MINI BLACK HOLES AND LITTLE WHITE LIES
It was a pleasant summer morning on the campus of Danville University. Mayor Roger Doofenshmirtz stood between a crowd of onlookers and a large, weirdly shaped building cordoned off by a ribbon.
A reporter asked, "Mayor Doofenshmirtz, you're saying that this new Danville University high-energy particle accelerator is completely safe."
Roger Doofenshmirtz, flanked by bespectacled bearded guys wearing ties, faced a sea of microphones, cameras, and hats with notecards that boldly proclaimed 'PRESS' in spite of the fact that nobody reads newspapers anymore.
"Absolutely," Roger Doofenshmirtz said. "You have my word as Mayor of Danville, the city wouldn't allow the operation of this device if there was any danger to humanity whatsoever."
"Isn't your brother Doctor Heinz Doofenshmirtz, who's warned that the particle accelerator could create a mini black hole that could consume the entire Earth?"
"My brother is a loon."
"Well, granted, but - "
"Be that as it may - "
"I personally appointed all the scientists in charge of this project, and they agree with me one hundred per cent that not only is my brother a loon, but that this device is perfectly safe. There's absolutely nothing to worry about. You have my word as your beloved mayor."
The audience burst into applause. Smiling, Roger raised a pair of scissors.
"Without further ado, I declare this new particle accelerator fully operational in humanity's scientific quest to find the 'Gosh Particle.'"
He snipped the ribbon and cheers drowned his murmur:
"Eat your heart out, Heinz."
The Flynn-Fletcher home creaked and rattled. Over a bowl of cereal sloshing in soy milk, Candace glared at her brothers.
"Ferb," Phineas said. "We filled in that full-scale model of Carlsbad Caverns, didn't we?"
Ferb nodded. Perry snored. Candace glared harder.
"Goodness, it's been shaking all morning!" Mom declared.
She turned on the television. The announcer said: "For those of you who are tuning in now because you need television to tell you things that should be obvious, you just felt an earthquake!"
A note was handed from offscreen and he read, "This just in. It has nothing to do with the new particle accelerator."
Mom snapped off the television. "Candace, stop glaring at your brothers. They're only boys, they can't cause earthquakes."
"Actually," Phineas said, "there are a variety of methods - "
"Phineas, don't encourage her. Or better, why don't you and Ferb build something that does cause earthquakes, and when Candace tries to show me, it'll disappear and that will stop the earthquakes." Mom giggled. "I'm getting good at this!"
In a low, slow monotone, Candace responded: "I sense your humor is at my expense."
"I'll be driving to the airport to pick up your father," Mom said. "Candace, keep an eye on your brothers." Observing Candace's intensity, she added, "Not so much that you burn a hole through them."
Just then, the house shook again. Candace glared even harder.
"Not that I'm seeking to divert suspicion," Phineas said, "but where's Perry?"
Perry wasn't causing an earthquake, but he was underground.
Appearing on the screen in Perry's lair, Major Monogram said, "Morning, Agent P. Doctor Doofenshmirtz has collected electromagnets, miles of wiring, terafarad capacitors, and other electrically-themed items."
As he spoke, inset photos filled the screen. Frowning, Monogram said, "Carl, it's kind of busy here."
"Sorry, sir." The items disappeared. "Better?"
"Well, we didn't buy video editing equipment only to show one image at a time."
An inset appeared, portraying Doofenshmirtz smiling against a tropical sunset.
Doofenshmirtz's portrait filled the screen, while Monogram was reduced to the inset.
"Sorry sir, I thought you'd appreciate the humor."
"Humor is only funny when it's at other people's expense. Show the black hole."
With Monogram back in center, the inset changed to a black square and caption: "BLACK HOLE (Artist's Conception)."
Monogram scowled. "We need a bigger graphics department budget."
Perry looked at his watch.
