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The Friendly Ghosts

For a while, I've been doing some side jobs. The pay isn't great, but it's a nice distraction from the boring ship repairs. And, there's always some small bonus at the end -- a nanite injection that boosts my strength, or a weapon I can sell.

But, to be honest, these side jobs are also freaking me out a little. Or more than a little, occasionally. Sometimes, I just help people repair stuff, or find some things that they lost. But sometimes, I sneak up on, and -steal- take some items, and bring them to somebody who can use them more than the original owner.

The funny thing, it's always the same group of people; sometimes I take from one, and bring the weapon or so to another; and a segment or two later, I steal from second person, and bring them to first. So it all evens out in the end, and all in all, I did nothing wrong, right?

But, here's the creepy part: Occasionally, I sneak up on, say, Aeris, and manage to snatch a diamond walking stick. And then, cool as a glacier, Aeris turns to me. And I nearly pissed my pants, because getting in the way of an explosion expert is never a good idea. And Aeris smiles, congratulates me to a job well done, hands me some extra credits, turns on the heel, and walks out.

I stood there, dumbfounded, caught in the act, with the just stolen walking stick in one hand, and the credits in the other, and wondered what was going on in Aeris' head. Mind blown.

You might think these are just a bunch of eccentric people passing their time this way, but it gets weirder! When I travel to another station, and try to find similar side jobs, who do I discover? The same crew! They are always there, always looking completely at home, no signs of recent travels. I checked the public shuttles, the immigration office, the docks, everything -- they leave no trace. None at all!

So, I have two hypothesis: either they have clones on every station, and activated them before dying (highly illegal!), or they are holograms, created by some pre-Catastrophe AI that has infiltrated all our computer systems.

Whatever it is, I'm nearly certain they just do what they do to mess with my mind.

Am I going mad? Help me, fellow travelers!

Comments

  1. You're not mad, moritz. Or if you are, then I am too. I've seen them everywhere, same as you. Always the same people, always the same clothing, always the same attitude, always the same assignments.

    I'm pretty sure they're not ghosts, either. Not only have plenty of other people seen them--sometimes all I have to do to find one of them is ask somebody passing by--but they register in my CORETECHS. A pre-Catastrophe AI messing with us all via hologram is an interesting theory, but ultimately I don't buy that one either, for a few reasons:

    1. I've physically touched them, and the objects they carry. They're real.
    2. If it were just an AI trying to fool us into believing these were real people, the AI wouldn't overlook the public shuttles, the immigration office, the docks, etc.
    3. An AI powerful enough to maintain such a widespread masquerade would unquestionably have better things to do than create meaningless phantoms.

    My theory, for what it's worth, is that these people are in reality highly skilled intelligence operatives. Think about it: They can move from station to station without a trace. I never see them following me, yet they always seem to know exactly where I'm headed even before I get there. And, as you've pointed out, they don't seem terribly invested in the consequences of the tasks they set; they just want to know that we can accomplish them. That's why they don't care if we steal something from them; that's why they pretend not to be able to make simple repairs; and that's why it's the same tasks over and over again.

    I think we're being trained. The "Anonymous" sponsors who request this work are grooming us for something in the future. And frankly, I get rather anxious when I contemplate what that might be.

  2. A kindred soul! Simply talking to somebody with the same experiences as me means a lot.

    A few a comments on some of your thoughts though.

    the AI wouldn't overlook the public shuttles, the immigration office, the docks, etc.

    Maybe that's what it wants you to think. There can be more than one layer of deception.

    I think we're being trained.

    That is certainly one of the more plausible hypotheses. However, if it were the case, why isn't the training increasing in difficulty? Why are there only tests of aptitude, not of attitude?

    What kind of organization benefits from highly-trained special agents that aren't even loyal to that organization? That only makes sense for sowing chaos, not for precise, targeted operations.

    I understand your anxiousness, understand it very well indeed...

  3. If it is an AI, it could all be some strange social experiment. Stranger things have happened. Also, whats a glacier ?

  4. Perhaps the most reasonable answer is that we all live in a simulation, an alternative reality and this phenomenon is only one of many glitches we encounter all over the space-time continuum!

  5. I have a theory on this, but you won't like it.
    We saw this with the Ruins Rats, and you may remember what I believe about that.
    Now, across three star systems, we see either the same exact people or clones thereof, and I have confirmed from friends in our syndicate that they had just fought the same people I had fought, but light years away. The major difference among them seems to be the type and strength of armament, the level of experience that CoreTechs assesses in them, and the amount of money they have on them.
    Now, here comes one of the parts you are not going to like. Some of these have less experience than the ones I have already encountered, and that can happen only one way, in the vat.
    With the Ruins Rats, there are too many points of evidence that they are live-cloning and/or multi-cloning.
    As to our friends who hide in the nether regions of the station and hire us to steal from their 'friends,' then their friends hire us to steal from the first people, then they hire us to spy on their colleagues . . .

    Honestly, Ser Moritz, it seems that they have access to cloning apparatus somewhere, and I am willing to believe it is not in government hands.

  6. The Old Ones use discreet work to speak to the people of our pathetic excuse for a reality! You aren't going mad: you're realizing that there's a message for us (One who calls themselves "sane" might argue that you are going mad. Don't listen to them!).