Part the Two Hundred Eighty Eighth: The Challenge Considered
“Secure the tiller!” Hope commanded Mullins, then rushed to Abigail’s side.
She cradled Abigail against her as she propped her up. She could feel Abigail give small shivers against her as she put her head against her own shoulder, to make sure that Abigail could still see the crew.
Hope looked at them as well and could tell by their expressions that the hold they were under was fast slipping away. Their faces betrayed their growing doubts that the speech they had just heard was given by a woman in her right mind.
“Can anyone tell me,” said Hope, “what was wrong with what she said? Can anyone possibly tell me to my face that she was wrong?”
No one replied.
“Look deep in your hearts,” Hope continued, “and you’ll see that what she said was right. It’s the clearest course before us, and the only way we will all be able to live our lives with our heads aloft. There is no other choice than this!”
The quiet Hope faced heartened her, and she took it as assent.
For the three seconds it lasted…
Jukes cleared his voice and asked, “With all due respect, how are we going to inflict such a pain on the Casa?”
“Pardon?” Hope replied with as much indignity as she could muster.
“Well,” he replied, undaunted, “we carry much fewer guns than that ship, and from what you said earlier, they outclassed your previous ship, the Raging Gale, am I right?”
“That’s right,” said Mason. “You said your last ship carried far more guns and had a hundred men aboard her, and in a fair fight that wasn’t enough for the Casa?”
Hope could feel her eyes widen in response.
“But how does that make her wrong?” Charity asked. “Is what Abigail said somehow invalid? I do not see the problem with her observation; tell me, how is she wrong?”
“It does nothing to make her wrong,” Jukes replied. “It does however prove to be a rather… difficult request to make of us.”
“I don’t see it,” Redhanded Jack offered. “We don’t have the means to challenge the Casa with what’s aboard at all, do we?”
“If we could use all powder aboard in a single shot, we’d stand a good chance of sending her below,” Jukes noted. “We would need a much bigger cannon, mind you.”
“Something we just don’t have,” Mason noted while shaking his head.
“Gentleme-” Hope started to say before the pain hit her…
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