Posts Tagged ‘space’

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Escape Pod 431: The Golden Glass


The Golden Glass

by Gary Kloster

“The jump-pilot,” said Alejandro, “is sleeping with Leo.”

“You just noticed?” Glory said, tugging off her pants. “And now these are getting too tight. That’s it, I’m upping G in engineering. It’ll skew the efficiency but my ass won’t fit through the access panels soon if I don’t burn some of this off.”

Alejandro ignored his wife’s attempted diversion. “How long has this been going on?”

Glory shrugged. “The kids? They’ve been flirting since Evy came aboard. I’m not exactly sure when they actually started sleeping together. Probably during the flight here to Valhalla.”  She dropped her clothes and stepped into the head. “Why’s it matter?”

Alejandro sat on the bunk and pulled off his slippers. “You’re okay with this?”

Glory leaned out the door, toothbrush in hand. “They’re consenting adults, and it’s impossible to stop ship romances. As long as it doesn’t effect their work, it’s not our business.”

“I don’t like it,” muttered Alejandro, staring at the stars that filled the wall screen. “Leo’s a dreamer. He should be with someone grounded. Evy’s nice, but she’s not right for him. Damn good jumper, but an air-head.”

“Cheez nah…” Glory spat and tried again. “She’s not an airhead, she’s just young and… cheerful.”

“She drinks too much.”

“She has wine with dinner. Her parents owned a vineyard on Laramie.” Glory walked back into the cabin and sat next to her husband. “Alejandro, she’s a nice girl and she’s here on the ship. You have to know that Leo’s been thinking of leaving.”

Alejandro frowned. “Why? He has a good life here with us, learning the trade, and when we finally retire the Evanston will be his.”

“Yes, but that won’t be for a long time. He needs to build his own life. Hell, why do you think I pressed you so hard to hire that newly graduated jump-pilot anyway?”

“You said she had great ratings and a low pay-scale.”

“Yes, but the real reason is that our son was lusting after her the minute he saw her. Thank the gods that it’s working out and we’re not dealing with a harassment suit. Now brush your teeth. Launch tomorrow, and we’re going to be busy.” (Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 430: Heart of Joy


Heart of Joy

by Kate O’Connor

“How’s your ankle, Luci?” Feon Sen, High Chancellor of Carinae, leaned against the wall, watching intently as she braided her dark hair. Luscinia considered the question carefully, studying his reflection in the mirror. He was a man of many words, but his meaning was clearest in the surgically smoothed lines around his eyes and the rhythm his fingers absentmindedly tapped out on his arm. He was asking if she was up to the task he had for her tonight.

“Better, thank you.” She stood and danced a few quick steps to prove it. She was ready. The prism-glass walls sent the light they had collected from Carina’s dim sun scattering around the room in teardrops of scarlet and gold and sapphire. It was hard not to blame the cold and the hard crystal floors for the aches in her joints. Hot sun and soft ground were worlds away, but Feon was always ready with a good reason for her to stay whenever she mentioned returning to her home planet.

She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. Even after more than a year in his company, Luscinia still found how young he looked and how old his expressions were disconcerting. She hadn’t asked him about whatever medical miracles or cosmetic alterations he’d had done over the long decades he had been in control of the three hundred and forty-seven inhabited worlds of the nebula. It was how things were on Carina Prime, especially for those in the public eye. She hated the scrutiny that came with being his lover. More than one helpful soul had mentioned a few of the currently fashionable options for elongating her legs or slimming her curvy body. The idea turned her stomach.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 423: Arena


Arena

by Fredric Brown

[EDITOR: We don’t have the rights to post the text of this story.]

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Escape Pod 422: Deshaun Stevens’ Ship Log

Show Notes

The author’s story about the story: http://reasie.livejournal.com/663241.html


Deshaun Stevens’ Ship Log

by Marie Vibbert

Personal Log — January 1

Crunches–one and a very near half.

Push-ups–none unless counting getting off floor

Calories–lost count, but all from alcohol, so okay

One year ago today I vowed I would not spend another year working on this stupid cruise ship.  One year ago my life was exactly as it is now, with exception of having a girlfriend.

