THE BAUM TRANSPORT

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Submitted Date 02/24/2022
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Dr. D.B.Gale peered through the bug‑splattered windshield and felt her stomach tighten. Roiling bruised clouds. Dirty cotton candy pulled earthward. Going to be a big one. She got on the cellular to the Severe Storm Lab in Oklahoma City. "I need a warning for McAlester and everything north and east of there." She turned to her University of Kansas team and nodded. Three years of chasing, of dwindling foundation support, of rain and wind and heat-- "Going to earn our pay today."

From the CB‑‑Tanner's van at the rear: "Boss, barometer's saggin' like my grandma's butt and we got a hook."

Gale squinted at the lowering mass of clouds. They needed to get ahead of it. "Next right," she said to her new assistant, Hurley.

They took the turn with screaming tires. "Holy sh‑‑" Hurley cried.

Gale pounded the dashboard. "Not now. Dammit!"

An RV with a crudely painted rainbow on its side was parked across the road. A half‑dozen people with photographic gear were standing near a folding table.

"West!" Gale screamed, jumping out of the van.

Dr. West of Oklahoma State Farmer's College, looked up from the table, adjusting her granny glasses with a middle finger. "Gale! Fancy seeing you here."

"Look, West, we got to get ahead of it."

West glanced over at the dancing funnel. "Yeah, nice one," she said. "Conditions should be perfect."

Hurley came over. "Who are they? What's going on? We gotta go, Doc!"

"Rainbow chasers," Gale said. "Studying the 'bows that appear after storms. Don't ask me who funds this useless pseudo‑scientific crap. Damn nuisance!"

West smiled. "Our findings may not be as exciting as yours but they're important‑‑"

Tanner called from his van: "Boss! It's turned!"

Gale looked up. The funnel was bearing down on them. A mile wide at least and very hungry. "Get away from the vehicles! Get‑‑"

Roaring wind and madness. Then silence. Darkness gives way to soft light. A greening, but not the usual greening of a storm. This was a deep, rich emerald.

"Uh‑oh," someone said.

Gale opened her eyes slowly. "You have to be kidding."

"Finally found it! The Baum Transport," West said cheerfully. "We're back!"

"Not again‑‑"

"Hey Boss," Tanner said, hushed. "This road has yellow bricks."

West turned to Dr. Gale and smiled, eyes narrowing to obsidian glints. "Surrender Dorothy."

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