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Dear readers, tonight we have the rare opportunity to talk with a very special guest. You know her work but not her face. She is one of the Fringe’s deadliest assassins and commander of the Haphezian Special Police’s elite Alpha special operations team.

What can you tell us about the planet of Haphez? What was it like growing up there?

As you might imagine, I’m a little biased. There are some beautiful planets in this galaxy, but Haphez tops them all. We as a people take a tremendous amount of pride in our homeworld. Some of the views of the mountains and forests and the Tranyi River are absolutely breathtaking. Even so, physical appearance isn’t everything. I didn’t have what many would consider an…ideal upbringing; after spending most of my childhood on my own and most of my adult life working for HSP, I’ve gotten an inside look at the true nature of this place. Like any civilized world, there’s a seedy underbelly – that corruption and danger you don’t see at first glance. Some of that is because we get a lot of foreign traffic here. Our Noro Spaceport is one of the last major stops before you leave the Fringe and enter unsettled space. But there are plenty of Haphezian natives who make their fair share of contributions to the problems we have. It was something I saw first-hand during my time on my own, and something I continue to see almost every day thanks to my career.

I’m sorry, this probably wasn’t the answer you were looking for. I’m probably the worst person to ask about this. Obviously not everyone has had the same problems as I have, and after spending years focusing on and fighting the negative, it’s sometimes hard to see the positive.

How did you first become an assassin and then the leader of special operations?

It all started when I was nineteen. I killed a Nosti – a master swordsman with telekinetic abilities who wasn’t supposed to exist anymore – on my own, and that caught HSP’s attention. I’d already enrolled in their Junior Guard program, which is the basic training pool they select all their operations agents from. They pulled me out of the Junior Guard and threw me straight into the special operations track. I was still responsible for completing all the training on my own, but they’d seen some of my combat scores from secondary school and already had high hopes for me. When elite training was over, those of us with the highest scores were designated team leaders; we then got to hand-pick two other agents from the spec ops track to form our teams. In addition to becoming team leaders, those of us who had exceptionally high marks in certain areas (for example: stealth, infiltration, marksmanship) were given additional training and became Black Agents. I believe there are currently six of us; we’re essentially contract assassins who can carry out missions the agency can’t be directly involved in.

The Alpha spec ops status came later. I’d hardly consider myself the “leader” of special operations, as there are still unit captains who oversee our squads. In both field ops and spec ops, there are a total of twenty teams, and then each division also has any number of reserve agents and support staff. Team ranks are based on mission success. The agents on the Zulu and Tango teams still have a lot of talent – HSP’s operations divisions only employ the best of the best – but the Gamma and Echo teams have been more successful for whatever reason. My team and I have climbed through the ranks and we’ve held Alpha status for the past two years.

What was the scariest thing in your adventures?

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that there aren’t many things that scare me. In my line of work, hesitation can cost you your life. The situations I find myself in are no less dangerous, but I’ve learned to look at them more objectively. In many ways, fear is a choice, and if you’re able to ignore your feelings, you can survive anything. I’ve been betrayed, I’ve been shot at, I’ve been shot, I’ve been held hostage, I’ve been tortured. Each of those things was traumatic in its own way, and each has left a scar – sometimes a physical one – but I made it through.

You’re probably thinking it’s unrealistic for someone to not be afraid of anything. I’ll be honest: I’m not fearless. But the things I am afraid of are more abstract. Dangerous situations are so mundane these days. What I’m most afraid of is having someone in my head. Having someone know what I’m thinking. Having someone know what makes me tick. It’s one of the reasons I’ve spent so many years pushing people away. But now there’s something…someone who’s getting dangerously close, and that terrifies me. This…situation is going to start affecting my job. I didn’t ask for this. In fact, I’ve spent the past couple of years doing everything in my power to avoid this. And now…

I think we’re done with this question.

What do you do to relax after a long day of leading your special operations squad?

Every once in a while, the three of us go out together, but more often than not, we’re all tired enough that we just want to go home. Weather permitting, I like to go outside and sit or lie down under this tree that’s been there for as long as I can remember. That spot offers a great view of the river. I also like to cook. Yeah, I see that look on your face – a lot of other people think it’s odd too. But sometimes it’s nice to spend a little time creating after you’ve spent most of your day destroying, especially when whatever you’re creating will end up directly benefitting you. It’s therapeutic.

What does the future hold for you?

Part of my job involves careful planning for whatever comes next, but a lot of the time, I don’t even want to know what the future holds. Sure, I try my best not to die, but I know any mission could be my last. In that sense, there’s not much point in planning for more than a couple of weeks – and sometimes just a few days – ahead. With the way I live, there’s no need to make all these grand plans for my future. The rest of my team feels the same way, and we’re free to live like this because we’ve avoided forming attachments and we don’t really have ties to anything. Any of the spec ops agents would tell you the same thing. In our world, you don’t often hear people even say the word “future.” More often than not, we just live day to day.

EJ Fisch has been writing as a hobby since junior high and began publishing in the spring of 2014. When she’s not busy writing, she enjoys listening to music, working on concept art, playing video games, and spending time with her animals. She currently resides in southern Oregon with her family. You can find Ziva Payvan on the pages of Dakiti, Nexus and Ronan.

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