Federation of the Hub

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The Federation of the Hub is a science fiction setting featured in many stories by James H. Schmitz. The Hub is an interstellar federation in the far future located toward the center of the galaxy.

The most prominent recurring characters are Telzey Amberdon, an independently-minded psychic Action Girl, and Trigger Argee, a secret agent. There are several stories in which the two team up, set after their respective solo adventures. Other recurring characters include Intrepid Reporter Keth Deboll, the various agents of the Kyth Interstellar Detective Agency, and Adventure Biologist Nile Etland.

Baen Books have brought his work back into print in recent years. The reissue attracted some controversy among long-standing fans because of the editor's decision to tighten up a few of the stories, a process that in some cases more closely resembled major surgery. There were also some kinks in the release order: it was decided to release all the Telzey Amberdon stories first, with the result that every Telzey team-up story appears before the story introducing the character she's teaming up with. This doesn't really matter for the lesser recurring characters, whose stories don't have strong continuity or chronology; but volume 2, containing the Telzey and Trigger team-up stories, is definitely set after, and contains significant spoilers for, the solo Trigger stories in volume 3.

Baen's collections (in publication order) are:

  1. Telzey Amberdon
  2. TNT: Telzey and Trigger
  3. Trigger and Friends
  4. The Hub: Dangerous Territory
Tropes used in Federation of the Hub include:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Plemponi, Dr. Mantelish.
  • Action Girl:
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The Duke of Fluel, in "Lion Loose".
  • Bluffing the Advance Scout: In The Demon Breed
    • Partially subverted in that at the end of the story, a group of neutral alien overlords analyze the situation and realize that those scouts' reports about a substrain of superhumans allegedly existing within human society as its secret masters are 99+% likely to be bullshit. However, they also directly lampshade that this conclusion would mean a lone human being almost single-handedly destroyed the Porad Anz scouting expedition without the use of superhuman powers. This is more terrifying than any other conclusion they could have reached. The overlords decree that not only will they not join in any attacks on the Federation, but they'll clobber any other aliens who try. Don't poke the humans!
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Heslet Quillan takes instant advantage of the situation when the naked Action Girl falls into his arms--but never hesitates when a lady needs his help.
  • Cloning Blues: In "Ti's Toys"
  • Close-Call Haircut: "Baldy" Perk in "Lion Loose".
  • Cool Gate: In "The Lion Game"
  • Drives Like Crazy: Dr Plemponi in Legacy
  • Dolled-Up Installment: The Baen reissues include a non-Hub story, "Planet of Forgetting", rewritten as a Hub story, "Forget It". The theory here was that it may well have been a Dolled Down Installment in the first place.
    • Given that the main character of "Forget It" has a tendency to address women as "Doll," the trope name here constitutes a Punny Name.
  • Extra Eyes: In "Company Planet", a surgeon has an additional eye in the centre of his forehead, which Telzey guesses might act as a magnifier for close-in work.
  • Famous Last Words: "And now, if it is within the power of a Tuvela to defy our purpose, show what you can do."[1]
  • The Federation: The Federation of the Hub.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Telzey does this in "Undercurrents"
  • Genre Savvy: The unnamed Psychology Service agent assigned to the job of keeping a Federation official safe from telepathic influence in Compulsion. When Telzey tries to read Undersecretary Orsler's mind out of idle curiosity during one of her mother's cocktail parties, the agent first warns her off from tampering with his mind -- and then orders a copy of the classified information she was looking for to be transmitted to her ComWeb account because he knows that Telzey's just going to keep digging into the problem after he leaves, now that she knows the information is important enough to be under Psychology Service security monitoring. He also lampshades that by voluntarily giving her a copy of the file despite it being entirely outside her security clearance, he can at least minimize the damage by both knowing exactly what she's reading and keeping her from stumbling over anything else in the process of mind-searching for it. Shoftly after that, the agent's superior will actually take advantage of this by recruiting Telzey as a consultant for the classified project Orsler was worrying about, on the grounds that since she's already aware of the problem asking her to help fix it means they can get it solved without having to expand the need-to-know list any further.
    • Sams Larking in Glory Day is this, bordering on Dangerously Genre Savvy. His gang of renegade psis is set up to betray their employer on Askanam and usurp his position from the beginning, both because Larking wants to be the next ruler of the province and because he knows full well that anybody unscrupulous enough to hire him to help with a palace coup is only going to pay them off in betrayal anyway. Likewise, after Telzey's tampering with things forces him to prematurely put the first phase of his plan into motion, he deliberately does not retaliate against Telzey or Trigger at all but instead has them freed from his late employer's captivity and lets them go free -- because there's no point in killing them, and because Telzey isn't going to fight him to the death if she or her friends are not actually in danger. Telzey still persists after this and (politely) blows up his scheme, but only out of concern that Sams would end up putting himself in a bad position if he continues with it.
