GEORGE BOUTON - HARD RAINS
I have always asked myself "What if?" Through my writing, I get the opportunity to share that question with everyone.
I have always been a fan of Science Fiction and stories of the human condition. My favorite authors (currently) are Robert Heinlien,Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, and Cormac Mc Carthy.
Currently reading: The Martian (Andy Weir) and Seveneves ( Neal Stephenson)
I live on a quiet street in Naugatuck, CT with my wife Jamie, and our freakishly large cats.
HARD RAINS by George Bouton
Leonard stared out the window and wished that it would rain. Not a gentle rain, but a real rain. A violent driving rain that bent the treetops. A storm with thunder that shook your bones and threatened to tear the world and everyone in it apart.
He sipped his tea and kept still. He listened for the sound of raindrops tapping outside, he heard nothing. The branches outside his window gently swayed back and forth.
Standing from his kitchen table, he ticked off a checklist in his head: what he had, what he needed, and what he needed to do that day. He stepped out the door. He was met with a weak breeze that pushed against him like a tired child. He moved faster to the end of his street, he had four minutes to catch the transport going to AIM station #1013.
The transport shuddered a bit, its vibrations smoothed out with the increase of its speed as he sat. He chose not to listen to the chatter on the information channel, but rather watch houses and buildings and landscapes pass by, the lawns vibrant and green. Many years had passed since he had seen red appear on the leaves of maples or sumac, telling of the onset of fall, and approaching winter.
In fact, there were no seasons anymore. One benign month passed into the next without incident. Dr. Molina had seen to that, although he probably had no way of knowing it when he discovered the depletion of the ozone layer. At that time he was viewed skeptically but some years later he would be lauded for his discovery, and released a chain of events that changed things forever.
Twenty years ago in Helsinki, a group of scientists had gathered to address the situation of global warming.Destructive weather had been exponentially increasing, and became the elephant in the room. Mudslides swallowed cars and homes in California, typhoons tore apart villages in the Philippines. Deep snows fell in Africa and droughts were being recorded in the Amazon. A forum of the top minds of the nations planned, plotted and argued over models and projections and collected data from key sources around the world. After a massive amount of time and work they arrived at their conclusion, a new intermediary had to be created to marginalize the loss of the earth's ozone layer.
A few years earlier in the United States, The HAARP project had been created. Designed as an experiment in working with the earth's ionosphere, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency had built the high power radio frequency transmitter in Alaska, with the goal of finding the results of firing radio waves into the ionosphere and exciting areas of it with the waves. After a time suspicions and even conspiracy theories grew from the clandestine nature of the facility's work. Then, just as mysteriously as HAARP had been brought into existence, it was mothballed. However, where the Department of Defense saw a wall, the scientists of Helsinki saw a window.
It was Roly Gerlitz who saw the potential in the dubious Alaska program, and flew there immediately with a small team of engineers to meet with the former heads of the HAARP program, and discuss its nature. Within several days Roly had a working knowledge of HAARP. Within several weeks he had infected his team with the program's potential. Within several months Roly and his team were communicated to the world at the U.N. council on climate change, and in several years copies of the facility were operating in many major continents.
What Roly had discovered was where the Department of defense had been kicking holes in the sky, all you really needed was a love tap.
There was trepidation at the onset. Naturally no one wants to get something this large wrong, but fortune had smiled upon Roly and the team. Within six months there were no longer any destructive weather patterns detected. In fact, after the newly named Guerlitz project went online, there were no destructive storms, period.
But Roly's vision did not stop there. If bad weather could be halted, why couldn't good weather be generated? Why couldn't there be a fertile green Death valley, or a Sahara grasslands? The possibilities were endless, and the Guerlitz project was able to fulfill those curiosities and distill what was only the optimum conditions for every region.
This is what landed Leonard in his current position. In the pre-Guerlitz days His was a family of farmers. Their productivity in yields stretched back generations from the one expanse of land they worked season after season without fail. Theirs was a life of skill and intuition, sweat and blood married with the soil to grow as the crops did every season. There was a unique memory and tradition in it.
Post-Guerlitz was the hand that slammed that almanac closed for good. If people all over the world could grow crops, there was no longer a need for skills which Leonard had expertise. Apples could be grown in India just as easily as they could in Connecticut. Corn could be raised in Iowa and Scotland alike. Agrarians protested Guerlitz, but when the clamor died down they knew the change was inevitable.
Still Leonard couldn't dismiss the finger of memory that poked him. The birds no longer migrated. There was no longer the sight of new shoots pushing through dense warming earth early in the year. Did bears even hibernate anymore? He couldn't think of everything that had changed. Maybe he shouldn't, he thought.
A low hum rose from the transport, Leonard intuitively knew that it was slowing down to stop at AIM1013. Doors slid open, and his fellow workers joined him in filing out towards the large building. Walking along the chain link fence, he looked out to the transmitter array. A long, wide swath of hundreds of transmitter poles, their transformers humming nearby. He wondered how much rice could grow in that space, or how many cattle it could sustain. It was that finger of memory poking him again.
"Yo, Len!" Someone shouted behind him, it was Matt, from Aggregation.
"Did you watch Houseboat Pirates last night? Man it was crazy!"
Matt asked him this every Thursday morning without fail, and it always made him feel twitchy. "Houseboat Pirates? Really? Who thinks this shit up?" He wanted to say, but Matt was a kind person and really just wanted to share what he liked.
"Damn, I had meant to, I had to configure the house battery's output, took me all night, almost." Leonard said. It was a lie, and maybe Matt knew it too, but he didn't want to be rude.
