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Escape Pod 819: Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria (Part 2)


Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria (Part 2 of 2)

by Sam Schreiber

“So. Let me get this straight,” Madeline said as Nick pressed a warm compress to his forehead. “Your room attacked you.”

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Escape Pod 818: Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria (Part 1)


Christmas at the Hilbert Astoria (Part 1 of 2)

by Sam Schreiber

“You’ll have to forgive the delay,” the concierge told Nick, smiling conspiratorially over the Talathello marble counter. “It’s our busiest time of the year.”

The hospitality program punctuated the nonsensical assertion with a knowing wink.

“Can’t imagine that joke ever gets old,” Nick said, tucking his hands into his red flannel overcoat and rocking on the heels of his black workman’s boots. The concierge’s static-gray face went blank for a moment as more sober-minded algorithms kicked in.

Booking a room at the Hilbert Astoria was, by definition, always possible. But booking the right room could be a slippery proposition. The Vice Regent of Svartalfheim had spent a month waiting for the palatial suite he’d demanded, or so Nick had heard.

Nick’s own requirements, while nowhere near as extravagant, were exacting in their own way. Though of course, he hadn’t been a guest at the Hilbert since before his face had been splashed across Coca-Cola’s 1933 advertising campaign. Nick suspected things had changed since then.

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Escape Pod 817: A Dragon in Two Parts

Show Notes

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A Dragon in Two Parts

By Kiya Nicoll

“‘Shed your skin and spread your wings to fly’,” I read off the sign. The letters were done in a sort of swooshy font and punctuated by yellow and blue yin-yangy things at either end. “I’m not sure I’m comfortable getting a biorefurbishment from someplace that mixes their metaphors quite that hard.”

“C’mon, they’re a bit woowoo, but from everything I’ve read, they’re hands down the best.” Alice tugged at my hand. “At least go to an info session or something.”

“‘A bit woowoo’ isn’t promising either.”

Nonetheless I let her drag me through the doors and around to the brochures and past several rounds of smiling people who left me with the impression that I was dealing with something more like a cult than a medical practice. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 816: Merely Players


Merely Players

by Erik Grove

Jester stopped his bicycle in front of the thrift store window and looked through the glass at the plastic fat man with a jaunty red hat and an army surplus gas mask. He’d been Santa Claus once, a long time ago before the world ended and everyone died. He could still do a Santa Claus laugh. Like a bowl full of jelly.

“Holly jolly,” he said and engaged the kickstand with his foot. He took a crowbar from his backpack and smashed the glass. He tossed the gas mask aside and went for the white beard on the mannequin underneath. He pulled it on and leaned back. The trick to a perfect Santa Claus laugh is leaning.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 815: Mathematical Revelations


Mathematical Revelations

By Helen De Cruz

I have never had a Mathematical Revelation in my life. I am presently thirty-eight years and three months old; the first strands of gray have made their hesitant debut in my dark brown hair. I have been a Priestess for about half that time, and yet the Supreme Mathematician has never uttered a word to me.

There is no shame in this, unusual as it is. I remind myself that the Supreme One has many ways to let us know Her intentions, direct Revelation being only one among many.

I am on the shore, kneeling on the fine sand; the azure combers with their white crests dance and dart ever closer, so I must make haste to trace my Sand Graphs, before they are swept away by the ocean. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 814: Oddments, Pasha’s Autodiary of 07 MAR 2032


Oddments, Pasha’s Autodiary of 07 MAR 2032

By Christopher Noessel

I woke you up two hours before, so you would have time to get into face. You sat in the rattling shoebox lavatory of an interstate bus with a handheld mirror and terrible lighting, sang false apologies to anyone who knocked, and finished your work with a band of programmable glitter on your lips and in a wide stripe from temple to temple, right across your eyes like some kind of brigand. You decided, “Indigo,” and in a cascade, it changed. You reached into a bag and pulled out a giant blue wig with antlers sticking out. You pulled it on, bobby-pinned it into place, and primped.

Admiring your handiwork in the mirror, you accidentally elbowed the little glass jar of glitter into the sink, and without a strainer, the jar vanished right down. It was a costly mistake. You didn’t get worked up though. You just looked down the dark drain and said, “Do svidaniya, little sun.”

>> Inserted 10 MAR: A few days later, a maintenance technician would recover the lost jar in a bus parking lot, and, curious, open it. The stuff would spill everywhere. The next evening satellite images showed curly loaves of sparkling-indigo javelina turds in the neighboring fields. I expect you will find this hilarious. Perhaps even metaphorical.

>>End Insert (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 813: A Consideration of Trees


A Consideration of Trees

By Beth Cato

As a xenoarbitrator, I was accustomed to working with concepts and situations deemed peculiar by most of humanity. Often, though, my own species confounded me most of all.

“I fear you misunderstood my advertisement.” I stood in Mari Kane’s miniscule parlor on Bradbury Orbital Station. My felizard partner, Petey, twitched in his nest atop my silvering crown braids. “I usually mediate between different species. You need a private investigator to look into a suspicious death–”

“Rainbow Charm Corporation owns the local investigators. Madam Alameda, you’re from off station. I couldn’t find any corporate affiliations in your history. You’re the independent investigator I want to hire.” A pleading note crept into her voice.

