“I am Mbeli, lowly scum. It will take more than automatic gunfire to end me. I am Mbeli, the guardian spirit. In the storm and in the night… I protect my people.”
Security footage of an orbital factory property of Construktur Corp. Operative [Redacted], probable Corregidor Bandit, thwarting an attempted sexual assault against a Nomad worker. Unauthorized independent action.
In the tribal cultures of Sub-Saharan Africa, the mythological figure of a supernatural guardian of the tribe is very common. This invisible specter protects the community from ills big and small, always acting through a one of the tribe’s youngsters, chosen as a host. This secret possession turns young men into anonymous heroes to defend the weak. However, these spirits are volatile and fickle, and the transgression of talking openly about the channeling, either by the host or by a witness, can result in the guardian forsaking the tribe, leaving it defenseless against supernatural and mundane threats. Secrecy is compulsory, and the tribe’s shaman is the only person allowed to know the identity of the host. Or so oral tradition would have it. The kernel of truth behind all that mysticism and superstition is that the shaman would choose one of the youngsters of the tribe to be secretly trained, and would give him purportedly magical talismans with which to defend the tribe. Certain narcotic herbs were used to imbue the young man of a sense of invincibility, as if channeling as powerful spirit. Isba, Mbeli, Barakuta… These spirits have different names and descriptions depending on the location and culture, but they always serve the same protective purpose, and many African tribes have revered them for generations.
If there ever was a time to call upon these guardian spirits, it was during the massive refugee exodus to the Lazareto module in Corregidor. The appalling conditions of overcrowding, precariousness and misery that caused so much human tragedy and death were also the perfect breeding ground for maras gang culture and an abusive black market. In the face of this, shamans had to broaden the scope of the guardian spirits, training them as thieves to provide for their people, but also as decent fighters capable of keeping the maras gangsters from preying on the weakest members of the tribe. Guardian spirits stole from the gangs and kept them in check, acting as anonymous masked vigilantes capable of killing when necessary. Capable also of dying, in strict adherence to their code of honor: “My life for the helpless.” Many young men and women gave their life in this role, but shamans always found someone new to replace them, and so the guardian spirits never faltered. In time, Corregidor became more stable and the living conditions in the Lazareto modules improved significantly. Internal issues were replaced by external abuses wherever Lazareto citizens plied their trade as Zero-G labor. But with the workers traveled their guardian spirits, stealing the equipment they were denied or beating up abusive foremen.
Naturally, this violent vigilantism caught the attention of Black Hand analysts who, in the ship’s spirit of sustainability, chose to repurpose it for their own needs instead of suppressing it. The Mexican General himself made a secret offer to the shamans of the many tribal groups of Lazareto: Black Hand would provide those chosen by the spirit with intensive training and, in return, they would become independent covert operatives, fundamentally deniable assets to the Nomad Military Force. To protect their identity, the project avoided codenames with tribal connotations, choosing instead to refer to them by what they did best, a name that also happened to be an old air force jargon term for confirmed hostiles. Perhaps they realized that the guardian spirit means well only to its own; to outsiders it is nothing but bad news: a genuine bandit and a cold-blooded killer.