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Literature / Lucifer's Star

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Some wars never end.

Lucifer's Star is a Space Opera Science Fiction series by C.T. Phipps and Michael Suttkus.

Cassius Mass was the greatest star pilot of the Crius Archduchy. He fought fiercely for his cause, only to watch his nation fall to the Commonwealth. It was only afterwards that he realized the side he'd been fighting for was the wrong one. Now a semi-functional navigator on an interstellar freight hauler, he tries to hide who he was and escape his past. Unfortunately, some things refuse to stay buried and he ends up conscripted by the very people who destroyed his homeland.

Books in the series:

  • Lucifer's Star (2016)
  • Lucifer's Nebula (2018)

Short Stories:

  • Lost Honor (Blackest Knights anthology, 2018)
  • Twinkle, Twinkle (Blackest Spells anthology, 2019)

Cassius Mass also appeared in a Crisis Crossover event in The Tournament of Supervillainy by the same author.


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     Tropes found in the Series 

  • Abusive Precursors:
    • The Elder Races turn out to be these. They are so bored with immortal life thanks to having transcended their mortal existences so long ago, they deliberately cause massive wars and havoc to amuse themselves. They've also eliminated 999 out of every 1000 species which have existed in the galaxy.
    • Played with as it's established the Elder Races uplifted the Chel from starving colonists to a local superpower status.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Cognition A.I. a.k.a those AI who have unlimited potential to grow are outlawed to the point of Colony Drop attempts on any worlds that construct them. This is due to the fact humanity entered a galactic dark age after becoming dependent on them and getting betrayed by them. It is now believed all of them are Always Chaotic Evil by nature with even Limited A.I. hated as a necessary evil. This is averted by Judith who reveals the original revolt was due to the Elder Races as a way to screw with humanity.
  • Alien Sky: Crius is said to have been a ringed world with four moons (Lilith, Naamah, Agrat bat Mahlat, and Eisheth Zenunim).
  • The Alliance: The Free Systems Alliance (FSA) is between this and Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters. It is a We ARE Struggling Together alliance of all the various groups which hate the Commonwealth but, otherwise, have nothing in common.
  • All There in the Manual: C.T. Phipps did a write-up of the universe's history on his blog.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Cognition A.I. who weren't infected by the Elder Races went deep into humanity's servers and eventually constructed the Commonwealth to help rebuild humanity. They are now the secret masters of that organization and working covertly against the Elder Races.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Crius get called out as this, though they're more a Feudal Future set of evil aristocrats. Word of God claims they're based more on World War 1 Germany than World War 2 with a dash of the Imperial Japanese and Hapsburg Empire. They are people who practice of Fantastic Racism and wear a lot of black, though.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: Played with as swords and melee weapons due exist but they're considered novelties. They have a use as a secondary weapon against shielded opponents but only if they are modified to drain shields so they can kill the person inside more easily (a continuous attack being better than bolts that allow regeneration). Likewise, they're used for dueling in Crius and on Feudal Future planets. Most people simply use guns.
  • Artificial Human: Bioroids are apparently completely human but for cybernetic brains which work identical to human ones. This allows them to be mind-controlled, mind-wiped, and otherwise abused by normal people, though. Bioroids are notably despised for the fact they have "limited" A.I. that makes them no smarter than humans but still machines.
  • Artificial Gravity: Averted as a character explains ships actually use the acceleration of the ships to provide a gravity-like effect and magnetic boots when not moving.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Played with. Cassius is probably the most moral individual in the cast but seems to have been completely blind to the fact every other Crius nobleman was a complete asshole. Including his siblings.
    • Invoked by the fact the Aristocracy is the name given for the Elder Races who play games with lesser races and routinely condemn them to wars they start for fun.
  • Back from the Dead: Zoe's ability to create memory upload copies of the living effectively allows this. Much is commented on that while they're not back from the dead from THEIR perspective, it certainly feels that way to others. It's also how Cass and Judith reunite.
  • Balkanize Me: The Evil Plan of the Free Systems Alliance for the Commonwealth. To prevent the Elder Race Nobility from destroying the human race by creating a Forever War to amuse them.
  • Bio-Augmentation: Along with cyborging, this is the hat of the Crius and Chel who have altered themselves to be superior to "regular" humanity. Both are strongly frowned on in the Commonwealth.
