Category: 13 and Up

EP448: Paprika

by Jason Sanford
read by Heather Bowman-Tomlinson

Links for this episode:

about the author…

Jason Sanford is the award-winning author of a number of short stories, essays, and articles, and an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Born and raised in the American South, he currently lives in the Midwestern U.S. with his wife and sons. His life’s adventures include work as an archeologist and as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Jason has published more than a dozen of his short stories in the British SF magazine Interzone, which once devoted a special issue to his fiction. His fiction has also been published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Analog: Science Fiction and Fact, InterGalactic Medicine Show, Tales of the Unanticipated, The Mississippi Review, Diagram, The Beloit Fiction Journal, Pindeldyboz, and other places. Book anthologies containing his stories include Year’s Best SF 14Bless Your Mechanical Heart, and Beyond the Sun.

A collection of Jason’s short stories, titled Never Never Stories, was published by a small press in 2011.

Jason’s awards and honors include being a finalist for the 2009 Nebula Award for Best Novella, winning both the 2008 and 2009 Interzone Readers’ Polls for best story of the year (and being a co-winner of the 2010 Poll), receiving a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship, being nominated for the BSFA Award, and being longlisted for the British Fantasy Award. His stories have also been named to the 2012 and 2013 Locus Recommended Reading Lists along with being translated into a number of languages including Chinese, French, Russian, Polish, and Czech.

Jason co-founded the literary journal storySouth, through which he ran the annual Million Writers Award for best online fiction. His critical essays and book reviews have been published in a number of places including SF Signal, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and The Pedestal Magazine. He also writes a regular column for the Czech SF magazine XB-1.

about the narrator…

“I may not be perfectly wise, perfectly witty, or perfectly wonderful, but I am always perfectly me.” -Anonymous

I’m a horticulturist by trade, current stay at home mom for two children, team mom for the local Goalball team, and advocate for Blind/Visually Impaired causes and adoption causes. I love D20 gaming, reading, camping and canoeing, card playing, and music.

Paprika
by Jason Sanford

“Ah Paprika, you dance so well,” Satoshi exclaimed each bright-sun morning, his praise always pleasing no matter how many times Paprika heard it. And Paprika could dance, she really could. Not like some of the olds, who’d spent millennia shaping their locked-down bodies through graceful movements. But still she could dance. Ballet. The Twist. The Bhangra.

Sometimes she’d make herself as tiny as Satoshi’s hand and pirouette for hours on his workbench while he reformed nano into exciting, long-lost toys. Other times she’d dance full sized–child sized as Satoshi would say, although Paprika knew to never speak that depressing word to customers. Paprika would create a full-flowing lehengas skirt–always the brightest of greens–and she’d dance in the store window, spinning and spinning until she was so overcome with happiness she’d dance through the window into the outside world, leaping and spinning to imaginary partners, bowing and smiling to the boys and girls who never came, flying across the deserted streets and passing in and out of the empty but perfectly preserved buildings surrounding Satoshi’s shop.

But whenever any of the few olds left in the city visited, Paprika restrained herself by simply sitting at her table in the window display. Not that she was for sell–Satoshi always made that clear to any customer who mistook her for other than what she was. With her young girl’s body and innocent happiness, Paprika knew she helped Satoshi sell more than merely the bright toys which populated his store. She sold nostalgia. Happy memories of long-vanished childhoods.

And if nostalgia helped keep Satoshi alive, that was fine with Paprika.

EP447: Rachel in Love

by Pat Murphy
read by Kathy Sherwood

Links for this episode:

author Pat Murphy

author Pat Murphy

about the author…

I’m a writer, a scientist, and sometimes a toy maker.

All of my stories and novels have a hint of the strange. Some have been called science fiction, some fantasy, and some neither one. Most of my work falls between categories. I think that the most interesting events happen at the edges, in the borderlands where the lines are fuzzy.

