Tag: "mur lafferty"

post thumbnail

EP338 – The Trojan Girl

By N. K. Jemisin
Read by Mur Lafferty
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared in Weird Tales
All stories by N. K. Jemisin
All stories read by Mur Lafferty
Rated 15 and up for language

The girl was perfect. Her framing, the engine at her core, the intricate web of connections holding her objects together, built-in redundancies… Meroe had never seen such efficiency. The girl’s structure was simple because she didn’t need any of the shortcuts and workarounds that most of their kind required to function. There was no bloat to her, no junk code slowing her down, no patchy sores that left her vulnerable to infection.

“She’s a thing of beauty, isn’t she?” Faster said.

Meroe returned to interface view. He glanced at Zo and saw the same suspicion lurking in her beatific expression.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Meroe said, watching Zo, speaking to Faster. “We don’t grow that way.”

“I know!” Faster was pacing, gesticulating, caught up in his own excitement. He didn’t notice Meroe’s look. “She must have evolved from something professionally-coded. Maybe even Government Standard. I didn’t think we could be born from that!”

They couldn’t. Meroe stared at the girl, not liking what he was seeing. The avatar was just too well-designed, too detailed. Her features and coloring matched that of some variety of Latina; probably Central or South American given the noticeable indigenous traits. Most of their kind created Caucasian avatars to start — a human minority who for some reason comprised the majority of images available for sampling in the Amorph. And most first avatars had bland, nondescript faces. This girl had clear features, right down to her distinctively-formed lips and chin — and hands. It had taken five versionings for Meroe to get his own hands right.

“Did you check out her feature-objects?” Faster asked, oblivious to Meroe’s unease.

“Why?”

Zo answered. “Two of them are standard add-ons — an aggressive defender and a diagnostic tool. The other two we can’t identify. Something new.” Her lips curved in a smile; she knew how he would react.

(Note: We secured only audio rights to this story, so there will be no website version.)

post thumbnail

EP334: The Eckener Alternative

By James L. Cambias
Read by Mur Lafferty
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared in All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories, edited by David Moles, 2004
All stories by James L. Cambias
All stories read by Mur Lafferty
Rated all ages. Zeppelins!

The Eckener Alternative
by James L. Cambias

The Hindenburg swung gently on the mast at Lakehurst as the sky over New Jersey turned to purple twilight.  All the passengers, the reporters, the newsreel men were gone.  A couple of sailors stood guard beneath the big ship to enforce the no-smoking rule.

John Cavalli waited until the watchman below had turned away, then slid down the stern rope to the ground.  He hunkered down next to the big rolling anchor weight for a couple of minutes, then hurried off into the darkness beyond the floodlights.

Once he was clear, Cavalli stopped to peel off the Russian army arctic commando suit he’d been wearing ever since the Zeppelin had lifted off from Frankfurt-am-Main.  It had kept him warm as he hid among the gas cells with his IR goggles and fire extinguisher, but now in the warmth of a spring evening it was stifling.

He hit the RETURN button on his wristband and disappeared.

post thumbnail

EP330: The Ghost of a Girl Who Never Lived

By Keffy R. M. Kehrli
Read by Mur Lafferty
Discuss on our forums.
Originally appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show.
All stories by Keffy R. M. Kehrli
All stories read by Mur Lafferty
Rated 13 and up

The Ghost of a Girl Who Never Lived
By Keffy R. M. Kehrli

I am Sara’s second body.

My first memory is of Sara’s resurrection in a room that smelled of cotton balls and hydrogen peroxide.

“That’s funny,” a man said.

The world felt raw, sore, and new. Under my back, my butt, my fingertips, I could feel every thread in the sheets beneath me. The blanket over my stomach scratched. Padded straps crossed my arms.

“What’s funny?” This voice was a woman’s.

“Got another error message,” the man answered. “Have you ever seen that one before?”

