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Literature / Kris Longknife

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Jack: I see they didn't hang you.
Kris: Nope, they missed their chance. The Navy still has a Longknife.
Jack: Why do I feel like saying 'God help us all'?
Kris: 'Cause it just may be true.
Mutineer, by Mike Shepherd

A Military Science Fiction/Space Opera novel franchise primarily centered on Kris Longknife, a rich young naval officer who struggles to deal with the expectation and reputations (both good and bad) of a famous family of military leaders, politicians, and billionaires, written by American author Mike Shepherd (a pen name for Mike Moscoe). The franchise is sometimes referred to as the "Jump Point Universe".

Books in the main series:

  1. Mutineer (2004)
  2. Deserter (2004)
  3. Defiant (2005)
  4. Resolute (2006)
  5. Audacious (2007)
  6. Intrepid (2008)
  7. Undaunted (2009)
  8. Redoubtable (2010)
  9. Daring (2011)
  10. Furious (2012)
  11. Defender (2013)
  12. Tenacious (2014)
  13. Unrelenting (2015)
  14. Bold (2016)

After Bold, Mike Shepherd left his former publisher and began self-publishing a new Kris Longknife series set several years after the end of Bold:

  1. Emissary (2017)
  2. Admiral (2017)
  3. Commander (2018)
  4. Indomitable (2019)
  5. Stalwart (2020)

In addition, there are several associated ebooks, both novellas and short stories:

  • Kris Longknife's Bloodhound
  • Welcome Home/Go Away
  • Training Daze
  • Kris Longknife's Maid Goes on Strike: Life on Alwa Station
  • Kris Longknife Among the Kicking Birds (originally chapters that were cut from Unrelenting)
  • "Ruth Longknife's First Christmas"
  • "Kris Longknife's Bad Day" (originally the opening to Emissary)

There is also a spinoff series centered around a secondary character:

  1. Kris Longknife's Assassin (2014): Ebook novella retelling Audacious and Intrepid from Vicky Peterwald's perspective.
  2. Vicky Peterwald: Target (2014): Jumps off from the end of Daring.
  3. Vicky Peterwald: Survivor (2015)
  4. Vicky Peterwald: Rebel (2016)
  5. Vicky Peterwald: Dominator (2018)
  6. Vicky Peterwald: Implacable (2019)

And another series of ebooks picking up in the Alwa system after Kris left and was replaced by Sandy Santiago:

  1. Kris Longknife's Replacement: Admiral Santiago on Alwa Station
  2. Kris Longknife's Relief: Grand Admiral Santiago on Alwa Station
  3. Kris Longknife's Successor

And a prequel series about the Iteeche War, starring Kris's great-grandmother Rita Nuu-Longknife:

  1. Rita Longknife: Enemy Unknown (2017)
  2. Rita Longknife: Enemy in Sight (2017)

Mike Moscoe earlier wrote a series in the same continuity under his own name:

  • The First Casualty (1999)
  • The Price of Peace (2000)
  • They Also Serve (2001)
  • To Do Or Die (2013)

The first three books are currently out of print, though they were republished in 2013.

This book series provides examples of:

