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Literature / Vatta's War

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The first four novels.
A Space Opera series by Elizabeth Moon.

Kylara Vatta gets forced out of her naval academy for a scandal she accidentally helped create. Her family runs a powerful trading business and she's sent to captain an outdated trade ship to a planet where it's to be sold for scrap, not quite aware that it's a Secret Test of Character from her father and brother to see how she'll rise up to danger and hold up in the family business. They get more danger than they bargained for however, as a criminal conspiracy threatens to violently bring down the corporate structures that space currently relies on... including the Vatta family.

The series includes the following books:

  1. Trading in Danger
  2. Marque and Reprisal, titled Moving Target in the UK, New Zealand and Australia
  3. Engaging The Enemy
  4. Command Decision
  5. Victory Conditions

In 2017 a sequel series collectively called Vatta's Peace began with Kylara's shuttle for a visit back to Slotter Key getting sabotaged and crashing near an uninhabited continent with many secrets buried deep in both society and the ground.

This series contains examples of:

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  • Absent Aliens: Instead, the galaxy is populated by wildly divergent cultures of humans, with various degrees of Transhumanism in effect.
  • Action Girl: Kylara Vatta, The Captain. Knows her way around both space and hand to hand combat due to her military training.
  • Aerith and Bob: With a dose of Melting-Pot Nomenclature. The characters from the Vatta family are named Helen, Stella, Osman, George, Stavros, Gracie and Kylara, for example.
  • Anyone Can Die: In Victory Conditions, almost the entire crew of Ky's ship is killed unexpectedly in the midst of a battle scene.
  • Appeal to Force: InterStellar Communications tells one mercenary company, when one of their ansibles is damaged in a fight, that they will collect a deposit from them and then hold an inquiry into the incident, and collect the fine out of the deposit if the mercenaries are found responsible. When the mercenaries object and ask the representative about a trial, they are informed that InterStellar doesn't resort to the courts, they arbitrate their own disputes. Since all interstellar communications run through them, they can pull this off.
  • Arms Dealer: Ky must deal with both Gun Shop Owners and Space Shooter Sellers, and finding one of the latter that won't screw her or hasn't been bought by the enemy is a difficult job. The better ones, in both cases, are often slightly less than legitimate.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Most people avoid messing with the ansibles or the ISC personnel for fear of bringing the Mega-Corp's insanely huge fleet down on their heads. Turns out this particular giant has clay feet.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Ky. She's often mistaken for a straight-laced merchant's daughter with a weakness towards lost boys, but she will mess you up and enjoy it if you threaten her or her ship.
    • In the later books, the politeness obsessed and slightly silly Cascadia System throws in their lot with Ky's anti-pirate Privateer flotilla, giving her some legitimate backing and some not-insubstantial military and industrial resources. The same overly polite people also arrest and execute one of the villains for being rude in court.
  • Big Bad: Gammis Turek, a pirate lord with overblown ambitions and far too many resources.
  • Bio-Augmentation: Used for thing ranging from making it easier to install implants, to alterations that make the subject seem downright alien.
  • Black Box: The hyperdrive and the Ansibles. The crew does not know how to service or repair either of them, as the manufacturers of both are very protective of their design secrets. This becomes a plot point when the hyperdrive breaks down in the first book And when the Ansible network begins to fail. Also applied to various components on the ship that Ky does not know the workings of. Usually she doesn't get an explanation, so she and the reader both move on while more specialized characters work on the equipment.
  • Black Sheep:
    • Osman Vatta, a former member of the Vatta family, who became a pirate. Has a form of Pater Familicide done to the others as part of their plans.
    • Subverted with Rafe, who, thanks to the bad guys, is made to look like this, but ends up the Prodigal Hero when he returns to rescue the rest of his family.
  • Bling of War: Ransome's Rangers are decked out in gold and gleam, with Cool Capes so shiny, they almost glow in the dark. All in all, they remind Ky of a theatre play rather than any real fighting force.
  • Blood Knight: Kylara is afraid that she might be one when it turns out she enjoys killing people.