"Oh. Mission. Agent P, we think Doctor Doofenshmirtz is jealous because his brother the mayor built a particle accelerator and so is building his own. Unlike the government's particle accelerator, which is perfectly safe, Doctor Doof's may create a miniature black hole that could destroy Earth."
Suddenly the room shook. Monogram nodded. "Good special effect, Carl."
"That was a real quake, sir."
"No gold star, then."
"Uh, I meant - "
"Anyhoo, Agent P, if you fight Doctor D, don't knock over any containment fields. Just a thought."
With eyes very wide, Perry saluted.
Candace stood in the backyard with her brothers, who worked on a boxlike device. Stacy walked through the gate.
"So what is that thing?" Stacy asked.
Nodding to the box, Phineas said, "It scans for - "
"No, I mean the giant awesome thing that everyone else means."
She pointed skyward, where a glowing spiral stretched from horizon to zenith. The siblings watched spellbound.
"I don't know," Phineas murmured. "Ferb, what does the radio say?"
Ferb turned on the radio. The announcer said, "For those of you who need radio to provide mundane rationalizations for bizarre phenomena, it's just an out-of-control rocket booster."
"Huh," Phineas said. "I would have thought that because it's on the same longitude - "
The radio continued: "And has nothing to do with the particle accelerator."
Ferb turned off the radio. The boys went back to work on their device.
"So," Stacy said, "how are you causing the earthquakes?"
"We're not - "
The ground shook again. Phineas looked to Ferb and said, "That's getting annoying."
Ferb tweaked the last bolt and turned on the device. The screen lit with a schematic of a tiny glowing dot within a larger circle.
"Uh oh. It appears a black hole is eating the Earth."
Mom appeared in the doorway. "Kids, your father's flight from England has been cancelled because of a volcanic eruption, of all things. Well, I'm running errands then. Call if you need me."
Candace gulped. "Actually, Mom, I'm off bust patrol today."
Wincing, Perry the Platypus lightly tapped the laboratory door.
Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz sat by a large cardboard box, smiling at a glowing orb suspended in a containment field.
"Hello, Perry the Platypus. What do you think of my mini black hole? Created without taxpayer expense, I might add."
Perry slowly approached, eyes goggling.
"Don't worry, it's perfectly safe, suspended harmlessly in its containment - WATCH THE CORD!"
Perry froze, then gingerly stepped over the containment field power cord.
"I call it my 'Lame Hat Crushinator.' Observe."
Doofenshmirtz withdrew a captain's hat from the box. "You remember when I operated that underwater zinc-collecting machine at Lake Nose." He held the hat toward the black hole. Suddenly it was sucked from his hand, vanishing in a flash. "Cool, huh?"
Doofenshmirtz reached into the box and pulled out a cap. "From when I was a bratwurst vendor." Another flash. "Poof! Fun with physics!"
Next came an oversized foam cowboy hat with a V in front. "I wore this at Vanessa's swim meet . . . hmm. Sentimental value. I think I'll keep - oops!" The rim, too close, sucked the rest of the hat into the black hole.
Doofenshmirtz wagged a finger. "Heh heh, you gotta be - "
The black hole tugged on his sleeve, then instantly stripped him to his skivvies.
"Excuse me, Perry the Platypus."
Smile erased, Doofenshmirtz clomped away half-naked. Perry noticed the power cord plug was dangling from the outlet. Very carefully, he pushed it firmly in.
Jeremy walked into the yard. "Hey all. I felt the earthquakes, I figured - "
Phineas narrowed his eyes. "And you just assumed Ferb and I caused them."
"Well, you've earned the reputation."
Buford and Baljeet arrived, and Buford said, "So can I play with your machine that causes earthquakes?"
Phineas sighed and gestured to the screen. "We're not responsible for the earthquakes. They're being caused by a black hole in the center of the Earth."
Baljeet's eyes lit up and he swarmed the screen. "Oh, how interesting! I love black holes!"
Candace growled, "Well, if it loves you too, maybe it'll eat you last. Phineas, according to that science documentary show I watched half asleep last week because there was nothing else on, black holes will eat everything that comes near them and grow larger and larger until they consume entire worlds!"
