Category: OK for Kids

EP321: Honor Killing

By Ray Tabler
Read by Mur Lafferty
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An Escape Pod original!
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Rated 10 and up for blaster violence.

Honor Killing
by Ray Tabler

You would think that after all the years I’ve spent schlepping cargoes around the galaxy I’d have learned not to get involved with the locals, especially when they’re not humans. You would think.

A Yanuleen sat down across the table from me in a bar at the edge of the landing field outside of Yanult’s largest city. Yanuleen are furry little
folk, bipedal and about a meter tall with six multi-jointed arms poking out at odd intervals around their middles. This one blinked beady, black eyes at me, “Greetings Sentient Being.”

“Uh, greetings.”

“Isn’t it a glorious piece?” My new buddy pointed an arm at the artwork on display in the middle of the bar.

Yanuleen are a bit nuts for that type of thing. They have artwork, mainly sculpture, everywhere, even in a bar. To me it just looked like a three-meter tall bundle of twigs with pieces of broken pottery tossed in at random.

“Very nice.” Being in a foul mood, I took a drink and stared at the Yanuleen.

“Here is being Klonoon.” He pointed all six arms at himself, in the manner of his kind. “Might here also being Captain Anne Katya Shim, who is having a cargo of entertainment modules impounded by the Port Authority?”

EP305: Midnight Blue

By Will McIntosh
Read by Paul Haring
First appeared in Asimov’s
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Rated appropriate for everyone!

Midnight Blue
by Will McIntosh

He’d never seen a burgundy before.  Kim held it in her lap, tapped it with her finger.  She was probably tapping it to bring attention to it, and Jeff didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of asking to see it, but he really wanted to see it.  Burgundy (Kim had insisted on calling it burgundy red when she showed it at show and tell) was a rare one.  Not as rare as a hot pink Flyer or a viridian Better Looking, but still rare.

A bus roared up, spitting black smoke.  It was the seven bus–the Linden Court bus, not his.  Kids rushed to line up in front of the big yellow doors as the bus hissed to a stop.  A second-grader squealed, shoved a bigger kid with her Partridge Family lunch box because he’d stepped on her foot.  All the younger kids seemed to have Partridge Family lunch boxes this year.

“What did you say it did when you’ve got all three pieces of the charm together?”  Jeff asked Kim.  He said it casually, like he was just making conversation until his bus came.

“It relaxes time,” Kim said.  “When you’re bored you can make time pass quickly, and when you’re having fun you can make time stretch out.”

Jeff nodded, tried to look just interested enough to be polite, but no more.  What must that be like, to make the hour at church fly by?  Or make the school day (except for lunch and recess) pass in an eyeblink?  Jeff wondered how fast or slow you could move things along.  Could you make it seem like you were eating an ice cream sandwich for six hours?  That would be sparkling fine.

“Want to see it?” Kim asked.

“Okay,” Jeff said, holding out his hands too eagerly before he remembered himself.  Kim handed it to him, looking pleased with herself, the dimples on her round face getting a little deeper.

It was smooth as marble, perfectly round, big as a grapefruit and heavy as a bowling ball.  It made Jeff’s heart hammer to hold it.  The rich red, which hinted at purple while still being certainly red, was so beautiful it seemed impossible, so vivid it made his blue shirt seem like a Polaroid photo left in the sun too long.

“Imagine finding this in the wild?  Pushing over a dead tree and seeing it sitting there under the root?” Jeff said.

EP300: We Go Back

By Tim Pratt
Read by: Mur Lafferty
An Escape Pod original!
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Rated appropriate for younger teens and up – occasional adult language.

Episode 300! Wow!

We Go Back
Tim Pratt

My best friend Jenny Kay climbed in through my window and nearly stepped on my head. If I’d been sleeping a foot closer to the wall, I would’ve gotten a face full of her boot, but instead I just snapped awake and said “What who what now?” and blinked a lot.

“Oh damn,” Jenny said in a loudish whisper. “When did you move your bed under the window?”

“Last week,” I said, sitting up in bed. “I wanted a change.” If you can’t rearrange your life, you can at least rearrange yourself, and if your mom won’t let you dye your hair blue, you can make do with rearranging your rooms.

