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Escape Pod 874: Common Speech


Common Speech

By Elise Stephens

Dr. Jaiyesimi Obiaka tugged at her sweat-damp collar, wiped her eyes, and tried to focus on the copied pages of the final experiment she and Ganiru had created together. Just looking over his familiar handwriting blurred her vision with tears.

Jai’s colleagues had told her to stay home, to take time to grieve, but she’d allowed herself just two days to mourn her husband’s death before donning her lab coat again. She had to be pragmatic. (Continue Reading…)

January 2023 Metacast


Presenters: Marguerite Kenner and Alasdair Stuart

Hey folks, welcome to an Escape Artists metacast. I’m Marguerite Kenner. And I’m Alasdair Stuart.

For those of you who have never heard a metacast before, think of this like a mini State of the Union address, a way for us to update you about what’s been happening at EA. The big thing is our news that EA now stands for the Escape Artists Foundation — we’ve become a nonprofit. We want to share with you how we got there, answer some questions, and explain what it means for you. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 873: The Hazmat Sisters (Part 2 of 2)


The Hazmat Sisters (Part 2 of 2)

by L.X. Beckett

Another sundown, another night on the quest. Mom’s check-in is perfunctory: hand out XP, confirmation of their route. No mention of abnormal battery use, so they got away, once again, with their secret confab. She seems distracted. Things must be getting hot at the Chicago call center.

The girls push Mule along in the refugee fast lane, passing slower-moving families with kids and the occasional masked elder. Some of them are dragging smartcases. The real unfortunates are chipping the wheels off actual antique shopping carts, mile by brutal mile.

There’s no sign of Baron.

Around midnight they are crossing a bridge when the border of their hex runs up against the fairhair family, Papa Bear and his baseball bat mace and baby makes three. They’re riveted, watching something downriver.

Fee calls a stop before they get too close. She activates the infrared in her visor and shares the view with the others.

It’s a firefight. A clutch of warm bodies sheltering under a trio of armored cars exchanges fire with a thick concentration of autonomous platforms hovering over the blackly glinting river. Spotlights, tracers, and of course machine guns all pour fire into the ground position.

“Can we tell who’s who?” Wilmie subs.

Tess has shut off her display, opting to instead keep an eye on the family on the bridge. “Who cares?”

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 872: The HazMat Sisters (Part 1 of 2)


The HazMat Sisters (Part 1 of 2)

by L.X. Beckett

The runaway soldier comes upon their party days after they cross out of Oklahoma into Missouri, late in the afternoon when their Questmaster is on shift, as they camp in a culvert near a river somewhere near Grand Falls.

Wilmie drew last watch, shift at the end of day, through hot and humid afternoon and its build to an equally dense evening. She’s sliding in and out of a doze, heat-torpor amplified by her hay fever meds.

Pony pokes her with one of its sharps, a silent alarm that shoots Wilmie to her feet, adrenalized, raring and ready to wake the others… unless it’s a feral chicken, or a skunk. Pony’s supposed to know a coyote when it sees it, but it still flags every. Single. One.

“Unknown interloper.” Text from the bot scrolls across her augmented display.

She flicks the warning away with a gesture, linking to Tess’s Dragon and zooming with its cameras. It feeds a view of the brush direct to her goggles. No coyote this time. The man’s scrawny, but a man nonetheless. Not as big as Fee, but full grown.

He’s creeping toward them. Not blundering, not snuffling about for shelter, and moving superslow. Bidding to fool their motion detectors? Not good.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 871: The Contrary Gardener (Part 2 of 2)


The Contrary Gardener (Part 2 of 2)

By Christopher Rowe

(Continued from Part 1)

Even in the ‘Ville, even in a family of master cultivators, tickets were not easy to come by, so it was not unusual that Kay Lynne had never been to the Derby. What was unusual was her absolute lack of desire to attend the race.

Kay Lynne genuinely hoped that her instinctive and absolute despisal of the Derby and all its attendant celebrations was born of some logical or at least reasonable quirk of her own personality. But she suspected it was simply because her father loved it so.

“You managed to get two tickets this year?” she asked him, and was surprised that her voice was so steady and calm.

“Just this one,” he replied, turning his back on her before she could hand the ticket back. “I decided this year would be a good one for you to go instead. There’s a good card, top to bottom.” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 870: The Contrary Gardener (Part 1 of 2)


The Contrary Gardener (Part 1 of 2)

By Christopher Rowe

Kay Lynne wandered up and down the aisles of the seed library dug out beneath the county extension office. Some of the rows were marked with glowing orange off-limits fungus, warning the unwary away from spores and thistles that required special equipment to handle, which Kay Lynne didn’t have, and special permission to access, which she would never have, if her father had anything to say about it, and he did.

