Archive for 13 and Up

Escape Pod 316: Site Fourteen


Site Fourteen

By Laura Anne Gilman

“Nereus Shuttle Four to Gateway Station, you have control.”

Robinachec nodded confirmation as though the pilot could see him.  “Roger that.  Bringing you in.” Palming the flat-topped lever, I watched as he moved it gently back towards him, pulling the bullet-shaped transport into the shed, an external framework of metal beams just large enough to hold two minisubs, or one shuttle.

Robinechec has nightmares sometimes about something going wrong here.  Forget the fact that it’s the safest maneuver in the entire procedure; he still talks about waking up in a cold sweat because he screwed up.

You’d never know it to watch him.

When you’re six hundred feet down – well below the twilight zone, in the bathypelagic or ‘deep water’ zone– your perception shifts.  Nothing as arcane as the chemical balance in your brain changing, although there’s some of that, too.  No, it’s more the realization, slow sinking into your brain, that there’s not damn-all between you and dying but a duraplas shield and some canned oxy-blend.

You realize that, really process the concept, and you’re okay.  If you can’t, you get the screamin’ meemies and they cart you Topside where you spend the rest of your life on solid dirt, carefully looking anywhere but ocean-ward.

Not everyone’s cut out to be an aquanaut. No shame to it.  Even now, only about a third of the applicants make it into training, and more than half of them dry out before graduation.

Escape Pod 311: The Faithful Soldier, Prompted

Show Notes

Special thanks to Hugo award winning Starship Sofa for allowing us to use Rajan Khanna’s narration that originally ran November 17, 2010.


The Faithful Soldier, Prompted

By Saladin Ahmed

If I die on this piece-of-shit road, Lubna’s chances die with me. Ali leveled his shotgun at the growling tiger. In the name of God, who needs no credit rating, let me live! Even when he’d been a soldier, Ali hadn’t been very religious. But facing death brought the old invocations to mind. The sway of culture, educated Lubna would have called it. If she were here. If she could speak.

The creature stood still on the split cement, watching Ali. Nanohanced tigers had been more or less wiped out in the great hunts before the Global Credit Crusade, or so Ali had heard. I guess this is the shit end of “more or less.” More proof, as if he needed it, that traveling the Old Cairo Road on foot was as good as asking to die.

He almost thought he could hear the creature’s targeting system whir, but of course he couldn’t any more than the tiger could read the vestigial OS prompt that flashed across Ali’s supposedly deactivated retscreens.

God willing, Faithful Soldier, you will report for uniform inspection at 0500 hours.

Ali ignored the out-of-date message, kept his gun trained on the creature.

The tiger crouched to spring.

Ali squeezed the trigger, shouted “God is greater than credit!”

(Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 306: Radio Nowhere


Radio Nowhere

By Douglas Smith

On the anniversary of the worst night of his life, Liam stood outside the darkened control room of the campus radio station. Over the speakers, the Tragically Hip’s “Boots and Hearts” was just winding down. Behind the glass in the studio, Ziggy’s small triangular face glowed like some night angel, lit from below by her laptop screen. She looked up, her eyes finding Liam’s in the darkness. Smiling, she wrinkled her nose at him. His own smile slid away, falling into the dark place inside him, the place that was always darker on this night.

Ziggy turned back to the mike as the song ended. “I’m closing with a request from an old friend, to an old friend. This one’s for Jackie, from Liam. A hurtin’ song, cuz he’s still hurtin’. Fifteen years ago tonight…” She looked at him through the glass.

Fifteen years. He closed his eyes. Fifteen years, and it still hurt this much.

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Escape Pod 303: Leech Run


Leech Run

By Scott W. Baker

The inhabitants of Galileo Station parted as Titan moved among them. Not one made eye contact, but all gawked furtively. One of Titan’s dark eyes glared back down at the throng; the other eye remained hidden behind a curtain of stark white hair. Conspicuous appearance was his curse. What bystander would forget a snow-capped mountain of dark muscle? Memorability was not an asset for someone like him.

One body in the crowd moved toward Titan rather than away. “The passengers is aboard, love,” the man said.

“Reif, call me ‘love’ in public and you’ll find yourself very uncomfortable.” Titan lowered his voice so it stayed within the wide berth granted by the populace. “How many passengers?”

“Thirty-two, lo — Captain.”

Titan shook his head. “Hemingway promised fifty.”

“If Hem flew so bad as he scored cargo–”

“Any load of leeches will turn a profit,” Titan assured the mechanic. “But small load doesn’t mean small risk. I want you sharp.”

“As ever, love.”

They continued through the bustling station to their ship, a little cargo runner designed for intra-system transport at sub-light speeds. Of course, a mechanic of Reif’s skill could make a ship reach speeds its designers never fathomed.

Such deviant engineering demanded a pilot with a select set of skills and dubious moral character. Hemingway possessed both. He was waiting for them beside the ship with his ever-present, boastful grin.

“I said there be takers on Galileo, didn’t I?” Hemingway said as his crewmates entered earshot. “I done already told them the rules.”

