I stand high in the scaffolding of the great concrete assembly yard in the city of Mae Hiarin, barking orders to my subordinates. Metal panels to hull B, add struts to section 7, bring reinforced glass to the bridge.
We’re ahead of schedule, I’m proud to say, and we should be finished with this warship in just a few more months. I look to the left and right with a smile on my face, the other six assembly docks house only partially complete hulls, while we’ve nearly completed the main husk.
It helps that the sun is shining bright and there’s a warm wind coming from the main island to the west. The air tastes like salt, and the humidity reminds me of home.
We put in a few hours work and, finally, the last bulkhead is welded into place and the hull of the ship is fully formed. It’s a heavy cruiser that’ll no doubt kill scores of gurant. The bridge is at a raised section in the back, the front is angled downward, and it has a powerful engine at each of the four corners. While the engines don’t yet have the electrical guts to fire, the large frames are rotated down and have ‘legs’ that support the ship when on planets. The belly of the warship is smooth and bare, like a traditional seafaring craft, as it’ll need to float across the water to reach the spot where it can head into space.
All that’s missing from the outside of this beauty are the guns. Massive, twenty-meter-long artillery pieces that fire shells bigger than a human. They’ll be put all along the top of the ship and the wings, and they’ll all face forward. Space combat, as I’m told, mostly takes place over extreme ranges, so broadside cannons would be pretty worthless. Keep the ship wide so all the guns can be brought to bear on a single target, that’s the monsoorai-certified tactic that’s kept the Protectorate safe!
Sadly, I messed up a few days ago. The guns are prebuilt, we just install them on the ship. We have the guns, we have the hull of the ship, but I didn’t request the crane needed to lift them. It’ll arrive later today.
I wanted to get at least six guns secured, but we’ll probably only get two or three before the day is finished. Oh well, delays like this happen.
I press the button on my headset, calling all my subordinates at once. “The crane won’t be here for a few more hours. Let’s take lunch, you’ve been working hard today.”
Their words of praise come in all at once, and it’s hard to distinguish one from the other, but I make out a few comments.
“See you in the cafeteria this time?”
With that, I climb down the scaffolding alongside everyone, and we make our way across the vast, concrete yard back to the warehouse.
Everyone else heads to the cafeteria, while I part ways and head to my office.
My desk is stacked with all kinds of contracts, we’re never short on things to do. Capital warships, merchant vessels, escort craft, civilian transports, everything. Considering there’s a war raging, it’s natural to think we need to pump out military craft, but there’s far more things to consider than just that.
Merchants need ships to move equipment from place to place. Escort craft are needed to deter pirates. How can we move soldiers from planet to planet and fight the Empire if we don’t have fleets of transport ships capable of moving legions at a time? It’s no exaggeration to say that the fate of the Protectorate, and everyone in it, rests on our shoulders. I have to call friends who understand the military situation, I consult economists, it’s a nightmare of coordination and discussion. But add the fact that I’m the employee of a large guild whose priority is making money, and it’s no wonder why I’m working on what ship to build next, months before it’ll even become an issue.
Out of the hundreds of thousands of shipyards on Monsoo, mine is the best. If I’m fired, someone less competent will come along and ruin everything, and I don’t want my kids growing up in some gurant hellhole.
As I’m lost in thought and the hours roll by, my stomach starts rumbling. Checking the clock, it’s about half an hour until the crane arrives, and few hours until I head home for dinner. My wife yells at me all the time about forgetting lunch, so I take a break and head down to the cafeteria.
The voices from a few dozen of my subordinates carry out the cafeteria door.
“Look at this,” I hear my second in command, Eka, uncrumple a newspaper, “another attack. Whole village wiped off the map overnight.”
“On the main island, like half a day away from here.”
“Geeze. How have the peldaks not cleared them out already? It’s an island, there’s only so many places the gurant can escape too.”
“Because nobody can figure out how they’re jumping from place to place. We’ve got a whole fleet of warships tracking them, but they keep slipping through.”
“Hey, Eka, you got family out there in the sticks, don’t you?”
“’Course not! I got them out months ago, soon as the gurant showed up in the region.”
“The city’s really the only place you can be now, but even then, they keep blasting us with artillery! What do we do if they decide to just invade?”
“Haha! Don’t worry, they might have the advantage in the jungles, but there’s no way they can try taking over a city filled to the brim with peldaks. Their assault would be stopped before long.”
“I don’t care that it would eventually be stopped, I care if we’d all be killed before the peldaks stomp them into the mud. The city can stand, but who’ll pay for my sons’ futures if I’m dead?”
The room goes silent, and I can understand why. When the gurant landed on Monsoo last year, they split into dozens of armies and have been wreaking havoc all over. With how long range their artillery is, even from dozens of islands away, they keep launching rockets and shells. While that does make it easy for the peldaks to locate and drive them off, it could be minutes of constant explosions before it’s over. What’s more, with such limited ammunition, the gurant aren’t wasting it on neighborhoods. They’re aiming here, at the assembly yard.
I enter the cafeteria, and everyone turns their attention to me.
“Oh, hey Gamon,” Eka says. “Rare to see you here.”
I look around at my men, and sigh. “Look, everyone. I know you’re worried, that you want to leave. But you guys have to understand that that’s what the gurant want. If they can’t kill you, having you quit is the next best thing. They don’t want us making the ships that are slaughtering them across space. Sure, you could head back home and be out of the target zone, but what do you think will happen if they can invade Monsoo in force? With these artillery strikes, you might be hit, that’s true. But if the gurant take over, you and your children will all be dead anyway, or enslaved. Isn’t it more worth it to stay and keep building the ships they hate so much?” I look around at my subordinates. They’re still worried, but they know I’m right. “And,” I continue with a joking grumble, “I spent a lot of time negotiating for all that hazard pay you’re getting, so don’t pretend like there’s no benefit.”
That gets a slight chuckle from them all. A bit of nervous laughter.
They won’t end up quitting. There’s nowhere else to go on Monsoo, and they know their place is here.
With that settled and morale at least partially restored, I’m free to enjoy my lunch.