by Bob'n Around
It was boring controlling the weather. The authorities planned a little excitement.
|1203 wc. The Science Fiction Short Story contest. Prompt. The gathering storm.
Henry Wallace’s new accent did not go unnoticed. Alice Thornley tried holding her breath. It exploded into a sneeze. “You too?” She added, wiping at her nose.
“Yeth. I got a code.” Henry turned his attention to the climate control section panel for the eastern United States. The invention brought America into dominance as 'the' global power. Who controlled the weather had only been God, before. “Anyting?” Henry coughed, swallowing hard.
“Building air conditioning is freaking freezing. Other than that, no.” Alice shook her stuffed-up head. There never was. Science and technology’s magic had won again. The ice caps were growing back in place, Sea levels no longer threatened shorelines. Drought and fire, category five storms, even air pollution had succumbed to human will.
"We can control sunami but foul up indoor hot and cold. Go figure." Alice shivered. Advances in quantum mechanics made the new software of the weather computer almost magical. It balanced minute historical and ongoing ocean temperature, wave action, five major winds zones, and other traditional weatherman records without pause.
Weather satellites beamed commands to countless weather stations to make scheduled changes. Things had come a long way from seeding clouds. The climate control center not only had learned to juggle the mix nature provided but could alter it at will. For a price, anywhere on Earth could be turned into a veritable Garden of Eden.
“Brr.” Henry’s ears were clogging up. It was a big day for Insta-Corp. All hands had been called in, sick leaves and promised vacations canceled. Earth Day. A targeted explosive reminder of how bad weather could be. Had been. A reminder of the world on the edge of human extinction.
Alice made gimme motions at Henry’s coat pocket. Her cracked lips twisted into a pained smile. One swallow of the home remedy he offered would ease her throbbing headache and take the cold sweat away giving her chills. “Thanks.”
“Bottom’s up.” Each drank in turn, settling themselves in place in their seats. They left their coats on, specialty items for the upcoming celebration, backs proudly wearing the governor’s name. The freebies were given to all might be voters associated with or attending New York City’s Central Park event.
“They just about done?” Henry asked, starting the test routine for the major weather extravaganza outside. The sound of workmen cursing in puff clouds of air while fixing the indoor air-conditioning escalated nearby.
“Who’d knows?” Alice mimicked Henry’s new accent. Her eyes were brightening as her condition began easing up. She flicked the manual override mode for the day’s schedule weather pattern.
Henry tapped a button glowing red. It turned to green. “Not a good day for anything to go wrong. We got a lot of windbag politicians wanting to take credit for saving the world out there.”
A light snow, pretty as a Christmas picture by Norman Rockwell began silently displaying falling flakes over the Central Park gathering crowd. “Nice. Worth coming in sick. We ought to get a double bonus for bringing this off.” Henry high-fived Alice’s gloved hand.
“Crazy, the weather inside this control room feels worse, don’t you think? Makes me wonder if those workers are terrorists intent on mayhem. Go ask them.” Alice dabbed an already damp washcloth at her nose.
“Light turned red again, Alice. Shut manual mode off.” Henry pointed to his side of the control panel. It was a duplicate of the one on Alice’s desk.
“God it.” Alice thumbed the switch again. “Frozen. Try yours.” Her eyes flicked to the display screen showcasing Central Park worldwide.
The snow flurry thickened into a heavy descending whiteout. Henry’s fist pounded on his control panel trying to shake it back into operation. The red light stopped blinking. It now glared an angry warning up into his face. “No Go. Shut it off.”
“Are you crazy? Our heads will roll.” Alice grabbed at the shrill ringing emergency phone. Her free hand hovered over her control panel. Her eyes grew into slits. “Yes, sir. Right away, sir. The Governor.”
Henry nodded, face scrunched up in a panic. The snowfall in Central Park was burying people alive. It was so deep that instead of rioting, the crowd’s noise and agitation were imprisoned in place.
“Cross your fingers.” Shutting off the entire system would release natural weather patterns worldwide. Alice stared into Henry’s eyes. Hopefully, they could restart the system and shock it into routine operation, get away with no other calamity taking place.
It took both operators matched numb fingered pattern playing over the control boards to kill the system and turn it on again. The emergency phone on Alice’s desk was shouting at her.
Central Park looked like the North Pole. Henry flicked the screen for a close-up view. The snow began melting before his eyes. Sunlight reflected winking diamonds of snowflakes saying their goodbyes. “We did it. Turn the system back on. Ready? Go.”
On Henry’s screen, snowmen were becoming human again. A feeling of relief flooded through his veins. He heard Alice’s sharp intake of breath as she matched his finger pattern on the controls. “This will be one to remember, hopefully not in jail.”
The voice on the phone heated up as the weather pattern did. The riot in Central Park turned from slow-motion into chaos. Every warning light on the pair’s control panels blushed red. “The software is overcompensating?” Alice asked her unbelieving self.
“Do you smell smoke?” Henry began flicking individual switches and buttons short-circuiting what Alice was doing at her own desk. The now hysterical voice on the phone was ignored.
Fire flicked into flames melting the video screens. The emergency phone died. Henry grabbed at Alice, carrying her with him, spinning, rolling to the floor. “We got to get out of here.”
They were stopped at the doorway by a pair of worker’s legs. “Hey, Mack. We got the indoor air conditioning fixed. Feels warmer already, don’t it?”
“Call the fire department,” Alice gasped, pointing behind her.
Outside, political and physical storm clouds were brewing. Mother Earth responded to her new freedom, rearranging weather patterns, unwinding the worldwide human-controlled patterns. Politician heavy-weights triggered armed guards to arrest the emerging Alice and Henry from their air-conditioned cocoon.
The sky let loose. Hail the size of golf balls bounced and pelted at heads. “Here.” Henry snagged and shared a garbage can lid with Alice. They huddled and scurried underneath, weaving between embattled guards.
“Where are we going?” Alice clutched her coat around her as the wind began to howl, making her dance on her feet.
“The tech museum next door. The original climate control panel is there. It may still be in working condition.”
A closed sign rattled the locked front door. Hail shattered window after window with the couple’s approach, making for easy hasty access. A flick of a light switch showed the power was still on. “It’s an antique. Do you know how to work it?” Alice asked as the weather control panel hummed on.
Small screens flickered to life, revealing weather patterns across the planet. The scene did not look pretty. Henry leaned over the panel, fingers teasing buttons and dials, “I don’t think they ever deactivated it from the grid. We’re about to find out.”
Outside, lightning flickered, Thunder roared. Alice held her breath, refusing an impulse to sneeze.
The brooding sky filled with the gathering of a new wildly out-of-control storm.