Author : Helstrom
They call her “The Flying Dutchman”. Don’t ask me what a Dutchman is, or whether or not it is supposed to fly – it’s apparently taken from one of old Earth’s folk tales. It doesn’t really matter, but I suppose every ship needs a name.
The Flying Dutchman goes by many different names on many different lanes, but all deep spacers have heard the stories. Go to any skydock’s saloon and you can hear them, provided you pay the beer of course – hah! Deep spacers are not generally a superstitious lot, but that’s never really stopped a ghost story, now, has it.
I knew the stories too, of course, and gave them about as much credibility as one might expect. Until I found she was real. She attacked my ship on the Tartars lane and made short work of us. When I came to, I was aboard the Dutchman, alone, afraid, and more than a little confused.
The first days I spent wandering around the ship – she’s quite huge, you know. I went looking for answers, but there was no crew to talk to or terminals to query. I looked for water, too, and food, until I found out that I was neither hungry nor thirsty. Strange feeling, that.
Eventually I found my way to the command deck. Took a bit of doing to get in there but I managed. Like everything else on the Dutchman, it was huge, oppressive, and completely abandoned. But I did find a library and therein, finally, some answers.
I was not the first of the Dutchman’s prey, you see. Those who were here before me left their traces – journals, logs, carvings on the bulkheads. There was a lot of it. Some had been very prolific writers indeed, others just scribbled away their boredom and, as time went by, their madness. Some had destroyed many of the works of their predecessors, while others had meticulously cataloged everything they found. There was a deck plan of the Dutchman carved into the floor, with compartments crossed off in sequence, and the underlining statement read: “Looked everywhere. Nothing here but the echoes.”
It became apparent to me that the Dutchman had been about her grim work for a long time, millennia at least, maybe even since before our ancestors first set foot on interstellar soils, though I wouldn’t know what she would have done without us to hunt. Because that is all she does, really. She hunts.
Not very prolifically, mind you, and not at her own discretion either. The Dutchman is a ship and, like any ship, she needs a captain. But the captain she traps only serves one purpose, and that is, to find a successor. How do I know? Because there’s nothing else to do. It is all the Dutchman will allow – find a ship, destroy it, and bring aboard a new captain.
Why? Hah! Now there is the big question, isn’t it? I haven’t got a clue, and believe me, I’ve been all over this ship looking for it. The library’s not much help either. Speculation plucked out of thin air, journals of failed attempts to make sense of the whole thing. No, I’m afraid I don’t know for which ancient transgression the Dutchman collects her toll, or to the laughter of which cruel god she navigates. All I can tell you is that the Dutchman’s captain can not rest until he finds a successor.
And that’s where you come in.
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