EP118: The Veteran

By Neal Asher.
Read by Stephen Eley.

Seated on a bollard, the man contemplatively removed his pipe, as if to tamp
it down or relight it. Instead, he placed it stem down in the top pocket of
his shirt, then reached up and pressed his fingers against his cheekbone and
forehead. His face came away from his hairline, round behind his ears, down
to a point just above his Adam’s apple. The inside of his mouth and much of
his sinus were also part of the prosthesis, so only bare eyeballs in the
upper jut of his skull remained – the rest being the black spikes and plates
of bio-interfaces.

Cheel gaped. From another pocket, the man took some sort of tool and began
to probe inside the back of his detached face. He put the prosthesis in his
lap, then took up his pipe and placed it in his throat sphincter. Smoke bled
from between the interface plates of his cheeks. His bare eyeballs swivelled
towards Cheel then back down to the adjustments he was making. She suddenly
realised who this must be. Here was the veteran who worked on the ferry.
Here was one of the few survivors from a brutal war between factions of
dense-tech humans. Not understanding what was impelling her, she walked out
on the jetty and approached him.

Rated PG. Contains slight profanity and high-tech violence.

Blog of the Week:
The Angriest Rice Cooker in the World

Referenced Sites:
Ecru: The Butcher of Balis
Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 (Steve’s Rice Cooker)
Casio GW-300 (Steve’s Watch)

Comments (5)

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  1. Perfect pick Stephen. Neal is a great guy, we fought hooligans once in Greenwich together.

  2. Martin R says:

    Naah. “Gangster’s moll steals his loot. She’s saved from his cronies by Superman. The gangster suddenly also gets super powers. A ferry sinks. The super-gangster decides to let his ex-moll live. The end.”

  3. Mitch says:

    I like this one. I didn’t understand what the author was getting at in the tech & battle descriptions – then it hit me – it’s “hard tech”. It’s can’t be understood by us mortals.

    I’d like to have heard this story from the angle of the veteran.

  4. Logan says:

    I spent the summer listening to Escape Pod stories. Now, I commonly recommend certain stories to friends and family if I think they might like the subject, the humor, or the reading.

    I would recommend this story to anyone who is into hard tech, along with EP95, “Blink, don’t blink.” However, I doubt that any of my friends or family would recommend the story to me. There isn’t anything fatally wrong with the story, it just didn’t capture my interest.

  5. Dave (aka Nev the Deranged) says:

    I like the line (which I will paraphrase because my memory is terrible), “Now that I could kill you easily, I’m even more certain that it isn’t what I want to do.” Does absolute power always corrupt? Or does being able to do anything you want make it easier to figure out what that is? If I am some day gifted with inscrutable alien technology, I’ll get back to you on that.