When you accidentally create thermite (and it's bad)

This isn't posted in the wrong category at all, keep reading.

So there I was, sitting in my sofa at roughly 1;30 AM. The only company I had was coffee with a lot of sugar in it and a laptop resting on my lap which I was using to write some, hopefully, sweet science fiction. For plot reasons I needed something very bad to happen on board my spaceship. It couldn't involve being boarded, aliens or a malfunction in the warp core, and the solution certainly couldn't be 'reversing polarity' or 'Ejecting the warp core'. Somewhat limited I desperately thought about my remaining options. Mutiny, riot, unexpected explosions or colliding at speed with an object that for some reason wasn't dodged or shot out of the way.

About to go with the generic mutiny, I remember watching The Tek a while ago, (think it was the 3D printing special), during which Wendell says something along the lines of 'When you accidentally create thermite and it's baad'. Quickly I concluded that, under the right circumstances, creating thermite unintentionally could be very bad. Needless to say; I resumed writing.


Setting the stage.

We are on a large spaceship hastily constructed to flee a devastating war spanning the entire solar system. The ship has been underway for weeks, accelerating nicely at one G. However the crew has been picked from the impressive selection of 'whoever wasn't dead yet' and the ship was forced to launch before it was technically ready. As a result, a lot of things are going wrong already.

Without further ado, an expert from my, hopefully, awesome but unfinished novel, Tears of Heaven.


She was heading back to her boss, walking down the hallways past a machine shop. “Help! Fire, anyone?!” someone yelled. Like she said, places to be. She hadn’t expected to be here, but she supposed here was as good as place as any to spend her time. She wasn’t quite sure she would enjoy the reward her boss had in store for her either.

Huge and colossal furnaces normally didn’t contain contents burning so vigorously the furnace itself was glowing red, or in some places, white hot. But this one was. “What the hell did you do?” Lewanda demanded to know. “We were smelting down metals for use in some alloys” the man said now that he had stopped desperately yelling for help. “What metal were you melting?” Lewanda asked. “Aluminium, I think” he answered. “You think?” Lewanda asked. He nodded, “Yes, I think so.” Lewanda nodded. She stopped a man running past her with a fire extinguisher. “What metals were you melting?” she asked. He hesitated, seemingly eager to dump the extinguisher into the fire. “Boron, maybe? I’m not sure, I just work here.” A young man came running through the shop, he grabbed the fire extinguisher and ran towards a stair to a movable overpass someone had positioned near the raging inferno. “Kid what metals are in that thing?” she yelled after him when he ran. “Some steel” he yelled back. “Steel?” Lewanda said mostly to herself. A few pieces from ancient chemistry and physics bubbled to the surface of her memory and slowly snapped together. Above the blaze, the young man tries fighting the fire with the extinguisher. It doesn’t quite seem to work. The angel is odd and he has to lean awkwardly over the railing to hit properly. He fires the extinguisher, sending CO2 into the raging inferno. But it isn’t enough, aggressively he tries harder to put the fire out.

“Hey that’s not a CO2 extinguisher he’s using is it?” Lewanda asks, “if it is, it’s never going to...” On the overpass above them the young man gets too eager and his hands slip, letting go of the extinguisher. 'Maybe it is actually a good thing I dropped it, maybe the carbon dioxide will release all at once and put out the flames' he thinks to himself. The extinguisher disappears into the burning inferno. 'Probably not the way it was intended to be used but..' His train of thought is rudely interrupted by the furnace exploding, sending him and parts of the overpass flying.

Lewanda watches the extinguisher drop into the furnace. A panic lesson in combined physics and chemistry rushes to Lewandas frontal lobes. Although vague in detail, it’s perfectly summarized into a single word. Fuck.

She grabs the man and thrown both of them to the floor just as the furnace explodes. In a visually pleasing and impressive display, a mixture of burning and liquid metals are sent flying into every direction. As Lewanda is unfortunate enough to experience first hand, burning or liquid metal is extremely hot. Easily burning through protective clothing, not to mention her uniform, the metals also singe and charr flesh.

In a haze of pain and sensory overload, Lewanda lies incapacitated on the floor. People are either yelling and screaming or being too damn quiet. Fighting through the haze, all Lewanda can manage to do is turn around, lying on her back. Tilting her head slightly, she can see a piece of the overpass missing. Straining to tilt her head a tiny bit more, it seems like the fire is still raging on, oddly it seems stronger than before. Almost like it’s taking in fresh air from underneath. With the crisis far from over, her training and her pride isn’t allowing her to sit this one out. She focuses on her senses, voices come into crystal clear focus. Still mostly yelling, or screaming. But somewhere among the mess is the squeak of confused and panicked voices from her earpiece, asking how the hell something could burn through the ceiling.

“Cut the engines” she whispers, but no one seems to hear her. She repeats with slightly more gusto. “What?” “Cut the damn engines!” she yells over the radio. She repeats the command several times. “Cut the engines, now or we all die!” she commands for yet another time. The open channel is slowly flooding with people complaining about things that were working fine, that are now starting to go wrong again, some are still asking about a liquid inferno bursting through the ceiling, and floor. But most are just yelling in pain, crying for help. With a colossal display of effort, Lewanda changes to a private channel. “Lewanda, is that you?” her boss asks. “Yes, I..” “Thank the god, are you okay?” he asks, “What the hell happened?” he asks again immediately after. “Listen, cut the engines, or we all die.” She repeats. The voice of the captain cuts in, “if we cut the engines, we might not be able to restart them any time soon, we would have to recalculate anything. Now calmly tell me what happened.” Forcing herself slightly calmer she summarizes, “we accidentally created thermite, and it’s baad, it’s burning a hole through the ship and it’s going to continue until it reaches the hull. If we stop accelerating, we have zero G, and the fire stays where it is.” “Got it” the captain answers. The indication that he actually did stop the ship comes when she starts floating. Still mostly paralyzed from pain, she watches globes of fire and molten metal.

Like her they float around, but unlike her, they burn, singe or ignite everything they come into contact with.



Enjoy the read or not, I enjoyed writing it. Hopefully posting on forums about it will also be a positive experience, or a troll war, which could also be fun... in it's own way.



 *Edited for minor typos and grammatical errors, several times. I suspect that work is still not done.

That's one of my favorite Wendell quotes. Alongside the friendly neighborhood gangbangers one 

I really enjoyed that, thanks!

Getting words of encouragement from family or friends is nearly a given no how badly you do. Receiving words of encouragement from a complete stranger though, is far more valuable.

All though I didn't reply sooner, you helped me keep my creative momentum going.

Thank you. 

I know, that quote is also so good, I probably couldn't have created any fiction around that suitable for posting on a forum though. But I like how that is your only comment.

If it tell you that you changed the tense mid-story, can  be listed as an editor if you make it big?

Lol, good read though, I can't wait to see the whole book.

I think it's one of the mistakes I make a lot and somehow don't notice myself. If I ever finish the entire thing, it's definitely going to need some hardcore editing though.