It was business as usual in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The gigantic machine was built for one purpose and one purpose only: to answer some of the most pressing questions in modern physics. For some reason, the greatest scientists in the world had decided that the best way to do that was to slam elementary particles together at ridiculously-high speeds, in the hope that the collisions would produce such particles as the famed Higgs boson, which is suspected to imbue other things with mass. The veracity of the Standard Model stands or falls depending in the existence of this particle, and despite initial fears of catastrophe by the general public, everything was up and running and going smoothly.
Among the many scientists working at the laboratory was one Teller Edwards. He was a young man, still in his twenties and had only a year ago received his Ph.D. in particle physics, and was involved in the CERN project to confirm or refute the Standard Model of particle physics.
The first experiment of the day was to slam individual atoms of radioactive actinides into each other, to see what sort of particles would form when massive nuclei are collided as opposed to the smaller elementary particles. Edwards was observing the results on a computer monitor, but before he could record any collisions, the screen went black as all the lights in the underground facility flickered off. A power outage. Just what this experiment needed. The last time something went wrong at the Large Hadron Collider, the project was set back for months. This was not good.
"Will someone please turn on the backup generator?" he asked.
Hopefully, the power would come back on before any of the delicate equipment was permanently damaged. Even so, inertia meant that the accelerated atoms to near-lightspeed were still traveling along their course, and if they didn't make microscopic holes in the cyclotron, ruining it, any collisions made would be completely unknown to the scientists until the instruments were operational again. If the Higgs boson were produced right now, and no one saw it, every physicist in the world will be kicking themselves years later when they finally find out.
As it turns out, the intern who had been assigned the duty to flip the backup switch was in for a rude surprise. Due to a fortuitous coincidence which should never have happened, and in an alternate timeline never did, the worker moved the switch's handle at the very same time that the electric power would have returned to CERN naturally. If this had happened a mere second earlier or later, the events which followed would never have occurred, but due to the God of Random Numbers having a sense of humor aligned with your desire for a story, the Large Hadron Collider was suddenly surged with twice the electrical forces it was designed to handle. This excess overrode the safety mechanisms in place, giving the intern an electric shock. Edwards ran over to see what was going on, to bear the brunt of the damage. The metal walls of the behemoth circle reached their breaking point just as the elements traveling at relativistic speeds rounded a corner of their pathway, which, being altered by the twisted metal, shot out of the machine, hitting Edwards with many trillions of electron-volts of energy.
"AAAGH!" the scientist screamed out in pain, with the others too afraid to approach him.
His vision became clouded with some strange glow, and Teller Edwards felt as if he were going to vomit. Everything was spinning around his form, or at least it seemed that way from his perspective, and the voices of his comrades seemed to be getting even louder, though he could not make out what they said. At the same time, his body felt so heavy that for a few horrible seconds he thought he was going to die, with the silhouettes reaching gargantuan proportion mocking him. He was coming up short of breath, which seemed to confirm this, as no matter how hard he tried the oxygen in the air simply would not reach his brain, before he lost the ability to see and he passed out, which paradoxically caused his breathing to resume properly.
Some time after that, he regained consciousness. A small amount of vertigo remained, though it was nothing compared to the harrowing experience he went through immediately prior. Once he was fully alert, the particle physicist realized that something had gone horribly wrong.
For starters, his surroundings were completely and totally dark. Edwards had an innate feeling that there was not even a photon of light in the area he had stumbled into in his daze. Nothing that any human had ever before experienced could compare to the sight of total, absolute darkness. Have you ever imagined what cessation of existence must be like? At this point, Edwards had become the only human being to receive an accurate reference point of utter nothingness. The only thing scarier than the Nietzschean abyss is seeing it suddenly filled with objects beyond human comprehension. This is exactly what occurred, to Edwards's horror, as he suddenly saw an impossibly-thin ring among the nothingness. That is not all that terrified him out of his mind, for the moment that the wispy loop became visible he experienced a stabbing pain at every point on the front side of his body, including two electric jolts zipping right through his eyeballs and being lodged in his retina.
