Alright, getting back into the swing of Battlefailed now. This post covers just the first season of year 525. More to follow soon.Year 525
You could almost hear the steady creak and rumble of the churning waterwheels all the way up in the main dining hall and we were all looking forward to testing the system. And then, a month into 525, word came down from the surface. An approaching goblin siege had been sighted. A siege
. Such excitement I felt! It made little sense - sieges were at best a tiresome annoyance, at worst a tragedy and existential threat if we didn't get the gate closed in time or there were workers stranded outside the safety of the walls. But this time we were more than prepared.
Probably. The calculations were precise, the architecture had been checked and double-checked over and over, but there was really only one way to be sure it all worked. I should have refused to even consider testing FAILCANNON under real threat like this - what if something went awry? If some pump somewhere had been built with unsafe components, or perhaps some obscure section of wall hadn't been properly sealed...
No. There would be blood and there would be fire! I rushed down to the main control room, a newly-dug mechanical marvel tucked in a secure place a short distance away from the main dining hall where off-duty dwarves could always be found to be called upon. Sure enough, several were already standing eagerly by the controls ready to unleash the sleeping power of Battlefailed.
A glance at the needle of the reactor power indicator instantly told me that it would be a difficult awakening. Levels hovered around 1200 Urists, only half of the 2400 Urists needed to run both the reactors and the magma pump stack. "Close the main surface drawbridge," I ordered. Nobody was out on the surface today. "Send Stukos' squad up to the Big Skull to keep an eye on the situation while we sort this out. The water supply stack, it's still being manned?"
"Day and night," the control room's shift foreman, Deduk, sighed. "The water source down on the third level, it's a trickle. You can't pump blood from a stone no matter how stout the dwarf who tries."
It was a crushing disappointment. Everything was going smoothly, but it was going so slowly
. We'd be able to annihilate the goblin siege with FAILCANNON's fire... in perhaps three to six months' time. It was hardly an impressive inaguration. "We need water from _above_ the reactor level... Tekkud!" A flash of inspiration hit me and I ran out of the control room to catch the miner. "We've got plenty of water and all it's good for is drinking!" I grabbed some map scrolls from my office and hurriedly sketched my plan once I'd cornered him.
The drinking reservoir was in exactly the right spot. A few short cuts in the rock carved a passage from its northeastern corner down to the southern tip of the water reactors and once the wall was breached the gushing flow began inching much more rapidly down the rows of pumps.
I rushed back to the control room.
There was a flurry of excitement inside. "We're up to 1800 Urists," Lokum, the dwarf manning the power indicator, shouted as soon as I'd come through the door. "Oscillating to 1900, another reactor cell is about to turn over. What'd you do?"
"Put our wellwater to good use!" I laughed. We'd break out the finest booze to tide us over the loss of our reservoir, a perfect excuse to celebrate FAILCANNON coming alive. But there were more important and immediate concerns to focus on right now. The FAILCANNON system was complex but meticulously planned. "Checklist!" I ordered, directing everyone's attention to the words inscribed on the control room wall over the bank of levers controlling the magma.
"Ballista gunports closed, check! Main gate closed, check! The wall is secure and magma-proof." Deduk had already confirmed those when I'd ordered the drawbridge raised but it was good to make sure - having magma flow in through the ballista fortifications would make an expensive mess.
"2200 Urists and rising!" Lokum hollered an interjection.
"FAILCANNON barrel port!" Deduk pulled the southmost lever in the bank of magma controls. "Barrel port sealed!" This was not a vital part of the new FAILCANNON, but would hopefully improve its deadliness greatly. A pair of magma-safe doors snapped shut right at the Sprinkler Head itself. This would allow the barrel of FAILCANNON to be filled completely with pressurized magma, and the entire pump stack below it as well, so that when the barrel port was reopened the gush of fire would be swift and unabated.
"2400 Urists and rising! Another reactor cell online!"
"Engage magma feeder pump!" The lowermost pump of the main magma pump stack had a separate control for its power linkage. This was to allow the system to be fully purged of magma in the event that maintenance was required; turning off the lowermost pump while leaving the rest of the stack running should in theory cause all of the magma present in the stack to be sucked out and ejected onto the surface. Although the pump stack didn't have power yet there was no need to leave the lower stack disengaged. That was for later.
"2600 Urists!" Lokum's excitement was near fever pitch; we were just one reactor cell shy now.
