The Ghost in the night

Walking down a alley, clad in black, a figure lurks in the shadows. He looks up into the darkness. "There's always someone there" he whispers. Quickly adjusting the package under his left arm, he thinks for a moment about what this small case contained. "Lies" flashed across his mind.

Far above him, lost in the darkness of a starless night, a shadow in the wind, watching but unseen, the ghost stalks his prey.

He was once a ghost, hidden in a secret world that few living men have heard of and fewer still have seen. In that time, he was a hunter of men, but now... he is something else. "No" He thought. "Once a ghost, always a ghost."

The man in black carrying lies, hears a sound, but doesn't turn to look. "I can't hide forever, I must help uncover these lies." He says under his breath, and curses the shadows that fell across his path.

He knows death has found him, and seeks to swoop down to take him away. "I've outwitted worse." He thinks to himself.

"I long to return to the land of light, to see those I love." He remembers the words to an old poem as even in his very thoughts there is an anguish that shudders through him.

"But this secret must not stay hidden."

Passing from the alley into the light he cuts through a large crowd gathered in the square. Standing at the foot of a mighty statue of some long dead hero there is someone speaking to the crowd in a raised voice, but he doesn't stop to hear the words.

"Lets see you find me in this mass of heat you pendejo," he says with a touch of arrogance in his voice.

His heart pounding and breathing heavy.

He was but a single life of untold billions, but at this very second his existence seemed far more important.

"There it is! I must hurry!" He thinks to himself as he sees the drop point.

Suddenly from behind he hears a disturbance in the crowd. Someone was no longer keeping hidden their intent to stop him from reaching his goal.

"The ghost gives chase in the open. Afraid to lose its prey I see." he says under his breath, giving a wry smile despite himself.

Across the square, sitting on a long wooden bench under two stone gargoyles that perched on the side of a great building was a man dressed in a perfectly pressed black and red Imperial navy uniform with scarlet edged gold epaulets on his shoulders, and golden aiguillettes draped across his chest. He seemed out of place in this bustling city square. He was too clean, too precise, a small island of military precision in a sea of imprecise humanity. The only thing out of place; a small silver chain hanging from his left chest pocket.

He reads a news tablet, with seemingly feigned interest in the events going on near him. All around him flowed a great mass of people some taking part in the local festival others simply waiting.

Near by a mother helped her son decide which flavor of ice cream he wanted from a vendor. Down by the street a young couple waited anxiously for a taxi barely able to restrain their affections. A little further down the bench an older couple simply sat watching Ballingrys tide ebb outward into the dark night and enjoying the cool breeze coming off that emerald tinted ocean. There was no angst in their movement, no naive understanding of a young life. No... the decades possibly centuries of life had long ago washed all that away. On a wealthy world you could never tell exactly how old someone was just by looking. An individual may look to be in his or her twenties but in actuality be many decades older. Advanced bio tech had long taken care of most natural illnesses and to an extent, even old age, but there was a limit to how much one could cheat mother nature.

"Just a little while longer now." the captain thinks while hiding his impatience. "Make the damned drop!" he muttered under his breath impatiently.

In that moment in an odd blur of movement, a figure stumbles by dropping something near the feet of the Captain. With an unnoticed kick it quickly disappears under the bench, yet another personal belonging lost in a public park. No one notices. The man vanishing into the sea of souls, gone as quickly as he appeared. The captain waits.

Several moments later a rather peculiar gentleman approached him.

"Excuse me captain, but you didn't happen to notice an unusually dressed man walk by earlier, or possibly which direction he may have went?"

"Playing dumb are we?" The Captain thought.

Even if this CSO agent did see anything, there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it. At least not here. Knocking off a rogue asset was one thing, picking a fight with the Imperial Navy was something entirely different.

"No, I'm afraid not," the Captain answered the agent. "I was rather involved in my news tab, the political satire columns always pull me in." he said with just the slightest hint of sarcasm.

The agent looked frustrated now obviously unhappy.

"Very well then, I apologize for the inconvenience sir. Now, if you'll excuse me." Bowing with all the dignity he could muster he quickly retreated.

The agent was agitated with himself now. The man in black had given him the slip, and now he was in danger of failing his mission if he hadn't already. Desperately the ghost searches, but it's too late, the prey is gone. Finally and begrudgingly he breaks communications silence.

"Phantom, how the hell did he know he was being tracked?" he says into his comlink hurriedly.

"You've lost him?" said an old voice through the channel.

"He must be here somewhere! I just need more time…" Agitation now becomes fear as the ghost's words trail off into nothingness

"We don't have more time, Shadow." The old voice answers.

"Why wasn't I informed that the target's drop off point was an Imperial officer?" Shadow fired back asked angrily. "That's enough! Return to the rendezvous point and await further instructions."

"Acknowledged." Said the ghost with a sigh that voiced his displeasure.

He then started making his way through the crowd casually, so as to not draw any attention, or rather any more of it, but something felt... wrong. Deep in his gut, he gets that sick feeling that screams "You're being watched!" by someone other than his masters. Soon he arrives at a public transport terminal, and while waiting for the access ramp to release for entry, he notes the arrival of several pedestrians and approaches the car, mingling with those around him in an attempt to blend in. There was nothing that set him apart visually, except perhaps that he may be a little overdressed for the warm weather on this world. He walks up the ramp staying close to nearby civilians, and as the doors to the tram car close behind him, he braces himself as a cold chill crawls up his augmented spine. He feels a shadow, a half seen shape in the corner of his eye that seems out of place. He turns, hand reaching for his weapon hidden beneath his heavy cloak, determined to not be taken by surprise. His weapon was set to kill and he knew the body could be quickly and seamlessly removed. A few memories molded here, something subtle added there. None of the people on this tram would know for sure what had transpired.