I felt the sheets with Sara’s fingers, and the texture conjured memories I didn’t have. I should have known where I was and what I was there for, but I couldn’t catch hold of the fleeting thoughts. In the dim light of the room I could only see the ceiling.

“Let me see.” I heard a frenzied clicking. “It failed twice?”

post thumbnail

EP324: Long Winter’s Nap

By Catherine H. Shaffer
Read by Mur Lafferty
Discuss on our forums.
First published in Analog, 2006
All stories by Catherine H. Shaffer
All stories read by Mur Lafferty

Nothing objectionable in this episode, except it may not be appropriate for the younger folk, as the story does discuss Santy Clawr.

Long Winter’s Nap
by Catherine H. Shaffer

“Eat,” said MooninMama, “You have a long winter ahead.” LittlestOne turned her head away as MooninMama lifted the spoon of raspberry pie dripping with honey and caribou fat. LittlestOne was sleepy, too sleepy, for what she planned.

“I am already full,” said LittlestOne. Her stomach rumbled, giving away her lie.

MooninMama shrugged and set the plate away. It was beginning to get cold in the cave as the crackling fire burned down to embers. Soon it would be time to sleep, time to dream of spring, when they would awaken, shivering, and find that Santy Clawr had visited them.

post thumbnail

EP321: Honor Killing

By Ray Tabler
Read by Mur Lafferty
Discuss on our forums.
An Escape Pod original!
All stories by Ray Tabler
All stories read by Mur Lafferty

Rated 10 and up for blaster violence.

Honor Killing
by Ray Tabler

You would think that after all the years I’ve spent schlepping cargoes around the galaxy I’d have learned not to get involved with the locals, especially when they’re not humans. You would think.

A Yanuleen sat down across the table from me in a bar at the edge of the landing field outside of Yanult’s largest city. Yanuleen are furry little
folk, bipedal and about a meter tall with six multi-jointed arms poking out at odd intervals around their middles. This one blinked beady, black eyes at me, “Greetings Sentient Being.”

“Uh, greetings.”

“Isn’t it a glorious piece?” My new buddy pointed an arm at the artwork on display in the middle of the bar.

Yanuleen are a bit nuts for that type of thing. They have artwork, mainly sculpture, everywhere, even in a bar. To me it just looked like a three-meter tall bundle of twigs with pieces of broken pottery tossed in at random.

“Very nice.” Being in a foul mood, I took a drink and stared at the Yanuleen.

“Here is being Klonoon.” He pointed all six arms at himself, in the manner of his kind. “Might here also being Captain Anne Katya Shim, who is having a cargo of entertainment modules impounded by the Port Authority?”

post thumbnail

EP319: Driving X

By Gwendolyn Clare
Read by Mur Lafferty
Discuss on our forums.
First appeared in Warrior Wisewoman 3
All stories by Gwendolyn Clare
All stories read by Mur Lafferty

Driving X
by Gwendolyn Clare

Carmela wouldn’t have stopped if she had known that the kid was still alive.

She spotted the body lying under a creosote bush, maybe ten yards from
the road, and she hit the brakes.  She grabbed the roll cage of the
old dune buggy and pulled herself up, standing on the driver’s seat to
scan in both directions along the unpaved road.  A dust devil twirled
a silent ballet off to the southeast, but hers was the only man-made
dust trail in evidence for miles.  She raised her hand to cover the
sun and squinted into the bleached, cloudless sky–no vultures yet,
which was good, since vultures attract attention.  Minimal risk, she
decided.

The dune buggy itself wasn’t that valuable, but the newer-model solar
panels powering it would be enough to tempt any sane person, and the
carboys of potable water were worth a small fortune out here.

