They were six weeks out from Barbados and had naught to show for it but slowly dwindling supplies of ship’s biscuit and grog. T’was a bad season for pirating. Despite rumors in port telling tale of ships traversing the Spanish Main loaded with New World gold, few vessels appeared on the horizon. The one merchantman of note they’d encountered was under escort by a heavy galleon, a foe against which their sloop was outclassed. So they’d made full sail and come about, lest they find themselves providing their necks for the hangman’s art, or sank to the depths under fire from Spanish guns.
But instead of easier targets they found only still seas, and below decks the crew began to murmer of mutiny.
The captain did what he could to allay their qualms. “A share’s a share, and all aboard are entitled to theirs,” he said. “Every man profits, or none do.” After consultation with his mate, a new course was determined, and they set themselves bound for the sugar plantations of Jamaica and Hispaniola, and the trading vessels who sailed those waters.
They’d not been underway but two days when the hurricane set upon them, as ferocious a squall as any seaman ever heard tell. How long it gripped them, not a man among them could say. Rigging snapped and timbers creaked, and all upon deck lashed themselves to the masts or to barrels, lest the tempest toss them overboard. They could raise no sail, or make no course; they could only hold fast.
Strange things, they saw in that maelstrom: St. Elmo’s fire burning atop the masts; will o’whisps that danced across deck. In the distance glimpses could be had of other ships, strange vessels that belched smoke and moved without sail. And overhead, large birds of metal, that flew like albatrosses, without flapping their wings.
At long last the storm passed. The ship was remarkably unscathed, and most of the crew endured. It took less than a day to make the necessary repairs to get underway. But to where? They were in unfamilar waters, the stars in the night sky strangley oriented.
And stranger still, the sight that greated them on the second day after the storm: a coastal city filled with giant towers of steel and glass.
Distress and consternation spread amongst the crew. What was this fearful world that they had found themselves in, with buildings that defied man’s imagination. Should they make port, or tuck tail and flee for open sea?
T’was the captain who made final decision. “Make ready the guns, lads,” he ordered. “Put sword to hand and hand to task. After all, plunder is plunder.”