Pulled almost directly alongside Nuestra Señora, the Surprise let loose a full broadside at point blank range as the Spaniards were reloading their guns. It was a volley that would have left any other ship a splintered hulk, but the galleon’s mysterious Spanish Plate was too great an obstacle, and the shot bounced off as if fired into a sheet of iron.

In response, the Nuestra Señora ran out her own Spanish guns. Hume could see men aboard the Surprise dropping their ramrods and grapples and fleeing, well remembering what had happened to the Gunway II. But it was too late; the Nuestra Señora roared her Spanish Cannon and the Surprise was obliterated. Its magazine blew, ripping the ship in two and flinging men and cannon in all directions. Those who had made it into the water before the explosion were dragged screaming below by the suction of the submerging wreck.

“Keep ‘er steady, boys!” cried Hume. To their credit, the crew of the Fancy Rat didn’t break or run despite what they’d seen befall the other ships in their flotilla. Hume had a moment of grim thought–the boys knew that they’d be sent to the bottom running as surely as they would fighting–before he gave to order to board. “We’ll give ’em a surprise as a remembrance of our mates now perished!”

The Fancy Rat had approached from astern as the Nuestra Señora had been distracted by vaporizing the Gunway II and Surprise. Hume had his men run out onto the prow with grapples, and at his mark the men threw them. It wasn’t the traditional way to grapple with a foe, which was usually done gunwale to gunwale, but the Nuestra Señora had none of her bewitched Spanish Cannon to the rear. At the same time the first grapples were tossed out, Hume threw the Rat‘s rudder hard to port; this brought the ship’s gunwale perpendicular to Nuestra Señora‘s stern. With ladders and grapples, Hume and his men could board Nuestra Señora from the rear like a Port Royal courtesan.

Hume led his men personally, with their first order of business to silence the gunners. The Spanish Cannon they fired were the most potent weapons the seas had seen since the secret of Greek Fire had been lost, but without men to touch them off, they were so much ballast, and the muskets the Spanish marines bore seemed to have no such enchantment. As luck would have it, the Spaniards to port were too intent on taking aim at the Duke of New York, which had turned and made sail to flee the engagement.

“Take ’em out, boys!” Hume howled.

It was too late; the Spanish Cannon roared and the Duke of New York vanished in a pillar of flame and screaming. It was a hollow triumph, though; still flatfooted by the rear boarding, the Spaniards manning the deck cannons were swept away by a volley of musketry. The others abandoned their guns as the shouted order was passed along: “¡Todas las manos! ¡Repeler asaltantes!”

Hume grinned, and drove the point of his cutlass into a deck officer’s rib cage. “Let’s see how they do in a fair fight!”

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