Shadow of the Rain Catchers – Part 2

Looking for Part 1? Click here to read Part 1 of Dean Giles’ novella Shadow of the Rain Catchers.

“You’re looking at genuine blueprints of a Rain Catcher.” He let the words settle in her brain.

Ava’s face turned pale and then flushed red. She’d never been good at hiding her emotions.

Ewan pointed to a drawing of the main water tank. Its bulk was kept afloat by a supporting airship attached two-hundred metres above. The drawing showed multiple venting shafts penetrating the tank’s casing.

“Here.” He pointed near the apex of the tank. “There’s a small maintenance ladder and shelf. If I can get above the fabric sacks with my hang glider and land on top of the tank, then, I simply drop a canister attached on a rope into the collected water. I’ll fill as many canisters as I can carry, and drop them down on parachutes through a joint at the edge of fabric section. All you need to do is follow me on the ground and collect the canisters as they fall to earth. Job done.”

Ava stared at Ewan in blatant disbelief. “Please tell me you’re joking?”

“Why, Ava? Why would I be joking? This water could save my father’s life.”

Ava sat down next to him on the long wooden bench and took both his hands in hers. “If you decided to go ahead with this madness, you could die. Then who will look after your father? And, if you get caught by any of the Catcher’s security drones, you’ll be killed.” Her words were becoming heated. “I want nothing more than for Daniel to get better, but you’re being reckless, Ewan, you need to think about this, seriously. Even if we did manage to pull it off, you could still be arrested and God knows what the machines would do to you for interfering with one of their own… is it really worth the risk?”

Hers was the voice of reason, and the logic was hard to ignore. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. Yu Yún has been taking our rain for centuries, and right now, more than ever before, I need to get back what’s mine. What’s ours. What belongs to the people.”

“You know that I feel the same, but it’s just not worth the risk. You should be in prison just for having those damn blueprints.”

Ewan threw his hands up in defence. “All I want is to take back some water. The rain should be free for everyone.”

“There has to be another way, Ewan. Just promise me you’ll think about it, please?”

Ewan felt the wind drop from his sails. Perhaps she was right, and he had to find another way to raise the funds.

Five full days of searching for a new job yielded no results. The few employers that had available work wouldn’t touch him because of the Yu Yún incident. It seemed wherever he went his bad reputation had already paved the way ahead of him.

Full of frustration from another long, unsuccessful day, Ewan took the road back to his village. It was dark and the humming of the Rain Catchers continued unrelenting above him, a constant reminder of his lowly place in the world.

He cycled as hard as he could despite inevitable dehydration. His insides were taut like a thousand tourniquets around his spine. He needed to forget, to somehow vent the anguish.

As if in answer to his growing despair, the horizon exploded with light. Like the hand of some ancient god had reached down and lifted the carpet of darkness, the sun smiled down on the earth once again.

The storm was passing. For nearly a week the land had been plunged in the shadow of the Rain Catchers. With the distant sunset came a renewed feeling of optimism. It reasserted itself instantly in Ewan’s heart, and with it came a rekindled loathing for the machines who stole the sky.

Ewan opened the front door, and through heavy huffs he called, “Father? Dad? Come and see the sunset, quickly.”

There was no answer. He stepped into his home. The dining table was still covered with this morning’s plates, and the sight sent adrenaline flowing through him. He charged across the room and pulled aside the curtain that divided the living area from his father’s sleeping space.

The sharp smell of faeces hung in the air. Ewan pressed his forefinger against his father’s wrist and prayed silent thanks when he felt a weak pulse.

Doctor Don looked grave. “He’ll live, for now, but he’s got to rest and have plenty of fluids.” He leaned over close to Ewan and whispered in earnest, “What he really needs is penicillin, otherwise he will die.”

Ewan was running out of time and right then, the prospect of prison, or worse, was acceptable to the alternative.