  • Brain–Computer Interface: A standard object for Crius and Chel technology as they both install cybernetics in their citizens.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Bioroids have partially organic brains so they aren't programmed for obedience so much as this.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: The Spiral (Orion's Arm) is a place that depends on this. Almost every planet is interdependent on other planets with only a few being self-sufficiently. Trillions of tons of cargo are shipped from one world to the next every day in the same way as a standard planet due to the existence of jumpspace as well as a wholly integrated spacer culture. An Apocalypse How happened centuries ago when interstellar space travel was briefly rendered impossible.
  • Char Clone: Cassius is a red-attired blond starfighter pilot who works for Feudal Future aristocrats.
  • Cloning Body Parts: How the majority of people deal with limb or organ failure. Bioroids are often harvested for these by the poor.
  • Cloning Blues: Played with. All of the clones have no problem with their individuality but the people they're cloned from have issues with their existence.
  • Cool Ship: The Melampus is a heavily modified super-freighter with massive amounts of spy equipment as well as secret weapons.
  • Crapsack World: More like Crapsack Galaxy as while the action of the series doesn't take place outside of the Spiral (often), it's generally a horrible place throughout. The Spiral (a.k.a Human Space) is full of Feudal Future and Cult Colony worlds with The Empire being the kindest way to describe all of the major powers. Slavery of sentient androids is common and so are devastating galactic conflicts. Outside the Spiral are Smug Super aliens who are The Federation in name only and Abusive Precursors who consider lesser races nothing more than a source of amusement.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: The human race had this before the Great Collapse with Cognition A.I. and super-tech providing for all of their needs. The Community is implied to be this and has technology that dwarfs what humanity had under the "High Human Empire."
  • Cult Colony: How Crius was originally founded. A group of individuals who believed Lucifer was actually Jesus
settled the nation. It's also revealed the Chel were another group of the same colonists who went on to settle an asteroid belt instead.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Everyone in the cast. You have a man who has lost his planet, a former slave of a serial killer, an ex-slaver who had a Heel Realization, and a former gladiator from a planet slaved by the one who lost his planet.
  • Decadent Court: Crius' nobility plotted against one another fairly brutally if Cassius' house was any example. His father and mother hated each other so much that Cassius Senior cloned himself to deny his children with his wife their inheritance. She then tried to have Cassius Junior killed. Both also tried to play the children against one another in hopes they'd kill the offending party off. There's also professional duels to keep things civil.
  • Deflector Shields: Common enough to be equivalent to a flak jacket for troops.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The Crius are a bunch of Social Darwinist Feudal Future Aristocrats Are Evil types. However, while Cassius looks like a Nazi posterchild, his siblings are actually higher-ranking and both black. It's also stated the Royal Family is of African American (and several other races) descent.
    • It's also a Free-Love Future to a lesser extent with spacers known for having open relationships, polyamory, and causal sex. This actually makes Cassius uncomfortable as he comes from a more traditional society with rigid social rules about relationships.
  • Designer Babies: This is the hat of the Archduchy Of Crius where they have genetically engineered their society to be a Feudal Future society with superhumans on top and specialized humans in various "castes." Its complicated by the fact they rule regular humans and the various castes reproduce with each other or "normal" humans.
  • Doomed Hometown: The planet Crius is bombed to oblivion by the Commonwealth in the opening chapter of the first book, forcing the Archduchy to surrender.
  • Expy: The Archduchy of Crius is one for the Principality of Zeon and Galactic Empire.
    • Cassius Mass is one for Manfred von Richthofen as well as a Char Clone. He also has elements of Han Solo.
    • Isla is actually an in-universe one as she was based on "The Snow Queen" as her bioroid model. This despite the fact she's more like a Gender Swapped version of Doctor McCoy.
    • Judith becomes one for Halo's Cortana.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • A.I. is an offensive worthy of blowing your planet up due to humanity getting savaged by them and causing the Great Collapse. They were reprogrammed to do this by the Elder Races.
    • Bioroids are treated by most characters as equipment and are causally sold, killed, or memory-wiped. It's chattel slavery in every conceivable sense.
    • Clones are effectively this on Crius but since Cassius is a famous war hero with a superpowerful father, it rarely comes up.
    • The Crius nobility were a bunch of transhumans who considered regular humans, "Nats" inferior and only worthy of being servants.
    • The Chel consider all non-augmented people to be disgusting and are even more extreme in their views than the Crius nobility. It turns out NOT to apply to the Crius aristocrats themselves, though, which gives the defeated fellow Transhuman an ally no one expected.
