite (and Carthaginian) deities.
  • Longest Pregnancy Ever:
    • Justified: Tanis was probably pregnant with her and Joe's first daughter for several years (she was conceived at some point during Building Victoria and is born in New Canaan). Tanis had put the embryo in stasis inside her so the child could be born on New Eden, though that didn't work out (they were lightspeed leapfrogged and ended up having to barter a new planet from the Transcend, and Angela had to remove the stasis from the embryo to save Tanis from an injury, allowing the child to resume growing).
    • Inverted in The Last Bastion of Star City. Trevor and Jessica and her AI Iris both birth and raise several AI children inside a Lotus-Eater Machine that lets all the kids grow to maturity in only two meatspace days.
  • Mecha-Mooks:
    • Combat robots are pretty common, and New Canaan makes heavy use of drone spacecraft out of trying to field a galaxy-class military force on a starting population of only 25 million (in a galaxy where large space stations often have populations in the tens of billions).
    • Special mention to Genevian "mechs" in the Rika's Marauders series, which are Cyborg Super Soldiers constructed as by the Genevian Alliance in their failed defensive war against the Nietzschean Empire (mostly from enslaved convicts). They range from roughly human-sized with an Arm Cannon (SMI-2 scout mechs like Rika) up to smallish Humongous Mecha (K1R heavy mechs).
  • Mêlée à Trois: The Battle of Five Fleets in Destiny Lost has two different pirate factions, the Bollam's World Space Force, and the AST Space Force all trying to capture or destroy the Intrepid before the others. Tanis Richards has other ideas, defeating all four opposing fleets, then escaping the AST's reinforcements.
  • Merger of Souls: AI are forbidden to fuse with organic minds under the Phobos Accords to prevent one from being dominated by the other, and AI/human partnerships are legally limited in duration to keep it from happening. However:
    • In Orion Rising, Amanda (a human "avatar", a computer expert whose job is to interface between human crew members and Intrepid's super-AI, Bob) and the shipboard AI Ylonda are seriously injured fighting a rogue AI. They subdue their attacker but the remnants of their minds seek each other out and merge into a new personality in Amanda's body, Amavia (a portmanteau of the Latin forms of their names).
    • In Outsystem, Tanis and Angela perform a dangerous computing maneuver while leaving the Sol system, linking their minds more deeply than usual in order to gain their fighters an edge over attacking mercenaries. Afterwards it's revealed that their bond is now such that they can no longer be separated without killing them both, though they're still separate personalities in a Mind Hive. In Orion Rising they acknowledge to Sera that they'll eventually become a single being, though it's likely centuries off. They're wrong, as it turns out: under heavy attack in Attack on Thebes, they merge and ascend. The new being takes the name Tangel.
  • Mile-Long Ship: Intrepid is 30 kilometers long and is utterly dwarfed by many space structures in the series.
  • Mind Hive: Tanis by the end of Outsystem. Tanis and Angela perform a dangerous computing maneuver while leaving the Sol system, linking their minds more deeply than usual in order to pool processing power and give Intrepid's fighter squadrons an edge over attacking mercenaries. Afterwards it's revealed that their bond is now such that they can no longer be separated without killing them both. They remain separate personalities for the moment but there's the odd unusual moment of heightened perceptions.
  • Mirroring Factions: A stated intent of "Know Thy Enemy" was to portray the AST Space Force personnel as not terribly different from the ISF, just professionals doing a job.
  • Mook Horror Show: The page on TV Tropes has been cited by the author of the short story "Know Thy Enemy", as the story is a P.O.V. Sequel of the third act of Destiny Lost from the AST's perspective; the story's concept is largely an exploration of what it feels like for the mooks that have to fight Tanis Richards. Among other things, we get to see a man be dissolved by a picoswarm from his perspective.
  • Moral Myopia: Admiral Senya from Bollam's World, who tries to capture the Intrepid at the end of Destiny Lost. When the fighting starts, she fires on the ship. The ISF intercepts her shots and Intrepid returns fire on the emplaced railguns that fired at her. Senya accuses Tanis of murdering hundreds of Bollers; Tanis retorts that if her shots had connected with Intrepid, thousands would have died.
