EP132: Sparks in a Cold War

By Kristine Kathryn Rusch.
Read by Stephen Eley.
First appeared in Future Wars, ed. Martin H. Greenberg and Larry Segriff.

“We’re all committing a crime,” Audra said, leaning back and closing her eyes. “That’s part of what we’re paying you for.”

Technically, she was right. Extreme Safaris took their clients to unsanctioned or dangerous worlds, trips which could result in serious fines or, in Bryer’s case, the loss of his ship’s clearance for those areas. So far, Bryer had managed to avoid the fines simply by having his clients sign a document that said they had insisted on a trip to the unsanctioned area. He had never had his clearance removed, but he figured it wouldn’t be a serious problem. He could always charter another ship.

“You shot a sentient being,” he said. “You didn’t pay for that right.”

“Oh?” She tilted her head toward him. “Is there a higher fee for that?”

Rated PG. Contains violence, mayhem, and politics.

Referenced Sites:
SFF Audio

Comments (17)

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  1. Dan says:

    One of my favorite escape pods. It was clean, interesting and reminded me of some other good sci-fi.

    Did anyone else envision Captain Malcolm Reynolds from firefly for the main character?

    I kind of wish that the ending would have been more filled out. Be nice to know how it all turned out.

  2. Redshirt Ben says:

    I agree with Dan. I wish we could have found out what happens to the main character. However, not knowing makes for good science fiction. It’s that Outer Limits type of ending that makes you think and that is science fiction works that are shorter than novels is all about

  3. Excellent story. The character sketches were really well done, particularly Briars alien assisstant with his tenticular expressions. Fantastic

  4. Lungdoc says:

    Enjoyed this….nice to hear something more akin to hard core sci fi…also the terrorist twist is interesting in these times that we live in
    would like to have heard how the story turns out…

  5. stephen says:

    I liked the story, but found the detail of the hunters being women odd. Not odd that they were women, but that the level of attention their gender was given seemed too high for it to be incidental, but too low for it to be meaningful.

    Does anyone think the characters written as female to increase the reader’s sympathy, or could it be that the intent was to make them less sympathetic by contrast to the usual stereotypes.

    A small point, but something I was thinking about.

  6. Martin R says:

    Naah. This one just made me sleepy. Faceless people struggling pointlessly.

  7. Matthew says:

    I enjoyed this story for being hard sci-fi, para-military, and for the nicely detailed, feathered, cut-grass alien world. At the start I thought it was going to be a riff on Bradbury’s Sound of Thunder. Wasn’t, though.

    I too wondered about the author’s purpose in making all the hunters female.

    Was it: “In the future, women are fully self-actualized, and do all the things that all genders do now, even the macho b.s. things.”

    Or was it: “Are you, my 21st century reader, wondering why I made all the hunters female? Please think about why you wonder that.”


  8. Leslie says:

    I actually liked the fact that the main protaganists were women. Usually the main female “bad guy” in a story looks to me as either a bad Cruella De’Ville imitation or a whore.

    Let me assure everybody that we can be every bit as evil, cruel, and bloodthirsty as any man. We’re just better at hiding it beneath a pretty pink bow. 🙂

  9. Vance M. says:

    I think all the hunters were women to throw the readers perceptions of their threat level off. The story was nicely detailed, well read and paced with a sense of urgency that made sure I listened to it straight through from beginning to end. Part of me thought the lead character was a bit of a bastard, but when the story was concluded, I better understood his motivations. Excellent overall.

  10. phignewton says:

    all laser slinging intrepid sci-fi freebooters know females is trouble and not to be trusted, so much better to put ones trust in ones tentacled alien buddy.

  11. Saturn5 says:

    This is my first comment, so thanks for EscapePod. I love the variety of stories. I don’t enjoy every one but…

    …this was great. Straightforward plot, quickly painted characters, not-quite-familiar setting. Everything the best SF should be.

    It reminds me of a similar Alien-hunting-gone-bad story (not Sound of Thunder) which I think also involved shooting the wrong thing and having to escape. What was that?

  12. Cecilia says:

    Long lurker but never commented, so here’s a first (besides the “congrats on a job well done” to Steve)

    I was left wondering about the Quiesto, and the two years grazella hunt span, and so many details barely mentioned as the story went along… For me, one of the measures of a good story is the amount of sidetracks I would like to know more about, a story that doesn’t dry out when it’s finished.

    A special thanks to Steve for his great reading too. My not native ears miss little when you do the reading. I do enjoy other voices, but the thick accents are difficult on a commute trip in a noisy latin american subway!!

  13. I liked this one. And, perhaps contrary to what some people thought, (and possibly even contrary to the comments you’ve come to expect from me), this one DID have a satisfactory ending. The story here isn’t about the Quiesto, or the Alliance, or even the women/hunter/terrorists. It’s about Bryer, and the hard decisions he’s faced with as a result of a combination of his own past choices, and forces beyond his control. Once he’s made the decision, we’ve learned what’s important about his story. How it “turns out”, while it might have been interesting, I’ll admit, isn’t really the point.

    At least, that’s my take. Don’t expect change from your cup of coffee.

    Anyway, this was a fine yarn. Good choice, and good reading, Steve.

  14. scatterbrain says:

    Brutal and excellent.

  15. […] Escape Pod 132: Sparks in a Cold War By Kristine Katherine Rusch […]

  16. Luke says:

    This is one of my favorite Pods ever. I like the kinda rare para military SF that this story brings.
    …I would also like to say since this is first post “thanks to everyone at Escape Artists, I love your stuff”…

    I was also happy to see another person familiar with firefly, my favorite show, i agree he is a kinda Mal character.