Three men, all accused of piracy, were before him on their knees, guarded by troops from the fortress. They’d each petitioned for the Corrigador, the effective governor of Veracruz, to hear their cases personally.

“Gabriel Hernandez y Juarez,” Exposito said, sounding utterly bored. “You stand accused of piracy before His Majesty King Philip. You were caught aboard a pirate ship that was detained and captured by our fleet off the coast a week ago, one which had made several attempts to take His Majesty’s ships as prizes. What do you have to say in your defense?”

“Please, sir, please,” blubbered the man. “I apologize before you and before God, and I throw myself prostrate on your mercy. I was captured by those buccaneers when my ship was taken and forced into their service as a carpenter.”

Exposito perked up at this. “Oh? I know a thing or two about carpentry myself, you know,” he said. “The table before you wobbles. Go on, get up and try it.”

Hesitantly, Hernandez got up and tested Exposito’s small end table. It did in fact wobble.

“Tell me,” said Exposito. “How would you fix it?”

“Well, I suppose…um…well, that is to say…” Hernandez stuttered.

“Bah,” said Exposito. “You expect me to believe pirates would impress a ‘carpenter’ who can’t even do such a simple task? You could glue a small disk to the bottom of the leg, or put in a wedge at the top.”

“Please, it is nervousness!” the accused man cried. “I was just about to suggest glue!”

“Take him away and hang him,” said Exposito with a wave of his arm. “A real carpenter would have noticed that the wobble was because one leg is on my rug.”

Wailing and blubbering, the man was removed.

“John Samuels, of England,” said Exposito to the second man, rolling the foreign name around between his high cheeks before spitting it out. “You stand accused of piracy before His Majesty King Philip. You and your skiff preyed on the fishermen out of the harbor until you ran aground. What have you to say in your defense?”

“I only stole a few fish, on account of I was starving,” said Samuels. “If a fisherman can’t even protect a few measly mackerel, what good’s he going to do in life? If anything, I was making the fishermen around here better by culling out the weak.”

“I see,” said Exposito. “But what does it mean for your theory that you were captured?”

“It means that my services are now at your Lordship’s disposal,” said Samuels. “If you’d put me to work for you, I’d make you stronger as well. But if you mean to hang me, even if only for a bit of sport, I’d ask that you get to it.”

“I like this man,” said Exposito. “A full pardon for him. See him escorted to the docks and issued orders as a pilot.”

“As your Lordship wills,” said Samuels. “Thank you for not wasting our time.”

Exposito dismissed him with a wave of his hand. “Jean Legrand, of France,” he said to the third. “You stand accused of piracy before His Majesty King Philip. You were found illegally trading in the port of Veracruz for lumber you illegally cut from His Majesty’s forests on Santo Domingo.”

“As I have told your brutish men at length,” Legrand said, “I was selling lumber from Saint-Domingue, which is rightfully part of the French crown as your own King has recognized.”

“And I hold that yours is an illegal occupation, one that is soon to be stamped out, regardless of what temporary concessions King Philip has made to his grandfather, your so-called king. Who are you to say otherwise?”

“Tell me then, how is a simple farmer to support himself when he has neither the land nor the slaves to grow sugarcane nor anything else of value, and is the sole support of his family?”

“That is not my concern,” said Exposito. “Take him away and hang him.”

“I protest!” cried Legrand. “I protest in the name of my King and my family!”

“Oh, very well,” said Exposito. “Hang him, but sell his ship and his cargo and give the proceeds to Ambassador La Croix. He may compensate this squatter’s family at his discretion, I suppose.”

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Ebenezer “Ben” Cooke
The Cookes are a large family from Ednam in Roxburghshire, Scotland, and Cooke’s grandfather traveled to the New World as an indentured laborer to find his fortune. He was successful enough that his son, Cooke’s father, inherited a large plantation with slaves.

Mrs. Cooke died in childbirth giving birth to Elizabeth “Bess” Cooke, Cooke’s older half-sister. Lonely, the elder Cooke fell in love with one of his slaves, Belinda. Though they could never marry, they lived together as husband and wife to the great scandal of their neighbors, and the remaining slaves were freed and rehired as laborers at her urging.

