Category: 10 and Up

EP543: Rock, Paper, Scissors, Love, Death

AUTHOR: Caroline M. Yoachim
NARRATOR: Nicola Seaton-Clark
HOST: Tina Connolly

author Caroline M. Yoachim

author Caroline M. Yoachim

about the author…

Caroline M. Yoachim lives in Seattle and loves cold cloudy weather.  Her fiction has appeared in Fantasy & Science FictionAsimov’sLightspeedClarkesworld, and Daily Science Fiction, among other places.  She is a 2006 graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, and her 2010 novelette “Stone Wall Truth” was nominated for a Nebula Award.  Caroline’s debut short story collection, “Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World & Other Stories,” is coming out with Fairwood Press in 2016.

narrator Nicola Seaton-Clark

narrator Nicola Seaton-Clark

about the narrator…

Nicola Seaton-Clark has worked professionally as an actress for over fifteen years in TV, film and radio. She started her career as a jazz singer and later a singer in a rock band. Her voice-over experience includes TV and radio advertising, singing jingles, film dubbing and synchronization, training videos, corporate films, animation, and Interactive Voice Response for telephone menus. She is also a qualified TEFL teacher and has extensive experience as a vocal coach specializing in South African, Australian and New Zealand accents. http://www.offstimme.com/

 

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Love, Death
by Caroline M. Yoachim

ROCK

Rock crushes scissors. Nicole sat on a crowded bus to Spokane, knitting a turquoise scarf. The gray-haired man sitting next to her stared obsessively at his wristwatch. He was travelling with his son, Andrew, who sat across the aisle. She offered to trade seats so they could sit together, but both men refused. The bus wound around the sharp curves of Stevens Pass, and Nicole made good progress on her scarf.

Out of nowhere, Andrew’s father grabbed her and shoved her across the aisle, into Andrew’s arms. There was a loud crack, and a roar like thunder. A boulder the size of a car slammed into the side of the bus. Nicole stared at the wall of stone that filled the space where her seat had been. The red handles of her scissors stuck out from underneath the rock, the blades crushed underneath. Andrew’s father was completely lost beneath the stone.

#

Love shreds paper. After the accident, Nicole met Andrew for coffee. She returned his father’s watch, which had somehow ended up in her jacket pocket, though she couldn’t figure out how or when he’d put it there. Andrew gave her a pair of red-handled scissors, identical to the pair she had lost. She invited him for Thanksgiving dinner with her parents, since he had no other family. They took a weekend trip to Spokane, and when the bus reached the site of the accident, they threw handfuls of flower petals out the window.

Andrew was an engineer and a poet. He built her a telescope that folded spacetime so she could see distant exoplanets, and he wrote her scientific love poems. At their wedding, they gave the guests bags of confetti made from shredded strips of his poems, so they could be showered in love.

#

Rock destroys love. Two years into her marriage, Nicole suspected Andrew was cheating. He stayed late at work, went out late with the guys, took weekend business trips. He was gone more than he was home, and he got angry when Nicole asked him about it. She already knew what she’d see when she followed him out to Beacon Rock, but she had to see it with her own eyes, if only from a distance. She was surprised to see him with an older woman, rather than a younger one. She filed for divorce, and he didn’t argue.

#

Scissors cut paper. A few years after the divorce, Nicole sat in the swing on her front porch and cut love poems and photographs into thin strips. It was her therapy, letting go of the memories she’d kept boxed up after Andrew moved out. There was something satisfying about the snip of the scissors. Words flew everywhere. Eternal. Heart. Devotion. True. Paper piled up on the porch, and a breeze sent a few strips swirling. It reminded her of the confetti at their wedding, and suddenly cutting paper wasn’t as satisfying. She hurled her scissors into the front yard.

#

Death steals scissors. Nicole went out into the yard the next morning to get her scissors. She didn’t want to run them over with the lawnmower later, and she wasn’t quite ready to let go of the first gift Andrew ever gave her. The poems were gone from her porch, and she couldn’t find the scissors in the yard, even after an hour crawling on her hands and knees. The common link between the poems and the scissors was Andrew. Had he taken them? Against her better judgment, she drove to his apartment. The door was open, and there were cops inside. Andrew was missing, and he’d left a note. A suicide note.

The body was never found. Neither were her scissors.

