EP149: Union Dues – All That We Leave Behind

By Jeffrey R. DeRego.
Read by Stephen Eley.
Discuss on our forums.

All stories by Jeffrey R. DeRego
All stories read by Stephen Eley

If I just lay here they will get tired and leave. They can’t hurt me all that much; my body is too hard now, too strong. But I can’t let on that their kicks and punches don’t bother me or who knows what they’ll do next. So I’ll lay here, curled up in the grass like some lump of igneous rock cast from a far away volcano.

“You fat assed son of a bitch! Talk to Loreen again and I’ll kill you! You understand me? I’ll beat your fat lazy ass to death!”

I bet his foot is starting to ache. My stomach is big, but it’s not soft. Not anymore. Not since last month when the change happened. We don’t have a lot of money so my wardrobe is still designed for a three hundred pound teenager, the kind with an almost unnatural love for pizza and potato chips. I still sort of look the same. But I am different, I can feel it. The rolls of flab that once encircled my belly and back are nearly gone, replaced by rippling muscle. My arms and legs are like tree trunks. I could rip Scott’s arms and legs off and beat his torso like a kettledrum. Well, if I wasn’t terrified.

Rated R. Contains profanity and violence.

Today’s Sponsor:

Infected by Scott Sigler

Referenced Sites:

The Union Dues Series

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Comments (32)

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  1. Allen says:

    Gah! How could I miss adding a new Union Dues story to my player before work? I’m going to have to actually be productive now.

  2. Craybe says:

    I feel your pain brother Allen.

  3. Tonare says:

    Sorry, Allen. As soon as I noticed the Union Dues title I announced it at work. Three other people immediately went back to their desks to pull it down. Great story. Main character was easy to identify with as well as root for. Well done, Jeff.

  4. al saiz says:

    Ha ha, guess how I spent morning coffee break….priorities, priorities!I really enjoyed the perspective from an emerging superhero’s reality.

  5. Richard in Macon GA aka "Mainframe" says:

    Union Dues totally rocks! Thanks to Jeffrey DeRego and Steve for putting this one out. As a comic book reader for almost 40 years, I really dig Union Dues and it was great to hear Steve mention Scott McClouds “Understanding Comics”. Scott’s book is THE best art theory book I’ve ever run across EVER. I agree, any artist in the story telling and/or visual arts would benefit from giving this a good read. And like me, if you just read/watch/listen, this book can help you understand what is going on when you interact with the page.

  6. Scott Sigler says:

    What’s up with the Steve Eley School of Voice Acting? Stepping up your game, my man, that was outstanding.

  7. Josh says:

    I think this is my favorite Union Dues story so far. I know the “shades of gray” nature of these stories appeals to many people, but I find the “moronic, slightly evil bureaucracy” characterization of The Union stereotypical and less than compelling. This story, however, was less about heroes vs. The Union and more about someone coming to terms with his own heroic nature, and so was more engaging and entertaining. I also think the writing was generally better, especially the dialog. Tim had an authentic quality that felt very real, from his cluelessness about women to his uncomplicated view of right and wrong. Sure, Tim has conflicts and there’s things we feel sorry for him over, but it’s not like there’s no way for him to do the right thing as in the other Union Dues stories.

    The superhero genre is at its foundation one of high-contrast distinctions. That gives us heroes who attack problems in a head-on and largely thoughtless manner. If any of the 4-color heroes really thought about how to best use their powers to help the world, they wouldn’t be dressing up in tights and “fighting crime”, but would be using their superhuman abilities in far more useful ways. Why hasn’t Reed Richards solved the world’s energy problems yet? Why hasn’t Tony Stark created exoskeletons that let quadriplegics walk again? Why doesn’t Storm water the deserts or prevent hurricanes from devastating costal cities? Well, that would be a totally different kind of story (but read The Authority for one possible set of answers). My point is, it’s hard to write convincingly in the superhero genre while crafting a story that breaks the fundamental rules. You can tell good stories, but there’s something about them that doesn’t feel quite right. I’m glad to see Scott Sigler getting back to the real superhero roots and giving us a story we can enjoy without feeling too sorry for the heroes.

