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EP145: Instead of a Loving Heart

By Jeremiah Tolbert.
Read by Jared Axelrod (of The Voice of Free Planet X).
First appeared in All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories (ed. David Moles & Jay Lake).

We are somewhere among the tallest mountains of the world. When we arrived, I was locked away in a cargo hold, so I don’t know exactly where. Our home is a small, drafty castle and a separate laboratory. Dr. Octavio had the locals construct the lab before he tested the new death ray on their village. There’s very little left there. In my little bit of spare time, I try to bury the bodies and collect anything useful to the doctor’s experiment.

My primary duties consist of keeping the castle’s furnace running and clearing the never-ending snow from the path between the two buildings. Sometimes, it falls too fast for my slow treads and shovel attachment to keep up with and I find myself half-buried in the snow. It is horrible on my gears when this happens, but I use heavyweight oil now and it helps.

It is one of the few benefits of my metal frame that I appreciate. Life in this contraption is like being wrapped in swaddling clothes. I wonder if I would feel anything if my casing caught on fire? I need to ask the doctor when he isn’t in one of his moods.

Rated PG. Parental guidance suggested for violence and ennui.

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Referenced Sites:

Jared Axelrod’s Commissions

Comments (31)

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  1. Dan Woods says:

    Listening to the Feedback from EP142 and then Steve’s request for a Sequel to this story, I realised one thing:
    This story does have a sequel, or more accurately, it is a Prequel.
    The Himalayan Lab of Doctor Octavio contained a new form of self-improving AI prior to it’s apparent destruction.
    Saraswati from EP142 originated in India; the closest modern country to where Octavio’s Lab would have been.
    Coincidence? I Think Not!

  2. David says:

    Never been a huge fan of retro, though this story was better than most. I suppose this is a more modernized version of retro, in that it deals with greater moral ambiguity and the balance between logic and emotion in an increasingly complex technological world.

  3. AmazingSteve says:

    So we have a delicate, soulful artist trapped in a machine body by an evil engineer with a small wang who enjoys smashing sculpture. Yawn. More science-positive stories on escape pod, please : )

  4. Void Munashii says:

    This was really fun story. it managed to be both shallow retro sci-fi while still having a sense of depth.

    This story does share one thing with “Artifice and Intelligence”, and that would be that it left me wanting more, but without leaving me unsatisfied the way AaI did. This story feels both self-contained and like the beginning of a much larger adventure.

    Happy Valentine’s Day (what is left of it)

  5. Rick says:

    I confess that this story was right in the sweet spot for me. I’m a big fan of retro-pulp. I think this is the first Escape Pod story that I’ll listen to multiple times. (Not that other stories haven’t been as good, but with limited time and so many good podcasts out there, I rarely have time for multiple listens. But for this story, I will make time.)

  6. DaveNJ says:

    I enjoy retro more than most, but the problem with this episode was less setting and more substance. By the end of the story I just didn’t feel like much had been accomplished, and this story doesn’t just warrant a sequel, it pretty much demands it. Otherwise it’s just a slice of pseudo-historical life that doesn’t go anywhere.

    But can we all agree that Jared Axelrod is great at reading the stories for Escape Pod? Between this, Conversations With and About my Electric Toothbrush, and the EP Flash Nightshift in the Automart I’m convinced his dulcid tones are some of the best for reading sci-fi.

  7. Me says:

    This one didn’t grab me at all, sorry.
    I like other retro-scifi stories I’ve read or listened to before but this didn’t feel very realised.

    [Steve - can you please ask Jared not to use that accent again (I think it was "British"). He's been watching too much Dick van Dyke 'mockney' acting, maybe.]

  8. Shoshannah says:

    Am I the only one who was expecting to hear “Skullcrusher Mountain” ( http://www.jonathancoulton.com/songdetails/Skullcrusher%20Mountain ) as the closing song of this week’s episode?

  9. Hawthorne says:

    I actually liked this one, i am a large steam punk fan, and retro scifi really has a place in my heart. The story reminded me of Edward scissors hands a little. But the only disappointment i had with the story was that it ended.

    I love jared’s reading, and call for more in the line steam punk stuff.

  10. B.Ruhsam says:

    I’m not a large steampunk fan, but this story was very good, if you consider it from the perspective of the slave who escapes his bonds. Zed had his passions, which were denied, and he eventually decided to betray his creator to achieve them.

    I liked this episode, and it made me hope for a sequel, even though I know it wouldn’t have the same bite.

  11. fishyswaz says:

    What was the deal with the Nazis/British Commandos or the Jewel thief bit? They felt entirely random to me. Fleshed them out or thrown out would have made it tighter.

    Liked the whole painter-stuffed-in-robot-by-evil-scientist idea, but I probably won’t be able to recall the story in a week.

  12. Dom says:

    I know I’m a bit behind the eight-ball, but better late than…

    I thought this was an excellent story. Right up my alley with AI, steampunk, brain transplants and robots.

    Two thumbs up – thanks Steve!

  13. foshizzle says:

    I enoyed this story. I thought it was whimsical for such a dark concept. I’ve never heard of “steampunk” before this podcast, so I guess I’ll google it.

  14. Motti says:

    I’d like to echo Mike on this one.

    Meh^2

  15. Smee! says:

    Had to give up on it due only to the voice of the person reading it. Gah. It’s like he’s bored out of his mind and being forced to read at gunpoint. Story seemed nice other than way it was read…

  16. araña says:

    Picture this, if you will:

    After coming home from a particularly crappy day of waiting for that damn time machine, I decide to seek comfort in an episode of Escape Pod when I make this realization:

    Stephen Eley, you are a wonderful, wonderful man.

    Not only did you get Jared Axelrod to read a giddy giggle-inducing fiction replete with cat burglars, Nazis, British accents, and a mad scientist named Octavio (the name does not get used ENOUGH, honestly), but you also managed to pull it off on what was suddenly becoming the worst day of my life.

    Dan Woods, my thoughts exactly. I am currently waiting for the big reveal a few episodes down the line, but I fear to think that it’s just wishful thinking.

    This one was up my alley, down my street, and took me out of my mind (and Alpha Centauri).

  17. Randall says:

    Not bad, but it was detail-scarce and depth-scarce. Also, why were the Brits happy to take Zed (or whatever his name was) with them and help him out even though he killed several with his flamethrower?

    I know he did radio them but still, he killed a lotta guys, why was that OK with the Brits?

  18. scatterbrain says:

    More dieselpunk than steampunk.

  19. ruthling says:

    Ok, I’m an Escape Pod freak. I am bored or frustrated with the stories “everyone loves”, but this one, which got such a mixed reaction, I liked a lot. The personality of the painter turned robot slave was interesting, the way his emotions were barely allowed to peek through, and the way his perceptions and options were limited by his programming.

  20. Mari Mitchell says:

    I too wanted to know what happened. It seems like there is so much to left to explore.

    Does he find love?

    Did the arm escape?

    I think there is a lovely story floating in space waited to be captured in starlight and words.

  21. Mari Mitchell says:

    I wrote to Jeremiah Tolbert and he was wonderful enought to write back. He said that because of the response he has recived here, that he has started the follow-up story. He plans on trying to sell, and when he does, he then will send it here.

    Write your fav arthors. They want to hear from you. Sometimes in the dark with only the glow of the computor screen to light your way, it is good to know that somewhere out there, in the dark you have touched someone.

    Stories need someone to read them. What good is a story with no one to read them? You must feed the writer’s ego, carefully.

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