"Engage FAILCANNON magma pump stack," I ordered. It was a bit early for that but I couldn't help myself. The pump stacks built into FAILCANNON itself weren't powered by the water reactors, but rather by the windmills on top, and they had already been confirmed operational by a dry test earlier in the month. I could imagine them creaking to life up there now. When the fire began to flow it would course directly through to the top. Assuming everything worked. It had
to work. I'd gone over every iota of the plan over and over again...
"2800 Urists! We're stable over the red line! Main pump stack is a go!"
"Engage main magma pump stack." Deduk had been waiting on the lever and threw it immediately.
Two floors below us the lever shifted a mighty stone gear into position. The clutch clashed, sending a shudder through the thick wooden axles and causing the churning reactor wheels to momentarily slow. A grinding clatter echoed throughout the entire hundred-level powertrain of the magma pump stack as mechanisms were thrust against each other by the force being transmitted down it. Then, in unison, the pumps began to turn.
Pulses of glowing hot liquid fire dashed up the stack's steps, flooding into the sub-ocean channel and then spilling into the upper magma reservoir. It filled rapidly and then began ascending the second set of pumps, flowing into the nickel-floored barrel of FAILCANNON itself.
There was a fluid level indicator for FAILCANNON's barrel. We all held our breaths as it rapidly climbed to 7. "FAILCANNON fully pressurized," Deduk announced. "We're ready to fire."
I nodded. "Stand by." As excited as I was to pull the trigger, this was still FAILCANNON's first test run. I forced myself to reign in my excitement and study the system's indicators for a moment first.
"3000 Urists," Lokum announced quietly. I chuckled. There were still several reactor chambers yet to go; Old Battlefailed had overengineered their design. I could respect that. In the meantime, all of our magma systems seemed to be holding steady in their pressurized state. Our engineering was good too. FAILCANNON was fully operational.
But I couldn't quite order the barrel port opened yet, I would be firing blind and that would be irresponsible. I had focused so much attention getting this system ready that I had neglected to supervise the surface. "Stand by," I repeated. "I'm going to go topside and get Stukos' report. I'll send the final order down by runner."
Deduk grinned knowingly. I think he believed I just wanted to see FAILCANNON fire with my own eyes. That was true, of course, though not my sole or even primary reason for going topside. And I believed that Deduk would be equally happy staying below if it meant he'd get to pull the lever that actually fired this thing. We parted and I jogged to the main ramp.
The run to the surface was long. I had even considered building a secondary control room in Upper Battlefailed, just for this sort of situation, but having redundant levers controlling something like FAILCANNON was an invitation to disaster. By the time I made it to the Big Skull I was gasping and near passing out from the trip and wondering if the risk of disaster would have been worth it after all.
I couldn't take time to recover. I saw that Stukos' squad were crouched at the Big Skull's fortifications, crossbows held and attention focused in deadly earnest, and there was a steady twang-chunk of bolts being fired at the goblins below. They were at our gates! "Stukos," I managed to wheeze. "Report! How many?"
Stukos was with his men at the fortifications, but it seemed his quiver had run dry and he was just directing his lesser marksdwarves. He stood up and sauntered casually over to where I stood out of the potential line of fire. "How many in the original attacking force? We counted about forty in total, plus perhaps two dozen trolls. A small siege."
"Where are they now?"
Stukos shouldered Urlolrubal with a grin. "I imagine most of them are probably in Hell. Come, look." He motioned me over to the nearest fortification.
I stared out at the Plains of Ooze. After a moment I began to laugh. The sparse grassland was a scene of absolute carnage. Dead goblins lay everywhere, peppered with a thick carpet of crossbow bolts both broken and lodged upright in their corpses. While I'd been busy down below frantically coordinating as mighty engines of destruction were brought online, Stukos and his men had been up here steadily plinking away at the goblin horde with their trusty little weapons. "How many left?"
Stukos gestured, drawing my attention to where the marksdwarves who still had bolts were sending their shots. Two goblins remained alive... if you could call that living. They were crawling pitiably through the grass, their bodies torn and broken. They wouldn't last much longer.
I'd got here just in the nick of time. Two live targets... I couldn't stop laughing. Eventually I had to pull out a scrap of parchment and write down my order to the control room by hand.Disengage all magma pumps and trigger FAILCANNON barrel purge. Open the main gate and stand down. The siege is broken.
I shook my head. It had been an exhilarating ride and I couldn't feel let down by the outcome. No dwarf had died today and FAILCANNON's systems had been completely proven. That was enough for today.