Topic Actions

Topic Search

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 17 guests

HFQ Official Snippet #23

This fascinating series is a combination of historical seafaring, swashbuckling adventure, and high technological science-fiction. Join us in a discussion!
HFQ Official Snippet #23
Post by runsforcelery   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 6:53 am

First Space Lord

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

I am way behind on posting these, mostly because of Real-Life™. Among other things, I have been working 12 to 14-hour days finishing up the edit on a book that was supposed to be done two months ago.

Anyway . . . .


The Delthak Works,
Barony of High Rock,
Kingdom of Old Charis,
Charisian Empire.

“Well, it’s certainly impressive, Brahd.”

Ehdwyrd Howsmyn folded his hands behind him as he walked down the length of the hulking “steam automotive” which sat silently on the gleaming steel rails. Brahd Stylmyn, the mastermind behind the project, walked beside him, followed by Stahlman Praigyr.

“The question, of course,” Howsmyn continued, “is whether or not the damned thing will actually work.”

“The models have all worked the way Doctor Vyrnyr and Doctor Mahklyn predicted, Sir,” Stylmyn pointed out respectfully. “And Stahlman here swears the full-scale will work just as well.”

“And very reassuring that is, too, I’m sure,” Howsmyn said dryly, glancing over his shoulder at the small, tough looking man behind them. “So I should take it you’re confident enough to take it out on its first run, Master Praigyr?”

“Aye, Sir. That I am.” Praigyr’s wide grin showed his two missing teeth. “Those early models of Master Stylmyn’s were fun clear through, but I’m really looking forward to seeing this ’un in action!”

Howsmyn shook his head, but he smiled while he did it. Watching Praigyr chuff around the circular path of the test track on the undersized models of experimental automotives had been a source of considerable amusement for the Delthak Works’ labor force. Many members of the audience had spent their time laughing, in fact, but it had scarcely been the first time the baby steps of one of Delthak’s offspring had generated amusement even among the people most devoted to making the contraption work.

The industrialist paused, looking up at the automotive’s tall smokestack, then backed deliberately away until he could see the entire vehicle without turning his head.

For all its size, it had a curiously unfinished — or perhaps the word he wanted was “crude” — appearance compared to the imagery of last-generation steam locomotives from Old Earth with which Owl had provided him. By the same token, though, it looked far sleeker and much more sophisticated than its early nineteenth century predecessors ever had. It was built in what would have been called a 2-4-0 configuration back on Old Earth, with a two-wheeled front bogey followed by two paired drive wheels powered by two twenty-one-inch diameter drive cylinders with a thirty-inch stroke. Unlike the marine engines which were Praigyr’s first true love, the automotive used a fire tube arrangement, with the hot gases from the furnace carried through a water-filled boiler. It was, however, designed to run at rather higher pressure and temperature than most Old Earth locomotives prior to the twentieth century, and it incorporated both a superheater (tubes in which boiler steam passed through the hot furnace gasses in front of the boiler proper, which further heated it to produce “dry steam” for the cylinders) and a blast pipe using waste steam to boost the firebox draught to increase its efficiency. The superheater had been one of Praigyr’s ideas, based on his work with the marine engines, but the blast pipe had been Howsmyn’s suggestion, based on input from Owl and Doctor Dahnel Vyrnyr’s suggestions. There was enormous room for improvement in the efficiency of both, since Vyrnyr’s development of pressure dynamics was still at a very early stage, and there were still a few problems with the poppet valves which admitted steam to the cylinders. Despite that, the current design would produce about sixty-one dragonpower (over fifteen hundred Old Earth horsepower) by Owl’s calculations and was probably already on a par with those of the last two decades or so of the nineteenth century.

The prototype before him had cost an enormous amount in terms of skilled labor and resources at a time when both were in critically short supply, but as with so many of the Delthak Works’ other projects, the men (and women) responsible for designing it had kept their eye firmly on how to produce its progeny as efficiently as possible. While the prototype was essentially hand built, it was designed so that its successors could be constructed from a series of subassemblies, all sized and planned to facilitate rapid fabrication.

