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Code Three by Rick Raphael

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“Code Three” is a 1963 science fiction novella by Rick Raphael. It is about 3 officers (and their huge patrol vehicle) who work dangerous jobs as patrolmen on the North American Continental Thruway Patrol.

Traffic Safety

I sometimes feel unsafe while driving, realizing that the only thing keeping the on-coming traffic from smashing into me is a line of yellow paint. I know, I know – that’s a depressing thought. However, after reading about the futuristic traffic in this story I’m thinking maybe our roads aren’t so bad after all!

Non-spoiler Summary in a Nutshell

Traffic Jam by MartosC, CC 2.0 license

Ben Martin, Clay Ferguson and Kelly Lightfoot are the team aboard Beulah – a giant, hovering, patrol car / wrecker / ambulance of NorCon. It is their job to spend weeks at a time patrolling the massive freeways spanning all of North America. They direct traffic, clean up wrecks, help stranded motorists, write tickets and even help catch criminals – all from the comfort of Patrol Car #56. It is a good thing Beulah is equipped for all these activities – what with her kitchen, surgical room, bunks and specialized arms – because they are going to need all the help they can get on this tour of duty.

Interesting Tidbits About This Story:

  • Page Count: 35
  • Word Count: 21,616
  • “Code Three” was nominated for the 1964 Hugo Award for Best Short Fiction.

Where You Can Find Code Three:

  • This story was first published in the February 1963 issue of Analog Science Fact.
  • You can read “Code Three” online for free at Webscription.
  • It is also included in the excellent anthology The World Turned Upside Down.

Craving More Science Fiction Short Stories?

If you enjoyed “Code Three” then you might also like “The Last Command” by Keith Laumer – about an old war machine that is reactivated decades after being buried in a radiation-proof landfill.