Archive for 10 and Up

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Escape Pod 610: The Sweetness at the End


The Sweetness at the End

By Jenny Rae Rappaport

This is how it happens:

Tony and Ma are in their seats in the skimmer, strapped in and grinning at us. Daddy and I kiss them good bye; take a photo of them in their spacesuits for posterity, and wave at them. We stay behind at the Kennedy Space Center–there’s a viewing room that has live GPS tracking available for suborbital flights.

This is a huge thing for Ma. Positively, absolutely huge. She’s wanted to go to space since she was a little girl, and watched that old space shuttle explode on TV. The one with the teacher and all. Way before I got here, of course.

No one takes you to space when you’re old. Or if you take a medicine or two, here and there, because again–old. Old rules you out of almost everything fun. Money can overrule some of the old, but we don’t have that much money.

But then, Tony got his suborbital license. And no one regulates who you take up in a SubOrb plane; as long as you file your flight plan in advance, the government can’t really say anything. So Ma was going to get to go up as far as they would let her, all without having to pay anything to the expensive SubOrb tour companies. Tony had managed to snag the use of a plane from a guy he knew from training; otherwise, it would have still been way too expensive.

So there we are, Daddy and I, bumming around the viewing room. I’ve got one of those new sodas that are dispensed in round bubbles made of stiffened sugar; you can literally eat the can after you’re done with them. Beats the hell out of recycling it, any day. Daddy is tapping his fingers, as he stares at the GPS screen.

“They’ll be over Europe soon,” he says.

“Yeah,” I say.

We watch together, as they cross the Atlantic, swooping northeast, their flight path tracked in gold on the map in front of us. We’re one of the only flights today–Christmas is not a popular SubOrb day–so we have the viewing center mostly to ourselves. The fat couple to the left are clutching hands and praying, as a purple line streaks south over India. To my right, there’s a little old man, a cane across his lap, and his eyes fixed on the red line that’s near Australia.

I’m getting to the bottom of my soda bubble, almost to the part I love best, when I can eat the crunchy outside. I start slurping, ignoring Daddy’s silent looks; I never did have very good manners.

And then, our line stops moving over Spain. It hangs on the map, a golden thread from here to there, suspended in time. We stare at it, willing it to keep moving, to keep doing the grand jete it’s making over the rest of the continent.

But we know. You always know. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 609: Wasps Make Honey


Wasps Make Honey

By Penelope Evans

The scrap heaps at the edge of the settlement are taller than the average colony building. They offer up next to nothing good. But the factory doesn’t want either of us anymore. Power cells don’t come cheap now. In fact, they barely come at all. “Sometimes I think we should give up on this,” Jax tells me, leaning on a big busted-up engine piece—an oscillator from a collector class ship or something of equal size. This is her half of the argument, where she begs me to give up. She has a lot of arguments, and they are all at least mildly convincing and a little hurtful. I’m getting old (true), she’s getting old (also true), sooner or later her drivers will fail and I could be doing better things with my time (true and true).

“I’m not giving up on you anytime soon.” This is my half. My half is not an argument, more a refusal to argue. It infuriates Jax. It makes her tv-screen face go fizzy red and yellow. I’ll hike up the closest heap and heft out something funny and wave it at her, and if she’s really sulking, sometimes toss it down at her so she has to dodge on many-times repaired joints. And some days, she’ll chuck something back, so I have to dodge too, even with my bad knee. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 607: Red in Tooth and Cog


Red in Tooth and Cog

By Cat Rambo

A phone can be so much. Your memory, your edge against boredom, your source of inspiration. There’s always an app for whatever you need. Renee valued her phone accordingly, even celebrating it by giving way to the trend for fancy phone-cases. Its edges were bezeled with bling she’d won on a cruise the year before, and she’d had some tiny opals, legacy of her godmother, set into the center.

It was an expensive, new-model phone in a pretty case, and that was probably why it was stolen. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 606: Home Sick


Home Sick

By M. Darusha Wehm

I was encoding a batch of classic ebooks when the ulu-aliki walked in to the library, the outdoors scent of gardenias and overripe mangoes following him. “Afternoon, chief,” I said, pushing my chair back a bit. Joseph Seru spoke Tuvaluan with his family and the other council members, but his English was so much better than my Tuvaluan would ever be. Besides, even though less than ten percent of us were Aussies or Kiwis, the official language on the SPIT was English.

“Hey ya, Sally,” he answered, lacking his usually jovial demeanour.

“You looking for something in particular?” I asked. The island’s chief was a voracious reader and a bit of a film buff. I usually gave him first crack at the new titles I managed to snag off the satellite internet connection.

“Sort of,” he said, the last remains of his smile disappearing. “You, I guess.”

I frowned. “What’s up, chief?” I asked.

“I’ve got something for the blog.” (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 604: Given Sufficient Desperation


Given Sufficient Desperation

By Bogi Takács

An ice cream cone.

A ceramic mug—brown with a single green stripe around the rim.

A smartphone—I don’t recognise the brand. It’s been a while.

