A spectre of justice is haunting Hurston: part two

A spectre of justice is haunting Hurston: part two
Ghosts in a cave on a Hurston-owned moon / by Svalbard Sleeper District / licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Meet the people creating little flickers of light in the darkness of Stanton corporatocracy

/25 February 2954/

Sitting in a tiny, less-than-attractive hotel room in an indistinct district south of Area 11 on ArcCorp, you appreciate how these monstro-cities make their residents feel small and insignificant. Looking out from lower-level layers of towering megacities, these hotels were not built for anyone from higher echelons of the society even when they were first conceived. But now, after one upper stratum after another has been added above them during the top-heavy orientation of city-building over decades, they have become little more than a backdrop that helps notice the vertical depth of residential urban areas from above.

A chair, a small sofa, a narrow bed, a few desk spaces, some shelves on the wall and a modest cutout for a limited wardrobe are all crammed into these cheap rooms, where the "cheap" is more reflective of the quality than the price. I am not complaining though – the less comfortable the place you are staying, the less conspicuous your stay here. And I am not looking to catch any radar waves after the recent events. If there is one positive to the corporate ownership of this forsaken solar system, it is the relaxed manner in which their resentful attitude toward each other grants someone who has "transgressed" against one of them the ability to move into the jurisdiction of another and find if not a safe haven, then at least a local power that looks away from the visits of "radicals".

A reminder of my own transgressions is in this room with me. A beautiful little plant I received from a friend of A and E when she met me after last week's developments. The former two did not want to risk another absence from their warehouse shifts, but they sent messages of gratitude and this little present with their colleague. She told me the plant had been cared for by a worker who died from health complications a few months ago. I appreciate the symbolism of the gift, and the presence of this little planter life, as a reminder of a bit of justice we administered a week ago.

This plant was nurtured by an HD worker who recently passed away from health complications. It is now a reminder of all workers we are here to help / by Svalbard Sleeper District / licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

In the week since then, I have come to learn more about the Ghosts – collectively and individually. And I have also met their allies, including two people I have valued since our time together in a former group years ago. I asked them to put into words little insights into who they are, their journeys to the present, and their thoughts on the dynamic of power and injustice in the state we live under.

I have now brought all of their stories with me to this place, away from the eyes of the security offices of a certain corporation, to put them into writing and document what I see as the most promising emancipatory group in this solar system. Some of the names have been amended at their request, and some of them opted out of sharing more elaborate details on past events, for understandable reasons.

In my first round of conversations, I was in touch with those who became Ghosts out of fully ideological convictions. They either saw the inner workings of the state-corporate machine, and their outcomes for working-class people, early, or adopted their political viewpoints later in their careers or lives, and are now developing them in their work with GoA.

Profile: Ghost

"I come from the original colonists of Aberdeen before the UEE sold the system and its worlds to corporations. After the environmental destruction performed on Aberdeen by Hurston Dynamics, when the survivors remained in isolated communities underground, I ran away as a child, escaped to Hurston and used fake identities and illegal work to survive in the slums of Lorville. After working for Hurston Dynamics under a fake identity at 17, I fabricated another to join the UEEN and become a Citizen. I used my experience in the Navy to learn about the technology and tactics of the UEE e-warfare and communications capabilities. And I also had experience and skill in manipulating the corporate side when working on Lorville – stealing data, disappearing, getting a new name, etcetera.

After leaving service at 21, I returned to Aberdeen to discover my clan had been discovered and murdered by HD just weeks after I ran away as a child.

My judgements of the UEE and of the corporate state entities of Stanton had been long-established since childhood. However, these were immature in comparison to the technical grasp. How government works, how it can be manipulated, that sort of thing. These were all expanded into adulthood, especially while working on Lorville and during the UEEN service. [With the formation of GoA by myself and Scum] the more strangers we met and helped, the more stuck around and saw our cause as something worth fighting for. Disparate hearts and lonely wanderers who had either felt first-hand the crushing reality of life in the UEE, or saw it from a distance. Both types wanting it gone.

