Code three, p.1
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       Code Three, p.1

           Rick Raphael
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Code Three


  Produced by Greg Weeks, Sankar Viswanathan, and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net

  Transcriber's Note:

  This etext was produced from Analog Science Fact--Science Fiction, February 1963. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

  Code Three

  The cars on high-speed highways must follow each other like sheep. And they need shepherds. The highway police cruiser of tomorrow however must be massively different-- as different as the highways themselves!

  by Rick Raphael

  Illustrated by Schoenherr

 

  * * * * *

  The late afternoon sun hid behind gray banks of snow clouds and a coldwind whipped loose leaves across the drill field in front of thePhiladelphia Barracks of the North American Continental ThruwayPatrol. There was the feel of snow in the air but the thermometerhovered just at the freezing mark and the clouds could turn eitherinto icy rain or snow.

  Patrol Sergeant Ben Martin stepped out of the door of the barracks andshivered as a blast of wind hit him. He pulled up the zipper on hisloose blue uniform coveralls and paused to gauge the storm cloudsbuilding up to the west.

  The broad planes of his sunburned face turned into the driving coldwind for a moment and then he looked back down at the weather reportsecured to the top of a stack of papers on his clipboard.

  Behind him, the door of the barracks was shouldered open by his juniorpartner, Patrol Trooper Clay Ferguson. The young, tall Canadianofficer's arms were loaded with paper sacks and his patrol work helmetdangled by its strap from the crook of his arm.

  Clay turned and moved from the doorway into the wind. A sudden gustswept around the corner of the building and a small sack perched atopone of the larger bags in his arms blew to the ground and begantumbling towards the drill field.

  "Ben," he yelled, "grab the bag."

  The sergeant lunged as the sack bounced by and made the retrieve. Hewalked back to Ferguson and eyed the load of bags in the blond-hairedofficer's arms.

  "Just what is all this?" he inquired.

  "Groceries," the youngster grinned. "Or to be more exact, littlegourmet items for our moments of gracious living."

  Ferguson turned into the walk leading to the motor pool and Martinswung into step beside him. "Want me to carry some of that junk?"

  "Junk," Clay cried indignantly. "You keep your grimy paws off thesedelicacies, peasant. You'll get yours in due time and perhaps it willhelp Kelly and me to make a more polished product of you instead ofthe clodlike cop you are today."

  Martin chuckled. This patrol would mark the start of the second yearthat he, Clay Ferguson and Medical-Surgical Officer Kelly Lightfoothad been teamed together. After twenty-two patrols, cooped up in asemiarmored vehicle with a man for ten days at a time, you got to knowhim pretty well. And you either liked him or you hated his guts.

  As senior officer, Martin had the right to reject or keep his partnerafter their first eleven-month duty tour. Martin had elected to retainthe lanky Canadian. As soon as they had pulled into New York Barracksat the end of their last patrol, he had made his decisions. Aftereleven months and twenty-two patrols on the Continental Thruways, eachteam had a thirty-day furlough coming.

  Martin and Ferguson had headed for the city the minute they put theirsignatures on the last of the stack of reports needed at the end of atour. Then, for five days and nights, they tied one on. MSO KellyLightfoot had made a beeline for a Columbia Medical School seminar ontissue regeneration. On the sixth day, Clay staggered out of bed,swigged down a handful of antireaction pills, showered, shaved anddressed and then waved good-by. Twenty minutes later he was aboard ajet, heading for his parents' home in Edmonton, Alberta. Martin soloedaround the city for another week, then rented a car and raced up tohis sister's home in Burlington, Vermont, to play Uncle Bountiful toCarol's three kids and to lap up as much as possible of his sister'sreal cooking.

  While the troopers and their med officer relaxed, a service crew movedtheir car down to the Philadelphia motor pool for a full overhaul andrefitting for the next torturous eleven-month-tour of duty.

