Stormchasers
by Sammie

Disclaimer in Part 1.


"I need to wire you," Kate replied, unbuckling her seatbelt as she held up the portable radio and headset. Gibbs nodded, keeping his eyes on the road as her feather-light hands swept over him, clasping the radio onto his belt and then looping the headset over his head. "OK."

"Big whoop, Gibbs!" Abby's voice crackled with excitement.

Gibbs immediately straightened in his seat. "Whoop us, Abs."

"Four miles, to the southeast."

"We need to get on Oklahoma 412," Viv added.

"Wind speed, ground speed, c'mon, Abby!" Gibbs retorted impatiently.

"Wind speed about 200, ground speed - whoa, this a fast one - 50 miles an hour."

"F3," Kate muttered. "Borderline 4."

"Heya boss," Tony's voice came over the line. "Look who came to welcome you back. He's on the parallel road."

Gibbs looked over briefly to see Fornell's long line of black cars on the parallel road.

"This is the prize in the Cap'n Crunch," Tony intoned. "First one on site gets it."

"I see the funnel," Gibbs murmured. "It's on our side, but not for long."

"It's may jump the road," Kate replied. "Then it'll be between us."

Kate settled back, preparing for a quickening in the speed, but Gibbs continued along at the slow 50. She saw a dirt turn-off coming up. "Take it, take it!" she waved a hand at it.

Gibbs passed it by, still going at a slow 50. Kate stared at him incredulously, then her gaze snapped to Fornell's team on the other side, pulling ahead. "What are you doing?" she exclaimed. "Letting Fornell take over that scene? By the time we get there it'll be gone!"

"Do you want to drive?" Gibbs exclaimed.

"Yes! Even I can drive faster than this!" Kate exclaimed. "Especially when we're chasing!"

"Just hold on," he shot back.

She stared at him for a moment, then shook her head, giving a short laugh. "You've lost your nerve," she taunted, hoping to get a rise out of him. "City life has turned you into a softie!" She looked at his speedometer, then covered her face with her hand.

Gibbs sighed, then grinned. "Tighten your seatbelt." He grabbed the shoulder strap of her seatbelt and yanking up, tightening it as he slammed down on the gas, spinning them straight into a field.

"What are you doing?" Kate exclaimed, her feet slamming down on the floor as he took a sharp turn into the tall grass. "The storm's back there! We're going behind it!"

"There it is," Gibbs murmured, pointing. "That sidewinder's going to turn."

"Are you sure?" she asked, staring at the sky.

"Oh yeah," Gibbs muttered, yanking the wheel around.

She nodded, watching the storm steadily, and sure enough, it turned. "Remind me to ask your gut what horse to bet on," Kate muttered. They neared the storm, and Gibbs made a sudden, 180-degree turn, sending her slamming into his side despite the seatbelt.

He accelerated as they went through the field, breaking down the grass as they closed the distance to the storm, when it suddenly turned, putting them right into their path, just as Gibbs had guessed. He popped onto the road on the other side of the field.

Next to him, Kate had unbuckled her seatbelt and was climbing into the backseat, opening up the cab window and climbing through. She carefully manuevered her way past the TOTO 3 locked into the truck stand and opened up the instrument panel on TOTO 1. She turned on the machine, then leaned over, banging on the cab window. "We're ready!"

He swung the car around in a circle so he was now facing the other direction. Kate was yanking free the straps as he jumped out of the truck, and she kicked down the tailgate.

"Right over here by the side of the road!" he shouted, pulling it off of the truck bed. Kate nodded, helping him lift it off, then pulling it on its wheels, rolling it over to the side. Once there, she kicked on the small brake, stopping the machine from rolling.

Gibbs was already in the car, starting up the engine again as Kate jumped in. The tornado was less than a few hundred yards away. Gibbs shook his head. "Never been this close," he muttered as he sped off.

"That's the point," Kate grinned. "Fast in, fast out." She turned on her video camera, then pulled herself out of the cab halfway, grimacing a little at the pain in her left arm. She held it up, pointing it towards the storm and TOTO.

