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Author Topic: EP513: Adaptation and Predation  (Read 1579 times)
eytanz
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« on: December 13, 2015, 04:12:48 PM »

EP513: Adaptation and Predation

By Auston Habershaw

read by Jeff Ronner

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Everyone thrives in someone else’s version of hell. For the Quinix, this meant sheer canyon walls a hundred kilometers deep, every surface coated with a thick layer of red-orange vegetation and bioluminescent fungus. The arachnids liked to string cables in complex patterns from wall to canyon wall and built nests where the cables crossed. For them, each oblong, womb-like nest was no doubt cozy and safe. For me and every other off-worlder on Sadura, you were made constantly aware of the fact that, with just the right (or wrong) application of balance, you would plummet to a death so far below that you’d have plenty of time to think about it on the way down.

I’d seen more than a few fall—Dryth tourists to little fluffly Lhassa pups, all screaming their way down into the abyss. In the dim, humid depths of the Saduran canyons, the bodies were hard to find.

For that reason, among others, I came here to kill people for money. I make a good living.

Tonight I had a fat contract on a big Lorca—an apex predator, both because of his fangs and his bank account. As a scavenger, living on the bottom of the food chain my entire life, the irony was delicious. Here I was, a lowly Tohrroid—a slop, a gobbler, a smack—paid top dollar to do in some big shot whose trash my ancestors have been eating for ages. Sooner or later, the bottom feeders always get their due, don’t they?

Either that, or I was going to wind up dead.

I knew the Lorca liked to dine at the Zaltarrie, and I knew he’d be there tonight. I’d spent the last few weeks shadowing one of the wait-staff—a Lhassa mare with the fetching chestnut mane, a full quartet of teats, and the long graceful neck that fit with Lhassa standards of beauty. I had practiced forming her face in a mirror—the big golden-brown eyes with the long, thick lashes were the hardest—and now I had it down pat. I could even copy a couple of her facial expressions.

The Zaltarrie hung like a fat egg-sac in the center of one of the deeper canyons, webbed to the walls by at least five hundred diamond-hard cables, some of which were thick enough to run gondolas from the artificial cave systems that honeycombed the walls and were home to the less authentic Saduran resort locales. The Zaltarrie, though, was all about local flavor and a kind of edgy, exotic energy that appealed to the young, the bold, and the hopelessly cool.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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Chairman Goodchild
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« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2015, 08:59:00 AM »

I'm not sure if this will make my year's best list, but damned if I didn't enjoy the hell out of it.  A shapeshifting alien assasin on a fantastic planet with dozens of alien species- almost like something out of Star Wars.  I really liked the interplay between the three species presented here- the Lorca, the Tohrroid, and the Lhassa.  And who's to say the Lhassa didn't overpopulate and overgraze entire planets like the Lorca accused?  This was a really fun slice of science fantasy this week. 
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Dwango
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« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2015, 05:40:39 PM »

A cross between hard-boiled crime drama and whimsical fantasy.  The different races were fascinating and the way they were linked to different animal types, predator, scavenger, and prey, similar to the circle of creatures in Larry Niven's Ringworld.  I enjoyed the chess game being played here, where the protagonist must figure out the weaknesses of his quarry and plan so far ahead, where any misstep could lead to his doom.  He is not a kind creature, but he cares about his species or he wouldn't have sent food to the trash at all, though I guess it could be seen as the same empty kindnesses of the predator.

I don't see the predator as kind.  He is following his nature and he may believe his own intentions are good.  But its like the Slitheen in Season 1 of Doctor Who, episode 11 "Boom Town"  who lets one woman get away.  As the Doctor points out, every predator can let go of one victim, but that doesn't make the monster good, it just sates their conscience for all the others they ate.  One saved soul does not make up for a lifetime of evil deeds.  It takes another lifetime and more to make up for that.
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Zelda
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« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2015, 10:57:34 PM »

I liked this story a lot.
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Fenrix
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Have you found the Yellow Sign?


« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2015, 09:20:01 PM »

Good tension and pacing. Vast shades of grey moral ambiguity. Nicely done!
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I always lock the door when I creep by daylight.
sryshti
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« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2015, 06:01:41 PM »

This story was thought-provoking, and beautifully narrated. I agree, that the pacing and level of detail were perfect and kept me riveted. I was really shocked when the protagonist (anti-hero) got swallowed, but, in hindsight, it was a beautiful plan. I like that I should have been able to figure this plan out from the beginning, but it wasn't too obvious. Delightful!
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Fenrix
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Have you found the Yellow Sign?


« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2015, 09:49:08 AM »

Also, not sure I've heard that mix of The System is Down before. What's the connection?
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I always lock the door when I creep by daylight.
matweller
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« Reply #7 on: December 25, 2015, 09:51:20 PM »

Just that Alisdair mentioned Strongbad. I don't need much motivation to add silly crap.
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Moritz
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« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2016, 02:50:16 PM »

Just that Alisdair mentioned Strongbad. I don't need much motivation to add silly crap.

Made me laugh, good that I was doing chores at home while listening Smiley
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TrishEM
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« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2016, 08:02:38 AM »

Delicious!
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Unblinking
Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2016, 12:39:15 PM »

This one was a lot of fun, felt like old-school science fiction in all the mixing of alien species but with a more thoughtful modern tone. 

The interplay between the predators, prey, and scavengers was very interesting.

I really liked the abilities that the protagonist had, and the use he put them to, concealing the weapon, masquerading as another species, surviving what would be a fatal biting wound to others, but also showed extra challenges it had, especially in pretending to actually have facial expressions, maintaining the texture of skin while something else is touching you, having less leverage to fight an attack because there are no hard bones.  I figured that the gun was meant as a red herring by the protagonist, or it wouldn't have concealed it so poorly in the approach to him being searched, which totally made sense as a diversion and misdirection

I don't really think the predator was really kind.  I think that it went to some lengths more than its brethren to assuage its own guilt, but if it really wanted to be kind it would pursue a non-sentient food source.  If it really was important for the predators to keep the prey in check, well this has failed already, probably because predators keeping prey in check requires a somewhat closed system, if the prey are going to colonize planets on their own than they can easily escape that system, and prolific breeding makes the Lhasa naturally adept at colonizing--send a few dozen breeding pairs and you've got a booming colony in no time.  If they REALLY cared about keeping the Lhasa population from killing planets, then getting the Lhasa to accept birth control would have to be a major factor in that, rather than just choosing to have another species eat as many as they can manage.

Anyway, good fun story.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2016, 04:00:50 PM »

The Cheat is grounded!

I really enjoyed this story! Unblinking makes excellent points about the protagonist having very interesting advantages as well as disadvantages in its chosen profession. The descriptions of how it had to focus just to keep limbs in their proper place while walking, not to mention maintaining facial expressions, were really interesting.

Once again, SF and the use of aliens proves a great lens through which we can examine the realities and consequences of having very stratified social and economic classes. The protagonist's ability to mimic any other species makes me think of people who have risen up the ladder through hard work and good luck, but always feel they must wear a mask (wear the right clothes, tell the correct jokes, use the appropriate speech patterns) in order to fit in with their new surroundings.
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matweller
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« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2016, 08:15:57 AM »

The Cheat is grounded!
Cheesy
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FireTurtle
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« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2016, 05:11:17 PM »

Popping over to say that I also really enjoyed this one. Old timey SF setting paired with fascinating alien MC paired with modern story line with great depth= yay!
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“My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
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CryptoMe
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« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2017, 11:19:57 AM »

I did enjoy this story, for all the reasons people mentioned. But it was very hard for me to do so, because I found it difficult to follow, especially in the beginning when I was trying to get all the players and species straight. It was better at the end, when the (in my opinion) overly descriptive language was toned down and we already had a feel for the characters. In other words, great idea, but the execution was not to my taste.
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