Trying to have a good sulk about lack of gf, but general suckatude of life winning.  Have spent all adult years–five of them–treading the same tract of “unexplored” space with end trip to rings of Neptune tacked on by tourist company as apology for boringness of unexplored space.  Have also set lighting and sound cues for thousand ungrateful musicians with combined talent of medium-sized shrub.

(Is supposedly new tract of space each time, but how can anyone–especially easily-duped passengers who think cruise ship bands are good–tell the difference?)

Current misery doubled by working with now-ex gf.  Attempts to avoid said ex at New Year’s party largely consisted of going back to punch bowl repeatedly.  May have sung love ballad composed in throes of self-pity at end of night. Memory foggy.  Hope everyone else’s is, too.

Suspecting ship regulation against alcohol v. wise after all.  Hope they don’t read our logs.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 421: Bright Moment


Bright Moment

by Daniel Marcus

Arun floated in the ammonia swells, one arm around the buoyant powersled, waiting. He’d blocked all his feeds and chats, public and private, and silenced his alerts. He felt deliciously alone. His ears were filled with the murmuring white noise of his own blood flow, intimate and oceanic, pulsing with his heartbeat. Metis was a bright diamond directly overhead. Athena hung just above the near, flat horizon, her rings a plaited bow spanning the purple sky. Persistent storms pocked her striated surface, appearing deceptively static from thirty kiloklicks out. Arun had negotiated the edgewalls of those storms more than once, setting up metahelium deep-mining rigs. A host of descriptive words came to mind, but “static” was not among them.

The sea undulated slowly in the low gee, about 0.6 Standard. The distant shape of a skyhook was traced out by a pearlstring of lights reaching up from the horizon and disappearing into distance haze, blinking in synchronization to suggest upwards motion. The skyhook was the only point of reference for scale. He shuddered involuntarily. His e-field distributed warmth to his body extremities from the tiny pack at the small of his back and maintained his blood oxygenation, but bobbing in the swell, alone in the vast sea, he felt cold and a little dizzy. He wanted to breathe and felt a fleeting instant of lizard-brain panic.

The current began to tug at his feet long before he saw the humped swell bowing the horizon upwards, a slight backward drift, accelerating slowly. His heart began beating faster as he clambered belly down onto the power sled. He drifted back towards the swell, slowly at first, then faster. He looked over his shoulder at the rising wall of liquid. It appeared solid, like moving metal, completely blocking the sky. He imagined he could feel wind tugging at his e-field.

Arun felt a vibration through the powersled, a vast low frequency murmur, the world-ocean getting ready to kick his ass. Just as he was about to be sucked beneath the monstrous swell, he activated the sled. He surged forward and stood as the sled began to accelerate up the face of the wave.

He felt the sled’s stabilizers groaning beneath his feet as he sought balance on the flat surface. The wave steepened, hurtling him forward. He could just make out the landmass upon which this immense wave would break. Brooklyn was the moon’s only continent, a million square klicks of frozen nothing.
(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 415: The Nightmare Lights of Mars


The Nightmare Lights of Mars

by Brian Trent

Before discovering the moths, Clarissa Lang stumbled blind in the Martian sandstorm and admitted she was about to die because of a painting.

Granules of sand flew past her head at 90 kph and crunched between her teeth. The storm hissed around her ears, a terrible insistence that she hush forever. There was no excuse for this death, Clarissa thought. Weather advisories had been in place for an hour. Her death would become a digital footnote, filed under foolishness, for all time.

She staggered blind and tacked through the needle-spray. Red sand piled around her neck and shoulders, grew around her mouth like exaggerated lipstick.

“Overlay!” she shouted — tried to shout — but her mouth instantly filled with gritty particulate. She panicked then, the first moment of true mindless panic. But the Martian Positioning Satellite had heard her cry: Maureen’s property map sprang up in her left eye, drawn scarlet against each blink.

The house was thirty meters northwest. Upwind.

Clarissa tucked herself into a protective ball and scuttled sideways, like a crab. The sand struck her exposed hands and face in a shifting, relentless wave.

