Cortiian Word of the Week: harena

Cortiian Word of the Week: harena

Harena, pl. hareni

Officially, the hareni don’t exist.

Reliable rumour, however, indicates that there’s at least a few hareni on most Bases.

There have been hareni at least as long as there have been Cortii, maybe even longer. The word ‘harena’, in modern Cortiian, has some nasty connotations built in, but historically the meaning was very similar to ‘berserker’, and was used to refer to the best fighters, the ones that threw themselves into the front line of a fight.

Like any unofficial group on a Cortiian Base, they’re extremely secretive. Membership is invitation-only, and the only qualification for staying a harena is ability to stay alive. The hareni allow any training level to join, which makes it a risky gamble for junior deriani. Those that do survive, through luck or fighting ability, have the advantage of training with some of the best fighters on a Base at any rank, and exposure to a diverse range of fighting styles and techniques.

While the hareni are primarily infamous as a fighting group, and the majority seem to have a strong focus on fight skills, they’re also the Cortiian equivalent of gremlins, frequently blamed (or praised) for the more unexplainable casualties.

Although time in the haren can be considered worth the risks, there’s also the point that discovery is a guarantee of a slow and messy death at the hands of the akrushkari. The Councils of the magaii do not tolerate disobedience. The hareni are also, by best accounts, a set of violent mavericks and thrill-seekers. Some of their reputation, according to solid Base rumour, is absolutely honestly come by.

On Corina Base, because Khyria got sucked into the hareni before even achieving full rank, there are several hareni whose names show up regularly: Khyria, of course, but also Ashan Maklin, Evor Leistor, and later on, Tayin Vern. They make up an over-powered set of powerful allies and enemies, or occasionally heavily-armed neutrals, depending largely on context and the mathematics of personal profit and loss.

Cortiian Word of the Week: Akrushkar

Cortiian Word of the Week: Akrushkar

Akrushkari, pl. akrushkari

The akrushkari come up a lot in the books based on the Cortiian Base. They’re the Councils’ enforcers, bodyguards, and most of the rank and file of the Cortii know almost nothing about them beyond their function. Think of them as military police with a tendency to shoot first and ask questions never.

The word comes from old Cortiian, based on krushkar, or slave – one without free will. You’ll see the ‘a’ prefix in a lot of Cortiian words as well, like ‘asra’, ‘as’sri’atan’si’ – it’s a submission prefix, an acquiescence.

So essentially ‘akrushkar’ means a slave obedient to orders. In this case, slaves to the Councils that command the Cortii, who make a lot of despots look like underachievers. Because an akrushkar acts under the direct orders of the Councils, or, under a very limited set of circumstances, a Cortiora, they’re essentially untouchable – raising a hand to an akrushkar is defying the Councils, and the fact that their personal bodyguards are called slaves should give you an idea of the Councils’ views on disobedience.

To understand the akrushkari a little better, let’s take a side-trip and examine the Councils for moment. Two levels to this structure: Inner Council, all five of them, and Outer Council, traditionally twenty-five. Outer Council numbers, unlike Inner, can vary, although it’s rare.

If you’re on the ball, you’ll already have realised that new Council members, or magaii, must come from somewhere. The Councils recruit from the top units on their Bases; Cortii who’ve reached Blue rank or higher, and the Councils are only open, by invitation, to Cortiorai.

So if a Cortiora accepts a place on the Outer Council, what happens to their command? There are a lot of rumours on Cortiian Bases, but the information isn’t common knowledge, and new appointments to Council happen so rarely that most Cortiians simply don’t know.

However, the answer is simple and very practical: the Councils can’t risk having high-calibre mercenaries roaming around loose with a powerful link to a single magai. Some are offered the honour of a place among the akrushkari, and undergo intense telepathic conditioning as well as memory blocks. Others end up as fodder for the Councils’ experimental labs. A very few of the really lucky ones are assigned as solo agents somewhere that their Base needs long-term eyes. Some wind up as Instructors, also after having their memories edited. It ensures that no magai has ties to a serving unit, and that no Cortiian likely to ever spend time on Base again has any potential hold on a magai. What happens to the Cortiora who accepts a place on Council, of course, is something only known to the Councils.

