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Literature / The Genesis Fleet

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The Genesis Fleet is a hard science fiction trilogy by Jack Campbell (actual name John G. Hemry). This is a prequel to his The Lost Fleet series and focuses on the formation of The Alliance.

The trilogy consists of novels Vanguard, Ascendant, and Triumphant. The author appears to break his Theme Naming trend, as there are no ships called Vanguard, Ascendant, or Triumphant in any of the novels.

The trilogy is set during the second wave of human expansion into the galaxy, triggered by the invention of the jump drive several decades prior. Before that, all interstellar travel was done using sublight ships. As humanity is rapidly expanding outward, the influence of Old Earth and the old colonies is rapidly waning. The once-mighty Earth fleet is being decommissioned, as the various Earth governments are no longer interested in protecting the outlying colonies, and the old colonies' fleets are hardly up to the challenge. In fact, many of them are also cutting back on their militaries. The new colonies are forced to fend for themselves, as pirates, slavers, and hostile colonies are taking advantage of this.

Robert Geary is a former lieutenant in the Alfar Space Navy, now just another colonist on a newly-settled (and as-yet unnamed) planet at the very edge of known space. Just then, he's informed that a warship from a nearby colony called Scatha has arrived and is demanding protection money from the planet. With no military forces of their own, the newly-named colony world of Glenlyon tasks Geary with protecting it. Geary gets together with two other ex-military colonists, one of whom is a master hacker named Lyn "Ninja" Meltzer (who has a thing for Geary). Ninja figures out that the old Buccaneer-class corvette used by Scatha is still using an easily-hackable system. Thanks to Ninja hacking the "bucket"'s (as these corvettes are called) sensors, hatches, and engines, Geary and a group of a few dozen volunteers manage to perform a space jump from a freighter to the corvette and capture it. The Glenlyon Council names the ship Squall and temporarily puts Lieutenant Geary in command of her. As told by a former member of the ship's crew, Scatha has two other warships (destroyers) and relatively numerous ground forces, and they're not going to stop.

Vanguard also focuses on three other characters: Lochan Nakamura, an ex-politician; Carmen Ochoa, whose specialty is conflict resolution; and Mele Darcy, an ex-Marine. Mele eventually ends up on Glenlyon and is put in charge of the nascent ground forces, as Scatha makes another attempt to impose its will on the planet. Lochan and Carmen, meanwhile, head to Kosatka, the most developed of the new colonies, hoping to convince the locals to cooperate with the other colonies for mutual protection.

Triumphant finally shows the "good" colonies banding together in the face of aggression from the "bad" colonies, although there is a lot of mistrust and unwillingness to give up freedom or sovereignty.

The Genesis Fleet provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Mele Darcy, which makes sense, given that she's an ex-Marine. Surprisingly, Carmen Ochoa as well due to her growing up on Mars.
  • Affectionate Nickname: After they start dating, Dominic Desjani calls Carmen Ochoa "Red", a normally derogatory term for someone born on Mars. However, when Dominic says it, Carmen doesn't treat it as an insult. For her part, she calls him "Dommy", which sounds an awful lot like "dummy". He doesn't seem to mind.
  • The Alliance: It's not long before several colonies, including Glenlyon and Kosatka, see the wisdom in banding together for common defense against the hostile colonies of Scatha, Apulu, and others. Given that this is a prequel series, it's a foregone conclusion that their mutual defense will give rise to the Alliance of the main series. In Triumphant, a number of colonies finally agree to mutual defense and trade on general terms, figuring they need to act immediately and hammer out the details later. The current list is six colonies: Adowa, Benten, Catalan, Eire, Glenlyon, and Kosatka.
  • Author Tract: The author once again expresses his deep dislike for politicians, turning most of them into self-serving bastards, who have no compunction about stabbing someone in the back when it's convenient. But just like in the main series, there are one or two good ones.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: In order to gain favor with the government of Kosatka, Carmen hints that she was unofficially sent by Old Earth to resolve their conflict with a rebellious city. Of course, given the travel distances between Kosatka and Old Earth, it's not like her credentials can be disproven any time soon.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: In Ascendant, three imperialistic colonies (Scatha, Apulu, and Turan) join forces in bullying the other new colonies into surrendering to them. Geary mentions the irony that the bad guys are having an easier time cooperating than the good guys, whose politicians are still stalling on any formal mutual defense agreements. This changes by the end of the book, when Kosatka officially pledges to help Glenlyon defend itself against any aggression.
