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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great War Syndicate - Web page 17
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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 17 Post by :wynningwaays Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :2064

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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 17

In a very short time a message came to him from
Repeller No. 11, which stated that in two hours his
ship would be destroyed by instantaneous motor-bombs.
Every opportunity, however, would be given for the
transfer to the mail steamer of all the officers and
men on board the Craglevin, together with such of
their possessions as they could take with them in that
time. When this had been done the transport would be
allowed to proceed on her way.

To this demand nothing but acquiescence was
possible. Whether or not there was such a thing as an
instantaneous motor-bomb the Craglevin's officers did
not know; but they knew that if left to herself their
ship would soon attend to her own sinking, for there
was a terrible rent in her stern, owing to a pitch of
the vessel while one of the propeller-shafts was being
extracted.

Preparations for leaving the ship were, therefore,
immediately begun. The crab was ordered to release the
mail steamer, which, in obedience to signals from the
Craglevin, steamed as near that vessel as safety
would permit. Boats were lowered from both ships, and
the work of transfer went on with great activity.

There was no lowering of flags on board the
Craglevin, for the Syndicate attached no importance
to such outward signs and formalities. If the captain
of the British ship chose to haul down his colours he
could do so; but if he preferred to leave them still
bravely floating above his vessel he was equally
welcome to do that.

When nearly every one had left the Craglevin, a
boat was sent from the repeller, which lay near by,
with a note requesting the captain and first
officer of the British ship to come on board Repeller
No. 11 and witness the method of discharging the
instantaneous motor-bomb, after which they would be put
on board the transport. This invitation struck the
captain of the Craglevin with surprise, but a little
reflection showed him that it would be wise to accept
it. In the first place, it was in the nature of a
command, which, in the presence of six crabs and a
repeller, it would be ridiculous to disobey; and,
moreover, he was moved by a desire to know something
about the Syndicate's mysterious engine of destruction,
if, indeed, such a thing really existed.

Accordingly, when all the others had left the ship,
the captain of the Craglevin and his first officer
came on board the repeller, curiously observing the
spring armour over which they passed by means of a
light gang-board with handrail. They were received by
the director at one of the hatches of the steel deck,
which were now all open, and conducted by him to the
bomb-proof compartment in the bow. There was no reason
why the nature of the repeller's defences should not be
known to world nor adopted by other nations. They
were intended as a protection against ordinary shot and
shell; they would avail nothing against the
instantaneous motor-bomb.

The British officers were shown the motor-bomb to
be discharged, which, externally, was very much like an
ordinary shell, except that it was nearly as long as
the bore of the cannon; and the director stated that
although, of course, the principle of the motor-bomb
was the Syndicate's secret, it was highly desirable
that its effects and its methods of operation should be
generally known.

The repeller, accompanied by the mail steamer and
all the crabs, now moved to about two miles to the
leeward of the Craglevin, and lay to. The motor-bomb
was then placed in one of the great guns, while the
scientific corps attended to the necessary calculations
of distance, etc.

The director now turned to the British captain, who
had been observing everything with the greatest
interest, and, with a smile, asked him if he would like
to commit hari-kari?

As this remark was somewhat enigmatical, the
director went on to say that if it would be any
gratification to the captain to destroy his vessel with
his own hands, instead of allowing this to be done by
an enemy, he was at liberty to do so. This offer was
immediately accepted, for if his ship was really to be
destroyed, the captain felt that he would like to do it
himself.

When the calculations had been made and the
indicator set, the captain was shown the button he must
press, and stood waiting for the signal. He looked
over the sea at the Craglevin, which had settled a
little at the stern, and was rolling heavily; but she
was still a magnificent battleship, with the red cross
of England floating over her. He could not help the
thought that if this motor mystery should amount to
nothing, there was no reason why the Craglevin should
not be towed into port, and be made again the grand
warship that she had been.

Now the director gave the signal, and the captain,
with his eyes fixed upon his ship, touched the button.
A quick shock ran through the repeller, and a black-
gray cloud, half a mile high, occupied the place of the
British ship.

The cloud rapidly settled down, covering the water
with a glittering scum which spread far and wide,
and which had been the Craglevin.

The British captain stood for a moment motionless,
and then he picked up a rammer and ran it into the
muzzle of the cannon which had been discharged. The
great gun was empty. The instantaneous motor-bomb was
not there.

Now he was convinced that the Syndicate had not
mined the fortresses which they had destroyed.

In twenty minutes the two British officers were on
board the transport, which then steamed rapidly
westward. The crabs again took the repeller in tow,
and the Syndicate's fleet continued its eastward
course, passing through the wide expanse of glittering
scum which had spread itself upon the sea.

They were not two-thirds of their way across the
Atlantic when the transport reached St. John's, and the
cable told the world that the Craglevin had been
annihilated.

The news was received with amazement, and even
consternation. It came from an officer in the Royal
Navy, and how could it be doubted that a great man-of-
war had been destroyed in a moment by one shot
from the Syndicate's vessel! And yet, even now,
there were persons who did doubt, and who asserted that
the crabs might have placed a great torpedo under the
Craglevin, that a wire attached to this torpedo ran
out from the repeller, and that the British captain had
merely fired the torpedo. But hour by hour, as fuller
news came across the ocean, the number of these
doubters became smaller and smaller.

In the midst of the great public excitement which
now existed on both sides of the Atlantic,--in the
midst of all the conflicting opinions, fears, and
hopes,--the dominant sentiment seemed to be, in America
as well as in Europe, one of curiosity. Were these six
crabs and one repeller bound to the British Isles? And
if so, what did they intend to do when they got there?
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It was now generally admitted that one of theSyndicate's crabs could disable a man-of-war, that oneof the Syndicate's repellers could withstand theheaviest artillery fire, and that one of theSyndicate's motor-bombs could destroy a vessel or afort. But these things had been proved in isolatedcombats the new methods of attack and defencehad had almost undisturbed opportunity forexhibiting their efficiency. But what could a repellerand half a dozen crabs do against the combined force ofthe Royal Navy,--a navy which had in the last few yearsregained its supremacy among the nations, and which hadmade Great Britain once more the first maritime
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It was during the first week of the involuntarycruise of the Adamant that the Syndicate finished itspreparations for what it hoped would be the decisivemovement of its campaign. To do this a repeller andsix crabs, all with extraordinary powers, had beenfitted out with great care, and also with greatrapidity, for the British Government was working nightand day to get its fleet of ironclads in readiness fora descent upon the American coast. Many of the Britishvessels were already well prepared for ordinary navalwarfare; but to resist crabs additional defences werenecessary. It was known that the Adamant had beencaptured, and
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