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HFQ Offical Snippet #18

This fascinating series is a combination of historical seafaring, swashbuckling adventure, and high technological science-fiction. Join us in a discussion!
HFQ Offical Snippet #18
Post by runsforcelery   » Thu Feb 05, 2015 5:31 pm

runsforcelery
First Space Lord

Posts: 2425
Joined: Sun Aug 09, 2009 10:39 am
Location: South Carolina

Guys ---

I'm very sorry for how late this one is coming in. Sharon has been really, really sick for the last couple of weeks with a respiratory problem that just isn't going away, and while she's been under the weather, I've had to pick up and carry a lot of other balls. There just haven't been enough hours in a day to keep up with everything, I'm afraid. Anyway, this one's a bit longer as a sort of consolation prize.
_________________________________________

Hold on, Sir!

His head whipped around, startled out of the intensity of his battle with the river, as Platoon Sergeant Tyllytsyn grabbed his pistol belt from behind.

“Don’t let go, Sir! Not yet!”

Something went around Hahrlys’ body. The cold had already numbed his extremities, but he felt the rope jerk tight. Then —

“One more second, Sir!”

Tyllytsyn thrashed past the lieutenant. He was a shorter man. While Hahrlys’ feet were still on the bottom, the platoon sergeant was swimming, but he stroked strongly and the lieutenant felt a sudden easing of the current’s pressure as Tyllytsyn got a firm grip on Edwyrds’ weight belt.

“Got him!” the platoon sergeant gasped. “Now let go and let them haul you in, Sir!”

“No.” Hahrlys didn’t recognize his own voice. Was that because it sounded so hoarse and breathless or because his cold-numbed brain wasn’t working very well? “You’ll need help pulling him out of —”

“Let go,” Tyllytsyn repeated, the two words hard and unyielding. “Happen I can swim, Sir. An’ I was smart enough t’ tie onto a line before I went swimmin’, too. Now let go!

Hahrlys gaped at him for another moment, his brain churning sluggishly, then nodded.

“Whatever you say, Gyffry,” he murmured, and released his grip. The rope around his waist plucked at him insistently, dragging him back the way he’d come, and he managed to grip the rope and turn in the same direction, holding onto the line and letting his legs and body float behind him.

By the time two of his men had hauled him ashore, three more had Tyllytsyn and Edwyrds within a few feet of the bank. Someone else floundered out into the water to help pull Edwyrds out, and Hahrlys managed to crawl to their side. He was probably more hindrance than help, he thought later, but he didn’t worry about that at the time. He got a firm grip on Edwyrds and added his own feeble efforts to the fight to get the sergeant free of the water.

They dumped him on the muddy bank and Tyllytsyn peeled off the other noncom’s swimming glasses. He pulled the bladder mouthpiece out from between Edwyrds’ tight-clenched teeth, and put his ear directly beside his mouth.

“He’s still breathing!” he announced. “You three, get him up to the warming tent. Braishair, you and Wyltahn help the Lieutenant.”

“And two of you help the Platoon Sergeant, too,” Hahrlys said. Or that was what he tried to say, anyway. He was pretty sure afterward that all that actually came out was a slurred mumble, but that was all right.

That was just fine.

* * * * * * * * * *

“Yes, Pawal?” Hahlcahm Bahrns looked up from the last of his scrambled eggs as Trynt Sevyrs, his steward, admitted Lieutenant Blahdysnberg to his day cabin. The overhead oil lamp cast shadows on the lieutenant’s face, dusting the puckered scar on his cheek, picked up courtesy of a ricocheting rifle bullet during the Canal Raid, with darkness.

“The picket boat just brought word, Sir. The engineers say they got the charges placed.”

“Did they?” Bahrns laid down his fork, reached for his hot tea, and sipped deeply. Then he lowered the mug. “How many did they lose?” he asked in a much quieter tone.

“None of them, apparently.”

None of them?”

Bahrns blinked. He hadn’t been able to refute Admiral Hywyt’s logic, and the advantages if the mission succeeded were amply worth the risk, but he’d never believed the engineers could pull it off without losing someone.

“According to the coxswain who delivered the message, they did come pretty close to losing at least one man, Sir,” Blahdysnberg admitted. “But they got him back in the end and it sounds like he’s going to be fine after all.”

“And they got all the charges placed?”