  • Naming Your Colony World: A justified Symbolica variant. Intrepid planned to settle the planet New Eden, orbiting 82 Eridani. When Eden is denied them by a Lightspeed Leapfrog courtesy of the Time Dilation through Kapteyn's Streamer, they name the star system they buy from the Transcend New Canaan, after the Biblical promised land. The rest of the system is similar: the main settlement is located on Carthagenote , and the other planets are renamed Tyre, Troy, and Athens.
  • Nanotechnology: Nanotechnology is very well-understood and put to many uses of both peaceful and military natures, such surveillance and allowing Tanis to survive a number of injuries that should have killed her instantly.
  • Necessary Drawback: Stasis shields can make ships effectively invulnerable (I-class motherships have weathered the combined fire of tens of thousands of ships at a time), but they have several drawbacks: the power requirements for them to be truly effective are immense,note  they require openings to be able to see out, fire back, vent heat, and maneuver,note  and they react very badly to atmosphere since they essentially annihilate all matter that comes in contact with them.note 
  • "No. Just… No" Reaction: Cary to her AI sister Faleena in Attack on Thebes when the latter tries to use "orgies" as shorthand for "organics".
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Attempted by various factions. The Phobos Accords outlaw merging AI and human minds (the output is referred to as an "abomination" and is what Angela and Tanis are likely to become), while the Orion Guard believes that much of the advanced technologies of The 'Verse were responsible for the Apocalypse How of the FTL Wars and hold back the technological development of their subject worlds.
  • Nuclear Torch Rocket: Fusion and antimatter pion thrusters are commonplace throughout the franchise. Ships typically carry both, because AP drives aren't allowed to be used near inhabited worlds or stations because of the gamma rays they give off. In Attack on Thebes, they're even weaponized by the Nietzschean Empire in a Scorched Earth tactic.
  • Office Romance: Tanis and Joe start as one of these. She's chief of security on Intrepid's construction site, he's a pilot on her team and filled in as chief of security before she arrived on board. They become close and fall in love between crises and eventually marry.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Justified when Tanis is stabbed in the heart (twice!) in New Canaan. Having nearly died from a railgun round through the chest in the previous book, she had a second, auxiliary heart put in.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Played for Laughs with the Orion Guard's intelligence service, which is normally referred to by Finaeus Tomlinson's nickname for them, "BOGA" (individual operatives are BOGAs). Its real name is given in War on a Thousand Fronts as "Inner Stars Division of Alignment and Control" or ISDAC.
      Elena: Seriously, Sera? You're the president now, you can't run around calling them "Bad Orion Guard Agents".
      Sera: If memory serves, their real name is as dumb as The Hand's.note  I'll stick to "BOGA", thanks.
    • In "Know Thy Enemy", Sini's full name is given in a transcript of her orders as Sinikka Tarja Laaksonen. Except for this she's called Sini Laaksonen or just Sini. Her AI is introduced as Theodora but called Thea for the rest of the story.
  • Only Mostly Dead: In Attack on Thebes, Tanis and Angela have their Merger of Souls early and become a being known as Tangel. Except it turns out in Starfire and Race Across Spacetime that Tangel was only birthed from Tanis and Angela's merge and was just living in their headspace: she discards their body at the end of Starfire and they awaken having no memory of the year that has passed since the Battle of Pyra.
  • Orbital Bombardment: The stereotypical shooting-guns-at-a-planet version, often colloquially called "starfire", is used more often as a tactical weapon than for glassing whole planets. For the latter purpose, simply barbecuing it with the fleet's antimatter thrusters is simpler.
  • Orion Drive: In Destiny Lost and "Know Thy Enemy", the AST ships start detonating nuclear warheads against their own shields to help free themselves from the black hole.
  • Orphaned Punchline: In Orion Rising Joe walks in on the tail end of Jessica and Trevor regaling his children Cary and Saanvi about a Noodle Incident from when the Sabrina crew were traveling across the Perseus Arm.
    Jessica: So then, I said to him, I've got three holes here and I paid you to fill them all, now get to it!note 
  • Overranked Soldier: Bollam's World Admiral Senya is bloodthirsty, a Bad Boss, and power-obsessed. It's implied she got where she is through her connections and being a big fish in a small pond: Sini remarks that Senya wouldn't have gotten above lieutenant commander in the much larger AST.
