IC: [ Rhea ] - Onu-Koro / Akiru Forge
The Ta-Toa engineer exhibited no apparent reaction to her subtle psychological feint, and Rhea was rather pleasantly surprised by the fact. He was, it appeared, perfectly in control of himself and his emotions; a very levelheaded, very logical individual. The type that one must deal with directly and without pretense.
Another note for the mental file, another mark in the careful analysis she was building up of the Toa Akiru as a collective unit. Like dwells with like; if one of the three could placidly overlook her manipulations, it was a safe gamble they all could. At least to some extent.
Still and all, they were only metalsmiths, however controlled and steely of interior they might be. She had other matters elsewhere to attend to; no point in dragging out this one with needless social complications.
“Yes and no. I have a few notes here that might help convey what exactly it is I’m inquiring about. First, the steam power source itself. I have an idea for a radical improvement on the current design... a very simple idea, at its heart, and little more than a mere concept at the moment; but, if workable, it holds some most intriguing possibilities.”
Stepping over to a nearby worktable, she drew a few rumpled sheets of paper from her cloak pocket and spread them out in plain view. What she had referred to as ‘notes’ were actually an orderly arrangement of neatly sketched diagrams, labeled in a clear, precise hand. There were few measurements or mathematical formulas, whether of angles, distances, or otherwise, but the simple line artwork itself was superb, with a subtle sense of realism that even trained artists rarely achieved.
“As you know, the steam turbine engine concept relies on heat energy to operate. The hotter the fire in the boiler, the more such energy is present, which in turn translates almost directly into the raw kinetic force that we seek. Fire is the key to functionality, and fire is also the machine’s chief flaw.”
She glanced briefly at Miraul, then continued, “Fire, though powerful, is inefficient. It takes time to gather strength, it must be tended constantly, it requires disproportionately large amounts of fuel, and, after all that, it cannot even be used to its full potential because of the smoke, fumes, and soot it produces. A large watercraft’s steam turbine, stoked to its hottest, would eventually ignite the waste material buildup found in the ventilation smokepipes, and, thus, destroy the entire vessel. Not to mention, it would simultaneously roast and poison its unfortunate attendants. It is a great pity, for the steam engine itself is both powerful, reliable, and simple. It is merely the problem of this uncontrolled and demanding fire, and all the extra space, metal, and effort it requires, that makes it rather inconvenient.”
She paused momentarily, tapping a slender, white-armored finger against the charts for emphasis. “We require heat, yet without flame. And from whence do we get that?”
She smiled, her green eyes glowing with simple pride and the satisfaction of discovery. “Heatstones, naturally. They are expensive, yes, but imagine if, in place of the smoky, bulky, fire-run boiler, we could have a simple, compact, completely enclosed furnace, with its walls set at such an angle as to reflect and condense the heat towards the water-filled tank directly above it. Thirty or more such large, powerful heatstones, suspended securely in metal racks in the interior of such a furnace, would drive its temperature far higher than mere flame can ever hope to reach. Why, a single heatstone chars flesh at a touch; imagine dozens of them combined! Imagine that raw level of clean, pure heat, condensed and focused into a single three-foot cube... No smoke, no flames, no fumes, little maintenance whatsoever. Naturally, it would require an unusually well-built boiler system to contain that much energy without exploding or melting down, but solid protosteel would, in theory, be well capable of it.”
Her smile had faded as she spoke, but her eyes still gleamed. “You get the idea? This is a custom request, remember. The furnace I describe will be extremely expensive, not only as regards the heatstones themselves, but for the materials and expertise needed to construct it. It will require a stout gearbox and transmission shafts that may be quickly disconnected from the central power gears, for it will not be easily cooled in order to reduce engine speed. For someone with a non-heat-related elemental affiliation, it will be difficult to maintain, repair, and, depending on the circumstances, operate. These are not minor drawbacks. I do not expect my version of the steam boiler to ever surpass its counterpart in general popularity... not that the steam boiler is widely used enough yet to even have general popularity. But for what I need, for my purposes, a heatstone boiler system would be ideal.”
She let the statement hang briefly in the dimly-lit, steel-scented atmosphere of the smithy, then added softly, “Have you ever seen one of Ga-Koro’s ‘submersibles’? The few that exist are highly prized by their owners, and it is true they are fine examples of engineering, but they are so woefully slow and underpowered as to be almost worthless. Why? Because only muscle can do the job of propulsion. Why? Because wind is at the surface, far out of reach, and a steam engine... a steam engine, like its living pilot, is an air-breather, and what it does not breath, it poisons. A steam engine in a submersible would be the absolute height of folly. Typically.”
She was smiling again, the shifting blood-red glow from a nearby open forge dancing playfully over the sleek, attractive ridges of her Kanohi.
Ah yes. Typically. Use the wits that fortune gave you, Akiru. Heatstones. Submersibles. Do you get what I'm hinting at?
So, uh, I hope I explained that all clearly enough. Please feel free to PM me if I didn’t.