"Hey", J.C. said, "that looks looks like a Sheriff's SUV back there. A tan vehicle was coming very fast down the dirt road.
The new SUV was a few seconds from the lip of the valley when the CB squawked, "Matt Morely, this is Deputy Preason, come in."
J.C. picked up the microphone and answered "Deputy, this is J.C. Is that you coming up the dirt road? Over."
"J.C., I am approaching the site. I see a vehicle at the top of the hill and, ... holy mother of ... I see a trench dug out of the ground. Is that your vehicle at the top of the hill? Over."
"That is us. Look, this path is perfectly straight as far as you can see in either direction. Also, we have GPS coordinates of the path so you can map where it is going. Also, we have timed the movement of the tornado. It is moving about twelve miles per hour consistently."
"J.C., please give the coordinates and times you have and I will pass them on to dispatch. Over."
Matt showed J.C. his laptop screen and J.C. read off the information to the deputy. They could see the SUV stop as the deputy wrote it down and then relayed the information to his office.
while J.C. talked to the deputy, Katrina hopped in the back and opened her laptop, connecting her cell phone to it. She began furiously typing up more blog material and sending email to other bloggers about it. "What's the deputy's name again?" she asked Matt. He told her and she continued typing.
He had nothing else to do, so Matt brought up some GIS software and started playing around with the information. The sheriff's office would be looking at where the tornado was headed, so he backtracked to where it might have been. After he saw the back path, he sat still for a moment and looked back for the deputy. The tan SUV was just starting up the hill, several minutes away still.
Matt picked up the microphone, "Deputy Preason, this is Matt Morely. Over."
"Matt, this is Preason. Over."
"Deputy, I don't want to sound too crazy, but I've backtracked the tornado. If it has been keeping a steady path, then it would have been very close to Las Vegas at about the time of that airplane exploding." Matt stopped as J.C. got back in the vehicle and slammed the door. He pressed the button again, "Have they actually found evidence of a bomb or is the cause still unknown? Over."
"I have no information on that. I'll pass the question back to dispatch."
J.C. put the Scout in gear and started down the far side of the hill.
Mike said, "What are you doing?" at the same time as the CB squawked, "Matt, do not leave your current position. I'll be there in a few minutes."
J.C. picked up the microphone, "Deputy, the tornado is slow, but it is moving over some pretty tough terrain. If we don't get moving, we are going to lose it." He put the microphone back on the hook and flipped off the CB, giving Matt a quick grin as he plowed off after the storm.
"I don't think turning off the CB is going to stop you from being cited for failing to follow the orders of a law enforcement officer in an emergency situation or something like that." Matt said. "And heck, it's doing barely over ten miles per hour. We aren't going to lose it."
"We'll lose it if the deputy tells us, 'Thank you good citizens, now go about your business and let us professionals handle this'", J.C. said. "And that's just what was coming as soon as he got to the top of the hill. You know it as well as I do."
J.C. was driving in the wide, shallow trench dug out by the tornado. That looked like a bad idea to Matt since the tornado seemed to have taken mostly top soil and left the big rocks, but it did look sort of like a wide road. A wide road with a lot of big rocks. In the back, Katrina was furiously live blogging the adventure, trying to get in as much as she could before J.C. realized that she must be using the expensive satellite connection.
Matt turned on the radio scanner and began searching the emergency bands. After about ten minutes he found deputy Preason talking to his office. He could only hear one side of the conversation, "Look, Sheriff, this isn't a little bit of disturbed earth, it's a wide trench, a couple feet or more deep in some areas. I'm at the top of the hill and I've got eyes on the tornado now..." Matt poked his head out the window to look back, and sure enough, there was a Sheriff's SUV starting down this side of the first hill. He pulled his head back inside in time to hear, "Sheriff, this is not a mother ... this is not a dust devil. It completely tore up the old Agrivance site. There's nothing there any more." Another pause, "Skies are clear and blue everywhere except near the tornado. Like I said, this does not look like any storm I've ever heard of."
J.C. interrupted the one-sided argument to say, "How come he could not see the tornado until he got to the top of the hill? We first saw it from two or three valleys away."
Katrina leaned forward to look at the whirling storm. "Yeah, the top is a lot lower than it was. And it is a lot fatter too. And louder." She was right. The tornado had taken on a very distinctive funnel shape now and it was tearing up the ground even more violently at the top of the next hill. The sound was deeper now as well as louder. Katrina poked her head out the window to take some more pictures.
