I love Twister. Anything associated with Michael Crichton is a win, in my opinion. This movie is classic 90's and so good for its time! It's still probably one of my favorites. I re-watched it recently and this is what I came up with. DISCLAIMER: I do not, in any way, own the movie 'Twister' or profit from writing this fic. I've borrowed some of the dialogue from the script. The sub-plots are mine.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy!
Chapter 1: The Papers
Bill Harding's new pickup kicked up dust as he cruised down county road 40 just outside of Ponca City, Oklahoma, the sun bright on his face. It was early in the morning yet and the sky was an innocent blue as Bill leaned past his girlfriend Melissa to get a better view of the sky out the passenger side window. Cloud cover was moderate but non-threatening…cotton-like and lacking noticeable vertical development or clearly defined edges. Bill hardly had to think about it; a moment's observation had his weather sense at attention and the stats rolled through his mind with ease: these were cumulus clouds, lining the sky in clusters and moving along at a nice pace. Textbook example, and common for this time of year. Bill moved his gaze to the horizon. Far off to the west, where even a distant line of trees appeared as a dark, bluish-green smudge, a wall of clouds blocked the sun, throwing the ground below into shadow. It was late May and unseasonably warm. Bill knew that before the end of the day those unassuming, textbook cumulus formations would make the aggressive transition to cumulonimbus clouds: instable, heavy with moisture, and sensitive to the rapid changes in temperature characteristic to spring in Oklahoma.
It was tornado season.
A moment or two more and Bill found his attention brought back to the cab of his truck as Melissa spoke.
"But, honey, are you sure she's gonna be there?" she asked again, picking up the conversation where they'd left off when they stopped for fuel twenty minutes ago. Bill allowed himself to reminisce almost automatically, a distant knowledge drifting through his thoughts as he pondered the answer to her question. He glanced at Melissa and tried to smile, though the corners of his eyes were tight with the glare of the sun and an almost inherent disappointment brought on by the memories.
"If I know Jo, she's already dragged her entire department into the field."
Bill thought of his call to the university this morning, the one he'd halfheartedly hoped would be a direct line to getting ahold of Jo but had, as he'd suspected, been redirected to the department head. The guy, a name Bill vaguely remembered as a transfer from a big, fancy primary university in Kansas, had told Bill in a slightly incredulous tone that Jo and her team and been practically camped out near the Pawnee area for the better part of the last month. He could hear through the phone exactly what this guy thought about the research Jo was doing; the research Bill himself had once been so immersed in. He knew, almost without realizing how, that Jo hated having this guy -some fancy, elitist Atmospheric Science major with some non-nonsense, black and white theory on storm cells- as the head of her department. When he paused to think about just why he knew this, Bill consented that it was because he knew Jo. After all, he'd been married to her for the better part of five years.
"Ah, hell," Bill continued, "A day like today, it's to be expected…She forgets everything except her work."
Melissa rolled her head against the headrest to face him.
"You're nervous about seeing her, aren't you?" she asked in her unassuming, pretty southern drawl. That was one thing Bill liked about Melissa. She was to-the-point, but never assuming. Bill figured it must be the therapist in her, but when Melissa asked a question, that's all it was. A question. Not some thinly-veiled comment loaded with implications about what she really felt but wouldn't directly voice.
Not like Jo.
Bill mentally caged his drifting thoughts and looked to Melissa.
"Nervous? Nah," he assured, bringing his attention back to the road before shooting another quick glance in her direction, "Why? Do I look nervous?"
"No…" Melissa was quick to reply, "Well, yeah. You do, a little."
Bill let out a terse sigh and shook his head.
"I just want to get it over with."
Now it was Melissa's turn to feel apprehensive:
"But she said she signed the papers, right?"
"That's what she said." Back in January...Bill's thoughts lingered in his mind, as if he wasn't quite sure they could be counted on.
"You don't think so?" Melissa turned in her seat to gauge his reaction and Bill smiled, reaching over the console to grasp her hand.
"No, I think so," Bill shot her a reassuring smile, "Give me a kiss."
The van was blue, and just as junky as Bill remembered it. Back then, it was a pipe dream, the physical manifestation of everything they'd worked for in two seasons of rookie storm chasing. It wasn't much, but it had a roomy inside and space for a mount on its rack. That old piece of shit represented hard work and dedication. Most importantly…it wasn't corporate sellout.
Jo had long since replaced it with a slightly newer two door yellow pickup and -when Dusty had joined the team a few years back- an equally junky mini Winnebago, complete with removable camper. In time the team gained new members and eventually lost Bill, but the blue van had stuck around. Go figure.
Bill could see now that it had been converted into an impressively large space for mapping data. The storm tracking system was a jumbled mess of computers and wires, and the seats in the back had been ripped out to make room for coordinate layouts and readings from the Doppler radar. On top of the van itself, on the mount, was the dish that provided the readings, and behind that, bent over so that Bill could hardly see her, was Jo.
"Okay Professor, hang on there, I think I've fixed it," Tim Lewis -better known as Beltzer- pounded on the roof of the van to get Jo's attention, "I've got it," he called, prompting Jo to turn on the radar.
Sparks flew and a burst of smoke puffed angrily into the heavy Oklahoma air, and Jo pulled back.
"Oh, fuck!" her blond hair swung in a curtain across her shoulder as Jo straightened and cursed the equipment, "This thing is useless-"
"Oops! Sorry, Jo-" Beltzer called dryly. The damn radar dish malfunctioned on a daily basis, and Beltzer was all too used to the frustrations that accompanied it.
