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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great War Syndicate - Web page 22
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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 22 Post by :tomseve Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :2863

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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 22

There was not the slightest doubt that the country
would disagree with the Government, but on the latter
lay the responsibility of the country's safety.
There was nothing, in the opinion of the ablest
naval officers, to prevent the Syndicate's fleet from
coming up the Thames. Instantaneous motor-bombs could
sweep away all forts and citadels, and explode and
destroy all torpedo defences, and London might lie
under the guns of the repeller.

In consequence of this view of the state of
affairs, an answer was sent to the Syndicate's note,
asking that further time be given for the consideration
of the situation, and suggesting that an exhibition of
the power of the motor-bomb was not necessary, as
sufficient proof of this had been given in the
destruction of the Canadian forts, the annihilation of
the Craglevin, and the extraordinary results of the
discharge of said bombs on the preceding day.

To this a reply was sent from the office of the
Syndicate in New York, by means of a cable boat from
the French coast, that on no account could their
purpose be altered or their propositions modified.
Although the British Government might be convinced of
the power of the Syndicate's motor-bombs, it was not
the case with the British people, for it was yet
popularly disbelieved that motor-bombs existed.
This disbelief the Syndicate was determined to
overcome, not only for the furtherance of its own
purposes, but to prevent the downfall of the present
British Ministry, and a probable radical change in the
Government. That such a political revolution, as
undesirable to the Syndicate as to cool-headed and
sensible Englishmen, was imminent, there could be no
doubt. The growing feeling of disaffection, almost
amounting to disloyalty, not only in the opposition
party, but among those who had hitherto been firm
adherents of the Government, was mainly based upon the
idea that the present British rulers had allowed
themselves to be frightened by mines and torpedoes,
artfully placed and exploded. Therefore the Syndicate
intended to set right the public mind upon this
subject. The note concluded by earnestly urging the
designation, without loss of time, of a place of operations.

This answer was received in London in the evening,
and all night it was the subject of earnest and anxious
deliberation in the Government offices. It was at last
decided, amid great opposition, that the Syndicate's
alternative must be accepted, for it
would be the height of folly to allow the repeller to
bombard any port she should choose. When this
conclusion had been reached, the work of selecting a
place for the proposed demonstration of the American
Syndicate occupied but little time. The task was not
difficult. Nowhere in Great Britain was there a
fortified spot of so little importance as Caerdaff, on
the west coast of Wales.

Caerdaff consisted of a large fort on a promontory,
and an immense castellated structure on the other side
of a small bay, with a little fishing village at the
head of said bay. The castellated structure was rather
old, the fortress somewhat less so; and both had long
been considered useless, as there was no probability
that an enemy would land at this point on the coast.

Caerdaff was therefore selected as the spot to be
operated upon. No one could for a moment imagine that
the Syndicate had mined this place; and if it should be
destroyed by motor-bombs, it would prove to the country
that the Government had not been frightened by the
tricks of a crafty enemy.

An hour after the receipt of the note in
which it was stated that Caerdaff had been
selected, the Syndicate's fleet started for that place.
The crabs were elevated to cruising height, the
repeller taken in tow, and by the afternoon of the next
day the fleet was lying off Caerdaff. A note was sent
on shore to the officer in command, stating that the
bombardment would begin at ten o'clock in the morning
of the next day but one, and requesting that
information of the hour appointed be instantly
transmitted to London. When this had been done, the
fleet steamed six or seven miles off shore, where it
lay to or cruised about for two nights and a day.

As soon as the Government had selected Caerdaff for
bombardment, immediate measures were taken to remove
the small garrisons and the inhabitants of the fishing
village from possible danger. When the Syndicate's
note was received by the commandant of the fort, he was
already in receipt of orders from the War Office to
evacuate the fortifications, and to superintend the
removal of the fishermen and their families to a point
of safety farther up the coast.

