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'The Speed of Light: A Total Assault' excerpt (pp. 83-86)

“This is getting out of control,” declared Ortega, watching the collider reaching levels of power never before seen.
“That can’t be good,” said Abrams, sweat beading around his lips and nose, his hair damp.
To be fair, he was perhaps the most collected of the four scientists, Ana visibly shaking and Maynard still sick from his transgression of being the first to question Schwartz.
The latter was the most visibly collected, leaning against the back wall, his face blank. But everyone knew by now how bent and fractured his mind truly was.
Once the energy-to-matter output surpassed two-hundred million times a second, Maynard came to an executive decision.
“We’ve got to find a way to shut down that black hole.”
The statement stunned everyone in the room, particularly Schwartz.
“Coming from you, that’s a ****ing miracle,” she said, “Now how the hell are we supposed to do that?”
The superconductor whined as its innermost detector began to glow, and the alloy began to burn.
“That’s not what we should be trying to do,” Abrams said, looking intently at a diagram.
“What’s on your mind,” asked Schwartz.
“This is what would be considered a micro black hole, correct,” Abrams inquired to Schwartz.
“Yes, that is correct.”
“Well, I’ve been reading up on past particle experiments dating back to the first in 1931, and according to studies decades ago… micro black holes generated by the LHC at CERN should have decayed immediately.”
“This isn’t the LHC, and we’re not at CERN,” Schwartz replied candidly.
“Yes, but this is still a micro black hole,” he said.
“Meaning,” added Ortega, beginning to understand, “that it is the particle accelerator itself, not the black holes, that’s the issue.”
“I’m sorry,” said Maynard, clearly annoyed. “But did you just say black hole-s, as in ‘plural’?”
It was just then that Ana saw a light flicker in Schwartz’s eyes she hadn’t seen in twenty years.
“Ana,” he began, rushing over to her, and squishing her cheeks. “You are a gift to us all,” he said, as he then kissed her on the forehead. “Let’s get this machine turned off, NOW!”
Schwartz seemed like he was ready to redeem himself, as what he said after he took his coat off and threw it over one of the chairs was so simultaneously heroic and simple that it was altogether exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.
“I’m gonna go down to the accelerator,” he said, sending dry ice flooding into everyone’s veins at that instant, “and open one of the access tunnels,” he declared, strapping on a hazmat suit.
“That’s… that, actually makes sense,” said Ana. “But how do we know the damage that hole’s causing to the integrity of the superstructure isn’t going to damage that failsafe?”
Schwartz followed Ortega’s index finger to the screen, which revealed the extent to which the inner detector had been damaged. The inner supports had begun to bend, and the outer cylinder had now begun to heat as well. The proton beam axis itself was now white hot, and entirely consumed by the accretion disk.
“I’d say we have less than a minute.”
“I’m coming, too,” declared Abrams.
“Alright, get that on and meet me at the bottom,” Schwartz practically shouted as he handed Abrams a second uniform.

“Say again,” Schwartz shouted as loud as he could over the howling maelstrom just beyond. “Thirty seconds!”
Schwartz reached down to the suitcase he’d been carrying, and opened it up to reveal a spool of steel rope, which he fastened to a pulley around his belt. He promptly shoved the spool into Abrams’s open arms, and pointed at it.
“No matter what happens,” he howled. “DO NOT LET GO. I’ve gotta go through and switch off – I’ve gotta pass through the calorimeters, to get up to the solenoidal magnet that surrounds the inner–”
“In ENGLISH,” shouted Abrams.
“If the inside is too damaged by the black hole, I’m gonna have to go through to the accelerator itself and shut it down manually.”
“Was that really so hard?”
“FIFTEEN SECONDS,” shouted Ortega over the intercom.
Abrams nodded.
Schwartz turned and initiated the priming locks that began the process of unlatching the compression centrifuge.
He hit the final lock.
The central console revealed itself.
He reached up and pulled with all of his weight as she reached five.
“FOUR,” as the latch slid back.
“C’mon, we’re gonna lose it!”
It turned.
It opened.
The accelerator shut down right as the singularity pierced the solenoidal magnet, and Schwartz was able to catch a glimpse of what no human being should be able to live to tell about.
And a glimpse was all it took.
Schwartz reached back, just before the door could fully open, and grabbed Abrams forcefully.
Schwartz looked at Abrams blankly, a look in the older man’s eyes he’d never seen before.
“W-what, what are y… LET GO!”
He began to smile something wicked.
Schwartz, using the centrifugal force from his arm as leverage, hurled Abrams into the particle accelerator.
When he returned alone, Maynard and Abrams naturally asked where he had gone.
“He went to bed. Turn the accelerator back on.”
“Do what? Why w–” but before she could complete a second sentence, Schwartz had interrupted her by shoving her out of the way and onto the ground, and began punching in the commands to reactivate the proton beam axis.
It was then that she noticed Abrams, his back and legs broken in countless places, screaming in agony.
“This is to send them a message,” he said, as the beam began to glow once again.
Abrams felt 100 trillion mega-electron volts crash into his broken body.
“That we are not a species with whom to be ****ed.”
Abrams screamed as what was the equivalent of someone’s leg or arm going to sleep multipled by infinity and squared fractally… forever. The protons – around a quadrillion of them – seared through his flesh, starting at several points across his epidermis and then spreading out exponentially, while simultaneously moving down into his organs and bones… essentially disintegrating him before their very eyes.
Nobody but Ana was able to communicate with Abrams, having been the last to speak to him that day, and thus was able to see him before he was completely rendered inorganic, flatlined, and brain-dead.
“I… saw… it,” the mechanized stammering of his voice spilled through the computer, as Ana fought back tears and sobbing.
“What do you mean,” she wheezed through the intercom.
“My life, was reversed. Backwards. All… all of the events of today were played backwards. And you came in and told me it was time to go. And then… everything… stopped. And I became a flickering light. Like… like a hologram… being turned off…”
Those were the last words of Professor Daniel Abrams.

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