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Author Topic: EP452: Repo  (Read 13436 times)

eytanz

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on: June 28, 2014, 06:19:34 AM
EP452: Repo

By Aaron Gallagher

Read by M. K. Hobson

This story was published in Analog, May 2014

---

It took concentration to perform delicate work in the cumbersome gloves of the suit. The rounded fingers were metal-tipped, and bulky. Elise painted the tips of her gloves with luminous paint for ease when working outside. The octopus found the wires and shorted the alarm. The device glowed green and she triggered the manual release. The door popped, expelling a breath or two of oxygen. Elise slipped into the airlock and closed it behind her, shutting the door on the endless black of space. The inside porthole looked into the cargo hold. She glided through the cargo room with three kicks. The head-up on her helmet showed schematics in blue. She found the environmental control room. She flipped open the airtight seal on a container holding a large slab of green gel. She snapped open a metal vial sprayed dark liquid onto the slab. She sealed the container, turned the machinery to full, and crouched by the door out of sight. At thirty minutes, Elise headed upstairs for the cockpit. Empty. She looked for the captain’s cabin. In the cabin’s refresher, she found his body slumped in a large rubber bag. Great. He passed out in the shower. Elise wrestled the naked man out of the rubber shower. Round globules of water drifted around them. She pulled a sedative pad out of her bag and slapped it onto Holland’s arm. The chemicals seeped into his bloodstream. He’d sleep twenty-four hours in a chemical coma. She left him in his bunk pouch, cinch closed around his neck. His balding head bobbed in the breeze from the vent. Back in the environmental control room, she worked the o2 scrubbers at full blast for thirty minutes. She broke seal on her helmet and sniffed the air, ready to clamp the helmet down the moment she felt dizzy. Clean. The ship was hers. Elise floated through the ship to familiarize herself. It didn’t take long. It was a small Beech Skimmer, cargo capacity of around five metric tons. The craft was cylindrical, with two floors. Cargo, environmental, and engine room below. Main floor above was one long corridor, sixty meters long, with the cockpit at the fore, two staterooms to each side, a combination kitchen, dining room, and recreation area at the other end. The ship was roomy for one, comfortable with eight, rated for a maximum of sixteen. Down below she examined the engines, because no pilot she knew ran a ship within recommended specs. The big Beech was tuned up to 122% efficiency. She studied the specs to learn what he had done. She shook her head. Sure, he’d managed to coax more power from the big engine, but it would need an overhaul twice as often. She shut off the display with a shrug. They never thought of the bottom line. She finished her inspection and sealed her helmet. As she kicked out of the airlock, she paused to admire the view. It was worth admiring. Pluto, with her single, sickly colony. The dock in orbit, half-full of ships in port, lit like Vegas, and shining like diamonds on velvet. She slipped under Adage to where her Betty was Remora’d to the hull and went inside. She plopped into the pilot’s couch. All her controls were custom, larger than normal. She spent a lot of time in her suit. Only two hours had passed since she used thrusters to come alongside the bigger ship. She watched the displays as she worked the controls by feel. Her deft touch meant hardly a small thump when she triggered the electromagnet and sealed to the hull of the bigger ship. She looked around the small cabin, dingy with use. The Betty was a work-ship and looked it. She kept it neat, but it was still messy in that lived-in way. After a last look around, she grabbed her bag and thumbed the power-down sequence, keeping the power plant only alive enough to keep the electromagnet on and her wine unfrozen. In the cockpit, she entered her flight plan and engaged, then she removed her suit. She shook herself out, tugged the simple grey shipsuit straight. It was a relief to scratch. She scrubbed her fingers through her brown free-fall short hair. Her eyes itched from the low-humidity atmosphere of her suit. Twenty days from Pluto dock to Lunar orbit. It took one hundred forty minutes to get to full thrust. Elise rooted through Holland’s stores. Among his other qualities, Efram Holland had surprisingly excellent taste in both wine and coffee. While the plastic didn’t improve the flavor of either, it wasn’t intrusive. She opened a box of 2105 Chateau d’Yquem. She put a clip in the reader and stuck herself to the wall. She squeezed a globe of wine into the air and leaned forward to sip from the bubble. The reader displayed the text of Jane Eyre. “Chapter nine,” she said, and the reader skipped ahead. She crossed her legs and arms and got comfortable.

Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



skeletondragon

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Reply #1 on: June 29, 2014, 04:19:55 PM
This story stuck so closely to standoff conventions that almost nothing that happened was a surprise, but I didn't mind at all. It was well-told and in many ways just a refreshingly straightforward narrative. No crazy timescale or sinister dystopia. Just two people circling each other warily in the vacuum of space. The heroine wins, the bad guy dies, the moderately bad guy goes to face whatever justice is waiting for him on the moon. I am 100% down with that.



albionmoonlight

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Reply #2 on: June 30, 2014, 01:50:20 PM
I'm a sucker for space opera.  Loved this story.  Loved that the badass hero was a woman.  But that it wasn't a story about female power.  Just had a powerful female and enough said.  Loved the Firefly-esq repo-woman-with-a-heart-of-gold protagonist.  Loved the complete and total black-hat nature of the villain.

Sometimes, I want deep meditative speculative fiction.  But, more often than not, I want good guys fighting bad guys in space and winning.



ajc13

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Reply #3 on: June 30, 2014, 10:50:15 PM
First real post - will be rough sorry.

I enjoyed the stand off and was talking back to the characters while listening.  The banter and internal dialog was fun.

In the opening she sprayed a slab of something.  I was sure that would figure in, especially with all the talk about the algae.  But no.  Fireball.  I was thinking that was the spare it seems.  Totally missed all that was a knockout operation.  Doh.

Rated 4/5, would listen again.  
« Last Edit: June 30, 2014, 10:54:08 PM by ajc13 »

Yes, but what does that have to do with
the price of tea in D'Ni?


Chairman Goodchild

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Reply #4 on: July 01, 2014, 11:54:01 AM
Incredibly enjoyable.  Crisp dialog, suspensefully written and the narration was professionally done.  A complete 180 from last week's episode. 



DerangedMind

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Reply #5 on: July 02, 2014, 04:45:34 AM
I loved this story.  It seemed very well suited for an audio translation, and the narration was excellent.

I loved the fact that the 'good guy' won, while keeping her principles, but at the same time never being stupid because of them.  Too often you see 'good guys' being naive, assuming that the other person will keep their word, or that everyone will do the 'right' thing.  She won, while maintaining her integrity, only escalating to deadly force when finally forced to it, after giving the other opponent several chances to walk away, even with a 'win win' scenario.  (Of course, seeing as she had sent an empty suit out to the exchange, it makes me also wonder whether she assumed he'd try something, or whether she was going to double cross him to keep the pilot).

At the same time, the bad guy didn't lose because he was stupid.  Yeah, a lot of people would have given up, or played straight to get the pilot.  But, while he kept trying for the 'win' for himself, he lost because he was out-played, bluffed to think she made it to his ship, rather than because he did something stupid.  About the only real mistake he appeared to have made was in not considering how Elise made it to the ship in the first place.

I'll admit that I was also surprised with the ending.  I expected that she had tampered with the algae block, lacing it with her knockout gas too.  The missile coming out of nowhere was a surprise...

All in all, a nice enjoyable story.



Unblinking

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Reply #6 on: July 02, 2014, 01:26:34 PM
I liked it.  Many switches of power back and forth kept the story interesting.  I like how she had her own specific set of morals despite being a bounty hunter and she stuck to those.

Where did the missile come from, though?  He seemed certain she wouldn't have one--was that just him being naive about her willingness to kill if pushed or was there some trick there that I missed?

The bad guy did make a number of pretty major risks that could've ended with him dead before the end. Most notably the destruction of his own algae colony with no replacement at hand.



Thunderscreech

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Reply #7 on: July 02, 2014, 02:50:49 PM
> Where did the missile come from, though?  He seemed certain she wouldn't have one--was that just him being naive about her willingness to kill if pushed or was there some trick there that I missed?

He was unaware of her limpet-ship.  His familiarity with the weapons-status of the situation was based on the assumption that the only ship he was dealing with was the one she was repossessing.  When he first spoke with her, he did not realize she wasn't just a passenger so the idea that there was an additional ship involved never occurred to him.