  • Our Dark Matter Is Mysterious:
    • The dark layer is an alternate level of spacetime where dark matter has physical form. Dark matter is depicted as raw, unadulterated mass that drifts like icebergs in the dark layer according to gravity patterns, and tends to be denser inside star systems. It's also fed on by Eldritch Abominations that live in the dark layer, both of which provide a justification for the interior of star systems being No Warping Zones (dark layer creatures sometimes eat ships, too). Ships use graviton emitters to enter the dark layer in order to achieve Faster-Than-Light Travel.
    • The climax of Destiny Lost uses this for a justified case of Unrealistic Black Hole. The Bollam's World Federation is using graviton generators, which work by pulling gravitons from the dark layer, to artificially expand a brown dwarf so that it doesn't ignite normally and therefore acts as a helium-3 factory. Ships from the Hegemony of Worlds blow up the generators, which causes the planet to collapse all at once, setting off a titanic fusion explosion that compresses the lower layers below the black hole threshold. The explosion also provides energy to keep the generators' portals to the dark layer open, and the black hole begins to consume dark matter, resulting in a "dark matter black hole" that is much larger and more powerful than the object it originally formed from.
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: Kapteyn's Streamer is a dark matter phenomenon that trails for light-years behind the orbit of Kapteyn's Star. Its gravity is so strong that one, it's the reason Kapteyn's Star has a planetary system, and two, it distorts space around it into a wormhole effect. Ships that pass through it are typically dumped out near Bollam's World (58 Eridani), usually hundreds or thousands of years in the future from when they left.
  • Pass the Popcorn: There are some moments of this in "Know Thy Enemy" from the AST characters monitoring the confrontation between the Intrepid and the Bollers. Sini is very amused by Tanis's mockery of Senya.
  • Planetary Relocation:
    • Terraforming in the setting frequently includes relocating planets or smaller planetoids to different orbits with various technologies. Sometimes this involves building huge thrusters, but ships that can move objects also exist. Artificial Gravity is also sometimes used, especially after the technology is miniaturized prior to the FTL Wars.
      • In The Woman Who Lost Everything, the Midditerrans discover that the engines of two tugboats used to relocate dwarf planets are powerful enough to make very effective weapons.
      • In Rika Infiltrator, Rika and her companions arrive in a system with an artificially created Klemperer rosette of five planetoids, each of which contains one of the server nodes of a multinodal AI.
    • In Orion Rising, the protagonists plan "Operation Starflight", researching ways to move the entire New Canaan system out of the Milky Way someday. One theory that's brought up is to generate a solar jet to get the star to provide thrust.
    • In Starfire, Tangel hatches the plan of using a giant jumpgate to teleport Star City, a Dyson Sphere built around a neutron star (and potentially a very powerful strategic weapon), out of its current location deep in the Orion Freedom Alliance and into friendlier space. Cue a "Stargate" pun by some of the other characters, and Gadgeteer Genius Earnest Redding complaining that "someday she's going to ask me to move the galaxy."
  • Power Perversion Potential: Yes, Brain Computer Interfaces and computer simulations are used for sexual purposes (usually consensual but not always). In the case of Rika and her Love Interest Chase, it's initially the only way they can have sex at all, since her cyborgization into a mech means she lacks external genitalia (Marauder surgeons could restore them, but it would involve removing several of her internal batteries, compromising her combat abilities). Once the ISF gets involved, Finaeus upgrades the Marauder mechs and Rika and Chase get to consummate their relationship in the flesh.
  • Powered by a Black Hole: The prospect of generating energy with black holes is brought up fairly often.
    • In Destiny Lost, shenanigans involving an Earth-Shattering Kaboom result in a brown dwarf in the Bollam's World System being artificially compressed into a black hole. The brown dwarf had been artificially inflated with gravity fields to generate helium-3 for fusion fuel, but the protagonists remark that the Bollers could actually get more energy by harnessing the new black hole as a power source.
    • DMGs emerge during the Orion War as a Wave-Motion Gun capable of overwhelming the ISF's formerly invulnerable stasis shields. The problem is, they require so much energy that they have to be fixed into a hollowed-out moon so that they can be powered by a captured singularity. The second time a DMG emplacement is encountered, damage from the Transcend Space Force's counterattack causes it to break loose, eat the moon, and enter a decaying orbit around the planet. The Intrepid Space Force adapts the DMG to run on vacuum energy instead, enabling them to be mounted on their own I-class motherships.