Gibbs brought the truck to a careful stop much farther away, then turned himself to watch.

"Come on, come on," Kate murmured, watching silently through the camera lens.

"What is that?" Gibbs frowned suddenly, watching a silvery flash inside. He squinted.

"I don't know," Kate frowned, looking up. She zoomed in, but the flash was gone inside the twisting of the dark winds. "I got a bad feeling about this."

Gibbs' eyes swept the skyline, then settled back on the tornado. "Kate," he said quietly. "Get in the car. It's turning. It's coming straight for us!"

They sat, stock still for a moment, before scrambling back into the cab. Gibbs slammed his foot down on the gas, jumping forward as Kate turned again to get a steady look at the tornado, keeping the video camera rolling.

"There's that flash again," Kate spoke, keeping him updated. "It's a - it's a Hummer. It's a silver - no! No no no," she begged.

Gibbs looked up into the rearview mirror, just seconds before the twister dropped the Hummer right on top of TOTO. Everything exploded in a massive fireball.

A few seconds later, the twister dissipated, disappearing back into the clouds.

Gibbs slammed a fist against the wheel in frustration. Kate was still sitting in her seat, stunned silent.

"Kate," he spoke finally.

"Are you all right?" Viv called. "Gibbs? Kate?"

"Did you see that explosion?" came Abby and Tony's enthused shouting over the line. "Did you see that! It's was like a mini bomb!"

They sat in stony silence in the cab, and then Kate reached over for the radio mic. "Yeah," she said dully. "We saw it."

Gibbs gently squeezed her hand.

- x - x - x - x - x -

"Um...boss?" McGee approached Tony. "I don't know if you want to tell 'em...or..."

"What?"

"That sucker's still gaining strength," Abby said quietly. "It jumped back into the clouds, but NSSL thinks it's going to get up to 270 mph, soon as the two cells are fully merged."

Tony's head snapped up at that. "270," he murmured. "That's a F5."

- x - x - x - x - x -

"Boss? Kate?"

"Yeah, Tony," Gibbs replied, keeping his eyes on the road as they drove in silence.

"Uh." He paused. "That twister you just hit."

"Yeah?"

There was silence on the other end, and then Tony said quietly, "It jumped back up into the clouds - "

"We saw that."

"NSSL thinks it's just taking time to gain strength." There was a pause. "They're forecasting windspeed up to 270, though they're hoping the groundspeed may drop a few mph."

In one car up, Gibbs could see Kate's knuckles tighten on the handle above the car door. "It'll be a crazy updraft," she murmured.

Gibbs turned the truck so they were facing where the tornado had been. The clouds were swirling slowly, ominously.

"The funnel's starting down," Kate murmured as if it were an afterthought.

They rode in silence for a full minute, staring as the funnel started to come down.

Still several miles away, Gibbs squinted. He could see the blank funnel cloud, not weaving like many of the smaller storms they normally tracked. He'd never seen a wider radius.

"Um, Gibbs, Kate," came McGee's uncertain voice. "We, uh."

"Spit it out, McGee," Gibbs barked.

"Abby and I didn't design a weight for an F5," he said softly. "It may not be heavy enough to reach the core if the winds are that strong."

"But can it?" Kate asked sharply, leaning over to use the mic Gibbs still held.

"We didn't DESIGN it to," Abby countered.

"I want to know what it can do!" Gibbs exclaimed. "Not what it was designed to do!"

"We, uh," McGee stammered. "Yes, we think it can."

"That's enough for me," Gibbs called. "Good work. Set up for deployment, make sure you get good shots."

He paused, then put his foot to the gas, and they sped off, alone.

"That radius is huge," Kate murmured, her eyes peeled to the tornado they were coming up on. "I haven't seen that but once."

"Yeah," Gibbs muttered. "Me, too."

Debris began to pelt the car. Torn up cell phone towers became steel missiles and wooden planks were blown around them like toothpicks.

