He snatched up a pencil from the desk, broke it in half and threw the pieces on the floor.
“Like that!” said he, and stamped on them.
Waldron nodded approval.
“Just like that,” he echoed, “and then some!”
“Go, now!” Flint commanded, pointing at the door. “Inside an hour, I want some reports, and I want them to be satisfactory. If you and Supple can’t get things open again, and start the troops and machine-guns before then, look out! That’s all I’ve got to say. Now, go!”
“NOW COMES THE HOUR SUPREME.”
Hardly had the secret-service man taken his leave, slinking away like a whipped cur, yet with an ugly snarl that presaged evil, when Herzog appeared.
“Come here,” said Flint, curtly, heated with his burst of passion.
“Yes, sir,” the scientist replied, approaching. “What is it, sir?”
Still shifty and cringing was he, in presence of the masters; though with the men beneath him, at the vast plant—and now his importance had grown till he controlled more than eight thousand—rumor declared him an intolerable tyrant.
“Tell me, Herzog, what’s the condition of the plant, at this present moment?”
“Just how do you mean, sir?”
“Suppose there were to be trouble, of any kind, how are we fixed for it? How’s the oxygen supply, and—and everything? Good God, man, unlimber! You’re paid to know things and tell ’em. Now, talk.”
Thus adjured, Herzog washed his hands with imaginary soap and in a deprecating voice began:
“Trouble, sir? What trouble could there be? There’s not the faintest sign of any organization among the men. They’re submissive as so many rabbits, sir, and—”
“Damn you, shut up!” roared Flint. “I didn’t summon you to come up here and give me a lecture on labor conditions at the works! The trouble I refer to is possible outside interference. Maybe some kind of wild-eyed Socialist upheaval, or attack, or what not. In case it comes, what’s our condition? Tell me, in a few words, and for God’s sake keep to the point! The way you wander, and always have, gives me the creeps!”
Herzog ventured nothing in reply to this outburst, save a conciliatory leer. Then, collecting his thoughts, he began:
“Well, sir, in a general way, our condition is perfect. We’ve got two regiments of rifle and machine gunmen, half of them equipped with the oxygen bullets. I guarantee that I could have them away from their benches and machines, and on the fortifications, inside of fifteen minutes. Slade’s armed guards, 2,500 or so, are all ready, too.
“Then, beside that, there are eight ’planes in the hangars, and plenty of men to take them up. If you wish, sir, I can have others brought in. The aerial-bomb guns are ready. As for the oxygen supply, Tanks F and L are full, K is half filled, and N and Q each have about 6,000 gallons, making a total of—let’s see, sir—a total of just about 755,000 gallons.”