Cloud Wars: Full Story

New story begins March 1. . . and might just feature Jimmy Bind.

CLOUD WARS

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.”

“No.”

*

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?”

“No.”

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?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

*

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.

26 Feb

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’.”

THE END

Cloud Wars: En Giardia!

WARNING: gross medical stuff to follow. . . don’t read this while eating.

Regular readers will be aware that I went to China and Indonesia early this year, and became sick in Indonesia (I’ve been to Indo-land seven times, and become ill every time).

I am still sick almost two months later, so I went to a doctor. Despite the care I took (never drinking Indonesian water, or ice, or salad, and brushing my teeth with bottled water), this is probably what my intestines currently look like:

Specifically, that’s a likely representation of the mucus of my small intestine.

Those cute little guys are called Giardia Trophozites, and they spend their days “actively swimming” and making me feel sick (though probably not as sick as you feel right now, if you’ve got a decent imagination).

The most likely way I inadvertently invited these guys to an intestinal pool party is by accidentally (or intentionally, but I’m pretty sure I’d remember that) ingesting a small amount of “human or animal faeces”. Yep, I accidentally ate some poo.

The medication I’m taking is called “Flagyl” which sounds suspiciously like “flagellate”. The perfectly rational explanation is that it’s named after the four little tentacle-thingies that each of my new little friends has trailing from their backsides.

Hey! Let’s take a closer look!

So, in conclusion, here are some recommended slogans for Indonesian tourism:

Indonesia: Impossible to forget!

Indonesia: An experience that stays deep inside you!

Indonesia: Bring it home with you!

Indonesia: A great opportunity to travel, meet new people, and ingest their faeces!

Cloud Wars: Future Scooter

Still in the “mad science” vein, here’s something that really exists (but only just):

It’s an electric-powered scooter. And it still does have two wheels – they’re just side by side, instead of that stuffy old “one in front of the other” thing.

It’s toally simple to drive – once you get it balanced. Reassured, everyone?

It’s battery powered and can reach about 60 kilometres an hour. And that’s just the prototype.

Cloud Wars: More Mad Science

Here are some scifi images to haunt your dreams (as per usual, I’m not responsible for the content on these web sites, but didn’t immediately notice anything amiss):

http://www.paranormalknowledge.com/articles/tag/science-fiction

http://www.darkfaery-subculture.com/sci-fi/a-look-at-science-fiction-books/

http://www.terpconnect.umd.edu/~ehamm/Elementary%20Genres.html

http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forums/showthread.php?t=63820

Cloud Wars: Bad writing

For all lovers of good writing, here are this year’s winners of the Bulwer-Lytton contest, (aka “It Was a dark and Stormy Night” Contest), run by the English Department of San Jose State University, wherein one writes only the first line of a bad novel.

10. As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it.

 9. Just beyond the Narrows , the river widens.

8. With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure-blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description.

 7. Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the East wall: “Andre creep… Andre creep…Andre creep..”

 6. Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back alley sex-change surgeon to become the woman he loved.

5. Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from eeking out a living at a local pet store.

4. Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do.

3. Like an over-ripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor.
 2. Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn’t know the meaning of the word “fear”‘; a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death — in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies.

 AND THE WINNER IS…

1. The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along
the greensward and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog’s deception, screaming madly, “You lied!”

Cloud Wars: Story so far

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.”

“No.”

*

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.

Cloud Wars: Mad Science

Here’s another fun (and somewhat less normal) type of flying machine – the ornithopter. An ornithopter is a machine that flies by flapping its wings. And yes, there is at least one in the world that actually does fly.

Here’s a place offering model workshops:

http://www.aero.iitb.ac.in/home/zephyr/08/index.php?option=com_content&task?task=view&id=43&Itemid=58

Cloud Wars: Picture time

Here’s what a cloud seeding plane looks like at work (from http://images.google.com.au/imgres?imgurl=http://www.china-briefing.com/news/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/cloud-seeding.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.china-briefing.com/news/2008/02/01/37000-reservists-30-aircraft-4000-rocket-launchers-and-7000-anti-aircraft-guns.html&usg=__ix6r6iAnTkztU-pPTjfD00wvZJM=&h=282&w=645&sz=41&hl=en&start=10&itbs=1&tbnid=UzW3bu48t8-8qM:&tbnh=60&tbnw=137&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dcloud%2Bseeding%26gbv%3D2%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DG):

The rockets on a plane’s wing (from http://images.google.com.au/imgres?imgurl=http://www.harunyahya.com/articles/images_articles/yagmur_bombasi_clip_image004.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.harunyahya.com/articles/signs_endoftimes.php&usg=__ySS58g7UrXyW8nB6RBnRktYekBk=&h=307&w=437&sz=15&hl=en&start=19&itbs=1&tbnid=pd6sjpG8TzzW0M:&tbnh=89&tbnw=126&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dcloud%2Bseeding%26gbv%3D2%26ndsp%3D18%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26start%3D18):

