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Character interview: Khyria Ilan

Character interview: Khyria Ilan

Character interview with Khyria Ilan

Remote location on the Canadian West coast, with a Thermos of fortified hot chocolate.

J C Steel: I heard you took an assignment with Irin. Since it was in the news – what was Central Worlds like?

Khyria Ilan: Crawling in security. And high-tech marketing. I’m still debugging my systems of adware.

JCS: What do you expect the fallout to be?

KI: For Irin? He wants it all to go away. He’s refreshingly uninterested in anything that doesn’t have four feet and a tail. He’s been named heir to one of the most influential families in Central Worlds, and the clause he insisted on was making it temporary until another heir could be found. For Wildcat? Officially, nothing. Unofficially…I fully expect to hear from Irin’s father, in some shape or form.

JCS: What was you impression of Irin’s father?

KI: Intelligent.

JCS: And?

KI: You are aware that I was there on assignment, not a holiday.

JCS: Your personal impressions of a man are that highly classified? The Councils must have a high opinion of your intuition.

KI: [laughs] I remember when that line worked better on you. Fine. Intelligent, nasty, and rich.

JCS: Khyria.

KI: If Irin didn’t have – what’s the phrase? Daddy issues? – it’s possible he might find his biological father less odious. Or not. My personal impression of Irian do Maseka do Harek, since you ask, is that he and Irin aren’t so very different on some levels. However, unlike Irin, do Harek’s been running a business empire out of Central Worlds all of his life. There are lines that Irin has never contemplated crossing that do Harek has had to compromise on.

JCS: I see. Did you ever find out how Cahan of the Golden Valleys managed to make getting you to Central Worlds the problem of do Harek? Or even how he got an audience with the man?

KI: No. On the other hand, the link between Irin Seviki and Wildcat Cortia is publicly documented: that ill-considered rebellion Irin’s planet staged was covered by every major newscast. Once you assume that the initial step of Cahan gaining access to do Harek was feasible, as it demonstrably was, the rest was a simple matter of playing the odds.

JCS: Things you call simple keep my costs for headache medication high. It must have been…odd, to see Cahan and Irin in the same room.

KI: Was that a question?

JCS: An invitation. If you don’t want to discuss Cahan, how about Warron?

KI: Competent. Intelligent enough, on Central Worlds, to focus on understanding what the security measures and the threats were, rather than freezing at the amount of the unknown. Cahan made a sensible decision  when he put him in as guard commander. He’s tough and adaptable.

JCS: High praise, from a Cortiian for a human.

KI: You’re fond of the saying that the exception proves the rule.

JCS: [grins] Ouch. Do you think Cahan’s planet is going to get its entry into the Federated Planets?

KI: That would be the positive outcome for them and for the FPA. Taking a planet back to bare earth and re-populating is expensive, not to mention hard to keep quiet. Cahan’s appearance on Central Worlds indicates that the likelihood is high.

JCS: That happen often?

KI: The eradication approach? Not that the Cortii is aware of. Perhaps twice in the last millennium.

JCS: What do you think about their entry into the FPA?

KI: I recommended it.

JCS: I know that. I didn’t ask you what you thought the most practical containment solution was.

KI: I’d sleep better if the FPA were to erase life on that planet, my personal respect for some of its population not withstanding. As it’s not likely to happen…I’ve done what I currently can.

JCS: Last question: do you think Irin’s going to hear from his father more often?

KI: Yes. Irian do Harek didn’t strike me as someone who lets go of anything useful easily.

Types of spaceship in the Cortii

Types of spaceship in the Cortii

So what types of spaceship are there in the Cortii?

Actually, there are quite a few types of spaceship maintained by a Base. While the Cortii are primarily infiltration and shock troops, most Bases maintain a sizeable fleet, for defence and to service their contracts.

Canta Class

The most common type is the Canta class. As their hull title suggests, they’re rated for five occupants and carry deepspace drives as well as in-system and atmosphere options. They’re heavily armed by humanoid standards for their size, and it shows in the living spaces: there’s a pilot’s cabin with space for a pilot and a co-pilot, five bunks, and a med-bay that’s essentially a sixth bunk with a lot of med-tech built in. Aside from that, at the further end of the bunk corridor, there’s a cross-section that leads to the sanitary unit (be flexible) on one side and the airlock on the other. On the aft wall, there’s a pair of holosuits for training and entertainment. Because the Canta class is rated for atmosphere, it’s a fairly basic delta-shape.

Fighter class

After the Canta class, there are two single-occupant hulls that serve very different purposes. One, the smallest of the Cortiian fleet, is really a cockpit on a whole lot of armament and a massive in-system drive. This is the fastest of the Cortiian ships, and because of its size, unless its drives are running full-bore, it doesn’t show up very well on most types of scanner even if it is being actively hunted. It is not deep-space capable, although it is just about atmosphere-capable. They can’t take a lot of damage, but because they’re almost impossible to pinpoint on weapons targeting and can out-accelerate most tracking estimates, it takes a lucky shot to damage one.

Scout class

The other single-occupancy hull type in the Cortii is known as a scout, and it does exactly what it says on the packet. It’s based on the same hull as the fighter, but with about a quarter of the armament and a deepspace drive and a lot of stealth tech instead. It also offers an extended cockpit that allows for a bunk unit and very basic sanitation behind the pilot and surveillance area. Because there’s a whole lot of active and passive jamming systems bolted onto a hull that’s close to impossible to catch on a scanner in the first place, these are the ship of choice when a Base needs eyes on something and doesn’t want anyone else to know about it. They have basic armament, but the main idea with this ship class is not to get caught in the first place.

Cortia class

These are the Cortiian equivalent of a battle platform, at about a quarter the size of the FPA equivalent. As the name suggests, they’re intended for a Cortia-unit, but can be handled short-term by as little as a single Canta. They are only borderline atmosphere-capable (as in, you’ll probably survive re-entry with a good pilot, but getting off again might be dicey), and can be configured differently for different missions. They’re designed to operate independently for extended periods of time, and can carry twenty fighters in their bays if need be. Because they’re capable of taking out anything up to and including a planet, they tend to induce anything from extreme respect to outright panic.

Short-haulers

There are some, but they’re the Cortiian-manufactured equivalent of load-haulers anywhere, and are mostly drives. If they’re going anywhere where they might conceivably run into danger, they’re escorted. The Cortii use an instantaneous transport system under treaty from the species that invented it, unlike most of humanoid space, so unless there’s some actual reason to send items via a shorthauler, by and large they’re sent through that system.

Accidents, unfriendly fire, and escape pods

….Cortiian ships do have them. All except for the fighter class, which simply doesn’t have space aboard and which requires a spacesuit to pilot, the bunks serve as the escape pods. They’re built as self-contained cryo units, and if jettisoned, will seal and put their occupant into deep-sleep. There’s enough of a drive to get them away from an exploding hull, and enough of a sensor array to look for breathable atmosphere. However, as they only broadcast to Cortiian receivers, and tend to explode if tampered with, getting picked up in one relies on a Cortiian ship being the in right place with its scanners turned up to full gain.

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.

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

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.

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