Author's Note: This is a star trek AU, in which the Federation actually applies their technology INTELLIGENTLY. This is likely to lead to hilarious game-breakers, at least until everyone else starts copying them. Please note that I'll be slightly more hard science than canon trek.
Also, there is no Q continuum. There are no Q. There are no reality warpers or psychic powers of any sort that I can't explain (that will be relevant to this fic at least...), and there will be no Deus Ex Machina asspull techs-of-the-week. Also, 1st contact was both delayed, and somewhat different from canon...
The development of replicators (takes place roughly 80 years ahead of schedule, in the 2120s.)
"So, you created a machine that can convert matter into energy and back again, and you wanted to use it for personal manufacturing!?"
"And it failed to occur to you, that you just made antimatter obsolete AND also created something that could make the H-bomb look like a firecracker?"
"1 kilogram of mass, converted to energy, yields a bit more than 8.3 petajoules."
Later, during the design phase of the Enterprise...
"So, why is this ship so horribly designed?"
"We thought it looked cool..."
"OK, no. You know how in old sci-fi shows all the human ships looked like bricks in space?"
"Yes, what of it?"
"THERE WAS A REASON FOR THAT! Having it all in 1 block reduces the amount of work the structural integrity fields need to do, it allows you to put more armor on, which is useful for making the ship survive longer, ESPECIALLY if you take into account the aforementioned structural integrity fields. Also, it allows for retractable warp nacelles, so you're less likely to lose them in combat, this goes double if you can fit them into an armored recess. All in all, there's a VERY GOOD REASON for star-ships to look like bricks."
"Oh, what do you think of the warp core?"
"Why does this still use antimatter given the new mass/energy conversion reactors, which are both safer and cheaper to run?"
"We're done here, you're all fired and I'm replacing you with COMPETENT engineers."
Some time later, during the design of the weapons systems for the Enterprise
"What's this... photon torpedo thing?"
"it's a missile with a 1.5 kg lump of antimatter in its warhead and a reaction-less drive."
"Why is it still using antimatter when a conversion bomb would both deliver more energy and be safer to store, in addition to being cheaper?"
"Anyway, you might keep your job if I approve of what you came up with for the gun-type weapons."
"Well, it's a type of particle beam..."
"The particles fired cause atomic nuclei to decay into neutrinos in a limited chain reaction."
"May I inquire about any limitations?"
"Um... it doesn't do as well against elements with a high atomic number, especially if they're metals. It also has a rather long range of 300 km"
"you mean like what armor plating is likely to be made from? And a range that is utterly insignificant in space in terms of even the distance between Earth and its moon Luna?"
"You're fired. HEY! HOPEFULLY COMPETENT NEW GUY!"
"Yes, reporting for duty!"
"You are familiar with the problem that electromagnetic beam weaponry is sub-optimal at defeating shields, correct?"
"Are you also familiar with the brute force method of problem solving?"
"Make a mass/energy conversion unit that takes 100 kg of matter per shot, turns it into energy, and focuses it into a coherent beam."
"Certainly, may I ask why we're designing a weapon with a yield of 2 gigatons and an effective range of well over 8 light seconds?"
"Because, there is no kill... like overkill. And besides, those conversion torpedoes are in the triple-digit gigaton range."
The unveiling of the NX-01 Enterprise (2152)
John Archer was blissfully unaware of the arguments that had gone on for almost a month in the design process of his fabulous new ship. It was capable of a good 2,000 c, which could be kept up for about a month. That was without the mass scoops fitted, with them it could fuel its mass/energy conversion reactor indefinitely on the faint wisps of hydrogen found in interstellar space, and that would also allow the replicators to run and feed the crew. In terms of shape, it was best described as a 300 meter long rifle bullet 80 meters in diameter with engines at the back. All exterior systems, be they conversion beam cannons, torpedo launch railguns, mass scoops, or warp nacelles were hidden under a retractable armored sheath when not in use. The bridge was also sensibly buried somewhere deep inside the ship, and its only exposure to space was by remotely operated sensors.
Speaking of armor, that stuff was a titanium/tungsten alloy laced with carbon nanotubes layered between plates of Boron Carbide and was about 15 meters thick in most places. This led to extremely high tensile and yield strength in addition to a decent ability to absorb heat. This was only increased by the intense structural integrity fields projected onto it, and there was an additional system in place to deal with damage. The additional system was a large system of replicators which would take matter from the fuel tank, and layer it on as new armor plating at the site of damage, effectively repairing damaged armor almost instantly as long as there was fuel available.
In terms of armament, the Conversion Beams hit with about 2 gigatons of TNT worth of energy, which would barely be able to defeat the armor and intensely multi-layered shields of the Enterprise in a single shot before proceeding to cause manageable damage. The Conversion torpedoes were each roughly 12 tons, 8 of which were converted to energy upon detonation, granting them a yield of 160 gigatons. The Beams had an effective range of roughly 12 light seconds. The Torpedoes had roughly 50,000 km/s of delta v with an acceleration of roughly 200 km/s/s, not counting the 1,400 km/s kick they got from the mass-lightened railgun that assisted them on launch. Compared to those idiotic phase cannons and photon torpedoes, this ship could engage at quite bluntly ludicrous ranges.
The Earth-Derived republic had severely over-estimated the technological competency of the vast majority of the galaxy. This was shown as a group of 18 Klingon Birds-Of-Prey exited warp 8,000 km above Earth, and demanded that the fledgling species surrender. They had apparently failed to notice the orbital star-ship factory over Luna, with 1 completed NX-class starship and 20 more in various stages of construction. The Enterprise had 16 Conversion Beams arranged in 2 rings of 8 at different points on the hull and 4 Railgun Assisted Torpedo turrets. This resulted in 8 Birds-Of-Prey suffering from a sudden case of vaporization, while the mass cartridges for the conversion beams reloaded, the remaining Birds-Of-Prey frantically searched for the ship that had one-shotted 8 of their number with a photon beam, which should have reflected harmlessly off their shields. They went to warp 2, and exited warp within visual range of the Enterprise.
Please bear in mind, this had all taken place within 6 seconds of the first salvo being fired. As the remaining 8 Birds-Of-Prey fired disruptors, they were absorbed by this nightmare-ship's 12-layer shields. Then the Enterprise finished reloading. 7 of the remaining Birds-Of-Prey received a full-energy blast, leading to their destruction. The last ship was merely crippled however, as United Humanity wanted prisoners. More importantly however, Humanity wanted answers.