Excerpt from The Reluctant Cadet, a field guide to disposable crew members in Starfleet
Chapter 8: Sitting on a Time Bomb
a Warp Core Breach: What it is, why it's bad, how to prevent it and what will happen if you don't
First off, to understand a Warp Core Breach, it is important to have a cursory knowledge of what a Warp Core is and how it functions. If you are too lazy to go read up on it yourself, I'll give you a quick synopsis:
A Warp Core is a chamber where matter and antimatter mix under a situation that, instead of mutually destroying each other and the rest of creation, generate usable energy in the form of plasma. This is accomplished by having the antimatter and matter make their union inside a piece of dilithium, and having the antimatter be kept away from any other types of matter at all times by a series of very serious containment fields.
That having been said, a warp core breach is what happens when someone didn't reach page 387 of "Antimatter And You : Basic Mechanics and Principles" and allows the specially designed containment fields to fail and thus letting the rather anti-social antimatter annihilate everything around it in a haphazard and uncontrolled fashion.
Containment field integrity is usually lost as a result of a few main happenings:
- Power - As in "not enough". The containment fields require quite a bit of juice to keep running, and if all power were lost for some reason, the antimatter containment fields would fail. If this was because you, the Cadet, forgot to pay the electric bill, you would most certainly be fired. About 8.5 seconds before you and everyone else around you was blown to crunchy, steaming bits.
- Loss Of Computer Systems - The warp containment fields are all variable geometry and must be constantly adjusted to sustain required field integrity. These adjustments are usually made every few milliseconds by the Central Computer. However, if you accidentally spilled your Double-Mocha Latte on the Main Computers' primary circuitry, it would no longer be able to adjust these fields and they would fail. Again, you would most certainly be fired a few seconds before your individual atoms went on separate vacations.
- Spatial Anomalies - Every once and while, you will encounter some strange purple-blue swirly space-baby that will show a propensity for causing either one or more of the above situations, or will have a direct effect on the containment fields. If it happens, you will be fired for failing to notice said space-baby on your sensors while you were working the Helm that day. Your firing will occur 12 seconds before the Warp Core Breach happens, but usually several seconds after your Commanding Officer has inserted his size 11 Vulcan Loafer up your posterior.
- Combat - Ah yes, battle. Here, the Warp Core will usually breach because of the massive beating your Cuisinart, with all the defensive strength of a wet squirrel, has taken at the hands of a massive Breen Megacruiser, much in the same manner as hitting soft-boiled egg with a wheelbarrow. If your warp core does not breach it will be because your ship was rent apart by a particle beam long before it could happen. Whichever happens, you won't care due to the fact that you will, most likely, already have been skinned and turned into a beanbag.
In the event of an imminent warp core breach, there is a small window of time in which you can eject the warp core from the ship and into deep space whereupon you can safely manuver, on impulse drive, away from the impending explosion. However, you might as well not waste your time as the ejection system will almost never function in a period of crisis and your time would be better spent putting on some Sinatra records and listening to "New York, New York" one last time before you lose your mind. Terminally.