EP542: The Hungers of Refugees

AUTHOR: Michael Glyde
NARRATOR: Joe Williams
HOST: Alasdair Stuart

about the author…

M. Glyde recently moved 1813 miles from Pittsburgh, PA to El Paso, TX, where he writes, works, and attends grad school. His fiction has appeared in See the Elephant. You can find him on Twitter @michaelglyde or on his website and blog mglyde.com.

about the narrator…

When not inhabiting cyberspace or various fantastic fictional worlds Joe resides in South London. He is a geek by trade and by nature; having undertaken at the tender age of two to rewire, much to his mother’s chagrin, a power socket in the family home, he’s never looked back. He spends his days wrangling both data and users making sure that they behave themselves and play nicely. His evenings, when not diverted by his remarkable wife or mercurial cats, are spent gaming, reading comics, and intending to write something.

 

The Hungers of Refugees
by Michael Glyde

I. Generation One

Our grandparents always said, “Take care to remember the first generation.” They came from fresh, from sunlight, whirling winds, and butterfly fields. They came from Hunger.

Generation One came from six different nations. Six nations? How long ago was this that six nations could exist, all at once? That’s what we’d ask our grandparents. They never answered satisfactorily.

Ship 13c smelled iron like death. White LED lighting glared off the walls. And it was warm, but an uncomfortable, mechanical sort of warm.

When Generation One boarded the ship, their children spent days waving and crying as Earth receded from view. To those children, loss was an old trick—that’s what their parents wrote of them in the ship’s log. They cried because they remembered their tiny fishing villages, their college towns, their cities that counted among the oldest on Earth.

The parents celebrated leaving the Camps. Finally escaping foreign soldiers quick to kill, food rations too small for mice, and the oppressive, endless heat, they laughed at their pain.

“Good riddance,” they said, “to all that.”

And that first night, a tradition began: all of Ship 13c’s residents crowded around the glass globe that overlooked the reactor core. Like campers around a fire, they told stories of their homes. How strange, how awkward, trying to tell stories everyone would understand. Which of the four languages did the most people speak? What prohibitions differed between these six cultures?

But that night they silently agreed to become one people. A people hunting for a new home.

#

The storytellers became The Historians. On the walls they created a vast digital collage of Earth’s monuments and trees and constellations. It ended, as it still does, in a vast forest scene, tree roots littered with chestnuts and crawling with bloodhounds.

Ten years after departure, The Historians threw an enormous festival.

Generation One played games using little toys the ship could print. Stories were told around the reactor core, and they gorged themselves on water and the multicolored paste they’d been given as food. This food, which they described as oddly dense and bitter, is all we have known.

As our people also do at festivals, the children danced. Fast tempo music whirled and waned, lifting the hearts of Generation One, even as their stomachs filled with bitter mash. Bright dresses twirled and blurred, and the dancers grinned as they flew about the floor, as if they could not smell the iron, as if the air did not feel dead, as if they had never left Earth behind.

But the music crackled to a stop.

EP541: As Travelers in Sky Boats

AUTHOR: Kristin Janz
NARRATOR: Ibba Armancas
HOST: Tina Connolly

author Kristin Janz

author Kristin Janz

about the author…

Kristin Janz is a Canadian speculative fiction writer who has lived in the Boston area since 1998. Her fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, On Spec, and Crowded Magazine, and she is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop.

My husband Donald S. Crankshaw and I have edited and are independently publishing an anthology of speculative fiction stories that engage with Christianity in some way–Christian characters, themes, or cosmology. Mysterion: Rediscovering the Mysteries of the Christian Faith will be available in both paperback and ebook in August of 2016, and includes stories by Nebula-nominated authors Beth Cato and Kenneth Schneyer.

narrator Ibba Armancas

narrator Ibba Armancas

about the narrator…

Raised by swordfighters and eastern European freedom fighters, Ibba Armancas is a writer-director currently based in Los Angeles. Her darkly comedic genre sensibilities are showcased in two webseries and a feature film forthcoming later this year. One day she will find time to make a website, but in the mean time you can follow her projects and adventures on twitter or instagram.

 

As Travelers in Sky Boats
by Kristin Janz

My sister blames the Travelers.  Before they came, she says, we were content within the small world we knew.  No one wondered what lay beyond the flat blue horizon where ocean met sky, or who journeyed between the stars.  Children never complained that there was an easier way to mend fishing nets, that they did not like the taste of seaweed.  Men did not abandon responsibilities to pursue the impossible fantasy of becoming Travelers themselves.

