Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 371
Monster and Power
In the following month, apart from dealing with matters of the command post, most of Claude's time was spent on the mining in Mosraka Mountains. While Weyblon still wasn't too sure what part of the iron mines caused Claude to pay it so much attention, the fact that it did meant that his investment of two thousand crowns wouldn't go to waste. With Weyblon's help, Claude soon managed to hire the necessary supervisors and nikancha labourers. They started the mining operations within a month and a half.
What came later was the construction of the forge. Liquefying iron for casting wasn't that difficult a matter to accomplish. All they needed was a kiln and time to make the moulds, which Weyblon was already really familiar with. He managed those tasks without much effort. However, Claude also requested for carpentry, gunpowder and equipment workshops to be built. Weyblon began to worry about exactly what Claude was planning to do.
One thing to note was that Weyblon noticed that Angelina was also present during the visit he paid Claude. After greeting them, he asked the questions that had been clouding his mind with doubt. Claude smiled and said that since Weyblon had signed the non-disclosure agreement, he would let him see what kind of weapon he was developing.
Weyblon watched as the huge first lieutenant beside Claude lifted two large boxes, one with a cylindrical object roughly ten centimetres in diametre. The top part was made of metal while the handle seemed wooden. The first lieutenant then took out two metal plates from the other box. He placed the thicker plate on the ground as a base and the thinner one into a wedge in the thicker one to make an L-shaped contraption.
After that, the huge man applied force on the upright metal plate and it curved. It seemed rather elastic. Weyblon just realised that it was a spring plate normally used for shock absorption in carriages. However, he had no idea what Claude was trying to do with them.
The first lieutenant pushed the spring plate down and took one of the metallic cylindrical objects out of the other box and slot it down into the hole on the spring plate with the wooden handle facing downwards. Then, the man pulled away a small string on the wooden handle and let go of the spring plate.
A strong twang could be heard as the spring plate reassumed its former shape. The cylindrical object's wooden handle dislodged itself from the hole in the spring plate as it was launched far away in the sky.
Weyblon thought it was a rather decent idea. It was similar to catapults used in ancient times. Given how much research there seemed to be behind such a little prototype, Weyblon thought that the finished product could definitely sell for even more in the war theatre, which meant more profits and...
Before he could finish that thought, he heard a thunderous boom from afar. Snapping his head back, he realised that the cylindrical object exploded upon contact with the ground. There was a small crater where the object fell and smoke was still rising off it.
"This... this thing explodes?" Weyblon asked with shock.
"Of course. Did you think I started a forge just to make something to throw iron cans at our enemies?" Claude turned to his sister and said, "Sigh, this black powder still isn't powerful enough... The safe gunpowder we have is far better and will make an even larger sound that'll shock anyone dumb..."
Weyblon didn't know what black or safe powder was. The fact that the thing could explode was already beyond his expectations. Despite his lack of military or battle experience, he knew that the lobbing weapon Claude developed would definitely have extensive applications on the battlefield. One explosion alone might not do much, but when tens of them exploded at the same time... The defenders would be in for a hell of a beating.
The closest thing to a fight Weyblon had witnessed was the colony's garrison forces suppressing native revolts. They basically got into neat lines and fired and the fierce enemies just fell like that before the rest ran all over the place. If a couple explosions that propelled round bullets into a crowd could create such a result, Weyblon believed that with that new weapon, nikancha gatherings and revolts would no longer be nearly as frequent.
"Can I take a look at it?" Weyblon asked the huge first lieutenant, who nodded and stepped aside.
Weyblon picked up one of those cylinder-like objects and immediately knew why Claude developed the lobbing mechanism. The cylinder itself was too heavy. Even though the wooden handle was easy to grasp, Weyblon himself could only throw it no more than ten metres away.
"Can I open it up?" Weyblon asked.
Claude nodded. The huge first lieutenant went over and took the cylinder from Weyblon. With a counter-clockwise twist, he separated the metal part from the wooden part and poured out the gunpowder contained within.
The design of the hand grenade was rather simple. The gunpowder was stored in the metal shell. The real complexity lay in the wooden handle. Once the line embedded inside it was pulled, the friction caused by the line's removal would spark the flint inside and light up a powder trail, which led to the main powder stores in the metal component. As long as the powder trail was ignited, the flame would reach the main powder stores and cause an even larger explosion.
That was the most basic of hand grenade designs, only slightly more complicated than bombs which had their fuses out in the open. Yet, it was the most Claude could do at the moment. He was more of a software guy before his transmigration, after all, not a master artificer.
Yet, that was enough to greatly awe Weyblon. He praised, "General, you're a true genius! What is this mighty weapon you invented called?"
"A hand grenade," he said with a sigh, "It isn't that powerful and the range of the explosion is smaller than I expected. As you can see, if we add more gunpowder, it'll turn too heavy."
Weyblon had felt the weight before and agreed. "But still, General, you made this launching mechanism already so there's no need for the wooden handle, right? Since you're not going to use your hand to throw it, can't you just make the metal casing the whole thing and stuff it full of gunpowder? Wouldn't that make it even more powerful?"
Sometimes, even the simplest of laymen could instantly solve a problem that plagued experts for years with their outside perspective. Claude and Angelia's eyes brightened immediately. Since the soldiers couldn't throw the hand grenades far anyway, they might as well remove the wooden handle and make the whole thing with iron and stuff even more gunpowder into them. They only had to modify the lobbing mechanism to fit it. That way, the explosions would be far more effective!
