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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great War Syndicate - Web page 8
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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 8 Post by :restlesswind Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :2380

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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 8

The opinions of the commandant of the fort were
received with but little favour by the military and
naval authorities. Great preparations were already
ordered to repel and crush this most audacious attack
upon the port, but in the mean time it was highly
desirable that the utmost caution and prudence should
be observed. Three men-of-war had already been
disabled by the novel and destructive machines of the
enemy, and it had been ordered that for the present
no more vessels of the British navy be allowed to
approach the crabs of the Syndicate.

Whether it was a mine or a bomb which had been used
in the destruction of the unfinished works of Fort
Pilcher, it would be impossible to determine until an
official survey had been made of the ruins; but, in any
event, it would be wise and humane not to expose the
garrison of the fort on the south side of the harbour
to the danger which had overtaken the works on the
opposite shore. If, contrary to the opinion of the
commandant, the garrisoned fort were really mined, the
following day would probably prove the fact. Until
this point should be determined it would be highly
judicious to temporarily evacuate the fort. This could
not be followed by occupation of the works by the
enemy, for all approaches, either by troops in boats or
by bodies of confederates by land, could be fully
covered by the inland redoubts and fortifications.

When the orders for evacuation reached the
commandant of the fort, he protested hotly, and urged
that his protest be considered. It was not until the
command had been reiterated both from London and
Ottawa, that he accepted the situation, and with
bowed head prepared to leave his post. All night
preparations for evacuation went on, and during the
next morning the garrison left the fort, and
established itself far enough away to preclude danger
from the explosion of a mine, but near enough to be
available in case of necessity.

During this morning there arrived in the offing
another Syndicate vessel. This had started from a
northern part of the United States, before the
repellers and the crabs, and it had been engaged in
laying a private submarine cable, which should put the
office of the Syndicate in New York in direct
communication with its naval forces engaged with the
enemy. Telegraphic connection between the cable boat
and Repeller No. 1 having been established, the
Syndicate soon received from its Director-in-chief full
and comprehensive accounts of what had been done and
what it was proposed to do. Great was the satisfaction
among the members of the Syndicate when these direct
and official reports came in. Up to this time they had
been obliged to depend upon very unsatisfactory
intelligence communicated from Europe, which had been
supplemented by wild statements and rumours
smuggled across the Canadian border.

To counteract the effect of these, a full report
was immediately made by the Syndicate to the Government
of the United States, and a bulletin distinctly
describing what had happened was issued to the people
of the country. These reports, which received a world-
wide circulation in the newspapers, created a popular
elation in the United States, and gave rise to serious
apprehensions and concern in many other countries. But
under both elation and concern there was a certain
doubtfulness. So far the Syndicate had been
successful; but its style of warfare was decidedly
experimental, and its forces, in numerical strength at
least, were weak. What would happen when the great
naval power of Great Britain should be brought to bear
upon the Syndicate, was a question whose probable
answer was likely to cause apprehension and concern in
the United States, and elation in many other countries.

The commencement of active hostilities had been
precipitated by this Syndicate. In England
preparations were making by day an by night to send
upon the coast-lines of the United States a fleet
which, in numbers and power, would be greater than that
of any naval expedition in the history of the world.
It is no wonder that many people of sober judgment in
America looked upon the affair of the crabs and the
repellers as but an incident in the beginning of a
great and disastrous war.

On the morning of the destruction of Fort Pilcher,
the Syndicate's vessels moved toward the port, and the
steel net was taken up by the two crabs, and moved
nearer the mouth of the harbour, at a point from which
the fort, now in process of evacuation, was in full
view. When this had been done, Repeller No. 2 took up
her position at a moderate distance behind the net, and
the other vessels stationed themselves near by.

The protection of the net was considered necessary,
for although there could be no reasonable doubt that
all the torpedoes in the harbour and river had been
exploded, others might be sent out against the
Syndicate's vessels; and a torpedo under a crab or a
repeller was the enemy most feared by the Syndicate.

About three o'clock the signals between the
repellers became very frequent, and soon afterwards
a truce-boat went out from Repeller No. 1. This was
rowed with great rapidity, but it was obliged to go
much farther up the harbour than on previous occasions,
in order to deliver its message to an officer of the
garrison.

