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!
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.”
about the narrator… Carl Allery has sold a couple of stories (Farthing Magazine, Killers ed. Colin Harvey), had a couple read out loud (BBC local radio, Escape Pod) and had a couple placed in short story contests (Jim Baen Memorial, Heinlein Society Centennial). He lives in Somerset, UK with 2 Feline Overlords and needs to write more.
Williams perceives a world of hazy reds and angular grays. He sees through smoke and through walls. He sees the fury of fires and the sparks of life in survivors hundreds of yards away. He sees every crack and buckle in the structure around him.
Most importantly, he can’t see Chicago’s burning skyline as it would look to his own eyes.
The bulky door barring him from the interior of Waldron Arcology shudders as Williams’ gauntlet-mounted saw tears through its hinges, then falls outward. McIlrath, Principe, and Armstrong catch it, lowering it to the ground while Williams’ saw retracts. Team Leader Garcia shouts commands.
The room beyond is an inferno. The five step aside, and a great blast of fire-retardant dust blasts from the Vertical Take-Off/Landing transport on the landing pad.
They advance into what had been the terminal for the 150th floor’s south landing pad. Williams takes the lead, metal ringing under his 500-pound weight with every step. There’s no need for anyone in full Evac Team Armor to wait for the fire to go out; extinguishing it isn’t for their benefit.
Fire-choking sodium chloride and melting thermoplastics spread across every surface, covering everything but sparing Williams nothing. He sees through it as if it were air, sees the skeletal ultrasound reflections of every person who died here.
They died very quickly, Williams reminds himself. One of the floor’s main corridors runs straight through the center of the building to here. The shock wave of superheated atmosphere and debris had been channeled towards this place unimpeded, crushing and incinerating them before they could have registered what was happening.
He hopes. He hopes most of the 150,000 people living here died that way.
Thirteen districts rebelled against the country that fed them, loved them, protected them. Brother turned on brother until nothing remained. And then came the peace, hard fought, sorely won. A people rose up from the ashes and a new era was born. But freedom has a cost. When the traitors were defeated, we swore as a nation we would never know this treason again.
And so it was decreed, that each year, the various districts of Escape Artists would offer up in tribute, 500 word stories to fight to the death in a pageant of honor, courage and sacrifice. The three champions, bathed in riches, would serve as a reminder of our generosity and our forgiveness. This is how we remember our past. This is how we safeguard our future. We are in the finals. Stories are published on a members-only section of the forums, so come join and participate today.
The culling has begun! Stories are being released every couple days in groups of 11 or 12. You may choose up to three from each group to move on to the next round.
stay tuned, the second round of voting will follow soon!
about the author…
Beth Goder worked as an archivist at Stanford before becoming a full-time mom to wonderful twin girls. Now she enjoys writing speculative fiction stories about archives, memory, records, and the relationship between the past and present. She has a degree in information science from the University of Michigan and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
about the narrator…
Andrea Richardson is a British singer and actress. With extensive stage and film performances to her name, she began narration and voice over work fairly recently, but enjoys using her existing skills in a different way. You can find Andrea at www.andrea-richardson.co.uk and www.castingcallpro.com/uk/view.php?uid=507734
After just three years, most of Gurt’s downtown was nearly unrecognizable. Roldan Street boasted a new tea shop, and the roads had been repaved with greenish eco-tar. Even the old sign at Marta’s Bakery, which had been shaped like a pink cupcake, was replaced with sleek blue lettering.
Score another one for the prophetic soup.
The library sported new windows, stained glass whorls of teal and gold, while Grocery Plus had removed the panoramic window which used to overlook the river. That was the first thing I noticed when I came back, the windows.
I’d spent a lot of time looking out of windows, back when I lived in Gurt. I couldn’t go outside during the dust storms, because of my asthma, so I’d waited inside wherever I happened to be when the storm hit. But dust is all the same, just one blank, swirling vortex, so instead of watching the storms I started looking at the windows. Marta’s Bakery used to have the most beautiful violet windows, circular, like a morning bun with icing on top. Not that I eat morning buns, anymore.
I promised myself when I moved away from Gurt that I’d never come back, not after Sara left me at the altar. On the day of our wedding, I waited for hours at the church window (clean, but with the latch rusted off), fingering the beading on my beautiful white dress, while all of the guests snuck out, except for my family, who had transported in for the ceremony. Dad enveloped me in a hug, while Mom said that she had never liked Sara anyway, reminding me of the time Sara had ruined our trip to Seldar by whining about the swamp smell. It helped, but not very much.
by Victorya Chase
narrated by Serah Eley
with guest host Charity Helton
about the author…
I’m a writer. I’m a teacher. I have taught doctors how to write poetry. I have taught fiction classes to university students. I have taught adults how to write about themselves.
I love creative writing research and have published in that realm. I’ve also presented at conferences across the country, both academic and in the speculative realm.
