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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great War Syndicate - Web page 13
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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 13 Post by :smashface Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :1257

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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 13

In a moment the Adamant began to steam backward;
but the only effect of this motion, which soon became
rapid, was to swing the crabs around against her sides,
and carry them with her. As the vessels were thus
moving the great pincers of the crabs were twisted with
tremendous force, the stern-jacket on one side was
broken from its bolt, and on the other the bolt itself
was drawn out of the side of the vessel. The nippers
then opened, and the stern-jacket fell from their grasp
into the sea, snapping in its fall the chain by which
it had been raised and lowered.

This disaster occurred so quickly that few persons
on board the Adamant knew what had happened. But the
captain, who had seen everything, gave instant
orders to go ahead at full speed. The first thing
to be done was to get at a distance from those crabs,
keep well away from them, and pound them to pieces with
his heavy guns.

But the iron screw-propellers had scarcely begun to
move in the opposite direction, before the two crabs,
each now lying at right angles with the length of the
ship, but neither of them directly astern of her, made
a dash with open nippers, and Crab J fastened upon one
propeller, while Crab K laid hold of the other. There
was a din and crash of breaking metal, two shocks which
were felt throughout the vessel, and the shattered and
crushed blades of the propellers of the great battle-
ship were powerless to move her.

The captain of the Adamant, pallid with fury,
stood upon the poop. In a moment the crabs would be at
his rudder! The great gun, double-shotted and ready to
fire, was hanging from its boom over the stern. Crab
K, whose roof had the additional protection of spring
armour, now moved round so as to be directly astern of
the Adamant. Before she could reach the rudder, her
forward part came under the suspended cannon, and two
massive steel shot were driven down upon her with a
force sufficient to send them through masses of solid
rock; but from the surface of elastic steel springs and
air-buffers they bounced upward, one of them almost
falling on the deck of the Adamant.

The gunners of this piece had been well trained.
In a moment the boom was swung around, the cannon
reloaded, and when Crab K fixed her nippers on the
rudder of the Adamant, two more shot came down upon
her. As in the first instance she dipped and rolled,
but the ribs of her uninjured armour had scarcely
sprung back into their places, before her nippers
turned, and the rudder of the Adamant was broken in
two, and the upper portion dragged from its fastenings
then a quick backward jerk snapped its chains, and it
was dropped into the sea.

A signal was now sent from Crab J to Repeller No.
7, to the effect that the Adamant had been rendered
incapable of steaming or sailing, and that she lay
subject to order.

Subject to order or not, the Adamant did not lie
passive. Every gun on board which could be
sufficiently depressed, was made ready to fire upon the
crabs should they attempt to get away. Four large
boats, furnished with machine guns, grapnels, and with
various appliances which might be brought into use on a
steel-plated roof, were lowered from their davits, and
immediately began firing upon the exposed portions of
the crabs. Their machine guns were loaded with small
shells, and if these penetrated under the horizontal
plates of a crab, and through the heavy glass which was
supposed to be in these interstices, the crew of the
submerged craft would be soon destroyed.

The quick eye of the captain of the Adamant had
observed through his glass, while the crabs were still
at a considerable distance, their protruding air-pipes,
and he had instructed the officers in charge of the
boats to make an especial attack upon these. If the
air-pipes of a crab could be rendered useless, the crew
must inevitably be smothered.

But the brave captain did not know that the
condensed-air chambers of the crabs would supply their
inmates for an hour or more without recourse to the
outer air, and that the air-pipes, furnished with
valves at the top, were always withdrawn under water
during action with an enemy. Nor did he know that
the glass blocks under the armour-plates of the crabs,
which were placed in rubber frames to protect them from
concussion above, were also guarded by steel netting
from injury by small balls.

Valiantly the boats beset the crabs, keeping up a
constant fusillade, and endeavouring to throw grapnels
over them. If one of these should catch under an
overlapping armour-plate it could be connected with the
steam windlass of the Adamant, and a plate might be
ripped off or a crab overturned.

But the crabs proved to be much more lively fish
than their enemies had supposed. Turning, as if on a
pivot, and darting from side to side, they seemed to be
playing with the boats, and not trying to get away from
them. The spring armour of Crab K interfered somewhat
with its movements, and also put it in danger from
attacks by grapnels, and it therefore left most of the
work to its consort.

