|SENNEN, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 07: The sun sets over the sea looking towards Lands End viewed from Gwenver beach near Sennen Cove on February 7, 2011 in Cornwall, England. Like many parts of the UK Cornwall is currently enjoying milder weather after what has been one of the harshest winters on record. Normally, due to the effects of the Gulf Stream, winters in Cornwall are amongst the warmest in the country, meaning frost and snow are very rare at the coast and inland also. This winter however, the Gulf Stream - which brings warm air from the Caribbean and makes Cornwall's weather a lot milder than other places in the world at the same latitude, such as Newfoundland and means it has the UK's only area of sub-tropical climate - was diverted leading to arctic weather conditions. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)|
series chapter books for children 7-10
The continuing adventures of:
Linzi Lightning, Tommy Thunder, Sofia Snow,
Wu-Shi Wind, Rebecca Rain and Sami Sunshine
The Weather Kids and the Rainbow Superhighway
THE CLIMATE CHANGE THIEF
The tall, friendly PR lady who worked for the International Climate Change Institute gazed at the six children slouching around the futuristic reception area and sighed.
What were their parents thinking of bringing them here?
The adults were scientists from different parts of the world attending an important international conference and they had brought their kids along for the ride.
She knew that the families were planning to have various holidays once the conference was over in a couple of days. Meanwhile, she had to keep the kids amused somehow.
Some of them were slyly watching each other while pretending to look around the huge entrance space of glass and steel. Others were sending texts madly, eyes glued to their mobile cell phones. The PR lady walked over to them with a big smile.
“Okay, you guys,” she said cheerily. “Your parents are going to be busy for the rest of the day. So we need to find things for you to do. How many of you are interested in climate change?”
The Russian girl and the Chinese boy put up their hands. The other four stared at her with bored expressions.
The PR lady tried harder. “Why don’t we break the ice? How about you introduce yourselves and then I’ll tell you all about the amazing science we have going on here.”
The children seemed aghast at this idea and looked at each other not wanting to be the first to speak.
“Come on, kids, you do want to find out how you can save the planet, don’t you?”
This seemed to work. One of the boys, a fair-haired lad, finally spoke. “G’day, I’m Tommy and I’m from Sydney, Australia. I didn’t really want to come. I could be skin surfing right now. Okay?”
A pale-faced blonde girl, who was tall and athletic looking, was next. “I’m Sofia and I am from Moscow. I wanted to come. I am interested in my mother’s research.”
A good-looking, olive skinned boy with a laid-back expression was next to introduce himself. “I’m Sami. I’m from Rio. That’s in Brazil. My father said it would do me good to come here but I’d rather be playing football on the beach. But I’m cool about it, you know?”
One reserved, dark haired girl seemed reluctant to say anything but once the others had spoken she joined in. “My name is Rebecca. I’m from London and my father is Chief Scientist. I think we should be doing all we can to save the world and stop polluting it. I’m glad to be here.”
Finally, the last to speak was the shy looking oriental boy. He bowed to the others. “Hello. I am Wu-shi. I am from Beijing in China. I believe we all must stop the climate changing but I do not know how.”
The PR lady was pleased. “That’s a lot better, isn’t it? We’re all going to get along just fine. You can tell each other all about the countries you come from as I take you to the long gallery. I think you’ll find that really interesting. Okay then, follow me.”
She led the way across the vast floor of the entrance hall and the children followed. Instead of trudging silently in a line they began to talk to each other.
“Must be pretty cold in Moscow,” said Tommy to Sofia. “Not like Oz.”
“Yes, but at least we have less risk of skin cancer. Aren’t you worried about it?”
Tommy gave her a wide-open grin “Nah! My dad makes me put on a massive high factor sun cream. And I wear a wet suit most of time. Do you really wear those furry hats in Russia?”
Sofia smiled. “Sometimes. Doesn’t your mother also worry about too much sunbathing?”
“I haven’t got one. A mother, I mean. I used to have one but they got divorced when I was three.”
Linzi was walking alongside Wu-Shi. “My dad’s been to China,” she told him. ‘You’ve got a lot of pollution there, haven’t you?”