  • A-Cup Angst:
    • Kris is tall, wiry, and small-chested. The latter causes her some considerable distress as she constantly seems to keep running into attractive women with more assets she compares herself to. On the upside, it means Abby can supply her with exploding falsies without making her look top-heavy. In Bold she observes that one of the upsides of having had a baby naturally (due to lack of access to advanced medical technology on her former duty station) is she now actually has breasts to speak of.
    • For her part, the much curvier Vicky Peterwald inverts it: while wholly unafraid to use her assets to her advantage, she complains to Kris at the end of Intrepid that they get in the way in her military career (they give her back pain and get in the way during PT). Also played straight in Redoubtable when she tells Kris that while they're large, they came in late.
  • Accidental Truth: In Intrepid, Kris tangles with the Abdicators, a neo-Luddite Apocalypse Cult that believes they must hide themselves away to survive a coming Alien Invasion that will wipe out humanity. The short story "Welcome Home/Go Away", set at the end of Daring after Kris's first encounter with the Planet Looters, lampshades the similarity between the Abdicators' beliefs and the raiders.
  • Absent Aliens: Justified initially: besides the Three, a trio of long-vanished Precursors that built the jump points and left interesting artifacts lying around many planets, the first six books take place eighty years after a bloody border war with an alien species called the Iteeche, after which The Neutral Zone was established between them which neither side is allowed to cross. The Iteeche take on a much greater role beginning in Undaunted, when they start trying to make diplomatic overtures to Wardhaven's bloc. Later books drop the trope completely, with Kris encountering no less than three additional alien species not including those the Planet Looters have exterminated.
  • Absolute Xenophobe: The Planet Looters consider all intelligent life other than themselves "vermin" to be eradicated. Justified: Based on evidence recovered from their homeworld and nearby star systems in Tenacious, the cast theorize that they were once enslaved by a neighboring species, then overthrew and wiped out their overlords before setting out to remove all alien life that could possibly be a threat to them.
  • Action Mom: Kris, starting in Bold after her daughter Ruth is born at the end of the previous book.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Not all of them, but most star systems in the series have at least one habitable planet. Maybe justified by the jump point system, which is believed to be artificial: if the Three built them, they wouldn't have bothered to build jump points in systems they themselves couldn't use.
  • The Alliance: What forms by the end of Unrelenting to battle the Planet Looters. Kris has brought two pre-space species, the Alwans and Sasquans into the fold. Meanwhile back home, every human government except Greenfeld is sending ships to Alwa, and the Iteeche are also sending help.
  • Anti-Mutiny: At the end of Mutineer, Kris realizes that her superior officers are attempting an illegal attack on an Earth battle group in hopes of starting The War of Earthly Aggression. She relieves her CO and his XO on the spot with help from the Marines and enlisted, convinces junior officers on the other ships in her squadron to follow suit, then chases down the admiral responsible and forces his ship to surrender. Wardhaven declares the events top secret, but Earth awards her its highest decoration for valor, the Order of the Wounded Lion.
  • Apocalypse Cult: The Abdicators, who arose during the Iteeche war, are convinced that all humanity must hide itself away in the face of alien invaders who will boil humans' eyeballs in their own blood (that isn't a joke, that's literally their words), after which good aliens will come to take away the survivors. When Kris encounters their colony on Xanadu there's apparently been a religious dispute: the good aliens are now referred to as angels. The Abdicators try to frame her for their assassination of Henry Peterwald and start an apocalyptic war so that spacers stop visiting them and the evil aliens won't find them.
  • Armchair Military: The first book comes at the end of an eighty-year peace and most of the senior officers in the series have never seen major combat. This causes a number of problems when the Society of Humanity disintegrates.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Nelly, Kris' personal computer. She started as an ordinary non-sentient pocket computer but Kris spent much of her teenage years upgrading her with her Aunt Tru. Then, early in the series, Tru tasks Nelly with trying to activate a fragment of the alien computer on Santa Maria, and Nelly develops into a fully sapient being. Up to and including creating children of her own.
  • Artistic License – Space: The series is usually pretty good about averting this, jump points notwithstanding. However, plot points in a couple of the later books are made of a technobabble beam that can knock chunks off a neutron star, which are first captured and used as part of the warhead of Hellburner torpedoes, then used as kinetic bullets by Kris in the climactic battle of Unrelenting. In reality this would not work: the neutron-degenerate matter that makes up neutron stars (popularly known as "neutronium") only stays that way under the intense gravity of a neutron star. Outside of such a heavy gravity field, it undergoes beta decay into protons and electrons.
  • Assassin Outclassin':
    • Kris has escaped or outfought a disturbingly large number of murder attempts (to the point where at one point Kris jokingly asks Nelly to time how long until the next one, and Nell snarks that she can't count that low). Two or three books in it starts to verge on a Running Gag: Kris actually starts to get rather blasé about constantly being shot at or bombed, and in Undaunted she finds herself annoyed that she wasn't the target of the latest round.
    • Vicky hasn't suffered quite as many, yet, though she's rapidly catching up after her stepmother puts out a hit on her. Her current record is four assassination attempts in one day.
  • Asteroid Miners: Tommy Lien, Kris's best friend for the first three books, comes from a family of these. As a result, he's Properly Paranoid about safety in space, and is quite OCD about triple-checking everything.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Vicky gains the loyalty of the planets that join her in revolting against the Empress in large part due to her efforts at giving them functional economies and working governments as much as by military power.
  • Badass Family: "Those damned Longknifes", and it's all one word, thank you very much. All of Kris's surviving great-grandparents are military veterans of wars with the Iteeche and various human factions and have survived almost as many assassination attempts as she herself has. Her father and brother, while Non-Action Guys, are very effective politicians who still display Nerves of Steel when the balloon goes up. About the only member who doesn't qualify is her paternal grandfather Al Longknife, a hyper-rich and extremely paranoid business executive who rarely leaves his heavily fortified skyscraper (he seems to have turned his badassery gene into finding ways to further enrich himself).
  • Batman Gambit: Several different people conclude that the absurdly oversexualized female Greenfeld court fashions encouraged by the Empress are likely meant to entice her husband to sleep around and cheat on her so he ends up dead at the hands of an cuckolded husband or lover.
  • Battle Couple:
    • Tom and Penny, who are both Navy officers and lovers, until he's killed in action in Defiant three days after their wedding.
    • Kris and Jack starting in Furious after their Relationship Upgrade at the end of the previous book.
  • Battle in the Rain:
    • The Battle of Black Mountain in To Do Or Die takes place in the middle of a torrential downpour at night. It's deliberate, so as to eliminate the defenders tech advantages (the position was EMPed beforehand). Combat quickly degenerates to muddy knife-fights in the dark.
    • The shootouts on Olympia in Mutineer count as well, though it's raining the entire time due to a volcanic eruption.
  • Beam Spam:
    • Two types of lasers are used by human ships:
      • Warship lasers use a continuous beam, hoping to stay on target long enough to burn through. Ships customarily rotate during combat to spread out the burn, and warships are further armored in several meters of ice.
      • Pulse lasers tend to have a larger bore: Kris's ship USS Wasp carries four 24-inch guns. However, they're powered by capacitors rather than by a direct draw from the reactor, meaning that they're good against weakly armored targets but useless for fighting warships and aren't capable of rapid fire unless you reduce power.
    • How the raiders fight and inflict casualties; when in doubt, they just start shooting lasers at anything and everything.
  • Berserk Button: Kris really hates kidnappers, especially those that kidnap children. This is an understandable byproduct of her little brother getting kidnapped and murdered when she was 10.
  • Bling of War: After Hank is made a commodore and encounters Kris in Resolute, she notes to herself that while he has more medals than she does, every medal she wears save one has a "V" device that means it was earned in combat, whereas none of Hank's do. (Her Wardhaven Defense Medal is the only exception, that being because it may only be awarded for fighting in defense of her home planet against direct attack.)
  • Bodyguard Crush:
    • There are some very strong hints that Jack is in love with Kris and vice versa. He marries her in Defender.
    • Vicky manages to bed nearly every bodyguard she's ever assigned, male or female.
  • Born Lucky: Kris's ability to evade events that should have killed her is actually acknowledged in her official Greenfeld Intelligence file.
  • Brain/Computer Interface: Kris upgrades to one between the first and second books so she and Nelly can talk to each other faster.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Beginning in book two, Abby starts supplying Kris and her team with bulletproof lingerie, mainly spider silk body-stockings to be worn under her clothing. This is often backed up with girdles (or a one-piece swimsuit in one case) reinforced with ceramic trauma plates. It's treated realistically, stopping bullets and spreading the force out, but you still end up with some nasty bruises.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Kris spends all of Unrelenting pregnant, despite having just replaced her contraceptive implant. It turns out that a supply officer had sabotaged her fleet's last shipment of implants as his way of protesting her relaxing the fraternization regulations. This results in seventy unplanned pregnancies and said supply officer getting dishonorably discharged in a system where the only company willing to give him a new job is the manure works.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Emphasis on the "old" part: her great-grandfather King Ray is in his second century. She calls him out for using her as his catspaw against the Peterwalds at the end of Audacious, and at the end of Daring she gives him a huge What the Hell, Hero? speech for burying the Planet Looters story and Party Scattering herself and her friends.
  • Celibate Hero: It looks like everybody in the series is getting some romance except for poor Kris. That eventually changes.
  • Chafing Against the Dress Code: Both Kris and Vicky Peterwald are deeply displeased at the standard dress uniform for female military officers in the Society of Humanity and later its successor states, which consists of a white business jacket and a shapeless long skirt.
    • In Mutineer, Kris narrates when she has to wear one for an official function that it was clearly designed by male officers to make female officers as unattractive as humanly possible.
    • In Target, Vicky outright refuses to wear the standard dress uniform and commissions one all her own from an admiral's fashion designer wife, ending up with a slinky white gown paired with a bolero-style jacket for her party salad.
  • The Chessmaster: Admiral Crossenshield, Wardhaven's head of black ops. He's got his fingers in many pies, and is (one of) Abby's Mysterious Employers.