Don packed away his tools and closed his briefcase. He was dressed in the same suit he’d been wearing as far back as Ewan remembered, and it was as neat and clean as the day it was made. Doctor Don took pride in his appearance. It was important to him. Ewan found solace in his dignity. Doc was as poor as most people, but he was determined to fight, in his own way.

Ewan had the tools to save his father, and maybe, just maybe, he could pull it off.

“Don’t worry, Doc, I’ll get the water so you can buy the penicillin.”

“You come and see me as soon as you do.”

Ewan followed Don outside and breathed in the night air. The endless sky opened before them, and countless stars shone brilliantly. Ewan felt like he could fall into the open abyss. It always took time to readjust to the vastness of the night sky after the rain clouds passed.

Don raised a bushy eyebrow and pointed up. “Drink it up, Ewan, they say another big storm’s heading our way.”

Footsteps crunched loudly outside, and Ava barged through the shed door carrying a bulging black sack. She was dressed in close-fitting denim, t-shirt, and high boots.

Without a word, she upturned the sack onto the floor. “There should be enough material here to finish your dragon machine, and more left over for parachutes.”

Ewan held onto his questions and regarded his friend as she unclipped two hand-sized devices from her thin belt. “Walkie Talkies,” she said. “So we can keep in contact while you’re up there.”

“Why the u-turn?”

“I heard what happened to your dad, and I know you too well, Ewan. I still think your plan stinks, but I’ll do what I can to help you. Someone has to.”

Ewan jumped from his seat and grabbed Ava in both arms. He lifted her and spun. Clutter knocked off nearby shelves as he swung her around. Her expression went from surprise to mock annoyance.

Ewan gathered his equipment. He’d spent hours folding his parachute into the pack he now carried across his back. He had attached water canisters securely across all surfaces, each one with its own smaller parachute. Hidden in his trousers were the Kevlar cutters he’d snatched from work. They were sharp enough to open a small hole in the fabric seam. He went to find Ava.

She was sitting on the ground cross-legged at the edge of town, waiting. The sun was low in the sky, and the early morning air felt fresh on his cheeks. They walked west, away from civilisation and into the dry hills.

About two miles out of town, Ewan located his hang glider, which he’d hidden the night before under rocks and rubbish.

Ava stood looking across the land. She hugged herself against the rising wind. Ewan joined her and took in the view. At this height he could see the village below, just a few buildings at the end of a deserted road. In the distance the town was waking up, and smoke billowed from factories and kitchens.

From their vantage point, the scale of the approaching Rain Catcher was startling. Hanging on the horizon, it was a distinctive black line edging ever closer.

“How does it stay in the air?” Ava asked, not taking her eyes off the approaching clouds.

“It’s a simple matter of numbers. The airships need to provide enough lift to keep the tanks airborne. Each hectare of fabric can capture up to three-million tons of water before it saturates, so several layers of airships can be employed, depending on the severity of the storm.”

“Do you ever wonder how they know which way to go? Why they never miss a drop of rain?”

Ewan laughed. “All the time! Each ship is an independent mind. Linked together they act as a networked mind. They pick-up tiny changes in wind and temperature and use it to model the most probable direction of the storm.”

“But what happens if it becomes too heavy?”

“They either add more segments to the edges to take up the slack, or they send in the Pumpers to take off some of the load. It’s actually quite ingenious. It rarely rains uniformly throughout a storm anyway, so some sections capture more water than others. To avoid those sections sagging and pulling the whole thing free, they use a pumping system, which balances the weight across the assembly of tanks, thus sharing the load equally. Pretty amazing really.”

Ava was smiling as he spoke, seemingly happy to hear him prattle on.

“If this is going to work, I need to fly the Little Dragon over the top of the fabric and land on a tank.” He looked to the distance at the growing horizon – the far-away humming now carried on the wind.

Ava put a Walkie Talkie in Ewan’s hand and wound the power handle. She looked at him with deep longing. “When you land safely, tell me what the rain feels like, what it smells like…”

Ewan kissed Ava on the cheek and hugged her tight. “I will…’ he said. ‘And I’ll do one better – I’ll bring you back some sky.”

