Genres:

Escape Pod 340: Golubash (Wine-Blood-War-Story)


Golubash (Wine-Blood-War-Story)

By Catherynne M. Valente

The difficulties of transporting wine over interstellar distances are manifold. Wine is, after all, like a child. It can _bruise_. It can suffer trauma—sometimes the poor creature can recover, sometimes it must be locked up in a cellar until it learns to behave itself. Sometimes it is irredeemable. I ask that you greet the seven glasses before you tonight not as simple fermented grapes, but as the living creatures they are, well-brought up, indulged but not coddled, punished when necessary, shyly seeking your approval with clasped hands and slicked hair. After all, they have come so very far for the chance to be loved.

Welcome to the first public tasting of Domaine Zhaba. My name is Phylloxera Nanut, and it is the fruit of my family’s vines that sits before you. Please forgive our humble venue—surely we could have wished for something grander than a scorched pre-war orbital platform, but circumstances, and the constant surveillance of Chatêau Marubouzu-Debrouillard and their soldiers have driven us to extremity. Mind the loose electrical panels and pull up a reactor husk—they are inert, I assure you. Spit onto the floor—a few new stains will never be noticed. As every drop about to pass your lips is wholly, thoroughly, enthusiastically illegal, we shall not stand on ceremony. Shall we begin?

2583 Sud-Cotê-du-Golubash (New Danube)

The colonial ship _Quintessence of Dust_ first blazed across the skies of Avalokitesvara two hundred years before I was born, under the red stare of Barnard’s Star, our second solar benefactor. Her plasma sails streamed kilometers long, like sheltering wings. Simone Nanut was on that ship. She, alongside a thousand others, looked down on their new home from  that great height, the single long, unfathomably wide river that circumscribed the globe, the golden mountains prickled with cobalt alders, the deserts streaked with pink salt.

How I remember the southern coast of Golubash, I played there, and dreamed there was a girl on the invisible opposite shore, and that her family, too, made wine and cowered like us in the shadow of the Asociación.

My friends, in your university days did you not study the rolls of the first colonials, did you not memorize their weight-limited cargo, verse after verse of spinning wheels, bamboo seeds, lathes, vials of tailored bacteria, as holy writ? Then perhaps you will recall Simone Nanut and her folly, that her pitiful allotment of cargo was taken up by the clothes on her back and a tangle of ancient Maribor grapevine, its roots tenderly wrapped and watered. Mad Slovak witch they all thought her, patting those tortured, battered vines into the gritty yellow soil of the Golubash basin. Even the Hyphens were sure the poor things would fail. There were only four of them on all of Avalokitesvara, immensely tall, their watery triune faces catching the old red light of Barnard’s flares, their innumerable arms fanned out around their terribly thin torsos like peacock’s tails. Not for nothing was the planet named for a Hindu god with eleven faces and a thousand arms. The colonists called them Hyphens for their way of talking, and for the thinness of their bodies. They did not understand then what you must all know now, rolling your eyes behind your sleeves as your hostess relates ancient history, that each of the four Hyphens was a quarter of the world in a single body, that they were a mere outcropping of the vast intelligences which made up the ecology of Avalokitesvara, like one of our thumbs or a pair of lips.
(Continue Reading…)

Genres: ,

Escape Pod 333: Asteroid Monte


Asteroid Monte

By Craig DeLancey

“You don’t look like an omnivore.”

I was supposed to spend the next several years working side-by-side with this bear monster thing from an unpronounceable planet, and the first words she speaks to me are these.

“Excuse me?”

“Your teeth are flat,” she hissed. “Like a herbivore’s.”

I had been waiting in the tiered square outside the Hall of Harmony, main office of the Galactic police force officially called the Harmonizers, but which everyone really called the Predators. Neelee-ornor is one of those planets that makes me a believer. Cities crowd right into forests as thick as the Amazon, and both somehow thrive with riotous abandon. It proves the Galactic creed really means something. Something worth fighting for. Something that could get me to take this thankless job.

So I waited to meet my partner, as I sat on a cool stone bench under a huge branch dripping green saprophytes. The air was damp but smelled, strangely, like California after the rain, when I would leave CalTech and hike into the hills. I almost didn’t want her to show, so I could sit and enjoy it. I really knew only three things about her. She had about two e-years under her belt as a Predator. She was a Sussuratian, a race of fierce bearlike carnivores evolved from predatory pack animals, only a century ahead of humanity in entering Galactic Culture. And she was named Briaathursiasaliantiormethessess.

God help me.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 321: Honor Killing


Honor Killing

By Ray Tabler

You would think that after all the years I’ve spent schlepping cargoes around the galaxy I’d have learned not to get involved with the locals, especially when they’re not humans. You would think.