Jenny Kay dropped from standing to sitting in one motion, making my mattress bounce, and landed cross-legged and totally comfortable. “Hey,” she said. “So I need to borrow your ring.” I couldn’t read her expression in the dim moonlight from the window.

I looked at my right hand, where a thin silver ring looped my index finger, catching what light there was in the room and giving back twinkles. The metal grew cold against my skin and tightened a fraction, almost a friendly little squeeze. The ring — which wasn’t really a ring — could tell when I was thinking about it. “Uh,” I said.

Jenny nodded vigorously, a motion I felt in the jostling of the mattress more than I saw. “I know! I know. But I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. I mean, you’ve had the thing for more than a year, and I’ve never asked once if I could use it, right?”

I glanced at my closed door — no glow under the crack at the bottom, which meant my parents had gone to their separate beds and turned out the hall light — and switched on my bedside lamp. Jenny was dressed in jeans and a sweater, all in dark grays and blacks, not her usual aggressively flamboyant colorful mishmash style at all. Good for sneaking into people’s windows, I guessed.

I sat up against the headboard, because when you’re about to annoy your best friend, it’s better not to be flat on your back at the time. “I wish I could,” I said — not one hundred percent true, but Jenny was a fourteen-year-old genius, not a human lie detector. “But it’s, like… part of me. You know? I’m part of the mechanism. I can’t just take it off. It’s linked into my, what’s it called, socratic nervous system?”

“Somatic,” Jenny said gloomily. She was almost as good at biology as she was at math. “The part of your nervous system that controls movement, which sort of halfway makes sense, I guess.”

I shrugged. “So, there you go. The ring’s not something I wear. It’s something that wears me. Or we wear each other. What did you want it for?”

EP297: Amaryllis

By Carrie Vaughn
Read by: Gabrielle De Cuir
Originally appearing in Lightspeed
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Nominated for the Hugo Award for Short Story, 2011

Rated appropriate for all young teens and up for reproductive concerns.

Amaryllis
By Carrie Vaughn

I never knew my mother, and I never understood why she did what she did. I ought to be grateful that she was crazy enough to cut out her implant so she could get pregnant. But it also meant she was crazy enough to hide the pregnancy until termination wasn’t an option, knowing the whole time that she’d never get to keep the baby. That she’d lose everything. That her household would lose everything because of her.

I never understood how she couldn’t care. I wondered what her family thought when they learned what she’d done, when their committee split up the household, scattered them—broke them, because of her.

Did she think I was worth it?

EP286 The ’76 Goldwater Dime

By John Medaille
Read by: Norm Sherman
Originally published in Residential Aliens in July, 2010
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Rated G: Coin collecting!

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 278
  • Next week… a taste of time.

The ’76 Goldwater Dime
By John Medaille

I started in 1962, that’s when I became a numismatist. You know what that is? It’s the study of….well, it’s not the study of anything. It’s coin collecting, is what it is.

I was ten in 1962, and Christmas I got my first coin album. I didn’t actually get it. My father gave it to my brother. It was, you know, you’ve seen them, a sturdy cardboard folder with slots punched out that you put the coins in. Behind the slots, the empties, it had a backing of blue felt, I remember that. My dad gave it to my brother, I guess maybe thinking it would straighten him out. But coins, you know, they don’t really have that power. He wasn’t interested. He gave it to me. Me, I was interested.

The album was for Lincoln pennies, 1909 to 1959. I had five cents in the world then and each of the five fit in the slot. It only took me five more days to get the other forty-five. I would do anything for those pennies and slot it in its slot. Anything, anything. When I got my last penny, wow. It was a 1943 steel mint penny, a ‘steelie.’ They had to use steel instead of copper that year cause they needed the copper for all the bombs. I was so proud.

From then on it was just coins for me. My life was coins. I was hooked. They had their hooks in me, boy.

When I was just seventeen I moved by myself down to Washington, DC, cause I got a job there in a coin shop. That was my education. I lived in a one room dungeon in a crumby neighborhood, I loved coins that much.

