When Midshipman 'Harry' Nelson-Heron and his life-long friend and companion, Boy Seaman Ferghal O'Connor transfer to the new '74', HMS Spartan, they are about to embark on a voyage that will take them to New South Wales, India and Arabia. In the two years this book covers, they will fight storms, pirates and the prejudice of their seniors. Harry will grow from a starry-eyed idealist into a practical and determined youth and Ferghal become a competent seaman.
But no one can anticipate the fate of these boys as their ship departs from Bombay on the voyage home and a meeting with the distant future.
In the parallel story, Harry's twelve times great nephew is the Captain of a new starship being built for the North European Confederation. NECS Vanguard will be the most powerful ship in her class when she is completed. Captain James Heron prepares his ship and his crew for their first commission and voyage to the stars, unaware that their departure will bring him face to face with the past - and solve a family mystery.
Their Lordships Request concludes with both parties moving into position for the realisation of that destiny ...
Harry found himself dancing a little jig as he waited on the loading and watched the xebec slowly opening the gap between herself and the Maid of Selsey. He realised that it was her oars which made it possible for these ships to escape so rapidly and he shouted to the Gunner’s Mate as that worthy indicated the guns were ready, “Aim for the oars. If we can cripple those she will be easy meat for the Spartan!”
The Gunner’s Mate gave him a strange look. Then nodded. “Very good, sir. You heard him lads – make sure of them, take the outriggers as your mark and wait for my signal.” He paused until all the captains indicated readiness then bawled, “Fire!”
The four guns leapt backwards in a ragged broadside. The men sprang to reload and Harry dived for a port to see what had happened.
The smoke eddied clear and he saw to his initial delight that more than half the oars on the xebecs port side were a tangled, shattered mass. Then he felt the cold clutch of horror as he saw that the oarsmen attached to them were now broken shattered rags. As he watched some of the survivors began to struggle to free themselves, hindered by the chains he could now see held them to their benches.
His horror turned to rage as he saw the corsairs attack these wretched scarecrows with whips, forcing them back to the effort of rowing.
He leapt back from the port and said, “Gunner’s Mate, I want each gun aimed and fired at the gangways and the quarterdeck of that ship.” He did not notice that his voice was suddenly deeper and firmer. “I want as many of those fiends destroyed as possible – see to it, Mister Bates.”
“Aye, aye, sir!” The Gunner’s Mate looked at the child suddenly become a man and ordered, “Dudley, stand aside there, stand by the training spikes, this bastard isn’t going to escape.”
Harry watched dispassionately as the Gunner’s Mate pointed each gun as carefully as he could and fired. The first struck on the decorated transom raising a great shower of splinters, the second struck nearby, but obviously caused more damage for the ship slewed round, exposing her side to the next shot which struck a mast and sent a shower of splinters scything through the corsairs clustered near it. The fourth shot, by lucky chance, struck near the xebecs bowchasers, overturning one gun and careening off it to scythe through another cluster of men gathered at the fore end of the ship.
Further firing was rendered unnecessary as the sky darkened under the shadow cast by the towering canvas of HMS Spartan as she tacked across the Maid of Selsey’s stern, her ports open and her great batteries run up and ready to fire.
On the corsair, panic ensued as the pirates scrambled to throw themselves into the sea even as Spartan’s broadside began to thunder across the intervening space.
Harry turned away as the lightly framed xebec disintegrated, torn apart by the smashing power of the great thirty-two pounders of the lower battery and the lighter twenty-fours of her upper tier.
“Don’t fret for the slaves, sir,” the Gunner’s Mate said softly. “At least now they will be free, not like the poor sods on this tub.”
“I shall hope that at least they die quickly then,” said Harry bitterly, still not aware of the change in his voice. He went to find the lieutenant wondering where Ferghal was and praying that he would not be among the dead on the forecastle.
“Master Harry,” Ferghal called to him. “You’re safe then.” His relief was evident in his voice.
Patrick Cox was born in Cape Town in 1946. He has had a very fulfilling career working in all areas of fire fighting and fire safety, and later as a fire and explosives expert, consultant, teacher and Government Adviser in the UK and internationally.
He has been published many times over in trade journals and continues to write for technical journals. He has had a long fascination with the sea and ships, as well as the world of science fiction and space travel.
His first novel, Out of Time, published by AuthorHouse, is a story about a group of sailors aboard one of Nelson’s fleet, plucked from their ship-of-the-line and transported forward four hundred years in time to another kind of battleship, one that cruises space rather than the Seven Seas. The protagonists use their archaic naval skills to save the day in the future world where people seem to have forgotten the skills of your average seaman. Same challenges, different environment. A sequel, The Enemy is Within, was published by Hallmark Press.
He sees these books becoming a series akin to Hornblower, Bolitho or Sharpe.
Patrick is the author of several technical books and papers. He has appeared on television programmes as a fire-fighting expert including Ring of Fire for the Discovery Channel about bush fires in Australia, and as a commentator on Inside Spontaneous Human Combustion in 2005 for Sky1.
Perhaps unusually, he has appeared on Kazakhstan’s national daily news programme, Kazakhstan Today, speaking about fire safety in high rise buildings.
Patrick is an experienced public speaker and is keen to speak at public events on all aspects of fire-fighting and explosives investigation.
His recent interview on The Book Channel can be accessed at www.thebookchannel.tv/patrick-cox.html