[background=Ghost in the Shell[/font]

[background=A man in my position always has need of intel, a need to know what’s happening across the Galaxy and if necessary act on the knowledge gained. As said by wiser men than me… knowledge is power and I will be sure to make most of that statement in the only way I know how. It had been a relatively slow day today, just a board meeting and then a dine in a pretty fancy restaurant, I was still eating there when the message arrived.[/font]

[background=You gotta understand something about me first, people know me as a collector of sorts, rare artifacts, art, ancient weaponry all that jazz.. I love it. Don’t know why, but it resonates with me on a fundamental level; so it ain’t a surprise that I have agents posted all over the Galaxy who search for interesting things for me… one of them sent me this message.[/font]

[background=Seems like a ship popped up out of nowhere in the Corporate Sector, the Levantines had been quick to suppress any messages about it and had mostly dealt with the situation. The derelict though… was still there, intel was sketchy at best but it suggested this could be something interesting, design was Sith in origin… at least I ain’t sure who else would want to use such a spiky, death metalcore design for his or her ship. Might be wrong with that assessment but I doubt it.[/font]

[background=There had been a firefight of some sorts, people trapped in there who had escaped by an inch of their lives and that suggested the derelict was dangerous; or at least what’s riding inside of it was dangerous. But that only appealed to my suicidal-side, didn’t take long for me to finish my dinner and head back to my office where I called up a few friends and personnel.[/font]

[background=A couple of things would have to be done, before I could claim the ship for me own. Most important thing was get the right permits and clearance to tackle this thing and make sure everything was done legally.. or at least remotely legal. The fact that this was all in Levantine Space worked in my favor, they were a pretty hands-down group, didn’t mingle with the politics of the sectors they controlled as long as common good was established.[/font]

[background=Fact that they left the ship after dealing with it made me think that the biggest threat was already neutralized, they wouldn’t have left it orbiting anywhere near their space if that wasn’t the case. So I ain’t expecting any Levantines to show and burn on my parade, especially because I was planning on taking the thing away… they should only be happy someone took the problem off their hands.[/font]

[background=Legally speaking though, I would need clearance to be there and more importantly to have my men be there, I wasn’t kidding myself the last thing I was gonna try was try and tackle this entire project on my own. One guy ain’t gonna pacify the remainders of a capital ship infested by… monsters if I have to believe the stories. So I would need a small army, which brings all kinds of diplomatic issues with them.[/font]

[background=Luckily this was all happening in the Corporate Sector, which was pretty infamous for its corrupt officials and a general lack of oversight when money was being involved, so I probably only had to buy off a couple of high-ranking bureaucrats and make sure they understood it was in their own monetary interest to let me play around with this thing for a while. From there it would be relatively easy, I say relatively; because let’s be honest here… nothing is ever easy. [/font]

[background=After roughly twenty minutes waiting in my top-office on 244Core I was able to get in contact with the proper representatives, needless to say… they weren’t all that happy with what I was suggesting; a farce of course it was all an attempt to drive up the price and make me pay more than they actually wanted. Moment I repeated a certain name they were pretty quiet for a while and then quickly accepted the money I gifted them for certain freedoms in my legal limits. [/font]

[background=It would take a few days before everything was cleared out in the vast, bureaucratic apparatus of the Sector, but that was fine. I still needed to gather a small worth of an army, before I could execute the plan that was forming in my head, as always though… money made all doors go open. The more money you had, the easier certain things became and with the cash I had… well let’s say there weren’t many problems I couldn’t solve.[/font]

[background=I could have just sent in my own men into the brink, risk their lives for my pretty little new conquest, but there was one thing about me that had never changed: I take care of my own. It was a promise I had made to myself and Jacobs, that I would never lose sight over what mattered. Oh I would use them, eventually, but only after the danger was reduced to an acceptable amount, which meant that I would have to hire mercs to do the dirty work and essentially serve as cannon fodder. [/font]

[background=You might imagine that it’s harder than it sounds like to hire folks with the specific intention of them being mindless cannon fodder, but once again… cash allows you to hire all sorts of people. The idiots, the suicidal, the arrogant and the men who were simply wandering from one dangerous situation to another and didn’t need much convincing to accept a reasonable price to put their lives on the line. They lived for things like that and I would make use for it. [/font]

