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Nassau, Bahamas – where the hunters base

Nassau, Bahamas – where the hunters base

Nassau, Bahamas – base for the Artemis hunter team

At the beginning of Death is for the Living, the Artemis team is based out of Nassau, in the Bahamas. It’s a nice central location, and a thriving city, which provides supplies, and much-needed cover, as well as a large enough marina complex that a yacht moving in and out won’t attract much notice.

The Bahamas are actually very pretty, but offer very unusual sailing conditions. With shallow seabeds and low-lying islands, it’s not the first place I’d take a deep-keeled yacht like Artemis, but in terms of finding tourists for cover, it’s a popular destination – and, as we know, Artemis isn’t just there to look pretty.

Nassau, Bahamas mapFor those of you wondering where the hell the Bahamas are, exactly, here’s a map. You can find Nassau without too much trouble, due East of the tip of Florida and North of Santiago de Cuba.

You’ll see the whole area is a mess of little islands and sandbars, which makes for gorgeous blue-green water, really nervous watching of the depth-sounder, and a lot of white sand beaches.

Because vampire clans like a large, transient population, the Bahamas are a prime area for them. Violent crime in Nassau is high, meaning that a few disappearances don’t raise too many eyebrows. Yachts move through the Bahamas in numbers, especially in winter, and liveaboards vanish all the time – either intentionally dropping off the map, or through accidents.

Due to the presence of vampires in the Cays, Artemis was based there semi-permanently to watch and hunt, and was supplemented by the presence of the wise-woman, Mama Gale, a magic user of some power and influence – at least until a routine raid went startlingly sideways.

However, don’t let me put you off the Bahamas. They’re a lovely place to visit – especially in daylight.

Character interview: Jean Vignaud

Character interview: Jean Vignaud

Interview with Jean Vignaud

At a table in a hole-in-the-wall pub with a good view of the exits

J C Steel: I like the location.

Jean Vignaud: Try not to describe it too well, I would like to come back. My partner tells me you have some questions.

JCS: I heard you like Chinese take-out. How did you come across that?

JV: Take-out is one of my favourite things of this century. When I was born one had to travel to eat differently, and the experience was not always…positive. If you are trying to put the Frenchman at his ease by asking about food, be assured: I am quite relaxed.

JCS: In fact, you’re rolling a cigarette. You only do that when you think I’m going to ask questions you don’t want to answer, but I notice you never smoke them.

JV: Science has discovered many miracles. Among them, unfortunately, that smoking is not good for you. Not something for vampires to be concerned with, but for me, yes.

JCS: So there are some things that you miss about being a vampire?

JV: Ah. The end of the small talk. As the junkie misses his high, there are things I miss, having left the night. Cristina tells me you are fortunate, and have never encountered a vampire. Do you think, once this book publishes, that that happy state will continue?

JCS: I will quote you a great British author, Terry Pratchett: ‘…no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences.’

JV: A wise man.

JCS: I think so. Not a very popular definition of freedom in this day and age, as it happens. What’s your take on consequences and personal responsibility?

JV: I believe that my actions are my own. Who else should I blame? God?

JCS: You’re religious?

JV: I was raised a good Catholic, but according to that religion, vampires have no soul. Therefore, the only judge I need to satisfy is my own conscience.

JCS: Renouncing the chance to live forever sounds like a penance.

JV: …I fear I have not had enough rum to have that talk.

JCS: The first Pirates of the Caribbean. I understand you were an actual pirate in the Caribbean for a time.

JV: Pirates is such a generic term. In this day and age I would wear an expensive suit and gamble with other peoples’ money.

JCS: So you would equate stock-brokers with piracy?

JV: Let us say…in my day, if a man stole your money, the expectation was that you would try to kill him. Today, the expectation is that you elect him.

Chapter quotes – why add them?

Chapter quotes – why add them?

Why add chapter quotes? Where do you get your chapter quotes from? Aren’t chapter quotes hell to format?

Me, personally, I enjoy chapter quotes. Dorothy Dunnett, Seanan McGuire, and of course Frank Herbert are all awesome examples. If you’ve never read any of these authors, don’t tell me because I will get very judgy.

“Facts are a commonly accepted interpretation. Truth is a commonly argued fiction.” A Planet’s Philsophy, Ankara Zaneth (From book 8…yes, I’m way ahead of myself.)

They’re an insight into the world backdrop, a good laugh, or a context-setter, depending on what the author is doing with them and with their book. I put them in because, well, I’m a pure pantser. I don’t outline. I generally have no idea what my characters are likely to do once I’ve dropped them into a scene. I find out when I write it down. As you can imagine, therefore, I usually end up writing my chapter quotes well after the fact. They’re actually help me in the editing stage, because they act as a kind of focus mechanism for me when I’m editing a chapter. I can stare at the chapter quote for a bit when I get stuck, remember the awesome thing I was trying to do in that chapter, and return to hacking and slashing motivated and refocused. (Hah.) At least, that’s how it sometimes works.

