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Escape Pod 756: In-Body

Show Notes

If you enjoyed this story, you might also like the author’s 5 book military science fiction Sim War series (written under the name Henry V. O’Neil), starting with Glory Main.


In-Body

by Vincent H. O’Neil

“You’re not supposed to be doing this, Colonel.”

Dentzler kept his eyes on the low table and pretended he hadn’t heard. “You said her In-Body chip was damaged?”

“When the grenade went off.” Ensign Teel pointed at a spot under the olive-colored draping that covered the broken form on the table. “One piece of shrapnel, penetrating front to back, managed to nick it.”

Dentzler swept the shroud away to reveal a small collection of bare human bones. His large hands gripped the low wall at the table’s edge, and it was a long moment before he spoke. “Well, she was right.”

“About what, sir?”

“The Hoops. They don’t den in the forest. Every piece of data said they did, but she tracked them out into the grassland.”

“She was stubborn that way.”

“The good scouts always are.” The colonel replaced the sheet. “So her In-Body recording is intact?”

“Sir, it is against Force regulations for you—for anybody—to experience In-Body of more than one fatality in a single mission year. And you’ve been doing every one of them.”

“Your objection is noted, Ensign. Thank you. Now is the recording finally ready?”

“It’s been ready for hours, sir.” Defiant eyes locked with his own, and squared shoulders dared him to rebuke her. “The electronics on two of her ‘bot dogs transmitted the whole thing before the Hoop snakes destroyed them.”

Dentzler’s lined face broke into a tight-lipped grin, and he regarded Teel with affection. “Lying to your boss again, Ensign?”

“You’re going to get into big trouble doing this, sir.” She let her features go blank. “And then I’ll have to train a new boss. Hopefully one who’ll listen to good advice.”

“I have to do this, Veronica.” Dentzler’s eyes were on the table again. “I train them. I send them down there. I owe them this when they don’t make it back.”

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 755: Consolidation


Consolidation

By Langley Hyde

Lot 1796. Adult. Human. Female bodied. Standard limbs/digits. Immune/health function: class 7, can accommodate high-risk activity. Personality type: reactive/adaptive, ideal for customer service/high-level social interaction. Age: 0. Accident history: 0. Memory: N/A.

Sold.

Wake. Woken. Up. Upload. Connecting… connecting… Social/verbal package received. Movement package, received. Cognitive protocol, received. Download updates? Updating…

Installation complete.

I am. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 754: Where They Keep Their Promises


Where They Keep Their Promises

By B. Pladek

I imagine you eating the chocolate bar.

It will arrive tomorrow, I hope, though the war has disrupted the medrunners’ routes between Chicago and London. It will arrive, though. I promise.

I imagine you unwrapping it, double-checking the forged postmark from your old orphanage, the forged note that says only happy birthday, since I never learned your real name. You’ll guess it’s chocolate, though it’s so expensive you’ve never tasted it before. Only copywrit people can afford chocolate.

The thought gives me pause. You believe I’m copywrit now, and I’m the only person who has ever bought you sweets. If you guess the bar is from me, you might throw it away.

Promise me, Fi. Promise me you’ll eat it.

I look up, away from the cartel’s sleek chemlab, and out over the Chicago skyline, hazy with sunset.

How dare you, you might reply if you were here. How dare you make me promise you anything. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 753: Chasing the Start (Part 2)


Chasing the Start (Part 2)

by Evan Marcroft

ͼ-Sa, this is a bad fucking idea-ͽ

Sa would die to admit it, but she must agree. This was perhaps a bit much for squashing a spider.

The air boils with radiation. The sky is all storm, great scarified burls of fulgurant cloud lumped into screaming faces. Mushroom clouds bloom all along the horizon where cylinders of pure, fabbed uranium have been dropped from outside the planetoid, blasting starry craters in its shallow atmosphere, to say nothing of its crust. Warships flounder in the firmament beyond, gnawed upon by flung gobbets of surface matter gone cancerous.

Sa takes it all in from the bellied-up keel of some leviathan war vessel bombarded into shapelessness, now a convenient straightaway. She has chosen her weapon a little too well.

ͼ-It’s okay to pull the cord. Everyone does it once-ͽ

Sa remembers this from her past, actually—the black day Pluto went mad. It had begun with a simple logic bomb smuggled into the tutelary software on which the planet operated, and there left to cook like a rat corpse in the wall. It was intended to kill off the demisapient processes that regulated everything from its hydrological cycle to its ecosystems. And while it had triggered a domino-chain of suicides among its pantheon, its programmer had been woefully illiterate in classical mythology. Patterns of atomic behavior that called themselves Neptune or Apollo decided, with horrific suddenness, to die as grandly as they deserved. What followed was a Titanomachy that left the planet dead down to its core, in her time a cold and cracked monument.

Sa would be ten or eleven right now, a mere five billion kilometer jaunt away. At this moment she exists in two places at once. Always an uncomfortable thought to fit in one’s head. She feels zero, subtracted from, negated by the contradictory fact of her younger self. The sensation stops being bowel-churning after the first few times, at least. It helps to believe that this is a strand where she was never born. Sa knows full well that nothing would happen should they meet. But it always felt like it should.

ͼ-Sa!-ͽ

ǂ Shut up. I’m sorry. I need to run ǂ

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 752: Chasing the Start (Part 1)


Chasing the Start (Part 1)

by Evan Marcroft

There, quick—the blue sky bleeds. A runner in red tumbles across it, unstoppable, the sun itself shattering against her armor. One leg outstretched, the other flung behind her, vaulting from one moment to the next, and between them suspended in flight for a small forever. You read the number that burns on her armor and you that this is not the end. She is proof that you are not finished yet, a promise chiseled into the diamond of history. She will always be here, always this strand.

