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Literature / Duumvirate

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Two Dominators are better than one.

Duumvirate, the sequel to Billy and Howard, like many other novels, features a few gifted teenagers discovering their place in the world.

The only difference is that here, they own it.

The book gathers a number of strange reactions in people who read it.

Tropes present:

  • Aerith and Bob: Roughly three-fourths Bob, one-fourth Aerith. Howard and William Dominus, Sarah Mortis, Quadrus and Stanley Dominus, Paul Smith, Jeremy Jorgensen, Judas Rockefeller, Hadji Rajadhiraja...
  • Air-Vent Passageway: The small kids who live in Northberg Educational Facility discover that they can go anywhere they want in the air vents and the child-sized "secret" areas they lead to.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Engineered shall never kill engineered.
  • April Fools' Plot: In Billy and Howard, the twins play jokes on each other. Hilarity ensues, for certain values of hilarity.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Justified with the main characters, as the Operator made them this way.
  • Battle Butler: The various personal servants often fit this trope, especially if they're genetically engineered. However, the master might be even more physically dangerous.
  • BFG: The book is loaded with BFGs. Fusion-powered microwave lasers, atomic slugs, and there's a subplot involving "room eraser" spread weapons.
  • Bio-Augmentation: There are electroplaques, quadbracchalism, combustive gases, and other things as "extras". The new basic humans have regeneration, super-strength, and super-speed.
  • Blatant Lies: Sarah raids and kills a pervert, then "finds" a will on his hard drive that everything he owned was to go to her son. More a Pay Evil unto Evil than a lie meant to be believed.
  • Bros Before Hoes: Jeremy references this trope by name when realizing that his servant is far more valuable to him than his girlfriend.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard: Kylie was already buxom before she could genetically alter herself, afterwards, she jumped chest-first into this trope.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Happens more than once. The biggest example is when William wants revenge on his creator for enslaving him to his own brother, but this trope kicks in instead.
  • Captain Obvious: Billy and Howard have vastly different ideas of what is and isn't obvious, occasionally leading to this trope being named.
  • Color-Coded Patrician: Masters wear light colors, and servants wear dark ones. This is the only clothing rule they tend to follow.
  • Cool Car: Illuminati assassins have the shapeshifting, fusion-powered Deathmobile. There's a crematorium under the hood for body disposal.
  • Cool House: First-time visitors to the Dominator's island may think that it's just a mirrored-steel Big Fancy House with lasers on top. There's a weapon embedded in every wall, jets hidden under the grass outside, and an elevator that goes down to a massive basement with its own pool, video arcade, library, enormous warehouse of weapons...
  • Dodge the Bullet: The engineereds dodge single-aimed bullets easily but have a harder time with things such as poorly aimed AKs and shotguns.
  • Evil Overlord: Deconstructed entirely. The Evil Overlord's Guide is quoted more than once. The Illuminati is portrayed as a society of six thousand of them, and it's the Duumvirate's job to keep them under control.
  • Fan Disservice: In one particularly memorable scene, the inside of a vagina is likened to a hole in a brick wall lined with sandpaper.
  • Fictional Video Game: After a harrowing run through an Indiana Jones-styled hallway loaded with traps and a massive fight at the end of it, Billy and Howard go home and play a game based on what they just did.
  • First-Name Basis: Unless they're trying to make a point, even masters and servants are on first name bases. The only exceptions are for people who hate their given names or have a formal title and can't be told apart.
  • Free-Range Children: Bioengineered children are treated as adults by age eight, and the 6-year-olds know how to fly jets. Want to mess with one? Go on, try it. What's the worst that could happen?
  • Gambit Pileup: Every Illuminatus has his own agenda. There are six thousand Illuminati, some more devious than others. The title characters have no choice but to not care about what everyone may or may not be plotting, so long as it doesn't affect them directly. It is implied that this state of affairs is more or less constant.
  • Giggling Villain: The title characters can do the Evil Laugh, but far more often they just do some version of this.
  • Go Fetch: This actually works, because the dog likens the stick-thrower to his masters.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Good (as in competence, not as in morality) masters have their servants get to this state quickly.
  • He Knows Too Much: Anyone getting too close to certain truths is most commonly fed misinformation, with options for inflicted insanity, death, and acquisition.
  • Healing Factor: Killing an engineered is a matter of either inflicting direct brain damage or making them lose enough blood. Their regeneration isn't what makes this difficult, however...
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: Engineereds eat quite a bit more than a normal human, particularly if they're regenerating severe wounds.
  • I Control My Minions Through...: As the book is about The Illuminati, almost all techniques are represented to some extent. Although we never see excerpts, the title characters own a "big book of control techniques". Normals are controlled through Authority, Money, Fear, Indoctrination, Power, and Divine Right, unwitting normal powerholders are usually controlled through Corruption (of the political, not supernatural, variety) and presumably Money, and for servants, mind-control implants are used instead of Fear and Power strategies but instilling true Indoctrination/Kindness/Love-based loyalty is considered best. The Illuminati also have a tendency to use Power and Love on each other along with various flavors of deception. The Duumvirate themselves rule through Authority, Birthright, Power, and Agenda.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: Paul's best friends are Transhuman badasses, and he desperately wants to keep up.
  • The Illuminati: The story is written from the point of view of the Illuminati themselves.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Billy and Howard occasionally eat raw human flesh, but only when they're particularly hungry and nothing else is available.
  • Immune to Drugs: It takes an enormous amount of pot to get an engineered even mildly buzzed.
  • Improbable Age: Genetically engineered Northberg children become Illuminati at eight. Taking advantage of their inexperience is generally a bad idea.
  • Just a Kid: This trope is generally inverted because everyone knows how dangerous young engineereds are, but one poor fool messes with a certain four-armed boy escaping from an Amusement Park of Doom. The kid's a fraction his size, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
