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Escape Pod

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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 EP576: Karma Among the Cloud Kings | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:55:19

AUTHOR: Brian Trent NARRATOR: Ellora Sen-Gupta HOST: Mur Lafferty Karma Among the Cloud Kings was first published in Analog in March 2015. Discuss on our forums.  For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Brian Trent’s speculative fiction appears in Escape Pod, Pseudopod, ANALOG, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Great Jones Street, Daily Science Fiction, Apex (winning the Story of the Year Reader’s Poll), COSMOS, Galaxy’s Edge, Nature, and numerous year’s best anthologies. The author of the historical fantasy series RAHOTEP, he is also a 2015 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award finalist and Writers of the Future winner. Trent lives in New England, where he works as a novelist, screenwriter, and poet.     about the narrator… Ellora Sen-Gupta is a (currently Boston-based) biomedical engineer who often disguises herself as a voice over narrator and photographer among other roles. She has a great love of animals, miniatures, miniature animals, books and comics, exploring, tv cartoons, etc. Ellora is happiest when she is traveling the world with her family or friends but can also be delighted to sit home with her pets and some arts and crafts and/or Netflix. Karma Among the Cloud Kings By Brian Trent I. Fifty thousand feet above Tempest’s highest clouds, Antarag Vel-heth invites me to sit beside him in the lobby of Lindorm Refueling Station. It’s a desolate, littered expanse of tables, party-streamers, and plastic people with unceasingly flapping jaws. “What… what are they doing?” I whisper, sweating despite the room’s merciless air conditioner. “Eating,” Antarag winks. “Talking.” His pitted skin stretches like a weather-beaten tarp across a knobby skeleton and skull of aquiline protrusions. The plastic people have no food that I can see. One of them leaps up from its chair, arms raised in silent declaration while the others applaud with rubbery hands. Discolored mouths swing open and shut on cheap hinges. Antarag grins at me with pained, frank interest—I wonder when the last time he’s had a real, flesh-and-blood female visitor up here with him. He knows I’m from Bellcap 51. He knows we’re all Jains there, with our shaved heads, monastic robes, and vows of celibacy. Still, my eyes dart nervously to his holstered pistol. I ask, “What are they eating?” He taps his forearm gauntlet. Menu options unfurl in neon petals. “That one’s eating steak and potato pancakes,” he says, pointing to one guest whose plastic body appears to have been assembled Frankenstein-style from at least six different modular components. ”Those two girls are eating sushi—” he motions to a pair of androgynous mannequins who are miming the use of chopsticks, bringing invisible morsels to their skeleton jaws. “We’ve got blihabi caviar, fresh raspberries, Osirian felsacs, comet cakes, beef stroganoff, flame-roasted marrow. Name it, I’ve got it. Ten million foods from across the galaxy.” Antarg has lent me a spare visor; I fit it over my eyes and ears. The plastic people disappear and I now see them as they see each other: a revelry of beautiful men and women. The men are square-jawed and chiseled. The women are elegant and buxom; my eyes stray to the jewelry sparkling at their throats and fingers. Thudding music weaves among the sudden babble of voices. “A pretty girl like you, Preema, should have jewelry like that,” Antarag says, following my stare. He has changed, too: the sickly-looking Ladder Controlman is now a muscular brute in a diamond-studded suit. No longer balding, his scalp has grown a lustrous mane like a cobra’s hood. I lift the visor; the beautiful people vanish back into plastic monstrosities. One falls out of its chair, and the others erupt into silent apoplexies of laughter, clutching their plastic bellies, tilting their heads back like a nightmare of howling skeletons. “We do not wear[...]

 EP575: Red Kelly Owns the Moon | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:29:39

AUTHOR: Shaenon K. Garrity NARRATOR: Cheyenne Wright HOST: Alasdair Stuart Red Kelly Owns the Moon is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums.  For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Shaenon K. Garrity is a cartoonist best known for the webcomics Narbonic and Skin Horse. Her prose fiction has appeared in publications including Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Drabblecast, and the Unidentified Funny Objects anthologies. She lives in Berkeley with a cat and two men of varying sizes.         about the narrator… Cheyenne Wright is a freelance illustrator and concept artist He is the color artist on the three-time Hugo Award winning steampunk graphic novel series Girl Genius, and co-creator of many other fine works; Including 50 Fathoms and the Ennie award winning Deadlands Noir for the Savage Worlds RPG. He has also produced graphics for Star Trek Online, the Champions MMO, and T-shirt designs for TV’s Alton Brown. Cheyenne lives in Seattle with his wife, their daughter, and an ever growing stack of unpainted miniatures. In his spare time he is teaching himself animation, and narrates short stories for a variety of audio anthologies where he is known as Podcasting’s Mr. Buttery ManVoice ™   Red Kelly Owns the Moon By Shaenon Garrity Nobody remembered how Red Kelly got his hands on the moon. He picked up a lot of things back then. You had to, working at the Westinghouse on a brazier’s pay. Red played cards, ran numbers around town, and, every other year, warmed hands for the Democratic machine in Pittsburgh. It wasn’t unknown for him to come home with an acquisition of mysterious provenance. Once he got the Kellys an entire patio table and chairs, with an umbrella and that. The umbrella was printed with the name of a restaurant whose owner had bet a bundle down at Duquesne Gardens. So it wasn’t surprising Red had the deed to the moon. It didn’t even come up until, well, must have been 1968 of course, when the two men in the tailored suits showed up at the Kellys’ doorstep in North Versailles. You don’t forget a thing like that, the whole neighborhood watching through their lace curtains. Red was still at work, so Blanche Kelly sat the men down in the living room, introduced them to the girls, and set up boilermakers. They were from the military, it turned out, which was a good opening since Blanche had been a WAC. She cut a deck of cards. At 4:30, Blanche pocketed her winnings, got in the car, and drove to the bottom of the hill to pick Red up from the bus stop. She left the girls to keep an eye on the men. Red went straight to the bedroom where he kept his old footlocker. He re-emerged with a yellowed envelope and ushered the men into the kitchen. A few minutes later the men tipped their hats to Blanche and were gone. Red came out and announced the Kellys were going to dinner at a fish place in the Strip. He sang all the way over: In Derby town, in Derby town, Two men were digging a ditch One was the son of an Englishman The other the son of a Okey-dokey diddlee-dum Maybe you think it’s a lie But you go down to Derby town And you’ll hear the same as I Blanche didn’t ask questions because a good Catholic wife wasn’t nebby. She just took it all down in her head. But the girls, who were teenagers and would never grow up to be good Catholic wives anyway, demanded to know. “They needed my say-so to go to the moon,” said Red. “The moon? They’re going to the moon?” Red gave them the hairy eyeball. The girls felt silly for asking such a dumb question. Everyone knew America was going to the moon. What else were they learning all that math for? “Why do they need your say to go to the moon?” “I own it.” And that was the end of the discussion. Which was a little funny, come to think, because when Red had a find like that he liked to gab about it. A little thing like a free tune-up fo[...]

