The Hijo Afortunado drew steadily away. After half an hour, it appeared less than the length of a little finger held at arms length. An hour after that, the Nueces ship caught up to her.
"How do you think the conversation's going, Diego?" Cisneros asked with a gallows grin.
"Not well, for Escarzaga, at any rate," Diego said. "Even if Nueces didn't seem him dump us, he's going to have a time explaining away his Brazos contract."
They stared after the ships, the two hulls seemingly merged into one.
"It's taking a long time," said Del Hoyo. "That's bad, right?"
"Probably taking Hijo Afortunado as a capture," said Diego. "Serves that bastard Escarzaga-- hold on, they're moving off."
The two ships separated, the space between them rapidly widening.
"That's odd," Diego said. "Why are they--"
A volley of sparks lanced out from the Nueces ship into the Hijo Afortunado. Hot, sharp flashes erupted along the Hijo Afortunado's hull. Smoke boiled forth. Then another barrage hit the stricken airship.
"Dios mio! They're pounding her with rockets," Diego said, mouth agape. The implications sank in. Nueces merchantmen were now armed for ship-to-ship combat. "Nueces has gone completely insane."
Flames fully engulfed the Hijo Afortunado, a cloud of gray-black smoke wrapping around the conflagration. The Nueces ship unloaded one final volley into its prey, then turned away to resume its hunt.
Tomorrow: The shoals!
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