These dreadful occurrences led the confused man to yell out, "Am I dead? Will somebody please tell me that I've not wound up in hell!"
To both his relief and his utter confusion, he received an answer from beyond the depths of space and time, seeming to originate from everywhere and nowhere simultaneously, and yet not divine at all, but having the voice of a little girl.
This mysterious being said, "You aren't dead, silly. You're way too important for that!"
Teller was confused, and said, "Well, if I'm not dead, where am I? What are all these things, and what's going on?"
"You haven't moved at all since you were struck by that beam," the voice answered, "because it caused you to shrink to the smallest possible scale. I am your thoughts made manifest as an electron, and I need your help."
The physicist refused to believe this. After all, it is impossible to be shrunk to any size, much less the size of subatomic particles. Even if that did happen, all the air molecules would be so large as to make it impossible to be inhaled. A human being would die in seconds. The uncertainty principle makes it impossible for any being to directly observe things such as electrons regardless, and this is ignoring the major factor that electrons are not sentient! They are nothing more than an infinitesimal mass paired with a negative charge, and are the carriers of electricity. And last but not important, why would Teller's thoughts sound like a little girl?
The researcher told the voice all these things, and the response was, "Then explain this."
Everything faded to black as the sharp points in his skin dissipated, only for him to hear the words, "Those things causing you such pain are individual photons. At this scale, they really sting. After all, they are pure electromagnetic force."
Before he could react, he was shot through with photonic projectiles at the speed of light for a second time, and when he opened his eyes this time, he saw all sorts of strange shapes, pulsating and vibrating in eleven dimensions, so that the human mind could not even comprehend all the activity. There was not even a speck of darkness. All the space between particles was filled with force fields. Edwards looked up and saw a massive geodesic configuration of hundreds of quarks fastened together to make hadrons, which combined with electrons formed atoms which towered over his now infinitesimal form.
"Well, I have two options," said the man after taking all of this in, "Either I am hallucinating while in a coma, or I have really been shrunk to a single Planck length. Although I am inclined to believe the former, there is no objective way to tell the difference, is there? Who are you and what is it that you want me to do?"
The negatively-charged entity said, "Like I said earlier, I'm an electron. You can call me Lepto. But I'm afraid I have some bad news. This world is threatened with destruction, and only you can stop it."
At this point, Teller Edwards did a proverbial double-take. This was all too absurd.
"I am definitely hallucinating. Not only am I talking to an electron, but it is telling me that I have to save the world? Give me a break…" he pondered.
"I'm afraid it's no joke," said Lepto somberly, "For as long as I can remember, we all lived in peace and harmony at the edge of the universe. But then, the dark being Ludikros appeared from nowhere, and sent oppositely-charged copies of ourselves to our world. Whenever a particle comes into contact with its opposite, both are annihilated in a stream of photons. This is bringing ruin to our world, and none of us can do anything about it or we'll be annihilated. But since you came from the greater magnification, you don't have an antiparticle. You are our only hope."
What was this, thought Teller, some badly-written science fiction plot? He thought for sure that he had either gone insane or was well on that path. But what else was he supposed to do? His number one objective was returning to normal. Who knows, maybe this is what he was required to do to achieve that goal.
He told Lepto, "Well then, that's rather serious. Putting aside the issue of whether I believe you or not, what choice do I have? The only thing I know for certain is that I'm stuck here. And as long as I'm in this crazy place, I'll help you."
The electron was jubilant, weaving through the force particles and orbiting around the man in excitement. Teller wondered about the being's sanity, if it even possessed a mind of its own. What kind of lunatic did his subconscious cook up?
"All right then! Let's go introduce you to the atom!"
All the hapless scientist could think of to this remark was, "What kind of craziness have I gotten myself into?"
-End of Chapter 1.-