Training in Fusion and Sub-space Generation technologies couldn’t be more different. The fusion training was actually a degree backed by several universities for the military, and took nearly four years to complete. With that he had made Senior Warrant Officer, in charge of an eight-hour duty shift, a junior warrant officer on a short training tour, and five enlisted crewmen. With his graduation most of his family came from a few different worlds to celebrate his achievement. It was a good five years of routine, and respect.
When he volunteered for the new top-secret power plant testing, he thought it would be along similar lines and that he could use most of his knowledge to command as effectively as he had before. But he was wrong, and very bored for it.
One of the reasons he had volunteered was because of the incentives. The largest incentive was for a post retirement rank of commander, essentially three levels of pay above his current pay rate, with a small pay boost during the first few cruises and a generous bonus at the end of the third cruise. The first thing was a three month training at the end of which nobody could know that he had completed it.
The first assignment after the crash-course was to a refitted cruiser, almost the same exact class as his two previous assignments. Upon arriving he went to the ‘aft power-module’ at least expecting to still see a back-up fusion generator taking up a tenth of the ship’s volume. The surprise at entering the formerly giant space was a shock when it suddenly ended in the back of the officer on duty, the tiny workstation, and the cube.
The cube measured one meter by one meter, massing just over two tonnes. It had four connections, the negative node, two coolant lines, and the output power. The theory behind the cube was simple: It harvested energy from subspace by using the difference in physical laws between our universe and subspace.
The way it did it was a carefully controlled bubble of subspace-time generated within the generator. Two atoms were ionized, stripping all electrons, and then shot through the bubble at converging angles. The collision released quite a bit of energy that exited the bubble. When the new atoms exited bubble they also had an energy higher than they had gone in with, and a few more translated particles. This exit was also accompanied by the reuniting the atoms with electrons, the potential energy of which was huge, but about 90% of the produced energy went to prepare the next atoms. Though only 10% efficient it was essentially free energy.
A single generator measured 1x1x10 micrometers and produced approximately 1 Watt. In the cubic meter the volume just for generators came to about 30%, the rest was cooling and fuel and exhaust handling. Theoretically this would mean that the power output could be 30 Petawatts, but with control for safety and inefficiencies the actual power output can be about 5 Terawatts.
With such power in such a small package it was a bit of a surprise during the engineering briefing that followed that day that they had four of these broom-bot sized closets carefully tucked around the ship.
His fellow Power Controller beside him chuckled. “Only twelve of us they have to replace when we go mad.” He chuckled at her joke, as close as it was to the truth, and looked around the room. A ship’s engineering complement usually had a majority of power engineering, with the lightning bolt clearly visible on both shoulders no matter what rank. But he only quickly counted about twenty people in the room with just the lightning bolt. The majority was now the lightening bolt with a wrench across it, the repair crew, maintaining the many electrical systems that made the ship run.
The briefing continued into emergency operations: Normal duty would only have one person on duty at any time, but during General Quarters a second would rush to the each power plant to be a second. But really if something went wrong, it was unlikely the second wouldn’t experience the same issues, rather it was a tradition. Even during GQ only one of the four power plants really needed to operate at increased power at any time, but during normal operations and maneuvers (including transitions to sub-space) all four would run at approximately one tenth power.
After his first shift he was missing the fusion power plants. Eight hours essentially babysitting a system that really only needed a person there to do an emergency disconnect. In fact his only real duty was reporting the current capacity to the Lieutenant who then attended meetings to tell the Captain that a certain percentage of the micro-generators were working.
It was an affront to the traditions of Engineers everywhere, he suspected that soon it wouldn’t even require an officer when the generators went into service across the Navy. A petty officer wouldn’t even deign the long hours of drudgery, and it would probably be assigned to several more E-3s that would be paid less and be assigned to different areas on a rotation. But now due to its sensitive nature it required a person with more supposed integrity, if he didn’t lose that with all of the boredom he was going to endure over the next few months.