One Large Universe, No Fries, Hold The Soda by Peter J. Wacks
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Paulo Teegson was not a brave man. As the electricity arced through the air around him, sending dancing beams of deadly blue chaoticly dancing across the walls, he reflected on this. Childhood had certainly been a disappointment. Constant conflict and bullying had left him steadily on the flight side of fight or flight. His twenties had been no better. Being an almost genius left him nowhere to turn to, socially. Group after group of people, throughout college, had rejected him. He was too dull for the smart clique, too smart for the partiers, too out of shape for the sports teams, and far too present in the here and now for the hippies. So he learned to run and hide.

All of this and more went through his head as he walked carefully through the halls of CERN, clutching the thumb drive. He stopped and waited a moment, smiling at a joke only he knew, while a junction box ahead of him exploded. Twisted bits of metal, trailing smoke and flame, bounced around but managed to miss him completely. Once they were all on the floor he nodded and moved forward again. Running and hiding had done well by him, teaching him to survive. Yet in two minutes time, so much time ago to him, all that would change. He would learn bravery, out of necessity.

Ahead was a blast door, made of vitrified something or the other, supposedly near indestructible. He walked to the observation wall next to it, looking into the control room through the bay windows. There he was down in the control room, running around, completely panicked. Ridiculous.

The Large Hadron Collider’s control room was a mess. Normally it was a sleek room, filled with computers watching the raw numbers of the universe itself sleet by, a rain of pure data. The room was normally spotless, with shiny silver walls, befitting of a laboratory of this magnitude. Black leather chairs, on any other day, would be neatly lined up in front of the various displays, ready to greet the rear of any scientist needing to contemplate.

But not today. Three of the chairs were on fire, foul smelling smoke slowly wafting up from them. He could recall being able to taste the room, acrid and poisonous flavors smacking his tongue with every breath he drew. Heat too, had dominated him in that room. The walls were already blackening, as fires and smoke raced across the computer banks. In a miracle of bad luck, for some reason, none of the fail-safes had engaged, which should have drowned the room in a flame retardant liquid the second the first fire started.

He flipped the thumb drive in his hand up into the air, catching it again on its descent. Of course they hadn’t, he thought while watching his younger self race around the room, he had made sure they wouldn’t with his nifty little hack. Just as he remembered, the light of comprehension dawned in his younger self’s eyes. He was going to die in here, and the most important experiment in the history of humanity would be lost. All because an overnight desk-jockey of a physicist had spilled a soda on his own MP3 player.

Paulo watched carefully, curious to see this from the outside. The younger version of him just sat down, like everything had been shut off in his brain. Not too far from the truth, he reflected. He reached out, fingers lightly brushing the glass of the observation window. In the midst of all this heat, the glass was somehow still cold.

“Find your strength, Paulo.” He whispered.

His younger self shuddered, the dying gasps of an overloaded brain shaking the body. There was a moment of stillness, like the eye of a storm. His hand twitched, then twitched again. Sparks cascaded off the main control board as Young Paulo’s back straightened and his chin lifted off his chest. In the eerie silence, he moved to the central computer, hovered over the keyboard, and started typing.

Paulo remembered keying in the control sequence to dump the power load. Watching the sequences of numbers stream across the surviving displays opposite the control board, the older Paulo smiled. His younger self had no idea, but a short in the electrical systems push the control sequence the wrong direction, and over 17 miles cavernous tunnel two beams of protons accelerated.

The monitors around the room started spewing data, at speeds far too fast for the human eye to track, as all four of the detection chambers, each the size of an auditorium, scanned the collider. The two beams accelerated further, and shockwaves started pulsing outwards from the facility, slowing the surrounding world.

Paulo watched the readouts as his younger self furiously typed. 12 TeV. 16 TeV. 30 TeV. 500 TeV. Mankind’s previous record of a 3.5 TeV beam was left so far in the dust that the new beam waved ‘hi’ as it lapped the old record. The silence finally broke, as a loud mechanical whine permeated the facility. It was finally time.

He slammed the thumb drive into the security panel, opening the giant blast doors. Just as he walked in his younger self hit the last key and vanished. One moment he was there, panicking, and the next he was just gone, ripped away from reality. It was a foreshadowing of what was less than a second away.

The beams crossed. A shockwave rippled across reality, moving in slow motion as everything it covered crept to a halt. Light itself ceased moving, no longer a wave and a particle, instead having become just a bystander in the cosmic show. The universe ground to a slow and ponderous halt.

The energy of the crossed beam shot backwards in time, dragging a single human body with it, delivering the payload to an era far earlier. Arcing through history it finally landed, 13.7 billion years in the past.

