Oops! It appears that you have disabled your Javascript. In order for you to see this page as it is meant to appear, we ask that you please re-enable your Javascript!
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.

Cortiian Word of the Week: Derian

Cortiian Word of the Week: Derian

Derian, pl. deriani

‘Derian’ is a very old Cortiian word, and it literally means ‘rider’. In wider use, it’s a generic title for any Cortiian, rather like ‘citizen’ in the Federated Planets Alliance.

The legend goes something like this; back in pre-spaceflight history, all Cortiians fought from horseback. (Depending on how much of a conspiracy theorist you are, you might see connections to the Earth traditions about ‘nightmare’ and any number of the old Celtic legends about a mounted hunt.)

In actual point of fact, reliable rumour and Cortiian archives indicate that that’s a lovely piece of romanticism, and about what a Central Worlds historian would come up with.

The original Cortii were a mercenary troop (making them, incidentally, the longest-operating mercenary force in human space), and they fought from whichever angle gave them the best advantage. If the shock and awe approach was needed, they would probably have sent in a mounted charge. On the other hand, try sneaking into a fortification on horseback.

However, as spaceflight became increasingly part of everyday life, space, ironically, became a luxury. Overpopulation on the Central Worlds planets, before the advent of population-wide contraception (and the First Colonial Fleet) made keeping large animals of any kind expensive. Space on stations was less of a problem in itself, but the volume of clean air required provided its own constraint. Larger spaceships mass more, and mass is what a drive moves…you get the picture.

Horses became a rarity.

After the First Sector War, the human governments decided that putting some brakes on the Cortii would be a good idea, and forbade recruiting, denied Cortiians interstellar citizenship, and otherwise tried all and any methods short of direct confrontation (which had been proven not to work very well).

By this point, the Cortii had a range of footholds across humanoid space. They declared themselves a separate category of humanoid (see genetic adaptation), and managed to argue that into law as a basis for self-governance.

At about this point, the Cortiian Councils began pushing the use of horses again. As a self-governing sub-species with multiple interstellar settlements, they now had the additional cachet of being a taboo topic in polite society. A few highly visible actions including full mounted units set off a rash of artwork, interactive entertainment shows, and educational programming that did a much better job of recruitment than any formal campaign ever would have, and the Cortiian governing body (the Councils) chose ‘derian’ as their appellation of choice.

Interview with a Cortiian

Interview with a Cortiian

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.

Pin It on Pinterest