Hammer and Blade

In the year 2017, all guns stopped functioning. Any ranged weapons much more advanced than crossbows simply fall apart upon completion. 200 years later nothing has changed. Describe the arsenal of the futuristic knight, and what a battle might look like.


An editorial note: This is going to get a little technical. I focused on the arsenal, not the battle, not adhering strictly to the prompt.  There’s little story here, except the story of a craftsman excelling in his field. This is my indulgence in engineering weirdness.

Some people will enjoy that – others will find this entry mired in useless detail. Both of these readers would be correct.

The Hammer

I turned the last screw again until the seam vanished and the chamber was sealed. I picked up the empty magazine and began loading cartridges in. The explosive charge was a little more intense than the guns of ages past would be. The chamber of this weapon was robust enough to withstand it. Instead of a bullet, each cartridge was merely crimped to contain the charge. Finally, I loaded the last cartridge and slid the magazine into the port. It slid into a slot carved into the back of the hammer until the back and bottom of the magazine laid flush. I pulled the slide on the top of the warhammer back, chambering the first round.

I mounted the hammer, making sure it was secure. I released the safety and pulled the arming trigger until it clicked. Then I drew a thread across the head of the hammer, pulling back until the pressure triggered it. The hammer fired, the blast filling an expansion chamber that slammed the head of the hammer forward half a foot.  The thrust was so fast that it both tore the string from my fingers, and broke it in half. The spent cartridge spun through the air, ejected from the chamber by the thrust of the strike face.  As the gas vented, the strike face pulled back into place, and I heard another cartridge click into place.  The entire series of actions had taken perhaps a quarter of a second.  A moment later, I heard the ejected cartridge hit the metal table, almost musical.

I checked the forces that the mount had measured – the weight of the hammer’s head had limited the recoil from the strike face, and it was within acceptable ranges for human handling.

I began pulling on my protective gear. Leather with hard plastic plates over that, over-ear protection, and safety googles. Then I dismounted the hammer and strode to a block of concrete taller than myself, shipped in for just this purpose. I swung once, and it crushed the surface to dust, cracks running through the entire block. Then I swung again and again, until the thirty-round magazine was exhausted. The block of concrete lay ruined, in powder and chunks, riddled with deformed rebar.

I put the war hammer in its rack and began peeling off the protective equipment away, my skin chilling as sweat was suddenly exposed to the open air once more.  The strike face, protected by a sheet of diamond, seemed totally unmarked.  It was a fine prototype, a good beginning, but there was still more that I could do.

The Blade

I turned on the lathe, slow at first, and fed the coil of wire onto it. As the coil grew tighter, I ran the lathe faster and faster, until it was the right length. I brought the internal casing of the scabbard over, the part that would hold the sword, and slid the thick, dense coil over the scabbard as I pressed it off the dowel I’d used to wind it.

Then I fit a plastic frame around the coils.  It held them in shape and provided brackets for the capacitors. Capacitor after capacitor, one after another. The magnetic fields this beast generated would be fierce, but brief. Exactly what was needed. For an hour I worked on fitting and wiring the pieces and electronics. Finally, I closed the exterior scabbard around it.

The scabbard was bulky, considering the power supply and capacitors required.  It was painted black, decorated with dark gray clouds in various shades. It was artistic, but it would also serve well to break up its outline.  It was camouflage for the dark, disguised as art. This was definitely an assassin’s weapon.

None of my business.

I retrieved the blade from the plasma forge and scrutinized it. It was in the style of a katana. It was appropriate.  This weapon was designed to strike with the drawing of the sword.  Iaido was the only art I knew that focused solely on the draw, and as a Japanese art, it would excel in use with a Japanese sword.

The spine of the blade was inlaid with two stripes of copper, the contacts that would feed it power when it was time to strike, even while it was being drawn. Those would supply power to the internal electronics, and most importantly, the electromagnets along the entire length of the blade’s interior. The diamond blade had been laced during its deposition with impurities to darken it to a smoky gray without weakening the lattice.

The tip was what had broken. I had been rebuilding the diamond through chemical vapor deposition, and the affected area was an ugly black chunk around the part I’d repaired. I spent several hours with diamond saws and abrasives, cutting the excess free and polishing the blade. When I was done, the tip was a slightly different shade . . . but it was very close, and it would be every bit as strong as the original.

It still needed a test, though. After throwing the excess bits of diamond scrap away, I buckled the sheath onto my belt and went over to a cutting target. It was a wooden core, with straw tied tightly and densely against it. At the end of the sheathe there were two openings – into one, I slid a battery almost as long as the sword itself.  I carefully sheathed the blade in the other and pulled the trigger to arm it.  A soft whine rose in pitch, as the capacitors charged.

I began drawing the blade, and with the weapon armed, capacitors fired with the first movement.  Electromagnets pushed against electromagnets, both within the sword and within the scabbard. Almost immediately it was thrust forward faster than I – or any human swordsman – could hope to achieve with muscle. I pivoted the blade as it flew, and it whipped around as it cleared the scabbard, driven by angular momentum and muscle and magnets. I felt a shiver through the blade as it passed through the target, which tumbled to the ground in halves.

I rolled my shoulder, wincing. This beast had a kick, more than most.  I made a note in my log to verify that it was within the wielder’s capacity to handle.  It wouldn’t do for people to start getting killed because of my work – that wasn’t the reputation I wanted to cultivate.  I switched the power off, and sheathed the sword, unbuckling it from my belt.

Whatever this man’s business, I thought he would be pleased with this.

Author: Eric Eshleman

I'm not real.

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