[When GoA was established to address the injustices of corporate persecution of indigenous Aberdeen communities] the survivors were small, scattered communities who luckily had access and the idea to utilise the mines and cave systems [on the moon]. For this reason, they are not a unified people, [but] GoA has done work to remedy this. We regularly provide food, medicine and more to the clans, however they are wary of outsiders and many are unapologetic about attacking anyone they see – not all bother to make a distinction between corporations mining their moon versus a worker. They don't know the difference. GoA tries to build highly secretive networks on Aberdeen among its cooperative clans to provide them the means to survive and fight back as needed.

The more difficult we make it for HD and the UEE to ignore [their issues in maintaining control of planets and moons here], the less able to hold onto their grip of the system they should have. Aberdeen, Hurston, Stanton – then we spread throughout the empire. Levski, Bremen, there are peoples living in caves across the whole of the empire, and once we prove to them that we can fight back, the UEE will have to change, or commit to a civil war while xeno factions outside the empire watch and either support the revolution or take advantage of the UEE giants beginning to stumble."

Profile: Kalagen

"I was in one of the first generations of civilians born in Shepard after it opened up to the rest of the Empire. I joined up with the military, marvelled by the hundreds of years of military history while at home. Majority of my time was spent in communications. Helping Marines and combat elements eliminate threats to the UEE. However, I started to piece together a disturbing picture. Rogue elements that were spotted by the big corporations usually had little to no resistance. Although I could never find definitive proof of wrong-doing during my service, those incidents formed the cracks that would eventually break me free from their propaganda.

Due to Castra's connection to Pyro, we would occasionally get reports from Stanton PMCs about high-value targets -- usually described as pirates or smugglers -- and command would always heed those reports. During those operations, a familiar pattern would occur: targets would be located approaching the Nyx Jump Point; forces would briefly engage the targets, with little to no resistance; the ships would be escorted and handed off to whichever Stanton PMC and Klescher representatives [were] waiting at the Pyro-Stanton Jump Point. Procedure dictated that OPCOM wouldn't listen in to any adversary comms, leaving that information for field commanders. The one time I was able to listen in to the "enemy" comms for one of these operations, I realised what was happening. These ships were those fleeing their contracts, or at least this one was. As they identified themselves as former Hurston workers, they pled for safe passage to Nyx, then surrendered as the field commander refused their request. I sadly wasn't prepared to record that transmission...

When I brought it up in the mess, a couple of my mates told me to shut up. As lady-luck decided, my CO would be conveniently behind me as I brought it up. I was then never assigned to those missions again, and my fellow comms operatives refused to speak to me about said missions further. I then had to assume that my military issued mobi was listening to me, as after I asked about said missions, I was assigned a lot more to zero-G cleaning duties.

Since my service awarded me Citizenship, I decided to explore the "western" part of the empire. I visited from Bremen to Terra, making sure to avoid the tourist traps and to mingle with the people. From those wide interactions I saw a pattern, a subjugation of the working classes by corporations. Only local forces – planetary governments or civilian defence groups like the one at Bremen – properly restricted the greed of the corporations, while the UEE aligned itself with corporate interests for the majority of these tales. It wasn't until I made my way to Levski that I pieced it all together.

From Nyx, I signed up for a smuggling crew to rescue Hurston workers. After everything I learned, that damned company always came up in the worst stories. Sadly, the first mission wasn't successful. After we picked up the workers, Hurston Security engaged us. We were able to jump to Aberdeen but they had a Mantis waiting for us there. The smuggling crew had a mole – a complete betrayal from within. During the commotion, none of us noticed that Aberdeen's comms-array was down. A battle broke out as GoA arrived to save us from HurSec. After that, GoA offered to escort us all back to Nyx under their protection. Once there, I worked up the courage to ask to join and have been with them since.

Currently I'm a Chief within the Ghosts, with my main responsibilities being operations and logistics. Occasionally planning internal training simulations and coordinating medium-scale operations with other members of administration. It is challenging at times due to the wide variety of people that we've gathered. Coordinating everyone while aligning with their assets and interests is quite the feat. However, the reward of helping people and working with my community greatly outweighs those struggles.