  • Kill Sat: The fusion-powered microwave satellites can burn and melt a building.
  • Literal Genie: The control implants in Billy and Howard work this way. Anyone who can't avoid the obvious pitfalls is considered Too Dumb to Live.
  • Little Miss Badass: At the age of fourteen and a half, Sarah Mortis has a body count in the hundreds and commands a small army of assassins. The previous commander steps aside because he knows what's good for him.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: This trope is one of the Duumvirate's stated goals. They refer to it as "going to the future". Their rejuvenated fifty-year-old creator strongly agrees.
  • Morality Pet: Inverted. Luke is Paul's Immorality Pet, there to let him know that brutality, murder, and full-scale genocide are perfectly all right.
  • More Dakka: A five-hundred-megawatt laser isn't enough? Try two hundred gigawatts!
  • Mugging the Monster: A flashback in Billy and Howard features this. Three goons decide to pick on Billy's friend. Billy goes nuts (and more than a little racist) and brutalizes all three.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Quadrus "Quad" Dominus starts carrying a gun for each of his four hands after a brush with death. He's six at the time.
  • Names to Run Away From: Sarah Mortis' last name is derived from "mors", Latin for "death", which she tends to live up to.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: The Illuminati has evolved from a more traditional conspiracy into one of these, but still secret. They're technologically superior, so they intend to drop the Masquerade and start ruling openly once their internal problems are settled. They do.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Being on good terms with your servants is a mark of competence as a master. The titular characters even use it to decide who to let live at the end of the book.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: With the amount of genetic engineering thrown around, it was inevitable that someone made a dragon with it. Fire breath, six legs (two of which end in hands), and they have wings in childhood but lose them as they grow up.
  • Power Echoes: The twins have a doubled larynx for exactly this reason.
  • Powered Armor: Development of this is finished near the end of the book. The people wearing it are already genetically engineered superhumans. The combination tends to work well.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Luke has electric eel DNA. It turns out that his girlfriend enjoys electrical play...
  • Professor Guinea Pig: The Operator developed a retrovirus to bestow transhumanity on whoever received it and injected himself with it the second it was done synthesizing.
  • Properly Paranoid: Everyone has to balance this and being able to get things done. Too little paranoia and you take a railgun through the chest — too much and your organization cannot get any new members because they might be spies.
  • Psycho Electro: Luke is less flashy than most examples on this page. It's the speed, strength, and raw hatred that make him so horribly dangerous.
  • Punctuated Pounding: Luke does this while beating his father to death.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: Fido is a bioengineered, white-furred canine quite a bit smarter and much deadlier than the average animal and (like its owners) with a taste for manflesh.
  • Rule of Cool: It is heavily, repeatedly implied that Illuminati technicians regularly sit down and work for years on projects simply to accomplish this trope.
  • Separated at Birth: In Billy and Howard, one of the title characters is left to live among normals for a decade, to give perspective to his controlling twin when they are reunited. He is able to confront his creator in the second book about this. He is not pleased.
  • Shown Their Work: There are a number of parts where the author clearly did the math and wants everyone to know it.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Billy and Howard actively try to fulfill this trope. Telling them apart is considered a major challenge even for their close friends.
  • Space Plane: The main characters' fusion-powered jet can take them to Mars without a booster.
  • Square-Cube Law: The dragon species has wings in its juvenile stage but loses its ability to fly as it grows up.
  • Steel Ear Drums: Generally averted, but played somewhat straight for the superhuman title characters, who can also regenerate hearing damage.
  • Synthetic Plague: The Operator creates at least five of these. The book ends when it's time to unleash them.
  • That Thing Is Not My Child!: Luke agrees with this sentiment when killing his parents.
  • Transhuman: Almost everyone is either born transhuman, becomes transhuman, or desperately wants to be transhuman. When your regeneratively immortal friends can play Bullet Hell games at maximum difficulty without breaking a sweat, and dodge actual bullets for that matter, you tend to get a deep appreciation for genetic superiority.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Averted, with the main characters wishing that this would happen.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Even the littlest kids are perfectly willing to kill at the drop of a hat. It's all just a game to them.
  • 24-Hour Armor: Power armor is a closed system which can be worn for weeks at a time but starts to stink after a while. This is also a setting in which children's everyday clothing is comfortable, blade-resistant, Class IIIA body armor.
  • Twin Banter: Billy and Howard bicker duo-style, without finishing their own sentences.
  • Twin Threesome Fantasy: It's never explicitly stated what goes on in Billy and Howard's bedroom, but it certainly involves this trope.
  • Tyke Bomb: Every last Northberg kid is both this and a Child Prodigy.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The main characters eventually determine that human society cannot survive genetic alteration. No points for guessing their solution.
  • Villain in a White Suit: The Illuminati all wear white, and their servants wear black. The bioengineered title characters are white for the same reason.
  • Villain Protagonist: And villain antagonists, villain contagonists, and villains for minor characters. There are nice guys, but no heroes. Paul tries to be one, but his loyalty to the villains puts an end to that quickly.
  • Wall Jump: Sarah can do this between walls ten feet away.
  • Wall of Weapons: In the first book, it's just a room full of weapons. In the second book, they have weapons embedded in literally every wall in the house, as well as an underground Walmart of guns, flamethrowers, and lasers.
    The child-sized weapons were helpfully placed on the bottom shelf, so kids wouldn't have to climb to reach them.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Various Illuminati members are so good at this that it's impossible to know whether or not they planned everything out in advance.
  • Young and in Charge: Howard takes total, world-controlling power at age ten. He is underestimated at first. That does not last long.