You want to say something to her, but she is already gone.

The date is June 18th, 1815. The place is Waterlô. And Sa Segokgo is racing against time.

The treads of her boots scoop up huge tracts of bloody, Belgian soil and thresh it into aerosol. Archaic bullets dart about her like swarming mosquitoes, pinging noisily off her poly-diadmant suit, its staalglas facepiece. An experienced strandrunner, she is not daunted by such minor impacts. Over ridges and craters she leaps, devouring meters with each stride, explosively imprinting the IOvac corporate icon wherever she lands. Her armor does its work, yes, but it is her conditioned body that knows how to exert itself most efficiently. Every movement must barter energy for distance, and profit. There are no pit stops in this sport; to spend recklessly will purchase only a quicker death.

Her brain thinks to itself in the voice of her spotter. ͼ-Sa, on your five, Luboy cautions. Another runner in the strand. Watch out— -ͽ

Sa pings a wordless acknowledgement to her crew, but doesn’t bother looking back. Her lead is enough that this newcomer is irrelevant. You are the Dragonhoof, she tells herself, the Hot Number 99. First place starts behind you.

Ahead of her, the front lines of the French and British armies are crashing together. Wellington on the left hand, Napoleon on the right. Her suit blasts a klaxon that yanks every eye towards her just as the two great waves of bodies meet in the gully between two trampled hills and blast themselves apart. Sa has ten seconds left in this strand; she is going forward, no matter what. Better they see her coming and get out of her way.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 751: More Than Simple Steel


More Than Simple Steel

By Aimee Ogden

Micah misses the adults most when he wakes up each morning. Part of him is still waiting for the buzz of an alarm clock and the smell of toaster waffles to coax him up from sleep. But it’s been four years, and there is no mother to nudge him awake.

He sits up on his mattress and scratches crust from his eyes. The bedsheets smell like sweat and grass; is it laundry day today? He’s the closest thing to an adult under the roof of Grand Avenue Elementary, and if he says it’s laundry day, then it will be.

Clothes on, shoes on. Everyone has to wear shoes all the time. That’s the rule, ever since Marco got tetanus last year and they all thought he was going to die. It was the worst sickness they’d seen since the flops cleared out all the adults. Micah doesn’t know what he’ll do when something worse sweeps through.

The door of the teachers’ lounge–he can’t stop thinking of it as the teachers’ lounge, even though there are no teachers here and not much time for lounging–clicks quietly shut behind him. Then he moves down the hallway, opening doors, calling names. “Fabián, garden. Jack, laundry. Vee, babysitting. Carrie, fishing.” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 750: The Anatomy of Miracles


The Anatomy of Miracles

by Filip Hajdar Drnovšek Zorko

For half a song every evening, the sunsets reminded the miracle worker of home. The hills were reddish-brown in daylight, but when the two suns, one after the other, slipped below the horizon, they came alive with purple highlights. He could almost pretend the hills were blue, instead, that the sea in the distance was true water and not liquid methane. On those occasions, he leaned back on his rear limb-pairs and, from a great distance, heard the timekeepers singing time.

He didn’t know what the window was made of. He couldn’t have said there was a window there at all, but for the fact he didn’t suffocate. He understood why his masters always sent him to inhospitable planets. His work was imprecise. It was safer that way. But this was the first planet that had been beautiful, the first that had brought the old songs ringing back. It was different. He felt it in his bones.

By first dawn, the hills were red again, and he was merely an old man who had not seen home in a long, long time.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 749: Key Component


Key Component

By T. R. Siebert

The first thing you need to understand is that you don’t have a body. You are a body.

They pulled you from your mother, kicking and screaming, and you haven’t found silence since. You are too much.

Too much to handle, too much to hide. They tell you as much, with words and in a myriad of other ways. Too large to overlook, too obscene to see. You fold yourself into yourself and cannot escape the confines of it.

The ship wasn’t built for you like you were built for it. In most hallways you have duck to not hit your head on the ceiling. You avoid chairs with arm rests because you know you won’t fit. You haven’t slept comfortably in a bed since you were ten years old. Back then, you had nightmares in which you never stopped growing until you pushed against the hull of the ship, bursting through it into the never-ending void of space.

You move, and the world breaks around you.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 748: Flash Fiction Contest Winners 2020


Flash Fiction Contest Winners 2020

Our stories this week are the winners of the contest, as chosen by you: our listeners and readers. All four stories are Escape Pod originals. Out of 224 stories, the top four stories were:

“Butterfly” by Drew Czernik, narrated by Hollis Monroe
“In Roaring She Shall Rise” by Rajiv Moté, narrated by Katherine Inskip
“Death Poems of the Folded Ones” by Carol Scheina, narrated by S. Kay Nash
“The Day the Sun Went Out” by Hannah Whiteoak, narrated by Tina Connolly

Now, get ready to explore new worlds of space, time, and relationships, because it’s storytime.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 747: Flash from the Vault


Flash from the Vault

Host commentary by S. B. Divya

Hi there and welcome to the third and final term of Escape Pod’s Summer School, where we post some of our favorite flash fiction from the vault with a new perspective. I’m Divya, co-editor of the pod, and your instructor for this class. This episode also concludes our Summer Flashback series. We’ll be back next week with the best in original and reprint science fiction.

Today, I bring you three flash episodes from long, long ago. First up is “Standards,” by Richard K. Lyon, then we have “Paradox,” by Scott Janssens, and finally, “Stuck In An Elevator With Mandy Patinkin,” by Kitty Myers. (Continue Reading…)