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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