That would help a great deal if Howsmyn committed to putting them into production, but that would still require yet another expansion in his ability to produce the necessary large scale — very large scale — steel castings. In fact, he’d have to add a dedicated automotive works to his already enormous facility, not to mention an even larger one dedicated solely to rolling out rails for the eventual tracks. On the other hand, that sort of expansion was something Howsmyn had learned to take in stride, and the work Delthak had carried out in designing and building the Navy’s steam power plants, armor, and new heavy guns would help enormously if he did. And he was pretty sure he would, given the personal interest Cayleb and (especially) Sharleyan were taking in the project.

Of course, how I’m going to produce enough steel to keep all of my balls in the air at once is an interesting question, he reflected dryly. Thank God the Lake Lymahn Works are finally coming online! But even with that extra output . . . .

He managed to suppress a shudder as he considered the additional strain this promised to place upon his steel works. Whatever Stylmyn and Praigyr — or Sharleyan, for that matter — wanted, railroads were simply going to have to take second or even third priority for the immediate future. He had the ironclads to finish, the King Haarahlds (and their guns) to complete, and all the artillery and small arms required by the Imperial Charisian Army to build first. After those minor matters were out of the way, he’d be able to give the automotive the priority Stylmyn clearly felt it deserved.

And Brahd isn’t far wrong about that, either, he reminded himself. It was railroads more than anything else that really drove the development of Old Earth’s steel industry. And to be honest, railroads are going to go even farther towards breaking the Proscriptions’ grip than artillery is. This is something anyone — especially any land-based power — who wants to compete industrially will simply have to have. Once they find out about it, anyway.

“All right,” he said finally, turning away from the automotive and meeting Stylmyn’s gaze. “Father Paityr’s coming by tomorrow or the next day for you to demonstrate your new monstrosity for him. So far, he seems comfortable with the idea, so please try to avoid blowing it up in front of him.”

“We’ll do that thing, Sir,” Stylmyn assured him with a grin, and Howsmyn snorted.

“Easy enough to say now,” he observed darkly. “If it does blow up, you’ll get blown up right along with it, though. Which means I’m the one who’ll have to explain it all to him after the fact!”

“Stahlman and I will do our best to avoid putting you to that sort of inconvenience, Sir,” Stylmyn promised.

“See that you do,” Howsmyn said sternly, then sighed. “And now I have to go have a few words with Master Mahldyn about the new rifle lines.”

“Good luck, Sir,” Stylmyn said, and Howsmyn snorted again and headed for his waiting bicycle.

Ehdwyrd Howsmyn’s work force was the largest Safehold had ever seen. The Delthak Works alone employed more than forty thousand workers, which didn’t include his army of miners or his gasworks — or his canal builders, bargemen, and shipyard workers, for that matter. Nor did it include any of his other foundries and manufactory sites. All told, he had well in excess of a hundred thousand workers in his employ, and the number continued to grow steadily. Delthak was, however, by far his largest single enterprise, and it was over two miles from the fledgling automotive shop to the Urvyn Mahndrayn Rifle Shop, the manufactory floor where the Imperial Charisian Army’s revolvers and new rifles were produced. The permanent pall of smoke cast by the coking ovens and blast furnaces gave the air an acrid, sinus-stinging edge and the noise level and sheer, hurtling energy level were both daunting to the uninitiated and more than enough to impose caution on any cyclist trying to make his way through it.

He passed scores of other bicycles — they were becoming steadily more common, especially around Howsmyn’s various manufactories — and he heard handle bar-mounted push bells chiming as their riders warned people they were coming. It was insufficient warning to prevent the occasional collision and fall, but most of his workers were acquiring the habit of nipping out of the way before they were run down by the new contraptions. They certainly made movement faster and more efficient, and if Nahrmahn Tidewater’s proposal to manufacture pneumatic tires from Corisandian rubber worked out . . . .