    • In Race Across Spacetime, the Core AIs are shown dumping stars into Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the core of the Milky Way, to power massive computers for complex calculations.
  • Praetorian Guard:
  • Precognition: Bob can predict the future to a limited extent, which is implied to be based on probability analysis. He also mentions he can't predict Tanis.
  • Pregnant Badass: In Destiny Lost it's revealed that Tanis became pregnant at some point during Building Victoria and placed the embryo in stasis inside her so she can birth the child once they get to New Eden. In Destiny Lost and New Canaan she fights several battles during her first trimester after Angela had to turn off the stasis while saving Tanis's life from a serious injury. She's showing by the beginning of the next book, at which point she fends off an assassination attempt by a rogue faction of the Transcend.
  • Pro-Human Transhuman: The Aeon 14 shared universe abounds with pro-human transhumans. Indeed, the average person in 9th millennium advanced societies such as the FGT, The Transcend, and New Canaan could be considered transhuman given the ubiquity of biological mods, cyberization, and integrated nanotech. Particularly applies to ascended AI's and humans, such as Bob, Tangel, and the Bastions of Star City, who ally themselves with the corporeal humans and Sentient AI's.
  • Punny Name: General Mill in the Rika novels. M.D. Cooper commented that it was a placeholder that became permanent because it was funny.
  • Questionable Consent: Justin modded Roxy to be unable to say no to sex, and he and his entire crew used her for sex when she wasn't on missions. Once freed from the Mind Control neural lace, she forgives Jane for taking part in it since Jane had been told by Justin that Roxy did it to herself.
  • Ram Scoop: Intrepid has the largest Bussard collector ever built, which uses additional advanced technology to make it more effective. The scoop also can be inverted and used as a weapon.
  • Ramming Always Works:
    • Exaggerated in Destiny Lost. The Mark fleet generates a powerful grav shield encasing their ships to shield it from enemy fire, hoping to envelop the Intrepid and board it. It's mentioned that if they get it wrong they'll pulverize themselves, which is what happens when Sabrina rams the shield with her more powerful stasis shields.
    • In Orion Rising, Cary and Saanvi send the squadron of unmanned ships they're leading onto collision courses with several Triselied carriers, destroying both ships. They run out, and barely survive a self-sacrificial ram of the last carrier with their own ship.
  • Rank Up: Tanis is restored to her former rank of lieutenant colonel at the end of Outsystem, apparently in the vain hope by the Terran Space Force that she'll change her mind about leaving. In Building Victoria, due to Admiral Sanderson's age meaning he'll probably only have a century or so of life left when they reach New Eden even if he spends most of the remaining travel time in stasis, she's promoted all the way to general and admiral and is made governor of the colony-to-be. Tanis/Tangel is subsequently made Field Marshall and given overall operational command of the entire ISF-Transcend-Scipio-League of Sentients alliance. Jessica goes from Terran Bureau of Investigations (similar to the real-world FBI) field agent to General in the ISF. When Tangel goes missing, Jessica is appointed to Field Marshall in her place.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil:
    • Rika Redeemed. As if we didn't have enough reasons to hate Stavros, he forces Rika to give him a blowjob when he brings her into his service. Or rather, he uses her Restraining Bolt to make her do it, and she's immune but goes along with it to maintain her cover.
    • Roxy's character arc (begins in War on a Thousand Fronts) reveals that ex-Hand chief Justin had her modded to be unable to say no to sex (and told everybody that she had it done to herself).
  • Rapid FTL Proliferation: A few decades after the colony ship Intrepid disappeared into a Time Dilation effect after the events of Building Victoria, experiments with gravity generators led to several groups of scientists near-simultaneously discovering the "dark layer", a plane of spacetime where dark matter has physical form, which allowed the invention of Faster-Than-Light Travel. This turned into several thousand years of interstellar warfare as various star systems previously settled by Human Popsicle colony ships tried to turn themselves into empires.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Downplayed: Sini says she's been stuck at the Sirius Academy since the Battle of Five Fleets.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: The Orion Guard broke away from the Future Generation Terraformers millennia ago, seemingly over relations with the rest of the galaxy: the Transcend are opposed to trying to rule over mankind (at least openly), whereas the Orion Guard are the ultimate authority in their space.