My fiction writing has won a number of awards, including the Nebula Award for Science Fiction, the World Fantasy Award, the Philip K. Dick Award for best paperback original, the Christopher Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. I also co-founded the James Tiptree Memorial Award.

When I’m not writing fiction, I write books about science. For upwards of 20 years, I was a writer at the Exploratorium, San Francisco’s hands-on museum of science, art, and human perception. These days, I write science books for Klutz, a publisher of how-to books that come packaged with the tools of their trade (from juggling cubes to foldable paper dragons that fly).  This is where I get a chance to try my hand at toy making. Working with at team at Klutz, I help develop the stuff that goes with the books — from origami starfighters to a snap-together skeletal hand.

Sometimes, I also teach writing. I’ve taught in Stanford University’s Creative Writing Program, at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and at the Clarion Speculative Fiction Workshops in Michigan and Seattle.

about the narrator…

Kathy Sherwood resides in a (probably only figuratively) magical forest in North Central Florida, with her significant other, two dogs and two cats. She also hosts alternative rock show Not Quite Random on 88.5 WFCF–Flagler College Radio. https://www.facebook.com/notquiterandom  Last read EP396 — Dead Merchandise by Ferrett Steinmetz

EP446: The Way of the Needle

by Derek Künsken

Links for this episode:

Author Derek Kunsken

Author Derek Kunsken

about the author…

I’m a writer of science fiction, fantasy,  and sometimes accidentally, horror. I write and read both novel-length and short fiction, with a preference for works that explore really strange places and people.

 

THE WAY OF THE NEEDLE
Derek Künsken

I

The ancient pulsar’s lighthouse beam of microwaves and radio waves spun twice per second. Within the bloom of its magnetic field orbited the single planet that had survived the long-ago supernova, at the cost of its crust and mantle. An atmosphere of carbon dioxide had congealed around the little metallic world, producing oceans of iron and nickel carbonyl, dotted with thickets of steel needles that fanned to catch the microwaves. On the largest islands, the growth of the needles had been coaxed into towers, pedestals, and martial walls. Prickly metal creatures held together by strong magnetic fields scuttled in these towns and forts, on eight articulated legs of steel spines. Their fine quills caught the flashing microwaves, generating the electricity for their quick, agile movements.

One of them, whose fame would not be made for many years yet, was uncomfortable in a disguise. Mok was a Follower of the Needle, an order of martial priests. Whereas other Followers and fighters-at-arms bore large metal claws high on their forelegs, Mok now scurried with only small, shameful servant claws. No one recognized him and no one complimented him. Nor would he earn any compliments from this mission; he’d been sent by Master Hac not as a warrior to fight under the full shine of the pulsar, but as an assassin.

Mok tried to fan his steel quills wider, but the road was too crowded. Fussing builders swung long rods culled from faraway orchards, patching the palisaded walls that lined the streets. Shabby, short-needled monks stood where the upturned points of the streets were overlaid with rusted garbage and sniped at each other with pinching claws and philosophical recriminations. Mok paused at a stall where a thinly needled elder showed off processed snow paste.

Mok hadn’t stopped for the snow paste. He wasn’t hungry. He’d stopped for the view of the Ban estate. The Ban family had consolidated an immense estate on the south road during the clan wars. Its high noble gate showed sprouting buildings and growing towers within the palisade. Slow mercenaries controlled the gate. To the side, at a narrow opening, flowed the swarmers, servants and merchants, short-needled and small-clawed.