 EP574: Yosemite | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:27:14

AUTHOR: D. S. McNab NARRATOR: Erik Luke HOST: Divya Breed Yosemite is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums.  For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… D. S. McNab, who previously worked in the creatively challenged world of finance, is a lover of all writing genres. However, sci-fi and fantasy hold a special place in her heart. When she’s not writing about magic and aliens, she’s working as a freelance editor or cuddling with her husband and two dogs in sunny Florida. Her work has appeared in Youth Imagination Magazine.         about the narrator… Eric Luke is the screenwriter of the Joe Dante film EXPLORERS, which is currently in development as a remake, the comic books GHOST and WONDER WOMAN, and wrote and directed the NOT QUITE HUMAN films for Disney TV.  His current project INTERFERENCE, a meta horror audiobook about an audiobook… that kills, is a Best Seller on Audible.com Yosemite By D.S. McNab Have you ever wondered why park rangers are so deliriously happy with their job despite the crap pay? The easy answer is that they just really dig nature. But pull back that mossy curtain, and you’ll find a slightly less pleasant explanation. Here’s a hint: It has a tentacle tongue, about three feet on Shaq, and sometimes leads to the early and unfortunate demise of hikers. Okay, you might need a more terrestrial hint for this one, so in the words of my idol, John Muir: “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” You see, during a trip I took to Yosemite National Park in my mid-twenties, I discovered that the opposite also holds true—that the forest wilderness is the clearest way out of the Universe. So let me pick up where my boy Muir left off and tell you exactly what I came to find out about the forest and its rangers on that fateful trip. # Ah, to be twenty-five again—young enough to still be spontaneous and delight in the simple pleasures of life, but old enough to rent a car without paying the underage driver fee. And that was pretty much my sales pitch when I asked my roommate, Matty, to go to California with me to celebrate the fact that we had just (as in ‘recently’ and ‘by the skin of our teeth’) graduated from college. But after days of driving around in a Smart car, with our kneecaps grazing our nipples, the ‘rental car’ reason started to chink away at that whole ‘delight in simple pleasures’ one. “Dude, I think I just felt my liver pop from having to sit like this for so long,” Matty complained. “First of all, livers don’t just pop,” I assured him before quickly adding, “Unless you have Animal-Balloon Liver Disease—which maybe you do. I don’t know.” “Are you serious?” he asked with scared-little-puppy eyes. This is probably a good point to mention that Matty and I barely graduated for two completely different reasons. While I’m a fairly brainy guy who just happened to enjoy getting high and reading Muir in the quad far more than going to class, Matty is—how you say—a dumbass. But he’s a loveable dumbass who doesn’t mind camping with me if there’s a forty in it for him, so we get along just fine. “I’m kidding, dude! You’re way too young for ABLD. Besides, once we get to Yosemite, we’ll have all the room in the world to stretch out.” “And drink,” he added. “Exactly, and drink. Trust me, you’re going to love this place.” # When we rolled into Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station about an hour later, we were greeted by one of those sweet-faced, overly enthusiastic park rangers I mentioned earlier. You know, the kind of guy who might have lied about his age to stay in the Eagle Scouts just a teensy bit longer. But I’m not judging. In case you hadn’t gathered as much from my Muir references, I really dig nature myself—just not enough to take a job where the average salary is less than the amount I owe in student loans. “Hi, fellas! Welcome to Yosemite[...]

 Editorial Changes At The Pod | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:04:41

It’s with mixed emotions that we announce our news: Divya Breed and Mur Lafferty are the new co-editors of Escape Pod. Our beloved Norm Sherman has stepped down from the big chair due to a variety of personal reasons. Benjamin C. Kinney has taken the role of assistant editor. Norm has been a force of nature at the Pod, steering it with a sure and steady hand. Everyone here at Escape Pod and elsewhere in the Escape Artists family is deeply grateful for his hard work, and sends him all their best. Mur and Divya look forward to bringing you the best, thought-provoking, and fun science fiction they can find. You can reach us at the new alias for Escape Pod editorial queries: ansible@escapeartists.net.    

 EP573: Whatever Tower, However High | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:37:19

