By Jake Thornton

The Zloveshy Vassily has a bad reputation and is widely held to be an unlucky ship. Few of the itinerant deckhands that hang around the bars in the Corporation ports would sign on with her unless they had nowhere else to go, and the crew has a deservedly suspect reputation of its own. Those that serve on her call her the Grim Cargo with a perverse sense of pride. Few serve on her long.

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Of the many who have died in her aged and variously stained corridors, not all have been found. Several have simply disappeared into the bowels of the myriad ducts and accessways between the rooms, for she is an elderly design, long obsolete. When she was built it was fashionable to hide the engineering behind gaudy panelling and pretend that the vessel was a shopping mall or grand hotel rather than a tin can floating in the hard vacuum of deep space. The loneliness of that thought, went the theory, would send people mad…

For those that understand the design, the Grim Cargo is a functional warren of tunnels and narrow corridors, dimly lit and rarely travelled. Most of the engineering access ports are hidden behind clip-on panelling, and many of the ship’s maintenance stations are tucked away neatly out of sight. Of course, this is fine when you don’t need to fix anything, but when there is a failure an inexperienced crew can spend hours searching for the correct accessway. And they don’t always find their way back.

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These dangers have made the crew very reluctant to leave the central command areas and most of the more remote zones of the Grim Cargo have been all but abandoned to broken venting, flickering lights and unexplained creaks and groans. It is an unnerving vessel to explore, and a far cry from the sleek military ships of the Corporation fleet that Sergeant Cruise and his men are familiar with.

What makes matters worse for the Troopers is that their mission obliges them to stay in exactly those areas that the crew avoid most, guarding the cargo they have been tasked to protect in whichever corner of the storage sections it has been secured. They have no idea what they are guarding, though there is much speculation.

But the 8th Race know…

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