“Modesty is like arsenic: safe only in small doses.” Sayings of the Wise, Olar Fantoml (From Fighting Shadows, book II in the Cortii series.)

As I kind of gave away in the last bit, I don’t get my chapter quotes from anywhere. I make them all up. My father, who had very serious tastes in most of his reading, and considered sci-fi to be an extreme form of escapism, never actually read any of my books – but he would steal them from my mother when she was reading them, and he would read my chapter quotes. I still regret that I never really asked him why, because I think the answer would have been interesting.

“Avoidance requires continuous effort. Confrontation merely requires standing still.” Universal Truths, Jahira Suran (From Elemental Conflict, book IV in the Cortii series.)

And yes, sometimes, depending on the platform, chapter quotes can indeed be hell to format. Kobo, for example, thinks my chapter quotes are a whole separate page unless I spend hours tickling it with an ostrich feather while immersing it in chocolate. (Kidding. I had to get much kinkier than that.)

“Training is not a substitute for experience; it is merely easier to survive.” Training of a Cortiian, Nadhiri Longar (Yeah, Book 8 again…working on it.)

As to what my chapter quotes are supposed to achieve other than providing a focal point for my edits – I mostly leave that up to the reader. If they’re something that you just skip on your way to the main events, no worries. If they make you grin, or start an interesting train of thought, then I’m happy. I frankly suspect most of mine actually come from Khyria’s choices of reading matter. Most of them are downright cynical and sound like the kinds of things she’d remember.

Character Interview: Captain Jannat Slainer, FPA Exploration Arm

Character Interview: Captain Jannat Slainer, FPA Exploration Arm

Debriefing / *Classified 1Nebula*: Captain Jannat Slainer, Exploration and Development branch

Officer in Charge: Captain, state your identification and rank for the record, please.

Captain Slainer: Jannat Slainer, ID FPA-ExDev 2380567, Scout Captain second class.

OIC: You understand and accept that this briefing, due to the nature of the information, will be classified to Nebula level, and discussion of any facts concerning your latest mission would constitute a level one breach of security resulting in loss of rank and privileges?

Capt. S: I do.

OIC: You and your crew were the initial contact with the humanoid population of Intelligent Life Found, 276/5346, Satellite IV. Per your report, your crew identified widespread biological and sociological anomalies resulting in a temporary withdrawal from the planet surface. Please elaborate in your own words.

Capt. S: There were no Abilities at large on the planet. No latent telepaths, none of the usual borderline empaths working with animals, no reports of people who see the dead or start fires. Given that the incidence of mental Abilities in standard deviations of humanoid is over 30%, we were concerned.

OIC: You also noted widespread presence of personal weaponry on the planet. Your report didn’t indicate that this was a primary concern.

Capt. S: It’s extremely common, in primitive cultures. Often seen as a symbol of sexual prowess.

OIC: Indeed. In any case, you and your crew briefed the contractor hired to…

Capt. S: Get shot at, sir?

OIC: …establish initial tolerance in the population. Yes. What were your impressions of this contractor?

Capt. S: …competent, sir.

OIC: I understand, Captain, that the Cortii are a sensitive subject. However, this briefing is not optional. Your full report, please.

Capt. S: *sighs* They sent a commander. Cortiora Khyria Ilan, of Wildcat Cortia, out of Corina Base. Black hair, green eyes, some scarring visible left cheek, both hands. A palm-width taller than I am, looked as if she weighed a little less. Intelligent, excellent memory, extremely high tolerance for stimulants. A very strong Ability. I’ve never met an IESRO-reg before, but quite possibly she would qualify. They put a double-squad of Interstellar Close Combat Specialists around her, and she looked…amused. She spent most of four days taunting them when she got bored.

OIC: And her interactions with your crew?

Capt. S: Professional. Clearly had to translate some of the questions she needed answering into terms we understood, but did it politely enough. Even though getting her full attention could be…powerful.

OIC: Elaborate.

Capt. S: Every so often, it felt as if she forgot to…hide what she was. Meeting her stare or drawing her attention could freeze any of us in our tracks. I put it down to her Abilities.

OIC: You think she was exerting Ability on you without your consent?

Capt. S: No.

OIC: Very well, Captain. You also attended her debriefing at the end of her mission on the surface. Your impressions of the Cortiora at that point, please.

Capt. S: She’d been severely injured, mentally and physically. She declined medical assistance, but permitted a medical scan as part of the debriefing. Beyond that, she presented as suffering from a severe level of Ability over-exertion.

