Black Iron's Glory - Chapter 454
Claude didn't get to spend much time with his family. After calling on Weyblon for two days of talks, Lanu Arms Factory was founded to produce revolvers and mines. Weyblon was really thankful to Claude for letting him take part in the arms factory. It meant that his household had a formal relationship with the theatre's five generals now. He would be among the most influential on the continent.
Weyblon used to be a normal member of the mining association, a mere proprietor. But since he met Claude and rented him his manor, he became his friend. Soon, he got Claude's attention and was invited to found the iron factory together to create the hot-air and steam-powered engines, and later, the mortars. That caused his status to further skyrocket.
Within the mining association, his words now held real weight, because he represented General Claude, one of the big five in the theatre. And now that he was invited to start another arms factory and heard that he owned ten percent of the shares just like the other generals, he was all too touched. He puffed his chest out and promised to not let Claude down.
After leaving the formation of the new factory to Weyblon and the restaffing of Thundercrash to Eiblont, Claude went to the iron factory to start work on upgrading the mortars. He was going to create three types of rounds and two types of launchers, one for attack and another for defence.
The three rounds were differentiated by their weight and labelled A, B and C type. The light kind was no different from the current mortars the theatre developed, the medium type had double the gunpowder and was larger in size, and the heavy type was akin to the Shiksan iron pumpkins, perhaps even heavier for more explosive power. Those three types were easily prototyped and would soon be mass produced.
The rounds took only three days to create. The problem was how they would deliver the payload. The research on designing a launcher mechanism that matched Claude's range requirements, however, was much harder. The defensive launcher could be a direct copy of the Shiksan catapults. It would even be fine if it was somewhat heavier.
Defensive launchers were required to launch type-A rounds past 250 metres and type-B rounds past 200 metres. The heaviest type-C round should at least be able to be flung 150 metres away. It also needed to be operated by the fewest number of people possible and have an adjustable firing range and direction.
The attack launcher, on the other hand, was much harder to design to Claude's specifications. First, it couldn't take more than four people to operate, with three as the ideal number. Additionally, its firing range for type-A rounds had to be 200 metres, 150 metres for type-B rounds and 100 metres for type-C rounds. The launcher itself didn't have to be a single unit and could be disassembled and reassembled on site to ensure mobility and flexibility.
Weyblon's iron factory mainly produced hot-air and steam-powered engines currently. With the development throughout the colonies, the engines became a popular choice to power smaller workshops. There were orders to fulfil all the way to half a year later. Either way, that division of the factory still wasn't too profitable as much had been invested into Liboyd's research on a train car. Success was just on the horizon.
If the train car could successfully be created, the railroad company could finally start. But in the past year, the factory made seven train car prototypes, all of which ran into various problems during the test runs. The longest time one ran was eleven hours. Six of them had already been scrapped. Liboyd's team of engineers could only progress a step at a time, and he estimated it would take them another year to make a proper steam-powered locomotive.
Since the Greytower magi assassination incident back then, the theatre did a thorough search and found 17 rogue magi living in seclusion. However, the theatre didn't control magic that strictly like the kingdom on the mainland did. They only did some simple investigation on whether they broke any laws. After making sure they were law-abiding magi with nothing to do with Greytower, they were let off with a simple registration.
The theatre didn't consider rogue magi enemies to be wary about. Instead, they discovered that the magi's magic items they sold during peacetime did wonders for daily life. A few magi were also patronised guests of powerful households in the theatre. After the assassination, those households made a report to the theatre immediately to aid with the investigation.
However, not many knew about the investigation on the 17 magi, though Bolonik was more aware of the finer circumstances, such as how a few among the magi used to be registered magi of the kingdom who had escaped to the colonies because they wanted to be free of the Watch's control. After some consideration, he decided on investigating them for any wrongdoing and releasing them if they didn't.
When Claude found out about that after he recovered from the assassination, he got a list of the magi and handed Angelina a copy. After she and Bloweyk did their own deeper investigations, they managed to recruit six of them, all rune magi, to be assistants for Blackstone Arms Factory. They signed a 20-year work contract and handed over their families for them to control.
