Posts Tagged ‘space’

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Escape Pod 813: A Consideration of Trees


A Consideration of Trees

By Beth Cato

As a xenoarbitrator, I was accustomed to working with concepts and situations deemed peculiar by most of humanity. Often, though, my own species confounded me most of all.

“I fear you misunderstood my advertisement.” I stood in Mari Kane’s miniscule parlor on Bradbury Orbital Station. My felizard partner, Petey, twitched in his nest atop my silvering crown braids. “I usually mediate between different species. You need a private investigator to look into a suspicious death–”

“Rainbow Charm Corporation owns the local investigators. Madam Alameda, you’re from off station. I couldn’t find any corporate affiliations in your history. You’re the independent investigator I want to hire.” A pleading note crept into her voice.

“I appreciate your confidence in me, but–”

“Bradbury Orbital is property of Rainbow Charm.” Petey spoke directly into my mind via our neural bond, his four-inch-long body flexing as he hummed in thought. “That’s a Thrassi-owned firm. This could be a cultural misunderstanding.”

“–this still isn’t my purview,” I finished, speaking aloud to both of them at once. “I study stories, new and old, and use them to bridge misunderstandings between different kinds of lifeforms. If you had a Murkle as your neighbor, for instance, who began screaming nonstop if rain lasted for more than a day, I could explain why and advise the Murkle on more appropriate responses.”

Honestly, I would have preferred to work with a screaming Murkle about then. Humans had been decisively immoral in every one of my recent jobs–cruel to fellow humans, and other kinds of life, too. Jaded as I felt, I had to wonder what crime her husband had committed to end up dead. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 812: The First Doom (Part 3 of 3)


The First Doom (Part 3)

by DaVaun Sanders

The Dubious’s bay doors didn’t budge as the hopper drew close. Kyria began to sweat as a console flickered on to show Zele’s scowl and Remiliat’s intense stare.

Kyria preempted them. “Everyone’s dead, except me and Paky,” she said. “Some sort of biological countermeasures. Paky’s still reeling from it, or he’d tell you himself.”

“A biological contaminant? That would mean—” Remiliat’s eyebrows climbed her forehead. “Replay the events exactly!”

“We’re not sick. The hopper sweeped our vitals clean. We’re wasting time. That ship is dangerous!”

“Yes, yes,” Zele said soothingly. “Give us a moment to think this through.”

The channel abruptly muted. Kyria wiped a hand over her scalp in frustration. Her eyes widened at sight of the glittering blue flecks on her palm. Hair follicles. Stained blue from Tar City, like indigo powder from a spent smart round. Am I sick? She licked her lips, glancing back at Zele. No way they had seen that on the monitor.

Paky gazed at her silently, working his mouth open and closed as if rediscovering his tongue. Kyria held a finger to his lips. After a moment he repeated the gesture. He doesn’t want them to know how messed up he is either, she thought bitterly. Hair falling out and a trauma mute…what a pair we make.

The monitor’s audio flicked back on. “Upflash your mission data,” Remiliat ordered.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 811: The First Doom (Part 2 of 3)


The First Doom (Part 2)

by DaVaun Sanders

Kyria awoke with a start. An alarm chimed faintly in the cryo tube. The frosted glass hissed aside. She clambered free, but her legs immediately buckled and the steel plated floor greeted her with a cold kiss. Kyria lay there until the trembling stopped, and sensation returned to her legs. A light blinked behind the skin of her palm—her sleep mod had finally kicked in. She’d never had to use it in a cryo tube before.

You hear me, rookie? It’s just a leg. You can make a new leg out of the medallions I’m going to get for you. Kyria never spoke the dead woman’s name, it only encouraged her to stir. Now pay attention. Exo-armor can process your new equilibrium better than you can if you lose a limb. Don’t fight the balance when—

“Bad enough I replay it when I’m awake, too,” Kyria muttered. She stood, thankful her legs held.

A glance at the open cryo tube’s chronometer surprised her. She’d slept just over two weeks; half of their expected flight time. Shuster’s measured snoring came loud enough to crack his tube open, but Kyria checked on him anyway, brushing her palm on the frosted glass. I’m keeping more of my crew alive than you, Captain. Her argument cheated on numbers, but even a frail truth held some comfort.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 810: The First Doom (Part 1 of 3)


The First Doom (Part 1)

by DaVaun Sanders

Kyria Grazheen faced down every hollow-eyed stare in the mess hall as she flexed her hand, ignoring the pain lancing through her knuckles. Over fifty women and men surrounded her, former Cassad crew bound by nothing but a shared desire to lash out over their fresh despair. She knew their pain, but sympathy in the Known served a mercenary worse than swallowing a handful of irradiated rounds.

“That’s the last warning you’re gonna get.” Kyria’s brown gaze settled on the man at her feet. He cupped a hand over his jaw, glowering up at her through a puffy eye. He had the good sense to keep his mouth closed while she spoke, even if it meant swallowing a little blood. “One more fight in this outpost, and I’ll shut the broadcast down myself. You can listen to it in orbit like all the rest.”

