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Summary: The Science Fiction Podcast Magazine. Each week Escape Pod delivers science fiction short stories from today's best authors. Listen today, and hear the new sound of science fiction!

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 Soundproof #15 | File Type: application/pdf | Duration: 0:00:01
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Click here to get the epub version. Dear Faithful Listeners And Readers— Happy 2012! It’s looking to be a very exciting year at Escape Pod, and we’re delighted you’re still hanging out with us! We had a lot of fun bringing you different things in 2011, from our first audio drama at the end of the year to the various story collections to our supporters. And thanks to your supporters, by the way. It’s amazing to realize we’re in our seventh year doing this, and we’ve operated in the black the entire time. We couldn’t have done that without you, so thank you. To be completely honest, it hasn’t been smooth sailing. We got behind in submissions this year, even with some time off to catch up. Authors got angry, as they should have done, and we’ve figured out where things went wrong and are working on fixing it. I won’t offer excuses, only that I’m responsible for this magazine and I let down our authors, and I’m very sorry for this. We’re closing our doors to submissions in January in order to get everything organized. Hugo voting is open, from now until March 31! I’ll have a blog post soon about what Escape Pod has offered that is eligible, and we’re appreciate a consideration if you’re eligible to nominate. Resolutions are promises to fail, so we won’t make any, but we do promise to continue to bring you weekly SF that will be fun. And lose those 10 pounds, of course. Have a safe and happy 2012. Be mighty, and have fun! Mur Lafferty Editor

 EP325: Bad Dogs Escape | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:00:01

By James Patrick Kelly Cast: Becca- AB Kovacs Sam- Pamela L. Quevillon Mel Gibson- John Cmar Discuss on our forums. An Escape Pod Original! All stories by James Patrick Kelly All stories read by AB Kovacs, Pamela L. Quevillon, John Cmar Appropriate for older teens and up due to erotic imagery and war criminal comeuppance. Bad Dogs Escape By James Patrick Kelly /SFX/ CLOCK TICKING, FADE TO /SFX/ DOGS BARKING IN DISTANCE SAM: Like? BECCA: Like. SAM: (growls like a dog, sexy) BECCA: Like? SAM: Like. /SFX/ DOGS BARKING IN DISTANCE BECCA: Lick? SAM: (giggles) Like. BECCA: (howls like a dog) /SFX/ DOGS BARKING CLOSER SAM: They’re busy today. BECCA: Man’s best friend. (SAM and BECCA laugh) MEL: (in distance) Help! SAM: Uh-oh. BECCA: Company. /SFX/ DOGS BARKING, CLOSER MEL: (outside) Open up. Help! /SFX/ PANICKY KNOCKING ON DOOR MEL: (outside) For God’s sake, let me in! SAM: Already with God. Leave him. BECCA: No, let’s take a look. I could use a laugh. /SFX/ FOOTSTEPS. WINDOW SLIDES OPEN. SAM: Good enough to eat? BECCA: You’re bad. /SFX/ DOGS BARKING MEL: I can see you in there. Hurry. Please. BECCA: Where’s the controller? SAM: You’re not letting him in? /SFX/ DOGS BARKING /SFX/ MORE KNOCKING BECCA: This’ll be fun. Is the taser charged? SAM: Let’s see. /SFX/ TASER ZAP SAM: Yep. BECCA: I bet nine minutes. SAM: Not fair. You can see him. /SFX/ GARAGE DOOR OPENING BECCA: Nine is my bet. Yours? SAM: Way too quick. Ten minutes. No, eleven. BECCA: Done. (calls to Mel) It’s an overhead door. You have to crawl. MEL: (outside) What? They’re coming fast. SAM: Crawl under! /SFX/ CRAWLING, GRUNTING MEL: Shut it, shut it now! /SFX/ GARAGE DOOR CLOSING MEL: Thank you, thank you, thank you. You saved my life. /SFX/ STANDS, MORE GRUNTS, DUSTS HIMSELF OFF MEL: But who are you? BECCA: Me, Becca. She, Sam. You? SAM: Mel Gibson, maybe. BECCA: Our road warrior. (SAM and BECCA laugh) MEL: (confused) No, my name is Fish. Robert Fish. You can call me Bob. SAM: Or I can call you Mel Gibson. MEL: I beg your pardon, but that’s not my name. My name is Bob. SAM: Mel. (beat) Gibson. BECCA: You’re bad, Sam. (beat) So Mel, you must be from the vault. MEL: The vault? BECCA: The big underground storage thingy. All the fatcats snoozing away. MEL: You mean the Cultural Preservation Facility? That was top secret back when … but I suppose you must know all about it by now. BECCA: Not all. SAM: Something about your old government. BECCA: You people wasted everything. And then millions died. SAM: Billions. MEL: We tried. We tried very hard. It wasn’t as if we couldn’t see what was coming. The droughts, tornados, the economy going south. But it didn’t happen all at once. Then the Raccoon flu, the antibiotics were useless. The wheat crop failed two years in a row. Then came riots, cities on fire, madness. When we lost control we gathered the best — scientists, economists, engineers, architects into the CPF …. SAM: CPF? MEL: The Cultural Preservation Facility. The vault. The Congressional Committee selected a hundred volunteers to enter suspended animation pods to sleep through all the disasters. Wait, how long has it been? SAM: Since when? MEL: I mean, what year is this? SAM: Pick one. They’re all available. BECCA: My mom never kept a calendar. Did yours, Sam? SAM: You met my mom. BECCA: Right. So anyway, Mel, you decided to snooze while the world went to the dogs. MEL: Everything was flying apart. We tried to save what we could. But something went wrong. SAM: You think? MEL: No, I mean in the CPF. The main power was rated for fifty years, then if nobody woke us up the backup was supposed to kick in. But for some reason, it’s only running at half power. Whole sections are shutting down. I was lucky, I just barely escaped being d[...]