I’ll never make it.

Clarissa could no longer breathe. A recent story from the Japanese colony in Cydonia leapt to her mind, in which a grandmother had been caught outside in a sandstorm, wandered around in circles for ten minutes in the hissing tempest, and finally suffocated an arm’s length from her front door. When they found her, her stomach, throat, and mouth were bulging with sand.

The toolshed! I can make the tool shed!

Clarissa turned away from her house and the full brunt of the sandstorm slammed into her back, tearing the jacket, spraying around her body in silhouette. For a fleeting instant, she was able to suck clean air into her lungs. Then the sand closed around her again.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 410: Nutshell


Nutshell

by Jeffrey Wikstrom

Carpet ocean, stretching over miles; hills and valleys and ravines, all upholstered.  The green indoor-outdoor gives way to blue, as land gives way to sea, but the texture never changes.  When it rains, as it sometimes does, the drops pass through the carpet without making contact, as though they or it aren’t really there.  It’s there enough for me to walk on, at least, though spongy in some places and firm in others, as though it conceals hidden frames or foundations.  Out on the blue carpet-sea, it feels stretched, tight, as though I walk on a drumhead.  Maybe if I cracked it open I would find a vast dark expanse of water, lit by undersea jack-o-lanterns and holes that show the sky without breaking up the carpet-underside ceiling.

None of it is real, of course.  That probably goes without saying.

It’s funny; I wasn’t supposed to experience time at all.  When they loaded us into the ship, we were told that the travel would be instantaneous from our perspectives.  One minute lying down in the big white plastic tombs, the next freshly decanted and opening raw new eyes.  We would transition seamlessly from fluorescents and anesthesia to the light of some distant new sun.  Certainly I have no memory of consciousness during departure.  I wouldn’t have wanted to be aware, during that dreadful acceleration which pulped our bones, and wrecked our flesh.  By then they had already guided us from our old bodies into the safety of simulation and storage.

This curated world never bruises me or shows me sharp edges.  Trees are padded poles, slick vinyl trunks capped by rubbery green spheres fifteen, twenty feet up.  Stairsteps run up the hillsides, though even the steepest rises are shallow enough I don’t really need the footholds.  Fat plush toys, pink and green and blue, gambol across the plains and mimic living beasts grazing carpet-grass, or drinking from carpet-brooks.  They ignore me, even when I shove or punch them.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 404: Zebulon Vance Sings the Alphabet Songs of Love


Zebulon Vance Sings the Alphabet Songs of Love

by Merrie Haskell

I am Robot!Ophelia. I will not die for love tonight.


The noon show is the three-hour 1858 Booth production. The most fashionable historical war remains the First American Civil. Whenever FACfans discover that Lincoln’s assassin played Horatio, they simply must come and gawk at this titillating replica of their favorite villain playing no one’s favorite character.

FACfans love authenticity. To the delight of Robot!Hamlet, today’s clients insist that Edwin Booth stride the stage beside his more famous brother. Most performances, Robot!Hamlet remains unused in the charging closet, for the first law in our business is Everybody Wants to Play the Dane.

Today, Robot!Hamlet is afire with Edwin Booth’s mad vigor, and runs his improv algorithms at full throttle; he kisses me dreamily, and rips my bodice in a way that would never have been allowed in Victorian America. The FACfans don’t look hyperpleased about this; it tarnishes their precious authenticity.

Robot!Horatio also loves the 1858 Booth. It’s the only time anyone comes to a performance for him alone. But what about the rest of us, the remainder of the AutoGlobe’s incantation of robots? We bear with it, as we bear with all the other iterations of our native play.

The FACfans barely notice me when either Booth is on stage. I clutch my ripped bodice; exit Robot!Ophelia. I get me to a nunnery.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 402: The Tale of the Golden Eagle

Show Notes

Links for this episode:


The Tale of the Golden Eagle

by David D. Levine

This is a story about a bird. A bird, a ship, a machine, a woman—she was all these things, and none, but first and fundamentally a bird.

It is also a story about a man—a gambler, a liar, and a cheat, but only for the best of reasons.