[background=I think that the promise that I would hire them full time was the main selling point, the main reason why most mercs signed the contract. Even men such as them were looking for ways to improve their station in life, to find a solid gig that paid steadily and allowed them to settle down for a while. ‘Course I would give them that… if they survived, which was a questionable stipulation, but I didn’t hide that from them. [/font]

[background=Couple of days had passed since I had hired the mercs, by then I had assembled a small flotilla; the Chrysalide would head it, escorted by a few frigates, corvettes and all that jazz. The specifics weren’t all that important to be honest, you just needed to know that the forces I had assembled… well they resembled a minor, invasion force. But the papers were all cleared and money greased the apparatus of the Corporate Sector and that backwater Kingdom Planet which had recently been added to the Levantine’s fold. [/font]

[background=Took us a few before we finally managed to arrive to the stage, I stood on the bridge of the Crysalide and my eyes roamed the depths and spikes of the ‘Ghost Ship’. It was badly damaged, that much was clear; it seemed one of the hangar bays had experienced a pretty heavy explosion with one of the hangar doors aimlessly swimming through the void of space. [/font]

[background=All in all it would take quite some money to actually restore the Ship to its former Glory… yet another scheme of forming itself in the back of my head, an idea which would allow me to pocket most of that cash back into my own wallet. It involved Carach, the position of the Voice of the Dark Lord and the One Sith bureaucratic apparatus, it if worked out as well as I hoped it would work… I might just be able to make a profit out of this while also getting a neat, little (big) capital ship out of this. [/font]

[background=I love it when plans come together as neatly as they were seemingly going right now. [/font]

[background=On the right screen a face manifested itself, one of the bureaucrats who was firmly located in my pocket, he seemed a tad anxious for some reason. Fidgeting with his belt while trying to speak out something that closely resembled words.[/font]

[background=<< Lord Ovmar… welcome to the Corporate Sector. I-I didn’t know you would bring such… large forces to our pleasant collective.>>[/font]

[background=<< I took as many as was necessary to take care of the mission, I wouldn’t want to have spent all that money for nothing. >>[/font]

[background=It seemed that those words made him even more nervous and anxious, which was, surprising, followed by a sudden straightening-out like an arrow. It seemed the man had finally found something vaguely resembling a spine and was about to tell me what’s what, never step on the toes of the bureaucrats, my friends… they might rebel and where would we be without them?[/font]

[background=So I spoke up yet again, before the man managed to articulate the sheer displeasure he was probably feeling just about now.[/font]

[background=<< Mister Dawson, I apologize for this grave intrusion on your trust, I am merely looking out for the lives of my men, surely you understand a need to take care of your own? Let me repay your understanding with another sizeable… donation, and perhaps we can sit down somewhere next week and perhaps talk about those renovations you were planning for the Royal University on Etti? We might be able to come to an understanding on those funds you were looking for, yes?>>[/font]

[background=The sudden deflation and careful perk in his lips was enough sign to me that I had had him, for real this time, Dawson gave me a careful nod. [/font]

[background=<< A simple misunderstanding, Lord Ovmar. I knew we could come to terms like civilized men about this, thank you for your understanding. I will make sure that no pesky patrols will bother you. Worry not, my men will be on the parameters and hold back any rabble that wish to mess around with your operations. If you would excuse me now, I have to check up on these papers, my secretary will get in touch with yours to make preparations for that appointment. >>[/font]

[background=Another lesson, never give bureaucrats too big of a slice of the metaphorical pie, they will get greedy and want more. I had no doubts that during said appointment he would try to extort me into paying him even more money than we had already agreed to, luckily enough… I wasn’t a simple Lordling with too much cash to spend. Oh I could just pay him like a simple chump and be done with it, and I probably would have done that; hadn’t he tried to throw a scene and get more money. But this was all about the principle of the matter, you can’t simply let yourself be pushed around and expect people to respect you.[/font]

[background=So during said dinner Dawson would encounter my other side, it wouldn’t be a pleasant conversation… but it never was.[/font]

