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Dust hovered over the roof as Martien approached.

He wasn’t certain about these fellows the foreman and Fred had sung the praises of, and he sincerely doubted they could move two, frankly, rather large roofs around without something going wrong. Especially with tanks of flammable gas waiting below.

Nonetheless, he quickened his step. Flanking the west side of the Bombastophone was scaffolding, from which about a dozen sets of flat cap and shirtsleeves were descending, immediately behind the foreman, who Martien had privately named George.

“Evenin’ sir!” cried that worthy, “all done sir, and t’ furnace moved and all, just like we said we would, isn’t that right Fred?”

“Right,” was the inevitable response.

Martien just jerked his scarf irritably and looked up. The water tank, sure enough, now perched on the western side, and the great glass skylight lifted behind it. Not bothering to respond, he stalked through the side door.

The heat of the furnace greeted him immediately and he absently wiped some perspiration off his brow. New scrapes and swirls of dirt, slush and soot marred the floor, blending with noticeable water marks. Hardly surprising, he realised, since he hadn’t thought to drain the tank first.

“You installed the engine too?” The old engineer walked quickly over to the machine and turned a valve. To his pleasure, the engine spun smoothly into life, and the compressor began to huff as well. He reversed the turn and watched as it all stopped. Behind it, the pipe that fed the Bombastophone was already bolted into the wall and propped up by a piece of wood.

“Well, we ‘ad to move t’ furnace when yon lads started taking down t’ water tower, and besides we needed t’ floor space, so Fred and me thought, well, since we’re doing that, might as well put t’ machinery back together and all!”

The only light came from the gas lamps, which had been left burning to consume the remaining gas in the tank. Martien looked up at the ceiling, then walked through into what would soon become the Bombastophone performance chamber. Here, light now arrived via the immense skylight – no panes missing, which impressed Martien mightily, and he said so.

“‘Ear that lads?” crowed George happily, “‘E’s impressed with ye! Just think sir, soon we’ll ‘ave them tanks ready t’ move… oh wait.”

“Excuse me?” Martien frowned at George.

“Well, ye want a new wall put in back where yon pillars are, but them gas pipes are in t’ road. We’ll ‘ave t’ move ’em afore we can start building.”

Martien thought a bit. “Do it then,” he declared, “and I’ll order more -“

“Mister Pontecorvo sir?” A carter was peering in through the doorway. “I have a shipment of winders for ye.”

The old man blinked. Things were moving remarkably quickly. Which no doubt meant that he’d need to visit the bank at some time to arrange the labourers’ pay.

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