"LEFT!" Kate screamed suddenly as a wheat thresher dropped straight in front of them.

Gibbs yanked the wheel to the left, narrowly missing the thresher.

"RIGHT!"

The hanging hook from a tow truck struck the top of their cab as Gibbs swerved to the right, narrowly missing the airborne truck.

"LEFT!" she yelled as a tractor came down on their other side. He pulled the wheel over as Kate grabbed the mic and shouted into the radio, "Debris! We got debris!"

"'Debris'!" Gibbs exclaimed at her understatement.

"Mooooooo."

Kate swallowed, slowly setting the microphone back into its hook as she and Gibbs looked up. They followed its progress as a clearly upset Holstein blew across the road in front of them. Kate's hand stilled over the forgotten video camera as she watched, her mouth slightly open. "Cow," she said, unnecessarily.

Gibbs veered off a little to the left, to avoid a large I-beam sitting on the road. A few seconds later, the black and white blob flew by again. "'Nother cow."

"Actually," Gibbs murmured. "I think that was the same one."

Suddenly a gigantic tanker crashed in front of them, crashing open, and suddenly everything went white. "What!" Kate shouted. "What is that!"

"I don't know!" Gibbs shouted as the steering wheel spun widely. He switched on the windshield wipers, batting anxiously back and forth. He grabbed the wheel, yanking it against the car's spinning, trying to get out of the hydroplaning. The car spun on the liquid. "Hang on!"

They finally broke free, skidding back onto what was marginally firm ground, and Kate looked back at the large, endless pool of white all over the highway. Kate frowned, then slowly rolled down the window and reached a finger out, picking up some of the white still on the car.

"What is it?" Gibbs frowned, carefully maneuvering around a gigantic wheel rolling towards them.

"No idea." Kate sniffed it, then started to put her finger in her mouth.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Gibbs asked, a little too late. "Well?"

"When I said I wanted to go to a spa and get a milk bath," Kate muttered, "this is NOT what I meant."

"Well," Gibbs muttered, keeping his eyes peeled on the road. "Just be glad DiNozzo isn't here to make milk and cow jokes." She grinned. "Just a thought. I think we should get off this road."

"Good idea," Kate muttered, taking another brief look at the debris behind her.

He turned off at a side road. "We still have to find a way to get in front of it," he said. Getting no comment, he looked over at her. She was entirely focused on something ahead of them. "Kate?"

She yanked out the binoculars from the glove compartment.

"Kate?"

"That's asphalt on the grass over there," Kate said quietly, pointing ahead. "Torn up from a road."

Gibbs squinted. He couldn't see much that far ahead. "What did you say? Asphalt?"

"It's asphalt...like the tornado just re-paved the grass," Kate murmured, ominously. "It gets worse." She pointed at the school ahead. "That's Sooner Elementary."

"Yeah?"

"Jethro," Kate replied. "Jethro, Sooner wasn't built from brick." She looked over at him, watching his expression suddenly turn grim. "Sooner was built all out of reinforced concrete," she said quietly. "The roof's entirely gone, and the walls are really beat up."

They stared at each other for a moment, realization dawning. "F5," Gibbs murmured.

"That was a lot of concrete and asphalt to rip away," Kate muttered. "I mean, where would it go if the wind just ripped it out of - "

"KATE!" he screamed as a slab of steel came flying towards the passenger's side, slamming in straight the windshield like a missile. He slammed on the breaks as the windshield cracked across but did not shatter. "Kate!"

The car screeched to a halt. No Kate in the passenger's side. He took a deep breath. It would have impaled her into the seat.

The door to the passenger's side was hanging open, and he ran around, to find Kate crawling up from the side of the road. She'd seen the triangular slab a second before he had, jumping out of the car just in time. He grabbed her, and she limped alongside of him in a run back towards the car.

