Facing the Flag (1896)
By Jules Verne (1828 – 1905)
Jules Verne novel about a brilliant scientist that invents a powerfully destructive weapon as published in 1896. Thomas Roch is the brilliant scientist and the weapon is called the fulgurator. This weapon can be compared to modern nuclear weapons as and warship within 12,000 yards would be “blown to atoms”. Needless to say, all the nations on the earth are desperate to obtain the secret of the fulgurator. All major countries enter into a bidding war in order to get the weapon. Any country with the fulgurator would immediately become the dominant nation in the world.
During negotiations, Mr. Roch becomes disillusioned and eventually becomes insane. The US government is responsible for keeping him locked up and the story begins with Mr. Roch being held in an establishment called the Healthful House. The world’s most infamous pirate, Ker Kerraje desperately wanted to own the weapon. Should the fulgurator fall into Kerraje’s hands, he would become invincible. Captain Spade and Serko, the engineer are Kerraje’s primary allies.
Kerraje visits Thomas Roch at the Healthy House, but under the alias of Count d’Artigas. His vessel, the “Ebba” lands offshore and d’Artigas meets with Roch. Eventually, Roch is kidnapped by Kerraje. Roch’s guard, Gaydon also known as Simon Hart is also kidnapped. Roch and Hart are taken to Kerraje’s hideout near Bermuda. The hideout is on the island of Black Cup. Kerraje, in possession of a submarine, is able to enter the interior of the island via an underwater passageway. Should the Kerraje own both the weapon and submarine, the island would be impregnable and he would be able to rob the ocean vessels of their treasures at will.
Roch and Hart are kept prisoners on Black Cup where Roch works on creating the weapon for Kerraje. Hart is also kept prisoner, but he essentially has nothing to do except act as a prisoner. During the captivity, while Roch is working on the construction of the fulgurator, Hart is able to send a note in a barrel that eventually finds its way to the civilized world. A rescue is attempted by the Royal British Navy. A small submarine the HMS Sword is constructed and the vessel finds its way into Black Cup. Both Roch and Hart board the small British submarine, but the vessel is destroyed as it is found by the pirates. Roch and Hart survive and are imprisoned once again while the entire crew died.
Meanwhile, Roch continues his work on the weapon, primarily the detonator which is called the deflagrator. The weapon is completed in short order, just before the arrival of a multinational naval force. Five vessels approach the island, but remain just out of range. The pirates mobilize and the weapon is readied. Roch operates the weapon personally. One of the vessels approaches the island, but is hopelessly outclassed by the powerful shore battery. Roch fires the weapon and the ship is rapidly destroyed.
The remaining four vessels in the task force start a run at the island. The fastest vessel was the French cruiser Tonnant, and that ship approached the island first. Upon noticing the nationality of the ship, the French native, Roch, refused to fire the weapon.
The naval task force starts firing on the island and the pirates are forced to retreat into the interior. Mr. Roch is taken as well, but Mr Hart managed to hide on the outskirts. After the hasty retreat, a large explosion in the island’s interior buries all the pirates and the secrets of the weapon. We are led to believe that Mr. Roch, filled with guilt and remorse at what he had done, used the powerful weapon to destroy the pirates, the weapon and indeed, himself. The only survivor on the island was Mr. Hart.