A Yanuleen sat down across the table from me in a bar at the edge of the landing field outside of Yanult’s largest city. Yanuleen are furry little folk, bipedal and about a meter tall with six multi-jointed arms poking out at odd intervals around their middles. This one blinked beady, black eyes at me, “Greetings Sentient Being.”

“Uh, greetings.”

“Isn’t it a glorious piece?” My new buddy pointed an arm at the artwork on display in the middle of the bar.

Yanuleen are a bit nuts for that type of thing. They have artwork, mainly sculpture, everywhere, even in a bar. To me it just looked like a three-meter tall bundle of twigs with pieces of broken pottery tossed in at random.

“Very nice.” Being in a foul mood, I took a drink and stared at the Yanuleen.

“Here is being Klonoon.” He pointed all six arms at himself, in the manner of his kind. “Might here also being Captain Anne Katya Shim, who is having a cargo of entertainment modules impounded by the Port Authority?”
(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Escape Pod 309: The Insurance Agent


The Insurance Agent

By Lavie Tidhar

The bar was packed and everyone was watching the Nixon-Reagan match. The fighters were reflected off the bar’s grainy wood countertop and the tables’ gleaming surfaces and seemed to melt as they flickered down the legs of the scattered chairs. The bar was called the Godhead, which had a lot to do with why I was there. It was a bit of an unfair fight as Reagan was young, pre-presidency, circa-World War Two, while Nixon was heavy-set, older: people were exchanging odds and betting with the bar’s internal gaming system and the general opinion seemed to be that though Reagan was in better shape Nixon was meaner.

I wasn’t there for the match.

The Godhead was on Pulau Sepanggar, one of the satellite islands off Borneo, hence nominally under Malaysian federal authority but in practice in a free zone that had stronger ties to the Brunei Sultanate. It was a convenient place to meet, providing easy access to the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and, of course, Singapore, which resented the island’s role as a growing business centre yet found it useful at the same time.

She wore a smart business suit and a smart communication system that looked like what it was, which was a custom-made gold bracelet on her left arm. She wore smart shades and I was taking a bet that she wasn’t watching the fight. She was drinking a generic Cola but there was nothing generic about her. I slid into a chair beside her and waited for her shades to turn transparent and notice me.

‘Drink, Mr. Turner?’

(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Escape Pod 298: The Things

Show Notes

Nominated for the Hugo Award for Short Story, 2011

Thanks to Kate Baker and Clarkesworld for the audio!


The Things

By Peter Watts

I am being Blair. I escape out the back as the world comes in through the front.

I am being Copper. I am rising from the dead.

I am being Childs. I am guarding the main entrance.

The names don’t matter. They are placeholders, nothing more; all biomass is interchangeable. What matters is that these are all that is left of me. The world has burned everything else.

I see myself through the window, loping through the storm, wearing Blair.  MacReady has told me to burn Blair if he comes back alone, but MacReady still thinks I am one of him. I am not: I am being Blair, and I am at the door. I am being Childs, and I let myself in. I take brief communion, tendrils writhing forth from my faces, intertwining: I am BlairChilds, exchanging news of the world.

The world has found me out. It has discovered my burrow beneath the tool shed, the half-finished lifeboat cannibalized from the viscera of dead helicopters. The world is busy destroying my means of escape. Then it will come back for me.

There is only one option left. I disintegrate. Being Blair, I go to share the plan with Copper and to feed on the rotting biomass once called Clarke ; so many changes in so short a time have dangerously depleted my reserves. Being Childs, I have already consumed what was left of Fuchs and am replenished for the next phase.  I sling the flamethrower onto my back and head outside, into the long Antarctic night.

I will go into the storm, and never come back.

(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Escape Pod 284: On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy

Show Notes

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 276
  • Next week… The hopes and dreams of a child, and her pet.

On a Clear Day You can See All the Way to Conspiracy

By Desmond Warzel

You’re listening to the Mike Colavito Show on Cleveland’s home for straight talk, WCUY 1200. The opinions expressed on this program do not reflect those of WCUY, its management, or its sponsors.

Fair warning; I’m in a mood today, folks.

We’ve got a mayor whose only talent seems to be showing up at luncheons and waving at the cameras.

Eighty bucks I had to pay yesterday for not wearing my seatbelt. Show me the seatbelts on a school bus.

I saw a Cleveland athlete on national TV last night wearing a Yankees cap.

And every day I get at least a dozen calls from schmucks who think that people like me are the problem in this city.

Tell me America’s not falling apart.

[pause]

And some of you people–including our programming director, by the way–seem to think I’m running my mouth too much and not taking enough phone calls. I’ve only been number one in radio in this city for ten straight years; what would I know?
(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Escape Pod 278: Written on the Wind

Show Notes

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 270
  • Next week… A groovy strange kind of love

Written on the Wind

By David D. Levine

Thuren Nektopk peered down at Luulianni from above his massive desk. “I suspect you know why I’ve called you to speak with me in person.” He spoke in his native language, Ptopku Dominant, using the form of address for a subordinate or a child. It was a constant reminder that the Ptopku had built and largely staffed this station, and was one of the most powerful species in the Consortium.

