We had to shut down the super collider. Up to that point, it had been a good week. We had bounced atoms off each other with spectacular success. Busted ’em up real good. We were internationally recognized for our work in atom collision. At the end of the shift, you could get bits of atoms off the floor, take ’em home for the kids. Supervisor didn’t care. You were saving the janitorial team on the night shift some trouble, actually, because otherwise they’re spending all their time sweeping up atoms.
But now the whole facility was at half power. People were leaning on machines that were usually too hot to touch, just killing time, checking their phones.
What’s the problem, I asked.
Computer’s got a virus, Wulf said. He pointed. Sure enough, there’s a virus sitting right on top of the computer they keep hooked up to the big red COLLIDE THE ATOMS button. Virus just looked over at us like: What. Daring us to do something. It would have lunged at us to make us jump if it could, so it could laugh if we flinched. You could see it in the eyes wobbling in its protein coat. Good thing it couldn’t lunge. Viruses don’t have the right kind of structure.
Gross, I said.
Hey, said some guy behind us. He had a clipboard. I got a whole truck load of atoms out back, someone going to sign for these? I gotta get ’em offloaded. Got to take a shipment of rain back to Colorado right after. And there’s trucks all backed up behind mine. Line’s going down the block. We gotta move. Who’s gonna sign for this?
Later, in the cafeteria, Wulf and I ate cold egg and bacon sandwiches. The virus sat at the next table sipping tea. The delivery guy ate at the table after that, but he wasn’t eating food. He was pointedly looking at print-outs of delivery schedules, then ripping them up and putting them in his mouth while trying to stare us down. Everything is our fault, sure buddy.
What are you going to do for the super collider talent show, I asked Wulf.
Magic show, he said.
You know magic?
You know hypnotism?
I made you forget that I know magic.
What, I exclaimed, and my top hat fell off, didn’t even know I was wearing one, bunnies spraying out of the hat in arcs as the hat bounced along the ground, a solid spray of rabbits, bouncing off the walls, colliding with each other, pellets shaking out of them like tiny atomic bits.
Oh yeah, now I remember, I told Wulf.
What are you going to do, Wulf asked me.
Probably some carpentry. Get my cousin’s tae kwon do class to come in, kick some boards in half, make a chair out of it.
Sounds like a great act, said Wulf.
Everybody likes chairs, I said.
The next morning, the super collider was up and running again. Noting the hints of aggression coming from the virus, someone on the night shift put up flyers around the compound advertising a ‘fight club’ in the basement, with tear-away coupon strips on the bottom for a free first punch, redeemable upon one’s first visit.
The virus was caught in a net trap as soon as it entered the basement rec room, torn off coupon still gripped in its tail fibers.
The night shift woke up the atom delivery guy, who had been sleeping in his truck, and all night long upright hand trucks were rolling their tiny wheels down the compound’s corridors, bundles of atoms offloaded and stacked in storage rooms or dropped down delivery chutes.
By the time we came in, everything was ready, so we strapped on our goggles and thought about how much better atoms are when they’re hurtling around. Looks like break time is over, Wulf, I said.
Atom-smashing time, he said.
And he hit the big red button.