Titan’s brow furrowed. “Thirty-two? Don’t dislocate anything patting yourself on the back. And there’s just one rule on my ship.”

Titan brushed past his pilot into the cargo hold. It was a small hold, even for an intra-system runner, but it hadn’t always been so. Reif’s touch here made for ideal leech transport. The customized hold maintained a six-foot buffer from all electrical systems, enough of a gap that even a class-three leech couldn’t siphon a single ampere. Despite his extensive precautions, Titan always felt uneasy with such capricious cargo.

(Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 300: We Go Back

Show Notes

Episode 300! Wow!


We Go Back

By Tim Pratt

My best friend Jenny Kay climbed in through my window and nearly stepped on my head. If I’d been sleeping a foot closer to the wall, I would’ve gotten a face full of her boot, but instead I just snapped awake and said “What who what now?” and blinked a lot.

“Oh damn,” Jenny said in a loudish whisper. “When did you move your bed under the window?”

“Last week,” I said, sitting up in bed. “I wanted a change.” If you can’t rearrange your life, you can at least rearrange yourself, and if your mom won’t let you dye your hair blue, you can make do with rearranging your rooms.

Jenny Kay dropped from standing to sitting in one motion, making my mattress bounce, and landed cross-legged and totally comfortable. “Hey,” she said. “So I need to borrow your ring.” I couldn’t read her expression in the dim moonlight from the window.

I looked at my right hand, where a thin silver ring looped my index finger, catching what light there was in the room and giving back twinkles. The metal grew cold against my skin and tightened a fraction, almost a friendly little squeeze. The ring — which wasn’t really a ring — could tell when I was thinking about it. “Uh,” I said.

Jenny nodded vigorously, a motion I felt in the jostling of the mattress more than I saw. “I know! I know. But I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important. I mean, you’ve had the thing for more than a year, and I’ve never asked once if I could use it, right?”

I glanced at my closed door — no glow under the crack at the bottom, which meant my parents had gone to their separate beds and turned out the hall light — and switched on my bedside lamp. Jenny was dressed in jeans and a sweater, all in dark grays and blacks, not her usual aggressively flamboyant colorful mishmash style at all. Good for sneaking into people’s windows, I guessed.

I sat up against the headboard, because when you’re about to annoy your best friend, it’s better not to be flat on your back at the time. “I wish I could,” I said — not one hundred percent true, but Jenny was a fourteen-year-old genius, not a human lie detector. “But it’s, like… part of me. You know? I’m part of the mechanism. I can’t just take it off. It’s linked into my, what’s it called, socratic nervous system?”

“Somatic,” Jenny said gloomily. She was almost as good at biology as she was at math. “The part of your nervous system that controls movement, which sort of halfway makes sense, I guess.”

I shrugged. “So, there you go. The ring’s not something I wear. It’s something that wears me. Or we wear each other. What did you want it for?”

(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Escape Pod 295: Disarm


Disarm

By Vylar Kaftan

We kept in touch through the war, when he messaged me about marching through upstate New York. He always started the same way: “Dear Ryan, Please come kick my commanding officer in the balls.” Then he’d tell me about the latest mess–cracks in their radiation suits, or toxic waterholes that were supposed to be clear. He never got in trouble for the messages; they needed him too badly. My epilepsy disqualified me from the draft, which probably saved my life. Pretty boys like me weren’t exactly Army material. By the time things were bad enough that they needed any warm body, there wasn’t enough human government left to organize a draft.

The ruins at Binghamton were where Trey got sick. By the time I got across the country to him, he’d recovered–well, as much as possible. I remember the doctor’s face as he says Trey will live, but he’ll be in pain.

Escape Pod Special Episode- The Arthur C. Clarke Award Winner!


You heard it here first, folks, we have an exclusive interview and book excerpt from this year’s Arthur C. Clarke award winner, Lauren Beukes, author of Zoo City (Angry Robot Books)!

Zoo City explores a present day, but alternate, Johannesburg, and follows the story of Zinzi December, one of the animalled – people who are psychically bonded with animals due to crimes they have committed in the past. Zinzi has a talent for finding lost things, but when she is asked to take on a missing persons case, her life becomes increasingly more complicated and she discovers that beneath the seedy underbelly of Zoo City, things can – and do – get a lot worse.

Rated PG-13 for talk of sex workers and street violence.

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

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Escape Pod 283: Grandfather Paradox

Show Notes

I am doing the drawing for the A&E Prize pack at the end of today! There is still a couple of hours to get your email with “CONTEST” to feedback at Escapepod.org and you can win Blu Ray copies of Space 1999 and The Prisoner!

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 275
  • Next week… How far can you see on a clear day?

Grandfather Paradox

By Katherine Mankiller

JUNE 23, 1994

Ann stuffed her blood-spattered clothes into the next door apartment complex’s dumpster. He wasn’t dead, but it was harder to get a knife through someone’s chest than she’d expected. Maybe he’d bleed to death before someone found him. She didn’t care either way. She was a juvenile, so it wasn’t like she was going to fry.

