Squinting, she held the hyperspanner between her thumb and forefinger. The red laser sight guided her movements. In her other hand, she steadied the nillimite coil, adjusting the spanner a fraction at a time until the spring-like metallic thread maintained a consistent diameter of 500 microns. It was the last part of the warp matrix compositor she could affix by hand.
“Computer, activate nanobots and run programme Theb nine-nine B,” she placed the spanner back down on the table. From a small cubic containment unit, thousands of the tiny machines swarmed up. Each one not much bigger than a Buckminster fullerene, they behaved like a black cloud of smoke. Curiously to the casual observer, however, they held themselves together in a regular shape. Each bot propelled itself towards the compositor housing, their microscopic replicator nodes activating. Molecule by molecule, they spun their carbon nanofibre web. Individually, with each strand barely three atoms wide, the polytrinic alloy could barely handle the load of a simple EPS circuit. When laced across the housing in this manner, however, electroplasma dissipation could take place across its entire surface. In the event of a power surge, excess energy could be siphoned off as required. The swarm of specks twisted and spun around the silvery component surface until they had fully laid their trail. They then returned, as quickly as they’d come, to the cube.
A soft round of applause went up from the small crowd that had gathered. Professor Xel’bet Wredd, the tall, wispy-haired Dean of warp engineering, strode through towards Sreyler, “Are you gonna let someone else win the innovation price this year? Oh, polytrinic alloy? Guess not.”
Sreyler giggled, “Yeah. Thanks Borg!”
“Hmm,” Wredd frowned, considering his next words. The furrows and creases in his light blue skin had only grown deeper from years of poring over the literature. From Cochrane to Layacx, he’d seen it all. The forefront of warp theory was his comfort zone, but he was getting old. Something like this; an auto-regenerating alloy… He just hadn’t thought to look.
”You know Sreyler, there’s a faculty position open. We’d- I’d love to have someone like you take the post. Zhaman’ti needs this kind of thinking.”
“Oh,” Sreyler stopped fiddling with the hyperspanner, “thank you, Professor. I, ah, don’t know what to say.”
Felrak stepped forward. The dark overcoat that had shielded him from the biting Efrosian wind draped down past his knees. It hung open, partially obscuring his uniform, “Trying to steal my Chief Engineer, Professor?”
Wredd turned, “Aha, my apologies, Captain. Can you really blame me?”
“You wouldn’t be the first.” Felrak’s eyes glinted as he smiled, “Although Zhaman’ti has its appeal.” He looked towards Sreyler, “The ice sculptures are really quite something.”
Sreyler’s expression cycled from confusion, to disbelief, then back again, “Wait, Chief Engineer? I mean, I had an idea you wanted me on the crew, but-”
“Only if you want the job,” Felrak grinned.
Her eyes nearly fell out of her head, “Uhhhh, do I at least get to go to the prizegiving?”
“Of course, I believe it’s tomorrow? The Ahwahnee’s in orbit for two days. Enough time to get your affairs in order, I think.”
“Then I graciously accept, sir,” her sarcastic seriousness was followed by an over-exaggerated nod.
Felrak rolled his eyes, turning to Wredd, “I’m doing you a favour.”
“Ah, Starfleet,” Wredd took on an air of whimsy, “New life, new civilisations. Truly, a game for the young.”
“Really?” Felrak left it at that, “Lieutenant I’d like you to meet the senior staff, if you have a minute to spare?”
“Sure do, sir.”
“Excellent. Vordenna to Ahwahnee, two to beam up.”
“Send me data!” Wredd called. Sreyler’s laughter faded into the cool blue of the transporter beam.