Chapter 1: Setting Sail

As the very first rays of morning sunlight began to creep over the top edges of the ramshackle walls of Atoll Wayville, Murdock emerged from his cabin at the aft of the Flying Dutchman's lower deck. He double checked that the hatch was locked and made his way first through the meager galley and then through the empty crew quarters. Some bunks had already been filled and others had yet to be claimed.

The metal hull of the Dutchman was shaped like a giant cigar with one side flattened to form the upper deck. Two strong pillars reached out on either side to connect with the outlying nacelles. Thick cargo netting stretched from hull to nacelle and pillar to pillar on either side. A double harpoon gun was mounted on each nacelle and a single heavy harpoon gun was mounted at the bow.

Up on deck, those who'd chose to spend the night onboard were of course already assembled. The rest were making their way down the pier with their belongings in tow. He couldn't help but smile at the sight of his fresh new crew. Not a drop of mutiny among them, he hoped. But just in case... he patted the 12-gauge flair gun on his hip. Too bad there was only one shell left in the pouch next to it. He cleared his throat and tried to refocus his mind.

He waited until everyone was onboard and then began his speach, "Glad to see you all made it. I can assure you, I wasn't kidding about leaving with or without you. This here, is the Flying Dutchman. With a favorable wind, she can outrun just about anything out there. When we leave here, you won't see another Atoll until we reach Northmark. It's a fortress Atoll, you guessed it, to the north. According to ancient maps, there should be some favorable spots to go jigging for artifacts along the way. So expect a tidy profit once we arrive. Unless you turn around now, I doubt you'll ever see Wayville again, though. I'm on a mission to find the Dryland. And crazy or not, I ain't stopping until I do."

He paused for a moment to let that sink in. In the past, some had changed their mind and declared him crazy after hearing his mission. But he knew that none of those assembled before him today would do such a thing. Nope. They were all far too desperate.

"Alright! Let's get underway. Worm, cut us loose from the pier. Rigs and Jay, get ready to unfurl the sail as soon as we're clear. Ms. Hawthorne, if you wouldn't mind taking first shift in the crow's nest," Murdock ordered his new crew.

The Dutchman slid away from the docks and he steered it toward the sea gate. Things were off to a good start so far... except that the sea gate wasn't opening.

"Hey! Open the god damned gate!" he yelled up to the tower guard.

He received a crisp middle finger in return.

"Yeah! Fuck you, too. Now open the gate!" he yelled.

But open, the gate did not. Instead, he began to hear a commotion and could see a crowd gathering back at the docks.

"We know you got a Mariner onboard! Kill the fish-boy or we will!" someone screamed.

"Lecherous whore! You won't get away so easily," a hagfish of an old woman screached from between a pair of enforcers.

"He's a damn Smoker! Off with his head!" yet another called.

Murdock stared at his new crew in disbelief.

"Jay, the only one they don't want dead is you!" he stammered.

Then, expectedly, "That snake swindled me! I want his head!"

Murdock bit his lip until it bled. Then calmly assessed the situation.

"Alright, people. We've got to get that gate open and now," he said.

Easier said than done, though. From the pier, someone through a spear. It bounced harmlessly off the Dutchman's hull. But there were more gathering by the moment and swimmers were already in the water!

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