Ch 28- Laws of ThermoDynamics
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I drained the last of my wine, just seconds before Gala entered the room, with Brian in tow.

The wine, which had a weird name in elvish, was made out of fermented fruit from a magical tree. The fruit itself didn’t have a shred of mana though. Apparently, the tree which the fruit grew on used mana to sustain itself and grow fruits during winter, rather than summer. With no other trees competing with it in the winter, it could grow freely when the others were in hibernation. A small restaurant had paid villagers to gather the fruits, and fermented it to produce alcohol to sell.

“Come, sit down, Brian. I must say, you did a good job for someone who has been learning to operate the machinery for only 2 month.”

Gala turned to serve the weak yet sweet wine to the guests and refill my glass. She might be stuttering, and possibly spying on me, but at least she didn’t need to be reminded to do her job properly.

“There was no problem with the fit and finish, and the deviation was marginal. The only thing that could be a problem among the parts you gave me was the follower arm. It was out of spec. Couple hundred shots, and it would be either bend or shake apart the follower pin.”

Brian was getting better at machining, and with his improved senses as a Tier 2 warrior, very few mistakes could get past him. It had taken him only one week to make a MR1, even if the barrel rifling was a little rough on the edges. One of the things working in his favor was that I had designed the weapon to be as simple as possible to machine. This had also resulted in the weapon being physically sturdy and weighing more than necessary.

“Thank you, teacher. I will do better next time. What should I machine next, after making a proper follower arm?”

His ears had started to slightly chirp back and forth, leaving me puzzled. Sometimes, the ears could move in ways that would surprise me, even after seeing them for over 3 months. Was it anticipation, to use the tools again? Maybe it was due to his determination not to screw up again.

“For now, nothing. We still have to test the rifle you made, even if it passes the initial inspection. For now, I want you to memorize and analyze the new blueprints I gave you. Did you have time to have a look at the new steam engine design?”

I took a swig out of the drink, as I observed his ears rise up in excitement. The wine was too sweet.

“Yes, teacher! The new design is wonderful in its own right. If I understood it correctly, the new engine should be 2 meters wide by 1 meter high, and that is including the 2 pistons and their chambers. Even though it lacks the flexibility and efficiency of the one you made, it will be faster and easier to manufacture.”

The first steam engine to grace this world had been over-engineered, since there were many things it had to do. But now, the new ones could be designed for a single purpose, which would make them simpler and save on iron. Another thing simplifying the manufacturing process was the new resin substitute.

“Yes, it’s designed so that many of the parts, such as the boiler, most of the pipes and the flywheel can be made by blacksmiths if necessary. Now that we have O-rings, and the gaskets, the piston chamber can be easily made with the boring machine, since it doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect to make a seal, saving even more time. The only big part that will still take time to be machined is the piston itself, and some smaller delicate piping.”

Drinking another mouthful, I changed the subject, as Josse had just informed me that Galdwin was on his way to here.

“We will talk about that after you look through all the blueprints I gave you. Now, for today’s lesson. We will have to keep it short, since we don’t have much time.

Tell me, Brian, how does a steam engine work?”

He fumbled with his drink a bit, but managed to come out with the correct answer.

“Coal or wood is burned to boil water, and the produced steam pushes a piston back and forth to create work. This should be a fair assessment, right?”

Brian picked up things like no other, asked questions when he found a gap in what he was taught, but he had a single drawback as a student.

“Yes, you are correct. Steam engines are an example of external combustion engines, since the combustion happens outside the piston chamber. The question I have for you is, how can you improve the engine without adding more pistons. Don’t worry, there are no wrong answers, just say whatever comes to your mind.”

He was not good at improvising. Perhaps it was my expectations that were too high, or it was just how he was. But my guess would be that the fault mostly lies with the way he was educated as a blacksmith before coming under my tutelage. Almost everyone in this world was taught in the traditional way of ‘watch me do it for years until I say you can hold a hammer’. It gave little opportunity for disciples to take chances and grow their cognitive abilities.

“By improving the piping or the lubrication between the parts..?”

There were many things that could improve the engine, but many of them were too high of a leap in imagination for him to reach, even after I gave him a clue.

“Yes, they would improve the efficiency, leading to a higher output. Another way would be that if you can increase the pressure in the boiler, you can increase the load put on the engine. But you have to think a bit more out of the box. As you said, the work comes from the piston being moved, due to fuel being burned. Steam is only an intermediary, a point of inefficiency.”

Finally, a familiar ear movement!

“Do you mean to burn fuel in the chamber? But doing that would leave behind soot, clogging up the piston! Also, coal won’t burn fast enough to be useful. How will the fuel be lit in the first place?”