Two sheaves of corn.

A plush caterpillar toy from some cartoon.

A table—rather worn, I’d say Danish Modern, but I’m not sure.

I need a break. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 600: At the Rialto

Show Notes

“At the Rialto” was a 1990 Hugo nominee and the 1990 Nebula winner for best novelette.


At the Rialto

By Connie Willis

Seriousness of mind was a prerequisite for understanding Newtonian physics. I am not convinced it is not a handicap in understanding quantum theory.
—EXCERPT FROM DR. GEDANKEN’S KEYNOTE ADDRESS TO THE 1989 INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF QUANTUM PHYSICISTS ANNUAL MEETING, HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA

I got to Hollywood around one-thirty and started trying to check into the Rialto. “Sorry, we don’t have any rooms,” the girl behind the desk said. “We’re all booked up with some science thing.”

“I’m with the science thing,” I said. “Dr. Ruth Baringer. I reserved a double.”

(Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 597: Ms. Figgle-DeBitt‘s Home for Wayward A.I.s


Ms. Figgle-DeBitt’s Home for Wayward A.I.s

By Kurt Pankau

I watch with hope as Ms. Figgle-DeBitt samples a slice of caramelized banana upside-down cake. She takes a nibble and seems pleased. She sweeps cybernetic fingers through the shock of gray hair that sits on the human half of her face, a gesture I’ve learned is contemplative. She takes a larger bite, chews, and grimaces. She spits it out into a trash can.

I’m not upset by this. I do not get upset. I get better.

“This is definitely an improvement, Charlie,” she says. “If I may make a recommendation? Next time, peel the bananas first.” (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 595: Islands in the Dark


Islands in the Dark

By Sarah Goldman

Road out from Kaysee was boring as ever. The kids we’d picked up this time weren’t anything to sneeze at: soft-spoken boy with eyes too teched up to blink, real young bratty kid who kept trying to backseat drive me from the hatch of a goddamn pickup, and a girl I hadn’t quite gotten a read on yet. Made me nervous. New things tended to do that. Hal would know their names and their stories, hers included, but that wasn’t my job; socializing was his thing and driving was mine. Talking hasn’t ever been my strong suit. Neither has caring. But I was curious.

I let Hal take the wheel and swung myself back into the hatch. Quiet boy with the bright eyes spoke to me first. Asked me my name and rubbed at the place behind his ear where we’d cut the interface out. Thanks to the spray-on shit Hal kept around, it was scarring up already. We’d grabbed a few cans while we were in the city—we could grow a lot out here, but medical supplies could be hard to come by.

I said, “Call me Lanz.”

“You’re going the wrong way,” the bratty kid told me.

“And how would you know?” I asked. “You ever been out here before?”

“Once, on a bet,” she said. She tucked her hair back and wrinkled her nose. “I made it two hours before my ears hurt too much.”

“We’re going the right way,” said the inscrutable girl. Not soft but not loud either: steady like a lighttrain locked to its tracks. She didn’t say it like she trusted me. It was like she just knew better than the rest of us. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 593: Planetbound


Planetbound

By Nancy Fulda

There’s a moment that comes, the first time you step on the rim of a planet, when you suddenly realize how breakable you are. When you finally understand that despite the bone density treatments, despite the braces cradling your back and legs, despite the half-dozen hands that support your first faltering steps down the hallway, you will never be more than a hair’s breadth from disaster. A false step, an unexpected nudge, even the tilt of your own head could send you toppling. It’s worse – much worse – than you expected, and for five panicked heartbeats you consider retreating. It’s not too late to grab a flight back to the orbitals, to float again in those serene, majestic habitats. But no. There is something to be learned here; something important. Something that cannot be understood except through the eyes of a floater. And so you grit your teeth and slide your foot awkwardly forward, into this strange new existence.

It is a perilous reality, chaotic and unintuitive. Cloth leaps in strange directions. Objects zip away if you release them. Even the sounds are different. It’s like someone has erased the laws of the universe and written the equations anew.

On the next step something goes wrong and you jolt sideways. Shouts. Hands beneath your shoulders. Your arm flails outward and knocks a vase from a table. It clatters to the ground and stays there, water clinging to the tiles like a living creature. (Continue Reading…)

EP592: When All the Clocks Are Wrong


When All the Clocks Are Wrong
By Beth Goder

Jen locks her bike and heads towards the theater. She needs a break from studying, but more importantly, she needs to find Ash, who has her Soil Science notes. Jen promises herself she won’t try to kiss Ash–they’ll see the midnight movie, Ash will hand her the notes, and then, summer vacation. That’s it.

Before she reaches the theater, Jen feels a familiar frisson, disorienting, dizzying. When the red lights of the marquee blink 12:45 a.m., Jen isn’t surprised. The clock thing is happening again. She left her house with enough time to meet Ash outside, buy a ticket, grab a soda. But now, it’s 12:45 a.m. One hour later than it should be.

All her life, time has disappeared like this. (Continue Reading…)