“After you, Mister Cooke.”

Cooke stepped forward with “Old Irontooth,” his favored blunderbuss, packed with a double powder charge and a handful of grapeshot. “Old Irontooth” made a very eloquent argument, worthy of Demosthenes, to the Spanish lock. Seeing the error of its ways, the lock yielded to persuasion.

“Remember, boys,” Hume said. “Much as we mourn our fellows, the fact is that through their sacrifice we’ve all got more of a share of the golden treasure in the hold.”

Cooke made a gruff noise and kicked in the door. The lanterns revealed…piles of shot and shell, a Spaniard dead from a wooden splinter to the eye, and a powder charge smoldering mere inches from a heap of gunpowder. That, and a prisoner clapped in irons: a young woman in the habit of a missionary nun.

“This treasure leaves something to be desired, skipper,” Cooke deadpanned.

“Abandon ship!” Hume barked. There was no dousing that powder charge, not in time to be sure that the sparks thrown up wouldn’t ignite the entire magazine. Cooke gave his skipper a look as the men took a powder to flee the burning powder.

“Yes, yes, of course,” Hume grumbled. He pulled a brace of pistols from his quartermaster’s rig and blasted through the chains restraining the nun. She could be useful as a hostage, or something. She was clearly in shock, and allowed the boarding buccaneers to carry her limply topside.

Hume continued to bark orders to his men, only cutting the grapples when he was satisfied that all of them were clear. They worked the Fancy Rat free with gaffs, but it had only made a quarter-league’s distance when the Nuestra Señora erupted. It wasn’t enough to sink the Rat, any more than the explosion of the Surprise had been to put the Nuestra Señora herself under, but the sails were torn, ropes were parted, and wood was splintered even as the deck was sprayed with red-hot debris.

And, at that moment, the nun opened her eyes and delivered a sharp kick to Cooke’s stones. Her ruse of shock falling away, she wriggled free of his grasp and made a dash for the gunwales and freedom.

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