  • Body Guard Betrayal: Ky starts out habitually hiring a guard on whichever planet or station she's visiting, but switches to guards drawn from her crew after an escort Ky hires on one of the planet turns out to be working for the bad guys. The security firm who hired him out gives a full refund afterwards. For fairly obvious reasons, they don't ask if a new bodyguard is required.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Ky, Stella, and Rafe are all important enough by the end of the story to have bodyguards at all times (with Ky often hiring them even when still just a ships captain) but all also have enough training and/or experience to be the most dangerous person in their party.
  • Brain/Computer Interface: Most people have multipurpose implants which allow them to access computer networks and send and receive information. They have a variety of uses:
    • Users can archive memories, control at least some hormone levels, set alarms that come with full wakefulness after a night of induced full rest, sharpen senses, run atmosphere analysis, overlay augmented reality, and much more.
    • One such implant also acts as a sort of Cyanide Pill, dumping poison into a mook's body when the heroes attempt to interrogate him.
    • The ultimate use shown, unknown to all but a handful of people, is to make the person a walking ansible (albeit with limited communication ability). This proves somewhat infectious, as an incident leads to Kylara 'catching' it from Rafe during an emergency implant to implant connection.
  • Brick Joke: The fruitcakes. Aunt Gracie gives two of them to Ky in the first book, and they turn out to have a variety of uses. Eventually, in the final book, Ky uses fruitcakes to send a coded message.
  • Call-Back: Stella's backstory becomes very relevant again when she ends up a temporary guardian of Toby's girlfriend who did pretty much the same "reveal a family secret to a lover" thing Stella did at her age, only in her case it's her father who was the bad guy, not Toby. And of course, they're both daughters of Space Pirates, though Stella was adopted young. Stella reflects how lots of things they say to each other are word-for-word Meaningful Echoes of her own thoughts and things she and her mother argued about. Ultimately, lessons learned and Toby's continuing dedication lead her to a much better outcome than Stella had.
  • Catchphrase: For the Vattas, the oft-repeated "Trade and Profit."
  • Category Traitor: Gretnans consider Lee - the only white member of Vanguard's crew - to be this, as he willingly associates with "Mudders" (AKA, the dark-skinned people).
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The model kit and the fruitcakes from Trading In Danger (partially deconstructed, as the kit was intended for an entirely different use)
    • The armored command pods from Victory Conditions.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Kylara learns how to shoot the equivalent of a dart-gun in the first book. She later uses this skill to put down a mutiny, the possibility of which is the reason she learned in the first place.
  • Cool Old Lady: Aunt Gracie. She dotes on other family members, insists on giving largely inedible fruitcakes and was a pain in Ky's side, but she turns out to be the company spy and has an Expansion Pack Past, and the fruitcakes turn out to be specially baked to hide things like documents and diamonds.
  • Cool Ship: The Vanguard (formerly Fair Kaleen), Ky's second ship. It's a privateer with a powerful Wave-Motion Gun at the aft and a ton of hidden compartments and passages that come very much in handy if the ship is ever boarded (which, of course, happens).
  • Corrupt Politician: While there are a few mentioned, the most obvious is the president of Slotter Key. Instead of attempting to rally a defense against the Space Pirates after an attack on the planets biggest merchant family, he instead turns against them, and in addition he plans to scrap what little protection it has in its small number of Privateers in order to keep the pirates happy.
  • Culture Clash: The Cascadians, with their obsession with politeness, cause quite a few awkward moments when Ky's crew interacts with them.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Generally averted, but without proper medical care, Photographic Memory brain implants give can make things like PTSD worse.
  • Cyborg Helmsman: Nearly all captains and their crew rely on their implants to pilot ships.
  • Daddy's Girl : Ky shows traces of this, as she's much closer to her father than her mother, and mainly mourns him when they both die.
  • Death Faked for You: In the final book, after Vanguard blows up, Ky and her allies decide to hide the fact that she survived by pretending that they're hiding the fact that she died so that they might track down security leaks and lull Turek into false sense of security.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Osman Vatta, the family Black Sheep and a pirate, who, according to Ky's one crewmember who knew him, "liked pretty faces, didn't matter what gender".