  • Boarding Party: Early on, Geary leads a group of two dozen volunteers on a space jump between a freighter and a corvette to take board and take control of the latter. It succeeds only because a Playful Hacker remotely shuts down the corvette sensors, cuts its engines, and opens the doors. During the battle between the Squall and the Scathan destroyer, Geary manages to pull a Hail Mary and seriously damage the superior enemy ship, but the destroyer's final pass destabilizes the already barely-stable core of the Squall. With no Escape Pod, Geary comes up with a desperate plan to take the destroyer. It works, but many, including his Number Two, are killed, and the destroyer is too damaged to be repaired.
  • The Captain: Geary becomes the provisional commander of the Squall after its capture with the provisional rank of lieutenant. That's right, the Council's not even willing to give him the rank of captain. At least his Number Two is willing to call him that near the end of the novel. In the second book, he is once again given command of a warship, a destroyer this time. His new rank is that of a commander, and he's also the commodore of the surviving Glenlyon space forces (which consist of a single ship).
  • The Cavalry: In Triumphant, Glenlyon is once again under attack by superior enemy forces. Geary is forced to defend the system against an enemy destroyer and a light cruiser with only a single destroyer of his own. He manages to get the cruiser to expend most of its missiles, but the best he can do is keep them busy, so can't provide support to the troops attempting to capture the orbital facility, while Darcy's marines are trying to keep the station. Then four destroyers from the newly-minted alliance (Shark from Kosatka, Asahi from Benten, and Caladbolg and Gae Bulg from Eire) arrive and offer aid, swinging the odds in the good guys' favor.
  • Continuity Nod: Oh, so many.
    • Several characters mention another group of colonies in the opposite direction from Earth, who have cut off all ties with the homeworld. Hmm. Shield of Sol, maybe?
    • Several colony ships sent out by corporations into unknown space are mentioned, and Lochan muses on how might those worlds end up, and what they would be like if they joined together. This is reiterated at the end of the trilogy as one of the possible reasons for a permanent alliance.
    • Lochan reads up on a local myth about a destroyer that has never come out of jump space a few decades ago. Some speculate that aliens have captured it and are now using it to harrass human colonies. Naturally, everyone finds the idea of aliens existing, much less interfering in human affairs, ridiculous. But anyone who has read the main and the first spin-off series might assume that there is some truth to that myth.
    • The Glenlyon Council fears a military commander becoming so popular he or she might wish to usurp power from the civilian government. Given how screwed-up The Alliance ends up centuries from then, those fears actually make some sense.
    • Geary thinks that, as villainous as the Scathans might be, even they wouldn't stoop so low as to shoot at an Escape Pod. In the main series, both sides degrade to shooting down enemy escape pods, until Geary's descendant puts a stop to the practice.
    • Someone mentions the freaky lights in jump space and is sure that the mystery will be solved in a matter of years. It's still unsolved centuries later in the main series.
    • The Glenlyon Council deciding to name the captured corvette Squall instead of using a person's name, since they couldn't agree who should receive such an honor, mirrors The Alliance naming ships after qualities rather than people or places for the same reason. This is continued in the next book, where the two purchased Old Earth destroyers are renamed Claymore and Saber (they were originally named after people). Kosatka similarly renames its two destroyers Shark and Piranha.
    • At the end of the final battle of the first book, Geary ends up unintentionally coining the Alliance Catchphrase "For the honor of our ancestors" that his descendant would bring back into common usage.
    • In Ascendant, Mele points out that fighting spirit + poor leadership = great losses. This seems to be an intentional Call-Forward to the main series, where this exact formula is playing out before John Geary takes command of the fleet.
    • After getting married, Dominic Desjani and Carmen Ochoa discuss their future children. Carmen wryly wonders why Dominic thinks that their kids will have his last name. He chuckles and tells her that the boys can be Ochoas, but the girls have to be Desjanis. This is likely a minor reference to his future great-great-great-...grand-daughter Tanya Desjani from the main series.
    • In Triumphant, an enemy destroyer turns out not to have a name at all, just an alphanumeric designation: D-11. This harkens back (or forward?) to the main series, where the bureaucratic Syndics preferred alphanumeric designations to names for their warships.
