Archive for 13 and Up

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Escape Pod 617: A Cure for Homesickness (Artemis Rising)


A Cure for Homesickness

By S. L. Scott

Krem was dead.

Well, not exactly, yet, but he knew death when he saw it, and the scavenger holding a plasma shotgun three feet from his face sure looked like death. The Torqu might have exoskeletons strong enough to keep hardened steel from piercing, but that wouldn’t stop the ensuing explosions from ripping him apart. They’d just be nice big chunks instead of tiny pieces. Not that Krem was surprised he’d go this way. He’d signed up for glory and adventure traveling the galaxy, and what that really meant was boring travel time followed by constant near-death experiences. The former he’d learned to live with; the latter, it seemed, would be harder to ignore.

At least he’d finished his mission. They’d been hired to recover passengers from a crashed ship, but the scavengers and slavers had all gotten there at the same time. By now, the last group of survivors should be close to the final checkpoint, where the captain could get them to the safety of their ship.

“Del,” he whispered into his com. “Make sure they sing for at least two hours at my funeral. If I’m going to die a hero, I think I deserve it.”

Krem wanted to go out shooting and kill his own killer in one of those “showdowns” he’d seen when Max, their human crewmate, picked the entertainment. There was a certain appeal to two people facing each other over the fate of the universe. Krem was decidedly more practical though. He knew one drone like him wouldn’t matter any more than the one scavenger about to kill him. He’d done his part, and now he would come to an end for the betterment of the mission. That was how the Torqu thought of heroics, after all.

The scavenger raised his gun slightly—better to hit Krem in the neck between his more protected thorax and skull plates—and promptly exploded. A shower of sticky blue internal juices and meat splashed Krem’s entire front and dripped into his gasping mouth. The scavenger tasted rather sweet, he noted, as little else seemed to make it through his shock-addled brain. There, behind the scavenger and just as covered in corpse debris, stood Max.

“Why’d you come back?” he asked slowly and with as little understanding of the human as he ever managed. Max had taken the second group. There was no reason for her to be there.

Max, wiry as a bridge cable, wiped the blue blood from the visor protecting her eyes and spit a bit or two of scavenger from her mouth. Apparently, humans didn’t find it as appetizing. Once able to see again, she reached out a hand to hook his claw and yanked him to his feet. “We’ve got a saying back on Earth: never leave a man behind.” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 615: Lonely Robot on a Rocket Ship in Space

Show Notes

 

Audio production note: Christopher Cornell has done an amazing and creative job of adapting the visual and formatting elements of Lonely Robot on a Rocket Ship in Space to the audio medium.

That said, there are simply some elements that do not lend themselves to a one-to-one equivalent.

I strongly encourage Escape Pod listeners, then, to not only listen, but also to see the full written story on our website.

In the text, I have changed the section breaks from a hashtag (#) to our logo icon and have taken out the paragraph indents to match our style. Otherwise, however, I have left the unique font and visual elements as A. Merc Rustad sent them to us.

Keep in mind, however, that because this is the Internet, your particular browser may interpret that formatting in myriad ways.

TL;DR: Read the text, too. Your mileage may vary.

-Adam Pracht, Escape Pod audio producer


Lonely Robot on a Rocket Ship in Space

By A. Merc Rustad

Byron scribbled crib notes on his wrist the night before he planned to come out to his dads.

He’d told all his friends he was sick so he would have an excuse to stay home Friday night. It wasn’t like he was lying. His stomach was so knotted he thought he’d puke. But he couldn’t sleep, either. The words burned like he’d used acid instead of a Sharpie.

I’m not scared or confused. It’s who I am.

In the tiniest he could write legibly, he added, Please don’t be mad. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 608: Even the Queen


Even the Queen

By Connie Willis

The phone sang as I was looking over the defense’s motion to dismiss. “It’s the universal ring,” my law clerk Bysshe said, reaching for it. “It’s probably the defendant. They don’t let you use signatures from jail.”

“No, it’s not,” I said. “It’s my mother.”

(Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 603: An Equal Share of the Bone


An Equal Share of the Bone

By Karen Osborne

To kill a theriida, you need gunboats and suits, laser cutters and open-mawed cargo bays, brawn and a stout heart, and God on your side.

We, of course, had none of that.


I learned in the merchant marines to never shoot a theriida with a standard railgun. They’ll thrash and writhe and put angry holes through your hull, and eating vacuum is nobody’s idea of a good trade run. No: a theriida’s distributed brain needs a distributed solution. If you don’t have a spinal lance capable of wide-range dispersal, move on. Don’t even try. Back in the academy, before Eliot and I signed on with Garuda, we used to inflate massive plastex balloons with pressuregel and deploy them beside our training vessels, taking turns at the lance control. It wasn’t anything like the real thing.

Inexperienced spacers often believe that the glimmering purple sac in a theriida’s bioluminescent belly is the animal’s brain, but that is only because we mammals forget that the universe is a multifarious, violent parade of a hundred thousand ways to be mortal. But we weren’t inexperienced. Our captain, Nate, had thousands of hours of piloting time. I was the best gunner this side of the Mercy War. Eliot could make a working engine out of spit and vomit. That’s why we believed we could handle a theriida kill.

Hubris. That’s the word. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 602: Trash Talk


Trash Talk

By Holly Schofield

I’m not a complainer, not me. I roll with the punches. I’ll be just another dead trash collector in about ten minutes but, hey, that’s okay. My son won’t die and, here’s a bonus, my life insurance policy will pay out.

