She seems to have realised that she can t outrun us, remarked Frey, taking the glass from his eye. Cargo ship of some sort, sir, but I couldn t tell youMessage 1 of 3 , Dec 1 2:10 PMView Source"She seems to have realised that she can't outrun us," remarked Frey, taking the glass from his eye. "Cargo ship of some sort, sir, but I couldn't tell you whether she's a slaver or not, much less the same ship Blenheim sighted.""Thank you, Mr. Frey," Commander Regent answered, neutrally. She had been coming to some of these conclusions herself. The other ship had not made a great chase of it once they had some idea of Speedy's size, and Emily could well imagine that their behaviour was a result of that assessment. The other ship was more then a match for the little brig, with only her fourteen four-pounders and Emily hoped that the true impact of that realisation wasn't leaking into her voice.Commanding sail-drill and gun salutes was one thing. Getting out of port without crashing into another ship was another, but none of her responsibilities so far had come close to the situation she was in now; she was considering an actual battle, which she could be said to have initiated and which she was going to have to conduct herself. This was not remotely the same as simply obeying orders in a fight. Not that Emily could regret making chase, and if she was a slaver, then she could take some satisfaction from doing the right thing, here. But she was a lot bigger than Speedy."Mr. Frey do you speak any Spanish or French at all?""I speak both very well, sir," he answered, just an edge of pride in his tone."Yes," she answered, and paused. "Have the guns loaded but not run out and the men prepared to fight. Don't let that ship catch us on a tangent; make sure we're alongside so she can't rake us.""I don't see her prepared to fight, sir.""And I trust she won't see us prepared to fight, either, Mr. Frey. Mr. Crowford; you're in charge of the canons, along with Mr. Eliot, I think. Mr. Middleton you just became signal midshipman for the duration."There were murmurs of 'aye-aye, sir'."Mr. Crowford we cannot afford to let her fire first in any confrontation, and I shall have to leave it to your judgement. If you see her prepared to fire, you run out and broadside her without waiting for an order. Don't let any of the men panic or do anything to begin an exchange lets see how this plays out, first.""Understood, sir," Lt. Crowford answered and went to his duties, followed by Mr. Eliot who looked about as nervous as she felt."Mr. Frey I don't believe either your French or Spanish will prove so accomplished, after all. In fact-""I assure you, sir," Frey interrupted with the closest Commander Regent had ever heard to anger in his tone. "That I am most accomplished at both languages."It might give her the confrontation with him that she wanted, but now simply wasn't the time. Still, she kept her words clipped. "As I was saying, Mr. Frey your command of either will require the aid of a lexicon, which must be fetched by some slow, lubberly steward do you hear Mr. Preston? and poorly accented; you understanding will be a little muddled, and you will be translating your captain's meaning. A situation causing some delay and perhaps not resolved until Paris gets here. Do you follow me, Mr Frey?""Oh, I see, sir my apologies. Yes, I believe I may not be quite so accomplished as I thought." She didn't have time to see whether or not he was blushing."Pray to god he doesn't speak English," she advised.Manoeuvrable little HMS Speedy was able to come alongside, although not too close, despite some small attempts by the other ship the Tiki to force her bow-on. After some clumsy shouting from Frey, who managed to stumble cleverly over his vocabulary and sent Preston off to find a Spanish lexicon or at least something that might pass for one and reported that the Tiki's captain did not, in fact, speak English beyond the word 'hello', but did have a passable command of Spanish."Ask a few details who he is, what he is make conversation; bad conversation in your poor Spanish."Frey did so, but Emily couldn't help but feel there was very little honesty being exchanged. There was no disguising their uniforms or what they stood for; and while they were not in the most dangerous position of all that was to risk being raked, she had the nagging concern that Speedy did stand between Tiki and Paris, and Tiki might attempt to keep it that way."Cargo ship, sir," Frey reported under his breath as he took the book offered by Preston and flicked through it. It turned out to be some kind of novel belonging to Mr. Crowford, but the spine covering was missing, and the title and author rubbed off the front cover; at least if the other captain suspected it wasn't really a lexicon, he had no way to actually prove it."What cargo?"The