Melissa hung back, but Bill looked on in amusement as he stepped down from the cab of his truck. The dish whirred to life and Jo snapped her head up to watch incredulously as it begin to search for coordinates.
"Wait wait wait, Beltzer!" Jo hammered on the roof of the van with the flat of her palm in excitement, "That's good! Give me a reading!"
"Okay, Boss Lady, hold your horses…" Beltzer popped out of the van and strode over to the field equipment, "Which way do you want it, Jo?"
"Looks like the dry line is stalled. Give me a sector scan West-Northwest, look at midlevel for rotation and increase the PRF."
Bill's attention was drawn away from Jo and towards Dusty and the Winnebago. The first pumping tune of Eric Clapton's 'Motherless Child' flowed from the speakers of the 24" television in the back seat and Dusty sang along, mimicking the beat of the drums:
'If I mistreat you girl, sho' don't mean no harm…'
Bill crossed his arms and looked on as Rabbit and Allan argued over protocol for proper map storage.
"All I'm saying is don't fold the maps-"
"I didn't fold the maps!"
"Yeah well Kansas is a mess, there's a big crease right through Wichita…"
"Roll the maps."
Bill grinned at their back and forth and stepped forward to join the banter:
"Well, what do you know? It's the Storm Chasers!"
"Hey! I don't believe it!" Rabbit exclaimed, taking note of Bill's presence for the first time, "Who is that handsome devil!"
Rabbit and Allan laughed and stepped forward to clap Bill on the back and extend their hands in comradely greeting. Dusty, alerted to his presence across the site, crouched down like a linebacker and threw up the 'rock on' sign with both hands.
"The Extreme! It's The Extreme!" Dusty laughed and bounded over, and Bill grinned.
"Oh man, don't start that shit!"
Bill turned to Melissa, who smiled politely but hesitated near the hood of the truck, and extended a hand to welcome her forward.
"Dusty, I'd like you to meet Melissa. Melissa, this is Dusty. Dust-Man's been chasing with us damn near ever since we started."
Dusty offered a little sort of half bow and grinned.
"Melissa," Dusty extended his own hand and took Melissa's, "Let me show you around! C'mon…" he shot a look over his shoulder at Bill as he led Melissa away, "Man, Jo is gonna wig when she sees he's back!"
"I'm not back…" Bill called dryly. He smiled, offered Melissa a reassuring nod, and took off across the short expanse of field towards the blue van and his wife, setting his teeth in preparation for coming face to face with her again. The last time he'd spoken with her -hell, it'd been nearly two months ago now- had been over the phone. She'd called him, out of the blue, and if Bill hadn't taken the opportunity to inquire about the divorce papers she should have signed and turned over to the lawyer by that point, he would have heard in her voice that she was on edge. She had been reluctant to answer his inquiry about the papers and the phone call had degenerated into a petty argument before Bill had even thought to wonder why she'd called in the first place.
As in was, that particular incident was far from his mind as he strode across the short grass, nearing the van. He and Jo had decided on divorce nearly eight months ago. The papers had been drawn up in December and Bill had been waiting on her signature for nearly six months. He knew Jo was stubborn; she'd dug her heels in at first and he'd let that drag on awhile…but by the time February rolled around Bill had begun to see Melissa. He couldn't, in good conscience, let this weigh on them any longer. He needed those papers.
The sky to the west had darkened considerably on the drive out. Thunder rumbled in the distance; to the east the sun was a bright contrast against the grey wall of clouds that moved steadily closer, seeming to eat up the sky as it came. Bill brought a hand up to shield his eyes as he reached the van and called out.
Bill stood with his hands on his hips and looked on as Jo tensed and her movements stilled behind the Doppler dish. He cast a hesitant glance over his shoulder, suddenly hyper-aware that eight pairs of eyes were gazing in their direction, waiting for the outcome of Bill's arrival. He didn't give a shit -God knows they'd born witness to plenty of his fights with Jo in the past- but did the whole damn team really have nothing better to do than watch him collect his divorce papers?
Bill glanced at the sky.
"Storm's coming in," he noted, "She's, uh, she's really talking."
Jo's features betrayed her shock. Inside, Bill was smug. It was clear she'd never entertained the possibility that he'd come all the way out here where she couldn't avoid him to collect the papers.
"Bill," Jo stalled, glancing at the skyline and out across the field at the rest of the team, "You're back."
"I'm not back," Bill assured.
She looked like a deer caught in the headlights, and Bill felt the slightest twinge of guilt.
"Then, ah, what are you doing here?"
As soon as she spoke, however, Bill forgot all about being sympathetic.
"Christ, Jo! You know why I'm here!" Bill took another glance at their audience across the field and took a step nearer the van, lowering his voice. "Look, would you just come down from there? Come down so I can get the papers and get out of your way-"
"Just come down, Jo!"
Bill ran a hand through his hair in frustration and looked back over his shoulder again as Jo rose from behind the exposed wiring of the Doppler dish and jumped lightly to the ground. Melissa looked on hesitantly from beside Dusty across the field and Bill shot her an encouraging smile before turning back to face Jo.
He thought maybe she'd gained weight.
"So, you want the papers?"
"You did drive all the way out here for them," she reasoned. Her glance darted anywhere but to Bill's own speechless expression as the sky gave another thunderous rumble. The sound seemed to stir Bill from his reverie and he opened his mouth, his tone incredulous: