“Capitano Del Duca, we didn’t salvage much, but we have the cargo secured. Sir, what is your ETA to return with Nostromo Rossi and cast off?”
“Give me two cronos. The nostromo is prepping our scout lander for takeoff while I take a final look around. Del Duca out.”
The pirate captain tossed back the long curls of his jet-black hair after ducking to enter the remains of his father’s abandoned ship. The ruddy-skinned Italian’s leather jackboots clomped on the parasteel gangway as he made his way back to the crew quarters. With a frustrated sigh, he dug through the commanding officer’s cabin one last time.
“Nothing! The ship’s basically intact…and it didn’t crash…it’s like they all just vanished! Inferno!” he cursed and made his way further astern to the brig.
Captain Del Duca had spent four solar cycles searching for his father’s missing ship, which in the grand scheme of things was nothing compared to the forty solar cycles his father had been obsessed with locating the mythical Navis Auream. The son had used existing port logs and location reports as a starting point, but Commodore Del Duca had at best only sketchy and unreliable rumors and legends. The most common saga describes how a fleet of privateers had happened across a shining galley of gold the size of a large asteroid. Its base was a moon-like hemisphere, and its top half was a luminescent fortress of towers and gleaming windowless pylons. The fleet immediately set upon the massive galley but their weapons were useless, the galley’s hull was impregnable! Instead, they boarded the ship and the legend says that when they saw the menagerie of alien creatures they couldn’t tell friend from foe; every living being was slaughtered. Yes, every living being, including the boarding party, and once devoid of crew the flying fortress plummeted through the thin atmosphere and crashed on the surface of a sub-standard planet. A couple of the attacking pirate ships managed to escape, but in their haste to flee they failed to properly chart their courses. The mythical Navis Auream was never to be seen again.
It was apparent from the ship’s log that his father had landed his vessel on this barely-habitable planet in the remote tail of the mining corridor for a reason. He had not sent out any landers, because he’d clearly intended to explore the nearby asteroid crater for an extended period of time.
The last log entries had read...
Capitano’s log 2541-87-08:
I’ve had to replace my second in command with my nostromo. I caught him red-handed trying to garner support for a mutiny. Apparently he was quote, “tired of playing anthropologist,” and he wanted to return to ravaging the shipping lanes. I can’t say that I blame him; for forty solar cycles I’ve tirelessly searched for the Navis Auream, and for the last twenty planet turns we’ve only found glass and sand…it’s no wonder even the Mining Guild decided to bypass this rock.
Capitano’s log 2541-87-22:
I awoke to my nostromo excitedly repeating, “Sir, we’ve found it!” I will complete this log entry when I have determined just what it is he thinks he’s found.
…that was it, and Captain Del Duca cursed again as he kicked the cot in the last cell of the brig, “Inferno!” To his surprise a small notebook tumbled out from underneath the mattress and across the cell’s cold parasteel floor. “Che cose? What?” he said with a gasp.
He picked up the book and fanned the pages. It was a written manuscript…recorded in his father’s handwriting! He cautiously sat down on the prisoner’s cot and began reading…
Capitano’s log suplimental 2541-88-11:
It is real! The Navis Auream…the Golden Galley…it’s here! Unfortunately three of my crew, including my treacherous nostromo, have decided to keep it for themselves, and locked me in my own brig! Inferno! Forty solar cycles wasted? No! I will avenge myself! I must bide my time.
Capitano’s log suplimental 2541-89-01:
I overheard my chief engineer report to my double-crossing nostromo that he’d never before seen such a durable unmalleable golden metal, and from the scans he couldn’t even place the substance on the periodic table. Mio Dio! My God, if the vessel truly is as big as the fables claim, the ship itself is all the wealth we’d need in a hundred lifetimes!
Capitano’s log suplimental 2541-92-10:
They’ve still been unable to break off even a tiny piece of the golden metal, so the digging continues. That bastardo nostromo taunted me today by revealing that the engineer estimated the size of the galley to be over a hundred kilometers in diameter. It was a veritable flying city of gold! He insulted me further by informing me that they had found an open hatchway and he was sending crews inside the alien vessel to see what galactic treasures it might hold. Inferno! I will have his head for this!
