So, one night Mike gets to host Captain Fernando, the governor of Nombre de Dios, and the governor of Panama at "a gala dinner, entirely too gay to foreshadow disaster." After all the other guests are sent away, the governor of Panama announces that he has news. Mike says the same, is allowed to go first, and explains how he plans to leave the next treasure fleet lightly-guarded to entice Bristol to attack, before bringing up a reserve and catching the pirate against Nombre de Dios' defenses. "This plan is based on my knowledge of the psychology of - of Bristol." Guess Mike is a bad guy after all.
Unfortunately, the governor's news trumps - ugh, my migraine - Mike's. Orders just came in that relieve Mike of his command, so Fernando is now in charge of the Spanish forces in the New World, and he and the other contrary bigwigs thinks Mike's plan "is a strategy which looks very slim." Mike gives them a glare and storms out before they can get any more words in.
One paragraph break and we're "Much later that night" in Mike's room with Marion, presumably after she's helped him burn off some frustration. Though if that was indeed the case, they went right to it instead of discussing what had gotten Mike so agitated, since it's only now - or, "much later" - that Mike explains he's lost his command. When she realizes she's to blame for his problems she bursts into tears while he tries to lie no, it's not her fault.
"Oh, yes," she wept.
"Have you no thought of what might happen to you?" said Mike.
Evidently she had not yet considered that, but she looked up at him proudly.
"You would not let them touch me."
"No," said Mike. "No, of course not."
Huh. Maybe I'm projecting here, but it almost seems like Mike was annoyed that his love interest was so fawning and flat that she could only see the latest plot developments in how they affected him. Okay, I'm almost certainly projecting here.
At any rate, the next morning Father Mercy comes to visit, only to find Mike's mansion barricaded and a warning shot waiting for any demands for entry. You'd think this showdown between a high-ranking priest and a disgraced admiral would go further, but nothing happens for the next five days, until a battered wreck of a ship limps into Nombre de Dios' harbor. Mike leaves his home for this, and gets to meet a mortally-wounded Fernando, who reveals that the Spanish fleet was annihilated by the English pirates, leaving only this ruined flagship and thirty men alive. Fernando begs Mike's forgiveness, and our hero grants it, along with wishes that "whatever place you go to have a kinder god than this."
Mike turned aside as they bore the captain away. No typewriter in the sky here. Nothing but real, agonizing death. Those streaks down from the scuppers of the Josef y Maria, real blood had made those.
Well, it all seems very real, but just wait until next chapter.
Having left the shelter of his manor, Mike is soon accosted by Father Mercy and some "church troops" trying to arrest him, only for the town's governor to intervene with his own forces. When the padre complains that Mike is an "infidel," the governor counters that they'd be mad to throw out the only man who can hope to defend the town now, and puts Mike in full command of the remaining Spanish forces. Mike's disinterested and depressed, but does suggest that they salvage the guns from the sinking flagship and fortify the beach to hold off a landing, and also send runners to Panama for reinforcements, though they'll probably be too late.
Our hero's only hope is that, since he's been able to change the plot of the story a bit, with some effort he could change it further. And then... we cut to Horace Hackett in his publisher's office, talking through "Blood and Loot."
Jules Montcalm does not like what he's hearing, and another author, one René LaFayette... really, Hubbard? Your own pen name? Well, R. L. Not-Hubbard doesn't like it either, and Montcalm accuses Hackett of trying to sell a scene that even the writer thinks sucks. The editor concludes that the whole battle is too easy, with Bristol tearing through the Spanish fleet and then overcoming a few puny shore batteries, and Hackett admits that okay, it's a bit weak. Then the editor asks,
"Well, your strong man in this story is this Spanish admiral and where was he?"
"I dunno," said Horace. "You got to understand that sometimes, when you're writing, a story just takes care of itself."
This raises all sorts of questions. Like how could Hackett, the story's author, not know what is happening in it? Did all the intrigue at Nombre de Dios happen without any of his input? Did he not notice that the almirante wasn't leading the attack against Bristol's pirate armada? And if part of his pitch for the story was that it had a really interesting villain, why did Hackett let said villain slip out of sight?
Well, Montcalm wants a proper showdown between Bristol and this admiral, and it has to take place at sea because "This is a sea story, not a land story." Hackett complains that a final duel on the quarterdeck has been done to death, but Montcalm points out that it works, and orders the author to give him a proper swordfight by Monday or else "I'll - I'll let Tritewell illustrate it!"
We end with Hackett grumbling about having to tear up and throw out perfectly good copy, only for LaFayette to remark that he's lucky Montcalm isn't scrapping the whole stupid book.
When he passed René LaFayette he muttered, "And after all the drink I've bought you."
Normally Hubbard doesn't take such a direct approach when it comes to tormenting his creations. At least Gris never had to deal with an author avatar calling him names and insulting his decisions... unless Heller counts. Yeah, he might.
Back to Chapter Nine