It had been an unseasonably warm night when Jack had finally arrived home (never let it be said that something as normal as a "tree lighting ceremony" could ever be boring in Eureka) so he'd convinced SARAH to leave the bedroom window open a crack. Even though he had lived in the fallout shelter for years now, he wanted to have at least some small shred of normalcy to his morning. Waking up to the smell and sounds of outside was one of them.
Still, when Jack woke up, for once before SARAH's not so gentle prompting that she had decided was more effective than something simple like an alarm clock, he didn't hear birds chattering to each other, or the last of the fall leaves rustling, or the not quite there hum of traffic from the main road. It was silent. Of course, after he hauled himself out of bed and walked to the window, he could see why.
"Yes, Sheriff Carter?"
"Where'd all the snow come from?"
"The blizzard arrived at approximately 2:38 this morning, Sheriff." If SARAH hadn't been, well, a computer, he'd have thought she was amused. "A scan of area weather stations tell me that a low pressure zone from the north seems to have been diverted to our area, resulting in snow depths of four and a half feet, with a prognosis of at least ten more inches by noon."
"Uh-huh," Jack managed, not quite able to tear his eyes away from the view, marveling at the overly precise look that tree branches always got after they'd been covered in icicles. "What did Fargo do?"
"To Dr. Fargo's credit, I do not believe this is an accident. The long-range forecast for the northeast did include snowfall of a substantial magnitude. It just seems that the snow arrived earlier than anticipated."
"...So even though it looks like a natural disaster, it's actually just a natural disaster?"
SARAH, unsurprisingly, didn't answer. It wasn't that funny, anyway.
"Morning, Dad." Zoe had apparently convinced SARAH to give her pancakes and so looked approximately five as she sat eating at the counter.
"Morning, sweetheart," Jack said, going in for a half-hug that was mostly a shameless attempt to snag a bite of pancake. Zoe outsmarted him though, blocking his fork. "Aww, come on!"
"Get your own, Dad, I'm late for school anyways."
"You mean you don't get a snow day?"
Zoe rolled her eyes at him.
"Telsa doesn't do snow days, Dad. Turns out that when you live in a town where the roads are engineered to be ice, sleet and snow free, it kind of means you never get a day off. Didn't you read the handbook?"
"Oh," said Jack, which he decided was a better answer than 'what handbook?' Zoe gave him a look that said he was busted, but she merely grinned a bit, said "bye, Dad!" and was out the door.
"Bye," Jack shouted, though he was too late to catch her before the door closed. He eyed the remains of Zoe's pancakes and slowly reached for them with his fork.
SARAH sucked the plate back into the counter before he got there.
"Sarah, I was gonna eat that!"
"A breakfast so high in sugar interferes with your cognition and job performance," SARAH said, serenely, inserting a rather annoyingly healthy looking muffin in the pancakes' place.
"You gave it to Zoe," he grumbled.
SARAH didn't answer.
"Figures," Jack said again, but took the muffin with him. Wouldn't want SARAH to be pissed with the weather so bad outside. He'd freeze to death before she'd let him back in.
The sound of the phone ringing brought Jack out of the half-concentrating state that he reserved for long phone calls with his mother and, at present, the slightly overwhelming pile of paperwork that was holding down the other half of his desk.
For once, Jo picked it up, but it was only a moment later before she pulled it away from her ear to say, "they need you at GD."
"Did Allison say why?" Jack asked, pulling on his coat and fishing his gloves out of the pocket.
"Only that you should drive carefully," Jo said, and there was enough anxiety under the confusion in her voice that Jack didn't waste time asking for more information, just said, "tell her I'm on my way," and headed to the truck.
Global Dynamics technically was on the outskirts of Eureka, far enough that any Earth ending disaster would (probably) be contained to the facility, but close enough that most of the bizarre but non-life threatening issues (intelligence-sapping chicken breasts, things that made people forget or act younger or share dreams or switch minds or...) affected everyone. The drive never took more than ten minutes.
"I thought the roads were engineered to be ice, sleet and snow free!" Jack managed as he stumbled into the lobby, irritated by the slow stop and go drive down the highway and still a little unbalanced from the slippery trek across the parking lot. "What happened?"
Allison and Nathan were standing there, probably had been waiting for him, and now they shared a look. A very familiar look.
"Oh, don't tell me," Jack said, wincing. "I was so sure this was going to be a normal snow day. The biggest plans I had was to get Jo's guard down enough so I could throw a snowball at her!"
"It was Fargo," Allison said. Nathan grimaced.
"He thought he was helping," he said.
"I swear, Fargo is the only person who can do worse things by trying to help than by meaning to end the world."
"I didn't mean to!" came the cry from the other side of the room. Jack could see Fargo--at least he assumed that was Fargo inside a monstrous winter coat with the fur-lined hood--wave his arms in embarrassment.
