CERN, the most astounding laboratory ever built, housed some 6500 nuclear physicists from all around the world. Founded since 1954, it boasted the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, and even contributed to the invention of the world-wide-web. A mark of significant progress was left in the history of mankind.
For one to be invited to an employment under CERN was too great an honour, especially to a particle physicist, which earmarked his beginning path to a greater glory. Not one with fraudulent qualifications dared entrance, and those otherwise were no less conceited, choked in their pride of the possibility of attaining Nobel laureation. It all boiled down to a race for wealth and fame, the same reason why people climbed corporate ladders knowingly most of them would eventually fall and never to rise again.
However, some were spared in this meaningless competition in search of ephemeral prestige. They were those devout physicists who devoted all their essence in search of a greater answer. Generally, they kept to themselves, cared less about laboratory politics, and were evident workaholics.
Biologists sometimes called them “the rare species”. But right now as we speak, there was already one burying himself in a workload of data sheets. Benjamin D. Wedgwood, middle-aged and had not shaven for days, fitted the description. A genuine physicist in a horde of fakes.
Detector ALICE suddenly whirred in excitement. Benjamin knew that ALICE again picked up a new reading, and his eyes rolled over towards the machine. Yet to his dismay the twenty-over scientists in the room had already hogged onto ALICE, jumping with joy. Then, they dispersed and scrambled to report the findings to the Head of Commissions, pushing against each other, knocking over the chairs and tables, trying to sideline each other to patent their records.
Francois Lamarck, sitting just beside Benjamin sipping his cup of coffee, shook his head in disgust, “tsk, tsk, it seems like they’ve discovered something….”
“…of utmost unimportance,” said Benjamin, and turned back to his data analysis, typing vigorously on the battered keyboard as if to vent his anger.
“So you’re still adamant about not joining in the race of finding the elusive God’s particle?” asked Francois with a wry smile.
“Heh, God particle? Them? They’re aeons away from finding it, just a bunch of ego-maniacs who want to create fame for their own. They’re not so keen on finding it, I tell you.”
“True. The Head was so angry that he declared that no one who discovered a new particle should be considered for the Nobel Prize. Funny, eh? Well, if that’s really the case, I bet ninety percent of the researchers here would quit.”
“They don’t understand,” said Benjamin, “finding God is the ultimate glory of humanity!” Then he realised that he had said that for the thousandth time. It was an ever-recurring topic, and he was quite fed up.
“But,” Francois continued, “up to now, you’ve discovered no less a number of new exotic variations, as fundamental as they can get. Aren’t you going to, at least, report those to the Head?”
“Fundamental is fundamental. There’ll only be one fundamental. I’ll stick to that principle.”
Francois listened with a grin.
It was not pleasant news.
Benjamin stormed his way to the office of the Head of Commission. Francois had warned him before not to be rash when dealing with an official, but was powerless nonetheless to restrain him.
H.G. Grews, the Chief, sat sedately at his desk as though anticipating Ben’s arrival. He had expected the moment that Ben would fling the door open with a loud bang, and Francois closing it from behind. That happened earlier before. Dr. Grews motioned him to sit, but Benjamin insisted to stand.
“I’ve been hearing rumours. Is what they’re saying true, Dr. Grews?” he asked.
“Dr. Wedgwood,” said Grews, “I admire your passion in this research from the day of your tenure. You’re perhaps the most modest and dedicated of all the scientists here, I dare say, but… Dr. Wedgwood, the world does not revolve around passion alone. There are still those things like politics and economics, of which I suppose aren’t in our field of interest, yet affect us in some ways.”
“But I’m so close to finding the –”
“Dr. Wedgwood, it’s the French government who decided the closure of this facility the next three days, not me and not you. Seven years of waste of national resources they say, thanks to those scum outside who did nothing but daydream. The truth is, you’re a gem in a bad company of char.”
“Fine then!” Benjamin slammed hard on the desk. “If it is three days I have, then it will be three days I need. Dr. Grews, I’ll give you the answer in three days! The answer to God.” And he walked off, slamming the door shut.
“Persistent, isn’t he?” Grews frowned as he beckoned Francois who was still in the room, “a great man with a great ambition and destiny… but I fear for him, for his utter thirst for knowledge will ultimately destroy him.”
“What do you mean?”
Dr. Grews reached for his drawers and pulled out a book – a story book scribbled with pagan writings. He flipped the pages, coming to a picture of a man, kneeling and extending his hands as to embrace a demon in a river of blood.
“I’ve always been interested in mythology and theology, quite unexpected from a man who’s in charge of a laboratory, eh? Well, this is a little something which I was reminded of when I saw Ben: Faust, the shaman who sold his soul to Mephistopheles in exchange for eternal knowledge of heaven and hell. Please watch out for him, will you?”
Francois nodded silently and made his leave.
The atmosphere was dreary. Most of the people have packed and left, in lieu of the impending shutdown, save a few janitors picking up after their mess.
Francois’ heart throbbed with dread; knowingly Benjamin was not in his state of mind and might do something drastic. He rushed to detector ALICE, but Benjamin was not there. He detoured to the other end to CMS, and there Benjamin stood with all the machinery activated. Benjamin noticed Francois at the entrance and called him in.
Francois could see the seriousness on his face, and his heart skipped a beat when he saw the setup of the experiment. “Ben!” he cried, “what are you doing, setting the accelerator beyond the safety limit? Are you trying to kill us all?”
Benjamin grinned, but his eyes were not filled with confidence, but madness. “Three days, and my purpose of living will be over. I’m betting my all in this, you hear me? I won’t want to regret seeing the chance of knowing escaping my grasp when it’s evidently so near.”
“Stop it, Ben. You know you can’t bring knowledge to the other world. You don’t even believe in the other world.”
“Then pray I’ll be immortal. You can leave if you want, Frank.”
He was uneasy, yet somehow for no reason, Francois decided to stay.
Particle accelerator initiate… the robotic voice buzzed off loudly. The machine glowed red, so did Benjamin’s eyes, in fervour. To Francois, it was all horror that was about to happen. The moment the emergency alarm wailed, it did.
Meltdown in sector 4F… please evacuate the facility immediately….
Benjamin’s eyes widened with excitement as he followed through the readings on the scale. “Energy! Energy unaccounted for! Look, Frank, some 50 million electron-volts has been lost in the process. Where had it gone to?”
“It’s a meltdown, Ben, that’s where it went. Come on, we have to evacuate before the containment units seal off this area….”
But his call fell on deaf ears. To his shock, Benjamin had already yanked off the detector and ran towards the meltdown. Francois chased after him, but too slow to stop him. They ran round the long winding corridors that encircled the hadron collider. A two minute run led them to 4F, where the most unbelievable sight revealed. The entire area was coated with molten plasma, glowing multi-coloured, and might be some from another spectrum. The detector danced with joy.
“Look Frank! 100 million electron-volts! It’s not lost… it’s a miracle! Yes, it’s the strings… they have pulled in matter from the other side! Frank, we’ve made a revolutionary discovery!”
But Benjamin could only see Frank kneeling down in tears. As he looked around, he realised that all the doors had been closed to contain the radiation. Benjamin’s heart faltered, though there was mixed feelings of ecstasy in seeing an angel descending with a holy sword of fire anointing the flames upon his head, as it chanted a resounding hymn from the heavens.
“I’ve seen God!”