“Mainly in Beijing. It is bad sometimes. But soon China will be the greenest country in the world.”
Linzi looked surprised.
Sami and Rebecca were walking side-by-side behind. Sami gave her a dazzling smile but Rebecca seemed a little aloof and reserved. “Do you like football?” he asked her.
Rebecca looked appalled. “Certainly not,” she said firmly. “It’s just a lot of boys running around chasing a ball.”
“You haven’t seen Brazil play, have you? It’s like dancing the samba.” Sami shuffled some quick dance steps.
“I don’t dance,” said Rebecca.
Sami beamed. “Maybe I teach you one day, eh?”
Rebecca looked even more appalled.
The PR lady led the children, now chattering together happily, along a white corridor with lots of closed doors with names on them. They turned a corner and walked along another long corridor.
At the far end a man appeared and looked back at them. He was tall and thin and wore a white coat. As soon as he saw them he hunched his shoulders and pulled up his collar. Under his arm he carried a strange box. Then he started to scurry along away from them like a supercharged spider. He pushed open some double doors and disappeared.
“Hey, he looks suspicious,” said Linzi to the PR lady. “Is he a scientist?”
The PR lady looked worried. “I don’t recognise him,” she said and she pulled out a mobile intercom unit and started to whisper into it.
“Why don’t we go after him?” said Tommy. “Maybe he’s stealing secrets.”
“He came out of that door at the end,” observed Sofia.
“That’s the Extreme Weather Test Chamber,” the PR lady told them. “Access is restricted. You won’t be able to go in, I’m afraid. There is some very special equipment in there.”
“How did he get in then?” asked Rebecca.
The PR lady did not reply but she looked even more concerned. There was crackle from her mobile and she walked several paces away from the children to answer it.
Sami smiled at Wu-shi and said in a laid back whisper. “I don’t like being told not to go somewhere.”
Wu-shi nodded. “Something in there is interesting. I think we should take a look maybe.”
The PR lady finished her conversation and turned to them. “Right, come along then. Not far to go.”
They carried on along the corridor until they came to the Extreme Weather Test Chamber. The big red doors were sealed shut and there was a large sign:
SELF-LOCKING DOOR STRICTLY AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY
At the side of the door was a small keypad. All the children paused to stare at the chamber entrance. Wu-Shi showed particular interest in the security system.
“What happens in there?” Linzi wanted to know.
“We can create any kind of weather we like,” said the PR lady. “We learn how weather patterns form and how to predict hurricanes, tornados and floods.”
“So you can control the weather?” asked Sofia.
“No, we can’t do that,” the PR lady replied. “But sometimes we can control the conditions that lead to catastrophes. The more we learn the more we can warn people and save lives.”
“So you don’t know who that man was who came out of there?” Rebecca had a knack of asking awkward questions.
“I am sure he was authorised,” said the PR lady unconvincingly. “There is nothing for you to worry about. Ah! Here we are. If you all turn right with me we are entering the main Climate Science Gallery.”
The children followed the PR lady through a pair of automatic doors that shooshed gently open and walked into an enormous, glass-roofed area the size of an aircraft hangar.
“Wow!” breathed Tommy. “This place is enormous.”
They all stopped and gazed around them at the interactive displays; the models, the wind tunnels, the palm tree fringed beach sets, the floating dirigible weather balloons, the snow machines and hundreds of other exhibits and scientific instruments.
“Why don’t you wander around as you feel like it,” said the PR lady. “There are lots of hands-on displays and games. I’ve just got to go for a while but when I get back I’ll give you a proper tour. If you need me there is a telephone on the wall over there. Just dial double zero.”
With that she hurried down the gallery towards a door at the side with her mobile intercom clamped to her ear.
INSIDE THE CHAMBER
“Maybe we should make some notes,” suggested Rebecca. “There might be a test later.”
“Notes!” gasped Linzi. “I don’t think I’ve ever made notes. I just use my smart phone.”
Sami began to walk across to the nearest exhibits in a sliding dance rhythm clicking his fingers and pressing buttons on some of the displays. “I’m not taking any tests,” he crooned.