One rainy night, when both she and the water leaking through our roof were keeping me awake, I told her that she sounded like a Traveler when she spoke that way.  Who was she–or they–to tell me how I should live, what I could know or not know?

She did not speak to me the rest of that night or most of the day that followed.  I did not enjoy her silence as much as I had expected to.

#

“May I hold that?”

Traveler Jarrett hesitated before answering me, as Travelers often did.  Unable to understand our words, they relied on their tools to tell them what we said and how to answer.  But I did not think Traveler Jarrett’s hesitation came from not understanding, not this time.  I had pointed to the tool on his wrist while asking and then held my hands out, palms facing up.  How could he not understand that?

Traveler Tess murmured a warning in Traveler Speak, but Traveler Jarrett unfastened his wrist tool anyway and placed it in my outstretched hands.

Traveler Tess moved her finger around in the air in front of her, listened for a moment to a voice no one else could hear, then looked directly at me and said, “Please be careful with that.”  As if I were a small child and might start bashing the wrist tool against the packed earth floor of the Travelers’ house!  Traveler Tess tried to act like a mother to the other Travelers, like my sister did with me.  I did not think they heeded her any better than I with my sister.

EP540: The Right Answer

AUTHOR: James Miller
NARRATOR: Adam Pracht
HOST: Alasdair Stuart

about the author…

During the day, James A. Miller works on Milking Robots in the Madison Wisconsin area. At night, he spends time with his family and does his best to come up with fun and creative fiction. He is a first reader for Allegory e-zine and member of the Codex writer’s group. He has two cats but will resist the urge to say anything cute about them here.

narrator Adam Pracht

narrator Adam Pracht

about the narrator…

Adam Pracht lives in Kansas, but asks that you not hold that against him. He works full-time as the public relations coordinator at McPherson College, where he also received his master’s in higher education administration in spring 2016. He’s excited to get his life back. He was the 2002 college recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy award for writing about the disadvantaged and has published a disappointingly slim volume of short stories called “Frame Story: Seven Stories of Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Horror & Humor” which is available from Amazon as an e-Book or in paperback. He’s been working on his second volume – “Schrödinger’s Zombie: Seven Weird and Wonderful Tales of the Undead” – since 2012 and successfully finished the first story. He hopes to complete it before he’s cremated and takes up permanent residence in an urn.

The Right Answer
by James Miller

While I certainly didn’t plan on an alien encounter, my life had been in such a downward spiral that I had gotten used to expecting the unexpected.

Cheryl, my wife, and Ryan, my friend and boss, had been spending some extra time together without me – nights mostly. I handled this by 1) punching Ryan in the mouth, twice, then 2) spending the rest of the day drinking lunch, and 3) picking up dinner at the liquor store. On the way home, my car expired on the freeway, by spewing steam and smoke then finally bursting into flames. I did, however, manage to rescue my bottle of dinner vodka before its fiery demise, but somehow forgot my personal laptop was in the back seat. I eventually reached home only to find Cheryl had gone. Judging by the amount of stuff she had taken with her, it was for good.

I surveyed what little remained in the house. In the living room there was carpeting with clean spots where the furniture had been, and a TV stand with no TV. In the kitchen I was left with one red plastic cup, an unopened box of flexible drinking straws, and a bag of pretzels. In the bedroom I saw a bed frame with no mattress or sheets, wire hangers, and a torn Sports Illustrated. I grabbed the pretzels from the kitchen and made my way out onto the patio to get away from the heavy absence of my material items. I was considering which lawn chair I might sleep in, when I noticed a little green creature standing in my back yard. It took a while for my senses to come into agreement; I was looking at Fonzie. Yes, Fonzie, the character played by Henry Winkler on Happy Days.

He didn’t look at all like Fonzie in the face, or even his body type. In that regard he was as stereotypically expected: green, about four feet tall, three long fingers on each hand, comically big eyes, with no nose to speak of, and a very tiny mouth. It was the leather jacket, pinch rolled jeans and perfectly greased jet black hair that gave the general appearance of the Fonz.

The creature leaned coolly against my fence, holding one finger of each hand in the air. I assumed those were the closest thing he had to thumbs.

“Aaaaaaaayyyy.”

