Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

I don’t get to see Grandma Spoon as often as I like. What with the economy, austerity zoning and riots, cities can be difficult places for those unable to use or reach civil transit lines.

She wouldn’t move. Her home was the one she’d shared with Grandpa Kev, and there was no way she was going to quit it in any other way than the way he had: feet first in a coffin.

I saved up to charter an armoured private hire from a company with a solid rating. I was a little concerned when it turned up with driver and guard, but they assured me it was a precaution: one of the reasons they had such a good rating.

When I asked about the lack of bulldozer blade, they explained that it had become unnecessary for the area – they would follow the bus route!

Quite frankly, given the money I’d spent, I lost it: “There haven’t been buses since they enclosed and secured the rail lines! What’s your game?”

“Sir, please take a seat, and we’ll explain as we go. Standing around is still chargeable.”

I settled into the seat and the driver dropped the privacy screen between compartments. He talked as we wove our way through the morning traffic.

“It started eight months ago. A regular run reported a clear route into one of the worst areas. Video showed the road had been properly cleared, too. The wreckage was back from the carriageway. We wrote it off as a Domestic Army intervention.

But over the next few weeks, other routes were cleared. Also, some of our regular pickups on those routes stopped calling. It was strange. We checked with allied firms, and they had the same problem.”

The guard took over the story: “One evening, one of ours was limping back after an ambush when another mob finished the job. With the driver KO’d, my mate Abel is down to praying. Suddenly, the crazies leg it. He hears a big noise, then a bloke in honest-to-god platemail knocks on his window and asks if they’d like a lift!

Turns out the armoured geezer works for James, who runs the bus. Now, don’t get the wrong idea. This ‘bus’ looks more like an armoured locomotive on dump truck wheels. Got a bucket and jib up front to clear the way, steam cannons to clear the bandits, and a passenger compartment with hand-stitched curtains and a craft stall! And the ‘knights’. Bunch of mad women and men who act as enforcers. James likes his routes clear, and not just the roads. He says: ‘a bus is useless without passengers. People need to get on safely’. The knights come down hard on anyone who messes with the route or places nearby. He’s got a decent run, from town centre to Bluewater Fields. People pay what they can. He gets a subsidy from the retailers in the Fields and the borough councils. He says he’ll have a second bus next year. All built local, from salvaged bits, like the first one.”

Grandma introduced me to Elgin, who’d taken the bus to ‘pop over’ for tea. I contacted the hire company and cancelled. Elgin and I took the bus back. I was dropped off at a civil transit station. Got cookies and lemonade from the craft stall, too.

I’m going to be seeing Grandma more often. I’m also toying with the idea of helping with the Bus Three Project. Grandma laughed her head off when I said that community was coming back, and was bringing armoured steam-buses.

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