The electricity in the air was palpable, and Webb’s gut, like his hair, stood on end. His eyes oscillated between the breach and Marcus, and his arms and legs fidgeted with anticipation. Marcus held a finger in the air to warn Webb and then silently gave the others the order to collide. The dipoles repositioned and instantaneously the lead ion particle beams intersected with a frightening bang that sounded and felt like backyard lightning. The entire Inception Room convulsed, startling Webb so much that he jumped. He quickly looked over at Marcus who was shaking his head and laughing.
Marcus turned back to the monitor, studied the data, and when he was satisfied, looked at Webb and pointed to the ADV. Webb gave one last glance into the breach and, not surprised but a little disappointed, saw nothing. He climbed into the ADV, fastened himself into the harness, and closed the access point with a flick on the G-tector screen.
Inside the orb, Webb began to sweat, his anticipation climaxing with his claustrophobia. There was a click, and Webb’s feet moved slightly backward as Marcus released the ADV from its position lock. The vehicle quivered as it inched toward the breach via the track below. Webb closed his eyes and gripped the armrests with unease. His legs dangled from the suspension seat, which slowly and steadily repositioned as the ADV rolled forward, reminding him of the childhood amusement park rides that always made him sick. The tremulous crawl continued, until, with a slight jolt, the ADV reached the breach lock near the end of the track. Now positioned directly in front of the breach, the magnetic hum peaked and the air cracked and flashed inside the orb. Webb became lightheaded as his breathing intensified in preparation for the rip. Suddenly, with his eyes still closed, he felt the breach lock on the track below release the ADV. The orb’s crawl became a tumble as the decline steepened. The seat harness repositioned and snapped Webb upright, generating an almost debilitating nausea. A sudden pressure on his chest was followed by a pull and drag that made his body feel like it was in two places at once. Then, just as he reached his breaking point…weightlessness.
Webb could feel his legs floating in a nearly reclined position and his arms pulling away from his anxious grip. His skin tingled with fleshy goose bumps and the boggy atmosphere slowed his respirations, forcing him to take deep, long draws. With one exhausted exhale, however, his stress absorbed into the ambience. The hum was still audible, but it was vibrating at a higher pitch and seemed more distant. Nothing else, not even Webb’s own voice, made a sound.
The G-tector and com-link lit the interior, and when Webb finally opened his eyes, he saw “the stretch” in full effect. The spherical ADV now appeared cylindrical, elongating like a tube no matter which direction Webb looked in. The tube itself seemed to bend at the extremes, as if being shaped into a torus, making the extent of the stretch imperceptible. Webb’s own body was longer and thinner, nearly two dimensional in a five dimensional realm, and curved to hallucinogenic proportions.
“The stretch” applied to everything and there was no change in proportionality. Despite perception, scale remained the same. Tasks, such as activating the ion propellers through the G-tector, were arduous, but not because of a warped reality. Weightlessness was the problem. The air was fluid but dense, like being submerged in a buoyant molasses. Strangely, it always made Webb feel heavier.
Webb released his grip and watched the ripples as his arm floated upward. Anchored by his left hand and the tight straps across his chest, he slowly pulled his arm back down, eventually bringing his right hand to the G-tector. With a flick, he activated the propulsion system. After that, there was little left to do but wait.
But Webb had a restless mind, one that kept him awake most sober nights, and during these runs he could do nothing but think of the rip. No matter how hard he tried, however, he could never fully understand it.
“To be honest, neither can I,” Marcus had once said to him. “But I’ll do my best to explain what I know and what I think, if you’re interested.”
Webb learned that it all began with the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN in 2012. The boson, a subatomic particle, was first detected in CERN’s supercollider during lead ion beam collisions conducted to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang.
“Its existence proves that of the Higgs Field, which is an invisible energy field that imparts mass on other particles,” Marcus had once explained to Webb. “It basically slows the particles down so they have a chance to interact with one another. These interactions serve as the building blocks of all structure, from the simplest hydrogen element to the most complex living organism.”
But the Higgs boson was slippery—it took decades after its theorization for physicists to find conclusive evidence of its existence. When it was finally detected, the boson appeared for only millionths of a second after high-energy ion collisions in the collider, making it difficult to study. Its elusiveness was initially suspected to be secondary to its instability and rapid decay into other, more easily detectible particles. However, after thousands of collisions and vast improvements in detector technology, an amazing discovery was made in Waxahachie many, many years after the boson was first found. The Higgs boson did indeed decay, but occasionally the decay products were detected first. This added weight to multi-dimensional models of the universe like that of string theory, because it was believed the decay products temporarily entered a fifth dimension, one not constrained by the known laws of physics. The quarks and fermions and other strange decay particles did not always return from this dimension in logical order. Occasionally, they returned before the boson formed.
“Bare with me here, Sam,” Marcus had once said. “There’s no easy way to explain this, so let’s start with an example. Take two clocks, both synchronized and running equally. Put one on a fast-moving jet and another on the ground. To a person on the ground, the clock on the jet flying by will appear to be moving more slowly than the one on the ground. That’s Einstein’s theory of relativity in very simplistic terms. He believed that temporal flow is relative to the observer and that one’s perception of it depends on one’s viewpoint in relation to it. The boson byproducts don’t actually travel through it, but around it by going to a dimension that had previously been undetectable. Basically, the clock stays constant for the boson and it actually decays after it forms as logic dictates. But because the decay particles travel into, and then out of, a dimension that does not abide by the same rules as we do, the opposite appears to be true. To the observer, and only the observer, the boson seems to violate our understanding of causality.”
Experiments to prove the existence of this dimension, and subsequently manipulate it, were begun at Waxahachie in earnest. Given mass’s effect on gravity and gravity’s effect on temporal flow, Marcus postulated that the fifth dimension was governed largely by the gravitational force. While this, in fact, proved true, it was another force that was key to unlocking the dimension. The ionic collisions in the collider created a highly charged environment with tremendous spikes in electromagnetic activity. When large scale magnets were rotated at great speeds near the collision, converting their kinetic energy to electric energy, other particles began to act as the boson did, decaying before they were created. The larger the magnet, the larger the number of particles that acted accordingly. The rip, as the doorway to the new dimension was soon called, grew as the electromagnetic field intensified. It wasn’t long before a magnet large enough, and sophisticated enough, was created to open the rip to human proportions.
Webb looked at the G-tector, which Marcus had calibrated and pre-programmed, and knew he was getting close. The gravity wave concentration, translated by the G-tector into day, month, year, and location, was fast approaching the level at his destination. He had been traveling for about twelve minutes, and only sixty-eight seconds remained. One hundred twenty five years was but a stone’s throw in the fifth dimension.
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