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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great War Syndicate - Web page 9
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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 9 Post by :win_thomas Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :2826

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The Great War Syndicate - Web page 9

When the officers of the garrison mounted the hill
before them and surveyed the place where their fort had
been, there was not one of them who had sufficient
command of himself to write a report of what had
happened. They gazed at the bare, staring flatness of
the shorn bluff, and they looked at each other. This
was not war. It was something supernatural, awful!
They were not frightened; they were oppressed and
appalled. But the military discipline of their minds
soon exerted its force, and a brief account of the
terrific event was transmitted to the authorities, and
Sergeant Kilsey was sentenced to a month in the guard-
house.

No one approached the vicinity of the bluff where
the fort had stood, for danger might not be over; but
every possible point of observation within a safe
distance was soon crowded with anxious and terrified
observers. A feeling of awe was noticeable
everywhere. If people could have had a tangible idea
of what had occurred, it would have been different. If
the sea had raged, if a vast body of water had been
thrown into the air, if a dense cloud had been suddenly
ejected from the surface of the earth, they might have
formed some opinion about it. But the instantaneous
disappearance of a great fortification with a little
more appreciable accompaniment than the sudden tap, as
of a little hammer, upon thousands of window-panes, was
something which their intellects could not grasp. It
was not to be expected that the ordinary mind could
appreciate the difference between the action of an
instantaneous motor when imbedded in rocks and earth,
and its effect, when opposed by nothing but stone
walls, upon or near the surface of the earth.

Early the next morning, the little fleet of the
Syndicate prepared to carry out its further orders.
The waters of the lower bay were now entirely deserted,
craft of every description having taken refuge in the
upper part of the harbour near and above the city.
Therefore, as soon as it was light enough to make
observations, Repeller No. 1 did not hesitate to
discharge a motor-bomb into the harbour, a mile or
more above where the first one had fallen. This was
done in order to explode any torpedoes which might have
been put into position since the discharge of the first
bomb.

There were very few people in the city and suburbs
who were at that hour out of doors where they could see
the great cloud of water arise toward the sky, and
behold it descend like a mighty cataract upon the
harbour and adjacent shores; but the quick, sharp shock
which ran under the town made people spring from their
beds; and although nothing was then to be seen, nearly
everybody felt sure that the Syndicate's forces had
begun their day's work by exploding another mine.

A lighthouse, the occupants of which had been
ordered to leave when the fort was evacuated, as they
might be in danger in case of a bombardment, was so
shaken by the explosion of this motor-bomb that it fell
in ruins on the rocks upon which it had stood.

The two crabs now took the steel net from its
moorings and carried it up the harbour. This was
rather difficult on account of the islands, rocks, and
sand-bars; but the leading crab had on board a
pilot acquainted with those waters. With the net
hanging between them, the two submerged vessels, one
carefully following the other, reached a point about
two miles below the city, where the net was anchored
across the harbour. It did not reach from shore to
shore, but in the course of the morning two other nets,
designed for shallower waters, were brought from the
repellers and anchored at each end of the main net,
thus forming a line of complete protection against
submarine torpedoes which might be sent down from the
upper harbour.

Repeller No. 1 now steamed into the harbour,
accompanied by Crab A, and anchored about a quarter of
a mile seaward of the net. The other repeller, with
her attendant crab, cruised about the mouth of the
harbour, watching a smaller entrance to the port as
well as the larger one, and thus maintaining an
effective blockade. This was not a difficult duty, for
since the news of the extraordinary performances of the
crabs had been spread abroad, no merchant vessel, large
or small, cared to approach that port; and strict
orders had been issued by the British Admiralty that no
vessel of the navy should, until further
instructed, engage in combat with the peculiar
craft of the Syndicate. Until a plan of action had
been determined upon, it was very desirable that
English cruisers should not be exposed to useless
injury and danger.