question was asked. Emily couldn't follow what was said; she might have caught some words, or managed herself more genuinely with her own poor talent for it and a real lexicon, but she didn't know Spanish at all. Frey pretended to do some looking-up. "One word I don't know, sir, but the other two are 'ivory' and 'livestock'.""Was he being sarcastic?" she asked."I couldn't tell; if he's lying, then it was a lie he planned to use, I think."Damn. Emily thought rapidly; a cargo of either wasn't illegal, but she had heard slaves referred to as both 'black ivory' and 'livestock' amidst worse. "We're short on supplies, Mr Frey ask him if we might purchase some livestock, if you please.""And if he *sells* us some, sir? If he should be genuine?""Then we're both well provisioned and can express proper thanks to Captain Brad," she replied, resisting the urge to check on Paris' position. She fervently hoped he was close, though; and that she wasn't going to end up purchasing a herd of goats to go with her chickens and the turkey."You can't afford them," Preston hissed to her."I think we're more likely to need a loblolly than a financier, thank you, Mr. Preston," she retorted, tightly.Frey expertly stumbled over trying to establish exactly what sort of livestock he carried and how much did he want. Did he have sheep? No? Frey was sure he had said 'sheep'"Sir!""Yes, Mr. Harris?" commander Regent asked the breathless midshipman."Sir Mr. Middleton sends his respects and wished to inform you that he can't hear any livestock - I think he did grow up on a farm, sir - but she smells like a slaver. Further; Mr. Crowford wants to know whether we should attempt to board, rather than sink her, if she's carrying slaves, and whether Paris should be signalled."Frey was listening with half an ear apparently interested in her decision. With enough damage done to Tiki meant that the slaves may end up as casualties; the Speedys would stand a better chance at boarding, with less fighting skill likely on Tiki than on one of His Majesty's vessels. On the other hand they would be sorely outnumbered, and boarding itself would be difficult with the difference in size between them. "Sir the captain wants to know Paris' business as well," Frey interrupted her thoughts. "He's not quite so polite any more.""Paris business is the same as ours supplies, Mr. Frey," she answered shortly. "My thanks to Mr. Middleton for his information and tell Mr. Crowford that my orders stand. We'll board after firing if we can grapple quickly enough and I think canon-fire will be signal enough to Paris.""Aye-aye, sir." Harris ran off with the message.Some conference was taking place on Tiki's quarter-deck, too, but there was no telling how long the slaver would be willing to play this game and pretend to be haggling over the price of goats when both ships were now comfortable with the knowledge that she wasn't carrying that type of 'livestock'; and both ships were aware of the other's information.Commander Regent was about to get bored with it, herself, when Crowford's order to fire shortly preceded the crash of Speedy's own guns.A/N - 'Tiki' means nothing; it's just a random name for the other ship; I don't know whether there ever was a vessel called 'Tiki' or not; if there was, then I intend no offence by using the name for a slave-ship, and apologise if any is caused.
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“That’s a big ship for a slaver, Sir!” Lt Rose’s observation was the very thing that I myself had been thinking. As we had watched Speedy close withMessage 1 of 3 , Dec 1 4:32 PMView Source
“That’s a big ship for a slaver, Sir!”
Lt Rose’s observation was the very thing that I myself had been thinking. As we had watched Speedy close with the strange ship a gnawing doubt had come over me. This was all going wrong. Why would a slaver allow a King’s ship, even a brig, so close if he had slaves on board? He looks well armed but a slaver wouldn’t normally risk battle damage to cargo, or more importantly, to his ship which would cost money in repairs. Something didn’t add up.
Damn! Now he’s talking to Speedy like he’s not got a care in the world. If he is a slaver he’s certainly cool enough. I can see why Commander Regent hasn’t opened fire yet. That ship looks like it could easily outgun her. Is it a slaver? Damn big one if it is. Oh, now I’m going in circles!
Just then my cox’n, Ayling, arrived on the quarterdeck with my swordbelt, “Here, cap’n, let me belt this on. Oh sir that’s another notch bigger. You’re not taking enough exercise.”
He fussed over the belt and then looked at the other two ships, “You know, cap’n. Do you remember once when we was at pompey and we was rowing past some troop transports. All those men crowded together, crappin’ and spewin’ and sweatin’. You said it stunk like a slaver.”