  • Covers Always Lie: Surprisingly, averted with Vanguard, whose cover depicts Robert Geary making a space jump between a freighter and the Scathan corvette with Glenlyon in the background. This happens fairly early on in the novel. Also averted with Ascendant, which shows the Claymore being split in half after being ambushed by two Scathan destroyers, although partly played straight in that the destruction happened at a jump point (i.e. away from any planet), while the cover is showing the ship in orbit of a planet.
  • Cult: Ancestor worship is still a new thing on the new colonies, but it's slowly spreading. As humans spread farther out from Old Earth, they start to appreciate where they have come from more.
  • Delaying Action: In Ascendant, after the Shark is damaged, the destroyer is forced to dock to the support station in order to undergo repairs. Just then, a combined Scatha/Apulu/Turan offensive takes place, while the Shark is stuck in dock. Geary drops Mele and her half a dozen Marines on the station in order to help the hastily-assembled defenders protect the station from enemy boarders. The Shark's captain asks Mele to hold off the enemy for the 23 hours they need to get the engines repaired. Mele and the defenders succeed, although at great cost. Most of the defenders are killed, along with two of Mele's Marines. However, they do manage to buy time for the Shark's engineers to get the ship up and running again.
  • Distant Finale: Triumphant ends during the main series, centuries later, with Admiral John Geary and Captain Tanya Desjani discussing their ancestors. Geary had no idea that the founder of his Glenlyon line was a war hero. He only learns of it from an old letter written by General Mele Darcy (the founder of the Alliance marine corps) and kept in the Desjani family for generations.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: After Geary saves Glenlyon, the government realizes that they need a full-time navy to protect it, so they buy some ships, hire some officers from other systems, and then offer Geary, the hero who saved the planet, the position...of being their office gofer. Geary refuses, and three years later, their new navy is screwed up and they come crawling back to beg Geary to save them again. Averted in the sequel, where, despite the Glenlyon Council voting to strip Geary of his command, the Council President overrules them. Also averted in Triumphant, where the President makes it clear that both Geary and Darcy have her utmost confidence and trust. She promotes Darcy to Major and gives Geary free reign on how to defend the system... before being played straight again when Geary avoids directly engaging the enemy forces because all he has is one outgunned ship, and losing it would leave the enemy free to harass the colony. He tells the Glenlyon council that they can order him to engage the enemy, but they refuse while screaming loudly that he should do it on his own. He understands that they simply don't want to take the responsibility for this foolish action. When the newly-hammered out alliance saves Glenlyon, Geary receives the full blame for refusing to engage the enemy, and his name is relegated into obscurity.
  • Due to the Dead: One of the Marine traditions Mele is determined to keep in Glenlyon is going to a bar with the others and toasting the fallen. No one objects.
  • Earth That Used to Be Better: Old Earth is no longer what it used to be. Prior to the invention of the jump drive, all colonies compared themselves to Earth. Geary mentions that the Alfar Space Navy saw Earth's Space Navy as the ideal. Then he's told that Earth's fleet has been so thoroughly bureaucratized that its officers couldn't do anything without going through a checklist. Initiative was frowned upon. Any situation that's not in the checklist should be first added to the checklist. By the time Vanguard is starting, Earth's fleet is being decommissioned, as the planet's many nations no longer wish to maintain it. In fact, Earth is making a deal with some of the old colonies, asking them for protection. It doesn't help that Earth also went through a number of devastating wars, as mentioned in the first spin-off series, and even here there's a brief mention of some kind of "Solar War" that ended fairly recently.
  • False Flag Operation: In Ascendant, the rebels on Kosatka are much better equipped than the ground forces. No one on Kosatka is fooled for a second and knows that the "rebels" are, in fact, mercenaries hired by Scatha in order to destabilize Kosatka.
  • Famous Ancestor: Averted. John Geary's ancestor might be brave and heroic, but thanks to politicians, he's relegated into obscurity. Additionally, Tanya Desjani's ancestor is just a sergeant in Kosatka's ground forces, who only appears in a single chapter. He does, however, play a greater role in the second book. Rob Geary is also exonerated and treated fairly in the second and third books, though his less than heroic (though sensible and ultimately correct) actions in the third book keep him from being rendered as a legendary historical figure like his great... grandson John would be.
  • Fighting Irish: Eire is a predominantly Irish colony. While not warlike, they do end up committing both of their warships to the combined fleet sent to aid Glenlyon, whereas Benten and Kosatka can only contribute their sole warships. However, the government of Eire does agree to give the overall fleet command to the captain of Benten's destroyer Asahi. Their destroyers are also named after weapons from Celtic Mythology.
