"The neighbours are watching," said Anna eventually. She was stood at the window in her floral dressing gown smoking her second cigarette. Ash clung defiantly to the end of it, and the red glow of the coal was barely visible.
"I don't care," said Miles. "It tastes like lemonade used to taste."
"Back when it was all chemicals and additives? That's a good thing?"
"I like it."
Anna shrugged, let the cigarette fall from her lips and screwed her slipper down on it, extinguishing it. It was her bedroom, and she did as she liked in there, but Miles had banned her from having any soft furnishings unless they were flame-proof. The she drew the curtains again and went off in search of clothes with a minimum of cigarette burns, permanent creases and dirty marks.
Miles let a few more drops of rain fall onto his tongue, and then looked around him. At all the ground floor windows of the neighbouring houses curtains swished, looking for all the world as though a strong wind had blown through all the rooms. He grinned, and started off to the bus-stop for work.
"Lemon today, huh?" Marcus was carrying an umbrella with an odd little gauge attached to the handle. Miles pointed at it, still sipping his coffee.
"Acid co-efficient," he said. His voice was deep and throaty, and seemed suited to his beard which birds could nest in. "Despite the lemon flavour the rain is barely acidic. If I had to be drawn on an opinion–" Miles snorted a laugh and scalded the back of his throat with coffee "–I'd say that we're seeing a definite regression back to pre-industrial levels of pollution."
"Have you told the press corps yet?"
"Meeting them at lunch tomorrow. They're paying."
"Of course." Both men laughed.
"So," said Miles cautiously, "not wanting to draw you on an opinion of course, but do you think the rain used to taste of lemon?"
"No," said Marcus, lowering his voice. "Nor cinnamon, nor cardamom, nor candy-floss."
"...you might have missed that," said Marcus thoughtfully. "I think perhaps you were in the southern hemisphere for the monsoon."
"Yeah, that was wet," said Miles. "Horizontal waterfall doesn't do it justice. Didn't taste of anything much though."
"Yeah," said Marcus. "But I think we've miscalibrated the weather satellites up here in the Northern hemisphere."
"We can't have," said Miles. "We've checked them all with the geological core data. We know the parameters, we've been over them sixteen times. Sixteen, Marcus!"
"Lemon flavoured rain, Miles."
In the weather centre at last, Miles sat down at a terminal and tapped the screen. It lit up, welcoming him, and he made a couple of quick finger gestures, drawing odd little geometric shapes on it. There was a pause while the system spoke to a second system, which went via secure handshake to a third archival vault and requested some apparently random data. Satisfied with the result, a message jumped back across the nodes, and Miles's screen bloomed with red and blue hues, finally coalescing into a password screen. He entered a password using more touch-gestures, and only then did he have access to a limit suite of functions for Septentrionus, the weather-satellite director.
With a couple of taps and swipes he brought up the principal parameter screen and started checking the figures again. He paused on the third row and re-read the figures there. Then, shaking his head, he checked them against a book on his desk. They were very different.
A swipe copied the data to a secure clipboard, and then he tight-messaged it over to Marcus. Only a couple of minutes passed before a response came back.
"Response decodes to a recipe for lemon drizzle cake. We have a joker in the system."
Miles sat back and wondered what the hell what happening to the weather.