“That’s what they say, Sir. And I’m ready to take the word of anyone with big enough balls to even try setting them, myself. And the lieutenant in charge — a Lieutenant—” he glanced at the note in his hand, turning it to catch the lamplight “— Bryahnsyn, it says — lit all the fuses right on the dot at five-thirty.”

“Can’t say I disagree with you about the size of their balls,” Bahrns conceded. Then he hauled out his pocket watch. “If he lit them off at five-thirty, I make it another forty minutes or so, assuming the fuses work the way they’re supposed to.” He closed the watch with a snap. “That being so, I suppose it’s time we cleared for action.”

* * * * * * * * * *

It was still dark when Bahrns stepped out onto HMS Delthak’s larboard bridge wing and into the bite of an icy breeze. The ironclad’s superstructure was like an island rising from the thick river mist, and a trailer of funnel smoke wisped down across the dying night to greet him. The black gang had gotten steam up in ample time, and for once he envied the hot, oily cave in which they labored.

He could see precious little, but at least river currents were constant, not like the tricksy and capricious tide. He knew where his ship was, where she had to go, how the set of the current would try to prevent her from getting there, and what she had to do when she got there anyway. And Bryahnsyn’s timing had been good. The eastern sky was already a tiny bit paler — unless that was his imagination — and he gazed upriver, waiting for the signal to begin.

He’d come to love his squat, unlovely command. There were times — a lot of them, actually — when the stink of funnel smoke was far from pleasant, or when talcum-fine black dust coated every surface after re-coaling, that he longed for the days when all his command had needed was the pressure of clean wind on canvas. But those times came and went, and even at their worst, they were minor considerations beside Delthak’s speed, maneuverability, and power.

And her pumps and propellers when the sea turns bitchy, Halcom, he reminded himself. Let’s not be forgetting those little advantages, either!

He regretted the fact that he’d been forced to give up four guns in each broadside when they rearmed his ship before sending her to Thesmar, but there hadn’t been any choice. The new breechloaders were twice a thirty-pounder’s weight and over twenty feet long.

Unlike the thirty-pounders they’d replaced, the new mounts were fitted with handwheel elevation gear, and the toothed gears which rode the new, modified deck rails gave his gunners much more precise control of their pieces. The armored shutters had been bolted permanently closed over the empty ports, and the joints between the shutters and the casemate armor had been heavily caulked to prevent leaks. That had shown its worth during the storm-lashed voyage from Siddar City to Thesmar. But the Delthak Works had also fitted each of the new guns with a rounded gun shield that pivoted with the gun as it was trained around.

In many ways, Bahrns was as pleased by those shields as by the guns themselves. Most of Delthak’s casualties during the Canal Raid— like the scar on Blahdynsberg’s cheek — had come when small arms fire found its way through the opened ports while the guns were run out. That wasn’t going to happen now. In fact, he really wished he could simply leave the guns permanently run out, the way the new-build ironclads were designed to do. Running them all the way in was a backbreaking task, even with the auxilliary steam “donkey.” Unfortunately, the shields, for all their virtues, weren’t perfect. They leaked, and Delthak’s port sills were too close to the water. That was why the guns had to be run fully in so the original port shutters could be closed and secured before he risked taking her to sea in anything much above a dead calm.

But those long barrels, especially matched with the slower-burning “brown powder,” gave them enormous power. The standard six-inch shell was almost four times the weight of a thirty-pounder smoothbore shell, and according to the Delthak Works, it struck with more than seven and a half times the energy. Theoretically, the new gun had a range of fifteen thousand yards at its maximum elevation of fifteen degrees, although no gunner could hope to hit another ship at ranges much in excess of four thousand. His own ship’s motion would have made that impossible. Firing from the mill pond smoothness of the Seridahn River, however, ought to be a rather different kettle of fish, and he was eager to try them in action for the first time.

Of course, first he had to get into position, and that was likely to prove . . . interesting.

He opened his watch again, holding its face to catch the light from a conning tower view slit. The eastern sky was definitely lighter. In fact, according to schedule, the festivities ought to have already kicked off, but he wasn’t surprised they were running a little late. If he’d been in charge of cutting those fuses, he would have given himself a rather more generous margin of error than the nominal timetable required, and —

* * * * * * * * * *

“All right, you’re relieved,” Lieutenant Sandkaran growled.

