They were doomed. The copper tin alloy for the critical drive component they desperately needed was on a planet weeks away, and even if they had it, they couldn't make the part on the ship.
That's when the human walked into the bridge mopping sweat off hir brow.
"All fixed let's go."
"What do you mean all fixed?"
"Simply, I made a cast of the part with the pieces, then melted down the original and re cast it. It should last to the next port, the one after at a stretch."
"You what...?!? But how?"
"Surely you guys know the concept of recycling?"
"Yes, but I've never heard of ANYONE doing it MANUALLY!!!" -- Adam in Darwin
The captain and higher-ups were in a sealed conference about their plans. Such plans usually revolved around how to make the maximum amount of crew survive with the minimum amount of sacrifice. There were only so many cryo-pods and stasis tubes, no matter how much of the supplies the rest of the crew ate their way through during the interim. Who would live, who would die, who would be high-priority and who, ultimately, would remain behind to maintain the remnants as it drifted towards the sanest destination with minimum everything as the ship auto-repeated its emergency message on all useful frequencies.
Human Fen, knowing all this, made a decision. Three words, and not kindly received when uttered allowed, so ze said it to hirself, "Screw that noise." They went down to the engine room to see what the damage was.
The bronze injector was cleft in twain. A combination of a flaw in the original manufacture and repeated microstresses from temperature differentials, expansion, and contraction in use. Fen couldn't help it. Ze whistled backwards. "So that's what's got the top lot bothered."
"It was the last one. The nearest port of aid is four years away at even half CTL. We can't even do that without the injector. The situation will be hopeless."
Says you, thought Fen. "Is that all the mass of the part? Nothing was lost in the breaking?"
Dryz boggled at the question, then dismissed the weirdness as just Human Fen being Human Fen. "That is all that is and was," she said. "Total weight of the part is total weight of pieces."
Could probably do with a bit more to be certain. Best to overestimate than wind up short. Fen checked the stable atom stores. Plenty for hir needs. Some iron... This could be done. Whacko. "Can I take the pieces? I have an idea."
Another good boggle from Dryz. "This is not a problem that can be solved with ductape, Human Fen."
Fen just grinned and said, "Never tell a Human what can't be done." They took the parts and went down to hir workshop. Technically, it was a storage bay, but after Fen emptied it out by improving the organisation of other storage areas, the Captain didn't see anything wrong with Fen putting it to other uses. Besides, it isolated some of Fen's more unusual hobbies from the easily disturbed and faint of courage.
First, scanning the bits and creating a mould. CAD programs helped digitally patch the part into what it should have been and a nifty algorithm turned out a neat three-part mould that shouldn't be any bother. One quick printout of three solid blocks and ze could tool the parts ze needed. No worries.
That was day one. Including breaks to cool off or refresh hirself and take naps. Day two was making absolutely, positively certain ze had it right. The right measurements according to specs. The right placement of sprues. The right placement of the pouring funnel. Allowances for machining smooth. All of it.
Days three and four were for the melting, mixing, and pouring. Temperature control to be certain that the crystallisation was up to spec.
Day five, after it had cooled, was for the machining.
Dryz acted like Fen had pulled it out of hir butt, or otherwise magicked it into existence somehow. "That is... impossible. How did you--?"
"It's not that hard. I used the old bits to make a mould and re-cast it with a little bit extra from ships' stores."
"Well, the printer's unreliable for anything other than solid blocks of stable elements, so..." Fen shrugged.
"It's not as if we could order it from the factory and have a hope. They don't deliver to vessels like ours. If this one doesn't last like a factory part, at least it'll see us to a safer survival window, so it's all a bonus."
Fen was giggling by now, helping slot the new-old part back from whence it had come. "What? You guys haven't heard of recycling?"
"Well, yes," Dryz was temporarily distracted by the cultural gap. Good. Poor critter wasn't about to faint. Better - the part fit like a glove. "I haven't ever heard of anyone doing it manually..."
"Way it used to be done." Fen shrugged. This bit fit there. That bit fit there. All together and... switch thrown, the injector was back online. So was the CTL engine. Purring like a flakking kitten. "I already had half the tools, so I figured - why not, y'know?"
"No," said Dryz. "But I am glad that you knew. And know. Let us go together and explain to the Captain."
"Oh yeah. Cap's gonna flakkin' love this."
 Close To Light. FTL involves using another dimension and arriving so early that your descendants will make the delivery. Assuming they survive to do so.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / Tlex]
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