  • The Ditz: In her youth, Stella gave a lover family codes that enabled him to steal from them, and got cursed with a reputation as "the idiot Stella" for years after, but Aunt Gracie took Stella under her wing and Character Development ensues. Now she uses the beautiful ditz personality as a facade to charm people for favors and info.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Happens to at least a few of the male characters towards Ky. Very nearly gets her killed on the first occasion, after a crewmember ignored Ky's orders to the crew to stand down when they were boarded by a team of mercenaries. After a while, she begins to become very frustrated at the tendency for men around her to cause additional trouble trying to protect her.
  • False Friend: Lew Parmina, who, under the guise of Garston Durbanger's best friend essentially gutted the man's company and left their home system wide open for the pirates. To his credit he seems genuinely kind and helpful to Ky's father during his first appearance in book one. This hurts Ky latter as it put her family in general, and her specifically, under suspicion.
  • Family Business: Kylara Vatta enrolled in the Slotter Key Military Academy specifically to avoid getting roped into her family's shipping company. She ended up getting shanghaied into being a ship captain shortly after being forced to resign from the Academy within weeks of graduation.
  • Fantastic Racism: A common occurrence on the anti-humod worlds. Gretna in particular has move not only into this but also into regular racism with their attitude against anyone who doesn't have pale skin, blue eyes, and blond hair.
  • Fantastic Slurs: The future equivalent of white supremacists are called Fishbellies by other people, while they themselves call dark-skinned people Mudders.
  • Feet of Clay: The ISC's fabled fleet, while very large indeed, turns out to be ridiculously outdated, to the point that there aren't even any factories left that can produce munitions for them.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: In the Cascadian system of the Moscoe Confederation, where Ky travels in Engaging the Enemy, the Cascadians have the death penalty for being rude and in contempt of court, but you can set clandestine bugs on someone's dock with the correct, easy to obtain permits. (If the person you're bugging is a citizen you have to politely inform them of your intent, which kinda defeats the purpose... But permits for bugging anything "public" don't require any notification) Politeness and protocol are Serious Business. That said, they are also remarkably lenient in enforcing this rule on outsiders, who they understand aren't used to their unusual social norms. One antagonist still manages to get himself killed for being contemptuous in court, despite numerous repeated warnings from the judge.
  • Final Battle: At the end of the fifth book, with about four hundred ships between Ky's and Turek's forces, the final battle commences above Nexus.
  • Fiction 500: Teddy Ransome and his friends are all rich enough to buy and crew three top-of-the-line starships and keep them supplied for years. Teddy himself considers a price of twelve hundred missiles (a number that nearly gives Ky, not a poor person herself, a heart attack) "a paltry sum", and for a few months, he basically funds the Space Defense Force out of his own pocket with no indication that this is hurting him or his family in any way.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: From Marque and Reprisal onward, Ky fights to get the scattered remains of her family and Vatta Transport back together and restore the ansible network, including that to her home world.
  • Game Changer: The shipboard ansibles, introduced in book two, that leak out of ISC's R&D department cause a revolution in how space combat works in this universe.
  • Gentleman Adventurer:
    • Ransome's Rangers play this very straight at first, weirding out the rest of the characters. Their homeworld's hat is sudden and abrupt Character Development; they cycle between various personality extreme, staying in one for a few months before the switch. Ransome and his friends are currently Romantics, while his parents are Irrationalists, which explains their behavious and ridiculous spending habits.
    • Deconstructed as well. Two of the three ships are destroyed (or are implied to have been destroyed) in the course of the books due to their adventuring, usually while taking reckless courses of action..
  • Hunting "Accident": The original cover story for the assassination attempt on Aunt Gracie, Helen, and Helen's grandchildren. It does not stand up to police investigation especially since the police found Aunt Gracie's illegal laser weapon.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: Gammis Turek's and Lew Parmina's overall goals are never clearly defined beyond gaining power. Parmina in particular is puzzling, since he had been the obvious choice for next CEO of the most powerful corporation in known space for decades, yet had been working to undermine and eventually destroy it for just as long.