As military formalities went, it was sadly lacking, Lieutenant Bryahnsyn reflected. On the other hand, Erayk Sandkaran was a surly fellow at the best of times, and he didn’t like getting up before the crack of dawn any more than anyone else did. For that matter, Bryahnsyn couldn’t for the life of him imagine why it was necessary for a sixteen-man outpost to be commanded by an officer in the first place. That was the sort of thing platoon sergeants were for, in his opinion, which Sandkaran obviously shared.

Not that he or Sandkaran were likely to raise that point with Colonel Sheldyn. That was usually a bad —

* * * * * * * * * *

Earl Hanth’s command had been redesignated the Army of Thesmar in recognition of its defense of that city. Despite its magnificent new name, however, it remained lower in supply priority than its fellows. The Army of Shiloh had been shattered; the Desnairian Empire had lost eighty percent of its rifles and new-model artillery; and while the Royal Dohlaran Army had a greater potential to regenerate, it wouldn’t be doing that anytime soon. So it was reasonable to give priority to the armies farther north, where heavy and decisive combat could be expected no later than May or June.

Because of that, Hanth had received none of the new bolt action rifles and only a handful of the Mahldyn .45 revolvers. The 4th Infantry Brigade had brought along its organic mortars and field artillery; two additional batteries of four-inch muzzle-loading rifles had accompanied the same wave of reinforcements; and Hanth had a plenitude — indeed, an excess — of thirty-pounders on field carriages. They’d done him proud in his attack on Cheryk, and while the naval angle-guns Admiral Hywyt had landed to defend Thesmar were too immobile to take on campaign, the Delthak Works had compensated by supplying him with enough new mortars to equip five additional support platoons.

And as a consolation prize for the M96 rifles he hadn’t received, Ehdwyrd Howsmyn had sent along eight hundred additional six-inch shells, with even more in the supply chain behind them . . . and just under a hundred tons of Sahndrah Lywys’ newest brainchild. On a pound-for-pound basis, Lywysite was roughly two and a half times as powerful as black powder, because the shock wave of its detonation propagated at over twenty-three thousand feet per second while black powder’s detonation velocity was less than two thousand. That gave Lewysite a much greater shattering effect, and since it weighed twice as much per cubic inch, the same weight charge could be packed into half the volume. And that meant it could be formed into neat sticks, ten inches long and one and a quarter inches in diameter, each of which weighed just under twenty ounces . . . and packed the effectiveness of over three pounds of black powder into barely fifteen percent of the black powder’s volume.

* * * * * * * * * *


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: HFQ Offical Snippet #18
Post by FriarBob   » Thu Feb 05, 2015 5:34 pm

FriarBob
Rear Admiral

Posts: 1058
Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2011 7:29 pm

runsforcelery wrote:Guys ---

I'm very sorry for how late this one is coming in. Sharon has been really, really sick for the last couple of weeks with a respiratory problem that just isn't going away, and while she's been under the weather, I've had to pick up and carry a lot of other balls. There just haven't been enough hours in a day to keep up with everything, I'm afraid. Anyway, this one's a bit longer as a sort of consolation prize.


One of the beggars was just recently saying something about how we hoped you were just busy INSTEAD of something like this.

Wish he'd been right.

Hope she (and you) get all back to normal really soon.
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Re: HFQ Offical Snippet #18
Post by Graydon   » Thu Feb 05, 2015 5:44 pm

Graydon
Commander

Posts: 245
Joined: Sat Oct 13, 2012 6:18 pm

runsforcelery wrote:Guys ---

I'm very sorry for how late this one is coming in. Sharon has been really, really sick for the last couple of weeks with a respiratory problem that just isn't going away, and while she's been under the weather, I've had to pick up and carry a lot of other balls. There just haven't been enough hours in a day to keep up with everything, I'm afraid. Anyway, this one's a bit longer as a sort of consolation prize.
[snip]
* * * * * * * * * *


Hope Sharon's recovery is prompt and comprehensive.