EP444: Those Are Pearls That Were His Eyes

by Daniel Marcus read by Christiana Ellis Links for this episode:

Author Daniel Marcus

about the author…

from the author’s website… Daniel Marcus has published stories in many literary and genre venues, including Witness,Asimov’s Science Fiction, Realms of Fantasy,ZYZZYVAand Fantasy and Science Fiction.Some of these have been collected in Binding Energy.   He is the author of the novels: Burn Rate  and A Crack In Everything. Daniel was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.  He has taught in the creative writing program at U.C. Berkeley Extension and is currently a member of the online faculty at Gotham Writers’ Workshop. He is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers’ Workshop. After a spectacularly unsuccessful career attempt as a saxophonist, Daniel earned a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from U.C. Berkeley, has worked as an applied mathematician at the Lawrence Livermore Lab, the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, and Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, and has authored numerous articles in the applied mathematics and computational physics literature. Daniel then turned his attention to the private sector, where for the last 15 years, he has built and managed systems and software in a variety of problem domains and organizational settings.

about the narrator…

Christiana Ellis is an award-winning writer and podcaster, currently living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her podcast novel, Nina Kimberly the Merciless was both an inaugural nominee for the 2006 Parsec Award for Best Speculative Fiction: Long Form, as well as a finalist for a 2006 Podcast Peer Award. Nina Kimberly the Merciless is available in print from Dragon Moon Press. Christiana is also the writer, producer and star of Space Casey, a 10-part audiodrama miniseries which won the Gold Mark Time Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Production by the American Society for Science Fiction Audio and the 2008 Parsec Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Drama. In between major projects, Christiana is also the creator and talent of many other podcast productions including Talking About SurvivorHey, Want to Watch a Movie? and Christiana’s Shallow Thoughts.

 
Those Are Pearls That Were His Eyes by Daniel Marcus

The only window in Suki’s bedroom opened onto an airshaft that ran through the center of the building like the path of a bullet.  She would lie in bed in the hot summer nights with the salt smell of the drying seabed coming in through the open window, a sheen of sweat filming her forehead and plastering the sheets to her body like tissue, listening to her downstairs neighbors.  When they made love, their cries echoing up through the airshaft made her loins ache, and she brought release to herself silently, visualizing men with slender, oiled limbs and faces hidden in shadow. Sometimes the neighbors sang, odd, sinuous music redolent with quarter tones.  The melodies wove counterpoint like a tapestry of smoke and for some reason Suki thought of mountains.  Jagged, fractal peaks thrusting out of an evergreen carpet.  Summits brushed with snow.  Tongues of cloud laying across the low passes. Sometimes they argued, and the first time she heard the man’s deep voice raised in anger she was sure he was a Beast, possibly an Ursa. She was less certain of the woman, but there was a sibilant, lilting quality to her voice that suggested something of the feline.  They’d moved in three weeks before but their sleep cycles seemed out of sync with hers and she still hadn’t met them. Suki tried to imagine herself going downstairs to borrow something — sugar, yarn, a databead.  His broad muzzle would poke out from behind the half-closed door; his liquid brown eyes would be half-closed in  suspicion.  They would chat for a bit, though, and perhaps he would invite her in.  They would teach her their songs and their voices would rise together into the thick, warm air. Some nights there was no singing, no arguing, no love, and Suki listened to the city, a white-noise melange of machinery and people in constant flux, like the sound of the ocean captured in a shell held to the ear.  Beneath that, emanating from the spaceport on the edge of the city, a low, intermittent hum, nearly subsonic, so faint it seemed to come from somewhere inside her own body. On those nights, she had trouble sleeping, and she would climb the rickety stairs to the roof.  She couldn’t see the Web, of course, but she imagined she could feel it arching overhead, lines of force criss-crossing the sky.  Ships rode the Web up to where they could safely ignite their fusion drives for in-system voyages, or clung to the invisible threads all the way to their convergence at the Wyrm. Newmoon hung in the sky, its progress just below the threshold of conscious perception, like the minute hands of a clock.  She had visited there as a child, a creche trip, and she remembered the feel of the factories humming under her feet, the metal skin pocked with micrometeorite impacts  stretching to the too-close horizon, the tingling caress of her environment field. #

EP443: This Is As I Wish To Be Restored

by Christie Yant
read by Mr. Lee

Links for this episode:

