“Alright, this is experimental trial…One hundred thirty eight…B.”
Derek spoke to the camera, hands trembling as he moved to press the ‘on’ switch. The array lit up almost immediately and the whole thing started to hum.
“Phase one appears to be operating normally…” He picked up one of his instruments. “Phase two power generation appears to be as expected…” There was a long pause and suddenly the needle shot upwards. “Oh…oh no…Not again. Please, not this again.” He dove for the power button, but it didn’t matter. The machine was already smoking. He jumped for the camera instead and dove behind the protective paneling just before it blew. “Well, that was the same malfunction from trial…um…seventy three, I think. So…”
“Derek, are you alright in here?”
He looked up into the face of Professor McKenna and sighed.
“Yes, Professor…I just had a malfunction. I’m alright.”
“You nearly blew yourself up, Derek. Grab your notes, check the prototype for flames and come get some dinner. You need to take a break and redesign or you’re going to kill yourself with one of these `malfunctions.’”
Derek sat down in the cafeteria, spreading his designs out while he tried to simultaneously shove a chicken tender into his mouth.
“You’re still working on that? You know it’s never gonna work, right?”
He didn’t even need to look up to know that was Alexis. Little miss perfect Alexis with her grants and stipends and published papers and all that. She dropped into the seat opposite him and scoffed.
“I mean, seriously, you can’t just pull energy out of nowhere, Derek, that goes against all the laws of physics.”
“As we know them…” was his only response.
“Ugh…whatever. Continue to wallow in your failure while I’m putting an astronaut on Mars.”
She strode away, heels clicking on the tiled floor, and he returned his full attention to finding the flaw in his design.
Hours turned into days and days into weeks and Derek still didn’t have a new prototype. The flaw was there, he knew it was, he just had to find it. Weeks into months and the snow fell hard around the campus as Derek burst into the lab with a tiny box in his hands. He set up his camera, hands shaking and set the little cardboard box on the counter. It was only a few inches high, not the giant bulk of lights and switches and diodes he’d had before. No, this one was simple, sleek and elegant. And most importantly of all, just as Alexis walked in to demand to know what he was doing, the little chrome sphere started to glow and lifted into the air.
“Making it work.”