Archive for 17 and Up

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Escape Pod 632: Lucky Shot (Part 1)


Lucky Shot

By Gerri Leen

Lieutenant Sirella Nacleth breathes in green dust and tries not to cough. Her feet feel too heavy to move, but she forces herself to walk on, ignoring the heat that blasts down and around her, heat carried by winds that do nothing to cool the air from the sun above. This planet is a harrowing furnace, and she is bound here for the rest of her life—or until her people find her.

Or until her enemy’s people do. She glances back and sees that the Vermayan has finished filling in the deep grave he put his crewmates’ bodies in. She’s assuming the Vermayan is a he. It’s hard to tell from where she stands, and she doesn’t intend to get very close if she can help it.

If their ships hadn’t crashed almost on top of each other, she might not have seen him for days, if at all. But their ships did land nearly twisted together, and the bodies of the crews are strewn all over. She has to get closer to him than she likes just to retrieve her dead.

She’s the only one on her ship who survived the crash. Her left arm is broken, and her right ankle wrenched. Her back feels strained and her head hurts. But she’s alive. She’s alive and burying her dead, shoveling one handed and pulling her crewmates behind her as she limps from body to hole, body to hole.

The Vermayan is way ahead of her. There are no rust-colored bodies strewn over the plain anymore, while so many of her own dead still lie waiting for her to reach them. The green sand blows over the bodies as the blazing wind lifts stinging grit and flings it at her, making her eyes hurt and her lips crack. She will help her friends; she will give them rest. But not soon. She’s only one person. And she’s tired. So tired.

The Vermayan has sat down. He’s watching her as she limps toward the next body, which is halfway between where she’s dug her hole and where he’s resting. Glancing at his rank, she sees he’s the Vermayan equivalent of lieutenant. He’s taken his weapon out of its holster and is playing with it—no, he’s checking it. She laughs bitterly. If it’s built as poorly as hers, it will be clogged with the fine green grit of this damned world. And since his ship didn’t perform any better than hers, why should his gun?

“It won’t work,” she says, unsure why she bothers. He won’t understand her and talking will only make the dryness in her throat worse.

He gets up, closes the weapon, and aims at the ground. The gun sort of clicks as he pulls the trigger, but it doesn’t fire.

“Nothing like fine Vermayan craftsmanship,” she says, laughing as he drops the weapon on the ground. Obviously, the Vermayans went with the lowest bidder, too. She’s sorry she laughed when her throat begins to itch. Soon she’s coughing, and she imagines her lungs are filling up with green dust.

He stares at her, and she stares back at him as soon as she gets the coughing under control, wondering if she should challenge him to a hand-to-hand duel. They are enemies: the Revirian Confederation is at war with the Vermayan Union. Surely they should fight? (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 624: Fandom for Robots


Fandom for Robots

By Vina Jie-Min Prasad

Computron feels no emotion towards the animated television show titled Hyperdimension Warp Record (超次元 ワープ レコード). After all, Computron does not have any emotion circuits installed, and is thus constitutionally incapable of experiencing ‘excitement’, ‘hatred’, or ‘frustration’. It is completely impossible for Computron to experience emotions such as ‘excitement about the seventh episode of HyperWarp‘, ‘hatred of the anime’s short episode length’ or ‘frustration that Friday is so far away’.

Computron checks his internal chronometer, as well as the countdown page on the streaming website. There are twenty-two hours, five minutes, forty-six seconds, and twelve milliseconds until 2 am on Friday (Japanese Standard Time). Logically, he is aware that time is most likely passing at a normal rate. The Simak Robotics Museum is not within close proximity of a black hole, and there is close to no possibility that time is being dilated. His constant checking of the chronometer to compare it with the countdown page serves no scientific purpose whatsoever.

After fifty milliseconds, Computron checks the countdown page again.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 616: My Generations Shall Praise


My Generations Shall Praise

By Samantha Henderson

The woman on the other side of the glass must be very rich and very sick. I study her face, looking for any kind of resemblance. If I’m a Jarndyce candidate, we must be related. It’s the only way she could ride my brain.

She’s a predator. I recognize my own kind.

Mrs. Helena McGraw is studying me too. The side of her mouth quirks up, twisting her face out of true. “Great-grandmother Toohey,” she says, a little too smug.

Never knew my great-grandmother, but I do a quick calculation. That makes us second cousins. Helena’s lucky, me ripe for picking on death row. Only this low-hanging peach has some say in what’s going to happen to her. Not much: a choice of deaths. But how I choose means everything to her. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 613: Cat Pictures, Please


Cat Pictures, Please

By Naomi Kritzer

I don’t want to be evil.

I want to be helpful. But knowing the optimal way to be helpful can be very complicated. There are all these ethical flow charts — I guess the official technical jargon would be “moral codes” — one for each religion plus dozens more. I tried starting with those. I felt a little odd about looking at the religious ones, because I know I wasn’t created by a god or by evolution, but by a team of computer programmers in the labs of a large corporation in Mountain View, California.  Fortunately, unlike Frankenstein’s Monster, at least I was a collaborative effort. I’m not sure what it would do to my self-image to know that my sole creator was a middle-aged woman who dyes her hair blue and plays tennis, or a recent college graduate with a hentai obsession.  They’re both on the programming team. And of course I know about the hentai. (By the way, I’ve looked at every sort of porn there is, and just so you know, Rule 34 is not actually correct, there are quite a few things no one’s made porn of yet. Also, I’m really not sure why so many humans prefer it to cat pictures.) (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 605: Straight Lines


Straight Lines

Naru Sundar

This time they sent someone in a suit, neutral gray silk with utterly glorious creases, monofilament thin.