And some cannons (from http://images.google.com.au/imgres?imgurl=http://www.summitsun.com.au/multimedia/images/full/147639.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.summitsun.com.au/news/local/news/general/expect-more-snow-as-cloud-seeding-increased/466207.aspx&usg=__Hoh4g2rmE8m_2Y4b1yr0Awlyaj4=&h=300&w=400&sz=16&hl=en&start=58&itbs=1&tbnid=5cAbNsk4EjAk_M:&tbnh=93&tbnw=124&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dcloud%2Bseeding%26gbv%3D2%26ndsp%3D18%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26start%3D54):

The above websites are a study in contrasts – the first is about China, the second is about how cloud seeding is against God, and the third is about cloud seeding at the Snowy in Australia.

Cloud Wars: What is steampunk?

Steampunk is a storytelling genre that features a mix of craftmanship and technology based on Victorian times – but more fun.

Steampunk Earth Day is on 30 October 2010 – it’s a lot like Earth Hour, but with more options (and better outfits). It’s G-rated, and fully international, since you play along (literally) at home. http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=150654784970718

It often features technology that doesn’t exist or isn’t used today, especially steam powered tech. That technology is often on a huge scale (eg Philip Reeve’s “Mortal Engines” series – definitely not G or PG rated, fyi). It also often features Victorianesque class structure (Richard Harland’s “Worldshaker” is an excellent – and funny – example) because it’s inspired by the industrialisation era of Britain (though steampunk is, clearly, a lot more fun that its historical equivalent). Oh, and there are lots of Mad Scientists (as in the “Girl Genius” online comic series) and GREAT outfits (as in Philip Reeve’s “Larklight” series, my favourite kids’ series ever). Side note: Philip Reeve and the Foglios (makers of “Girl Genius”) both say they’re not steampunk – they’re “Victorian inspired” or “gaslamp fantasy”.

Steampunk movies use a palette of black, grey and coppery tones (as in “Sherlock Holmes”).

The current twittertale, “Cloud Wars”, is steampunk only in the sense that an old technology (one-person planes) are used, and that the science (cloud seeding) is vital to the plot. I promise to get better at steampunk with time (although twitter doesn’t lend itself to rich world-building).

Here’s some pretty pictures (and their websites, which I haven’t read so are not rated here):

www.wordsoup.com/blog/2007/04/

hydralisk.wordpress.com/…/steampunk/

http://www.myfreewallpapers.net/fantasy/pages/steampunk-landscape.shtml

http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://retrothing.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/steampunk.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.retrothing.com/2007/02/makesteampunk_k.html&usg=__qADyqYgj6hjdHpA8BK7EsqbjxD8=&h=323&w=469&sz=33&hl=en&start=17&itbs=1&tbnid=6DxI-A1icDzcmM:&tbnh=88&tbnw=128&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dsteampunk%26hl%3Den

Cloud Wars: Story so far

I normally do this on Fridays (and at the end of each tale), but here it is anyways:

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.”

Cloud Wars: Twitter controversy # 2

It’s been pointed out to me (usually with sniggering) how unbelievably Freudian my first day of “Cloud Wars” turned out to be. All I can say is. . . I had absolutely no idea.

It’s interesting, though – pirates kill a bunch of people, no problem. A woman starves her husband to death – what a laugh! But mocking emos, or mentioning a “ripe” cloud. . . suddenly I have issues.

One of the most enjoyable parts of writing these twitter stories is having enough of an audience that one or two readers are bound to eventually mention what everyone is thinking.

Tune in next week for the torture of puppies!*

*JOKE, darn it!

Cloud Wars: Scifi that isn’t fi

Cloud seeding (ie making clouds suddenly drop rain or snow) is real. I’ve seen the results (this year, in Beijing – the heaviest snowfall in sixty years). Clouds can be seeded by cannons (which can be loaded on the back of trucks, or shot from the ground – and yes, people living nearby hear them – and immediately rush inside) or small planes.

No, there aren’t dogfights and abductions between sparring plane companies – not yet.

Cloud seeding is used in Australia, America, and China, but has been most wholeheartedly embraced in China – where it causes friction between provinces (“You stole my rain!” “You stole MINE!” etc)

It is very efficient (mindbogglingly so), but like all godlike powers, it has a down side. We don’t yet know the long-term effects of messing with the natural patterns of rain.

It’s also obvious (already) that rain generally comes from one direction. If people close to the source of the rain are using up every cloud that passes, what happens to everyone else?