Character Interview: Irin Seviki

Character Interview: Irin Seviki

Interview with Irin Seviki

West stable block, Seviki Equines and Exotics – a ranch master and an author meet

Irin Seviki: …Ilan?

J C Steel: Not exactly. She said she was going to visit your horses.

IS: You’re Ilan’s mysterious friend?

JCS: Something like that. Nice to finally meet you in person. How did you meet Ilan?

IS: You aren’t going to tell me why Ilan set up this meeting, or who you are, are you?

JCS: No.

IS: Fine. In actual fact it was Ilan’s horse I wanted to meet. I didn’t realise until I’d already got myself into the situation that a Cortiian horse must have a Cortiian rider, somewhere. Happily, she decided not to shoot me.

JCS: I understand that most of the Federated Planets Alliance thinks Cortiians are dangerous. What do you think?

IS: …you have met Ilan? I know she’s dangerous. I also know she isn’t the sociopathic murderer that FPA propaganda tries to depict. She’s risked her life to save my family and my business. I count her a friend.

JCS: How would you describe her?

IS: If you see her on a horse, you realise your boots are dusty, you’re sitting like a sack of grain, and your horse probably trusts her more than you. I doubt she ever tells me more than half of what she’s actually thinking, and either half can give me nightmares, when she isn’t talking in circles for the pleasure of it.

JCS: Would you tell me a little about your business?

IS: I can give you a data packet.

JCS: …probably not compatible with my system.

IS: So I can assume you’re from somewhere Ilan wasn’t supposed to be. Interesting. All right. Seviki Equines and Exotics breeds and trains pets, mostly for the citizens of the Central Worlds. Our galaxy’s oldest and richest humanoids like to maintain a presence on ancestral soil, and space, as you can imagine, is at a premium. They also like to flaunt their wealth. I specialise in horses, with a sideline in smaller creatures. A Central Worlds citizen can be sure to attract attention if they have the space to maintain a horse for their pleasure.

JCS: Living status symbols.

IS: If you like. Do you ride?

JCS: Yes. Not, of course, as well as Ilan. What do you enjoy most about the business?

IS: I like animals. I enjoy the open spaces, and seeing the results when a new breed turns out exactly as I hoped. Do you know what percentage of FPA citizens have ever seen a horse in real life?

JCS: I’m sure your figures are more current. How do you come into contact with your clients?

IS: Less than point zero zero five of a percent, since I notice you didn’t ask. You’re quite a rarity, friend of Ilan. Actually, you’re unique. Everyone else she’s introduced me to has been a Cortiian, and you’re about a head shorter than any Cortiian I’ve met.

JCS: Mmm. Do you have to travel a lot for your business?

IS: Now I believe you two know each other; neither one of you will answer questions unless it suits you. I don’t travel unless I have no other choice, artificial gravity and my system don’t get on. I do have a couple of people who travel for me, when there’s no alternative to an in-person meeting. Most of my clients are through word of mouth, by this point, or have found our virtual presence.

JCS: How long has your family lived on this planet?

IS: We’ve been in business for three generations now, but my family colonised the planet. My mother’s father founded the stables. These days, I run it with as many of my cousins and siblings as are interested.

JCS: Thank you, Citizen. I appreciate your time.

IS: I’m not going to find out who you are, am I?

JCS: Ask Ilan.

IS: Or my horse…it might be more informative.

Who’d become a vampire hunter?

Who’d become a vampire hunter?

The ones who don’t stand by and do nothing

The crew of the Artemis are an eclectic bunch, but they have exactly one thing in common; they fight to save your ass from something you don’t even believe in.

Most people think that vampires are a European danger, bred in the slums of the Old World. It’s not a word commonly associated with the Caribbean. But near the Equator, day and night are predictable; darkness comes fast, and people come out after dark to enjoy the cooler air. It’s a vampire’s paradise – and before the land around the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico was divided by modern borders, it was better known as the Spanish Main.

