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Literature / Federation of the Hub

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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:

  1. Telzey Amberdon
  2. TNT: Telzey and Trigger
  3. Trigger and Friends (includes Legacy)
  4. The Hub: Dangerous Territory (includes The Demon Breed)

Works in this series with their own page:

Other works in this series provide examples of:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Plemponi, Dr. Mantelish.
  • Action Girl:
  • Actual Pacifist: In "Attitudes", this philosophy is known as the Malatlo Attitude. Its followers founded a planet on pacifist principles.
  • 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.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: At the end of "Attitudes", the protagonist charges the Federation with being worse than the Raceels — the Raceels may have destroyed a planet of innocent humans, but the Federation are going to destroy the entire Raceel species. The Federation scientist Odun replies that the species will survive:
    Odun added, "But you're mistaken in one basic respect, Azard. We're preserving the stored Raceel ova, and a new generation will be raised from them under our supervision. Only some terrible necessity would force us to destroy a species. So your species will not die. Its history, its traditions and its attitudes will die."
    Azard asked, "And what are we if not our history, our traditions, and our attitudes?"
    The humans didn't reply, and he wasn't certain then whether he'd asked the question aloud.
  • Arsenal Attire: In "Lion Loose", Reetal Destone's hair-clasp is actually an energy pistol.
  • Backwards-Firing Gun: Used in "Attitudes", when the Federation team discover the protagonist trying to download a stored mind into a new body. The mind is supposed to be of a Malatlo pacifist, but there's a suspicion it could belong to a genocidal Raceel. So they leave a gun within reach as they revive the body — a gun that's booby-trapped to kill anyone who tries to fire it.
  • Badass Boast:
    Telzey: You've definitely been wrong about me. 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?
  • Brainy Brunette: Telzey has brown hair (not that you'd know it from some of the cover illustrations) and has 'genius-level' IQ.
  • Chic and Awe: Quillan is lost for words the first time he sees Trigger wearing the daring Beldon gown (less a single piece of clothing, more a collection of exquisite ribbons) that he bought her.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Heslet Quillan takes instant advantage of the situation when a naked Trigger falls into his arms—but never hesitates when a lady needs his help.
  • Clone Angst: In "Ti's Toys", Telzey is imprisoned with a duplicate who shares her memories. It's some time before they discover which one is the original, and it's a traumatic experience for the one who isn't.
  • 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.
  • Comedic Spanking: In Legacy, Trigger gets the information she needs out of Lyad (who's a head of state) by administering a humiliating spanking, recording it, and threatening to release the recording.
  • 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.
  • Divide and Conquer: In "Lion Loose", the bad guys consist of a corrupt hotel manager and his security men, and a separate gang of professional criminals. There's no way Quillan and his allies could take them all down with a frontal assault, so instead he infiltrates them and convinces each group that the other is trying to stab them in the back.
  • 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.
  • Duplicate Divergence: At the end of "Ti's Toys", Telzey's duplicate is working towards defining herself as her own person, rather than just a copy of Telzey, starting with body remodelling to make her taller and thinner.
  • 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.
  • The Federation: The Federation of the Hub.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Telzey does this in "Undercurrents".
  • Grand Theft Me: In "The Symbiotes".
  • Heel–Face Turn: At the end of Legacy, Lyad Ermetyne reforms and joins the Psychology Service.
  • 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.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: In The Other Likeness, the alien deep-cover agents have begun to identify as humans and are trying to thwart the genocidal plan they were sent to implement.
  • 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.
  • Incompetent Guard Animal: In "Company Planet" the villain is shielded from telepathic prying by a telepathic animal known as a yoli rather than the more usual mechanical psi shield. Telzey promptly distracts it with an illusion of an attractive yoli of the appropriate sex.
  • Intelligent Forest: In "Balanced Ecology" the diamondwood forest on Wrake is a closely integrated ecology with, as it turns out, its own plans for how to cope with the human colonists on its world.
  • 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.
  • It's Personal: "The Searcher" becomes personal for Danestar when she realises the McGuffin of the story could provide vital information about what killed her brother in the Pit Nebula.
