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Author Topic: EP303: Leech Run  (Read 7669 times)
eytanz
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« on: July 30, 2011, 11:43:01 AM »

EP303: Leech Run

by Scott W. Baker

Read by Alasdair Stuart
Originally appeared in Zero Gravity: Adventures in Deep Space

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The inhabitants of Galileo Station parted as Titan moved among them. Not one made eye contact, but all gawked furtively. One of Titan’s dark eyes glared back down at the throng; the other eye remained hidden behind a curtain of stark white hair. Conspicuous appearance was his curse. What bystander would forget a snow-capped mountain of dark muscle? Memorability was not an asset for someone like him.

One body in the crowd moved toward Titan rather than away. “The passengers is aboard, love,” the man said.

“Reif, call me ‘love’ in public and you’ll find yourself very uncomfortable.” Titan lowered his voice so it stayed within the wide berth granted by the populace. “How many passengers?”

“Thirty-two, lo — Captain.”

Titan shook his head. “Hemingway promised fifty.”

“If Hem flew so bad as he scored cargo–”

“Any load of leeches will turn a profit,” Titan assured the mechanic. “But small load doesn’t mean small risk. I want you sharp.”

“As ever, love.”

They continued through the bustling station to their ship, a little cargo runner designed for intra-system transport at sub-light speeds. Of course, a mechanic of Reif’s skill could make a ship reach speeds its designers never fathomed.

Such deviant engineering demanded a pilot with a select set of skills and dubious moral character. Hemingway possessed both. He was waiting for them beside the ship with his ever-present, boastful grin.

“I said there be takers on Galileo, didn’t I?” Hemingway said as his crewmates entered earshot. “I done already told them the rules.”

Titan’s brow furrowed. “Thirty-two? Don’t dislocate anything patting yourself on the back. And there’s just one rule on my ship.”

Titan brushed past his pilot into the cargo hold. It was a small hold, even for an intra-system runner, but it hadn’t always been so. Reif’s touch here made for ideal leech transport. The customized hold maintained a six-foot buffer from all electrical systems, enough of a gap that even a class-three leech couldn’t siphon a single ampere. Despite his extensive precautions, Titan always felt uneasy with such capricious cargo.


Rated appropriate for appropriate for mid-teens and up for violence and mild adult language.

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
« Last Edit: July 30, 2011, 02:18:27 PM by Swamp » Logged
iamafish
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« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2011, 06:20:39 AM »

Yarr! I be the pirate king under the mountain and this is the first comment in this thread me hearties!

Loved this story. Space Pirates? SPACE PIRATES?! awesome. This story didn't have a great deal of depth - the bits about identity were thrown in, but they felt a little tacked in - but that doesn't matter. It was really well written, exciting, and mixed pirate and sci-fi tropes in a really interesting way. The characters were interesting, in particular the main character. He had an interesting past which clearly deeply effected how he was, in more interesting ways that one might expect. His desire for another grade 4 leecher showed that he was a a little more than a grizzled old smuggler, but had something more to him as well.

Really good story. Well done Escape pod. and well done AL for a fantastic reading.
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Max e^{i pi}
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« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2011, 05:15:42 PM »

I liked this story very much.
It was enthralling, it pulled me in right from the start and although the plot twist was admittedly predictable, I still enjoyed it.
My total enjoyment was slightly marred, however, by Alasdair's reading.
Generally I like the way he reads and tries to do different character voices. But I don't know what happened this time. Maybe he was reading too fast, maybe the voice of Titan was too soft... whatever it was I found myself having to rewind several times for 20 seconds or so because I missed something critical.
And no, I wasn't jogging this time, just sitting on the bus, with my noise-canceling headphones.

But despite that, this was a great story.
Anything with space-pirates, jury-rigged hyper-luminal drives and people that feed off of energy is a winner in my book.
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« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2011, 06:04:47 PM »

I do have to say that the main character seems to be a giant butthead without any redeeming features, which impaired my enjoyment somewhat.  This is my third exposure to the story and I'm still not sure why the leeches rally against the evil girl leech instead of the equally evil and more actively bullying Titan.  He's a friggin' coyote.  Worse, he's a coyote who should know better, having experienced the appalling treatment for himself.  And he appears to get by on sheer physical intimidation, except instead of being rough bluster covering a soft heart, he actually means it when he threatens people.

I dunno.  When he revealed he had superpowers, my reaction was more of an apprehensive "Oh, crap!" than a "Yay!"

The reading was excellent, however.  The German accent gave Hemingway a lot more color than he had in text.  Sort of a trompe l'oeil for characterization; the illusion of depth. 
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Rain
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« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2011, 02:03:31 AM »

I thought it was an ok story, but it kinda got ruined by Alasdair's reading, i will admit that i am not normally a fan of his readings, but i thought he was speaking too fast most of the time, and halfway through when one character started speaking in the same accent as another character it just became a bit of a mess and made the story hard to understand.
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matweller
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« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2011, 08:02:38 AM »

I do have to say that the main character seems to be a giant butthead without any redeeming features, which impaired my enjoyment somewhat.  This is my third exposure to the story and I'm still not sure why the leeches rally against the evil girl leech instead of the equally evil and more actively bullying Titan.  He's a friggin' coyote.  Worse, he's a coyote who should know better, having experienced the appalling treatment for himself.  And he appears to get by on sheer physical intimidation, except instead of being rough bluster covering a soft heart, he actually means it when he threatens people.