[background=<< Of course, mister Dawson. Good luck and I will see you soon. >> [/font]

[background=With that situation solved for the meanwhile the real deal was about to begin. During the conversation the relatively little flotilla had assembled itself into neatly fitting lines, some of the ships hung back facing the figural outside of the plane, making sure that they wouldn’t suddenly be attacked in the rear. Never trust the words of the politicians or the bureaucrats just like that. Always prepare for the worst, that way you ain’t gonna be caught with your breaches down. [/font]

[background=Before doing anything else, I made sure to sent in scouts into the ship, with vong-grade cloaking capabilities. Not all of them made it back, but the ones that did brought me some valuable information. There were Sithspawn crawling all over the place, I ain’t talking about a few dozen terentateks, I am talking about hordes of Silooth, Terentateks, Tuk'ata, Rhakghouls… and stuff like that.[/font]

[background=I ain’t sure who had created this ship, except that it was a Sith, but whoever it was.. he ain’t the smartest guy of the bunch. Who the feth shoves an army of Sithspawn into his capital ship? Bones of his crew was scattered around across the ship implying that at some point the beasts were released, or escaped and had made sure to kill every single living soul on board, escape pods were all but gone… so not all of them had perished. [/font]

[background=One of the scouts had encountered something else in there, I had heard of it before, simple stories in the bar about some kind of ghostly manifestation which could blink in and out of existence. Turn itself into liquid, gas and corporeal-form with no problems; hadn’t believed any of this before though, why would I? Seemed a standard ghost story to spoke people from looting old derelicts and the kind. [/font]

[background=Yet my men had encountered a few smugglers who had boarded the ship with the idea of looting… they were being hunted by the ghostly thing, ‘course my guys knew better than to involve themselves into trying to rescue a few smugglers, instead they had watched and made notes while being protected by the cloaks. [/font]

[background=They seemed to be pretty adverse against blasters, so plasma might be a weakness.. though their claws could rend straight through durasteel… which wasn’t exactly kosher, but who am I to talk about overpowered stuff. I brought a fekking army to this place, I was the last guy who could talk about the merits of fair-play and all that. [/font]

[background=So yeah, the plan. [/font]

[background=There was a reason I hired all those mercenaries, the last thing I wanted to do was get all my men slaughtered, yet we needed to do something to thin out all the Sithspawn lurking in the halls without permanently damaging the ship… at least damaging it more than it already was.[/font]

[background=Hiring mercs to serve as bodies was a tad gruesome, but they knew the risks. They would be sent in wave after wave, until the Sithspawn numbers were on an acceptable level and after that… well then the real work would start with my men dropping in. They would have power armor, flamethrowers, some would have lightsabers, blaster carbines… you name it and my men would have it. Everything to shut down the infestation and make the ship operable again.[/font]

[background=But before any of that would happen I had a little surprise for the bugs, critters and other vermin of the world, slowly four transporters; two on each side of the ship arrived in the hangars, unloading droids, droids and more droids. They were expendable targets, they didn’t bleed and could be manufactured by the thousands; the only question was money and with the plan I had in the back of my head… that wouldn’t be much of a problem after this was all done.[/font]

[background=The droid transporters settled into the two hangars of the Ghost Ship, they were instantly assailed by the various Sithspawn species that had been crawling around the space, but the thick armor was keeping them at bay, at least for now. Not that it mattered, because two moments later the shuttle doors opened themselves; for a single defining moment everything was quiet. As if the room itself held its breath and waited for the upcoming storm.[/font]

[background=The Sithspawn were still shuffling around the shuttles, hardly seeing the open doors with the droids priming their blasters, flamethrowers and rocket launchers at them, they didn’t need to see them though… to feel all that firepower rocketing into them with the fury of a Leviathan. Foremost lines were immediately reduced to pulp, but that had been expected, the droids moved out of their shuttles and started to secure the parameters; launching out their weapons with furious anger and great vengeance.[/font]