Liboyd, as Sonia's father, knew about the inner workings of Blackstone, as well as the magi. He believed it to be a rather good idea and told Weyblon about it. So, Weyblon requested Claude for help and got the list of the remaining eleven magi. After some background checks, he hired three of the rogue magi to be Liboyd's assistants in the research on the steam-powered train for a high price.
Claude also received Liboyd and the other magi's help in his launcher research. Following some ten days of tests, they finalised the design of the launchers and Claude handed the blueprints to Weyblon for them to be produced as soon as possible. Priority was given to the defensive launchers so they could be deployed at the defences in the mountain areas.
After going back to rest for two days, Claude set out again for Port Vebator to inspect Blackstone Arms Factory. Sometimes, he found it rather regrettable that he didn't make any progress with his tube-firing mortar even though his catapult launchers could now fire past 200 metres. If he knew he was going to transmigrate, he would've studied more on military technology, especially the components of the weapons. That way, he wouldn't have to trouble himself over primitive weapons such as those.
Currently, he was researching his weapons blind. He only knew what they looked like, but not their internal structures. He wasn't much of a military nut in the first place, nor did he major in engineering. The only reason he was able to make the new rifles was thanks to Sonia's deep love for firearms since her childhood. Asking her to work on something so radically different like mortars and other light artillery wouldn't really yield many results.
As expected, Angelina and Sonia's research didn't turn out much. Fortunately, Claude now had launcher and round replacements for his mortars, so he wasn't in that much of a rush. The reason for his visit to the factory was only to hurry the two up in the production of the sniper rifles and the mines.
The theatre had gotten Blackstone to make a thousand sniper rifles, but they were all made using arrays rather than standard machine production. Angelina personally made ten and got sick of it, so it was delayed. Claude only got ten at his disposal.
He knew how mundane a job it would be to make a thousand of those rifles with an array. No rune magus would bear doing such a boring job. It required a lot of energy and focus to operate an array to make equipment so delicate, after all. Given that machine production still couldn't rival hand-made products in accuracy and detail, there was no way to make the parts necessary for the much more complicated sniper rifles.
Due to the need of keeping things secret, Angelina and Sonia didn't get the other six magi to make those sniper rifles. But if production counted only on the two of them, who knew how long it would take to complete a thousand?
Claude had no choice but to tell them that they could hand production over to the six magi. All the two had to do was to work on the final assembly. That way, they could only delegate the making of the parts and keep the weapon secret. If necessary, they could just ask the magi to make a few unrelated parts to further obfuscate the purpose of the parts. That way, no single magus would have to work on the production of the whole rifle.
He really didn't know what went on in the two women's minds. The new rifles were already in mass production, so there wasn't really a point in keeping the sniper rifle secret. They were just tools to kill made using an array. It didn't really make a difference for Claude.
Additionally, he also needed Sonia to make another production line for rounds. The new rifles consumed far too much ammunition, after all. The rounds for the sniper rifles, on the other hand, had to be specially made by a small group of people. Unlike the rounds for the Sonia 591, snipers couldn't waste shots and had to make every round count, hence the lower consumption.
However, when Claude told the two about increasing production for mines, Sonia's expression immediately darkened. She said Blackstone no longer had any ability to produce more mines because they were totally stripped for manpower. The one thousand mines they got last time was thanks to the six rune magi. The arms factory had no way of starting a new production line for mines.
The mines were rather profitable to make, and the theatre couldn't really be bothered with haggling the price down now that their finances were much better. They ordered ten thousand mines and were going to plant them near anywhere ships could dock to decrease the manpower needed for defence. Claude told the theatre each mine would cost two crowns, but in actuality, each only cost less than three thales to make.
Claude gave it some thought and had his guards send Weyblon a letter about starting the production line in Lanu Arms Factory in exchange for a grant of ten thousand crowns and ten percent shares. The shares would be split equally between Sonia and Angelina. He asked Weyblon to write to the other generals as well for their agreement.
This was business; private and professional lines had to be drawn clearly. Letting Weyblon be the one to inform the other generals about it was so that he could gain the favour of the other four shareholders. After all, he managed to take business from Blackstone Arms Factory, which, strictly speaking, was Claude's private property as it belonged to House Ferd.
