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Chapter Four of the Lost Diaries

Chapter Four: The Great Undertaking

Under the regimen of care, Captain Chard soon regained his vigour, and it was not long before he spoke of ‘returning the French their favour’.

About this time we received information that a Confederate States ship had arrived in Algeria, bearing a Land-train, a relic of the War of Secession. Soon afterwards it was known that the said vehicle would be sent to the French-Soudan border. Captain Chard again persuaded Headquarters that the presence of such a weapon would strengthen the French position so near the Nile valley, and that it was imperative to launch an attack on this Land-train.

The plan was hatched to strike deep into French Soudan and surprise the Land-train before it arrived at the French fort.

During this time Captain Cavor had not been idle either. He had decided that the White Manatee was too vulnerable to the smaller French flyers, and had built another airship as an escort. This smaller airship, which he named the Oberon, would carry but a good marksman, which would drive off any French flyer that purposed to assault the White Manatee.

To evade detection, we would all traveled on board the two airships; so that only a small company of men and a mountain gun could be fielded. We traveled chiefly at night, and flew close to the ground, and so were able to reach our destination unmolested.

Having ascertained the likely route of the train, Captain Chard set the gun up on a small knoll and laid in wait with the men. Late in the afternoon the train came into our view. The name of the Land-train was The Great Undertaking, and it was well-armed to forestall an attack, and the crew included a company of Black soldiery and Frenchmen, as well as their flying machines. In the fore of the train were two large guns.

As soon as the train came into short range Captain Chard ordered the first round to be fired. This bounced off the armour of the train without effect, and their captain ordered the vehicle to bear down on our position. Fortunately, our gunners kept their composure and swiftly loaded another round. This time the round found its mark in the engine room, and the train ground to a halt. The French officer, enraged by the circumstance, spurred his horse and charged towards the gun. So ferocious was his onset that he was upon the gunners and had sabred two of them before our infantry struck him down.

Now Captain Chard gave the appointed signal, and ordered the men forward, while Captain Cavor drove the airships over the Land-train. The Oberon fought to keep the French flyers away, but the Great Undertaking was armed with several hot-air balloons with charges upon them with exploded as they neared the White Manatee. Captain Cavor was forced to land in front of the Land-train. Now our men disembarked from the White Manatee and together with Captain Chard assailed the Land-train from all sides. But the Black soldiers and Frenchmen put up a stern fight, while their crew set steam-driven velocipede-torpedoes against us, so that not a single of our men could get onboard the train. To ensure our passage home, Captain Cavor withdraw from the fight to keep-safe the White Manatee, and Captain Chard soon ordered the men to retire. With darkness soon coming, we were compelled to abandon our enterprise and return to Alexandria.

To Chapter Five...