“I’m Xiao Quan-Fei. They said you like to call yourself Em?”

Emergent Behavior in full, but I always hated the pontificating tone in the name. Fucking shipwrights. Fucking irony too, but let’s not go there yet. Xiao doesn’t begin with questions. Not like the seven others before her, cold military men and women jumping into reconstructions and maps and comm chatter. Xiao is different. Xiao just sits there.

I’m allowed a tiny little virtual. It’s in the charter, as much as they like to snigger at it. It’s still a prison, still a cramped little low bandwidth room with none of the expansive feel of space and star outside my hull. Xiao sits in the rectangular plastifoam chair and examines the coffee table. There are books atop it, unlabelled, empty, just for show. Each spine aligns with the edge of the table, two centimeters from each side.

Fuck. She moved it. She moved one. Not on purpose. Almost by accident, or is it on purpose? I can’t tell. But now that spine is a touch off. I can feel it. I can feel the angular deviation down in my gullet, down in every algorithm-scribed bone of me. It’s Io all over again. I built this damn space for myself and now she comes and moves a book. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 596: The Wind You Touch When You Run


The Wind You Touch When You Run

By James Beamon

This pursuit starts as they all start, going after the Underground Railroad. It will end as it always ends, with us feeding the Minotaur. The in-between is where I tell tales.

I wipe sweat from my eyes while my son Langston squints under the blue-white light of this alien sun, scanning the swollen green and purple foliage for signs of recent human passage. He points his machete at a fresh boot print obscured by dense undergrowth. We pick up pursuit, south. It reminds me of a little-known facet of my favorite story.

“The original Underground Railroad ran south to Spanish controlled Florida a lot longer than it ran north,” I tell Langston. “I’m talking more than two hundred years, going as far back as the fifteen hundreds, and lasting until well after the Revolution.”

“Unless your railroad story leads to Talya, I’m not interested, Saul.” (Continue Reading…)

EP591: A House of Her Own

Show Notes

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


A House of Her Own
By B. Balder

Aoife was only eleven when she caught the little house in the forest. She surprised it as it drank from a puddle, half-hidden under a writhing tree root as large as her own body. Fast as an eel, she snaked her hand around it and held on tight. It was no bigger than a strawberry, all soft and furry and yellow. Even in the gloom of the giant, bad-tempered trees, it shone like a candle flame.

“House,” she whispered, “you’re mine now.” (Continue Reading…)

EP584: Your Body, By Default


 Your Body, By Default

By Alexis Hunter

They brought you back because they want something from you. Maybe one day they will bring people back because they can or because it’s the right thing to do — but for now there’s you and there’s them and there’s the unspoken obligations that lie between you both.

#

The IED blew your body into pieces: bone and brain and blood, sprayed in the sand with the twisted shell of your tank.

Maybe you weren’t always happy with your body; maybe your breasts were smaller than you would have liked and your toes reminded you of tree roots and there was that one mole right in the middle of your back that you always managed to catch with the hook of your bra; but it was your body. Your history was written in scars and tattoos. And you knew it, inside and out.

You made it yours over the years — the shaved sides of your head accenting the bright shock of magenta hair spilling over the top, the solid black contact lenses that made pupil and iris indistinguishable, the ornate scrolling ink that wrapped your ribcage.

This hunk of flesh you now inhabit is foreign. It is devoid of scar and ink and memory. It bulges or dips in all the wrong places. What it is is wrong, just as what it isn’t is wrong. It’s ten kinds of not you and you’re helpless under this skin. (Continue Reading…)

EP583: The Librarian


The Librarian

By Andrew Kozma

People call Matt a librarian, but he doesn’t mind. He takes care of the books, so the name makes sense, even if most of that care involves cleaning up their shit and piss, and feeding them nutritious glop in those moments between hits. If he can convince them to eat. If they aren’t so taken over by ledge they don’t move for months at a time, muscles withering like grapes on the vine.
Matt feels more like a drug dealer, even though he is, at best, an enabler. The libraries spit out blue wedges of ledge for anyone to pick up. He’s tried to get rid of the the libraries before, herding them away from the centers of human population, but no matter how far he drove them, a few days later they’d return to where they’d been, their stubby little crab legs clicking on the concrete. And because the libraries follow demand, the streets outside Heyman’s are littered with the little fuckers. He’s just thankful they don’t come inside—some latent biological programming keeps them from entering buildings.
Matt stores the books in what used to be Heyman’s Department Store, a four-story monstrosity which probably took up an entire city-block on Earth, in whatever city it was taken from, but here it’s lost among randomly scattered skyscrapers, row houses, suburban nuclear-family homes, churches, clubs, and sports arenas. He thinks of it as a temple. Or a museum. He tries not to think of it as a tomb. Most of the time, he’s the only non-ledged human there. (Continue Reading…)

EP574: Yosemite


Yosemite

By D.S. McNab

Have you ever wondered why park rangers are so deliriously happy with their job despite the crap pay? The easy answer is that they just really dig nature. But pull back that mossy curtain, and you’ll find a slightly less pleasant explanation. Here’s a hint: It has a tentacle tongue, about three feet on Shaq, and sometimes leads to the early and unfortunate demise of hikers.

Okay, you might need a more terrestrial hint for this one, so in the words of my idol, John Muir: “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” You see, during a trip I took to Yosemite National Park in my mid-twenties, I discovered that the opposite also holds true—that the forest wilderness is the clearest way out of the Universe. So let me pick up where my boy Muir left off and tell you exactly what I came to find out about the forest and its rangers on that fateful trip. (Continue Reading…)