 EP324: Long Winter’s Nap | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:30:33

By Catherine H. Shaffer Read by Mur Lafferty Discuss on our forums. First published in Analog, 2006 All stories by Catherine H. Shaffer All stories read by Mur Lafferty Nothing objectionable in this episode, except it may not be appropriate for the younger folk, as the story does discuss Santy Clawr. Long Winter’s Nap by Catherine H. Shaffer “Eat,” said MooninMama, “You have a long winter ahead.” LittlestOne turned her head away as MooninMama lifted the spoon of raspberry pie dripping with honey and caribou fat. LittlestOne was sleepy, too sleepy, for what she planned. “I am already full,” said LittlestOne. Her stomach rumbled, giving away her lie. MooninMama shrugged and set the plate away. It was beginning to get cold in the cave as the crackling fire burned down to embers. Soon it would be time to sleep, time to dream of spring, when they would awaken, shivering, and find that Santy Clawr had visited them. MooninMama lay next to YediDaddy and pulled LittlestOne down between them, like a baby. All of the others had their own beds. The hardest part was lying still between MooninMama and YediDaddy without falling asleep. It wasn’t like going to sleep at night. There were no blankets to keep them warm, though they had soft beds. More than once, LittlestOne shook herself awake after accidentally nodding off. She wasn’t sure she could fight off the long sleep by simple force of will, not with the cold coming down into her bones. She peeked out from beneath her heavy lids and the cave was dark except for the thin, crackly lines of orange from the dying embers in the fire pit. The taste of sugar rose to her tongue and her hands and feet began to tingle. MooninMama was still, her breath coming softer and fainter each time. Her bright blue eyes were closed and her cheek as soft as a baby’s. Chestnut hair fanned around her shoulders. Her breasts rose and fell softly with her breath. YediDaddy wasn’t breathing at all. There was a faint beard of frost on his face, decorating the stubble on his chin. All around lay LittlestOne’s brothers and sisters, their children, her aunts and uncles and cousins, her grandparents, and all the other people of the tribe. In the summer, when the tribe slept, there were all sorts of sounds in the night. People coughing, snoring, and sometimes laughing, but here there was nothing but a deep silence. LittlestOne stood up and shook the tingling out. She felt a pang of longing looking at her parents hibernating, but it wasn’t enough to keep her with them. She turned to sneak out. She felt dizzy and stumbled several times as she tiptoed across the sleeping bodies of her tribe. Nothing would wake them now but Spring. LittlestOne crawled out of the cave and went to the summer house that YediDaddy had built. She lit a fire and crouched beside it. When she felt completely awake, she went out into the night. It was snowing softly, and there weren’t any stars. She had never been so alone. But she resisted the temptation to go back to the cave with her family. She imagined what they would say when she told them she had met Santy Clawr. They wouldn’t think she was such a baby, then! # The days were lonely for LittlestOne. It grew colder and all she wanted to do was go to sleep. Many times she woke herself just on the verge of hibernation , and had to get warm again so she wouldn’t miss Santy. She knew where to find food, even under the snow. MooninMama and YediDaddy kept caches of meat and potatoes underground, where they wouldn’t go bad. There were some nuts and berries left on the bushes, and she didn’t need to eat much, since she was so small. Digging through the buried boxes, LittlestOne wondered why there was so much food, with the feast that Santy Clawr would be bringing. To fight off the loneliness, she sat up on top of the highest hill and looked out over the water. The Hots had called it Saginaw Bay. The wind blew, raising ridges of white up out of the gray water. She cracked a walnut with a rock[...]

 EP323: Marking Time on the Far Side of Forever | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:34:13

