Through the Hostage – what’s in a name?

Through the Hostage – what’s in a name?

Always shoot the hostage

There have been books where I had to agonise over the title, and ask for help, and toss coins, and read the cards…Through the Hostage wasn’t one of them.

The title was inspired by an old, old Keanu Reeves film, ‘Speed’, where Keanu is working as an American police officer. Near the beginning of the film, his partner’s being held up by the bad guy with a gun to his head, and the partner keeps on mouthing ‘Shoot the hostage!’. In the end, Keanu’s character does just that, and much drama and manly distress ensues.

The concept seemed very appropriate for the first book in the Cortii series. Jack Connagh is the human hostage, held on a Cortiian Base, his only real protection the fact that an alien species has some very powerful leverage over the Councils of the magaii, and those aliens want him alive.

However, given that the magaii are violently allergic to being blackmailed, and that Jack is in the keeping of Khyria’s trainee unit, whose chances of surviving to full Cortia rank get slimmer every day, the chances that someone’s going to shoot him are pretty high. ‘Through the hostage’ seemed uniquely appropriate.

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.

Corina (Kein System, III)

Corina (Kein System, III)

Confidential report, Corina (Kein III)

Kein (system 29-Y-54) is a mainline star with an estimated 9 billion-year viable lifespan remaining. Its system includes ten planets and two asteroid belts; third planet, in the green zone for humanoid life, was cleared for First Wave colonization, but no trace of the original colony was ever found. Second Wave expansion was successful with minimal adjustment. Amino structure is friendly, and indigenous life was carbon-based. Minimal terraforming required, gravity registers as 1.3 Standard, atmospheric mix requires intervention in 9.8% of standard humanoids.

Registered humanoid population at time of this report: 1.1 billion. Cortiian population: unknown.

Cortiian Base

The planet of Corina (Kein III) is of interest to the committee. It is home to one of the terrestrial Cortiian Bases, one of the closest Cortiian outposts to Central Worlds. As such, various efforts at rapprochement have been made, with notable lack of success. The Cortiian Councils extend their condolences on our losses through diplomatic channels.

Earliest records of this Base’s existence date back to the founding of the colony. The Cortiian Councils made no objection to the arrival of colonists; their territory is well-defined, agreed under planetary contract [file:29Y54/3-00001ct], and frequently patrolled. Remote scanning from space indicates the approximate location of the Base within that territory, but neither instrumentation nor independent research has narrowed Base location sufficiently for detail work. Three valleys of suitable size and stability have been proposed. Efforts are ongoing to confirm the site.

Cortiian territory spans an extensive region in the Equatorial zone of the planet, and is comprised of mountains (-382 metres to +7867 metres elevation range). Vegetation to the treeline is tropical jungle and undergrowth. Lower elevations include surface water and swamps. Highest elevations include minimal glaciation (0.12% planetary glaciation). Volcanic activity in the area is negligible, but seismic activity is common.

Observation indicates that this Base is one of the larger ones on record, with an estimated population of between 35 and 60 thousand.

Reconnaissance

Trespassers are found and turned back within minutes of the border area, despite all efforts. Based on recorded approaches (variance/actual of -/+ 4%), 0.6% of those trespassing on Cortiian territory do not return. Of those, 0.02% have their Federation citizenship cancelled within a month of their arrival on Cortiian territory. We are forced to assume voluntary recruitment.

In-atmosphere surveillance goes dark at the border, regardless of hardening technique employed. Efforts are ongoing.

Space-based surveillance is limited to a narrow window, as the Councils operate a geo-synch station in orbit over the Base. Approach is denied on a formal and informal level. Scans indicate that the lower two-thirds (63% of the structure) are derelict, but infiltration via this route has been unsuccessful. Upper third is heavily armed and sees frequent traffic, in system and out; theorised that some of this may be supplies for the Base. Precise shipment volumes unknown.

Requests for assistance in the immediate area are responded to promptly by Cortiian ships, usually with an escort of fighter hulls. Falsified details on these hails have been met with aggression (file: 29Y54/3GS-843AST). Mission repair files indicate that the original reported damage to the hull precisely matched the eventual repairs required.

Miscellaneous

Known units operating from Corina include (list is not exhaustive):

  • Alzan Cortia: Commander Evor Leistor
  • As’ra’tan Cortia: Commander Senja Ventiva
  • Emin Cortia: Commander Alsik id Merya
  • Ghen Cortia: Commander Baera Dalth
  • Me’s’an Cortia: Commander Verali Quha
  • Ratha Cortia: Commander Teran Monik
  • Wildcat Cortia: Commander Khyria Ilan
  • Zebrani Cortia: Commander Ashan Maklin
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

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