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EP304: Union Dues – Sidekicks in Stockholm

By Jeffrey R. DeRego
Read by Stephen Eley
Special guest host: Stephen Eley
An Escape Pod original!
Discuss on our forums.
All stories by Jeffrey R. DeRego
All stories read by Stephen Eley

Rated appropriate for older teens and up for language and disturbing imagery.

Union Dues: Sidekicks in Stockholm
by Jeffrey R. DeRego

Five of them at least, with submachine guns, body armor, and more dynamite than I’ve seen outside a Tom and Jerry cartoon. They all sound the same thanks to some digital vocal thing built into their black suits. They all look the same with black ski masks underneath a mesh sort of fencing helmet, black everything else right to the boots, and all about the same size, like someone took a picture of a terrorist and photocopied it.

This whole drama seems like it began a million years ago by now. I was scheduled to come here and open a convention of business leaders and up-and-coming corporate types. My speech, Good Corporate Citizenship, with examples of how The Union gives back to the communities it serves, is a two year old piece worked up and updated by Marketing and Promotions to accommodate a new administration in Washington, and some new economic stuff that I don’t really understand. I’d delivered only half of the text before these guys burst through the door.

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EP240: The Last McDougal’s

By David D. Levine.
Read by Stephen Eley.
Discuss on our forums.

First appeared in Asimov’s, January 2006.

Special closing song: “Blue,” by Yoko Kanno.

As the old man came in, letting the door close gently behind him, an expression came over his face that Garth had seen many times before: a compound of misty nostalgia and appalled astonishment. His gaze swept across the yellow and orange fiberglass chairs, their cracks and dings lovingly but visibly repaired; the plastic-topped tables with the white half-moons rubbed by millions of elbows; the light softly shining from the satiny steel of the napkin and catsup dispensers. Finally the old man’s eyes stopped dead on the smiling face of the six-foot-tall fiberglass cow that stood at the end of the counter, wearing an apron and a chef’s hat. “My God,” he said, “it’s Moogle McDougal.”

“It certainly is,” said Garth. “Welcome to McDougal’s. May I take your order?”

“Give me a minute,” he replied as he perused the menu. He had a comfortable old boot of a voice, rough but mellow. “It’s been… jeez, thirty years? …since I’ve been in one of these places. Um, I’ll have a double cheeseburger, a small order of fries, and….” He grinned. “…and a shake. Chocolate.”

Rated PG. Contains some violence and is high in saturated fats.

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EP Metacast 5

Steve discusses the downtime and announces the new editor of Escape Pod.

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EP239: A Programmatic Approach to Perfect Happiness

By Tim Pratt
Read by: Stephen Eley
Discuss on our forums.
Originally published in: Futurismic, April 2009.

All stories by Tim Pratt
All stories read by Stephen Eley

Opening poem: “Scientific Romance”

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My step-daughter Wynter, who is regrettably prejudiced against robots
and those who love us, comes floating through the door in a
metaphorical cloud of glitter instead of her customary figurative
cloud of gloom. She enters the kitchen, rises up on the toes of her
black spike-heeled boots, wraps her leather-braceleted arms around my
neck, and places a kiss on my cheek, leaving behind a smear of black
lipstick on my artificial skin and a whiff of white make-up in my
artificial nose. “Hi Kirby,” she says, voice all bubbles and light,
when normally she would never deign to utter my personal designation.
“Is Moms around? Haven’t talked to her in a million.”

I know right away that Wynter has been infected.

Rated R. Contains mature sexual situations and adult themes. (And robot themes.)

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EP238: Wind From a Dying Star

By David D. Levine.
Read by Meg Westfox.

First appeared in Bones of the World, ed. Bruce Holland Rogers.

After a time she found a small patch of zeren. She spread across it, taking a little solace from its sparkling sweetness. “Zero-point energy” was what Old John called it, but to Gunai and the rest of her tribe it was zeren, delicious and rare. Gunai recalled a time when zeren was something you could almost ignore — a constant crackling thrum beneath the surface of perception — but now there were just a few thin patches here and there. These days the tribe subsisted mostly on a thin diet of starlight, and even that was growing cold. Soon they would be forced to move on again. Yeoshi had told her the foraging was better in the direction of the galactic core, but it was so far…

Rated PG. Contains sacrifice and space battles. Of a sort.