    Thanks for the quote from John Ciardi. However, his name is pronounced somewhere between “chee-ar-dee” and “char-dee”, not “see-ar-dee”. Of the various creative pronunciations I’ve heard on Escape Pod, this one is probably the most forgivable since it’s a name and less common than even random Yiddish words, but it’s still poor form to bungle someone’s name while quoting him. I’d suggest every time you see a word you’ve never heard before, look up the pronunciation. That’s about as basic as using a spell-checker, and not doing so is out of keeping with the otherwise high production quality of Escape Pod.

    Oh yeah… It’s taken me over a year since I started listening to Escape Pod beginning with the early episodes, but I finally caught up with the feed so I get to comment the week a story comes out. Woot! On the down side, I only get one story a week now. Good thing Podcastle launches soon!

    Thanks for all the stories and fun times, and I look forward to seeing the results of you leveling up in your game.

  8. Josh says:

    Oops, I mixed up the names Jeffrey DeRego and Scott Sigler. That’s what I get for leaving a comment at 1am!

  9. Julio says:

    Went back and listened to all union dues stories. Great stuff. For me it seems like the social structure in this world is on the brink of collapse. It seems the charter had been holding well for the last fifty years, but soon all h*ll will break loose.

  10. Synergy says:

    I am a huge fan of the superhero genre, and the Union stories. Each one has made “Superheroes” more real. The gray world of the these heroes is so layered. But this story hit home even more than others. My mother like Tim’s had cancer, pancreatic. She was in me life for one more year the she was gone. The third in my family to leave the world during the Holiday season. At times I wish there a Hero the could take the pain a way, or that my body could not feel the pain. Silly right? anyway the story was the best and can’t wait for the next one.

  11. Doc Rocket says:

    I always read comics growing up b/c they seemed less complicated than real life. Jeffrey DeRego did a great job capturing that vibe while layering on the complications of life…Great story and the best of the Union Due stories I’ve listened to…

  12. Daniel Cotton says:

    I’m not a huge fan of comics. Having said that I enjoyed the message of this story. That even in the most extrordinary of situations, what might seem mundane concerns are of great importance to us. There is a lot of grandiose science fiction that could learn from this. Even if you are saving the world, solving an impossible problem or engaged in vital research, your life is still grounded by human concers like caring for your sick mother. Sometimes I think sci-fi can lose sight of that.

  13. Thomas says:

    great story
    this is probably my favorite Union Dues
    stories that get into the humanity of the characters are always the best
    and this one does in spades

    i have been listening scince year 2, heard all the episodes
    finally started listening to psuedopod this past summer
    and am anxiously awaiting podcastles premier episode
    ya’ll do excellent work in selecting stories, even the ones that don’t resonate with most subscribers (just like fooling people, you can’t please them all of the time)
    steve, et. al, keep up the good work.
    Thomas, a.k.a. “treed” the hyper-active commenter @ sigler’s space

  14. Void Munashii says:

    Another wonderful Union Dues story, and a nice break from the heavier stories of late. I find it funny that I can look at a story involving a terminal cancer patient as being light, but I think superhero stories just seem lighter to me regardless of actual content.

    Superhero stories also, for some reason, allow me to achieve a greater suspension of disbelief than other types of stories. I was never much of a superhero fan growing up, and the only superhero I read regularly now is The Punisher, but I still really enjoy Union Dues.
    If UD ever gets made into graphic novel format, I would be sure to buy it, until that happens, I hope many more of these stories will grace my ears.

  15. Hawthorne says:

    I Refreshed my itunes podcast library on friday while i was in my school library, when the title of “Union Dues” came up I AIMed all of my friends in the library who had their Lap tops out, and instantaneously there was the unanimous whisper “YES!” among my peers.

    Another great tale, as allways. Another one of my favorites keep up the great writing Jeff.

    Also Steve? Did you have some voice acting lessens? Your voice has allways been amazing when reading stories, however this story was phenomenal.

  16. Yicheng says:

    Really enjoyed the story!!! Especially how Megaton seems to have really fleshed out as a compelling “gentle giant” character. A question that’s always nagged me about the Union Dues series is how world geo-politics would work with what are essentially government-sponsored extra-legal teams of human WMD’s walking around. Megaton mentions that there are no “super villains” like in the comic books, and makes no mention of other “Unions” from rival countries (China, Russia, EU, etc), and the mention of an Antarctic base in a previous story suggests the USA’s Union has a lot of clout outside of US borders. My guess is that the original Union Charter and the first Unions teams were used by the USA to essentially gain control of the other countries as undisputed world superpower. It may account for why the Union Bureaucracy is so powerful, and why they resort to selling comics for PR: without a war to fight super-powered humans become more of a liability than an asset.