"In a nutshell, that is correct."
"Indeed," Ferb said, "we could all end up in a nutshell."
Phineas grinned. "Good one, Ferb." He turned to the others. "You see, the black hole's immense gravity crushes the electron clouds of atoms, thereby compressing ordinary matter to one millionth of its - "
"First, a joke is not funny if you have to explain it. Second, what are you going to do to stop this?"
"Stop this? Ferb - I know what we're going to do today!"
Ferb presented a clipboard. Phineas read, frowning.
"Uh, okay. I know what we're going to do before three o'clock."
Vanessa slammed the laboratory door and walked past Perry, who was lying on his butt and rubbing his head in the place where he'd just bumped the ceiling.
"Hey, Perry. Where's Dad?"
"Right here, Vanessa." Fully re-clothed, Doofenshmirtz extended his arms in greeting.
Vanessa scrunched away. "Don't think you can destroy the planet and get a hug!"
"What do you mean?" The room shook and a rack of test tubes smashed to the floor. "Oh, earthquakes. Well, I suppose I've earned the reputation."
"Dad, I know you. You built a particle accelerator because you're jealous of Uncle Roger's, then your black hole escaped and now it's destroying the Earth!"
"Vanessa, my black hole is right here." He motioned to the containment. "As you can see, it's perfectly safe and - NOT SO CLOSE!"
The lemonade cup Vanessa was holding flashed out of existence. Noticing the alarm in Perry's eyes, she backstepped over the cord.
"Well, then what's causing the earthquakes?"
Doofenshmirtz touched a control and stared at a screen which showed a small glowing dot inside a large circle.
"There is a black hole in the center of the Earth. I'm guessing it's your Uncle Roger's."
"But - Uncle Roger is a great guy! How could he make such a mistake?"
"Surprisingly, being handsome and charming doesn't automatically make someone an expert on high-energy particle physics."
"Dad! Can you fix this?"
"Certainly." Doofenshmirtz smiled smugly. "After I call your grandmother and tell her what her darling Roger did!"
"Hi Phineas. Whatchya - "
"WE'RE NOT CAUSING EARTHQUAKES!"
Isabella stared. "Oooookay."
Phineas stared back. Less hysterically, he said, "Ferb, how's that gravimetric manipulator coming?"
Ferb stood on top of an assemblage of wires, transformers, electromagnets, and terafarad capacitors. He gave a thumbs up, flipped down his visor, and resumed welding.
Candace fidgeted at the screen. "Guys, I don't think we have time for a montage." She froze, listening. "What's that?"
"What's what?" Phineas asked.
"My Mom-Sense is tingling," Candace said.
She rushed inside the house and intercepted her mother coming through the front door.
"Mom, I thought you were running errands."
"I tried, but the driveway is blocked by that sinkhole."
Candace rushed into the front yard. She shoved through the gawking crowd and gasped. The huge, perfectly round hole spanning the street had sheer sides that descended hundreds of feet into darkness.
Nearby, a television reporter held a microphone toward a bespectacled bearded guy wearing a tie, who said, "Hard to believe that it's a natural phenomenon caused by just a few inches of rain."
"It's impossible to believe that!" Candace blurted.
"Would you believe, a leaky water pipe?"
"Maybe a leaky particle accelerator!" Candace muttered.
She ran around back. "Danville, we got problemo!"
"The sinkhole?" Isabella said.
"No, Mom! If she sees Ferb's thingamabobber here - well, wait, she won't see it. But that's just it. It'll disappear before she can see it. So we've got to keep her from not seeing it!"
The others blinked.
"Norm, how's that gravimetric manipulator-inator coming?"
Norm stood on top of an assemblage of wires, transformers, electromagnets, and terafarad capacitors. He gave a thumbs up, flipped down his visor, and resumed welding.
"What will this do?" Vanessa asked.