  • General Failure: Commodore Erik Hopkins, a former Old Earth officer, whom the Glenlyon government is forced to hire, along with the others, when they purchase two surplus destroyers from Earth. Hopkins plans a show of force against Scatha, by taking the Claymore to the Jatayu system, recently claimed by Scatha, as an escort to a Glenlyon transport ship. Except, despite Geary's warnings, he takes so long to get ready that it's almost a guarantee that the Scathans know where and when he's going to arrive and ambush him with two of their own destroyers. Being used to relying exclusively on checklists to tell him what to do, Hopkins is stuck between two competing checklists: one relating to being under attack, and one relating to a nearby civilian ship. The first checklist tells him to accelerate and engage the enemy, while the second one tells him to maintain speed and distance from the ship being escorted. Unable to decide for himself, he just sits there while the Claymore is blown apart by the Scathan ships. After this fiasco, Glenlyon has only one warship left in its Space Navy.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: The Distant Finale reveals that General Mele Darcy wrote a letter detailing the events of the trilogy in order to make sure that the true heroes of this time are remembered, including Robert Geary and Carmen Ochoa. The Desjani family ends up keeping the letter for generations, before it finally reaches their descendants John Geary and Tanya Desjani, respectively, who are now married.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Rob and Ninja go from awkward flirting to expecting a child fast enough to give the reader whiplash.
  • Honorary Aunt: Geary and Ninja's daughter loves her "Auntie Mele", even though they're not related. Mele reciprocates and starts calling the girl "Little Ninja", causing the latter to refuse to answer to her given name. The parents worry if their little girl might be so in awe of Mele that she will join the Marines when she grows up. It's revealed in the Distant Finale that Little Ninja did indeed join the Alliance Marines, something that surprised John Geary, who didn't know there were any marines in his family.
  • Human Shield: Scatha leadership isn't above using its own civilians as shields, gambling that Glenlyon sailors and soldiers aren't going to attack ships and shuttles with innocents on board. They're right.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Jump space being relatively new, people are still freaked out by the grayest gray you can find all around the ship, plus those weird lights. Also, most people get nauseous after more than a week in jump space. Then there are stories of ships never coming out of their jumps and continuing to drift in jump space forever.
  • It Only Works Once: Once the Scathans realize that there is an experienced hacker on Glenlyon, they take steps to deny her access to their systems, so the initial surprise isn't repeated.
  • Just Friends: Lochan just can't catch a break. He meets two strong, attractive women (Mele and Carmen), who see the potential of a great leader in him, but neither finds him romantically or physically attractive. Oh, and this is just latest in a long string of failures in his life (marriage, political career, business). He finally meets someone who is interested in him. She is Eire's official representative on Kosatka.
  • Karma Houdini: In Triumphant, two of the invasion forces' commanders contact the government of Kosatka and offer to surrender the forces under their command in exchange for free passage out of the system just for the two of them. Everyone on the Kosatka side is disgusted at commanding officers abandoning their soldiers, but they have no choice but to accept and honor the agreement. Averted when Carmen is told that the agreement said nothing about not sending word about the betrayal to possible Scathan agents in nearby systems, meaning the two commanders will get what's coming to them.
  • Lost Colony: It's mentioned that a number of colonies in the opposite galactic direction from the current expansion have deliberately cut themselves off from any contact with Old Earth or any other colony for ideological reasons. Additionally, a number of corporations have sent their own colony ships in order to establish corporate utopias out in the unexplored space, far from any oversight. Those readers familiar with the main series and the first spin-off series will know that the former eventually form the Shield of Sol and the latter become the Syndicate Worlds.
  • Love Interest:
    • Ninja to Geary. When she first suggests they have some fun, while clearly indicating his bed, he's shocked, as he had no idea that she was interested in him. Unfortunately, at that moment, he's her superior officer, so he feels it necessary to decline. Eventually, with some prodding by Mele, Geary asks Ninja out, and they become an item. She gets pregnant just before Geary goes out on what is expected to be a suicide mission, but he survives (barely). After a three-year Time Skip, they're mentioned to be married.
    • In Ascendant, Dominic Desjani to Carmen Ochoa. It appears they have started dating sometime between Vanguard and Ascendant. In fact, it appears that Dominic has proposed to Carmen, only for her to stall on answering. Eventually, with the Scatha/Apulu/Turan invasion imminent, Lochan convinces Carmen to say yes to Dominic, and they have a quick ceremony. This implies that they are the ancestors to Captain Tanya Desjani of the main series, which is confirmed in the Distant Finale of Triumphant.