Author Christie Yant

about the author…

from the author’s website… Christie Yant is a science fiction and fantasy writer, and Assistant Editor for Lightspeed Magazine. Her fiction has appeared in anthologies and magazines including Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2011(Horton), Armored, Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, io9, Wired.com, and China’s Science Fiction World. Her work has received honorable mentions inYear’s Best Science Fiction(Dozois) andBest Horror of the Year (Datlow), and has been long-listed for Story South’s Million Writers Award. She lives on the central coast of California with two writers, an editor, and assorted four-legged nuisances. Follow her on Twitter @christieyant.

our narrator for this fine chunk of literature is Mr. Lee, who’s spiffy.
This Is As I Wish To Be Restored
by Christie Yant

 

Every night I come home and I drink. I trade away the hope, the guilt, the fear, even the love–I think it’s love, crazy as it seems. I trade them for oblivion, because otherwise I won’t sleep at all. I drink until there’s no life left in me, until I’m able to forget for just a little while the chrome vessel in the corner and what’s at stake. Sometimes I hope that I’ll dream of her. Sometimes I’m afraid that I will.

 

I have two things that belonged to her. The first is a photograph, taken at a party in what looks like a hotel. Her hair is dyed red—it doesn’t quite suit her, so you know it isn’t hers, like an unexpected note in a melody where you thought you knew where it was going and then it went sharp. She’s holding a glass of something pink and bubbly. Maybe it’s her birthday. If so, it’s probably her twenty-eighth. She’s laughing.

 

She was really young to be a client. Especially back then, most of the people who thought about life extension were retirees. Mortality was very much on their minds, and they’d had a lifetime to accumulate their savings—suspension was expensive. I wonder where she got the money. Her file doesn’t say.

 

So in this picture she’s laughing. She’s seated, supporting herself with one hand braced against the carpeted floor. Her head is thrown back and her back is arched, and she’s just the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. There are other people around her, behind her, just smiling blurs holding drinks, but you get the feeling that she’s the reason they’re smiling. She’s the star they’re all in orbit around. Like me. I fell into her orbit years ago and can’t break free.

 

The picture moves with me through my bleak basement apartment, from room to room—sometimes it turns up on top of the half-size refrigerator, sometimes absent-mindedly left on a shelf in the medicine cabinet where I discover it again later and take it with me to the bedroom. I’ve found it between the sofa cushions at least half a dozen times. She follows me, or I follow her—it’s been a lifetime since she smiled that smile, and I’m still completely, utterly taken.

 

The one place it never goes is on the dewar in the corner.  That would just be too macabre, considering.

 

This is the only photograph she left. I often wonder what it was about this moment, this time in her life, that she could have looked ahead and known that this was as good as it gets. In this picture the cancer’s already killing her, she just doesn’t know it.

 

She died less than a year later. Pancreatic cancer. It’s in her file.

 

EP442b: Eater of Bone, part 2

by Robert Reed
read by Mat Weller

Links for this episode:

Author Robert Reed

Author Robert Reed

about the author…

from the author’s website…

Bob has had eleven novels published, starting with The Leeshore in 1987 and most recently with The Memory of Sky in 2014. Since winning the first annual L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest in 1986 (under the pen name Robert Touzalin) and being a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer in 1987, he has had over 180 shorter works published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Eleven of those stories were published in his critically-acclaimed first collection, The Dragons of Springplace, in 1999. Twelve more stories appear in his second collection, The Cuckoo’s Boys [2005]. In addition to his success in the U.S., Reed has also been published in the U.K., Russia, Japan, Spain and in France, where a second (French-language) collection of nine of his shorter works, Chrysalide, was released in 2002. Bob has had stories appear in at leastone of the annual “Year’s Best” anthologies in every year since 1992. Bob has received nominations for both the Nebula Award (nominated and voted upon by genre authors) and the Hugo Award (nominated and voted upon by fans), as well as numerous other literary awards (see Awards). In 2007, he won his first Hugo Award for the 2006 novella “A Billion Eves”.

