I was late for work again.

Running around my apartment, picking up clothes that seemed passable and shoving various limbs into them, zipping and buttoning. Had no idea where my tie was, so I snatched my backup from my dresser, slamming the drawer shut with my sock feet. I can’t believe I did this to myself. Was it the alarm? Did the power go out for a fraction of a second? It didn’t matter now.

All that mattered was getting into the lab, so I could stand on the catwalk over the main beam assembly to monitor energy levels. A few minutes later, I was stuffing a slice of burnt toast in my mouth and revving the car engine, lurching out of the parking lot on to the highway. Jamming the accelerator as far as it would go, willing the two tons of rusting metal and plastic to go faster. I’ve got to get there in time.

An eternity compressed into 30 minutes later, I was pulling into test site. The guard waved me through, lowering the barrier and getting back to his crossword puzzle. I smoothed my shirt and glanced into the rear view mirror. A little shaggy, but it will have to do. At least I didn’t have to make the key presentation to all the military bigwigs. That would be my bosses job, thankfully.

Haphazard parking job, grabbing my briefcase and notes, rushing into the building like a human hurricane. I barely got into the main testing chamber before my boss started to speak at the lectern set up near the racks of computers powering the abstract maths of our experiment.

“As you know, we’re in the final phase of testing. Project SUNSTRIKE was undertaken to provide the military with a force unparalleled in modern science. Control of the sun’s flares.”, he shuffled some papers, looking up at the assorted brass seated up front,”This will allow pinpoint accuracy when stimulating the outer layers of the sun, which will produce flares of any class desired, from small-scale effects to full EMP directed fury.”

My boss then stared at me, gesturing, “Now that our monitoring team is present, we can proceed.”

Taking the cue, I did a half bow towards the generals and clambered up the gangway to the overhead monitor station. Flipped a few switches, powering up the primary grid. Below me was the sprawling proof-of-concept design, part particle beam and part laser, designed to inject exotic matter into the beam, to be carried along to the sun’s surface. It would’ve been better in space, but our budget was tight and the extra GigaWatts really didn’t matter, as we were drawing directly from a nuclear generator installed on-site.

The countdown began, and I leaned forward with my goggles to observe the test platform below.

5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – INITIATE

The low hum of main banks discharging into the excitor rings filled the air, shoving particles close to the speed of light through the optic traps, bouncing them until the proper levels had been reached. Then, the release – as I moved closer to see – my tie started to fall.

Oh shit, it was a clip-on. With my favorite tieclip on it too.

I watched in frozen horror as the tie fell right in the gap between the primary discharge conduit and the final stage optics now trained upon the sun. My hand slammed down on the red mushroom-shaped button to abort, but it was too late. One bright flash, and the tie vaporized, including what had been attached to it.

I stumbled back, stunned.

“What the hell was that!!??”, Screamed my boss, face red with rage.

“My.. my… tie fell.”

“Well, reset the experiment!”

“That’s not going to help us much.”

“WHAT?!”, he started to stride forward, to climb up to the gangway.

“Don’t bother. The tritium atoms in my glow-in-the-dark tieclip have made it to the sun’s surface. I’m seeing a 400% reaction mass headed on our vector.”, I stared at the screen, not wanting to believe the numbers it was showing me. Damn, it would be closing in fast.

“What can we do?”

“We can burn.”, I dropped down in my seat, panic rising, my eyes starting to tear.

60 seconds to go.