Warren

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Reply #8 on: July 02, 2014, 04:01:34 PM
I enjoyed this one immensely.

That said, the very last couple of sentences rather confused me, and caused me to rethink a fair bit of the story. At the end, after dropping off the repo'd ship, she takes its captain off with her, and I rather expected she was going to watch him disappear into the crowd, or into witness protection, or even sell him into the murderous hands of his enemies herself. Instead, uniformed men appear, take him into custody, and tell her she will receive the pre-arranged bonus for capturing him.

But, of course, for a fair chunk of the middle of the story the reader has to believe that a workable middle ground can be found between the two bounty hunters in which she gets the ship she wants and he gets the ship's captain, who is his quarry. She claims to be totally uninterested in the captain, and never treats him as anything important prior to that point. But apparently she wanted the captain all along!

It's clearly deliberate, not sloppy plotting. And in any case she double-crossed the male bounty hunter (a serial double-crosser himself) when it came time to turn over the ship's captain, and perhaps never intended to turn him over under any circumstances. Still, the idea that from the start she knew the captain was valuable and had plans for him rather changed my thinking about everything she'd done in the whole story - taking the story from a delightful straightforward romp to a more complicated puzzle.



Unblinking

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Reply #9 on: July 02, 2014, 04:04:29 PM
> Where did the missile come from, though?  He seemed certain she wouldn't have one--was that just him being naive about her willingness to kill if pushed or was there some trick there that I missed?

He was unaware of her limpet-ship.  His familiarity with the weapons-status of the situation was based on the assumption that the only ship he was dealing with was the one she was repossessing.  When he first spoke with her, he did not realize she wasn't just a passenger so the idea that there was an additional ship involved never occurred to him.

Oh!  Got it.  That makes sense.




skeletondragon

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Reply #10 on: July 02, 2014, 05:31:40 PM
I enjoyed this one immensely.

That said, the very last couple of sentences rather confused me, and caused me to rethink a fair bit of the story. At the end, after dropping off the repo'd ship, she takes its captain off with her, and I rather expected she was going to watch him disappear into the crowd, or into witness protection, or even sell him into the murderous hands of his enemies herself. Instead, uniformed men appear, take him into custody, and tell her she will receive the pre-arranged bonus for capturing him.


In context I thought the bonus was for bringing him in alive, rather than dead? In any case, I don't think it changes anything significant about the character. We're made to understand that she's already paid very well for her job in any case. She's still reluctant to kill anyone without need - otherwise she wouldn't have stopped to help another ship, and would have killed Wilder as soon as she found out who he was.  I think in terms of her motivations, the bonus is just that - a bonus.



HeartSailor

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Reply #11 on: July 03, 2014, 07:47:46 PM
My first ever post here...some thoughts to clear things up (maybe).

1.  The protagonist had reasonably good insight into the situation from the very start.  We just didn't know it- the author deliberately keeps us out of her head, and puts us off to the side as observers.   We think we know what she's thinking, because we assume that in order to take certain actions one must be thinking certain things, but in fact most of the story is descriptive- a play-by-play of the action, with comments about what she might be thinking thrown in.  Read the following with a commentator's voice:

"She finished her inspection and sealed her helmet. As she kicked out of the airlock, she paused to admire the view. It was worth admiring. Pluto, with her single, sickly colony. The dock in orbit, half-full of ships in port, lit like Vegas, and shining like diamonds on velvet. She slipped under Adage to where her Betty was Remora’d to the hull and went inside. She plopped into the pilot’s couch. All her controls were custom, larger than normal."

Mostly just descriptive stuff, with color commentary.  Thus, we never REALLY know what she's thinking.  This is a deft and well orchestrated, well written piece that fools us into thinking we are closer to knowing her intention than we really are.

