12 March, 2013

The  slate grey Siemens desk phone of ostentatiously minimal design barely chirped out a half-ring before Rolf Heuer, Director General of CERN, waiting anxiously, picked up. "Heuer!  

"Yes, sir... I got your message. I am just now in the process of writing my response, actually..." he enunciated in nervous, too-perfect English.

"Well... no. As we indicated, we have not actually observed a Higgs boson yet.  But we are doing the best we can sir, especially under the circumstances. Yes, I understand.  Of course $9,000,000,000 for the Large Hadron Collider is a lot of money. I know the investors want to see results... I am aware of what is at stake. Yes of course. Of course I realize that if the Standard Model underpins everything – then everything else falls if it does:, Christendom, currency markets, the whole, er, empanada."  He prided himself on his topical knowledge of argot.  "I know... we are already seeing evidence of what that lack of confidence will bring if we fail. We are working on it, sir. We'll have something within 24 hours. Thank you for calling! Sir!”

Heuer involuntarily jerked the receiver from his ear and winced.  The hangup at the other end had been painfully sharp. He re-cradled the handset.

“He wonders if we understand what we ourselves told him in the first place.  He wants to know what the problem is. I imagine, given half a chance, he would also attempt to teach his mutti to suck eggs,”  he said bitterly.

Fabiola Gianotti extracted a filtered Pall Mall from a heavy silver case and waved it languidly as she replied.

“Legitimate scientific enquiry worldwide has been systematically debased, sadly, to reflect only the issues of the highest bidders.” she balanced the cigarette between her lips, lit it and drew a long luxuriant lungful of smoke, as only Europeans do anymore.

“You don't remind me,” Heuer pronounced bitterly, “The issue is, we haven't seen a Higgs Boson because there don't seem to be any.  But that isn't what they – our gorilla-sized bankrolling church, investment banker, and Federal Treasury  want to hear!” Heuer screwed up his face and fanned a hand in front of his face. “Do you have to smoke?”

Gianotti smirked in answer. She enjoyed tweaking him, and they both knew it.  Heuer, exasperated, opted to ignore this unspoken insult and continued.

“The Vatican, Goldman Sachs, and the US Treasury seem united in wanting results by the end of today.  No more extensions. They are being unreasonable but I cannot hold them off any more. Therefore we no longer seek a Higgs per se, but the statistical probability of a Higgs. Set that supercomputer of yours to combing through the databases from last year's ALICE runs.  And find some pretty JPEGs to go with the report. But first, tell Fengstadt to have his team to collate the data again, and this time to emphasize tendency. I need everything finished and on my desk by 4 pm!” Heuer slammed his fist down on the desk for emphasis.

“One Higgs bosun - or reasonable facsimile - coming riiight up!” Gianotti shook her head, and stood to leave.

“I'll write the press release right now. We both know what it must say.  Just mock me up the damn data to support it!" said Heuer testily. "With all the telltales so positive, why can we not find even one little Higgs Bosun?”

In another galaxy in another time, far, far away, with one tiny corner that intersected right into Heuer's office about 15 centimetres from an unseen fly high on one wall, Furlonger cackled. 

“Because, idioten, they might all be in Milo Pavlov's thermos. Just maybe?!”  He slapped down his cards with an air of mild, hopeful triumph. It collapsed back into acid indigestion when he saw Callie's hand.