    • In Triumphant, Lochan Nakamura finally finds a woman who's interested in him - Brigit Kelly, Eire's representative on Kosatka.
  • Majorly Awesome: Mele is promoted to major before the assault on Scatha's base. She's promptly demoted back to sergeant afterwards despite her success. She is given the permanent rank of major in Triumphant as a sign that she now has the complete trust of the Glenlyon government.
  • Meaningful Name: Mele (hmm, "melee"?) Darcy is very good at kicking ass and getting into bar fights.
  • Meaningful Rename: Sort of. It's common for colonies to rename ships purchased from Old Earth or one of the Old Colonies, although one colony does decide to keep its ship's original name Simon Bolivar, as the politicians can't agree on a new name. The Glenlyon government chooses the name Squall for the Scathan corvette captured by Geary in Vanguard. However, the two destroyers purchased from Old Earth are named after bladed weapons: Claymore (originally Garibaldi) and Saber (originally Kamehameha). The government of Kosatka, meanwhile, renames it purchased ships after fish, which is fitting, since "kosatka" is Russian for "orca" (not a fish, I know, but still a sea creature). Eire's warships are likewise named after swords, only from Celtic Mythology: Caladbolg and Gae Bulg. Averted in the case of the destroyer captured in Triumphant. As they learn, it doesn't even have a name, just an alphanumeric designation: D-11.
  • Misguided Missile: When a light cruiser attacks Glenlyon, Geary knows he can't fight it with just a destroyer, especially since the cruiser is likely armed with four missiles, any one of which can cripple a destroyer. However, his Number Two suggests that the cruiser's captain is likely former Old Earth Navy, which means he's been conditions to always following the checklists no matter what. They figure out that the Old Earth Navy manual prescribes launching a missile if there's a 75% chance of a hit, accounting for the target's maneuvers. However, if they program the Saber's computer to evade the moment it calculates the 75% of a missile hit, they have a near-100% chance of evading the missile. They use this maneuver three times, and each time the cruiser's captain orders a launch. Geary is incredulous that any captain would fall for the same trick three times, but his Number Two explains that it's the problem with being career Old Earth military. They can't do anything about the cruiser's final missile, though, as checklists demand that the cruiser only launch it if there is a 90% certainty of a hit, and the risk is unacceptable to Geary.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The leader of Eire is hesitating about the need to join any alliance, preferring to focus on their own defense and trade. But then Scathan agents try to destroy or cripple Eire's two destroyers with a computer virus. The attempt fails, and now Eire's leader orders both of its warships sent to help defend Kosatka and Glenlyon.
  • One World Order: Most colonies have a single planetary government, although various cities and regions may have some autonomy. Averted by Old Earth, which still has the old nation states, and Mars, which is a bunch of city-states run by gangs. In fact, whenever settlers set out for a new planet, they file for an exclusive colony right. So when Scatha suddenly unloads hundreds of civilians with a military garrison on Glenlyon, clearly set to establish a colony on the planet, the people of Glenlyon are shocked at this clearly illegal move. But then there's no longer anyone there to enforce those rules. Meanwhile, Kosatka is experiencing separatist tensions from its second city, whose people desire independence from the main city. Carmen suggests a simple solution: allow the second city to have limited autonomy and self-governance, while the planetary government will retain control over the larger issues.
  • Orbital Bombardment: As Lochan and Carmen arrive to Kosatka, they're shocked to discover that a city on the planet has just been attacked by an unknown destroyer. Luckily, when the destroyer returns for round two, Geary is there to chase it off (apparently, the destroyer is far older than the Squall), earning him the gratitude of the government of Kosatka. In Triumphant, the Kosatkans themselves engage in this in their fight against invaders, with the destroyer Shark acting as artillery, taking out targets located by ground units from above.
  • Playful Hacker: Lyn "Ninja" Meltzer, who casually breaks into computer systems, most of which are either too old or barely secured. She runs a consulting firm and occasionally accepts contracts from the Glenlyon Council.