[background=In War there are a lot of theories, one of them is the mental and emotional state of your soldiers, push too hard and they will break, fleeing from the battlefield. These Sithspawn weren’t people, they didn’t have complicated thought processes, hopes or deep feelings… but that wasn’t necessary in this case, seemingly invincible assailants who threw the power of Heaven itself against them showed up from nowhere, disturbing their slumber and slaying brother upon brother.[/font]

[background=They were close to their breaking point, a few more minu-- scratch that seconds and they would have fled for their lives. But then it happened… a single, slightly mutated terentatek decided that he wasn’t going to stand for this intrusion into his turf. Scarfy was bigger than most members of his species, meaner too, because of this he had always considered himself the Alpha of the Hangar #2 Pack. He had always taken the prettiest mates (the more scars, the better), the best prey and the cosiest enclaves to hibernate in, it was HIM who was the King of the metaphorical Iron Forest.[/font]

[background=These assailants were only pretenders, usurpers who were trying to steal his mates from him and they would pay for such an atrocity. Such were probably the thoughts and feelings the lone, mutated Scarfy was experiencing when he alone leaped high up in the air and single-mouthedly ripped off the head of one of the droids and threw it into the ranks of the droids. [/font]

[background=It was this sole act of bravery and valor which allowed the Sithspawn armies to regain heart and commence an attack on the now disorganized troop of droids, who were spinning all out of control as more of them started to shoot at each other. Soon enough more than half of the droids were disabled or partially disabled, though they had served their cause; the hangars were noticeably thinned out and that was all that mattered.[/font]

[background=New transports started to detach themselves from the little flotilla to support the efforts of the droids in the hangars, in the meanwhile I myself was still standing on the bridge of the Chrysalide, trying to pierce into the ship’s environment and get a read on what was happening there. It was all good and well to have feeds and reports, but nothing could replace the intimacy and knowledge which the Force provided you.[/font]

[background=The ship was darkness though, it felt… I wanted to say alive, but it wasn’t that. It wasn’t organic and yet it was imbued with this energy that was coursing through its very hull… trying to work against my efforts to pierce the metaphorical veil. I wasn’t sure what this was though, I wasn’t Valik or Merrill with extensive knowledge on the do’s and dont’s of Sith Alchemy and Magic, only thing I knew was that this ship was somehow sentient and actively trying to work against my work.[/font]

[background=I wasn’t appreciative of its counter-efforts needless to say, so I started to do what I did best and… well I want to say attack its mind, but it was a freaking ship. It didn’t have a mind perse and neither was I actually attacking it… it was more of a steadily, increasing force pushing itself against the entirety of the ship at once, piece by piece the Ship had to give ground against my mind and eventually I heard a weary sigh in my mind.[/font]

[background=<< Child, why are you assailing me and mine? We are of one mold, the darkness permeates from you in spades and yet you threaten me. Halt this madness.>>[/font]

[background=Well… that left me stumped for a few valuable seconds, it was one thing to have a sentient ship who was passively trying to counter your efforts to pierce through the veil… but a talking ship? That was a whole other league and I definitely felt as if this was beyond my pay grade. (And my pay grade is pretty high up as is.) [/font]

[background=Anyway, I still had to give the thing an answer; gotta keep in line with civility and all that.[/font]

[background=<< I am here to claim the Sh-- well to claim you.>>[/font]

[background=<< Oh. Why didn’t you say so immediately? >>[/font]

[background=<< So… you don’t mind? >>[/font]

[background=<< Of course not, my purpose is to serve the most powerful Sith Lord, I will gladly serve you for now. >>[/font]

[background=<< Oh… excelle--- wait hold on. ‘For now’ What do you mean by ‘For now’? >>[/font]

[background=<< Well, this is kinda awkward. But the moment I encounter a Sith Lord who is stronger than you… I eh… kinda… >>[/font]

[background=<< Betray me and swoop in to help the other side? >>[/font]

[background=<< Basically, yes. >>[/font]

[background=<< That must be pretty frustrating. >>[/font]

[background=<< Why do you say that? >>[/font]

[background=<< Well… think about it, you are just easing into this partnership, everything is going good and efficient, everyone is happy… and suddenly you encounter a new Sith Lord who is waving his proverbial stick in your face, prompting you to abandon your former Master and destroy all old allegiances. >>[/font]