"I'll go back immediately to test it out," Angelina said as she sped home. Claude made sure Myjack followed to ensure she was safe.
Three days later, Claude once more invited Weyblon over to observe the testing of the improved weapon.
Weyblon noticed that the hand grenade had completely changed in design. The metal part was lengthened and there was no longer a wooden component. It looked no different from an iron canister now. The simple lobbing tool was also changed into a more stable design with the spring plate thickened. Mere hands could no longer push it down. Instead, there was a lever that could be pulled down to different angles and distances of fire. First, the lever had to be pulled down to the desired setting before the hand grenade was set onto the spring plate.
The line-fuse mechanism didn't change. After pulling the line out, green smoke wafted out from the back of the hand grenade to signify that it had been activated. The lever was then released. The hand grenade was sent flying through the sky, eventually landing and exploding with a thunderous boom.
This explosion was far brighter than the one Weyblon had seenthe first time, which meant the power of the blast was considerably improved. Claude nodded, satisfied with the strength of the explosion. The only drawback with the new mechanism was that it took a little longer to load up, but it was an acceptable compromise for the increased accuracy the fixed angles offered.
"Now, this hand grenade can't be thrown by hand. You'll need to change the name, Claude," Angelina said.
Without the wooden handle, it truly was much harder to throw it by hand. Claude gave it some thought and thought of calling it a mortar.
However, Weyblon was holding the iron canister with a furrowed brow.
"What's wrong? Is there a problem?" Claude asked.
Weyblon looked at the creases along the iron cylinder and asked, "General, why do these marks have to be here?"
Claude laughed and said, "It's simple. With them, the iron canister will fragment into more than 30 pieces during the explosion. The fragmentation can cause great damage within a five-metre radius. Without these lines, the container will only fragment into three to four pieces, so the changes are far lower."
Weyblon grimaced. "General, I understand. So you mean we'll have to modify the manufacturing process for the outer shell to have these lines, right?"
Claude nodded. "That's correct. It should be a simple modification. Would that be possible?"
"There's no issue at all with making these iron canisters as they are. But to add the lines, we'll need cutting, engraving and smoothening machines. While these are easily obtainable, we don't have enough power..."
Power? Claude had once looked into it and found that basic manufacturing tools were already invented in this world. He recalled seeing designs for some of them in Landes' notebook and diaries. In the initial days when he designed the firearm, he created a few manufacturing machines to work with the forge for the creation of gun barrels. There were machines in Aueras' four great industrial complexes as well as the new military workshops in the three southern prefectures of their newly conquered territory.
So, what was with Weyblon's deal?
After hearing Weyblon's explanation, it occurred to Claude that he had thought of the world in far too simple terms. While this world had machines, they were in their most basic form and their largest problem was a source of power for usual operation. In this world, only three forms of power existed: hydropower, beasts of burden, and the mythical magic power.
Aueras had four main industrial complexes within the mountains and valleys. They weren't set up there because of secrecy, but rather the waterfalls there. They fell from a really tall location and had enough water to power the machines to create accurately fashioned metal and alloy parts through combinations of various processes like cutting, sanding, hammering, screwing and so on.
Beasts of burden were simple and direct. A contraption had to be attached to an animal so that the movement could be translated into another form to power machines and replace human work. However, this was more suitable for rougher kinds of work like woodworking. It would be hard to fashion materials that were too hard that way. More importantly, the animals were too unstable and the slightest mistake could cause the parts to be inaccurately made.
The last one was magic power, which hadn't been heard of beyond the rumours. Basically, magic resources and stones were used to power magical formations to facilitate the movement of large machines. It was said that only one place in the whole kingdom used this method of power: the cannon factories. Without magic-powered machines, accurate and identical cannon barrels couldn't be made.
There were also other forms of power like human and wind, but they weren't considered the main ones. Humans couldn't work for long and wind was too unreliable. The inconsistent strength and direction was hugely inconvenient.
Weyblon told Claude outright that they didn't have any waterfalls to use ner the iron mines, so it would be hard to make fine adjustments to the finished product. They could, however, try to find another location with one and have the materials shipped there for processing.
Claude asked, "Have you heard of steam power?"
Weyblon wracked his brains for a good moment and shook his head.
Angelina, on the other hand, had her interest stoked at the mention of magic power. But Weyblon said he had only heard about it from someone else. He wasn't a magus and thus couldn't explain how magic could be converted into kinetic energy. He did, however, know what magic stones were. They were rocky substances found in magic crystal mines during the ancient magic civilisation. As they likely formed in tandem with magic crystals, they also contained trace amounts of mana.
However, during the end days, magic crystals were growing ever scarcer and their prices were rising. So, when magi realised that magic stones also had some amount of magic power, they began to appreciate the material more. Aueras only had one magic stone mine in the mainland and all yield from it belonged to the royal family only.
Claude was feeling quite troubled. He didn't think making simple grenades entailed so many problems. Even though he asked Weyblon about steam power, it didn't mean he knew how to get it working either. Knowing the principles and putting them into practice were wholly different matters. Crestfallen and out of options, he asked Weyblon to look around to see what nearby place had waterfalls by which he could set up his water-powered processing plant.