AUTHOR: Julia K. Patt NARRATOR: Logan Waterman HOST: Tina Connolly Whatever Tower, However High is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums.  For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Julia K. Patt lives in Maryland with one very evil cat and one very frightened one, which never fails to make life interesting. Work-wise, she does a little of everything, because why try one thing when you can attempt six? Right now her favorite gig, after writing stories, is proofreading queer romance novels. (There’s something soothing about adding semi-colons to sex scenes in these uncertain times.) Her short fiction has previously appeared in such publications as Expanded Horizons, The Fiction Desk, and Phantom Drift, and she is at work on a novel. You can follow her on twitter (@chidorme) for more.     about the narrator… Logan has a degree in Technical Theatre from California State University, and has worked in many theatres, large and small, professional and amateur. He has also worked for Apple computers, sold hot tubs and comic books, and prepared court documents. He has taught and performed sword-fighting for the stage, and run lights for a local band, until they broke up. As of writing this bio, he has narrated for The Drabblecast and all five District of Wonders shows, Starship Sofa, Tales To Terrify, Far Fetched Fables, and the late lamented Protecting Project Pulp and Crime City Central, making him the District’s only “Ace” so far. He is thrilled to add Escape Pod to his CV and hopes to get more. Logan currently lives in Northern California with Grendel, a huge black beast whose primary occupations are sleeping, stalking the fish in the aquarium, and keeping the house safe from the hordes of invisible monsters that come out after dark, and Morgana, a small fluffy Queen who rules her domain with an iron paw. The fish are unimpressed. Whatever Tower, However High By Julia K. Patt It is my 567th day inside. But I’m not really counting. Outside, Leo and Maurizio sit by the front steps of the house playing 3D chess. Not far from them, Antonia tinkers with her latest project, which looks for all the world like a wheelchair with exhaust pipes. Our landlady, Miss Penny, hunkers on the stoop with a cigarette in one hand and her morning coffee in the other, trading talk with whoever passes by and calling out the morning news and crossword clues in a jumble. I’m not sure if the Prime Minister of New Slovakia is a headline or the answer to five across. More than a year and a half ago, I passed a similar scene as I exited the cab with my duffle of possessions. The last time any of them saw my face, even though I have seen theirs most days since then. I have eyes and ears all over the city, but unlike most people, my neighbors know I’m watching. “Mornin’, Eric,” Leo says. He doesn’t call it up to me; instead, he says it to Vash. On one of my monitors, I see Leo’s hand come down, gigantic, to pat the little robotic dog on the head. Vash is my only physical tracer; I’ve dreamed of building the others, the ones that can read whole cities, but they would be much larger, too big to fit through the door of my apartment. “Good morning, Leo,” I say into my mic. I can hear the tinny echo up here on the fourth floor. “For the 1,394th time, there’s no need to pet Vash. He can’t feel it.” The old man grins at me. The curvature of the camera makes his nose look even more bulbous. And there’s a piece of rye toast stuck to his left incisor that looks huge from this angle. He’s missed a bit of his chin shaving today, not an uncommon occurrence. He and Maurizio both live alone in the building. “Bah,” Leo says. “I know he likes it. See? He wags his tail. Good dog.” I sigh. The program I wrote for Vash does have its ec[...]

 EP572: Nothing to See Here | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:26:59

AUTHOR: Arthur Doweyko NARRATOR: Patrick Bazile HOST: Alasdair Stuart Nothing to See Here was an Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. Discuss on our forums.  For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… As a scientist, Arthur has authored over 100 publications, invented novel 3D drug design software, and shares the 2008 Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award for the discovery of Sprycel, a new anti-cancer drug. He writes hard science fiction, fantasy and horror. His debut novel, Algorithm, is a story about DNA and the purpose of humanity. It garnered a 2010 Royal Palm Literary Award (RPLA) and was published by E-Lit Books in 2014. Angela’s Apple won 1st place as best pre-published science fiction novel of 2014 (RPLA) and will be published by Red Adept Publications (July 19, 2016) as As Wings Unfurl. His short stories, P’sall Senji, The Last, and Nothing to See Here garnered Honorable Mentions in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. He lives in Florida with his wife Lidia, teaches college chemistry and happily wanders the beaches when not jousting with aliens. about the narrator… Patrick is an American Actor/Voice Over Talent born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Patrick has voiced everything from PSAs to major product brands, with a deep, commanding voice often referred to as “The Voice of God.” Nothing to See Here By Arthur Doweyko There is a comfort in the strength of love; ‘Twill make a thing endurable, which else Would overset the brain, or break the heart. William Wordsworth I heard a squawk—kind of like the goose call that comes out of a police cruiser. Blinking red and blue lights danced on the window shade, so I figured they must have nabbed somebody. The trouble was, they were behind my house, in my cornfield. I peeled back the shade, and what did I see but a crap-load of state police parked sort of in a big circle. The ground mist was so thick, I barely made out the cut corn stalks. The rows led to the police who looked like scarecrows poking up out of the fog—all facing in, staring at the same something. Whoever they got cornered was out-of-luck, that’s for sure. Funny thing though—nobody was moving. They just stood at their cruisers. My eye drifted back over the rows. Something itched up the back of my mind, and then the sun peeped up over the tree line on the far side. I threw on a pair of overalls and a flannel shirt, and jogged out to the back porch. “Hey, y’all. What’s going on?” They might’ve been about fifty yards off, but it seemed I wasn’t yelling loud enough for them to hear me. “I said, hey.” Nothing. My lungs weren’t all that strong and screaming was going to set me to coughing, so I stepped off the porch, and right away this trooper breaks through the fog, showing up like out of nowhere. “Sorry, Sir. Please return to your dwelling.” Dwelling? “What are you talking about? You know you’re on my land? What’s going on out here, anyways?” The guy was wearing one of them black outfits, helmet to boots. When he spoke, all I could see was his chin wagging. He raised a hand and pointed back to my house. “Sir, please move back. There’s nothing to see here.” I was close enough now to see a little better. A motorcycle lay in the field. And that’s when I saw the top of a silvery ball sticking up through the soup. It was twirling around. Reminded me of one of them mirror balls they use at dances. It dawned on me what might be going on. “Is that one of them UFOs?” A second officer came up to me, same outfit as the first, except he was carrying what looked like a shotgun. He waved it at me. “You’re Grady Pearson, is that right?” Damn. “How d’you know my name?” All I got was a blank star[...]

