The depth gauge's alarm screamed over the fury of the squall, pulling Jace Decker out of his daze. Wind, rain, and waves lashed at the hull. He wasn't sure why he was laying on his back, but the throbbing in his head told him he'd taken a hard hit.
Maybe a mild concussion. Small cut near his left temple, bleeding a bit but manageable.
Everything still attached to the boat (mostly). The portable sat-radio was gone. The dinghy, too. No one else aboard - but no surprise there.
He vaguely recalled sailing into the storm on purpose.
He had hoped that the waves in squall would give him a lead, planing or surfing for extra speed. The boat must've jibed unexpectedly and knocked him out. The jackline had prevented him from drowning overboard.
Pirates. Right. Where were they? He grabbed the binoculars.
Still several miles off. Good, but not great - they were closing in.
They'd been following him across the open ocean for two weeks. He'd first noticed them when their refuelling drone showed up on radar. Why were they so determined? Surely there were closer, easier marks. Whatever the reason, something had changed that morning. They had started to close in for a kill.
Decker punched a button to reef the mainsail, then furled the foresail to 1/4. "That should be enough for this pukefest", he said to no one. He spotted a nearby island on the nav system - looked unpopulated, and surrounded by shallows - and set course for it. A regular sailboat would break apart on the shoals, but Jace knew something his pirate pursuers did not: This was no ordinary boat.
The Renegade was a 20 metre custom-built hydrofoil catamaran. Under the right conditions, it could fly over the water at speeds upward of 45 knots while only having a draft of a quarter-metre. These were not the right conditions, but the numbers would work. Could work. Had to work.
He punched a second button, this time to extend the foils.
The wind howled through the close-hauled sails, pulling them taught, and the boat came alive with power. He could see that the pirate runabout wasn't gaining as quickly now.
Soon, the Renegade was cruising at 28 knots and the foils were starting to lift the twin hulls. The waves and rocks were rushing past - the close haul was going to make control difficult in the chop. Decker let the sail out into a beam reach and adjusted the helm to keep on course. He'd have to stick right at 28 to keep control, and keep ahead of the runabout just a little longer.
They didn't see it coming. It blended in with the chop and white caps. Their fully fueled runabout hit the half-submerged rock at 30 knots, ripping out the bottom of their hull and sending the fiery wreckage 10 metres into the air.
As smoke poured from the sinking wreck, relief washed over Jace. Finally, after two weeks of cat and mouse, no one was chasing him. But now he had to navigate the storm to safe harbour.
White-knuckled and drenched in rain, sweat, and blood, it was two hours before he had a chance to rest. He dropped anchor in a small but sheltered cove, hoping it would be enough to wait out the squall, and then collapsed from exhaustion. Dead to the world for 18 hours.
But as far as the world knew, he'd already been dead for four years.