Posts Tagged ‘robots’

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Escape Pod 720: Child and Orb


Child and Orb

by James Dunham

The child spent most of her time watching the empty stars from the pod window. They were always nothing but distant, dead glitter–not a planet, cloud, or rock, not a fleck of wreckage from the explosion. With only one window, she often wondered whether, if there had been another vista at the rear of the two-room pod, she might still be able to see the spinning pieces of hull and conduit, see that glove someone hadn’t gotten a hand into in time.

Even though the stars ahead never grew closer, she knew the pod kept moving. A display in a lean-to showed speed, fuel, and probably a destination, though none of the numbers meant much to her. The windowed orb that had carried her onto the pod told her what she needed to know–the pod was heading to meet another ship, still weeks distant. She appreciated that the orb hadn’t lied to her the way adults sometimes did, to make her feel better or to give her time to adjust. Instead it told only the truth.

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Escape Pod 582: Unit Two Does Her Makeup


Unit Two Does Her Makeup

By Laura Duerr

Doctor Spencer has brought me an artist. My eyes on the outside of the building register the identity of everyone who enters, including her: Suzanne Chantal Salinas, age 26, licensed esthetician and makeup artist, amateur painter. I cut the feed after .3 seconds. The security feed could tell me more, but I have learned that it is impolite to collect extraneous details about a person unless they prove to be a security risk. Given that both Suzanne Chantal Salinas and Doctor Spencer are smiling, and appear to be in companionable conversation, the artist is not a risk.

I observe them enter the building accompanied by a brief burst of cold — it is 37.1 degrees outside. When I view them through infrared, they are glowing red faces encompassed in green and blue jackets. I have been monitoring the interior temperatures; Unit One has made appropriate adjustments to climate control. We are keeping the building comfortable.

The visitor stamps her feet, brushes sleet from her black curls. They shed their jackets, blooming gold and scarlet on infrared. Unit Three has mobile security platforms posted by the front door and the elevators. They do not react: they are faceless, they don’t feel cold, the visitor has clearance.

The artist’s heart rate is elevated. Her cheeks are flushed, and not just from cold: she’s nervous about meeting me. She keeps looking at the security platforms. Perhaps she fears my platform will look like them, featureless and alien.

I chose my face. Unit Three chose hers, too, in a way. Our platforms serve different purposes, and the faces we built reflect that.

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Escape Pod 548: A Prayer at Noon


A Prayer at Noon

by John Shade

It was a day into the third sun when the patchwork man rode into town.

I remember the dust scrabbling at my eyes, and the folk that had gathered on the sidewalks to watch him plod past on a chugging, nearly-spent machine horse. As he came to me, the stitched segments of his face shifted into a new configuration, a hinted smile or frown, and his torso swung around, my breath seized. I’d been around men before, but he was something different. Something more. He was ugly, though, with a wiry frame and a large head set on top, wads of crusted hair sprouting between the seams across his skin. He rode toward us, confident as anything. I braced as he reached down, but he plucked my little sister, Ester, from the crowd instead. The town went silent but for the constant shuffle of wind-blown sand.

With his god-strength, the patchwork man tossed Ester into the air like an aerialist, and set her down to swelling applause. The dread was broken. Our prayers had been answered at last.

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Escape Pod 463: Rockwork

Show Notes

Also mentioned in this episode, treasured author Eugie Foster passed away.


Rockwork

by R. M. Graves

Dog sat at her kit, in the cavernous dark at the back of the stage, with Meg’s kiss chilling on her lips. That hadn’t fixed her nerves at all. Now Dog’s chest shook worse than her hands, jacked up on the worry of letting her girlfriend down, again.

The crowd didn’t see or care. As Meg took her spot out front, they thrummed the darkness with their chanting, “Rock… Work! Rock… Work!”

Dog’s sticks were already slick in her palms as she snapped rubber bands around them. She shuffled in her seat, checked contacts, toggled switches and sensed Meg’s impatience, standing in the dark between the drums and hungry fans. Dog brushed trembling fingers over the kit and it twitched around her, jittery. It hated gigs.

“Come on, Rocky,” she whispered and cogs whirred back at her. She shook her head. “Purring? Seriously?”

The kit’s blind trust made Dog gulp an urge to up and run. No. This time. This time Meg would be proud of her. Proud of them. No screw-ups. No zoning out.

She took a deep breath and kicked a volley of hard thumps into the black. The audience hushed. Cannon-shot beats echoed, overlapped, and swelled like an approaching army. A machine-gun of rimshots and the lights, and the crowd, exploded.

Dog scowled into the glare of spotlights as the ‘Rockwork’ burst into life around her; a kit stretched beyond drums to form an entire robotic band. Butchered musical instruments twitched and writhed in a hellish chromed engine of noise. Cogs spun plectrums at wire. Hammers rapped on the broken teeth of piano keys. Thumbscrews wrenched raw electric scales out of strangled frets.

Dog set her features into maniacal control, sweat already trickling over her bald head, pooling in her eyebrows; her arms gleaming pistons at the snare and toms.

Meg swayed her hips to Dog’s driving cacophony; her playful nonchalance creating a tantalizing silhouette to the audience, but taunting Dog behind. Hinting at what she had to lose. The music press were in tonight, but there was more than the band at stake.

