Flash Fiction Friday: The Clouds

I was thinking about how many problems might crop up for colonists of a new planet.  Even with sophisticated scans and on-site visits, we may not be able to tell what’s really there.

The Clouds

“What does she think she’s accomplishing out there?” Sedona Kahn huffed.  “All of that sitting; gazing into the distance, contemplating the landscape; what a waste of time.  She should be in here, compiling data, not out there getting sun burnt.”

Her lab partner, Harry Fraiser, defended her.  “That’s the way her people do things, Sedona.  How they get to know the land.”

Sedona sniffed.  “This isn’t Earth, it’s Aerie and we aren’t Navaho.  If she doesn’t figure out what’s up with the storms soon, it will be too late for all of us.”

###

Bectie Mandan and her boss, Helen Walker sat in front of Conall, the colony leader.

“People are going to think I’m crazy, but I think the clouds are moving deliberately,” she paused to gauge his reaction.

He nodded, always a good listener; he never shot down an idea without some thought and discussion. “Go on.”

“OK, I’m thinking out loud here so bear with me.  We scheduled our arrival for what should have been late winter on Aerie, and it seemed like we timed it right but just as we began planting, the clouds just disappeared, no rain for two months.  Now, it was possible that we missed a monsoonal pattern from Earth, so we forgot about it and irrigated.  Then, two straight months of rain, no let up, all the crops drowned.  Then the rain dried up, but we had cloud cover, for six months hardly a peak of sun.”

“True Bectie, then all winter, snow.  Way more than should have been here given our latitude,” he sat forward in his chair.  “Nothing like what our drone scans showed us about the planet before we left Earth.  What’s your point?”

Nodding, she continued, “the next spring, almost exactly the opposite weather from the first year, but with the same result, crops dead or nearly dead.  We’re in our third spring, we’re still eating replicator food and burning through our seed stocks with no replacement.  I think the clouds are doing it.”

Conall sat back in his chair and rubbed his face.  “A bold statement, Bectie.”

“It’s got to be true.  It’s not usual for clouds to just hang there, stationary.  I’ve watched other clouds come into the mass, from directions contrary to the wind patterns.  Some clouds have left the same way.  Not drifting,” she emphasized, “going.    Niaz has the original planet scans, and everything tracks except the rainfall pattern, it isn’t matching our experience.”

She sat back in her chair, tucking a foot up under her.  “Then there’s the fog.  We had fog all the time the first year.  We took samples of it.  By winter the fog was gone, nothing unusual about that from our Earth experience but we haven’t had fog since.  Not once.”

Conall tapped his stylus on the table, looking at Helen.  “What do you think about this?”

“Alcander thinks there’s something in the highest freqs and he’s working with Niaz, trying to find a pattern.”

Conall’s eyebrows shot up.  He nodded, “What the hell.  If the clouds are talking to each other, maybe we can get them to talk to us.”

###

The clouds covered nearly the whole sky and were black with moisture.  The colony was on edge, they couldn’t afford to lose any more crops.  Conall, Helen, and Bectie were in the Comms Lab with Alcander while Niaz was on intercom watching his computer screen.  All of the comms data was being fed into the computer system and the team hoped they had the clouds’ language correct.

The last month had been spent sending super high frequency signals up into the clouds.  At first, just repeats of signals they believed came from the clouds.  It was a little nerve wracking when the clouds started moving in toward the colony.

Every time they sent a signal, it was repeated, the colony was now pretty certain, by the clouds.  It was time to put some signals together to make a sentence.  Bectie finally decided on the sentence ‘No water’.  Her argument was that the clouds knew about water, had dumped it on them as rain and snow, so it would be a concept they could both understand.

She held her breath as Alcander transmitted the signal for ‘No water’.  Both words had been used by the clouds as one of the repeating signals traded back and forth.  She hoped, now that the colony was initiating the signal, it would be understood.

It didn’t take long.  The signal was returned, ‘No water’.

The group hovering over Alcander whooped, they could hear Niaz whooping too.  It was going to be a long, hard path but maybe, the two species could work out an agreement.

The End

785 Words

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1 thought on “Flash Fiction Friday: The Clouds

  1. Cool. On the other hand, their joy may be premature. If the clouds have merely been repeating their single-word signals, there’s no reason to expect that a two-word signal would be any different. 🙂

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