EP185: Union Dues – All About the Sponsors

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

Sponsored by CONTAGIOUS, by Scott Sigler.

I suck in my chest and tighten the buckles before getting lightheaded. I don’t have to wear the costume anymore, but it seems disrespectful to leave it in the closet for this one last mission. I get the boots on and struggle with the leather straps and silver buckles until my fingers feel like they’re ready to fall off. I surrender and creak back up to standing position. “Ok screw the boot buckles, Jim,” I whisper. “This is it.”

I glance at the open briefcase laid across the corner of my desk but I’ve got everything I need. I pick up the silver frame with the little black and white photo of me, Frida, Alex, Paul, and Steve in our original Liberty League getup. Frida Freedom called me four hours ago. Her voice broke when she said the words, “Alex is dead.” I drop the frame into the case atop a weathered manila folder then close the whole thing up before hobbling out towards the waiting jet.

Rated PG. Contains some profanity, some violence, and strong rhetoric.

Comments (21)

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  1. Street says:

    Welcome back Steve! What a way to start the new year, Steve back and a Union Dues story. The Universe is as it should be once again.

  2. J. R. DeRego says:

    Greeting all! It’s great to be alive, and healing in 2009. Your generosity has humbled me. I can’t adequately describe how much thanks you all deserve for helping me out this this health ordeal. Your donations helped me pay off some of the medical bills we generated, it also helped heat our little house, pay our rent, and meet our other expenses. Without your help I don’t know what we’d have done or were we’d be as a family, but I can safely say it woudn’t be as stable or normal as it is now. And, for that I can’t ever thank you enough.

    Just as a way to pre-answer any potential questions –

    This isn’t the last Union Dues story even if it sort of sounds like one.

    I was fortunate enough to get to the hospital before the 5 blockages caused a heart attack. I didn’t lose any heart muscle (the footprint of a heart attack) to lack of blood. I was VERY lucky. If I’d tried to white knuckle through the chest pain instead of going to the emergency room, I’d be a zombie right now.

    Choppers have rotor wash not prop wash, that was a linguistic oversight on my part.

    The General would be called in to oversee the DMZ on the South Korean side of the 38th Parallel, not the North Korean side… This isn’t really incorrect the way it’s phrased, but when I heard it in Steve’s voice I blushed and started to laugh.

    Have fun! Hope you dig this entry of the Union Dues stories.

  3. phignewton says:

    welcome back Mr Eley!

  4. chornbe says:

    Mr. DeRego…

    Wishing you long life and great health, 2009 and far, far beyond.

    I absolutely LOVE the Union Dues stories and snatch them up as soon as I see them in the feed.

    Congratulations on an EXCELLENT universe and great ongoing story-telling.


  5. David says:

    Great story, best Union Dues yet.

  6. scatterbrain says:

    Listening to this story is like falling into another fantastic dimension before falling back into cold, cold reality. DeRego has done the impossible; a good origin story. And he has done it with his signature technique: still leaving it “a bit vague.” DeRego’s power over prose and characterization is something to both admired and envyed. In five years time of growing even wiser in his writing skills, the prospect of him leaving Harlan Ellison looking like L. Ron Hubbard is not out of reach.

  7. Igorken says:

    Huzzah! The real comeback of Escape Pod!

  8. MikeV says:

    One of the things that I really like about this site is the consistency of the quality of the stories. The “Union Dues” series get better with every telling. Mr DeRego has managed to create something original from a familiar (and currently, overused) juvenile fantasy, and make it interesting, complex, entertaining and fun to boot. Thank you!

  9. vvvlad says:

    Welcome back!!!
    Really missed you.

  10. Englishrafe says:

    Bonne année 2009.

    (Great storyline, keep it up.
    Wishing health and happiness for 2009.)

  11. Nikko Mueller says:

    Welcome back Steven and Mr. DeRego. i love the Union dues stories and I so hope they keep coming and coming. Absolutely excellent stories, perhaps the perfect fit for the short format. i hope some day to be able to buy a compilation of them.

  12. Sushma says:

    Bravo, Mr DeRego does it again. So glad to have you back, what a great way to start ’09. Absolutely loved it.

    Hopefully this will be the year that we get health care reform, because I for one can’t do without my Union Dues stories, and want to make sure Mr. DeRego is taken care of so that we can keep getting them.

  13. lungdoc says:

    welcome back Steve and Jeff!…haven’t even listened yet, but will later tonight–was just excited to see the story up so had to write

  14. yicheng says:

    Welcome back Steve and Jeff. I wasn’t that impressed with this story. It was a bit of a downer, and lot of plot-holes made it hard for me to maintain the suspension of disbelief. I can understand that Mr. DeRego wanted to keep the UD universe close to our reality, but it’s hard to imagine that fundamental world events (the Korean War example) wouldn’t have been significantly altered by the existence of super-powered human beings. Also, I found it hard to understand why the LL would choose to fabricate and elaborate ruse rather than just come out and publicly say “We’re the products of government experiments”. It felt a bit too convenient.

  15. Phooey Louie says:

    This wasn’t my favorite Union Dues story. But I think this goes to show that ultimately, origin stories aren’t that interesting.

    This explains why Doctor Who (thirty seasons, no origin story) still completely rocks, while the next Star Trek movie is going to suck.

    Heroes are cooler when their past is shrouded in mystery.

  16. besucher says:

    Dear Mr. Eley, you mentioned in the audio file that you will put the link of the Union Dues T-Shirts in the Notes, but I can’t find it. Could you please post it? Thanks in advance!

  17. DrCrisp says:

    I love prequels because you get to see the underlying assumptions in the background of the writer’s mind. The Dragonquest series prequels are a great example; Star Wars a lesser one. This one answered so many of the ‘assumptions’ I made for the other Union Dues stories that I want to go back and listen to them all again and see how my impressions of them are altered.

  18. […] That Before the Wild Hurricane Fly,” a fantastic steampunk Santa story by Mur Lafferty); Escape Pod #185 (”Union Dues — All About the Sponsors,” another solid entry in the…; and Escape Pod Flash […]

  19. Blaine Boy says:

    To yicheng: this is in an alternate reality, we don’t know the affects of the Korean in that universe and you can’t assume that it had the same effects as it did in this universe. And how the hell do you think a government would react if their experiments were all “Oh hey, the government turned us all into freaks but we’re not the only ones.” (Sorry, I sound a lot angrier than I am.)

    The story really puts some perspective to the Union. It’s one of those institutions you need, but you also kinda need to hate it. (Replace those “you”s for “the characters in the Union Due’s stories”.)

    The Blaine Boy

  20. jabberwocky says:

    this is another great store about the Union. I find it interesting that everything that they original group did to try and protect themselves from the government and military they have in part being doing to others like themselves.

  21. […] in which we hear something about the origin of the Union itself. The parallel structure of “Union Dues – All About the Sponsors” (read by Stephen Eley) offers contrast between the putative Union—before it ever had […]