By DK Latta Read by Josh Roseman Discuss on our forums. First published in Prairie Fire, 1999 All stories by DK Latta All stories read by Josh Roseman 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. “Gakha!” I turn my head left, but abruptly the joints seize up. The swivel mechanism has been malfunctioning for months. Fiffer comes bounding through the long red stalks that sprout to the height of a man. The sun is setting, and when night settles the stalks will curl up until the first rays of morning buss them with its solar kiss. I’m being florid. Dr. Fujiwama programmed me that way. She said it would make my information easier to digest for the scouting party. My left eye starts pixilating, turning everything into a multi-coloured grid. I slap my palm against my brow with a dull clang! and the image clears. Who is bounding toward me? Do I know him? Fiffer. He bounces along on his powerful tail, his four lower limbs atrophied to stumps. I’ve unearthed fossils indicating that his ancestors had well-developed hind limbs. I think the scouting party will be pleased with my report on paleozoology. There are some nice passages in it. Florid even. Fiffer calls me Gakha, which means ‘shelled man’. They do not comprehend refined metals. Fiffer’s people think I’m some sort of god. I’ve tried to disabuse them of that notion. Fiffer halts, his principle forelimb gesticulating. The limb is a tongue that has evolved through the chest cavity. I detail its evolution in my report on Comparative Anatomies of the Vertebrates of the Temperate Zone. It was my first completed essay. I’m proud to say my observations within it have not been contradicted by subsequent data collected in the ensuing years. I was very meticulous. “Gakha?” I focus, realizing I may have drifted. “Has a grubbling fallen into a well?” I rise, prepared to rescue the little creature. “No.” His tongue waves excitedly. “A shell has fallen.” My left eye pixilates momentarily. I ignore it. “What?” “A big shell. It was bright at its bottom as it fell from the sky. Then it landed and went dark.” “Shell?” Slowly, I consider: shell equals refined metals. “Show me, please.” *          *          * It’s a ship. I don’t recognize the design. I lurch toward it in fits and starts through the swamp. I have sent Fiffer back to the village, until I can ascertain whether the inhabitants of the shell — I mean, ship — whether they mean his people harm. It is important that no harm come to them. The scouting party will want to meet them. In the nightsky I recognize the purple glimmer of a planet that shares the sa[...]

 EP322: Chicken Noodle Gravity | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:32:11

By J. Daniel Sawyer Read by Paul Haring Discuss on our forums. An Escape Pod original! All stories by J. Daniel Sawyer All stories read by Paul Haring Rated 17 and up for language, and mild sexual situations 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. I swear, by all that’s good and holy and a bowl of Ex-Lax besides, that was all he could eat. And he hated chocolate almost as much as he hated the soup. Feeding him the soup and brownies was my revenge on him for getting sick in the first place. Not that I blamed him about the soup. A hundred forty years after it was invented, that stuff still smelled like salted famine and disease glopping out of the can. But after Stephen lost all his hair, for the third time, I got to love that smell. Not because it smelled any better, but because every time I smelled it I knew he’d be around at least long enough to eat it. Sometimes, a little bit of hope is all you need to keep going. When your life is filled with words like “pancreatic,” “stage four,” and “terminal,” you learn to live with what you can get. So we smoked like chimneys, screwed like carpenters, sang like sailors, and gambled like day-traders. I didn’t give much of a damn that the money wouldn’t last much longer than him. But he just. Kept. Lasting. He didn’t want to let me go any more than I wanted to let him go. First it was the money. Then it was the house. Then it was the car. But it didn’t matter. As long as I could keep growing the green, and opening those red and white cans. It went on like that all winter. When they diagnosed him, they said he’d last five weeks. We’d made it five months, and we weren’t going to make it much longer without changing—and whatever it was, we were going to have to get creative. I was still employed. My job at the casino paid enough in tips that we should have been okay, and my insurance covered all his doctor visits. But the meds killed us. Cancer drugs move so fast that the difference in survival comes down to what month you were diagnosed, now. That small-cell lung cancer you’ve got today will kill you, but the tumor your brother discovers in six weeks will be treatable, and the one your mom gets a month after that will be curable. If you can stay alive long enough, then you can stay alive period. That’s the deal. And that’s why every penny I earned in salary and ti[...]

 EP321: Honor Killing | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:19:33

By Ray Tabler Read by Mur Lafferty Discuss on our forums. An Escape Pod original! All stories by Ray Tabler All stories read by Mur Lafferty Rated 10 and up for blaster violence. 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?” “Yeah, that’s me. What’s it to ya, shorty?” This twerp was starting to get on my nerves. “Great amounts of good fortune we are both having. Klonoon is searching many establishments near the spaceport for Captain Anne Katya Shim.” “Well, you found me. What next?” “Next is being Klonoon and Captain Anne Katya Shim discussing matters of mutual benefit.” “And just what matters might those be?” Klonoon is having much influence with the official in charge of impounding cargoes.” Suddenly, my old buddy Klonoon wasn’t near as annoying as a few minutes ago. Captain Anne Katya Shim is helping Klonoon and Klonoon is helping Captain Anne–” “Just call me Anne, okay? And get to the point.” Klonoon’s whole body wriggled, which I think meant he was laughing, or maybe getting ready to vomit. I hadn’t planned on being on that damned planet for more than a day or two, so I hadn’t studied the culture much. “Klonoon is getting assets unfrozen so Anne is getting paid for delivery of cargo.” “And what is Anne doing– I mean, what is it you want me to do in return?” “Anne is killing Klonoon’s cousin Jerbot.” It was my turn to blink. “Anne is what?” “Klonoon’s cousin Jerbot is needing to be killed. It is being a matter of honor.” “I don’t care if it is a matter of honor. Murder’s illegal and I don’t want to end up in prison.” “No. No. Yes. Yes. Murder is being illegal. Honor killings are being different.” Now, right here is when I should have stood up and stormed out. “If that’s the case, why don’t you just kill Jerbot yourself?” Klonoon pulled all three arms in on one side and stuck the others straight out. “Klonoon is not doing that! The one who is killing Jerbot is taking Jerbot’s dishonor on himself.” “Oh well, that’s logical.” “Yes, very. Off-worlders are having no honor. And, Humans are being particularly violent. Anne is probably killing sixes of sentient beings, perhaps sixes of sixes.” “What do you mean we’re violent?” “Humans are having many wars. You are having your War of First Contact, your Altair War, your War of the Outer Rift, your–” “All right, all right, we’ve had a lot of wars. At least we’re not as bad as the[...]

