Telepathy, empathy, kinesis, precognition

Telepathy, empathy, kinesis, precognition

Abilities aren’t just telepathy, empathy

Telepathy, empathy, kinesis, and precognition are chief among the so-called ‘mainline’ Abilities recognised by the IESRO. Because the IESRO regulates the most powerful Abilities across multiple species, their primary interest is the Abilities that manifest with recognisable consistency across species lines.

Among all species discovered to date, some form of empathy is the most common: the ability to communicate basic non-verbal concepts within a species and to others. Telepathy comes a close second, but because telepathy is primarily the ability to communicate complex concepts mentally, it can be hard to recognise cross-species as the underlying concepts required for it differ radically.

Kinesis is the easiest mainline ability to recognise in any species, entailing the ability to manipulate matter, but also one of the rarer ones, vying with precognition.

Precognition, the ability to predict the future, or at least to perceive the most likely turning of causality, is usually the rarest of the mainline Abilities, even if only by a fraction of a percent.

The IESRO recognises, but doesn’t regulate, a handful of other Abilities, many of them species-specific manifestations. Among the humanoid species, a couple of the more common unregulated Abilities are healers, who are mostly seen as a form of empath, and can diagnose injuries or diseases with varying degrees of accuracy, and some limited forms of kinesis, such as fire-starters.

The IESRO does not formally recognise, but will absolutely regulate on occasion, the ‘wild’ Abilities over a certain power level – Abilities that don’t precisely check a box for what can be done with them, but fall into potentially dangerous fields. Anst’s Ability to get around people’s mental defenses, most likely with its roots in empathy, would absolutely be such a case if it came formally to their attention.

Because a lot of the species in the early stages of their development, including humanoids, are uneasy with mental Abilities, wild Abilities are viewed with particular suspicion, as there’s less clarity around what they can do. While some may be worried about what a powerful telepath can pick from their brains (not a lot in most people’s heads worth the effort), or read past their vaunted poker faces with empathy, there is a general feeling that those are known and regulated hazards. Wild Abilities, well, who the hells knows?

Humanoids show a high incidence of some trace of Ability, but at this early stage in the species evolution, humanoid Abilities even eligible for IESRO registration are rare, and those not only eligible for registration but powerful enough to factor in as more than a blip in the lower registers are rarer yet.

A basic level of telepathy is a requirement in the Cortii for eligibility for derian training. Those without telepathy, or whose telepathy rating doesn’t reliably achieve the minimum required for active operations, become Base technicians – Instructors, in some cases, or medics, engineers, researchers, scientists. Those who achieve far enough over basic levels to achieve an IESRO rating are fully eligible for derian training, and stand a better than average chance of stopping a knife in the back: Cortiian deriani are generally highly trained and educated and well-travelled, but balance that with an ingrained tendency to be cautious rather than sorry.

Teaser for Rebels’ Bargain, the fifth in the Cortii series!

Teaser for Rebels’ Bargain, the fifth in the Cortii series!

Rebels’ Bargain, Chapter 1

“Much as it annoys me, I need your help to kill someone,” Maklin said calmly.

Khyria leant back in her console chair. “You’re the specialist with a century of kills to your name. What do you need, applause?”

“Bait,” Maklin said succinctly.

She gave him a view of a brilliant, calculating smile. “How much?”

Unexpectedly, he chuckled, uncoiling from her couch, and came to stand much too close, trapping her in the heavy chair, looking down at her. “You’ll do this one for free.” This close, his empathy rubbed against her mental defences like a warm blanket on a cold night, enticing her to relax into it, to let him in. “I’m hunting Evor Leistor.”

It would be very interesting to find out why, after decades of tolerating each others’ existence, Maklin had chosen tonight as the last night of Leistor’s life, and it seemed unlikely he was going to simply tell her. Khyria let her smile widen.

“You expect that you and I together will be more than he can resist?”

Maklin shrugged, propping a hip on the console desk. It didn’t move him noticeably out of her space, which was undoubtedly deliberate. “He’s been avoiding hareni gatherings, and most of his other usual haunts. I don’t feel like spending most of the next month beating him out of whichever conduit he’s gone to ground in. So, yes. I hope that word of you and I, together, will offer him a target he can’t resist.”

Mainstream, much to my surprise…

Mainstream, much to my surprise…

Mainstream, me?

Well, based on the review round Death is for the Living just came out of, yes, maybe?

I put Through the Hostage through Hidden Gems last September, and got a majority of 4- and 5-star reviews with the expected smattering of ‘confused!’, which is pretty much business as usual across the series. Death is for the Living went through the same process last month, and came back with much more of a ‘Marmite’ reaction (love it or loathe it). The reviews could be largely summarised as ‘Not what I expected – WTF?’ and ‘Not what I expected – cool!’.