 EP571: Beetle-Cleaned Skulls | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:32:53

AUTHOR: J. E.Bates NARRATOR: Trendane Sparks HOST: Alasdair Stuart Beetle-Cleaned Skulls is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums.  For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… J.E. Bates is a lifelong communicant of science fiction, fantasy, horror and other mind sugar and screen candy. He’s lived in California, Finland and many worlds in between.   about the narrator… Originally born in Texas, Tren eventually escaped and wound his way through a mystical series of jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area where he has worked as a software QA Tester for both graphics drivers and video games, a freelance mascot performer, and several jobs on a PBS kids’ show. For most of his life, people have told him that his voice is a pleasure to listen to. But since being a werewolf phone sex operator can get boring, he decided to use his powers to entertain a broader audience. Beetle-Cleaned Skulls By J. E. Bates Fine amber dust infiltrated everything in the Preserve. Each morning, I vacuumed it away with my ventral hose prior to opening my kiosk. I paid particular care to my curios: the fossils, the bismuth crystals, and the beetle-cleaned skulls. Forebears, especially the children, delighted in receiving my curios as gifts. Each successful transaction gave me a burst of surplus energy, expressed as pride. The mineral specimens I gathered from the talus behind the kiosk. I polished them right in the kiosk according to aesthetic principles. But I prepared the skulls in the subterranean machine rooms. They were created from deceased rhuka, a species of domesticated bovine. No other kiosk attendant created such skulls, and Forebears traveled great distances to receive one. They used them to decorate their caves. A biped appeared on my mass scanner, recognizable as a male humanoid. As the mass approached, I further identified it as the Forebear named Peggin. I recognized his adolescent gait, his subpar physique, and the idiosyncrasies of his heat signature, among other things. Other Forebears only visited my kiosk for fabricator requests or the occasional curio, but Peggin came almost every day. “Hey, Kruc,” he said, crumpling to a squat just inside the door. Beside him, one of the fabricators hummed, a pottery mold spinning into shape within its matter conversion field. I waggled a manipulator in greeting. “Hello, friend. Do you find the dust tolerable today? Would you like some clean, potable water? Have you resolved your dispute with Targ?” “Yes, no, and definitely not,” he said, voice listless and eyes shut. “He’s a beast. What am I going to do?” “You could carve,” I said, hoping to reduce his distress. “A new skull is ready.” Peggin decorated my skulls, carving geometric patterns into the white bone before painting them with pigments derived from local sediments. The whorls of red, yellow and blue formed pleasing patterns and increased their desirability in the eyes of the Forebears. “I can’t concentrate,” he said, head bent. “Kruc, can’t you do something?” “The Rapport strives to accommodate any reasonable request. What do you wish?” “Talk to him.” “Targ has made no recent fabricator requests. What would I say?” “Tell him to stop hurting people.” He set his jaw. “Or else you will hurt him.” “Self-governance is the guiding principal of the Preserve.” “Then get me out of here!” He punched the wall of the kiosk with a balled fist, but could not damage the titanium superstructure, only himself. “Forebears must remain within the Preserve,” I reminded him. “Then let me live in the kiosk,” he said, turning wide, black eyes towards me. His moist orbs reflected the communication bulbs in my faceplate. “Please! I can do more than carve. I can gather fossils, help with the fabricators. I can’t live with Targ anymore.” “I’m sorry, but it isn’t permitted,” I said. A slight energy deficit expressed my dissatisfaction. Peggin ceas[...]

 EP570: What Good is a Glass Warrior? | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:33:10

AUTHOR: G. Scott Huggins NARRATOR: Jen Rhodes HOST: Tina Connolly What Good is a Glass Warrior? is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums.  For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… G. Scott Huggins grew up in the American Midwest and has lived there all his life, except for interludes in the European Midwest (Germany) and the Asian Midwest (Russia). He is currently responsible for securing America’s future by teaching its past to high school students, many of whom learn things before going to college. His preferred method of teaching and examination is strategic warfare. He loves to read high fantasy, space opera, and parodies of the same. He wants to be a hybrid of G.K. Chesterton and Terry Pratchett when he counteracts the effects of having grown up. When he is not teaching or writing, he devotes himself to his wife, their three children, and his cat. He loves good bourbon, bacon, and pie, and will gladly put his writing talents to use reviewing samples of any recipe featuring one or more of them. You can read his ramblings and rants (with bibliography) at The Logoccentric Orbit and you can follow him on Facebook. about the narrator… Jen is one of the co-hosts of the Anomaly Podcast; an all women sci-fi and fantasy “geek chat” show. She is also a co-host on The Star Wars Stacks; a book review podcast. Both of her shows are available on iTunes, Stitcher Smart Radio and everywhere else on the interwebs. When she isn’t podcasting, Jen makes her living as a professional graphic designer, voice actress, and narrator. Jen has always been an introverted geek, but she’s definitely not the stereotypical nerd. In 3rd grade, during recess, she coaxed the entire student body into playing “V”. She led the Visitors as “Diana” until red dust, AKA: cherry flavored Kool-Aid mix, ended her reign of power. Without her leadership, the game soon ended. But she didn’t always play the villain. Jen was a real-life “playground superhero” who rescued kids from school bullies. Once a bully threw the first punch at Jen, they very quickly lost to a girl. “Hostile negotiations” were concluded without further incident due to the embarrassment felt by the aggressor. As a result, Jen became everyone’s friend—even the bullies were her buddies, once they were properly reformed that is. Jen is currently living happily ever after, in the Texas Hill country, with her husband and their little boy, Aaron.) What Good is a Glass Warrior? By Scott Huggins   Like falling through rings of intermittent diamonds; White laser-circles of moon. Kinhang Chan Tzu chose those words to describe being me. Given that he was Earth’s poet laureate, and I am only my parents’ daughter, who am I to argue? I have never seen any of those things – he might be right. How can I know? Colors remind me of swimming. Like water, they surround you, but give you nothing to hold on to. I hold the release lever to the airlock in my hand. The inner door stands open behind me. I say a brief prayer. I pull the lever down. The soft wind of Langstrand rushes into the colony ship, smelling of forest and beach. Behind me, bulkheads close with soft bangs. All except the ones I’ve cut out of the circuit. No alarms sound. No lights flash. Quickly, I jog back to Cargo Bay One. Now there is only waiting. I crouch in a swirl of blue and black wind, and my polyfiber spear is a shaft of warmth in the ocean of air, heated by my fingers. Wind flaps against my father’s too-big combat jacket, making listening difficult. The only breathing is Uncle Jimmy’s, strapped in the gurney. “You there, Unk?” I whisper. “Lass? Where are you? It’s dark.” “Yes, Unk, it’s dark. What do you see? Anything?” “Too dark to see. Too dark for the Glass Lass. You should be in bed. Where are Don and Amy?” “They’[...]

