The Depths of Neptune - Cover

The Depths of Neptune

Copyright© 2023 by Lumpy

Chapter 13


“I’m looking at this thing, and I’ve gone over every part you had me make, but I’m still not sure what this is actually going to do or how it’s going to completely change the way we work,” Hortensius said, looking at the plans Ky handed him. “Some of it makes sense, but I’m not sure how this is going to generate the kind of force your instructions and documents indicate.”

“Like I said, there is a lot of theory here that’s going to be fairly far out there for you, but the basic principle is simple. We hold steam under high pressure and use this flap here to release small portions of it into this chamber,” Ky said, pointing at sections of the plans. “It pushes the piston up and then releases it to lower it. We use that generated motion to turn this crankshaft here. From that point on, it’s really just like the water wheel and you’ll see some of the improvements I added to the water wheels we’ve been using when they are implemented here as well.”

“What about this spinning thing here? I don’t see how that regulates the force being generated.”

“The centrifugal governor,” Ky said. “As the speed increases, the central spindle of the governor rotates at a faster rate, and the kinetic energy of the balls increase. Once it passes this point, it causes this part of the valve to constrict, decreasing the amount of steam released and lowering the pressure on the pistons, which in turn decreases the speed. That causes these balls to lower, which then opens the valve back up to its full position. An issue with steam power is that the energy isn’t released evenly, causing an alternating increase and decrease in power, almost like a wave if you were to draw a diagram of it. This oscillating nature of it causes vibrations to build, which just intensify the longer the crankshaft and other parts further down the line extend how far the power is being sent. If there’s enough distance, the waves actually get out of sync and you have alternating vibrations that can literally shake this equipment apart, or at least damage it to the point of catastrophic failure. It’s actually something I considered adding onto the improved water wheel design when we first started updating things, but for it to work well it really requires more precise machining, which we couldn’t do until now.”

“Ohh. I mean, yeah, I have noticed some vibrating along the crankshaft of the water wheel, but it never seemed bad enough to cause a problem. It was just something we dealt with. I never gave much thought into what was causing it.”

“That’s because until recently, you were using it mostly for grinding and the speeds were very low.”

“So the main thing I’m seeing is that this just frees our factories up from having to be located next to a water source. This is going to be useful, but I’m not sure how it’s going to revolutionize our industry.”

“A couple of ways. The main way is there is a limit to the amount of power applied by water power, which limits what we’re able to do with it. With this, we can press and cut steel with machines, allowing us to make more precise parts out of strong material. It eliminates the need for hand forging most products, which means the production of parts will be radically faster and the parts will be exactly the same every time. It will also allow us to press steel through large, powerful rollers, making our steel a uniform thickness, again allowing for precision. These machines can also be operated by one or two people, instead of dozens of men to forge items the old way and with significantly less training. That’s just in steel production. We’re also going to be setting up a factory here for Quirnius and a steam engine for that factory as well. Where he now needs a building full of women slowly weaving cloth, we’re going to put in machines that will be able to do what dozens of workers spinning and weaving would be needed to do. It’s going to allow mines to be drained much more easily, allowing for deeper mines and greater access to materials.”

“Ohh, I hadn’t realized. So we’re going to have a major increase in productivity?”

“Among other things. New weapons and better tools are helpful in this fight, but manpower has always been our biggest weakness against the Carthaginians. We need more and more men for the legions, Valdar needs to crew larger ships, and we need more farmers and miners out getting the resources our growing Empire needs. Everyone is fighting over a limited man pool. The only way we’re going to defeat the Carthaginians is to be able to match them in production, and we can’t do that through brute force like they do. Efficiency, lowering the skill level needed for tasks, and increasing individual productivity are the keys to out-producing them.”

“I have been having trouble filling the new factories and forges, so you’re right about that. I guess now all I have to do is build it.”

“Yes. It’s going to be a lot of work, and precision is the key. The parts you’ve made look good and you’ve got the precision down. There are a few ways we can improve the process and get the error rate down, but it’s close enough to work.”

“I’m more worried about these chains and belts for splitting the power. Does it really have enough for all of these? And isn’t this too complex?”

“Yes, it has enough power, and no, it’s not too complex. It does mean you’ll have to train men to maintain this equipment and watch over it, but the higher tolerances and greater precision will allow it to work smoother. Some of the notes about using oils for maintaining the parts will also help reduce wear. You’ll have breakdowns, but once you get used to it, it won’t seem so daunting.”

“I hope so. Well, it looks like I have a lot of work to do, including refitting some of these buildings to make room for all of this equipment and machining.”

“Yes. Let’s start with the steel mill for now, since we’re going to need what it produces quickly. But yes, it’s a lot of work, especially once we include the textile mill. Get ready my friend, we’re about to enter a whole new world.”

Southern Britannia

“Damn it,” Velius hissed, barely containing the curse from becoming a yell.

He wanted to throw his helmet to the ground and stomp, venting his frustration. They had just finished their third war game since the Consul had left, and each one had gone disastrously. With each attempted landing they made changes to their tactics, and with each one, Bomilcar had outwitted him. It was getting frustrating, and not just because of the continuing blows to Velius’s ego. It was almost the end of spring and they would need to actually make their invasion by mid-summer if they were going to have time to turn around and make separate landings on the continent before winter set in.

“You left your left flank too weak. You’re compensating,” Bomilcar said, riding up and climbing off his horse.

“You only know about that because you know what forces we have and can read our markings. And because you guessed that was what I was going to do after you hit me from the right last time. I still say this isn’t an accurate test of what your friends are going to do when we hit them for real. They won’t even know we’re coming, let alone have this kind of inside knowledge.”

“They know more than you think. I knew exactly what legions I faced, your force disposition, and which sections were the weakest when we faced off against each other. The empire had good spies here at one point, at least enough to know about your military units, leaders, formations, and even the types of tactics each leader preferred.”

“You mean Caesius,” Velius said, almost as a curse.

“Apparently, although I didn’t know where the information was coming from at the time, only that it was accurate enough that Zaracas would have captured the Emperor’s daughter, if not for the timely intervention of the Consul.”

“And how do you feel about that?”

“Which part, her almost being captured or the intervention?”

“Either,” Velius said, studying Bomilcar closely.

“I don’t feel anything about it. I was doing my duty at the time, and would have accepted anything that gave the people I served an upper hand.”

“And you don’t see the problem with that?”

“I understand that, at the time of the Consul’s arrival, the Emperor was very sick. Let me ask you, would you have served Caesius if the Emperor had died and his son was elevated to the throne? Knowing what you know now, does that reflect on you morally?”

“That’s not the same. You knew the kind of people you served, while I had no idea what Caesius was up to.”

“How would the Caledonians react to the idea that the Romans were peaceful and didn’t do anything,” Bomilcar said, and then held up a hand to stop Velius’s reply. “I’m not trying to start an argument, I am just pointing out that who is evil and who is not is a matter of perspective. If a bear kills someone, it may very well seem evil to that person’s family, but the bear would see it as protecting its territory. Thankfully, for us, perspective can change. The Consul and my former emperor’s actions showed me who they really were and gave me a strong motive for switching sides. I have given the Consul, Ramirus, and anyone else I was directed to talk to every piece of information I know about my former countrymen. I am actively trying to make this landing a success. If it is we will almost certainly kill many of those same former countrymen, some of whom very well might have served under me at some point. I’ve come to terms with that and accepted that this is still the right thing to do. Can you understand that?”

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