“Reverse-engineer it?” I asked. “I… look, we don’t even have the physics to describe this thing. Much less make a new one.”
The alien artifact, a small smooth pink slab, sat on the conference table between us.
The general frowned. “Whatever you need: lab equipment, research staff, you name it, just ask. But we’ll get someone else if you can’t do it.”
“It’s not a question of resources, or my abilities. It’s like,” I paused. “Imagine taking a modern computer back 200 years and asking them to build a copy. It wouldn’t matter how smart they were… As far as we can tell, this thing works on the femtoscale — we put it in a beamline and got some particles we’ve never seen before, but don’t you see how crude that is? May as well be bashing it with a rock. Listen, I’ll lead the project but I can’t make any promises. This could take centuries.”
“You have two years,” he replied, handing me a printout of a Hubble image with a cluster of red arrows drawn on it.
The caption read, simply, Invasion Fleet Position.