Four sweep-driven, single-masted ships with lateen sails are heading towards them, manned by forty to fifty men in each if the captain's estimates are right. They have cannon too. Studying them through his glass, Captain Arredondo judges most of the cannon are eight-pounders, but a few were obviously larger. These were pirates for sure, well-equipped and obviously organized as a strike force to catch any becalmed ship that they might come upon. Using the maneuverability of sweeps, they could surround a ship, yet stay out of range of cannon shot, if the victim had any.

       Even as the captain comes to that conclusion, the pirate ships hoist the "skull and crossbones" on the black flag to terrorize their prey. One of the pirate ships is approaching from the front, one from starboard, one from port side, while the fourth stands off along the seaward side. They're rapidly closing in.

       The Atlantic is up against the reef, neatly trapped with not one bit of wind to maneuver. What can they do against four crafts and a superior number of men who can rapidly move their ships using their sweeps in the calm?

       The pirates' plan is to take the ship with all its stores intact so they can sell both. They can also sell the human cargo-men and women passengers that might be aboard. It would be best for them not to fight, but to win by guile. Getting a whole undamaged ship with everything and everyone in it would be the most profitable way for them. They are experts at getting what they want by setting a trap that nature has provided and their own cunning has developed.

       Captain Arredondo assesses the situation and curses. Before accepting this assignment, he had been in Spain, living on half pay, waiting for a ship, but no likelihood of one any time soon. Bored and heavily in debt from gambling, his life is barely tolerable, so when given an opportunity for what promised to be a simple assignment at full pay plus large bonuses, he accepted the offer without a second thought. It all seemed so simple. They weren't at war, so he thought the assignment wouldn't be dangerous. All he had to do was to follow and capture three rebellious teenage children-one boy and his two sisters-and bring them back to Spain. The spoiled children had been betrothed to rich, elderly aristocrats in some of Spain's most prestigious families. Any sensible young person would have welcomed the opportunity. Any young grandee or lady of Spain would have been glad to marry into wealth and the care of a family of aristocrats like these.

       But that is not to be, Arredondo tells himself as he prepares to face the worst.

Frank W. Lewis
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