  • Chest of Medals: It's noted in Tenacious that Kris has, by that point, accumulated most of the highest awards for valor issued by human governments, including that of her sometimes mortal enemies from Greenfeld. And then she gets three more from the two largest Sasquan governments. One of the feline aliens comments it's hard to find room when she tries to hang a medal over Kris's neck.
  • Crazy-Prepared: In Defiant Abby manages to produce clothing, including correct-size undergarments, for a woman she'd never heard of a week before. Then she dials it up to eleven and produces enough bulletproof bodysuits and ceramic trauma plates to outfit an an entire Marine squad.
  • Colony Drop:
    • Kris suspects that the "volcanic eruption" that caused the cataclysm on Olympia in Mutineer may have actually been an asteroid deorbited by the Peterwalds in one of their conquest plots.
    • In Intrepid, an Apocalypse Cult attempts to crash a passenger liner into a Greenfeld planet at a measurable fraction of the speed of light, trying to frame Kris for what would include the death of head of state Henry Smythe-Peterwald XII. Kris attempts to shoot out its engines but it Goes Horribly Wrong and destroys the entire liner, killing 5,000 people.
    • While investigating the Planet Looters in Defiant, Kris's team determines that the attackers combined asteroid strikes with orbital nuclear attacks, then used Sarin gas against anyone who managed to organize an army to attack them on the ground afterwards.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Kris notes that while most marines had to be trained out of notions of fighting fair, Kris took to dirty fighting like a duck to water.
  • Courtroom Episode: The middle act of Furious. After the events of Daring, Kris is charged with war crimes by 153 planets, among them the members of the Musashi Empire. But after her attempt to break in to see her grandfather goes south, she surrenders to a Musashi warship to escape from under the thumb of her family and get her story out, knowing she faces beheading if convicted. Public opinion swings in her favor over the course of her time on Musashi, and the panel judges ultimately return a verdict of Not Proven.
  • Crossover: Bold crosses Kris Longknife books with the Vicky Peterwald books by means of Henry Peterwald asking Kris to mediate an end to the civil war between Vicky and the Empress.
  • Cult Colony:
    • Xanadu, a planet of religious fanatics who feared being eaten by Iteeche so much that they fled to the edges of human space and lived completely underground.
    • New Jerusalem is an ultraconservative Christian colony whose soldiers are trained more in catechism than combat.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Both of the ship-to-ship fights that Kris gets into in Bold. After several years of combat experience and a Lensman Arms Race to challenge the Planet Spaceship-building Horde of Alien Locusts trying to wipe out all life that isn't them, her squadron of eight battlecruisers easily outmatches ships that were top-of-the-line at the start of the series... which is all the warring factions in the Greenfeld Empire have.
  • Damsel out of Distress:
    • Kris's great-grandmother Ruth is taken hostage by Vicky Peterwald's henchmen in Audacious. When Kris and the Marine guards mount a rescue, one of Ruth's guards tries to kill her only to have Ruth promptly knock the chair she's been tied to over backwards to screw up his shot, buying precious seconds for Kris to kill him.
    • Vicky is kidnapped by Bounty Hunters twice in her series, and escapes mostly by herself both times.
  • Dangerous Deserter: Lieutenant Commander Sampson in Tenacious. Not for the usual reasons, however: she steals a freighter after being relieved of command by Kris, intending to fly home and try to fight Kris in the command structure. The danger is not from Sampson herself but rather that she might inadvertently lead the Planet Looters to human space from the current battleground on (approximately) the other side of the galaxy.
  • Decadent Court: The Greenfeld Empire. Hinted, and confirmed in the sequel series, to also be the state of the Iteeche Imperial Court.
  • Deconstruction: Olympia in Mutineer serves as one for some extreme libertarian political ideas. The founders of the planet were determined that they would have no strong central government, and so the planet has no chief executive, only a legislature that may meet once every three years, no exceptions, and is permitted to have only one hundred pages of laws (with font and spacing specified in the constitution to prevent cheating). This means its government is completely impotent when a cataclysmnote  strikes right after the legislature's thrice-yearly meeting.
  • Deflector Shields: A close variant, Played for Laughs. The original USS Wasp (Intrepid-Daring) can produce a floating umbrella of Smart Metal to shield itself from enemy fire. Thanks to the influence of pre-space science fiction, Kris's crew insist on referring to it like a deflector shield, much to her irritation (she insists on calling the command to activate the umbrella "Raise defenses"; her crew always respond "Shields up").
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Vicki Peterwald weaponizes it.
  • Drop Pod: Light Attack Craft (LAC), essentially a set of rocket-powered benches with a heat shield and steering wheel, are used to drop small teams on enemy positions. The series begins with Kris piloting one on a hostage-rescue mission.
  • Elective Monarchy: What the United Society ultimately becomes. Raymond Longknife, one of Kris's great-grandpas, is made king of what is initially referred to as the United Sentients (finalized as United Society). He's given all the trappings of a European-style monarchy, but seemingly serves in mostly an advisory role to the elected government. He also has a term limit of 25 years, after which no member of his bloodline is permitted to seek elected office, which Raymond insisted be included. (It's mentioned early in Emissary that he's starting to regret the bloodline ban: his grandson, the prime minister of Wardhaven for most of the series, wants it amended out, and Ray has suggested that he wants Kris to be his successor.)
  • The Empire: Greenfeld, which starts as One Nation Under Copyright, has a habit of overthrowing planets' governments covertly to add them to its bloc (variously referred to as the Greenfeld Confederacy, the Greenfeld Alliance, and finally the Greenfeld Empire after Henry Smythe-Peterwald XII declares himself an emperor pretty much just to one-up Kris's great-grandfather, who was made a king). It's also been known to simply put a squadron of battleships into orbit of a desired planet and order them to join Greenfeld or else. After Vicky starts a civil war partly to save her skin from her stepmother, her bloc becomes something of a Hegemonic Empire instead. She's ultimately forced by circumstances to give up absolute power and become a constitutional monarch.
  • Escape Pod: Ships carry survival pods, which are also built into battle stations. They don't have any propulsion, they're just there to keep you alive till whoever survived the battle picks you up.
  • Eternal English/Language Drift: Everyone speaks Standard, a mish-mash of English and Spanish.
  • Ethical Slut: Vicky, post-Character Development. Formerly a ManEater, she still loves sex but she stops using it to manipulate others, and eventually enters a long-term relationship with Manny Artamus. She's even willing to be monogamous for him, though she still occasionally tries to talk him into letting her bodyguards/lovers Kit and Kat into their bed.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: The Highlander regiments always bring them along, being Scotsmen IN SPACE! Tommy, despite being part Irish, hates the noise.
  • False Flag Operation: The Greenfeld attack on Wardhaven in Defiant is officially due to "pirate battleships" attacking, since neither Wardhaven nor Greenfeld has an appetite for the likely result of two civilizations of similar strength going at it: a Forever War that would probably drag all humanity down with it.
  • Fantastic Religious Weirdness: In Dominator, Vicky's wedding to Mannie Artamus incorporates parts of marriage rituals from planets all across her half of the Greenfeld Empire, many of which have to be altered due to her being either A) an Imperial Grand Duchess and the heir to the throne and/or B) the de facto dominant partner of the relationship (as opposed to it being her husband).
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • Humanity as a whole somewhat parallels the modern United States and Western world, mainly in cultural schisms between densely populated core worlds such as Earth and New Eden (urban megacities), less urbanized centrist Rim worlds such as Wardhaven (smaller cities in the South and West) and some planets such as Olympia, New Chance, and Pandemonium that are actively opposed to having strong government at all (rural West).
    • Wardhaven, which has a king and Parliament, comes off as Space Britain, though being a member of the United Society/Sentients, it ends up as a United States/England mashup.
    • Greenfeld starts out resembling Space Nazi Germany, though it mutates into something more similar to Imperial Germany later. There's a Secret Police (until it is implicated in a coup attempt against the Peterwalds and collectively sentenced to death), names in the ruling class are Germanic and the Pour la Merite, their highest honor, is basically an Iron Cross in all but name.
    • The Musashi Empire is pretty explicitly Space Japan (blending influences from mainly the Showa Era and modern-day Japan), complete with kimonos, formals tea ceremonies, and high-tech warships.
    • The Helvetican Confederacy appears to be Space Greece.
    • The Scanda Confederacy is Space Scandinavia/Space Vikings. If the name wasn't clue enough, their ships are named after figures from Viking mythology. There's also a Scandan freighter named Sisu, a Finnish virtue akin to stoicism and grit.
    • The Sasquans parallel Earth in the 1960s or so, albeit Gender Flipped. Various blocs seem to mimic the United States, Britain, and a hybrid of the Soviet Union and North Korea which falls into civil war after Kris lasers the dictator from orbit for firing missiles at her ships twice. There's also a "Third World" of nations that try to stay neutral between the big three.
    • The Iteeche are a blend of Imperial China and Shogunate Japan, with a bit of Ancient Persia for flavor. They're a deeply tradition-bound culture with a God-Emperor, and in the event of the Imperial Planet falling to the rebels in a civil war, the victors typically wipe out its inhabitants and replace them with their own (in reference to several dynasties in China attempting to erase all trace of the one they overthrew). Nobles are followed around by halberdiers who behead Iteeche who break norms or are suspected of rebellion (or even make grammatical mistakes), and people who commit dishonorable acts are required to "make a most sincere apology to the emperor" (i.e. drink a cup of poison that causes an extremely painful death, evidently a variation on seppuku).
  • Fashion-Based Relationship Cue: In Defiant, Kris attends a celebration on Hikila, a Polynesian-descended colony, wearing nothing but strategically placed garlands and Body Paint. The Hikilans consider this appropriate formal wear for a "virgin" (she technically isn't, but in context it refers to any young single woman, which she is).
  • The Federation: The Society of Humanity at the start of the series, the United Sentients/United Society afterward. The latter specifies in its constitution that no planet will be permitted membership that does not have a single central, democratically elected government that makes provision to protect any minority populations.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: When Kris returns home between Unrelenting and Bold, Jack comes with her (they're married with a daughter now and Kris wants a "safe" desk job from which they can raise a family), but Penny, Abby, and Captain, now-Admiral Drago stay behind at Alwa to continue the war under Sandy Santiago. Abby returns with her family and some of the recurrers from the Alwa arc in the sequel series.
  • Fight Clubbing: In one of the side stories, a lion-like Sasquan mistakes an "Ostrich" (plains Alwan) for a possible meal, tries to pounce, and gets knocked flat with a kick. To everyone's surprise, both species think this is hilarious, and an underground Sasquan-Ostrich prize-fighting circuit quickly starts up.
  • Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: Present on Fast Attack Craft (FAC), Patrol Fast (PF), and Frigates (FF), which mount their main (and for the FACs and PFs, only) weaponry forward.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: The Esperanto League, a minor human faction, bans giving warships "distressing combative names".