Francis Hardy is Bahamian. Son and grandson of Islands fishermen, he’s lived on and near the water all his life, and he’s the public face of the Artemis when she’s ferrying rich tourists to see the beauties of the Bahamas.

Francis isn’t much given to talking about his past, or how he ended up leading a team of vampire hunters. If pressed, he’ll admit to having worked as the strongman in a floating circus when he was younger, but now he’s an old man in a profession that doesn’t generally lead to a pension.

  • Age: 48
  • Born: Commonwealth of the Bahamas
  • Height: 1.80 metres
  • Weight: 115 kg
  • Languages: English
  • Favourite food: Lamb curry
  • Never drinks: American beer
  • Music: Latin pop – Manu Chao is a top pick but then again so is Shakira
  • Quote: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself
  • Most often grumbles about: People who think the earth is flat
  • Personal quirk: Likes to know what’s in whatever he’s eating

Kim Marruci mixes a great cocktail, and she’s the favourite when the charterers want to learn to surf. She keeps a note in the log of how many bad pick up lines each charter group lays on her, and Francis calculates the ‘extras’ bill accordingly.

She was on an exchange year in California when she got news of of her brother’s death, and if he hadn’t left a package to be delivered to her in the event of his death, she would never have known how he died.

Rather than assuming he was doing drugs, or trying to sell it to a tabloid magazine, Kim walked into a hunter safehouse in Sint Maarten a week later and has never looked back.

  • Age: 24
  • Born: Italian Republic
  • Height: 1.69 metres
  • Weight: 64 kg
  • Languages: Italian, English
  • Favourite food: Sushi
  • Never drinks: Vodka
  • Music: Nordic heavy metal – Skalmold and Clickhaze are somewhere in all her playlists
  • Quote: “My eyes are up here.”
  • Most often grumbles about: Charterers
  • Personal quirk: Likes anything that smells of patchouli or sandalwood

Sean Kosinsky handles the barbecues on the beach and makes sure that the beer doesn’t stop flowing. Artemis is the first boat he’s ever dealt with smaller than a cruise liner, and learning to sail isn’t coming easily to him.

He was kidnapped out of his North Carolina college frat house when a clan master was looking for a new plaything, and only a very timely hunter raid on the shelter where he was being kept saved him from slavery or being Changed.

  • Age: 22
  • Born: United States of America
  • Height: 1.86 metres
  • Weight: 86 kg
  • Languages: US English
  • Favourite food: Poached eggs
  • Never drinks: Absinthe
  • Music: Anything from Mozart to Rachmaninoff
  • Quote: “Assuming direct control
  • Most often grumbles about: Boats
  • Personal quirk: Corrects everyone else’s log entries to US spelling

Mary Cox works as chef and tour administrator for Artemis‘s charter tours – and team medic the rest of the time.

She was studying medicine at Edinburgh University when she and a friend were attacked by a fledgling vampire on the way home one night. The hunters saved her life, but were too late for her friend. She and Francis have worked as a hunter team for over five years, which makes them the senior team in the area.

  • Age: 37
  • Born: Scotland, United Kingdom
  • Height: 1.58 metres
  • Weight: 57 kg
  • Languages: English
  • Favourite food: Hawaiian pizza
  • Never drinks: Whiskey
  • Music: Country and blues – Fats Domino is up often on her playlists
  • Quote: “When Robert Burns said ‘A man’s a man for a’that’, he’d never had to deal with charterers
  • Most often grumbles about: People grabbing plants and corals without checking if they’re poisonous
  • Personal quirk: Hates having to wear sunscreen

Jean Vignaud can handle Artemis under sail as well as Francis can, substitutes for Mary in the galley, and climbs the rigging the way most people climb the stairs to bed. Because he’s not a people person, he tends to work as a deckhand on cruises.

Because he rarely discusses anything more personal than the slogan on his T-shirt, the fact that he became a vampire during the reign of Charles IX of France isn’t commonly known. Why and how he chose to renounce being vampire is something even his partner doesn’t know, but his record on killing vampires is exceeded only by Francis’s.