Reed continues to live in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Leslie, and daughter, Jessie. Local residents who may not know him for his award-nominated work as a genre writer may instead recognize him as an ardent long-distance runner — he can frequently be seen jogging through the parks and hiking trails of Lincoln, and has taken part in many of the area’s running races for the past several years.

 Please see the post for the first half of this story for the complete text. http://escapepod.org/2014/04/05/ep442a-eater-bone/

EP442a: Eater of Bone

by Robert Reed
read by Mat Weller

Links for this episode:

Author Robert Reed

Author Robert Reed

about the author…

from the author’s website…

Bob has had eleven novels published, starting with The Leeshore in 1987 and most recently with The Memory of Sky in 2014. Since winning the first annual L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest in 1986 (under the pen name Robert Touzalin) and being a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer in 1987, he has had over 180 shorter works published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Eleven of those stories were published in his critically-acclaimed first collection, The Dragons of Springplace, in 1999. Twelve more stories appear in his second collection, The Cuckoo’s Boys [2005]. In addition to his success in the U.S., Reed has also been published in the U.K., Russia, Japan, Spain and in France, where a second (French-language) collection of nine of his shorter works, Chrysalide, was released in 2002. Bob has had stories appear in at leastone of the annual “Year’s Best” anthologies in every year since 1992. Bob has received nominations for both the Nebula Award (nominated and voted upon by genre authors) and the Hugo Award (nominated and voted upon by fans), as well as numerous other literary awards (see Awards). In 2007, he won his first Hugo Award for the 2006 novella “A Billion Eves”.

Reed continues to live in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Leslie, and daughter, Jessie. Local residents who may not know him for his award-nominated work as a genre writer may instead recognize him as an ardent long-distance runner — he can frequently be seen jogging through the parks and hiking trails of Lincoln, and has taken part in many of the area’s running races for the past several years.

Eater-of-bone
by Robert Reed

1

With cured gut and twitch-cord, the Nots had constructed their trap—a marriage of old cleverness and deep rage designed to catch dreaded, unworldly monsters such as her. But the device had lain undisturbed since summer, and the winter rains had washed away some of the leaf litter and clay that served as its camouflage. Knowing what to expect, the young woman easily spotted the taut lines and anchor points, and experience told her where a single soft footfall would trigger the mechanism, causing the ground to fall away. An extraordinarily deep hole had been dug into the hillside. One misstep, and she would plunge into blackness, every kick and helpless flail bringing down the loose dirt that would suffocate and then temporarily kill. She had seen this design before. The Nots were masters when it came to doing the same ancient tricks again and again. Only once in her experience had this type of mechanism worked as designed, but the vivid memory of that exceptionally miserable night was enough to make the woman step backwards—a reflexive, foolish reaction, since traps occasionally came in pairs, and one careless motion could be more dangerous than twenty smart, studied footfalls.
But her bare foot fortunately hit only damp dirt, and she felt nothing worse than a jikk-incisor gouging her exposed Achilles.
She knelt slowly and pulled the thorn free, placing a thumb across the wound to force the first drop of blood to remain inside her body. Her skin grew warm beneath her touch, and then there was no wound. Sucking on her thumb, she tasted iron and salt and a dozen flavors of grime, and after some consideration, she carefully, carefully traced out a wide ellipse that eventually placed the trap upwind from her.
Riding the breeze was the aroma of a mature piss fungus. Saliva instantly filled her mouth. Her present hunger had been building for days. She couldn’t resist taking a quick step forward while sucking down the scent, wild eyes searching the forest floor until she saw the trap’s bait tucked behind a stand of spent silver yddybddy.
Her bare foot struck nothing but dirt; another youthful impulse went unpunished.

EP441: Kumara

by Seth Dickinson
read by Alasdair Stuart

 

Posthuman Pathways

Posthuman Pathways

Links for this episode:

about the author…

from the author’s website… I’m a graduate of the University of Chicago, a lapsed PhD candidate at NYU (where I studied racial bias in police shoot/don’t shoot decisions), and an instructor at the Alpha Workshop for Young Writers.

