A reminder that volunteering for tuckerization only means a character in the story shares the participant's name. Other than that, there are no other similar characteristics implied.
Driving the Storm
by Alan Loewen
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Volcanic ash threatened to coat the windshield, and Sandy thanked her lucky stars for the thousandth time she was driving the Storm. A regular vehicle's engine would have choked on the thick clouds of ash. The abrasive grit blowing on the windshield at hurricane force would have scarred normal glass to the point of destroying all visibility.
Gusts of wind tracking 150 miles per hour rocked the vehicle while lightning created by ash particles turned the view outside into a hellish nightmare straight from the mind of Hieronymus Bosch.
Since the Yellowstone supervolcano eruption ten months ago, ashfall, nuclear winter, and hurricane-level winds had brought civilization to a quick end. Now, North Americans could do nothing but hunker down, pray the volcano was not going to usher in an XK class end-of-the-world scenario and find new ways of surviving.
Blowing ash and lightning had reduced Sandy’s radio transmissions to worthless squeals of static. It was impossible to let Alpha Base know she had to leave her partner behind at the last outpost with a broken leg when Anne took a bad fall. Trying to walk to the back of the vehicle, the Storm had taken a bad lurch spilling Anne into a bunk. Sandy could still remember hearing the crack as Anne’s femur snapped.
Now Sandy sat in the driver’s seat of a massive vehicle, the Storm, thirty tons of strengthened steel and titanium created for an event just like this. Normally it required two people to operate, but now Sandy learned how lonely it could be as the elements tried their best to destroy the Storm taking her with it as well.
Once again, Sandy took a quick glance behind her seat. The cargo, a hundred cases of medicine for Outpost Four, sat safely strapped from the jostling the Storm received from the wind and ash outside. The SOS from the Outpost had said the need was great, and Sandy was determined to get the medicine to the outpost as soon as possible.
Plowing through drifts of ash, the reinforced front of the Storm also had the ability to knock aside abandoned cars, and stretches of I-81 could be a maze of vehicles abandoned when people tried to flee the choking clouds of heated ash.
Coming up on the bridge that crossed the Susquehanna River, Sandy brought the Storm to a sudden halt. In the light of the halogen headlights punctuated by flashes of lightning, Sandy could see the road simply disappeared just twenty yards ahead of her.
The bridge could not stand against the sludge of the Susquehanna; the river's waters turned into a thick porridge of ash and water.
Sandy’s hands tightened on the steering wheel as she put the Storm into reverse. Seven bridges crossed the river in this area, and Sandy hoped one still stood.
Half an hour later, Sandy found only one way of access still standing, a railroad bridge.
Sandy peered through the wind-driven ash, unable to see the far side of the river. It was possible that the bridge may have fallen at the far end or the way was blocked by a locomotive, but there was no other choice.
Carefully, Sandy eased the Storm onto the tracks and slowly began to cross.
After fifteen minutes, Sandy could still not tell how far she was across the river. The tracks simply disappeared into the ash-driven wind. She hoped she would not meet an obstacle that would force her to back up, but Sandy had no choice.
Trying to stop the ache in her chest by slowing her breathing, Sandy’s hands ached from their white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel. Suddenly, the world outside turned white, and an immediate roar of thunder followed the lightning strike outside.
Sandy heard the bridge groan, and the Storm began to tilt as the bridge began to crumble. In her rearview monitor, Sandy saw the bridge behind her twist and crumble as it began to fall into the river. With a scream, Sandy stomped on the gas, hoping there were no obstacles in front of her.
Sandy put the Storm into a higher gear, desperately trying to stay ahead of the bridge collapse. It was then she saw the stalled locomotive on the tracks some fifty yards ahead of her.
Knowing it was certain death if she fell into the river below, Sandy pushed the Storm to its maximum speed and thanked God when she saw the train had stopped twenty yards ahead of the bridge.
With a jerk of the wheel, Sandy could steer the Storm off the bridge and away from the train. A shower of sparks as the front of her vehicle scraped the train was a bright finale to the danger Sandy had faced.
Two hours later, Sandy drove the Storm into the long driveway of Outpost Four. Toggling the signal that would open the massive entrance to the outpost, Sandy watched the door open to the well-lit garage that could easily fit four vehicles the size of Storm.
The ashfall still prevented her radio from working, but Sandy was surprised that nobody stood ready to greet her and take charge of her lifesaving cargo. There was no waiting medical team, nor any engineers and mechanics waiting to go over the Storm and prepare her for her trip home.
Turning the Storm’s ignition switch off, Sandy felt the great vehicle give a final shudder.
Ten minutes later, Sandy opened the door of the Storm and stepped down into the huge silent garage.
With her jaw set firm, Sandy swept the area with her Mossberg 500 tactical shotgun. Something was very wrong at Outpost Four, and it was her job to find out what was going on.
No rest for the weary, Sandy thought, but she knew if her partner was here, Anne would say something different.
A woman’s work is never done.