We are still fixated on Aberdeen, and Hurston as a whole. I hope that in the future, as we grow and make alliances, that we can extend our influence to Levski and Castra. Not only to find more allies, but to help more people break free from their corporate chains. [I support] forming links with the People's Alliance and then us[ing] that to help liberate people from corporate chains together with them – since [People's Alliance] were the first ones to open my eyes, I believe that their ideals and goals align with GoA. Since they publicly need to stay within their space, allying themselves with GoA can allow their resources to be used outside of Nyx against the corporations."

Profile: Paco

"I had a brief but exciting career in the Navy, lobbing torpedoes across the black. Shortly afterwards I found myself doing the very same thing for microTech, Crusader, ArcCorp... but not Hurston. Something about that whole planetary system didn't sit right with me. An entire habitable planet wrecked for the profit of one megacorporation, a megacity filled with slums next to golden statues of the city's founder, and the massive private prison – Klescher. The whole thing was kind of rotten.

[Now I am] looking forward to melting down all those pretty statues some day. [And overall] I detest the corrupt corporate justice system in Stanton and I wish to see it dismantled. My immediate future goals are to establish a base near Klescher to assist with aiding escaped innocent citizens."

Profile: Saracen

"I was born a second generation immigrant in Lorville after my father left a fading nomadic community and headed to the city for work. He married a scientist, taking her last name as an opportunity to increase chances of employment and worked in administration. After initially failing the entry exam into the UEEN to follow my sisters, I started work with Hurston Security. Throughout my years in HurSec, I witnessed too many brutal injustices and cases of corruption favouring the Hurston Dynamics aristocracy. I was eventually discharged after getting into a drawn-out investigation when I got into a physical altercation with a colleague with a history of abuse of power.

Spent the following years doing occasional personal transport and private security detail between maintaining my mother's old Corsair and caring for my father who had fallen ill. Before my father passed, he told me to use his inheritance and his spark of goodness to make a difference, as my sisters have. My mother showed her support by putting the Corsair in my name. I stayed with my father until the end, and was soon exploring Staton, adopting his moniker. Unfortunately, shortly I came to find that even though the injustices faced at home were some of the most inhumane in the system, this imbalance of power existed everywhere.

"The most comparable experience I had was my first visit to Area 18, which to me only looked [like] Lorville but with more showmanship. The mass commercialism only really covered up the very familliar tone of poverty in the underbelly of the city. 'It just goes to show much customers are willing to tolerate when there's a lot of neon', I thought to myself."

"For me, [GoA] is a found purpose. Exploring this 'verse on your own is exciting, but there's nothing lonelier than floating in infinity without people you hold close. Tribes are built in the absence of shared struggle, and when you find people who struggle against the same thing, there's no challenge and all reward. The only challenges are the ones you give yourself to get better at what you do! And we do that together when you're with us."

Profile: Scum

"[I come from] an average family who lived on Davian II, a planet called Cestulus. My hometown, New Arden, was largely known for trading and shipping, which is how my parents made their living. Through a string of good luck, calculated trade deals, and determination, they finally owned a Freelancer MAX. Owning one’s own ship, free and clear, was not an easy feat, something especially abnormal for regular citizens of Cestulus. As Cestulus’ economy continued to decline, many of my friends moved away, their parents leaving the planet in search of better lives. Those who did stay were relegated to illicit activities, primarily "disposal" services for criminal networks.

When my closest childhood friend was killed in a disposal mission gone wrong, I promised to make an honest life for myself. Commissioning into the UEE military as an anti-terrorism officer, I finally left Cestulus to become a small cog in a very large machine. While attached to squadrons specifically created to combat outlaw gangs and terror groups, I [was said to have excelled] at personnel management and communications. My squadron was credited with multiple high-visibility missions, painting the UEE in an admirable light. I was affecting real change, for good, or so I thought. The turning point for me was during a special operations mission gone awry.

I had thought that we were out to dismantle terrorist cells, ones who were out to destroy our ways of life. [There was a Caterpillar heading to Levski that was designated as a] special target for us, command saying that there were some radical dissenters on board carrying destructive weapons. We were to destroy everything on board and leave no trace of the Caterpillar. We honestly shouldn’t have boarded it, but we did. We found crates of people and general welfare stuffs -- food, medicine, etcetera. Yeah, there were some boxes of small arms, but far from anything devastating. My partners opened boxes and just fired into them, knowing there were civilians inside. I later learned that they had seen some events -- maltreatment of workers, HD officials committing unspeakable crimes towards others, just general things that could have brought heavy shame to the HD family conglomerate and information that would have strengthened the resolve of the insurrection. The killing of civilians, as it turned out, was not a once-off thing, this type of order was common. Additionally, as Levski is a barren rock, food, water, and medicine was incredibly important to them; weakening Levski was a top priority to my sector of the UEEN. This was inhumane at the least, and downright sadistic at worst.

[In GoA] I want to see more people who are looking to make a difference in the well-being of others. People who want a community where they can be safe, heard and seen. In turn, we will give them just that, while also giving them the sense of purpose of doing that same thing for others. I'm personally, really proud of the group we have facilitated here. It feels really great when people tell us that they actually feel at home here, safe and seen. That's kinda the thing that keeps me in this. They are all really great people, and Im happy to have them around."

Re-reading these memories, only now am I starting to really notice a pattern here – service for the state or corporate interests, followed by disillusionment, revelation and rebellion. The system keeps producing its own enemies. And whenever that has happened throughout history, the only remaining question was whether there were structures and organisations in place to capitalise on this exodus, and offer those looking for answers outside the status quo an outlet. Like this group.

Other Ghosts have less ideologically motivated backgrounds. Some of them, or their families, have had to prioritise the daily struggle for material survival over choosing sides in the class war. Others do not believe all corporate power can be classified as hostile to their interests by default. And still others are simply not interested in guiding their actions through these worldviews – preferring to use what they are good at into ensuring positive, immediate ends for their friends, colleagues and relatives.

Profile: CapyBearUh

"I served in UEE Navy for ten years as an engineer, service ended ten years ago. Signed on with Crusader and participated in their humanitarian efforts for a number of years, even went to flight school under them. Came to Stanton ten years ago because Crusader was dishing out bonuses to beef up their security forces in the system through their Crusader Cares initiative. Parted ways with Crusader a little over a year ago.

Then I encountered Ghost about seven months ago. I was doing some medical rescues and at some point was invited to a flight slash combat training session the were having. My memory is fuzzy on the specific details.

[Here in the org] everyone takes care of each other, it's real nice to have back up when it's needed, or advice about life. Everyone is treated with respect."

Profile: Cern

"I was born and raised on ArcCorp by parents dedicated to the corporate grind. So rather raised primarily by siblings, who kept me off the streets and forced me to go through my Equivalency and apply for Citizenship. With no desire to enter the corporate arena just to sit behind a desk, and a friend from Equivalency prep starting a contract with BlacJac Security, I followed suit. Picked up the callsign Cernunnos during a joint op with microTech security forces in the deep woods tracking down some low grade pirates.

Eventually, growing tired of merc life, I applied to work in the medical rescue field, where I served as a squad leader and trainer for new recruits. Thanks to a level head, sharp eyes, and plenty of combat experience, I excelled at it, and yet the boredom started to set in again. At the end of the day, all I was working for was a paycheck. Just traded a desk chair for a dropseat.

Working out of Everus Harbor, I ran into a former Medrunner who’d become a friend and left for new horizons. While catching up, this friend mentioned he’d hooked up with a new outfit. One that fought for a reason, and one where you could make good money for an honest day’s work. A few operations and interviews later, and I was reborn in the dust of Aberdeen as a Ghost. For now at least.

While I probably wouldn’t say I'm dedicated to the cause of emancipation for the Hurston worker, I spent a lotta time operating out of Hurston space and have seen the scars left by the restrictive power structure on those workers firsthand. So kicking Hurston Security ass is a fun time. More than personal belief in the cause though, I think I believe in the GoA leadership. I admire the passion and dedication that I see in the org. I'm happy to lend a hand to help someone who really cares about something and believes they’re doing right."