She walked. The YMCA was open. She locked herself in the men’s room, curled up on the floor, and fell asleep.

The next morning, she stopped at an IHOP and told a grey-haired waitress, “I don’t have any money, but can I have a cup of coffee?” The waitress must have felt sorry for her: she bought her breakfast. Afterwards, she went to Safeway and hid a steak and a bottle of beer under her coat and walked out. And kept walking. Someone had a barbecue grill in their back yard. She took it, and the charcoal, too.

What she could really go for now was some mushrooms. She should swipe some Kool-Aid and find a cow pasture. Or maybe she could rob a veterinary clinic. Anything to get the thought of him touching her out of her head, and that beer wasn’t going to cut it.

Steak and beer. Almost luxurious.

The sign read “Open House.” Yes, that sounded about perfect. She spent the night there, on the carpet smelling faintly of shampoo.

It had happened to him, too. What her father had done to her, his father had done to him. Which, in her opinion, just made it worse. He knew what it was like.

When the police arrived and told her she was under arrest for murder, she couldn’t stop laughing. (Continue Reading…)

Escape Pod 282: You’re Almost Here

Show Notes

A&E are offering us a prize pack for a random drawing! So US residents, please email feedback at escapepod.org and put CONTEST in the subject line. We’ll do a drawing next week!

You could win both of the following:

Space 1999: The Complete Season 1

In the year 1999, a spectacular explosion at a lunar nuclear waste dump sends the moon out of Earth’s orbit. In this seminal sci-fi series from producer Gerry Anderson, the men and women of Moonbase Alpha are suddenly propelled on a treacherous journey across the universe in search of extraordinary new worlds.

The Prisoner
Since its CBS debut in the summer of 1968, the masterful British TV series THE PRISONER has captivated American audiences. Now A&E presents a definitive aficionado’s edition of the cult classic which is considered one of the most innovative TV series ever filmed, for the first time in breathtaking Blu-Ray.

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 274
  • Next week… The grandfather paradox rears its violent head.

You’re Almost Here

By Melinda Thielbar

“Can I share your table?”

You look up to see your dream girl. Red hair, cream-colored skin, face just a little round, breasts just a little small. Not movie-star beautiful, not perfect just–nice. She smiles, and her cheeks dimple, and you’re in love. You gesture to the empty chair across from you with a grin of your own.

“Be my guest,” you say.

“Thanks.” She takes the chair and sets her coffee cup down. You close the notebook in front of you and open your mouth to say something—anything—to impress this girl.

Without looking at you, she turns in her chair, pulls a phone out of her pocket and bends over it. You watch her face in profile as she slips a pair of earbuds into her ears. Your mouth is still open, so you close it and look away. That’s when you see that every table is occupied. Men in suits, women in suits, a few people your age in khakis or jeans. They’re all looking down at their phones, laptops, or handheld game consoles. Sunlight streams in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, and you watch people passing by on the street for a minute. They’re all looking straight ahead, faces set the way they have to be in a city this size. When it’s this crowded, the only privacy you can give a stranger is not to notice them. That idea interests you, and so you open your notebook to jot it down at the bottom of the second-to-last page. As you’re writing, a chair scrapes behind you, and a guy in a navy three-piece moves past. He flips his phone open and then closed again, checking the time, and hurries out.

The girl across from you moves almost as fast as he does. “Thanks,” she says and flashes that amazing smile again before she grabs her drink and hops to the newly-open table. You write FUCK across the top of the second-to-last page of your notebook, tuck it into your pocket, and go get another coffee.

(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Escape Pod 280: Endosymbiont

Show Notes

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 272
  • Next week… Horticulture, dermatology, and love

Endosymbiont

By Blake Charlton

“Do you know what day it is? What year?”

“It’s like mid August, 2017?” her voice squeaked. Jesus, had she really lost her mind?

“That’s right.” She smiled. “Don’t be scared. I just wanted to be sure.”

“What do you mean don’t be scared?” she blurted. “Sure about what? Jesus! How long have I been here? How many times have you seen me before?”

Jani held up her hand. “Slow down; it’s okay…I’m not an oncologist, but I’m following your case. The cancer responded well to the treatment. And our research suggests that the side effects are temporary.”

Stephanie started to protest but then stopped. A terrifying memory flashed through her mind. “Mom said they might take me to a hospital for the dead.” She didn’t know what that meant but the memory was clear. “She said you’d keep me here to fool me into thinking I’m still alive.”

Jani was holding up both hands now. “Slow down. The survival rates are scary but they’re far better—”

“You’re not listening. She said they’d take me to a hospital for people who’ve _already_ died. I have to escape before—”

Stephanie started to stand but Jani put a heavy hand on her shoulder and said “Lullaby.”

The word opened a bloom of orange light across Stephanie’s vision. A static hiss exploded into her ears, and she felt herself falling. There was a firecracker yellow flash and then…nothing.