He looked up the smoke cloud with his customary mixed feelings. On the one hand, he hated what it was doing to his workers’ lungs. On the other hand, it was the unavoidable consequence of producing the quantities of steel Charis needed for its survival. And whatever reservations he might have about it, those coking ovens and blast furnaces produced byproducts — from the coal gas lighting his manufactory floors and buildings and the Tellesberg waterfront to the creosote which would preserve the wooden sleepers Stylmyn’s railroads would eventually require — that were of almost incalculable value. And in a very few more months, some of those same byproducts would be finding their way into the production of Safehold’s first smokeless powder and artillery bursting charges.

In the meantime, the Lywysite manufactory west of the main Delthak Works had gone into volume production. At Merlin’s urging, the initial pilot production had gone to Earl Hanth, who’d certainly used it to good effect, but producing it had scarcely been an efficient process. The new manufactory, on the other hand, incorporated dozens of lessons learned in the prototyping process, and it looked as if it was going to exceed Sahndrah Lywys’ original output projections by at least ten percent. Howsmyn hoped that would offset her disgruntlment with what Calyeb and Sharleyan had insisted on naming the new explosive.

She’d wanted to call it by Alfred Nobel’s original name, since most of her work had simply been the duplication of his Old Earth manufacturing processes. Unfortunately, no one had been able to come up with a reasonable explanation for a bizarre word like “dynamite,” and she’d been less than delighted when her monarchs insisted on naming it after her, instead. The new manufactory’s products were actually superior to Nobel’s early accomplishments, but remained unsuitable as a shell filler for all the reasons most nitroglycerine-based explosives had: sweating, sensitivity, and its tendency to degrade in storage.

Nitrocellulose propellants were almost certainly going to be available before a suitable high-explosive shell filler, but Lywys was hot on the trail of military-grade TNT. She had all the ingredients (including toulene, extracted from the blue-needle pine, a tree which grew commonly in Charis and Emerald); it was mainly a question of producing them in sufficient quantity with the necessary safeguards against toxicity. And, he admitted unhappily, with an eye towards limiting the long-term pollution volume production would create. As with so many other aspects of the Charisian version of the Industrial Revolution, they would do all they could to mitigate the consequences, yet they had no choice but to pursue the processes to create the weapons they needed to survive.

In many ways, picric acid was simpler to manufacture. It was also more powerful than TNT, but it carried serious stability and corrosion issues. For all of its other drawbacks, TNT was extraordinarily stable and far safer to store or handle, and its lower melting point made it much easier to fill shells with it.

The small arms cartridge production and filling assembly lines were in full swing at the Delthak Works, as well, although — like the Lywysite manufactory — the powder works had been located well clear of the main facility. Ultimately, however, the bulk of Charis’ cartridge filling capacity would be located at Howsmyn’s Cahnyr Works, the satellite manufactory on Gull Inlet, just off Eraystor Bay in Emerald’s Earldom of Bayshore.

More and more of the Empire’s gunpowder production had already been moved to Emerald. Partly that had been to disperse production and decrease the Empire’s dependency on the established Charisian powder plants, especially after the horrific explosion at the Hairatha powder mill. More of it had been simple rationalization, however, in light of Emerald’s proximity to The Wyvernry. That craggy headland at the northwestern end of Silverlode Island, across Dolphin Reach from Erastor, boasted immense, cliff-like deposits of wyvern guano which were the main reason Silverlode had been settled (if one could call its sparse population density “settled,” even now) in the first place. They were also the reason the entire island had been claimed by the farsighted Ahrmahk Dynasty long before any of its members had ever heard of someone named Jeremiah Knowles, because of their value to the fertilizer industry. Zhaspahr Clyntahn’s embargo had put a major crimp into the profitable nitrates trade with the mainland, but those same nitrates were just as important for the burgeoning munitions industry.

Given the quantities of powder Emerald was already producing and the fact that the Delthak Works’ current case production was higher than could be filled locally, it made sense to ship the extra cases to Emerald. Eventually, as the Cahnyr Works own case-drawing lines reached production, Emerald would also provide at least fifty percent of the Empire’s total cartridge cases, and Cayleb and Sharleyan intended to locate much of the smokeless powder production in the island, as well. For that matter, they’d also begun installing case-drawing equipment at the Maikelberg Works, where the first of the new Chisholmian rifle and pistol making lines were already in operation. It was part of their plan to spread employment — and the heretical concepts of industrialization — as broadly as possible among their subjects.