I dunno.  When he revealed he had superpowers, my reaction was more of an apprehensive "Oh, crap!" than a "Yay!"

The reading was excellent, however.  The German accent gave Hemingway a lot more color than he had in text.  Sort of a trompe l'oeil for characterization; the illusion of depth. 
He was a coyote in function, but there are some things to consider...
  • Coyotes look different from your perspective. To us they seem horrible. To the people that use them, they seem a worthwhile risk for the return. I'm not saying anything about who's right. I'm just saying the fact that they exist means somebody thinks they have value
  • Unlike a coyote, I didn't get the feeling that he would dump cargo to save himself, but more like the money made prison risk-worthy or maybe just that he understood that because of his condition, he was a step away from prison in the best of times, so he might as well make a little cash while keeping himself in exile.
  • He didn't randomly want or try to kill his passengers, if that were the case he either wouldn't take them or this would be a Pseudopod story. It's more that because he so fully understood the risks involved, he laid down the rules with no wiggle-room because a failure to comply meant death for everybody. Better to airlock one leech than let him kill 50 and derelict your ship.

I drank the Kool Aid (tm) on this one. And while I wouldn't put this reading in his personal top 5, it's far from Al's worst. Besides, he's on a Pro-in-everything-but-paycheck plane -- his worst is better than 80% of all podcast content.
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« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2011, 08:19:16 AM »

This was a cool idea, generally well executed.  I liked the idea of the leeches, and the leech runner who ships them from place to place.  while the main character wasn't particularly likable, the situation was interesting enough to entirely make up for it.

The one thing that bothered me was the "twist" reveal in the middle.  I like POV immersion.  To me, that's what makes most stories worthwhile, sinking into a character's head.  But when a character suddenly reveals a major secret that should've been clear from the beginning it throws me right out of the point of view to a far far distance.  Instead of getting the "Oh wow" on the reveal like I really want in a twist, this sort of thing gives me a "Really...?  That's really the way this is going to go?" 

The tension of that scene is set up very well, setting up a seemingly unsolvable situation with the pirate in control of the ship and Titan locked in the cargo with the rest of the leeches.  I was waiting to see what would happen, what kind of innovative solution he would come up with.  And then the reveal--Oh, he can walk through walls effortlessly, though he doesn't like the feeling of it.  And he's known this all along, in fact he escaped prison by doing this sort of thing.  Speaking of leeches, that leeched the tension right out of the whole thing.

A POV character doesn't need to reveal to me every nitty gritty detail of their childhood or anything, but the fact that he's a leech, and a level 4 at that, is too important for it to be a reveal at a major moment within the story.  Now, if Hemingway had been a leech or something, that would've been no problem, because he wasn't a POV character. 
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« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2011, 08:19:50 AM »

  • Coyotes look different from your perspective. To us they seem horrible. To the people that use them, they seem a worthwhile risk for the return. I'm not saying anything about who's right. I'm just saying the fact that they exist means somebody thinks they have value

Desperate people have very different ideas about what constitutes "worthwhile risk."  In this story, these people were fleeing genocide.  If they stay, they will literally die.  There are a lot of ways to respond to that kind of situation, from the outside.  Titan picked a pretty appalling one.  The only worse position, really, would be to take their money and then just space them.  He's still preying on desperation and fear, and trading in the same.  
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grokman
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« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2011, 08:56:29 AM »

I liked this story very much, and I guess I'm finally getting used to Alisdair's narrating voice after all of these years, as I can't imagine another reader handling it as well, especially the various English/Irish/Aussie accents. I was totally captivated by this story until the very end - when they tied the Class 4 up with non-conductive cord. If it's so easy to contain a Class 4, then the Captain OBVIOUSLY should've been aware of this and maybe in addition to the 6 (Feet? Inches?) of space surrounding the hold from the ship he should've added a layer of non-conductive plexiglass. I guess that's HIS lesson learned, eh, luv?
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Thomas
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« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2011, 09:51:16 AM »

his was just FUN! the gruff unlikeable capt'n turns out to be one with the leeches he transports... cool twist, should have expected it though.
(BTW, Alasdair is my hero, love his commentary on psuedopod)
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« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2011, 10:50:43 AM »

If it's so easy to contain a Class 4, then the Captain OBVIOUSLY should've been aware of this and maybe in addition to the 6 (Feet? Inches?) of space surrounding the hold from the ship he should've added a layer of non-conductive plexiglass. I guess that's HIS lesson learned, eh, luv?

Or just, y'know, coat the floor and walls in rubber.
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« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2011, 12:38:38 PM »

If it's so easy to contain a Class 4, then the Captain OBVIOUSLY should've been aware of this and maybe in addition to the 6 (Feet? Inches?) of space surrounding the hold from the ship he should've added a layer of non-conductive plexiglass. I guess that's HIS lesson learned, eh, luv?

