EP180: Navy Brat

By Kay Kenyon.
Read by Dani Cutler (of Truth Seekers).
Discuss on our forums.
First appeared in Space Cadets, ed. Mike Resnick, as “Tall Enough For Navy”
All stories by Kay Kenyon.
All stories read by Dani Cutler.

She pushed off when her turn came, floating into the huge hold where she had to keep her line from tangling with other lines and stay alert for the seniors whose job it was to kill you—with their dye guns. In the Well, as throughout the ship, patches of enlivened hulls showed the view of near space through remote sensing. Here in the Well it was disorienting. Marie went into a tumble, then controlled it with a spray from her back pack. Through her enhanced visor, she could see her own team, spread out, their suits clear to her, but not to the seniors. A few of her team wore blue arm bands, not regulation, but overlooked more and more these days. Blue for the Admiral, blue for veneration—blue for sucking up to the brass.

Rated PG. It’s YA military SF. Does contain some lewd conduct.

Comments (32)

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  1. Brave Space Monkey says:

    I hate to be the first to throw a fist full of monkey poop.


    I paused the story not once, but three times, as it failed to engage me. I forced myself to finish. Every story (or book) started should be finished. I know I’m not the target age group for this story, but I can’t help feeling that something was missing in the story.That there was little connection between the dots in the plot from begin to end. The main character was never in much danger or had to risk anything: friend, status, life or liberty…

    Is this the mark of youth fiction, the easy “gi’me” story?

  2. Old Man Parker says:

    Monkey Poop! Another plucky youngster saves the day! Bah! I can alsmot hear the villian snarl… “I was gonna’ rule the entire ship with a fake relgion of my own creation, and I would have gotten away with it too, it it weren’t for those nosey kids!”

    Okay, it was well written, but still too perky!

  3. Ken_K says:

    I liked this story a lot. It shows how a temporary situation can morph into a nasty hierarchy quite readily. (An important insight these day too, eh?) And that religion is often a haven for the weak-minded and scared and a dangerous tool in the hands of the wicked and ambitious.

    The clear narration was a big plus for me, too.

  4. Raving_Lunatic says:

    i really don’t know which way to go with this story. I liked the theme of normal becoming sacred over time, and I liked the fact that it was set above a planet that none of the inhabitants knew about- a sort of “the world beyond our sofa” idea.
    But the characters failed to get me interested and the story seemed quite brief, so I don’t know whether to say I liked or disliked it.

  5. ADerksen says:

    My inner cynic actually appreciates the conclusion, in that the zealots demand that no one confuse them with the facts, and then sail off into the night. Of course, my outer cynic also suspects that such an adventure in the real world would have involved considerably more blood, rather than the peaceable transition so described.

    The narrator really seemed to fly through her reading on this one. Perhaps this was to simulate conversation with a peppy teenager?

  6. Julio says:

    Reading the above comments made me feel that maybe my liking threshold is low… I enjoyed the story. The conflict, I believe, was standing up to what her gut feeling told her instead of copying the group, which is generally what teenagers do. She stood up not only to peers but to a figure of authority, in an organization she believed in and wanted to be a part of. The notion that reality is altered for the benefit of the ruling faction sadly is not fiction at all, but only too real and happening right now (weapons of mass destruction, etc…).

  7. L33tminion says:

    Around 10:36, the reading says “immortality”. Was that supposed to be “immorality”?

    Nitpicks aside: As an atheist, I really liked the start of that story, how it gets into the arguments why someone should “just believe” (or pretend to believe), and why those arguments might be worth rejecting. But then the resolution was too swift, even for a short story. The main character never had to actually make some substantial sacrifice for her beliefs, and the solution where the fanatics and the rationalists peaceably part ways seems as implausible as it is impractical.

  8. […] Pod: “Navy Brat” by Kay Kenyon, read by Dani […]

  9. phignewton says:

    hey i understand the solar winds are down 25% putting us all in danger from deadly radiation from deep space, its time to dust off those temples and start worshiping those sun gods again!