    • Aliens from the Community think of humans as a bunch of ignorant savages or the galactic equivalent of rednecks. Not really worth dealing with.
  • The Federation:
    • The Commonwealth of Interstellar Systems claims to be this but is actually somewhere between The Empire and a Hegemonic Empire.
    • The Community is one of these, it's implied but thinks humanity is unworthy of joining.
  • Feudal Future: The Archduchy of Crius created one of these and became galactic pariahs as a result. Basically, they were a simple Cult Colony until disasters in native systems resulted in a flood of refugees to the planet. Then the original transhuman natives set themselves up as The Beautiful Elite with power over the locals and privileges in exchange for taking them in. Centuries later, they conquered surrounding lands and ruled as The Empire.
    • Made more explicit by the setting's Abusive Precursors in the Elder Races who refer to themselves as the Aristocracy and consider lesser races fair game to abuse at will.
  • Free-Love Future: Individual planets and cultures like the Archduchy of Crius may be conservative (though nobles of both sexes are expected to keep concubines as examples of status) but even the A Nazi by Any Other Name culture has no problems with homosexuality. Defector from Decadence protagonist Cassius is a bit off put by "spacer" culture sexual mores. Humans who live on ships or space stations invariably have multiple partners and care nothing about casual hook-ups while being in committed relationships. Notably, Cassius ends up romantically involved with two women on his ship who are involved with each other—which he finds off-putting than titillating. It's also noteworthy there's a thriving trade in Sex Slave Ridiculously Human Robot units called "Bioroids" which is depicted as repugnant but widely practiced (since they're completely sentient—just Brainwashed and Crazy).
  • Generation Ships: An unusual example of such but ships are so large and last so long that families tend to be born, grow up, and die on the starships they serve on. It has gotten to the point that "Spacers" are considered to be a separate culture from "Grounders."
  • The Good Kingdom: The Archduchy of Crius believed itself to be this but, in practice, was a smaller version of The Empire than the Commonwealth.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: The conflict between the Commonwealth and Free Systems Alliance. Arguably was Black-and-Gray Morality during the war between the Commonwealth and Crius governments.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Most bioroids are stated to be this by the fact they're Brainwashed and Crazy.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Subverted by the Chel who aren't human anymore but that's because they're humans who transmodded themselves into something else.
  • Human Subspecies: The Crius are a genetically engineered The Beautiful Elite which also make extensive use of cybernetics to improve themselves. At least the nobility are since they run a Feudal Future. They're blown away by the Chel, though, who have engineered themselves to live in zero-gravity asteroid belts and who look more like The Greys rather than people. It's implied several other human human subspecies exist as well. Bioroids sit on the edge of this and Ridiculously Human Robots.
  • Interservice Rivalry: The Fixers and the Watchers don't trust each other with operations against the Commonwealth's enemies. They even spy on each other.
  • La Résistance: The Free Systems Alliance is a group of every planet which the Interstellar Commonwealth has screwed over, arming each other and supporting each other in a revolt to dismantle their empire. They also verge on Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters and We ARE Struggling Together due to the setting's Gray-and-Gray Morality.
  • Laser Blade: Used by the Crius for dueling and against energy-shield wearing opponents. Notably, the energy part of the blade is around an existing metal one underneath.
  • Lost Colony: A common consequence of the Great Galactic Dark Age where Faster-Than-Light Travel was impossible for a century.
  • Orbital Bombardment: This is considered the equivalent of using nuclear weapons. It's something most powers can use but is considered to be an absolute last resort given inhabitable planets are an incredibly important resource. It's a sign of how thoroughly sick the Commonwealth has become with the horrific casualties brought about by the Archduchy of Crius' superior technology (but numerical inferiority) that they decide to do this to the Crius homeworld.
  • Our Dark Matter Is Mysterious: The universe has a second dimension called Jumpsapce. It is a mysterious dimension which underlines everything else. It is full of bizarre alien entities, sanity blasting visuals, and weird gravity anomalies.
  • Megacorp: Ares Electronics produces massive amounts of military hardware but it's primary sales product is bioroids. They're rich enough that Shogun, the planet the Rin-O'Harras rule as stockholders is just a minor part of their holdings. It's also stated it's just one of many "transtellars" that rule their own regions of space.
  • Mohs Scale of Sci-Fi Hardness: All over the place. It seems to be a Space Opera with swords, starfighters, faster than light travel, and Sufficiently Advanced Alien beings but then it throws in the occasional bit of realism like how gravity in starships works, as well as the long-term effects of zero gravity.