"You never do," he murmured. He was pretty sure Fargo couldn't hear him, but Stark could and Allison made a noise that was almost a laugh. "So what's the damage?"
"Well, it turns out that if you tweak the code in the road de-icing program to try and make it 'more effective'," began Stark, and Jack could both hear the quotation marks and tell that Nathan was about to run out of patience. It had clearly been a long morning. "There's a bug in the system that means instead of the matrix running as it should it's amplified and rerouted so that the coolant field has a radius five times large than the concrete mainframe can support!"
"Oh.... kay, that sounds not so good," Jack finally said, deciding to go off tone rather than... all those words that didn't make any sense. "Allison, can you break that down into English for me?"
Nathan rolled his eyes and muttered something probably rude, but Allison said, "If we don't get the program fixed by nightfall, the road's systems will continue to fail, causing twice the amount of ice you'd normally see."
"So... a natural disaster," Jack said.
"More like an unnatural one," Allison said.
Jack left Nathan and Allison and a handful of programmers--who had all passed from the kind of computer terms that Jack had ever heard into some kind of gibberish that had way too many numbers--in one of Global's conference rooms and headed into town to see if there was anything else he could be helping with.
Fortunately, most people seemed to be staying indoors or at least had drive earlier before the roads malfunctioned, but as Jack slowly made his way down Main Street, he could see the car in front of him swerve as its wheels slid on one of the patches of overly frozen ice, skew sideways, and come to a stop after running over a mailbox.
Jack stopped the car with less accident, and hurried to the driver's side door in time to help its occupant out.
"Oh dear," was the first thing he heard, as he pulled the driver—a woman, familiar in a vague way, with short gray hair and a strong grip as Jack helped her from the car. Then, "oh, Sheriff Carter, I hope I'm not in too much trouble?"
Jack smiled even as he checked her over. Fortunately, she hadn't been driving too fast.
"No, ma'am, I'm just glad to see you're alright. Did you injure yourself at all, Mrs.…"
"Carlson," she supplied. "Dana Carlson—I believe I remember your daughter Zoe come out to visit us at center during that whole business with Doctor Thatcher. Now, are you sure I'm not in any trouble?"
"Why would you think that?" Jack asked.
"Because I ran over poor Harold's mailbox!"
"I'm sure it's… fine," Jack said, even as he could see the remaining bits of metal and plastic littering the ground. He shifted topics. "It's really not safe for you to be out in this weather, Mrs. Carlson," he continued.
"Yes, I noticed the roads were icy, reminds me of the winter of '47, when Jeffrey and I had to ski our way to town to buy a Christmas tree," she laughed a bit and Jack found himself smiling at the image. "I wouldn't have been out at all, except I thought someone should know."
"Should know what?" Jack asked, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach.
"Well, I would have called, but the phone wasn't working," Mrs. Carlson said. "The heat is out all along my street, and the lights were starting to go as I left. I thought I'd head to Main Street and let someone know. Until, of course, the mailbox. Poor Harold, I hope he'll forgive me."
"I'm sure he will," Jack promised and after convincing Mrs. Carlson that it was much safer for him to give her a ride, slowly made their way down the street until they could park (not quite legally, but Jack had bigger things to worry about) outside Café Diem.
Not only was he sure that Vincent would have the heat working even if no one else could, he was pretty sure he'd need some strong coffee to get through the rest of his day.
"No, Zoe, you guys should stay at Tesla. Sounds the generators have enough power to heat the gym. You'll be fine. Yes, I'll be fine. Promise. Yes, I have my gloves. Aren't I the grownup in this relationship? Very funny. Love you, stay safe. Bye."
Jack hung up the phone and took the luxury of a deep breath. Vincent had laid in a large supply of warm soup and super-caffeinated hot chocolate and Henry was madly scribbling on a pad of paper mid-brainstorm of a solution to all of this.
Jack dialed the phone again.
"Stark." Not the most polite way to answer the phone, but Jack didn't have the time to tease Nathan about it.
"Hey, it's Carter, I'm at Café Diem and we seem to have a bigger problem than some ice. Not that the ice's not a problem," Jack continued hastily, hearing Nathan's indrawn breath to argue about the ramifications of ice on the roads, or something.
"You mean the heat, I'm assuming," Nathan said, in that slow drawl of his that always made him sound a little bored.
"You mean this is Fargo's fault too?" Jack sighed.
"The sub-routine that Fargo attached to the road's coding—in English, the stuff that made them not work—diverted power from Eureka's main grid, which means that half the town's electricity is now gone. Of course, because everything runs on the same power, including simple things like heat,"
"You guys ever think of diversifying a little?" Jack said. Nathan ignored him and continued.
"Basically, most of Eureka is sitting in the dark, freezing to death."
"Awesome," Jack said with a groan. Then, suspiciously, "there's something else, isn't there?"