      • Sams also deliberately left one of his key people in an exposed position with a faulty mind-shield... so that he'd know which one of his crew Telzey would be mind-controlling. He only lost because he didn't know that one of Telzey's nearby acquaintances was also a psionic.
      • Telzey herself is pretty savvy during the Mexican stand-off. When Sams points out that despite the strength of her mind-shields they can physically kill her in an instant, she points out that if she has no chance to escape then she has no reason to not focus her every dying effort on firing out as many telepathic death-bolts as she can. When one of Sam's telepaths retorts that their strongest members can take her best shot without flinching, she incredulously asks why she would possibly waste any time shooting at the people with mindshields when she could easily kill the few of their group who don't have them -- and then politely asks just how many of that latter group are mission-essential personnel for Sam's plan. At this point Sams immediately proposes a truce.
    • Quillan is himself Dangerously Genre Savvy in Forget It. The instant he sees Colonel Adorjan leading the raid party out to capture him in the climax he deduces that Adorjan, despite having visibly been in command of the Ralan ship the whole time, is not actually the Big Bad but is instead merely The Dragon -- because no Ralan senior officer would expose themselves to danger if they had a subordinate available to do the job for them. He goes on from this to deduce that if Adorjan is not the chief Ralan agent then the only person it could be is Adorjan's 'mistreated slave' who has been so graciously helping him to escape (and in the process lead the Ralan directly to the object that they're searching for), and so right after Adorjan's defeat and while she's breathlessly congratulating him he calmly sticks a pistol in her back and forces her to jump into the containment tank he just stuffed Adorjan into.
      • He is also genre savvy in how he escapes the memory trap. Upon seeing the menacing-looking fleegle the second time around, he deliberately does not draw his weapon on it -- because he knows himself well enough to know that's what he would have done the first time he saw it, during the time period he still has temporary amnesia for, and it clearly didn't work out too well for him then (as the fleegle is still alive and unwounded) but not shooting it won't get him killed (as he is also still alive despite the total lack of any gunshot wounds on the thing) so why do the same thing again? Sure enough, it turns out that not trying to kill the hungry-looking monster was the best idea.
  • Grand Theft Me: In "The Symbiotes"
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Trigger and Heslet Quillan.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: Played with in Novice with humans hunting crest cats, who (unbeknownst to the humans) are intelligent beings. However, the crest cats are having enormous fun hunting the humans right back.
    • At the end of the story the burgeoning crest cat rebellion is headed off by Telzey's proving their sentience to the planetary government and negotiating a peace treaty... that does not ban the hunting of crest cats. Instead, it merely bans the hunting of crest cats from aircars or other positions where the crest cats cannot reach them. So long as the cats have an even chance vs. the humans, they're perfectly happy with it.
  • Humans Are Psychic in the Future: The Hub stories have a significant number of psychic characters, even though psis are still only a tiny fraction of the human race. However, they are numerous enough that the Federation Psychology Service has spent centuries making sure that rogue psis don't screw up the status quo too badly. A character in one story explicitly mentions that humanity only developed psi powers when it started spreading to other planets, and speculates about how the two events might be connected.
  • Humans Are Warriors: the epilogue to The Demon Breed concludes that Humans Are Dangerous, Leave Them Alone.
  • Humanity Ensues/Humanity Is Infectious: In The Other Likeness. Hostile aliens reshaped some of their people into human form to infiltrate and sabotage the Federation ... and every last one of the agents promptly and independently decided to defect.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: "A Nice Day For Screaming" has this in spades: the space itself is inherently hazardous, and then it turns out there are things living in it... although they aren't malicious.
  • Immortality Seeker: Ticos Cay. This makes him a rarity among Hub citizens, who are mostly affected by Who Wants to Live Forever?.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Keth Deboll.
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: Danestar Gems, in "The Searcher", always wears a wig of the same colour as her outfit.
  • Make the Dog Testify: In "Undercurrents". Subverted in that the dog didn't actually know a damn thing, but Telzey knows some people who can implant fake memories really really well...
  • Method Acting: Part of Nile Etland's way of Bluffing the Advance Scout in "The Demon Breed" is to make herself think as if the alien's suspicion that she's a superhuman Mutant known as a Tuvela is true. She hadn't even heard of the Tuvela until told what the invaders believed. So when Nile delivers an ultimatum, the narrative says it's a Tuvela speaking.
  • Mook Horror Show: The epilogue to "The Demon Breed" retells the story from the aliens' point of view.

