By Bob Bolin

Illustration by Jerry Burge
 

Gilbert Dingwell and his wife had moved from Earth three years before to take over the Petros weather station. At first it had been good, but lately the weather had been acting up in a terrible fashion. There had been rain, snow, sleet, and hail in a continuing onslaught.

He had a theory about that. The ancient inhabitants might have built a weather creating mechanism to give them ideal conditions all the time. Then they had hid it away for protection from mischievous eyes. But something had gone wrong with it and the terrible weather conditions had caused the ancients to perish. The machine had managed to right itself after that, but now that Earthmen had settled here, the mechanism had quit working again.

As a weather expert and scientist, he thought he knew where the weather maker might be hidden. He somehow had to find and repair it for the good of himself and others or face the consequences.

 

He felt uneasy as he glanced out his kitchen window at the terrible weather.

He gulped down his breakfast of coffee and cereal, then arose to put on his raincoat, rubber boots and moisture proof gloves. When he tried to kiss his wife, she avoided him.

“Some weatherman you are!” she said angrily. “When are we going to get some decent conditions?”

“I’m sorry, Jan,” he pleaded. “What can I do? People expect miracles because I am a scientist! But I can’t control the weather. I can only predict it!”

He left the house with a huffy attitude. He reasoned that his job should have been easy. The Planetary Weather Bureau had sent him to this miserable little world of Petros that was heated naturally to an Earthly


Planetary Stories
Drum Beat On Petros
Page 1
  temperature by volcanoes. It had a breathable atmosphere, but was hidden from view on the far side of the Oort cloud. Gilbert’s equipment was not up to date or was in an experimental phase.

No one had explained to him how impatient and demanding some people could be. He wondered what could happen to him next? To his dismay, he soon found out. The neighborhood kids started pummeling him with rocks.

“Holy planets!” he screeched. He propelled his lanky form across the yard and into his rocket car. The rocks kept pounding his windshield as he wiped blood from his forehead with a handkerchief. He pressed a button. The jet engine hummed to life. He quickly arose above the rocks and waved his left arm defiantly at the attackers from a window.

“What do they expect from me?” he muttered aloud. “I’m only human.” But he knew what was wrong. There had been so many advances in weather predictions on Earth that it was common for people to think that scientists who predicted, and also invented some types of controlling machines, were almost capable of miracles. But he wasn’t up on all the latest advances way out here on Petros.

He raced his car above the streets of Petros city, his vehicle moving along with the flow of airborne traffic. Eventually he reached the weather bureau office. He hurried inside and said a friendly “hello” to his secretary.

She answered with a frigid “hmmph”.

He shook his head. ‘What a way to start a workday!’ he thought. Even his secretary was angry. Once inside his weather laboratory, he began to push buttons. Instruments hummed to life. He took some readings and groaned. More rain, sleet, snow and hail were on the way.

“What am I going to do?” he moaned aloud. “It’s not my fault!”

The video phone buzzed. He picked up the receiver. A heavy teen aged girl appeared and shook her fist at him on the screen. “You moron!” she yelled. “Why don’t you make it clear off? I wanted to have a picnic this afternoon.”

“Better call it off,” he groaned. “The weather will be bad.”

“If I had my way, I’d choke your tonsils out!” she answered. The screen went blank.

Then he heard it again; that same rhythmical drum beat he had been picking up on his landscape vibration instrument for the past several days. Normally this would have indicated an earthquake, but this didn’t seem to be one. It reminded him of the headache pounding inside his head. He had studied the phenomena several times, but he didn’t have any answers other than a wild hunch. He stared hopefully at the hole boring machine he had assembled and placed in a corner of the room. It could provide an answer to his dilemma. But it would be a long shot at best.

The video phone buzzed again. He picked up the receiver. A fat, pudgy face with a cigar protruding from a corner of the mouth appeared on the


Planetary Stories
Drum Beat on Petros
Page 2
  screen. He recognized Governor Winkstone.

“What can I do for you, sir?” Gilbert inquired.

“It’s what you haven’t done,” the governor replied. “The weather boys down on Earth are figuring out ways to control the weather. Why can’t you?”

“I don’t usually have the right equipment,” he answered.

“That’s not what the people think,” Winkstone bellowed while savagely puffing his cigar. “I can’t hold the people off much longer. They will be coming after you. The next thing we know, it will be me! I need you to do something, and quick!”