"Funny you ask." Doofenshmirtz took cane and straw hat in hand. "I happen to have written a - "
"Not in the mood."
"Oh, come on!"
Flash! The hole sucked the hat from his outstretched arm.
There was a knock. Doofenshmirtz opened the door to his brother and an attractive young woman.
"Hello, Heinz. Matrona, this is my brother, Doctor Doofenshmirtz."
"Doctor, can you help?" she asked. "It's my vision. Everything is dark!"
"Take off your sunglasses."
She did so and gasped. "It's a miracle!"
"And you're a typical Roger's girlfriend. What do you want, Roger?"
"At the family reunion, you bragged - er, mentioned - that you were building a spaceship to Mars." Roger Doofenshmirtz ran a finger under his collar. "We wondered, uh - "
Sighing, Heinz Doofenshmirtz tossed the keys. "Vanessa, why don't you go too?"
Vanessa glared at her uncle. "I'll stay, Dad. I have faith in you."
As the couple departed, Doofenshmirtz called after: "Watch out for those radioactive forest fires! Not that you're to blame or anything!"
Vanessa stared at the containment.
"Why do they call it black, when it's glowing?"
Procuring a replacement hat, Doofenshmirtz said, "It's in the song."
Vanessa rolled her eyes. "Oh, all right!"
Candace found her mother in the kitchen.
"Mom, whatchya doin'?"
"I heard that!" came a distant yell.
"I'm making sandwiches, then I'll take them out to - "
"I can do that!"
"Well, then I'll weed the hydrangea beds."
"That's where the hydrangeas are."
"I can weed, Mom. Why don't you watch TV?"
At the base of their towering edifice, Phineas and Ferb waved through the window. Candace whisked the curtains closed. She guided her mother onto the couch and flipped the remote.
"- The oil spill appears to be coming from multiple punctures in the sea bed - "
She flipped again.
" - Worldwide GPS malfunction - "
" - As your leader, let me assure - "
" - Brick brick brick - "
"Turn it off," Mom said. "I'll just read." As the house shook, she added, "Maybe this is a day to look forward to doing nothing."
"NO! NO, IT'S NOT!"
Candace rushed outside. Her brothers were adjusting controls.
"Good timing," Phineas said. "We're about to levitate the black hole away from Earth."
As the device hummed and the screen showed beams projecting toward the planetary center, Candace asked, "Is there any possibility this can fail?"
"Well, there's always the slight - "
"I'm freaking out. Lie to me."
"Candace, lying is - "
"Little white lie, NOW!"
"I could use one too," Isabella said.
"Us too!" the rest chimed.
Phineas sighed. "That's not how we roll."
"AND THAT'S WHY BLACK HOLES GLOOOOOW-OH!"
Doofenshmirtz concluded the last note with a flourish. Perry politely clapped.
"Well, that brought us a minute or so closer to our doom," Vanessa said to Perry. "Dad, now can we save the planet?"
"I presume you don't mean greenly." As the dancing girls filed out, Doofenshmirtz said, "Watch the cord, watch the cord. And I'll pay you tomorrow - if there is one!"
Norm strode over. "Sir, I have finished the device."
"Excellent," Doofenshmirtz said. "Norm - you're too close!"
"Uh oh - "
The black hole flared as it ate Norm's arm, dragging him toward its quantum maelstrom.
"Norm! Eject your brain module! NOW!"
As Norm's body collapsed into nonexistence, a tiny cartridge popped out of his head and landed in Doofenshmirtz's palms. Doofenshmirtz quietly went to a large closet, where a duplicate Norm's body was standing. He climbed the ladder and stuck the module into the robot's head.
"That's such a rush!" Norm said.
"Yes, but we're down to your last body. No more going near black holes for the rest of the day."
"I'll bake a cake instead. We can have it this evening, if there is one!"
Norm lumbered off. Doofenshmirtz tossed hat and cane into the black hole, slapped the dust from his hands, and yanked a lever on the side of the machine.