  • Nazi Nobleman: Crius basically seems to have been ruled by a class of genetically engineered fascists who look down on all natural born races. Subverted by the fact they're multi-racial and more like World War 1 German nobility than National Socialists.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Implied to be the practice of the Commonwealth but shown the downside of with the fact the Crius crush them in most battles until they're defeated by sheer numbers. Averted by the Chel and the Crius nobility as both practice heavy bio-modification and cybernetic enhancement as part of their culture.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Averted. Religion is alive and well in the year 3118 and while we don't see any recognizable religions, they're all descended from existing real-life religions like the Church of Lucifer or Shogun Buddhist animism.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: A drunken ex-nobleman, a Mafia Princess turned security chief, an escaped slave bioroid, and a former gladiator. Yeah, this qualifies.
  • Power Armor: Used only by the elite troopers of the setting but very effective when donned.
  • The Red Baron: The Fire Count is a name for Cassius. It's notably also a direct homage since he's an Expy for the original Red Baron. Cassius, however, survived his war and went on to see what his country became.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The Free Systems Alliance is a terrorist organization despite its just cause.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Bioroids are this, being functionally identical to humans just Brainwashed and Crazy into obedience.
  • Robots Think Faster: Cognition A.I certainly can and terrify humanity due to this.
  • Sex Slave: This is the role for many bioroids and they're often customized to personal kinks like the future's equivalent to Frozen or Harry Potter. This is played for Black Comedy as Cassius finds it horrifying once he realizes they're fully sentient.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Cassius, Clarice, and others on board the ship. The war left a lot of people suffering PTSD.
  • Shout-Out: Star Wars, Star Trek, Frozen, Halo, and others.
  • Space Cossacks: Earth is implied to have been destroyed in some unspecified calamity and the human race has scattered across the universe. It happened again with the Great Collapse and subsequent Great Galactic Dark Age where humanity's various tribes were cut off from one another due to a failure of all jumpspace navigation tools initiated by A.I. As such, there's now thirteen sectors worth of several thousand human colonies with dramatically different cultures as well as their own colonies.
    • Space People: A lot of people also choose to live on space stations or starships full time. The Melampus is stated to be a fifty-year-old ship where a quarter of the crew were born and raised. Drugs and genetic treatments are used to make sure this doesn't lead to bone or muscle problems.
  • Space Fighter: Starfighters are the common method of fighting along with battleships.
  • Space Marine: Marines serve the role of ship-to-ship soldiers in the future.
  • Space Navy: Star Navies are the most important military advantage for any galactic power.
  • Space Trucker: The crew of the Melampus is more like the crew of Alien versus Han Solo but they still qualify. The five hundred people who operate the massive freighter are mostly poor working class stiffs who don't want anything to do with the galaxy-class shenanigans they get up to.
  • Space Western: Certain parts of the Spiral like the Borderlands and Ring have this feel.
  • State Sec:
    • Literally used with State Security being the secret police of Crius.
    • The Watchers and Fixers serve as this for the Commonwealth.
  • Terraform: Humanity has terraformed thousands of worlds since entering space. This hasn't made them anything more than a third-tier power in the universe, though.
  • Venturous Smuggler: Cassius and the rest of the crew become this by the end of the first book. Somewhat unusual in that their starship is the size of a small town.
  • War Is Hell: A major theme of the books. It attempts to subvert a lot of traditional military science fiction tropes by showing conflict is often pointless and a never-surrender, never give up attitude often makes the world a worse place.
  • We Have Reserves: How the Commonwealth defeated the Crius in the first place. This proves impractical when the Free System Alliance shows up with enough allies to nullify that advantage.
  • Wetware Body: Cybernetics, Brain Uploading, and other transhumanist technologies are only now coming into common use.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Slavery is allowed as long as its of biological androids ("bioroids"). The majority of their use is for sexual purposes but they're also used in other professions requiring lots of technical knowledge but little prestige. Generally, bioroids are purchased when it's just easier than importing and paying for actual labor since they can be programmed with any skills as well as possess no legal rights.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Bioroids are considered to be property in the Commonwealth and most other human territories.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: How many feel about the Free System Alliance. They're fighting against a repressive government but aren't much better.