Or just, y'know, coat the floor and walls in rubber.

It's easier to cut through rubber and peel it back I'd think.  Either way, I've gotta say that yeah, if the captain is a class 4 he should be able to take precautions against such.  If he weren't a class 4, then sure he could dismiss them as myth, but since he IS a class 4, clearly it's not a myth.

« Last Edit: August 01, 2011, 12:41:09 PM by Unblinking » Logged

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iamafish
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« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2011, 01:45:54 PM »

The tension of that scene is set up very well, setting up a seemingly unsolvable situation with the pirate in control of the ship and Titan locked in the cargo with the rest of the leeches.  I was waiting to see what would happen, what kind of innovative solution he would come up with.  And then the reveal--Oh, he can walk through walls effortlessly, though he doesn't like the feeling of it.  And he's known this all along, in fact he escaped prison by doing this sort of thing.  Speaking of leeches, that leeched the tension right out of the whole thing.

bloody hell! That sucked.
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olivaw
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« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2011, 05:41:04 PM »

I've just come back from a weekend of pirates and mad technomages, and I found all the characters and dynamics here reassuringly familiar with enough quirks to remain entertaining.

Coyote is a new term for me, although it should have been obvious from the context. I'd be interested to hear ideas of what better tactics might be used to assist refugees escape persecution, when one is a wanted criminal oneself. Titan may not have been a Mal Reynolds, but 'Lesser weevil' is very much part of the Pirates genre.

That said, I think the passenger lynching could have worked better. Why should they care that one bastard has murdered another bastard? There are possible answers that come to mind, but in the telling it came across as narrative convenience.

Somehow, when 'level 3 leech' was mentioned, I automatically assumed that the levels went up to 5. Not sure why - B5 Psi-Corps went up to 10, didn't they? For that matter, I'm struggling to think of any psionics story which hasn't featured 'oh my god, this psychic goes up to eleven!' somewhere.

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Dave
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« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2011, 06:48:26 PM »

I liked this one, but I can't be the only one who saw Christina Hendricks in my mind's eye whenever the lady passenger was mentioned, can I?
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« Reply #15 on: August 02, 2011, 01:08:26 AM »

I was actually picturing Laura Fraser from 'Neverwhere' but..yeah, she was rather Hendricks-y:)
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« Reply #16 on: August 02, 2011, 02:41:01 AM »

Coyote is a new term for me, although it should have been obvious from the context. I'd be interested to hear ideas of what better tactics might be used to assist refugees escape persecution, when one is a wanted criminal oneself. Titan may not have been a Mal Reynolds, but 'Lesser weevil' is very much part of the Pirates genre.

Not charging exorbitant fees or threatening to shoot everyone all the time would be two places to start, if one were doing it for good motives rather than profit.
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childoftyranny
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« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2011, 12:39:38 PM »

Quote from: grokman
If it's so easy to contain a Class 4, then the Captain OBVIOUSLY should've been aware of this and maybe in addition to the 6 (Feet? Inches?) of space surrounding the hold from the ship he should've added a layer of non-conductive plexiglass. I guess that's HIS lesson learned, eh, luv?

But then wouldn't he have screwed himself out of an escape if worst came to worst? It seems like a rather good decision on his part to build a room that he could escape but no one else can.

That said, I think the passenger lynching could have worked better. Why should they care that one bastard has murdered another bastard? There are possible answers that come to mind, but in the telling it came across as narrative convenience.

That is possible but they might go with the "known evil" of our fine fiend Titan in that there was at least some understanding that while he was screwing them money wise and and a jerk, there was evidence that he was taking them somewhere. Its a bit of a stretch but possible that his name was also known so they still might have had more trust in him, than in someone trying to hijack a ship that had zero reason to keep them alive. Would they have thought about this while in the heat of the moment, I dunno.
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Ghoti
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« Reply #18 on: August 04, 2011, 03:57:16 AM »

I've only listened to this story once so far, whilst driving, so my attention wan't fully on the story, but I seem to recall a mention that Leeches were executed on sight or somesuch if they're found within less open-minded (or more risk-averse) areas?

If this is the case, our protagonist isn't so much a Coyote as an opportunist mercenary running one of (presumably) many routes in a sort of underground (or in this case, oversky) railroad.

Or maybe I just misheard.

I do agree that Al might have toned his rate of reading down just a notch- it seemed slightly hurried, and it didn't have any reason to be.  Other than that, though, no complaints!
« Last Edit: August 04, 2011, 10:11:57 PM by Ghoti » Logged
InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #19 on: August 04, 2011, 05:56:23 PM »

oooh Space Opera! and OOOOO Alasdair!  (probably my favorite editor-narrator of the three podcasts)

Actually, I loved the characters and the setting, but I did find the whole notion of the leeches to be a bit, well, silly. X-men silly.

But other than that, I enjoyed it. The characters were appropriately colorful.
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