I write science fiction and fantasy. My work has appeared or will soon appear in Clarkesworld, AnalogStrange HorizonsLightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, as well as winning the 2011 Dell Award. I care about gender, subtext, prose style, the fallacies of human cognition, and the ramifications of all we’ve learned regarding causality, cosmology, and thought.

In my younger days I was a designer and writer on the Blue Planet (warning: video link) project for FreeSpace Open.

I tweet without too much grammar at @sethjdickinson

KUMARA
By Seth Dickinson

 

You asked me why you are alive, and this is the answer: because I was asked to do the impossible, to choose someone to die. And I loved them all, loved them as I loved Kumara, as I loved myself. I could not bear the choice.

“I need you to choose one of our crew to delete,” Kumara told me.

“I need room to think, or we’re not going to make it.”

Thirty years of diligence said no, never and I began to refuse.

Outside the ship a revenant screamed a radio scream and through the umbilical of our link I felt Kumara cry back in defiance: jamming but still overmatched, struggling against sixty million years of mindless machine hate. Throwing every spark of thought she could muster into beating the revenant’s virals, decrypting them, compiling an inoculation.

I closed my eyes and waited for her to fail, for the revenant to slip into her systems, for the antimatter torch to let go and end us all. But Kumara held herself together. Turned the attack.

Her avatar grinned up from where she knelt, shoulder bowed with effort, nails clawed down to pink flesh. “Saved us again,” she said. “Ha. And they told me I wasn’t built for this. Thirty years, and still state of the art!”

“You can make it,” I said, knowing it was a lie, that she had tapped every scrap of processing power in her hull. I was systems officer; I was the ship as much as she was. But still I begged: “Just an hour to the jump point. You’ll make it. You don’t need to ask for any more.”

Kumara had taken the image of a woman, cable-shouldered, strong. Her hands trembled and her eyes shone bright with an inhuman intellect, a very human fatigue. Her intellect was digital, her fatigue an abstract, but she wore the metaphor of flesh. Flesh speaks clearly to the human mind.

She looked up at me with those brilliant tired eyes and shook her head. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I’m out of processing power. They’re getting too sophisticated and I can’t keep up. You have to delete someone from heaven.”

I closed my eyes and turned away.

I was the last living crew of Kumara, you see? The others were dead: Captain Shiroma, who burned in her own armor as she stole the machine god’s dream, Matthews who cracked the revenant code, smiling Jayaraman who died first, wordless Landvatter whose ash still painted the hull.

EP440: Canterbury Hollow

by Chris Lawson
read by Bill Bowman

 

Links for this episode:

about the author…

Chris Lawson is a doctor and writer living in Australia. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s SF, Realms of Fantasy, Eidolon, and Dreaming Down-Under. In late October he blogged at www.talkingsquid.net about his process of creating a short story, but those posts concerned a different story. For this one, you won’t find any glimpses of the wizard behind the curtain — you’ll just have to enjoy it on its own terms.

bowman_billabout the narrator…

Last read for us on EP424; Bill started voice acting on the Metamor City Podcast, and has wanted to do more ever since. He spends his days working at a library, where he is in charge of all things with plugs and troubleshooting the people who use them. He spends his nights with his wife, two active children, and two overly active canines and all that goes with that.

EP439: Cradle and Ume

by Geoffrey W. Cole
read by Jeff Ronner

 

Links for this episode:

Author Geoffrey W. Cole

Author Geoffrey W. Cole

about the author…

from the author’s website… Geoffrey W. Cole was born in Ottawa, Ontario, where he learned to swim and to survive 233K (-40 C or F) weather. After this larval stage, he moved to Kingston, Ontario, where he received degrees in Biology, Mechanical Engineering, Beer Slinging, and Rock and/or Roll. Geoff also met his mate in Kingston. After graduating they embarked on a trans-Canada road trip from Newfoundland to Alaska (for you future-bots reading this, from RockScar to The Beaches). After a brief stint in Ontario, Geoff and his mate moved to Vancouver, BC, where they married, started a home, adopted a giant Newfoundland Lab cross, and gave birth to a wonderful son. They spent a year abroad in Rome, Italy, and after the vandemic of 2017 (curse you, sentient minivans!) they moved to SeaBase 4 off the coast of Haida Gwaii to breed orca.