The young physicist, Paulo Teegson, floated in nothingness, on the cusp of the big bang. He watched in awe as the energy hit the shell of no-time. The big bang wasn’t very loud. Or Big. Paulo watched it from the outside. More than anything, it looked like a plasma ball firing to life.

It started with a spark, all colors and none at the same time. As it jumped around itself, two wells formed, cosmic waterfalls of energy, and then it exploded outwards. Below him, around him, through him, the universe was. Though Protons did not yet exist, his senses struggled to perceive what was unfolding before him.

Far faster than he could think the Planck Epoch passed, along with half a dozen other Epochs, as the universe unfolded though plasma, forces, and finally mass. Paulo looked down to his hand, not understanding how he was alive. He flexed his fingers, drew in a breath. Outside of time and space, his mind starting working like never before, as he put together a theory.

It went, roughly, like this. Time was moving forward for the universe. But he was outside that, unaffected by the forces spinning around him. The universe was one entity, he was a second, both existing in the infinite. Equations spun through his mind. He spent a long, long time thinking.

He retreated into his past, scrubbing away the damage that he had carried for years. It’s hard to hold a grudge as being important when watching the universe unfold before you.

Matter, at this stage, was mostly Hydrogen and Helium, floating in an opaque cloud that seemed lit from within. Almost 450,000 years had passed since the big bang. Much later, gravity pulled at the fog, thinning it as eons passed, until collapses started occurring and stars erupted into existence.

He explored like a child in a toy shop, finding that he could cover vast distances with just his will. Billions of years went by like second s for him, galaxies formed. At 4 billion years, he watched the birth of the Milky Way, then another 4 billion years saw Sol born.

The Earth started to age, and he was there, through it all. The comets smashing into the young planet as the hard crust formed, water building up, the atmosphere forming. Landmasses emerged, life crawled out of the ocean. In the blink of an eye human civilization was formed. While watching the Greek philosophers deliver speeches at the ecclesia he realized that there was a problem. If the universe was started at CERN, it could end there too. With only 2,400 years left to plan, he bent his mind, now vast, to the problem.

While watching massive bursts of electricity being harnessed by Nikolai Tesla, he found the way to reinsert himself into the time stream of the universe, though he waited. He studied physics by watching Einstein, human nature by watching Feynman, making time to watch all the great masters of intellect.

Finally, after a 13.7 billion year break to smell the roses and think, it was time. He waited, knowing the moment would arrive that would reinsert him into the universe. While waiting, he imagined a string of code, particular programs that would be needed. They were unlike anything ever coded before, being designed to reassemble matter by bleeding off of a backwards moving energy pulse, but he knew they would work.

A thumb drive would be needed, as the delivery system . He wrote another piece of code onto the drive in his mind, assembling matter outside the time stream, then reached into his pocket. There it was. He took a deep breath, enjoying his last moments of timelessness, and as CERN started to silently come apart, he walked down the corridors to his fate.

Ahead was a blast door, made of vitrified something or the other, supposedly near indestructible. He walked to the observation wall next to it, looking into the control room the the bay windows. There he was down in the control room, running around, completely panicked. Ridiculous.

He slammed the thumb drive into the security panel, opening the giant blast doors. Just as he walked in his younger self hit the last key and vanished. One moment he was there, panicking, and the next he was just gone, ripped away from reality.

Paulo Teegson, the almost 14 billion year old man, felt a wrenching pain as time and space reasserted their laws over him. He was back, and knew what was coming. If the Collider was left unchecked, the energy would continue to pulse outwards. The event which had caused the Big Bang was moving forwards also, a bidirectional pulse. The ‘end’ of the universe was much further away though, and the energy would start to collapse, forming a well in time and space.

If that happened, the well would rip through to the non-vacuum he had been in, starting a Metasability Event. Basically, all of reality would rip itself into nothingness, moving at the speed of light, starting with Switzerland. Paulo slid the thumb drive into the main computer’s USB port, and started working on the keyboard while the code on the drive automatically executed itself.

The energy levels in the tunnels stabilized. Overworked machinery stopped whining in protest, and bit by bit, the facility started to come under his control. He powered down relays while the program flipped breakers. It was a titanic waged, 14 billion years of consciousness versus the most sophisticated equipment humankind had every designed, waged in silence other than the clickety clack of Paulo’s fingers racing across the keyboard.

Finally he won. The reactors were all stable, the facility under control. The universe was born, birthed in the soil of its own destruction, and saved, all in under 60 seconds.

Paulo sat down in the lab chair and heaved a sigh of relief. What now? Bound by time and space, living a normal life. He smiled. Picking up the soda and fries he had put down earlier, he took a sip then munched on some fries.

14 billion years and his French fries were still warm. Life was a beautiful thing.