She slid into the middle seat, between the huge slab of steel that had narrowly missed her, and the driver's seat. Gibbs squeezed in after her. "Thank God the windshield didn't crack," she muttered, and he started up the car again with grim determination.

"We're dropping TOTO and getting out of here," Gibbs muttered.

"Yeah, good idea."

He scrunched against the car door as she climbed deftly over into the backseat and unlocked the window. She snapped open the instrument panel and turned on the machine. "She's up!"

She reached around, feeling for the strap. "Ow!" she hissed, cutting her hand on the steel slab, then frowned. "Uh-oh," she muttered, tugging on the release strap.

The slab had pierced the strap straight through, pinning it into the truck bed. There was no way to release TOTO without pulling on the strap to release the locks.

"She up?" Gibbs shouted back at her.

"I've got an open blade!" Kate called, using one hand to flick open a blade in her Swiss Army knife. She sawed frantically at the release cord. It was tough, woven natural hemp and not cutting well. She dropped into her seat, looking around frantically.

The cigarette lighter, in the truck. She leaned on her stomach over the side, yanking it out, and grabbed her water. She soaked the rope through a foot from where it was caught, then clicked the lighter on, protecting the flame with her hand, and applied it to the cord.

"What are you doing?" Gibbs shouted, smelling the smoke.

"Just drive," she shouted back.

The fire having eaten through that area of cord, Kate doused the small flame and got a grip on the shortened release cord.

She jerked on the release strap, and TOTO clicked free of its truck moorings. She slid out into the cab window and over to the tailgate, sitting down hard on the truck bed. She grabbed a hold of a bar on the moorings and kicked down the tailgate. "We can deploy whenever you're ready!"

Gibbs started pulling up, slowing down. He'd barely come to a stop when TOTO disappeared from his rearview mirror, and Kate suddenly reappeared on the truck bed. "Go! Go!" she shouted. "She's on the ground. Get us somewhere safer!"

A few minutes later, she was crawling back into the truck cab, leaning over the seat. "Camera," she called.

Gibbs reached over, grabbing the video camera in one fell swoop and handing it back to her. She was leaning out the back of the cab, filming the twister they'd just passed. TOTO sat placidly in the middle of the road, waiting. Gibbs stopped the car.

"C'mon, c'mon, c'mon," he murmured to himself, and the twister slowly began to make its way over to the machine.

"Stay, stay, stay," Kate whispered.

"It's too light!" Gibbs shouted. "It'll get tossed before it makes it to the core!"

"No it's not!" Kate replied.

TOTO began to skitter across the street, pulled by the updraft and the inbound winds.

"There it goes!" she shouted, watching as the twister sucked up the instrument. "There it goes!" she cheered, the both of them laughing in delight.

"Abby! McGee!" Gibbs shouted into the radio mouthpiece. "Can you see this!"

- x - x - x - x - x -

"WE GOT READINGS!" Abby shouted.

"She's flying!" Tony shouted, jabbing his finger at the twister in unrestrained delight. "She's flying!"

"She made it to the core!" Viv shouted, grabbing McGee into a gigantic bear hug.

"What did I tell you!" McGee shouted, laughing as the five jumped up and down, shouting in delight. "Look at those numbers!"

"Look at that F5," Ziva murmured in awe. "It's beautiful!"

Abby suddenly frowned, watching the numbers, then quickly looked up. "Uh-oh."

"No more uh-ohs!" Tony shouted, Gibbs-like. "Abby, just say it!"

"It's turning. It's turning west!"

- x - x - x - x - x -

"Get out of there!" Tony's distinctive shout came rattling over the radio. "Get out of there! It's turning west."

"Kate, get back in the cab!" Gibbs shouted, pulling himself into the cab and jerking the car back into drive. Kate squirreled back inside, slamming the window shut.

She leaned over the front seat, grabbing the mic as Gibbs slammed his foot down on the gas. "What's the groundspeed on - JETHRO!" she shouted, looking up into the rearview mirror as a huge harvester suddenly crashed down, onto the back half of the truck bed.

