How we turn one car into a city block’s worth of destruction

Today’s #RichardWrites is from Tyche’s Deceit, they second book in the Tyche’s Journey trilogy. I’m experimenting with points-of-view and types of exposition; it’s a little bit new, so I’d be interested in what you think 🙂

The two air cars screamed over the streets, engines burning hard. Citizens would have been looking up, wondering what was going on. Looking at what would cause a disturbance like this in their boring, safe lives in the very heart of the Republic. The lead car would have wobbled a little, the trained eye picking up a disturbance in the port thruster. Just a little noise in the burn, a bubble in the feed. Nothing serious under normal situations, something that might be rectified with ten minutes of maintenance by a skilled Engineer.

The situation wasn’t normal, and there was no time for maintenance. The pilot of the lead car — crazed or terrified, impossible to tell — poured on more joules, asking more from an engine already wheezing with the load. The engine coughed, cut out, and the pursing car overshot in a roar of noise and light and heat. The vehicle in trouble, engine out like a blown lamp, entered a slow circle toward the ground. What happened next was hard to tell, witnesses reporting an explosion before it hit, some saying no, you idiot, it was after. But they all agreed: the lazy turn became a death spiral, the machine seeming frenzied as it approached the ceramicrete below. This could have been the desperate actions of a concussed pilot — or one on too many stims, not enough sleep, or high on the thrill of fear and the need to escape.

The car that had overshot completed a braking turn, engines roaring to return to its prey. The prey, in this instance, had turned off the straight and narrow, banked towards a street on the right in the fall from grace. A partially completed construction lot was where it ended up, a megaplex designed to hold the best shopping experiences for a cosmopolitan crowd at the base, leisure centers in the middle, and exclusive conference venues towards the top. This lot would turn into a landmark building for the city, pulling eyes and dollars like filings to a magnet. The troubled air car drifted into the lot, that damaged engine coughing fire at last. The pursuit vehicle rounded the turn after its prey in time to see the troubled car explode into a roil of flame and smoke and flying machinery. The explosion touched a piece of heavy construction equipment in the abandoned lot, an energy canister inside rupturing. Stored energy spilled in bright flashes around it, great arcs of light that seemed thick and solid. They licked out, carving through the partially-built substructure.

That would have been the end of it if it weren’t for a construction crew that had finished early one day. Even in the heart of the Republic, where people were happiest, content with their lot, there was still the desire to finish early on a Friday. Or any day. And if early meant not tidying away your tools, well, that was because they weren’t good Guild members, accustomed to good Engineer practice.

Tools in this situation were large machines capable of lifting whole floors into place. Devices designed to superheat the raw material substrate of ceramicrete to thousands of degrees, hotter than the surface of the sun itself, hotter than the core of the star that warmed the world. These machines had their own reactors, simple energy canisters insufficient for the loads asked of them. Good building practice called for reactors to be buried, cores deep below. And then, at the end of a shift, shut down. After the building was complete the reactors would be repurposed into auxiliary power for the finished structure. Buried they were, but shut down they weren’t. The reaching fingers of the energy discharge found them. A single stray arc ruptured the wall of a reactor. It immediately went into safe shutdown, microseconds passing before the internal reactions were reduced to zero.

Microseconds are a long time in nuclear energy terms.

The street seemed to shrug for a moment, a gentle giant sighing up and down. Ripples of the underground explosion reached out in a circle four blocks in every direction. The ground underneath the city was exposed to an intense blast, the shockwave descending down as well as out. Soil, clay, and rock were disrupted; closer to the blast, they were temporarily rendered into magma. The partially completed lot caved inward, girders and beams and ceramicrete falling into a hole forming at the base, liquefaction of the ground dragging material, machinery, and the smoking remains of the air car into oblivion.

Disaster crews were called by the pursuit team, but by then it was too late for the air car they were following. They’d get nothing from them, the remains of its crew rendered to component atoms.

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