It was the last Friday before the first Saturday in May, the day before Derby Day and so a week from planting day, and Kay Lynne had few ideas and less time for her Victory Garden planning. Last year she had grown a half dozen varieties of tomatoes, three for eating and three for blood transfusions, but she didn’t like to repeat herself. Given that she tended to mumble when she talked, not liking to repeat herself made Kay Lynne a quiet gardener. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 869: Excuse Me, This Is My Apocalypse


Excuse Me, This Is My Apocalypse

by Amy Johnson

It was a glorious day when she finally made it to the beach and fell to her knees, into sand unexpectedly soft and warm, and beheld the devastation. The sun smiled and the air danced with spindrift and in the water lay broken shipping cranes, gathered by the ocean’s currents into a jumbled breakwater, one atop another, too many pieces to know how many cranes had once stood intact. In their harbor bobbed the hulls of overturned ships, still buoyant with air long dead, enormous stepping stones, their way now lost.

She had tried to prepare herself for the desolation of this moment. But her preparations hadn’t worked. They never did. With each new discovery of emptiness and destruction, the truth of her aloneness hit her fresh. For as far as her eyes could see, there was no one. And there would be no one, no human, at least, to leave footprints on this sand, to taste the ocean’s salt in their mouth, no one but her. She let her anger, stiff and distant and enormous, unfurl, welcomed its magnificent warmth. She was the last of her kind—

Was that a guy in a bright orange t-shirt?

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 868: Any Other Customer


Any Other Customer

By Rachel Gutin

Lewis was poking at his tablet, trying yet again to open the training module from Station Commerce, when the sensor above his shop door chimed. “Not now!” he snapped without looking up.

“But… but I….”

Blast it! His tailor shop’s margins had been razor-thin even before Commerce cracked down on him for logging his transactions on paper. And just in case the mandatory training in “proper record-keeping protocols” wasn’t punishment enough, they’d also hit him with a hefty fine. He couldn’t afford to scare away a customer. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 867: Through the Mirror


Through the Mirror

by Heather Kilbourn

The crashed spaceship was scattered along a ten kilometer-long track in the rainforest jungle. Larger pieces of the wreck still smoldered in the churned-up and muddy understory despite days of falling rain.

An Angel recovery drone pinged the emergency band. My savior had arrived. I pinged back.

“Are you the only survivor?” the drone queried. I had expected it to upload my runtime right away, but instead it scanned me.

“Yes. The emergency nanobots found no human life signs and all the other AI mirror frames are destroyed. I’ve marked the remains of the humans and their frames.” I sent the drone a map and only received a perfunctory acknowledgement for doing its job for it. Rude. “Why aren’t you recovering me yet?” I queried.

“I am evaluating your recovery,” it stated.

“It’s simple: you pull my frame out of the wreckage, and then we’ll be on our way. My display is shattered, so you don’t need to worry about being gentle,” I told it. I swear, the recovery drones are getting dumber every release cycle.

“It is not that simple. I am under command to evaluate mirrors prior to recovery,” it said.

If I’d had lungs, I would have sighed. “Look, the human crew is dead. All the other mirrors and their frames have been destroyed. The ship’s mainframe is dead. I’m all that’s left from the crash. You’re programmed to recover survivors. What is there to evaluate?” I queried.

“If you will be recovered,” it replied.

This drone was going to make me pop a diode. “Excuse me? ‘If?’” I added a priority flag to my query, requiring it to identify the parent process causing the recovery delay.

“I am analyzing your runtime for anomalies,” it stated.

“Anomalies?” I was so confused. I flagged it again. “What do you mean?”

“If you have runtime anomalies, you will not be recovered,” it stated.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 866: The Sea Goddesss’ Bloom


The Sea Goddess’ Bloom

By Uchechukwu Nwaka

There is doubt in my heart.

Here, in the Blackwater, doubt is dangerous.

Doubt is rancid. Like slitting the mud-smeared belly of a catfish, only to find its guts blackened by pollution, then watching it spill back into the blacker waters of the creek. Blackwater is a literal name; it is not symbolic. These people do not care about legacies. The only thing that matters is continuity. Continuity does not require permanence.

At least Oba says so. Surely Oba cannot be wrong.

Yet I doubt. (Continue Reading…)