Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

What a mess. I’m standing on the fifteen-foot diameter stump of a Redwood, sliced off three feet from the ground as if by a gigantic razor blade. About me, the effect radius covers nine miles. In front of me is the twisted confetti that used to be a hundred and fifty foot long aircraft.

“Ye gods. Found out what happened yet, Rudi?”

I turn and look at my second-in-command, Elys. She, like me, had invested both time and money in this project. Years of commitment volunteered to realise the dream of every science-fiction nut across the globe. We hadn’t been alone. The crowd-sourcing for this project set new records in amounts of money and speed of accrual. Now the only wise part of the investment was the failure insurance.

“I think I know. There are going to be repercussions if I’m right.”

I jump down from the stump and move toward the biggest fragment of the Stargazer that remains. “Look at this.”

“It’s a circuitboard.” Elys peers closer. “Correction. It was a circuitboard. What did that?”

I wait. She’s an accident investigator like me and the pieces of this debacle do fit together. The board is fried completely and evenly. That’s not fire damage.

A look of horror crosses her face. “Oh my god. You’re kidding.”

I look out across the devastation, where people move in numb concentration, looking for pieces of the crew where crows have settled, which is the only pointer. Human remains are as shredded as the ship.

“I can’t think of anything else that explains this. Sabotage will be proposed, especially by those even remotely to blame; but if they want to do that, then they can pay to have this reassembled.”

Elys crouches down and balances on the balls of her feet. “You think they’ll try?”

I turn my head to look at her. “Given what’s at stake, I would.”

She nods and I stand up. Time to report in. I walk over to the Control centre and a senator and the state governor close in to be my witnesses.

“Accident Investigator Rudi Teans. I confirm that the anti-gravity project was a success. The failure of the prototype was caused by two flaws. First: the magnetic field generators emitting outside their specified ranges. Second: the shielding on the electrical systems being substandard. The combination of these resulted in Stargazer suffering the complete destruction of all control systems by an electro-magnetic pulse effect as the generators reached peak load. I recommend that Federal authorities move swiftly to secure all build records and inspection sign-offs. The deaths of all eleven personnel are directly attributable to criminal negligence.”

The senator touches my arm. “What about this?” He waves his hand to encompass the blasted landscape.

“The effect zone can only be attributed to some unforeseen aspect of gravitational repulsion that is beyond my expertise to analyse.”

The governor looks me in the eye. “Did they suffer?”

I look up at the circling crows. “I hope not.”

The governor nods. “Amen.”

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