I’m not sure if that’s because the sci-fi community tends to be more aligned with the ‘expect the unexpected’, whereas vampire UF readers have more defined expectations. It’s possible. Vampire hunters, based on a yacht, in the Caribbean, isn’t a plot I’ve come across before, and I’ve been reading sci-fi and various types of fantasy since I was six or seven.

On the other hand, it seems that based on those review rounds that by comparison to my urban fantasy, my sci-fi series is, in fact, mainstream. One day soon I’m sure I’ll be able to stop chortling hysterically about that concept. Maybe. My sense of humour has been described as malign, and since I took that as a compliment, that probably provides all necessary explanation.

I have a feeling that that reaction’s liable to remain status quo, in any case, as although my sci-fi series is biting hard right now, and I’ll probably be working through the next couple of planned books in that before I take the path less travelled again, the next urban fantasy story I have rattling around in the ‘condemned’ areas of my brain is about a half-siren, half-asshole (her description) acquisitions specialist on a quest for the peaches of immortality.

Cortii series – now as a box set

Cortii series – now as a box set

The Cortii series box set

Well, yes, this happened. I’ve been whining about the massive formatting job it entailed since sometime in February, if memory serves, and it is now finally, as of 11th May, out and done, at least on Amazon. At some point, when I have the energy, I’ll adapt it for D2D and Smashwords.

Robin Ludwig Design made me a beautiful box set graphic, which was the high point of the process, and the other bonus is that depending on the screen size, I’ve unlocked a personal trophy on my Amazon author page… you may have to actually scroll to see all my books in the upper display (yes, yes, I know, but how cool is that?).

So what’s in this box set that I’ve been whining about for months? Well, it’s the first four books in the series plus the Unaltered novella that insisted on getting written early this year. It’s a good stopping point, as book five is going to throw a bit of a monkey wrench into the series  plot arc, after which chaos, intrigue, and in-fighting will ensue. (After all, what else do you read the Cortii for???)

Unfortunately the box set is going to be digital-only, as the capacity to actually create printed box sets rests only in the hands of the traditional publishers, vanity presses and possibly Ingram Spark, and I work with none of the above. However, if you’ve been thinking you wanted to dip an expendable appendage into the world of the Cortii, and just hadn’t taken the plunge, you can grab the four-set for the price of two books.

I am currently working on book five in the series, which I’m hoping may publish around Christmas (again). In my defense, I published my first urban fantasy in December, a novella in March, and then got a completely new day job in April, so I haven’t been too unproductive this year.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the jacket teaser:

The Cortii are mercenaries, for hire to anyone who can afford their services.

Every government uses them; no single government can destroy them.

Violence is a highly saleable commodity, and the Cortii have been the galaxy’s final solution of choice for millennia. Among them is the unit known as Wildcat; junior in the rankings and already the subject of rumour.

Wildcat’s commander is Khyria Ilan; her commanders want her dead, but so far she and her command have survived against all the odds…

Character interview: Khyria Ilan

Character interview: Khyria Ilan

Character interview with Khyria Ilan

Remote location on the Canadian West coast, with a Thermos of fortified hot chocolate.

J C Steel: I heard you took an assignment with Irin. Since it was in the news – what was Central Worlds like?

Khyria Ilan: Crawling in security. And high-tech marketing. I’m still debugging my systems of adware.

JCS: What do you expect the fallout to be?

KI: For Irin? He wants it all to go away. He’s refreshingly uninterested in anything that doesn’t have four feet and a tail. He’s been named heir to one of the most influential families in Central Worlds, and the clause he insisted on was making it temporary until another heir could be found. For Wildcat? Officially, nothing. Unofficially…I fully expect to hear from Irin’s father, in some shape or form.

JCS: What was you impression of Irin’s father?

KI: Intelligent.

JCS: And?

KI: You are aware that I was there on assignment, not a holiday.

JCS: Your personal impressions of a man are that highly classified? The Councils must have a high opinion of your intuition.

KI: [laughs] I remember when that line worked better on you. Fine. Intelligent, nasty, and rich.

JCS: Khyria.

KI: If Irin didn’t have – what’s the phrase? Daddy issues? – it’s possible he might find his biological father less odious. Or not. My personal impression of Irian do Maseka do Harek, since you ask, is that he and Irin aren’t so very different on some levels. However, unlike Irin, do Harek’s been running a business empire out of Central Worlds all of his life. There are lines that Irin has never contemplated crossing that do Harek has had to compromise on.

