Archive for 13 and Up

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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…)

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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…)

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Escape Pod 859: Pen Pal (Part 2 of 2)


(Continued from Part 1)

Pen Pal

By Grant Canterbury

 

August 8, 2005

Meliari Thulissia

General Delivery

Tharsis Station

 

Dear Thu,

 

Well I officially graduated from high school! And I have been itching to get out into the world for a long time but right now honestly I am not liking the look of it. We had been planning to go to Disneyworld after graduation but we did Disneyland again instead. That was fine actually. Mom and Dad decided Florida was not such a great idea because gulguthroi. And I had to agree with them. It has gotten really bad. They have chameleon skin and they hide in shallow water which is everywhere down there, and they are basically eating up all of the wildlife in the Everglades. And also people. And especially folks who used to own skipperjacks, it seems. Apparently the deep soulful looks that made them popular at pet stores were more like, um, imprinting on future prey. And their big raspy tentacles also work okay at opening doors in the middle of the night. There are like thousands of people who have disappeared. Oh yeah, they made it illegal to own skipperjacks, of course. And so a bunch of pet stores, crooked or dumb, went and dumped theirs in the nearest creek. Christ. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 856: The Princess, NP


The Princess, NP

By Brian Hugenbruch

I sat in the Commander’s office at Hexa Station, in clothes that stank of subspace, and the only polite thing I could do to drown out the universe was compute obscene sums in my head. It didn’t stop the sounds from piercing my ears, though. Metal chairs scraping against plastic floors. A pulse generator’s low thrumming some twenty floors below. The whisper of air recycling through the prefab station. The universe was omnipresent. I could feel it all, and it never ever stopped.

Lullabies were my preferred method of soothing soul and stilling mind. I learned thousands of them in the earliest days of my Conditioning. Alas, people ask the wrong kinds of questions if one starts singing mid-conversation. Math was a precisely imperfect fallback. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 855: A Home For Mrs. Biswas


A Home For Mrs. Biswas

by Amal Singh

Once she saw the red sands stretch across miles, craters as big as the stadium her father played hockey in, and golden spires shimmering brighter than Amritsar’s Golden Temple, Aparna Biswas didn’t want to live on earth. Of course they were a far cry from her own backyard where, in summers, she would sit on a cane chair and watch the bougainvillaea bloom the shade of a bride’s blush,“string of pearls” flowers wrapped around the wooden railing on her porch, eating a succulent dussehri aam as a pair of ducks swam in the small pond she liked to call her Pacific. But those summers only existed behind a dim haze of memory. She would take a living planet over a dying one any day.

“Beta, I think I might find god there,” she said to her son, tearing her gaze away from the Mars hologram. “Build me a home on that planet and all will be mangal.” She chortled at her own joke. Puns on the red planet had filled the internet, and ever since Sunehri, her granddaughter, had taught her how to use a phone, she kept finding these odd little information trinkets.

“I might have to break all our deposits and still not be able to book a single one-way ticket, Maa,” said Nishant, her son. “Forget about building a home.” In his eyes too, there was a deep yearning to go to the Red Planet. He stood near the window of the living room of his Chembur apartment, looking at the once blue sky, blotted out by an eternal grey smog which was here to stay.

“But our PM said in his last speech there was a lottery system,” she said. “And you know how lucky I am.” It was true. Stories of Aparna Biswas’s luck were splattered on walls of Kolkata, and the gullies of Bombay.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 854: Pickled Roots and Peeled Shoots and a Bowl of Farflower Tea


Pickled Roots and Peeled Shoots and a Bowl of Farflower Tea

By Chaz Brenchley

 

there’s rue for you, and here’s some for me

 

Just that morning, she’d had a novice shave her head for her. He was a promising lad – no, more than promising, he was a promise halfway to being realised already – but still ridiculously young, all awkwardness and angles, nervous of his own body let alone anybody else’s. Let alone hers.

Of course he’d cut her. She’d felt the cold bite of the blade and then its sudden absence as he snatched his hands away, his suppressed cry of self-recrimination, the tentative pressure of a cloth to stem the bleeding. She raised a hand and laid it over his, pressing firmly, teaching him not to be shy. Not with her body, not with her blood. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 852: The Pieces That Bind


The Pieces that Bind

By Carol Scheina

The first thing Georgia knew for certain was that the woman rummaging through the canned beans and peas in the pantry was not her grandma, even though she looked exactly like her, right down to the nasty black cigar in hand.

Except that Georgia had just plucked the cigar out of Gran’s hand, for it was 2 p.m. and time for the older woman’s afternoon siesta. In the other room, Georgia could hear the television cheerfully offering a miracle knife that could be hers for just three easy payments. The teen glanced through the doorway, and yes, indeed, right in front of the television was Gran, resting in her chair like rising yeast, filling every nook with her body’s slow breathing.

Gran often fell asleep to the sound of infomercials with her lit cigar dangling loosely between her fingers, ready to set the house on fire. Georgia imagined the smoke snatching their lives away with a puff, so she was always on the alert for falling cigars. The one in the teen’s hand still felt warm.

In the kitchen, the not-Gran turned and puffed her cigar, sending out plumes of smoke smelling heavily like laundry detergent. Eyes locked on Georgia.

The second thing Georgia knew for certain was that not-Gran was an alien. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 851: Time Bomb Time


Time Bomb Time

by C. C. Finlay

pop

The sharp scent of ozone–sudden like heartbreak, raw as a panic attack–filled Hannah’s dorm room, from the paper-swamped desk across her rumpled bed to the window overlooking the quad. The lights flickered. Her heart skipped a beat.

“God damn it.” She prodded Nolon’s foot with the toe of her shoe. She wanted to kick him. “Tell me what you just did.”

“Nothing.” He was leaning over the weird device from his lab, tapping a code on the keypad.

“What are you doing now?” Anger pushed at the edges of her voice, but she held it in check. She wanted him to leave, but she didn’t want to upset him.

“Don’t worry so much–nobody’s going to get hurt.” He pressed his shoulder against her, didn’t even have to push–she flinched and bumped into the wall. He laughed at her, like it was a joke. “It’s not a time bomb.”
(Continue Reading…)

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