An Enduring Legend
The Carvago has become one of the enduring mysteries of galactic history. Unlike most “ghost ship” stories, the Carvago’s sightings have been widespread enough that the ship’s story has spread across multiple arms of the galaxy. Given the distances involved, the persistence of the story lends it greater weight than many historians might otherwise give it.
The Carvago was a slowship, launched before the advent of the Bergenholm field. It was one of the biggest engineering projects in human history to that point. There had been other slowships built, many of them already decades into their long acceleration ramps and well past the Kuiper Belt. But the Carvago, the pet project of charismatic visionary Eugen Viniate, was to be the largest in history.
Viniate started with a nickel-iron asteroid. While the initial plan called for hollowing out the asteroid, Viniate used solar mirrors to smelt the entire thing, creating a slightly tapered cylinder of pure nickel-iron, which he then had pressurized and commenced installing what would be necessary for propulsion and life support. The Carvago would be a generational starship, rather than the cold-sleep ships that had launched already. Therefore, the inside was an open habitat, with the ship rotated (even under acceleration) for gravity. The interior came to resemble an inside-out mountain community, given the slightly off-center gravity vector arising from the combination of the ship’s rotation and its mild (about ¼ gee) acceleration.
The ship took fifteen years to build. Given the scale of the project, that was remarkably fast, but Viniate was a driven man, and had a talent for inspiring the same drive in his followers. And “followers” was the best way to describe the people who were drawn to the project. There were ominous stories being circulated in the press about the strange magnetism that Viniate displayed, though he and his followers never seemed to be particularly aggressive or even objectionable in any way but their fixation on the construction of the Carvago and the upcoming voyage.
Once the ship was completed, it took less than three months to load the crew and passengers, along with the supplies to make the ship self-sufficient, presumably for centuries. Then, with little fanfare, since Viniate was aboard the ship himself and apparently had no desire for acclaim on Earth, Mars, or the Venus cloud cities, she launched.
Consternation followed. Viniate had never filed a flight plan, and given how far out in the system the Carvago had been built, this presented no particular problem to anyone. But an analysis of the ship’s trajectory soon revealed that the Carvago was not headed for any star within the Local Bubble. Her course was pointed far beyond. An exact target star could not be certain, but the Carvago was accelerating off into the constellation Sagittarius, toward the Galactic Center.
Many wild theories were postulated in the years that followed, including that Viniate had decided to try to reach the Galactic Center himself. The Carvago maintained radio contact for several years, until the time delay became impractical, but never answered questions about her destination. Then, finally, she was far enough out that she was no longer easily detectable, and was widely forgotten.
There were those who maintained records of the Carvago’s flight, however, and when the Bergenholm opened the galaxy in an unprecedented way, there were a few souls who decided to go looking for the various slowships. Most of them were found, in varying levels of repair; many had had major system failures, some killing all of the crew. Prolonged hibernation had done permanent damage to some of their passengers, those who had not died along the way. Some had actually reached their destinations and started colonies, with similar varying levels of success.
But there was no sign of the Carvago. The math was checked and triple-checked, but the biggest slowship every built by humans had simply vanished.
It would have remained simply a puzzling problem of math and trajectories, had the Carvago not appeared on the edge of the Horessh system, nearly three centuries after launch, more than five thousand light years from Sol.
The luran of the Horessh system had never heard of the Carvago; in fact, it is disputed whether they were even aware of humanity’s existence at that point in their history. But they sent ships to investigate, and the Carvago was boarded. All contact with the ships was lost shortly thereafter, and none of them returned to the planet. A second expedition met the same fate. After that, the luran decided that the strange object was better left alone. The Carvago continued through the edge of the system and beyond, eventually disappearing into the dark again.
Some time later, a similar incident happened in the Bree system. Bree was a human world, ten thousand parsecs from Sol, so there were records of the Carvago’s voyage. The observers recognized the name. Once again, the investigating ships dropped out of contact and disappeared. This time, the disappearance was treated as a hostile act, and warships were scrambled. They also disappeared. Unmolested, the Carvago continued on its trajectory, heading out of the system. It continued to cruise away until it was too far to be picked out of the void again.
The same pattern has repeated countless times. The Carvago appears and passes through a system. Some active scanning is sometimes detected, other times the ship seems to be completely inert. Any attempt to rendezvous results in lost ships and vanished crews. None of the disappearances have ever been recorded with any clarity.
Some people have come to consider the ship’s passage an omen. Others say that something happened out there in the void, and that the ship and the passengers aboard were irrevocably changed. Some even believe that the Carvago is looking for something. What happens when the ship finds what she’s looking for is anyone’s guess. That it exists, and randomly appears far away from anywhere it should be able to reach is beyond dispute.