JCS: I see. Did you ever find out how Cahan of the Golden Valleys managed to make getting you to Central Worlds the problem of do Harek? Or even how he got an audience with the man?

KI: No. On the other hand, the link between Irin Seviki and Wildcat Cortia is publicly documented: that ill-considered rebellion Irin’s planet staged was covered by every major newscast. Once you assume that the initial step of Cahan gaining access to do Harek was feasible, as it demonstrably was, the rest was a simple matter of playing the odds.

JCS: Things you call simple keep my costs for headache medication high. It must have been…odd, to see Cahan and Irin in the same room.

KI: Was that a question?

JCS: An invitation. If you don’t want to discuss Cahan, how about Warron?

KI: Competent. Intelligent enough, on Central Worlds, to focus on understanding what the security measures and the threats were, rather than freezing at the amount of the unknown. Cahan made a sensible decision  when he put him in as guard commander. He’s tough and adaptable.

JCS: High praise, from a Cortiian for a human.

KI: You’re fond of the saying that the exception proves the rule.

JCS: [grins] Ouch. Do you think Cahan’s planet is going to get its entry into the Federated Planets?

KI: That would be the positive outcome for them and for the FPA. Taking a planet back to bare earth and re-populating is expensive, not to mention hard to keep quiet. Cahan’s appearance on Central Worlds indicates that the likelihood is high.

JCS: That happen often?

KI: The eradication approach? Not that the Cortii is aware of. Perhaps twice in the last millennium.

JCS: What do you think about their entry into the FPA?

KI: I recommended it.

JCS: I know that. I didn’t ask you what you thought the most practical containment solution was.

KI: I’d sleep better if the FPA were to erase life on that planet, my personal respect for some of its population not withstanding. As it’s not likely to happen…I’ve done what I currently can.

JCS: Last question: do you think Irin’s going to hear from his father more often?

KI: Yes. Irian do Harek didn’t strike me as someone who lets go of anything useful easily.

Unaltered and writing Irin

Unaltered and writing Irin

Unaltered and Irin Seviki

Unaltered was an interesting story to write, not least because, six months prior, I had absolutely no intention of writing a novella in the Cortii series. To add to that, Unaltered is written third person, like the rest of the series, but usually when I write third person I write from several viewpoints, and this novella is written purely from Irin’s perspective.

Yes, I’m a pantser. No, there is no cure.

In terms of reading order, Unaltered is set between Elemental Conflict and the upcoming fifth book in the series. Irin himself is a key character in Fighting Shadows, where he and Khyria first meet while Khyria’s on a recon assignment. However, aside from the fact that Irin and Khyria have a pre-existing relationship, and Irin trusts Cortiian competence to keep his hide in one piece, Unaltered is pretty much a stand-alone.

Irin’s also interesting to write from because he’s a human involved with the Cortii, and most of the series is the Cortii written from a Cortiian’s perspective. Because of that, there are things about the Cortii that he doesn’t know, and, because he’s not a complete idiot, knows he’d prefer not to know.

He’s also had, at least from a Cortiian perspective, a very sheltered life, which means that writing action scenes from his PoV provided some unique challenges. To put that in perspective, Irin’s reaction to a laser waved at him is closer to ‘huh, those look smaller in the shows’, than ‘shoot back!’.

Irin himself is the principal manager, when he can’t talk a sibling or cousin into doing it, of Seviki Equines and Exotics, which is a business that breeds exotic pets, including horses, for the wealthy of Central Worlds. Living on Central Worlds, the first four planets of humanity, is seen as a status symbol by various humanoid cultures. Space on ancestral soil is therefore at a premium, which makes the ability to own and house a large pet, such as a horse, a very visible ‘my credit balance is bigger than yours’.

Irin doesn’t actually care about Central Worlds status symbols, beyond the number of zeroes he can fleece them for, and among the status symbols he really, truly doesn’t care about is the whole ‘genetic purity’ discussion. Because the vast majority of the Federated Planets Alliance, and all of the more recent humanoid governments, are space-faring, almost everyone has had some modification made to their genes to make life a little easier – a tweak to make them more comfortable in artificial gravity, a tweak to let them tolerate lower oxygen levels…the list goes on. On Central Worlds, therefore, and elsewhere, being able to prove that your genes are free of modification is an elite status symbol.

Unfortunately for Irin, an accident of birth means that he actually is genetically ‘pure’, not that he’d ever given it much thought before Unaltered.

Much to his annoyance, his genes make him a person of interest on Central Worlds, and when he finally runs out of denial and creative avoidance, Khyria Ilan is the genetically impure mercenary he trusts to watch his back while he tries to deal with the fallout.

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