  • High on Homicide: Kylara Vatta discovers, after she kills for the first time in self-defense, that she gets a thrill of victory from doing it—something that recurs throughout the series and she considers similar to a drug addiction she has to avoid feeding if possible.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Generally averted in the earlier books (note that the Vatta slogan is "Trade And Profit". You don't get paid much if you get yourself killed.) In the later books, Stella becomes concerned that Ky is falling victim to this.
    • Ransome's Rangers, being Romantics each and every one of them, have a strong tendency for this - something Ky struggles to curb in them.
  • Humiliation Conga: Kylara suffers one of these when she is forced to resign from the Slotter Key Military Academy due to a scandal she unwittingly helped cause, when she had been one of the top students in her class (her boyfriend was the top student in the class). Through the course of the first book, she is tricked into helping cause the scandal, forced to resign from the Academy, ends up being put to work captaining the oldest ship in her family's fleet on a one-way trip to get it disposed at the junkers, and on the way the aforementioned ship breaks down, leaving her stranded in the midst of a local civil war. After she comes out on top in the whole crisis, she gets a Dear John letter from her boyfriend telling her she's disgraced the Academy and the armed forces and that he's leaving her because he's ashamed of ever loving her.
    • Towards the end of Victory Conditions, Ky's ex-boyfriend gets a very karmic one after Rafe calls him out publicly and Kylara, now being the fleet admiral dismisses him as insignificant, his shipmates defend their admirals honor. Rather than explain what happened or why, he tells the medics that he "fell down a ladder". The medics deduce that he must have really pissed off the ladder first. He is also like Kylara forced to resign his commission, due to the scandal, and joined Mackensee Military Assistance to disappear.
  • Hyperspeed Ambush: Generally limited to some of the better equipped space navies; most civilian and commercial-grade equipment just isn't designed for precision within a star system. That said, limitations in sensors and communication (limited to light-speed within a star-system, given that the FTL communications arrays are space stations unto themselves) preclude this strategy from being used in most circumstances. Until someone develops a FTL communications rig that can easily fit aboard a starship. Then it becomes the standard tactic.
  • Hyperspace Lanes: Hyperdrive allows ships to travel to any nearby system they choose, but if they travel to systems marked on their charts as off limits, they run the risk of running into all sorts of unknown hazards. Less scrupulous starship captains occasionally use these off-limits star systems as meeting locations off the beaten path to conduct illegal business.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: "A mine is a terrible thing to waste!" Kylara is obviously very pleased with this line.
  • Indestructible Edible:
    • Aunt Gracie's fruitcakes, which are generally considered inedible and dense enough to block X-rays. A few of Ky's crewmembers love fruitcake, though, and would have happily taken them from her if she had only mentioned having them. The part about blocking X-rays? Not Hyperbole. Gracie often sends valuable or sensitive items in her cakes, knowing that they'll get through most security checkpoints without comment, and that no one not in the know will cut one up unless the situation is truly desperate.
    • Apparently this is a Vatta family tradition. Kylara's father and uncle reminisce about their generation's "Uncle Evar's Homemade Sausage", which was "hard as a rock" and at one point used to bludgeon a pirate to death.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: References are made to "Old Earth" but not its fate (which would determine whether this should really be Earth That Was); if it's still inhabited it's far from the major center of this part of the universe. At one point Ky considers retreating to "the Old World where we came from" and rebuilding Vatta Trading there which may or may not mean Earth has some kind of different interstellar civilization running.
  • Intrepid Merchant: The Vattas. Be it pirates or war, trade must go on.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Infamous womanizer Rafe falls head over heels for Ky. Deconstructed in how his former flings (and Ky's cousin) doesn't believe he's even capable of love, and he himself has trouble sorting out his feelings and at first tries to come at Ky the same way he flirted with other women.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • One particularly Jerkass mole gets himself the death penalty by being rude towards Ky in a Cascadian court, despite being familiar with the local laws and being warned repeatedly.
