Tag: "Rajan Khanna"

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EP363: Flowing Shapes

By Rajan Khanna
Read by Josh Roseman
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared in Basement Stories Issue 1 (2010)
All stories by Rajan Khanna
All stories read by Josh Roseman
Rated 17 and up for sexual situations

Flowing Shapes
Rajan Khanna

Part One: Contemplation

The human came to She Shalu on the Day of Flowering Awareness. Damo met him near the Still Garden, the fumes of the exiting shuttle mixing with the sharp spice of the tall, white twizak plant. Damo wore a humanoid shape so as to minimize the stranger’s discomfort.

Damo studied the human with the practiced eyes of a Synan. Dark hair covered his head and parts of his body, and he was sleight of build, despite the solidity of his form. About 1.7 meters tall. His features were mostly smooth, bones prominent, eyes with the barest hint of a slant. A mouth surrounded by full lips.

“How may I help you?” Damo said, trying to sound gracious.

“I came to study Wan She,” the human said.

Damo felt his features flow with his astonishment. Perhaps he had not heard correctly, or his translation module was malfunctioning. “I am sorry,” he said. “Wan She is the Path of Flowing Shapes. It is a Synan practice. Humans, being incapable of shifting, cannot practice it.”

The human smiled, revealing straight, white teeth. “I know. I’m writing a book,” he said. “But isn’t it true that the first stage is concerned solely with contemplation? Surely that is not beyond a human.”

Damo stifled his urge to shift in response to his unease. Uncontrolled shifting was against the teachings of Wan She. “That is true,” he said. “But Wan She is a path. Not a series of distinct teachings. To step on that path is to begin a journey.”

“All I ask is that you let me speak to your Tanshe. Let him decide.”

Damo was all too willing to accommodate the human in this. Let the Tanshe decide. It certainly saved Damo the trouble of having to assimilate this odd request.

“Please follow me,” he said.

He led the human through the Still Garden, inhaling the heady scent of it, delighting in its exoticness. Most of the students overlooked the Still Garden, and in doing so missed out on one of the true beauties of She Shalu.

They moved through the pearlescent designs of the sanctuary’s hallways to the Tanshe’s bubbled door. “Wait here,” Damo said, then entered.

The Tanshe was in an original form, multilimbed, eyeless, lacking both ears and nose. Turning inward. Her bright amber skin was splattered with black inky spots. She looked up as Damo entered, eyes appearing from inside her face. Damo let his features droop in the customary manner. “Tanshe, there is a human to see you.”

The Tanshe’s features flowed and shifted until they were almost exactly a human’s. “Send it in,” she said. “And wait outside.”

Damo’s skin settled. He was not to be involved in this discussion. It was good. The Tanshe would deal with it and send the human away. Damo did as the Tanshe asked.

He waited outside, letting his features relax into the default Synan shape. He’d worn the humanoid one as a courtesy, and because it was polite and expected, but he disliked it. It was distasteful. Too firm. Too set.

He waited for some time, then the door bubble opened. He quickly shifted back into his humanoid form and turned to face the human, now exiting. “She told me to send you in,” the human said.

Damo looked at the human’s firm, immobile face. So alien. So disgusting.

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EP345: The Paper Menagerie

By Ken Liu
Read by Rajan Khanna
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
All stories by Ken Liu
All stories read by Rajan Khanna
Rated 10 and up

 The Paper Menagerie
by Ken Liu

One of my earliest memories starts with me sobbing. I refused to be soothed no matter what Mom and Dad tried.

Dad gave up and left the bedroom, but Mom took me into the kitchen and sat me down at the breakfast table.

Kan, kan,” she said, as she pulled a sheet of wrapping paper from on top of the fridge. For years, Mom carefully sliced open the wrappings around Christmas gifts and saved them on top of the fridge in a thick stack.

She set the paper down, plain side facing up, and began to fold it. I stopped crying and watched her, curious.

She turned the paper over and folded it again. She pleated, packed, tucked, rolled, and twisted until the paper disappeared between her cupped hands. Then she lifted the folded-up paper packet to her mouth and blew into it, like a balloon.

Kan,” she said. “Laohu.” She put her hands down on the table and let go.

A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.

I reached out to Mom’s creation. Its tail twitched, and it pounced playfully at my finger. “Rawrr-sa,” it growled, the sound somewhere between a cat and rustling newspapers.