Cooke was Belinda’s only child and recieved a thorough education from his bibliophile father and mother. The elder Cooke rewrote his will to legitimize Cooke as his heir, effectively disinheriting Bess, who had in the meantime married a wealthy local doctor.

When both Belinda and the elder Cooke died in a yellow fever epidemic, Bess and her husband used the opportunity to take Cooke’s inheritence. They hired local bushwhackers to kidnap Cooke and the other workers and had them taken to the slave markets of the Caribbean to be sold. Cooke was 13 at the time.

On the way to the market, the ship was stopped and boarded by pirates (or privateers) led by Captain Roxburgh. Cooke led the pirates to the hidden valuables aboard in exchange for putting the others ashore unharmed as free men. Impressed by Cooke’s acumen, Roxburgh took him aboard as a cabin boy. It was aboard that ship that Cooke had is apprenticeship as a seaman.

When the pirates captured a Dutch Indiaman some years later, Cooke, as mate, was given the prize to sail himself. Christening it the Fancy Rat, he was able to escape the destruction of Roxburgh’s flotilla later that year. Since then, Cooke has continually upgraded and modified his ship and engaged in piracy largely based out of Jolly Port.

The one thing that sets him apart from his fellow ruffians is his refusal to sell slaves on captured ships – he will instead put them safely ashore. He also loathes his given name, dismissing it as a ridiculously trendy appellation, and prefers to go by simply “Cooke” or, if pressed, “Ben Cooke.”

Physical Description
Cooke describes himself as having “his father’s nose after it was smashed flat against his face.” His hair is wildly curly and often barely kept under control with ribbons or hats; he wears it long out of vanity. He had strikingly-colored eyes, a “blunderbuss of dark freckles to the cheeks;” these features plus his darker skin make his mixed ancestry very clear.

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“As our prior association has been dissolved by our late misadvetnure,” Cooke said, “We need new articles, which you can see that I’ve drawn up. The terms are one share for each man in the promised reward for returning…ma’am?”

“Maria de las Mercedes Ximénez y Nereida.”

“What she said. One share for seamen, two for mates and the navigator, three for the captain and quartermaster. This will cover any incidental claims along the way as well.” Cooke signed the paper with a flourish. “As captain and owner of the Fancy Rat, I invite you to come forward and make your mark.”

The men fell to speaking and squabbling among each other. “What do you think, boss?” said Hume. “Will we get enough of a crew to man the Rat?

“Well, there are plenty of considerations around that fact,” said Cooke. “Not least of which is that we’re the only ship in the harbor and the only escape for anyone who might not want the Spaniards to find them here.”

“Granted. What else?”

“You’ll note the unusually low shares that I offered for officers, so the men stand to make more than they otherwise might.”

Hume grunted. “I can think of a few things to set against that.”

“Like what?” said Cooke. “You know I always appreciate your grumpiness, Hume. It’s a fine antidote to my own sunny outlook.”

“First: ladies onboard. It’s bad luck.” Hume said. “Even if I don’t believe it, half of them will.”

“It’s a good thing we have but one lady, then, and needn’t fear more,” Cooke replied.

“With a ship full of men and one woman, you might find that they multiply rather quickly,” Hume said. “Assuming any will sail with her at all.”

“It always struck me as rather curious,” replied Cooke. “Half of them were born in the New World, how to they suppose their mothers got here? On a horse?”

“Second,” Hume continued. “Pay. It’s a paltry hook to hand a crew on, the promise of Catholic gold in return for a woman who for all we know may be bluffing.”

“Crews have been hung on much less,” replied Cooke. “Literally as well as figuratively.”

“Third: the Spaniards wanted her for something. They will come looking for her, and I doubt that we will be as lucky as we were this time, without a fleet to back us up.”

“On the contrary, Hume,” said Cooke. “I think we’ll be considerably luckier without a fleet to slow us down.”

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Good evening, and welcome to Friendly Fire. I am your host and moderator, Dr. Poe Edminster-Caar, chair of the Undead Studies department at Ravensholme University.