No one has ever successfully infiltrated the Councils.

Personnel file: Misan Pereti

Personnel file: Misan Pereti

ID:          MP1534323

Cortia:  Wildcat

Canta:  Zeko

Rank:   Derian

Status: Active

Base:    Corina

Assignment record / Reverse chrono

Assigned / off-world (Manoran III): assigned with unit; top-level command As’ra’tan Cortia, FPA support, general duties

Assigned / [ENCRYPTED]

Misan Pereti

Khyria’s notes/encryptSCLVL-5

Misan Pereti was assigned to Wildcat Cortia at the formation of the unit. Basic rankings in telepathy [projective/receptive 3] and empathy [projective 2, receptive 3]. Assigned to Wildcat despite it, survived despite it.

Advanced piloting ratings, might be able to challenge me under some conditions; chief weakness is a tendency to overthink his tactics / over-analysis on some decisioning levels.

Advanced tactical training, game theory. He picked up some combat psych training to go with it, along with advanced field medical.

Average skill with most forms of hand-to-hand, blunt / edged / ranged (unless he’s in a ship, in which case his targeting skills are outstanding). Given that my enemies seem to mistake him for me in bad light, some work on his up-close-and-personal skills might prolong his life expectancy. Med file indicates better than average reflexes, might focus on blade work.

Carries all standard armament; also observed wrist knives, throwing stars at the belt, has been known to use heri-heri but doesn’t usually carry one.

If he carries a jammer, he doesn’t use it on Wildcat corridor, or not where I have eyes and ears set. Also tends to listen more than he talks in public; keeps an eclectic circle of contacts outside the Cortia. Some acquaintances in common (piloting).

Known alliances in Wildcat include Anst; Catterina, Hara – only the first seems to go beyond the casual physical.

Appearance

Height: 1.86 metres

Hair colour: Black

Eye colour: Gray

Build: Lean

Current injuries: None

Disciplinary record / Reverse chrono

Delinquency-scheduled duty: remedial training, 2 rotations

Unauthorised access-SCLVL: physical intervention

Unauthorised access-SCLVL: remedial training, 1 rotation

Gathering-unauthorised: remedial training, 1 rotation

Cortiian Word of the Week: Faran

Cortiian Word of the Week: Faran

Spend more than five minutes with a group of Cortiians, and one of them will probably find themselves a cup of faran. It’s as ubiquitous as coffee on Earth, but probably tastes closer to a cross between chai and Spanish hot chocolate. Faran is more a bad habit than an addiction, given how difficult it is to addict a Cortiian to something, but it smells good, it tastes good, and it comes with enough of a stimulant jolt for even a Cortiian system to feel it. Plus, as you will have noticed if you’ve watched Anst in some discussions, a cup of faran is a great prop to hide your reactions behind if you happen to be cursed with an honest face.

Faran is made from the infused juice of the ground and boiled root of the ffor plant. Depending on how much you reduce the result, your drink will be more or less liquid. The way it’s usually drunk on a Cortiian Base, you could probably stand a knife up in it and it would take a few seconds to fall over.

The origins of ffor are unknown. By the time anyone bothered asking, it was spread across so many planets and stations that tracing it back would be tricky. For obvious reasons, it’s a popular drink with spacers, and it spread like a weed from wherever its point of origin was.

As it also grows like a weed, with a remarkable tolerance for a range of conditions, it follows new colonies with a minimum of fuss. Scientists across the galaxy have based adaptability studies on this plant, and several crops that would be otherwise unfeasible for stations or some colony worlds have been modified successfully to thrive.

Among its other uses, it’s a good ground cover, and will stabilise surfaces relatively quickly.

Faran, ladies and gents. Looks butt-ugly, but is basically indispensable for a range of reasons and may be one of the only things the Federated Planets Alliance and the Cortii agree on.

Background to the Cortii

Background to the Cortii

The Cortii are mercenaries.

As we meet them in the Cortii series, they’re the descendants of a mercenary cult that has existed for more than eight millennia, since the pre-spaceflight era. As far as the humanoid population goes, the Cortii are deeply embedded in the popular consciousness.