Lanu Arms Factory belonged to everyone who had a share in it. Bolonik naturally wouldn't be aware that Blackstone was actually no longer able to spare manpower for another production line because they were busy with producing new rifles, so letting Weyblon tell them about the new business opportunity would increase their evaluation of him as his own businessman rather than someone working for Claude.
With the tube mortar not going anywhere, the production of sniper rifles divided among the six magi, and the purchase order for the mines no more, Angelina and Sonia's load was immediately lightened. Angelina could focus on teaching the students, something she usually didn't have time for. As for Sonia and Claude, they put their minds together for a few days. Once she felt they were making little progress, she had Claude think of a few new things to research.
Claude did have some ideas. There were two militaristic ones and one for civilians. For the first two, they were explosive shot and rockets. Claude felt that the light-infantry cannons were pretty useless following the introduction of the mortar. Apart from using scattershot from little more than a hundred metres away, round shot, which could shoot up to 800 metres away, had lost its threat.
Birkin mentioned during the meeting that they used to be able to use light-infantry cannons to attack enemy catapult operators, but a few wooden shields were all the Shiksans needed to block the cannonballs. Loading and shooting round shot took much more time than simply replacing damaged wooden shields. It was only through the precise damage the new rifles could deal that they managed to hold the Shiksan iron pumpkins back.
It was the same when Claude attacked the Shiksan camp near the northern mountains. Apart from mounting a surprise attack, he also had the captives build mud walls around a metre tall. The Shiksans' light-infantry cannons were rendered useless that way, and they were blasted apart later by mortar rounds, allowing Thundercrash to easily take those fortifications.
It was as if Claude's invention of the mortars had propelled warfare in this world in a whole 'nother direction. The cannons weren't nearly as threatening as mortars now. Without exploding shot, cannons would be rather pointless. The past few hundred years in history had taught the armies of various nations countermeasures against cannons, such as sandbags, mud walls and wooden shield carts. The mortars that fell from the sky were far more threatening and effective.
Claude was going to start research on exploding shot. He recalled that they existed as far back as the Ming dynasty, so he thought he'd be able to come up with it as well. He believed the hardest part was the round of the cannon. As a complete layman in weapons, he drew a diagram of a modern missile. The payload was situated at the head of the round and once the whole round was fired, the jacket of the round would be ejected and the payload would explode upon contact. As for what caused the explosion within, Claude had no idea where to start.
The more he tried to explain it, the more confused Sonia got. Claude was describing a howitzer, which was completely different from muzzle-loading light-infantry cannons of this age. In the end, Sonia chased him out of the lab, thinking he was insanely making things up.
As for the rockets, Claude thought about it because he recalled reading about it in detail in a web novel in his past life. The protagonist of that novel transmigrated to late Ming and began collecting subordinates and women in his harem. His invention of firearms and cannons allowed him to sweep through the continent and crown himself emperor of his own dynasty. The story was so cookie cutter that Claude even forgot the name of the protagonist.
However, the novel did go into great detail about rockets. Initially, the protagonist started with really limited funding and equipment and wasn't able to resist the enemy assault at all. So, he created a rocket by simply rolling a few sheets of metal into a tube, filling it with gunpowder and phosphorus, sharpening the tip and adding three tail fins. Then, he put it on a metal rack and lit it up.
Just like that, the metal tube flew off into the enemy camp in the distance before exploding. The phosphorus spread fire all over the place. The protagonist only used a simple rocket like that to resist the two enemy attacks before gaining all the riches and beauties that came with his victory. It was said that the only weakness it had was the inability to hit its target with great accuracy. Sometimes, it could also threaten the lives of those operating the rocket.
Sonia was quite intrigued by the idea and decided to research deeper into it. But she wasn't willing to hear any detailed descriptions by Claude lest he messed up her train of thought.
As for the research topic for civilians, he was going to have his sister work on it. It was the creation of cigarettes. Claude rolled up some white paper with tobacco inside to make a cigar replacement, albeit without a filter. Claude wanted her to make a device that could help with the rolling of the cigarettes for mass production.
He believed that cigarettes would ensure that House Ferd had no lack of funds in the future.