And it would be a good thing when the Cahnyr Works hit their stride, Howsmyn reflected, pedaling steadily, because Kynt Clareyk’s 1st Corps had been completely reequipped with the new cartridge-firing weapons. Every one of his scout snipers and every man of the 3rd Mounted Brigade had been issued one of the new revolvers (officially the “M96 Revolver, Caliber .45, Mod 0,” but already known to the troops as the “Mahldyn .45,” to the considerable embarrassment of Taigys Mahldyn), and one of the even newer M96 bolt action rifles. Four thousand of the 4th Infantry Division’s riflemen had also been issued M96s, while all the rest had been issued converted Mahndrayn breech-loaders. Officially, those were designated the “Mahndrayan Rifle, Caliber .50, Mark II, Mod 2,” but the troops, with their customary disregard for formal terminology, had adopted Mahldyn’s own designation and called them simply “Trapdoors” from the design of their hinged breeches. The mounted infantry’s cap and ball revolvers had been passed on to 1rst Corps’ artillerists, and the support squads’ mortar crews and Artillery Support Party troopers had also been issued Trapdoors.

That meant 1st Corps’ twenty-seven thousand or so men could lay down an awesome amount of firepower, but it also meant Howsmyn had been forced to ship the new weapons no later than the beginning of February if he’d wanted to get them into Green Valley’s hands in time for his planned offensive, and cartridge production had run behind original estimates. They’d been able to ship two hundred rounds per revolver, three hundred rounds per Trapdoor, and three hundred and fifty per M96 rifle, but that wasn’t a very generous supply, given the troops’ need to familiarize themselves with the new weapons and carry an adequate ammunition supply into combat with them. More ammo was in the pipeline, already in transit to Siddarmark, but so were additional rifles and revolvers to use it. It was proving harder than he’d anticipated to build up an adequate supply of the new ammunition, and he strongly suspected that demand in the field would be higher than projected once the spring campaign season got underway, as well. All of which explained the sweat and worry he was expending over the new Emeraldian ammunition manufactories.

He grimaced at the thought, but if Green Valley was going to have to be careful about ammunition expenditures for the next month or so, his men would still be enormously better off than their opponents. The new M97 mortars would help offset any small arms amunition shortages, as well, and while Lywysite wasn’t a very satisfactory shell filler, Hanth had already demonstrated how useful it would prove to the Imperial Charisian Army’s combat engineers. All in all, the Army of God was not going to enjoy the fresh fruits of Charisian inventiveness.

Which is a damned good thing, he told himself, his expression grimmer, as he reached his destination at last and dismounted from his bicycle. Brother Lynkyn’s proving even more irritating at St. Kylmahn’s than Zhwaigair’s proving in Gorath. And Duchairn’s turning into an even bigger pain in the arse than he’s been before. I hope whoever murdered Zhorj Trumyn and stole his briefcase finds an especially hot spit in hell. More to the point, I hope Aivah’s agents catch him and drop him into Bedard Bay with a rock tied to his ankles.

Lynkyn Fultyn’s curiosity, imagination, and agile mind, like Dynnys Zhwaigair’s, were doing exactly what Nimue Alban’s original mission needed done . . . which was unfortunate from the perspective of what Charis needed. Fultyn had been smart enough to realize the pitch and shape of the new Zhwaigair-designed, Fultyn-modified rifle’s breech plug was likely to be critical. That being the case, he’d built no less than two dozen prototypes simultaneously, each with slightly different screws, and adopted the one which performed best.

Not content to stop there, he’d gone a step further than Zwaigair and come up with an even better breech design and he was producing the new rifles in greater numbers — and more cheaply — than he’d predicted. He was even going to manage a greater degree of standardization, although that was only just phasing in. Worse, he’d leapt on the open hearth steel production notes from Trumyn’s briefcase like a drowning man onto a life raft as the krakens closed in. With Duchairn’s backing, he’d translated the diagrams and instructions Trumyn had been supposed to deliver to Greyghor Stohnar’s Council of Manufactories into detailed construction plans and directions for their operation and distributed them to every foundry in the Temple Lands, Harchong, Desnair, and Dohlar.

