The Cardinal smiled at the young assistant they had sent to collect him from the airport. Cardinal Bernosa was getting very warm in his traditional robes including his red Galero hat. Perhaps he had overdressed for the occasions, but he believed the possibility of scientifically confirming the existence of God should not be devoid of ceremony. It was not every day a mere man would witness the beginning of creation. Cardinal Bernosa was, by nature, a most unassuming person. He believed most could be learned through thoughtful silence, rather than boastful clamour. His doctorate in Particle Physics, and seat on the International Steering Committee for Elemental Advancement, testified to his rapier-like intellect. Balanced with his passion for science was a fundamental and unshakable faith in the Lord.
The mini-van glided to a halt in front of an angular building. The sign over the door pronounced, ATLAS. It was one of four monitoring stations, along the twenty-seven-kilometre-long ring of supercooled magnets, that ran beneath their feet. The Cardinal was expected, two distinguished looking gentlemen were waiting on the kerb. One opened the door for him, it was great to stretch his legs after the journey from Rome. Cardinal Bernosa was an imposing figure, standing well over six feet tall, he towered above the smiling scientists.
"Your Eminence," said one of the men, bending to kiss his ring.
"Please, Stephen, old friends should not be so formal," he said, taking the man by the shoulders and kissing him on each cheek. Then he held out his hand for the second scientist to shake." Delighted to make your acquaintance, Doctor Rice. Your reputation is legendary."
"Please, Your Eminence, call me, Richard," he said, shaking the outstretched hand warmly. "You must be tired after your journey. Perhaps you would like to freshen up before we begin?"
"On the contrary, gentlemen. I'm most eager to get started."
"In that case, Your Eminence, right this way," said Professor Stephen Castor, leading the way through the heavy glass door that slid soundlessly open at his approach.
The elevator descended into the bowels of the earth so smoothly, Cardinal Bernosa wondered if they were moving at all. No expense seemed to have been speared in building this facility. The elevator opened onto a large room packed with computer equipment. The air conditioning was creating a cool breeze, even though they were hundreds of feet underground. An army of technicians were monitoring consoles and running diagnostics. The scientists excused themselves to oversee preparations for the experiment.
Cardinal Bernosa busied himself by studying the camera displays, one image showed the tube that formed the heart of this massive facility. A curving pipe, wrapped in superconducting electronic magnets, which would drive individual particles at near the speed of light. The magnets worked at temperatures colder than the vacuum of space. Cardinal Bernosa was completely familiar with the perimeters of today's experiment. They intended to create, Ununoctium 294, the heaviest element ever encountered by man. In history, only a few particles of, Isotope 294Uun, have ever existed, briefly. Today, they were going to bombard particles of, Californium 294, with particles of Calcium 48, at immense speed. It was projected that during this procedure, they had a chance of recording the mythical, God Particle.
Doctor Rice tapped him gently on the shoulder, waking him from dreams of galaxies within atoms. "We are ready to begin, Your Eminence."
"Wonderful," he said, allowing himself to be led towards a bank of monitors. When everyone was in place, Doctor Rice took centre stage, and began conducting his white-coated orchestra.
"Increase flow of Liquid Helium to eighty percent," directed Rice.
"Flow at eighty percent. Magnet temperature, minus two hundred and seventy degrees," responded a technician.
"Magnetic fields in the green?" asked Rice.
"Fields green and holding, Doctor," said a different worker.
"Introduce particles to the stream. Begin acceleration." From under their feet, a hum was sensed rather than heard, as millions of volts of electric current coursed through the massed magnets, accelerating invisible particles of matter to speeds beyond imagining. From the far end of a room yet another lab worker added his voice to the scientific opera.
"Streams at optimum. Crossing in…three…two…one,"
Just like that, the experiment was over. All over the room, shoulders tensed and breaths were held. A screen mounted in the middle of the room flashed up a kaleidoscope of particle paths, in a myriad of colours. After a second or two of intense study, the element they were looking for was identified, Ununoctium 294. Element 118 on the periodic table had been created.
A huge cheer went up. The data would take months of decryption, but at a glance, the experiment was a complete success. Professor Castor and Doctor Rice slapped worker’s shoulders, and smiled wildly at each other. Cardinal Bernosa hung his head, and said a silent prayer for enlightenment, while at the far end of the room one man remain glued to his computer screen.
"Excuse me, Sir. We have matter in the tube," he called over the hubbub.
Professor Castor frowned, "Are you saying there was contamination? That just can't be."
"No, Sir. We appear to have an exotic remnant."
Cardinal Bernosa was familiar with the concept of such remnants. In the nanoseconds following the particle collision, a fountain of Quarks are blown free. If two quarks crash head on into each other, they can create a miniature black hole, which last momentarily before disintegrating again. Theoretically, such matter could be left behind.
"That's fantastic," enthused Doctor Rice. "How long did it last?"
"That's the thing, Doctor. It's still there."
This statement sent the room into a frenzy of activity. People ran in all directions, gathering data, unable to believe what was happening. A stable exotic remnant was essentially, a particle created at the centre of a black hole, all be it a tiny one. This could well be a fundamental building block of the universe, as yet undiscovered.
Cardinal Bernosa stood quietly in the background, and observed. He was forgotten as the frontiers of science were redrawn. It was only he who heard the technician mutter, "It's growing." The Cardinal knew that wasn’t possible. If anything, it should be shedding matter. Extreme elements such as this were very unstable, it was a miracle that it had lasted this long.
"Are you saying it's expanding?" he asked the man seated at the computer screen.
"No. sir. Its growing. Its feeding," the man said, as if talking about a living thing.
"I don't understand," said the Cardinal, and he didn’t.
"The remnant is absorbing the particles of Californium, and Calcim, that remain. It is not getting any bigger it’s just getting heavier."
"Perhaps it’s is adding the remaining atoms to its make-up. Transforming itself into something else?"
"It's too early to be sure, but the computer is giving a static atomic weight for the remnant. It’s just absorbing everything it touches."
"What's is its atomic weight?"
"The computer has calculated the remnant would appear on the periodic table, with a weight of, six hundred and sixty-six."
Cardinal Bernosa backed away, his mind in a frenzy, trying to make sense of what was going on. It is said that when you eliminate the impossible, what remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. While the scientists excitedly gathered information on what was occurring, the truth of the situation dawned on Cardinal Bernosa. The dual reality of his mind allowed him to accept what science would struggle to comprehend. If there was a possibility of exposing a, God Particle, a creator particle, there must be an equal possibility reviling a destroyer. Cardinal Bernosa blessed himself, and made his peace with the Lord.
He imagined the growing pressure within that tiny particle, as more and more matter crushed in upon itself. With pressure, came heat; incredible, never ending heat. How similar the conditions seemed to the fires of damnation described in the bible. He didn’t try to leave. There was nowhere to run to. A particle that consumed all it touched would continue until there was nothing left to consume.