AUTHOR’S NOTE: The character of David who appears herein is not a reference to the author in any fashion, but rather is the name of the individual who requested the story.
David’s feet clanged loudly against the metal floor as he raced forward. He turned a corner to see (finally!) Louise and Naomi. The two captive scientists’ eyes went wide open as they made muffled noises of warning into their cloth gags.
They sat struggling in office chairs, dressed in white lab coats over their comfortable blouses (blue-green for Louise, light purple for Naomi) and dark trousers. White ropes, tied with clinical precision, restrained the pair. Coils snaked around their bare ankles, binding their feet together, which were inches above the floor, tied against the central base of the chair. Two coils of rope encircled their calves, another ran around their thighs and their chair seats. More rope pressed their upper bodies into the chair backs; their wrists were tied behind their backs.
Dr. Briareus Katabatic stood by them, trying to look confident, as if David’s unexpected arrival did not disconcert him in the least, although he rubbed his hands anxiously and wiped his sparse gray hair. The meteorologist reached out with one hand, fiddling with his computer controls.
David eyed him warily, but did not slow down. He was so close to Louise and Naomi! He would rescue them!
Dr. Katabatic smiled sickly, thinking of something to say, but no words came to him. He opened his mouth, but shut it tight again, like a trap. He reached out and fiddled with his computer controls again.
Louise and Naomi tried to call out to David, but the gags prevented clear speech. David smiled at them in reassurance as he continued forward, the distance between them drawing tantalizingly short as he flew down the long hallway. The old scientist was no threat to him, he decided. Soon he would have the captives free!
Louise and Naomi tried to warn him. Although they could not form words, they could emit a series of long and short grunts, which they coordinated together.
A long grunt, followed by a quick pause (accentuated with a dramatic head bob that sent their dark hair swirling), short, long, short, pause, short long, pause, short, long, long, short, pause, long, short, short, pause, long, long, long, pause, long, long, long, pause, short, long, short.
Which spelt out:
David knew Morse Code, of course, but with the noise his feet made banging against the metal floor, he missed the start of the message. The two scientists looked at him desperately as he continued forward. Dr. Katabatic smiled, confidence winning out as David continued heedlessly forward.
“Don’t worry, girls, I’ll save you!” David shouted.
Naomi and Louise looked at one another wildly and started the grunting once again.
“T, R, A, P,” David made out as the scientists started to form the D. He had heard enough; he stopped abruptly. “What do you have planned?” he shouted at Dr. Katabatic. “Whatever it is, it won’t work!”
“My, yes, you are entirely too clever for me,” Dr. Katabatic agreed patronizingly. He tapped his computer keyboard once.
David jumped, but too late. With a horrible grinding noise, the floor opened beneath him. His fall was over quickly; he landed hard and painfully. He heard Naomi and Louise give muffled cries of frustration as the trap snapped shut above him.
Just before he passed into unconsciousness, the events of this strange day, that had led him here, flashed through his mind.
The hurricane had a low ceiling; above the monster storm, all was eerie serenity. David sped his Cessna Skyhawk away, hoping the data he had gathered would prove useful to scientists, desperately trying to understand what was going wrong with the world’s weather.
It was a Category Five Hurricane, raging far too much to the north for such a storm to exist, especially so late in the year. Unless the cyclone changed its path, it was expected to land in Cornwall in less than forty-eight hours, where it would tear a path of destruction across southern England.
Worst of all, this was not the only such super-storm raging across the globe; four others were gathering strength as they headed for shore, poised to strike the New York City area, southern California, the Japanese island of Honshu, and mainland China.
How was such a thing even possible? No one knew, but David had bravely volunteered to fly into the eye of the storm to help.
The Skyhawk touched down on the small runway; minutes later, he was inside the hangar. He used his mobile to try calling Louise and then Naomi, but once again, he reached their voicemail. He sighed in frustration. Here was another worry. Why weren’t they answering their devices?
