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"We Are Ghosts"

Updated: Mar 18, 2023

Thirty of them stood in neatly formed lines. Thirty of them, all dressed in the same attire that left them at the mercy of the room's chill. They were positioned far apart, too far to have the body heat of each other to comfort them. All they could do was clench their teeth as the cold gnawed at their skin. They couldn't shiver. They were being inspected, the judges of their fate prowling up and down the rows. None of them wanted to be picked. None of them wanted this life. But they knew what would happen if they disappointed. The life of a slave was life after all. The lodubyal ot loomed at the front, watching silently.

"Recruits! At attention!"

Istar snapped back to the present. She was in a room, but a much larger one currently occupied by about sixty people. They wore uniform clothing as well- the uniform of recruits in the new Orion Space Navy's military forces. This room was much warmer, and they were much closer as well. The group was separated only by a gap down the middle where the woman who had just spoken walked, making her way to the front. There she took up position, like the lodubyal ot of a fesin.

But this was no slavemaster. This was Tabadi Emeria, a highborn matriarch, the very pinnacle of Orion society. True Orion society that was; while the Orion Syndicate still controlled the central territories, they carried little of the original proud culture of the Orions. The matriarch's dress reflected her status; atop the officer's uniform she bore two large, decorated shoulderpads and a tall tiara upon her head. A sheathed dagger hung on her hip, adding to her impressive, upper echelon appearance. Behind this cleanly dressed woman followed three other Orions, one male and two female, all wearing the Delbaj (lieutenant) variant of the trooper uniform, which was more armoured and practical but at that rank also decorative.

"You all know who I am already," Emeria spoke again, her commanding voice resonating across the chamber. "Some of you have met me, others have heard of me. I am the matron of this program, our first and currently only special forces branch. Every military needs its elite: the Klingons have their Yan-Isleth, Starfleet has their MACOs. We have specialized soldiers, but they are just good warriors who have been given equipment suited to their skills. You will be different. You will not be a brute rushing into combat with heavy armour and big guns. You are Orion! You will move with finesse, strike with precision and crush our enemies with impunity!"

The cheer which ensued was greater than anything Istar had heard before. Sometimes after performances, she and her sisters had been given applause, but those were the grunts of tavern crawlers or at best a few offhand remarks from significant visitors. This was different. This was the cry of an army, a rally to battle, a call to be more than fesin ruri or shield-brothers and sisters, but family at heart. Here, dozens of voices joined as one, an Orion people unified not through force or fear, but through hope. Istar hadn't even made up her mind about what to do yet before she found herself joining this chorus, the strings of its glorious rhythm having ensnared her.

When the noise eventually lowered, the male lieutenant stepped forward, "I'm going to tell you up front- this won't be easy. As the Tabadi said, you're going to need to learn more than just how to hold a disruptor. This is a grueling regime. Everything you are will need to be adjusted, from the way you look at things, the way you move, and if you're an operative, even the way you breathe. When we're finished here, you're going to be smarter, faster, stronger, more alert. But not all of us are cut out for this."

"Thank you, Dorul. Don't let him scare you, you won't be seeing too much of him unless you make trouble," Emeria gave the crowd a smirk as she took central stage again. "Nor me, for that matter. You'll mostly be reporting to your trainers. That said, before I send you off, let me remind you of this."

"You are Ghosts," she continued after a brief pause. "You come from different backgrounds, different walks of life, different parts of the galaxy. But here, you must learn to work together. Our people have a tarnished reputation in the galaxy. Others now think of us as cutthroats, pirates, assassins, smugglers. Just as we must fight to put this behind us, you must strive to confront your own ghosts. Do not forget your past, for valuable lessons are to be learned there. Conquer it, carve it into your weapon. We will cast off what we have become and be what we are meant to be. Together we will usher forth a better future for all of us."

"All Operatives, follow Delbaj Vaness and all Operators, go with Delbaj Sishu."

The two women mentioned stepped forward, each taking one side of the room, and it suddenly struck Istar why they were divided this way. Half of them were Operatives, the Ghosts who made use of their physical and weapon prowess on the field, while the other half were Operators, who worked behind the scenes to manage the transporters. Together, they made a Ghost team, allowing the Operative to teleport to strategic locations, infiltrate enemy bases and ships, and beam out before anyone could act against them. Istar, who had been chosen for the program based on her movement skills as a dancer, was assigned to the Operatives. Both groups filed out neatly behind their respective trainers and were led out into the open courtyard.