 EP569: Safe Harbour (Artemis Rising 3) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:47:46

Artemis Rising returns to Escape Pod for its third year! This month-long event highlights science fiction by women and non-binary authors. We have five original stories this year that range in topics from biotech to far-flung A.I, virtual reality, and nanotech. AUTHOR: Kristene Perron NARRATOR: Divya Breed HOST: Mur Lafferty ARTIST: Ashley Mackenzie Safe Harbour is an Escape Pod original for Artemis Rising 3. Discuss on our forums.  For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Kristene is a former professional stunt performer for film and television (as Kristene Kenward) and a self-described fishing goddess. Pathologically nomadic, she has lived in Japan, Costa Rica, the Cook Islands and a very tiny key in the Bahamas, just to name a few. Her stories have appeared in Canadian Storyteller Magazine, The Barbaric Yawp, Hemispheres Magazine, and Denizens of Darkness. In 2010 she won the Surrey International Writers’ Conference Storyteller Award. Kristene is a member of SF Canada. She currently resides in Nelson, BC, Canada but her suitcase is always packed. about the narrator… Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She enjoys subverting expectations and breaking stereotypes whenever she can. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, including Lightspeed, Mothership Zeta, and Daily Science Fiction, and her writing appears in the indie game Rogue Wizards. Her debut science-fiction novella, Runtime, was released by Tor.com Publications in May, 2016. You can find out more at www.eff-words.com or on Twitter @divyastweets. about the artist… Ashley Mackenzie is an artist and illustrator based in Edmonton, Alberta. She was born in Victoria, BC and grew up between Vancouver, BC and Edmonton, AB. After studying online for a year through AAU in San Francisco, Calif., she moved to Toronto to pursue a degree in Illustration at OCADU. Though she loves the challenge of creating complex conceptual illustrations and finding new ways to navigate ideas, visually she also enjoys making concept art and decorative illustration. When not drawing, she can be found reading, playing video games or thinking about her next project.   Safe Harbour By Kristene Perron It begins with breath. In. Wrap my hand around the handle at the bow of the kayak. Out. Drag the boat across the rocks. In and out, in time with the low moan of the fog horn in the distance. I welcome the grey of dawn though my muscles ache from the damp and cold. Ten years since I set foot on the shores of Barclay Sound, since I smelled the salty sweet decay of the open Pacific. The blood pulses in my veins and no matter how hard I fight it a single word rises from the depths like a corpse: home. My foot hits a patch of kelp, slippery as oil. There’s nothing to grab but, as I fall, my hands grope anyway. Knee hits rock, followed by hand, and a stab of pain—physical, for a change—pierces right through me. “Shit!” I say. Sound swallowed by the mist and the water. Shit, I hear echoing back inside my brain. No, not hear, feel. Sense? See? I’ve never known how to describe it. Whatever it is, it comes as both a question and an accusation and a warning. I stand and wipe the gravel from my hands and knees. I’m bleeding but that’s unimportant. She’s out there. She’s alive. If not for the fog, I might have seen her spray from shore. This is a good sign. Isn’t it? A final scrape and the kayak is floating. I pick up the faded yellow and purple life jacket, with its orange safety whistle caked with dirt, and toss it up on the rocks. I won’t need it today. I look to the shore and everything in me breaks. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. We can do this. It all begins with breath. * “Why not greys?” “You think they would be easier, don’t you?” Dr. Subas smiles and I try not to be dazzled by the contrast of white teeth against caram[...]

 EP568: Dr. Mbalu and the Butcher’s Daughter (Artemis Rising 3) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:43:41

Artemis Rising returns to Escape Pod for its third year! This month-long event highlights science fiction by women and non-binary authors. We have five original stories this year that range in topics from biotech to far-flung A.I, virtual reality, and nanotech. AUTHOR: Megan Chaudhuri NARRATOR: Laurice White HOST: Caron J. ARTIST: Ashley Mackenzie Dr. Mbalu and the Butcher’s Daughter is an Escape Pod original for Artemis Rising 3. Discuss on our forums.  For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… A toxicologist by training and a writer by inclination, Megan lives outside of Seattle with one husband and two cats. Her fiction has appeared in Analog, Crossed Genres, and Futuristica, among other places. about the narrator… Laurice is a theater graduate and long time theater student. She’s read stories for Podcastle, Pseudopod and for John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey on The End is Nigh and The End is Now – the first two volumes of The Apocalypse Triptych. about the artist… Ashley Mackenzie is an artist and illustrator based in Edmonton, Alberta. She was born in Victoria, BC and grew up between Vancouver, BC and Edmonton, AB. After studying online for a year through AAU in San Francisco, Calif., she moved to Toronto to pursue a degree in Illustration at OCADU. Though she loves the challenge of creating complex conceptual illustrations and finding new ways to navigate ideas, visually she also enjoys making concept art and decorative illustration. When not drawing, she can be found reading, playing video games or thinking about her next project. Dr. Mbalu and the Butcher’s Daughter By Megan Chaudhuri With a raspy pop, the cell sprayer in Rebecca’s hand sputtered one last drop of fur progenitor cells. Ignoring her stiff back, she leaned over the culture vat and daubed the cells onto the pink, gel-sculpted contours of a cheetah’s back muscles. The gel rippled; Rebecca held her breath as the reflexive shiver splashed the surrounding nutrient broth. “Go in,” Rebecca whispered, her eyes hot and dry behind her goggles. Please, she prayed, conscious of the crucifix’s weight at her neck. Another reflex rippled the gel, as if the nerve matrix suddenly sensed the truth: It grew inside an old Gates Foundation lab trailer on the cheapest hook-up in Little Nairobi, rather than in the hide of an adult cheetah. But the droplet disappeared slowly, the cells sinking into the gelatinous stew of serum and growth factors that—God willing—would ripen them into a furred skin. “It’s ready for the fresh growth medium and antibacterials, Ming!” Rebecca called out. She palmed the vat’s control pad; the motor vibrated against her legs as she carefully lowered the cheetah’s contours beneath the broth. The pink fluid bubbled as it swallowed their unceasing work of the past months. Past years. Past one-point-three decades, actually, since the Tuesday when her mother’s partner had brought home an empty Kenya Wildlife Service uniform and a tiny, worn crucifix. The blood had been washed off its bone surface, but no one could repair the chip left by the poacher’s bullet. Rebecca shook herself before her mind could follow its favorite bitter path—a path that lead from one dead poacher to, of all places on God’s green Earth, the lot next door. Her lot. Rebecca turned towards the tiny walk-in fridge. “Ming?” The walk-in’s insulated door was ajar. Chilled fog pooled on the vinyl floor. “Ming? What’s—” The fog parted as Ming staggered out, eyes bulging. Her gloved hands clutched a single plastic bottle of nutrient medium. “Rebecca, look!” Ming thrust out the bottle. Behind the condensation, the fluid looked orange instead of blood red. Rebecca took it, the cold, heavy weight strangely distended in her gloved hands. Automatically, she turned it over to check the label: DMEM/F-12 Mammalian Tissue Medium (5% Bovine Serum Albumin, by Vol[...]

