How to make a geometry drive
How do you manufacture something you do not understand? You follow the instructions manual to the letter and you hope for the best. When Rani Spengler reverse-engineered the geometry drive, she did not manage to understand the inner workings of the drive. She knew what the drive did and she knew what it looked like but couldn't understand how the drive bent time and space.
One hundred and fifty years later we are no closer to an answer on that front, which makes geometry drive manufacturing a peculiar endeavour akin to assembling a car without knowing how internal combustion works.
1 - Components
A geometry drive is made of hyperdimensional crystalline carbon compounds excreted by pseudonigella stellaris flowers. A regular geometry drive requires about one thousand flowers to be carefully harvested to retrieve the four-dimensional crystals nested in their flowers. The crystals then have to be refined. Growing N. stellae and manipulating the crystals requires highly trained personnel.
2 - Assembly
Once the volume of the drive is determined (it is proportional to the size of the ship being translated) it has to be assembled by bonding the individual crystals together with an electrically neutral solution until it forms a coherent shape that is then smoothed out.
3 - Etching
When the drive has been assembled it has to be etched: billions of faults and fractures are artificially carved at the surface of the cube at a sub-nanometric scale. These invisible markings are what turns the drive from an inert cube to a working faster than light engine. They have to strictly follow the patterns found on the first geometry drive and are what enables the engine to be configured and used by sending subtle vibrations inside the crystal.
Etching is the most critical part of the manufacturing process. If the faults are wrongly carved they may render the drive inoperative or even fracture it. If they are too thin or too deep they will inevitably lead to premature ageing of the drive. Sub-nanometric engineering at this degree of complexity is only accessible to a few zero-g facilities in Communal Space, Elora or Mundis.
There is a very small part of the drive called "blank tip" where etching isn't required yet doesn't seem to affect the engine. This reserved area is used to apply specific markings that act as both a serial number and the signature of the drive's manufacturer. As the drive is being used this area will bear the marks of every ship it has been installed on, enabling system authorities to identify and track down a specific engine. Unmarked or "blanked" drives are very rare and illegal in most jurisdictions.
4 - Nesting
Once the drive has been etched it must be installed inside the FTL ship that is supposed to receive it. This is achieved through the use of a physical interface known as a "nest". The nest is connected to the ship's mainframe and made of billions of nanometric needles inserted in the etching that can send data and instructions to the drive under the shape of vibrations. Nesting isn't a technically complex operation but requires a great deal of care. Much like with the assembly process nesting is easier in zero-g.
5 - Tuning
The penultimate step in manufacturing. Drives have to be attuned to their ships to ensure maximal translation accuracy. Tuning consists of erasing the factory default settings and replacing them with ship-specific settings. Every single detail has to be taken into account down to the room layout of the ship. Tuning must be done by professional navigators. The only case where tuning isn't necessary is when the geometry drive is destined to standardized vessels such as FTL missiles.
6 - Installing
Once tuning is complete the entire drive apparatus including the nest is sealed in a protective case. The manufacturing process is complete and the ship ready to make its first translation.
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