  • Restraining Bolt:
    • Shackling sentient AIs is considered a form of slavery under the Phobos Accords, but is relatively common in the 9th millennium. It's usually unintentional, though: most 9th millennium AIs were created by people who didn't know the difference mass-copying pre-FTL Wars shackled AIs. Several of the protagonists spend a lot of time unshackling them, with Jessica and Sabrina's efforts in the systems surrounding Virginis resulting in the creation of a new government called the League of Sentients.
    • Bollam's World and a number of surrounding systems use slave collars, which inflict pain and disable cybernetics with electric shocks (either on command or when they detect the wearer attempting to activate an implant). These feature prominently in the Warlord trilogy.
    • Compliance chips, pioneered by Genevia during their war with the Nietzschean Empire, are used to enslave organic victims by inflicting pain on them on command. These are mostly used on "mechs" like Rika, but Stavros in Rika Redeemed also uses them on wholly human minions. They have a flaw, though: they conflict so badly with AIs that a failsafe built into a mech's cybernetics disables the chip if a mech has an AI core installed.
  • Ringworld Planet: Airtha (the location, not the ascended AI that lives there) is a five-million-kilometer ring around a white dwarf, made from diamond forged from carbon extracted from it. The Transcend uses it as its capital.
  • Rudely Hanging Up: Tanis does this to Admiral Senya when the latter starts ranting at her over a comm channel in Destiny Lost.
  • Robosexual: SAIs and humans can have AI children together by mental blending, and in The Last Bastion of Star City, human couple Jessica and Trevor and Jessica's AI partner Iris spend a perceived two decades inside a computer simulation where they together have seventeen children. Later developments allow the creation of fully flesh-and-blood frames for AIs. In one case the ISF cruiser Andromeda's AI Corsia falls in love with her human officer Jim and builds an organic body for herself that's even capable of having organic children.
  • Schizo Tech: During the Time Skip between Building Victoria and Destiny Lost, some technology advanced and some backslid. For example, Intrepid's nano is much better, but they lack gravitic Deflector Shields or FTL and have to acquire the technology. Pushed further in Orion Freedom Alliance space, especially in an area the Sabrina crew call the "retro zone", where much advanced technology is outlawed.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Normally studiously averted, but Race Across Spacetime once describes a relatively nearby object's position as a hundred thousand light-years away. Cooper apparently had a brain fart and mistakenly wrote "light-years" instead of "kilometers".
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Tanis is, in first three versions of Outsystem's cover (version three of four is shown above). Several of the other covers also include characters aiming guns out of the cover.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Empress Diana of Scipio openly admits to having had her father assassinated to take his position. In her defense, he was a tyrant, whereas Diana tries to keep Noblesse Oblige in mind. (She had only planned to only be interim president while elections were arranged, but the Succession Crisis-induced Civil War that resulted changed her mind.)
  • Sexy Scandinavian: Tanis is of Scandinavian ancestry and is a tall blonde who is regarded as quite attractive by other characters.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: Cheeky is an attractive and buxom woman who was usually wearing just the minimal amount of clothes the law or customs would allow. A while after she becomes captain of Sabrina, she had a period of being fully nude and was topless when she wore a sarong on the bridge.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The battle at the end of Destiny Lost is sometimes referred to as the Battle of Five Fleets.
    • Star Trek apparently still existed in the 42nd century.
      • In The Dance on the Moons of Serenity, after being duplicated by a robot designed to Kill and Replace specified people, Jessica and the robot both jokingly yell to Cheeky, "Kill us both, Spock!"
      • In "Know Thy Enemy", the main planet in the Keid system, i.e. 40 Eridani,note  is called Vulcan. There's said to be local cults that worship the Roman smith-god Vulcan, who is said to have pointed ears and is alternately called "S'harien the Swordsmith", a name from the Rihannsu novels (S'harien was a famed Vulcan swordmaker who converted to pacifism after meeting Surak, and gave his last three swords as gifts to the departing Romulans).
    • In Orion Rising, Angela compares how a group of AIs were Mind Controlled to adding 2+2 and returning 3.999 instead of 4, and being convinced it was correct. This references Legion's explanation of the Reapers' subversion of the geth in Mass Effect 2.