  • Foreign Ruling Class: Planets in the Greenfeld Confederacy/Empire tend to have a mostly white Germanic-descended ruling class and a browner general populace. It's mentioned in Audacious that Kris's browner Wardhavenites (she has mixed European and Native American ancestry and her primary Love Interest is Latino) can blend in on Greenfeld worlds better than the Greenfeld military forces they're working with.
  • Four-Star Badass: By Tenacious, Kris is field-promoted to vice admiral (three stars), and has the highest awards for valor issued in human space, as well as that from a newly-discovered alien species. She's been in the military for six years.
  • Future Imperfect: Downplayed with the use of "March of Cambreadth": some of the characters think that Heather Alexander's 1997 war song must be older than the 20th century, since it mentions swords, axes, shields, and cavalry.
  • Glass Cannon:
    • FACs, with four 24-inch pulse lasers and no armor, are this. Their cannon can cripple a battleship, but they can't take a hit.
    • The omnicidal alien's ships tend to be this. Ridiculous amounts of laser cannons, but no armor. They clumsily start trying to armor their ships with rock later in the war: it's implied that up until they encountered the humans and Iteeche, they'd never attacked anyone with any significant ability to fight back.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Vicky's evil stepmother, "the Empress". A scion of one of the major corporate conglomerates on Greenfeld other than the Peterwalds' company, she bamboozles and henpecks Henry Peterwald XII out of actual administration while her kleptocratic family runs it into the ground to enrich themselves. And she puts a huge bounty on Vicky's head to ensure that her son with Henry will inherit, which ultimately leads to Vicky leading a rebellion.
  • Going Cold Turkey: Kris honestly believed she was a drug addict for years as a result of spending most of the two years following her brother's death either stoned (From medication provided by her mother), drunk (from various items stolen from the family liquor cabinet) or both. Her great-grandfather Trouble managed to get her the help she needed to stop, and she didn't touch drugs or alcohol of any kind for years afterwards for fear of restarting a potential addiction. Later evidence showed that she had yet to reach that stage.
  • Gold Digger: Kris mentions having had to deal with a lot of boys who either wanted her for her family's money, or just wanted the prestige of having "scored on a Longknife". She lost her virginity to one of the latter, which she views as a mistake, and occasionally has to ward off the former and/or their mothers in the series.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The attempt to stop the Colony Drop in Intrepid. The plan is for Nelly to fire precision laser shots from Wasp to destroy some of the hijacked passenger liner's engines, reducing its acceleration so that it misses the planet entirely. Unfortunately, when they discover the liner is rotating, as ships often do when they expect to take fire, they factor it into their targeting but nobody calculates the effect on the liner itself: the perturbation of the sudden loss of acceleration causes a massive shockwave in the liner's fuel water tanks. The tanks burst and the water continues on through the ship until it breaches a reactor, destroying the ship entirely. After calculating this, everyone agrees that, sadly, the 5,000 people on the liner were dead the minute they came aboard: there was no way at all to save any of them.
  • Good Feels Good: Vicky realizes this in her own series when she takes action to help the ordinary oppressed and abandoned people of the Greenfeld Empire and feels a sense of accomplishment and of being respected she never received in her previous role as glorified bimbo and future trophy wife.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Downplayed rather delicately in Unrelenting. At least one of the women impregnated as a result of the sabotage of a shipment of contraceptive implants chooses to terminate. Kris encounters her in sickbay and the younger woman is clearly rather torn-up about it; the chief medical officer describes her as having had to make her first serious adult decision since joining the military. Kris also firmly stomps on a (male) admiral's suggestion that the pregnant women be made to abort.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: In universe, how Kris earned the Order of the Wounded Lion, Earth's highest award for valor, is classified and she doesn't tell it to anyone. Refusing to follow illegal orders, she started a mass mutiny against several treasonous captains and an admiral who planned to provoke The War of Earthly Aggression. Earth's government sent her the Order as thanks for preventing the rogue attack on their fleet, but Wardhaven doesn't want word of any of it getting out for political reasons.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: The still-unnamed Planet Looters almost never surrender, and their ships hold almost their entire species. The humans and their allies in turn know by exploring their abandoned homeworld that the Human Aliens mean to eradicate them from the face of the galaxy due to Absolute Xenophobia. There's only one way this ends.
  • Hard Head: Averted (pun intended). One character gets a severe head injury from an explosion, and spends a long, long, time recovering, with plenty of descriptions of all the problems caused by it.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Hank's sister, Vicky. Her improvement comes after she's assigned to a military ship as a very junior officer to discipline her following her actions in a previous book. After doing so, she learns not only to take pride in actually being good at something on her own merits and not because of her wealth, family, looks, or skill in bed, but that she's learning how to be a proper officer, something that Hank lacked and actually caused his death.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • The casualties from the Battle of Wardhaven in Defiant all count given the circumstances, but Tommy Lien takes the cake. When PF-109 is hit, he dives from his chair to knock his wife of three days Penny Pasley out of the way and is crushed by the collapsing ceiling that would have killed her.
    • Subverted with Phil Taussig and USS Hornet. In Daring he and Kris aboard Wasp split up while fleeing the vengeful Horde of Alien Locusts, hoping that one of them will make it back to human space to Bring News Back. Kris makes it, and later tracks the trail of Hornet to a marginally habitable planet where Taussig abandoned ship and rescues the survivors, captain included.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Used In-Universe by one of the empress's governors in Vicky Peterwald: Survivor, who orders a squadron of similar size to Vicky's to attack them head-on, thinking himself a cavalry officer leading a charge. Subverted when it screws up: Vicky's ships evade their fire in imitation of the way Kris jinks around like a madwoman, and the opposing fleet's inertia carries them past Vicky, giving her free rein to take the planet unopposed. Once they get turned around, the opposing captain pulls a Heel–Face Turn: the governor was standing on the deck waving a saber instead of being strapped in, and is sent flying into the wall when the ship goes up to combat rotations all at once.
  • Honor Before Reason: The Iteeches' samurai-like culture and overpopulation-induced We Have Reserves mindset leads to a lot of this in the sequel series, with officers who survive a lost or drawn battle considered disgraced and Reassigned to Antarctica. Kris instead sees them as potentially Taught by Experience and recruits them into the fleet she commands in the name of the Emperor as people who can be taught to fight in humans' more soldier-like style.
  • Human Aliens: Ironically enough, the one alien species that looks human enough that they're virtually indistinguishable externally are an omnicidal Horde of Alien Locusts whose thought processes are the most alien of the non-human intelligent species humans have met.
  • Humans Are Divided: Subverted. Initially humanity is organized under the banner of the Society of Humanity, but it breaks up at the end of the first book and several smaller blocs form in its place (Earth's bloc retains the name). In contrast, the Iteeche have a single powerful emperor ruling all of them in theory, though in practice Iteeche nobles often act to expand their holdings into unclaimed space without his knowledge and start a rebellion against the emperor in the sequel series. The Alwans and Planet Looters, however, have multiple populations that are mostly unaware of each other at first, and the Sasquans are still in an era of warring nation-states.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Besides the potential for Tele-Frag at jump points, which is avoided by means of traffic buoys in human space, you have to be careful of speed and rotation when passing through one. At low, constant speed and slow rotation, the jumps lead to nearby stars, but under acceleration or rotation, you can end up hundreds or thousands of light-years further out. A so-called "bad jump" usually means the ship is lost in space forever, but in the Backstory, Ray Longknife's crew managed to duplicate the conditions that led to a bad jump and return through the same jump point. In Defiant, Kris's exploration mission starts mounting such jumps deliberately to cover more ground, ending up a quarter of the way across the galaxy at their furthest point, and Nelly is able to develop a predictive model for where they'll end up after long jumps. Oh, and jump points sometimes move, teleporting thousands of kilometers with no notice.
  • Just the First Citizen: Henry Smythe-Peterwald XII, head of state of Greenfeld during the series, is initially referred to as the First Citizen, though he later declares himself an emperor (because he must one-up his rival Raymond Longknife being crowned a king) and his daughter Vicky a grand duchess.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes:
    • Kris and Vicky both complain at various times that the full dress uniform for female naval officers is awful: dress whites business jacket with a floor-length skirt. In Target, Vicky hires an admiral's fashion designer wife to improve on it, and ends up in a much more flattering white gown with a bolero jacket on which her rank and party salad can be worn.
    • Also in Target, Vicky's father issues the Order of St. Christopher, Star Leaper decoration to survivors of the expedition in Daring. Vicky, and Kris when she receives hers in Bold, find that the bright orange sash on which the medallion is supposed to be worn doesn't go with anything.
  • Inappropriately Close Comrades:
    • In Defender, Kris and Jack initially plan and execute their wedding in a single day before orders can be received placing them into the same chain of command and make their relationship illegal. Later, though, crew on the all-Smart Metal frigates and battlecruisers take to adding doors to bulkheads between their quarters, a logical consequence of having lots of predominantly young and unattached people cooped up together in a tin can for weeks or months at a time. Rather than continually reassign people to separate couples, Kris decides to "treat sailors like adults" and relax but not completely eliminate the regs on fraternization, a practice that Sandy retains when she takes over. Commander Sampson mouthing off to Kris about this is one of the reasons she fires her.
    • Unrelenting features a supply officer whose views on this prompt him to sabotage a shipment of contraceptive implants, resulting in a lot of unplanned pregnancies (and the supply officer getting a dishonorable discharge).
    • As for Vicky, she was reportedly once disciplined by Captain Krätz after he caught her having a quickie with another ensign in a paint closet.
  • Intelligent Gerbil: The Alwans are man-sized, semi-flightless birds (the plains-dwellers, "Ostriches", being somewhat more flightless than the forest-dwellers, "Roosters"). The Sasquans resemble lions that can walk erect.
  • Interservice Rivalry:
    • Played for laughs in Audacious. Kris goes on PT with the Marine guards at the Wardhaven Embassy on New Eden and is handed a sweatshirt in Navy blue and gold... with a bulls-eye on the back.