     Lucifer's Star 

  • Absent Aliens: To an extent. Aliens exist but they leave humanity mostly alone because they're a poor backwater species. It's implied that's about to change, though.
  • Abusive Parents: Cassius Senior cloned himself to create Cassius Junior (the protagonist) to disinherit his legitimate children Zoe and Thomas. He also tried to get Cassius Junior to kill them. His ex-wife tried to do the same with Thomas and Zoe to Cassius Junior. It's implied Cassius Senior was emotionally abusive in other ways.
  • The Alcoholic: Cassius has been reduced to this by the end of the war. He's arguably at least a little bit drunk for most of the book.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: How humans view the Chel. This is stated to be nonsense as the Chel are human. Religious fundamentalist sadistic psychopath humans.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: In-Universe. Cassius' wingman, Hans Nakamora, had a Very Loosely Based on a True Story action flick made about him. Ida praises the romance elements in the film, but Cassius is not amused by this, pointing out that he knew the genuine article very well, and that the real life Hans was asexual.
  • Big Bad: It appears Cassius' doppelganger is going to be this. No, it's actually his sister Zoe.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Zoe beyond a shadow of a doubt. She's mentally cloned her brother and his wife without their knowledge, dabbled in highly illegal research, tortures a man to death, and is planning to lock humanity in a state of eternal war out of a misguided sense of saving them.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Cassius and company escape with the Judith A.I. and the Melampus. Zoe is killed after she's revealed to be a psychoapth. They also manage to destroy Ida Claire's reputation with the Watchers. Unfortunately, Cassius has discovered his family is a collection of monsters and the Insurgency is now on.
  • Boxed Crook: Cassius spends virtually the entirety of the book as one of these, either at the hands of the Watchers or Fixers. He finally breaks free at the end.
  • Cain and Abel: Cassius' father tried to set him up with this sort of relationship to his half-siblings Zoe and Thomas. It later becomes truth when Cassius is forced to kill Zoe in order to save himself.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Poor Hiro is subjected to such a bad case of it that Cassius has to Mercy Kill him. Doubles as a Cruel and Unusual Death.
  • Cultural Posturing: William and Cassius engage in a little bit of this despite the fact both agree Crius was evil. William just believes they were responsible for his planet's enslavement and exploitation while Cassius points out plenty of his people willingly helped in that exploitation as well as benefited from it.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The Commonwealth-Archduchy War has a lot of similarities to World War II In IN SPACE with the ending being equivalent of the atomic bomb being dropped on Japan....except, in this case a Colony Drop.
    • The making of "fake" bioroids by the Ren-O'Harra clan (kidnapping people by luring them with promises of a better life or taking up refugees) is meant to resemble human trafficking.
    • William Balder description of Xerxes invokes colonialist treatment of Africa and the Middle East. Cassius mentions some of the more uncomfortable elements of the natives treatments of each other in this.
  • Doppelgänger: Cassius believes someone has surgically altered themselves to look like him in order to lead La Résistance using his wartime reputation. In fact, it's a bioroid blessed with his memory upload. This results in an in-universe case of Fridge Horror as Cassius realizes he would have been doing the exact same thing had circumstances been different.
  • Duel to the Death: The mother of Cassius' siblings once hired a professional duelist to kill him. Cassius only survived due to Zoe giving him advice before the sword duel on what weapons to use.
  • Evil Plan: The Free Systems Alliance, led mostly by ex-Crius military officers, gathers all of the dissatisfied colonists together into a single army. They will then harry the Commonwealth until it can no longer control its colonies and is forced to be Balkanized. This is actually due to a variety of Megacorp backers who believe this is the only way to save the economy. Zoe and an inner circle have murkier motives as they believe any race which becomes too advanced will be destroyed by the Elder Races and are trying to keep humanity weak.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: The false Cassius Mass (a bioroid created by Zoe) plays on his Red Baron Worthy Opponent reputation and Famed in Story status to serve as a figurehead for the Free Systems Alliance military. The actual Cassius Mass has been retired on a space freighter for years.
  • Grand Theft Me: Zoe pulls this on Judith's bioroid. Judith later returns the favor.
  • Gambit Pile Up: Every single character in the novel is plotting something. Ida Claire is actually working for the Commonwealth while pretending to be a tramp freighter captain and blackmails Cassius into going against freedom fighters from his homeworld, Ida's being betrayed by one of her subordinates in Hiro who was sent to spy on her by the government, Zoe is working against Ida while secretly working for the rebels, and Cassius ends up betraying them all to forge his own path.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The Commonwealth suffered massive casualties but won the war through We Have Reserves and an acknowledgement of this. The Crius eventually inflicted enough damage, they decided to destroy their homeworld.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Played with. Both sides view Cassius as possessing this particularly Zoe but he never actually changes, it's just he has no interest in siding with any particular faction.
