Empire Of Steam: Chapter 05

Chapter Five: A Plan

 

Sir Edward Monk lay in bed, staring up at the bedroom ceiling. The dream was already beginning to fade. But he recalled enough of it.

He remembered the images of the land ironclads rolling through the streets of London. That was the one image which would stay with him the longest, when all of the other images had faded away. He recalled the destruction which they had inflicted on London. He remembered how buildings had simply been blown apart in their onslaught.

He had never seen any of his land ironclads in battle. Oh, he had seen them trundling along, of course, as different models had been tested. But he had never seen them in war, blowing people or buildings apart. He had never fought in any war. Nor had he ever had a desire to do so. But he certainly had been supportive of the British Empire, as it had taken its own brand of civilisation to the rest of the world.

Like people such as Cecil Rhodes, Monk had never doubted – in the past – that the spread of the British Empire was a good thing. The rule if Britain should have been extended through the entire world. And if people had been foolish enough to resist – well, Monk had been happy too provide the weapons to pacify them.

But that was then. The death of his wife had left him a different man…

 

“More than a dream.” he said to himself, as he lay in bed. It had been a vision, showing him how to get his revenge on those who had betrayed him: on the doctors who had failed to heal Eliza, on the priests who had had him pray into an empty sky.

He realised that he hated them. He hated this society where money was no good for saving a life. It had to be destroyed. All of those snake oil salesmen had to be killed: Harley Street could be no more.

He sat there, and thought, as he felt an unreasoning rage build inside him. He realised that he had been angry, these past few days, even though he had not realised it. He had been angry at how unfair life was. That was why he had had no purpose.

But now he did. He would sweep away all of his enemies.

He laughed, and got out of bed. The whole idea was ridiculous. It had only been a dream, after all.

 

He had his servants dress him. He went downstairs and had a light breakfast. He still did not have anything approaching an appetite. But he was not about to starve himself to death.

He was not going to try to design anything new. He still did not feel the least bit creative. But there was paperwork which could be dealt with. There was always paperwork which needed doing. So Monk spent the morning going through all of the paperwork, bringing it up to date. None of the paperwork had been urgent. It had only been something to fill the time.

In the early afternoon he took a walk around the grounds of his estate, as the rain had finally ceased. He looked at the cherry tree Eliza had planted; at an old oak tree which had to be a couple of hundred years old; at the flowerbeds tended by his gardener, Franks; and at the small folly at the far end of his estate.

The folly had been there before he had purchased the mansion. He would never have built something so pointless.

Monk understood that the folly had been built at the end of the eighteenth century, when such eyecatchers – as they had been called – had been popular. The folly in his estate was a small, circular tower, which had been built to look like the tower of some castle. It had been built with part of the top of the tower missing, as though it had been damaged in a siege. But it had never been besieged.

It was not even a proper tower. The folly had no innards. If you went through the archway which led inside there was a small, circular courtyard, open to the air. There were no stairs up the inside of the folly, and there never had been. Mere foolishness.

Later, he would go into his library, and try to find a book to read, out of the many volumes which he owned. Yet, despite the fact that there were hundreds upon hundreds of books in his library, Monk could not find a single thing which he wanted to read.

 

As the day progressed, though, Sir Edward could not get that dream out of his mind. A plan, unbidden, began to form in his otherwise inactive mind. He left the library, not having found any book which had piqued his interest. He went and sat in his drawing room, in his armchair, and the details presented themselves to him, as though eager to be considered.

He had factories in London. There was a factory for land ironclads and for other, heavy weapons. There was the factory in Greenwich for small arms. Those were his two weapon factories. They would keep on producing armaments until he told them to stop.

If his dream was to be realised, though, he would need far more in the way of materiel. Nearly all of the weapons which he had ever produced were in the hands of the British armed forces. The ones which he had not yet delivered to the British Empire were only a mere fraction, compared to the weapons which he had already provided; and, should he try to put his dream into action, then the action of his factories would have to cease. The powers that be would make sure that his work did not continue.

But what if he had more factories given over to producing armaments? He could convert his other factories in London into weapon factories, as well. The automobile factory could become another factory making land ironclads – they were both vehicles, after all. It was simply a matter of assemblage. His other factories could be converted to making rifles, bullets, machine guns and the like. At that rate he would soon have enough items to declare his private war.

He tried to tell himself that it was wrong; that it was madness. But he was surprised to discover that he no longer believed that. What he felt was wrong was for doctors to take his money and then fail to save the life of his wife. They were like parasites; and parasites had to be destroyed. All those who had preyed on his hopes had to go, all of those people who had claimed that they might have the answer.