No doubt you know the famous Portrait of Denali Eu, also called The Third Decision, whose eyes have been described as “two pools of sadness iced over with determination.” This is the story behind that painting.

It is a love story. It is a sad story. And it is true.

The story begins in a time before shiftspace, before Conner and Hua, even before the caster people. The beginning of the story lies in the time of the bird ships.

Before the bird ships, just to go from one star to another, people either had to give up their whole lives and hope their children’s children would remember why they had come, or freeze themselves and hope they could be thawed at the other end. Then the man called Doctor Jay made a great and horrible discovery: he learned that a living mind could change the shape of space. He found a way to weld a human brain to the keel of a starship, in such a way that the ship could travel from star to star in months instead of years.

After the execution of Doctor Jay, people learned that the part of the brain called the visual cortex was the key to changing the shape of space. And so they found a creature whose brain was almost all visual cortex, the Aquila chrysaetos, or as it was known in those days the golden eagle. This was a bird that has been lost to us; it had wings broader than a tall man is tall, golden brown feathers long and light as a lover’s touch, and eyes black and sharp as a clear winter night. But to the people of this time it was just another animal, and they did not appreciate it while they had it.

They took the egg of a golden eagle, and they hatched it in a warm box, and they let it fly and learn and grow, and then they killed it. And they took its brain and they placed it at the top of a cunning construction of plastic and silicon which gave it the intelligence of a human, and this they welded to the keel of the starship.

It may seem to you that it is as cruel to give a bird the intelligence of a human, only to enslave its brain, as it is to take the brain of a human and enslave that. And so it is. But the people of this time drew a rigid distinction between born-people and made-people, and to them this seemed only just and right.

Now it happens that one golden eagle brain, which was called Nerissa Zeebnen-Fearsig, was installed into a ship of surpassing beauty. It was a great broad shining arrowhead of silver metal, this ship, filigreed and inlaid with gold, and filled with clever and intricate mechanisms of subtle pleasure.

(Continue Reading…)

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Escape Pod 400: Rescue Party

Show Notes

All sound effects used in this episode were found at FreeSound.org on the pages of the following users: hdesboisswiftoidjobroSyphon64doubletriggercognito perceptuFreqManReadeOnlycsengeri

Performed by Graeme Dunlop as Alveron; Steve Eley as Rugon; Nathaniel Lee as Orostron; Mur Lafferty as Hansur; Paul Haring as Klarten; Alasdair Stewart as Alarkane; Dave Thompson as The Paladorian; Ben Philips as T’sinadree; Jeremiah Tolbert as Tork-a-lee


Rescue Party

by Arthur C. Clarke

Who was to blame? For three days Alveron’s thoughts had come back to that question, and still he had found no answer. A creature of a less civilized or a less sensitive race would never have let it torture his mind, and would have satisfied himself with the assurance that no one could be responsible for the working of fate. But Alveron and his kind had been lords of the Universe since the dawn of history, since that far distant age when the Time Barrier  had been folded round the cosmos by the unknown powers that lay beyond the Beginning. To them had been given all knowledge–and with infinite knowledge went infinite responsibility. If there were mistakes and errors in the administration of the galaxy, the fault lay on the heads of Alveron and his people. And this was no mere mistake: it was one of the greatest tragedies in history.

The crew still knew nothing. Even Rugon, his closest friend and the ship’s deputy captain, had been told only part of the truth. But now the doomed worlds lay less than a billion miles ahead. In a few hours, they would be landing on the third planet.

Once again Alveron read the message from Base; then, with a flick of a tentacle that no human eye could have followed, he pressed the “General Attention” button. Throughout the mile-long cylinder that was the Galactic Survey Ship S9000, creatures of many races laid down their work to listen to the words of their captain.

“I know you have all been wondering,” began Alveron, “why we were ordered to abandon our survey and to proceed at such an acceleration to this region of space. Some of you may realize what this acceleration means. Our ship is on its last voyage: the generators have already been running for sixty hours at Ultimate Overload. We will be very lucky if we return to Base under our own power.

(Continue Reading…)