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.

Define ‘mercenary’

Define ‘mercenary’

Can the Cortii be called ‘mercenaries’?

Well, I had an interesting contention a little while back that no, a Cortiian couldn’t be called a mercenary, because the Cortii undergo intensive training and have a command structure, so I thought I would look up the question and see if I’d been basing my plot on a misunderstanding of the concept of a mercenary force.

Being British, when I’m looking for the absolute last word on the meaning of a word, I tend to head straight for the Oxford English Dictionary (this despite the fact that my father was a Cambridge man).

It turns out that the OED thinks that ‘mercenary’ means ‘a professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army’.

Well, the Cortii are certainly professional; one of the things my friend mentioned in their argument that the Cortii weren’t mercenaries was the length of their initial training. They can certainly be hired, at least provided someone has the credit to meet the Cortiian Councils’ expectations of payment, which, admittedly, aren’t minor. The Cortii are not always, let it be noted, hired to serve in someone else’s army, although that does happen not infrequently.

For a bit more clarification, I went and checked out a few more definitions. The Cambridge Dictionary defines a ‘mercenary’ as ‘a soldier who fights for any country or group that pays them’. See, I should have listened to my father and gone straight to Cambridge. That’s the Cortii concept in a nutshell.

Of course, you many note that none of these definitions have touched on whether or not mercenary forces should, or should not, have a command structure, or how formal it can be before the force is automatically defined as non-mercenary. They all seem focused on the concept of a professional in the trade of violence, available for hire.

Here’s another thought to add. Current jargon is tending to prefer the term ‘private military company’ over ‘mercenary’. Academi, or Blackwater as they were previously known, is one of the outfits commonly mentioned in this context. Private Military Companies are defined by  Wikipedia as ‘legally established enterprises that make a profit, by either providing services involving the potential exercise of [armed] force in a systematic way and by military means, and/or by the transfer of that potential to clients through training and other practices, such as logistics support, equipment procurement, and intelligence gathering’.

Funnily enough, that definition seems to share a lot of criteria with ‘mercenary’, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that manually-operated excavation equipment is probably still a shovel.

So, let’s go digging into the history. There’s a lot of interesting stories about mercenaries across multiple continents through the ages. Admittedly the general verdict is that they’re bastards, but since I can’t think of an instance where mercenaries went into a fight for themselves and won, it’s probably also fair to say they may not have had much of a hand in writing the histories.

 

Mercenary companies in history

The Varangian Guard

Varangian Guard

As early as 911, Varangians are mentioned as fighting as mercenaries for the Byzantines, as personal bodyguards to the Byzantine Emperors. The Varangians relied on a long axe as their main weapon, although they were often also skilled swordsmen or archers.

The Varangian Guard is mentioned also in ‘Njal’s Saga‘: “The last that was heard of him was, that he had wedded a wife there, and was captain over the Varangians, and stayed there till his death day.”

From Wikipedia.

The Pontifical Swiss Guard

Swiss Guard

The Pontifical Swiss Guard has its origins in the 15th century. Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484) had already made an alliance with the Old Swiss Confederacy and built barracks in Via Pellegrino after foreseeing the possibility of recruiting Swiss mercenaries.

From 1506 until 2016 there have been 35 commanders of the Swiss Guard serving 51 popes, with interruptions during 1527–1548.

From  Wikipedia.

The Ninja

Ninja

A ninja, or shinobi, was was a covert agent or mercenary in feudal Japan. The functions of the ninja included espionage, sabotage, infiltration, assassination, and guerrilla warfare. Antecedents of the ninja may have existed as early as the 14th century, and possibly in the 12th century (Heian or early Kamakura era).

The first specialized training began in the mid-15th century, when certain samurai families started to focus on covert warfare, including espionage and assassination.

From Wikipedia.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck

So, finally, I can’t say that I feel the Cortii fail to meet any of the vital criteria for being defined as mercenaries. Mercenary groups throughout history have submitted to an internal command structure, whether clan-based, like the ninja, or a recognizably military-style structure such as the Swiss Guard. The Cortii are professional, by most definitions of the term, and they are available, singly or in units, for hire. They do not fight on their own behalf (well, unless attacked – oddly, there’s a significant record gap on the topic of pacifist mercenary groups getting wiped out by attackers).

Ergo, I’m going to have to conclude that I am in fact on pretty solid ground calling the Cortii mercenaries.

(And now I’m going to go and read some of the source material from all those luvverly articles, both because it’s a best practice, and because research as a sci-fi writer is just so much damn fun…)

Cruising for vampires

Cruising for vampires

Sun, sails…and vampires

Incongruous trio of concepts. When I first floated (aha) the idea of a team of vampire hunters based on a yacht in the Caribbean, I frankly expected to get shot down in flames. It was one of those manuscripts I wrote to get out of writer’s block and because I was homesick, and never really expected to publish.