You know, and I do alright. I made my living. I own my own house. I don’t live in debt like everybody else does. That’s what coins did for me. Coins and specie and spec. I don’t care for paper money, it holds nothing for me.

Me, I’m a specialist. I know generalists, I do business with them, I have to. And speculators, sure. You do what you need to do to survive in the world. But me, I’m a specialist and my friends are specialists. I’ll give an example, I have a friend, he died. But before he died, his specialty was pay toilet tokens. I mean, have you ever seen a pay toilet? In your life? I saw some once in Europe but I don’t even know if they have them there anymore. Anyway, this friend of mine, he spends his life collecting these tokens, these coins, for pay toilets, from around the world and every age. He finds the obscurest pay toilet tokens there are and they’re his. And then he dies alone in his apartment with these thousands of toilet tokens around him. I mean, that’s the way to go. I mean that. To have these objects of joy around you. To you and me, they are not objects of joy, but to him they are. You know, not everybody gets to have that, it’s not something that everyone receives. To have such pleasure from these things, these old things. But he does and I do because, see, we’re specialists. Not everybody understands that.

Other people I know, you know, have their special collections. Any thing you can think of, any given thing and there’s some guy like me out there obsessed with it. I know people, you meet a lot of interesting people in this business, whose specialties are Depression era wooden nickels or peep show tokens, or misprint coins, error coins, or brockage, that’s coins with mirror image stamps on both sides, or obverses or ‘Godless Dollars.’ You ever heard of ‘Godless Dollars?’ Those are dollar coins where the “In God we trust” part got left off. Now, you see, I respect that. Those are people with specialties. They are connoisseurs, like me. Not any old crap will do.

I’ll tell you what I mean. I have a friend, he’s not a friend, he’s a guy I know. And his collection, if you want to call it that, his collection consists of nothing but 1938 pennies. That’s the year he was born, 1938. What I mean is, what is that? Is that a specialty? Not really. It just seems so crude. Do you know how many pennies were minted in 1938? Neither do I, but it’s in the ballpark of two hundred million. This schlub has three million, I think, in his collection. Think of that. Three million 1938 pennies in roles, lying around. That’s no specialty. I mean, I think he also has nickels and dimes and quarters from 1938, but still. I do not consider that a specialty. I consider it some sick fixation. I have no understanding of that. That is not what I do.

My specialty? My specialty is the rarest of the rare, okay? I mean, I have collections and I have collections, but my real collection, the only one that’s not for sale, that’s not in the vault, I’m not even going to tell you where I keep it, guess how many coins I have in my collection. Guess.

I have twelve coins in my collection. That’s twelve. I’ve been doing this for coming up on fifty years and I’ve amassed twelve coins. In my specialty collection. Now you understand my mind.

I brought them here, I got them in my fireproof, waterproof, idiotproof box, just for you. I brought them to show you because I happen to know you will not shoot me and stab me thirty-six times and run off with my pretty little coins. Besides, I paid more money for the lockbox than I paid for all the coins. So, that’s where we are. So allow me to reveal to you, at long last, my specialty.

Okay, this is item number one, this is Exhibit A, okay? I got this in 1981 in my change for a fish sandwich, I kid you not. Don’t smudge it. It’s mint. It’s pristine. It’s almost uncirculated, but in another way, it’s very, extremely circulated. First, before I give this to you, tell me, who’s on the dime?

Very good, FDR’s on the dime. Has been since 1946. Now look at this and tell me, who’s on that dime?

Yes, he’s wearing glasses. FDR wore glasses too but not when posing for coinage. Who is he? No, it’s not Truman. Look closer. Recognize him? That’s Barry Goldwater. Look, that’s him. Yes, I am fully aware that Goldwater was never president. Thank you, Mr. Historian. But that is him and that is a 1976 dime and he’s on it. Now you see. Now you see my specialty.

How did Barry Goldwater get on that dime? I don’t know. That’s not my province. My province is getting that dime in change for my fish sandwich and recognizing it for what it is and keeping it forever. That’s where I come in.

