Something very bad had happened near the detector. The experiment had to be stopped immediately.
Fauna Sutler, PhD of experimental particle physics at CERN, had had to let the entire Large Hadron Collider be shut down in an emergency procedure twice before. Once when one of the engineers had spilled yoghurt on one of the superconducting magnets, and once when some birds had dropped bread crumbs into an outdoor cooling unit.
That had set back their attempt to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang by almost three months in total, while they awaited replacement parts. It was a good thing that the beams hadn't been on those times. It was a bad thing that they had been on this time.
Silently, she hoped this time wasn't another food incident - if she went down there and found some of the oompa-loompas had left cupcakes inside the accelerator, she would be furious.
Perhaps there is some credit to the mad ramblers saying interdimensional aliens are actively sabotaging the experiment.
She half-heartedly chuckled to herself, trying to make the best of the situation. According to the automated damage reports, it looked like replacing the shielding around the ALICE detector would take 3-4 weeks alone. They wouldn't know how bad the damage actually was until the magnets had been turned completely off so the engineers could get in without being fried by the radiation.
Sigh. And here I thought I had accounted for everything.
She had personally worked on the security systems, despite officially being in the administration department, and she took pride in it. Granted, she had let someone else actually implement it – perhaps they had screwed up her specifications? She should get an engineering degree herself so she could see to that it was done right the next time.
Honestly, how hard can isolating a few kilometers of superconducting magnets really be?
Daniel Arming had just received the green light to enter the accelerator chamber, and was making his descent into the 27 kilometer long tube.
His position as "damage surveyor" was one of profound pessimism, and this event didn't exactly brighten his day. That the job even existed was a confession that things would go wrong, sooner or later, and when it did, there would be damage. His role was to find out roughly how bad that damage was, and tell the engineering teams which ones would be working overtime for the next weeks.
As he got out of the lift, he was greeted by darkness. Far left and right he could gleam that some of the lights in the tunnel had come on, but it seemed that the lights closest to ALICE were knocked out by whatever had happened.
Strange. The failsafes on the tertiary electric systems were disjoint from the main experiment, so a meltdown in the magnets shouldn't affect them.
As he turned on the flashlight on his protection suit and walked towards the green walkways that would lead to the heart of the detector, he felt chills crawl up his boots. It seemed some of the liquid helium was leaking.
Well, he was sure the administration could find money somewhere. His position would most likely be cut, but the view the flashlight showed once he had climbed the staircase told him he wouldn't be needed any time soon after this.
The detector had a large hole in it.
The entire Time Projection Chamber was gone, along with the internal tracking systems and forward multiplicity detectors.
No wonder the automated damage reports were worthless – there wasn't enough left of the machine to say anything more specific than that the machine wasn't working! Some of the absorber walls still stood, luckily, which meant that the experiment was salvageable with a few months of work.
As he walked into the detector's new maw, he considered if it perhaps was fortunate that the helium had leaked. The surrounding walls were singed black, implying that there had been immense temperatures at work, but the helium's job was normally to keep the niobium-tungsten alloy of the magnets at a temperature a modest 2 degrees above absolute zero, so it would limit the damage.
Delving deeper yet into the ruins of what should have been the heart of scientific discovery, a small object, hardly more than a foot tall, blocked his path. As he lowered his body to inspect, he noticed it was moving. Barely, but it was moving. Lighting it up, what met his eye looked like frozen, seared flesh.
"Please state the nature of the medical emergency."
Tarry answered the intercom with the professional calm expected of the Medical Service at the world's finest research station, and the wit expected of any geek worth his salt in his position. The man on the other side, however, was in panic.
"Sir, please calm down. Are you able to get out of the tunnel on your own?"
There hadn't been many hours since the news of the experiment's failure had been revealed, so a call from inside the tunnel wasn't exactly expected.
"No, you don't get it, there's someone else down here, inside the ALICE detector, with severe radiation burns, and there's liquid helium leaking, and... and... They need help!" the voice squeaked. Oh dear.
"Okay, we're on our way. Try to talk to them, tell them it's going to be all right, and that we'll be there soon."
Tarry got out of his chair, leaving his excerpt for a paper on muon medical scanners on his desk, and hastily rounded up the rest of the medical team.
"You two set up the lab for receiving frost and radiation burns, you three get to the ALICE to give first aid to the victim. I'll talk to the reporting witness."
He really wished that they had more people in the medical staff – six were not enough to treat a real emergency properly. What if they hadn't all been at work? What if it had been the middle of the night, when there is only one person on duty at once?
Perhaps he should ditch the work on muon scanning and instead focus on making an artificial, holographic doctor who could be active at all times. Turning to his secretary, he quickly told her to call the local hospital for an ambulance, before diving back into his office to guide to the panicing surveyor.