The scowls deepened as more of the surveying crew set to rush her. Behind them, Shuster’s hand slipped under the bar. Kyria gave a slight shake of her head. He kissed his teeth in exasperation, refusing to budge. Perfect. The man’s grip rested on worse than the mess hall’s poisonous ale.

Kyria winced, flexing her fist again as another Cassad elbowed past his crewmates. Veins bulged along his musclebound neck. “You Arcadian vermin act like you’re the—”

Kyria pried the tooth out of her knuckle with a grunt. “Finally.” A few drops of bright blood oozed out, spattering on the mess hall’s grated metal floor. She peered down at the stocky man, an Element G dispersal engineer by the smell of him. “You were saying?”

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 809: Heard, Half-Heard, in the Stillness


Heard, Half-Heard, in the Stillness

By Iona Datt Sharma

Ekta’s Dadi could tell the future. She didn’t read the tea leaves, or make or lay bets on the cricket. But she booked the photographer the week before the news came of Purnima Didi’s engagement. She told the panditji to get his blood pressure checked before he told anyone he was short of breath. The day before the Human Spaceflight Programme was suspended, she called Ekta in Sriharikota and said she should come home.

Ekta had been living in the dormitory attached to the ISRO flight training school. It took her twenty minutes to pack her things into two suitcases. On her way out, one of the boys stopped her and said, “Ma’am, your mail.”

He handed her a heavy package, which Ekta put in her bag without opening. It would be a technical document, now mockingly out of date—a systems report for a rocket that would never leave the ground. “Thank you,” she said, both to him and to everything around her. She took a moment to look as though seeing this place for the first time, taking in the clean white lines of the building, the landscaped campus, the soft blue water lapping the fringes of the barrier island—every small detail of a place she had loved. Mangalyaan, the Mars Orbiter, had left for space from here. Ekta would not. (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 788: Broken (Flashback Friday)


Broken

by Jaxton Kimble

My favorite part about skimming is that I’m not broken when I do it. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have levels, that I’m on or off, because that’s how everything’s supposed to be when you’re in the hypernet. Even if I’m not supposed to be in the hypernet.

I’m only able to skim because Kaipo left my interface node on. That was the day he told me I could call him Kaipo instead of Dr. Singh. His eyes are different than mine, but that’s not because of the Skew, and even if it is I wouldn’t care, because they’re pretty and dark and they twinkle a little bit when he smiles. We’d had sex twice when he told me I could call him Kaipo if we’re alone. Sex is almost as good as skimming, only it doesn’t last as long, and sometimes I’m stinky afterwards, which I’m not a fan of. Sometimes Kaipo smells like pumpkin, which I’m totally a fan of.

“Overshare.”

“Hi, Heady,” I say, rolling onto my side on the bed to look at her. I frown, which I know because the muscles at my jawbone ache a little when I frown. “Did you hear all that?”

Heady raises an eyebrow and purses her lips. Heady’s my big sister. Like, really big. Eight and a half feet big. That’s what the Skew did to her, blew her up bigger than life, but I think it suits her. She’s not as tough as she looks to most people, though. She’s totally as tough as she looks to me right now.

“Sorry,” I say, sitting up. “Sometimes I get confused about outside and inside my head.” That’s what the Skew did to me: broke my head. You can see that when I cut my hair or trim my beard, because the hairs change colors each time. Other people tell me it’s silly, but I like it. I can never decide if I like red or blue or green or purple or yellow more, and this way I get to have them all, and all’s better than some.

Heady sighs.

“Don’t worry, Sy,” she says, because Sy’s my name. “You never have to apologize to me.”

She smiles, and the muscles in my cheeks tense up so I know I’m smiling, too. She’s a good big sister, Heady. Even if she’s not real.
(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 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 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 768: Balancing the Equation


Balancing the Equation

by Justin C. Key

June 18, 2031

Lauren led her two-year-old son, Sean, slowly to their car while carrying three full bags of groceries.

“Up,” Sean said, showing her his palms. “Up, Mama, up!”

“Ask one more time and you’re getting a time out when we get home.”

She should have used a cart to carry the groceries. She should have walked with Sean on the inside. She should have ignored the aching pain in her back and picked him up. The rest of her life would be haunted by ‘should’ves’.

“A dog!” Sean pointed at passing poodle as big as him. Of his budding vocabulary, identifying dogs was a family favorite.

“Yes,” Lauren said. “A black dog.” She silently cursed at her failing grip on the bags. She twisted the strap around her wrist. Sean yanked her other arm, hard.

“Okay, time out as soon as–” Lauren said, but choked when she saw that Sean hadn’t tugged at all. It was a black Prius, worn and dented and scratched and horrible, rolling silently over her son to replace him, as if by magic.

Lauren screamed.

(Continue Reading…)