 Soundproof #14 | File Type: application/pdf | Duration: 0:00:01
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Click here for the epub version. Hello everyone, You know that column you run into every now and then on how time always seems like it’s going faster as you get older? The one where you can kind of tell that the columnist suddenly realized he hadn’t actually written their weekly twelve column inches and was asking themselves how exactly Tuesday afternoon had arrived on them already (or a TV columnnist for that matter — the first time I ran into it I think I was 7 or 8 and my parents were watching 60 Minutes). Yeah, it’s kind of been like that lately. I think with Christmas/Hanukkah/[insert midwinter celebration of choice]/Festivus coming up and the rapid shortening of days ahead of the solstice, at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, breed a feeling of loss at the time we had, but really would like to have again. Not quite nostalia, more like (part of me wants to write now-stalgia, but that would be a horribly disqualifying pun) the loss of the recent past that you really wanted to have accomplished more in. Time travel’s usually all about meeting your grandkids to the nth degree and playing with their cool new gadgets/seeing the future dystopia/utopia/stealing a book of sports statistics, or going back and killing Hitler. But commercial and commoditized time travel would probably just be a bunch of people trying to optimize the days that didn’t go horribly wrong, but didn’t approach the theoretical ur-day that modern days rarely meet. We’d all make our deadlines, but would be 90 years old after 35 calendar years. And with that, I’ll let you peruse our fine stories this month. For those of you who NaNoWriMo’d last month, I hope you’re recovering. —Bill Bill Peters Assistant Editor Escape Pod —30—

 EP320: Thanksgiving Day | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:46:56

By Jay Werkheiser Read by Paul Haring Discuss on our forums. First appeared in Analog All stories by Jay Werkheiser All stories read by Paul Haring Thanksgiving Day By Jay Werkheiser Kev’s stomach curled around emptiness, embracing it as a constant reminder that the colony’s Earth food was almost gone. Another three months, four at the outside. Then what? How will we die? He bent down to look into the nearest cage. “Maybe you’ll tell us why the food here is poisonous,” he said to one of the rats inside. It rolled its dull eyes listlessly toward him. Rust-brown clumps matted its fur, and the metallic odor of dried blood hung in the air. Is that how I’ll go, clutching helplessly at alien dirt, coughing up blood? His gut clenched tighter. “They are not going to tell you anything,” Ahmet said from across the toxicology lab. Kev looked up from the cage at the short, dark-skinned man walking toward him. His circular glasses, perched atop a narrow nose, reminded Kev of an owl. “I thought I’d stop by on the way home from the analytical chem lab,” Kev said. “One of the grunts said you were looking for me earlier.” Ahmet nodded. “I was hoping you could run some samples for me. Give me a clue what’s in them.” Kev frowned. “The biochem team has me running Bradford assays day and night, looking for alien proteins. Did you come up with a new lead?” Hope flared in his chest, then died with Ahmet’s reply. “I’m afraid I’m just grasping at straws. My subchronic rats keep developing the same symptoms — nosebleed, bloody stools, and ultimately internal hemorrhaging.” “Subchronic?” said Kev, quizzically. “My field’s spectroscopy.” “The subjects receive daily doses of an alien food source over ten percent of their life span, about three months for rats.” “Three months?” Kev said. “The hydroponics tanks are dying, Ahmet.” “Yes, I understand that. You’re not the only one living on short rations.” Anger flashed behind Ahmet’s glasses, but quickly dissipated. “Toxicology is a slow business. I don’t think we’re going to have results in time.” Ahmet seemed to deflate with his anger. “We came all this way, spent all those years on the ship, to fail before we even get started.” Kev put his hand on Ahmet’s shoulder. “We’re not going down without a fight.” Ahmet nodded, his eyes downcast. “I have learned that mycowood produced the most severe symptoms in the rats.” “Mycowood? They’re those mushroom-shaped tree things, right? Smell minty.” “Yes. The organic team tells me the smell comes from salicylate esters. All the local plants produce them.” Kev connected the dots. Salicylates. Aspirin. “Blood thinners?” he asked. Ahmet’s head bobbled up and down. “But only dangerous in quantities much larger than we find here. Still, I think it could be important.” “All right, send some of your mycowood samples over to the analyt lab. I’ll squeeze them in first thing in the morning.” “Thank you. Thank you!” Ahmet’s Turkish accent was normally muted, but it thickened when he was excited. “That will be most helpful.” “Save your enthusiasm for tomorrow.” A thin smile curled Kev’s lips, his first in a long time. “It’s nearly fourteen o’clock, time to head home for a few hours’ sleep.” The short walk across the colony compound felt longer because Epsilon Indi, settling low on the horizon at this late hour, cast bright sunbeams into his eyes. Two long shadows moved through the glare ahead of him. Kev shielded his eyes with his hand to see who it was — two grunts working[...]