  • Properly Paranoid: When Lochan, Leigh, and Freya arrive to the orbital facility above Eire, they are put under guard for their own protection, as they know that enemy agents are gunning for them. Indeed, one attempts to kill them from a distance but fails. The station's security chief decides that their scheduled shuttle is likely booby-trapped, so he sends them on the next available shuttle instead and has the scheduled shuttle thoroughly analyzed for sabotage. While they find none, they still decide to send it down on autopilot and with only cargo (no passengers). The precaution ends up being justified, as the shuttle blows up shortly after launch.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Several characters working for Apulu and Scatha turn out to only be doing it because they've been lured in by false promises and can't see a way out. One crewmember on the Scathan corvette (Danielle Martel) readily switches sides and becomes the Number Two on the rechristened Squall, although few in the Council actually trust her.
  • Ramming Always Works:
    • During the climactic Space Battle, the Squall's Escape Pod is damaged, so that it can no longer be used to evacuate the crew. Geary comes up with a plan to launch the pod at the Scathan destroyer during the next "joust", hoping that even if the destroyer's automated weapons blow the pod apart, the debris will still impact the destroyer's shields with enough force to temporarily disable them. He programs the Squall's firing computer to time it with the impact, thus giving the Squall a clear shot at the destroyer's exposed hull. The gamble works, and the destroyer is crippled.
    • An unintentional example in Ascendant, where the Kosatkan destroyer Piranha is forced to engage the combined Scatha/Apulu warships on her own, after the Saber suffers technical difficulties. The tight maneuvering results in the Piranha making momentary contact with the Apulu cutter. However, since the contact takes place at 0.6% of light speed, the collision results in the cutter being completely vaporized, and the Piranha being severely damaged, to the point of being unsalvageable.
  • Rank Up: In Ascendant, Geary and Darcy are once again asked to save Glenlyon from a near-hopeless situation. Unlike the last time, when they were a Lieutenant and a Sergeant, respectively, they are given more proper ranks: Commander and Captain, respectively, with Geary also being named Commodore of the surviving Glenlyon space forces (which includes a total of one warship). In Triumphant, Darcy is further promoted to Major.
  • Secret Legacy: In the Distant Finale, neither John Geary nor Tanya Desjani had any idea that their distant ancestors played such a crucial role in the formation of The Alliance, as Rob Geary's role was deliberately downplayed by Glenlyon's politicians and Carmen Ochoa didn't really want the credit anyway. John did know that Rob started the tradition of Gearies serving in the Space Navy as well as being the founder of the family's Glenlyon line. Likewise, Tanya was surprised that she has Martian roots, likely because Carmen preferred to forget that part of her life.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: When a Scatha-controlled freighter drops a cargo pod, which turns out to contain dozens of mercenaries, onto the main spaceport of Kosatka, the freighter is intercepted by one of the two Kosatkan warships. However, the freighter's crew rigs the core to explode and flees on an escape shuttle. The destroyer's captain manages to keep his ship from being blown up, but the destroyer still receives critical damage and has to be towed to the dock for lengthy repairs. Meanwhile, two Scathan destroyers have just entered the system and are on their way to the planet, with only a single Kosatkan destroyer remaining to face them.
  • Sequel Escalation: In Vanguard, Geary has to deal with, at most, one enemy ship at a time. In Ascandant, this goes up to two ships, and not just him. Both Glenlyon and Kosatka find themselves facing off against two enemy ships each, while being able to field only one each. Each planet also sends representatives to seek out assistance and also, possibly, purchase one of the light cruisers Earth is selling off. In Triumphant, Glenlyon is threatened by a light cruiser and a destroyer, covering a troop transport sent to capture Glenlyon's orbital facility. Should they succeed, Geary will have nowhere to repair and resupply. Meanwhile, he only has a single destroyer to counter them. While a government representative has left for Old Earth to purchase light cruisers of their own, it'll be months before she's back. Then four destroyers from newly-allied friendly systems arrive to assist Glenlyon.
  • Sequel Hook: Vanguard ends with a three-year Time Skip, after which Mele informs Geary that the flagship of Glenlyon's Space Navy has just blown up, killing the Commodore, and the Council once again wants Geary's help. The next book starts with the description of the event.
  • Sergeant Rock: Mele Darcy is a former sergeant in the Space Marines of one of the old colonies. After being tasked with assaulting Scatha's base on Glenlyon, she is quickly promoted to major and then just as quickly demoted back to sergeant after the successful assault. As befits a sergeant, she's proud of not being an officer (i.e. she works for a living).
  • Settling the Frontier: The series is set in this time. Specifically, this is the second wave of expansion, with first wave being done using sublight, and the recently-invented jump drive allowing humans to spread out ever farther, taking only weeks instead of years.
