Genres:

Escape Pod 381: Elias Smith and Jones

Show Notes

Special thanks to user Tomlija at FreeSound.org who created and/or recorded the sound effect used in this episode!


Elias Smith and Jones

by Mark English

Every space in the four thousand seat lecture theatre was taken. Additional folk had snuck in to sit on the dark steps at the back. With everyone whispering discretely, the noise was deafening to the grizzled old-timer who stood leaning on the lecturn at the front—or it would have been except for the myPod player earbuds delivering their tinny frantic bluegrass tunes into his head. He chuckled to himself as he looked up at the wall of people in front of him. Political leaders, military leaders, space systems engineers; all desperate to hear the words of an aged ship’s monkey from the Frontier. All because he and his co-conspirators had blackmailed the solar system.

Elias chuckled to himself again. Who would have figured things would have turned out so? He plucked the ear buds out. Instant silence. The university had scored a coup in convincing one of the Sundance gang to tell their tale since any spaceway robbers were generally executed. However the Sundance gang had a thirty year old secret, one that everyone wanted. With the removal of the first earbud old Elias had indicated he was ready to start; all the spectators held their breath.

Elias turned his face up to the watchers, felt the bright lights warming his face, and smiled a toothy grin. “Howdy folks, I’m good an’ pleased to be here today, to see so many notables amongst you. Some I have met before.” A five star general shuffled uncomfortably in his seat as if the warm smile made him sweat—which it did. Elias continued in his soft southern-states patois. “We are gathered here today to hear a story, so let’s go back thirty years, back to when I was even more good lookin’. My partners and I had just obtained a large cargo of rare earth metals from an asteroid cargo waggon, and this had been mistak’n for a robbery. I guess after these years I gotta ‘fess up and say that it sure as hell was a robbery!” Elias leaned forward and grinned at the Sheriff-Admiral in the front row like he was about to lay a golden egg—which as history showed he had (in a manner of speaking). The Sheriff-Admiral returned a tight grimace filled with thirty years of difficult restraint.

(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Escape Pod 379: Concussion

Show Notes

Special thanks to users costaipsa, iankath, mario1298 and DJ Chronos at FreeSound.org who created and/or recorded the sound effects used in this episode!


Concussion

by David Glen Larson

He scrambled from the fire that was snaking through the corridor when another explosion jolted the ship, and just like that he was dead again. A moment later he was someone else, gazing down with another’s eyes at the mangled green body he’d left behind.

Never before had Tyler experienced such terror. Sure, he’d been afraid—afraid his knee would give out again, sidelining him for the big game; afraid he’d let down his teammates and make a fool of himself—but he’d never been terrified of being incinerated in an alien system countless light-years from the home world he was forced to flee. Not until now.

Staring up at the night sky, the stars were dim under the glare of the stadium lights. Which star was theirs? He caught himself and shook his aching head. It was only a dream, after all. The frog people weren’t real.

The doctor shined a penlight into each pupil. “Any headache, nausea, or dizziness?”

“What do you think? I was just hit by a freight train.” Good old Number 32—the biggest, meanest linebacker in the NFL.

“You may have a concussion.”

Coach Landis spit tobacco juice on the grass only inches from Tyler’s head. “We’re down 22-27 in the fourth quarter with under a minute to go. Montoya’s out, Casper’s out, and now you’re saying I’m out my third string too? Uh-uh, Doc. I need Harden in the game.”

“If he takes another hit—”

“A few aches and pains go with the territory,” said the coach.

“Forget aches and pains. I’m talking stroke or death. Those go with the territory?”

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 374: Oubliette


Oubliette

by J. Kelley Anderson

The half-buried thing hadn’t moved once, but I didn’t have to include that in the story when I got back to base. The great, gray mass of it rose at least ten feet out of the red earth, tucked close to the sheer wall of the plateau. That part I’d tell. If there had been anything like a head, I would have shot it, but it just looked like a giant, lumpy football, oozing a viscous yellowy liquid here and there.

The non-military personnel tried to remember their instructions, looking away from the muzzle of my rifle as the metallic squeal of the charging weapon warned of an impending discharge. The moment the noise ended, a pencil-thin beam of white light leapt from the gun and bored another sizzling hole into the motionless mound of wrinkled gray flesh. There was a sound like someone cooking giant bacon in a giant skillet.

I just can’t describe how much I love photon rifles. They’re big, noisy, ugly, unapologetic things that leave your hands shaking and the entire area smelling like ozone. They were shit on stealth missions but, then, so am I—that’s just one of the many reasons I got this gig as the Army equivalent of a galactic janitor.

Sergeant Wroblewski and I made eye contact as I turned to address the science team, and I noted the silent “high-five” look on his face.

“Well?” I said smoothly to Science Officer Neely. “Doesn’t get much deader than that.” I tried to look nonchalant.

(Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Escape Pod 356: Three-Quarters Martian


Three-Quarters Martian

By C.R. Hodges

The first man to walk on the moon was a hero to five generations. The first woman to walk on Mars was forgotten even before her boots plunked into the red dust.

“Hey,” a husky voice said in the dark.

I ignored her: the Swedish hockey team was calling to me from the sauna.

“Anna-Jing.” Same voice. A large hand grasped my shoulder.

I was losing my battle to recapture the fading dream.

“Wake up,” commanded a new voice in a rich brogue, “now.”

I took a deep breath, tasting the dust in the cool air, then slowly opened my eyes. Pulling the threadbare blanket around me, I sat up in my hammock.

Kaiza, the first and likely last aboriginal Australian to teach planetary astrophysics at Stanford, gently removed her hand from my shoulder. “Trouble in Florida.”

“The launch isn’t today.” I said, still groggy. Our resupply rocket was scheduled to lift off from Cape Lee in a week. We needed this one—the last launch, from Kazakhstan, had crashed in West Korea.

“There won’t be a fecking launch,” said Mick, our mission commander. He gestured at the wall screen, which snapped to life. Grainy footage showed a giant rocket lying on its side like a beached whale, next to a familiar gantry. A dozen old pickups were parked beyond the shattered nosecone. Scores of horses and four oxen grazed nearby, a web of cables and ropes leading back to the rocket. A horde of men and women in shorts and tank tops, flip-flops and baseball caps, were prying metal panels from the side of the rocket. Hundreds more lay dead on the ground, interspersed with the bodies of gray vested soldiers.

“Where are the pitchforks and torches?” I asked. No reply.

A helicopter arrived, ten commandos zip lining to the ground just meters from the camera crew. Seventy looters went down in the first minute, but then flight after flight of arrows from unseen archers decimated the commandos.

“Goodbye freeze-dried steak and potatoes,” said Mick.

“Goodbye replacement mini reactor.” I pointed at the four oxen dragging a sledge with a brightly marked container the size of a large desk.

“Gotta crank the thermostat down again,” said Mick. He lumbered off to make it so.

The last image we witnessed before a sword crashed down on the camera lens was a line of children siphoning kerosene from the rocket’s fuel tank into buckets. Goodbye civilization. (Continue Reading…)

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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 322: Chicken Noodle Gravity


Chicken Noodle Gravity

By J. Daniel Sawyer

I hate to start out this way, but before we get to the reason I’m standing on this stool with a fez on my head, in the middle of the night, in front of a double-cal-king bed in a furniture store—which, yes, Officer, I swear I’ll confess I broke into illegally—before we get to any of that, there’s something I have to tell you. I know it’s awful, evil, and just plain wrong, but there’s no way around it, and you won’t understand anything else unless I say this right up front, so here goes:

Stephen was stoned.

And when I say “stoned” I mean he’d eaten enough brownies and smoked enough pot to put the economies of five or six minor countries into a severe, long-term deficit crisis.

It was okay. It helped him cope with the chemo. Mellowed him out. We didn’t have to fight over who got to hold the remote. He was better in bed too—not as neurotic.

Didn’t complain about my mustache when I kissed him. Suits me right for shacking up with a clean freak.

The weed was my revenge—well, the fact that the weed made it possible for him to eat. We had to grow our own—only way we could afford it, though I swear we probably spent as much on the electricity as we would have on the bud. Not a great climate for it, not in the winter.

So, the revenge part—that would be his appetite. When he smoked, it came back. It was the only time it came back. And there were only two things he could handle:

Brownies.

And chicken noodle soup. The really rancid stuff that came in a red and white can. (Continue Reading…)

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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…)

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Escape Pod 252: Billion-Dollar View

Show Notes

Show Notes:

Next week… A very, very good dog.


Billion-Dollar View

By Ray Tabler

“But my name is Simon.”

Molly shook her head and chuckled. “With a head of hair like that? Nope, from now on your name is Red.”

Simon felt his young face flushing with embarrassment, which would further cement his new nickname. “What if I don’t want to be called Red?”

“Too late, should have shaved your head before I bought your contract.” Molly winked at him, executed a back flip in mid-air and launched herself out of the Labor Mart. “Come on, Red. We ain’t got all day.”

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Escape Pod 238: Wind From a Dying Star


Wind From a Dying Star

By David D. Levine

After a time she found a small patch of zeren. She spread across it, taking a little solace from its sparkling sweetness. “Zero-point energy” was what Old John called it, but to Gunai and the rest of her tribe it was zeren, delicious and rare. Gunai recalled a time when zeren was something you could almost ignore — a constant crackling thrum beneath the surface of perception — but now there were just a few thin patches here and there.

These days the tribe subsisted mostly on a thin diet of starlight, and even that was growing cold. Soon they would be forced to move on again. Yeoshi had told her the foraging was better in the direction of the galactic core, but it was so far…