The lack of a moral compass is not the only driver for a Corsairs’ readiness to sign up for OSO contracts, however, nor the sole reason for Tauris’ willingness to cosy up to the Terran Alliance. Across the length and breadth of the Rift, and increasingly in nearby systems, there are whispers of a nameless horror, tales of death-ships with no crew, and vessels that never return from routine runs. Men have been discovered in escape pods, their bodies alive, but their minds driven over the brink into insanity by the things they have witnessed. Whatever their allegiances, the tidal force that increasingly drives this flotsam out of the Rift and into the wider Storm Zone are the Neomorphs known as the Pathogen. No longer a simple fusion of organic and inorganic forged by a Directorate-engineered military nanovirus, but a new order of life with unknown purposes and unfathomable reason. Their attacks follow no known or predictable strategies, despite analysis by some of the best military AI systems in the sector. What is certain is that they grow stronger by the day, taking ships and vanishing, transforming them beyond primitive twisted artefacts into disturbing and increasingly consistent forms. Whatever their true intent, these strange ships arrive without warning, uncommunicative but for bursts of incoherent static and meaningless chatter, firing weapons whose munitions change and shift the very nature of what they touch. All who have encountered them know that there is only one solution, one way to deal with this new form of life – and that is to offer it death, by any means possible. Where the threat of the Pathogen will end is also uncertain – will it be contained and exterminated, expand to a steady state and remain passive, or become so dangerous it may even unite the warring factions in the Storm Zone against it?
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