Tonight’s episode traces the origins of the most vicious and long-running conflict in the modern world: the Pirate-Ninja conflict. While many of our longtime viewers will recall our previous roundtables, the fear is that constant reports of violence on the nightly news has desensitized our viewership to the conflict. And on this, the most holy day of the Pirate calendar and the 50th anniversary of the extremely controversial Pirate-Ninja War of 1966, it behooves us more than ever to understand the conflict.

Along the way, we’ll hear from NBS’s own Pirate Affairs commentator William “Black Bill” Cubbins IV, pirate-in-residence at the University of Plunder Bay as well as executive director of UPB’s William Kidd Center for the Study of Pirate Culture. Naturally, the ninja viewpoint will be represented by the NBS Ninja Outreach director, Ms. Felicia Lloyd Matsumura-Tamaribuchi, an activist with the Occupy Treasure Island movement, the Sharper Blades, Sharper Minds katana outreach program, and the United Ninja College Fund.

But first, let me remind you, as I always do: pirate ships launch and sink, ninjas assassinate and are assassinated, people talk like a pirate on Talk Like a Pirate Day and remain silent like a ninja on Remain Silent Like a Ninja Day. But in the end, they will all join the ranks of the undead, and either feast upon brains or be feasted upon themselves in the coming Zombie Wars.

And now, a look at the origins of the Pirate-Ninja conflict, starting with the Sea Peoples migration in 1200 BC and the destruction of invading fleets of Chinese pirates by the Kamikaze Divine Wind in 1274 AD.

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“We are in position now, Don Exposito.” Juan Ramirez, the captain of the ship, reported. “Port Royal lays before us.”

“Excellent, capitán de navío, excellent,” said Exposito. “Report.”

“Our scouting barque reports that there are over twenty armed vessels in port, many of them of dubious or pirate origins,” Ramirez said. “They are supported by the fortress at the harbor entrance. Even with the advantage we have against their weapons and our superior firepower, it is unlikely that we will be able to take the city without reinforcements. Even then, alférez Diaz of our tercio detachment estimates that it will require 1000-3000 troops to pacify the city, occupy its fortifications, and turn its docks to our use.”

“A very thorough report,” said Expositio. “Thank you. But one thing mystifies me, capitán de navío.”

“What is that, Don Exposito?”

Exposito turned to his captain, a delighted grin slowly overating his features. “Who said anything about capturing the city?”

Ramirez’s features clouded. “I…I beg your pardon, Don Exposito?”

Exposito raised his arms. “We are not going to capture Port Royal,” he said. “We are going to destroy it utterly.”

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CORVUS the Renaissance Plague Doctor
Real Name: Connor Hofstadter

Corvus is manic and energetic, which is not a good match with his delicate mask and its tendency to imapir his breathing. He believes himself to be silent but is in fact quite noisy. He’s also extremely opinionated, even hypocritical, about the others’ costumes.

SQUIDS the Clown
Real Name: Emilee Verde

Squids is depressed, sarcastic, and deeply introverted–exactly the opposite of what one would expect from a classic clown but exactly what one would expect from a post-Joker clown. She wants to be more outgoing and friendly and wears the makeup to that end, but is nevertheless deeply ribbed for attempting a disguise that seems so done-to-death.

BUCKEROO the Cowpoke
Real Name: Bruno Rodriguez

Buckeroo is not a gaucho, and not a vaquero, despite being called such. He’s quick to point out the historical, cultural, and literary context for his disguise and hates being associated with the modern glitzy Texas cowboy. Trying desperately to learn how to ride despite a total lack of balance and poise.

JANGLE the Pirate
Real Name: Marcus Washington Jr.

Jangle chose his name completely independent of the fried chicken chain and the famous dancer, trying to evoke the jingling sound of his many flashy pirate acoutrements. This does not stop people from making the latter assumption and looking at him askance. He is also in the fencing club.

SUZUKI the Ninja
Real Name: Annabelle Li

Suzuki is Chinese and her grandparents speak Cantonese at home. Her disguise tends to confuse people because they mistake her for a Japanese nisei, which she is quick to dismiss. As for the traditional animosity between China and Japan, she insists that her disguise is based on the ideal of a ninja, not the way they actually behaved.