2.  The villain isn't all that bright.  It's pretty clear that he knew that she had to get aboard the Adage somehow, but he never stopped to wonder...  I'm assuming that this isn't the Star Trek or Stargate universes where transporters exist.  The only way left would be a ship.  Elise would have rotated the Adage so that the Betty would have been hidden.  No accident, there.  He should have suspected, as soon as he figured out that Elise was in charge and Holland was "under wraps," that Elise had to have gotten aboard 'somehow' after Adage was asea, and that the 'somehow' was likely still attached.  Instead, guy is "surprised" by the Betty and Elise.   This appears to simply be Darwin at work in the cold, unforgiving arena of space.  Elise was ahead of him the whole time - the unwrapping of the story lets us finally see that.  The well crafted part is that we ARE drawn into thinking we know what Elise knows, and we are surprised as well.  Like any well told tale, there is pleasure to be had simply in the unwrapping of the story.

Over all, tightly knit story telling.  I kind of knew where this was going from the start, so no great surprise plot wise.  Still, enjoyed the old-style classic 1950's style SciFi.  Reminiscent of some of the old Heinlein/Asimov stories (The Rolling Stones, Lucky Starr) which I ate up as a kid.

Thanks!
« Last Edit: July 03, 2014, 07:59:33 PM by HeartSailor »

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TwoXForr

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Reply #12 on: July 05, 2014, 04:06:14 PM
I enjoyed it, a nice simple adventure, if they were all like this I would not enjoy the podcast, but it was a great change up from the deep thoughts that have been the fare lately. 

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slic

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Reply #13 on: July 06, 2014, 03:32:16 PM
Really liked this story!  The World Cup has eaten most of my free time, and this was a great story to come back to :-D
I'm not sure how many would be too many for TwoXforr, but I'd happily listen to many more like this.

The reading by MK Hobson: 10/10!  Enough voice changes and "effects" to pull me even further into the story and not at all distracting.

I do disagree with three parts of the outro, though.  1) I don't think our villain thought Elise was weak because she was a woman.  I believe he thought she was weak because she stopped to help.  2) Lewis had no problem with killing her, rather the odds were never is his favour - this is a particularly brilliant effort by the author.  Lewis is a heartless thug and the moment that he has a better then decent chance of killing her and surviving, he will unhesitatingly do so.  The author doesn't cheat with some kind of gruding
3) This is no Holmes and Adler.  While Elise may be as deductive as Holmes and aware of Lewis's moves before he makes them, Lewis is by no means as smart as Ms. Adler.  Maybe a Colonel Sebastian Moran, but more like John Woodley.
 
Which leads me to a question - Did Elise know from when the knife was at her throat that she would inevitably have to kill Lewis?
I think she did.  She knew of him well enough that he wouldn't walk away. 

Are there any other stories featuring Elise?

This appears to simply be Darwin at work in the cold, unforgiving arena of space.
Brilliant line :-)
And I agree with HeartSailor,  Lewis doesn't seem bright, or at least not big on planning ahead, mainly because he shoots first always and then there's not much to consider after.  Like a team that always thrashes their opponents; when they do get behind for the first time, they can't recover.  "...a judgement based on a single day's knowledge, like to get you killed." 






Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #14 on: July 08, 2014, 07:57:50 PM
Was anybody else thinking about the Firefly episode, Objects in Space?
I was, and I therefore pictured Wilder as Jubal Early. It fit quite nicely.

A great story, and a great narration from Hobson, we definitely need to hear more of her, it's been too long since the last one.

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Devoted135

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Reply #15 on: July 12, 2014, 07:34:19 PM
Such a fun one! Elise is an interesting character with her blend of pragmatist and softie. She'd rather help you out than not, but don't think that means she'll do anything that puts herself or her job in danger! Lewis really had it coming...


Was anybody else thinking about the Firefly episode, Objects in Space?
I was, and I therefore pictured Wilder as Jubal Early. It fit quite nicely.

A great story, and a great narration from Hobson, we definitely need to hear more of her, it's been too long since the last one.

Yes! :)



Unblinking

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Reply #16 on: July 14, 2014, 02:11:15 PM
Such a fun one! Elise is an interesting character with her blend of pragmatist and softie. She'd rather help you out than not, but don't think that means she'll do anything that puts herself or her job in danger! Lewis really had it coming...

The thing I thought was strangest about her POV was how she had no problem drinking all his expensive wine while she's on his ship, but take it off the ship?  That would be stealing!



