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I'm looking for a short story from Asimov's (late 1990s or early 2000s, I think). The setting is mildly dystopian — there's a Bureau of Technology Control (possibly associated with BATF). The main character is a hobbyist — he and his friends get together for barbecues and after eating, play with small scale fireworks or model rockets. On this occasion, they accidentally create some sort of wormhole which wrecks a fairly large area, injures people and results in at least one person (probably the one who knew the most about what that day's experiment contained) disappearing. The Bureau of Tech Control (probably not the exact name) rounds up the survivors, but because the main character knows someone fairly high up in the bureaucracy, they are not treated as terrorists. The government tries to recreate the incident with the help of the survivors, and I think find their way to the same place where the disappeared guy went. The title of the story was, I think, a reference to the nickname the hobbyists had for themselves.

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  • Not what you are looking for, but reminds me of a story in which a lab experiment goes sideways and creates a conical zone of disappearance. Close to the source, it's a small hole in a bench or something, further away it's a substantial hole in a wall. Some unsuspecting passer-by on a nearby sidewalk is caught in the effect and I believe gets transported into the future... IIRC everything of him except a sliver off the sole of one shoe. The remainder of the story centers on the world he finds himself in, his adjustment to it, and the question of whether he can return "home".
    – Anthony X
    May 7 at 20:46
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    I recognize that one - Pebble in the sky.
    – Andrew
    May 7 at 21:00
  • Yes, Pebble in the Sky is the story I was thinking of, not meaning to suggest it as the title you are seeking.
    – Anthony X
    May 7 at 21:10
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    By a purely random look at ISFDB (I looked for issues that contained stories that I remembered reading) and found a prospect “Pyros”, George M. Ewing (Asimov's Jan 1996). I'll have to find a copy.
    – Andrew
    May 7 at 23:02
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    You can read "Pyros" here. If it's the right story you can answer your own question.
    – user14111
    May 8 at 0:20

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"Pyros" by George M. Ewing (thank you to @user1411121 for this link to the story)

The setting is mildly dystopian — there's a Bureau of Technology Control (possibly associated with BATF).

They didn’t waste much time. Ten or fifteen minutes later, we were all gathered in a briefing room with maps and a big projection screen on the wall. Travese started the meeting off by reminding everybody about the security oaths they had all signed. Then he said the magic words, calling this session of the Congressional Office of Technology Threat Assessment, Research, and Suppression Strategy to order.

The Bureau of Tech Control (probably not the exact name) rounds up the survivors, but because the main character knows someone fairly high up in the bureaucracy, they are not treated as terrorists.

“So, I think we have a mutual acquaintance. You get these guys in suits and ties to let me talk to Congressman Mitch Carney real time, not just voicemail. If he guarantees I won’t be railroaded, I’U co-operate 110 percent.” “What if he won’t talk to you?” “Then I’ll talk to somebody on his staff, and then we wait for a little while. If this case is really as important as everybody seems to think it is, he’ll get back to us after he’s checked around.”

The main character is a hobbyist — he and his friends get together for barbecues and after eating, play with small scale fireworks or model rockets.

“What the hell was that?” The flare was still burning on the screen, and clouds of steam were rising from the shallow water off the beach. Suddenly the screen went white and stayed that way; the film in the air- borne tourist’s camera had run out. “That, ladies and gentlemen,” I said, “was one of Cap’n Billy’s whiz- bangs, just a couple of hundred pounds of magnesium scrap metal, some oil drums welded together, a thermite grenade, and a few sticks of dynamite. The residuals were still burning on the bottom, under maybe ten feet of cold water when the film ran out! I think that’s the kind of effect the techies were hoping for with their new gadget; something spectacular, but not too dangerous if you stayed back a safe distance.

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