I looked at him in shock, “Good god man you’re right! That’s no slaver it’s a transport! The reason she hasn’t fired is that the guns are more for show! If Speedy boards before we get there they’ll be swamped by a couple of hundred angry soldiers!”
I turned to Midshipman Yorke, “Quick! Signal Speedy to get clear until we get there!” Even before I finished speaking, there was a puff of smoke from Speedy and shortly after, the sound of her broadside rumbled across the water to us.
As Paris closed the distance we could see Speedy come alongside the other ship and her men swarm up her side only to be met by a swarm of soldiers rushing up from below. The The Speedy’s men faught fiercely and the soldiers were sick and weakened from being at sea in cramped conditions but still the battle moved back onto the brig’s decks. Commander Regent must have been wondering whether Paris would ever arrive in support. I myself was wondering if we would be in time. Then I had an idea, “Where’s the gunner? Pass the word for the gunner!”
The gunner was summoned to the quarterdeck. “Mr Enfield, I want you to fire one of the bow chasers.”
He looked doubtful but said, “Aye aye, sir. If’n you say so but at this range I don’t know how straight I can shoot.”
“I don’t want you to hit anything, Enfield . I want you to make a big bang and get a ball as close to those ships as you can. Hopefully that will get everybody’s attention and remind the enemy that there’s a bloody big frigate about to join the fight.”
The gunner padded forward to obey his orders while I looked on and prayed that Speedy would hold on. If the enemy captain has any sense he’ll realize that he can’t outrun or outgun Paris and not even his weight of numbers would be enough. If he’s sensible and honourable enough he might surrender without forcing further bloodshed.
The big 18 pound bowchaser spat out its tongue of fire with an almighty boom and Mr Enfield lived up to his reputation, laying the ball close alongside the enemy transport. Soon afterward, there was the sound of a trumpet. Then slowly the enemy soldiers stopped fighting and dropped their weapons as Speedy’s men cheered.
I turned to Lt Rose, “Those are some very fine men on that brig holding out for so long against those numbers. I don’t want to steal her glory by taking command myself. You take the boats and fifty men across. If Commander Regent survived, place yourself under her orders. If she didn’t then take command and secure the prize. While you are organizing your party I will go below and write a note for her.”
“Aye, aye, Sir.”
Note to Commander Regent,
I wish to congratulate you on your victory. The gallantry and bravery of you and your crew was outstanding. I have sent my First Lieutenant Craig Rose and fifty men to assist you. They have instructions to place themselves under your orders. If you do not have a suitable officer to take command of your prize the I would like to recommend Lt Rose to you. Paris, will stand ready to assist you should assistance be required.
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With wanting to keep the slaver unaware of Speedy s battle-ready status, the last thing Emily had wanted was the boarding nets draped across the decks, but theMessage 1 of 3 , Dec 2 11:55 AMView SourceWith wanting to keep the slaver unaware of Speedy's battle-ready status, the last thing Emily had wanted was the boarding nets draped across the decks, but the men were ready for whatever orders might come once it was clear they were going to have to fight. However, the last thing she had expected was for the Tiki to grapple Speedy and although they were prepared to attempt to board first, it seemed like a very strange tactic.If she was a civilian vessel, then she wasn't likely to stand a better chance boarding Speedy than she was to just use her guns: the ship was bigger; she was carrying larger armament and Tiki's crew might outnumber the Speedys, but they weren't trained men. So why grapple? It didn't make sense.And then her own men, as she shouted orders to board, were met by soldiers! It was not just the shock of seeing her own crew met with professional resistance, but that her expectations of the purpose of this ship had been so wildly different. They were keeping the enemy soldiers from Speedy's deck so far, but Commander Regent could see that it wouldn't last despite their best efforts."Prepare to fend off! Prepare to cut those ropes, there!" she found herself shouting, and taking up a boarding axe herself, to sever the rope from the hook that had caught on the quarter-deck. "As they board!" she added. It was a wild idea; it probably wouldn't even the odds as much as she hoped, but it was all she could think of in the limited time she had, once that initial shock had worn off.It worked. Ropes were cut and Speedy and Tiki separated for several seconds, even as new hooks were being thrown over; but it bought