On the other hand, when the overwhelming reaction was ‘haha, neat, I’d tap that’, I thought it might be time to reconsider. (Contrary to many peoples’ belief, I can take feedback.)

Also, I have to confess, I did a lot more formal world-building on this one book that I generally do – possibly an offshoot of the homesick thing. That included exterior, interior, and side diagrams of the Artemis, the yacht that my team of vampire hunters is based on and charters to rich tourists as a cover. She’s a rather beautiful gaff-rigged schooner, and I’m not including the side elevations because honestly my drawing skills suck.

Technical talk: A schooner is basically any yacht where the mast at the front is shorter than the mast at the back.

Floating a plot

The interior plan, despite needing some touching up, is good enough to give you the idea. Artemis is 26 metres overall, or 85 feet for my US-based friends, which is pretty large as yachts go. She’s got quite a bit of interior space to play with (mixed blessing, because when the going gets rough, you’ve got further to fall), but it goes over great with tourists used to expensive hotels.

All that space is also helpful when you have multiple nefarious plots going on. This is key, because (take my word for it, having grown up on an approximately 14-metre [45 foot] yacht) it’s hard to conduct a successful plot and keep it secret. The complete impossibility of not hearing my mother playing Madam Butterfly on the stereo system in our aft cabin, for example, successfully put me off all types of classical music for life.

The other area where function defined form for my Artemis design was the rig. I needed at least six people (for reasons, read the book), and gaff rigs require a lot more crew than the more modern Bermuda rig. A big, classic gaff-rigged schooner was pretty much my perfect excuse for a big crew; something Artemis-size would need at least six people readily available and could easily excuse a few more if needed.

Technical talk: Gaff rig means sails with a spar (solid boom or strut) at both the bottom and the top of the canvas. Generally, a gaff rig will have both shorter masts and a great deal more canvas area per sail than a Bermuda rig.

Artemis interior plan

So, the Artemis: running nose to stern, you’ve got an anchor locker (beware, rotting seaweed smells), the forward cabin, the forward bathroom (or head as the Americans term it) one more single cabin, and then you’re at the double cabin shared by Sean and Cristina (and, later, Jean and Cristina).

You’ll note that the bathroom is about the size of your closet, and this is because to someone used to houses, most things on a boat will look small, or an odd shape. A yacht washroom will usually include a shower, and be designed in such a way that at least with the cupboards closed and things put away, you’re basically using the whole space as a shower closet. You’ll probably also have seen that a lot of the bunks look more like a slice of pie than the classic square or rectangular shape. Hopefully you’ve also taken a hard look at the shape of the hull and figured out why; boat interiors are designed to maximise space.

Aft of Cristina and Jean’s cabin is the main saloon, with the dining table portside and an actual bar starboard (see above, re. rich tourists – not that the occasional stiff drink isn’t a benefit to someone who hunts vampires). Aft again, and you’ve got the galley (kitchen) and chart table – when not in use for actual navigation, that gets pressed into use as a food prep area. Artemis‘s galley is pretty generous by yacht standards and includes the really vital bit of any well-designed yacht – lots of closable storage space (hatched-out bits).

Technical talk: Port means left, and starboard means right, as viewed looking forwards on a vessel.

Go aft again and you’re at the aft bathroom – slightly larger, and as Artemis is a luxury charter yacht in her spare time, there actually is a tub in this one. Bathtubs on yachts are unusual, partly because of space concerns, and also because they use a lot of water to fill. When you’re anchored, and the principal method of refilling your water tanks is to ferry water from shore in your dinghy, most people get very parsimonious with water use.

You’ve then got one more double cabin – usually Jean and Kim, or, later, Kim and Sean – and then a few more single cabins, two of which are usually occupied by Mary and Francis. Nobody’s in the ‘captain’s cabin’ on Artemis, because it gets used for charterers much too often to make it worth anyone’s while.

Inside, and in colour, Artemis would be a lot of varnished wood and dark fabrics. The galley counter would be something easy to clean, some variant on Formica, and the chart table would feature a lot of fancy gadgets on the bulkhead (read: wall) and a lot of shallow, flat draws underneath for storing charts. Because Jean learnt to sail in an era where ‘Here be monsters’ was considered a perfectly acceptable alternative to ‘No idea’, and Francis and Cristina both believe in back-ups, there’ll also be a sextant, chronometer, and a few really thick books.

And that’s the Artemis, folks – hope you enjoyed the tour.

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.

Indie Pride Day 2018

Indie Pride Day 2018

Welcome to Indie Pride Day!

It’s big, it’s noisy, it’s multi-genre…it’s Indie Pride Day 2018, when independent and small press authors come together together to make noise about independently-published books and their general awesomeness.

Some people start wrinkling their noses about now, and asking things like: “Indie? Really? Can I, you know, actually buy your stuff anywhere?” or “Those all have those covers done in crayon, right?”

So I thought, for Indie Pride Day, I’d feature a few indie authors I know who write good stuff (you know, use a spell-check, for example) and whose books are free or under $2.00 for Pride Day.