 EP319: Driving X | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:00:01

By Gwendolyn Clare Read by Mur Lafferty Discuss on our forums. First appeared in Warrior Wisewoman 3 All stories by Gwendolyn Clare All stories read by Mur Lafferty Driving X by Gwendolyn Clare Carmela wouldn’t have stopped if she had known that the kid was still alive. She spotted the body lying under a creosote bush, maybe ten yards from the road, and she hit the brakes.  She grabbed the roll cage of the old dune buggy and pulled herself up, standing on the driver’s seat to scan in both directions along the unpaved road.  A dust devil twirled a silent ballet off to the southeast, but hers was the only man-made dust trail in evidence for miles.  She raised her hand to cover the sun and squinted into the bleached, cloudless sky–no vultures yet, which was good, since vultures attract attention.  Minimal risk, she decided. The dune buggy itself wasn’t that valuable, but the newer-model solar panels powering it would be enough to tempt any sane person, and the carboys of potable water were worth a small fortune out here. Carmela swung out of the dune buggy and jogged over to check out the body.  It was tall but skinny, with the not-yet-filled-out look of a teenager.  Pale skin, a tint of sunburn, brown hair cropped at chin-length.  The girl was lying face down in the dust, so Carmela rolled the body over and checked her front pockets for anything of interest.  A month ago, she would have felt ashamed, but scavenging was the norm down here; after all, dead people don’t miss what you take from them. Carmela was rifling through the kid’s backpack–shaking her head about the nearly empty water supply–when she heard the girl moan. She froze, one hand still buried in the bag.  She should gather up the loot and make a run for the dune buggy before the girl came around. The kid was probably a goner, anyway, she told herself.  Instead, she leaned in closer, looking at the face plastered with sand and sweaty clumps of brown hair. The girl’s eyelids peeled back and stared up at Carmela with the glazed slowness of delirium.  Her cracked lips parted and she said, hoarsely, “Mom?” Nobody had ever called Carmela that before.  She slid her hands under the girl’s shoulders to lift her. # Swinging her legs, nine-year-old Carmela knocked her heels lightly against the side of the exam table.  Mama sat in a plastic chair, flipping through a magazine the way she always did when she was getting impatient.  Carmela’s test result had come in, and for some reason that was beyond her, Mama was really nervous about it.  And the doctor was running late. Carmela didn’t know why Mama was all bent out of shape over the non-Mendelian genetic test.  To be fair, she wasn’t entirely sure what “non-Mendelian” meant, except that it was something bad that your genes could be.  Driving X was a chromosome that was bad that way, and pretty much everybody had it, and for some reason you had to get tested for it anyway.  That’s what Carmela knew. Dr. Tanaka entered the exam room, holding a manila folder to her chest.  ”Afternoon Ms. Perez, Carmela.  Sorry to keep you waiting.” Mama dropped the magazine on the floor next to her chair and stood, fingers knotted together nervously.  ”Well?” Dr. Tanaka opened the folder, took out a single sheet of paper, and handed it to Mama.  Mama stared at it for a long minute, like she couldn’t quite see it properly.  She made a choking noise. In her tight, mustn’t-cry-in-public voice, she said, “I’ll be right back.”  She left the paper on her chair and hurried for the door. Carmela hopped off the exam table and picked up the sheet of paper. It had a lot of gobbledygook on it, but right in the middle, in bold, it read, “XDXD”. She didn’t understand what the big deal was.  Pretty much everybody had the Driving X allele on at least one of their X chromosomes. [...]

 EP318: The Prize Beyond Gold | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:00:01