    • In Bold the United Society Navy's Battle Force (battleships) and scout force (cruisers and destroyers) are arguing over who has authority over the battlecruisers built for the war against the Horde of Alien Locusts. Kris takes a third option at the end of the book and becomes head of Battlecruiser Force. In "Kris Longknife's Bad Day", it's five years later and she's still fighting for her battlecruisers: she believes, not without reason, that they obsolete the other ship types (they outgun cruisers and destroyers and are fast enough to take over their duties, and have comparable firepower and are cheaper to build and crew than battleships, especially in the face of the alien marauders), but she faces resistance from the old line, including her grandfather Al Longknife whose company has a monopoly on battleship construction (Kris cut him out of battlecruiser construction to punish him for various Corrupt Corporate Executive behaviors earlier in the series).
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Zig-zagged.
    • Kinetic weapons, generally dial-a-yield dart rifles, are favored for ground use, man-portable lasers being reserved for anti-missile defense.
    • Laser cannons, due to their near instantaneous travel time, are used on spaceships. Kinetic or other projectiles make an appearance in some space battles but their effectiveness is generally fairly low.
    • In Unrelenting, Imported Alien Phlebotinum is used to knock small chunks off a neutron star and accelerate them to .05 c, which Kris uses as artillery against a huge Planet Looter fleet.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: General Terrance "Trouble" Tordon, one of Kris's great-grandfathers. Victoria "Vicky" Peterwald.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Gender Flipped with Vicky. The rebellious imperial princess who formerly enjoyed sleeping around and often used her considerable assets to her advantage, falls in love with Mannie Artamus, the mayor of the city of Sevastopol on her headquarters planet St. Petersburg.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Vicky gives us a real groaner in Rebel.
    Vicky: Look on the bright side, guys. If we all hang together, it will be one hell of a date.
    Mannie Artamus: Only if you go up the scaffold stairs first. And in a short dress.
    Vicky: No doubt, my stepmother would be only too happy to oblige you. But I live by the old saying, no noose is good noose. (cue Collective Groan)
  • Language Equals Thought:
    • While the Planet Looters' language has over a dozen words for "submission", it interestingly has no word for "war": as the Absolute Xenophobe marauders consider all intelligent life other than themselves to be "vermin", one infers that they therefore consider their serial xenocides to be something akin to pest control. It also has no direct translation for "surrender": a squadron that seemingly tries to surrender to Kris in Unrelenting tries to get it across by repeating "We will be your slaves."
    • The Alwans are a more traditional example: they don't have a concept for war (interpersonal violence is rare in the Roosters' culture, and while Ostrich tribes fight each other, they don't really think of it as a war the way humans would), so the humans use the Alwans' hunting concepts as a synonym.
    • In Tenacious, a Sasquan head of state remarks that Kris "pounded" a dictator to death after she wouldn't stop firing nuclear missiles at Kris's ships (via Orbital Bombardment that melted the dictator's mountain redoubt to sea level). Nelly informs Kris that in Sasquan culture, the verb Nelly translated as "to pound" signifies something unsubtle that prey animals do, whereas "cats" (Sasquans) "pounce" and "cut". Kris accordingly chooses her response to emphasize that she is a fellow predator, not prey.
  • Lensman Arms Race: One develops in the war against the Planet Looters, who have enormous weight of numbers and Beam Spam on their side and learn to innovate with their existing technology quickly (e.g. nuclear suicide bombers and Colony Drops), but have worse technology to start with, No OSHA Compliance, and dogmatic Honor Before Reason attitudes that discourage experimentation and mean that few survive to learn from their mistakes. The human and alien forces fighting them (led by Kris) start with ships built to post-Iteeche War standards (ice armor and no reactor-fed lasers bigger than 18-inch), but by Unrelenting (only a couple years later In-Universe) are fielding rapid-fire 22-inch lasers on ships ships built entirely of nanomachines, able to maneuver at far greater accelerations with the crew staying comfortable, and armored with crystals that re-radiate incoming laser fire. And then we get to the "beam ships", million-ton behemoths that are more scientific instrument than warship and fight as kinetic artillery by knocking chunks off of neutron stars at .05 c.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The frigates and later battlecruisers built beginning in Furious for the war with the aliens. In first contact with the aliens, only a few of Kris's smaller Q-ships survived the initial battle, because they were so much more difficult for alien Beam Spam to hit than the Mighty Glacier Greenfeld, Helvetican, and Musashi battleships. In response, Musashi builds several all-Smart Metal "frigates" with battleship-size lasers fitted fore and aft rather than in broadside turrets, which are gradually scaled up into "battlecruisers" (so named because they carry battleship guns but are as fast and maneuverable as cruisers). They can take some heavy hits, especially after being supplemented with energy re-radiating crystal armor, and return it with interest, but their primary defense is evasion, which Kris, a product of smaller corvettes and patrol boats, takes to with aplomb but has difficulties teaching to the battleship-minded officers she's often sent as reinforcements as commander of Alwa Defense Sector (and later is tasked with training in "Kris Longknife's Bad Day").
  • Lost Superweapon: The Vanishing Box. Left behind on Santa Maria by The Three, it was discovered a million years later by local teens. Capable of instantly obliterating entire mountains, it's later used to fight a rogue AI attempting to kill everyone on the planet. Later research into how it works leads to the creation of the Hellburner, a teraton-yield super-torpedo, and the "beam ships" which are able to knock chunks off of neutron stars as relativistic bullets.
  • Loud of War: Tommy Lien, of of Kris's friends and crewmember on her PF boat, blasts the March of Cambreadth over the radio as the flotilla sorties to meet the attacking battleships in Defiant.
  • Macross Missile Massacre:
    • Kris launches one during the Battle of Wardhaven. A couple space freighters are fitted with hundreds of modified ground-to-ground missiles borrowed from the Army. They're not particularly effective—the warheads are pretty small—but the incoming battleships are forced to either shoot the missile down and overheat their lasers, or loose sensors, ice armor, and possibly laser cannons to a blizzard of missile fire.
    • The aliens like to use barrages of nuclear missiles in addition to Beam Spam. In Kris Longknife's Replacement, the Sasquans gift Sandy Santiago with twenty percent of their nuclear arsenal, including a number of roughly B41-size hydrogen bombs, to do with as she likes, and when faced with an alien ambush she uses Smart Metal to make missiles for them on the fly. She later takes to firing self-guided nuclear- and antimatter-tipped missiles through jump points to break alien blockades.
  • Maneater: Vicky, pre-Character Development, regularly snapped up single young men and used her sexual wiles to charm them into doing her bidding, in bed and out (which usually didn't end well for the men on account of her overprotective male guardians). After she's drafted into the Greenfeld Navy, her first CO, Captain Georg Krätz, puts a stop to this after catching her in a paint closet with a fellow ensign. She shifts to an Ethical Slut after Character Development.
  • Man in a Kilt: Highlander regiments from Lorna Do and Pitt's Hope, planets settled by Scotts, still wear kilts into battle. Popularly known as Ladies From Hell, they're highly regarded as top-notch light infantry, a reputation cemented when 200 Highlanders and a Marine platoon take Black Mountain in vicious close-quarter combat in a thunderstorm. Unusually, the Highlanders also include female personnel and put them in the same kilts.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "Longknife" is fairly self-explanatory (it's Native American and references their Badass Family tendencies). In the second book it's pointed out to Kris that a kris is a type of dagger.
    • In the Battle of Wardhaven, Kris splits the defenders into three groups. Task Force Custer provides supporting fire, Task Force Horatio serves as the final line of defense, and Light Brigade mounts a suicide charge to destroy the enemy at point-blank range. Kris leads the attack aboard PF 109, part of Attack Squadron Eight. PF 109 is the only survivor, albeit with heavy damage and several dead.
    • Played for laughs in Resolute. At the end of the book it's revealed that the Q-ship Resolute that was attached to Kris's new command was sent along as an escape valve for her.
      Jack: Excuse me for butting in, but you give this gal a ship named the Resolute and expected her to use it to run away from a fight? I was starting to think you maybe understood your great-granddaughter. I guess I was wrong.
      Admiral Crossenshield: Maybe we should have renamed the ship.
  • Memetic Badass: The Longknife family are an in-universe example - at least, the ones that are considered "one of those damned Longknifes" (that's all one word, by the way) - not totally a good thing, as many people would prefer to avoid associating with them.
    • Kris eventually learns that she's gaining her own reputation separate from her family, and people are starting to differentiate between "one of those damned Longknifes" and "Kris Longknife".
  • Mile-Long Ship: The still-unnamed alien raiders use million-ton battleships ten kilometers long. And the mothership is four thousand kilometers long. Human battleships tend to top out at about 300,000 tons (they get bigger after the Lensman Arms Race to accommodate bigger laser machinery); the biggest human ship so far in the series is a million-ton passenger liner.
  • Military Mashup Machine: The USS Wasp, in her first two incarnations, is this. The first model was classed a corvette, the second was designated a frigate, terms generally used for escort ships, though both incarnations mount battleship-sized laser cannon, carry a battalion of Marines, and mount missiles half its own weight. The overall result is something between a LHD/LHA-style attack transport and a Soviet ''Kirov''-class heavy missile cruiser. Then they bolt cargo containers all over the exterior hull, which turns her into a Q-ship for luring in pirates. Later iterations built for the Alwa War are pure warships classified as battlecruisers.
  • Mirroring Factions: The humans and the Iteeche, surprisingly enough. While biologically quite different, they have similar thought processes and many of the same internal political problems as humans do and both falsely accused the other in propaganda of trying to exterminate them.
  • Multicultural Alien Planet: Of the four (living) non-human advanced species contacted by humans, none come from a Planet of Hats. Even the xenophobic, omnicidal raiders have members of their species who aren't completely fanatics about killing everything else. Also done with human planets, usually in a manner allegorizing or directly replicating a political/ethnic/regional schism in American history:
    • Hikila in Defiant is split between the ethnic Polynesian original settlers, who settled tropical islands intending to reestablish their traditional way of life from Earth, and more numerous refugees from other planets whom they accepted during the Iteeche War, who meant to continue how they lived on their homeworlds and resent the islanders taxing them but not giving them a voice in government. The planet's constitution ends up being written to accommodate the needs of both groups, with the Hikilan queen getting a veto on any measure she views as impinging on the islanders' culture.
    • New Eden in Audacious is the first extrasolar planet humanity colonized, and has essentially three semiautonomous nations of respectively American, European, and Chinese descent on it (each of which has its own house in the planetary legislature and gets its own powerful vice president). People not descended from those original settlers don't get to vote and form a permanent underclass.