A pause, then Nathan sighed.
"Apparently the weather reports aren't very promising. SARAH called Global,"
"She can call people? On what?" Jack interrupted.
"Carter, focus. SARAH says that the storm's going to get worse before it gets better; there's a predicted three more feet by nightfall."
Jack looked out the window, at the snow already obscuring part of the view.
"Indeed. We seem to be making some headway on fixing the problem, but it'll take a while."
"Ok. Call when you know something. Don't freeze to death, Stark."
"Same to you, Carter," Nathan said, and hung up.
Jack sat down next to Henry at the bar, sighed.
"Henry, I don't suppose you have a solution yet?"
Henry scribbled a sentence, added a few numbers, crossed some out, and finally shook his head.
"Sorry, Jack, it seems that while we can fix Fargo's mistake, the snow's falling fast enough that it's the people that are going to be the problem, not the science. That's your expertise, not mine."
Jack sighed again, perking up when Vincent set a cup of coffee in front of him.
"Vincent, do you have access to the town's communication's systems? We need to get the word out that we're going to try to get everyone here where it's warm and we have supplies. You might want to start brewing some more hot chocolate."
Jack looked around.
"Now if I could find Jo…"
At that moment, the front door of the café slammed open, people closet to the door complaining at the gust of snow that blew in. Along with it came a figure in huge winter jacket, gloves, hat… and a rifle. Jack wasn't too surprised to see Jo slowly emerge from the layers.
"Jo, we're going to need to round up some people before they freeze to death in their homes," Jack said, wondering when that kind of order started sounding more normal than not.
"No problem, Taggert hooked me up with truck that has snow mobile capabilities."
"I'm not even sure what that means, but you're on collection duty. Take some people with you, if you want."
Jack took a quick swallow of his coffee, thinking.
"What's Eureka's procedure during extreme inclement weather?"
Vincent and Henry just stared at him, then finally Henry answered, "Jack, you have to understand that in Eureka, we've built so many different machines and networks to do away with the inconveniences of weather, I'm sure most people are shocked they have to think about it at all. We don't even have snow plows; the roads never required it."
"Oh, come on, Henry," Jack argued. "I find it really hard to believe that you don't have a few gas-powered snow blowers kicking around your garage."
"Well, come to think of it, I probably do."
Jack grinned. He hadn't seen a storm this bad since the winter he spent at his grandparents in Minnesota, but it's amazing what sticks with you.
"Great, grab your coat, we'll go grab a few. Not going to fix the roads but it'll at least give us a way to keep the walkway clearer until Jo comes back. Vincent, you got any salt?"
Vincent ducked under the counter, came up with a huge bag. "Just got a shipment of rock salt in to make holiday candy, Sheriff."
"Well, I'll order more for the Christmas party later, right now I want you to get some people together and start salting down the front walk."
"Oh right," Vincent exclaimed excitedly. "It will disrupt the equilibrium in the freezing point of the water so that solute acts as—"
"Vincent," said Jack, raising a hand. "I don't want to hear about the science. Just do it, ok?"
Jack and Henry opened the door to the café and quickly exited, leaving Vincent behind them, cheerfully muttering about all the different patterns he could make on the ground with the salt.
"WHAT?" bellowed Jack, trying to hear Henry over the roar of the snow blower.
"ALLISON CALLED. FARGO FIXED THE PROBLEM. NOW WE JUST NEED TO WAIT OUT THE STORM."
"ROAD FIXED. STILL SNOW."
That, Jack could hear.
Jack stood at the window of the café, watching the snowflakes as they drifted to the ground. Stark had finally—and brilliantly, as he was probably telling the large crowd of people he was talking to across the room—gotten the power back on and while most people had headed back to their own homes, helped by Jo's "snow truck" and some of Henry's quickly constructed snow chains, many still hung around the café, happy to talk with friends and enjoy the impromptu party now that crisis seemed to be over.
"Some eggnog, Sheriff?" Vincent swooped by with a tray. He'd already escaped by the time Jack actually took a sip, coughing at the heat of alcohol burning its way down his throat.
"Who made this?"
"I don't know if you want to know the answer to that," Henry said, appearing next to him with his own glass. He pointed to Zoe behind the counter.
"I thought I told you to stay at school," Jack complained. Zoe shook her head.
"Don't worry, I'm just mixing them, not drinking them. I had Jo pick me up an hour ago; I have a shift tonight. You think Vincent was going to let a little thing like a blizzard stand in the way of his slave-driving?"
"Yeah, Eureka doesn't do snow days, Jack," said Henry with not quite a laugh. "Didn't you read the town handbook?"
Jack rolled his eyes at the pair of them and took another drink of his eggnog. Now all he needed was to get Jo to let her guard down enough so he could hit her with a snowball, and it's be pretty much perfect. He turned to his friend.
"Hey Henry, do you have anything in your garage…"