By Ian Creasey Read by Josh Roseman Discuss on our forums. First appeared in Asimov’s All stories by Ian Creasey All stories read by Josh Roseman The Prize Beyond Gold by Ian Creasey Three days before the race, when Delroy had finished warming down from a training run, his coach summoned him for a talk. Delroy could tell it was something big. Michito’s job — assisted by his Enhanced empathy — was to become exquisitely sensitive to his athlete’s mood, so as to help get the best out of him. The attunement sometimes became mutual, and Delroy now discerned a rare eagerness in Michito’s almost-natural face. “The weather forecast for race day has reached certainty,” said Michito. “Temperature: perfect. Humidity: perfect. Wind speed: just below the permissible maximum. Wind direction –” “Perfect?” said Delroy. “Behind you all the way.” Michito grinned in delight. “It’s the final star in the constellation. You’re in great shape, the weather will be ideal, we’re two thousand metres above sea level” — Michito made a sweeping gesture, encompassing the many other factors affecting performance — “and it all adds up to one thing.” “I’m going to win?” Delroy didn’t understand Michito’s glee: the weather would be the same for all the runners. “Yes, but never mind that. Forget winning — you have a chance at the record!” Michito paused to let it sink in. Records were something that athletes and coaches normally never discussed, because they’d stood so long that they were effectively unbeatable. The record for the men’s 100 metres had remained at 8.341 seconds for the past seventy years. A pulse of exhilaration surged through Delroy. His posture stiffened, as if already preparing for the starting gun. “Really? The world record?” “Yes, the one and only. The prize beyond gold.” Michito’s excitement spilled out, infecting Delroy, whose own excitement blazed in return and stoked a feedback loop. They were practically getting high on it. Indeed, this giddy rush was as close to getting high as Delroy had ever experienced. In his entire life he’d never once taken any kind of drug. The rules were strict on that, as on so many other things. Abruptly, Michito reverted to his habitual seriousness. “A chance, I said. A real chance. But only if everything’s as smooth as an angel’s feather. We need absolute perfection. There can be no deviations, no distractions.” This was standard rhetoric for any important race. Yet Michito’s demeanour indicated something beyond the usual rigorous regime. “I think it would be best if you stayed here at the training ground,” Michito went on, “instead of going back to the villa tonight. This is a more controlled environment, with much less risk –” “What could possibly happen to me?” “I want to keep you away from other people, and it’s easier to do that here. You’ll be in purdah, seeing no-one except your coaching team. I know it’ll be frustrating, but it’s only three days.” Delroy grimaced, though he didn’t argue. Michito knew what was best. Aside from the usual health and attractiveness tweaks, Michito’s main Enhancement was an uncanny empathy that let him predict Delroy’s responses, and thus determine the optimum conditions for success. If he felt purdah was necessary, then it must be necessary. It was only another line in the script Delroy had been following all his life. The script had two phases, as familiar as his two legs. Sometimes, when he rehearsed stride patterns out on the track, the script echoed in his head with every step: left, right; left, right — race, train; race, train…. Michito said, “This is[...]

 EP317: Boxed In | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:00:01

By Marc-Anthony Taylor Read by Barry Haworth Discuss on our forums. First appeared in British Fantasy Society Winter Journal 2010/2011 All stories by Marc-Anthony Taylor All stories read by Barry Haworth This one isn’t for the kids, because of references to sex workers and acts. Boxed In by Marc-Anthony Taylor My sister had me boxed when I was four. She said she would have had it done to herself but she didn’t want to risk losing me, that it was the only way. I think she just hated the idea of renting her body out to the rich folk in the domes. Don’t get me wrong, she did good by me, I didn’t have to work till I was nine and in that time she studied hard and became a data-pimp herself. It was the only way she could keep us housed and fed after mum and dad had died. It must have been hard for her, if mum and dad had made it she might have made something of herself. If she hadn’t have had to look after me she would probably be in a dome herself by now. She once told me she had big plans; that she wanted to make things better. My only plan was to make enough cash to get us both out of the business. I never noticed the tiny implant at the base of my skull, the nano circuitry must be some of the best though, the tattoo circling my right eye is almost perfect. Kara controlled who, what, when and where. She made sure we got paid, and that I didn’t do anything too bad. She was a clever cookie. My sister looked after me. She did good. * Black leaves hung limply from the trees, refusing to fall despite the time of year. We were lucky to have trees at all; there were places on the other side of the city that had nothing living, except perhaps the odd person. Or so I was told, I had never ventured that far out and thankfully none of my clients had ever requested it. Kara didn’t think it was right to use vehicles. Even if they were meant to be eco friendly now. We would only ever use them if it was an emergency, she said. Everywhere I went, I went by foot, and I had come to know the city just as well as the grubby little apartment that my sister and I shared. My boots left imprints in the fine black powder that coated everything. The sky ships were under way again, every six months they would come out for a week, their massive air scrubbers extracting the carbon from the CO², supposedly leaving us with fresher air. Most people believed they took the oxygen and pumped it into the Eden-domes. The carbon was probably used to construct whatever they needed. The dust was excess that happened to shake loose from the giant machines. Already a couple of people were out with their vacuum cleaners, sucking up what they could of the carbon to sell on the black market. One or two had even rushed out with brush and pan in hand, carefully shaking their winnings into plastic bags. Kara had never done that, she said once we started collecting that stuff, it wouldn’t be long till we started getting sloppy and before you know it our lungs would be coated in gunk, bringing us that much closer to death. My sister, always the optimist. The mask I was wearing was about three years old, long past its renewal date but Kara had kept it in good working order, another one of her many talents. She knew how to break the manufacturing codes so she could regulate the functions. She would probably have been some big-shot programmer or hacker back in the old days. Now, she was just a skin-flint. “We gotta save our cash kid. Money doesn’t fall from the sky, no matter what the carbon monkeys think. And besides, we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past Nate, that’s what got us all into this mess. Recycling is the way to go baby bro, and if I can fix it, you’ll use it. ‘K?” She was always coming out with stuff like that. It might have helped if I had gone to school like her, but they stopped taking boxed kids not long after I got mine. Bad influence supposedly. Still, I could feel a rasp starti[...]