Sure, it could be a hoax. Anything can be a hoax. But I don’t think it is. Because besides me nobody’s looking, besides me nobody cares. That’s a lot of trouble to go to to hoax me, and who’s to benefit? Sure, there are lots of hoax coins, joke coins. It’s an entire industry. Especially in China, but for Chinese coins usually, mind you. You ever heard of a Hobo Nickel? Lots of specialists love those, I deal in them regular. They were big in the twenties and thirties, because of the Buffalo Nickel, you remember that one? Beautiful coin, had a big, fat buffalo on it and on the other side a big indian head with feathers and braids. Replaced the Liberty Head in 1905. Well, what would happen was hobos would get these nickels and, because they have a lot of time on their hands I guess, is they would take these coins and carve them, actually carve into the Nickel. They would give those indians beards, stubble, floppy hobo hats, give them cigars. And some of these things, okay, they’re works of art. So meticulous, these guys, they were true artisans and craftsmen, and these nickels would be little Michaelangelos.

Now, you ask, could somebody have put some glasses on FDR, altered the face a little and put that ’76 back into circulation so I would get it back when ordering a fish sandwich? They certainly could have. But what you have to understand is this: these Hobo nickels, the good ones at least, they take weeks and months of intricate, painstaking work. Scraping and filing and carving. Once you’re done with a thing like that you don’t put it back into the system that wouldn’t appreciate it or know what the hell it was. This is something to be kept and treasured and sold. Plus, the Hobo Nickels always have signs, telltale signs that they’ve been altered. I’ve been staring at coins continuously for half a century, you think I don’t know the signs? Carving the coins like that effects its width, the measurement of the bas relief on the portrait. Believe me, I’ve measured this thing to the micrometer from every angle a thousand times, and it’s spot on, dead set perfect. Nobody’s that good, not even a top of his game counterfeiter. And no counterfeiter would put on a guy who lost the election, either. Not even as political commentary.

No, this is real. I’m convinced of that. I’ve even had it tested and guess what? It’s even radioactive. Calm down, it’s not deadly. It’s in a mylar bag. It’s just more radioactive than the background radioactivity is for such a thing. It’s not fallout, for God’s sake. Don’t worry, it’s not going to mess with your sperm.

What’s it worth? It’s worth ten cents is what it’s worth. It’s worth everything. That’s not the point, is it? It’s only worth something if people want it, and nobody wants it because nobody knows it exists. There’s no market for such a thing. No market but me. Why? Because people aren’t looking for it. You get a numismatist like me, he takes a hard look at every coin he ever gets. He looks at the date stamp, he looks at the quality, the mint mark, the ridges, the condition, the corruption, he looks for errors, misprints, double dies, uncentering, omissions. You know what he doesn’t look at? He doesn’t look at the face of the deceased president, he doesn’t look to see of George Washington’s ponytail has grown in the intervening centuries. He’s seen it a million times. He isn’t interested. Me, I look. Me, I see. So no, nobody else is looking for this, it’s not worth anything. It’s just me. That’s what makes it my specialty.

Okay, okay. Let’s forget that for now. Let’s move to exhibit number two. Take this. Yes, this is a ’72 Kennedy half dollar. Yes, that’s Kennedy on it. But look at that face, look how wrinkly he is. No, that’s not wear, that’s not metal fatigue. Metal doesn’t wear like that, believe me, I know. That’s in the stamp. Which Kennedy is that? That’s not John F Kennedy, that’s Joseph P Kennedy, his father. Look at it. Sure, he ran for president. An anti-Semite, that’s what they said. I’m not going to argue about it now. Give it back. Okay, item three: 1927 penny, Lincoln’s supposed to be on it, but who’s that guy? Look at that beard. That’s John Brown. Number four, 1944 quarter, that guy on it? Eugene V Debs, that commie guy that run for president in 1900. Can you imagine America with a commie president?

Okay, hell with it, look at the rest here:

Huey Long nickel, 1958.

William Randolph Hearst silver dollar, 1969.

Robert E Lee three cent piece from 1888. Don’t be stupid, there was no confederate money in 1888.

1965 dime, that’s Lindbergh on it.

1992 quarter, you know who that guy is on there? Roy Cohn. Took me forever to figure that one out.