them a few seconds of time. The soldiers prepared to board from Tiki found no footing besides empty air and plunged downwards; those who had time to see what had happened and stopped were still pushed forwards by their eager comrades and fell, also. "Prepare to repel boarders!"By the time the hulls ground together again, they were, indeed, prepared. One man attempting to leap onto Lt. Frey lost his footing as he unexpectedly landed on the deck instead of officer and didn't get up again. The man who swung his cutlass at Emily hashed the job miserably, and his final revenge was the stain across her uniform as she parted as much of his head from his neck as she could. He hadn't seemed at peak efficiency, either. If they were all this bad, then maybe they stood a chance, after all.She wasn't sure how long it was before another crash of canon-fire roared out, and Speedy rocked against the larger Tiki. But they were surrendering; staring resentfully across the water towards Paris, whose bow-chaser still had smoke drifting gently away. Dammit in all the excitement, she had forgotten about her reinforcements."Start getting the wounded down to the surgeon; clear that mess; take these men into custody well done, men!" she was reeling off orders and complements by rote. She needed to get off the deck before she thought about the last several minutes and until then, Emily operated on old orders, old routines, all of which were familiar and easy to fall into. "Lt. Frey?""Aye-aye, sir," her first Lieutenant answered. She turned towards him and nearly laughed. Hell that had ruined his fine uniform and eternally tidy hair; he was human after all!"I want an assessment of the damage, if you please.""Yes, sir," Frey agreed.However, there was no reprieve. Boats had been launched from Paris, and Middleton, flushed and excited reported to the quarterdeck. "Sir men from Paris," he reported.It would have been a poor welcome aboard for a captain, Commander Regent reflected as she moved forward to greet the Lieutenant who had been sent from Paris; with the bosun's mate killed or indisposed (she hadn't been decisively told which, yet), there was only the bosun himself to pipe a captain aboard and Speedy's deck still looked a wreck."Sir, Lt. Craig Rose of Paris. Captain Brad sends his complements ""Welcome aboard, Lt. Rose," Emily greeted, taking the offered note. She scanned it quickly a generous missive, indeed. Not to mention a discrete one, but his help was more welcome than he could guess. She had no idea what she was going to do with Tiki her own crew was scarcely large enough to stand capturing a small prize, never mind one this size. "This places you under my command, Lieutenant, and recommends you as prizemaster.""Aye-aye, sir." Was every First Lieutenant pulled to one side and given special instruction about how to appear neutral in front of other commanding officers?"I've no objections to your posting, Lt. Rose indeed, I'm not sure I could spare a soul, and certainly not until I've had the butcher's bill. Do whatever is necessary to secure Tiki and the prisoners, if you please. Let me know if there are any problems. The captain, if he's still alive, speaks Spanish and take some marines we were attacked by a hefty numbers, but I don't know whether there were more belowdecks.""Thank you, sir," Lt. Rose answered, apparently pleased. "Are you all right, sir?"Emily nodded, then remembered her first opponent's last revenge. "Fortunately, all this belongs to the enemy," she assured, indicating the shirt that was now sticking bloodily to her and re-read the note. She moved aft quickly, towards the relative sanctity of her cabin (if it had been put back together, yet). The screen was up, but that was all - there was no damage to Speedy belowdecks as Tiki hadn't fired. She must remember to ask Lt. Rose whether that was because her guns were for show, because they hadn't been loaded, or because they had been removed to make way for troops.And she was free to reflect on the disaster of her first real chance to prove herself at command. "Bloody hell," she swore to herself, quietly. She had been so sure it would be a slaver she had even made some a loose, flexible strategy for taking her when the charade had been over, and let her crew go into the fight thinking they were rescuing men, not meeting enemy soldiers. If they hadn't been so damn incompetent, Speedy would be a ghost-ship by now; and an enemy prize herself. A troop transport she had never even considered it.She looked at the note in her hand and Captain Brad's gracious congratulations. She'd made the kind of error that ended men's careers, that lost ships to the enemy and lost men their lives. Captain Brad, Paris and luck had saved her, and she was under no illusion that it was anything else.And what the hell would she write in her report to the Admiral?
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