" You gotta see it man, it was crazy when the boat went - well, I don't wanna ruin it for you." Matt said, stepping up to the security checkpoint. Matt, just like Leonard and everyone else at AIM1013 showed their I.d. badge, stepped on a platform, and was scanned. This was to avoid anyone sneaking in or out with weapons, programs, or anything else that AIM1013 thought should not be entering or exiting their facility. Leonard passed through security's scrutiny, and walked on.
"I'll try to check it out tonight." Leonard said to Matt as he turned from the main hall down towards environmentals.
Environmentals was what Leonard had been selected for in lieu of his lifestyle as a farmer. After all, there were plenty of windows, floors and walls that needed cleaning, and Leonard wasn't exactly qualified for tuning frequencies on arrays. Not that he couldn't have learned, or at least been given the opportunity to try. When the announcement had come that a Guerlitz facility had been completed nearby, and new ways to earn a living had been allocated to people like him, he applied, and was shuttled down the long hall to Environmentals and handed a mop. This after having refitted the operating system on the family tractor, realigning the dish on the barn to better the yield speed, and even splicing a few seedlings to make an entirely better crop. When asked what he did previously he had said "farmer", and they stamped stupid on his head and walked him off.
In a way it really pissed him off, but in other ways he enjoyed the fact that he had access to anywhere in the facility via his position. Hell, if Leonard can wipe down a monitor screen, why should anyone else do it? This was the thinking that led him into many a strange thing, like the co-workers in Atmosphere Mapping fucking on the break room table, or the "closed room" discussions in administration. He had even seen one of the techs shooting up in the server room. Of course his eyes never saw these things, at least that was the covenant he held with the majority of guilty souls in the facility.
His favorite room was central control. He likened it to the old mission control rooms at NASA with their rows of stations, and several gigantic screens showing the progress of other facilities nearby and abroad. Most times the techs there wouldn't give him a second glance as he glided through. He would note about each one as he traveled, likening it to his own zoo:
Station 1: Richard was drinking again last night, he reeks of it.
Station 2: Lisa is still flirting with the guy across the room.
Station 3: Paul needs to stop that nasty nosepicking habit of his.
And so on as he traveled, leaving the room cleaner in his wake.
In time Leonard gleaned how many of the stations worked as well. How Geographers mapped and scheduled areas of land. How Meteorologists assessed conditions of atmosphere in the sky. Aggregation determined the frequency of waves applied to the ionosphere, and Energy Metrics calculated averages of previous applications, dictating future ones. Every day these components and their techs communicated and operated in cohesion to the given end. It was amazing the amount of information that could be learned from simply observing on a regular basis. There were advantages to being an invisible element of the facility.
Leonard particularly liked to visit the control center after sunset, when the techs had left and the room was vacant, with each station placed on automatic. Leonard would put his feet up at a random station and watch the flat screen monitors feeding real time information on the progression of the sun across the earth. Various stations would light up as they crossed from the twilight band into full sun, relaying the temperature, and any variances that needed to be adjusted from the previous evening. Leonard became annoyed when he struggled to remember what the earth looked like before, how storms, clouds, and the jet stream danced around the face of the globe. Now there was a meticulous and manicured landscape, the fingers of technology sunk deep into the earth and sky. Now every day was perfect and bucolic, the fangs of the beast removed.
Leonard unknotted himself awake on his day off. The earned hangover slapped a dull heavy sack against his forehead. Drinking sometimes helped him sleep, pulling him into a syrupy pool of apathy from his life. Many other evenings he would stay awake, rarely getting more than a few hours of rest before being compelled to rise from bed to try and distract himself from that finger poking his memories. Memories of apple festivals in the fall. Recollections of the spring and the fading layer of snow.
Back then Leonard would wake before sunrise with his grandfather and begin the tasks of the day. Sending the horses out to pasture, feeding and caring for the barnyard, maintaining machinery and crops. He remembered how all of this work would leave the pair dirty and exhausted, but satisfied with the accomplishments of the day.
Always tied to these thoughts was the intuitive haunting of when the visitor came to their farm. The stranger had a smoothness to him. He wore a suit, his mannerisms and hands cleaner than a fresh sheet of office paper. Grandpa had been called from the field to speak with this man. Leonard remained at the tractor and watched his grandfather's conversation with the man in the suit, gathering meaning by his gestures from afar. When his grandfather returned to the tractor his look was the same, but Leonard felt the rage boiling through his skin as hot as the sun on their backs.
From that moment an invisible hand began to peel away a gossamer layer of their lives one slow day at a time. Farm equipment was sold, animals were trucked off, belongings were packed and moved.All the time Leonard watched his grandfather wither inside behind a stoic mask. The crops withered as well, and two weeks before The family was to leave the farm for good, Leonard discovered his grandfather hanging from a beam in the barn. Leonard's grandmother, already worn sinewy and thin from a life on the farm finally found her breaking point that morning, and had resigned herself to the caring hands of her sister. Leonard was left with a cashier's check and a shadow on his soul.
Drinking, distraction, work, repeat. This is the repetition that Leonard endured since eminent domain had taken their farm, and Guerlitz had taken the skies. He swallowed more tablets of ibuprofen and washed it down with coffee. He had no intention of continuing in this vein, it was pulling his mind and body in impossibly exhausting directions, a twisting coil of rope that crackled and popped in his head.
He left his home and took the next transport headed downtown. The pills he had taken finally helping to release the fist squeezing in his forehead ,he watched through the window as suburb gave way to city, and finally to downtown. Leonard stepped off of the transport and it roared away, leaving him feeling compromised in the grit and garbage of downtown. In the noonday sun people traveled here and there, leaned against storefronts and shouted down sidewalks. Leonard took to his task and studied the storefronts as he walked. The one he sought was near, as best his estimations could manufacture. After two blocks he found the store, and stepped inside.
To be continued
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