1935 penny, Barnum, the circus guy. That one might actually be a forgery, the zinc plating, it’s a little off. Anyway.

1986 nickel, got Herbert Hoover on it. One of the most hated presidents of all time, how’d he get on the nickel?

And lastly, okay, look that this, this is the prize of my collection, 1998 quarter. Who’s on it instead of Washington? That’s Benedict Arnold. I swear before all that is holy. You know, that son of a bitch was a war hero before he turned traitor.

So that’s it. That’s my entire collection right there. Nothing else to show. This is my specialty. You see here my life.

What does it mean? I don’t know the meanings of things. But you know, if you think about these guys who could have been president but weren’t, except for Hoover I mean, that’s their commonality. What I think is that maybe travelers left these coins here. I didn’t say aliens, did I? I said travelers. What I mean is people who travel from other dimensions, alternate histories, that kind of thing. It’s a real thing, with physics and quantum mechanics. I’m a scholar. I read. No, I don’t know exactly how they work, I didn’t say I did. Who am I, Mr. Wizard? But you’re telling me, if you take it as a given that there are such dimensions and that these guys can travel through them, than what? He’s going to check each and every coin he’s got in his pocket for the historical relevancy of the dead, white guy on it? Every time he buys gum or a pair of shoes? People don’t work that way, believe me. That’s the thing with coins, they’re the one thing that everybody gots and nobody sees. Or maybe there are no travelers, maybe the coins themselves are the travelers. Coins get around. Maybe they’re small enough they fall through the cracks on their own. Maybe they plunk down of their own volition onto the sidewalks and in cash registers, world to world to world, I don’t know.

So there you have it. That is my specialty. Alternate reality coins. This is my niche.

What’ll I do with them? What is there to do? I don’t know. I don’t know but I do. I’m going to be buried with them, that’s what I’m going to do. They’re not for anybody else but me. They’re mine now. Thank you, fish sandwich. You know I have no kids, I can’t help thinking the coin thing has some connection with that. Besides, even if I did, do you think they’d be capable of appreciating this? I don’t think they would. They wouldn’t understand.

No, they’re coming with me. Those twelve coins, all in the breast pocket of my best suit with me in the grave in their little mylar bags. That’s where they belong.

These are what I love, everything else can go to hell. I love coins, I’m not ashamed of it. Everybody should be so lucky as this. I don’t feel that I was dealt a bum hand with this…obsession, what you want to call it. I don’t think I was shortchanged in any way. Get it? Not short changed? Anyway, you know, I think that that’s what you’re supposed to do in this life. You find something you love and you never let go. I think that that’s the secret.

EP285: Jaiden’s Weaver

By Mary Robinette Kowal
Read by: Kij Johnson
Originally published in Diamonds in the Sky
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All stories by Mary Robinette Kowal
All stories read by Kij Johnson
Rated G: Teddy bear spiders!

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 277
  • Next week… Coin collecting SF. I’m serious.

Jaiden’s Weaver
by Mary Robinette Kowal

I was never one of those girls who fell in love with horses. For one thing, on our part of New Oregon they were largely impractical animals. Most of the countryside consisted of forests attached to sheer hills and you wanted to ride something with a little more clinging ability. So from the time I was, well, from the time I can remember I wanted a teddy bear spider more than I wanted to breathe.

The problem is that teddy bear spiders were not cheap, especially not for a pioneer family trying to make a go of it.

Mom and Dad had moved us out of Landington in the first wave of expansion, to take advantage of the homesteading act. Our new place was way out on the eastern side of the Olson mountains where Dad had found this natural level patch about halfway up a forested ridge, so we got sunshine all year round, except for the weeks in spring and autumn when the shadow of our planet’s rings passed over us. Our simple extruded concrete house had nothing going for it except a view of the valley, which faced due south to where the rings were like a giant arch in the sky. Even as a twelve-year-old, angry at being taken away from our livewalls in town to this dead structure, I fell in love with the wild beauty of the trees clinging to the sheer faces of the valley walls.