‘War, therefore, is an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfill our will.’ ~Carl von Clausewitz

The Cortii have been bodyguards, armies, spies, and assassins. They’ve toppled governments, supported rebellions, and been hired to support – and prevent – some of the greatest crimes in humanoid history. They’re banned from active recruiting in Federated Planets Alliance space, the Nasdari government is wary of them, and the Atari ignore them unless or until popular opinion becomes vocal on the topic.

Beyond that, all the Cortiian fighters, the deriani, who are the only members of the force that the public has much to do with, have a mandatory minimum telepathic rating. Humanity as a species has a high percentage of members with some minimal extra-sensory talent, but that percentage is still a fraction of the general population, and there is widespread social distrust of those with some extra-sensory ability.

The majority of the humanoid governments embrace a peaceful ethos. FPA and Atari citizens, certainly in the central planets, see violence as anathema. However, at their borders, their armed forces are frequently engaged. Beyond that, information gathering, executive protection, and shipping security are still required, and the majority of central worlds citizens are unable to shake their early conditioning against violence. This means that the Cortii are, depending on cultural background and personal inclination, either a source of covert fascination, a menace to public security and personal privacy, or a necessary evil.

The Cortii are not the only mercenary force in space; there are a number, ranging from informal groups working highly localised missions to organisations that rival the Cortii in numbers, if not reach. Most of the other mercenary forces of note are drawn from frontier worlds and space outposts, and are by and large fully human, which the Cortii are not.

Every Cortiian, whether they meet the requirements to join the ranks of the deriani or not, is physically based on an artificially grown body. The historic intent was to have the Cortiian frontline force be based entirely on clone-type, replaceable fighters. However, despite several millennia of research, limitations on these artificially grown fighters remain. Most problematic from the point of view of the Cortii is a lack of ability to think beyond pre-defined strategy – or, to put it bluntly, they’re deficient in crazy.

The Councils of the magaii, the commanding elite of every Cortiian Base, therefore adapted the strategy. Rather than a fully artificial fighter, they use the artificially grown bodies to ensure that basic standards are met, but overlay those bodies with a partial genetic map and a personality and memory imprint from people showing a promising mix of attributes. Most of the time, the people from whom these imprints are taken are not aware it’s been done, and standard practice is to use children below the age of twelve, both because social conditioning has not yet been fully absorbed and because any stray memories of the process the donors may keep are more likely to be discounted. On rare occasions, the Cortii will accept adult volunteers, who are told that they will undergo genetic modification. However, the same technique is used on those adults, and the original bodies are disposed of.

The Cortii are additionally the only mercenary force also recognised as an independent government. Cortiians are not citizens of whichever spatial sector their Base happens to be sited in, and the Councils function entirely autonomously of local government. Attempts to bring Bases forcibly under the authority of the local government have historically never been met with success. Unsubstantiated rumour indicates that all Base Councils report to a central Council, but if this is the case, the secret of where this Council is housed is one of the best-kept in space.

The Cortii work on a set structure, which is the same on every Base. Each Base is commanded by an Inner Council, composed of five magaii, and an Outer Council of twenty-five. They are protected, and their orders are enforced, by a unit known as the akrushkari, whose numbers are variable but whose role is always the same. Directly beneath the Councils are unit commanders, or Cortiorai, each commanding a Cortia of twenty-four deriani. Cortii are further split into five sub-units known as Cantai, each under the orders of a Cantara, who reports directly to their Cortiora. Canta units can and do work independently of the rest of the Cortia for long periods of time, and solo assignments for individual deriani are not unknown.

For those who don’t meet the required standards to join the deriani, Cortiian Bases require specialists in everything from inorganic chemistry to psychology to information infrastructure. These specialists rarely leave their home Bases; however, Cortiian citizenship is irrevocable, and deserters are hunted down until death can be proved beyond all doubt. There is no way to resign from the Cortii.

Weapons in the Cortii

Weapons in the Cortii

What constitutes ‘weapons’ in the Cortii?

…well, damn near anything, in a pinch.