“I appreciate your confidence in me, but–”

“Bradbury Orbital is property of Rainbow Charm.” Petey spoke directly into my mind via our neural bond, his four-inch-long body flexing as he hummed in thought. “That’s a Thrassi-owned firm. This could be a cultural misunderstanding.”

“–this still isn’t my purview,” I finished, speaking aloud to both of them at once. “I study stories, new and old, and use them to bridge misunderstandings between different kinds of lifeforms. If you had a Murkle as your neighbor, for instance, who began screaming nonstop if rain lasted for more than a day, I could explain why and advise the Murkle on more appropriate responses.”

Honestly, I would have preferred to work with a screaming Murkle about then. Humans had been decisively immoral in every one of my recent jobs–cruel to fellow humans, and other kinds of life, too. Jaded as I felt, I had to wonder what crime her husband had committed to end up dead. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 812: The First Doom (Part 3 of 3)


The First Doom (Part 3)

by DaVaun Sanders

The Dubious’s bay doors didn’t budge as the hopper drew close. Kyria began to sweat as a console flickered on to show Zele’s scowl and Remiliat’s intense stare.

Kyria preempted them. “Everyone’s dead, except me and Paky,” she said. “Some sort of biological countermeasures. Paky’s still reeling from it, or he’d tell you himself.”

“A biological contaminant? That would mean—” Remiliat’s eyebrows climbed her forehead. “Replay the events exactly!”

“We’re not sick. The hopper sweeped our vitals clean. We’re wasting time. That ship is dangerous!”

“Yes, yes,” Zele said soothingly. “Give us a moment to think this through.”

The channel abruptly muted. Kyria wiped a hand over her scalp in frustration. Her eyes widened at sight of the glittering blue flecks on her palm. Hair follicles. Stained blue from Tar City, like indigo powder from a spent smart round. Am I sick? She licked her lips, glancing back at Zele. No way they had seen that on the monitor.

Paky gazed at her silently, working his mouth open and closed as if rediscovering his tongue. Kyria held a finger to his lips. After a moment he repeated the gesture. He doesn’t want them to know how messed up he is either, she thought bitterly. Hair falling out and a trauma mute…what a pair we make.

The monitor’s audio flicked back on. “Upflash your mission data,” Remiliat ordered.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 811: The First Doom (Part 2 of 3)


The First Doom (Part 2)

by DaVaun Sanders

Kyria awoke with a start. An alarm chimed faintly in the cryo tube. The frosted glass hissed aside. She clambered free, but her legs immediately buckled and the steel plated floor greeted her with a cold kiss. Kyria lay there until the trembling stopped, and sensation returned to her legs. A light blinked behind the skin of her palm—her sleep mod had finally kicked in. She’d never had to use it in a cryo tube before.

You hear me, rookie? It’s just a leg. You can make a new leg out of the medallions I’m going to get for you. Kyria never spoke the dead woman’s name, it only encouraged her to stir. Now pay attention. Exo-armor can process your new equilibrium better than you can if you lose a limb. Don’t fight the balance when—

“Bad enough I replay it when I’m awake, too,” Kyria muttered. She stood, thankful her legs held.

A glance at the open cryo tube’s chronometer surprised her. She’d slept just over two weeks; half of their expected flight time. Shuster’s measured snoring came loud enough to crack his tube open, but Kyria checked on him anyway, brushing her palm on the frosted glass. I’m keeping more of my crew alive than you, Captain. Her argument cheated on numbers, but even a frail truth held some comfort.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 810: The First Doom (Part 1 of 3)


The First Doom (Part 1)

by DaVaun Sanders

Kyria Grazheen faced down every hollow-eyed stare in the mess hall as she flexed her hand, ignoring the pain lancing through her knuckles. Over fifty women and men surrounded her, former Cassad crew bound by nothing but a shared desire to lash out over their fresh despair. She knew their pain, but sympathy in the Known served a mercenary worse than swallowing a handful of irradiated rounds.

“That’s the last warning you’re gonna get.” Kyria’s brown gaze settled on the man at her feet. He cupped a hand over his jaw, glowering up at her through a puffy eye. He had the good sense to keep his mouth closed while she spoke, even if it meant swallowing a little blood. “One more fight in this outpost, and I’ll shut the broadcast down myself. You can listen to it in orbit like all the rest.”

The scowls deepened as more of the surveying crew set to rush her. Behind them, Shuster’s hand slipped under the bar. Kyria gave a slight shake of her head. He kissed his teeth in exasperation, refusing to budge. Perfect. The man’s grip rested on worse than the mess hall’s poisonous ale.

Kyria winced, flexing her fist again as another Cassad elbowed past his crewmates. Veins bulged along his musclebound neck. “You Arcadian vermin act like you’re the—”

Kyria pried the tooth out of her knuckle with a grunt. “Finally.” A few drops of bright blood oozed out, spattering on the mess hall’s grated metal floor. She peered down at the stocky man, an Element G dispersal engineer by the smell of him. “You were saying?”

(Continue Reading…)