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The Great War Syndicate Frank R. Stockton

The Great War Syndicate

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Its vessels, eight of which were on the Atlantic coast and two on the Pacific, were rapidly prepared for the peculiar service in which they were to be engaged. The resources of the Syndicate were great, and in a very short time several of their vessels, already heavily plated with steel, were furnished with an additional outside armour, formed of strips of elastic steel, each reaching from the gunwales nearly to the surface of the water. These strips, about a foot wide, and placed an inch or two apart, were each backed by several powerful air-buffers, so that a ball striking one or more of them would be deprived of much of its momentum. The experiments upon the steel spring and buffers adopted by the Syndicate showed that the force of the heaviest cannonading was almost deadened by the powerful elasticity of this armour.

The armament of each vessel consisted of but one gun, of large calibre, placed on the forward deck, and protected by a bomb-proof covering. Each vessel was manned by a captain and crew from the merchant service, from whom no warlike duties were expected. The fighting operations were in charge of a small body of men, composed of two or three scientific specialists, and some practical gunners and their assistants. A few bomb-proof canopies and a curved steel deck completed the defences of the vessel.

Besides equipping this little navy, the Syndicate set about the construction of certain sea-going vessels of an extraordinary kind. So great were the facilities at its command, and so thorough and complete its methods, that ten or a dozen ship-yards and foundries were set to work simultaneously to build one of these ships. In a marvellously short time the Syndicate possessed several of them ready for action.

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These vessels became technically known as "crabs." They were not large, and the only part of them which projected above the water was the middle of an elliptical deck, slightly convex, and heavily mailed with ribs of steel. These vessels were fitted with electric engines of extraordinary power, and were capable of great speed. At their bows, fully protected by the overhanging deck, was the machinery by which their peculiar work was to be accomplished. The Syndicate intended to confine itself to marine operations, and for the present it was contented with these two classes of vessels.

The armament for each of the large vessels, as has been said before, consisted of a single gun of long range, and the ammunition was confined entirely to a new style of projectile, which had never yet been used in warfare. The material and construction of this projectile were known only to three members of the Syndicate, who had invented and perfected it, and it was on account of their possession of this secret that they had been invited to join that body.

This projectile was not, in the ordinary sense of the word, an explosive, and was named by its inventors, "The Instantaneous Motor." It was discharged from an ordinary cannon, but no gunpowder or other explosive compound was used to propel it. The bomb possessed, in itself the necessary power of propulsion, and the gun was used merely to give it the proper direction.

These bombs were cylindrical in form, and pointed at the outer end. They were filled with hundreds of small tubes, each radiating outward from a central line. Those in the middle third of the bomb pointed directly outward, while those in its front portion were inclined forward at a slight angle, and those in the rear portion backward at the same angle. One tube at the end of the bomb, and pointing directly backward, furnished the motive power.

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The Great War Syndicate
Frank R. Stockton

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