Desnair (predictably) had been much less receptive to the new concepts, and even Dohlaran foundry masters would take a while to get the new furnaces up and running. Winter weather wasn’t helping construction, either. For that matter, Charis, thanks in no small part to Merlin’s (and Owl’s) input, had a huge headstart on the art of making good steel, with alloys it would take the Church’s foundries years (or even decades) to duplicate by trial and error. Even less-than-perfect steel was far better than cast iron, however, and the Church’s production would rise enormously, with the very first of the new steelworks coming online around the Gulf of Dohlar in the next month or two.

It couldn’t take much longer than that, given that Howsmyn himself had originated most of the new techniques as little more than systematic refinements of already existing practices. And, unfortunately, the directions he’d sent to Siddarmark for applying those refinements had been very clear, concise, and complete. They were simply lucky the other information in Trumyn’s stolen briefcase had been intended as a broad introduction to the concept of steam engines rather than building instructions with the diagrams and explicit directions about materials, dimensions, and practices which had been provided for the furnaces. The last thing they needed would have been to deliver what amounted to an actual working model of one of Praigyr’s beloved steam engines to Mother Church!

Even Brother Lynkyn was finding the translation of general principles into actual hardware heavy going, but Howsmyn was glumly confident that, given enough time, he’d produce crude steam engines of his own. No doubt they’d be underpowered and prone to breakdown, not to mention offering plenty of chances for catastrophes like exploding boilers, but they’d still represent an enormous increase in the Church’s capabilities. It would be bad enough just in terms of steam-driven blast furnaces and manufactories but the thought of facing even relatively slow steam-powered warships was unappealing.

Well, not even Brother Lynkyn and Lieutenant Zhwaigair are going to overhaul the Church’s entire industrial plant overnight, he reminded himself as he rolled his bicycle into the rack outside the Urvyn Mahndrayn Rifle Shop Number One. And I don’t think the Army of God has very many months left. Anything they want to do after we’ve kicked their army’s arse up between its ears and convinced the Group of Four they never — ever — want to screw with Charisians again is fine with me.

“Master Howsmyn!” Taigys Mahldyn greeted him with a huge smile, clasping forearms with him. “I see you’re closer to on time nor usual!”

“It’s not a good idea to point out that I’m always behind schedule, Master Mahldyn,” Howsmyn told him with a frown, and Mahldyn chuckled. He’d come a long way from the anxious but determined craftsman who’d sought an audience with the wealthiest man on Safehold to show him his concept for a new revolver. And so he should have, since he was well along towards becoming one of the wealthiest men on Safehold himself. Almost more important to Ehdwyrd Howsmyn, however, was Mahldyn’s confidence in his own self-worth — and in his own inventive judgment — which had come along with the last furiously busy year or so of his life.

“Seems t’ me there’s no reason you should be different from those of us as work for you, Sir,” Mahldyn pointed out now. “Every single one of us is trying t’ do two hours’ work in a single hour every Langhorne blessed day, aren’t we?”

“I do believe you have a point,” Howsmyn acknowledged as he released the other man’s arm and twitched his head at the rifle works’ door. “So why don’t you and I go take a look at your latest effort to stretch the hours available to you?”

“I’m thinking it’s something you might find a mite interesting, t’ be honest, Sir,” Mahldyn said, walking along beside him. “I’ve been giving some thought t’ what you said t’ other day ’bout the one advantage smoothbores have over rifles. Especially breech-loading rifles.”

“Ah?” Howsmyn hid a smile behind a puzzled expression. He’d been looking forward to this conversation. “Oh!” He allowed his expression to clear. “You mean their ability to fire ‘buck and ball’ rather than just a single bullet when the range is short enough, like in the Battle of the Kyplyngyr?”