(Snippets are nice. Snippets are not necessary.)
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Re: HFQ Offical Snippet #18
Post by Hooked   » Thu Feb 05, 2015 5:46 pm

Hooked
Ensign

Posts: 21
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2014 12:57 pm

Thank you. I hope that you and your family are well.
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Re: HFQ Offical Snippet #18
Post by isaac_newton   » Thu Feb 05, 2015 5:48 pm

isaac_newton
Rear Admiral

Posts: 1095
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 5:37 am
Location: Brighton, UK

Very best wishes & prayers for Sharon [and yourself]

[edit] just read snippet.... ahh - real cliff hanger [maybe in more ways than one] and just when I thought we were going to get the to bang... cut off in its prime ooooooh! I feel withdrawal symptoms already!! [/edit]
Last edited by isaac_newton on Thu Feb 05, 2015 5:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: HFQ Offical Snippet #18
Post by jeremyr   » Thu Feb 05, 2015 5:49 pm

jeremyr
Lieutenant Commander

Posts: 146
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2011 8:33 pm
Location: Corinth, TX

FriarBob wrote:Wish he'd been right.

Hope she (and you) get all back to normal really soon.


Yes, best wishes for a speedy recovery
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Re: HFQ Offical Snippet #18
Post by gcomeau   » Thu Feb 05, 2015 6:02 pm

gcomeau
Admiral

Posts: 2737
Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2014 4:24 pm

runsforcelery wrote:Guys ---

I'm very sorry for how late this one is coming in. Sharon has been really, really sick for the last couple of weeks with a respiratory problem that just isn't going away, and while she's been under the weather, I've had to pick up and carry a lot of other balls. There just haven't been enough hours in a day to keep up with everything, I'm afraid. Anyway, this one's a bit longer as a sort of consolation prize.


As explanations for keeping us addicts waiting goes I'm pretty sure everyone here will be agreed that that's more than justified your absence... hope things are improving.


_________________________________________

And as a consolation prize for the M96 rifles he hadn’t received, Ehdwyrd Howsmyn had sent along eight hundred additional six-inch shells, with even more in the supply chain behind them . . . and just under a hundred tons of Sahndrah Lywys’ newest brainchild. On a pound-for-pound basis, Lywysite was roughly two and a half times as powerful as black powder, because the shock wave of its detonation propagated at over twenty-three thousand feet per second while black powder’s detonation velocity was less than two thousand. That gave Lewysite a much greater shattering effect, and since it weighed twice as much per cubic inch, the same weight charge could be packed into half the volume. And that meant it could be formed into neat sticks, ten inches long and one and a quarter inches in diameter, each of which weighed just under twenty ounces . . . and packed the effectiveness of over three pounds of black powder into barely fifteen percent of the black powder’s volume.

* * * * * * * * * *



Hmmm... Nitroglycerin? No visual description of the substance itself but the packing into sticks suggests someone just re-invented some variant of dynamite?
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Re: HFQ Offical Snippet #18
Post by phillies   » Thu Feb 05, 2015 6:05 pm

phillies
Vice Admiral

Posts: 1982
Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 8:43 am
Location: Worcester, MA

Why is it that we soon expect a kerblammo!?

It must be our suspicious minds.

Profound sympathies to Sharon on the respiratory thing. I started January 6, and am still not back all the way to well. However, I am seeing improvement. I no longer have to lie on my back, head elevated, to try to sleep. When we had 3' of snow last week, I had energy back so I could shovel.
I hope she will finally be well, and incidentally not share her discomfort.
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Re: HFQ Offical Snippet #18
Post by ChaChaCharms   » Thu Feb 05, 2015 6:07 pm

ChaChaCharms
Lieutenant (Senior Grade)

Posts: 61
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2014 1:52 pm

Wish you were posting under better circumstances, prayers being sent to you and your family!
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Re: HFQ Offical Snippet #18
Post by Mendicant   » Thu Feb 05, 2015 6:08 pm

Mendicant
Ensign

Posts: 14
Joined: Thu Feb 05, 2015 1:07 pm

FriarBob wrote:
runsforcelery wrote:Guys ---

I'm very sorry for how late this one is coming in. Sharon has been really, really sick for the last couple of weeks with a respiratory problem that just isn't going away, and while she's been under the weather, I've had to pick up and carry a lot of other balls. There just haven't been enough hours in a day to keep up with everything, I'm afraid. Anyway, this one's a bit longer as a sort of consolation prize.


One of the beggars was just recently saying something about how we hoped you were just busy INSTEAD of something like this.

Wish he'd been right.

Hope she (and you) get all back to normal really soon.


I hope Sharon recovers fully and quickly.
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