  10. […] Of Muddles” By Horace Brown Fyfe, read by Roy Trumbull. [from The Story Spieler]@Escape Pod: “Navy Brat” by Kay Kenyon, read by Dani Cutler.James Melzer begins serializing his book audiobook, The Zombie […]

  11. Audita Sum says:

    I’m not a fan of military anything, but I liked this story. Maybe it has something to do with my being a young adult, but I didn’t think this story seemeed fluffy or empty.

  12. ChairmanDances says:

    The plot had some major holes, but overall it was enjoyable. Liked the narrator’s pacing.

  13. […] Pod: “Navy Brat”, by Kay Kenyon, read by Dani Cutler. A generation ship story, with a strong start and some nice speculative […]

  14. scatterbrain says:

    Ayy-errr-urmmm-yeah…I suppose so.

    Nothing special.

    Religion strikes again. Rationalism wins out. Everyone works out a way forward. Same old dogma. Too bad it never happens that way in real life…

  15. valjean24601 says:

    For me, all stories involving young space cadets, seems to be copying off of Ender’s Game. The religious aspect of the story was refreshing.

  16. Milo says:

    I’m surprised you get requests for military sci-fi; I find it to be a rather stale, overplayed subgenre of jumpsuits and ray-guns. When I come to this site, I’m looking for something unique, original and, most importantly, thought-provoking. This story failed to impress me much in that regard until almost the very end, when a vague reference was made to the civilization on the planet’s surface: what I would have liked to see was a story written from their perspective, monitoring the strange alien spacecraft orbiting their planet for years and years and speculating what it was doing there. It would have made the false-messiah twist even more satisfying.

  17. Kel,Zel,Bell and T says:

    I think this story came at a bad time for me. I had just watched WALL-E and the idea of more idiots in space BAA BAAing their way through life bugged me…but..buy the ticket take the ride, so I finished it and it was ok…just ok. I guess I got stuck wondering why in all that time there wasn’t one glitch or power failure that caused the vid screen to go bad…(I guess its only electronics in my world that crap out all the time) could be I wasn’t in the mood for another look at mankinds gullibility when it comes to religion and leadership. I’ll try listening to it again when I’m in a better mood.

  18. Bingorage says:

    I think that this has been done.
    The Sense of Wonder, dramatised on X Minus One; written by Milton Lesser (adapted by George Lefferts for X-1).

    Tagline: “Praise the ship”

  19. yicheng says:

    Wasn’t taken with this one. The setting (promising at first) seemed a bit generic, with not enough there to separate it from a Heinlein copy. Elements of the story (like the hostile aliens, or the hackneyed military sexism) seem tangential to the storyline and does little to support the plot. The character motivation seemed unrealistic, and the ending felt very rushed. The former mutinous officer cabal was able to imprison the Admiral, kill him, and then cover up his murder, but a plucky space cadet was able to outsmart and foil them all. Riiiiggghhhhhttt…

  20. Blaine Boy says:

    False religion, false idols, man-turned-God, unflagging fanaticism and ignorance, inability to cope with the truth, power struggle… the story has good pieces to it…but they weren’t really put together so well. It was an okay story. It has an important theme for me (standing up for what is right and what you believe in without giving a shit what the other people think), but I just can’t connect to it because of how it was written. The theme could have changed my day, even my pathetically passive existence if only it had somehow been worked better. But enough of my problems, there are too many Holden Caulfields out there as it is (I really do hate that whiny bitch, making it even worse when I go through those phases that make me feel exactly like him.) Anyways… I’ll see you all next time. Keep the stories coming.

    Yours faithfully,
    the Blaine Boy

  21. MadJo says:

    I liked it. Not to newsworthy, but it wasn’t bad. Standing up for what you think is right, is very important in real life as well, and sadly not enough people do it.

    Also who wants to help me start the religion of Eley. All hail the Steve Eley! 🙂 Invisible pink unicorns be damned. 😛

  22. DrCrisp says:

    Classic juvenile science fiction that would appeal to either a boy or a girl.

    As adults (ok, at least we are all old people) we may have difficulties relating to the simplicity of the story, characters or theme. Picture yourself 13, tired of being told what to do all the time, knowing that there is a sinister plot and that life is going to “get” you if you just find out the “truth”. Teen angst and paranoia at its finest.