Carmela swung out of the dune buggy and jogged over to check out the
body.  It was tall but skinny, with the not-yet-filled-out look of a
teenager.  Pale skin, a tint of sunburn, brown hair cropped at
chin-length.  The girl was lying face down in the dust, so Carmela
rolled the body over and checked her front pockets for anything of
interest.  A month ago, she would have felt ashamed, but scavenging
was the norm down here; after all, dead people don’t miss what you
take from them.

post thumbnail

EP308: Kill Me

By Vylar Kaftan
Read by Mur Lafferty
Discuss on our forums.
First appeared in Helix, 2007
All stories by Vylar Kaftan
All stories read by Mur Lafferty

Rated inappropriate for seventeen and younger due to language and violence.

[Note- we do not have the ebook rights, but you can read it at Transcriptase!]

Kill Me
by Vylar Kaftan

I’m sitting cross-legged on a rock in west Texas, somewhere north of El Paso, bleeding into the dirt. The pose feels like a meditation. I’m fascinated with the knife mark on my left thigh, a shallow slash from hip to knee. It’s surrounded by bruise clusters that look like flowers of broken skin. In the silent desert, I hear only the soft clicking of the car cooling down. Then his urine splashes against the rock behind me, and I hear his zipper when he’s done. The night breeze is icy on my back, drying the blood into clots. He did me well, I admit, glancing up at the full desert moon. If my body survived–which it wouldn’t–I would be scarred, possibly disfigured. The welts on my back throb like electricity, and everything–the moon, the desert, the wind–is alive with me.

He walks in front of me. I look up at the man who brought me all the way from Denver. He looks like a black dog, matted and angry, and growls like one too. My eyes travel to the cluster of thick hair springing from his shirt neck. He folds his arms over his chest.

“The night’s almost over,” I remind him.

He scowls. “Get in the trunk.”

I hesitate–he paid me to do the shy-girl act, a popular one–and he grabs my arm. He hauls me over the rear bumper into the trunk of his ’33 Axis. He slaps me once across the face–not as hard as I expected–and crumples me into the tight compartment. He slams the trunk closed, catching my hair in the door. I try to pull free, but it’s no use. I don’t think he meant that part, but he doesn’t seem to notice the long trail of hair hanging out of the trunk. The car door opens and the ignition starts. I tug on my hair once more and then relax, concentrating on where I hurt, where my body throbs with pain.

As many times as I’ve done this, I still try to experience it all. Because it’s not every day you experience death. Only every three months.

post thumbnail

EP300: We Go Back

By Tim Pratt
Read by: Mur Lafferty
An Escape Pod original!
Discuss on our forums.
All stories by Tim Pratt
All stories read by Mur Lafferty

Rated appropriate for younger teens and up – occasional adult language.

Episode 300! Wow!

We Go Back
Tim Pratt

My best friend Jenny Kay climbed in through my window and nearly stepped on my head. If I’d been sleeping a foot closer to the wall, I would’ve gotten a face full of her boot, but instead I just snapped awake and said “What who what now?” and blinked a lot.

“Oh damn,” Jenny said in a loudish whisper. “When did you move your bed under the window?”

“Last week,” I said, sitting up in bed. “I wanted a change.” If you can’t rearrange your life, you can at least rearrange yourself, and if your mom won’t let you dye your hair blue, you can make do with rearranging your rooms.

Jenny Kay dropped from standing to sitting in one motion, making my mattress bounce, and landed cross-legged and totally comfortable. “Hey,” she said. “So I need to borrow your ring.” I couldn’t read her expression in the dim moonlight from the window.

I looked at my right hand, where a thin silver ring looped my index finger, catching what light there was in the room and giving back twinkles. The metal grew cold against my skin and tightened a fraction, almost a friendly little squeeze. The ring — which wasn’t really a ring — could tell when I was thinking about it. “Uh,” I said.

Jenny nodded vigorously, a motion I felt in the jostling of the mattress more than I saw. “I know! I know. But I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. I mean, you’ve had the thing for more than a year, and I’ve never asked once if I could use it, right?”

