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Goblin Coast, Far Harbor, Dry Dock 1

"One two, one two~" A couple of goblins bearing a piece of steel armor plating as large as them over their heads, marched off down the workshop to hand it off to the next station. Their short stubby feet matching in time with their chanting, "One two, one two~"

The shriek of a power tool screamed out amidst sounds of high pitched giggles and laughter made Commander Ford and Chief Matt glad they wore protective ear mufflers when they came into the assembly workshop for inspection.

"Looks like everything is going according to schedule," Commander Ford yelled over the sounds of heavy machinery, laughter and what suspiciously sounded like heavy metal music in the background. "All is well with Project Ironclad?"

"Yes," Chief Matt replied as he led Ford into a side office, the door shutting off the majority of the workshop noise. "In just three short days, since we allowed the goblins to work in the assembly yard, they actually proved to be much adept with working in the workshop."

"Seems like they are a natural in this field?" Ford asked as he watched the ongoings at the dry dock assembly floor from the 2nd-floor window of the office. "Any incidents?"

"A few minor injuries and lost fingers at the start with the goblins, but we knocked some sense into them and so far they are doing well," Chief Matt replied, joining Ford at the window. Teams of elves, humans, and goblins were welding and bolting plates of steel armor onto the decks and outer hull of the converted ship.

"We sealed the lowermost decks, turning them into watertight compartments," Chief Matt pointed out, "The belt armor starts from just above the waterline, at 5" thick and covers to the gunwale. The top deck armor is covered with 2" steel plates. Not to mention the existing wooden hulls and decks that were already in place."

"The interior ribs and structure of the ship will be braced and strengthened to allow the ship to withstand the recoils of the new 3" guns we will be putting in," Chief Matt gestured to a wireframe drawing on the table. "The original plan was to put two 3" guns only, but we decided to add in an additional in the mid structure, giving us a three gun broadside."

"Will the guns be in an armored turret or open air?" Ford asked as he leaned over the plans. "Can we have more .50 caliber guns too?"

"The 3" guns will just have a simple 2" thick gunshield," Chief Matt replied, "We only have so much time to work on the ship. As for the additional .50 caliber guns, sure, we can bolt in more mounts for them if you need more."

Ford nodded, "Okay, I guess we can only upgrade the guns when winter comes."

"So who's gonna be the captain of the Floatin' Wreck?" Chief Matt grinned.

"Floatin' Wreck?" Ford laughed, "Me."

"You?" Chief Matt raised an eyebrow, "You are the Chief of Naval Ops..."

"Well, well, I am the Chief of Naval Ops of a single ship," Ford grinned, "Besides, who else other than the Captain has any experience commanding a ship?"

"True," Chief Matt nodded, "Well if she's yours, you better look through all the specs and memorize everything bolt and nut onboard her then!" Chief Matt started to rummage through some documents on the table and handed over a thick stack of notes and papers.

"Start reading up on the new power plants and the magic heat exchange system that is installed, also I think you better start picking your crew soon," Chief Matt advised, "And check with Petty Officer Letts on where is your new office gonna be, I think you gonna need it pretty soon!"

"Damn, this is a lot of studies!" Ford frowned as he leafed through the stacks of manuals. "And most of these are just handwritten notes!"

"Well, everything is just jury-rigged and held together by grit, spit and a whole lot of duct tape," Chief Matt laughed, "Seriously, I won't recommend firing a full broadside till we have fully tested and trialed the system."

"That bad?" Ford winced, "I thought you braced the whole structure?"

"Yeah," Chief Matt nodded, "We did, but these ships are not like built like our 18th century black powder ships on Earth. The strain by the ballistas firing onboard the Floatin' Wreck is the most 1 is to 10 of what the 3" guns will be on the ship's structure."

"The steel bracing will help of course, but just try not to fire all three guns at the same time," Chief Matt cautioned again, "It might shake loose the structure and you might end up breaking the ship into two."

"Damn, that is quite a scary thought," Ford sighed, "How are the engines?"

"Here," Chief Matt flipped through the stack of manuals and pointed out one of them. "Double acting triple-expansion reciprocating steam engine. It makes use of the magic heat exchange system to boil water and is linked to the series of double-acting cylinders of progressively increasing diameter. These cylinders are designed to divide the work into three or four equal portions, one for each expansion stage."

"We decided against using the aero engines to power the ship as the triple expansion engines can have a smaller temperature range and reduced cylinder condensation. Also, the pressure difference is less in each cylinder so there is less steam leakage at the piston and valves. The turning moment is more uniform, so balancing is easier and a smaller flywheel may be used. Only the small high pressure cylinder needs to be built to withstand the highest pressure, which reduces the overall weight. Similarly, components are subject to less strain, so they can be lighter. The reciprocating parts of the engine are lighter, reducing the engine vibrations. The steam engine could be started at any point in the cycle, and in the event of mechanical failure the engine could be reset to act very simply, and thus keep running."