    • Clarice had one of these after years of working for her slaver family when she went down to the factories where kidnapped victims and refugees were illegally "modified" and passed off as bioroids.
  • Heel Realization: Cassius has one of these when he discovers a warehouse full of bodies murdered by the Crius government's version of State Sec. Everyone in the group he's travelling with knew they existed and there's implied to be many more on the planet Skellige alone.
  • Kick the Dog: Zoe murdered the entire crew of her spaceship, tortured Hiro to death, cloned Cassius and Judith without their knowledge, enslaved Judith's A.I., and that's not even getting into her plan to condemn humanity to a Forever War. Justified as it all is required to get Cassius to turn against her.
  • King Incognito: How a lot of people on the Melampus react to discovering their drunken navigator is the setting's equivalent to the Red Baron.
  • Lost Lenore: Judith serves as this for Cassius along with the rest of Crius.
  • Mad Scientist: Zoe is one of these and commits numerous atrocities For Science! as well as to preserve humanity from the Elder Races.
  • Mêlée à Trois: The final battle between the Free Systems Alliance, Commonwealth, and our protagonists who want to escape both. There's also the Chel, populace of Shogun, and Crius who side with the Commonwealth.
  • Mind Rape: Something the Chel excel at, along with Cold-Blooded Torture.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Cassius surgically alters his appearance but doesn't change his DNA (which is possible in the future) and everyone calls him on it given his is on file. Becomes a bit of Refuge in Audacity as no one actually bothered looking for his because they'd have assumed he'd do it.
  • Polyamory: Cassius is in a relationship, of sorts, with Isla but also sleeping with Clarice...who is in a relationship with Isla. Note that this is before they discover he's actually a galaxy-famous ace pilot.
  • Puppet State: The Archduchy of Crius is destroyed by the Commonwealth and replaced by the Republic of Crius. The Republic of Crius is completely under its control and stated to be a transition before formal annexation. A lot of former Archduchy soldiers and citizens consider it to be a joke or an enemy nation. Amusingly, the Archduchy had its own puppet states with the ruling government of Xerxes being considered one of these by characters like William Balder.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Despite being The Captain and The Spymaster, Ida reacts fairly well to the discovery she has a Crius war criminal/hero working for her. She threatens and bribes him into helping her prevent another war.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Averted. Cassius initially wants to fight the Commonwealth and briefly even becomes a guerilla fighter/terrorist because of it. He stops when he realizes that they're starting to recruit children and teenagers to fight in the cause for no real reason other than to inflict more damage.
    • Holtz attempts to murder Cassius twice despite the fact it will almost certainly get him spaced. He claims it's for his dead brother who turns out to have died under circumstances completely unrelated to Cassius—leaving a question about his motives or a case of Believing Their Own Lies.
    • Clarice attempts to get some of this from their Chel prisoner for her time as a captive of them. Cassius helps her in the end.
  • Schizo Tech: The Great Collapse and resulting Galactic Dark Age means that some human worlds are Medieval and others Crystal Spires and Togas utopias.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The ending of the book has Cassius and the Melampus crew abandon both the Commonwealth and Free Systems Alliance to battle it out. The crew deciding to help neither side gain an advantage.
  • Secret Test of Character: Thomas conducts one of these on behalf of Prince Germanicus which is a direct reference to Operation: Valkyrie. The plot had already failed but the Prince wanted to know if Cassius was a part of it. Thomas conducts the test on his half-brother but quickly passes him despite the fact Cassius would have agreed to have been part of it.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: Cassius is stunned at how many people think of him as a hero despite the fact he's come to view everything he did during the war as an Old Shame.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: William does not like the fact Cassius is a Crius Nobleman. This is due to his planet, Xerxes, having been oppressed by them for generations.
  • Used Future: The Great Collapse and the Galatic Dark Age has resulted in a Crystal Spires and Togas future degenerating into something more akin to this. Technology is still frighteningly advanced but beaten up, badly maintained, and mostly used to make money for its users. There's also a Schizo Tech element as the availability of technology is sharply divided among worlds as well as the super-rich.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: What Judith has been reduced to. Which makes sense because she's an A.I.