The televisions were all tuned to information about the impending disaster, of course. “It is a perfectly natural phenomenon,” one scientist insisted. “Humanity most simply learn to cope with nature’s capricious moods.”
“Such a thing is not possible without human interference!” another scientist disagreed.
“Nonsense! Just because this has never happened before, everyone assumes humans must be responsible for this!” the first scientist scoffed. “I feel it is supreme human arrogance to imagine we are even capable of creating such storms!”
David let the television scientists continue their debate as he tried Louise and Naomi on his mobile once again.
“We were hoping to have the renowned meteorologist Dr. Briareus Katabatic on to discuss this frightening issue,” the news anchor announced. “For viewers who are unaware, he is the leading expert on human influence on the weather. Unfortunately, Cambridge University reports he is on sabbatical, and that they have not heard from him for several weeks.”
David frowned at the television screen. The name Briareus Katabatic sounded familiar. Where had he heard it before?
The transmission abruptly ended; the television crackled, emitting static, before a new image appeared. An elderly man, sitting before a desk, spoke directly to the camera.
“Greetings, people of this world,” he announced. “I am Dr. Briareus Katabatic; you were hoping to hear from me, yes? How are you enjoying the hurricanes I’ve created for you?”
Dr. Briareus Katabatic! It all came back to David now. Naomi and Louise had spoken of him, and it had not been good. Most people knew of him from his climate documentaries that had aired on the BBC. Through their work with him, Naomi and Louise had come to know him better, though. He had been increasingly vocal about his opinions that human beings were nothing but a plague on the planet… a plague he personally needed to sort!
“What’s worse, though,” Louise had told David, “is that he seems to think he can convert us to his radical ideas!”
Dr. Katabatic! Was he really responsible for the hurricanes? Could he be responsible for the two scientists disappearing?
“These little beauties are entirely under my control,” Dr. Katabatic continued. “I’m certain everyone remembers the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, well, these are even worse. The damage they cause will be tremendous!”
He giggled briefly. “Oh, yes, speaking of beauties, I should introduce to everyone my two lovely assistants.”
The camera pulled back, to show Naomi and Louse sitting, bound and gagged, on either side of him!
“Say hello to the world, my assistants,” the meteorologist invited.
The captive pair looked across at one another, and then straight ahead, grunting into their gags as they bobbed their heads.
“Well, they really cannot say much,” Dr. Katabatic admitted, as the camera focused solely on him once again. “However, they are here with me where no one can find them, nice and safe, which is more than can be said for many people in the world, thanks to my creations. Yes, about them! I can alter their paths; it is not too late for that. However, I do have some demands that must be met first.”
David sped away, running back to the hangar. He hurriedly prepared the Skyhawk for another flight. Thanks to the quick thinking of Naomi and Louise, he knew exactly where to find them.
David awoke to pain. His body hurt everywhere. He was lying on a thin mattress; it seemed he had that to thank for breaking his fall slightly and saving him from worse hurt.
The only light in his dim surroundings came from outside his small cell. There was no window. A small bucket lay nearby. An iron gate, firmly locked, was the only noticeable exit. It seemed the meteorologist had made plans should anyone come uninvited to his hidden sanctuary.
Trallag Island was a lonely bit of rock in the North Atlantic, home to many seagulls but without a permanent human population. David had once flown Naomi and Louise for some research to this outpost. At that time, there had only been an old weather station there.
When David had seen Louise and Naomi on the television, he had recognized they were spelling out Trallag Island in Morse Code. He had flown there right away, to discover the island had been developed somewhat since his last visit. There was a modern weather research tower standing tall in the center of the island now, gleaming brightly. David had landed his plane and raced up the stairs to the top. He had not expected Dr. Katabatic to cause him any serious difficulties.
He shook his head. It’s always a mistake to underestimate one’s opponent, he told himself grimly. “Well, no point in beating myself up over it. I’m beat up enough as it is. But, how can I get out of here?”
He raised his voice. “Hey, is anybody out there? Let me out!”
His words echoed briefly, followed by silence.
