Ghast Empire

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“Who, of all creatures, is the most productive? Who, of all creatures, is the most industrious? Who, of all creatures, is the most worthy inheritor of the galaxy’s riches? And who, of all creatures, has the strength, the efficiency, the determination to conquer all before it? The ant, the ant, the ant! Our antennae will detect our enemy; our legs will carry us to them; our pincers will close around their throats! The age of mammals is over – tomorrow belongs to the Ghasts!”- Ghast Number One, in concert.

Ghasts (Formica Redarsa) are large, intelligent insects, very similar to ants. They are bipedal, possessing two sets of arms; one of which ends in pincers, the other in manipulating hands. Sensitive antennae protrude from the forehead (Ghast helmets include holes for them). The stomach section of the original ant has moved to the rear of the hips, giving the impression of a large red wasps' nest strapped to the Ghast's backside.

Ministerial briefing

Overview

Ghasts live in a highly-stratified hive society, made up of several distinct sub-species and strata. The main differentiations are: the drone cast (Formica Redarsa var Ignobilia), who act as workers and cannon-fodder; the praetorians (Formica Redarsa var Brutalia), a larger, more ferocious and less intelligent caste used as elite soldiers; and the leader/officer caste (Formica Redarsa var Deviosa), who are highly intelligent but considerable weaker than the others. Only the leader caste displays considerable variation. Ghasts do not reproduce naturally, but are grown via exogenesis in factories, usually by the battalion.

The Ghast Empire is the major rival and, currently, the principal military opponent of the British Space Empire. It occupies between two-thirds and half the size of the territory controlled by mankind, but its population density is far higher.

Under orders from its capital, the hive-planet of Selenia, the Ghast Empire has recently tripled its production of tanks, warships and long leather coats. The Colonial Intelligence Service has been keeping a close eye on these filthy ant-people beings, and especially Number One, their pint-sized generalissimo queen leader.

We are not convinced by their recent claim that "The Ghast Empire wants only friendship with the British and their numerous, tasty children".

After careful study of Number One's biographic work My Ceaseless Quest to Conquer Earth and Destroy its Puny Inhabitants, we have come to the conclusion that the Ghast Empire may well be up to something rum. This, coupled with the colossal military might of the Ghast Empire, means that in the event of general galactic war we would need to mobilise every resource available to us to counter the ant menace and do it a bit of no good.

Society

The great majority of Ghasts, when not out with the army, work in densely-populated cities. They do not take holidays as such, although they are occasionally bussed off to see new weapons being tested as a morale-building exercise, and rarely leave their drab cities.

Ghast cities are really little more than barracks, factories and space-docks, interspersed with millions of ugly statues. Their function is to produce troops and weapons, and parade them in front of Number One before sending them off to conquer and destroy his enemies.

Most Ghast territory is highly polluted: like its citizens, a Ghast planet will be worked to death. Outside the cities, Ghast worlds are generally barren. Any native life, after gene-sampling, is pulped and used for food. Minerals are stripped and stone quarried to build more statues. This is one of the reasons for their continual drive to capture new territory, along with general mindless hatred of everything except themselves.

Culture

The Ghasts do not have a culture: in fact, they become twitchy and violent when the word is used. The degraded mockery that serves them as a society is more like a parade ground than anything else. The closest they come to creativity is in the making of songs, sculptures and monuments, all of them ugly, in honour of Number One. These are usually designed by machine to prevent too much independent thought.

Cuisine is always the same: nutrishake and ghastibix. These are made from the pulped remnants of any source of available protein. If a world has been captured, they will be made out of anything from prisoners to tree bark – if battle has not been so successful, dead Ghasts will do fine. It is rumoured that the Ghasts have engineered minions in the past purely for the purpose of eating them.

Soldiers are forbidden to take any interest in the activities of alien beings. Troops that have had long exposure to humans, even liaison officers with allied groups, are usually shot and eaten regardless of military value. In the higher echelons of the leader caste, interest in alien culture has seeped through, and classical music, philosophy, booze, narcotics and cake are enjoyed discreetly (sort of: usually in a binge behind locked doors). As a result, the average Ghast will seize any opportunity to improve its dour existence, even if this involves gobbling caster sugar straight from the bag. Even praetorians are susceptible: although supposedly living lives of hard, Spartan purity, they will gladly pour looted wine down their scraggy, snappable necks.

Technology

Ghast technology revolves around complex bioengineering. Spacecraft, tanks and other machinery are produced from organic materials in a semi-living state and grown as required. Component parts are grown seperately to allow for easy replacement and upgrading, with the result that a complex systems are usually a symbiosis of artificial organisms.

To give an example, the Ant Lion heavy tank is in itself an ecosystem. The main chassis is engineered from something vaguely resembling a mosquito. The onboard computer system appears to have been harvested from the nerve cortex of some larger, possibly vertebrate, animal. The armour, made of a sort of super-hardened keratin, can be replaced or, if time permits, regrown. The large rear engine was probably made out of the back end of a Ghast, to judge from its bulbous shape and striking colouring.

All of this gives Ghast technology a sleek, organic look and a rather peculiar smell.

Noted Reprobates

Number One

Full article: Number One

The dictator, emperor, spiritual leader and arguable queen of the Ghast Empire. Despite his oily secretions, diminutive stature and general unwholesomeness (or arguably because of it) Number One is permanently furious, and appears to deliver near-continuous ranting speeches to his many minions from the safety of the Ghast homeworld. His statue is everywhere in the Ghast Empire, and in-depth knowledge of his philosophical works is obligatory. Rumours that he is twitchy and delusional are entirely accurate.

Number Eight

Number Eight was almost unique among the senior Ghast leadership in that there was not anything obviously freakish about him - for a giant talking ant in a leather trenchcoat. Believed to be the result of an experiment to cross-breed the leader and praetorian castes, Eight was strong, ferocious and highly intelligent. His hobbies included marathon running, sonata writing and eating live pit-bulls. He was killed during an attempt to splice Vorl DNA into his own body, an unfortunate event that enabled one of his minions, 462, to assume much of his power.

462

Despite an ostensibly low rank, Commander 462 seems to be playing Ghast politics with some skill. However he has been bested by Smith on more than one occasion, something which he views as a pain in his stercorium.

By a combination of luck, deviousness and blaming it on other "people", 462 was able to survive the uprising on Urn, the ferocious fighting at Atomland and even the complete debacle of "Project Horseman", the Democratic Republic of New Eden's last-ditch effort to open a portal to another dimension. Most of the witnesses, if not actually dead, are currently enjoying the winter wonderland of the M'Lak front.

That said, 462 has not escaped unscathed. His adventures have given him a mechanical eye, a scar on his right hand that reads "Made in Sheffield" and an unfortunate pelvic complication that has left him with an embarrassing limp. On the other hand (assuming that he has one left) he has inherited Assault Unit One, a ferocious attack-beast. Perhaps nobody better appreciates the cunning and ferocity of the British Space Empire.

Egbert Tench

Egbert Tench (not to be confused with his entirely innocent brother Osbert) was, and is, the leader of the League of Ghastists, a paramilitary organisation favourable to the Ghast Empire. His furious anti-alien speeches proved of little interest to the people of the Space Empire, who thought being lectured about not liking aliens by a man clearly controlled by aliens bordered on rich. Having failed to win the population over to being made slaves of a horde of giant, man-eating ants, Tench was ordered to take direct action. Since then, he has been an underworld figure, and is reputed to have joined the Ghastist militia lead by notorious mercenary and traitor Stig Hekkel.