Life is forever intriguing. Come explore it with me.
about the narrator…
Serah Eley is a software developer and former podcaster who once produced a weekly science fiction podcast called Escape Pod; you can find it at escapepod.org. It’s since gone on to become somewhat successful. She strangely mispronounced her name as Steve Eley at the time; she’s since realized that life is much more fun as a woman, and came out as transgender last year. Serah lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her two wives, Alison and Cat. So if there were ever any betting pools on what happened to Steve: changed sex, joined a committed lesbian love triangle is the dark horse winner. She is, obviously, still Having Fun.
“Riley’s a Godsend, isn’t she?” Lily asked.
We were standing in the doorway of our daughter, Absidee’s, bedroom watching her sleep. She started to stir, face contorting in the fear of a nightmare surfacing, when Riley put a glowing paw up and patted her on the cheek. Her face immediately softened.
I sighed. How was it that Riley could do what I couldn’t?
Four years ago I gave birth to our daughter, a blessing and symbol of our blessing. Absidee was a fairy tale in each and every laugh and gurgle. But, a child who had nightmares so terrible she’d wake us up with her screaming even when she was too young to talk. We kept her in our bed, and still she couldn’t sleep. Absidee shouldn’t have been aware of anything terrible, not in the overprotective home of two first-time mothers.
When Absidee turned three her pediatrician warned us about the long term effects of helicopter parenting, especially with both of us hovering like news copters at a crash. Since birth she had slept with us, the crib at the end of our bed empty most nights, her screams waking me and her little body lashing out in night terrors. We conceded to her own room. This only meant that her yells echoed down the halls. At four she was lingual and no longer spoke in just the gurgling speech of babies. I heard her murmur the name from her dreams and realized my trauma was transferred through the womb; the umbilical cord a pump of memories into her tiny growing body.
I had never even told Lily the name of my abuser no matter how many times we spoke in hushed tones about the experiences I somehow survived. And suddenly it was on the lips of Absidee.
about the author…
Alanna is an upcoming science fiction and fantasy writer. She has worked in a variety of mediums, from short stories to novels to audio scripts, and across a range of locations, stretching the span of the country from New York to Minnesota to her current location in the Bay Area of California. She is always looking for ways to expand her repertoire and get involved in her next project.
Follow her work on Twitter at @AlannaMcFall, or on her website, alannamcfall.wordpress.com. And keep an eye out for her upcoming short stories with Mad Scientist Journal (http://madscientistjournal.
about the narrator…
Aisha sighed and stared down the pile completely obscuring her in-tray. Maybe if she glared at it long enough, it would shrink under the full power of her frustration. She could see scraps of different alphabets scrawled across the pages, everything from the swooping curves of Arabic to the dots and jagged spikes of Ortaxaben. A small cube on the top of the pile was a form written in three-dimensional Kem script, and would take over an hour to get into English. If she had to translate it into Sssstip it could take all day, taking concepts with a million shades of grey built into the letters themselves and synthesizing it into a language with less than two hundred words.
It was days like these that she dreaded even coming into the office. Everyone had told her that she was crazy to take a job at the Extraterrestrial Community Outreach and Legal Assistance Bureau, had told her that she could get a much better job somewhere else, but had she listened? No, she had been all starry eyed, almost literally, about helping the visitors to Earth and representing her planet. Five years later, she was tempted to shove everything that wasn’t strictly confidential in a box, take it home, and do her work in her pajamas while eating cereal. She hadn’t entirely ruled out that option for the day. But for the moment she was here, and there was nothing else to it but to buckle down and get to work.
Near the top of the pile there was a notice on a Shess Global Languages refresher course being held in two weeks; Aisha rubbed her temples. She couldn’t really complain, when being even just familiar in SGLs would guarantee her bills were always paid. But the reason almost no other translators bothered with them, the reason there were such frequent refresher courses, was that the languages changed on an almost daily basis. In a sentient, advanced species with a lifespan of little more than a decade, the Shess youth learned fast and made their own indelible marks on the dialects in the few years it took them to reach adolescence. Dialects shifted and melted together and moved apart, slang came into and went out of style before it could be studied, and at best estimation, the SGL set contained at least four hundred different languages. Aisha could just barely claim fluency in the three most spoken on Earth, and it was a fight to keep up.
But she knew it was an important fight. So many of the cases she was brought in to translate for were a complete mess. Humans gouging Shess at every turn because they knew the legal proceedings could drag out over years. Why charge your Shess tenants a fair rent when they could literally grow old and die in the time it took to cut through the legal jargon of the alien amnesty laws? Anything that could make matters go faster was a godsend to the legal aids.
Aisha just did not want to think about this today: about unfair practices and abuses and the mundane worsts that any species could offer. She looked at the pile of paper and all she saw was a mess of trouble, waiting for her to start to untangle it. Even if she wasn’t the one to deal with the next steps, even if she would be handing it over to the social workers and paralegals once it was translated, it still tired her. She was so, so tired.