You can check out some quality indie books, find out just how easy they are to get hold of and how addictive they can be, and then, after Pride Day, you can do us again.

#IndieBooksBeSeen

Mourning Cloak (Taurin’s Chosen, Book 1)

By Rabia Gale

Get it for 99 cents on Smashwords

A failed hero. A woman turned into a demon. Their second chance.

Kato Vorsok lost everything the day he was defeated at the gates of his enemy’s stronghold. Deserted by his god, estranged from his people and living in exile, he wants nothing to do with his old life.

Until the night he encounters a wounded mourning cloak, a demon who can walk through walls and spear a man’s heart with a fingernail.

She knows who he is. She speaks his dead wife’s name. And she needs his help.

Kato failed once. Can he fight again—and win?

5 stars:Mourning Cloak presents a startling and richly imagined world to puzzle through and explore.

5 stars:Deep world building, compelling characters and a plot that gets you right at the beginning.

Sci-fi and Fantasy / Dark Fantasy

Sci-fi / military adventure

Through the Hostage: Book 1 in the Cortii Universe

By J. C. Steel

Get it FREE on Smashwords with coupon code SS100

Khyria Ilan is a commander in the Cortii, the most elite mercenary organisation in known space. With a past she can’t remember, and commanders who would love to see her dead, her future is likely to be short: her command faces their ultimate test to prove their right to survive.

When the odds are impossible, sometimes the only thing to do is play the game…

5 stars:A world full of danger, mistrust and political power.”

5 stars: The world-building was out of this world (both literally and figuratively) and full of conflict and betrayal and suspicion and hostility.”

Of the Bauble

By Debbie McGowan

Get it for 99 cents on Smashwords

When nineteen-year-old Kieran O’Sullivan takes a trip to the attic for the Christmas decorations, it proves to be an illuminating experience.

Box includes:
– a hapless but not altogether helpless student
– a pedantic supernatural being (or two, or…well, quite a few)
– a funky older sister
– the coolest mum in the world
– a naughty rescue bunny and her easily led feline sidekick
– an insightful ex-girlfriend
– twinkle lights
– tinsel
– baubles

* Warning – may contain traces of magic and a smidgeon of social commentary (hey, it’s a book by Debbie McGowan – did you expect anything else?) *

Of the Bauble is a young adult, biromantic/non-binary fantasy romance.

5 stars:I love good young adult literature, especially if the protagonist is LGBTQIA and it’s not full of drama centered on homophobia.

5 stars:A really lovely book, with great characters and excellent characterization.

Fantasy / Romance

Contemporary fiction / shorts

Leaps of Faith: A Collection of Short Stories

By A. M. Leibowitz

Get it for 99 cents on Amazon

From Christmas to Easter and from childhood through the end of life, here are ten interconnected stories revolving around one couple and the people who love them. These are tales of friendship, family, sensuality, and all the intimate moments that make them who they are, together and apart. The stories, while standalone, also fill in the gaps before and around the events in the novels in the Passing on Fatih series. Included: a youth embraces his identity; two women build a life together; a former rebellious teen finds her way; a pair of lovers explore each other’s minds and bodies; a man copes with loss and grief.

5 stars:Everyday life stories transformed into something extraordinary by characters who are not often given voice or respect in literature.

5 stars: There’s humour – even in the bleak moments – and there’s sexy times too.”

Pilot: The First in the Crew Chronicles Series

By C. H. Clepitt

Get it for 96 cents on Amazon

It’s not easy being different, but when you have good friends and a supportive family even the scariest criminals can be taken down. Join Crew, in the first of a series of short story length Sci Fi adventures from the author of The Book of Abisan.

5 stars:Loved this fun and clever sci-fi story.

5 stars:An un-gendered, half-alien, poker-playing main character in a space ship, who wins a sex-dust-emitting fairy. OMG, give me more!

Sci-fi / fantasy

Mystery / thriller

The Vestals Conspiracy: A Mystery Thriller Novella

By Tomasz Chrusciel

Get it for $1.73 on Amazon

Nina Monte, a renowned professor of ancient religions, receives a cryptic message. Her former mentor and a prominent Italian archaeologist, Filippo Oliveri, needs her to come to Rome—he believes only Nina is capable of understanding the true significance of his new discovery.

But when she finally reaches the excavation site, Oliveri is gone. Instead, Nina comes across a series of clues that somehow connect an ancient prophecy, a mystical ritual, and a masterpiece of Michelangelo himself. But soon the magnitude of the discovery lures those who will stop at nothing to solve the mystery and, once and for all, silence everyone who stands in their way.

5 stars:Great detail, believable characters and plot. A great lead into a new series which I shall look forward to reading.

5 stars: It’s a fast-paced whirlwind of a journey centered around an intriguing archaeological mystery.”

error: Content is protected !!

Pin It on Pinterest