 Soundproof #13 | File Type: application/pdf | Duration: 0:00:01
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You can download the ePub version here. Hello everyone, and happy November! It’s NaNoWriMo month, and a lot of professionals don’t like it. They say it’s misleading to tell newbies that the career that pros have taken years to perfect can be achieved in 30 days. They say that December 1 marks the day that thousands of unedited, 50,000 word “novels” hit the desks of agents and editors. Some of them are just cynics who hate the excitement people get as November draws near, since they’re toiling on their own books. But I tend to think it’s a great thing. Writing well is difficult, yes. But writing is not. And most people just stop themselves at writing, thinking if their story isn’t flat out brilliant literature from word one, they will never improve, never learn, and never be a writer. NaNoWriMo tells people to turn off the horrid editor in our minds and just write- something that’s difficult to do. Pros know for a fact that there’s always a lurking voice saying, “This is crap, why are you wasting your time with tripe?” - they just know to tell that voice to shut up, that they’ll get their opinion once the story is done. Most of all for me, NaNoWriMo encourages people to write - and write every day. And at the core of things, I really can’t see what kind of ogre thinks this is a bad idea. Writing is a great thing. More writers means more stories. And last I checked, we still liked stories. So participate in NaNoWriMo. Write a 50,000 word story in a month. Then let it sit. Then edit it. Then edit it again. Learn from every step. In other news, I just returned from World Fantasy Con, which was my first. It was a fantastic meeting of industry professionals, and I met a lot of great authors and narrators that have appeared in Escape Pod, Podcastle, and Pseudopod. (To name a few: Cat Rambo, K. Tempest Bradford, Keffy R. M. Kehrli, M. K. Hobson, Vylar Kaftan, and several more.) During the Escape Artists’ meetup, we managed to discuss fanfic, Elmo, and the Escape Artists forums. In retrospect perhaps we should have served alcohol. Ah well. It was fantastic meeting people, and cons are over too quickly. The last two months of the year have some really exciting stories planned, and I can’t wait to bring them to you. Be mighty! Mur

 EP316: Site Fourteen | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:00:01

By Laura Anne Gilman Read by Mat Weller Discuss on our forums. First appeared in ReVISIONS from Daw Boooks All stories by Laura Anne Gilman All stories read by Mat Weller This one isn’t for the kids, because of language and heavy content. Site Fourteen “Nereus Shuttle Four to Gateway Station, you have control.” Robinachec nodded confirmation as though the pilot could see him.  ”Roger that.  Bringing you in.” Palming the flat-topped lever, I watched as he moved it gently back towards him, pulling the bullet-shaped transport into the shed, an external framework of metal beams just large enough to hold two minisubs, or one shuttle. Robinechec has nightmares sometimes about something going wrong here.  Forget the fact that it’s the safest maneuver in the entire procedure; he still talks about waking up in a cold sweat because he screwed up. You’d never know it to watch him. When you’re six hundred feet down – well below the twilight zone, in the bathypelagic or ‘deep water’ zone– your perception shifts.  Nothing as arcane as the chemical balance in your brain changing, although there’s some of that, too.  No, it’s more the realization, slow sinking into your brain, that there’s not damn-all between you and dying but a duraplas shield and some canned oxy-blend. You realize that, really process the concept, and you’re okay.  If you can’t, you get the screamin’ meemies and they cart you Topside where you spend the rest of your life on solid dirt, carefully looking anywhere but ocean-ward. Not everyone’s cut out to be an aquanaut. No shame to it.  Even now, only about a third of the applicants make it into training, and more than half of them dry out before graduation.

 EP315: Clockwork Fagin | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 1:15:35