    On the religion side, I didn’t get that feel from it. Don’t picture the Admiral as being a god; think more along the line of Japanese ancestor veneration on steroids. My take anyway.

    Classics never go away. 40 years from now there will still be ’67 Mustang convertibles being restored, hopefully from melted down Prius parts.

  23. Rughat says:

    I don’t want to lower my standards just because fiction is labeled “juvenile.” Amazing things have been done in juvenile fiction, from the modern (Harry Potter, Coraline, etc) to classics (The White Mountains, Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, etc).

    I don’t think that juvenile fiction requires an author to pull punches – Coraline is an example here – so I think handwaving over the social upheaval to be an act of cowardice. A more interesting option would have been to cut short the time spent dwelling on cadet life, and run straight into discovering the problem – then detail out living through the consequences on board the ship. Being forced to choose sides inside a military structure that is fragmenting around her – THAT would have been gripping, and I’m sure would have resonated for many teens (and adults) as well.

  24. Denomy says:

    Bingorage is right, this theme was done again and again on X-1. there are, to my memory, at least two colonists-afraid-to leave-the-ship stories, and at least one (but i think more) survivors-of-nuclear-holocaust-afraid-
    stories. but “the sense of wonder” is basically identical, theme-wise, right down to the idea of a life totally regulated by time.

  25. Stephen Eley says:

    X Minus One and the stories it drew from were fifty years ago. If you think that authors shouldn’t be writing on the same themes now — or that I shouldn’t buy a Kay Kenyon story from 2006 because Milton lesser did it in 1956 — all I can say is that we have different priorities and a different understanding of the Escape Pod audience at large.

    I am sorry you didn’t like the story. This isn’t to argue with your taste or your opinions. I just want it clear that lack of precedent is not a core requirement for me.

  26. Exiled in Seattle says:

    Yeah I think I got the wrong version of the story. The one I listened to had a good beginning and a decent ending, but was missing all the excitement and action that takes place between when she sees the recording and when the go to the planet. Was it just me or did anyone else notice this?

  27. ilyanassa says:

    Stephen – not only did Lesser do it in 1956, but Ursula Le Guin did it (in my opinion, a lot better) in 2002, with her novella “Paradises Lost.” (published in Birthday of the World. It’s extremely similar – religious group takes over generation ship (except they are “angels” and not ancestor-worshippers), plucky young duo thwarts them, some people settle on the planet and some go on.

  28. Calculating... says:

    i loved it.
    although it did remind me of what they did to ceaser in rome. you know the whole raise up the military hero, kill him when he has too much power, but continue to use his power after his death. heck, they even made ceaser into a god. i think my love for history helped me appreciate this one. it also helped that i love space stories.

    now that i think about it a bit more it was more of an ender’s game meets ceaser. except in space. again, the fate of humans rests on a young child and the military is lying about what is really going on. but all the same, i loved it.

  29. Calculating... says:

    it also shows that even when you get rid of conventional religion, a new one will always pop up. humans be default need something to believe in whether its god, a new president, or the patriots having a winning season without tom brady, everyone needs something

  30. Shotinthedark says:

    I, for one, was pleased by the story. The conflict in a story doesn’t have to be violent. In this case the conflict was partly internal. Yes the story was simple. Yes a similar story has been told before. Does that make it bad? No. I have read a lot of boy-meets-girl stories, but that doesn’t mean I am going to stop because I think I have already read the best one.
    I was just happy to hear a light story set in space about the search for hope. A little Battlestar Galactica. I love it.
    Yay for space stories!

  31. filip says:

    i found the story nice. it is refreshing to hear a story where one stands for reason when surrounded by people who do not question authority – and eventually succeeds in bringing a hapy end for everybody else… in an easy way 🙂 i wish real life would be just like that 🙂

  32. KDH says:

    Having been an officer (and therefore an officer cadet before) myself I could sort of relate to the main character. I do not think it was a great story, but I still quite liked it.

    What I loved was the closing quotation. Being married to a Korean I can totally relate to Yi Soonshin (the family name is pronounced “eee”). He is to Koreans like Lincoln is to Americans. Well… in a way.