Archive for 10 and Up

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…)

EP590: Four Seasons in the Forest of Your Mind

Show Notes

Thanks to our sponsor, ARCHIVOS – a Story Mapping and Development Tool for writers, gamers, and storytellers of all kinds!


Four Seasons in the Forest of Your Mind
By Caroline M. Yoachim

 

Spring

My tree is a pyramidal cell in the prefrontal cortex of your brain.

There are millions of us here, in the forest of your brain, each with our own region to tend.  My region is a single tree, for I am newly born, just as you are.  It is a lovely tree, with a long axonal root and majestic dendritic branches that reach outward to receive the signals of other neurons.  Like you, the tree is in a springtime state of frenetic growth, reaching its delicate tendrils to nearby cells and more distant targets.  The Omnitude has given me a simple task, a message that comes to me via the entanglement: Save this tree. (Continue Reading…)

EP589: Seb Dreams of Reincarnation

Show Notes

 

 

 

 

Thanks to our sponsor, ARCHIVOS – a Story Mapping and Development Tool for writers, gamers, and storytellers of all kinds!


 Seb Dreams of Reincarnation

By Aimee Ogden

They unplugged Seb’s neurodes at the end of his ten-year tour of duty. He’d known it was coming, had been told before he ever signed the contract that if they left him in any longer his health would start to deteriorate. What they hadn’t mentioned was that his health would deteriorate anyway. Once, Seb had kept six hundred people alive, responded instantly to their needs, and their wishes too when those fell within his power. He had carried them all in his belly, made them part of himself. He thought he would implode under the emptiness of having lost them.

Today, though, his only job was to leave his apartment: something he hadn’t done since the first week he’d moved in. He had groceries delivered, the occasional takeout, odds and ends as he needed them. Supermarkets and corner stores might as well have been on another planet. If they were, he might have actually cared to visit them. He stared out his ninth-floor window while trying to summon up a reason to go out, let alone the will to do so. His fleet-assigned shrink had given him the task and called it homework. Which was of course the exact opposite of what it actually was. Out-of-home work. (Continue Reading…)

EP588: Rocket Surgery

Show Notes

 

 

 

 

Thanks to our sponsor, ARCHIVOS – a Story Mapping and Development Tool for writers, gamers, and storytellers of all kinds!


Rocket Surgery

By Effie Seiberg

We’d tested plenty of missiles before, but Teeny was the only one that convulsed when we cut him open.

Oh, your viewers need more background? OK, I’ll back up a bit. Lemme tell ya, kids today don’t know their history. Even locked up in here for the past ten years, I can tell. No education. Good thing you’re getting the real story out.

Now. This was back when Hamazi was the supreme dictator of the Ambridian Republic, enemy number one. The whole military was buzzing about overthrowing him, and General Pitticks – I guess he’s Presidential Candidate Pitticks now – wanted to make a name for himself. So the weapons division got a lot of money to make something spectacular.

Previous missiles had AIs, of course. Precision navigation with plasma propulsion that could turn on a dime. Facial recognition to find the target and follow them. The Azimuth5900 could detect genetic debris to avoid hitting decoys, and the Tarzon-A-80’s nano-scales could rearrange to make the outer shell take on any shape to blend in with its surroundings, so if it needed to land to gather more intel it could camo without suspicious shadows giving it away.

But Teeny was something else altogether. (Continue Reading…)

EP586: The 1st Annual Lunar Biathlon


 The 1st Annual Lunar Biathlon

By Rachael K. Jones

Raji and I were always designing new torments for ourselves, and then calling them good, and running around the Moon was just the latest idea. We tattooed wedding bands on each other’s fingers after our courthouse elopement, and for good measure, each other’s names. Raji ran down my thumb, and Valanna nestled in his palm along the fleshy crease. We honeymooned outdoors in the dead of winter on the Appalachian Trail, eating garlic couscous boiled in a bag. When we got the flu, we shared it between us like a good book, like a tissue box passed from one nightstand to the other. He worshipped at the mosque, and I at the cathedral. We sinned extravagantly, and we repented extravagantly too. We prayed and fasted with devout abandon. We prided ourselves on our self-denial, on the stares we got when we kissed in our congregation parking lots.

We punished our bodies with crash diets and binge drinking. We took up brutal sports. We ran farther and farther each evening. Eventually, we quit our jobs to seek our limits.

We liked making love on beaches in the rain so the chill drove us closer together. We relished the friction of sand. We got sunburned just to drip aloe down each other’s backs at night. These things reminded us we were alive. Our families called us damned, and most days, we agreed, but this too delighted us. Like Dante, we wanted to pass through Hell at least once before we saw Paradise. (Continue Reading…)

EP585: We All Scream


We All Scream

By Marie Vibbert

We weren’t, any of us, heroes. Aiden was a downright chicken. I’m allowed to say that; I love him. My husband doesn’t have to live up to your expectations of masculinity. I’ll beat the crap out of anyone who says otherwise. Me? I don’t stick my neck out. I mind my own business, which is selling ice cream and looking after the twins. That’s Aiden’s business, too. We take turns driving the truck and keeping the kids from falling out of it.

It was Aiden driving that particular day. I was counting the money and finding that we’d gotten short-changed about the price of a dream bar at the playground stop – always happens when there’s a large crowd. Little scammers. (Continue Reading…)

EP582: Unit Two Does Her Makeup


Unit Two Does Her Makeup

By Laura Duerr

Doctor Spencer has brought me an artist. My eyes on the outside of the building register the identity of everyone who enters, including her: Suzanne Chantal Salinas, age 26, licensed esthetician and makeup artist, amateur painter. I cut the feed after .3 seconds. The security feed could tell me more, but I have learned that it is impolite to collect extraneous details about a person unless they prove to be a security risk. Given that both Suzanne Chantal Salinas and Doctor Spencer are smiling, and appear to be in companionable conversation, the artist is not a risk.
I observe them enter the building accompanied by a brief burst of cold — it is 37.1 degrees outside. When I view them through infrared, they are glowing red faces encompassed in green and blue jackets. I have been monitoring the interior temperatures; Unit One has made appropriate adjustments to climate control. We are keeping the building comfortable.
The visitor stamps her feet, brushes sleet from her black curls. They shed their jackets, blooming gold and scarlet on infrared. Unit Three has mobile security platforms posted by the front door and the elevators. They do not react: they are faceless, they don’t feel cold, the visitor has clearance.
The artist’s heart rate is elevated. Her cheeks are flushed, and not just from cold: she’s nervous about meeting me. She keeps looking at the security platforms. Perhaps she fears my platform will look like them, featureless and alien.
I chose my face. Unit Three chose hers, too, in a way. Our platforms serve different purposes, and the faces we built reflect that. (Continue Reading…)