On the scanner they heard another voice, this one was talking over the sound of a helicopter. "... confirm the funnel-shaped cloud. ... It sure looks like a tornado, Sheriff."
There was a pause as the sheriff answered and then the helicopter pilot spoke again, "Yes, a huge trench going back at least a couple of miles. This is no prank, Sheriff; it's a genuine weather phenomenon although I've never heard of such a thing."
Mike picked up the microphone and reached to turn the CB on but J.C. knocked his hand away from the switch with a quick motion. "Hey, what are you doing? If that cop orders J.C. to stop again, J.C. is going to be in really big trouble."
"Trust me." Matt grinned. "Don't I always have your back?" He showed J.C. that he had Katrina's hair brush in his other hand, although J.C. wouldn't understand. Matt reached for the switch again and J.C. looked confused but didn't swat him away as he flipped it on. He began quickly scrubbing the face of the microphone with the brush as he pressed the send button.
"Deputy, I don't know if you can hear me. This tornado seems to be messing with the radio." J.C. flashed him a grin and Matt grinned back before continuing. "Have you noticed that nothing is coming out of the top of the tornado? There should be debris scattered all around but all I see is a clean trench. Could you ask that chopper to look at the top and see if anything is coming out?"
When Matt let off of the send button Deputy Preason answered immediately, "Matt, I don't believe for a second that you are having radio trouble." J.C. and Matt laughed. "There are going to be consequences for this, but I will pass your message on."
J.C. gave a theatrical shiver and said "Oh, man, are we going to get it!"
"You mean you are going to get it." Matt said, switching the selector back to the scanner. "Kat and I are just along for the ride. You are the one defying authority."
They heard Preason relaying the message to the helicopter pilot as J.C. responded. "Not any more, buddy. You just gave false information to a law enforcement officer about a crime in progress. I'll bet that makes you are conspirator."
They stopped as the helicopter pilot answered, "Yeah, I thought something looked strange about this --I mean more strange than just a tornado on a clear day in a state that never has tornadoes. I'm not getting close though."
"What false information?" Matt asked innocently. "The radio really was having trouble. Some nitwit was running a hairbrush over the microphone."
"This is golden," Katrina said from the back. "Hey, Matt, get the helicopter pilot's name. And the sheriff too. Or I guess I can look that up."
J.C. looked at her in the rear-view mirror, "Hey, are you connected?"
"I'm working, baby, don't interrupt me right now."
The helicopter pilot came back on the radio. "There's a spray of fine dust coming out the top, but none of the larger debris. It's like something in the middle of the cloud is pulverizing everything that goes through it."
J.C. was momentarily distracted by this news, but then he looked back in the rear-view mirror at his wife who seemed fully absorbed in banging at her keyboard. "Are you getting cell phone signal out here?" Katrina ignored him and continued typing.
"Somethings happening," the helicopter pilot reported, "It's changing shade a bit and ..."
"Kat!" J.C said loudly. "Are you getting a cell signal out here?"
"What, baby?" Katrina asked innocently as she continued to type.
The voice in the helicopter was continuing, "It seems to be slowing down, I'm taking a mark on a big boulder and lining up on the peak of a hill..."
"How are you getting on line?" J.C. sounded like he was getting upset, but Katrina continued to type away as though she were oblivious.
The helicopter observer continued over the radio, "OK, ... I ... yes, the tornado has started moving backwards along the trench."
"What?" Matt exclaimed. He sat forward to peer out the windshield.
"Are you using the satellite uplink for blogging?" J.C. was sounding really angry now.
"J.C., did you hear the guy?" Matt asked, but J.C. was ignoring him and glaring at his wife in the rear-view mirror. The tires bounced hard over a big rock that he didn't see.
"Just a minute, baby." she said. "I'm in the middle of something."
"Damn!" J.C. slammed on the breaks and reached back to try to grab Katrina's laptop.
She held it away from him, "Hold on! Hold on!"
"J.C.!" Matt shouted now. "J.C.! It's coming back!"
"Calm down, Matt" Katrina chided him, still holding her laptop out of her husband's reach. "It is not going to just turn around."
"It's coming back!" Matt shouted again, looking out the windshield in horror. The howling of the tornado waxed louder.