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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great War Syndicate - Web page 16
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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 16 Post by :infinityrose Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :1618

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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 16

It was during the first week of the involuntary
cruise of the Adamant that the Syndicate finished its
preparations for what it hoped would be the decisive
movement of its campaign. To do this a repeller and
six crabs, all with extraordinary powers, had been
fitted out with great care, and also with great
rapidity, for the British Government was working night
and day to get its fleet of ironclads in readiness for
a descent upon the American coast. Many of the British
vessels were already well prepared for ordinary naval
warfare; but to resist crabs additional defences were
necessary. It was known that the Adamant had been
captured, and consequently the manufacture of
stern-jackets had been abandoned; but it was believed
that protection could be effectually given to rudders
and propeller-blades by a new method which the
Admiralty had adopted.

The repeller which was to take part in the
Syndicate's proposed movement had been a vessel of the
United States navy which for a long time had been out
of commission, and undergoing a course of very slow and
desultory repairs in a dockyard. She had always been
considered the most unlucky craft in the service, and
nearly every accident that could happen to a ship had
happened to her. Years and years before, when she
would set out upon a cruise, her officers and crew
would receive the humorous sympathy of their friends,
and wagers were frequently laid in regard to the
different kinds of mishaps which might befall this
unlucky vessel, which was then known as the
Tallapoosa.

The Syndicate did not particularly desire this
vessel, but there was no other that could readily be
made available for its purposes, and accordingly the
Tallapoosa was purchased from the Government and
work immediately begun upon her. Her engines and
hull were put into good condition, and outside of her
was built another hull, composed of heavy steel armour-
plates, and strongly braced by great transverse beams
running through the ship.

Still outside of this was placed an improved system
of spring armour, much stronger and more effective than
any which had yet been constructed. This, with the
armour-plate, added nearly fifteen feet to the width of
the vessel above water. All her superstructures were
removed from her deck, which was covered by a curved
steel roof, and under a bomb-proof canopy at the bow
were placed two guns capable of carrying the largest-
sized motor-bombs. The Tallapoosa, thus transformed,
was called Repeller No. 11.

The immense addition to her weight would of course
interfere very much with the speed of the new repeller,
but this was considered of little importance, as she
would depend on her own engines only in time of action.
She was now believed to possess more perfect defences
than any battle-ship in the world.

Early on a misty morning, Repeller No. 11, towed by
four of the swiftest and most powerful crabs, and
followed by two others, left a Northern port of the
United States, bound for the coast of Great Britain.
Her course was a very northerly one, for the reason
that the Syndicate had planned work for her to do while
on her way across the Atlantic.

The Syndicate had now determined, without
unnecessarily losing an hour, to plainly demonstrate
the power of the instantaneous motor-bomb. It had been
intended to do this upon the Adamant, but as it had
been found impossible to induce the captain of that
vessel to evacuate his ship, the Syndicate had declined
to exhibit the efficiency of their new agent of
destruction upon a disabled craft crowded with human
beings.

This course had been highly prejudicial to the
claims of the Syndicate, for as Repeller No. 7 had made
no use in the contest with the Adamant of the motor-
bombs with which she was said to be supplied, it was
generally believed on both sides of the Atlantic that
she carried no such bombs, and the conviction that the
destruction at the Canadian port had been effected by
means of mines continued as strong as it had ever been.
To correct these false ideas was, now the duty of
Repeller No. 11.

For some time Great Britain had been steadily
forwarding troops and munitions of war to Canada,
without interruption from her enemy. Only once had the
Syndicate's vessels appeared above the Banks of
Newfoundland, and as the number of these peculiar craft
must necessarily be small, it was not supposed that
their line of operations would be extended very far
north, and no danger from them was apprehended,
provided the English vessels laid their courses well to
the north.

Shortly before the sailing of Repeller No. 11, the
Syndicate had received news that one of the largest
transatlantic mail steamers, loaded with troops and
with heavy cannon for Canadian fortifications, and
accompanied by the Craglevin, one of the largest
ironclads in the Royal Navy, had started across the
Atlantic. The first business of the repeller and her
attendant crabs concerned these two vessels.

Owing to the power and speed of the crabs which
towed her, Repeller No. 11 made excellent time; and on
the morning of the third day out the two British
vessels were sighted. Somewhat altering their
course the Syndicate's vessels were soon within a few
miles of the enemy.

The Craglevin was a magnificent warship. She was
not quite so large as the Adamant, and she was
unprovided with a stern-jacket or other defence of the
kind. In sending her out the Admiralty had designed
her to defend the transport against the regular vessels
of the United States navy; for although the nature of
the contract with the Syndicate was well understood in
England, it was not supposed that the American
Government would long consent to allow their war
vessels to remain entirely idle.

When the captain of the Craglevin perceived the
approach of the repeller he was much surprised, but he
did not hesitate for a moment as to his course. He
signalled to the transport, then about a mile to the
north, to keep on her way while he steered to meet the
enemy. It had been decided in British naval circles
that the proper thing to do in regard to a repeller was
to ram her as quickly as possible. These vessels were
necessarily slow and unwieldy, and if a heavy ironclad
could keep clear of crabs long enough to rush down upon
one, there was every reason to believe that the
"ball-bouncer," as the repellers were called by British
sailors, could be crushed in below the water-line and
sunk. So, full of courage and determination, the
captain of the Craglevin bore down upon the repeller.

It is not necessary to enter into details of the
ensuing action. Before the Craglevin was within half
a mile of her enemy she was seized by two crabs, all of
which had cast loose from the repeller, and in less
than twenty minutes both of her screws were extracted
and her rudder shattered. In the mean time two of the
swiftest crabs had pursued the transport, and, coming
up with her, one of them had fastened to her rudder,
without, however, making any attempt to injure it.
When the captain of the steamer saw that one of the
sea-devils had him by the stern, while another was near
by ready to attack him, he prudently stopped his
engines and lay to, the crab keeping his ship's head to
the sea.

The captain of the Craglevin was a very different
man from the captain of the Adamant. He was quite as
brave, but he was wiser and more prudent. He saw that
the transport had been captured and forced to lay to;
he saw that the repeller mounted two heavy guns at
her bow, and whatever might be the character of those
guns, there could be no reasonable doubt that they were
sufficient to sink an ordinary mail steamer. His own
vessel was entirely out of his control, and even if he
chose to try his guns on the spring armour of the
repeller, it would probably result in the repeller
turning her fire up on the transport.

With a disabled ship, and the lives of so many men
in his charge, the captain of the Craglevin saw that
it would be wrong for him to attempt to fight, and he
did not fire a gun. With as much calmness as the
circumstances would permit, he awaited the progress of
events.
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In a very short time a message came to him fromRepeller No. 11, which stated that in two hours hisship would be destroyed by instantaneous motor-bombs. Every opportunity, however, would be given for thetransfer to the mail steamer of all the officers andmen on board the Craglevin, together with such oftheir possessions as they could take with them in thattime. When this had been done the transport would beallowed to proceed on her way. To this demand nothing but acquiescence waspossible. Whether or not there was such a thing as aninstantaneous motor-bomb the Craglevin's officers didnot know;
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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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