“Yes, Supervisor,” Luulianni replied in the same language, knotting her tentacles.

“And that would be…?”

“Because of my side project.”

“Yes.” Nektopk suddenly released the bar from which he hung, caught himself on another handhold, and with two swift strokes of his arms swung down to where his six slitted eyes were level with Luulianni’s. “Your little side project.”

Luulianni cringed. “I don’t understand why it’s so much of a problem.” She straightened and tried to meet his gaze. “I put in my full quota of time every day.”

“Yes, you do, and not one moment more. But I know you are capable of so much more than that. Any work you do on this pointless little side project of yours constitutes theft of resources from the Section — from the whole Project!”

“Theft?” she squeaked. Angry at herself for the loss of control, she brought her voice down. “Theft of resources? But I don’t use any data storage space, or any other Section resources! I write my notes on the backs of old printouts.” She did not mention how much more natural it felt to work on paper.

“You are stealing the most valuable resource of all!” Nektopk pointed at her with one limber foot. “Your own time and attention!”

“But it’s my time!”
(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Escape Pod 274: Angry Rose’s Lament

Show Notes

 

Show Notes:


Angry Rose’s Lament

By: Cat Rambo

“Not one of the Big Three? Thought CocaCorp would want a piece of that.”

Rutter had wondered that himself. By all accounts, Solin was a plum piece of real estate, the kind one of the big companies like General M or Bushink would snatch up as an asset. Across the galaxies, they’d grabbed small systems every chance they got. Solin did have a native intelligent race tp be wooed, but there was a surplus of impoverished races deep in debt to the Companies. Very few, the ones who knew to hire themselves savvy (and expensive) legal counsel, managed to keep themselves free.

There was, Rutter figured, something out of the ordinary about Solin. Not out of the ordinary in a valuable way, but something tricky, something slippery or scandalous, some taint the Big Three wanted to avoid. He’d find out soon enough, he guessed.

Genres:

Escape Pod 267: Planetfall

Show Notes

 

Show Notes:

  • Feedback for Episode 259: The Lady or the Tiger?
  • Next week… Weather: wild, and planned.

 


Creative Commons License

Planetfall by Michael C. Lea is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at escapepod.org.


Planetfall

By Michael C. Lea

Galthas Talisar stepped out from the buzzing chaos of the transportal and onto lush greenery. This world was alien, to be sure, but the patterns were almost familiar. The ship’s oracles had chosen well.

Behind him, the transportal hummed again. An armored leg emerged and carefully found its footing on the blue-green ferns carpeting the jungle floor. More than twenty thousand miles above, the leg’s owner shifted his weight and stepped fully through an identical transportal, instantly emerging on the planet’s surface below.

That cautious step belonged to Urjik, who could be called cautious in few other ways. In fact, his reputation had left him few other options for a willing partner on this mission. Urjik did not care. He and Galthas had fought together against the worst the Zayeen had to offer. He trusted Galthas implicitly, despite his disdain for the other scrawny ascetics from Signet Battalion.

Urjik’s greenish skin and jutting lower canines marked him as a charuk, his bloodline tainted by nether influences. Despite this stigma, and despite his temper, he had risen quickly in Rampart Battalion. Even the most burdensome battlesuit did not slow him, and no one was a truer shot with an inferno cannon or a hex-impelled railgun. (Continue Reading…)

Genres: ,

Escape Pod 251: Unexpected Outcomes

Show Notes

Show Notes:

  • Tim Pratt is serializing a Marla Mason novel, Broken Mirrors at his website. His first anthology is out this summer from Night Shade Books, Sympathy for the Devil.
  • Tom Rockwell’s work can be found at his personal music website, Devo Spice, The Funny Music Project, and his comedy troupe, Cirque du So What?
  • Incidentally, Tom Rockwell, myself, and many other Escape Artist writers and narrators will be at NASFiC next week, so check us out if you’re in the Raleigh, NC area!

Next week… Rescue in deep space. And guitar ballads.


Unexpected Outcomes

By Tim Pratt

But the plane just stopped, and hung there, nose tipped at a slight angle, mere feet from the building.

And that’s when the figure — the one people call the Ambassador, or the Doctor, or the Outsider, or the Professor, or a hundred other names — appeared. Just a middle-aged man in a white lab coat, with steel-rimmed glasses and graying hair. His image filled the air above the jetliner, like the dome of the sky had been transformed into an IMAX movie screen.

He said, “People of Earth, I have a message for you.”