"All these advantages outweigh the use of the current aero engines we have," Chief Matt explained. "And the magic exchange system will draw the heat produced by the boilers and engine to generate steam. And it is all fueled by mana stones, which we can easily farm from the Dungeon and we do not need massive fuel bunkers to store the mana stones."

"Nice," Ford nodded as he flipped through the freshly printed manual with handwritten notes scribbled in here and there. "Single screw propulsion?"

"Yes, for now," Chief Matt nodded, "It's still new tech for us, so far the Experimental Group down the harbor had run some tests on it and it more or less work."

"More or less?" Ford placed the stack of papers down, "What if it breaks during high stress maneuvers?

"That's what the sea trials will be all about!" Chief Matt frowned, "Look, we have only so much time, manpower and expertise to research, build and implement without some goblins or Empire forces breathing down our necks."

"Chill Chief," Ford raised both his hands up, "I am not criticizing you, I am worried that if shit breaks down during combat, people die."

"Damn," Chief Matt rubbed his face, "Sorry, you are right, there are just so many projects to complete and everyone is expecting them to work 100% without any issues."

"Look, me and my team, we are not miracle workers," Chief Matt frankly spoke out, "Most of us are burn out from the stress and workload but none of the boys are complaining."

"I'm proud of them," He continued, "I know every one of them misses home and some loved ones on Earth, but they know they are stuck here forever and everything in this planet is trying to kill and eat them."

"But we can only do so much," Matt nodded towards the assembly floor and said, "Even working with former enemies that want to eat them is breaking their nerves. I don't know how long anyone can hold on to their sanity for much longer."

"Chief, I know the stress everyone has here," Ford sighed and watched the ongoing work over the ship. "Look, try your best to keep you boys happy?"

"I do," Matt replied, "I keep them busy as much as possible so that they won't have any idle time to think about other things. But this just can't go on much longer."

"I see what I can do," Ford promised. "Once Project Ironclad is completed, why not have the men off? We do have that R and R resort down by the coast."

"Yea, I get them to go for a break," Matt nodded, "Damn, I need one too."

"Yea, I will put you guys down for a week's vacation once we finish this," Ford grinned, "I know where the Captain keeps his liquor stash."

"Ha! I don't mind getting drunk for a week!"

----

Somewhere in Goblin Sea

Burning globes of fire hissed and splattered when they impacted the churning sea, throwing up clouds of steam and smoke. The lead merchant ship bobbed up and down in the waves as the ship's mage force more wind against the sails, desperately trying to increase the ship's speed.

The large merchant ship's sole escort nimbly dodged a heavy broadside of ballista bolts and flaming catapult loads from the small fleet of goblin raiders and swung in against the wind, coming alongside one of the goblin raiders and the ship shook as the four heavy ballista onboard fired.

The 12 kilograms wood and steel ballista bolts were flung out at a velocity of over 45 meters per second and traveled the short distance of 200 meters over the waves before depositing all their load onboard the unlucky goblin raiding gallery.

Screams and shriek echoed across the waves as the bolts dealt their deadly damage to the occupants onboard and the goblin ship suddenly tilted away from the chase and the other goblin raiders rapidly swerved to avoid ramming into the dead ship.

"Again!" The Captain of the Sea Stinger roared, "A gold royal to each man who hits their target!"

"YAAAAAAAAH!" The crew of Sea Stinger cheered as they put their backs into reloading the ballistas, readying them to fire another bolt at the persisting goblin pirates.

"Captain!" One of the lookouts on the crow nest yelled, "The Wave Dancer is making a run for it! Three raiders on her tail!"

"Curses!" The Captain roared, "Bring her about, we need to keep those pirates off the Wave Dancer!"

"Ayee~!" The crew quickly started putting on sails while the helmsman spinning the steering wheel, turning the ship back to the wind. The agile ship leaped as it completed its turn and leaped forward when the wind filled its sails.

"Send a bolt to those cursed creatures!" The Captain roared again, "Give them something to remember we are still here!"

The ship suddenly lurched and a bright semi transparent light ball covering the ship flared, and sparks of energy exploded over the sky. "Lucky spell!" The ship's mage cried out, "The shield still holds strong! No worries!"

"Damn," Captain Nemu of the Sea Stinger cursed, "Fire your ballistas as they bear! Two gold royals for any gunner who hits the goblin ships!"

The gunner crew encouraged by the increased promise of rewards worked harder at reloading the weapons and the chief gunners carefully sighted their weapons before releasing the bolt, cursing as they missed.

Just as the Sea Stinger slowly caught up to the three goblin pirates that were harassing the Wave Dancer, "Destroy those pirates! If our employer sinks, so goes our pay!" Captain Nemu yelled.

A screech screamed over the Sea Stinger, followed by a ripping tear of a canvas. Almost immediately the ship slowly, as a lucky bolt ripped the sails a large gaping hole. "Cut that sail down!" Captain Nemu roared. "Curses! We are losing the chase!"

The remaining two goblins raiders chasing after the Sea Stinger eagerly pounced forward as the Sea Stinger's speed dropped, their top decks filling up with giggling goblins hungry for blood.

"Prepare for repeal boarders!"

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