“Aye, Sir, that I do.” Mahldyn nodded eagerly. “You see, I got t’ thinkin’ about that, and there’s not rightly a reason we couldn’t fire buckshot out of a cartridge, ’cept how much brass it’d use because the cartridge’d be so large. But then it came t’ me. The chamber don’t care what the cartridge’s made of; its job’s t’ hold the charge, whatever we pack it in. So it came t’ me that instead of usin’ brass, there’s other things we could be lookin’ at. Like paper. You take the right cardstock, now, and you bind one end into a brass cup t’ hold the primer, and all you’d have t’ do’d be to —”

"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #23
Post by Joat42   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 7:22 am

Vice Admiral

Posts: 1847
Joined: Tue Apr 16, 2013 6:01 am
Location: Sweden

Shotguns! :)

Thanks for the snippet!

Jack of all trades and destructive tinkerer.

Anyone who have simple solutions for complex problems is a fool.
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #23
Post by peke   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 7:46 am

Lieutenant (Senior Grade)

Posts: 94
Joined: Tue Dec 10, 2013 2:24 pm

runsforcelery wrote:
“Aye, Sir, that I do.” Mahldyn nodded eagerly. “You see, I got t’ thinkin’ about that, and there’s not rightly a reason we couldn’t fire buckshot out of a cartridge, ’cept how much brass it’d use because the cartridge’d be so large. But then it came t’ me. The chamber don’t care what the cartridge’s made of; its job’s t’ hold the charge, whatever we pack it in. So it came t’ me that instead of usin’ brass, there’s other things we could be lookin’ at. Like paper. You take the right cardstock, now, and you bind one end into a brass cup t’ hold the primer, and all you’d have t’ do’d be to —”

Shotguns indeed!

Personally, I would have preferred machineguns. But hey, let's give another artisan a chance to shine; Mahldyn's already done us proud!

And on a different note, I wonder what's that "other book" our celery-loving poster mentioned?
There is no problem so complex that it cannot be solved through the judicious application of high-power explosives.
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #23
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 7:48 am


Posts: 2311
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 2:54 pm
Location: East Central Illinois


Joat42 wrote:Shotguns! :)

Thanks for the snippet!
Paul Howard (Alias Drak Bibliophile)
Sometimes The Dragon Wins! [Polite Dragon Smile]
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #23
Post by Charybdis   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 7:52 am

Captain of the List

Posts: 711
Joined: Sun Sep 15, 2013 10:53 am
Location: Gulf Coast Florida USA

See, I knew we would get a second snippet in April! :roll:

What say you, my peers?
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #23
Post by RHWoodman   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 8:07 am

Captain (Junior Grade)

Posts: 386
Joined: Tue Mar 30, 2010 10:06 am
Location: Columbus, Ohio USA

Excellent snippet, RFC. Thank you! :D
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #23
Post by EdThomas   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 8:20 am

Captain of the List

Posts: 518
Joined: Mon Apr 08, 2013 3:47 pm
Location: Rhode Island USA

Clikety-boom, clickety-boom! :D
Thanks for the snippet!
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #23
Post by jeremyr   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 8:37 am

Lieutenant Commander

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

runsforcelery wrote:I am way behind on posting these, mostly because of Real-Life™. Among other things, I have been working 12 to 14-hour days finishing up the edit on a book that was supposed to be done two months ago.

Sorry you are working such long days. I don't think you'll find any complaints here about delays when you are working so hard to get us more books. Hope life gets back to normal soon for you.
Really looking forward to when I can get a copy of this and the next war god book in my hands. And anything else in the pipeline for that matter.
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #23
Post by jeremyr   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 8:40 am

Lieutenant Commander

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

peke wrote:

And on a different note, I wonder what's that "other book" our celery-loving poster mentioned?

Doesn't matter, I'll read it. But I'm hoping it's either the next multiverse or safehold story.
Re: HFQ Official Snippet #23
Post by bigrunt   » Tue Apr 28, 2015 8:42 am

Lieutenant Commander

Posts: 117
Joined: Thu Sep 26, 2013 2:34 pm
Location: St Augustine FL

Thanks RFC. We get a train names automobile, I look forward to what you call the first flying vehicle.
I am the runt of the litter (Granted it was a litter of really big pups)

Return to Safehold