  The two patrol troopers had reported into the Philadelphia Barracksfive days ago--Martin several pounds heavier courtesy of his sister'scooking; Ferguson several pounds lighter courtesy of three assorted,starry-eyed, uniform-struck Alberta maidens.

  They turned into the gate of the motor pool and nodded to the sentryat the gate. To their left, the vast shop buildings echoed to thesound of body-banging equipment and roaring jet engines. The darkeningsky made the brilliant lights of the shop seem even brighter and thehulls of a dozen patrol cars cast deep shadows around the work crews.

  The troopers turned into the dispatcher's office and Clay carefullyplaced the bags on a table beside the counter. Martin peered into oneof the bags. "Seriously, kid, what do you have in that grab bag?"

  "Oh, just a few essentials," Clay replied "_Pate de foie gras_, sharpcheese, a smidgen of cooking wine, a handful of spices. You know,stuff like that. Like I said--essentials."

  "Essentials," Martin snorted, "you give your brains to one of thoseAlberta chicks of yours for a souvenir?"

  "Look, Ben," Ferguson said earnestly, "I suffered for eleven months inthat tin mausoleum on tracks because of what you fondly like to thinkis edible food. You've got as much culinary imagination as Beulah. Itake that back. Even Beulah turns out some better smells when she'sriding on high jet than you'll ever get out of her galley in the nextone hundred years. This tour, I intend to eat like a human being onceagain. And I'll teach you how to boil water without burning it."

  "Why you ungrateful young--" Martin yelped.

  * * * * *

  The patrol dispatcher, who had been listening with amused tolerance,leaned across the counter.

  "If Oscar Waldorf is through with his culinary lecture, gentlemen," hesaid, "perhaps you two could be persuaded to take a little pleasureride. It's a lovely night for a drive and it's just twenty-six hundredmiles to the next service station. If you two aren't cooking anythingat the moment, I know that NorCon would simply adore having theservices of two such distinguished Continental Commandos."

  Ferguson flushed and Martin scowled at the dispatcher. "Very funny,clown. I'll recommend you for trooper status one of these days."

  "Not me," the dispatcher protested. "I'm a married man. You'll neverget me out on the road in one of those blood-and-gut factories."

  "So quit sounding off to us heroes," Martin said, "and give us theclearances."

  The dispatcher opened a loose-leaf reference book on the counter andthen punched the first of a series of buttons on a panel. Behind him,the wall lighted with a map of the eastern United States to theMississippi River. Ferguson and Martin had pencils out and poised overtheir clipboards.

  The dispatcher glanced at the order board across the room where patrolcar numbers and team names were displayed on an illuminated board."Car 56--Martin-Ferguson-Lightfoot," glowed with an amber light. Inthe column to the right was the number "26-W." The dispatcher punchedanother button. A broad belt of multi-colored lines representing theeastern segment of North American Thruway 26 flashed onto the map in aband extending from Philadelphia to St. Louis. The thruway went on toLos Angeles in its western segment, not shown on the map. Ten bands ofcolor--each five separated by a narrow clear strip, detailed thethruway. Martin and Ferguson were concerned with the northern fivebands; NAT 26-westbound. Other unlighted lines radiated out intan
gential spokes to the north and south along the length of themulti-colored belt of NAT 26.

  This was just one small segment of the Continental Thruway system thatspanned North America from coast to coast and crisscrossed north andsouth under the Three Nation Road Compact from the southern tip ofMexico into Canada and Alaska.

  Each arterial cut a five-mile-wide path across the continent and fromone end to the other, the only structures along the roadways were theturretlike NorCon Patrol check and relay stations--looming up atone-hundred-mile intervals like the fire control islands ofearlier-day aircraft carriers.

  Car 56 with Trooper Sergeant Ben Martin, Trooper Clay Ferguson andMedical-Surgical Officer Kelly Lightfoot, would take their firstten-day patrol on NAT 26-west. Barring major disaster, they would eat,sleep and work the entire
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