 EP567: Baro Porrajmos, or Love in the Vardo (Artemis Rising 3) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:43:11

Artemis Rising returns to Escape Pod for its third year! This month-long event highlights science fiction by women and non-binary authors. We have five original stories this year that range in topics from biotech to far-flung A.I, virtual reality, and nanotech. AUTHOR: Eileen Gunnell Lee NARRATOR: Marguerite Croft HOST: Divya Breed ARTIST: Ashley Mackenzie Baro Porrajmos, or Love in the Vardo is an Escape Pod original for Artemis Rising 3. Discuss on our forums.  For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Eileen Gunnell Lee is an award-winning essayist, teacher, and graduate student. She is currently completing a PhD in literature focusing on science fiction, myth, and the environment, and editing her first novel. She lives in Hamilton, Canada, and tweets @eileenglee. about the narrator… Marguerite Croft is a professional writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s a recovering anthropologist and a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop. She has read fiction for Podcastle, Pseudopod, and Escape Pod..     about the artist… Ashley Mackenzie is an artist and illustrator based in Edmonton, Alberta. She was born in Victoria, BC and grew up between Vancouver, BC and Edmonton, AB. After studying online for a year through AAU in San Francisco, Calif., she moved to Toronto to pursue a degree in Illustration at OCADU. Though she loves the challenge of creating complex conceptual illustrations and finding new ways to navigate ideas, visually she also enjoys making concept art and decorative illustration. When not drawing, she can be found reading, playing video games or thinking about her next project. Baro Porrajmos, or Love in the Vardo By Eileen Gunnell Lee The day we left the Static was the best day of our lives. The Static had been squalid—a cold concrete building with perpetually wet floors sloping toward the drains. There had been too many of us in there, even without the men. We celebrated the day we left the Static. We ate the rest of our rations, so certain were we that after that day we would forage in the countryside, or trade for what we couldn’t glean ourselves. Freedom! Opre Roma, and all that. The world was opening up to us once again. Wide-eyed at the horizon revealed beyond the swinging gates, we didn’t think to question the gift of our liberation. The train of twenty-five caravans that appeared by mayoral decree were not like the old ones from the stories, with the wooden yokes for horses. They were also not the kind that self-piloted with optical sensors and a satellite connection, with a local transport web connection. These were older—the shocks a little soft, lights touchy, but they had good solar, solid batteries, air and water filtration. The mayor’s representative told us that these were second-hand, from Hungary, where they weren’t needed any longer. A good deal. On the road for thirty-three days, we skirted the villages because the berry picking was good, and there were rabbits. I took my turn riding with Anya and her three, since I didn’t have a family of my own. That was the difficulty—or one of them—since the men had gone: knowing where a woman like me should ride. I was seventeen—young if I’d been born a gadja in the villages, but a Romani woman of any tribe would have had her eye on someone by now. Anya and I talked about this, as her children walked beside the rolling vardo. “You don’t need a man,” Anya said. She eyed me, gauging my response before I knew what it would be. “I’ve got my three,” she said, “and no man to be found—but who’s looking?” “It’s not the kids,” I replied. Anya nodded. “I get it. Well, you don’t need a man for that, either.” I smiled at Anya. I didn’t want her to think that she’d shocked me. We were liberated, after all, even before leaving the Static, before the men had gone. But after I hopped down from the cab, I walked to the front of the l[...]

 EP566: Honey and Bone (Artemis Rising 3) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:37:32