  • Shout-Out: In Ascendant, Carmen recognizes a coded message as using the code of a Martian gang called the Tharks. After capturing a few Tharks, she notices a tattoo on one, identifying him as a "jed", one of the gang's higher ranks. In John Carter of Mars, Tharks are a tribe of Green Martians. Their ranks include the title of "jed", which is a city or a horde leader.
    • One of the politicians uses an alias on during her trip to another system, and chooses the name of Mary Alice Norton, the birth name of the early scifi eriter Andre Norton.
  • Sleazy Politician: As expected from works by John Hemry, there are plenty of asshole politicians in the trilogy. Some are decent, but most are shown to be opportunistic and willing to throw others under the bus. In the third book, Geary has a single destroyer facing off against an enemy light cruiser and a destroyer, plus a freighter carrying boarders to take the Glenlyon orbital facility. The only sensible option for Geary is to stay back and force the warships to chase him and to keep him away from the freighter. This way, Geary prevents the enemy warships from providing artillery support to the boarders. But some of the Glenlyon politicians demand that he attack the enemy, even though it's clear to anyone that it would be a suicide run that would accomplish nothing and would leave Glenlyon defenseless. Two of the loudest voices accuse Geary of cowardice. So when Council President Chisholm tells those two to sign a direct order to have Geary attack the enemy head-on, they find excuses not to do that, knowing full well that it would be a foolhardy gesture and not wanting to be associated with it, while simultaneously being all too happy to criticise Geary for it to gain political capital. Unfortunately for Geary, the Glenlyon populace has the same view, largely because they aren't aware of the tactical considerations.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Almost happens with Geary and Ninja. Ninja sends Geary a message, informing him of her pregnancy, about an hour before he's about to engage a Scatha destroyer in what looks to be a suicide mission. Averted, since Geary survives, but barely.
  • Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb: In Ascendant, as Lochan is heading on a transport ship to get help for Kosatka, the ship encounters what appears to be Space Pirates, except Lochan knows they're really Apulu privateers pretending to be pirates. Lochan is approached by a woman, who asks his help to rig a fuel cell bomb in the escape shuttle and send it away, making it seem like they're aboard. Since they know the "pirates" likely want them, they'll try to capture the shuttle, which is when the bomb will go off. The plan works, and the "pirate" ship is destroyed.
  • Space Fighter: While no one in their right mind would use aerospace fighters in ship-to-ship combat due to their low fuel supply and weak defenses, they are much more useful near a planet, especially if one is desperate. Thus, the combined Scatha/Apulu/Turan forces use their invasion fleet's remaining fighters in an attempt to take out, or at least heavily damage, the Saber. The fighters do have higher acceleration than the destroyer and manage to catch up to her. Geary and his people manage to take them out, but the Saber still sustains damage, and several crewmembers are killed.
  • Space Mines: Handled realistically. During their second arrival to Glenlyon, Scatha sends unarmed freighters, gambling that the corvette will not fire on civilians. Instead, the freighters get in orbit around the planet, and then start to periodically change it, with Geary having the Squall match the trajectory each time. Something seems off, and he veers off, just as nuclear detonations go off where the Squall would have passed. Turns out, the freighters dropped mines and hoped to lure the Squall into them.
  • Space Marine: Mele Darcy is an ex-Marine. However, most of what she does in the book has more to do with ground forces rather than boarding enemy ships. That does get done, but without her. In Ascendant, she's tasked with forming Glenlyon's first Marine detachment, much to the chagrin of the ground forces' commander. Her actions in the novel end up firmly cementing the need for a Marine Corps in the eyes of the Glenlyon Council. Mele is kept in command this time. In Triumphant, she is tasked with defending Glenlyn's orbital facility from enemy boarders and is promoted to major (permanently this time). In the Distant Finale, Tanya Desjani reveals that Mele became a general and is considered to be the founder of the Alliance Marine Corps. Also, Rob's older daughter ended up joining the marines, which came as a surprise to John Geary, who didn't realize there were any marines in his family.
  • Space Navy: Old Earth's once-mighty fleet is being decommissioned, and even the Old Colonies are scaling back their already small fleets. This means a lot of the officers are migrating to the periphery, and the new colonies are buying up the decommissioned ships, often alongside their crews. Most colonies can only afford one or two warships of the smaller class (corvette or destroyer). By Triumphant, Old Earth is starting to sell off its light cruisers, and the developing colonies are grabbing them up in a sort-of arms race.
