As expected, the theorists were all for it. They hadn’t been given an interesting assignment in a few weeks, and some of the junior members were getting antsy. I was told that they could easily have one or two different models for positron storage and release on both a large and small scale. Better yet, they could have it in the week, for internal review before the shareholder’s meeting.
The engineering department, on the other hand, was less optimistic. One of them had requested a meeting with me right away to discuss. Given the urgency of the project, I cancelled my other plans for the afternoon to speak with her. She was the assistant supervisor on the design of the positron plants, and was probably one of the most qualified people to determine whether this was even feasible.
“It won’t work,” was the first thing that came out of her mouth, even before she had finished sitting down.
“Not even in theory?”
“Anything will work in theory, James. I’m worried about things working in practice.” She sighed, and rubbed her eyes. “We barely managed to get the plant working without everything being blown sky-high, and that was just basic annihilation. You want to try and accelerate positions in the hope that they can be used as a weapon?”
“Sam, are you worried about immediate atmospheric discharge? I’ve done the simulations –“
“We’ve all done the simulations.”
“- and there was less than 5% annihilation under the moon’s atmospheric conditions. Even on Mars, the beam maintained near-100% integrity at 50 meters out, with 70% efficiency nearly half a kilometer out.”
“And what about the effects that the annihilation has on the area surrounding the source of discharge? The kick for that is not insignificant. The temperature flux and force appear to be near-fatal to an unprotected human source.”
“For an automated defense system, it’s acceptable. If you’re worried, I can put someone else on the project.”
Sam folded her arms and smirked at me. “You wouldn’t dare, you don’t –“ she did her best to stifle a yawn, “- you don’t have anyone else that you would trust with it. Unless you’re planning on coming back to the lab.
“If it means that you’ll get some sleep, then I’ll personally oversee the designs. You’re gonna completely burn out at this rate.”
“That was the plan, remember? I put in a solid ten, twenty years of hard work for the company, and then I retire on top.”
“At the ripe old age of 35?”
“Maybe 45, if the pay’s good enough.” She leaned forward. “I’m not taking a management position here, you know that. I’ll do contracting or something, something very low-key.”
I stared back at her. “I don’t think that you will. You talk a good game, but you’ll miss the excitement.”
“So, emailing and managing multiple groups is exciting?”
I couldn’t respond at first, I didn’t have an answer. “It’s alright, I guess. It pays the bills.”
“Well, when it becomes just a paycheck for me, I’m out.”
“Yeah, I know. Can we get back on task?”
She smiled. “I’d like a raise. If I can get that, then I’ll have a working prototype for you in three months, tops.”
I appraised her for a brief moment. She was definitely exhausted, I could tell. She was serious about trying to intentionally burn herself out. I wanted to tell her to slow down, but she would never listen.
“I’ll get you the raise, Sam, on two caveats. You are to take a one-week vacation, effective immediately. In addition, you are to take another one-week vacation upon presentation of the prototype to the committee, regardless of any criticisms or improvements requested. If both of these conditions are reached, then I will give you a pay bonus equivalent to the amount of additional gross you would be making during the next few months, plus the raise requested. Deal?”
“Sounds good to me!” She stood up and started to walk out the door.
“I mean it, go take a vacation. No work of any sort.”
“Not going to happen,” She said, walking out the door. “It’s my vacation, I can do what I feel like!”
The door closed behind her. I shook my head, and then sent an email to the head of the programming/IT division, with a personal request.