He had not seen anyone else when he had arrived, so apparently it was only him, Dr. Katabatic, and the two damsels on the island. He had to get back up to them! He rattled the gate again, and then looked up above.
He reached out against the smooth metal walls. He could just barely see a small lip of metal that ran around the room about ten feel above the ground. He moved the bucket against the wall, and, standing on it, jumped upwards, reaching with his hands.
His fingers closed on the thin bit of metal. Grunting with exertion, he forced himself to ignore the pain as he drew himself upwards. His chin passed the metal ridge. He was making it back up to Naomi and Louise!
He hauled himself up, swinging one leg onto the metal ledge. It was so narrow he nearly fell as he tried to stand. His toes were slipping; he would tumble off in a second if he did not find something else he could hold onto!
He reached up blindly; he could see very little now. He hands brushed against the smooth surface of the metal walls. He jumped up desperately. Of course, he didn’t have the bucket to boost him… and he realized he wasn’t jumping nearly as high… and perhaps there wasn’t even another metal ledge…
His hands found the next ledge. Apparently, it wasn’t as high above as the first one had been. His fingers curled uncertainly around the metal. He pulled himself up as his fingers started to slip. He had to hold on! He pulled himself up another inch. “When I get up there I’ll make Katabatic pay for this,” he promised himself, although he dismissed the thought. Dr. Katabatic was a frail old man; it was not David’s nature hurt such a person. “Still, he’s not so frail that he wasn’t able to capture the girls. And there are all those poor people his storms could hurt. He has to be stopped!”
He was on the second ledge. How much further did he have to go? Well, no point worrying about it. He had to jump again before he slid off. He flung himself upwards, reaching blind once again. He found the ledge above him, only for his aching fingers to slide off completely. He tumbled back down onto the mattress, very glad to land on it rather than the metal floor. Still, it was a hard landing.
He made himself stand up again. He stepped onto the bucket and reached up with his arms, ready for another attempt. Before he jumped, though, he stepped off again. “Even if I could climb up, I probably couldn’t open the trapdoor from below,” he told himself. “So the only way out is through this door”
There was a little give in the door, David realized. He pulled it forward and pushed it backwards, creating a loud clang as the bolt rattled in its socket, but not accomplishing anything else that he could tell. “But it’s the only way out, so I have to see if it’s really so solid.”
The weakest point seemed to be the bolt. The system clearly was not constructed very well. Could it be worked loose somehow?
David slammed the door back and forth. Again, nothing noticeable happened. He did not stop, though. He slammed the door again and again. His arms ached from the effort, but he kept moving. His ears throbbed from the sound it made, but he kept moving. The thought of Louise and Naomi in the hands of Dr. Katabatic kept him moving. The thought of the millions of people affected by his killer hurricanes kept him going.
“It’s either do this or sit on the mattress and give up,” David said. “And I won’t give up!”
It seemed to David that the door was moving more now. He continued swinging it the little he could. He could see that the bolt had warped slightly. Would it warp enough to slip from the socket?
“It has to slip loose!” David decided.
Wanting something to happen doesn’t make it happen, though. Despite his continued efforts, the door kept David helplessly inside his little prison, as he could only imagine what was happening with Dr. Katabatic, and Naomi and Louise above.
“Quite regrettable,” Dr. Briareus Katabatic remarked conversationally to his two captives, as Naomi and Louise twisted in the ropes binding them, trying to find some means of escape. “I had rather hoped for a more positive response from the world. Ah, well. The hurricanes will remain on path, then, and the people they affect will know who to blame for their misfortune: their misguided leaders who so foolishly refused to give in to my most reasonable demands.”
Naomi and Louise looked pleadingly at Dr. Katabatic.
“And who was that rash young chap who came dashing in here earlier?” Dr. Katabatic scratched his chin absently. “I perceive you knew one another. No doubt, he imagined he could rescue you. How very silly that was of him! You do not need rescuing! You are quite safe with me here!
“Well, he is cooling his heels down below, realizing now that his impetuous acts accomplished nothing. Hmm, but I shall have to do something about him. The question is, what?”