Capitano’s log suplimental 2541-102-02:
It has been ten solar cycles (I think) and apparently that dirty nostromo is having crew disputes of his own…ha! Three more crewmen have been locked in the brig cells, and they are getting full. He’s got them triple bunked in a couple compartments. He can’t have more than six or eight crewmembers left…a few more and he won’t even be able to raise the ship…ha ha!
Capitano’s log suplimental 2541-104-06:
My old mate has been shoved into my cell, and we haven’t been fed for two days! Bastardo! He tells me that the only crewmen left who haven’t been incarcerated are the nostromo, the chief engineer, and the doctor, who is doubling as the cook. While my mate was briefly confined with two other men, he claimed that these men had no knowledge of how they had become jailed. He witnessed them freely walk into his cell without even so much as a push from the guard. Once inside the cell, they’d collapsed and didn’t awaken for several cronos. Afterwards, he said that when they’d complained about the never-ending labor, it was as if something took control of their bodies and walked them into the cell. When further questioned by my mate, the men had confirmed that the galley was indeed as massive as I’d previously overheard. However, and quite curiously, inside the ship they hadn’t discovered any real amount of loot as they’d once dreamed. Instead, they’d found only empty or sparse living quarters of various shapes and sizes.
Capitano’s log suplimental 2541-105-16:
Still no food and no real contact either. In groups of two, the doctor has been escorting prisoners out of the brig. He didn’t even have as much as a side arm with him, and when my mate and I implored him for food he’d simply ignored us and followed the men out.
Capitano’s log suplimental 2541-107-19:
That’s it, they’ve taken my mate away and I’m the last one left…but at least we’ve been fed. Could it be my final meal?
Capitano’s log suplimental 2541-107-20:
The doctor is outside my cell on his knees. He is begging me to forgive him, and says he’ll cut me loose if I promise to cast off immediately. I am skeptical, so I keep writing. He says that he thinks there are three creatures on the galley in possession of the nostromo, the engineer, and my mate. They put him in a cell to hold him temporarily and he says the creature controlling him swapped to the body of my mate. He used his medical override code and was able to break out, but he believes they intend to lockup the engineer and mate in one of the cabins on the galley and then the nostromo will return to collect us. I tell him that I have seen countless mutinies, but I have never heard such a preposterous excuse. The doctor unlocks my prison door and says, he and the engineer have a theory that the alien beings are made of dark matter. Thus they are invisible to us and can pass through matter. However, for some unknown reason, they need bodies of matter to harness the dark energy it takes to power the galley. It never was a treasure galley…it was a slave ship! Here comes the bastardo now...
The writing trailed off and the final line was written in a different script…
…time to go. A galaxy remains to be dominated.
As Captain Del Duca dropped the cursed notebook to the floor his ship frantically hailed him, “Capitano! Capitano! Our ship is locked in a tractor beam. …fzzzt… Mio Dio! It’s a massive planetoid of gold, could it be the Navis Auream? …fzzzt… Do not return to the ship! I repeat …fzzzt... stay on the planet with Rossi!”
Del Duca gave commands, “Nostromo Rossi, did you hear that? Keep the lander ready for takeoff; we may have to flee to someplace else on this Inferno! And as for…”
He was cutoff in mid-sentence by his communications chief, “Sir, we’re about to be boarded. …fzzzt… Mio Dio! They’re aliens of all shapes and sizes! …fzzzt… …fzzzt… …fzzzt…” Energy weapons fire and the clash of steel cutlasses could be heard on the open line. Eventually, the line was dead, and he assumed his entire pirate crew was likewise dead or captured.
“Rossi, you can shut down the lander. Come inside, and we’ll see if there’s any dried food left in the mess hall. If they come down here for us, there’ll be nowhere to hide. Del Duca out.” Resigned to his fate, the pirate captain picked up his father’s memoir and added an entry of his own…
Capitano’s log suplimental 2545-175-00:
I found Commodore Del Duca’s vessel, and I have also witnessed the return of a fully loaded and operational Navis Auream, however from this point forward it should be known as the Navis Servus Auream…the Golden Slave Ship…and we must pray to God Almighty that our galaxy can withstand the coming Inferno!