We did our best to avoid them.
We saw the other ship only an hour so after we’d raised our anchor and put Zhao in the water. Those on the other ship waved and hailed us, their shouts echoing through my mind.
Our Thinker, whose name is Fengbo, crowded on his sail and tried to tack away.
It didn’t take long for the other crew to realize something wasn’t right. For a moment, a brief, sweet moment, I hoped they’d let it lie.
They came ‘round hard to starboard and sailed after us, moving in behind us to cut off our wind.
“Are they sailing a Thinker?” I asked Fengbo.
“No,” he replied, “but I’ve seen that style before. It’s fast, and I’m old. They’ll catch us soon.”
Defeat filled his words.
I gave the rail a pat and said, “Keep yourself steady. I’ve work to do.”
Liu and I went to the aft of the ship, and I laid down on the deck. Liu did the same.
“Load the clips for me,” I said, “and we’ll see if we can’t keep them honest.”
Liu frowned, confused, but he loaded the clips nonetheless.
I slipped the first clip in, chambered a round, and sighted on the nearest target. It was a white woman, laughing and pointing to us as she kept her hat pressed down with her free hand.
I let my body fall into the rhythm of Fengbo’s movements, and as we rose up on the crest of a wave, I took her hat and the top of her head off. Brain and blood exploded over her companion’s face, and he clawed at his eyes as he tumbled overboard. Their dingy, bouncing along beside the ship, crushed him beneath its prow.
For a heartbeat, the chasing ship slowed.
Then the crew yelled and tried to put on more sail, and so they chose to die.
Again and again, I fired the rifle. Some died while others tumbled into the water.
The last few scrambled into the dingy, and after I reloaded my rifle, I focused on the small craft. The boat looked as though it had seen better days, and with three men crammed in, the vessel rode low.
As they cast off and fumbled for the oars, I took aim at the boat. Shot after shot went into the hull, and after the fourth bullet struck the side, the wood split open, and the water swept in.
The men, we saw, never learned how to swim.