I must emphasize strongly the oppressively accumulating effect these events produced on the Parahuans during the relatively short period in which they occurred. As related by the survivors, there was a growing sense of shock and dismay, the conviction finally of having challenged something like an indestructible supernatural power. At the time they were questioned, the survivors still seemed more disturbed by this experience than by the practical fact of their own impending demise on orders of Porad Anz, of which they were aware.

  • Mugging the Monster: In Lion Game two street thugs stalk Telzey...very briefly. Fortunately for them it suits her purposes to let them live and even to provide them with a telepathic illusion that they've successfully mugged her, but it still qualifies as this trope because she could literally have killed them both with a harsh look.
    • In the epilogue of "The Demon Breed," an alien council decides any attack on humanity may amount to this, and Awakening the Sleeping Giant as well.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Telzey is rather prone to this.
    • Justified in-setting: at the beginning of the second short story there is an expository segment explaining the difference between 'Class One' and 'Class Two' psionics. Class Ones are defined by having specific abilities that come in standardized sets, and that's all they get. Class Twos are defined by having the ability to potentially train and develop almost any psionic talent with the only differences between individual psis being what they have a greater aptitude to learn or self-develop easily and what they'll never discover on their own and need specialized instruction to grasp. Telzey is an advanced Class Two, so 'developing or learning new psi powers whenever she has a compelling need to' is intended to be her entire shtick.
  • Precursors: Their remnants feature in several of the Trigger Argee stories.
    • One of the few surviving Old Galactics also becomes Trigger's enigmatic mentor, and later on moves himself and all his surviving friends that he can reach into Professor Mantelish's tropical garden (unknown to Professor Mantelish). At story's end they're still there happily planning on the slow (verrrrrrry slow) rebuilding of their species, while lending a little discreet aid to their human friends from time to time in return for their providing shelter.
  • Private Detective: The agents of Kyth Interstellar Detective Agency, who appear in starring or supporting roles in several of the Hub stories.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Elaigar in Lion Game.
    • Subverted in that its shown at several points that their Proud Warrior Race tendencies have locked them into an unsustainable cultural stasis and left them unable to organize on any large scale and dependent on slaves. It is implied that the one substrain of their species that has freed itself from most of these tendencies will inevitably clean up on the rest soon, as they're far less limited.
  • Psychic Block Defense: Mind shield devices were commercially available, and creatures known as Old Galactics could provide them to their symbionts (such as humans).
  • Psychic Powers
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Although the Federation's Psychology Service originally comes on like Psi-Corps, we rapidly see that if a psi shows a reasonable measure of self-control and responsibility the Psychology Service is entirely willing to leave them free to live their own life, even if their actions were technically illegal. The Psychology Service's motto might as well be "Every case is on a 'case-by-case basis'."
    • An example is that despite the fact that Telzey originally fought for her freedom by blackmailing the Psychology Service, they've been entirely willing to help with the damage control on other crises she's helped bring to their attention, no strings attached, to the point of temporarily giving her official status as a Psychology Service field agent and then cutting her loose again rather than forcing her to stay when the case was over (despite the fact that they have the legal authority to draft her at any time). Then again, her case manager seems to be taking the tack of 'When Telzey finishes growing up, she'll probably come to me willingly... after all, she does enjoy the work.'
      • Furthermore, Telzey has no rational motive to commit crime (she's from an extremely wealthy and powerful family and her every mundane need is already taken care of), and has consistently shown that she has no irrational motives to cause trouble and willingly brings any other trouble she finds to the attention of the authorities if she can't resolve it herself. Given how many other psis are causing trouble, if Telzey's case manager takes any other approach than 'It's not broken, so I ain't gonna fix it' with her case, then he's too stupid to live.
    • Councilman Mavig in "The Other Likeness" (not his only appearance). He thinks it's ridiculous that Humanity Is Infectious, but accepts the proof anyway.
  • Really Seven Hundred Years Old: Pilch, possibly to the point of being a Time Abyss.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: When Telzey & Trigger team up, the calmly cerebral and ruthless Telzey plays a classic blue oni to Trigger's cheerful, outgoing, and Hot-Blooded red oni.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money: Averted. Telzey's father is a highly wealthy and influential man, and her mother is on the Federation High Council... and vs. the forces she's been up against, both official and otherwise, neither one would have been able to do a damn thing to help.