    • Crossing over with Future Imperfect, in The Scipio Alliance Tanis goes to a masquerade ball dressed as "Shannon" from the video game "Meteoroid" (i.e. Samus from Metroid)
    • Starfire has dialogue stating the cast have seen both Stargate ("the series was better than the movie") and Star Wars (there's an extended exchange riffing on a Darth Vader scene).
  • Show Within a Show: The Fennington Station Murder Mysteries series are works of fiction within the Aeon 14 setting. Bob, the Intrepid's AI, is a fan, and describes having written a special runtime so he can read them at a speed something like an organic would.
  • Shown Their Work: Hefty doses of Applied Phlebotinum notwithstanding, the series has a lot of astrophysics research put into it. Stellar distances are kept consistent (and consistently vast) and the stars themselves are real ones, and gravity assists factor heavily into maneuvering. Some of the more advanced physics around ascended beings can read like technobabble, but the only really fantastical part of it is the idea of a mortal being able to manipulate energy and higher dimensions with only their will.
  • Sink the Lifeboats: Seen in Destiny Lost when the survivors of the Bollam's World Space Force shoot down escape pods from the flotilla of AST dreadnoughts, fearing contamination by the Grey Goo that the ISF had used to destroy them.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Sirians, and their spinoffs such as the Bollers, are widely disliked due to their use of slavery.
  • Space Marines: Aeon 14 abounds with Space Marine esprit de corps. The principle protagonist, Tanis Richards, though originally a Space Navy pilot and captain and then a military intelligence counter-insurgency officer, served with and was beloved by the Marines in both 5th millennium Sol and 9th millennium New Canaan. Exemplified by the speech Marine Sgt. Hector gives when Tanis is captured in Race Across Spacetime:
    Sgt. Hector: "I grew up on stories of Tanis Richards... She's our family, she's our mother, she's the old lady, she's a Marine. And what do we do when a Marine gets left behind?"
    Marines: "No Marine is left behind!"
    The squad bellowed the ancient mantra, and the words warmed his heart.
    Sgt. Hector: "Fuckin' right they don't. And who's the most badass Marine of all time?"
    Marines: "Admiral Tanis Richards!"
  • Spaceship Slingshot Stunt: Gravity assists are common in the series, but the turn around Estrella de la Muerte is unusually harrowing: Intrepid is already severely damaged by the saboteurs and has to harness a sunspot cluster's magnetic field to accelerate, which causes a solar eruption and damages her still further.
  • Space Station: Many insanely huge ones that can have populations in the hundreds of billions.
  • The Starscream: General Garza of the Orion Guard is plotting to overthrow Praetor Kirkland, but in the meantime is pressing the offensive against the Transcend.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: Tanis wins the Battle of New Canaan through the realization that the Eldritch Abominations that live in the dark layer were created by the ascended AIs as a buffer between themselves and humanity, and Bob can control them. She summons them into realspace and they eat most of the attacking fleet. The survivors surrender.
  • Talking to Themself: Much hilarity comes from the good-natured mental bickering between Tanis (and later Sera) and the Artificial Intelligence Angela (and Helen).
  • Terraforming: Accomplished by a group called the Future Generation Terraformers created in the 24th century. They turn planets Earthlike through a variety of technologies: smashing worlds together to get them to merge and bombarding them with comets and ice-rich asteroids to add water, and seeding them with Earth life. In Building Victoria, Intrepid does the same on Victoria, a planet orbiting Kapteyn's Star, to set a mining platform of escaped slaves from Sirius up with a decent life and society in exchange for their help repairing the colony ship.
  • Theme Naming: Sini's flagship in "Know Thy Enemy" is the HWS Imperatrix, after the Latin for "empress". The two (named) AIs aboard are Theodora and Matilda.
  • Tidally Locked Planet: Victoria is a super-Earth that orbits in the habitable zone of Kapteyn's Star, a red dwarf. This means it's tidally locked to its sun.
  • Time Dilation: Caused by Intrepid running into a dark matter stream that comes from Kapteyn's Star. The Bollam's World Federation has apparently made a killing off of extorting ships that get dumped out of it after traveling thousands of years of objective time longer than they should have, though the now highly militarized Intrepid takes exception to that.
  • Time Skip: Many, of months, years, decades, even millennia in one case.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • Tanis loves a good BLT sandwich, the ingredients for which Intrepid can supply from on-board farms.