Profile: Junior

"I'm still trying to find my thing in the 'verse. I had just started my journey when I came across GoA, who really helped me get oriented. Coming up on Area 18, I was given my dad's ol' reliable Cutter. Faced many struggles when on the come-up, and decided to make it my goal to get loads and loads of credits, to be able to help my friends and those who are new to the 'verse, so they don't have to live through what I did.

I came across my first friend in the 'verse only a month into my journey, where I met ShadowGazer -- then known as Walker, which I still tend to call him to this day. Walker was also pretty new to the 'verse, and so we learned things together. Walker was in the GoA, and was a big fan of cargo hauling. He singlehandedly introduced cargo hauling in the 'verse to me. Back to the GoA, Walker eventually convinced me to join the community, where I would eventually apply and read the Dissenter's Handbook, which really gave me an idea for the standards that the GoA have had in place. This all happened in the first weeks of 2953.

When it comes to Aberdeen, and it's people, if there is injustice, and it is something that is important to me, or the org, I'll be there and will fight for it until the last breath. Ultimately, though, the org, it's people, and it's operations are what are first on my list. Now, if saving the people of Aberdeen and fighting big corporations is a part of that, then that's priority one, but if that is put on the back burner for something else, I will redirect my efforts towards that 'something else'."

These individuals are the latest example in history that while an entity with overwhelming resources may take over a territory and expel its inhabitants, it will face the much more difficult task of having to counter asymmetric, guerilla action in the aftermath / by Svalbard Sleeper District / licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
Profile: OHM

"I went into the corporate sector after my time in the Navy. But after seeing how some corporations treat people... Well, let's just say I didn't leave on the best of terms with my former employer.

With GoA, I've fallen into a bit of a quartermaster role, but tend to do a bit of everything. Tend to fly either a 315p or a 600i most often -- the 315 being black, and the 600i being a very dark grey.

I'm not native to Stanton, so have no dog in the Aberdeen-Hurston fight. However I do sympathise with [the GoA] cause."

Profile: Prancer

"Born to a pair of freelance box haulin' parents. Levski was a second home for me growing up; the Freelancer my parents used for most of the hauls was the first. I was in my late teens when my parents got caught up in a transportation incident on Hurston. Media called it an accident, but rumours spread that a few mid-level members of the United Workers of Hurston had been killed in it. The accident left my parents maimed, unable to continue working.

[Then I was] involved with a prison breakout just after having made contact with GoA. Several GoA members had just gone to Klescher on a trivial offence; I assisted with the rescue effort by picking them up, then clearing their crime stats.

[In the org] we're a bunch of rebels at heart. We're no loosely-knit org, either, growing members for the sake of members without finding a common core set of values. From what I've seen the Ghosts are good people. They care about each other and are democratic about how they handle large decisions. 'A rising tide raises all boats, not just the yachts', if you will."

Profile: Skeeter

"I grew up on a small moon called Daymar. The surrounding areas were once the home to small mining communities, and there was a small space station near Daymar called the Green Imperial Housing Exchange. This was the main trading port for bringing in basic provisions and for selling raw ore from the mining operations, and it contained cheap housing for traveling laborers or families looking for work.

The mining industry did not last long around Crusader, as the mines quickly ran dry. As with most impoverished communities, many people resorted to less honest work just to get by, and it was not long before criminals and gangs began to move in and take hold of the area. My father frequently ran cargo for the Nine Tails, but he never knew what he was hauling, and he never asked.

When I was about 16, my father was killed when he got caught up in some questionable dealings with some of his unsavoury business partners. A deal went south and my father was shot in the back as he tried to run away.

I was not a bad guy, and never particularly wanted to hurt anyone, but [after that incident] I would take whatever work I could good get, either ethical or less than ethical. Fortunately, I was clever and charming, and I could talk myself out of almost any ugly situation when it went south.