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EP237: Roadside Rescue

By Pat Cadigan.
Read by Stephen Eley.

First appeared in Omni, July 1985.

“That’s a long time to wait.” The navigator’s smile widened. He was very attractive, holo-star kind of handsome. People who work for aliens, Etan thought. “Perhaps you’d care to wait in my employer’s transport. For that matter, I can probably repair your vehicle, which will save you time and money. Roadside rescue fees are exorbitant.”

“That’s very kind,” Etan said, “but I have called, and I don’t want to impose—“

“It was my employer’s idea to stop, sir. I agreed, of course. My employer is quite fond of people. In fact, my employer loves people. And I’m sure you would be rewarded in some way.”

Rated R. Contains profanity and mature (if alien) themes.

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EP236: Still On the Road

By Geoffrey A. Landis.
Read by Stephen Eley.

First appeared in Asimov’s, December 2008.

Turns out, you know, that old dharma bum never made it off the wheel of karma. He had too many attachments, to the road, to words; and if you love the things of the world of Mara too much you fall back into the world, like gravity pulling back a rocket that doesn’t reach escape velocity. Two, three thousand years later, he’s still on the road. Really, nothing’s changed. And Neal, that old prankster, Neal never really did want to transcend, he loved to see it all streaming past the window, a constant moving circus disappearing in the rear-view mirror, loved to talk, loved it all.

Rated PG. Contains a little profanity and a lot of beat.

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EP235: On the Human Plan

By Jay Lake.
Read by Mike Boris (of Mike Boris Audio).

First appeared in Lone Star Stories, February 2009.

I am called Dog the Digger. I am not mighty, neither am I fearsome. Should you require bravos, there are muscle-boys aplenty among the rat-bars of any lowtown on this raddled world. If it is a wizard you want, follow the powder-trails of crushed silicon and wolf’s blood to their dark and winking lairs. Scholars can be found in their libraries, taikonauts in their launch bunkers and ship foundries, priests amid the tallow-gleaming depths of their bone-ribbed cathedrals.

What I do is dig. For bodies, for treasure, for the rust-pocked hulks of history, for the sheer pleasure of moving what cannot be moved and finding what rots beneath. You may hire me for an afternoon or a month or the entire turning of the year. It makes me no mind whatsoever.

As for you, I know what you want. You want a story.

Rated PG. Contains entropy and age. A lot of it.

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EP234: The Secret Protocols of the Elders of Zion

By Lavie Tidhar.
Read by Stephen Eley.

First appeared in The West Pier Gazette & Other Stories, 2008.

It was afternoon, after school has ended for the day. Sash has been working in the hydroponics gardens, helping the adults with the delicate work of picking the buds. It was flowering time, and the ganja plants were at the end of their cycle.

It was then, with her hands sticky with resin and her skin tingling pleasantly from the work and the heat, with Mama Kingston’s deep, melodious voice saying ‘a good harvest, child, a good harvest’ with a throaty chuckle, when Sash felt about herself the presence of Jah in everything she did and was profoundly happy: it was then that Sash discovered, for the first time, the existence of the Secret.

Rated R. Contains some violence and a plot heavily focused on drug use. If you’re good with that, there’s not much else likely to be problematic for younger audiences.

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EP233: Union Dues – The Threnody of Johnny Toruko

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

I duck through the door behind her. The place is jammed with customers. “You have any money? I didn’t think to ask Miss Jennifer for any.”

TK answers, “don’t worry, just tell me what you want.”

“Large with extra sugar and cream.”

TK grins and focuses her attention on the line of people stretching from the entrance down to the counter. They all sidestep and she walks unimpeded front of the pack. “One large black, and one large with extra sugar and cream.”

The barrista, a girl of about 18, repeats the order in a flat monotone.

“And these are on the house. Everyone gets free coffee for the next two hours.”

“Free for everyone,” the clerk answers then puts our order together.

TK snickers and hands the coffee over.

Rated PG. Contains mature themes, violence, and some profanity. You know. Teenage stuff.

Referenced Sites:

Official Union Dues Web Site

Union Dues on Twitter

Clonepod – Previous Team Shikaragaki stories