Author Topic: EP756: In-Body  (Read 1288 times)


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on: October 31, 2020, 07:54:20 PM
Escape Pod 756: In-Body

Author: Vincent H. O’Neil
Narrator: Trendane Sparks
Host: Phoebe Barton
Audio Producer: Summer Brooks

Escape Pod 756: In-Body is an Escape Pod original.


Show Notes
If you enjoyed this story, you might also like the author’s 5 book military science fiction Sim War series (written under the name Henry V. O’Neil), starting with Glory Main.

“You’re not supposed to be doing this, Colonel.”

Dentzler kept his eyes on the low table and pretended he hadn’t heard. “You said her In-Body chip was damaged?”

“When the grenade went off.” Ensign Teel pointed at a spot under the olive-colored draping that covered the broken form on the table. “One piece of shrapnel, penetrating front to back, managed to nick it.”

Dentzler swept the shroud away to reveal a small collection of bare human bones. His large hands gripped the low wall at the table’s edge, and it was a long moment before he spoke. “Well, she was right.”

“About what, sir?”

“The Hoops. They don’t den in the forest. Every piece of data said they did, but she tracked them out into the grassland.”

“She was stubborn that way.”

“The good scouts always are.” The colonel replaced the sheet. “So her In-Body recording is intact?”

“Sir, it is against Force regulations for you—for anybody—to experience In-Body of more than one fatality in a single mission year. And you’ve been doing every one of them.”

“Your objection is noted, Ensign. Thank you. Now is the recording finally ready?”

“It’s been ready for hours, sir.” Defiant eyes locked with his own, and squared shoulders dared him to rebuke her. “The electronics on two of her ‘bot dogs transmitted the whole thing before the Hoop snakes destroyed them.”

Dentzler’s lined face broke into a tight-lipped grin, and he regarded Teel with affection. “Lying to your boss again, Ensign?”

“You’re going to get into big trouble doing this, sir.” She let her features go blank. “And then I’ll have to train a new boss. Hopefully one who’ll listen to good advice.”

“I have to do this, Veronica.” Dentzler’s eyes were on the table again. “I train them. I send them down there. I owe them this when they don’t make it back.”

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Álex Souza

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Reply #1 on: January 13, 2021, 06:56:13 PM
A competent story that talks about an underrated theme.

This is a hard science-fiction story that aims to study the psychological effects of the MC's actions in the military. And it succeeds in that endeavor. It reminded me of the book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, by Dave Grossman and of an episode of Mike Tyson's Podcast--the one with Joby Ogwyn. I don't want to look like a podcast addict but Jock Willink talks a lot about this as well. He says that a soldier often has no therapist. That means he's either his own therapist, or that other soldiers will be each other's therapists. And this happens in this story.

And the story also aims to explain the technology of the In-Body (duh, it's in the title!). That said, pointing out any mistakes on the narrative would just be a stretch because it wasn't the scope of the story.
Spoiler (click to show/hide)

The In-Body (nice name btw) is a chip that works like an airplane's black box, but allows someone to experience everything the user had experienced with all the detail. It's great because I can imagine that being done in the near future (if they're not doing it already, to an extent).

I love military sci-fi since I read Armor, then went on to read the anthology Armored, by John Joseph Adams. And I loved the fight scene here. I think that it also somewhat evokes Starship Troopers because of the theme.

One minor thing that I didn't enjoy though was the infodump after the first scene break. A lot of stories do that exact same thing. I think it's good, refreshing to see different structures once in a while. It doens't need to be experimental:just something a little different than the usual.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

In the Host's Commentary, Phoebe Barton talks about birdwatching in Rome, and how they used it for divinations. I was wondering why birds were so important for the story; now I know. I'd also like to add the ravens in Norse Mythology, that were like the eyes of the gods; and the eagles used by Mongolians to spot enemies (they still train eagles today btw).

P.S.: Funny that they teach classes with a laser pointer. I thought these became old long ago  ;D ;D ;D

This is an 8,5/10.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2021, 01:50:19 PM by Álex Souza »

I just wanna go pro before AI takes over and the bot dogs from Boston Dynamics kill us all.

Vincent O'Neil

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Reply #2 on: February 28, 2021, 02:39:17 AM
"A beautiful exploration of guilt and hurt and healing"

Quick Sip Reviews had some nice things to say about the Escape Pod performance of my short story "In-Body" and I wanted to share them here:

“In-Body” by Vincent H. O’Neil (4982 words)

No Spoilers: Colonel Dentzler is a teacher on a satellite orbiting a world that humanity hopes to colonize. But some...mistakes have left humans a bit cautious, and at the moment the process is only at the stage of sending scouts with mechanized dogs to see what can be seen and how ultimately hospitable the planet is.

Being a scout...isn’t easy, but Dentzler was a good one until a mysterious illness sidelined him and disqualified him from ever serving again. To now he teachers and helps to train new scouts. Scout who often go down to the planet...and die. And for each who doesn’t return, Dentzler experiences their final moments via a king of neural link that allows him to see through their eyes. The effects of which...aren’t great, and definitely seem cumulative as he tries to balance his guilt and his desire to do the best job he can.

It’s a heavy piece, walking the edge of trauma and coping, and while it’s not an easy read, it’s a beautiful exploration of guilt and hurt and healing.

Keywords: Memories, Colonization, Teaching, Trauma, Birds, CW- Suicide

Review: I really like how the story captures all the complex feelings that Dentzler is having without really ultimately valorizing him for having them. The story is careful with the trauma and PTSD that he has, with the ways that he tries to cope. But it doesn’t let him off the hook for the ways he’s being selfish and self destructive (mainly, well, Veronica doesn’t let him off the hook for it).

Because that’s in part what he is when he’s making himself experience every death. And I love how he ultimately has to see what he’s doing, through the experiences as the bird, losing a nest, sitting out in the dark waiting for the end to come, for a predator to take him, only for the dawn to come and the bird to live on.

Dentzler is waiting there, after losing so many of his students. He’s waiting for something to take him, for something to punish him for those deaths, when they aren’t his fault, when it wouldn’t make any of it better, or right. It would just be making those deaths about him, which they aren’t. They’re often tragic, and unfair, but that happens.

It’s no one’s fault, really, and that can be hard to deal with, hard to parse. Because it means grappling with survival, with not being able to control the lives and deaths of others.

It’s something that Dentzler has to be kind of hit over the head with, and I like how that happens, the ways the people around him care, the ways they all step outside regulations to really cope with what they are asked to do, what they must do if humans are to have a chance to settle other worlds.

It’s a story that captures a sense of grief and loss and guilt and hope. One that shows people helping people, realizing that they can’t take on everything on their own, can’t bear all that weight, and they don’t have to. Because there are people willing and wanted to help. It’s a lovely read that I definitely recommend checking out!

Here's the link:


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Reply #3 on: May 20, 2021, 05:12:25 PM
I just wanted to add that I, too, liked this story for the reasons people have already mentioned (great balanced treatment of ptsd, complex emotions, and the care of colleagues). The previous two posters have said all this better than I can, so this is me giving their posts a "like".