    • Well, her dad comes in handy on one of her early cases by introducing her to the Kyth Detective Agency... and paying their bill.
      • Subverted in that Telzey is asking her father to call in the detectives to help her roommate Gonwil, not her -- and as Gonwil's trust fund manager, her father is professionally obligated to pay for necessary measures (such as hiring private security contractors vs. assassination attempts) anyway. In fact, its implied that Gonwil's family ends up with the bill.
  • Sexy Walk: Trigger apparently has one, referred to as the "Argee lilt."
  • Smart People Play Chess: Telzey Amberdon is a superpowered Teen Genius telepath, introduced in one story playing in the planetary championship games. (Made it to the semifinals, then had to drop out due to being interrupted by a case.)
  • Spank the Cutie: In Legacy, the threat of spanking is unsuccessfully used (by her allies, no less) to keep Trigger Argee from making escape attempts. Trigger later uses the same trick on a captured Villain with Good Publicity, and records the conversation for blackmail fodder. Yowls and all.
  • The Spymaster: Senior Commissioner Holati Tate
  • Stealth Expert: Corvin Wergard of the Kyth Agency
  • Sugary Malice: The default state of being for Telzey's Aunt Halet in "Novice".
  • Superweapon Surprise: In The Tuvela, alternate title The Demon Breed.
  • Taking You with Me: In The Demon Breed, Ticos Cay's collection of biological specimens was assembled with this and Superweapon Surprise in mind, if he ever outlived his usefulness to the alien invaders.
  • Teen Genius: Telzey starts out as one.
    • Pehanron College (which is specifically described as one of the Hub's most advanced universities, that does its best to recruit only prodigies of one kind or another) seems to have a procedure for finding and developing these. For example, Telzey is already most of the way through pre-law studies as a college undergraduate -- at the age of fifteen. Her roommate Gonwil, who is about to graduate with a degree in finance, is seventeen, and its implied that if she'd continued with her education she'd have a graduate degree before she was twenty. Neither of them is considered as anything unusual by their peers, implying that while not everyone on campus is their age (a later short story has a small group of Pehanron students on a wilderness outing, and the age range runs from early 20s on down to Telzey as the youngest) there are still a lot of teen geniuses running around that campus.
  • Tele Frag: In "Sleep No More", Telzey is stalked by a malicious hunting animal with the power to teleport. Upon realizing that its tracking her by her mental emissions and that it will catch up to and kill her the instant her mind-shield fails (which it will soon, as she can't stay conscious much longer), she telepathically hypnotizes herself to believe that her location is several hundred feet away from where it actually is and then lets the beast catch a glimpse. Sure enough, it teleports right onto her falsified position fix... which happens to be in the middle of a granite cliff. *BOOM*.
  • Touched by Vorlons: How Telzey gets her powers. More precisely, Telzey was born with her powers but didn't consciously realize she had them until telepathic contact with an alien race "unlocked" them for her. However, the "unlocking" procedure went on for longer than it was supposed to, meaning that she gained access to some powers most humans didn't or couldn't.
  • Transhuman Treachery: “The Machmen” claim they have this rather than brainwashing.
  • Uplifted Animal: Nile Etland's hunting otters.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Koll the Great Palach is a vicious speciesist, possibly insane even by his people's standards, and their longevity treatments have shrunken his body. He has a beautiful voice; one person thinks of it as "golden velvet," and another reflects that "It was a deep warm voice, rich and strong, which shouldn't be issuing from such a malevolent little entity."
  • World of Badass: This is a deliberate policy of the Federation government, which permits private wars to keep the people prepared for outside menaces. The epilogue of "The Demon Breed" has several powerful aliens conclude that they should actually defend humanity against other aliens, or else Mugging the Monster may piss off that very-prepared humanity against all aliens....
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: In Child of the Gods, Telzey is mind-controlled by another telepath to not use any of her higher powers without permission (as they could potentially be used to break her free from his control), follow every order he gives, and when in a situation not covered by orders to take actions only if they are in her controller's best interest. When the telepath is shot during a battle, Telzey reasons a) Without her full power and free will, she cannot win this battle b) Her controller is currently unable to give her orders and c) Losing this battle and letting him get killed is not in his best interest. Freed from her constraints, she proceeds to curbstomp the enemy mooks... and then goes on to break the controls, sedate her erstwhile 'handler' while giving him first aid, and finish resolving the rest of the crisis without him. By the time he wakes up, he's in a Psychology Service prison hospital.
  1. Within 30 seconds, the 'Tuvela' and her companion will be the only people alive in the room. Not bad for starting from an unarmed prisoner with a dozen guns aimed at her. Of course, her companion had set up a When Trees Attack Superweapon Surprise right under the noses of his captors. At least one of the guards was already dead before the quote was spoken.