    • In addition he basically gets thrown off a more profitable route in an earlier book by badmouthing Ky to her father.
  • Law Enforcement, Inc.: In Victory Conditions, the last book in the Vatta's War series, it is discovered that the actual military of Nexus has been gutted out by long-standing corruption because everybody knew that nobody would ever dare to attack them, and so the defense of the homeworld against Space Pirates ends up falling to the corporate security forces of the planet's dominant Mega-Corp. They're also in terrible shape (the first fleet we see has a ship get destroyed by its own long expired missiles prematurely detonating), but there are many more of them and they have the cash to do at least some upgrades. Ultimately they'd still have been annihilated as well were it not for outside assistance.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: Combined with Cyanide Pill. The President of Slotter Key, who allowed the Space Pirates to attack the Vatta family, is offered a pill by the Commandant of the Space Force Academy to kill himself before he is impeached once his crimes are discovered.
  • Loose Lips: Toby's girlfriend mentions that she recognizes some of the code words used by the Space Pirates while reading a partial translation Toby claims is for a scifi book he's writing. It turns out that they are part of the company code used by her father's business, implicating him in the conspiracy.
  • The Mafia: Gammis Turek has gained control of most of these on the various planets, mostly to be used as spies and assassins for his goals.
  • Mega-Corp: InterStellar Communications Corporation, which operates a stranglehold monopoly on all instantaneous faster-than-light communications in the known galaxy at first.
  • Merchant Prince: The Vatta family is a sprawling clan of merchants and traders.
  • Mildly Military: The privateers, as well as Ky's civillian crew, have some troubles adapting to the dyscipline Ky demands of them in the Space Defense Force, resulting in many of them acting much more informally than a regular space navy would.
  • Military Academy: Slotter Key's Space Force Academy.
  • The Mole: There are at least a few in the Vatta family, as well as in various other interstellar organizations. Various moles either end up revealing themselves by making a move against Ky, or are revealed by other means.
  • Morton's Fork: Aunt Gracie gives Ky several of her infamous fruitcakes, which Ky dislikes greatly. Ky has to decide between taking the unwanted gifts with her (forcing her to leave something else behind due to strict weight allowances in space travel), or disposing of them before leaving home (which her aunt would inevitably learn about, causing unwanted family drama).
  • Mr. Fanservice: Rafe, particularly when peeling a lime.. He uses this to his advantage on numerous occasions.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Stella tries to discourage Rafe from pursuing Ky, believing him to be a womanizer incapable of love. Ky is furious when she finds out, and Rafe doesn't really keep the warning in mind.

  • Neural Implanting It's not instantaneous, but most education is reliant on implants, with Slotter Key Military Academy being one of a few places where you must "learn to learn" without relying on the implant.
  • Neutrality Backlash: Nexus refuses to back the Space Defense Force due to their paranoia-induced distrust of Ky Vatta and her family. As a result, their only ally breaks down with them, then refuses to come to their help when they are attacked by the very pirates SDF strives to eradicate.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: For Ky this is practically a character trait. She's forced to resign from her homeworld's Military Academy because she thought she was helping another cadet find a minister of his religion - the guy she helps breaches confidentiality and starts a public relations scandal. She takes on some stranded spacers of her home planet into her crew: one of them disobeys orders when they are boarded by mercenaries for inspection, dies, and almost gets Ky killed. Her family knows she has a reputation for this, but in both cases her efforts were technically part of the job; she was a designated mentor to the cadet who started the scandal, and supposed to help him, and the latter case was a direct request by the Slotter Key ambassador and part of her obligations as a ship captain was to assist.
  • Non-Idle Rich:
    • The Vattas have this as a rule - every member of the family works for the company, in the division that most suits them.
    • Rafe is a son of one of the richest men on Nexus, but works as a corporate spy for ISC instead of lounging; though that's because his family forced him to leave.
    • Teddy Ransome and his friends are insanely rich, and decided to make use of this money by hunting pirates.
