Empire Of Steam: Chapter 22

Chapter Twenty Two: Alone In The Facility

 

“Johnson? Johnson? Where are you?”

It had been hours since Monk had last seen Johnson; and it had taken Sir Edward those hours to realise that he had not seen his chauffeur.

Monk wandered through the rooms of the facility, looking for his employee, calling out for him now and then. Johnson did not reply. Monk did not know where the man could be. Was he hiding somewhere? If he was hiding, why was he hiding? Or perhaps Johnson, too, was wandering around the underground base, looking for the other man. It was possible that Johnson had got lost, as Sir Edward had neglected to provide him with a map of the place. But that had not seemed to be necessary at the time.

Sir Edward hoped that Johnson was lost, and in some other part of the base, trying to find his way back to some room which he knew. The other option was that he had been betrayed by his chauffeur, and that Johnson had gone up the concrete steps and out of the metal door.

When they had come down into this underground facility Monk had unlocked the door. They had come inside. And he had picked up the lantern and then come down into the dark.

He had not locked that door. He had got used to coming down with Johnson to drop off supplies and only locking the door when they went back up. He had done the same, this time, even though they had come to stay.

There was one way to tell if Johnson was still there, and that was to go up the concrete steps to the surface and see whether the Mark Three was still hidden in the copse of trees. If the automobile was gone he would know that Johnson was gone. But Sir Edward did not make that trip outdoors. Instead he continued to wander through the underground complex, calling out Johnson’s name.

 

Sir Edward entered the room with the difference engines inside. He had not used these Babbage inventions yet. He had gone to great expense to have then built inside this facility. But it now seemed that it had been a waste of time and money, as it looked like they would never be needed.

He touched one of them. Perhaps he could use one of them now. But there was nothing which he had wanted to compute. They would not tell him where in the complex Johnson was. And Johnson had to be in the complex, otherwise that would mean that he had been betrayed. He had trusted Johnson.

“Johnson? Where are you?”

There was still no answer. Sir Edward moved on, walking out of the difference engine room.

 

Through empty room after empty room he walked. Once he had imagined these rooms filled with equipment, with scientists testing new and dangerous ideas, for Infernal Devices and the like. Perhaps he would have been able to come up with something better than dynamite and gelignite. But now they would never be used.

In his mind he could see the scientists in white coats talking to each other, discussing experiments into chemicals and explosives. They would make marks on notes held on clipboards as to the efficacy of each substance.

Elsewhere there might be men testing weapons too dangerous to test elsewhere. He had intended that one of the longer rooms be used for the testing of small arms, the concrete walls able to withstand any stray bullets. New and more powerful rifles would have been tested here.

He could see men with mufflers on their ears holding sharpshooters’ rifles, aiming at targets designed to absorb bullets and provide information to their efficacy. Bang! A rifle is shot, into the target. And it would be another success.

Sir Edward shook his head. That scene, too, was nothing but another fiction. That would not take place now.

“Johnson? Are you there?” Sir Edward Monk called out. There was a faint echo which returned to him, this long room being large enough for an echo to form. But there was no reply from Johnson.

Sir Edward moved on walking through room after room after room.

 

Sir Edward Monk walked into that chamber where there was that leaking pipe. He had forgotten all about it. The pool of water on the floor was now twice as big as it had been.

He had not got the pipe fixed before coming down here with Johnson. Nor had he brought any tools with him. He had not even thought to bring a mop.

All that it would take was a spanner. Monk thought that Johnson would have a spanner. The chauffeur had tools for the Mark Three, should it develop any faults. Johnson could fix the dripping pipe. Then the two of them would somehow figure out some way of getting rid of the water that did not involve leaving the complex. Sir Edward was not going to send Johnson out for a mop.

“Johnson? Where are you?”

Had he just heard something? Monk called out again. But no reply came back to him. It had only been his imagination.

 

Monk went into the room with the generator in it. The generator was still chugging away. Monk had thought – hoped – that perhaps Johnson had come into the room to top up the oil. Monk had shown Johnson how to do it, after all. But Johnson was not here. There was no sign that he had been here.

Monk decided to top up the generator while he was here. He did not want the generator to go out, leaving him in the dark. He poured more oil into the generator. But he spilled a little onto his black suit.

Monk looked down at the damp patch on his suit. He now smelled of oil. The suit should be washed. But he would not be doing that. He had not thought to equip this place with washing facilities when it was designed.

He had nothing else to wear, anyway. He had not thought to bring any other clothes with him. It had simply not occurred to him to do so. It had been yet one more thing which he had not thought to do. He had been forgetting a lot of important things recently.

He would simply have to carry on wearing the suit, and get used to the smell of the oil. It should dry out, anyway. It was not like he had a choice in the matter.

“Johnson? Where are you?”

No reply.

 

Monk carried on walking through his underground complex, until his legs were too tired to walk any further. He felt that he must have walked through every room of this underground facility; and he had not seen any trace of Johnson in any of them.

Monk walked back to the room with the Tesla radio transmitter in it. It was Monk’s last hope to try and find Johnson. Maybe the man was in there.

Johnson was not in the room. But this was where Monk decided to wait. He must have walked for miles, around and around the rooms of this tomb. He must have been through each room at least three times.

He sat down in the chair, and sighed. It was time to face the truth. He was alone in the facility.

 

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