I laughed, startled, and stroked its back with an index finger. The paper tiger vibrated under my finger, purring.

Zhe jiao zhezhi,” Mom said. This is called origami.

I didn’t know this at the time, but Mom’s kind was special. She breathed into them so that they shared her breath, and thus moved with her life. This was her magic.

#

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EP333: Asteroid Monte

By Craig DeLancey
Read by Rajan Khanna
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared in Analog
All stories by Craig DeLancey
All stories read by Rajan Khanna
Rated 15 and up for language, drug abuse

Asteroid Monte
by Craig DeLancey

“You don’t look like an omnivore.”
I was supposed to spend the next several years working side-by-side
with this bear monster thing from an unpronounceable planet, and the
first words she speaks to me are these.
“Excuse me?”
“Your teeth are flat,” she hissed. “Like a herbivore’s.”
I had been waiting in the tiered square outside the Hall of Harmony,
main office of the Galactic police force officially called the
Harmonizers, but which everyone really called the Predators.
Neelee-ornor is one of those planets that makes me a believer. Cities
crowd right into forests as thick as the Amazon, and both somehow thrive
with riotous abandon. It proves the Galactic creed really means
something. Something worth fighting for. Something that could get me
to take this thankless job.
So I waited to meet my partner, as I sat on a cool stone bench under a
huge branch dripping green saprophytes. The air was damp but smelled,
strangely, like California after the rain, when I would leave CalTech
and hike into the hills. I almost didn’t want her to show, so I could
sit and enjoy it.
I really knew only three things about her. She had about two e-years
under her belt as a Predator. She was a Sussuratian, a race of fierce
bearlike carnivores evolved from predatory pack animals, only a century
ahead of humanity in entering Galactic Culture. And she was named
Briaathursiasaliantiormethessess.
God help me.
I rose awkwardly every time a Sussuratian passed, only to sit again
after it walked on. Finally I gave up, and then a moment later a
Sussuratian bounded out of the passing crowds, and addressed me with
this comment about my eating habits.
I sprung off the bench and bowed slightly. “I am Tarkos.” We were
talking Galactic. But my Galactic is pretty good, really. Better than
hers, I was betting. Her name, however, was a Sussuratian name, and in
that language a human larynx was hopeless. Well, here goes. “I am
honored to meet you Briaathursiasaliantiormethessess.”
She was about six feet long, with short dark fur that had black and
green and gold patterns in it reminiscent of a boa. She was a
quadraped, and walked on all fours, her claws clicking. Now she sat
back on her haunches and put her front hands together, threading the
seven claws on one hand through the seven on the other. The effect was
a Kodiak holding a bouquet of knives. Her four eyes — two large green
ones set below two small black ones — fixed on me.
“I am called Briaathursiasaliantiormethessess,” she said.

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EP311: The Faithful Soldier, Prompted

By Saladin Ahmed
Read by Rajan Khanna
Discuss on our forums.
First appeared in Apex Magazine
All stories by Saladin Ahmed
All stories read by Rajan Khanna

Special thanks to Hugo award winning Starship Sofa for allowing us to use Rajan Khanna’s narration that originally ran November 17, 2010.

Rated appropriate for 15 and older due to language.

The Faithful Soldier, Prompted
by Saladin Ahmed

If I die on this piece-of-shit road, Lubna’s chances die with me. Ali leveled his shotgun at the growling tiger. In the name of God, who needs no credit rating, let me live! Even when he’d been a soldier, Ali hadn’t been very religious. But facing death brought the old invocations to mind. The sway of culture, educated Lubna would have called it. If she were here. If she could speak.

The creature stood still on the split cement, watching Ali. Nanohanced tigers had been more or less wiped out in the great hunts before the Global Credit Crusade, or so Ali had heard. I guess this is the shit end of “more or less.” More proof, as if he needed it, that traveling the Old Cairo Road on foot was as good as asking to die.

He almost thought he could hear the creature’s targeting system whir, but of course he couldn’t any more than the tiger could read the vestigial OS prompt that flashed across Ali’s supposedly deactivated retscreens.

God willing, Faithful Soldier, you will report for uniform inspection at 0500 hours.

Ali ignored the out-of-date message, kept his gun trained on the creature.

The tiger crouched to spring.

Ali squeezed the trigger, shouted “God is greater than credit!”