“We should visit each one in turn,” said Sofia. “It is better to be organised.”
Tommy made a noose impression as though he was hanging with his tongue flapping out. “I don’t want to be organised, thanks,” he said pretending to choke.
“That’s not funny,” replied Sofia and she stalked off on her own.
Wu-shi just smiled. Then there came a loud crash from across the gallery. Sami had knocked over one of the weather barometer exhibits.
Rebecca immediately picked it up and set it back in position. “You’re clumsy,” she said. “I thought you were a samba dancer.”
But Sami didn’t hear her. He had seen something out of the huge plate glass windows. “Look,” he shouted. “It’s him.”
All six followed his gaze and ran to the window pressing their noses up against the glass.
“Sami is right,” said Wu-shi. “It is the man we saw.”
“He’s a wrong ‘un. You can tell,” snapped Tommy.
“We’d better call that lady,” said Rebecca.
“There’s nothing she can do,” said Linzi. “He’s heading for that black and silver car. Can anyone read the number?”
“Quick, use your cameras,” said Sofia.
Outside, the thin man had taken off his white coat and was loping towards his car still carrying the strange box. Whatever was inside the box must be precious given the attention he was paying it, carrying it in both arms like a baby and glancing around him furtively.
His car was parked on a gravel drive that ran to the road a mile or so beyond and ended in the main car park.
All at once the children had their mobile cell phone cameras to their faces and were clicking madly.
“I reckon he’s stolen something from that chamber place,” said Tommy. “Look at him go.”
The thin man scuttled frantically to his car, scrabbling in his pocket for the key. Then he folded himself inside and could be seen slamming the door shut although the children could hear nothing through the soundproof glass. No one was following him or trying to prevent him making his escape.
“What do we think is inside that box,” asked Wu-shi.
“Whatever it is it’s none of our business,” said Rebecca. “Where’s that telephone?”
“Wait,” said Sami. “Don’t you want to know what’s really inside that room?”
“We know,” said Sofia. “We were told. It’s an extreme weather chamber with a door that locks itself.”
“How can we get in?” said Linzi with a gleam in her eye.
“I have app that might open door,” said Wu-shi.
“But there’s a notice…” Rebecca began looking uncomfortable.
“Rules are made to be broken,” said Linzi. ‘Come on, one for all and all for…”
“One,” Sofia finished the expression.
“Come on, Rebecca,” said Sami with a big smile. “We may not be able to get in but we can try.”
“Do you think he could have planted a bomb in there?” wondered Linzi.
Rebecca looked even more concerned but, not wanting to be left behind, hurried after the others as they made their way back to the Extreme Weather Test Chamber.
“We should tell someone where we are maybe?” protested Sofia.
“They’d only try and stop us,” said Linzi.
A minute later all six were gathered outside the big red doors.
“Well,” said Rebecca, “what now?”
They all looked at Wu-Shi. The Chinese boy took a futuristic looking mobile cell phone from his pocket and went to the keypad security lock. “I wrote app myself,” he said proudly.
“You can open any lock?” Sofia wanted to know.
“Not all,” said Wu-shi as he placed the phone on front of the key number panel. He fiddled with a control at the base of the phone and it began to hum. Then it beeped. Then it hummed again. Then it beeped again. “It is searching for unlock code,” said Wu-shi.
“Cool, mate,” said Tommy who was well impressed.
But the door did not open.
Wu-shi tried again and again and began to sweat.
“Maybe your app is not up to it,” said Sofia.
Still the door remained close and sealed.
Just as the children were about to give up there was a loud sequence of beeps and Wu-shi’s phone flashed three times. Then there was a click as the doors unlocked. Without hesitation, Linzi grabbed the handles and pulled. The double doors opened. They all looked around them in case anyone was coming but there was nobody in sight.
They stood staring into the out-of-bounds Extreme Weather Test Chamber almost frightened to enter. Surprisingly, it was Rebecca who took the first step and walked inside.
“Okay, we’ve done it. Now we should go There’s nothing much to see in here. Look.”