  • Space Pirates: With colonies fending for themselves, piracy is rampant.
  • Space Station:
    • When Lochan and Mele's transport ship is attacked by Space Pirates, they and a group of survivors end up on a space station, where they're told they'll be picked up by another transport ship. However, the station's doctor secretly reveals that the transport ship in question is from the Apulu system, which deals in slave trade. Thanks to Lochan and Mele, the would-be slaves manage to flee on a shuttle and end up getting picked up by another transport ship.
    • At the end of Vanguard, Geary and Darcy quit and get hired as administrator and chief of security, respectively, aboard a fleet support station that's towed into Glenlyon's orbit.
    • By Triumphant, most colonies have one, usually purchased from Old Earth or one of the old colonies and towed into place. These serve to support their defense ships and to serve as a waypoint between arriving freighters and the surface. It's common for enemies to try to capture orbital facilities rather than destroy them, as they plan to make use of them.
  • Static Stun Gun: Shockers are used by the Glenlyon police to subdue unruly colonists. They fire non-lethal ammo (although it's stated that a shocker fired at point-blank can be lethal) that uses electrical shocks to knock out the target. This becomes a problem, when Scatha lands a hundred well-armed troops on Glenlyon, as all Mele has to work with are a few dozen shockers and a handful of hunting rifles.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: an example where the substitutes are both of a different gender than the original character. Two of Carmen and Lochan's main allies in the first book are Safety Coordinator Sazokry, the head security officer and an example of Defrosting the Ice Queen, and House Leader Cleon Ottone, Kostaka's equivalent of a Speaker of The House of Representatives. By the third book, Sazokry has been assassinated by Kostaka's enemies, and replaced by a man name Kowalski, and Ottone has been voted out of office in favor of a woman named Nowak, but neither of those two say or do anything that would have been out of character for Sazokry (post-character development) or Ottone.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: An intentional example. In order to avoid being taken to an enemy system, Lochan and a female friend of his leap out the airlock in spacesuits. They use a maneuvering pack to adjust their trajectory and contact a friendly transport ship, asking it to pick them up. The plan works.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The majority of the Glenlyon Council at the end of Vanguard, who choose to screw over Geary and Darcy, after they save Glenlyon from invasion, due to a mix of political favor (Old Earth offers some of its decommissioned ships to Glenlyon but only with their own officers), personal dislike (apparently, Geary and Darcy should have been kissing ass, while saving them), and fear of military commanders becoming too popular (to be fair, a very real threat in the main series). Only one council member stands up for them. In the sequel, the Council voting to strip Geary of his new command has more validity in that Geary has intentionally chosen a very liberal interpretation of his orders, leaving Glenlyon open to a potential attack and risking their only remaining warship. On the other hand, the Council President overrules the others and keeps Geary in command, stating that his reasoning for doing what he did is sound, and it's hard to argue with the results. Also averted with Mele in the second book. The Council praises her actions and is determined to expand the Glenlyon Marine Corps under Mele's command.
  • Used Future: Most of the warships in Vanguard are old, typically surplus from the Space Navy of either Old Earth or one of the old colonies. The Squall is an old Buccaneer-class corvette (or "Bucket", as they're known). It's a bucket of bolts that's barely holding on together, and her reactor is always on the verge of overloading. The corvette only has two weapons: a grapeshot launcher and a particle beam projector. The computer systems run on a language that requires all commands to be inputted in reverse (i.e. if you want to input a sequence of commands, you have to start from the last command and work your way backwards). It's also easily hackable by anyone, who knows the code. Luckily, Ninja manages to reinforce the firewalls, so others can't do it that easily. The destroyers encountered by the Squall aren't that much better. One destroyer is a century older than even the Squall.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: When Lochan learns that the people of Apulu practice slavery, he's shocked. After all, why use manual labor, when machines are much more efficient? He's told that this may be true in the old colonies, but out here on the frontier, there aren't enough machines yet to make this true, so manual labor is still necessary.
  • Wretched Hive: Mars in a case of Gone Horribly Wrong. The first planet to be settled by humanity, many wanted Mars to be free from Earth's interference. As a result, the planet is ruled by gangs. All Martians are automatically seen as thugs and criminals on other planets, derogatorily called "Reds". Carmen has worked hard to lose her Martian accent and to questions on her origins always replies that she's from Albuquerque. Based on the first spin-off series, things don't improve much in the following centuries.