Archive for 13 and Up

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Escape Pod 786: The Steel Magnolia Metaphor


The Steel Magnolia Metaphor

by Jennifer Lee Rossman

Each petal was carefully shaped from the finest iron-carbon alloy, curved delicately while still hot and meticulously positioned to overlap with its neighbors just so to form a blossom. Astrid gazed lovingly at the way each petal’s razor-sharp edge glinted in the light of the setting sun, at the way her creation cast a shadow indistinguishable from the other ornamental trees in Mama’s garden.

Mama didn’t look too pleased, though.

She had her fake smile on, the one she used when she knew she had to be proud of Astrid but couldn’t quite figure out how. Astrid was used to adults using that smile around her machines. And around her in general.

“It’s very pretty,” Mama said finally, swatting at a mosquito that had flown near her face. “But I’m not sure I understand what it is.”

“It’s a steel magnolia,” Astrid said, devastated. How could Mama not recognize the main character of her favorite movie?

A sadness came over Mama’s face, which was entirely the wrong emotion. There’d been too much sadness around the house already. “Oh, honey.” She made to put her arm around Astrid, like she’d do with the boys, but stopped herself. “Honey, Steel Magnolias isn’t about a magnolia made of steel. It’s about friendship and strong Southern women.”

Astrid frowned. That didn’t sound right.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 784: Annotated Setlist of the Mikaela Cole Jazz Quintet


Annotated Setlist of the Mikaela Cole Jazz Quintet

by Catherine George

Tight Squeeze
That solo! Art blowing so hard and so hot, jumping out like a solar flare. Art, the only one of us with a real instrument, a beat-up old brass thing with the spit of two hundred years of play in it—and, well, sometimes we thought you could hear the difference. Oh, people said the three-d printers could make horns that sounded just as good, blew just as pure, and Mikaela said it was worth it to have anti-grav, so she could tow the piano behind her wheelchair—but still, there was something about knowing the horn had been on Earth, that there might be red clay or Terran bacteria gummed up under the keys. Every note heavy with the weight of time.

We never asked Art where he’d gotten a real Earth tenor sax, but there must have been a doozy of a story there.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 783: Report of Dr. Hollowmas on the Incident at Jackrabbit Five


Report of Dr. Hollowmas on the Incident at Jackrabbit Five

By T. Kingfisher

The following report is from the Jackrabbit Colony, Five Tau, regarding the incidents occurring during 7-5-11-8881, fifth rotation, involving Marine Midwife Unit Eleven-Gamma.

Incident report has been taken using the I-Witness program from your friends at Taxon Interrogation Software, with explanatory notes added and our new clarification system, saving you valuable time and manpower! At Taxon, Clarity is Our Business!(tm)

This is the l-Witness program from Taxon Programming. I will be taking your report today. Please relax and answer normally. When explanatory notes or clarifications are added, please indicate if they are correct by stating ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ when prompted. Remember, clarity is our business!

Sure.

Please state your name for the record.

I’m Doc Hollow.

Please state your full legal name for the record.

(sigh) Lin Hollowmas.

Clarification: This is Lin Hollowmas, PhD, DVM, FRCVM…

Yeah, that one.

… current position Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Jackrabbit Colony?

Yeah.

Thank you, Doctor Hollowmas. Please state your purpose today. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 782: Electronic Ghosts


Electronic Ghosts

By Innocent Chizaram Ilo

I

If Nneora had died two weeks earlier, her daughter, Anaeto, would not have resurrected her ghost. That was the night Nneora ran a fever, laid convulsing in bed, a slimy froth trickling from the corners of her lips. She had just finished telling Anaeto a story about a woman who fled home to find love. And when the fever subsided, she proceeded to talk to her late mother, Lolo-Nwa, in a tongue that reeked of everything living and dead. Dying on a night like that would have meant Nneora died complete, that her daughter was prepared for her death.

But Nneora will die this evening, when the air is the same as the feel of damp salt on dry skin. She will die midway telling Anaeto a new story. Nobody would believe, not that you can blame them, that Anaeto will do what she does because she is scared the Ghost Of Unfinished Stories will haunt her. Not even Anaeto herself. At some point, she will tell herself this lie: that she resurrected her mother’s ghost because the inquisitive scientist in her wanted to know how the story that numbed on the old woman’s lifeless lips ended. This is more plausible, more logical. A more scientific reason. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 781: Seed Vault (Part 2)


Seed Vault (Part 2)

By Marika Bailey

The desert rain has lulled me and I sleep all the way through the daylight hours. It is only when the light recedes and the temperature of the desolation plummets that I awaken. Minn has gathered close to me, her large musky bulk keeping me warm. Around us, there are ice crystals on the grey earth, gilding the parched shrubgrass.