As the device hummed and the screen showed beams projecting toward the planetary center, Vanessa asked, "Is there any possibility this can fail?"
Phineas stood at the controls, watching the screen, surrounded by onlookers.
"All right," he said calmly. "The gravimetric beams are locking around the mass." He pulled back a lever. "Now, slowly, gently . . . huh."
Candace's eyes widened. "Is 'huh' a good thing?"
"Not in this context." Phineas inspected the dials and gages. "The machine is working properly, we've calculated the mass correctly. But the black hole isn't moving. It's as if there's a force pushing or pulling in the opposite direction."
"Well, push or pull harder!"
Phineas nudged the power lever all the way. The machine hummed noisily and shook. The glowing dot on the screen remained unbudged.
"Now the countervailing force seems to have increased!"
The ground quaked and the crowd, moaning, grabbed each other to steady themselves.
"Phineas, you either - well, I don't really have a threat!"
"Ferb, bypass the circuit breakers and take us to overload!"
Ferb threw a switch bigger than himself. Sparks flew and the machine roared and rattled - and then leaped upward.
Open-mouthed, they watched it sail miles into the sky, where it collided with another ascending speck and burst into a brilliant explosion.
"Not good," Phineas said.
"Candace," Mom said. She was standing in the doorway. "You said you'd help with the sandwiches."
Looking at Phineas and Ferb, Candace gestured at her mother. "See, I told you guys! Mom made it go away!"
Mom folded her arms and raised an eyebrow. "Are you busting me now?"
Doofenshmirtz gaped through the hole in the roof of his laboratory where his machine had burst skyward and exploded.
"Dad!" Vanessa swatted him. "You said it couldn't fail!"
"Your Father's Day card said I was suave and debonair. But I'm not, am I?" He sat on the floor, rocking his head in his hands. "I am the most unsuave and undebonair failure in the history of science!"
He nodded toward a distant pillar of rocket flame and said, "The fact that my spaceship has only enough fuel for a one-way trip no longer seems hilariously ironic. You should have gone with them, Vanessa. Instead, you trusted me and I have failed you."
Looking away from the now-constantly tremoring city, Vanessa exchanged glances with Perry and said: "Dad, no! You're a great scientist!"
"Be serious, Vanessa. I don't even have a real degree."
"All the greatest scientists and inventors are rebels against the establishment!"
"No, I am a total failure. It took the end of the world to make me realize it, but now that I do, there is nothing you can say that could possibly change my mind."
Vanessa drew in a breath, and said simply:
Heinz Doofenshmirtz looked up at her. Then he looked at the containment. Then he took out a remote and pressed the button. Instantly, clamps snapped into place around Perry.
"So he doesn't try to stop me," Doofenshmirtz said. "Vanessa, pull that big switch over there. We are going to need much more power!"
"Phineas, why is Ferb filling a rocket with peanut butter and mayonnaise?"
"So the nanobots can have an inflight snack."
"I don't know why I even bother to ask."
Phineas tapped his pointer against the drawing board. "May I have your attention, everyone. We're sending nanobots to the Moon. They'll build a space elevator to Earth, which the human race will ride to live on the Moon until it's safe to come back. Uh, if ever."
Isabella raised her hand. "How can we survive on the Moon? Isn't it an airless wasteland?"
"I prefer the term, 'fixer upper.' But the Moon is actually Plan B. Plan A is Mars."
Baljeet and Buford wheeled into the yard a large O-shaped contraption, labeled: PORTAL TO MARS (MARK II).
"Power outlet is behind the couch," Phineas said.
Buford plugged in, while Baljeet made adjustments. The portal shimmered a perspective of a vast red landscape.
"Everyone line up. We'll begin evacuation now."
Meanwhile, holding the rocket control, Ferb counted: "Ten, nine - "
"Mom's coming!" Candace grabbed the control. "!"
The rocket whooshed into the sky. Phineas sighed deeply.
