A Cortiian and an author sit on the side of a large fountain… (not the start of a bad joke)

J C Steel: Nice touch of paranoia.

Anst an Nabat: It’s a nice fountain. Care to tell me why I’m here?

JCS: I take it Khyria delegated.

AAN: She mentioned something about this being an assignment I should be able to handle alone.

JCS: Ouch. One unarmed human asking questions. Nice burn. I told her the people who read our stories like sound-bites. Interviews. You’re who turned up.

AAN: …Interviews. Not that I don’t enjoy your company, but what am I going to tell you that isn’t already in one of the books? I’ve lost count of how many indiscreet confessions you must be privy to by now.

JCS: It’s a thing. Not a thing I really understand, but what I understand about book marketing could go on the back of a postage stamp and leave lots of room. Try this one: what does Cantara rank mean, in the Cortii?

AAN: Seriously? A Cantara commands five riders, or a Canta. They report directly to the Cortiora when the whole Cortia is present, or operate independently when necessary.

JCS: And the Cortiora and Cortertia technically also command Cantai of their own, right? Any special roles within that structure?

AAN: Cortiora holds overall command. Cortertia is second in command, and traditionally responsible for information-gathering. It’s not a hard and fast rule. Third Cantara mostly takes responsibility for standard training and evaluations. Fourth Cantara tends to be the social one – generally something like this would be a Fourth Cantara’s problem. Fifth Cantara is flexible. Often mission requisitions, supplies, and stray bureaucracy.

JCS: What’s the oddest thing about Earth, to you, Anst?

AAN: Do you want the list alphabetically? … I assume you don’t mean the things it has in common with almost every other human-governed world I’ve seen. Probably the levels of environmental damage. Even the most over-populated Central Worlds would be surprised by the scale.

JCS: So you’d be even more surprised to hear that there’s a sizeable amount of the population that prefers to believe that man-made environmental damage is a myth.

AAN: Actually, denial is common human trait, so no, not particularly.

JCS: Favourite Earth food to eat?

AAN: Roquefort cheese. It’d be considered a biological hazard on more advanced worlds, so I can honestly say it’s got a unique taste.

JCS: …could you have picked something a little harder to spell? Not a question. Can you tell me something about your name?

AAN: It was computer-assigned when I was recruited, based on my ID code. It sounds Kihali, but Hejj’in’s a big swathe of space.

JCS: Any plans to go?

AAN: To Hejj’in? It’s a long way from FPA space. I’m more curious about Atari, if I were planning to spend a lot of a leave on a space liner.

JCS: Why Atari?

AAN: It’s not FPA space, there are some interesting stories about Atari worlds, I haven’t been there yet – pick one.

JCS: Favourite thing to do in your free time?

AAN: Be transported halfway across the galaxy for a chat about cheese.

JCS: …arsehole. Anything else?

AAN: I enjoy riding. Horses tend to be undemanding company.

JCS: Anyone taking bets yet on when or if someone’s going to make first move for an official First Contact on Earth?

AAN: I’m sure they are, but anyone with a standard lifespan isn’t likely to be around to collect. The Nasdari and the FPA are unusually unanimous on letting someone else step in on this planet.

JCS: What are the main concerns for an alien government?

AAN: There’s a list. Geo-political instability, if I had to guess, would be near the top. You’ve got a lot of little countries, and no real single place where a First Contact team could set down without being shot at, or where negotiations could begin without offending some other minor government. The shooting wouldn’t worry the Nasdari, but stopping it would take time and credits with no real return on investment in sight.

JCS: Right. Is anyone else likely to step in?

AAN: Not that we know of, but the universe is a big place. The more likely alternate scenario is that you bomb yourselves out of existence and both the FPA and the Nasdari blow thrusters trying to stake a claim first.

JCS: Hah. Yeah, that scenario is amassing more and more voters. What fact about the Cortii do you think would surprise most humans?

AAN: …sometimes I can go minutes at a time without planning how to kill them.

JCS: Funny. Try this one: what do you think about the way your character is written in the series?

AAN: I’m really not that narcissistic. You probably write me as more patient than I actually am.

JCS: OK, poor choice of question. What do you think of how the Cortii in general are written?

AAN: Given how very few facts we can let you actually publish, I’d say you’ve captured it with a certain nasty accuracy.

JCS: What do you think of writing, as an art form?

AAN: It’s not one I’m very familiar with. If anything I do ends up written down, it tends to be reports. Cortiians in general tend towards more physical art forms, if they practice one at all. I’m getting to the point where I can appreciate what you do, but reading as a pastime isn’t something I’d be likely to indulge in on Base.

JCS: Speaking of, I’m not too sure on interview protocol, but standard North American attention span is currently rated at about 6 seconds, so we’d better wrap this up.

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