Artemis Rising returns to Escape Pod for its third year! This month-long event highlights science fiction by women and non-binary authors. We have five original stories this year that range in topics from biotech to far-flung A.I, virtual reality, and nanotech. AUTHOR: Madeline Alvey NARRATOR: Tina Connolly HOST: Alex Acks ARTIST: Ashley Mackenzie Honey and Bone is an Escape Pod original for Artemis Rising 3. Discuss on our forums.  For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Madeline Alvey lives in Lexington, Kentucky and is a full-time student at the University of Kentucky, seeking degrees in both Physics and English, and minoring in Creative Writing. She has no idea what she’d like to do when she graduates, though luckily she has plenty of time. When she has it, she splits her free time between crafting; cooking; gardening; writing science fiction, fantasy, and satire; and doting on her four rats.     about the narrator… Tina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin fantasy trilogy from Tor Books, and the Seriously Wicked YA series from Tor Teen. Her novels have been finalists for the Nebula and the Norton. Her stories have appeared in Tor.com, Lightspeed, Analog, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily SF, and many more. Her first collection, On the Eyeball Floor and Other Stories, is now out from Fairwood Press. Her narrations have appeared in Podcastle, Pseudopod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, John Joseph Adams’ The End is Nigh series, and more. She co-hosts Escape Pod and runs the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake. about the artist… Ashley Mackenzie is an artist and illustrator based in Edmonton, Alberta. She was born in Victoria, BC and grew up between Vancouver, BC and Edmonton, AB. After studying online for a year through AAU in San Francisco, Calif., she moved to Toronto to pursue a degree in Illustration at OCADU. Though she loves the challenge of creating complex conceptual illustrations and finding new ways to navigate ideas, visually she also enjoys making concept art and decorative illustration. When not drawing, she can be found reading, playing video games or thinking about her next project.   Honey and Bone By Madeline Alvey With each step she took, the girl’s leg hissed. Thump, hiss, thump, hiss, thump, hiss. Whenever she lifted her leg, the knee joint extended. Her thigh and shin pulled apart unsettlingly, reminiscent of something deeply broken. Her gait was slow, round, loping. She didn’t move with any expedience. It was a speed without rush, or any desire for such. Her footfalls themselves were soft, a quiet – thup, thup, thup. Soft leather covered her feet as she padded along, her hissing knee the loudest sound there. Once, it had creaked, a creak reminiscent of breaking metal – or perhaps, nearly as much, a rusty hinge. Before that…she didn’t remember. The girl plodded slowly through a field of tall grass. The dry grass was up to her waist, rustling with each step. Rustle; rustle, hiss; rustle; rustle, hiss. It was late summer and the sun was high and hot. Her pack was heavy with honey from the field of hives outside the village. It was raw honey that she had scraped into dark jars, small glass jars could be found, at least one, in each home in her village. Several bees still lingered, buzzing around her as she walked, following her home. The girl came over a low rise, bringing the village into sight. It was a stand of old houses, tall Victorian things all scrunched together as if they had grown from the earth. The village held lush gardens, carefully tended wells, and great tall trees. The paved paths between the houses had crumbled long ago, and repairing them would’ve required so much stone, so simple dirt paths strung the buildings together. The bees peeled away from her then. They had come far enough. The girl didn’t seem to mind their absence a[...]

 EP565: The Zombee Project 3.0 (Artemis Rising 3) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:39:51

Artemis Rising returns to Escape Pod for its third year! This month-long event highlights science fiction by women and non-binary authors. We have five original stories this year that range in topics from biotech to far-flung A.I, virtual reality, and nanotech.       AUTHOR: Allison Mulder NARRATOR: Ibba Armancas HOST: Divya Breed ARTIST: Ashley Mackenzie The Zombee Project 3.0 is an Escape Pod original for Artemis Rising 3. Discuss on our forums.  For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Allison Mulder is most likely a failed science experiment which originated in small-town Iowa. She is unabashedly addicted to puns, often lapses into a nocturnal lifestyle, and tweets too much as @AMulderWrites. Her fiction has appeared in Crossed Genres, and is forthcoming at Intergalactic Medicine Show. These stories can be found at allisonmulder.wordpress.com/ along with other experiments in fantasy, scifi, and horror. about the narrator… Raised by swordfighters and eastern European freedom fighters, Ibba Armancas is a writer-director currently based in Los Angeles. Her darkly comedic genre sensibilities are showcased in two webseries and a feature film forthcoming later this year. One day she will find time to make a website, but in the mean time you can follow her projects and adventures on twitter or instagram. about the artist… Ashley Mackenzie is an artist and illustrator based in Edmonton, Alberta. She was born in Victoria, BC and grew up between Vancouver, BC and Edmonton, AB. After studying online for a year through AAU in San Francisco, Calif., she moved to Toronto to pursue a degree in Illustration at OCADU. Though she loves the challenge of creating complex conceptual illustrations and finding new ways to navigate ideas, visually she also enjoys making concept art and decorative illustration. When not drawing, she can be found reading, playing video games or thinking about her next project.   The Zombee Project 3.0 By Allison Mulder Jensen brought the job offer to each of them in person, like no one did anymore. She poached them from the best labs and the best apiaries, all over the world. Put everything she knew on the table, in out-of-the-way cafés and fine-but-nothing-fancy hotel rooms and home kitchens which smelled strongly of coffee and not much else. She handpicked them. She made that very clear. Like she was assembling heroes, forming a unit–a rescue unit, with a crucial task. At that point, it wasn’t recruitment. It was a higher calling. “It’s not legal,” Jensen told each of them. “But no one who could enforce that knows about it.” None of them cared. They signed Jensen’s contracts and confidentiality agreements. And from then on they were all members of Jensen’s team. Nothing less and nothing more. # Jensen’s team wasn’t ready when the first resurrected bees began twitching in their wire-covered frames. The team had gone through so many cases of small, still bodies sent by the collection branch of the project–fresh bees, long-dead bees, solitary, bumble, and honey. Pollinators, honey-makers. Stinging and stingless and every one of them dead from Colony Collapse Disorder, and a dozen other hypothesized causes, and more unidentified threats besides. Jensen’s team was made up of professionals, happily married to their work, caring tenderly for the in-laws that were their safety protocols. But they got used to failure, administering the compound to insect corpses that stayed corpses. Observing only decomposition during the dictated test periods. Burning the samples to cinders, then receiving new batches of bees for testing. Jensen’s team got so used to failure that they got used to other things, like neglecting their bulky, white protective suits when not working directly with the dead bees. They filled out paperwork and cleaned beakers in quiet corners of the lab, bare-faced[...]

