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Novelet Of Days To Come


by Harry Warner, Jr.

Weather-control was a necessity in these times when arctic temperatures swept over the world and Ted Foreman couldn't understand why his plans weren't even being considered. It all pointed to one conclusion...


THE HOWLING of the wind outside rose above the hum of voices inside the big reception room. His fingers drumming on his knees, Ted Foreman felt the cold creeping through the thick walls and heated air of the International Weather Observers' Chicago headquarters.

"Mr. Foreman?" A black-haired girl, dictation notebook tucked under one arm, stood before him. "The chief will see you now."

Ted followed the girl through a labyrinth of inner offices. Her trim figure battled for his attention with the fascination of the isobar-filled maps on which technicians were working, the statistics that were pouring in on teletypes, the automatic calculating equipment that was pouring forth data.

"Mr. Foreman, Mr. Clark," the girl said, as they reached an office that was larger than the others.

"Don't go, Miss Cole," Clark said; "you'd better take notes on our conversation."

Ted stole another glance at the girl, then snapped his mind to attention on the authoritative-looking, bespectacled Clark.

"...So if my math is right," Ted finally concluded his long explanation, "we could do something about this climate. If we can just make a start on weather-control procedures, it will start off a cumulative process. Nature would help us. If we broke up some clouds, the sun would get to work on ice; we'd be starting back toward the sort of climate that makes life worth living."

Clark rose, turned his back to Ted, and stared out the window. Snow was beating against the double thickness of glass with silent, persistent fingers. The neighboring skyscraper, only a half-block away, was barely visible through the storm, and the wind continued its persistent, unsatisfied whine. Finally Clark turned back.

"You might as well go and start transcribing your notes," he told the girl. She snapped the notebook shut, and disappeared back into the labyrinth.

"It would take a long time to check your math, young man," Clark said, again sitting down. "But you've overlooked two very important things."

Ted pressed his lips tightly together, feeling that this was a decisive moment.

"The first thing," Clark ticked it off on his fingers, "is that you're not the first person to have the Idea that weather-control might be possible as an antidote for this perpetual arctic climate. I'd estimate that we get the suggestion a hundred times a month."

Ted pointed to the thick sheaf of papers he had just been exhibiting. "You mean that my calculations just duplicate..."

CLARK INTERRUPTED. "You've gone further than most people; most of the letters we get just suggest starting mammoth fires, or something equally ridiculous. But you're overlooking something else.

"Number two, our organization is strained to the very limit to do the work to which it is assigned already. We can't spare the men to tackle any weather-control theories; if we did, our predictions and analyses would suffer. You know what that would mean—more famine than we have now, because of crop failures; another cutback on transportation; a dozen other things. Even though we're supported by all the big governments in the world, the governments can't afford to give us more money or more men. They're having a hard enough time keeping us going at our present size, with the world's economy disrupted by the change in the climate."

"But it wouldn't be such a big job to test out my theories," Ted insisted. "I've got documentary evidence that there was pioneer Weather-control work done years ago, back in the 1940's."

"Documentary evidence?" Clark leaned forward, suddenly alert.

"I found a couple of references to cloud-seeding and rain-making in an old reference-book in a second-hand store. Funny thing— I hunted up later editions of the book, and they left out all mention of those experiments."

"I'd like you to send me that book," Clark said. "I'm very much interested in it." Then he stood up.

"You aren't interested in anything else from me?"

"I'm afraid not. Good day."

Ted yanked the zipper on his briefcase shut viciously, slammed his hat onto his head, and resisted the impulse to hurl the briefcase at Clark. He was striding out of the office when Clark's voice came from behind him: "You'll never find your way out of this maze; ask Miss Cole to show you out."

Not turning around, Ted waited a moment until the girl slipped to his side. Her pencil was stuck behind her ear, and she looked at him anxiously: "Any luck?"

"No, and that's an understatement." Grim-faced, Ted walked beside her, retracing their previous confusing route. "He told me that I'm an extra-smart crackpot."

"I'm so sorry," the girl said in low, sympathetic tones. "I'll bet my old boss would have given you more consideration."

"Did they send him to Siberia for suggesting the use of blue pencils, instead of red pencils, to mark weather maps?"

"Well, he used to have the job that Mr. Clark holds. But—all of a sudden they transferred him to the Cape Cod observatory. That's just about as cold and icy as Siberia used to be."

Clutching at straws, Ted suggested: "If you think it would do any good, maybe you'd give me his name and address and I could write to him."

"His name is Dr. Hermann Dietrich," the girl told him. They were back in the reception room by now. "But it wouldn't do any good to write to him. Your letter would be referred back to here by his secretary before he even saw it, because it concerns experimentation—and that's not in his division."

They stood by the reinforced glass window, watching snowplows fight their way up a wide Chicago street like tiny toys, twenty stories below. Here and there an ant-like person battled his way desperately along the sidewalk, battling the gale and knee-to-waist-deep snow.

"Look," the girl whispered. "I can forge you a pass into the Cape Cod observatory, if you're willing to go to the trouble of getting there. I have a feeling that Dr. Dietrich might be interested, if you can see him personally."

"You've never seen me before," Ted said, looking straight into her eyes. Her gaze held his for a long moment. "Why do you want to do this for me?"

"I guess I Just like to help young men with good ideas," she replied after a brief pause. "Wait here." She scurried away.

Ted returned to the chair he had occupied a half-hour earlier, wishing he had asked about her first name.

TED REMEMBERED, as a boy, A when autos still ran all winter in Chicago. But that was before the climatic changes had reached their peak. Back in his boyhood, airplanes flew in January; people ventured out without earmuffs in February; and below-zero readings were rarities.

But as Ted grew up, the climate grew worse. After the North American temperature averages had gradually climbed during the first half of the 20th century, the world's climate had taken a turn for the worse—before the 1950's were ended. Sensational Sunday-supplement articles about the approach of a new ice age had given Ted an interest in the weather that he had never lost.

By 1965, Chicago had winters when snow covered the ground without a break from early November until mid-April. The last major airline ended its regular schedules in North America, five years later, because of storms nine months in the year. Two of the ten years that followed 1970 resulted In world-wide famines, because of crop failures.

The United States had been luckier than the rest of the world. Europe and Asia, still recovering from war's effects, had barely avoided mass starvation. Improvements in hydroponics, and advances in the science of nutrition, had kept most of the people alive.

The war—which had threatened to engulf the entire world during the '50's—was forgotten by the '70's, as the nations converted munition plants to greenhouses, and drafted young men and women to labor in the fields during the shortened summer. No army could have marched through the ice and bitter cold during most of the year, in any event.

The United Nations, turning its attention from dope-addiction and disarmament, had gone to work on the fight against the weather's effects. T...

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