    • In Undaunted, Texarkana's original settlers made to replicate a rural rancher culture, with the most powerful ranchers named dukes. A later group of settlers built a few industrialized cities, which the ranchers view as a threat.
    • Greenfeld planets, such as those Kris deals with in Redoubtable, tend to have a largely white (mainly German) ruling class and a more diverse underclass. One book makes a point that Greenfeld troops would have difficulty working covertly on one of their own planets, where Kris's browner Wardhavenites wouldn't. (Kris herself is multiracial, drawn and described as a blonde white woman but stated to have significant Native American ancestry, which is where her surname comes from; her bodyguard/Love Interest Jack Montoya is Latino.)
  • Multiple Government Polity: The United Sentients/United Society is technically a constitutional Elective Monarchy, with a relatively powerful elected king (the protagonist's great-grandfather Raymond Longknife) who serves a single 25-year term and advises the legislature. Member planets are permitted any form of government they choose, provided it's a democracy in some form and makes provisions to protect any minority groups on the planet: New Eden, one of the oldest settled planets in human space, has three vice presidents and three legislative houses (one for each of the original Earth nations that settled it), while Hikila is a constitutional monarchy with a legislature organized by city-states and a queen permitted a veto on measures she views as impinging on the islanders' culture.
  • Mysterious Employer: Abby's endless supply of trunks and their contents are paid for by an anonymous source (or sources) that's interested in keeping Kris alive (at least one of which is confirmed to be Wardhaven Intelligence).
  • Nanomachines: Nano bugs and scouts are heavily used (even by reporters), as are nanos meant to destroy other nanos. In an apparent gentleman's agreement nanos are never used to kill humans (though Kris does use them to blow an evacuated space station up). Also, Smart Metal and its derivative Uniplex (or "dumb metal"), made up of massive numbers of metal nanos, are used to build entire ships.
    • Which is fairly good sense since human-lethal nano-machines have the same problem bioweapons have, they tend to be rather unselective with who they kill and releasing anything sufficiently nasty to be of military value has a high chance of wiping you out too.
  • Neglectful Precursors: The long-vanished "Three" are believed to have built the jump points that make Faster-Than-Light Travel possible. They also left behind a computer that awakens in the prequel series and tries to kill everybody on Santa Maria (which was defeated by use of a superweapon also probably left behind by the Three). They also left the defenses on at a planet Kris's team discovers in Resolute: any ship that gets too close attempting to study their leavings is shot down.
  • The Neutral Zone: The "No Go Zone", an area designated by the treaty between humanity and the Iteeche Empire after their war where no one from either side may pass.
  • Never My Fault: One of the lesser problems Kris has to deal with when she's made commander of the war effort against the Planet Looters in Defender is Lieutenant Commander Sampson, a by-the-book officer with a chip on her shoulder because of her father's suspicious death in prison after a certain incident in Mutineer. Sampson tacitly admits to having had a junior forge her signature on readiness reports and blames inexperienced crew and an untested ship design for performance issues in exercises. Kris promptly relieves Sampson of command, then threatens to Court Martial her for conduct unbecoming when she starts mouthing off and complaining about the other ships' lax attitude to fraternization. After Sampson mutinies and steals a freighter hoping to get home, she's recaptured and it's discovered that she has a malignant brain tumor. It's removed, but Sampson doesn't change her behavior, conspiring with a supply officer to sabotage the fleet's contraceptive implants, resulting in a rash of unplanned pregnancies that includes specifically targeting Kris herself.
  • Ninja Maid:
    • Abby, Kris's body servant, knows how to dress that body in ball gowns as well as protect it with guns and bombs. Usually both at the same time. Best demonstrated in Defiant, where she not only produces body armor for a nine-person assault force, but parachutes in as a marksman before rappelling face-first down an air vent to blowtorch a way in.
    • Vicki has two personal servants who are also very lethal assassins.
  • Noodle Incident: In a Running Gag, all Abby's previous employers got killed. She's never elaborated on how or why though.
  • No Endor Holocaust: It's mentioned that heavy space tugs tend to hang on the fringes of space battles that occur in orbit specifically to avert this.
  • No Name Given: The Planet Looters Human Aliens are referred to by names like "aliens" or "raiders", since their own name for their race is not known.
  • No Party Given: Kris's father is a party leader in Wardhaven's parliament (and except for a snap election-inflicted 10-Minute Retirement in Defiant, the prime minister), but what that party is is never stated. All that's known is that Kris spent part of her childhood campaigning for her father in the agriculture sector (and was being groomed to be her brother's campaigner before she defied her parents to join the Navy), but his policy goals aren't even consistent from book to book: he's said to have both cut and raised science funding at various times and thinks it will be difficult to raise taxes enough to pay for expansion of the Navy for the war with the Planet Looters (until Kris captures a matriarch alive and sends her home). Probably the best theory, given the books' apparent opinion of both far-left socialist welfare states and far-right plutocracies and the indication in Furious that Wardhaven has a minimal level of state-required health and retirement coverage, is that he represents a European-style centrist party.
  • No Woman's Land:
    • Womens' rights have apparently taken a major step backward in Peterwald space: misogynistic attitudes are common, contraception is evidently difficult to find, and female military personnel who become pregnant are discharged.
      Kris: (to Georg Krätz and Vicky Peterwald) How very medieval.
    • New Jerusalem is a conservative Christian religious colony that according to Kris doesn't allow women to go about uncovered.
  • Non-Indicative Title: The titles of the first two books: In Mutineer, the mutiny doesn't take place until the very end of the book and is technically an Anti-Mutiny. In Deserter, the so-called desertion is more of an accidental AWOL than a desertion - Kris fully intended to return to her post before her leave was up, but her return flight got cancelled when the planet was quarantined, and the bad guys shut down offworld communications.
  • Not Proven: How Kris's trial for crimes against humanity ends in Furious, which her attorney explains as (paraphrased), "The judges aren't convinced you did the right thing but they don't think the prosecution made a convincing case, either." As far as Kris cares, she's spoken her piece about the Planet Looters and is free to leave Musashi.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Vicky eventually realizes that superficial differences to the contrary, she does have things in common with her (former) archenemy Kris, and later deliberately seeks to emulate her and use her as an example.
  • Nuclear Torch Rocket: Fusion torches are used for starship propulsion almost exclusively throughout the series.
  • Nuke 'em: Humanity has banned nuclear weapons, but the alien raiders and the Sasquans both have very large nuclear arsenals. The major Sasquan governments gift Sandy Santiago a fifth of their stockpile in Kris Longknife's Replacement, which includes some B41-sized warheads that she uses against the aliens.
  • Off the Wagon: Kris is a teetotaler on account of having been an alcoholic as a child. At the start of Furious, she crawls back into a bottle to deal with being separated from her team and hidden away on a backwater planet after 153 planets charge her with crimes against humanity for the battle in Daring.
  • Off with His Head!:
    • Iteeche nobles are trailed by halberdiers who behead people for any number of offenses, including making grammatical errors in their Starfish Language.
    • The Musashi Empire is one of only a handful of human planets not to have outlawed capital punishment during the Society of Humanity period, and uses the axe (most other planets used hanging, Greenfeld uses the firing squad). When Kris surrenders to a Musashi ship to face trial for crimes against humanity in Furious (i.e. picking a fight with the Planet Looters and getting all but one of her companion ships blown up in the process), she does so knowing she'll be beheaded if convicted. Also used for Black Comedy when her defense attorney, who is a member of the current opposition party in Musashi's parliament, jokes that if he loses the case, the sight of her going defiantly to the headsman would ensure his party's electoral dominance for generations.
  • Open Secret: The six Greenfeld battleships that attempt to glass Wardhaven in Defiant are officially declared pirates by Wardhaven and disavowed by Greenfeld, as neither the United Sentients nor Greenfeld can easily win a direct confrontation.note  Nobody believes it for a minute: Greenfeld Captain Georg Krätz comments in Intrepid that it's not like you can exactly hide six fully crewed super battleships going missing.
  • Orbital Bombardment: Possible in the series with considerable levels of precision, but the effects on the ground of a large-bore laser are rather like being too close to a tactical nuke going off (no Convection, Schmonvection here).
    • Kris's ears ring for the rest of the day after an orbiting pirate blows up a farmhouse and lake a couple klicks off with an 18-inch pulse laser in Intrepid, and in Redoubtable she's a thousand feet away behind cover when Greenfeld Admiral Krätz opens fire with a full broadside of 18-inch battleship lasers.
    • The Planet Looters like to bombard population centers with asteroids and nuclear missiles from orbit before landing to strip-mine the planet.
    • In Tenacious, Kris melts a Sasquan dictator's mountain redoubt down to approximately sea level with orbital laser strikes after she won't stop shooting nuclear missiles at Kris's battlecruisers.
  • Our Nudity Is Different:
    • In Defiant, Kris attends a festival on the Hikilan islands, which are ethnic Polynesian, in native garb. Which for her as a "virgin" (technically she isn't, but the term is applied to any unmarried woman) means lots of Body Paint, flower garlands around her waist to cover her privates, and nothing else.
    • The resort of choice for the Alwan humans is a beachfront resort where no clothing is required at all. Except in the dinner pavilion, where there's a sign posted saying "no total nudity" (i.e. cover your genitals, anything else goes).
    • In addition to this, maneuvering at high gravities with clothes on tends to result in painful bruises from fasteners and medals, so ship crew at Alwa Station customarily enter their high-g stations nude. After spending several years on Alwa, in the sequel series Kris, Abby, and various other people attached to the US mission to the Iteeche think very little of swimming nude with their various children in the embassy swimming pool.
  • Out with a Bang: In Target, Vicky begins her escape from kidnappers hired by her stepmother by seducing one of them, then crushing his throat while riding him.
  • Overly Long Name:
    • Ron'sum'We'sum'QuinCap'sum'We, an Iteeche alien who accompanies Kris for several books. Thankfully, he's happy answering to just Ron. Other Iteeche names are similar.
    • Kris and Jack name their daughter Ruth Maria Brenda Anne Longknife (Ruth after one of Kris's great-grandmothers, Maria after Jack's mother, Brenda after Kris's mother, and Anne being Kris's middle name).
  • Overranked Soldier:
    • Kris makes Vice-Admiral at 29, and Grand Admiral (5-star) at 34. She has the talent for it, but even by wartime standards that rate of promotion is somewhat excessive. Justified somewhat in that her promotions from lieutenant commander up to three-star were originally "frocking-up", i.e. provisional Field Promotions to ensure she would remain in command of the Alwa force despite its rapid expansion from a few ships into a fleet of hundreds. Kris refused to be reduced back to her legal rank after leaving command and had the clout to enforce her will. She also wonders occasionally what aspects of learning to be a commander she missed due to her unusual career arc.