Istar had been told the story of the training camp when she first visited with Tabadi Mysti, her matriarch and rescuer. Built into the side of Narris II's mountains, the inner facilities of the camp were originally part of a bunker complex meant to shelter OSN personnel from attack. Following the destruction of Narris II's shipyards by the elusive Branded Lady pirate group, the plans for a new shipyard included better fortifications which made the bunker obsolete. As a result, these grounds were reallocated to train ground troops as part of the rebuilding process.

The trainers led them across the courtyard to a block of medium-sized buildings, which Istar knew from her tour to be the living quarters. They gathered again in front of those, now with much more space between the two groups. Combined with the sounds of daily training, that is the background noises of hollering instructors, firing disruptors and chattering trainees, they could no longer hear anything from the other group, including what their respective trainers were saying.

Once all the Operative trainees were assembled, their trainer spoke, "My name is Vaness. I look after all the Operatives here, and I'm also the acrobatics instructor, so you'll be seeing me a lot, especially during the first few weeks when movement training is paramount. Alongside this, you'll be taking tactics classes with Haisran and learning to handle basic weapons with Taovenur, the Lethean. Once you advance far enough he'll start you on sniper weapons and you'll also learn to handle yourself in hand-to-hand with our resident Klingon. Neshe will make sure you can move quickly and be silent about it, but movement training never stops, which is why I'm your primary trainer."

"You heard what the Tabadi said about working together," she referred back to Emeria's speech from earlier. "You will have to learn to work cohesively as a unit. Most vital of all though, you will have to work with your Operator very, very closely. They are your other half. You can never do anything without them. You need to know them well enough to the point that you can communicate with them with no misunderstanding. A single error on the field can be the end of you. That is why you will live together from today on. Inevitably we'll lose Operatives on the field and the Operators will have to learn to work with a new one, but that's for them to worry about."

"In spite of the part about learning to work with different backgrounds, we've decided to ease the process by making carefully selected pairings. Each of you will be paired with someone that we think you're likely to get along with. I'm going to hand you your partners' names, your room assignments and your daily schedule. Classes begin tomorrow, go get some sleep and get to know your Operators."

She took the PADD and stared at it, not daring to look into the eyes of her new master. Another exchange. Another establishment to work in. A better life? She dreamed, but something within her yearned to make it reality one day...

Istar perched atop a bunk bed. It was one of many that lined both sides of the room. This was where they all slept. It was quite a few people sharing one room, but it wasn't too cramped, certainly a step up from the ship they had arrived in. Between the two rows of beds were some space to move, and in the centre sat a small table with two benches around which they could sit. They used it occasionally to play games. On one side of the room was the entrance, and on the other a narrow window that offered a glimpse into the stars beyond. She knew this had to be intentional. Without any hope one succumbs to despair, with too much one aspires for freedom. So all they were given was a glimmer of it.

Only three of them were in the room. Most had not finished their shifts yet. All of them sat on their respective beds. They had never been assigned any, but as one of the few things they had power over, they eagerly selected one to be their own and each clung to theirs like precious latinum. Here, the edges of the beds was a Neutral Zone, and they all knew not to cross over without invitation, Istar most of all. She was not born into this fesin. She wore a different brand and no matter what she tried she would never be their ruri. But they accepted her as a coworker and a friend, and that was good enough for her. As good as she was going to get, anyways.

So she chattered away.

"Oh, I know who you're talking about. The Nausicaan right? Always boasts about being some big-shot but just sleeps in the tavern all night."

"Yeah, him," Madis responded.

"I'm pretty sure he's just a vagabond," Dayna, the third girl, joined in.

"That's what I thought when I got here too," Istar responded. "But where does he get all his money from? I'm pretty sure he doesn't work on the station."

"I dunno, inheritance maybe?" Dayna speculated.

Istar laughed, "Inheritance? Who do you think he is, Betazoid nobility?"

"Actually, I hear he does work here," Madis spoke again.

"What do you think is job is, drinking the bar dry?" Istar quipped.

"No, people talk about these things...about him being an Eye."

"An Eye?" Dayna exclaimed. "You know they're just a myth, right?"

Istar remained silent, listening.

"Well how do you explain him coming out of the back room with three fancy-dressed Klingons? Or how the bouncers point those visitors his way and he disappears to have private chats with them?"

"Easy. He sells something illegal."

"Come on, nothing's illegal here. Information, Dayna, he deals information. It's the only thing he has to be this discreet about."