[At GoA the three of us with the Commander role -- Ghost, Scum and myself --] have different giftings and skillsets that are useful in different ways. I would say that we each bring our own unique experiences to the table and it mostly plays out naturally within the orgs internal operations. Mission ops are a little different, in that we typically take on similar roles to accomplish a specific task."

These life stories are only a small part of this overall group – I only had the opportunity to speak to the dozen or so Ghosts who joined me to fulfil my promise to A, E and their colleagues in Hurston factories. Many others work for other roles and purposes in the organisation.

What led me to being introduced to these people was an incident late last year, where their members came under fire from their then-ally organisation. These two, along with Redscar Nomads and ICARE, had formed an alliance. And I, being familiar with members of two of the four organisations, and approving of their perceived joint cause, had also joined their communications channels with the prospect of following them and covering their work. Many months – or maybe even over a year – went by without much taking place in those channels, as I was busy covering other groups, talking to individuals and penning critical articles on my past and present blogs. Then one day in the fall of 2953, the communications lines lit up with a heated debate over the incident. Without going into the details of what exactly happened, GoA and Redscar both left the alliance out of disagreement with the group that had opened fire on the former, and my inquiries during that debate – to find out where I would now be positioned in my affiliations between them – brought me to exchanging messages first with Ghost, then with Scum, later with their wider membership, and, ultimately in person, with the GoA squad that responded to my quest to help HD workers last week.

In their post-alliance existence, GoA are not alone in their quests – they maintain a close cooperation with Redscar. In their conversations with me, the Ghosts were clear in their appreciation for this joining of forces. Kalagen told me he was looking to join as many events with the allies as he could, and saw the joint operations as practically useful, while also appreciating the socialising aspect. "Humans only thrive when their communities thrive. These people are a part of GoA's community, so socialising and networking are crucial to maintaining that community," he said.

We have a lot of people out there who consider us villains due to our goals and ideology. Our community lets us defend ourselves physically and mentally from their attacks, so we must strive to maintain it.
- Kalagen
The network we have with other like-minded orgs is a strong bond, with the Redscar Nomads in particular being the folks I've interacted with the most. We've learnt a lot from each other on how we run things, the Redscars have always been very scalpel-efficient, and we excel with large scale organisation – something we've worked very hard to facilitate.
- Saracen
Our partners at Redscar are valuable allies, and I often wonder how things would have gone if I’d met the Nomads first. That aside, working with our allies is enriching, enjoyable, and [we keep] making individual connections that keep the overall organisations well-connected.
- Cern
Bob and Cass, two of the Redscar Nomads joining GoA in collective endeavours, photographed onboard Araminta Ross -- a vessel used by the Ghosts for smuggling people out of Klescher Rehabilitation Facility and moving refugees to safety / by Svalbard Sleeper District / licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

And the feeling is reciprocal. Two of the Redscar Nomads I've come across via GoA – Bob and Cass – are no strangers to me. We were members in a former organisation a few years ago, and as I spoke to the Ghosts over the past weeks, I also asked the two about their experiences with their ally group.

Cass was born on a Reclaimer owned and operated by her family in 2931. She says she is quite proud of the fact, even though she shares it with some other members of the Saunders clan. Nowadays, the clan's fleet of salvager, miner, hauler and other ships "drifts around the galaxy in clusters, looking for things to do," she told me.

"Some settle on stations and planets, but usually not for long; sooner or later they pick up and move on, either because of some gray area business dealings coming to a screeching halt for one reason or another, or just wanderlust taking over again," she noted in our past discussions on our backgrounds. "My family tried settling on Borea and running a scrapyard for a while, but times were lean, and I had to look for work elsewhere."

When I asked her about joint operations with GoA, she said she saw them as opportunities to "hang out with friends and help out". "Ninety percent of the time, I don’t even ask for a payout, unless I’m beyond broke. So I guess the practical benefit is socialising. I don’t join all of them [though], what with being a misanthrope hermit," she replied.

I thank the Ghosts and their allies for what they make possible, and consider the present received from workers earlier this week to belong to them just as much as it does to me.