If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Madness in the Fire Chapter 3. He who controls nature...dies by nature.

The day was unlike no other.  Blue skies with an occasional wisp of clouds.  Cherry blossoms were beginning to adorn the trees and the sun was so bright it sparkled off the waves in the ocean.  Dancing happily as spring festooned its wealth upon the land.
A few fishing boats, clad in their bright colors bobbed in the surf as they cast nets in hopes of procuring a marketable catch.
A gentle breeze fluttered the white flag with the red circle in its center.  A glorious day to be alive the man thought as he walked down the steel grated catwalk on his afternoon rounds.
Today was a good day, his son was turning 14 and they had reservations for dinner at his favorite restaurant that evening. He smiled in anticipation.  He had received excellent news that morning at the shift change meeting.  They had shut down reactors 5 and 6 for maintenance which would take the better part of the week so his vacation time had been granted.  He had been planning a family vacation to the high country to take in the beauty of spring.  Every year for as long as he had worked at the plant he had put in for this time off but had always been denied because of short staffing.  This year the Gods were smiling on him.

At the end of the catwalk he peered into a cavity in the wall to read the levels on the meter.  He recorded them onto a sheet clipped to his clipboard and promptly made his way to the next meter.  Three steps into his walk the catwalk began to shake violently.  He dropped his clipboard and grabbed the railing.
The shaking intensified and the man dropped to his knees, clinging to the railing.  Red stains began to appear on the knees of his white jumpsuit as the sharp steel grating shook ceaselessly, cutting into the flesh of his knees creating red circles in a sea of white.

Alarms began to pierce the morning air as the entire world seemed to shake itself apart.  All around him pieces of steel and concrete began to burst apart and fall to the ground.  He clung to the steel with everything he had as it peeled away from the corrugated grating underfoot suspending him in mid air 20 foot above the concrete below.  With a shriek the metal began to tear from its anchoring point and luckily for the man clinging to life at the end, it slowly peeled itself away from the superstructure lowering him to within 8 feet of the ground where he lost his grip and landed on the concrete below.  In a terror he scrambled out of the way as the clutter of torn steel fell to the ground missing him by mere inches.

It was only then did he realize what was happening as the earthquake, which would later be measured at 8.9, ripped his world apart.  He could only lay there, the ground was shaking too much to stand and he clung to all hope that his family was safe.

Within 3 minutes the main quake was over.  Dazed and frightened the man stood up.  All around him were the sounds of panic.  Sirens and alarms wailed into the morning and the screams of people shattered his hypnotic gaze.  Smoke billowed, black as night, clouding up the once brilliant, blue sky.

He rushed into action, years of training at the reactor were now coming into play.
 In the event of a catastrophe,his job along with a team of 6 others, was to make sure the backup generators were running as planned in the event of a power failure.  He was sure the power was out.
Running along the corridor, which he had fallen into, he made his way to the main generator room for reactor numbers one through three.  Even before he made it inside he could see the black exhaust from the diesel fired generators pouring out of the vents.  The system had done its job and he gave a short sigh of relief.  Now he just needed to maintain them.

The system was designed to automatically shut down the fission inside of the reactor by inserting cadmium clad rods directly into the core, this effectively shut down the reactions as the release of neutrons were absorbed by the negative charge in the rods.  This procedure is known as SCRAM.  However in an emergency the generators were needed to pump water into the reactor to cool down the rods which still maintained decay heat from the SCRAM procedure.  This is where his job was most important.  Without the generators pumping water a cataclysmic failure would happen.

The generators were all working properly and the man quickly checked all the criticals on his back up computer screen.  The generators not only ran the pumps but also served as primary power to all of the computers and circuitry which automatically controlled the cooling process of the rods within the core of the reactor.

Once he was sure everything was stable he removed a small cell phone from his jumpsuit pocket and dialed the number for his home telephone.  He received the standard greeting from the operator that informed him that service was not available at this time and he should try back later.  He quickly dialed his wife's cell phone. After a few scratchy rings it connected and his wife's voice came through the earpiece, "Hi you've reached the phone of....." He slammed the phone shut and stuffed it back into his pocket.  He needed to find his supervisor and get home quick to check on his family.

He raced out the door and back down the corridor towards the front of the complex.  Debris littered the ground everywhere.  He made it to the gated opening that faced the ocean and the service drive to reactor 3 and stopped dead in his tracks.

A 30 foot wall of water was racing across the ocean headed directly for him.  He turned to run but knew it was all in vain.  He made it back into the corridor just as the 30 foot wall of water crashed over the 20 foot seawall sending thousands of gallons of water coursing through the corridor quickly engulfing the man and all that lay in its path.

The water that coursed over the underbuilt seawall and raced through the corridor was now racing through the open doors of the building that housed all of the generators, filling them with enormous amounts of seawater.  As the water in the building reached levels over waist high the generators began to suck sea water into their intakes and began to choke out one by one which cut off the supply of electricity to the pumps and in turn, cold water to the reactors.
Next to be engulfed by the water were the electrical cooling boards and the back up computer systems. Once these shorted out the back up battery system kicked in, once again turning on the pumps which supplied the water to cool the rods within the reactor.  The safety system was still in control for the moment.

The entire seaboard was systematically  devastated as the earthquake tore it apart and the resulting tsunami washed it into the sea.  Anything the main quake missed the multiple aftershocks shook it into submission.
The countryside was ruined.

A day later as the water began to reside within the flooded corridor between reactors 2 and 3 a man's body floated up from underneath a torn steel cat walk, slowly floating in the current headed for the sea.  As it passed from the corridor more alarms began to sound as the backup batteries began to run out of power but no one was around to hear them.
The pumps quieted and soon the alarms ceased and by the time the body floated out to sea the rods within the core had begun to melt.  Soon they would begin pumping their poison into the sea through the cracks in the reactor walls caused by the quake and it's many aftershocks.

There was no fix, there was no cure and within 2 years the poisons would reach far into the Pacific killing everything it encountered.  The North Pacific current carried the toxins as far as Alaska and brought them crashing down into the California coast via the California Current which would ultimately sweep it southward to be picked up by the Equatorial Countercurrent as well as the South Equatorial Current.  From there it was only a matter 20 years and the Antarctic circumpolar current would carry its devastation throughout the known world.

It was here in this time that a young boy dreamed of the burning California beach waters, it is here where everything died or was in the process of dying.  It was in this moment when the human race panicked and abandoned all posts and when the world's nuclear reactors all began to fail because the people who ran them either died or fled.

It was in this time that the world realized that there was a Madness in the Fire.


  1. So, basically a Sunday feel-good story? Sweet.

  2. You're really, really good with these dark descriptions. And that's not a compliment I pay lightly. Well done, man.


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