"Candace, calm down! Mom's presence isn't going to cause our technology to stop - "
"Phineas!" Baljeet exclaimed. "Something is drawing off all our power!"
The image within the portal flickered and died just as Mom appeared.
"'Portal to Mars,'" Mom read. "How cute! Well, play on!"
Candace said to a wide-eyed Phineas, "Your technological toys are no match for the power of the Mom!"
The door slammed. A bespectacled bearded guy wearing a tie glared.
"Heinz Doofenshmirtz, as Science Advisor to the Mayor, I order you to desist your unauthorized drain of municipal power!"
"YOU ARE TOO LATE!"
The radiance from the console cast a sinister pall upon Doofenshmirtz's face as he writhed his hands and chortled:
"Soon, the magnetic field will be at maximum strength. My black hole will then be sling-shotted toward the Moon, where it will gain hyper-mass and fall back to the Earth, penetrating the interior of our planet as if through tissue paper, until it reaches the core and knocks both itself and the other black hole into space - thereby saving THE TRI-STATE AREA!"
Doofenshmirtz self-consciously lowered his arms.
"Sorry, force of habit."
Police officers closed in.
"Really, this time I'm the good guy!"
Vanessa grabbed the remote and released Perry. "Perry, help him!"
Perry backflipped between Doofenshmirtz and the cops.
"Careful!" a cop cried. "He's got a platypus!"
Doofenshmirtz jabbed the button. The containment field convulsed, hurling the black hole into space. Together they - father, daughter, platypus, cops, bespectacled bearded guy wearing a tie - watched in wonder.
Frowning at the console, Doofenshmirtz said, "I'm afraid it will fall short."
Vanessa smiled serenely. "At least you tried, Dad. More than you can say for Uncle Roger. Serves him right if he's stranded on Mars."
"Oh, he'll find his way back here. If there's a here to find, that is."
They hugged and waited.
Candace, Phineas, and Ferb watched lattices of cables dwarf the Moon and extend Earthward.
"I'd be intimidated if you weren't such dweebs," Candace murmured.
"The nanobots are constructing the space elevator out of carbon nanotubes," Phineas said. "The structure is thousands of miles long and weighs millions of tons. It won't disappear just to avoid Mom seeing it."
"Something about the Moon?" Mom said from behind.
They whirled around. Slowly, they turned back to the sky. No elevator.
Phineas said: "But - but - "
The television blared.
"Power's back!" Mom said, and withdrew inside.
"But - but - but - "
Ferb indicated the scanner. A flashing dot was plunging Earthward.
"A second black hole?" Phineas said. "It must have eaten the space elevator, and now it's falling back with enough momentum to - "
The entire planet heaved, and two glowing orbs burst from the surface and streaked - harmlessly - into deep space.
"Just like shooting marbles!" Phineas said. "Which, in retrospect, is an idea that should have occurred to ten-year-old boys."
"Normal ones," Candace replied. "SHOW'S OVER, PEOPLE!" Chasing the departing crowd, she called: "Jeremy, how about a World's-Not-Ending-After-All hug?"
The repowered portal shimmered. A man and a woman exited. They locked gazes with Phineas and Ferb, then walked to the gate.
The ground shook. Phineas studied the screen.
"Hmm, the Earth's eaten-away core is imploding."
"We will need a lot of styrofoam peanuts," Ferb said.
"Two remarks in one day? It has been memorable."
Mom returned to the yard with a platter of sandwiches. She surveyed the vacant expanse and shook her head. "Like the ground swallowed them up."
She noticed the large box of blinking lights under the tree.
"Lawrence must be building a project. Wonder what - "
She tripped over the power cord. The box fell over, exploded and - in a shower of sparks and a puff of smoke - vanished.
Mom sighed. "And that's why the road crew wouldn't let me near the sound equipment!"
As Perry trotted into the yard, she added, "Oh there you are, Perry. You're not going to bust me for causing that, are you?"
"Rrrrrr!" said Perry.
Mom smiled. "Then all is well with the world."