Head low, Ewan watched the ground speed under his feet as he sprinted down the steep hill. His strides got longer, inconsistently at first, and then he bounded in great leaps until the wind wrenched him into the sky at great speed.

Every inch of his body felt electric, utterly alive. He held on tight as the rising thermals lifted the glider skyward. Tears ran down his cheeks, but not from the emotion – he cursed himself for not thinking about goggles.

He shifted his weight to the side and swooped towards the groaning Rain Catchers in the sky. Below him, Ava was peddling fast trying to keep up, so he flew round in a great arc to give her time to follow.

At roughly six-thousand feet, Ewan was level with the monstrous machines. The bulging mass rushed towards him like a billowing tidal wave. Black smoke rose from engine parts leaving shimmering smog in the sky above.

From this vantage point, three layers of airships were visible. The water tanks were tethered to a single blimp, and each one of these was tethered again to a ship at higher altitude. The biggest were perhaps two kilometres long.

These middle tier ships were in turn attached to even higher blimps at an altitude of ten-thousand feet, where sensing equipment was routed through the Rain Catchers’ networked consciousness.

He grimaced at the Yu Yún company logos proudly displayed on most available surfaces.

Attached around his neck in a transparent folder hung the blueprints. They showed where the security drones were mounted. By his calculation it would be possible to land the glider near a maintenance shaft on any of the thousands of tanks. However, he needed to bypass the drones first, and it wasn’t going to be easy. He would have to stay close to the harnesses that tethered the tanks, and hopefully hide from the drone’s sensors.

If he was detected, the drone wouldn’t fire its industrial laser if there was any risk it could damage the Rain Catcher. It would most likely grab him and throw him overboard. Ewan tried not to think about that harrowing a death.

He had to calculate his approach perfectly to avoid security, and he needed to remain calm.

Ewan’s Walkie Talkie was positioned underneath his balaclava, against his ear. The speaker crackled. “You better be careful, Ewan,” she shouted.

“Ava, have you got line of sight with me?”

“What do you mean? I can’t see your eyes from here, you’re too high up.”

Ewan laughed at her response. “I mean, can you see me in the glider?”

“Oh, yes, sorry. I can see you.”

“Watch the point that I fly over the edge. I’m aiming for the fabric seam to my left on the second tank in. Follow me and stay under that tank. I’ll contact you when I’m safely down.”

Sailing between the cloud and the Rain Catcher, Ewan felt the cold pass through him like a sheet of ice. His eyes blurred and the world’s aspect altered, like looking through misty glass. Long seconds passed before the realisation settled home. He was feeling the touch of rain on his face for the very first time. Great gushes of water soaked through his clothes to every surface of his body. The cold made him gasp. His eyes were closed tightly against the pouring onslaught, and he felt the glider shift out of control. He was being tossed through the air; vivid images of the kite accident from his childhood flooded his mind. The wind had him in its grasp, wildly pulling and pushing him, and the rain drove on unrelentingly.

Ewan forced his eyes open against the bombardment in time to see a fast-approaching harness cable. Invisible from a distance, the three inch cable was the last thing he saw before being ripped free from the glider and thrown into the waters of the Rain Catcher.

Pain radiated through his entire body, and panic smacked him hard as he opened his eyes in the rushing waters. The whitewash rapids pulled him along the fabric at a horrendous speed.

He managed a single gulp of air before his head submerged. He kicked his legs and flapped his arms against the roaring currents. Panic drove his muscles onwards until he finally broke the surface. He opened his mouth and gasped in precious air.

Ahead, Ewan could see the water rushing into the pump inlet. He would die if he were sucked inside.

He had seconds to react. The pipe’s circumference looked big enough to swallow him feet first. In desperation, he twisted himself sideways to block the flow with his body.

He hit fast with nothing to protect his ribs from the full impact. The thump resonated throughout his body, jarring him so hard he could see only white. The air in his lungs vented at once, and still tried to exhale.