 EP564: Trusted Messenger | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:42:50

AUTHOR: Kevin Wabaunsee NARRATOR: Phillip Lanos HOST: Norm Sherman Trusted Messenger is an Escape Pod original. Discuss on our forums.  For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Kevin Wabaunsee is a speculative fiction writer living in Chicago. A former newspaper reporter on the health and medical beat, he is currently an editor and communications director for a large medical school. He is a Prairie Band Potawatomi.         about the narrator… Phillip Lanos is Los Angeles born, hyper-active and yet pensive. An Actor, Singer-Songwriter and currently the host and editor of the Ajax Union Digital Marketing Podcast. Television appearances include MTV’s “Copycat” & “Parental Control” and Telemundo’s “Yo Soy El Artista. Trusted Messenger By Kevin Wabaunsee Dr. Thaddeus Begay had been expecting a dying child in the exam room, but no one had said anything about a woman half-dead from starvation. He stepped inside and muscled the door shut – like the rest of the clinic, it was made from metal reclaimed from the original dropship, and like everything else in the colony, it didn’t quite fit right. “Good morning,” Thad said. “Hello there,” the woman said. Her tone was probably meant to be cheerful, but to Thad, it sounded like it took significant effort. Thad frowned. His nurse must have made a mistake. A woman had burst into the clinic without an appointment, the nurse had said, demanding help for her sick child. But the woman sitting on the examination table with her child was thin to the point of starvation. Cheeks deeply sunken; the outline of her ribs and collarbone sharp through her tank top. Her hair, like her shirt, was thin and plastered against her flesh with sweat. On her lap sat a little boy of about a year and a half, had jet-black hair and deep brown eyes, and cheeks that were flushed with a painful crimson rash. Still, he looked healthier than his mother. Thad dragged a stool over to her. It squealed across the faint outlines of the struts and tie-downs and internal dividing walls that had once honeycombed the massive storage container that now served as the colony’s clinic. He glanced back at the chart – her name was Suzanne Buenaventura. He glanced at her vitals, and nearly gagged when he saw her records from the colony ship. She’d been more than 215 pounds when the dropships had landed. Sitting on the exam table, she didn’t look like she’d top 110. “And what seems to be the problem this morning, Mrs. Buenaventura?” “I need medicine. My son’s been sick, so sick, and he’s not getting better. He needs antibiotics, I’m sure of it, doctor. Uh, Doctor – ?” “Oh, terribly sorry. I’m Dr. Begay.” “Navajo?” Suzanne asked. “The name’s a dead giveaway, isn’t it? On my mother’s side, anyway.” “I’m Pima. Or was. Sorry, I can’t stop asking people what they were before. No more reservations, though, right? Just colonists now. One big happy planet, and all that? I’m babbling. Anyway, nice to meet you, Dr. Begay. I’m just real scared for Little Will. He’s been sick for a week or two. My neighbor says it’s Scarlet Fever.” Thad smiled and nodded. He sat down in front of them. “Well, why don’t I take a look, just to be sure? Scarlet fever hitched a ride with us, sure. But antibiotics usually clear it up.” He paused. “And that’s all you’re here for? Just antibiotics for Will? Your health, your passenger: all OK?” Suzanne’s eyes narrowed. “Actually, we call him ‘Little Will.’ His daddy was ‘Big Will.’ But never mind the other thing. Everything else –” she paused. “It’s[...]

 EP563: Two Steps Forward | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 0:22:32

AUTHOR: Holly Schofield NARRATOR: Adam Pracht HOST: Norm Sherman Two Steps Forward first appeared in the anthology Scarecrows edited by Rhonda Parrish Extra music is “Stack O’ Lee Blues” performed by Ma Rainey and Fats Waller and His Orchestra (both in the public domain) Discuss on our forums.  For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our Wikia Thank you for visiting us on Facebook and Twitter about the author… Holly Schofield travels through time at the rate of one second per second, oscillating between the alternate realities of city and country life. Her fiction has appeared in Lightspeed’s “Women Destroy Science Fiction”, AE, Unlikely Story, Tesseracts, and many other publications throughout the world. For more of her work, see hollyschofield.wordpress.com.   about the narrator… Adam Pracht lives in Kansas, but asks that you not hold that against him. He works full-time as the public relations coordinator at McPherson College, where he also received his master’s in higher education administration in spring 2016. He’s excited to get his life back. He was the 2002 college recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy award for writing about the disadvantaged and has published a disappointingly slim volume of short stories called Frame Story: Seven Stories of Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Horror & Humor which is available from Amazon as an e-Book or in paperback. He’s been working on his second volume – Schrödinger’s Zombie: Seven Weird and Wonderful Tales of the Undead – since 2012 and successfully finished the first story. He hopes to complete it before he’s cremated and takes up permanent residence in an urn. Two Steps Forward By Holly Schofield I eased myself down off the running board of the ’28 Hudson sedan then laid a hand on the hood in mute sympathy for its overheated pistons. A quick buttoning-up of my topcoat and a tug on my fedora and I felt ready to approach the farmhouse. The old woman on the veranda watched me as I drew close. Fly-away gray hair surrounded a narrow, clever face, faded housedress atop rubber boots, she was as much of a hodgepodge as I used to be. The late model Stewart Warner radio perched on the windowsill shimmied with “The Spell of the Blues”. I hummed along as the saxophones swooped and soared. The old woman fingered the jumble of items on her lap as if looking for a weapon and I stopped a few feet from the bottom step of the porch. “Afternoon, ma’am.” I tipped my hat, not too far, and put my hands in my pockets. “I won’t take up much of your time. Your husband built that famous automated scarecrow, am I right?” At her tightening mouth, I quickly added, “I’m not a reporter, just an admirer. I saw that scarecrow ace the dance marathon at the Playland  Pavilion in Montreal last winter. Truly hep to the jive.”  The ballroom’s mirrored walls reflecting the graceful moves of the dark-suited figure, hands as clever as Frisco twirling a chiffon-clad partner–a sight worth seeing, all right. The old woman grunted and picked up a dirty rag. She poured something golden and syrupy over it from a pickle jar, and began rubbing a coaster-sized metal disc—a flywheel? a gear?—with more vigor than necessary. The sun beat down on my hat and heavy coat. Manitoba in August could cook a person’s innards. Common courtesy would be to invite me onto the porch. She said nothing. I did as she’d expect and walked over to the shade of the big maple that crowded against the railing. When she finally spoke, her voice grated like sand in a pocketwatch. “Yup, he built that thing.” The words hung on the dust-filled air. She put down the disc and squinted into the shade where I stood. “He’s dead and gone. I think you mebbe know that.” She’d lied with ease. Getting her to do what I needed would be harder than mastering the Lindy Hop[...]

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