Gibbs slammed on the brakes as the car jerked to a sudden halt, the front of the truck tilting up and backwards, taking them up a few feet into the air. He gunned the gas, the squeal of the nearly crushed back tires loud and high.

"Get us out of here!" Kate exclaimed in a half-panic.

"I'm trying!" Gibbs shouted.

"Listen to me!" Tony shouted. "You got to get out of there!"

"WE'RE TRYING!"

Gibbs tried jerking the wheel to the left and gunning the engine again, and the harvester budged slightly.

"It's coming!" Kate shouted.

Gibbs threw open the driver's side door. "C'mon!" he shouted as he started to climb out. "C'mon! We gotta get out of this heading!"

He jumped to the ground, then reached up for her, catching her and setting her down on the ground. "Let's go!" he shouted, starting to pull her in a path perpendicular to the oncoming twister.

Kate ran alongside of him, her ponytail whipping her face. "Jethro - "

"Come on!" he shouted, yanking at her hand. "Come on!"

He pulled her straight into the cornfield, keeping one arm up to break down the stalks in front of them. "Couldn't be a wheat field instead," he muttered.

They suddenly upon a clearing, where a house stood. Gibbs scanned the front yard as he ran; there was no evidence of a storm cellar. He grabbed her hand, pulling her up the stairs. He flung open the screen door and gave one swift kick to the door, and they ran straight through the house.

The TV was still on, although there was only static; a meal was half-eaten and abandoned on the dining room table, baby food spattered on a high chair.

They burst out of the back. "I don't get it!" Kate shouted as they stood still for a second, scanning the yard. "Who in Oklahoma doesn't have a storm cellar!"

"C'mon!" Gibbs started running for the barn. They were out of the direction of the twister, but with a mile-wide radius, there wasn't much hope that they wouldn't still be sucked in.

They raced across the field, trying to keep ahead of the storm. "DUCK!" he shouted, shoving her towards the ground. A few hundred feet away, a harvester crashed against a fence, and then their new truck swept straight over them, heading into the funnel.

"Two trucks in two days!" Kate exclaimed. "Insurance isn't going to be happy!"

Gibbs scrambled up, grabbing her hand as they continued to run. They reached the barn, and he grabbed a hold of the handle on the door. Kate's fingers slipped, and she started to be sucked backwards. He grabbed her and yanked her forward, and they pulled open the door and hurried inside. She jiggled the lock shut, and they turned to look around the barn.

Gibbs took one look at the two horses there, scratching and neighing. He threw open the big door on the other side, then unlocked the two stalls. The animals bolted out of the stalls, straight for the open door. "Kate, c'mon! There's nothing here!" He turned only to turn around and find Kate on the floor, frantically sweeping away straw from the ground. "Kate, we gotta go!"

"There's a hollow something below the floor!" she shouted. "Help me."

He scrambled over, brushing away the hay, and then his hand hit a metal handle. They spread away the hay. A trapdoor.

The hinges had rusted shut.

Gibbs jumped up, running for the ax hanging on the side of the door. With one swift blow, he broke the hinges, and they pulled away the top of the door. "It looks like an old tornado tunnel," he called. "Do you still have the lighter?"

Kate grabbed it out of her pocket and handed it to him. He lit it, lighting some hay with it, and looked down the ladder. "C'mon!" He stomped out his makeshift torch, then started down the ladder.

Once at the bottom, they looked around; it was musty, unused. Gibbs held up the flame from the lighter. "There's a lamp." Kate retrieved it, holding it open as he carefully lit the old lamp, praying silently it would light.

It did.

Kate held up the light, looking around the room as Gibbs scrambled back up, jerking the door as far shut as he could, and bolting it. "We have to get farther in," he shouted over the roaring of the wind above them. "That door's not going to hold!"

"We can't!" Kate swung the lamp so he could see. "The tunnel part collapsed, leaving only that little hollow here."