It does not get this cold in the village. Our air and earth are protected by the founding guardian line that rings every settlement. So we do not have the same extremes on the red as there is in the desolation.

That last morning I left the house early, before Manman woke. Sometimes it felt like she only ever slept when I did. Passing the small garden where dasheen and eddo burst happily from rich soil, I went out to the borders of the red. Riding my manicou, Minn, it was a few minutes from the house to where the staggered boundary of stone ancestors marked the end of the red and the beginning of the desolation. I’d heard that the larger settlements had multiple rings of boundaries, pushing back back against the grey sands. But we were a young town, and had just the one.

Being out, I never wanted to turn back. It was the fire on the horizon that brought me out of my small room and smaller bed. The sands, grey, white, and black, flowed in an ombre dance as far as the eye could see. As tidal as the broken piebald seas.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 779: The Call of the Sky (Flashback Friday)


The Call of the Sky

By Cliff Winnig

The army hospital’s underground floors reminded me of Pluto Base, a place I’d never actually been. I’d never even been off-world, but I remembered those claustrophobic beige corridors. Two years before, I’d synced with a bunch of my alts home on leave after basic training. Today for the first time I’d be meeting one who’d seen combat. More than that, one who’d become a hero, the only Teri Kang to survive the Battle of Charon.

We wouldn’t be syncing, though. Not this time. Not ever. Before she’d escaped the doomed moon — the moon she’d given the order to destroy — she’d been bitten. That’s what the G.I.s called it when Hive nanobots infected you: being bitten. Like it was a zombie plague or something.

Hell, it might as well be. Soon the only other Teri Kang in the universe would lose her fight with that infection, and the army docs would euthanize her. Under the circumstances, even coming home had been an act of courage. A lot of G.I.s who got bitten went AWOL rather than face the certain death of returning to base. Not for the first time, I wondered if I had such courage lying latent within me.

Flanked by MPs, I followed a nurse down hallway after hallway till we arrived at my alt’s room. Well, the room next to it, since she was quarantined. A smartglass wall separated me from the sterile chamber where the other Teri Kang would live out her last few hours.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 777: The Dame With the Earth at Her Back


The Dame With the Earth at Her Back

By Sarah Pauling

That’s the trouble with Teegarden’s northern latitudes: the sun never sets in summer. The red glow assaults Maryellen’s stage long after midnight, pushing in through the picture window alongside the nightclub floor. She’s asked Bruce if she could close the curtains sometime, since she gets tired of squinting out into her audience. He said it’d be a waste of prime oceanside real estate not to let the tourists see the ice.

So she makes the best of it. A comedienne works with what she’s got: in this case, a prime view of the drug deal going down between the back tables.

“I mean honestly! During my show! You couldn’t’a waited fifteen minutes to get your fix?” She clicks across the stage in Mary Jane pumps, letting her voice go high and nasal and schoolmarm scolding. “You couldn’t’a waited fifteen minutes or so? I only got so much material! My stamina’s nil! Ask my ex!” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 776: Tloque Nahuaque

Show Notes

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s website is at https://www.silviamoreno-garcia.com/.


Tloque Nahuaque

By Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas, translated by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

—Carl Sagan

 

I—The Particle Accelerator

They built an underground temple. A well of Babel sinking into the gloomy ground at 175 metres of depth. They wanted, like the Biblical architects, to know the unknowable, to discover the origin, reproduce Creation.

The desire to unravel the nature of the Everything floated permanently in the controlled environment of the laboratory. Hundreds of fans and machines emitted a constant buzzing, which the investigators called the “silence of the abyss”. This, combined with the smell of burnt iron, gave the ominous sensation of finding oneself in space. Doctor Migdal lay upon a nest made of coloured cables and, with eyes closed, fantasised that his body, weightless, floated, pushed by the breeze of the ventilation.