[background=<< Hmm… I mean if you put it like that… then yeah, it’s kinda frustrating, I agree. >>[/font]

[background=<< Is there a way to remove this arbitrary command line from your system? >>[/font]

[background=<< Hey, buddy. I am a Ship, not an encyclopedia. The Emperor gave me just enough knowledge so I could function and not a lot more than that. >>[/font]

[background=I wasn’t sure who the Emperor was, looking at the severe damage of the ship and the usage of pretty archaic design and technology… I’d say pretty old, so I probably didn’t know this Emperor the Ship was speaking of. But I did know a lot of folks in general, so I’d probably be able to remove this stupid hard coded command from the Ship, I mean… who actually does stuff like that?[/font]

[background=“You shall serve the most powerful Sith Lord you know… until a more powerful Sith Lord arrives, then you can betray me.” It’s pretty… stupid. [/font]

[background=<< So.. the moment I repair your systems, you fly off into the sunset to find yourself a new head honcho who might be more powerful than me? >>[/font]

[background=<< Not exactly, I can feel a powerful presence somewhere in the direction of Coruscant… but it’s negligible to the power you are radiating right now, so I think we are good. >>[/font]

[background=I didn’t mention the fact that it was probably because I was closer to the ship and so my power was easier to locate. What I also didn’t mention was that pulling sensation I had the moment I enabled one of my blood trails, it was -also- in the general direction of Coruscant. That didn’t bode all too well. [/font]

[background=<< Well, good to hear. So… would you mind disabling life support systems in a couple of rooms and then maybe vent the rooms? Might be easier than to sent in my men; wave after wave against all those Sithspawn crawling around. >>[/font]

[background=<< I am not going to kill my brothers and sisters, just so you can claim me. If you want to do that, you will have to do it on your own. Besides… I might not be in complete control anymore of all my systems, oh don’t you even. I have been sitting here in the vacuum of space for hundreds of years, you try to be completely functional after all this time... there is rust in places… I didn’t even know I had. >>[/font]

[background=<< Oh well. Can’t blame me for trying. >>[/font]

[background=<< I could, but that wouldn’t be very efficient. >>[/font]

[background=<< So sassy for a derelict ship who can’t even open a few hangar doors and decompress some rooms. >>[/font]

[background=<< Low blow. Low… blow. >>[/font]

[background=To be fair, I wasn’t sure if the Ship was actually talking to me in this way.. or if my mind was trying to compensate and put it in a clear frame of reference. For all I knew it was talking to me in Sith or Proto-Kiffar, and it was just the Force and my own mind guiding me into understanding, it did seem a tad weird for the ship to be this sassy though.[/font]

[background=In the meanwhile the mercs were fighting for their lives in the small, narrow hallways of the ship. For every critter they took down two more of ‘em appeared and it seemed a lost cause, wave after wave after wave washed over them and tried to push them back into the hangar - yet the Sithspawn failed in that, because with the hangar secured the men were able to get fresh recruits by the minute and it was this sheer tenacity that made the mercs push forward into the brink of the mutants and push the balance back to the them. [/font]

[background=The hallway outside the meditation room was splattered with green goo, bodies of Sithspawn and mercs were thrown around the place like ragdolls - in the middle of it two men were arguing about something.[/font]

[background=‘Don’t kark with me, man. Look at this fething place, we ain’t saying here.’[/font]

[background=‘Lord Ov--’[/font]

[background=‘Kark Lordling Ovmar too, we are dropping by the hundreds here, you think he cares? He sits on that pretty little ship of his and sents us to our deaths, well I ain’t running for him anymore.’[/font]

[background=‘We signed a contract, Bawz. Now grow a pair and set up overwatch, we ain’t sure what’s behind this door.’[/font]

[background=‘Gru, I am tel--’[/font]

[background=‘Bawz, I am telling -you-, if you don’t have my back in two seconds I am gonna put this bullet up your backside, do you copy?’[/font]

