QUANTUM SHORTS 2015: SHORTLISTED, YOUTH CATEGORY
"Experiment 33-C failed, sir."
Dr. Bryne tightened his eyes and squeezed the bridge of his nose.
"Set the Tau variable to one point three and Epsilon value to thirty four. Commence Experiment 34-A," Dr. Bryne motioned the Assistant Researcher back to her workstation, and then left the room.
He walked past the other laboratories in the Weapons and Advanced Research wing. On the doors were the titles of other projects. "Atomic Sidearm". "Localized Miniature Singularity Generator". The top secret military facility in CERN explored frontiers that even science fiction feared to imagine.
Dr. Bryne then stopped and knocked the door of an office.
"Come in, Bryne."
He gently opened the door, and took a seat in front of his superior.
"Give me an update."
"I'm afraid, sir, that I need to request for another extension. Two weeks. The safety checks ar-"
"Two WEEKS? Bryne, this is the FIFTH time!"
"I WOULDN'T HAVE TO REQUEST FOR THEM IF MY DEADLINE WASN'T CUT!"
The Higgs Field Manipulator project was commissioned in 2009 when Dr. Bryne proposed the idea. He was assigned the role of Project Head and was given the order to build it by 2019. When they discovered the Higgs Boson in 2012, the Administration decided that the project could be sped up and ordered for its completion by 2016. They granted him an additional $3 billion dollar budget to compensate, of course.
The Site Director sighed, "Request denied, Bryne. I will need you to expedite. You're almost done. What's left?"
"Final experiments are still ongoing, Director White. But we have to proceed with the safety checks. There's a risk of leaking Cherenk-"
"It's settled. Shave redundant safety checks and close this by next week. Maintenance can handle the rest."
"EXPEDITE, you hear me? FUCKING EXPEDITE!"
There was a brief moment of silence before he continued.
"I don't care, Bryne, but I need this closed. If you can't finish it, I'll find someone who can."
Another moment of silence followed. Glaring at Director White, Dr. Bryne stood up, thanked him, and left the room.
The safety checks were more than just procedure to Dr. Bryne. He had insisted that all safety protocols be conducted under his direct supervision ever since a hohlraum exploded while he was out of office. True, it was possible to complete the project in a week if he skipped the non-essential inspections and left it to the post-project maintenance teamâ€¦ But it felt wrong. The structural integrity failure of a class A object would be catastrophic. His mind was brimming with thoughts as he trudged back to his laboratory.
"Experiment 34-A is a success, sir! We did it!" reported the Assistant Researcher with a beaming smile. It faded when she noticed that Dr. Bryne was not as enthused.
"Thanks, Jade. We need to proceed with finalized testing and prepare for project closure. Site Director's finally rejected my proposals, so we're skipping the triple redundancy chamber and hermetic detector inspections."
"Understood, sir. Testing will commence in one hour," announced Jade to the rest of the team. Then she smiled and whispered, "Don't take it too hard, Dr. Bryne. We'll get through."
The next week passed uneventfully. The Higgs Field Manipulator was tested and confirmed to be fully functional. Dr. Bryne had only ordered for the most rudimentary of safety inspections, and he was immensely relieved that all systems were in perfect working order. The final step was to demonstrate the product to Director White.
"I knew you could do it! Always had faith in you, Bryne. So, run me through what you've got!" grinned Director White.
Both men stood next to the one-and-a-half meter long cylindrical device with four dials, mounted on a pedestal. Testing Chamber 2-B was prepared with thirteen wooden dummies; one was placed 150 meters directly at its front, and a column of six spaced 5 meters apart on each side of the chamber. Dr. Bryne picked up the seven kilogram device and mounted it over his shoulder.
"The Higgs Field Manipulator is an artillery-type weapon that launches these-" he held out what appears to be a small glass ball in his left hand, "as ammunition"
He loaded the ball into the device through an underarm hatch, then continued, "These dials specify the distance or time that the payload will travel before activation of its main effect" pointing at the first two dials on the barrel.
"After a specified distance or time, this projectile will catch and drag a Higgs' field relative to its acceleration, which will be observed as an increase in mass. This, in turn, increases its relative gravity; pulling all matter towards it and its direction of motion. Of course, there will be a point where its mass would stop its own acceleration, and this speed limit can be controlled by this dial. That last dial controls the intensity of the Higgs' field."
"However, its momentum doesn't change despite the increase in mass. So, anything struck by it would experience a mere impact as if an ordinary ball had collided with them, and not a singularity,â€ he aimed at the single wooden dummy 150 meters away and pulled the lever. The twelve other dummies were sequentially uprooted and violently flung towards the far ends of the testing chamber. The ball lodged itself firmly in the final dummy's chest, but it stood firm.
"Well done," the Site Director congratulated with a slow clap, "I'm proud of you, Bryne." He walked to Dr. Bryne and gave him a pat on the shoulder.
"I'll pass this to Administration. Enjoy your night."
Both men left the room, savouring the success of another high-value project.
Dr. Bryne could finally relax. He pumped his fist in the air, having never felt more accomplished in decades. He zipped his pants and washed his hands.
A warm blue glow in his peripheral vision caught his attention. A quick glance at the mirror immediately broke his hustle. A sense of dread washed over him - his worst fears were realised.