Unless they consider it suicide.

Here we are, hugging in the middle of my living room, me in my robo-assist, my fists locked behind Ricky’s head, up high, like a boxer’s. Ricky, that’s my son, he’s pinned right against my chest.

I can’t see much now, things are blurry; must be sweat that’s in my eyes. Maybe that’ll save me ’cause it’ll short out the servos sooner or later. That was a joke. I’m hanging tough. By the way, guys, before you do anything down at the cop shop with this voice record, edit out all the emotional crap Ricky and I said earlier at the beginning, like right when it started recording, okay? Kinda embarrassing. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 601: Wet Fur


Wet Fur

By Jeremiah Tolbert

You can tell the dog owners when they board the plane; they see the black cloud hovering in the first row and their eyes widen in shock, then narrow in fear, followed by a glimmer of a smile, a hope as they glance at so many occupied seats. A hopeful smile that seems to say: “not for me. Not for mine.”

Unease settles over the plane, like a heavy, acrid scent. A few passengers throw suspicious glances at you, and one elderly woman even stops for a moment beside you, opens her mouth as if to speak. You hold your breath. She closes her mouth and shuffles toward the rear of the plane

You breathe again. You try to ignore the man seated next to you. You focus on the safety talk.

When the flight attendant buckles her fake belt, she glances at the cloud off her shoulder, then smiles apologetically at her audience. Like it’s her fault, or perhaps the airline’s? There’s nothing she can do, or anyone else.

You sniff. You smell damp fur. You frown, wondering, perhaps, how that could be? You don’t know what strange links lie between memory and nose, but we do. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 599: What Glistens Back


What Glistens Back

By Sunny Moraine

Come back.

You hear the call as the lander breaks up around you. You’re aware of the entirely arbitrary concepts of up and down before you realize what’s happening, and then they’re a lot less arbitrary. Down is not so much a direction as a function of possibility, of what might happen to you, of what is happening now. You finally getdown as an idea.

Come back.

Look up and there it is, floating over you in stable low orbit with its backdrop of stars, long and sleek and lovely, all its modules and portholes out of which you spent so much time looking, and that voice clutches at you like it could hold onto you, and you almost start to fucking cry, and you’re panicking and taking huge gasping breaths and clawing at nothing, and you’re falling. And you can’t come back. So the universe goes away for a while, and when you blink again, that brownish pitted curve beneath you is just a little bit bigger.

“Sean, come back. Do you read? Come back?” (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 598: On the Fringes of the Fractal


On the Fringes of the Fractal

By Greg van Eekhout

I was working the squirt station on the breakfast shift at Peevs Burgers when I learned that my best friend’s life was over.

The squirt guns were connected by hoses to tanks, each tank containing a different slew formula. Orders appeared in lime-green letters on my screen, and I squirted accordingly. Two Sausage Peev Sandwiches was two squirts from the sausage slew gun. An order of Waffle Peev Sticks was three small dabs of waffle slew. The slew warmed and hardened on the congealer table, and because I’d paid attention during the twenty-minute training course and applied myself, I knew just when the slew was ready. I was a slew expert.

Sherman was the other squirter on duty that morning. The orders were coming in fast and he was already wheezing on account of his exercise-induced asthma. His raspy breaths interfered with my ability to concentrate. You really have to concentrate because after four hours of standing and squirting there’s the danger of letting your mind wander and once you do that you can lose control of the squirts and end up spraying food slew all over the kitchen like a fire hose.

“Wasted slew reflects badly on you,” said one of the inspirational posters in the employee restroom. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 594: The Spice Portrait


The Spice Portrait

By J.M. Evenson

They said my love for my daughter was excessive, that I made her weak by kissing her and singing in her ear at night.

They also said I killed her. (Continue Reading…)

EP587: Someday


Someday

By James Patrick Kelly 

Daya had been in no hurry to become a mother. In the two years since she’d reached childbearing age, she’d built a modular from parts she’d fabbed herself, thrown her boots into the volcano, and served as blood judge. The village elders all said she was one of the quickest girls they had ever seen — except when it came to choosing fathers for her firstborn. Maybe that was because she was too quick for a sleepy village like Third Landing. When her mother, Tajana, had come of age, she’d left for the blue city to find fathers for her baby. Everyone expected Tajana would stay in Halfway, but she had surprised them and returned home to raise Daya. So once Daya had grown up, everyone assumed that someday she would leave for the city like her mother, especially after Tajana had been killed in the avalanche last winter. What did Third Landing have to hold such a fierce and able woman? Daya could easily build a glittering new life in Halfway. Do great things for the colony.

But everything had changed after the scientists from space had landed on the old site across the river, and Daya had changed most of all. She kept her own counsel and was often hard to find. That spring she had told the elders that she didn’t need to travel to gather the right semen. Her village was happy and prosperous. The scientists had chosen it to study and they had attracted tourists from all over the colony. There were plenty of beautiful and convenient local fathers to take to bed. Daya had sampled the ones she considered best, but never opened herself to blend their sperm. Now she would, here in the place where she had been born.

She chose just three fathers for her baby. She wanted Ganth because he was her brother and because he loved her above all others. Latif because he was a leader and would say what was true when everyone else was afraid. And Bakti because he was a master of stories and because she wanted him to tell hers someday. (Continue Reading…)