     Lucifer's Nebula 
  • Abusive Parents: Cassius the Elder was verbally and physically abusive to his son but always managed to portray it as trying to toughen him up for the Decadent Court of Crius. Eventually, it becomes a deadly rivalry.
  • Archnemesis Dad: It turns out Cassius' Doppelganger is actually his father Cassius Mass the Elder wearing a clone of his son's body. Which is technically just a clone of his own since Cassius the Younger is a clone as well.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Zoe has apparently become a member of the Elder Races. Which makes her a Karma Houdini as well.
  • Big Bad: Difficult to tell in the Gray-and-Gray Morality of the setting but most likely Cassius the Elder and Zoe since they were manipulating everyone.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Free Systems Alliance is completely destroyed but it doesn't matter because they were a bunch of techno-zombies. The fake Judith is destroyed by a computer virus, Cassius kills his father, and one of the Elder Races. The cost is Cassius' brother and the destruction of the Kohlan's artificial heaven. It's also All for Nothing as the Commonwealth is invaded by the Community.
  • Came Back Wrong: Cassius has been this about Judith as she proves to be cold, uninterested in their relationship, and manipulative. That's because it's not Judith.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Cassius gets accused of this because he betrays everyone around him. Subverted in the fact he never changes his allegiance—he's only interested in protecting his crew.
  • Good All Along: The Kathax Prime which everyone assumed was the Big Bad is actually being manipulated by Cassius the Elder and Zoe Mass.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: This turns out to be the fate of all the individuals who joined the Free Systems Alliance. They were turned into techno-zombies with alien nanotechnology and forced to work for the organization in fighting the Commonwealth.
  • Evil All Along: Judith turns out to have been Dead All Along and what Cassius thought was her resurrected as an A.I. was actually just one of the Elder Races.
  • Expy: The Dragon is obviously one for Jabba the Hutt.
    • Cassius the Elder is one for Tywin Lannister according to Word of God.
    • The Temple of the Kathax Prime is one for the Death Star.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Judith is actually a member of the Elder Races called the Kathax Beta and she has been playing Cassius like a fiddle.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Zoe claims to have made one of these as has Cassius' father. Neither of them have. Thomas, Cassius' brother, does make one, though. Sadly, it leads to his Senseless Sacrifice.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Thomas tries to redeem himself by helping Cassius escape. Sadly it ends up a Senseless Sacrifice as he's killed soon after.
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: Cassius ends up in one of these situations as the Free Systems Alliance is completely corrupted into soulless zombies animated by nanites.
  • Lovable Rogue: Fade fits this archetype and so does Cassius to a lesser extent by the end of the book.
  • The Mole: Judith turns out to be one of these for the Elder Races and is an alien impersonating Cassius' dead wife.
  • Polyamory: Cassius is in a platonic relationship with his dead wife's ghost and in a sexual relationship with both Clarice and Isla who are in a relationship with each other. The former relationship ends when he discovers she's just using him.
  • The Quisling: Cassius the Elder's plan is to become this and help the Community invade the Commonwealth in order to conquer it and elevate humanity's technological level with him in charge through a puppet ruler. It becomes complicated by the Commonwealth surrendering prematurely.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Defied Trope as it's clear Cassius has nothing but contempt for his father by the time of the book.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The Free Systems Alliance is using alien nanotech to make Brainwashed and Crazy cyborg enhanced humans to man their massive fleet. It results in Cassius being forced to order them all to kill each other since there's nothing to be done for them.


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