​​Douglas Phillips Books

Quantum Void Teaser

Quantum Void
Copyright 2018, Douglas Phillips
Less than an hour later Nala Pasquier stepped into the control room at Fermilab. She walked up behind the long-haired skinny guy seated at the curved desk.

“Hey, Cody,” she said. Dozens of large screens covered the wall in front of him and he was engaged in the details on one of them.

Cody turned around. “Oh, hi Nala. Look at this.” He pointed to the screen where a trend line threaded through a graph of several hundred data points. “The instability we saw last time started just after we hit maximum expansion. But no indications prior to then.”

Nala leaned over his shoulder and examined the screen. “Came out of nowhere, didn’t it?” she answered. “One-minute, normal expansion into a fourth dimension. The next, all this wavering shit.”

“Definitely a local effect,” he said. “I didn’t see anything here in the control room.” He returned his attention to the graph. “But the data tells the story.”

“Let’s go with a larger expansion today,” Nala said. “Assuming the wavering returns, I’ll have Thomas measure its radius away from the neutrino target box and we’ll get multiple data points to plot this thing out.”

Cody swiveled to face her. “Uh… Nala… I’m thinking the Department of Energy guy might have an issue with that.”

“He’s here?” Nala asked. The safety inspector had the power to shut down the whole lab if he found infractions. He’d gotten a whiff of the bizarre side effects they’d encountered and had found some cracks in the concrete near the Diastasi lab. But luckily, he was an engineer, not a physicist. That gave her plenty of room to work around any objections he might have.

“Leave the DOE guy to me,” Nala said. “I’ll explain things to him. Just be ready to go.”

Cody grinned. “Explain things? Will that include any ass kicking?”

She waved a hand. “Would I do that? Cody, I’m five-two, a hundred and four pounds. I don’t kick anybody’s ass.”

“Physically? No. Verbally?” Cody shrugged.

“Don’t worry, he’s an inspector. I’ll give him the final say.” Cody was generally agreeable, but it helped that Nala outranked him.

“Whatever you say, Nala. You want me to control neutrino amplitude or Thomas?”

“You. It’ll free up Thomas for data collection.”

“Okay,” Cody said. “But these waves are kind of freaking me out. Keep that radio handy.”

“I always do.” She patted Cody’s shoulder and headed out of the control room to the lower levels of the sprawling facility. The safety guy would no doubt be down in the operations support office—there was always hot coffee and the support team usually brought in pastries.

The anomalies they’d witnessed were definitely freaky, but manageable. Yeah, the lab wavered a bit, but that was no reason for the Spanish Inquisition. Not that she couldn’t handle these government types—after all, the inspector had no real understanding of the work she was doing.

Scientific discovery is not without personal risk, she rehearsed in her mind. Galileo was found guilty of heresy and imprisoned. Jenner, Pasteur, Salk and others who developed vaccinations were constantly exposed to pathogens. Curie died of radiation poisoning. But without these pioneers, where would we be today?

It was an argument that might resonate with other scientists, but it wasn’t a pitch you gave to a DOE safety guy. Instead, when she walked into the support office and found him munching on a chocolate-frosted doughnut, she calmly spoke of hyperbolic paraboloids and baryon to boson ratios. She agreed to limit the accelerator to no more than 125 GeV and asked Joanne, their support tech, to attach a new first-aid kit on the lab wall. She also flashed her best radioactive smile… the kind that makes men melt.

In the end, she prevailed, and the inspector signed off on continued research. These people always underestimated her.