Nelson focused on the specks. They instantly swelled, exhibiting a fleet of ships, cutting a vapour wake, suggesting speed. His line of sight rose to the masts, finding red and yellow striped ensigns flapping.
“They’re Panish. Two are first rate men of war,” he said.
Hardy gauged his expression, then recalled the telescope. “They’re much bigger than us and heavier armed,” he said, still staring through the eyepiece.
“Indeed,” Nelson said, regarding the foreign fleet through his bionic eye, but bulkier, which means they turn slowly.”
The Panish ships formed a single rank and separated for the Rittish fleet to slip between them in the accepted manner.
“Shouldn’t we flee, sir?” Hardy queried.
Nelson ignored him, taking hold of the coms funnel. “All ships of the Rittish line! Keep to full sail, on a heading of three, twenty degrees to port!”
“I see,” Hardy said, “we sail across their prows and escape before they can turn their guns on us.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Nelson caught Fitzsimmons smirking.
He winked at the big man. “All ships, have gun crews at the ready!” Nelson called into the funnel.
They drew nearer to the slowing Panish hulls, able to make out individual features, such as masts and sails.
“They’re expecting us to engage, Admiral,” Hardy said.
“Then let us not disappoint them. Gun crews…” Nelson waited until his flagship began to pass the outermost Panish vessel. “… Fire!”
Hundreds of Rittish canons thundered glowing orange balls into the helpless Panish keels with devastating effect. Shields collapsed and eleven ships ruptured, sending glowing debris in a massive spread across empty space.
“That’s not how its done,” Hardy protested.
“Now we are the aggressors,” Nelson pointed out. “All ships, turn about, hard to port, and pursue the Panish at full sail! Gun crews; reload!” He spoke into the funnel.
The helmsman spun the wheel anti- clockwise, shifting the view of the forward viewing window, in a continual left arc. Fully turned about, Nelson noted his quarry’s white hot jets flaring whiter, then disappear.
“Full sail!” Hardy cried.
Rittish ships lurched in staggered formation as they entered warp speed. All but the largest Panish vessels had pulled away.
“Keep an eye on the engines’ output,” Hardy told his first officer.
“Sir,” the man said curtly.
Just as Nelson hoped, the two ships took longer to build momentum. In the distance, their engines continued to burn, leaving a white vapour wake behind them. The wake caused turbulence. Undaunted, the Captain bobbed after the Panish vessels, like a wild horse at play in the fields.
Vehement Panish communications emanated from the radio.
“They’re incensed about being left behind by the rest of the fleet,” the first officer said.
Fitzsimmons leaned close to Nelson’s ear. “And what do we do once we’ve caught them, sir?”
“What do you mean?”
The big man gaped. “We’re no more than a rat, chasing a python. In this case, two.”
Nelson grinned. “More like a mongoose.”