EP539: Squirrels, Foxes and Other Fine Specimens

AUTHOR: Gareth D Jones
NARRATOR: Andrew Clarke
HOST: Norm Sherman

author Gareth D. Jones

author Gareth D. Jones

about the author…

I’m an environmental scientist, writer and father of 5. My stories have appeared in over 40 publications and 26 languages.

about the narrator…

Andrew Clarke is a London-based musician, writer and actor who has created work for the stage, film and radio in an ongoing quest to work out how to make any money at all. He is currently writing the second series of The Lost Cat Podcast – which details the adventures he has had while looking for his lost cat – featuring monsters, ghosts, Old Ones, several ends of the world, some cats and lots and lots of wine. The first series can be found here: http://thelostcat.libsyn.com/ He is also currently demo-ing his latest album. The previous album, called ‘Bedrooms & Basements’ can be found here: Bedrooms And Basements, by A.P. Clarke

Squirrels, Foxes and Other Fine Specimens
By Gareth D Jones

It was still dark beneath the trees, though the sun had risen half an hour earlier. It was cool too – even in midsummer the park woodland stayed shady. Yorick settled himself into a comfortable crouch leaning against the bole of a tree and enjoyed the peaceful sounds of the early morning. Birdsong and rustling leaves and the pattering of tiny, unseen feet. Hard to believe they were less than a hundred yards from the streets of central London. The streets would be almost empty at this early hour – the reason Sandy chose such an unsocial hour to take his clients into the park – but even in rush hour the sonic mufflers that encircled the park would keep that noise at bay. A grunting noise reached his ears and Yorick peered through the undergrowth to a large, dark shape that stood less than twenty feet away.

It was a wild boar. A massive, ugly brute of a boar that glared at him in a most unfriendly fashion. It grunted again, switched to a challenging snort. Saliva dribbled from its jaw as it thrust a pair of worryingly large tusks in his direction. Yorick had no idea if the creature was warning him off or saying hello, but it did not, on balance, appear too friendly. He had no real knowledge of wild boar behaviour. He only worked with dead animals generally.

The boar pawed the ground. Yorick glanced up. There were branches just about within reach. He was fairly sure boars could not climb trees. Where was Sandy? His clients were supposed to be hunting boar and wolves. Why weren’t they hunting this one?

With a final grunt and toss of its head, the boar charged.

EP408a: Eugie Award Re-Post of Immersion

 

Eugene Foster

Eugene Foster

Escape Artists would like to draw your attention to a fantastic event happening next week at DragonCon, the Eugie Foster Memorial Award for Short Fiction. http://www.eugiefoster.com/eugieaward

This annual award will be presented for the first time in 2016—for works published in 2015.

The Eugie Award honors stories that are irreplaceable, that inspire, enlighten, and entertain. It will shine the spotlight on stories that are beautiful, thoughtful, and passionate. That change us and the field. The recipient will be a story that is unique and will become essential to speculative fiction readers.

 The finalists for this award are:

  • “The Deepwater Bride” by Tamsin Muir
  • “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong 
  • “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” by Catherynne M. Valente
  • “Pocosin” by Ursula Vernon 
  • “Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight” by Aliette De Bodard

To highlight how fantastic these authors are, we are re-running three stories on Escape Pod, PodCastle, and Pseudopod: 

Escape Pod 408: Immersion by Aliette De Bodard
http://escapepod.org/2016/08/25/ep408a-eugie-award-re-post-of-immersion/

Podcastle 198: Urchins, While Swimming by Catherynne M. Valente
http://podcastle.org/2012/02/28/podcastle-198-urchins-while-swimming/

Pseudopod 492: The Fisher Queen by Alyssa Wong
http://pseudopod.org/2016/08/25/pseudopod-492-redux/

Also make sure to check out Ursula Vernon’s story “Jackalope Wives” available to read for free at Mothership Zeta. http://mothershipzeta.org/2015/09/21/issue-0-of-mothership-zeta-is-here/ And mark November on your calendar for an upcoming story by Tamsin Muir.