    • Vicky manages to outperform Kris in her own series. Her last legal rank is only lieutenant junior grade, but she's frocked up to vice admiral as co-leader of the rebellion against her Evil Stepmother. To her credit, even she thinks this is a bit nuts, and is taken aback when Kris performs official admiral-to-admiral honors to welcome her aboard in Bold. In Dominator she actually refuses to be promoted even further to grand admiral, despite her military advisors noting that monarchs have traditionally held the highest rank in their militaries.
  • Party Scattering: At the start of Furious the survivors of the Voyage of Discovery have been scattered to the four winds under orders from Ray Longknife, lest they tell their stories to the media and he lose control of the PR situation. Kris falls Off the Wagon during her exile on Madigan's Hope as titular commander of a patrol boat squad after she tries to speak out at an open-mic night and is hustled off the stage by hired thugs, and Jack is reassigned to HellFrozeOver, a refueling station in the Wardhaven system.
  • Planet Looters: How the unnamed alien raiders behave. They kill off most a planet's biosphere (especially the dominant lifeform), and then steal all the resources they can, including most of the planet's water and a significant portion of its atmosphere.
  • Planet Spaceship: At four thousand kilometers long, the Planet Looters' base ships are bigger than many moons and are Generation Ships that house tens of billions of crew. By the end of Unrelenting, Kris and forces under her command have destroyed eight of an estimated forty to fifty, plus one that was under construction.
  • Portal Network: The Three left behind jump points used for FTL travel between solar systems. Blind Jumps are a danger, as you could end up hundreds of light-years from you destination if you enter a jump point too fast, accelerating too much, or use a less-stable jump point. Apparently if you're rotating it's worse.
  • P.O.V. Sequel:
    • Kris Longknife's Assassin mostly retells the events of Audacious and Intrepid from Vicky's perspective with interstitial scenes added, with scenes including Kris more or less copy-pasted from the corresponding book (to the point where at one point Vicky is said to "seem" to be doing something as if the scene was still being told from Kris's perspective, due to an editing error).
    • "Welcome Home/Go Away" is the tail end of Daring retold (mostly) from Grandpa Trouble's perspective.
    • Kris Longknife's Bloodhound covers Special Agent Foile's investigation into Al Longknife while Kris is involved in her Courtroom Episode in Furious.
  • Precursors: The Three. The ancient races which might have built the faster than light transportation network. Or might not have and it is all natural. Oh, and they left behind a bunch of planets they used to live on, at least 3 have been discovered and visited in the novels set in the universe.
  • Pregnant Badass: Kris becomes pregnant shortly before the start of Unrelenting (due to her contraceptives being sabotaged by a disgruntled supply officer) and gives birth at the end of it. This doesn't stop her from commanding a fleet through multiple battles over the course of the book.
  • Pretentious Pronunciation: Vicky's father reportedly insists that Greenfeld's newly established Medal of Honor-equivalent military decoration, the Order of Merit, is supposed to be pronounced Mérite. Vicky thinks he's being ridiculous.
  • Proxy War: A common plot format in the early books is to have Kris stumble onto a Greenfeld-backed coup attempt on the planet of the week and screw it up. In Audacious she realizes her great-grandpa Ray Longknife is using her as an unwitting catspaw and demands to be let out of it. It's also explained a couple times that this is due to the likely destruction of the United Sentients, Greenfeld's bloc, and probably much of the rest of human space should open war break out: the two sides are too evenly matched.
  • Questionable Consent: In Target, Vicky is kidnapped by assassins after the bounty placed on her head by her Evil Stepmother, and escapes by seducing one of them and killing him in the act. She considers it rape even though she initiated the act, since it was motivated by desperation rather than desire.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil:
    • Several planets have their governments collapse due to various calamities, leading to victimization of local women, which is met with lethal force when Kris or Vicky become involved.
    • Subverted later: while commanding Alwa Station, Kris relaxes the fraternization regs, which leads to one of her subordinate COs sexually assaulting an enlisted woman. She reassigns him to command the manure works. He does a good job and shows remorse for the act at later encounters, which leads her to use him as commander of several Suicide Missions instead to earn his way back into her good graces.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica:
    • Following the disastrous battle in Daring, Jack gets reassigned to the charmingly named HellFrozeOver (yes, all one word), a station orbiting an gas giant that's being mined for fuel.
    • On Alwa Station, the Penal Colony of choice is an island where the humans are mining composted bird guano for nitrates, which Kris uses to deal with several persistent discipline problems.
  • Really Gets Around: Vicky uses her feminine wiles to seduce men for both pleasure and profit, frequently. Captain Krätz reportedly read her the riot act after she was caught in a paint closet with another ensign.
  • Rebellious Princess: Kris becomes a princess at the end of the first novel and hates it. Vicky becomes a literal one as she starts a rebellion against the corruption of her stepmother, the Empress.
  • Relationship Upgrade: There's hints dropped starting about book three that Kris and her bodyguard Jack are developing feelings for each other. It's made explicit in Undaunted, then while trying to get home in Daring they finally confess their feelings to each other, and are married two books later.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Vicky against the Bowlingames' Black Shirts in Implacable after she invades a planet to discover they've been mass-raping local women. One reviewer compared it unfavorably to a grindhouse film. Vicky herself has a Heel Realization as a result of it: she's up to now been resistant to her husband Manny's efforts to democratize Greenfeld, but this experience brings her to the realization of the very real dangers any kind of autocracy poses to its citizens.
  • Royally Screwed Up: The rival Peterwald family, which rules their bloc of planets as a corporatocracy (which transitions to The Empire), turns out to be this. While they spend much of their time plotting against the Longknifes with varying degrees of success, the fairly incompetent Henry XII is gradually bamboozled into giving over his power to his new empress's family, the Bowlingames and in one book narrowly avoids being assassinated with the connivance of his own Secret Police chief, but for Kris Longknife's interference. Vicky Peterwald, his accidentally conceived daughter and heir apparent, has a bounty placed on her head by the empress and is forced to start a Civil War just to survive. In Dominator, the Bowlingames essentially repossess Henry XII and send him to the oubliette to die; Vicky rescues him and brings him home.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something:
    • Most Longknife family members, from King Ray to Princess Kristine. Subverted somewhat as Kris was in the Navy before she was a Princess and "King Ray" doesn't much fit the traditional role of a King.
    • Vicky Peterwald is learning how to become this, mainly because she calculated her odds of surviving the ambitions of her stepmother's family if her skills remained limited to needlepoint and Kama Sutra as being negligible. It also improves the odds of her Empire surviving her stepmother's family's ambitions. Her father used to be one, but by the time of the Vicky Peterwald novels, he's become so fixated on having a pretty young new wife that he doesn't realize that his in-laws are deliberately running his Empire into the ground. Or the fact that his wife has put a hit out on his only surviving child from his first marriage (Something that is common knowledge across the entire Empire). Or that he's being set up to be killed by a jealous husband, something a great many people have concluded.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Georg Krätz's flagship Fury has the misfortune to be caught within Beam Spam range of the alien fleet during the battle in Daring and is destroyed in seconds.
  • Shapeshifting: Ships built with Smart Metal can alter their shape as needed, shrinking in combat to present a smaller target, shifting from space mode to ground mode (for FACs), or even splitting into two ships (for frigates). Tends to result in minor problems, as equipment lockers often end up in the wrong location.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Kris launches a planetary assault against a group that has taken over a sparsely populated planet. The last group lines up hostages along a balcony as Human Shields. When it becomes apparent the defense is too strong, Kris orders her Marines to fire rockets at the balcony, killing everyone there.
  • Shout-Out: The characters frequently make references to lines from classic science fiction movies and TV shows. For example, Star Trek is still around: in the first book a Marine is overheard comparing the corvette Typhoon in its atmospheric flight configuration to a Klingon bird-of-prey.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Hank, the son of a rival family, says that he and Kris might be like Romeo and Juliet in the second novel. Kris denies this, since she has no intention of dying. Also, the next time they meet, his categorical refusal to consider the possibility that anyone on his side might be in the wrong turns them into enemies. Then he dies.
  • Shoot the Dog: In Unrelenting Kris is forced to destroy a squadron of alien ships that appear to be trying to surrender, since they're refusing, or possibly don't understand due to the Language Barrier, her commands to shut down their reactors, and could wreak havoc in the Alwa System if allowed to continue their course towards the jump point. When she relates this to Vicky in Bold, Vicky thinks she made the only call possible in that situation.
  • Sniping the Cockpit: Kris and Jack narrowly avoid being barbecued by a 24-inch laser through the bridge of her flagship in Admiral.
  • Space Cold War: Between the Longknife-ruled Wardhaven and the Peterwald-ruled Greenfeld Empire. Both sides dislike each other, and Greenfeld launches an attack on Wardhaven itself in Defiant in hopes of taking over. The Cold War thaws after Hank Peterwald's death, and after Kris saves Emperor Peterwald from assassination.
  • Space Fighter: Averted. The fast patrol boats Kris pilots in Defiant fill a similar role, but with a crew of 15 and non-reloadable lasers, they tend to be more Space Torpedo Bombers/Boats.
  • Space Is Cold: Averted.
    • It's part of the reason Kris is able to win the Battle of Wardhaven. Trying to shoot down the myriad small targets she sends after the oncoming Peterwald battleships leads to them overheating their weapons, and precision hits under those circumstances cause chain reactions that blow the battleships apart.
    • The crystal armor introduced when Earth joins the war against the aliens works by converting incoming laser fire to heat and then using the entire hull as a radiator to get rid of it. Unfortunately, the first few ships off the line have some problems: several Earth ships randomly explode under heavy fire, which Kris's people trace to micron-size irregularities in the length of the crystals causing the heat to spread unevenly (this is solved by improving quality control). In "Kris Longknife's Bad Day", some genius at Wardhaven Main Navy suggests adding a double layer, which Kris suspects will just make it harder to cool off the armor.
    • In Kris Longknife's Relief, Sandy Santiago encounters alien ships that have had additional cooling fins added so they can better perform high-g burns and extended laser barrages.
  • Space Marine: Jack is transferred to the Wardhaven Marines to allow him to protect Kris when deployed, and she ends up commanding several companies of them.