Gilbert groaned in despair. They had told him on Earth that this would be an easy assignment. Now he had to make one of two choices. What appealed to him the most was to rush outside to his rocket car to fly as fast and far as he could. The other was to play out his strange hunch about Petros. In desperation he decided to take the second choice.

“Ok, Governor Winkstone!” he said. “We might be able to solve this problem. Please go on wide screen television and declare this to be a fair weather day. I’ll attempt to make it that way.” He quickly signed off.

Later, Gilbert watched the television screen as the governor gave his message. He reported that the day would be fair but denied any responsibility

  for the results. Even a child could figure out that just because everyone wished for fair skies, it wouldn’t happen. Not even Gilbert Dingwell could change anything unless he had an ace up his sleeve.

With frantic movements, Gilbert raced to the boring machine that he had invented and made. He turned on a powerful beam; something that he called a Z ray. The ray burnt a large hole in the floor, then ate it’s way downward through rock and dirt to the interior of the world of Petros and the source of the drum beat. He finally turned it off after a depth of a thousand feet, and checked his monitors. The beat was still there, but fainter now and much more irregular.

‘I hope this does it!’ he thought. He had tried to reach the source of the drum beat. The ancients might have created a large mechanical heart to control their weather machine. And if so, his Z ray could shock it back to a regular faint beat. They had left it buried, but had not relieved it from a buildup of pressure. The gas had built up and caused the machine to quit working properly. The weather had then gotten so bad that they had all perished. The gas finally all seeped away to make the machine work again until the gas built up; but then went crazy all over. If that was true, he had to get out of here. The gas would rise up in the hole and kill him and his secretary. He rushed into the next room and grabbed her up to hurry outside.

“Are you crazy?” she shrieked. “I don’t care anything about you romantically! “Anyway, you are married!”


Planetary Stories
Drum Beat on Petros
Page 3
 

He put her down, fairly close to the trash can. Then he looked at the weather station. Apparently he had been right. The gas pressure from the hole filled the building with dark smoke. They had barely reached safety in time.

”If you do that again, I’m going to chain you to an electric pole, plug in a bare wire, and wrap it around you,” his secretary threatened. “ Í’m going to laugh while I execute you!”

“I just saved our lives!” he pleaded. “Can’t you see that? We’d better open up the doors and windows as soon as we can!”

Dingwell and his secretary finally went back into the building and opened all the doors and windows. They also returned to their stations as soon as the smoke cleared. But an angry group of citizens suddenly rushed into the weather station, led by none other than Dingwell’s secretary.

“The weather is still terrible!” a farmer cried out. “My crops are failing! How do you expect me to raise anything?”

“Things will get better,” Gilbert answered. “Wait and see!”

“There’s no sun out there!” a street kid yelled. “We’re tired of waiting!” He still had a rock in his right hand.

Gilbert struggled as men grabbed his lanky form and carried him away on their shoulders. He took a sorrowful glance at his weather station laboratory. He hoped his wife, Jan, would stay away from his

  probable execution, and regretted that they had parted in anger

They carried him a to street light pole, tossed a rope over it, and tied it around his neck. They would soon hang him, causing him to wish he had never moved to Petros. He glanced up at the gloomy skies as huge snow flakes began to cover his body.

‘What a way to go!’ he thought. ‘A weatherman being hanged because he couldn’t change the weather!’ He hoped the Governor would send in army troops to save him

Just as his secretary started to pull on the rope, the sun broke through the clouds. The snow stopped falling. Everyone looked skyward in awe as the warm beams of a benevolent sun beat down upon them.

Wild cheers broke out. The people untied and lifted him to their shoulders again. His wife came forward to kiss his hand. He whispered a solemn thanks, realizing that his Z ray had saved the day by releasing all the pressure on the mechanical heart. He had finally succeeded.

After the excitement finally died and the men had put him back on his feet again, he smiled at them and then went back into the weather station. He received a video phone call.

“Great work!” the governor declared. “You saved the day! I am making this a holiday, Dingwell, in your honor! I’ll even give you a small raise! I knew you weathermen could perform small miracles!”


Planetary Stories
Drum Beat on Petros
Page 4
 

All seemed well after that. His secretary even brought him a cup of coffee before she handed in her resignation. But what was he suddenly reading on his weather gauges?

He felt upset again. Would he have to work on the weather machine underground? It was over a thousand feet below.

‘A long dry spell! Drought! What next?’ He slumped wearily into his chair.

-o0o-

 



The End

Planetary Stories
Drum Beat on Petros
Page 5

HOME