Empire Of Steam: Chapter 19

Chapter Nineteen: In The Facility

 

Back in the facility the man who the police sought was sat in the chair next to the Tesla radio transmitter. Monk had just tried to contact Kirby, to try to find out what was going on in London. But there had been no answer. Either Kirby was unable or unwilling to answer, or he was not close to the transmitter at his end.

Monk needed to here that the land ironclads had reached Harley Street. He needed to know that those fake physicians had been killed, and that the whole of Harley Street had been turned into so much rubble. He had to know that the main part of his vengeance was complete.

Monk could see the destruction in his mind’s eye. He could imagine a column of land ironclads rumbling into that street, each one of them selecting a target, and the cannons in the turrets firing shell after shell until the whole of Harley Street was rubble and brick dust forming clouds in the air. And if any doctor managed to run out of one of the buildings then the land ironclad could simply run over him, crushing the medic beneath the caterpillar tracks.

They all had to die, everyone of them. Monk would not be able to rest until he knew that they were dead. He would not sleep.

Then there were the churches of those who professed to have some sort of telephone line to the almighty. Those were targets only of secondary importance. But he wanted those liars killed as well. Lairs, all of them, saying that it had been God’s will, or part of some ineffable plan, or some other utter nonsense like that. They knew nothing at all, yet claimed to be so wise. They, too, had to be erased from the Earth, for the betterment of mankind.

 

“Calling Kirby. Calling Kirby. Back.” Monk tried again. But there was no rely.

Monk had put a Tesla transmitter in each of the lead land ironclads, in each of the warehouses. It had been one of the last things which he had done before declaring war. They were all tuned to the same frequency. So why did Kirby not answer? Had he left the land ironclad? Or could he simply not hear the transmitter over the sound of battle? Monk supposed that it could be the latter.

He decided that he would try later.

 

Monk walked to where he had put his books. Johnson was there, reading one of the volumes. Johnson, on seeing his employer, immediately closed it and put it down.

“Sorry, sir, I did not mean to be forward.” Johnson said.

“By all means carry on reading, Johnson.” Sir Edward Monk said. “Pass me the Gogol before you do so, though. I think that I will have another attempt at tackling Dead Souls.”

Johnson had a look through the box of books, finding that piece of Russian literature, and passing it to Sir Edward. Sir Edward sat down in a chair and began to read.

Johnson opened his mouth to say something, then closed it without a sound. Something was troubling him, yet he had no idea as how to broach that subject with his employer. Johnson was used to doing what he was told without question. Monk told him where to go to, and that was where Johnson drove. If he was told to wait in the automobile for Monk then he waited in the automobile.

Johnson had helped Sir Edward bring supplies, furniture, and other equipment down into this underground place, without really wondering why Sir Edward had wanted to do it by himself, rather than have other people do it for him. Johnson had simply been obeying orders. That was what he did. Sir Edward Monk had told Johnson not to tell anybody else about this underground facility. So Johnson had not told anybody about this concrete facility. That had been another order, of course.

But Johnson had, perhaps foolishly, not realised that the supplies were for him and Sir Edward. That fact had only dawned on Johnson on this last trip, when they had come down here and stayed, sleeping on camp beds. Johnson did not know why Sir Edward wanted to stay down here in the dark. Johnson tried to tell himself that his employer must have some very good reasons. But Johnson could not begin to imagine what they might be.

They had enough food to stay down here for months. Johnson knew that very well, as he had put a lot of that food on the shelves of a storeroom, a place which was now serving as a larder. But the chauffeur had no desire to be down here for months, no matter what the reason.

He enjoyed his job as a chauffeur, especially when the weather was nice and there was no need for the roof on the Mark Three. He liked to have the sun shining down on him. He liked to drive Sir Edward Monk along the roads outside of London, where other traffic was few and far between. Until now Johnson had thought that being a chauffeur was an almost ideal job, as he had been getting paid for doing something which he enjoyed. But he was not happy being down here surrounded by walls of bare concrete. He felt that he was in a tomb. He and Sir Edward Monk had been buried alive.

Johnson, despite Sir Edward Monk’s permission, did not pick back up the book which he had been reading. He had only been skimming through it, anyway, for something to do. Johnson did not really do a lot of reading.

Johnson looked at Sir Edward Monk, who seemed to be engrossed in his book. Johnson decided that he would speak to his employer later with regard to the reasons for the fact that they were in this underground facility. Perhaps once Sir Edward had read for a little he might say something.

Instead Johnson went for a walk around the hidden complex. It was something to do to pass the time. And it was not like he was going to get lost.

 

Monk read for a little while. But he found that his mind kept going back to what was supposed to be going on in the streets of London. He had to know that Harley Street had been destroyed. That was what all this was about.

Monk closed the book without bothering to put anything between the pages to keep his place. He looked up, intending to say something to Johnson. But Johnson was not there. No matter, Monk could always speak to him later.

Monk went back into the room with the transmitter inside. It really was an amazing invention, in his opinion. Monk was sure that these wireless transmitters would revolutionise the world.

He picked up the mouthpiece again, but did not yet turn the machine back on. Doubt flared up in his mind. What if he still could not get hold of Kirby? What would he do then? The fear that everything had gone wrong pierced Sir Edward. He knew doubt.

He told himself that he could not find out if he did not turn the machine on. He turned the transmitter on. It crackled into life.

“Calling Kirby. Calling Kirby. Back.” Monk said, into the mouthpiece. Unless he got a reply he could not know what was going on.

Perhaps there had been no attack at all. He did not know what was going on in London. It occurred to him that Kirby might have played him for a fool. Perhaps nothing had happened, and all of his weapons of war were still sitting in his warehouses, waiting for an army which would never come.

The doubt got stronger.

“Calling Kirby. Calling Kirby. Back.”

“Kirby here. Back.” The voice crackled, but it was definitely that of Kirby, although Monk could barely hear what he was saying above the background noise.

“Kirby, what is occurring? Back.” Monk shouted. He could not help shouting. Subconsciously he felt that he had to do it because of the distance involved.

“I’ve done it!” Kirby shouted back, as his land ironclad rumbled onwards. “I’ve destroyed the Bank of England! Back.”

“What?” Sir Edward Monk shouted into the mouthpiece. “The Bank of England was not one of my targets. Back.”

“No, but it was one of mine!” Kirby shouted, his voice jubilant.

“You are to proceed to Harley Street and to destroy it.” Monk shouted, in sudden fury. “That was our deal, Kirby. I said that I would provide you with the means to wage war and revolution in Britain, but only on the understanding that you destroy the targets which I have given you. You are to destroy each and every target: Harley Street, the churches which I listed, and so on. Only when they are destroyed can you choose what other targets you will destroy. Do you understand? Back.”

“Yes, I will do it. Kirby shouted back. But Sir Edward Monk was not sure if he believed the young revolutionary. Yet there was nothing which Sir Edward could do about it, but to trust that Kirby would now move against Harley Street.

 

Monk, as he talked to Kirby, did not see Johnson standing at the entrance to the room.

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