This was to the effect that the evacuation of the
fort had been observed from the Syndicate's vessels,
and although it had been apparently complete, one of
the scientific corps, with a powerful glass, had
discovered a man in one of the outer redoubts, whose
presence there was probably unknown to the officers of
the garrison. It was, therefore, earnestly urged that
this man be instantly removed; and in order that this
might be done, the discharge of the motor-bomb would be
postponed half an hour.

The officer received this message, and was disposed
to look upon it as a new trick; but as no time was to
be lost, he sent a corporal's guard to the fort, and
there discovered an Irish sergeant by the name of
Kilsey, who had sworn an oath that if every other man
in the fort ran away like a lot of addle-pated sheep,
he would not run with them; he would stand to his post
to the last, and when the couple of ships outside
had got through bombarding the stout walls of the fort,
the world would see that there was at least one British
soldier who was not afraid of a bomb, be it little or big.
Therefore he had managed to elude observation, and to remain
behind.

The sergeant was so hot-headed in his determination
to stand by the fort, that it required violence to
remove him; and it was not until twenty minutes
past four that the Syndicate observers perceived that
he had been taken to the hill behind which the garrison
was encamped.

As it had been decided that Repeller No. 2 should
discharge the next instantaneous motor-bomb, there was
an anxious desire on the part of the operators on that
vessel that in this, their first experience, they might
do their duty as well as their comrades on board the
other repeller had done theirs. The most accurate
observations, the most careful calculations, were made
and re-made, the point to be aimed at being about the
centre of the fort.

The motor-bomb had been in the cannon for nearly an
hour, and everything had long been ready, when at
precisely thirty minutes past four o'clock the signal
to discharge came from the Director-in-chief; and in
four seconds afterwards the index on the scale
indicated that the gun was in the proper position, and
the button was touched.

The motor-bomb was set to act the instant it should
touch any portion of the fort, and the effect was
different from that of the other bombs. There was a
quick, hard shock, but it was all in the air. Thou-
sands of panes of glass in the city and in houses
for miles around were cracked or broken, birds fell
dead or stunned upon the ground, and people on
elevations at considerable distances felt as if they
had received a blow; but there was no trembling of the
ground.

As to the fort, it had entirely disappeared, its
particles having been instantaneously removed to a
great distance in every direction, falling over such a
vast expanse of land and water that their descent was
unobservable.

In the place where the fortress had stood there was
a wide tract of bare earth, which looked as if it had
been scraped into a staring dead level of gravel and
clay. The instantaneous motor-bomb had been arranged
to act almost horizontally.

Few persons, except those who from a distance had
been watching the fort with glasses, understood what
had happened; but every one in the city and surrounding
country was conscious that something had happened of a
most startling kind, and that it was over in the same
instant in which they had perceived it. Everywhere
there was the noise of falling window-glass. There were
those who asserted that for an instant they had
heard in the distance a grinding crash; and there were
others who were quite sure that they had noticed what
might be called a flash of darkness, as if something
had, with almost unappreciable quickness, passed
between them and the sun.

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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 9 The Great War Syndicate - Web page 9

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When the officers of the garrison mounted the hillbefore them and surveyed the place where their fort hadbeen, there was not one of them who had sufficientcommand of himself to write a report of what hadhappened. They gazed at the bare, staring flatness ofthe shorn bluff, and they looked at each other. Thiswas not war. It was something supernatural, awful! They were not frightened; they were oppressed andappalled. But the military discipline of their mindssoon exerted its force, and a brief account of theterrific event was transmitted to the authorities, andSergeant Kilsey was sentenced to a month
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When the commandant read the brief note, he made noremark. In fact, he could think of no appropriateremark to make. The missive simply informed him thatat ten o'clock and eighteen minutes A. M., of that day,the first bomb from the marine forces of the Syndicatehad been discharged into the waters of the harbour. At, or about, two o'clock P.M., the second bomb wouldbe discharged at Fort Pilcher. That was all. What this extraordinary message meant could not beimagined by any officer of the garrison. If the peopleon board the ships were taking advantage of theearthquake,
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