The following story was submitted for Thanatos’ Flash Fiction contest on April 2020 in “In the Pantheon” group
Yo Ho, Ho! A Pirate’s Death for me
There she was, peeking through the thick fog, not too far ahead of the port bow. She was laden and she was juicy, and she was not going to get away. The Cargo Fluyt ahead of them might be a lot bigger than the Barque that he was manning, but it was a slow, lumbering ship, and it was build for transporting goods, not cannon and crew. She was still too far to see any detail, but it wouldn’t be long now. Using his spyglass earlier, he only saw five, maybe six crew members scurrying about, trying to extend this chase.
Captain Jonas “Windrider” Ratliff stroked one of the pegs of the wheel he was holding, deftly keeping the sails fed by the swirling westward winds in order to get as much speed as he could. “The Scorpion”, as he named it, was the best ship he’s had in his almost thirty years of… privateering as he called it. The Scorpion might be smaller than most warships that roam the open seas, but under his deft hand at the wheel, and his learned grew manning the guns, he can outmaneuver anyone and pepper them with cannon fire over and over and over again, until they’re about to take on water. That’s when they strike their mast and the white flags start flying.
It was a simple strategy, really, and many captains attempted it. Most of them though, either became fish food, or are doing their time in Davy Jones’ Locker. Depending on speed to get past a broadside of 30 guns without getting demolished is not something most captains would do willingly. It wasn’t called a “suicide pass” for no reason, but that edge of craziness has always served him well. His instincts on when to turn and how much in order to get as much speed as possible from his ship was what gave him his nickname.
Soon enough, The Scorpion’s new prey will find out exactly, what this strategy was all about, because judging by the winds, they were only a few minutes away from cannon range. They technically already were, but Captain Jonas knew he had to wait a bit longer and account for the time and speed loss for the hard to starboard move it’d take for The Scorpion to have her guns pointed the right way. Patience was not something people of his ilk (he hated the word “pirate” and never used it), were known for, but he knew better.
He was only a few breaths away from executing the move, when the call came from the crow’s nest. “Avast, Cap’n! There be movement on their stern!” What could they be doing? Getting ready to strike their colors? It would be a smart move. Captain Jonas nodded and growled at his 2nd standing next to him, while letting him take over at the wheel. “Keep her steady!” Making his way to port, he reached out and extended his spyglass, aiming for the stern of the ship ahead.
Apparently, the crew in the Fluyt were not getting ready to strike their colors. That was a minor disappointment. But… what are they doing exactly? It looked like they were setting up some type of… contraption. It looked like a tiny cannon, or a big musket, but it was nothing like he’d seen before. It looked too small to be threatening though. They’ll be diving for safety once The Scorpion’s guns brought their ship down around their ears.
We walked back toward the wheel and was about to take over, when it happened. There was a weird humming noise and a flash of an ungodly bright red light that cut through the sky. A few seconds of silence passed and then chaos ensued as screams of terror and confusion erupted from the deck of The Scorpion as all three masts groaned and creaked and suddenly toppled over. Another hum announced the coming of another flash, and suddenly the whole deck exploded and cracked open right in half, the smell of burned wood wafting in the air.
The third hum was the last thing everyone onboard The Scorpion ever registered, as the laser beam found the ship’s gunpowder stores. A shuddering explosion gutted the ship and killed almost everyone on board instantly. All that was left was the ship’s skeleton, looking much like a wooden spine of a whale or other such sea creature. Less than a minute later, there was nothing left as the Scorpion sank to the bottom of the sea, the vacuum of the water taking down what few survivors were left.
Jack punched Damon in the arm playfully as he whooped and hollered at their handiwork. “What are you celebrating for, you numbnut? Like there was ever any doubt how this was going to go down. Now help me dismantle the laser and take it downstairs before another ship comes looking to see what caused the explosion.” Damon turned and gave a pained look at Jack. “Hey, now! What was that for? Did I or didn’t I tell you that pirating our loot by shifting back through time would be genius?”
Jack snorted at the retort and folded his arms. “Yeah… brilliant plan. Except that your great, great, great whatever-great grandpa might have been on that ship. And you know what that means. Enjoy imploding to nothing in the next few minutes.” As if on cue, Damon’s eyes started bulging out and his hands went to his throat as a wet gurgle escaped him. He doubled over in pain, and his shoulders started trembling. Then, just as suddenly, Damon straightened up, looked at Jack and whooped another hearty laugh, and made his way below.
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