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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great War Syndicate - Web page 14
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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 14 Post by :TWarrior Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :617

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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 14

The great ironclad battle-ship, with her lofty
sides plated with nearly two feet of solid steel, with
her six great guns, each weighing more than a hundred
tons, with her armament of other guns, machine cannon,
and almost every appliance of naval warfare, with a
small army of officers and men on board, was left in
charge of Crab K, of which only a few square yards of
armoured roof could be seen above the water. This
little vessel now proceeded to tow southward her vast
prize, uninjured, except that her rudder and propeller-
blades were broken and useless.

Although the engines of the crab were of enormous
power, the progress made was slow, for the Adamant
was being towed stern foremost. It would have been
easier to tow the great vessel had the crab been
attached to her bow, but a ram which extended many feet
under water rendered it dangerous for a submerged
vessel to attach itself in its vicinity.

During the night the repeller kept company,
although at a considerable distance, with the captured
vessel; and early the next morning her director
prepared to send to the Adamant a boat with a flag-of-truce,
and a letter demanding the surrender and subsequent
evacuation of the British ship. It was supposed that
now, when the officers of the Adamant had had time to
appreciate the fact that they had no control over the
movements of their vessel; that their armament was
powerless against their enemies; that the Adamant
could be towed wherever the Syndicate chose to
order, or left helpless in midocean,--they would be
obliged to admit that there was nothing for them to do
but to surrender.

But events proved that no such ideas had entered
the minds of the Adamant's officers, and their action
totally prevented sending a flag-of-truce boat. As
soon as it was light enough to see the repeller the
Adamant began firing great guns at her. She was too
far away for the shot to strike her, but to launch and
send a boat of any kind into a storm of shot and shell
was of course impossible.

The cannon suspended over the stern of the
Adamant was also again brought into play, and shot
after shot was driven down upon the towing crab. Every
ball rebounded from the spring armour, but the officer
in charge of the crab became convinced that after a
time this constant pounding, almost in the same place,
would injure his vessel, and he signalled the repeller
to that effect.

The director of Repeller No. 7 had been considering
the situation. There was only one gun on the Adamant
which could be brought to bear upon Crab K, and it
would be the part of wisdom to interfere with the
persistent use of this gun. Accordingly the bow of the
repeller was brought to bear upon the Adamant, and
her motor gun was aimed at the boom from which the
cannon was suspended.

The projectile with which the cannon was loaded was
not an instantaneous motor-bomb. It was simply a heavy
solid shot, driven by an instantaneous motor
attachment, and was thus impelled by the same power and
in the same manner as the motor-bombs. The
instantaneous motor-power had not yet been used at so
great a distance as that between the repeller and the
Adamant, and the occasion was one of intense interest
to the small body of scientific men having charge of
the aiming and firing.

The calculations of the distance, of the necessary
elevation and direction, and of the degree of motor-
power required, were made with careful exactness, and
when the proper instant arrived the button was touched,
and the shot with which the cannon was charged was
instantaneously removed to a point in the ocean about a
mile beyond the Adamant, accompanied by a large
portion of the heavy boom at which the gun had been
aimed.

The cannon which had been suspended from the end of
this boom fell into the sea, and would have crashed
down upon the roof of Crab K, had not that vessel, in
obedience to a signal from the repeller, loosened its
hold upon the Adamant and retired a short distance
astern. Material injury might not have resulted from
the fall of this great mass of metal upon the crab, but
it was considered prudent not to take useless risks.

The officers of the Adamant were greatly
surprised and chagrined by the fall of their gun, with
which they had expected ultimately to pound in the roof
of the crab. No damage had been done to the vessel
except the removal of a portion of the boom, with some
of the chains and blocks attached, and no one on board
the British ship imagined for a moment that this injury
had been occasioned by the distant repeller. It was
supposed that the constant firing of the cannon had
cracked the boom, and that it had suddenly snapped.

Even if there had been on board the Adamant the
means for rigging up another arrangement of the kind
for perpendicular artillery practice, it would have
required a long time to get it into working
order, and the director of Repeller No. 7 hoped that
now the British captain would see the uselessness of
continued resistance.

But the British captain saw nothing of the kind,
and shot after shot from his guns were hurled high into
the air, in hopes that the great curves described would
bring some of them down on the deck of the repeller.
If this beastly store-ship, which could stand fire but
never returned it, could be sunk, the Adamant's
captain would be happy. With the exception of the loss
of her motive power, his vessel was intact, and if the
stupid crab would only continue to keep the Adamant's
head to the sea until the noise of her cannonade should
attract some other British vessel to the scene, the
condition of affairs might be altered.

All that day the great guns of the Adamant
continued to roar. The next morning, however, the
firing was not resumed, and the officers of the
repeller were greatly surprised to see approaching from
the British ship a boat carrying a white flag. This
was a very welcome sight, and the arrival of the boat
was awaited with eager interest.

During the night a council had been held on board
the Adamant. Her cannonading had had no effect,
either in bringing assistance or in injuring the enemy;
she was being towed steadily southward farther and
farther from the probable neighbourhood of a British
man-of-war; and it was agreed that it would be the part
of wisdom to come to terms with the Syndicate's vessel.

Therefore the captain of the Adamant sent a
letter to the repeller, in which he stated to the
persons in charge of that ship, that although his
vessel had been injured in a manner totally at variance
with the rules of naval warfare, he would overlook this
fact and would agree to cease firing upon the
Syndicate's vessels, provided that the submerged craft
which was now made fast to his vessel should attach
itself to the Adamant's bow, and by means of a
suitable cable which she would furnish, would tow her
into British waters. If this were done he would
guarantee that the towing craft should have six hours
in which to get away.

When this letter was read on board the repeller it
created considerable merriment, and an answer was sent
back that no conditions but those of absolute
surrender could be received from the British ship.

In three minutes after this answer had been
received by the captain of the Adamant, two shells
went whirring and shrieking through the air toward
Repeller No. 7, and after that the cannonading from the
bow, the stern, the starboard, and the port guns of the
great battle-ship went on whenever there was a visible
object on the ocean which looked in the least like an
American coasting vessel or man-of-war.

For a week Crab K towed steadily to the south this
blazing and thundering marine citadel; and then the
crab signalled to the still accompanying repeller that
it must be relieved. It had not been fitted out for so
long a cruise, and supplies were getting low.

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The Syndicate, which had been kept informed of allthe details of this affair, had already perceived thenecessity of relieving Crab K, and another crab, wellprovisioned and fitted out, was already on the way totake its place. This was Crab C, possessing powerfulengines, but in point of roof armour the weakest of itsclass. It could be better spared than any other crabto tow the Adamant, and as the British ship hadnot, and probably could not, put out another suspendedcannon, it was considered quite suitable for theservice required. But when Crab C came within half a mile of theAdamant
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In a moment the Adamant began to steam backward;but the only effect of this motion, which soon becamerapid, was to swing the crabs around against her sides,and carry them with her. As the vessels were thusmoving the great pincers of the crabs were twisted withtremendous force, the stern-jacket on one side wasbroken from its bolt, and on the other the bolt itselfwas drawn out of the side of the vessel. The nippersthen opened, and the stern-jacket fell from their graspinto the sea, snapping in its fall the chain by whichit had been raised and lowered. This disaster
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