OIC: You went on record earlier as stating that you believed her to be an Ability of unusual strength. What, in your estimation, would cause that level of injury?

Capt. S: Nothing I would survive meeting, sir. I have no idea. She implied that it had been caused during a meeting with the heads of the religious organisation of the planet. As I reported, this planet apparently has an Ability-backed religion based on Elemental symbolism. They had previously declined to meet with any of our people. The Cortiora reported that she was…invited to participate in a religious ritual that included the use of drugs.

OIC: You hesitated, Captain. Please clarify.

Capt. S: *pause* Bluntly, sir, I believe that they broke her. Somehow.

OIC: And yet you failed to put this observation on-record, Captain.

Capt. S: It has no basis in verifiable fact, sir. Instinct, if you like.

OIC: So your professional opinion is that the Cortiora lied to us during her debriefing.

Capt. S: No, sir. While I don’t doubt, given our relative rankings, that she could lie to me and hide it from me, I had no impression that anything she actually said was in any way untruthful.

OIC: So you were unaware of her official recommendation that the Interspecies Extra-Sensory Regulatory Organisation should be involved in the planet’s entry negotiations at the earliest opportunity?

Capt. S: I was not aware, sir.

OIC: What are you impressions of that recommendation?

Capt. S: That the Cortiora very likely is IESRO-level, and that she believes that the Abilities she encountered are a serious threat.

OIC: Indeed. Thank you, Captain.

*Notes on file indicate follow-up/urgent, regarding the psychological stability of Captain Jannat Slainer, Interviewing officer believed that at some level he felt obligation to the Cortiian operative.

 

Independent Extra-Sensory Regulatory Organisation

Independent Extra-Sensory Regulatory Organisation

What is the Independent Extra-Sensory Regulatory Organisation?

Perception is strength. ~IESRO doctrine

The Federated planets Alliance definition says that it’s ‘an organisation of allied species focussing on the training and control of certain categories of mentally divergent sentients’.

In actual fact, the Independent Extra-Sensory Regulatory Organisation, better known in humanoid space as the IESRO, is something more like a Star Chamber for entities gifted with mental Ability.

At the highest level, it’s controlled by the Satai, the most Ability-heavy species in civilised space. Because the Satai out-gun every other known species on a purely mental level, they can’t be lied to, and they can’t be evaded. This gives the IESRO the ability to absolutely guarantee the accuracy and ethics of anyone they register. The Satai took on this role voluntarily; in human terms, they have a species aversion to a lack of order, and they see abuse of mental Abilities as a disturbance in the energies of the universe.

On the opposite side of that, the IESRO is only concerned with Abilities powerful enough to merit their attention. While humanoid populations show an average 31% incidence of individuals with some discernible trace of Ability, one of the highest for any known species, only 0.8% of that demographic falls into a range to be eligible for IESRO registration. Compared to the Artan, where an average 8% of the population carry the genes for Ability but 28% of the entities showing Ability are eligible for registry, most humanoids don’t figure on the IESRO’s scan.

At the most basic level (and the only one the Satai are concerned with) an Ability is IESRO-level if they can interact with Abilities of the other species without having a stroke. The more official wording has it that ‘to be IESRO-eligible, an entity’s Abilities must be of a strength able to survive interaction with other species’. That’s the only criteria. As humans are fond of warning signs, the Federated Planets Alliance government has come up with an elaborate testing and ranking system to help humans with Ability determine how likely IESRO registration is to be fatal to them.

Practically speaking, the IESRO is also one of the highest legal authorities. An IESRO-registered and certified Ability’s reading of a public figure or an accused criminal is guaranteed to be accurate by the IESRO – because a registered Ability whose statement is disputed can be telepathically read at any time by a Satai. Oddly enough, very few public figures or accused criminals in humanoid space actually opt to have their minds read by and IESRO-registered humanoid.

Someone’s about to ask ‘quis custodiet‘, and the answer is that indeed, no-one aside from another Satai can guarantee the honesty of a Satai. However, while as a species they’re demonstrably capable of withholding information, several millennia of evidence indicates that when they do make a statement, it’s invariably been accurate.

While the field of comparative psychology struggles to fully understand and translate what makes other species react the way that they do, study indicates that for a Satai, the only known completely telepathic species, lying as humanoids know it may not be possible for them. While a Satai can understand and explain the concept of saying something that is not factually accurate, actually doing so themselves appears to beyond them on a hard-wired level.

The IESRO show up early on in Wildcat Cortia’s career. No-one’s entirely certain what their interest in the Cortia is, aside from its (very) uncharacteristic proportion of high-level Abilities, but out of the twenty-five riders originally in the unit, eight were IESRO-eligble, and most of them were registered, including Khyria herself.

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