Empire Of Steam: Chapter 24

Chapter Twenty Four: The End

 

“Kirby? Kirby, where are you? Back.”

There was no reply from Kirby the would-be Marxist revolutionary. There had been no reply for hours, ever since one last garbled message. Monk had heard somebody screaming into the Tesla wireless device. He was not sure whether it had been Kirby or not. He supposed that there might have been somebody else in the land ironclad other than Kirby. The machines were designed to have at least three men operating them, of course: four if you had one man just there to stoke the engine.

“Kirby? Please reply. Back.”

There was part of Sir Edward Monk’s mind which was trying to tell him that he was never going to hear from Kirby again. The man was either dead or captured by the enemy. But the active part of Monk’s mind refused to accept that. Kirby had to be alive. He had to be successful.

“Kirby? Please respond. Back.”

Monk wished that he could see what was going on. Not being able to see anything was terrible. He should have invented some sort of viewing device. If voices could be transported across the ether then why not pictures?

He wondered why he had never thought of it before.

“Kirby? Please reply. I need to know how the battle is going. Back.”

There was no reply. Monk stared at the mouthpiece, then at this radio wave wireless transmitter.

Perhaps there was some malfunction with the device, and that was why nobody was answering him. He should see if he could repair it. Except that this was not something which he had designed. He did not fully understand its workings.

 

An hour later and the transmitter was in pieces on the floor of the room. Monk could not see anything wrong with it. It should have been functioning perfectly.

He was not sure that he could put it all back together. Kirby would never be able to contact him now. He would have to send Johnson out to obtain another one of these marvellous devices. Then Sir Edward Monk remembered that Johnson had gone.

At least he had now locked the door to the surface, even though he knew that he was now alone in this underground complex. People would not easily gain entrance to his lair. Johnson had gone, but nobody would be getting in.

He had not gone outside, though. He had not wanted to see the fact that his Mark Three automobile was no longer there.

He would hide down here until he heard that Kirby had won; until he heard that Harley Street had been destroyed. Once he heard that news he could come out of hiding and face his accusers. But he did not care what happened to him.

Then Monk remembered that the transmitter was in pieces. He would have to put it back together before anybody could contact him. But he did not feel like doing that just now. He could do it tomorrow. Yes, when he got up in the morning, he might feel refreshed enough to do it then. But, right at this moment in time, he felt tired. He felt more tired than he had ever felt in his life before.

 

Suddenly he heard a rumbling, like thunder. At first he thought that he was back in the box room, on the night of the thunderstorm. Then he looked around, and saw that he was in his underground base. It was not thunder, He would never have heard it all of the way down here.

Sir Edward Monk realised that it had to be enemies trying to get in through the metal door. It sounded like they must be using explosives.

“So soon?” he wondered out loud. He had not expected his enemies to arrive for a lot longer amount of time. Somebody must have told the powers that be where he was. Either Johnson had betrayed him, or the workers who had built this underground place for him. He supposed that it did not actually matter who the traitor was. Not now.

Then Monk laughed out loud. All those days when he and Johnson had been filling this place with supplies had been a total waste. None of that food would now get eaten up. It would stay down here, in the dark, in the tins.

There was another rumble from in the distance, and then silence. Monk wondered if they had succeeded in blasting the door off. If that was the case the police (or army) might be down with him in only a few minutes.

He moved quickly. He had suddenly decided that they were not going to capture him, despite his beliefs regarding suicide. But Monk no longer believed that he would go to Hell if he killed himself. He no longer believed that Hell existed.

He ran back into the room with his books and other personal possessions. He looked around, searching quickly, until he found what he had been looking for – his revolver.

At least I have kept George out of all this, he thought, as he put the barrel of the gun to the side of his forehead. There was nothing which pointed towards his son having anything to do with the whole sorry affair; he would not be blamed. George would be able to inherit what was left of the company.

Sir Edward Monk pulled the trigger.

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