  • Just the Way You Are: In "Company Planet", Telzey's friend Gikkes gets cosmetic surgery to lengthen her legs, against her counselors' advice that she'd also need other body modifications to keep her proportions balanced. After the operation, she realises they were right after all. Telzey convinces her to have the surgery reversed, rather than have the rest of her body remodelled.
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: Danestar Gems, in "The Searcher", always wears a wig of the same colour as her outfit.
  • Karma Houdini: Brule Inger, Trigger's boyfriend in Legacy, turns out to be working for the bad guys and tries to kill her when she rumbles him. By the end of the book, he's married to the beautiful daughter of a wealthy Corrupt Corporate Executive who needs a front man to run his business.
  • Liquid Courage: Trigger needs a couple of drinks before she can bring herself to wear the Beldon gown in public.
  • Longevity Treatment: The Hub has widely-available methods for extending the human lifespan to around 200 years before decrepitude sets in. In The Demon Breed, Ticos Cay is approaching the limit and appears to be a well-preserved 60.
  • 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...
  • The Mole: In Lion Loose, Bad News Quillan turns out to be an undercover detective. Since they're openly on the side of good in all their other appearances, it's only a surprise if Lion Loose is the first time you encounter that character.
  • 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-Steve Limit: Enforced in the Baen reprint; the hitman Vingarran is renamed to Vingar to avoid any suggestion that he's connected to the Vingarran Gate. The two Beldons (one a clothing designer, the other a criminal organisation) remain, though.
  • 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.
  • Plant Aliens: The Hana in "The Pork Chop Tree" / "Compulsion" look like harmless trees, but their psychic powers make them very dangerous.
  • 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.
  • Privately Owned Society: Fermilaur, in "Company Planet", is owned by a consortium of cosmetic surgeons.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Elaigar in "The Lion Game" prize death in combat and have elaborate codes of formal duelling.
  • Psi Blast: Human telepaths like Telzey have the power to launch psychic bolts, and the ability to shield their minds against them. In practice, Telzey finds herself using them on opponents that can laugh them off.
  • 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
  • Psychic Teleportation: Seems to be rare even among psis, with Hatzel in "Glory Day" being the only example we meet.
  • 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.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Near the end of Legacy, Trigger's group kidnaps the opposition leader Lyad Ermetyne—who also happens to be a head of state. They're on a spaceship on a vital mission and too far out to return, but members of the Hub government request to speak with Lyad to make sure everything's all right...
    Comissioner Tate: I'm afraid she can't come to the communicator right now. She's doing the dishes.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Lyad in Legacy is the head of the Ermetyne clan, so she's the Ermetyne.
  • Spy Catsuit: Downplayed with Danestar; she's an undercover operative who's introduced wearing a "fitted black coverall suit", but since it's part of her cover identity as a communications technician it's less flashy and more practical than a typical catsuit would be. For one thing, it has pockets.
  • The Spymaster: Senior Commissioner Holati Tate.
  • Stealing from the Till: In "Lion Loose", the manager of the Seventh Star Hotel has been helping himself to the profits that should have gone to the Mooley brothers, who own it. They're just beginning to get suspicious, which is why he needs to disappear urgently.
  • Stealth Expert: Corvin Wergard of the Kyth Agency.
  • Sugary Malice: The default state of being for Telzey's Aunt Halet in "Novice".
  • The Swarm: In "The Searcher", the goyal is a swarm of tiny energy creatures that act as a single mind.
  • Teen Genius: Telzey is 15-16 during the stories, and stated to have 'genius-level' IQ.
  • 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.
  • Temporary Bulk Change: In "Trouble Tide", a symbiotic lifeform gives mammals the ability to survive in the deep sea. When they return to the surface, the extra structures it grows are converted to body fat. That works fine for the seal-like native lifeforms, but it leaves the story's human protagonists so dangerously obese that they need days of surgery and months of dieting to recover.
  • Time Dissonance: The Old Galactics live much longer than humans, and their lives unfold at a much slower pace — this is what the title "A Tale of Two Clocks" refers to.
  • 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.
  • We Will Meet Again: Even though Lyad Ermetyne has honestly reformed by the end of Legacy and doesn't have "too much in the way of hard feelings", she still wants a chance to get even with Trigger.
  • World of Badass: This is a deliberate policy of the federation government, 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.
  • 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 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.

Alternative Title(s): Telzey Amberdon, Trigger Argee, A Tale Of Two Clocks