He held on to the pipe inlet with all his worth as water rushed past and tried to suck him into the pump. At that moment, he thought he would die.

Long seconds passed, Ewan pulled in a breath and filled his starving lungs. And only then did he feel the pain – an agonising scream escaped as his side exploded in agony.

After several slow, shallow breaths, he searched for a grip hold above the pipe, on the body of the pump. He slowly edged sideways and pulled himself free from the rushing water. He collapsed on the cylindrical surface of the water pump and looked back over the Rain Catcher’s rain-swept surface. Far out in the distance in the centre of the fabric square, the surface was dry. Water flowed freely only along the edges, where it was sucked from the absorption foam and pulled into the distribution pump.

He lay on his side pulling in long ragged breaths.

The glider! It was caught in the harness cables, wriggling violently in the strong winds.

Twenty-feet below the stricken glider and fast approaching, was a security drone.

He froze.

A mass of metal and rust, it traversed the wet, vertical cables as easily as a coyote on the flat and dry. It climbed using all of its four legs and a long thin tail. Ewan glimpsed cogs and chains working hard in the innards of the dog like robot. Black smoke billowed from wide exhaust pipes along its sides, and its single red eye glowed in the storm-dark sky.

The drone reached the glider and worked its efficient destruction. It tugged and cut with razor-like extremities, and Ewan nearly shouted out as it activated its industrial laser to slice through the glider’s lovingly crafted frame.

The metallic beast coughed up smoke and dragged away the remains of The Little Dragon.

It wasn’t until it had completely disappeared from view that he dared check that his parachute was attached, and the canisters were still secured to his backpack.

They were.

He removed the Walkie Talkie from its holding place in his sodden balaclava and wiped it clean. He wound the battery crank. Ava’s voice screamed from the earpiece. “… If you can hear me, please say something… hello, Ewan… Are… You… Okay?”

Joy overwhelmed him. “Ava, yes, I’m here… can you hear me?”

“Ewan, thank god you’re all right.”

“The glider’s gone. But I’m okay.”

Ewan touched his rib, trying to keep the pain from his voice and concentrated on the feel of the rain falling on his skin. He opened his mouth and let the cool, clear rain drip on his teeth and tongue. “The rain… it’s… everywhere.” He smiled as a feeling of euphoria swelled in him, nearly eclipsing the pain in his side.

“What is it like?”

“Wet,” Ewan replied. “Wonderfully wet.”

“I can’t keep up this speed for much longer.” She gasped. “I’m already falling behind the tank.”

Ewan forced himself to his feet and considered his options. “I’m standing on the pump inlet, and should be able to climb to the tank from here. I can remove a couple of stitches from the fabric seam by the tank, and send down the canisters. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.”

“Okay, but please hurry.”

Ewan shuffled over the bulky machinery, using one arm to clutch his side and the other for balance. It was harder than it looked. The metal dome that covered the pump was almost frictionless when wet. He had to spread all his weight against the sloping dome and shuffle over like a caterpillar.

He landed on the other side with a crunch, which brought tears to his eyes. But he’d made it to the maintenance shelf, just yards from the fabric seam.

He carefully unstrapped and removed the canisters, and then checked to ensure the parachute wasn’t tangled and was folded correctly. Lining the canisters up in order, he unhooked a final one from the pack. This one didn’t have a parachute; instead it was attached to five metres of rope. He threw it into the rapids below and let the rope run taught with the current. After a few seconds, he pulled it back using his foot to clamp the rope between each excruciating pull.

He repeated this task until each of the eight large canisters were full.

“Ava, are you still with me?”

“Yeah just about.” Ava was panting heavily. “But you have to hurry, Ewan, I can’t keep up any longer.”

Ewan shuffled to the end of the maintenance ledge within easy access of the fabric seam. This was the point where the material was stitched together. At metre intervals along the seam was a titanium peg that provided the strength. Between these pegs the fabric was stitched with Aramid Yarn thread, which he sliced with his recently acquired cutters.

