The northside merchant square aboard the Ostro wasn’t the result of any planning or careful consideration, it just arose one day, much like the Ostro. The ship had started life as a Mon Calamari cruiser, but other ships had accumulated on it, like barnacles on a Great Whale. The original ship was barely visible underneath the over three dozen Baleen class heavy freighters that had been bolted to it, their network of docking ports and cargo containers functioning as the primary living and cargo areas onboard. No one has taken an accurate census of all those who lived there, it would be a fools errand given how many came and went every day as the Ostro lumbered along with the rest of its refugee fleet, makings it’s way on overtaxed engines in search of a home it may never find.
Social order was as amorphous and ad-hoc as the ship itself. The general rule was to not bother others and to uphold ones promises; how seriously that was taken depended on whatever militia or gang was enforcing order in that part of the ship. Keeping the ship functional and on course was a matter of generosity and negotiation between the residents, although there was no formal tax or tribute demanded, the promise of reputation and favors meant that usually someone could be found to donate their time or their resources when the ship really needed something to keep going. This ethic could even be seen in the merchant square, where those with the best placed stalls would be sure to make the occasional show of giving to a beggar or a “good Samaritan” working security as a way of justifying their position and differentiating themselves from the crowded masses in the dark aisles at the edges of the square.
Those dark aisles held the stores with the shadiest goods and most precarious finances. No one knew which of them would still be in business in the next week; angry mobs chasing out bad merchants was not unheard of. This very feeling was why it was Zartosh’s favorite corner, it was never dull. He was walking through one of them when he saw a store a stall with a title he liked: “Enlightenment Straight to Your Datapad”. The man behind the counter was hawking his wares, shouting to anyone would hear “Light side, dark side, I’ve got it all! Just a quick download and you could be reading the Testament of Palpatine, the Sayings of Anakin Skywalker, or The Autobiography of Darth Vader! I’ve got all stuff from all the masters, from Yoda to Ajunta Pall, the most profound collection of wisdom the galaxy has ever seen. Come on, wouldn’t you love to discover the teachings of Revan or Luke Skywalker?”
Amused, Zartosh approached him, and asked a question. He said “Interesting goods you have. I was wondering, do the texts you have say whether Revan was a man or a woman?” The merchant smiled and pulled out two chips “I’m glad you asked. I’ve got both versions! Just tell me which one you want.” Now Zartosh smiled and said “You want to go home and take the rest of the day off.” The merchant looked confused but started to step out from his stall and look towards the exit. Zartosh said “You will let me watch your stall while you are gone.” Then the merchant said “Hey buddy, I’m gonna go home, can you watch my shop for me?” Zartosh nodded and then sat down on the stool behind it, waiting to see who came by. This would be an interesting way to spend the day, and maybe earn some money too.
While Zartosh was waiting he saw that an open air bar in the alley had a screen rigged up to the ships subspace communication array. They had managed to get a signal for a swoop race in some far off corner of the galaxy, and were collecting bets from all comers. Right as the race was about to start, an emergency alert notice flashed on the screen. These were common enough, usually the sign of a hacker showing off or someone pressing the wrong button by accident. This time the screen switched to a view of the bridge, at first blurry and out of focus, while a voice in the background said “Is it on?”. The camera refocused to reveal some thugs in cobbled together armor standing in a line, and then another figure walked into the center of the frame. His armor too was a mix of different parts, but it was polished and decorated with sigils and medals on the chestplate. He had a tight grip on a customized disruptor rifle in his hands, and if one looked closely they could even see a lightsaber mounter on the front of it, like a bayonet. He spoke by shouting, the way someone does when they want to convince someone they are serious. “People of the Ostro, or whatever ship in this trash fleet you’re part of, you are now under the dominion of Gorun the Great, terror of the Western Reaches and commander of the dreaded Crimson Fleet. Your property are your lives are now dependent on my generosity.”
There was a pause, when he looked off to the side with a confused expression. From the background Zartosh could tell they were at the bridge of the Ostro, a place he had been only once when trying to convince the bridge crew to give him some money, but a place not too far from the current marketplace He muttered something that sounded like “oh, right”, then said “Further details will be given out later. For now, I’ll just say that collaborators will be rewarded generously, and those who resist, well, they’ll be lucky if they end up like this guy.” He gestured and another of his cronies brought in one of the navigator’s assistants, whose hands were handcuffed behind his back. Gorun forced the man’s face up to camera, so close that the only things in the frame were the man and the barrel of Gorun’s rifle. The bar owner turned off the screen before they could see whether Gorun used the lightsaber or the rifle to complete the execution. This was enough to set off a small panic around, all of the screens in the ship had picked it up. Most worried about finding what goods (or what people) they could offer the pirates if they came by demanding tribute. Others realized that now could be a great opportunity to strike or escape. Marauders, especially organizations no one had heard of like these guys, always had leadership problems, and whenever the leader was off of his flagship everything went bad. Things like stopping escaping ships would be hard, and if something happened to the leader while he was onboard another ship, the whole fleet could fall to infighting in the aftermath.