  • Age: 463
  • Born: Kingdom of France
  • Height: 1.73 metres
  • Weight: 78 kg
  • Languages: Latin, French, Provencal, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, English
  • Favourite food: Ginger beef on Shanghai noodles
  • Never drinks: Smirnoff Ice
  • Music: Anything by Dire Straits
  • Quote: “Money for nothing is good.”
  • Most often grumbles about: Powerboats
  • Personal quirk: Rolls his own cigarettes but never usually smokes any of them

Cristina Perez-Batista can sail the Artemis, lead snorkelling tours, or teach charterers to surf behind a dinghy. She doesn’t like having to deal with people but fakes it well enough when she has to.

She jumped ship aged fourteen when her father decided to sail back to Europe, and lied about her age successfully enough to get jobs as crew for a few months before she was picked up ashore by enforcers under the aegis of a sub-clan of Changar. She managed to engineer her own escape and get far enough from where she was being held that Jean came across her before the enforcers did.

  • Age: Nearly 19
  • Born: Kingdom of Spain
  • Height: 1.66 metres
  • Weight: 65 kg
  • Languages: Spanish, English
  • Favourite food: Anything with seafood
  • Never drinks: Beer
  • Music: Anything but classical
  • Quote: “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”
  • Most often grumbles about: People on boats who know nothing about boats
  • Personal quirk: Hates wearing shoes
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.

Death is for the Living – excerpt

Death is for the Living – excerpt

Death is for the Living – Prologue

Everything was dark, but this time, she was sure she was awake. There was a damp breeze on her cheek, and a soft surface under her. By contrast, her body was burning. The air smelled of earth and rot and wet leaves, and it was silent except for her own raucous breathing.

She lay there until she began to wonder if it wasn’t another fever dream, and then flinched as a voice broke the silence a little way away.

“And she was the only one, you sure of that?” It was a woman’s voice, with an Islands accent, slow and unhurried; not one she had heard before.

There was a pause, one that reeked of reluctance, and a male voice replied. “Alone and unbound, and several kilometres from the house. I thought she must be a fledgling, but…” his voice trailed off, a faint French accent evocative enough that she could almost feel the shrug.

“Not yet,” the woman’s voice agreed, and her tone was darker, grimmer. “You think she has the strength for this fight, boy, or are we just saving trouble for later?”

“I think she will stop fighting when she is dead, this one,” the man’s voice said. There was rock-solid certainty under his tone, such utter surety that she wished, briefly, that she were that sure. Absent memories, vision shut down, and fever tearing through her, fighting seemed about as impossible as levering her eyelids open.

Her throat was bone-dry, and she longed for liquid even through her throat and neck felt as though they had been savaged. She couldn’t remember why that might be.

She was suddenly aware that there was a presence beside her, blocking the flow of air, and a hand clamped onto her shoulder. It triggered a flash of rage and thirst combined, and it was enough to let her move, to flinch away, swing her arm. She had almost bitten him, and couldn’t remember why that would be a bad idea.

He was long gone by the time her retaliation completely failed to connect, the cooling breeze again moving over her face. It made the thirst worse.

Through the pounding in her ears she heard his voice: “Tu vois. She fought; she did not bite.”

There was a rustle of cloth. “Indeed I see. Make sure it her struggle you see and not your own. If she survives she may not thank you for it.”

There was a longer pause, as her heartbeat slowed and the lancing pains from the movement quieted with it, and she wondered absently why he didn’t just walk out. His desire to do so was almost as thick in the room as the smell of the jungle.

“Then let her choose,” he said at last. “She has earnt that much, at least, non?”

Colonisation fleets: Successful, semi-successful, and completely unsuccessful

Colonisation fleets: Successful, semi-successful, and completely unsuccessful

Given the generally cold (and occasionally fissionable-hot) relationship between most of the humanoid governments and the Cortii, it may not be immediately obvious that there were Cortiian units on a lot of the early colony ships. And then, if you think about it a bit more…humanoid governments had been hiring Cortii to do their dirty work since long before the colonisation waves, and dealing with new things is inherently risky. Having some heavily-armed, survival-trained, and cynically-minded mercenaries aboard to drop out of the airlock first can pre-empt so many problems.

