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Friday, September 30, 2011

F3 Lightning Relay

     "We're here," Jake had undisguised joy on his face as we floated down from the high cirrus clouds down to the fluffy grey cumulus.
     "Where?" I looked down in disgust at a dusty town. It looked like those old Westerns where a tumbleweed would roll across the main street, proclaiming it a ghost town. Not quite so deserted as that, I saw a few cars going up and down the street. We were too high up to really see people.
     "Welcome to the most awesome place on Earth," he spread his arms in proclamation. "Welcome to Tornado Alley."

     The Midwest. The Great Plains. Every year tornadoes rampaged through this region from Oklahoma almost to the border of Canada in a swath as wide as Texas. I shrugged at him.
     He shook his head in disgust at me.
     "Not only can we cyclone surf here, but we are afforded the rare opportunity that all these close storms provide."
     "Which is what?"
     "We're going to ride a lightning relay."
     "Who says what now?"
     "Pay attention, newbie. See that storm over there?" He pointed to the storm some miles away.
     "Yeah, obviously."
     "And you see that one over there?" He swung his arm left to another one a little farther away. It already had the tell-tale swirl of a beginning tornado.
     I nodded.
     "Watch close."
     I watched as Jake took up a relay runner's stance, one arm stretched behind, the other in front. It was the same stance he taught me to ride the lightning. I already knew this, why was he—the hairs jumped all over my body an instant before the blue-white bolt flashed, zipping him away with it. The thunder washed over me; I was used to it. I watched the bolt arc away with him grasping it, the electric equivalent of riding a bull. The bolt reached the other storm, and I expected him to land, then repeat the ride to the next bank. He didn't land on the cloud. Instead, another bolt arced away. An instant later he reached the third storm, and a third bolt shot straight towards the cloud I stood on!
     It shot a dozen feet above the cloud I stood on, but Jake released the bolt as he flew over. He dug his feet into the cloud, and it molded itself to the impact as he made a small landing trench, dissipating his speed.
     I felt a smile creep over my face.
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