Naomi and Louise both tried to answer, but the gags only permitted them to make muffled sounds.
“In Medieval times, the French had something they called an oubliette, a one-way dungeon, I suppose you could call it. They would drop a prisoner down into a chamber and then forget about him, leaving him to expire through want. Hmm, but I could not be so heartless with your friend, of course. I should remove him, but if I opened the door, I would have a raging tiger on my hands! What to do?”
The meteorologist stared off into space, as if considering an abstract academic puzzle. Louise and Naomi heard a faint banging noise that seemed to come from far below them. If their captor heard it too, though, he gave no sign.
“Perhaps I should prepare him a ready meal,” he reflected, looking at the nearby microwave. “He must be hungry by now, I suppose, so he would gulp it down, I imagine. I have plenty of medical supplies on hand, so lacing it with a sedative should be a simple task. Once he is unconscious, I can toss his body over a cliff, to be a meal for the sharks. Yes, that is what I shall do, and then you will see that I have treated him as decently as circumstances allowed.”
Naomi and Louise gave shrieks of alarm at his suggestion, but the meteorologist ignored them, shuffling to the nearby refrigerator. He hunted through the frozen dinners. “Hmm, a curry, I believe, with its spiciness, would work well, would hide the flavor of any, ahem, extraneous ingredients. Yes, this shall do nicely.” He poked holes into the plastic film and popped the tray into the microwave.
He hummed tunelessly to himself, a million miles away as the timer counted down. He was not so lost in his thoughts, though, that he failed to hear the pounding of feet on his metal floor.
He whirled around to see David racing towards him once again!
He reacted immediately, punching his computer keyboard to reopen the trapdoor, perhaps not considering that if David had escaped once, he could surely escape again, or possibly considering a second fall would be harder to withstand. Regardless, David was not to be caught twice. He hurtled over the pit that sprang open before him. “Release the girls and do whatever you have to do to stop the hurricanes!” he ordered.
“I shall do no such thing!” Dr. Katabatic said. “I shall, however, stop you.” He raised his hands.
“Don’t do this!” David entreated. “Despite all you’ve done, I really don’t wish to fight you!”
“Frightened, well, and you should be!” the old man said grimly, dancing forward. He flew out towards David, who stepped aside to avoid the attack. “Stand still and fight!”
“Dr. Katabatic, stop this!” David darted to avoid another attack, as Naomi and Louise gave muffled shouts. Dr. Katabatic swung around and darted forward, missing David once again. He may have been elderly, but he seemed in remarkably good physical condition. “Yes, you see I know how to handle myself,” he said with pride, landing a soft blow on David’s shoulder. “I boxed lightweight in my student days. Hmm, but that was many years ago, but the moves are coming back to me.” He swung again.
“How can I stop him without hurting him?” David asked himself.
“Your interference is just like the interference of the human race against this planet!” Dr. Katabatic yelled, striking David’s chin with remarkable force. He circled gingerly, and moved in for another attack as David stepped aside; the scientist gave a shriek of fright. He was standing at the edge of his trapdoor! He spun around, reaching out with a hand. David lunged to grab him, but he was too late. With another shriek, the meteorologist tumbled down into the cell below.
David was relaxing at his flat with Naomi and Louise, several days later. The two scientists had managed to change the course of the killer hurricanes, sending them back out to sea to blow themselves out. Dr. Katabatic had been slightly injured by his fall, not causing any lasting harm, but preventing any escape. He was securely in prison.
“Where he should remain for a long time!” Naomi announced. “He could do some severe damage, were he to ever get free again!”
“Still, this event should teach us something,” said Louise. “We as humans need to be much more careful. We really can affect the weather much more than most people realize.”
“Are you feeling better, David?” Naomi asked. “You got pretty banged up during that ordeal!”
“Yes, we’d better make sure you’re okay,” Louise decided.
David smiled. Actually, he felt just fine, but he was happy to have the ministering angels work their magic on him all the same!