‘A testing environment solves many problems.’~Training of a Cortiian

Ships and stations

Initially, there were the interstellar drives – sub-lightspeed, because lightspeed, increase in mass to infinity, etc., etc. From whichever of the Central Worlds was the original homeworld (no one really wants to solve that argument), exploration ships took the long trip at somewhere between half and two-thirds of light-speed to other rocky planets in the original solar system, and set up bases, experimented with air scrubbing, water recycling, and food production until they got good at it, and finally took the sideways step into terraforming – with more and less successful results.

From there, with a lot of the basic experimentation done, colony ships were sent to nearby solar systems. Since absolutely no one really wants to settle once and for all which of the four Central Worlds was ‘the’ Central World, stick a finger in the hologram on whichever you like. Those ships also had Cortiians aboard.

At some point after that, researchers stopped banging their heads on trying to solve infinite mass versus propulsion, and had a breakthrough that resulted in point-to-point travel, or as it’s more commonly known, deepspace drive.

This resulted in the First Colonisation Fleet, which would fall firmly into the ‘unsuccessful’ category of colonisation attempts.

‘In the hands of a fool are all things foolish.’~Sayings of the Wise

The First Colonisation Fleet

Given primitive humanoids and their tendency to breed indiscriminately, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that a lot of the incentive behind the development of the original deepspace drive was to solve a massive overpopulation problem. Population-wide contraception actually preceded it by a few generations, but by that point all the Central Worlds were pretty much teetering on the point of not being able to support their populations.

With the advent of the deepspace drive came another massive incentive: hail conquering heroes, go forth and be granted as much surface space as you can possibly manage. The governments of the time didn’t need to resort to deportations – they had more volunteers than they could build hulls and suspension tanks for. Private initiatives sprang up across Central space, building deepspace ships and offering space aboard.

Records of the time, given the sheer numbers of parties involved, are contradictory, but somewhere between six hundred and thirteen hundred experimental ships vanished into deepspace over a period of a hundred years, each carrying several hundred to several thousand aboard.

Even some of these had Cortii aboard, due largely to hazard bonuses and pre-payment contracts. Even the healthiest culture of cynicism is soluble in enough credit.

However, given experimental drives and the fact that the numbers of ships leaving Central Space in every direction vastly exceeded the number of planets about which long-distance research and exploratory probes had more to say then ‘we’re pretty sure there is something there’, only a fraction of that First Colonial Fleet actually resulted in stable, high-tech colonies.

Miners and scout ships in remote locations still occasionally trip over drifting wrecks, and first contact teams have discovered several humanoid populations on outer-system planets with some interesting gaps in their fossil records, a really big impact crater, or stories of ships that carried wisdom from a distant land.

‘Coincidence is the crutch of optimism.’~Training of a Cortiian

The Second Colonial Expansion

…might fall into the semi-successful category. Much better controlled, with destinations that at least rated a definite maybe on being terraformable, or stable enough to support a station habitat, twenty systems were selected for the initial wave, reconnoitred on a detail level, and finally approved for colonisation.

Not to mention, the deepspace drive had had a couple more centuries of fine-tuning. All twenty ships made it, one got blown away by defences the probes had missed, two turned out to be station prospects rather than terraforming prospects, but overall it worked. Most of those twenty ships carried one or more Cortii aboard.

In the interest of accuracy, it should be noted that the defences the probes had missed were in fact Base Zero; the Cortii had a sizeable fleet of their own and substantially less bureaucracy. The Central Worlds government declined to believe that there was a Cortiian base already in the system, but their ship went in heavily armed nonetheless. In the event, not nearly heavily enough.

Those colonies, in turn, spread, and split over time into the various political factions that form the basis of current Cortiian employment – pardon me, today’s civilisation.

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