——————————————————————————–

Ms Foster has been featured as an author and a narrator on all of the Escape Artists podcasts. We encourage you to revisit them all.

http://escapepod.org/2005/09/01/ep017-the-life-and-times-of-penguin/
http://escapepod.org/2006/02/02/ep039-my-friend-is-a-lesbian-zombie/
http://escapepod.org/2007/08/30/ep121-the-snow-womans-daughter/
http://escapepod.org/2009/09/03/ep214/
http://escapepod.org/2009/12/18/ep229-littleblossom-makes-a-deal-with-the-devil/
http://escapepod.org/2010/10/07/ep261-only-springtime-when-shes-gone/
http://escapepod.org/2013/03/21/ep388-trixie-and-the-pandas-of-dread/

http://pseudopod.org/2008/05/23/pseudopod-91-caesars-ghost/
http://pseudopod.org/2009/04/10/pseudopod-137-the-reign-of-the-wintergod/
http://pseudopod.org/2012/01/20/pseudopod-265-biba-jibun/
http://pseudopod.org/2013/07/19/pseudopod-343-magdala-amygdala/

http://podcastle.org/2008/10/08/pc028-the-tanuki-kettle/
http://podcastle.org/2009/07/29/podcastle-63-daughter-of-botu/
http://podcastle.org/2010/05/25/podcastle-105-honored-guest/
http://podcastle.org/2011/11/22/podcastle-184-black-swan-white-swan/
http://podcastle.org/2010/01/02/podcastle-miniature-45-when-shakko-did-not-lie/

 

EP538: The Starsmith

STORY: EP538: The Starsmith
AUTHOR: Jonathan Edelstein
NARRATOR: James Odcombe
HOST: Tina Connolly

about the author…

Jonathan Edelstein is 44, married with cat, and living in New York City.  His work has appeared in Strange Horizons and the Lacuna Journal and is forthcoming in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  When not writing, he practices law and hopes someday to get it right.

about the narrator…

James Odcombe is a writer and storyteller who loves imaginary worlds and unusual characters. He’s British but grew up in Tanzania, East Africa. Now living in the UK, he pens tales of Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror.

 

The Starsmith
by Jonathan Edelstein

It took two years for Faji Doumbia to travel from Madankoro to Mutanda on the free trader Mweshi: two years of sleeping in cargo holds fragrant with spices and scented woods, two years of waiting on each world as the captain concluded his business, two years of jumping through the ichiyawafu and dreaming of the dead. He worked his passage, and there was time enough to learn the dead language that the ship’s computers spoke and discover how to tend machines that no living person could build. There was time enough to contract two ship-marriages, and by the time Faji came at last to Chambishi Port on the forty-ninth day of the Year of Migration 30,891, he had given a son to the ship-clans.

What he found when he took his leave of the Mweshi was both more and less than what he expected. Ninety thousand people lived in Chambishi Port, far more than any town on Madankoro, but forty million had lived there once, and the new city seemed like a collection of villages amid its former glory. Some of the towers north and east of the port were four kilometers tall: the war that destroyed the Union had gutted them, and after six hundred years forests grew in their upper stories, but they loomed over the thatched houses that lay between them, and from a few, the remnants of the High Streets and High Gardens hung crazily.

It was minutes before Faji could bring his eyes down from the towers to the ships – the ships hundreds and thousands of years old, that the Union had built and that now served its children. By then, the dockmen were well started in unloading the Mweshi. He stopped one and asked where the numusokala was, and when he got no answer, he remembered that the people here used different words. “Where are the… washiri?” he asked, remembering the word he’d been taught. “The blacksmiths?”

The dockman turned to the north. “You’re one of them?” he said. “Yes, you’ve got the look of one. That way, through the old city. You’ll hear the place, and even before that, you’ll smell it.”

There was a hint of distaste in the dockman’s voice, and he walked away as if he couldn’t leave quickly enough. That, too, wasn’t what Faji had expected.

EP531: Bend Back the Shadows

by Michael Reid
narrated by Summer Brooks

about the author…

I am a 2015 graduate of the Clarion Workshop, but I have no other publication credits.

about the narrator…

Summer is a bit of a television addict, and enjoys putting her scifi media geek skills to good use in interviewing guests for Slice of SciFi as a co-host from 2005-2009. She was previously the co-host for The Babylon Podcast and host of Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas, before returning to Slice of SciFi as host in August 2014.

She is an avid reader and writer of scifi, fantasy and thrillers, with a handful of publishing and voiceover credits to her name. Next on her agenda is writing an urban fantasy tale, and a B-movie monster extravaganza.

Currently, Summer designs and maintains websites for clients and for fun in addition to the Slice of SciFi websites, does voiceover & narrations for StarShipSofaTales to TerrifyFar Fetched Fables, and Crime City Central, among others.

