Story 12. A Stern Lecture
“Welcome home, Thermo!” shouted Dr. Key as Thermo set down on his landing pad at Mauna Loa.
“Hello Dr. Key! It’s good to be home.”
“Look at you my boy!” observed Dr. Key. “My, how you’ve grown! I can’t wait to hear all about your travels. Come in and have a nice cup of jet fuel.”
Thermo had forgotten how much he missed the cave’s ornate furnishings, the thick carpets and the colorful paintings on the walls. The familiar surroundings improved his spirits immediately, something he desperately needed after witnessing the ghastly destruction from Twisto across the Midwestern United States. As he sunk down into a soft comfortable chair, Joshua the butler set a steaming cup of jet fuel on the table beside him.
“That you, Joshua,” Dr. Key said to his helper, then turned to Thermo.
“It has been seven years, Thermo,” he began. “You must have explored countless countries by now. I am looking forward to reading your data and memory banks to see where you’ve been. Now, tell me all about it.”
Thermo told the doctor everything, his adventures with Puffy and Fluffy and their meeting with Wispy, his encounters with Twista and Phoon and how he was able to thwart the plans of the ice monster Skates. Dr. Key listened, first with smiles of approval, and even a few laughs. But as Thermo continued to ramble on, Dr. Key’s smile turned to a look of concern, and finally a disapproving frown.
Then, when Thermo finished up with his story about Twisto’s annihilation of cities and the countryside during April’s Super Outbreak, Dr. Key had had enough.
“Thermo, I am disappointed in you. Your job was to do research, not to play.”
“Play?” asked Thermo, dumbfounded. “It didn’t seem like playing to me. Didn’t you want me to explore the atmosphere?”
“Yes I did,” said Dr. Key. “And I’m glad you have been doing that. But I also wanted you to observe what humans have been up to as well. Did you know that only a few years ago, men traveled to the moon and back? Did you even know that rockets existed? Humans are making major strides in science and all you’ve done is surf the jet stream playing with clouds and trying to be a hero battling forces that you will never overcome.”
Dr. Key’s words stung. “I-I’m sorry,” Thermo stammered. “I thought you wanted me to stay out of sight from the adults. I only talked to children,” he said, thinking of Nicky and Sydney once again. He smiled remembering the snowball fight with them last winter.
“No more excuses, Thermo,” admonished Dr. Key. “You are nearly thirteen years old and it’s time for you to take some adult responsibility. You have already learned that nature can be cruel, but have you thought how deep that goes? Natural things must consume other natural things to sustain life. We eat other animals and plants to nourish us. You need jet fuel to keep going. Even plants must consume something. They take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, soak up the sun’s rays and acquire nutrients from the soil, all in order to stay alive and grow.”
Thermo listened intently as Dr. Key continued. “Nature can be brutal. You know that from your encounters with Skates and Phoon and Twisto. Sometimes humans get hurt. Sometimes they hurt one another. Sometimes that hurt it is intentional; sometimes it is by accident.”
“Do you think Skates and Phoon and Twisto wanted to hurt all those humans?” Thermo asked.
“Perhaps,” acknowledged Dr. Key. “But remember, if it were not for thunderstorms producing rain, there wouldn’t be water to drink or grow crops. As destructive as Camille was, some parts of the country depend on the rain that Phoon provides. Ice locks moisture into the soil during winter. Snow often covers our food crops to protect them from dying.”
“And so we can build snowmen,” Thermo added.
“That’s true, Thermo. But you must determine what is good and natural in this world and what is evil and unnatural. And you must decide what you can do to make our lives on this planet better. You must learn your strengths and your weaknesses, and you must learn the strengths and weaknesses of humans as well. So far, you have done a poor job of that.”
Thermo looked down, dejected. “I have a lot to learn, don’t I Dr. Key?” he said.
Dr. Key smiled. “Chin up, my boy. You’ll get there. Now, I have a mission, one that I believe you are ready for.”
Thermo brightened. “What do you want me to do, Dr. Key? Just name it!”
The doctor was suddenly serious again. “I believe that nature has been in a delicate balance across the planet well before the dawn of civilization. In my scientific studies from Mauna Loa I have noticed that the level of carbon dioxide has been steadily increasing. I have reason to believe that this is due to mankind’s industrialization of the Earth. The increase in carbon dioxide is leading to what we call a “greenhouse effect” that could eventually be detrimental to life on this planet, knocking nature’s delicate balance out of alignment. I will grant you that it is simply a theory at this point, but that is what my research indicates. I need other scientists to join me in my studies. I won’t be around forever, but this problem will be, if I can’t convince anyone else that it is real. And that’s where you come in.”
“Me?” asked Thermo wide-eyed. “What can I do?”
“I need you to do something useful. Stop wasting your time trying to fight nature, and instead work with it to maintain its balance. I know you have already used your thermometer on a few occasions, but I am asking you to put it to use with a specific purpose. Would you be willing to travel the Earth taking temperature readings? It may seem like a small job, but I assure you, it is not. I have a hunch this planet will be warming in some strange ways, and it’s time for you and I to act. Will you help me, son?”
It was the first time since Thermo had been home that Dr. Key had called him “son.” It felt good. Thermo perked up, “Yes, Dr. Key…uh, Father. I don’t quite understand everything you’ve told me, but I will do my best.”
“That’s all I can ask,” said Dr. Key. “Until now you’ve been on your own in your travels. But from now on I’ll be with you.”
“You’re coming too?” smiled Thermo.
“No,” said Dr. Key, “but I will be able to talk with you remotely from here at Mauna Loa and tell you where to go. And since your eyes are cameras, I will be able to see what you see and record it all into my computers for analysis. You will be a key player in this project.”
For the first time in his life Thermo felt important. “Thank you, Father. I won’t let you down.”
“Good,” beamed Dr. Key. “Now, how about a refill on that cup of jet fuel?”
The text and artwork are copyright by Guy Walton. I would like to get this book published. Please drop me a note if you are willing to help.
To see the rest of the World of Thermo stories click: http://www.guyonclimate.com/category/worldofthermo/