Varda

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Reply #17 on: July 14, 2014, 06:55:05 PM
I thought this one was a really fun story. Once you establish you've got a pair of rogues facing off in the vacuum of space, the pleasure's in watching them attempt to outsmart each other and top each other's gambits. Nicely executed, fun, great narration, enjoyable all around.

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InfiniteMonkey

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Reply #18 on: July 14, 2014, 08:59:29 PM
I liked this a lot, but my favorite thing was that the author told us up front how our heroine was going to triumph (the extra ship) and somehow managed to make me forget about it all the same.

(and yes, I, too, thought of "Objects in Space").
« Last Edit: July 19, 2014, 06:15:43 AM by InfiniteMonkey »



Devoted135

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Reply #19 on: July 15, 2014, 03:48:08 AM
Such a fun one! Elise is an interesting character with her blend of pragmatist and softie. She'd rather help you out than not, but don't think that means she'll do anything that puts herself or her job in danger! Lewis really had it coming...

The thing I thought was strangest about her POV was how she had no problem drinking all his expensive wine while she's on his ship, but take it off the ship?  That would be stealing!

Haha, maybe it's like how the babysitter is allowed to eat food from the kitchen while the parents are away? But loading your bag up with like 5 apples to take home would be frowned upon. :D



Unblinking

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Reply #20 on: July 15, 2014, 03:17:54 PM
Such a fun one! Elise is an interesting character with her blend of pragmatist and softie. She'd rather help you out than not, but don't think that means she'll do anything that puts herself or her job in danger! Lewis really had it coming...

The thing I thought was strangest about her POV was how she had no problem drinking all his expensive wine while she's on his ship, but take it off the ship?  That would be stealing!

Haha, maybe it's like how the babysitter is allowed to eat food from the kitchen while the parents are away? But loading your bag up with like 5 apples to take home would be frowned upon. :D

Haha, I like the analogy, but it would really be more like a thief stealing your camper to sell on the black market but refusing to take any of the food out of the camper. A babysitter you've invited into your house and food may be expected as part of the compensation.  :)



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Reply #21 on: July 15, 2014, 03:44:44 PM
Such a fun one! Elise is an interesting character with her blend of pragmatist and softie. She'd rather help you out than not, but don't think that means she'll do anything that puts herself or her job in danger! Lewis really had it coming...

The thing I thought was strangest about her POV was how she had no problem drinking all his expensive wine while she's on his ship, but take it off the ship?  That would be stealing!

Haha, maybe it's like how the babysitter is allowed to eat food from the kitchen while the parents are away? But loading your bag up with like 5 apples to take home would be frowned upon. :D

Haha, I like the analogy, but it would really be more like a thief stealing your camper to sell on the black market but refusing to take any of the food out of the camper. A babysitter you've invited into your house and food may be expected as part of the compensation.  :)

Not at all. Elise was hired by the owners of the ship to bring it back. The babysitter analogy was better, since Elise, like a babysitter, was invited into the domicile.
Of course, the whole argument is mute since the story directly states that the fact that she won't sell anything is her own "quirk". It's where Elise draws the red line. It could be that under the Laws of the Space Lanes she has every right to ransack the ship and sell whatever she can't eat or carry home. She has her own rule book, her own codes. She won't fire at somebody, even if he really has it coming. Not until it's an absolutely last resort and she needs to in order to save her own life and she has run out of tricks. She will take advantage of a client's ship's hospitality, but she won't make a side profit off of anything that isn't hers.

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Unblinking

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Reply #22 on: July 16, 2014, 01:31:59 PM
Not at all. Elise was hired by the owners of the ship to bring it back. The babysitter analogy was better, since Elise, like a babysitter, was invited into the domicile.

Ah, that's right he's not the owner.  I forgot that. 

Of course, the whole argument is mute

Moot! 



slic

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Reply #23 on: July 16, 2014, 05:06:38 PM
Of course, the whole argument is mute

Moot! 

Haha, I read the original post, yelled "Moot!" at my computer, and promptly went to the next post, and then saw that Unblinking and I share a peeve.

If the the arguement was mute, I wouldn't be able to hear it ;-)



albionmoonlight

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Reply #24 on: July 16, 2014, 05:15:23 PM
I wish more people on the internet made their arguments mute :)