The Nova Hunter was a Fortress-class DropShip that was hijacked under dubious circumstances into the "pirate belt" region of space at some point prior to 3044, apparently while it was carrying considerable treasure. There is some indication it was already a pirate ship at the time.
It is generally held that Silas Bell threw himself in front of the captain during the hijacking, saving the man's life but suffering a mortal wound in return. What is not generally known is that Silas Bell was in fact one of two people trying to hijack the ship independently from each other. The other man was Fortran Merrick, who had hired a crew to commandeer the ship but was caught in the process of sabotaging it by Bell. Merrick shot Bell, but his hired crew then took the Nova Hunter and left Merrick behind.
Silas Bell survived, unlike the rest of the Nova Hunter's crew, and went on to become a space pirate operating a Fortress-class DropShip until he reportedly killed himself in 3054, crazed and in everlasting pain from the head wound he'd received. His daughter Justin Bell inherited his DropShip and continued to run it as a smuggler/pirate vessel.
Merrick assumed Bell's DropShip was the lost Nova Hunter and later unsuccessfully tried to steal it from Silas Bell's wife and daughter in 3064.
According to Justin Bell, if Silas Bell had actually known the location of the Nova Hunter then he took the secret with him to the grave. Its fate remains unknown and she denied it was the same DropShip that she had inherited from her father. However, vague references to the legendary lost DropShip Paymon's Staff are made which could be construed to suggest, in the sense of a canon rumor, that either Justin Bell's otherwise unnamed DropShip or the Nova Hunter were really the Paymon's Staff, or that these three DropShips were in fact one and the same after all (and that Justin Bell simply tried hard to root out the old legends connected to her vessel as they attracted too much attention).