Sometimes, he would imagine that he was being attracted by a very narrow tube, a cafeteria straw, the ink container of a pen, or a bleeding artery. His feet, near the edge of the conduit, would feel a titanic weight that would pull him and make him push through the small space. Migdal could see how he would turn into a thick strand of subatomic particles that would extend forever. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 775: Spaceship October


Spaceship October

By Greg van Eekhout

When you live on a spaceship, you learn to make your own fun. Exploring the tunnels is some of the very best fun the October’s got. After school hour, me and Droller go scuttling through the darkest conduits you ever will find. The starboard Hab gets minimal heat, so our breath clouds in the light of our head torches as we crawl on our hands and knees.

“You hear that?” Droller whispers from a couple of meters ahead.

I do hear it, a deep, wet wheezing that sounds exactly like Droller trying to spook me.

“You better go ahead and check it out, Droller.”

“Naw, Kitch, it’s behind you. It smells your butt. It’s a butthunter.”

I laugh at Droller’s stupid joke, because the stupider, the funnier, and she’s by far my stupidest friend.

We’re both from Aft Hab, both from the same birth lottery, and out of the eight babies born that season, we’re the only survivors. It used to be the three of us, me and Droller, and Jamm, but Jamm died last year along with her parents when the CO2 scrubbers in their cube failed. The scrubbers were item thirty-three on the fixems’ to-do list.

“How much farther?” I ask Droller.

“Just a couple of panels.”

It’s more like a couple dozen panels, but we finally arrive at the section of conduit above Town Square. Using just our fingers, Droller and me remove the fasteners holding the panel in place and slide it aside, just enough for us to peak out.

Down below, a crowd settles on the rings of benches surrounding the lawn. The brass band toots “Onward or Bust” in a marching beat, their jackets sparkling with silver buttons and silver loops of rope. Droller and I exchange a sad look. Jamm wanted to be a drummer and wear a thick, warm jacket like that. The odds were against an Aft Habber like her, but she was good enough that she might have made it.

Once the tooting is over, one of the Vice Captains ascends the grandstand. The audience stands and salutes in respect. Everyone on the October acts as like salutes are required, but White Madeleine told us saluting was never in the contract the original families signed. The Fore Habbers made up the requirement only eighty years ago.

The kind of people who come to witness a Course Correction are the type who do what they’re supposed to.

The Vice Captain says some stuff into a bullhorn. It’s too distorted for me and Droller to make out actual words, but we know what he’s saying, because this isn’t the first time we’ve watched a Course Correction from the conduits. He’s announcing the name of the violator and their crime.

The guards bring out a man, their hands gripping his arms and shoving. He’s dressed in thin brown paper coveralls. His face is bloodless. I bet he’s shivering in the cold.

“I’ve seen him before,” says Droller. She doesn’t know his name, but he does look familiar. Maybe I’ve spotted him in line at Distro, or maybe on a community service detail. Yeah, that’s it. A few months ago we were on the same crew scraping mold off crop troughs in the farm module. He was quiet and sniffed a lot.

“What do you think he did?” Droller asks.

“I bet he buggered a robot.”

Droller laughs, because it’s stupid. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 774: A Wild Patience (Part 3 of 3)


A Wild Patience (Part 3 of 3)

by Gwynne Garfinkle

When Jessica got home that night, she and I talked for a long time, and we agreed we needed to speak to our birth mother before we made any decisions. Then Mom and Jessica and I talked some more. By the time Jessica and I went to bed, my voice was hoarse, and Dad hadn’t come home.

The next day was Saturday. Dad still hadn’t come home. That morning Mom drove us in the station wagon to Santa Cruz. When we asked if she’d told Dad what we were doing, Mom said, “I haven’t spoken to him, and I’m not going to ask for his permission.”

Jessica and I wanted to get a look at our biological mom before we spoke to her, even though Mom had her phone number. Maybe that wasn’t very considerate, but we wanted to keep whatever little control of the situation we had. It was a mild sunny day, perfect for a road trip, but I couldn’t relax and enjoy the ride, even though Mom was the best driver I knew, the safest and most efficient (unlike Dad, who often drove too fast and erratically). The other robot moms I’d ridden with were good drivers too. Only now did it occur to me it was their programming.

Jessica fiddled with the radio dial until she hit on a station playing “The Tide Is High” by Blondie, and she sang along loudly and goofily. Mom smiled in the rearview mirror as though she was certain everything was going to be all right.

(Continue Reading…)