During his time in Vancouver, Geoff received a certificate in creative writing through The Writers Studio program at Simon Fraser University, under the tutelage of Steven Galloway. Geoff and his wife moved to Rome, Italy, in 2011 to pursue writing full-time, and returned to Canada in 2012. Geoff started work on a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia in 2012.

Once Geoff moved to SeaBase 04, his writing style took on new direction, as he attempted to write an epic poem in orcish (the cetacean language, not the Tolkien).

Narrator Jeff Ronner

Narrator Jeff Ronner

about the narrator…

Jeff Ronner is a voice actor, audio engineer, and sound designer. His work has appeared in radio and TV spots, non-commercial narrations, and on those annoying in-store supermarket PA systems. Cleverly disguised as a mild-mannered hospital IT manager during the day, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

Cradle and Ume
by Geoffrey W. Cole

When his creators first booted Cradle those long centuries ago, they told him many things that made a lasting impression on his infant mind.

Above all was the commandment:

_The Kamurei must never be contacted._

##

 

“If you don’t let me in, she will die,” Ume said.

“After all these years, you still ask,” Cradle said. “I thought posthumans were supposed to be hyperintelligent.”

On the banks of the dry riverbed that wound through the village, Teihana struggled through her thirty-fourth hour of labour. Her emaciated brown skin glistened with sweat.  The midwife, her only companion in the palm-roofed hut, packed cool mud on Teihana’s forehead. There was nothing else for the pain; like the river, the wells were dry, and the medicinal crop had failed along with the corn.

Cradle and Ume watched all this from the observation station buried within one of the Andean peaks that towered above Teihana’s village.

“Drop your fields now,” Ume said. “This is my last warning.”

“Warn away,” Cradle said. “There’s nothing I can do about it.”

“Then you’ve left me no choice.”

Cradle was embarrassed to engage in this banter with three other visitors in the observation station, but they seemed to enjoy the drama. The tourists pointed and whispered as Ume departed. He ran down the long tunnel that led to the landing pad, where he climbed into his skyskiff and pointed the vehicle toward the valley.

Cradle watched Ume’s fit from a thousand different eyes scattered around the valley. The young posthuman’s persistence never ceased to amaze him. He tried to shout a final warning:

“I can’t let you -”

And that’s when the bomb Ume had left in the observation station exploded.

 

##

_You are the valley, Cradle. You are their home, but they must never know it._

##

 

Ume’s reputation reached Cradle long before the young posthuman had first dropped out of orbit to visit the people. His name made many headlines: the liberator of the entombed Callistan AIs; the forger of the asteroid miner’s union; the last great freedom fighter.

It was only a matter of time before he knocked on Cradle’s door.

Unlike most of Cradle’s other visitors, who jumped into one of the many spare posthuman bodies kicking around on Earth, or who visited virtually, Ume rode the space elevator in person to visit the valley.

When Ume entered the observation platform that first day, his camouflage fatigues and red beret seemed right at home in the replica long-house that served as the entry hall. Cradle, whose body was the network of processors, sensors, memory matrixes, and field generators that existed below the surface of the valley, appeared in the long-house as a hologram. He chose the appearance of a Kamurei shaman; a loincloth, shins and forearms tattooed in red ochre, and a drum slung over his shoulder.

“Welcome to the Akturi valley,” Cradle said. “Home of the last uncontacted tribe.”

“Cut the crap,” Ume said. “And show me everything.”