• Surprise, a privateer out of England is chasing an American privateer, Franklin, in the South Pacific.
• The crew of Franklin was involved in political intrigue and military battle near the island of Moahu.
• Jack Aubrey, Captain of Surprise seems almost psychic in his prediction of what Franklin is going to do.
• The two ships have exchanged gunfire off and on and Franklin pumps her freshwater overboard in an effort to pull ahead.
• Stephen Maturin, Aubrey's best friend is aboard Surprise. His mission is to go to Peru to agitate for independence from Spain.
• Maturin has a secondary mission in Peru acquire a considerable stock of coca leaves to which he is addicted.
• Tom Pullings, a long time acquaintance of Aubrey and Maturin is the first lieutenant. West is the second lieutenant.
• West is hoping that Aubrey will recommend him for reinstatement in the British Navy and is...
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