"They most likely abandoned it when they built a new storm cellar," Gibbs muttered, then swore softly. The wind was picking up, getting louder and louder as the storm gained on them. He pulled her close to him, pressing against the far wall, when he felt cold steel.

He dug quickly at it - water pipes. "Get your arms around the piping!" he shouted, pulling at the dirt, digging behind it. "C'mon!"

Kate scooted over to the far wall, slipping her arms around the piping and hugging it, pressing herself against the dirt wall. He soon had his arms around her, looped through that same little hollow he'd just dug in the dirt wall, squeezing her against him and the wall.

It was on them less than a minute later, and they could hear the door jiggling, and then suddenly it ripped away. He pulled himself tigher over Kate, and then the loud rumbling began.

He could see the yawning blackness above them, directly above the opening to the abandoned tornado tunnel. He started to tuck in, but he could feel Kate's face against his, rather than the top of her head. She was looking up, struck in wonder by the storm.

For a second, he felt a slight letup of the wind, a little sunlight in.

The eye.

Tiny though it was, he looked up, and he could feel Kate under him, shifting to do the same. They looked straight up into the storm, seeing beams, cars, furniture twisted up in the funnel. They stared together up into the storm, both horrified and awed.

"DUCK!" he shouted, pushing her down against the piping as a car suddenly slammed into the opening of the tunnel. It hung above them for a full minute, the metal groaning and grating against the floor above them, before there was a loud screeching and it got sucked away again.

The rumbling and groaning began to disappear, and Gibbs finally looked up when he felt the warmth of the sun back on his neck. It was clear - like nothing had ever happened. The sky was blue, and the sun was bright.

He felt Kate stirring, looking up at the sky. They were quiet for a moment, and then she murmured breathlessly, "Wow."

"Uh-huh," he grinned down, murmuring in her ear. "That's what they all tell me."

She twisted in his arms, turning to face him, a look of utter disbelief on her face. He just looked down at her, his eyes teasing her mirthfully, his mischievous smirk on his face.

"OK," she said uncertainly, deciding to let that one pass. "You can let go of me now."

He just looked at her contentedly, making no move to do so. He slid a hand under her, to her back. She kept watching him, slightly nervous and confused, as his eyes drifted slowly over her face. He then kissed her gently, lingering over her mouth.

"I don't see 'em," came a voice somewhere above them, and they broke apart, smiling. "McGee, are you sure they're here?"

"That's what the GPS says."

"Gibbs?" came a shout from above. "Kate?"

"We're down here!" Kate shouted as Gibbs released her.

Tony's face suddenly appeared at the small entrance to the tunnel. "Maybe we should leave you two down here," he grinned.

"DiNOZZO!"

Ziva turned to Viv. "You owe me twenty dollars. Gibbs didn't go back with Red." Viv made a face.

"We got such good pictures!" Abby yelled, hopping up and down as they climbed out, muddy and dirty. "And the data! Did TOTO fly!" she shouted, she and Tony (as well as he could), dancing up and down as the other cheered, hugging each other as the ran towards them.

"Did you see it?" McGee exclaimed. "It was incredible! It was so insane!"

"I think we've seen more than we want to see for a long time," Kate smiled, as Gibbs surreptitiously squeezed her hand.


Twenty miles away, the insurance agents at Carl Bingham's Insurance crawled out from the basement to survey the damage.

One of the insurance agents noticed a familiar looking truck sitting upside down in the parking lot, a huge metal slab through the passenger's seat, though no blood - so no casualties. He frowned. It was very familiar looking.

The windshield was cracked and would have to be replaced; the doors were torn off, and the tires were shredded. The chassis was busted. It looked almost entire totalled, albeit new.

He noticed a familiar looking light blue backpack in the front seat, and pulled it out before looking at the address tag on the inside.

'Caitlin Todd'.

Inside, a puzzled Carl Bingham looked out to see one of his agents hopping up and down, clutching a light blue backpack and screaming in frustration.

THE END

What's a tornado movie without a flying cow? ;-) Thanks for sticking it out to the end.