  • Noodle Incident: Passing reference is made to the first run that Ky's father and uncle went on, which is later detailed in one of Elizabeth Moon's anthology collections. Later books indicate that the Vatta family may have quite a few of these they'd rather outsiders not know about.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Rafe's cranial ansible was a prototype, but the scientists who made it were told it was a failure. This is due to ISC wanting to avoid anything that could ruin their monopoly.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Played with. A few religions feel that any modification of the body is a sin, but in the galaxy they are a general minority. In later books it's implied that some anti-humod worlds are part of the funding for the Space Pirates. This is further supported by their refusal to join the alliance that now funds Ky's new Space Navy.
  • Not Hyperbole: Aunt Gracie, The Family Spy. Most assume it's in the gossip sense of the word, but she is in charge of intelligence and security for the famiy.
  • Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: Invoked several times in internal commentary on the Moscoe Confederations fixation on trees.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Stella loves to appear to be the Dumb Blonde most people peg her as, while's she's actually an intelligent businesswoman and corporate spy.
  • Oblivious Adoption: Some bastard children of the family turncoat Osman Vatta were tracked down young and quietly adopted into better Vatta families. One of them turns out to be Stella, who doesn't take the discovery well. Her lack of knowledge is helped by the fact she looks more like her adopted mother's (non-Vatta) side of the family.
  • Old Soldier: Master Sergeant MacRobert, the bane of Space Force Academy's first year students and a not-so-former intelligence operative.
  • Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap: Fresh food is a limited resource on long space trips, the puppy that the crew adopts is a novelty (but not to the one from the backwater system where animal labor is used a lot). In the Moscoe Confederation, where dogs are both rare and expensive, young Toby Vatta earns a tidy sum selling the dog's sperm for breeders.
  • Papa Wolf: Ky's father has a moment of this with a captain who treated her like crap.
  • Planetville: Mostly averted.
  • Planet of Hats: Mostly averted. The two biggest examples are Cascadia, whose people are extremely courteous and way into trees, and Gretna, whose people are against modification and behave like white supremacists to all who don't look like themselves. Otherwise most planets are either Pro or Anti Transhuman.
  • Privateer: Ky Vatta becomes a spacefaring privateer in Marque and Reprisal. Due to a company policy of not doing business with privateers, this causes Kylara to lose the protection of the Mackensee Military Assistance Corporation's forces that she had been enjoying until then. Starting with the third book, privateers from several different worlds begin to band together to try and fight against the Space Pirates.
  • Private Military Contractors: Mackensee Military Assistance Corporation, and others. Interestingly enough, the MMAC is portrayed as a very professional force, very picky about who they do business with, and going out of their way to avoid the negative trappings of this trope. They join forces with Ky's Privateer force and several system defense forces in order to stop the Space Pirates from sacking Nexus.
  • Prodigal Hero: Rafe, who, due to having murdered a man as a child, and then negative influences of an awful therapist and a False Friend, ends up being branded the family Black Sheep and sent away, with remittance to keep him out of his home. He ends up returning and then saving his now grateful folks when they're kidnapped, then basically saving his home world from destruction.
  • Protocol Peril: Being in contempt of court on Cascadia carries the death penalty...and the thick manual of politeness protocol that Ky, her crew and other visitors to Cascadia have to learn is a daunting obstacle.
  • Ramming Always Works: Invoked by the riggers who semi-accidentally end up crewing the newly-commissioned battleships at Moray. Averted when almost all of them die before the real battle commences, since they have no military training and base their tactics on television shows.
  • Red Herring: Much foreshadowing is dropped towards the end of one of the books regarding the military liaison on another Slotter Key Privateer that Kylara's ship has been accompanying. Every implication is given that this liaison will be Kylara's ex-boyfriend from the academy, who rather scornfully dumped her via Dear Jane letter. Cue the beginning of the next book where we meet him... and he's someone she has never met before.
  • Retired Badass: Aunt Gracie, a former soldier turned The Spymaster, who's still extremely deadly despite her advanced age.
  • Returning the Wedding Ring: When Kylara is ejected in disgrace from the Slotter Key military academy, her boyfriend and fellow cadet is not content to only return the class ring Kylara gave him as a token of affection, but defaces the crest on it first.
