New story begins March 1. . . and might just feature Jimmy Bind.
Wed 10 Feb
“Mum! I gotta go make rain now.”
“Why can’t you get a real job?”
“MUM!” I switched off the comm and shot my payload into a full-looking cloud.
Since I’d cunningly forgotten to shut my lid, the rain I made fell right in. When the sparks started I cursed myself and pressed ‘eject’.
I floated down as neatly as you please, but the Eastern plane had already landed. They wrapped my own chute around my neck and I was gone.
Th 11 Feb
I woke in an Eastern jail – all concrete chic with a side order of migraine. Eastern cloud seeders made bets on me outside the barred door.
The good thing about being a nineteen-year old girl is that people think I’m weak. On their odds, I wouldn’t wake up. So I didn’t move. Yet.
Fri 12 Feb
When a doctor came to take my pulse I grabbed both his arms and twisted. He yelped but he quickly learned not to move – a perfect shield.
“We’re BFFs now,” I told him, “because today we live or die together.”
“Do I get to choose?”
“You sure do. . . is that a sandwich?”
I escaped into a land as dry as my mouth, and searched the dying fields for water without success. If only I hadn’t done my job so well.
Sat 13 Feb
A woman woke me, and I followed her into her home. She gave me water to drink. Then I saw the picture of her dead son – a cloud seeder.
She saw me looking, and nodded. “I helped you for his sake. You’re a seeder too.”
“And possibly his killer. Have you poisoned me?”
She laughed sadly. “I no longer care for East or West. Only sons or daughters. When you’ve eaten, take his plane. It’s no use to me.”
Sun 14 Feb
Dan stood over me – he liked to belittle his employees. “You lost your plane and consorted with the enemy.”
“I escaped. Isn’t that my duty?”
I competed for my job using the dead boy’s ancient plane. Two sleek Western planes dived for me, and I wrenched at the wheel with all I had.
The wheel came off in my hand. I swore as the green, green ground of my home rose to meet me. My second crash in five days. Real impressive.
Mon 15 Feb
Dan put me in the visitor’s cabins to shame me. Was I fired or not? If only I had a plane! The other seeders flew off, laughing and revving.
I awoke, miserably, at 2:00pm. Someone was outside. I crept out and saw six Easterners unbolting our cloud cannons. Filthy thieves!
I ran to our emergency cannon, and grabbed the air siren. Then I blasted the enemy with noise and silver nitrate. They fled; skinny shadows.
Tue 16 Feb
“You wasted our silver shooting at phantoms,” said Dan.
I controlled myself with an effort: “Perhaps I should be transferred.”
When my room was broken into I heard my attacker above the pattering rain. He lunged for me. I rolled off my bed onto the hard floor.
I pounced on his sword and wrenched it from his hand. He kicked at my knee, but I dodged – and bashed him unconscious with his own sword.
Wed 17 Feb
I watched the river water rise, knowing my late-night attacker was in the room next to me, and probably treated just as well. Bosses suck.
The other seeders flew back and forth, firing again and again so the clouds wept needlessly. For the first time, I became truly annoyed.
Th 18 Feb
At dawn I dressed and went outside, shocked to find the river was now lapping at my door. Fortunately we kept our planes on higher land.
I took the air siren, and blew the first blast at Dan’s open window. “Flood!” I shrieked, “Save the planes!”
“Who – huh – what?”
Since I’d saved our entire fleet, I was moved back into the group cabins. Dan said I was on probation. Everyone else said I was a hero.
Fri 19 Feb
Probation Schmobation, I decided, and marched into Dan’s office.
“Hello Ann,” said Mum, sipping her latte, “you’ve been causing trouble.”
“Back in the visitors’ quarters?” I asked.
Dan said, “Yep. And on rations.”
“Thanks Mum. Thanks a lot.”
Mum shrugged innocently.
Sat 20 Feb
I moved to the top bunk as the flood waters continued to rise. My Eastern attacker somehow escaped (while MY door was locked).
Sun 21 Feb
“Congrats,” Dan announced, waking me.
I said, “What now?”
“You’re going to be our liaison to the East.”
“A spy, you mean? Do I get a plane?”
“No plane,” said Dan.
I said, “Mum’s idea, was it?”
“She said you were sneaky.”
“Fabulous. Can I at least sleep somewhere dry?”
Mon 22 Feb
The flood continued, fed by our seeders hourly. I cut a hole in the cheap roof to get in and out. Dan was kind enough to let me have a boat.
“Your first job,” said Dan, “is to tell the Easterners that if they give us all their planes, we’ll give them a share in tomorrow’s storm.”
Tue 23 Feb
I called Mum. “Thanks for the new job.”
“What are mothers for?”
“Indeed. I may not see you for a while.”
“Because of the job?”
I picked the best plane – why not? – and scraped its wires until it roared to life. Dan came screaming from his office. I waved.
“Stop thief!” Dan roared. As I lifted into the grey sky, he slipped and fell face down in the mud. It was a good omen for my defection.
Wed 24 Feb
I switched the comm to all Western frequencies. “Ann here. I’m taking the rain where it’s needed – or I can take all of you down with me.”
Only Jed liked Dan enough to fight me. I’d hoped it’d go that way. I raked his wing with real bullets and grinned as I saw him eject.
Jed’s plane spiralled downward fast, spewing flame. A great gout shot up straight for me, and I banked just in time, coughing in the smoke.
Th 25 Feb
I yawned as I crossed the East-West border, and jumped as lightning cracked around me. “Nice storm,” I said, “now go do some good.”
Bam! Something hit my tail – and it wasn’t rain. I twisted and saw Dan’s own plane. “Thought you’d forgotten how,” I said through the comm.
He strafed me and I screamed as a lucky shot found my leg. I let my plane dive and hoped for the best. Dan laughed as he turned home.
Through stupid tears I spotted a familiar farmhouse, and glided into a landing in a cloud of dust. The first heavy drops of rain fell.
“Hello again,” said the dead cloud seeder’s mum at my window.
I said, “Hi. How’s things?”
“Nice plane,” she smiled, and helped me inside.
“My name’s Victoria,” she said as she bound my wound and brewed tea for me and my new Eastern boss. “But everyone calls me ‘Mum’.”