In “High Steaks”, the most recent addition to the Quantum Series, a resistance rises to meet the fascists who’ve overthrown the legitimate local government of the Terran colony Deanna – a resistance with friends in low places. This time, we look at The Ambusulance.
The Am-what-u-lance? What the hell’s that?
Um. You may be wondering…
It’s an ambulance. No, it’s a bus. No, wait – it’s kinda both. Yes. Well, picture a large white old-fashioned streamlined bus with big red plus-signs on the sides, with gold-leaf crests for Atro City General Hospital beside them… and on the front, below the side windows, the words “The Ambusulance”.
This is the sight that meets Gary Beck, Cindy-Mei Winter and a group of refugees including former Sheriff Peggy-Ann Muller, ex-Mayors of Atro City and San Fedora, and the freshly overthrown Governor of Deanna when they emerge from the underground caverns after an hours-long hike from the basement of the Governor’s Palace into the basement level of Atro City Hospital. The colony has been hijacked and taken over by fascists, and the Governor and his exiled government are on the run – and Beck and Winter need some way to get them to safety, quickly.
A quick tug on a few dusty er – dust sheets, and *fanfare please* cue the Ambusulance!
At the front end, under the window in the driver side door, is a word written in bold red capital letters.
“Am…am…bus-ulance…” Peg reads aloud, puzzled. “What the hell’s an ambusulance?”
The Ambusulance is a relic of a bygone era, when the colony of Deanna was still young and things were much cruder and emergencies more unpredictable… and typically further away from a hospital. Designed and built by the legendary Scott ‘Nox’ Axelrod – still viewed as Deanna’s greatest motor mechanic and inventor of all time – this was an attempt at making a better ambulance!
Back in the day, around thirty years before “High Steaks“, when Atro City General Hospital was the only one on Deanna – and back then, much smaller – it was much more difficult to get sick and injured people from outlying areas to the hospital quickly enough. Axelrod figured, naturally, that the solution was bigger ambulances – more space, more patients – more staff, and more equipment to do more helpful stuff on site!
“It’s a rather clever idea!” Gary thought, wondering why it never went mainstream. The rear doors squeaked as he worked the handles and opened them. The inside was empty, all the medical equipment had been long ago stripped out – but the drivetrain was still sound. Anyway, Scrooby had assured him – and they needed to move these people out of town all at once, and as quickly as possible. Besides, the Ambusulance came loaded with handy features that still worked!
The roar of the old-school hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engine does something pleasant to Gary Beck, who isn’t called “the Badfeller” for nothing!
The passengers in the rear compartment of the Ambusulance keep silent as the old vehicle slowly winds its way through the network of darkened side-streets that run through the inner city like capillaries. It’s late, it had been a very long disturbing day (especially for the late Prince Justin) and some of them were trying to get a little sleep if they could. After all, the fascists had declared a curfew!
Gary Beck spends a considerable amount of time gritting his teeth at the wheel – he’s not used to driving in the dark without headlights – let alone driving a vehicle of this size and antiquity! It takes a great deal of skill – and nerve – and a night-vision windshield – and they couldn’t very well do it without one of those! Scrooby – Gary and Mei’s contact at the Time Saving Agency – who had access to all kinds of knowledge, had described “Nox” Axelrod as ‘Deanna’s greatest vehicular innovator, and Gary begins to literally see why!
The role of the Ambusulance, aside from being a convenient means of transporting the Governor and his party out of the embattled city to safety – namely to the Grauffis family ranch in Skeggs Valley – is also to provide a little comic relief and wonder. The name was a good place to start! Odd, isn’t it? Funny, but also common-sense?
…or you might want to pay a visit to Deanna itself – well, good, I’m sure they won’t mind! Here’s the address:
A little about “High Steaks“:
Troubled times had come to the small Terran Colony planet of Deanna – and having amusing names for its sun (Ramalama) and two moons (Ding and Dong) hadn’t made this quaint little world immune to bad things. After a shock assassination, the three largest cities on Deanna have been overrun by separatist troops and the former Governor has gone into hiding! The quirky little world seems about to be enveloped in a destructive civil war – replete with a supporting cast of heroes, villains, aliens, victims, perpetrators, volunteers, vampires, war veterans, space battles, bovine torpedoes – and a little time travel on the side.
“High Steaks” is the sixth title in the Quantum Series by Christina Engela.
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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.