Chapter Twenty: The Second Battle
Kirby put down the mouthpiece of the communicator. There had been enough words. Monk was not in command now. Now it was up to him and the others. The time that he would take orders from old rich men had gone. Now it was all about the workers.
The land ironclad turned around a street corner, the edge of the land ironclad just grazing the edge of the building, leaving marks on the wall, but no destruction. Kirby did not even notice. He was in his personal fantasy world, leading his imaginary army to victory over his enemies. The Bank of London had gone. What next?
He and his force had not seen any resistance since the Bank of England. No more police had blocked his path. But, now, as the land ironclad slowly went towards where he was supposed to meet up with the others, Kirby saw that there was a barricade across the street in front of him. He did not know how they had known that he would come this way. It did not occur to Kirby that there might be a lot of barricades across London, trying to contain him and the other column of land ironclads.
It was not the police behind the barricade, but khaki-clad soldiers. They were armed with rifles. And they had a machine gun mounted on the barricade. All of the weapons were ones which had been produced at factories owned by Sir Edward Monk. His guns were now being turned against his rebellion.
Kirby had gone back up to the turret, to look out so that he could see what was coming ahead. That was one reason. The other reason was that it was incredibly hot inside the land ironclad.
As soon as Kirby saw the guns he ducked back down into the inside of the land ironclad. It was his quick action which saved his life. The soldiers all knew just how tough the armour of the land ironclads was. They did not bother to fire at the war machines, but at the fool who had been sticking his head out.
Bullets went through the air where Kirby had been just a moment before. Kirby rushed to the controls to the cannon, and turned to aim it at the barricade. As the turret swung to fire at the soldiers, they scattered to the sides, leaving the barricade and taking cover behind buildings.
Kirby fired the cannon anyway. The shell actually hit the barricade, smashing it to pieces. Had there been anybody still standing there then they would surely have been slain. But the soldiers knew how destructive the shells from land ironclad cannon’s could be. They had all been on manoeuvres.
Kirby cheered, even though he had only destroyed the barricade, rather than actually killed. But he had actually hit it with his first shot (one fewer shell). His aim was getting better.
“Charge!” Kirby shouted. “Full speed! Run them over.”
The land ironclad went forwards as fast as it could. But the soldiers had gone, running away from the battle, rather than throw their lives away. But the land ironclad continued forwards, through London, as Kirby continued his maniacal campaign.
Kirby did not see what had happened to the other land ironclad. The soldiers knew how to fight against these machines. Tactics had been developed, should British soldiers ever have to face the land ironclads of an enemy nation. Those tactics were now put into use for the first ever time.
The soldiers ran at the back of the land ironclads, going for the rear one first. The land ironclads had been designed to go forwards in battle, with the steam engine at the rear of the craft. The steam boiler prevented anybody from looking behind from inside the craft – to see behind the land ironclads one of the operators had to stick his head out of the turret. But nobody was doing that, at this particular moment in tine. The other soldiers, to the front and elsewhere, made sure that nobody showed their heads; and made sure that nobody in the land ironclads realised what was going on.
A soldier – wearing gloves, for the metal was hot to the touch – clambered up onto the back of the last land ironclad. Another soldier kept his gun trained on the hatch at the top of the turret.
The hatch was pulled open by the soldier on top of the craft. A hand grenade was dropped into the land ironclad, and the hatch was swiftly closed. There was a muffled explosion from inside. Even if anybody inside the craft was still alive the land ironclad would be in no condition to continue; and the rebels in the other two craft would not hear the muffled explosion above the sound of their engine. Land ironclads had not been designed to function by themselves, but only with the support of infantry.
The soldiers repeated the process with the next land ironclad, just as it was beginning to move forwards, following the one commanded by Kirby. There was another muffled explosion, and three more dead men. But they did not manage to take out the one with Kirby inside. That one charged away from them, as fast as land ironclads could go.