  17. Arkayanon says:

    The last Union Dues I listened to I didn’t completely get into (I think Dani Cutler’s horrible attempt at a Southern accent marred the experience) but this one I think makes a seldom-used character.

    Seems to me that Timmy is one of us who has always dreamed about being a super hero, and I’m finding it difficult to think of many characters in comics who are like that. Or that don’t become total jerk-offs ([cough]Booster Gold[/cough]) and I think that is why Hiro Nakamura became such a popular character.

    How many of the popular comic heroes (Spider-man, Superman, Batman, Wolverine) wanted to be heroes in the first place? Why is this character-type, as far as I can see, so rare? I find myself connecting so much more with characters who want the means to do good for others and hold to their ethics.

    I haven’t heard much of the Union Dues series, but I look forward to following Timmy.

  18. Void Munashii says:


    I always figured that there was just the one Union that had made arangements with the governments of the various countries that have Union pyramids. It would be interesting to get an international view of the UD universe though.

  19. Craybe says:

    I’m really impressed, I have loved every single Union Dues so far and it is still getting better! I love the insight into the more mundane side of a super hero world.

    The characters are great and I am honestly impressed that the author consistently avoids the “Woe is me, why have I been cursed with these powers boohoo” crap that you get all the time, just look at the Wheel of Time books for the most frustrating power = curse characters ever (I am a fan of the books though 😉 )!

    Great work on the reading and keep ’em coming!

  20. Craybe says:

    Hahaha Josh, suuuuure you mixed up Jeffrey DeRego and Scott Sigler by accident! Everyone knows Sigler is splashing his Publisher Cash all over the place! Obviously this is just another ploy of his to get us to buy…

    Jeez, oh no! Ok I’ll say it damnit! There’s no need for the gun!

    Ahem… to buy Siglers fantastic new, soon to be bestselling novel, Infected available in all good book stores from April 1st…

    Ok I said it! damnit let me go

    Damned megalomaniac… oh ummm sorry Mr Sigler I said Damned good writer.


  21. Jennifer says:

    This was my favorite Union Dues story.

    I watched a parent die for ten years, and this didn’t even make me feel sad about it, it was that good. Strange, isn’t it?

  22. josh says:

    as always Mr. derego blew me away, but i have to say that this is my least favorite union dues story

  23. mrgoldenbrown says:
    1. Best Union Dues story so far.
    2. I’ve often thought about what it would be like to have a superpower. I used to fantasize that if I had a super power, I would suddenly become highly motivated, much more disciplined, and more focused. The older I get though, the less I think this is true. Would having super strength suddenly make me a better person all around? I would still forget where my car keys are, still hit snooze too many times on the weekends, and still want to drive over the speed limit sometimes. Which is why stories that show the more mundane side of superheroing.
    3. Steve, I think you do have a superpower, with which you somehow hypnotize hordes of listeners every week.
  24. Michael King says:

    I loved it. The Union Dues stories are the best superhero fiction series since George Martin’s “Wild Cards” — and in many ways it surpasses it.

    They just come so far apart! Speed ’em up!

  25. Man, I can’t believe nobody else mentioned wanting desperately to call the 1-800-GO-UNION number to see what it is… sadly, I’m not special enough =\

    Another teriffic story in the UD saga. More please!

  26. Hm. Doesn’t seem to have taken my comment =(

  27. Okay, it worked that time. Huh.

    I hate rewriting stuff I just said >.< stupid technology.

    Was I the only one who seriously considered calling 1-800-GO-UNION to see what it was?

  28. Hawthorne says:

    I did call it, you get the “Additional Insurances and Eye Care Program” devision of the Occupational First Aid Attendants Association of British Colombia

    i laughed

  29. scatterbrain says:

    Quite touching for a superhero yarn.

  30. Apologies for the inadvertent double post.

    I wonder if the author checked the number before using it… and I wonder if the OFAAA of BC has gotten some strange voice mails lately…

  31. Sushma says:

    This was so good. I actually cried.

  32. Emao says:

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