A small tear appeared in the material, he gradually opened it further until it was large enough for the canisters to fit through, and one by one he untied the parachutes and dropped them down the hole.

Ewan shouted. “Here they come.”

After a long moment, Ava’s voice crackled through the receiver. “I can see them.” She was laughing, unable to hide her glee. Ewan felt himself relax, and as the grip of Ava’s infectious joy took over, he laughed despite his complaining ribs.

There was a brief silence before she spoke. “Ewan, can you fit yourself through the tear? Do it quickly before you drift much farther away.”

Ewan propped himself against the towering water tank and let his legs hang over the edge of the shelf. The rapids raced below. He took out his parachute and checked it over. He was ready to go. But as he looked across the fabric expanse and the tons of water that flowed beneath his feet, he couldn’t ignore the opportunity it presented. The water in just one of the tanks would be enough to support his whole village for years.

Why should he just save his father’s life when he had a chance to save hundreds more?

He studied the blueprints more closely. There was a collector inlet on the nearside of the pump closest to the tank. The current was much weaker there because the pump had distributed the water through the long haul pipes to neighbouring tanks. He could gain access inside the pumping mechanism and disable the water splitter. The entire flow would be forced into this tank, and gradually increase its weight.

Ewan figured if the rain held this strong it would quickly overfill and start to bring the whole section down.

In the event of such a malfunction, the Rain Catcher was designed to eject the overfilled tank. It would float to the ground on three colossal chutes. The fact that there wasn’t one recorded incident of this happening didn’t dampen Ewan’s hopes.

The tank would fall to the ground and the surrounding fabric would hang down for kilometres around. For a small area below, rain would actually hit the ground.

“Ewan,’ Ava said. ‘Do you copy? Can you fit through the tear?”

“Ava, listen to me carefully. I need you to tell me exactly where we are and what direction we’re heading.”

“You’re travelling north parallel to the village, about three miles out.”

Ewan spoke clearly, “Ava, I need you to get the canisters and return to the village. Give Doctor Don enough to pay for my father’s medication and keep the rest for you and your family.”

There was silence for a long moment before she replied, “You’re lucky to be alive, Ewan. Please come down, don’t throw away your life.”

“What life? Yu Yún took away the only existence I had the day they fired me and condemned my father to death.”

“You got caught stealing from them.”

Ewan’s face flushed hot. “Bullshit, Ava, you know why I took the fabric. I did it to save my dad.”

“Maybe, but maybe you did it for yourself. Maybe you did it for your own ego, and Daniel gave you the excuse to play your stupid games.”

“Not true, I did this for my dad!” Ewan spat back.

“You’re being reckless and selfish. Don’t make this about revenge. It’s pathetic, and you’re risking your life for nothing. Come down now, please, do it for me.”

Frustration tore through him like a blistering high. He knew she wouldn’t understand, and he knew she would react like this. He wasn’t going to let her stop him doing what was right. He had an opportunity to do something good for the village, to save lives, make people happy.

He spoke for the last time. “Please do as I ask, Ava. We can continue this discussion when I return. If not, then Goodbye.” He took the Walkie Talkie and dropped it though the hole in the fabric to the trailing sound of Ava’s desperate pleas.

The water splitter should be easy to corrupt – a simple matter of blocking the alternative flow and directing the entire current forward into one tank.

Ewan pulled himself up and walked to the edge of the shelf. The main body of the pump where he had first climbed up was a couple of feet from the ledge. Between the pump and the ledge lay a gap leading to the tank’s main inlet. The water pressure looked to be manageable on this side of the pump. Although that would change the moment he disabled the splitter.

He untied the rope from the filling canister and tied it around his waist. The other end he secured to the maintenance ladder. He sat over the ledge, mentally prepared himself for pain, and dropped five-feet into the current.

Ewan manually closed the valves on all outputs apart from one, and held on as the water started to rush past him. With both hands, he pulled himself back towards the ledge, his aching ribs dulled with adrenalin. The roar of the water was ragged with venom… but it sounded different somehow.