GREAVES the Knight
Real Name: Lakshmi Gupta

If Suzuki disguize confuses people, Greaves’s outright bamboozles them. She simply insists that she has an affinity for the knights of fantasy lore, with their sparkling armor and cruciform swords, and that this is in no way incompatible with her Bengali heritage. Perhaps the most proficient of the group, she is an SCA member and can swordfight and ride with a reasonable degree of skill.

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EDMINSTER-CARR: Good evening, and welcome to Friendly Fire. I am your host and moderator, Dr. Poe Edminster-Caar, chair of the Undead Studies department at Ravensholme University. Tonight, our experts will put their delectable brains to the question of Talk Like a Pirate Day. Joining me with a perspective on piracy is William “Black Bill” Cubbins IV, pirate-in-residence at the University of Plunder Bay as well as executive director of UPB’s William Kidd Center for the Study of Pirate Culture.

CUBBINS: Arr, thank you, Dr. Edminster-Carr. It be a right pleasure to be here afore yer mast. I hope ye will permit me to reply in the piratey cant o’ me ancestors as a grog-hoist to today’s holiday.

EDMINSTER-CARR: Quite. And with a counterpoint, Ms. Matsumura-Tamaribuchi, an activist with the Occupy Treasure Island movement, the Sharper Blades, Sharper Minds katana outreach program, and the United Ninja College Fund. She is a current Distinguished Daimyo at Kaizoku University and is the Tokugawa Chair of Shinobi Studies there.

MATSUMURA-TAMARIBUCHI: The pleasure of being here cuts like a strong autumn wind through a tussock of rice paddies, Dr. Edminster-Car-san.

EDMINSTER-CARR: So, let me put the question to you right away, Mr. Cubbins: does Talk Like a Pirate Day support or denigrate pirate culture? And, that being said, does it support or denigrate ninja culture?

CUBBINS: Arr, while there be some in the pirate longboat who see Cant Like a Buccanneer Day as a reinforcin’ o’ negative stereotypes, I call that bilge. Piratey speech be a tradition o’ our people as old as Davy Jones, and the Day be a fine opportunity to reach out and educate lubbers about their pirate heritages, matey!

MATSUMURA-TAMARIBUCHI: Rubbish, Rubbish like the blades of a weed whacker cutting through a garbage scow. This so-called holiday is just pro-pirate propaganda, designed to endear them to people who are unaware of pirate crimes against ninjas.

CUBBINS: Arr, ye be tryin’ me patience with that bilge. There be nothin’ about talkin’ piraty that encorages any specific viewpoint!

MATSUMURA-TAMARIBUCHI: Like a voice through reeds, your discriminatory holiday appeals to a “golden age of piracy” that never existed and serves to buttress your claims to traditionally ninja islands.

CUBBINS: Arr, but what of ye? Yer own ninjas ain’t a-guilty of romanticizin’ their own past afore? The history books be a-teachin’ us that you’ve got bilge in yer hold as well.

MATSUMURA-TAMARIBUCHI: We are not talking about ninjas.

CUBBINS: Aye, perhaps because “Talk Like a Ninja Day” would be nothin’ but a cargo o’ SILENCE?

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“I’m descended from Alexander Cooke, who worked his way up from an indentured stagehand to an actor in the King’s Men, alongside old Bill Shakespeare.”


“Our Cervantes,” said Cooke. “I imagine the plays and poems haven’t been translated yet, but they’re terrific at cheering you up if you’re in a bad mood or darkening your mood if you’re too cheerful, which is a very neat trick common to great scriblarians.”

“If he’s anything like Cervantes, your ancestor was a lucky man…even if he had to laugh through his tears,” said María Nereida.

“He was lucky,” Cooke said. “His son–also Alexander–was able to turn his inheritance into a plantation in the New World. He was also able to use it to get away from his wife in London.”

“I sense that your mother was not appreciative of that,” María Nereida said.

“I think she was less appreciative of that than the fact that she wasn’t my mother,” laughed Cooke. “My father took his son with him to the New World and then met my mother when he bought her in Jamaica. It was quite the scandal.”

“Why is that?”