The only thing that would have made it better was a teddy bear spider so I could go exploring on my own. I felt trapped by the walls of the house and the valley. I had this dream that, if I had a spider, that I’d be able to sell its weavings for enough to install livewalls in my room. That’s not as crazy as it sounds; teddy-bear spider weavings are collected all over the colonies and sell for insane amounts of money.

I had a search setup so anytime there was news of a teddy bear spider or a new tube surfaced, I’d be right there, watching those adorable long-legged beasts. I loved their plump furry faces and wanted to run my fingers through their silky russet fur.

I wonder what goes through a survey team’s mind when they name things. I mean a teddy bear spider isn’t a bear and it isn’t a spider, but it looks like both those things. On the other hand, a fartycat looks nothing like a cat. They do stink, though.

Not quite a year after we’d moved, one of my city friends had forwarded an ad from a local board which set my heart to racing.

Teddy bear spider eggs: 75NOD shipped direct.

Read More…

EP278: Written on the Wind

By: David D. Levine
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally published in Beyond the Last Star
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All stories read by Mur Lafferty
Rated PG: Talk of war elsewhere.

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 270
  • Next week… A groovy strange kind of love

Written on the Wind
by David D. Levine

Thuren Nektopk peered down at Luulianni from above his massive desk. “I suspect you know why I’ve called you to speak with me in person.” He spoke in his native language, Ptopku Dominant, using the form of address for a subordinate or a child. It was a constant reminder that the Ptopku had built and largely staffed this station, and was one of the most powerful species in the Consortium.

“Yes, Supervisor,” Luulianni replied in the same language, knotting her tentacles.

“And that would be…?”

“Because of my side project.”

“Yes.” Nektopk suddenly released the bar from which he hung, caught himself on another handhold, and with two swift strokes of his arms swung down to where his six slitted eyes were level with Luulianni’s. “Your little side project.”

Luulianni cringed. “I don’t understand why it’s so much of a problem.” She straightened and tried to meet his gaze. “I put in my full quota of time every day.”

“Yes, you do, and not one moment more. But I know you are capable of so much more than that. Any work you do on this pointless little side project of yours constitutes theft of resources from the Section — from the whole Project!”

“Theft?” she squeaked. Angry at herself for the loss of control, she brought her voice down. “Theft of resources? But I don’t use any data storage space, or any other Section resources! I write my notes on the backs of old printouts.” She did not mention how much more natural it felt to work on paper.

“You are stealing the most valuable resource of all!” Nektopk pointed at her with one limber foot. “Your own time and attention!”

“But it’s my time!”

“You have been sent here by your people — at considerable expense, I might add — to assist in the Project, to learn the ways of the Consortium, and to demonstrate your species’ unique skills.” He leaned closer to her. His smell was bitter. “And if I find that your species, as represented by yourself, does not demonstrate any unique skills, your application for Consortium membership could very well be denied.” He swung himself up to the edge of his desk, the better to glare down at her. “Therefore, your time is not your own. You owe it to the Section, to the Project, and to your own people to put every bit of available time into your assigned task.”

Luulianni hung her head. “Yes, Supervisor.”

“You may return to your work.”

“Thank you, Supervisor.”

Read More…

EP277: Rejiggering the Thingamajig

By: Eric James Stone
Read by: Kij Johnson
Originally published in Analog, 2010
Discuss on our forums.
All stories by Eric James Stone
All stories read by Kij Johnson
Rated PG: For violence.

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 269: Élan Vital
  • Next week… Linguistics… in space.

Rejiggering the Thingamajig
by Eric James Stone

The teleport terminal had not been built with tyrannosaurus sapiens in mind.

Resisting the urge to knock human-sized chairs about with her tail, Bokeerk squatted on the tile floor, folded the claws of her forelimbs together, and concentrated on her breathing. Meditation would calm her nerves. What should have been a two-minute waystop as she switched to a different teleport line had stretched to three hours, and being the only passenger in the terminal creeped her out.

The cheerful voice of the customer service AI roused Bokeerk from her trance. “It is my pleasure to inform you that the cause of the technical difficulties in the galactic teleport network has been found.”

Bokeerk perked up and rose on her hind legs, remembering just in time to duck her head so it wouldn’t bang the ceiling lamps. “Please send me to Krawlak,” she said. It was unlikely that any of her eggs would hatch for another few days yet, but she was anxious to get home.