I glanced at my closed door — no glow under the crack at the bottom, which meant my parents had gone to their separate beds and turned out the hall light — and switched on my bedside lamp. Jenny was dressed in jeans and a sweater, all in dark grays and blacks, not her usual aggressively flamboyant colorful mishmash style at all. Good for sneaking into people’s windows, I guessed.

I sat up against the headboard, because when you’re about to annoy your best friend, it’s better not to be flat on your back at the time. “I wish I could,” I said — not one hundred percent true, but Jenny was a fourteen-year-old genius, not a human lie detector. “But it’s, like… part of me. You know? I’m part of the mechanism. I can’t just take it off. It’s linked into my, what’s it called, socratic nervous system?”

“Somatic,” Jenny said gloomily. She was almost as good at biology as she was at math. “The part of your nervous system that controls movement, which sort of halfway makes sense, I guess.”

I shrugged. “So, there you go. The ring’s not something I wear. It’s something that wears me. Or we wear each other. What did you want it for?”

post thumbnail

EP296: For Want of a Nail

By Mary Robinette Kowal
Read by: Mur Lafferty
Originally appearing in Asimov’s
Discuss on our forums.
All stories by Mary Robinette Kowal
All stories read by Mur Lafferty
Nominated for the Hugo Award for Short Story, 2011

Rated appropriate for teens and up for language.

For Want of a Nail
By Mary Robinette Kowal

With one hand, Rava adjusted the VR interface glasses where they bit into the bridge of her nose, while she kept her other hand buried in Cordelia’s innards. There was scant room to get the flexible shaft of a mono-lens and her hand through the access hatch in the AI’s chassis. From the next compartment, drums and laughter bled through the plastic walls of the ship, indicating her sister’s conception party was still in full swing.

With only a single camera attached, the interface glasses didn’t give Rava depth perception as she struggled to replug the transmitter cable. The chassis had not been designed to need repair. At all. It had been designed to last hundreds of years without an upgrade.

If Rava couldn’t get the cable plugged in and working, Cordelia wouldn’t be able to download backups of herself to her long-term memory. She couldn’t store more than a week at a time in active memory. It would be the same as a slow death sentence.

The square head of the cable slipped out of Rava’s fingers. Again. “Dammit!” She slammed her heel against the ship’s floor in frustration.

“If you can’t do it, let someone else try.” Her older brother, Ludoviko, had insisted on following her out of the party as if he could help.

“You know, this would go a lot faster if you weren’t breathing down my neck.”

“You know, you wouldn’t be doing this at all if you hadn’t dropped her.”

post thumbnail

EP293: A Small Matter, Really

By Monte Cook
Read by: Mur Lafferty
An Escape Pod original!
Discuss on our forums.
All stories by Monte Cook
All stories read by Mur Lafferty
Rated PG for violence

A Small Matter, Really
By Monte Cook

Only the Catholic Church of Osirus would have enough money to afford not one, but two black holes. Standing within the majestic narthex, Maria McNaki imagined the vibration of complex machinery under her feet, despite the fact that the nanosensors laced into her flesh revealed nothing other than the passing of the people in the crowd and the chanting coming from deeper within the cathedral.

The stone walls of the chamber slowly flowed with a liquid relief of gothic circuitry and religious hieroglyphic animations. The glyph depicting Setan as he tore the crucified Osirus-Christ into tiny fragments malfunctioned and remained static. Just as well. The petitioners around her made carefully devout hand signs over their hearts as they faced the ankh crucifix over the door into the sanctuary.

Religion was back in fashion this season.

Three identical priests stood next to the holy water fonts, welcoming the incoming congregation. Their white collars and black robes stood starched-still. Geneticists form-shaped all Catholic-Osirus priests into the gentle, fatherly form selected by church PR, but these three were special. The bright eyes and the shining hair indicated Aesthicel, the most expensive genengineering firm in the Earth system. This parish liked to spend money.

Perfect. That most likely meant that they were interested in obtaining more.