  • Secret Test of Character: Ky's trip in the Glennys Jones was supposed to let her father and his brother see how Ky will take inititive; they don't actually expect her to scrap the Glennys Jones without trying to buy it for herself. They went through much the same thing when they were her age. Getting stranded in a war in Sabine wasn't part of the plan, however.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Both Ky and Rafe, as admitting their mutual attraction would hurt their cause.
  • Smiting Evil Feels Good: Some people in this universe are "natural born killers" who enjoy murdering people, and will sometimes go for ridiculous overkill. Grace, Ky and Rafe are among them, and each reacts to this differently:
    • Grace is mostly at peace with this part of herself, though she's worried that she passed those genes down the family tree.
    • Ky is horrified when she realizes this, and treats this as her Dark Secret, as this is against her faith.
    • Rafe doesn't consider it evil, but, having been pegged as a monster when he admitted this to his therapist as a kid, has learned to hide this.
  • Space Is an Ocean: While not in tactics, as ships operate in 3D spaces, the travel aboard ships is oddly sea-like, complete with ships swaying and heaving.
  • Space Navy: Most systems have their own space fleets, and then there's the Space Defence Force that Ky is trying to create.
  • Space Pirates: Led by one man who has turned them into a pirate Syndicate to rule the galaxy.
  • Space Trucker: Why Ky feel is her basic job as captain of Glennys Jones/Gary Tobai.
  • The Spy Master: Aunt Gracie, the Vatta chief spy.
  • Subspace Ansible: The main focus of the series, they allow for instantenous communication, but are all controlled by one company, the ISC, which enforces their monopoly very strictly. The series is mainly concerned with what happens when someone not afraid of the ISC attacks those ansibles, and how technological advancements threaten the aforementioned monopoly.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted, the aversion Subverted, and then finally averted properly. Rafe and his sister were given therapy after Rafe was forced to kill a would-be-assassin sent after them as children. Turns out the therapist was working for the bad guys and proceeded to intentionally mess them up worse. After Rafe returns home and begins cleaning up house in his family's company, he gets his sister a new therapist who isn't in his enemies' pockets.
  • These Hands Have Killed:
    • Ky shoots and kills a pirate who was attempting to take her ship, she ends up angsting over it in particular because she realized that she enjoyed it.
    • And it happened to Rafe as a child in his Back Story, leading to There Are No Therapists, above.
  • Thieves' Cant: The pirates have their own language.In the last book one of the younger Vattas realizes the enemy language is quite similar to the "family code" used by one of his classmates; her father turned out to be a spy but she didn't know and actually helped translate for the coalition.
  • Transhuman: As pointed out by a therapist in Victory Conditions, most of the setting's population are technically genetically modified cyborgs, even if they tend not to think of themselves that way (as long as enhancements don't involve extra limbs or something else easily visible.)
  • Tuckerization: Many of Moon's real life friends get cameo appearances in Victory Conditions as they die valiantly in battle.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Heavy Machinery" for "Big Honkin' Spaceguns". Leads to some awkwardness when a young, naïve captain tries to make deals for agricultural machines.
  • Unwanted Assistance: In the final book, there's a twofer.
    • Stella reveals to Rafe the contents of Hal's vicious parting letter to Ky to keep him away from her, believing it's for Ky's own good. When Ky finds out, she's absolutely livid.
    • Rafe ends up humiliating Hal in front of the entire party as his way to help Ky deal with the past. Predictably, it doesn't help him woo her.
  • Used Future: Most of the working spaces are clearly used, some ships are falling apart from wear and tear, and there's a general feeling that people keep using stuff until it's no longer possible.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: While some robots seem to exist, most general labor is done by humans. The people of Gretna Station use a scam of charging high rates for use of their station's air and docking charges while the mark is resupplying, then attack them on their way out. The end result is they get back what you bought, your ship gets turned over to Space Pirates and they sell you as indentured labor on trumped up charges while keeping your money.
  • Wham Episode: Book 5, chapter 12. The Vanguard explodes along with large chunk of the cast from the first four books.