“It is with the utmost regret that I must tell you that will not be possible at this time,” said the AI, with a tone of such abysmal sorrow that Bokeerk’s eyes could not help but moisten with sympathetic tears. “I require assistance in repairing the problem.”

Bokeerk lowered herself into a squat again. “When will help get here?” She looked at the time display on the digital assistant strapped to her left forelimb. She had now been stranded for three hours and fifty-two minutes.

“I estimate a spaceship carrying a repair crew could be here within twelve years,” said the AI. Its voice seemed to have lost the customer service aspect.

Read More…

EP267: Planetfall

By: Michael C. Lea
Read by: Jason Adams of Indie Squid Kid
First appeared in The Book Of Exodi
Discuss on our forums.
All stories by Michael C. Lea
All stories read by Jason Adams
Rated PG: For violence

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 259: The Lady or the Tiger?
  • Next week… Weather: wild, and planned.

PLANETFALL
by Michael C. Lea

Galthas Talisar stepped out from the buzzing chaos of the transportal and onto lush greenery. This world was alien, to be sure, but the patterns were almost familiar. The ship’s oracles had chosen well.

Behind him, the transportal hummed again. An armored leg emerged and carefully found its footing on the blue-green ferns carpeting the jungle floor. More than twenty thousand miles above, the leg’s owner shifted his weight and stepped fully through an identical transportal, instantly emerging on the planet’s surface below.

That cautious step belonged to Urjik, who could be called cautious in few other ways. In fact, his reputation had left him few other options for a willing partner on this mission. Urjik did not care. He and Galthas had fought together against the worst the Zayeen had to offer. He trusted Galthas implicitly, despite his disdain for the other scrawny ascetics from Signet Battalion.

Urjik’s greenish skin and jutting lower canines marked him as a charuk, his bloodline tainted by nether influences. Despite this stigma, and despite his temper, he had risen quickly in Rampart Battalion. Even the most burdensome battlesuit did not slow him, and no one was a truer shot with an inferno cannon or a hex-impelled railgun.

Read More…

EP263: Fuel

By Matthew S. Rotundo
Read by: Dave Thompson
First appeared in Cosmos
Host: Norm Sherman
Discuss on our forums.
All stories by Matthew S. Rotundo
All stories read by Dave Thompson
Rated PG: For a wee bit of swearing, sibling rivalry, and parents who don’t appreciate a smart son.

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 255: Variations on a Theme.
  • It’s our first full-text story! Read OR listen to it! We’ll have the epub version ready for download in the next few days.
  • Next week… Halloween episode!

FUEL
The third quarter report cards came out Thursday, and for Jamie, the timing couldn’t have been worse. The Nike man was coming over that night to sell his brother some new blood.

He took his time walking home from Gilder Middle School, weaving past cracks in the sidewalk and mud puddles left behind by the spring thaw. His pace slowed further as he turned onto Willow Avenue and saw his house, second on the left, a red brick ranch with spidery ivy growing up the east side. Old leaves, fallen tree branches, and other detritus left over from the winter littered the front yard. As he neared, he noted with dismay his father’s car already in the driveway.

“Damn.” Jamie trudged across the yard and let himself in the front door with his keycard.

Dad was at the hall closet, hanging up his overcoat. He stood just under two meters tall; a navy blue business suit wrapped his muscled frame. He beamed when he saw Jamie. “Hey there, kiddo. How was school today?”

“You’re home early,” Jamie said.

“Need to get ready for the presentation tonight. And I’d like you to clean up the front yard. Make sure you use the dirt rake to get up that thatch. Will you do that for me?”

Jamie opened his mouth to protest, but thought the better of it. “Sure,” he said. He unslung his backpack and headed for the stairs.

“Oh. By the way.” Dad fished in a suit pocket and produced a folded piece of paper. “I got this in my email today.” He opened the paper.

Jaime recognized the school’s letterhead on the printout. He slumped, leaning against the wall.

Dad tapped the paper. “What’s this C-plus in Basic Fitness about, kiddo?”

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