By Cory Doctorow Read by Grant Baciocco Discuss on our forums. First appeared in Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories Music by Clockwork Quartet All stories by Cory Doctorow All stories read by Grant Baciocco This one is a long one! This is considered appropriate for kids 12 and up – it’s a YA story with one murder. Clockwork Fagin By Cory Doctorow Monty Goldfarb walked into St Agatha’s like he owned the place, a superior look on the half of his face that was still intact, a spring in his step despite his steel left leg. And it wasn’t long before he *did* own the place, taken it over by simple murder and cunning artifice. It wasn’t long before he was my best friend and my master, too, and the master of all St Agatha’s, and didn’t he preside over a *golden* era in the history of that miserable place? I’ve lived in St Agatha’s for six years, since I was 11 years old, when a reciprocating gear in the Muddy York Hall of Computing took off my right arm at the elbow. My Da had sent me off to Muddy York when Ma died of the consumption. He’d sold me into service of the Computers and I’d thrived in the big city, hadn’t cried, not even once, not even when Master Saunders beat me for playing kick-the-can with the other boys when I was meant to be polishing the brass. I didn’t cry when I lost my arm, nor when the barber-surgeon clamped me off and burned my stump with his medicinal tar. I’ve seen every kind of boy and girl come to St Aggie’s — swaggering, scared, tough, meek. The burned ones are often the hardest to read, inscrutable beneath their scars. Old Grinder don’t care, though, not one bit. Angry or scared, burned and hobbling or swaggering and full of beans, the first thing he does when new meat turns up on his doorstep is tenderize it a little. That means a good long session with the belt — and Grinder doesn’t care where the strap lands, whole skin or fresh scars, it’s all the same to him — and then a night or two down the hole, where there’s no light and no warmth and nothing for company except for the big hairy Muddy York rats who’ll come and nibble at whatever’s left of you if you manage to fall asleep. It’s the blood, see, it draws them out. So there we all was, that first night when Monty Goldfarb turned up, dropped off by a pair of sour-faced Sisters in white capes who turned their noses up at the smell of the horse-droppings as they stepped out of their coal-fired banger and handed Monty over to Grinder, who smiled and dry-washed his hairy hands and promised, “Oh, aye, sisters, I shall look after this poor crippled birdie like he was my own get. We’ll be great friends, won’t we, Monty?” Monty actually laughed when Grinder said that, like he’d already winkled it out. As soon as the boiler on the sisters’ car had its head of steam up and they were clanking away, Grinder took Monty inside, leading him past the parlour where we all sat, quiet as mice, eyeless or armless, shy a leg or half a face, or even a scalp (as was little Gertie Shine-Pate, whose hair got caught in the mighty rollers of one of the pressing engines down at the logic mill in Cabbagetown). He gave us a jaunty wave as Grinder led him away, and I’m ashamed to say that none of us had the stuff to wave back at him, or even to shout a warning. Grinder had done his work on us, too true, and turned us from kids into cowards. Presently, we heard the whistle and slap of the strap, but instead of screams of agony, we heard howls of defiance, and yes, even laughter! “Is that the best you have, you greasy old sack of suet? Put some arm into it!” And then: “Oh, dearie me, you must be tiring of your work. See how the sweat runs down your face, how your tongue doth protrude from your stinking gob. Oh please, dear master, tell me y[...]

 EP313: Playing Doctor | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:34:00

By Robert T. Jeschonek Read by Josh Roseman Discuss on our forums. First appeared in PS Showcase #3: Mad Scientist Meets Cannibal All stories by Robert T. Jeschonek All stories read by Josh Roseman Playing Doctor By Robert T. Jeschonek The problem with having a crush on your mad scientist boss is, every day she doesn’t see how wonderful you really are seems like the end of the world. “This is all wrong!” says Dr. Hildegarde Medici, hurling the tray across her cavernous secret laboratory.  ”You’re a complete imbecile, Glue!” Her words sting, but at least she’s paying attention to me.  I’ll take what I can get from the woman I love.  ”I’m sorry, Dr. M.  Please let me try again.” “Everything is ruined.”  With one arm, Dr. Medici sweeps notebooks and glass beakers from the table in front of her.  ”Now I’ll never finish the doomsday weapon today!” As Dr. Medici throws her head down onto her folded arms on the table, I cross the lab and pick up the silver tray that she threw.  I see myself reflected in its surface–thick glasses, big nose, bald head, pure geek…not her type.  ”I thought you liked the crinkle-cut ones,” I say as I pluck chicken fingers and french fries from the floor and drop them onto the tray. “Steak fries,” says Dr. Medici without raising her head.  ”How many times do I have to tell you, Glue?” She is such a drama queen, but what do you expect?  Her line of work attracts a certain type of personality–passionate, temperamental, creative, flamboyant.  To tell you the truth, it’s one of the things I love most about her. “I could run to the store,” I say, dumping the chicken and fries into a waste basket.  ”By the time you’re done building your doomsday weapon, I could have hot fries ready for you.” Dr. Medici rolls her eyes like a disgusted teenager.  ”I can’t concentrate on building a doomsday weapon on an empty stomach.” I know the feeling…the not being able to concentrate part, that is.  Most days, I can barely focus on my work instead of Dr. Medici’s long black hair and bright green eyes.  Once, I was so distracted by Dr. M that I cross-wired the brain of a giant robot, which proceeded to rampage at a garbage dump instead of an army base. If only I could tell her I love her.  If only I could close that final mile that has always stood between us. If only I could finally set free the words that I’ve longed to speak, and she would turn to me and say the words I’ve longed to hear. “Don’t just stand there, you putz!”  She spins away from me on her work-stool.  ”Get me a TV dinner out of the freezer or something!” I don’t take it personally.  I know it’s just the stress talking.  She’s been having a rough time lately, just like the rest of the mad scientist community. Thanks a lot, terrorists. # In the good old days, mad scientists weren’t considered public enemies like they are now.  They were tolerated, in fact, because the government loved getting its hands on their way-out inventions after their crazy schemes were thwarted. But not anymore.  Not since the terrorists. What difference is there between a politically motivated insane genius and one who is motivated by greed? How can the government go after one group of people threatening to blow things up and not the other? It can’t. As a result, business has dropped off considerably.  No one will negotiate in good faith with a mad scientist anymore.  Instead of musclebound private citizen thrill-seekers coming after us, we get black ops Special Forces and heat-seeking bunker-buster missiles courtesy of Homeland Security. It’s a tough time to be a mad scientist.  Lots of them have quit already and become street people or college professors. But not my Hildegarde.  She won[...]


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