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EP211: Carthago Delenda Est

by Genevieve Valentine
Read by Kate Baker
a href=”http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?board=1.0″>Discuss on our forums.
Story originally appeared in Federations.
All stories by Genevieve Valentine
All stories read by Kate Baker.

Wren Hex-Yemenni woke early. They had to teach her everything from scratch, and there wasn’t time for her to learn anything new before she hit fifty and had to be expired.

“Watch it,” the other techs told me when I was starting out. “You don’t want a Hex on your hands.”

By then we were monitoring Wren Hepta-Yemenni. She fell into bed with Dorado ambassador 214, though I don’t know what he did to deserve it and she didn’t even seem sad when he expired. When they torched him she went over with the rest of the delegates, and they bowed or closed their eyes or pressed their tentacles to the floors of their glass cases, and afterwards they toasted him with champagne or liquid
nitrogen.

Before we expired Hepta, later that year, she smiled at me. “Make sure Octa’s not ugly, okay? Just in case—for 215.”

Wren Octa-Yemenni hates him, so it’s not like it matters.

Rated PG for political machinations and waiting…

Comments (21)

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  1. T. Kosmatka says:

    Interesting story. And Kate got the pacing just right.

  2. Ken_K says:

    You can kinda see where the plot is heading way before you should.

  3. Green m says:

    Great story, and a wonderful reading.

  4. phignewton says:

    … where? <.<

  5. MasterThief says:

    “Waiting for Godot Carthage”. Meh.

    Is it science fiction if nothing happens?

  6. Gia says:

    Is it realistic to have thousands of people give up their lives, volunteer to go on an eight hundred year long space voyage and serve the mission with great devotion just because they are told that a message that they aren’t allowed to hear is beautiful? I would think not.

    I kept waiting for something to happen at the end (maybe the whole “It’s beautiful” thing was a lie and the real reason why Octa hoped that the ship would never come was that something horrible would happen), but then Octa just died and nobody cared.

  7. Kate Baker says:

    Thank you for the kind comments regarding the reading, guys.

    I think people have given up their lives for less.

    As far as the story is concerned – I liked it because of the underlying message. Peace for years, even if the message from Carthage was a lie. I wasn’t under the impression it was, but either way, waiting was forcing once warring races to be civil.

    I think Octa believed that if Carthage came, the mystery, the obsession with the message would be over and everyone would go back to their normal ways of life.

  8. Brave Space Monkey says:

    Wow! Great story. I’m ready for the novel.

    This short felt like a trailer for a movie that just blows me away. Now the long wait for the movie, and hopes that the movie can live up to the trailer.

    My mind spins with subplots, and a overall story arch that would hopefully fulfill the promise of this short…

    Great choice in both reader and story. The Brave Space Monkey hasn’t enjoyed a EP in a long time. This short has restored my faith my faith in EP.

    Yeah! EP is back.

  9. Brave Space Monkey says:

    To Gia:
    Think of this short as a sample or trailer for a full length novel (that I fear will never come). All your questions would be answered as the whole story unfolds.

  10. Howie Feltersnatch says:

    What a terrible story! Once again, I know you CAN try to just let the lingo fill in the backstory and make the reader try to puzzle it out, but it’s bad, lazy storytelling. I get so sick of stories that start out with a goofy-named character and a blizzard of nonsense: “Rom Quadro Omani duped the flingflang from the clonamatron and ribbed the hoopajoob in the plitzplotz.” Give me a break.

    This effect is magnified when the story’s audio–I never did figure out if the character was Yemeni or if that was her last name.

    But the worse problem is the fact that nothing happens in the story. The interminably long section that sounded like, “The Marklaras showed up but they were ugly and had big squid heads. The Klaatus arrived and they looked like big feet,” nearly bored me to death.

    This is the worst mix of bad, boring sci-fi and bad chick lit. This is nothing but chick masturbation material–nothing but characters nattering on and on about their feelings, but no resolution or plot development. Even better, since it’s successive generations of the same character whining about their feelings!

    Brave Space Monkey’s deadpan, droll, sarcastic review was excellent by the way–I almost believed it was serious at first.

  11. Howie Feltersnatch says:

    scatterbrain–I don’t think that’s anything unique to science fiction. There’s a lot of really bad science fiction out there. Escape Pod has featured some absolutely brilliant stuff (“Exhalation”, “Connie, Maybe”), some really good stuff (“Little Worker”, “Rogue Farm”, and a bunch other), the vast majority utterly mediocre, and the rest complete shite. That doesn’t look any different to me than your average print sci-fi magazine proportions. I think we’ve just had a run lately of awful stories. I gripe a lot about the story quality, but eventually there’ll be another gem, and that makes it worthwhile for me.

  12. Gia says:

    But Brave Space Monkey, I want the earth-shattering secrets now. I’m impatient like that.

  13. EricG says:

    Lovely and memorable and understated. One of the better stories I’ve read or heard this year.

  14. Brave Space Monkey says:

    Howie Feltersnatch, you posted before and as I recall and you were a bit of a troll then as well. Your name has be taken from a Halloween Custom (a quick google search is all it takes, and a number of gap posting on other forums). You claimed to be a doctor, OBGYN. Again, BS.

    While you have may fooled some here you did not fool me.

    I stand by my review, I did enjoy the story. I would read the book if this short ever spawned one.

  15. scatterbrain says:

    Howie Feltersnatch, I agree publications go through “rough patches”. But I always thought of Escape Pod as a “best of” network, due to the fact that it really does rarely disapoint; it contains some of my favourite stories from The Malcontents to Friction to Nightfall and to Sumo21, and it often cheers me up in this bleak corporate era.

    So when a “rough patch” does occur, you can’t blame me for getting a bit pissy, can you?

  16. ben says:

    Scatterbrain’s earlier comment deleted for its relatively inflammatory tone and lack of eloquence. Please use real email addresses when posting, to facilitate moderator communication. (“Howie” has been warned as well — or at least my email to him didn’t bounce.)

  17. Lexicat says:

    i liked this overall, especially the tension between powerful ideas/experiences like massive sustained outbreaks of peace, and the ambiguity of carthage, as well as the unreliability of the narrator. it could have been a little-less embedded in its own jargon, to help ground the reader… something especially useful for a short. i will probably give it a second listen.

    ps #10 so: how did you feel her snatch? did you feel it enough for the stultifying boorishness of your pun to evade your awareness?

  18. iGregory says:

    In my entire life I’ve only read two books more than once — “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and “Ender’s Game”.

    But this story, I listened to twice. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it more the seoncd time I listened to it.

    I think I understand why Octa was so upset — that ‘former lover’ (I don’t want to try to spell it here) confessed that they had some sort of weapon and were going to try to use it on the Carhegens when the did show up.

    Maybe it’s the fact that the story is like a puzzle — all the pieces are there, but you have to put them together — that makes it better to listen to the second (and perhaps third) time.

    Keep up the great work here, and at Podcastle and Pseudopod!

    iGregory

  19. [...] while I’m out, and I wanted to point out two recent episodes that I enjoyed: From Escape Pod, Carthago Delenda Est and from Stuff You Should Know, The [...]

  20. [...] of tomorrow! Or Escape Pod as we like to call it, where I guest hosted four episodes. The first ‘Cathargo Delenda Est’ by Genevieve Valentine is a story about what happens when something is about to happen, that [...]

  21. [...] Valentine, “Carthago Delenda Est“ Federations & Escape [...]