Suddenly someone bumped into him from the side and he quickly turned to face the person that he feared had gotten the drop on him and… It was just one of the other random passengers on the tram.

She was startled, frightened even. She could have sworn she hadn't touched him, yet there he was staring at her suspiciously as if she had committed some intolerable offence. She saw that he had one hand hidden beneath his coat as if reaching for something. A weapon maybe? Why would he need a weapon? Is he running from someone? On his face was a look of what must have been… fear? She realized now that he seemed to be more frightened than upset, as if he were being chased by some terrible monster.

"I'm so sorry." She blurted out entirely on impulse, but he didn't answer. "I didn't mean to startle you" She said as apologetically as possible, and yet again he did not answer. "I was just moving toward a less inhabited part of the tram, and must have ran into you."

"It's fine" He finally answered as his eyes darted around the tram, still trying to find what gave him that… feeling. After a few more seconds of visually searching the tram for the source of that sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, he found a place and sat down.

"Yes, it's quite alright" he said again, and managed a weak smile to try and alleviate some of the tension in the air.

She returned the gesture of kindness, and smiled in return, then continued passed the man that now seemed to have a demeanor of relief, and sat near the rear of the tram. Several minutes later he moved down to where the woman had sat, and took the seat across from her. He wasn't sure why he had perhaps it was her innocent demeanor, the way she smile or a basic human need to not always be alone.

"Sorry about that, miss…?"

"Oh, um… Klara" she said as she suppressed giggled to herself quietly. She hadn't expected the man to be friendly, let alone interested in conversation.

"My apologies Miss Klara. My name is Gorjiin"

"Oh it's okay. Nice to meet you Gorjiin. I was hoping I hadn't startled you too much. You seemed to be intently… concerned with something important" she said as delicately as she knew how.

"Oh it's nothing. Just hoping to get away from some merchants that were trying to get a quick sell. You know how persistent they can be."

"Well that's bullshit, you most be new here" She thought to herself. "Oh of course! Well it seems that you made the right choice to rush onto this tram. Doesn't seem to be anything after you in here."

He laughed despite the circumstances. It seemed this woman was obviously aware that his tale was untrue, but was more than willing to avoid stating the obvious. "What a rare quality in a person" he mused.

"How far are you going?" she asked

"Not far actually. Just about four blocks from Sanders Street." He said.

"Ah well I'm two stops after that. Looks like we'll get to chat for a bit" Klara said with an almost cheery tone to her voice.

"Indeed. There's nothing like meeting new people on a tram at night" he said, and then laughed.

When the transport finally arrived, Gorjiin stood, offered the kind women a few last words, and disembarked from the vehicle. He made his way to his apartment, not far from the tram stop. Once he entered he grabbed the bottle of whiskey from a counter made his way to the living room and found himself looking out of window from his fourth story apartment.

"Well tonight was a disaster and I fucked it up." he thought to himself. "But I can't shake that… feeling again."

There's was a noise from behind him. Something made a thumping sound. He turned quickly expecting… He only saw a tiny rodent scurrying under the couch. "I don't know what I'm expecting." He muttered.

"Really wish the agency would at least these make sure these places were clean before assignments" he said quietly to himself, and then breathed a sigh of relief.

"I'm at the rendezvous." he says into the comlink, and was answered with static.

"Phantom, do you copy?" he said, and that anxious feeling began to throb in his mind.

He turned to make his way into the office where his backup comlink was stored in a drawer, and then… something catches his eye to his right, something that he instantly recognized as quickly switched through the different visual settings for his augmented eyes. Suddenly all of his fears were realized. In a few lightning fast motions he reached for his weapon.

The ghost moved for his weapon faster than a normal man would even be able to follow, but it wasn't fast enough.

The nearly perfect form of a crystal cloak evaporated, and two hulking Navy Agents in full combat gear, and no doubt every combat augmentation that could be applied to the human anatomy, appeared in full stride to intercept the ghost from pulling his weapon. The first agent grabbed the ghost from behind wrenching him back by his shoulders, bone and alloy popped and cracked as a scream welled up is his agony. At the same time the other cyborg reach out with a humming blade, and separated the ghost's head from his shoulders silencing the cry before it could be heard with one clean strike. The two agents then placed the severed head into a "Ghost-box" that would preserve the head in stasis until they could retrieve the secrets that lie within then quickly made their way to the exit reactivating their crystal cloaks before they exited the room, disappearing into the night.

"Shadow do you read?" piped from the comlink that finally was receiving signals since the two Navy Agents had left. "Shadow, can you identify your hunters?" again there was silence, as the blood from the ghost's headless body began to pool on the floor.

"Shadow!" said another, much younger and more feminine voice this time, but still there was no response.

In a room lit only by the glow of various terminals, sat a man, his face invisible in the darkness.

"It seems we've just lost an agent…" He said in a resigned tone. "He got careless… and he payed for it." The Phantom said.

"Should we send another? We have several more within deployment range." said a young woman standing to his right.

"That won't be necessary, nor would it be prudent." Said the Phantom as a quizzical expression spread across the assistants face.

"The Navy has other plans for the time being, besides I doubt the sudden silencing of our agent is a mere coincidence." He paused for a moment. "No... hold off operations for now, lets see what our Navy friends are up to shall we?"

"And the mercs?" She asked worriedly. "Probably a loss as well. If they knew of one plan then they most certainly know of the other." The Phantom stated.

"Should we recall them? Or let that knot tie itself" She asked already knowing the answer. He smiled. "We can always buy more."