 

The plan continued to play out in his mind, unbidden, but not unwelcome. He might need some more factories, he thought. He would have to have ones all over London, if he could, so that he would be able to strike from all positions at once, so that he might quickly overwhelm those forces which doubtlessly would be arrayed against him. But if he struck quickly he should be able to achieve his aim: the destruction of all his enemies. He did not know if any war had been started in the heart of a country before, in such a manner. It was the one thing which nobody would suspect.

More warehouses, then, but he had enough money to buy as many warehouses as he chose, if he could find people willing to sell. He would buy as many warehouses as he could, in addition to the ones which he already owned, and fill them with the weapons of war: land ironclads, armoured steam automobiles, artillery pieces both large and small, machine guns and a wealth of small arms. Yes, that was what he would do.

He went to sleep that night still thinking of civil war.

 

The next day Sir Edward Monk visited his factories once more. He did not go to see Masters, though. There was no need to go along to the munitions factory. That could carry on making all of the bullets in the world.

Monk went to visit Hardy first, at the factory which produced the steam automobiles. Hardy was a little surprised to see Monk, but welcomed him into his office.

“I have come to a decision concerning this factory.” Sir Edward Monk muttered.

“Oh?” Hardy asked. He looked concerned. Hardy knew how the loss of Eliza had affected Sir Edward, and Hardy feared that Sir Edward had decided to divest himself of some of his factories, no longer having the desire for business.

“Finish making whatever steamers you are working on.” Monk said. “Then I want to switch to assembling land ironclads.”

Hardy reacted as though Sir Edward Monk had slapped him in the face. This was not what he had expected to hear.

“Sir Edward, I must protest!” Hardy said. It was the first time that Monk could ever recall Hardy ever having disagreed with him. “All of the men here are trained in assembling your steam automobiles. They do not know how to make land ironclads. You have another factory which makes such things. Why do you need to increase production of such things? Is Britain to go to war?”

Britain was to go to war, but not in the way that Hardy thought. But the industrialist could not risk telling Hardy the truth about the reason for the switch.

“Your workers are skilled. I will have somebody sent over from the other factory to tell them what to do, Hardy. But you are to switch to making land ironclads. I want both factories to make them. This is not something which is open for discussion, Hardy.”

“But we do not have the facilities for making land ironclads here, sir.” Hardy said. “We do not have the correct machines.”

“New machines will be provided. This factory will mirror the other one. This is not something which I am willing to discuss. This will be, Hardy, whether you like it or not.”

“Then I will try and make this factory every bit as efficient as the other one.” Hardy said glumly. It was not as bad as he had feared, though. The factory was not closing down.

Hardy hoped that this was but a temporary change, and that Sir Edward Monk, given time, would decide to change the factory back to producing steam-powered automobiles. They were the premiere company for producing such vehicles. But they had competitors snapping at their heels: The main competitor was Stanley Steam Automobiles, but there were others, including several on the continent and in America. This should have been a time for expansion, not switching away from such vehicles to produce land ironclads.

“Good. I know that you will not let me down, Hardy.” Sir Edward said. “Well, that will be all, for now. I have other people to speak with.”

 

After Hardy Sir Edward Monk went along to his other couple of factories, and informed them that, for some time, they would be switching from producing home goods to making the goods of war. Although there was surprise from his managers there was no argument. They knew that, if he had wanted, Monk could easily have fired them and employed somebody to do his bidding.

They did not stand up to Monk as Hardy had done. And Monk, while glad that they had not caused him any problems, despised those men for not standing up to him. Hardy was a good man. But they were weak. They would be no good in the coming war. Monk would not be able to use those managers as generals. In fact, he had not really given much thought to that conundrum. But he would have plenty of time to wrestle with that problem, in the days to come, while his factories were producing the war machines which he would need for his insane plan.

Sir Edward Monk had no time that day to acquire any more warehouses. But he would have plenty of time in days to come, now that he was no longer attempting to come up with any new designs. He would get another warehouse near the Thames, and acquire land to build more on the outskirts of London.

That would take time, and Monk had a feeling at the back of his mind that time might end up being his great enemy. Perhaps he would change his mind; or something might happen to cause his plans to go askew. Having come to the decision to destroy those who had failed him he wanted his revenge to be immediate – to see the armoured war machines trundle into Harley Street, just as he had seen them in his dream.

He was not ready for that, though. Such a scene was still a long way away. there was nothing that Sir Edward Monk could do but wait.

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