Crab J, after darting swiftly in and out among her
antagonists for some time, suddenly made a turn, and
dashing at one of the boats, ran under it, and raising
it on its glistening back, rolled it, bottom upward,
into the sea. In a moment the crew of the boat
were swimming for their lives. They were quickly
picked up by two of the other boats, which then deemed
it prudent to return to the ship.

But the second officer of the Adamant, who
commanded the fourth boat, did not give up the fight.
Having noted the spring armour of Crab K, he believed
that if he could get a grapnel between its steel ribs
he yet might capture the sea-monster. For some minutes
Crab K contented itself with eluding him; but, tired of
this, it turned, and raising its huge nippers almost
out of the water, it seized the bow of the boat, and
gave it a gentle crunch, after which it released its
hold and retired. The boat, leaking rapidly through
two ragged holes, was rowed back to the ship, which it
reached half full of water.

The great battle-ship, totally bereft of the power
of moving herself, was now rolling in the trough of the
sea, and a signal came from the repeller for Crab K to
make fast to her and put her head to the wind. This
was quickly done, the crab attaching itself to the
stern-post of the Adamant by a pair of towing
nippers. These were projected from the stern of the
crab, and were so constructed that the larger
vessel did not communicate all its motion to the
smaller one, and could not run down upon it.

As soon as the Adamant was brought up with her
head to the wind she opened fire upon the repeller.
The latter vessel could easily have sailed out of the
range of a motionless enemy, but her orders forbade
this. Her director had been instructed by the
Syndicate to expose his vessel to the fire of the
Adamant's heavy guns. Accordingly the repeller
steamed nearer, and turned her broadside toward the
British ship.

Scarcely had this been done when the two great bow
guns of the Adamant shook the air with tremendous
roars, each hurling over the sea nearly a ton of steel.
One of these great shot passed over the repeller, but
the other struck her armoured side fairly amidship.
There was a crash and scream of creaking steel, and
Repeller No. 7 rolled over to windward as if she had
been struck by a heavy sea. In a moment she righted
and shot ahead, and, turning, presented her port side
to the enemy. Instant examination of the armour on her
other side showed that the two banks of springs were
uninjured, and that not an air-buffer had exploded
or failed to spring back to its normal length.

Firing from the Adamant now came thick and fast,
the crab, in obedience to signals, turning her about so
as to admit the firing of some heavy guns mounted
amidships. Three enormous solid shot struck the
repeller at different points on her starboard armour
without inflicting damage, while the explosion of
several shells which hit her had no more effect upon
her elastic armour than the impact of the solid shot.

It was the desire of the Syndicate not only to
demonstrate to its own satisfaction the efficiency of
its spring armour, but to convince Great Britain that
her heaviest guns on her mightiest battle-ships could
have no effect upon its armoured vessels. To prove the
absolute superiority of their means of offence and
defence was the supreme object of the Syndicate. For
this its members studied and worked by day and by
night; for this they poured out their millions; for
this they waged war. To prove what they claimed would
be victory.

When Repeller No. 7 had sustained the heavy fire of
the Adamant for about half an hour, it was
considered that the strength of her armour had been
sufficiently demonstrated; and, with a much lighter
heart than when he had turned her broadside to the
Adamant, her director gave orders that she should
steam out of the range of the guns of the British ship.
During the cannonade Crab J had quietly slipped away
from the vicinity of the Adamant, and now joined the
repeller.
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The great ironclad battle-ship, with her loftysides plated with nearly two feet of solid steel, withher six great guns, each weighing more than a hundredtons, with her armament of other guns, machine cannon,and almost every appliance of naval warfare, with asmall army of officers and men on board, was left incharge of Crab K, of which only a few square yards ofarmoured roof could be seen above the water. Thislittle vessel now proceeded to tow southward her vastprize, uninjured, except that her rudder and propeller-blades were broken and useless. Although the engines of the crab were of enormouspower,
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The most important object was to provide a defenceagainst the screw-extracting and rudder-breaking crabs;and to this end the Adamant had been fitted with whatwas termed a "stern-jacket." This was a great cage ofheavy steel bars, which was attached to the stern ofthe vessel in such a way that it could be raised highabove the water, so as to offer no impediment whileunder way, and which, in time of action, could be letdown so as to surround and protect the rudder andscrew-propellers, of which the Adamant had two. This was considered an adequate defence against thenippers of a Syndicate
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