Most of the men, soldiers and sailors did not make it, but some did for two reasons. Elder Stow, at the last minute, removed the wall setting and placed an invisible globe of force around the travelers, Captain Hawk and his immediate crew of officers, many Dutchmen, and some Spaniards. He slowly expanded the bubble as he flew to the edge of the beach. Once the travelers could wade out into the water, he let the bubble go. They would have to swim a bit, and their weapons and rifles would need some care to be restored, but they would be safe. Besides, they had help. The other reason some made it to the ship. Three hundred mermen came out of the bay. They carried harpoons they could throw and trident-like pikes they could use to cut and stab from a distance. The mermen, legs on, made a way through the spiders for men to get to the sea where the mermaids waited to carry them to the ship. As frightening as the mermaids were for some of the sailors, the spiders were worse.
As Captain Hawk climbed aboard the ship, he realized the bay was full of his water sprites. He understood then why the spiders had not overrun the Golden Hawk. He saw that any spider that put so much as a foot in the water got grabbed and pulled under to drown. The Mere people just made it so much worse for the spiders.
The mermen did not stay on land very long. They quickly pulled back into the water, effectively abandoning the rest of the men to their fate. By then, there were not many left alive. The deck of the Golden Hawk was littered with men, soaking wet from the sea and from the sweat of fear. It would be a long time before the nightmares went away.
The shoreline still teemed with spiders, but Inaros pointed to the edge of the woods where after a moment they heard musket fire and arrows began to bombard the spiders. General Diego had arrived. The Buccaneers were there to cut off escape to the north. The natives pressed in from the south. And now that the sea was certain death, it was only a matter of time before the spiders were finished. They had nowhere to escape. Half, or more of the men would die in the fight, but they would finish the job. Captain Hawk knew his little ones would scour the whole island. No spiders on the island would survive.
Inaros pointed up. The old Agdaline transport had taken to the sky and was headed right toward them.
“Damn,” Decker noticed, and then everyone noticed.
Captain Hawk shouted. “Mister Peevy! Prepare the ship for flight.”
“Aye Captain,” came the response.
The captain spoke more quietly to Elder Stow. “Can you project screens all around the ship?” He explained for the others. “Agdaline ships are big transports, not warships. They only have… er, ray-guns to remove objects in space that might damage them or maybe to clear a landing site during planetfall. Those systems, though, can be used as weapons, so we need protection.”
“Yes,” Elder Stow responded. “But we will pick up a lot of water and anything that happens to be swimming in it.”
“Wait until we are high enough in the air.”
Elder Stow got out his scanner. “I did not see any flight engines aboard.”
“Ready Captain,” Peevy shouted.
“Never mind about that. Just get ready to set your screens,” Captain Hawk said before he returned the shout. “Take her up.”
The ship rose right out of the water. General Diego’s men who made it to the shore gawked, shouted, and pointed. The Agdaline ship came overhead, and as expected, they fired their meteor deflectors. Fortunately, Elder Stow got the screens up in time, so the makeshift weapon did not touch them.
“One moment,” Elder stow said, as he set his screen device down by the main mast. He had his scanner out and his weapon. Sukki said she was ready. Captain Hawk talked to Lockhart and Katie.
“The thing is, there are probably a thousand or more spiders still aboard the ship in suspended animation or cryogenic sleep chambers, or whatever the current term of use may be. They will have to be dealt with at some point, but I take back what I said about this day and age. By brute force and with gunpowder, the human race might be able to fend off the spiders. Of course, maybe not when the spiders are counted in the trillions.” He shrugged.
“Let’s not let it get to that point, if you don’t mind.” Lockhart said, as Katie interrupted.
“So you know. I saw Captain Esteban and his officers taken by a dozen spiders. It was while we were running.”
“I can confirm that,” Lockhart said.
“Sadly, there is still Don Fernando Delrio, the mastermind behind the idea of colonizing the Southern United States. He is the one that mostly needs to be stopped, before the Atlanta Braves become the Bravos de Atlanta.” Captain Hawk interrupted himself as he saw they were coming up alongside the Agdaline ship. He anticipated what Elder Stow was working on and shouted. “Mister Peevy! Prepare a broadside.”
Elder Stow raised his weapon and fired, striking the Agdaline ship in three places. The first shot took a moment to penetrate the Agdaline screens, but the second and third shots were swift. Sukki, eyes on the scanner, confirmed the three shots struck home. Elder Stow took the scanner to double check while Sukki explained to Lockhart and Katie. Decker, Nanette, and Lincoln all walked up to listen.
“The first shot took out the Agdaline screens. The second killed the weapons system. The third damaged the engines in a way that would not explode.”
Elder Stow mumbled. “I figured an atomic-level explosion was not a good idea.” He looked up from his scanner and spoke more clearly. “Hopefully, they will come down in the sea and all drown.”
Captain Hawk did not hear. He was busy shouting, “Fire!”
The broadside from the Golden Hawk, in an equal and opposite reaction, pushed the ship away from the Agdaline transport and into a cloud that was both cold and wet. The ship rocked a bit, and the deck became slippery to stand on, but at least no one fell overboard. The little ones keeping the ship up in the air complained but things settled down quick enough.
They came out of the cloud in time to see the Agdaline ship head off to the north. She had a dozen big dents in the side with a couple of loosened plates in the outer hull, and she had at least five holes in the ship, ruining the ship for spaceflight. Her engines were smoking, badly. She would not stay aloft for very long. In fact, she managed to fly all the way to the Delaware River where she sank, somewhat deliberately in the soft mud by the river. She would awaken, and the spiders would make a mess in the future, but that is a different story.
Aboard the Golden Hawk, the captain shook his head. “We can do up and down and sail some if we get a good tail wind, but it is very draining on the little ones keeping her up. No way we can follow the ship and see where it lands. That will have to be a future headache.” He shouted again. “Mister Peevy! Get the boards and raise the Jolly Roger.”
The boards held the words, Flying Dutchman. They effectively covered the ship name, Golden Hawk. The flag had the expected skull and crossbones, but it was offset to make room for an hourglass. “What do you think?” the captain asked. “I’m about a hundred years ahead of time with the flag, but someone has to start it.” He smiled for everyone, and Inaros said Argh…
The ship set down in the bay virtually in the same spot where it began, but now pointed out to sea. They unloaded the surviving Spanish. General Diego would take them back to Santo Domingo. The Buccaneers, mostly French and some English, knew Captain Hawk and his crew, and they waved like they were all great friends. They were not all great friends. The native survivors did not appear to know what to think. These Europeans were full of surprises. But mostly, these spiders were creatures of nightmares. Who knew what tales they might tell?
Once the deck was cleared, the ship set sail for Guantanamo Bay. They would sail two days to get there, as long as the weather held. The travelers would be able to rest there for a couple of days while Captain Hawk sailed back to Hispaniola. Then they would travel half a day inland across Cuba to reach the time gate. In all, about a five-day journey to the next time gate. That was not so bad, if the horses did not complain after all that rest and pampering.
The travelers arrive in the frozen north and Lady Elizabeth of Gray Havens brings her recruits into a strange world. Monday. Men in Black. Happy reading.