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

Etymology Excavation: sabotage

Etymology Excavation: sabotage

So, sabotage: what does it mean, and where does it come from?

I wrote a post recently about mercenary troops through the ages, and sabotage (raise your hand if you’re surprised) showed up.

To sabotage something, today, means to damage it, to render it unusable or in need of repairs, or to perform a task so badly as to make it pointless.

Examples of the word in use include:

  • We slashed the tyres to sabotage their transport.
  • The interruption completely sabotaged the flow of the class.

The most direct word origin is a French word, ‘sabot’, which means a wooden shoe, a clog. An expression common in my linguistic background was ‘clog up the works’, in the sense of slowing things down, which is almost certainly related. The term appear to date back to the early 1800s (in French),

Most people who’ve thought about the word ‘sabotage’ have a really alluring theory that it relates to abused French peasants tossing their sabots into the works of their machinery and causing shut-downs. Unfortunately, this has been pretty convincingly de-bunked in terms of actual history (but hang onto the thought for your writing – just because it’s not true here doesn’t mean something similar didn’t happen in your world-building).

The Online Etymology Dictionary and Grammarphobia hold that while there is a link to sabots, the actual reference is to workers moving slowly and clumsily in wooden shoes, and therefore being far less productive than those in leather shoes; industrial action (or inaction), if you will, rather than actual damage.

For another take on the topic of clogs doing some serious damage, check out Jackie Chan in ‘Who Am I?’ fighting with and in clogs.

The origins of the word, in this instance, may be of more interest to writers even than the word itself. As a reader, I find that it’s the small details in world-building that can really make a story click into place for me, and the idea behind sabotage, of a historical item of clothing that so hindered work as to have become proverbial, is something that could be built into almost any civilisation.

What is etymology, and why are you excavating it?

Etymology is like the archeology of a language (definition: the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history).

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…)

Cortiian Word of the Week: Faran

Cortiian Word of the Week: Faran

Spend more than five minutes with a group of Cortiians, and one of them will probably find themselves a cup of faran. It’s as ubiquitous as coffee on Earth, but probably tastes closer to a cross between chai and Spanish hot chocolate. Faran is more a bad habit than an addiction, given how difficult it is to addict a Cortiian to something, but it smells good, it tastes good, and it comes with enough of a stimulant jolt for even a Cortiian system to feel it. Plus, as you will have noticed if you’ve watched Anst in some discussions, a cup of faran is a great prop to hide your reactions behind if you happen to be cursed with an honest face.

Faran is made from the infused juice of the ground and boiled root of the ffor plant. Depending on how much you reduce the result, your drink will be more or less liquid. The way it’s usually drunk on a Cortiian Base, you could probably stand a knife up in it and it would take a few seconds to fall over.

The origins of ffor are unknown. By the time anyone bothered asking, it was spread across so many planets and stations that tracing it back would be tricky. For obvious reasons, it’s a popular drink with spacers, and it spread like a weed from wherever its point of origin was.

As it also grows like a weed, with a remarkable tolerance for a range of conditions, it follows new colonies with a minimum of fuss. Scientists across the galaxy have based adaptability studies on this plant, and several crops that would be otherwise unfeasible for stations or some colony worlds have been modified successfully to thrive.

Among its other uses, it’s a good ground cover, and will stabilise surfaces relatively quickly.

Faran, ladies and gents. Looks butt-ugly, but is basically indispensable for a range of reasons and may be one of the only things the Federated Planets Alliance and the Cortii agree on.

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.

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