Personal loadout, for some reasons I hope will be obvious, isn’t something anyone usually makes public. No one who survives Cortiian basic training underestimates the value of surprise in a fight. However, there are some standard items. Uniform regulations dictate a hand laser and a stunner on the belt, so every Cortiian in an active unit will carry them, in addition to anything else.

A laser is a distance weapon

The regulation-issue hand laser is a Cortiian model, and the grip doubles as a basic ID system; no one who isn’t Cortiian can take the weapon and use it. That safety feature isn’t a lot of use on a Cortiian Base, but off one, it’s worth having. The weapon weighs about 500 grams, most of which is the power pack housed in the grip. The power pack is good for thirty single  shots under normal conditions, and can be recharged from heat, which is convenient for a belt weapon.

It can be used as a cutting tool, but only gives about five seconds’ worth; enough for a field amputation or to make basic door security seriously unhappy. It’s fairly short-range (shooting anything with it much further away than ten metres will lose you power and accuracy). For anything between zero and five metres, and not wearing a personal shield, it’s accurate and lethal. Current models, and anything issued in the last couple of decades, are shaped to be fired via a stud at the top of the grip depressed with the thumb.

You can’t stun with a laser

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t recalibrate a coherent beam of light to stun. For occasions where prisoners are a mission requirement, deriani also carry a stunner. Again, the most common models are Cortiian-issue, and the exact specifications aren’t available, but effectively, they use sonics as a short-term, short-range knockout.

The Cortiian models are more powerful than similar weapons in human space, mostly because Cortiians are both tricky and hard to put down. Turned on a standard human type, a Cortiian stunner will cause unconsciousness on the close range of an hour, and leave the target disoriented for some time after that. It may also cause nerve damage, and it will almost certainly do damage to the bones of the ear. Turned against a Cortiian, half an hour’s unconsciousness is about the best you can hope for, and an indirect shot or long distance will be result in less. The closer you are to your target when you shoot it, the more likely it is to result in disorientation. Five metres is about the stunner’s best effective range; slightly less in thin atmosphere, slightly more in denser environments.

Up close and personal

Because lasers can be disrupted by any of a range of personal shielding devices, most Cortiians also carry edged weapons.

Fighting knives of various designs are common, as are throwing knives. Longer blades are used, but less commonly, as they become increasingly hard to hide. Most deriani lean towards a dull finish, and dark alloys on their blades. By far the most common preference is for double-edged blades, but beyond that there are a number of options. A personal shield will not stop a blade; they move too slowly and the approach is wrong. You can expect any Cortiian to be a proficient knife-fighter; the majority will also be good with longer blades. The Cortii are fairly equally divided on the topic of custom blades; the main argument for is that they’re harder for someone else to turn against you, and the main argument against is that if you become too used to fighting with a custom design, you become less accustomed to using a knife you can take from anyone else or a standard dispenser.

Some deriani also carry blunt weapons; mostly these tend to be pocket-sized, as, again, a full-length staff tends to be noticed. As staves of various sizes are both common and easy to fabricate, however, expect most Cortiians to be able to use a staff weapon. On a Base, the most common blunt weapon variants tend to be worn across the knuckles, or a weighted or telescoping cosh of some kind. Variations on two heavy weights with a thin filament connecting them are also common; if the weights aren’t getting the job done, there’s always the chance of garroting your opponent.

Hand-to-hand

Every Cortiian will be proficient in empty-hand fighting. In this area, variation is key, and the more obscure the fighting style, the more likely you are to be able to come at an opponent in a way they don’t expect and will have to invent wildly to counter. If there can be said to be a common hobby in the Cortii, hand-to-hand is probably it. It will be practised daily as part of any deriani exercise routine, and most people will have at least two styles that they’re expert in, as well as a basic understanding of as many others as they can. It’s one of the areas where real-world experience is invaluable, because a holosuit can only throw up combinations that exist in its programming.

There are no rules

The Councils have no interest in intervening in casual violence. The Councils will step in only if the situation looks likely to cause expensive damage; anything else simply saves them the trouble of weeding out the unmotivated, the unintelligent, and the unskilled.

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