The Rockwork was autonomous to a point, but it relied on Dog to keep it in line. Left unchecked it would spin off on its own groove without regard to Meg. Or the audience. Dog pressed her lips, rolled an extravagant fill across the toms, thrashed out her anxiety in the splash and crash. Meg’s cue.

The fans bounced along with the opening bars. Meg tossed Dog a warning frown, the gobo’s lit her up, and her voice rang out. The crowd, already jumping, flung its hands in the air like antennae for more and howled in pleasure. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 416: On the Big Fisted Circuit


On the Big Fisted Circuit

by Cat Rambo

Jane counted them again to make sure: twelve.

Twelve signatures on the back panel, most jerky with haste, a couple deliberate and firm, one with a little flower above the i, for god’s sake. The pen in her hand ready to add the thirteenth.

How blatant were they going to be?

This was the biggest suit she’d ever crawled into. It meant money: money dripping through the wires around her, money in the gleaming metal struts, money being made by every step it took, money her family needed, every step a week’s rent and food if they were careful with it.

She’d never hit a thirteenth signature before. Most rigs, even the monster ones like this, got destroyed long before a thirteenth fight. It wasn’t just the bad luck, it was dealing with machinery that had been damaged and repaired, damaged and repaired, until you didn’t know what was original body and what was filler.

The sound of the crowd filtered into the suit. Most were screaming, “Coke! Coke! Coke!” as though they meant blood instead, shouts thrumming through the five railroad cars’ worth of metal surrounding her.

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EP326: Flash Fiction Special


Poppies and Chrome by Sylvia Hiven

Rabbi Aaron Meets Satan by Tim Lieder

Fine-Tuning the Universe by Merrie Haskell

Narrated by Mat Weller, author Richard E. Dansky, and Mur Lafferty

EP323: Marking Time on the Far Side of Forever


Marking Time on the Far Side of Forever

By D.K. Latta

I sit beneath the dark green sky, overlooking the valley that has changed much over the years.  What was once a stream has swelled into a river while, to the east, lush vegetation grows where I think there was once a shallow lake. I can’t remember definitely. The information is stored inside me, filed, itemized; I’m merely unsure how to access it. It will come to me. Later, when a random search, an unrelated thought, cracks open the proper conduits and a pulse of electricity resurrects the knowledge, unbidden.

Until then, I am content to wait.

Below my knee, the dented brass-coloured metal becomes the red of a tree trunk, substituting as a shin and foot. Like an antiquated peg-leg, like a stereotypical pira…pi…pi-

Pi is 3.1415926…

The organic substance must be replaced occasionally, but the concept has served satisfactorily for almost two hundred years. It was easy to jury-rig. Not so my mnemonic core.  I lack the appropriate tools and diagnostic programs.

Yes. There had been a lake, teeming with the hoorah-thet fish.

I call them fish simply to provide a basis of comparative orientation. Fish only exist on earth, and this is not earth.  Earth is a long, long way away.
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EP307: Soulmates


Soulmates

By Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn

Have you ever killed someone you love – I mean, really love?

I did.

I did it as surely as if I’d fired a bullet into her brain, and the fact that it was perfectly legal, that everyone at the hospital told me I’d done a humane thing by giving them permission to pull the plug, didn’t make me feel any better. I’d lived with Kathy for twenty-six years, been married to her for all but the first ten months. We’d been through a lot together: two miscarriages, a bankruptcy, a trial separation twelve years ago – and then the car crash. They said she’d be a vegetable, that she’d never think or walk or even move again. I let her hang on for almost two months, until the insurance started running out, and then I killed her.

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Escape Pod 250: Eros, Philia, Agape

Show Notes

Show Notes:

  • This is a long one, we’re bringing occasional novelettes to Escape Pod now, and what better to launch the effort than a Hugo nominee?

Next week… Escape Pod looks at an alternate history with alternate aliens.


Eros, Philia, Agape

By Rachel Swirsky

The objects belonged to them both, but Adriana waved her hand bitterly when Lucian began packing. “Take whatever you want,” she said, snapping her book shut. She waited by the door, watching Lucian with sad and angry eyes.

Their daughter, Rose, followed Lucian around the house. “Are you going to take that, Daddy? Do you want that?” Wordlessly, Lucian held her hand. He guided her up the stairs and across the uneven floorboards where she sometimes tripped. Rose stopped by the picture window in the master bedroom, staring past the palm fronds and swimming pools, out to the vivid cerulean swath of the ocean. Lucian relished the hot, tender feel of Rose’s hand. I love you, he would have whispered, but he’d surrendered the ability to speak.

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Escape Pod 239: A Programmatic Approach to Perfect Happiness


A Programmatic Approach to Perfect Happiness

By Tim Pratt

My step-daughter Wynter, who is regrettably prejudiced against robots and those who love us, comes floating through the door in a metaphorical cloud of glitter instead of her customary figurative cloud of gloom. She enters the kitchen, rises up on the toes of her black spike-heeled boots, wraps her leather-braceleted arms around my neck, and places a kiss on my cheek, leaving behind a smear of black lipstick on my artificial skin and a whiff of white make-up in my artificial nose.

“Hi Kirby,” she says, voice all bubbles and light, when normally she would never deign to utter my personal designation.

“Is Moms around? Haven’t talked to her in a million.”

I know right away that Wynter has been infected.