Chain Reaction

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Chain Reaction is a short story from The ByWay to Freedom, book five of the Course Books. This story is unique in that it is told in reverse-order.

The story concerns the fate of a new, state-of-the-art ship upon which Jason Bur'I and Hunter Jusenkyou are traveling. Jason expresses grave doubts about the reliability of the new construction method, which favors parts that can be dismantled over rigid, solid-form construction. Whilst engaging in a shakedown cruise, the vessel suffers a catastrophic series of system failures, and the crew is forced to abandon ship. In an effort to give the many civilians on board as much time as possible, Hunter and Jason remain on the bridge and abuse ships systems in various ways to try to slow down the inevitable failure.

The root cause is eventually revealed to be a missile with suffered a non-nuclear explosion in one of the missile batteries. This set off a chain reaction, detonating other weapons and volatile substances, rupturing pressure seals, and in general setting off a series of dominoes that would ultimately wreck the ship. The cause of the missile explosion was two soldiers at Outbase Rishtag; who, several years earlier, dismantled the missile in order to access a tank of liquid gas inside, which they were using to chill a case of beer. As neither soldier was certified to do maintenance on the weapon, their procedure was somewhat less than regulation.