Indeed, smart at finding problems, yet not talented at thinking about possible solutions.

“Correct. But they have their solutions. For one, you could replace the solid fuel with gases that burn. They burn fast enough to push back a piston, and they leave behind very little residue, which could be piped out by another port, when the piston recoils. As for lighting it up, all you have to do is add a little spark to it.”

If the princess were to be believed, this world had no crude oil. At least, it wasn’t gushing out of ground in these parts of the world. This wasn’t much of a problem fuel wise, since we still could produce methane or biodiesel, in theory. The issue was the other thing that had revolutionized my world; plastics. Cheap, sanitary, light and strong. Of course, there were alternatives for most kinds of plastics, but none would be as economical.

“This is called an Internal Combustion Engine, as the fuel combusts inside the engine. And as you might have guessed, steam engines are external combustion engines, where the fuel is burned outside the machine.

There were 2 more alternatives to liquid fuels. One was gas, hydrogen, which could be mass produced by electrolysis. The fission core lying inside the ship still had a couple thousand years of electricity, since all kinds of meaningful propulsion systems were down. But the other alternative was much more interesting.

“These two combustion engines are only an example of ways to create work or propulsion. There are many more kinds, but the one I want to talk about is the Stirling engine, which is another kind of heat engine just like the combustion engines, but it creates work from heat in another manner. I will go into details in a minute, but generally, they are much harder to make than a Steam engine, but nowhere hard as making a half decent Internal Combustion Engine.”

Brian’s ears were clearly signaling confusion, and the fact that he hadn’t touched his drink for a while also proved it. I couldn’t blame him, not really. If I didn’t think Stirling engines were the way toward the future, I wouldn’t have told him about it so soon. He had to learn much more physics and chemistry. Stirling engines were a curious thing; their output got better as the difference in temperature between the hot and cold terminals grew. Normally, I wouldn’t have bothered with them as much, since while they were efficient when operating in low outputs, the effort that took to get enough torque out of them spent fuel in higher amounts compared to an internal combustion engine of similar size. That was the case in normally. But this world had a fuel source that mine didn’t. Mana.

If Silva was right, the ‘mana-carts’ of this world worked by carved runes draining mana cores to push the wheels, physically. But it was not a good use of the cores. Mana was inefficient when used to apply a kinetic force, but it was much, much better at manipulating heat. Couple tests with Silva had proved to me that if my calculations were correct, a single Tier 2 core could fuel a large sterling engine, one big enough for a car or tractor, for an entire week, while it wouldn’t even last an hour with a normal magical cart. But without anyone capable of carving runes in mythril, it was bound to be just a theory for now.

“I’ll send you a couple of books to read, Brian. But for now, I have other business to take care of. We can test fire the weapon you made today, if you can make a proper follower arm before the sundown.”

His ears got sullen for a second, until I told him to go play with his toys. Heh. I knew a girl back in Mars, not unlike him. It was just that her eyes were what widened when she got going with her toys, instead of her ears.

Galdwin entered a minute after I kicked Brian out. And just like with Brian, Gala refilled my glass and poured one for him, as we went through the usual greeting motions.

“So, how much did she tell you?”

“Just who to give the letter, and to see you.”

Huh. I hope she at least told him about the ramifications of the letter. Like it or not, he was the highest ranking member of the new military, and if his support were to waiver before he was replaced, her pseudo-kingdom could come down crashing one day. I have to talk to her. Again.

But for now, there were things I had to introduce to Galdwin, so I pulled them up to the desk.

“We don’t know much about the situation in the counties, so I will have to arm you up a bit. This is a 2mm gauss pistol. Yes, it’s similar to MR1. But this one can fire 40 bullets per magazine, and has no recoil. Also, it can easily penetrate the 20% alloy. We will try them out in a bit.”

His eyes went wide when I introduced one of my spare pistols to him, which was a hard feat to do, considering most of their expression occurred with their ears, not with their face.

There were only 2 objects left. A small portable radio, not bigger than a hand, and a small earplug.

“You are to have this box on you at all times, and also, put this inside your ear.

He obliged, after sending me a weird look for a second.

“Galdwin, you will need assistance in your task, as I suspect that you will need his help to avoid the looters. Josse, say hi, would you.”

I hid Josse from the populace of this world, since I didn’t know how they would react. And I still don’t. But at this point, there were very few disadvantages with revealing an artificial life, one that could think and speak.

[Greetings, Mr. Galdwin.]


This chapter wasn’t the most exiting one, but it had to be written to move the plot.

On another note, how bad was the last chapter? I slipped from 4.7 to 4.4 in 2 days…

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