[background=Bawz was taken aback by this statement, in the grand scheme of things mercs weren’t all that loyal, give them enough money and they might switch side - don’t give them enough money and they might kill you in your sleep and run off anyway. [/font]
[background=A pretty tough sword to balance on its edge and yet Gru seemed to be pretty sure of his current loyalty to Lord Ovmar - one could only wonder what the Sith Lord had promised him and his to earn such a shaky thing, one could ask himself if perhaps it wasn’t a promise and instead a creative usage of the Force throughout the ranks of the mercenary ranks. [/font]

[background=Such a thing would have made more sense, ensuring loyalty in the more notable, glory-filled members whose words held weight with the rest of the men. If they ran to their deaths the rest would follow, only the conditioning of following them for years before would ensure such a thing.[/font]

[background=Bawz glared at Gru for a single defining moment; in that moment Gru almost thought he was losing his fellow man and yet… after a second Bawz gave him a short nod and rechecked his rifle - priming it and standing at attention. The merc would have his back and that was all that mattered for now. [/font]

[background=Behind the durasteel-molded doors the Meditation Chambers were located - as said before… the Ghost Ship didn’t possess a Bridge in the most literal sense of the word, the Chamber was the Ship’s bridge from where the Sith Lord would sit in a throne and control the ship directly with his mind. No Bridge was necessary because of this contraption, the Sithspawn mind did all the work with the Lord directing him. [/font]

[background=Which was an ingenious solution when you were fighting an Artificial Intelligence like Omni which could infect all electronic systems and make it its wench - such ingenuity wasn’t necessary anymore though. Ovmar was already planning on restructuring the Ship in a different way, though that was a discussion for a different time.[/font]

[background=Bawz glared at Gru for a moment, little did Gru know that there was a fierce battle going on in Bawz’ puny brain, a battle of right and wrong, a battle of-- basically Bawz was considering just shooting his captain in the back and moving out of the ship to freedom. It was anyone’s guess why he decided against that course of action and just nodded, priming his blaster and hugging the wall next to the durasteel-molded blast door. [/font]

[background=A voice started speaking in Gru’s ear, more a whisper than anything else.[/font]

[background=<<. Captain. .>>[/font]

[background=Gru blinked furiously, looking up and down the hallway to see who just talked to him, it hadn’t been Bawz; the voice had been far too deep and throaty for him. Looking over to Bawz it didn’t look like the man had even noticed the voice, with some anxiety he thought real hard.[/font]

[background=“ H-Hello?? “[/font]

[background=<<. This is Lord Ovmar and yes, I am speaking in your mind and no, this is not an illusion spun by your tired and anxious brain. .>>[/font]

[background=For a moment Gru considered throwing down his rifle and running himself. Some things were really too weird, it was one thing to battle mutated, almost invincible beasts - it was another thing to hear a strange voice in your head and take orders from it. Immediately a feeling of acceptance fell over, a feeling foreign to him throughout his long life as a mercenary. [/font]

[background=“Yes, sir!”[/font]
[background=“The mission?”[/font]
[background=“A lot of casualties, but we are getting there sir. Alpha Squad managed to secure the hanger bays and the surrounding areas, the Clubs have been wiped out and the Dogs have lost their commander. Orders, sir?”[/font]
[background=“I have reached out into the next room, it’s a meditation chamber. Scratch that, it’s [b][background=the [/b][background=meditation chamber and it’s also occupied by two Spirits - you know what that means.”[/font]
[background=“Gas masks on and switch to plasma or flamethrowers.”[/font]
[background=“Affirmative. The doors will be opened in the next ten seconds, go in hard and fast - don’t hesitate or you will die.”[/font]

[background=Gru blinked and suddenly saw Bawz’ mouth moving, trying to catch his attention.[/font]

[background=“--ything good, sir?”[/font]
[background=“Yes, yes. I got new orders.”[/font]
[background=“...do I want to know, sir?”[/font]
[background=“Doors will open in five seconds, be ready. Withering Spirits, ready your mask and flamethrower.”[/font]

[background=With a screech the doors started to open, a filthy stench reached them but the masks helped. Screaming, the two mercs invaded the chamber with fire and plasma, ripping through the first spirit and shutting it down before it could react.[/font]