Realisation dawned, and he snapped his head up to see the single red glow of the security drone’s inhuman gaze. Ewan had seconds, perhaps less, before the laser cut him in half.

Fear found a stronghold in Ewan’s mind. Run or die.

He pulled the cutters from his belt, and with mounting trepidation, he cut through his safety harness. The current snapped him up like a hungry lizard and swallowed him whole.

As the torrent pulled him into the tank inlet, darkness surrounded him. The water slammed him hard into a wall then released his battered body from its lethal grip. He rose in the water, still fuzzy-headed with no idea which way he was going.

Turbulence brought his hand in contact with a ladder running along the inside of the tank. It gave him perspective, and he pulled himself up and gasped in air.

The tank was three quarters full and rising quickly. He had to get out before it reached the apex. With the handiwork Ewan had just performed in the pump, the auto stop system would not prevent the water from overfilling. If he stayed in the tank he would drown, and if he climbed out, he would be killed by the drone. That was assuming the drone didn’t find a way into the tank first…

With rising dread, Ewan tried to calculate how much overfill was needed to take down the tank. It depended on the lift from the above airships, but Ewan guessed it only needed a slight disproportional weight distribution. It would be wasteful for Yu Yún to overspend on lift resources. They would only build minor flexibility into a system this complicated.

He figured it would start to lose altitude at around five percent overfill. Ewan looked at the maximum fill level, it was less than a metre above him, just below the hatch.

It would be a death sentence if he waited for the water to rise that high.

Metal on metal clanged above as the hatch rattled against its hinges. The door swung open, and the black fumes from the drone’s exhaust filled the air. The mechanism heaved as its combustion engine revved, and like a rasping hell hound, its murderous eye was fixed on Ewan. He quickly ducked and dove to the bottom of the tank.

On the tank floor, he turned and looked up. Above the waterline, the drone’s red eye appeared to extend across the entire dome of the tank. Then he realised… it was no illusion. The drone was firing its laser into the water, trying to cook him alive.

Desperate, Ewan untied the remaining rope around his waist, took the cutters, opened them and threaded the rope through the handles.

Lack of oxygen compressed his chest, forcing the oxygen from his lungs. He was going to drown.

The water surrounding the laser beam was hot. His eyeballs stung, and his skin burned. He had to act now.

Crouching with his feet against the bottom, he thrust his legs straight and propelled upwards. Hot water scorched his skin as he rose.

He targeted the red light and closed his eyes against the blistering heat. Breaking the surface, he launched his makeshift harpoon at the drone. The diamond edged scissors sailed into the inner gears of the rattling rusted beast.

Ewan fell backwards and pulled the rope with all his might. A loud splash and a strong smell of oil confirmed the drone had fallen into the tank. He glanced down. The metal heap sunk, kicking and struggling all the way to the bottom.

He didn’t have much time before the tank fell from the sky.

Ewan powered up the ladder towards the hatch, his progress slowed by his agonising rib. Below him, the drowned drone was converting its body surfaces into a watertight shell. In aqua mode, it looked like a torpedo, and it was rising fast, closing the distance.

Ewan launched at the hatch only to be yanked ruthlessly from behind. He grabbed the frame to keep from being dragged back under. The full weight of the metal beast was pulling him down, latched to his backpack.

His rib exploded with pain, and he released his left hand. The backpack slipped from his left shoulder, and the drone dropped slightly – hanging by a single black razor claw.

Ewan closed his eyes and prayed for strength. He gripped the frame with his left hand and let go with his right, taking the full weight on his bad side. He screamed high and long with the effort.

The backpack slid from his right shoulder, sending the drone back to the tank floor.

Ewan struggled from the hatch, closed the door, and slammed the manual sealing locks across the frame.

With each intake of breath, Ewan shook uncontrollably. He was back on the maintenance shelf where he had started and could do nothing but wait for the tank to overfill and eject him from the Rain Catcher. Now, with no parachute, his only chance of survival was to hold on to the descending tank for dear life.