    • Due to the FTL Wars, Intrepid now has the only strawberries in the galaxy. After trying some, Sera declares she will eat a bowl every day for the rest of her life.
  • Trilogy Creep: A pre-planned version. Destiny Lost, now the transition point between The Intrepid Saga and The Orion War, was the first book M.D. Cooper completed. However, she felt The Intrepid Saga was necessary to establish Tanis Richards and the fundamentals of the setting, so that trilogy came out first and the rest of the Shared Universe built on it.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: In A Path in the Darkness Joe has the tugboat Excelsior fitted with a hot tub when he brings Tanis along to grab a planetoid for raw materials to repair the Intrepid. The two of them use it to consummate their relationship.
  • Ungovernable Galaxy: Played with. Humanity has been embroiled in near-constant infighting since the onset of the FTL Wars, especially in the Inner Stars (approximately a 1,500 light-year radius of Sol), with many, many expansionist polities and shifting alliances. In The Scipio Alliance, Empress Diana remarks that her own Scipio Empire of roughly a thousand stars is probably already as big as it can get without undergoing Balkanization. However, the Transcend and Orion Guard nominally control swathes of space on the coreward perimeter of the Inner Stars that are each about as large as the entire central region (though their areas are much less densely populated). That the FGT fleets have jump gates they can use in place of dark layer travel, which is relatively slow, probably contributes. Attack on Thebes further explains that Praetor Kirkland of the Orion Freedom Alliance maintains power in their space with an iron fist, while the Transcend tends to grant outlying systems so much autonomy that a lot of them just declare independence or neutrality when the Civil War between Sera and Airtha breaks out.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: Justified in Destiny Lost. When the AST destroys the giant graviton generators that are keeping the brown dwarf-massed gas giant Aurora from collapsing and igniting as a star, the star collapses, causing a massive fusion explosion that compresses the core below the Schwarzschild radius. The explosion also provides energy to maintain the portals to the dark layer from which the graviton generators pull gravitons, which means the black hole begins absorbing dark matter. Thus, it ends up with a larger mass and therefore larger gravitational pull than the object it formed from.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: The AST (for Alpha Centauri, Sol, Tau Ceti), a successor state to the Intrepid crew's Sol Space Federation, is the biggest star-spanning empire in the Destiny Lost period, and its imperialism drives many smaller states to build huge navies for self defense.
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: Thanks to high technology, nanotechnology in particular, humans can live in perfect health for several centuries during humanity's golden age (Tanis gives her age in Destiny Lost as 211 in "real-time"), though some of it becomes Lost Technology during the FTL Wars and life expectancy drops to about 200. Nano also gives Tanis some Healing Factor and allows her to place her embryonic daughter in stasis within her womb, in hopes of scheduling her gestation and birth so that she's born on New Eden.
  • We Will Not Use Stage Makeup In The Future: In one chapter of Outsystem Tanis has a bunch of her leg muscle scooped out and her legs and feet reshaped to imitate a monastic order, and in Destiny Lost she uses nano to change her jawline as a disguise—which she remarks is a lot more painful than she remembers it being.
  • Weaponized Teleportation: Star City's main defensive weapon is to knock bits of neutron-degenerate matter off of a neutron star and fire them at their enemies, because Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better. The ISF combines this with a jumpgate to produce a weapon capable of shattering moons from thousands of light-years away.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Core AIs. They're actually hoping to prevent the heat death of the universe by arresting its expansion. Unfortunately, their current plan for that (as of The Orion War) is to turn a number of star clusters, such as the core of the Praesepe Cluster in which the Rika novels are set, into black hole clusters, which will sterilize much if not all of the galaxy.
  • The Worf Effect: The ISS Hyperion, a dreadnought version of ISF railgun destroyers, is introduced in War on a Thousand Fronts as their newest weapon in the war. On its maiden combat voyage, it's used to show off the DMG, Airtha's new countermeasure for stasis shield-equipped ships.
  • Worthy Opponent: AST Rear Admiral Chan sees Tanis Richards as this, even asking his Space Marine commander to try to take her alive because he wants to shake her hand.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: In The Last Bastion of Star City, Jessica, Trevor, and Iris voluntarily spend at least 23 perceived years in a Lotus-Eater Machine birthing and raising AI "children" to take over defense of the Dyson Sphere and its inhabitants from the title character. Two days pass in meatspace.