Strange Doors Anthology by John Argo
DarkSF is the Dark Chocolate of Science Fiction
Jean-Thomas Cullen writing as John Argo
= Taxi M'Koo and the Helium Drive =
In a post-apocalyptic future, Taxi M'Koo and her sidekick Sam--the lean silent type--drive south in their old, smoking hummer along the old Pacific Highway in what used to be SoCal--today, a devastated countryside filled with death and danger.
Taxi and Sam have one goal: simply to stay alive from day to day--sometimes hour to hour--in a hostile landscape populated by the mutant offspring of escaped zoo animals, plus poison lakes, killer machines with scorpion brains, and worst of all, rogue humans who kill for pleasure.
Crisis strikes when the old hummer runs into a bummer: no more fuel. The fusion drive fuel cell is called a helium drive, but obviously it requires more than just the gas used for filling party balloons, back in a lost golden age when there was a world, so to speak, with normalcy and small niceties.
At the very moment when their old vehicle gives up the ghost, Taxi M'Koo and Sam find themselves near the main gate of a strange, pre-disaster government genetics farm, where experiments were done ages ago on human beings.
Some of the prisoners behind miles of electrified wire are so mutated that they cannot be allowed back out into the world. Others are as genetically pure as humans can be, and must be kept separate from contamination.
Taxi, who is part woman and part wildcat, desperately needs to invade this terrifying space to steal a helium drive engine for their dying hummer. And Sam, a bony man with a long beard and a wide-brimmed hat full of shadows, casts a sour eye on the enterprise. But that's his take on life, such as it is.
But nothing can stop Taxi M'Koo--not even the mutant police inside the lab grounds. It's now or never, and Taxi goes over the fence stealthy as a cat, determined as a woman, to save herself and Sam and get what they need--at any cost. What she encounters are stunning and challenging reminders of why the world became the glassy, smoking ruin that it is--that odd, atomic chemistry of the human, the inhumane, and the unimaginable. At the same time, Taxi's reaction to the inhabitants of this dread zone keeps alive the tiny but precious candle flames of love, affection, and the full spectrum of human contact.
This story is one of those Strange Doors--open it or not, but if you do, accept the unexpected and take with you the same ponderings of love and death as Taxi and Sam while their battered but newly replenished fusion vehicle whispers off amid the thunder of surf and the silence of a dead civilization.
Ed. Note: The term 'helium drive' is post-apocalyptic street jargon for a fusion drive. As in the sun and starsbut on a microscopic scalehydrogen in this futuristic type of street engine is deeply compressed into a plasma state, shedding light (photons) and heat, and in the process fusing into a smaller volume of helium.
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