Bonus Content

Writing excerpt

Days Since Last Safety Incident: 0

Controlled Descent
Chapter 8

“It’s impossible,” Tyler said. “You don’t just stick things together and come up with other things! Engineering takes teams and time and meetings and tests. You have to run simulations. Test materials. Test prototypes. Run more simulations and tests. This isn’t how science works.”

Justin stopped what he was doing to glare down the ladder at his partner-in-research.

 Introducing instrumentation into the packed innards of the power cells was delicate work, and distraction was dangerous. Criticism was distracting.

No one ever believed that he came up with his ideas out of the blue and then built them mostly alone. “I took notes. I did math. I researched materials and made calculations. I drew schematics. I recorded the whole process, just like we’re recording this right now.” He pointed at the monitor that showed a composite 360° view of the workroom with its occupants entangled in the equipment and wiring. The image waved pliers. “Watch the vids to your heart’s content.”

“I have. Twice. I still can’t believe it.” Tyler wiped sweat from his forehead. “You just ‘thought them up,’ you say. ”

“It’s the truth.” Justin stopped talking and got back to work.

These days he couldn’t think at all without giving himself sick headaches. Luckily, he already had testing equipment that would provide the empirical data Tyler needed. It just needed a little adjusting.

Once upon a time he’d paid other people to do the boring things like independent testing, replication, market applications, licenses, and so on. That was the main reason he had started a company in the first place—that, and because William had suggested it.

Now he needed boring  work to keep himself too busy to think about all the things he couldn’t do anymore.

The next thing he knew, his ears were ringing and he was lying on his back, squinting at the ceiling. His head was at the base of a wall scarred by an impact crater the size of a plate about two meters up. Cracks surrounded its center in a broken web.

What happened?

He sat up. A charred lump bounced off his chest to the floor: the fried remains of a power cell. Oh. The entire testing apparatus had catastrophically shorted out.

The overload should’ve electrocuted him. The power cell should’ve pulverized his insides when it rocketed loose, and hitting the wall should’ve broken his back.

He should be dead.

Panic boiled up. He hadn’t been alone.

“Tyler?” He shouted it, but he heard nothing. “Tyler!”

Back by the testing rig, across the room, Tyler rose wobbling to his feet and staggered towards the lab door.

He looked uninjured, and Justin’s fear ebbed to containable levels.

Overall he felt better than he had in weeks, actually. All the bone-deep aches had vanished, leaving behind a heady sense of well-being.

His ears popped, and a muted beeping became audible. A glance at the strobe light above the door across the lab confirmed it as the normally ear-shattering claxon of the lab’s alarm system.

Tyler reached up to disengage the alarm, which released the door lock. Then he slid the panel open and looked into the hall.

“Where’re you going?” Justin tried to stand up, but his sense of balance was shot. 

He lurched, his bad leg gave out, and he thumped to the floor again. “Damn, I hate this. Hey, Tyler, give me a hand, will you?”

Tyler turned in a circle, eyes wide. His gaze settled on Justin, and he said, “What the hell?”

The near-silent words were easy to lip-read.

Justin looked down and got his second shock. His body wasn’t there. He could see floor, but not his feet. Second by second, the effect slowly wore off, until he was visible again.

“Hey, that’s interesting.”

headshot portrait drawing in ink and warm grays of a pale young man in a plaid shirt. His hair is blonde and shaggy, his expression vague, and one eyebrow is raised.

Tyler Burke
Unlikely Physicist

headshot portrait drawing in ink and warm grays of a thin, pale, scruffy man with touseled dark hair looking intently downward

Justin Wyatt
Disabled Engineer