Empire Of Steam: Chapter 13

Chapter Thirteen: Orders For War

 

Edward Monk picked up the communicator of the Tesla transmitter. This was what he had dreamt of doing. Yet he paused before switching the machine on. Once he gave the command he would cross a personal Rubicon, one which he knew that he would not be able to retreat back across. But he felt that he had already come too far.

He turned on the machine. There was a hum from the machine as it filled with electricity. There was a slight crackle, as well.

Monk stared at the mouthpiece. This was not something which he had designed. He did not like using things which had been designed by other people. With his own inventions he always knew them inside out. He could take them apart and put them back together in his sleep.

He could not do that with this wireless communicator, however. Sir Edward Monk understood the principle of the device. He understood how it was supposed to both transmit and receive radio waves cast into the ether. But he did not think that, if he took it apart, he would easily be able to put it back together.

He had never met this Nikola Tesla. But Monk had heard about this Serbian inventor who had moved to America, and some of the inventions which his great mind had come up with. Not only had he invented this wireless system of communication, but he had championed alternating current; invented the Tesla coil; a new, improved X-ray tube; a machine which sent people to sleep; cordless gas discharge lamps; and many other wonders.

Tesla had also demonstrated not only the wireless transmission of voices, but also of energy. It made Monk wish that Tesla was working for him. That scientist represented the future.

Monk supposed that he would never meet Tesla now. It seemed a shame. He would really have liked to have met the man. But he had never met Babbage, either.

 

For the first time Sir Edward Monk really wondered what would happen after he let loose his dogs of war. He had avoided thinking about such things until now. All he had done was to concentrate on getting things ready for his vengeance. But now, on the verge of putting his revenge into action, he could not help but think about what might come afterwards.

Monk did not think that there would be some mass uprising, as Kirby seemed to think. The young man was a fool if he believed that. But if Kirby had not been a fool he would probably not have gone along with Sir Edward Monk’s plan.

Oh, Kirby had his army of the poor – so Sir Edward thought – but they were unlikely to win, in the end. But as long as they destroyed Harley Street… That was all that was important to Monk. Harley Street had to be destroyed. And the churches. And all the rest.

Yet there was a part of Monk which wondered whether the idealistic Kirby and his pauper army might actually win, if they struck fast and hard enough. Occasionally revolutions did succeed, against the powers that were. In France, a hundred years ago, the normal people had risen up against their king, and been successful. The ancien régime had been toppled, in a great orgy of bloodletting and guillotining.

Britain, two, had had a revolution in the past, when Parliament had fought against the forces of the King and won. So such things could happen. Revolutions could be won. He had to believe that the liars and fakers would all be destroyed.

But Monk did not really believe that this revolution could be won; and it had not really been about that anyway. It had been about striking out against the injustice of the death of his wife. So what would happen when Kirby eventually lost?

Monk did not care what happened to Kirby and his army of the poor. Monk did not care one jot about their fates. Nobody was forcing them to declare war against the state. Monk supposed that Kirby and the others would be arrested and charged with high treason. But so what?

Monk realised that he did not care all that much what happened to himself, either. He supposed that once the police realised that it was he who had funded the destruction of Harley Street that the police would come looking for him. But nobody knew about this facility… apart from those who had built it. They were the only weak point. Monk had paid them very well for their silence. But had he paid them well enough? Would they talk?

If they did not then he and Johnson could stay in here until the food ran out. And then what? Monk did not know. But he could not help opining that his life would be destined to end in infamy, and a short drop with a rope around his neck. But he did not care. At least, then, he would be joined with Eliza once more.

The only person who he still cared about in the entire world was his son, George. Sir Edward feared that the police might try to blame George in some way. But he had been careful to leave George out of this. His son was not involved. He did not have any idea as to what was really going on.

That was what Sir Edward hoped, anyway. But George had visited him, hadn’t he, wanting to know why the factories had switched to only making weapons of war. How had George known? George did not take a day to day interest in the running of the factories. In fact, in the past, he had not shown any interest at all in his father’s business.

So somebody at one of the factories must have told George, Sir Edward mused. But as long as that was all that George had been told then his son should be safe. George was not involved. This was not his madness. This was not his revenge.

 

Sir Edward Monk realised that he had been sitting there for a long time, holding the mouthpiece in his hands. Time was passing, and Kirby must be wondering if he was going to get a message this evening.

Monk did not know what to do. He could put the mouthpiece down. But he could not undo the ache in his heart for his dead wife. No, Monk thought, he had come too far to turn back now. Things were being set into motion.

Monk put the mouthpiece to his mouth, and turned on this Tesla radio transmitter.

“Calling Kirby!” he said, almost shouting into the mouthpiece, as though that might cause his voice to be transported a greater distance. “Calling Kirby!”

He was not sure as to the etiquette for such devices. On the telephone you simply said hello. So, each time that he had called his ‘general’ he said calling Kirby. It seemed to be the correct thing to do.

He flicked the switch over to receive. It was almost a minute before he had a reply, and Sir Edward wondered, during those seconds, if something had gone wrong, and Kirby had been discovered by the police.

“Kirby here.” The voice was crackly, but it was definitely the voice of William Kirby. “Back.”

Back was what the two men had decided to say to indicate that the wireless device had been switched from transmit to receive, and that it was time for the other man to speak.

“I am ready.” Monk said. “The facility is complete, and full with stores for your revolution. Back.”

There was a pause, again, before Kirby replied, and Monk wondered if something was wrong. He wondered if, perhaps, there were some policemen stood over Kirby, telling him what to say. Monk wished that he could see what was happening wherever Kirby was.

“You’re ready? Back.”

“Yes, I am. At dawn you and your men are to proceed to my warehouses. I have arranged that they shall be open, and there will be none of my employees there to interfere with your activities. You will find the land ironclads, and the other weapons, ready and waiting for your army.

“I have a list of targets. Get a pen and some paper to write them down. Back.”

There was another long pause. But this one did not bother Sir Edward. He knew that Kirby had to locate paper and a pen.

“I am here.” Kirby’s voice said, crackling as it came through the speaker. It was almost breaking up. Monk had to bend down to hear it.

Sir Edward Monk read out the list of targets which he wanted Kirby to attack, leading with Harley Street. Those faker doctors had to go, their places turned into rubble. Even if Sir Edward Monk achieved nothing else in what was left of his life he would achieve that. No more would people be given false hopes which would only lead to failure and death.

Monk had Kirby repeat the list of targets, to make sure that the young man had transcribed them correctly, over the hisses and crackles of the radio device. Everything was as Monk had said.

“You have your targets. Destroy them.” Monk said. “Goodbye, Kirby.”

Sir Edward Monk switched off the wireless transmitter. It was done.  There was no turning back now.

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