"Okay, fine, maybe he sells information. He's just an information broker. There's no such thing as Eyes."

"What is an Eye?" Istar finally spoke up again. "I mean, I know what eyes are, but what're you referring to in this case?"

"They're supposedly part of this legendary underworld intelligence network," Dayna explained. "It's a spacer's tale to scare folks from talking in public about secrets so others don't overhear it. Sure, there's real spies out there, the Syndicate probably has a whole army of them. But a network for hire by the highest bidder, that's complete razo."

"I've heard the word Eye being thrown around," Madis insisted. "I swear one of the Klingons said something that translated into it."

"You can't just-"

"Hey," Istar cut in. "If this network deal is real-"

"It's not."

"Assuming that they are and the Nausicaan's a part of it, should we really be talking about this right on the station where he works?"

"That's a fair point," Madis nodded and it was her and Dayna's turn to go quiet.

"See, you don't have to assert your view to the end to settle an argument," Istar smiled. "Sometimes you have to compromise halfway to-"

The door slid open with a loud hiss. The noise awoke Istar and she darted up straight on her bunk. She must have dozed off, and deep within her mind she replaced her new settings with the more familiar environment of her old fesin. The room she was in now was smaller but more spacious, possessing only a single bunk bed. On the far wall was instead an arrangement of computer terminals comprising of one desk interface long enough for two individuals and a medium-sized screen that hung above. The screen was too high for anyone working at the desk to see comfortably, and was thus meant to be viewed by someone on the bed.

Having regained awareness of her surroundings, Istar's gaze turned immediately to the door, and for a moment she thought an Orion male had entered. The new arrival sported an entirely shaved head with patches of green skin among the silvery plates that covered the cranium. Such cybernetic additions were often seen on male Orions who worked for the Syndicate and they served a variety of purposes, most of which Istar had never been privy to knowing. The first telltale sign that this was not a male was the new arrival's stature, notably shorter and smaller than the hulking males of the species. Then, Istar noticed the other bodily features, and she could not help but wonder about this girl's story.

She started with something simple, though.

"Hi. I'm Istar. I presume you're the Operator I'm going to be working with?"

"I am," the girl opened her mouth to speak, but her lips did not move as the words formed. When they reached Istar's ears, the slight echo behind the sound became clear. Somehow, she was not speaking with her tongue, but instead the sound emanated, already fully formed from within the back of her throat.

Istar noted this curiosity but continued with the introductory queries, "Do you have a name?"

"Le," she simply responded.

"Le? The word for one?"


"Since when did the Syndicate assign numbers? Even dubyal have names."

"I am not Syndicate."


A silence ensued where both of them simply stared awkwardly. Or more appropriately, Istar stared awkwardly while 'Le' maintained her gaze with no hint of emotion. Her large eyes focused on Istar save for the occasional blink, but even these appeared mechanical, as if her eyelids opened and closed at calculated intervals. She never glanced away, as if expectantly waiting for something.

Istar finally broke the silence, "So, you wanna talk about it?"

"No," the echo effect seemed to solidify the absoluteness of her single word even more than the tone already did.

"We're going to have to work together, y'know? We have to talk about...something."

"When there is a mission to discuss, we will discuss the mission."

"That's it? And the rest of the time we'll just sit here and brood?" Istar sighed when she got no response after a few seconds, "You sound like a Vulcan."

"I am Orion."

"That was a...nevermind. Look, I understand there's things you don't want to talk about. We've all been through a lot before getting here, to the new Orion civilization. We don't have to jump right into the bad things, in fact we don't have to talk about those at all. But you've got to start somewhere, you can't just avoid me. We have to know each other for this to work, that's what they said. They assigned us together, so I've got to be the best option for you in this place. I was born dubyal too. Maybe we're not too different."

"You have the luxury of being born," Le replied coldly.

"What does that mean?" Istar gave her a confused look, repeating her inquiry when she again went unanswered. "Hey! What does that mean?"

"Lessons begin tomorrow. If we rest now, we should still be able to obtain 1.5 hours of REM sleep."

"I got some rest when I was waiting. You didn't answer my..." Istar's voice faded as she watched Le slide onto the bottom bunk. By the end of her second sentence, the other Orion had already disappeared entirely beneath Istar's mattress. Sighing again, she swung her legs back onto the bed and laid back, her mind still racing as she tried to make sense of her mysterious partner.

One thing was for sure: this was going to be an interesting partnership...

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