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Rain panic

by methornton 

Posted: 14 May 2003
Word Count: 498
Summary: The head of a well-oiled organisation anticipates and then scrambles to co-ordinate maximum yield when rain falls after a drought.

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The command was not given lightly. Sending orders to open the water channels was one that only he could make, and a bad decision would cost the organisation dearly. It could also cost him his life.

Even when the ground was rich in moisture, opening the channels was wasteful; to do so in a prolonged drought could be considered suicide. Precious water would begin to leach back into the ground immediately. Storage areas would dry and become brittle.

However, he was sure. Plugged in to the rich data that he received from all parts of the group, he intuitively acted on what he knew was a coming rainstorm. And losses now would be more than made up for the expected uptake in the next few hours.

But time was short, vigilance was essential. As the skies darkened, output from the thousands of solar arrays dropped, with all main power switched to the systems poised to suck every last drop of the expected deluge.

He waited. Hardly perceptable pressure and temperature drops allowed him to increase the receiving surface area in each channel by fractions of a percentage.

A rush of seemingly random data swept in from sensors from solar panels all over, and the thrill of the first plump water droplets triggered the final 'go' to those below him in the command chain. This information felt so, so good - a feeling he never tired of, and one made sweeter by its recent prolonged absence.

As the sensory traffic from the raindrops rose into a beautiful, background static, the water loss continued to grow. The dead curve - 100% open channels, yet no significant moisture into the ground yet. Death closer now than ever, but no time to lose your nerve.

And then...slowly...the rate of loss begins to drop, and then stop. And millions of tiny tubes at the channel perimeters beginning to register reverse flow. The data is relentless, five seconds of overall net moisture gain, then ten seconds. Estimated time to positive storage flow, two hours, then one hour as the rates rose sharply. Fractions of a litre in credit, then litres, then 100s of litres as the ground turned to mud and inflow reaches maximum on most channels.

Storage now becomes an issue - all power now routed to millions of tiny sacs each bulging with as much water as can be carried. The focus now shifts to the storage data, with levels rising across the entire organisation.

And then the sensors show a sharp drop off of raindrops - the beginning of the end. No time to relish the momentary impression of one, large, sated organism, pregnant with thousands of litres of water. Light levels are already rising fast. Power is now gradually shifted back to control of the solar panels to adjust for maximum incoming radiation.

Light. Water. Life.

As the winds dropped, as the rain disappeared, the droplets of water ran off the leaves, and the tree swayed gently in the Sun.

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Comments by other Members

Hilary Custance at 19:34 on 17 May 2003  Report this post
This really hit the button for me. A lovely mixture of scientific outlook meshed with human needs. I found the language precise, pleasing and often beautiful. It was also very resonant of the stretching each of has to encounter now in everyday life. Data from all directions to be integrated into decisions about this one moment and supper to get as well. I look forward to more. Cheers, Hilary

olebut at 21:02 on 17 May 2003  Report this post
what a great concept to envisage a tree in such a way it's a very clever piece and written in such a way that holds the reader until the final drop filters away

congratulations take care

old friend at 14:53 on 21 September 2003  Report this post

As I read this piece I had the idea that you were writing about the human body, deep inside where the head of this well-oiled organisation was directing liquid to essential area to sustain life.

This biological concept was mainly triggered by your deliberate intention not to offer any explanation of 'where and for what purpose'... very cunning (or perhaps I have a peculiar mind.)

It wasn't until I reached the end with its leaves and trees that it became clear.
Anyway an original and enjoyable piece. Thanks.

old friend, Len

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