Caerdaff was a place difficult of access by land,
the nearest railroad stations being fifteen or
twenty miles away; but on the day after the arrival of
the Syndicate's fleet in the offing, thousands of
people made their way to this part of the country,
anxious to see--if perchance they might find an
opportunity to safely see--what might happen at ten
o'clock the next morning. Officers of the army and
navy, Government officials, press correspondents, in
great numbers, and curious and anxious observers of all
classes, hastened to the Welsh coast.

The little towns where the visitors left the trains
were crowded to overflowing, and every possible
conveyance, by which the mountains lying back of
Caerdaff could be reached, was eagerly secured, many
persons, however, being obliged to depend upon their
own legs. Soon after sunrise of the appointed day the
forts, the village, and the surrounding lower country
were entirely deserted, and every point of vantage on
the mountains lying some miles back from the coast was
occupied by excited spectators, nearly every one armed
with a field-glass.

A few of the guns from the fortifications were
transported to an overlooking height, in order that
they might be brought into action in case the
repeller, instead of bombarding, should send men in
boats to take possession of the evacuated
fortifications, or should attempt any mining
operations. The gunners for this battery were
stationed at a safe place to the rear, whence they
could readily reach their guns if necessary.

The next day was one of supreme importance to the
Syndicate. On this day it must make plain to the
world, not only what the motor-bomb could do, but that
the motor-bomb did what was done. Before leaving the
English Channel the director of Repeller No. 11 had
received telegraphic advices from both Europe and
America, indicating the general drift of public opinion
in regard to the recent sea-fight; and, besides these,
many English and continental papers had been brought to
him from the French coast.

From all these the director perceived that the
cause of the Syndicate had in a certain way suffered
from the manner in which the battle in the channel had
been conducted. Every newspaper urged that if the
repeller carried guns capable of throwing the bombs
which the Syndicate professed to use, there was no
reason why every ship in the British fleet should
not have been destroyed. But as the repeller had not
fired a single shot at the fleet, and as the battle had
been fought entirely by the crabs, there was every
reason to believe that if there were such things as
motor-guns, their range was very short, not as great as
that of the ordinary dynamite cannon. The great risk
run by one of the crabs in order to disable a dynamite
gun-boat seemed an additional proof of this.

It was urged that the explosions in the water might
have been produced by torpedoes; that the torpedo-boat
which had been destroyed was so near the repeller that
an ordinary shell was sufficient to accomplish the
damage that had been done.

To gainsay these assumptions was imperative on the
Syndicate's forces. To firmly establish the prestige
of the instantaneous motor was the object of the war.
Crabs were of but temporary service. Any nation could
build vessels like them, and there were many means of
destroying them. The spring armour was a complete
defence against ordinary artillery, but it was not a
defence against submarine torpedoes. The claims
of the Syndicate could be firmly based on nothing but
the powers of absolute annihilation possessed by the
instantaneous motor-bomb.

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About nine o'clock on the appointed morning,Repeller No. 11, much to the surprise of the spectatorson the high grounds with field-glasses and telescopes,steamed away from Caerdaff. What this meant nobodyknew, but the naval military observers immediatelysuspected that the Syndicate's vessel had concentratedattention upon Caerdaff in order to go over to Irelandto do some sort of mischief there. It was presumedthat the crabs accompanied her, but as they were now attheir fighting depth it was impossible to see them atso great a distance. But it was soon perceived that Repeller No. 11 hadno intention of running away, nor
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As each motor-bomb dropped into the channel, adense cloud appeared high in the air, above a roaring,seething cauldron, hollowed out of the waters and outof the very bottom of the channel. Into this chasm thecloud quickly came down, condensed into a vast body ofwater, which fell, with the roar of a cyclone, into thedreadful abyss from which it had been torn, before thehissing walls of the great hollow had half filled itwith their sweeping surges. The piled-up mass of theredundant water was still sending its maddened billowstossing and writhing in every direction toward theirnormal level, when another bomb was
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