 

Bend Back the Shadows
By Michael Reid

Month 669, Day 10

When I was a little girl, Grandma used to tell me scary stories about the day the lights went out on Earth. Back then, she said, there were lots of people on our station. People would come and go from Earth all the time in little gray capsules. And then, one day, the capsules had stopped coming. Soon after that, the messages had stopped coming on the radio. Everyone on the station had hovered by the windows like ghosts, watching day after day as plumes of smoke erupted from the hearts of the cities, their trails snaking across the continents.

“But that wasn’t the worst of it,” Grandma would tell me. “Not by a long shot.”

“What was worse?” I asked her once, between lessons on medicine and aquaponics.

Grandma looked away when she spoke. “The worst part was watching the night sweep across the Earth and seeing that the darkness was empty. No more lights. Just shadows.”

Grandma used to live down on Earth, a long time ago. She was a doctor–a brain doctor. She said that one of the reasons she came up to the station was to see Earth from space with her own eyes. She loved the day side with its browns and greens and blues, but I think she loved the lights on the night side even more. I’ve seen pictures from back then, back when the whole Earth was covered with cities that glowed yellow at night. The pictures reminded me of the diagrams of neurons Grandma used to show me on her slate: nuclear cities connected to dendritic suburbs, all bound together by axonal highways. Then the end had come. Night after night, the web of neurons had disintegrated, like a brain consumed by Alzheimer’s. Grandma and the others had watched it all happen, watched each city flare brightly for a few seconds, then disappear forever.

Our station orbits Earth once every four hours: two hours over the day side and two hours over the night. Grandma said that, every time the station caught up to the night, she would go to a window and pray that there would still be lights. One orbit, she had gone to the windows and there had been only one light left on the whole dark side of the planet. One tiny light, smack in the middle of the big continent–Africa, it was called, when there were still people on it. Orbit after orbit, she watched for that spot, prayed the whole time it was in daylight that it would still be there when the night returned. She would wish on it like an ember, praying for it to spark and spread. But one day, less than a year after the last capsule had come to the station, darkness swept over the place where the light had been and the light was gone.

Grandma said that was the single worst day of her life. Worse than leaving Grandpa behind on Earth. Worse than watching the city where he lived go dark. Worse than watching all those plumes of smoke circling the planet. She said watching that last light be engulfed by the shadows was more fearful than losing all of the rest combined. “But it won’t always be this way,” she told me. “Someday those lights are going to come back. Someday you’ll see just the tiniest flicker down there, but that one tiny flicker will spread and soon it will bend back all those shadows.”

EP: Metacast 0416

EscapePod

We wanted to give you a quick update of the goings-on at Escape Pod. It’s the first of what we expect to be many positive developments in 2016, so hold onto your socks!

EP526: The Hunter Captain

by David John Baker
narrated by Mat Weller

author David John Baker

author David John Baker

about the author… Aside from my philosophical essays, I also write short science fiction stories.  Some of these have been published in anthologies.

The Hunter Captain
by David John Baker

“The sign for the survivor’s species is ‘human,'” said Kyber, “although I am unsure of the exact pronunciation.”

Hunter Captain Sra examined the data feed, zooming in on an image of the human’s brain. “Have you discovered anything in her nervous system that might function as a seat of consciousness?” said Sra.

“There is one promising organ. An intersection here, between the two hemispheres of the brain. But we’ve found such things before, in highly developed animals. I see no particular reason for optimism.”

Although he knew it was naive, Sra was optimistic. For once his hunter’s skills might not be needed–if the human was in fact a sentient alien being. Although it meant Explorer Captain Kyber would retain command of the ship, the prospect of true first contact spoke to a dream Sra had cultivated since his infancy.

Sra was old enough to recall an earlier age, when no one believed that the Nampranth were alone. A time before their race journeyed outside the home system–before they found a galaxy infested with intelligent animals and bereft of sentient life.

Already this mission seemed different. Sra had never heard of a more auspicious contact. They’d found the alien ship alone, disabled–apparently by a freak collision with a cosmic string. Its single passenger was recovered still unconscious, its computer’s artificial animal dormant but intact. The animal’s architecture had so far resisted interface with Nampranth computers, but Kyber’s explorers had already learned much from the ship’s markings. It was a perfect opportunity for slow, cautious study before beginning the delicate process of contact.

“When do you plan to revive the human?” Sra said.

“Perhaps very soon. We can’t learn much more from noninvasive scans, especially given the number of cybernetic devices operating within her brain.”