“You have to understand that we Englishmen have a different and much less enlightened view of such things than you Spaniards,” Cooke said. “As the child of my father’s property, I was property myself. He was a good man, more or less. He freed Mother and I even as he kept her kinsmen in bondage, and he brought my half-brother and I up as equals and educated us in the running of his plantation.”

“But things surely did not stay happy, or else you would be there and not here.”

“That’s one way of putting it,” Cooke laughed ruefully. “When Father died, Anthony wasn’t content with a half-share of the plantation. He took the whole thing, and added to his profit by selling me.”

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“King Philip V is wracked by illness and madness, and his son and heir Louis is a simpleton who even his wife refuses to see,” Exposito cackled from behind the bars. “What a wonderful opportunity this presents to a man of vision and initiative! The Viceroy Balthazar prepares to sail to Spain to take up residence as majordomo of the palace on the strength of his campaigns against the pirates infesting our waters and the remarkable innovation of the so-called Spanish Plate and the Spanish Cannon.”

“Is that it, then?” said Hume. “He was building his power here to return to Spain in triumph?”

“Or so he thinks!” Exposito cried, hurling himself at the bars. “Little does he realize that it has all been my doing! I am a native son of this land, born here and raised here, the Corregidor of Veracruz. Everything that passes from the New World to the Old must also pass through my fingers. I built myself up from nothing, because the visions have told me that I must.”

“You’re mad,” Hume spat, “and your visions are just the ravings of a lunatic Balthazar keeps on a chain so that he might have a mad dog to unleash when it suits him.”

“Of course you would say that; you foul pirates lack vision and purpose. It is simple, pure, and revealed to me with a blinding light when I came into myself.” Exposito leered at Hume, his eyes wide and mad behind the iron. “For I am the beast spoken of in Revelations, destined to lay the world low in chaos and despair that it might be redeemed through suffering. Don’t you see? Only with the emergence of the Beast, with chaos and hardship, may the way be paved for redemption and the Redeemer. Those I kill are sent to their own just rewards, and those that suffer will be assumed unto their own once the trumpets sound.”

“Madness,” said Hume. “Utter lunacy.”

“To the contrary, it all makes so much sense! Of course it would be an Expositio, abandoned by family to a wasting death in the wilderness, a product of both worlds, who would bring this about. Of course the New World would have the means to accomplish the Revelation and the end times. And to that end I will have the viceroyalty, I will control that fool Balthazar and that greater fool Louis on the throne, and I will redeem this world through the agony and ecstasy of divine will.”

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“What did the Spaniards want with Natty Cove?” Hume asked. His Spanish was quite good, if heavily accented; anyone who hoped to make a living off the Spanish Main did well to learn the tongue needed to demand a surrender.

“I don’t know,” the nun said stubbornly. “I was their prisoner, and they–like you–do not regularly bring prisoners into their confidence.”

“Why were you their prisoner?” Hume asked. “You took up the space in their hold usually reserved for gold and treasure; I’ve got a crew of angry corsairs wondering how they’re going to take a 1/100 share of a nun, and every answer you give me will help dissuade them from the more immoral thoughts they entertain.”

“Is that a threat?” said the nun. “Or a poor attempt at parley? Either way, I’ve nothing to offer you. I am a simple Sister of Our Lady of Veracruz, taken against my will from my convent and my service to the Lord on the orders of I know not who.”

“Somehow, I doubt that all the Sisters of Our Lady of Veracruz know how to boot a man in the bollocks to try and swim for it.” Hume said drily.

“On the contrary, sir, Veracruz is full of buccaneers and pirates of every stripe, many with commissions from the King, and we in the Sisters are first taught how to defend our honor as brides of Christ. And my mother was a fine swimmer who taught me much. I would wager that I could outswim any man jack of your crew if you’d let me get to brine.”

Hume cradled his head in his hands. “Look, Sister. Four ships were sunk in getting you spring of those irons, and nearly five hundred men gave their lives in front of your galleon’s bewitched Spanish Cannon. What am I to tell the men to which I’m beholden?”

“Tell them that they have my thanks,” replied the nun, “and that the abbess of my convent will reward in gold any crew willing to ensure my safe return.”

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