The door rattled once from the inside, silence for a moment, followed by the unmistakable hiss of a cutting torch. Perhaps the drone’s batteries were running low. Otherwise it would have employed the laser. Or perhaps the water damaged it. Either way, he had maybe ten minutes before the torch punched through. His only tools were one canister and the remaining rope tied to the access ladder… Perhaps if he could slow down the torch’s progress, the tank might overfill and eject before the drone made it through.

The rain was still pelting down in heavy gusts, so the outside of the hatch was continuously cooled by the weather. He untied the rope from the ladder, just two metres remained, and tied it back to the canister and threw it into the rapids below.

Back at the hatch, the drone’s torch had penetrated the tough metal case. Ewan gently fed water into the hole, targeting the flame of the torch. Immediately, the screaming sound of burning metal muted, and Ewan heard an angry roar as the drone revved its engine, presumably trying to replenish power through its alternator.

He filled the canister as fast as he could and poured it through the hole, and for ten minutes the gap didn’t widen a bit. Finally, water started seeping out the hole. He jumped back, startled. The tank was full. Time had run out.

Heart pounding like crazy, he used the rope to secure himself to the ladder and waited for the tank to eject.

It began to sink, stretching the fabric at the seams. It was only then that he realised he had forgotten the obvious – the current that had prevented him, and the drone, working their way upstream through the underside of the tank, had significantly reduced with the tank at full capacity. The current must have been driving the water elsewhere.

It happened all at once, and Ewan was defenceless.

The drone appeared on the ledge angrily coughing smoke from its exhausts. He thought there was a glint of pleasure in its red eye as it prepared to pounce.

At that moment, the fabric gave way, and the tank ejected. Ewan kicked out and connected his heel against the drone’s mono eye, and watched as it desperately scrambled, teetering on the edge. The tank went into freefall, hurtling down. The drone finally lost its grip and fell from the ledge.

Ewan felt the floor drive through his pelvis as the tank’s parachutes were deployed. The rush of wind gradually eased and he enjoyed a moment of peace as he slowly floated to the earth.

The ground grew closer and Ewan held tight as the tank hit. Once again his bones jarred and his chest pushed hard into his makeshift rope-harness.

Above, the fabric flapped violently in the storm. Ewan put his head back and watched the gaping hole in the Rain Catcher release a torrent of water over the parched ground. The smell in the air was earthy and rich.

He untied himself from the tank and stood unsteadily. His village was spread out half a kilometre away in the valley below. Creeks and streams and rivers began to flow, and in the distance the villagers ran out of their homes and threw their arms open to the falling rain. Their cries of joy echoed on the wind.

Ava was running to meet him, her blond hair sopping wet and clinging to her slender shoulders. Ewan jumped to the ground and relished the sound of the water splashing under his feet. Ava was breathless, her clothes were drenched and she looked beautiful.

“You did it.” She threw her arms around his neck. “Don got the medicine for your father. He’s going to be alright.”

She looked up at the tank and back to Ewan. A hurt expression followed by a smile. “You fool, you could have been killed.” Her tears were masked by the heavy rain but Ewan could see the red around her eyes. She moved closer, gripped him tightly.

A warm feeling of success filled Ewan’s heart. The village had plenty of water for now.

He lifted Ava and spun her around. “I’m sorry,” he said, and kissed her. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“I know,” she whispered, and kissed him back.

Dean mainly writes science fiction and horror, and his short stories have appeared in webzines and print in the UK and US. A love of reading, gaming, and watching SF/F has influenced (warped) his mind enough to actually write about it.

Dean lives with his wife and two young children in Surrey, UK. He owns a business jointly with his father, developing and manufacturing fibre optic components and instruments. His day job consists largely of shining light through fragile glass fibres, and trying to glue very small things to even smaller things.

Dean is a 2nd Dan Black Belt in Kickboxing and has won national and international titles in the sport. In 2003 he spent a few months living and training at a Shaolin Kung Fu academy in Northern China.

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