  • Space Navy: What Kris joins, much to the dismay of her parents: her mother considers it unladylike and her father wanted to use her as a campaigner, having groomed her older brother Honovi to be a politician like himself. Kris joined partly to get away from them.
  • Space Opera: While the series is marketed as Military Science Fiction, there are so many sprawling civilizations and empires, political conflicts and intrigues with a good dose of romantic tension, that the series would be better described as new Space Opera that combine fast-paced adventure plots with some degree of hard SF rigor.
  • Spaceship Slingshot Stunt: Gravity assists are quite common in the series, but Kris executes them with unusual proficiency, regularly combining series of gravity assists to let her approach targets from unexpected angles.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • Sheer dumb luck saves Kris's life in the opening sequence of Mutineer: the kidnapped child held for ransom turned out to bait in a trap for her personally, set by Peterwald assassins. The assumption was that Kris would drop with the Marines per Society of Humanity SOP right onto the kidnappers' doorstep and into the minefield that had been set for them, but a critical part fails on Kris's LAC during reentry and she ends up making an emergency landing several hours' march wide of the target.
    • Vicky Peterwald for her own family's plot in Audacious. Her haphazard attempts on Kris's life not only fail but inadvertently lead Kris straight to the Peterwalds' plan to overthrow the government of New Eden.
  • Spoiled Brat: Hank's sister Vicky in her original appearance, with shadings of Rich Bitch. She gets better.
  • Starfish Aliens:
    • The Iteeche are seven-foot-tall amphibious vertebrates with four eyes and four undifferentiated, two-jointed grasping limbs who reproduce by ejecting gametes into the surrounding water. During the war human soldiers quickly learned to never get into melee range with one.
    • The Alwans are flightless omnivorous birds who find it great fun to tear strips off of live prey, but balk at interpersonal violence in favor of noisy dominance displays.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: The dart weaponry used by all factions in the series uses varying charges of liquid propellant. Loading sleepy darts automatically reduces the charge, and you can manually vary the power, and a max-power rifle round results in Blown Across the Room at 500 yards.
  • Subspace Ansible: Of a sort. There actually isn't technically faster-than-light communication, but messages can be passed between systems by automated buoys that loiter at jump points (helping to mark their locations for ships) and pop through them to re-transmit the message.
  • Succession Crisis: Part of what sparked the Iteeche Civil War in the sequel series (the other part being Fantastic Racism from the Empire's growing closeness with humanity). The last Emperor did have a legitimate, publicly known heir, but he's underage by several years when he takes the throne.
  • Survivor Guilt: Kris has this big time and knows it. The only reason she wasn't snagged by the same kidnappers that killed her brother Eddy was that she had stepped out for five minutes to buy ice cream. It took a considerable amount of therapy before she could admit to herself that even if she had been there, there was nothing a ten year old girl could have done that would have made any difference.
    • Again after Defiant, where hundreds of civilian volunteers and her just-married best friend were killed in the Battle of Wardhaven.
    • Vicky falls into the state as the number of people dying due to failed assassination attempts on her keep piling up.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Kris dresses as a man on several occasions in the second novel, when she has to do some undercover work.
  • Take a Third Option: The Wardhaven and Greenfeld units cooperating to take down a planet being run by pirates and slavers run into a problem: the Big Bad is a highly-connected Greenfeld businesswoman who claims the planet's ownership has been properly filed as a Greenfeld possession, and the heroes are faced with either taking them down and possibly starting a war between Wardhaven and Greenfeld, or going away and not stopping their operation. Admiral Krätz solves the issue by vaporizing the pirate's headquarters, leaving no evidence of the woman or her staff to raise a political stink, while some creative hacking removes all evidence that a claim on the planet was ever filed.
  • Taught to Hate: The feud between the Longknife and Peterwald dynasties, which led to a string of sometimes-successful Assassination Attempts against the Longknifes by the Peterwalds, all goes back to when a Longknife relieved a subordinate Peterwald of duty in wartime. The Peterwald took that personally and taught his family to hate the Longknifes. Kris Longknife and Vicky Peterwald finally end the Cycle of Revenge when Kris manages to persuade Vicky that she wasn't responsible for the death of Vicky's brother Hanknote  and then saves her father's life from an attempted Colony Drop.
  • Tele-Frag: There's an occasional reference to a Noodle Incident involving two ships trying to pass through a jump point in opposite directions. We aren't told what happened exactly, but whatever it was led to the use of jump point buoys that act as traffic lights and double as a Subspace Ansible.
  • Teleporter Accident: In addition to the potential for Tele-Frag, it's possible, given the speed-of-light lag, that what you can see of a star that a jump point leads to is severely out-of-date. In Redoubtable, Kris discovers a ship's exhaust trail leading to an unexplored jump point. After a buoy sent through the jump doesn't come back, Wasp's scientists invent a sort of telescope to look through a jump point, and realize that the star on the other side has become a nova.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Emperor Henry I is so wrapped around the little finger of his new wife he's apparently oblivious to the fact that she's trying to kill his daughter (which everyone else in the Empire knows), that she and her family are rotting his empire into destruction (which people in the Empire are finding out), and that she's probably setting him up to be killed by a jealous husband or lover (which a great many observers have concluded is happening).
    • Kris happens upon a Nuclear Age species in Tenacious, the Sasquans, and Solzen, the president-for-life of the nastiest of the three major national blocs, fires nuclear missiles at her squadron of frigates when they come into orbit. Kris blows them up at a very safe distance with laser fire, so what does Solzen do? She fires even more missiles! After lasering these missiles, too, Kris doesn't give her a third chance, instead rather thoroughly melting the mountain that Solzen and most of her government are hiding inside of.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Vicki Peterwald - glorified bimbo and spectacularly incompetent assassin to Princes}, rebel leader, increasingly competent military officer and Badass Bureaucrat.
  • Trade Snark: It's Smart Metal™. Even when spoken.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Kris has to do this in Intrepid when a sparsely populated farm world comes under attack by a "filibustering expedition" (get some mercenaries together and conquer a poor planet).
  • Tranquillizer Dart: An available ammunition type for the standard-issue assault rifles, regular darts tipped with Instant Sedation knockout drugs and fired with a reduced load. They not perfect however, using them at point-blank range will break bones or even kill someone outright, the reduced load makes them inaccurate at long range, and there's no (publicly available) studies on the effects of multiple shots or what they do to Iteeche.
  • Uncle Pennybags: In the early books Kris frequently uses her trust fund to buy her way out of problems (for example, establishing and funding an NGO to cover relief work on Olympia to get around an Obstructive Bureaucrat holding up government aid).
  • Undercover as Lovers: Not quite lovers. In order to free Tom, who is being held captive in a motel, Kris and Jack pose as a prostitute and her client to get into the place.
  • Unfriendly Fire: Sandy once sees an alien ship blow up its own fleet's flagship after the Enlightened One chickens out during a fight with a human force, then comes back to try and regain command. For her part, Sandy doesn't give the new commander time to turn it into a Klingon Promotion.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Kris has apparently been on the receiving end of this a lot: she complains about the number of bridesmaid dresses in her closet. During the series it's Tommy Lien, whom she met in OCS and wonders if they could be something more, but he marries intelligence officer Penny Pasley in Defiant and then is killed in action three days later. She later begs off attending Ron Torn's wedding at the end of Audacious after having kissed him a couple times in Resolute.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Kris and Jack for several books. They become a couple in Furious and marry in Defender.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: The first book takes part with the backdrop of "devolution", the impending breakup of the Society of Humanity after eighty years of peace and mounting cultural-political tension between the urbanized, overpopulated, crime-ridden welfare states of the early planets (e.g. Earth and New Eden) and the less populous, more conservative Rim. But actual war is defied: Kris leads a mutiny when the commanders of Attack Squadron Six try to attack an Earth fleet and start war between the core worlds and the Rim (with the suspected connivance of Greenfeld), and devolution happens peacefully as a result. Earth awards Kris the Order of the Wounded Lion, its highest decoration for valor, for this.
  • Time Skip: Five years pass between Bold and "Kris Longknife's Bad Day", during which Kris and Jack have had a second child and which we're told that:
    • No major battles have happened at Alwa Station.
    • Kris's cousin Meg Longknife, an ensign and Kris's aide-de-camp when we saw her in Bold, has served a tour in the fleet and is now a full lieutenant.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In Tenacious a Sasquan dictator, Solzen, shoots a nuclear missile at Kris's ships when they enter orbit and make First Contact. Kris shoots it down. Solzen doesn't get the message and fires off a Macross Missile Massacre. Kris shoots those down, too, and then turns her lasers on Solzen's mountain redoubt and melts the entire mountain down to sea level.
  • Translation Convention: The main Common Tongue of the 'verse is Standard, a pidgin of English and Spanish. It's rendered as regular English on the page.
  • We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill:
  • Wedding Deadline: In Defender, Kris and Jack have their wedding planned, scheduled and performed in a single afternoon, so that they can get married before orders can be cut that place them in the same chain of command, which would make their relationship against Navy regulations.
  • Weird World, Weird Food: In Kris Longknife Among the Kicking Birds, Kris witnesses an Alwan mother regurgitating meat to a chick. They are, after all, biologically birds.
  • X Days Since: At the end of Intrepid, Kris asks Nelly to keep track of her time between people trying to kill her. Nelly snarks that she doesn't think she can count that low. At the start of Undaunted she's made it 63 days, on account of her explorer ship USS Wasp not having met a single living soul since her last port.
  • You Killed My Father: In their first meeting in Audacious, Vicky Peterwald is convinced that Kris murdered her brother Hank. During their second meeting in Intrepid, Kris finally manages to get across that 1: There was a battle going on at the time, and things like that happen in battles. 2: It was Hank's fault that the battle happened in the first place. 3: Even given both of the above, he would have had a decent chance of surviving had he not been equipped with a defective survival pod (which was suspiciously from a different production run than every other pod on the ship). After this conversation, Kris helps foil a Colony Drop that would've killed Vicky's father and started an all-out war between Wardhaven and Greenfeld, and they become not-quite-friends. Also the cover of Kris Longknife's Assassin (told from Vicky's perspective around the time of Audacious) includes the comment, "Kris Longknife / You killed my brother / Prepare to die".

Alternative Title(s): Vicky Peterwald