This being the state of affairs, a message was sent
from the office of the Syndicate across the border to
the Dominion Government, which stated that the seaport
city which had been attacked by the forces of the
Syndicate now lay under the guns of its vessels, and in
case of any overt act of war by Great Britain or Canada
alone, such as the entrance of an armed force from
British territory into the United States, or a capture
of or attack upon an American vessel, naval or
commercial, by a British man-of-war, or an attack upon
an American port by British vessels, the city would be
bombarded and destroyed.

This message, which was, of course, instantly
transmitted to London, placed the British Government in
the apparent position of being held by the throat by
the American War Syndicate. But if the British
Government, or the people of England or Canada,
recognized this position at all, it was merely as a
temporary condition. In a short time the most
powerful men-of-war of the Royal Navy, as well as a
fleet of transports carrying troops, would reach the
coasts of North America, and then the condition of
affairs would rapidly be changed. It was absurd to
suppose that a few medium-sized vessels, however
heavily armoured, or a few new-fangled submarine
machines, however destructive they might be, could
withstand an armada of the largest and finest armoured
vessels in the world. A ship or two might be disabled,
although this was unlikely, now that the new method of
attack was understood; but it would soon be the ports
of the United States, on both the Pacific and Atlantic
coasts, which would lie under the guns of an enemy.

But it was not in the power of their navy that the
British Government and the people of England and Canada
placed their greatest trust, but in the incapacity of
their petty foe to support its ridiculous assumptions.
The claim that the city lay under the guns of the
American Syndicate was considered ridiculous, for few
people believed that these vessels had any guns.
Certainly, there had been no evidence that any shots
had been fired from them. In the opinion of
reasonable people the destruction of the forts and the
explosions in the harbour had been caused by mines--
mines of a new and terrifying power--which were the
work of traitors and confederates. The destruction of
the lighthouse had strengthened this belief, for its
fall was similar to that which would have been
occasioned by a great explosion under its foundation.

But however terrifying and appalling had been the
results of the explosion of these mines, it was not
thought probable that there were any more of them. The
explosions had taken place at exposed points distant
from the city, and the most careful investigation
failed to discover any present signs of mining
operations.

This theory of mines worked by confederates was
received throughout the civilized world, and was
universally condemned. Even in the United States the
feeling was so strong against this apparent alliance
between the Syndicate and British traitors, that there
was reason to believe that a popular pressure would be
brought to bear upon the Government sufficient to force
it to break its contract with the Syndicate, and to
carry on the war with the National army and navy.
The crab was considered an admirable addition to the
strength of the navy, but a mine under a fort, laid and
fired by perfidious confederates, was considered
unworthy an enlightened people.

The members of the Syndicate now found themselves
in an embarrassing and dangerous position--a position
in which they were placed by the universal incredulity
regarding the instantaneous motor; and unless they
could make the world believe that they really used such
a motor-bomb, the war could not be prosecuted on the
plan projected.

It was easy enough to convince the enemy of the
terrible destruction the Syndicate was able to effect;
but to make that enemy and the world understand that
this was done by bombs, which could be used in one
place as well as another, was difficult indeed. They
had attempted to prove this by announcing that at a
certain time a bomb should be projected into a certain
fort. Precisely at the specified time the fort had
been destroyed, but nobody believed that a bomb had
been fired.
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Every opinion, official or popular, concerning whatit had done and what might be expected of it, waspromptly forwarded to the Syndicate by its agents, andit was thus enabled to see very plainly indeed that theeffect it had desired to produce had not been produced. Unless the enemy could be made to understand that anyfort or ships within ten miles of one of theSyndicate's cannon could be instantaneously dissipatedin the shape of fine dust, this war could not becarried on upon the principles adopted, and thereforemight as well pass out of the hands of the Syndicate. Day by day and
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The opinions of the commandant of the fort werereceived with but little favour by the military andnaval authorities. Great preparations were alreadyordered to repel and crush this most audacious attackupon the port, but in the mean time it was highlydesirable that the utmost caution and prudence shouldbe observed. Three men-of-war had already beendisabled by the novel and destructive machines of theenemy, and it had been ordered that for the presentno more vessels of the British navy be allowed toapproach the crabs of the Syndicate. Whether it was a mine or a bomb which had been usedin the
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