“I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Van Deesen had been saying this, again and again, under his breath, for the last twenty minutes, and Lopez was frankly tired of it. This was the problem with rich kids, she thought. One real problem, one real problem, and they all go to pot.
Unfortunately Van Deesen had now turned to her. “What are we going to do? We can’t do anything,” he bleated at her. “We’re going to lose our jobs! If we’re lucky!”
She waved idly behind her at the holographic readout – a flatscreen would have done, really, but the station funders wanted a three-dimensional representation of all weather in what they were supposed to call “the Idyll” but which she always pronounced, in her head, as “Idle.” It impressed stockholders when they came by on tours to see the climanipulation team dramatically gesturing across the “sky” like they were the Hand of God and then imaging the accelerated-time result. (The gestures, frankly, were a pain and everybody just preferred to use buttons instead.)
The readout showed exactly what it should show: sun-dappled clouds, not so many clouds as to be threatening but enough that they would provide contrast in the sky and cut down on glare. In the eastern half, where the sun was beginning to set, the clouds were gathering more intensely. It was Thursday, and Thursday meant the twice-weekly heavy shower (for five hours, from 1 AM to 6 AM) that meant nobody had to water their lawn. It all looked perfectly normal.
“This isn’t normal!” God, but Van Deesen was giving her a headache. And of course he was right. Those clouds were gathering three hours ahead of schedule – three hours before they were even scheduled to flip many switches and commence the evening’s electrostatic cloudseeding, creating rain-on-demand, the type of rain the network’s customers demanded: as much as needed and nothing that interfered with their day-to-day business. This wasn’t even the four-times-yearly scheduled daylight rain (“Jump In Puddles! Dash Between Those Drops!”). No, this was unscheduled rain. And probably someone was going to get fired for it. Ideally, Van Deesen.
“Look, Sheldon, it’s pretty straightforward.” She shrugged. “Do you remember studying feedback theory in your climanipulation classes?” She went on before he would have a chance to start improvising an explanation as to why he didn’t. “It’s your classic Dessikan feedback loop. You can’t completely control weather; it’s too expensive a proposition -”
“Yeah, I know, hence the Idyll, where we can control it, and hence it costing extra to live here.” Van Deesen snapped off the words like someone who had never been outside the Idyll. Probably he never had. “But this isn’t being forced from the exterior. The nullification zone is empty all around the Idyll – twenty kilometers every way of nothing but clear skies.” Van Deesen’s voice was growing accusatory. Not towards her – that would be stupid even for him – but towards the weather. It was odd to realize that, but Lopez knew it to be true.
She sighed. “I’m not saying it’s being forced from the exterior. It doesn’t have to be, you know.” She said “exterior” almost neutrally and was proud of it. Nobody would know, looking at her, that she was a gushtown brat who grew up under a metal roof – a roof that was so loud from the constant pounding of rain that she could sleep through damn near anything nowadays. When her uncle had smuggled her into the Idyll at the age of nine, he’d had to take her to the doctors to get a cochlear matrix implanted in each ear; she had been damn near deafened. Her mother hadn’t been able to afford the good earplugs. “Go back and read your Dessikan. It’s pretty straightforward: he predicted that the inevitable result of atmospheric static manipulation was stratospheric collection of water vapour, which would eventually descend and create a superstorm. It’s pretty basic math. We all read it.”
Van Deesen rubbed his temples. “But it wasn’t supposed to happen for years! We’re going to get blamed, Kace! It doesn’t matter if we say it’s math, all that matters is the suits all thought it wasn’t going to happen for another twenty-two years. Who do you think they take it out on?”
Lopez shrugged again. It was amazing to her that Van Deesen hadn’t figured out the full ramifications of what was happening. “I think they’ll have more to worry about, frankly. Have you looked at where that storm is coalescing?” She tapped her oplet gently and the holographic display zoomed in. “I’m pretty sure that storm is going to take out the static wall generators in 7B, and when that happens… well.”
Van Deesen started freaking out at that point, but Lopez was no longer paying attention. She turned to the window and looked out at the perfect horizon, at the sun setting on exactly enough cloud cover to create dazzling pinks and scarlets (this was color arrangement 479, and like all the others it was copyrighted). It was glorious and it was bought and it was paid for, and she imagined how beyond it, over the horizon a hundred miles away, she could see in her mind the permanent storm that the people here had forced on everybody else (because after all who was going to make them pay for your weather?), held at bay by a long row of poles and towers emitting targeted static and plasma discharges, and how each of those poles was interdependent on the others, and how the generators weren’t ready to handle the ravages of a proper superstorm.
She thought about her mother’s face, completely smooth even into her late forties when she died of the pneumo, smooth like everybody’s faces were in the gushtowns because wrinkles simply wore away in the day-to-day. She wondered how Van Deesen’s face would look after a few years of rain, and how the suits would look after they realized this storm wasn’t a one-off occurrence but that in fact their remaining twenty-two years of profits were gone, had never really existed in the first place.
And as she looked out onto the horizon, she realized that she was thinking how good it would be to have weather just like she had done when she was a kid.