One by one the others followed Rebecca inside. Wu-shi was the last to walk in. As he did so he tripped and his phone fell on the floor and slid back outside. As he turned to pick it up the doors closed with a loud click.
A red light blinked and on a small screen words appeared. Words that made the children truly frightened.
DOORS SEALED. SECURITY LOCKDOWN. USE DAY CODE TO EXIT.
“We’re trapped,” cried Rebecca.
“We’re locked in,” said Sofia.
“Bloomin’ Ada,” said Tommy.
“Do you remember the code, Wu-shi?” said Linzi sounding desperate.
“Code in phone,” said Wu-shi calmly.
“We need a different code to get out,” Sami reminded them.
“Someone’s bound to miss us,” said Tommy.
“And they’ll see Wu-shi’s phone outside,” said Sofia.
“Well, we may as well look around,” said Linzi with more bravado than she felt.
The chamber was oval shaped and perfectly smooth like an egg except for a control panel or shelf that contained a number of buttons and odd-shaped metal blocks. At various points around the room metal grilles were set into the white walls while the floor was criss-crossed with silvery wires set into a glassy surface.
Rebecca had forgotten her earlier fears as she gazed around the chamber showing particular interest in the control section. “What can he possibly have wanted in here?” she wondered aloud.
The others were walking around the room touching the walls and floors. Then Sami joined Rebecca.
“Look,” he said. “That mark. Something has been taken and left a mark behind. See?”
Rebecca stared hard at the shelf that contained the metal shapes and then saw what Sami was pointing to. A large ring and indentation indicated that something had once been there. She reached out with her fingers and touched the surface of the shelf. “You can feel it. You’re right, Sami. What’s that?”
Her fingers stopped moving when she touched something hard and very small. Tommy had joined them. “It’s some kind of connection. You know, like the one you get on an electric kettle.”
“Whatever it is,” said Sofia who arrived with the others, “he’s taken it.”
“Maybe it’s another one of these metal things,” suggested Linzi.
“But why this one?” asked Rebecca.
“Maybe it is master control,” suggested Wu-shi.
“We should try to get out now,” said Sofia.
“Maybe there’s an emergency fail-safe button somewhere,” Tommy said hopefully.
Any thoughts of getting out were pushed to the back of their minds as the floor began to move. It began to rise and fall slowly and the silver wire mesh embedded into the base surface started to glow. The metal shapes set into the control shelf blinked into life, moving up and down slowly in sequence.
“What’s happening?” cried Sofia.
“Whatever it is we’re not going to like it,” said Tommy.
“Let us stand against the wall,” said Wu-shi. “It is not moving there.”
“We should stand by the door as well,” shouted Linzi as the noise level within the chamber began to rise.
Pulses of light began to flash from the silver web and puffs of coloured smoke started to jet out of the vents.
Then a bolt of brilliant lightning crackled across the room followed immediately by a mighty explosion of thunder that made the children scream and clap their hands to their ears.
But worse was to come. Much worse.
“We’re going to die,” screamed Sofia in tears.
Then altogether they began to scream. “HELP, HELP, HELP….”
Suddenly the storm kicked off in earnest. Rain began to hammer down from the ceiling like rods of high-pressure pellets as a gale force wind howled around the chamber. The centre section of the floor began to spin faster and faster as the storm moved up a gear.
The children were huddled by the door, clinging to each other desperately. Even Sami was weeping as the mighty roar of hurricane force winds and swirls of black mist punctuated by brilliant flashes of electricity and megaton detonations of thunder that bounced around the chamber swallowed up their screams. The children were saturated and shivering clutching each other to keep from being swept up and sucked into the storm.
Then, in the middle of the chamber, the weather suddenly died down and became still. The cyclonic conditions were just turned off like a tap. The eye of the storm was forming. In the quiet, calm centre a towering figure began to take shape and appear. It materialised out of the storm itself as if made from the elemental forces trapped within the chamber. Thunder and cloud became solid and formed a body. Lightning flashes formed into a moon-like face and its hair took shape from the streaming rain and created long, golden tresses.
The cowering children could not believe what they were seeing as the storm paused in a temporary lull.
Then a mysterious light filled the chamber and the Weather God appeared.