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Author Topic: EP525: Among the Living  (Read 7955 times)

eytanz

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on: March 18, 2016, 11:11:02 AM
EP525: Among the Living

by John Markley

narrated by Carl Allery
---

Williams perceives a world of hazy reds and angular grays. He sees through smoke and through walls. He sees the fury of fires and the sparks of life in survivors hundreds of yards away. He sees every crack and buckle in the structure around him.

Most importantly, he can’t see Chicago’s burning skyline as it would look to his own eyes.

The bulky door barring him from the interior of Waldron Arcology shudders as Williams’ gauntlet-mounted saw tears through its hinges, then falls outward. McIlrath, Principe, and Armstrong catch it, lowering it to the ground while Williams’ saw retracts. Team Leader Garcia shouts commands.

The room beyond is an inferno. The five step aside, and a great blast of fire-retardant dust blasts from the Vertical Take-Off/Landing transport on the landing pad.

They advance into what had been the terminal for the 150th floor’s south landing pad. Williams takes the lead, metal ringing under his 500-pound weight with every step. There’s no need for anyone in full Evac Team Armor to wait for the fire to go out; extinguishing it isn’t for their benefit.

Fire-choking sodium chloride and melting thermoplastics spread across every surface, covering everything but sparing Williams nothing. He sees through it as if it were air, sees the skeletal ultrasound reflections of every person who died here.

They died very quickly, Williams reminds himself. One of the floor’s main corridors runs straight through the center of the building to here. The shock wave of superheated atmosphere and debris had been channeled towards this place unimpeded, crushing and incinerating them before they could have registered what was happening.

He hopes. He hopes most of the 150,000 people living here died that way.


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!



OneSock

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Reply #1 on: March 18, 2016, 11:26:28 AM
Simply amazing!     The world building is so clean and perfect,  combined with the tale and the reading...   I missed three chances at breakfast while driving to work.

And reality...   I spent thirteen years as a Paramedic (Grand Rapids, MI and Richmond, VA) - not only did this story make me proud to have served, it brought emotions to the surface that don't arise often.  Thank you!

And Alistair..  the outro,   thank you for the recognition of all our bothers who "go IN while everyone else runs out"  that made me outright cry (and smile).

John Markley..  Thank You.

I'm so tired of all these clowns and elephants!  Please, let's run off to an office !


bunnmr

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Reply #2 on: March 18, 2016, 02:48:53 PM
Wow that was a great story.  I would have liked a little bit of a trigger warning however.  I was walking around at work with memories of 9/11 rolling over me in waves.  I still would have listened to and loved the story, but in a better place.



Jethro's belt

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Reply #3 on: March 18, 2016, 05:39:52 PM
I liked it more than I wanted to with it being all apocalyptic. Being a personal story that didn't try to cover too much of the massive event while economically painting that bigger picture was what did it. Gotta love the old NATO alphabet too.
 



Frank Evans

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Reply #4 on: March 19, 2016, 01:14:40 PM
I really enjoyed this one. The world building was enough to paint a clear enough picture of the setting without being bogged down in details. The tech was well developed and seemed like something that would naturally evolve in the universe the author had created. I would definitely be interested in reading more set in this world.



Thunderscreech

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Reply #5 on: March 20, 2016, 12:31:27 AM
Fantastic story, loved it.  Technical question, did anyone else have any audio problems with the bass and high-pitch noises?  When the narrator was talking (basically, any point where it wasn't the AI), there was some kind of deep bass note and hiss that made it very difficult to understand in my car until I turned the bass and treble all the way down.



Drastic

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Reply #6 on: March 20, 2016, 04:09:09 PM
The sound mix was a real unfortunate mess, yeah; I nearly bailed on it initially. Glad I stuck with it, it was a great little story.



Frank Evans

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Reply #7 on: March 20, 2016, 06:31:06 PM
Fantastic story, loved it.  Technical question, did anyone else have any audio problems with the bass and high-pitch noises?  When the narrator was talking (basically, any point where it wasn't the AI), there was some kind of deep bass note and hiss that made it very difficult to understand in my car until I turned the bass and treble all the way down.

I had it on headphones and didn't have any problems. Maybe something to do with the different type of speakers?



Thunderscreech

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Reply #8 on: March 20, 2016, 06:35:41 PM
Quote
Maybe something to do with the different type of speakers?
Very possible!  The AI sounded great.  Clear, crisp.  I listen to podcasts exclusively in my car, this was a new issue for me but it very well could have been the difference between our speaker types that gave us different results.  I'll try headphones if I encounter this again, thanks!



matweller

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Reply #9 on: March 21, 2016, 11:50:37 AM
There were some challenges with the source audio for this narration. Sorry I couldn't get it better, but I assure you that I put a lot of time and several pieces of software into making it the best possible.



Kaa

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Reply #10 on: March 21, 2016, 02:26:00 PM
First of all: the story. WOW. Just...wow. Totally didn't care that it took me over an hour to get to work, today. Thank you, John Markley.

Second: the narrator. Again, WOW. Excellent job, Carl Allery.

Third: I didn't have any problems with the sound, and I was listening in my car, as well. Since all I listen to is podcasts, I have bass turned way down, so maybe that had something to do with it.

Awesome episode.

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Reply #11 on: March 21, 2016, 03:02:07 PM
Was this an Escape Pod original?  The episode notes don't specify.

I can't seem to find a previous publication, but the title is common enough and the name not so unusual that I'm certain I would find it, and I haven't found a web page for the author to try to confirm, ISFDB lists the EP publication as the author's only published fiction but that's not always accurate. 

I think it is, so I'll add it to the 2016 award-eligible list.



Lionman

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Reply #12 on: March 21, 2016, 03:29:42 PM
This struck a chord for me.  There was enough detail to fill in what a technology-expanded emergency services might look like.  I liked the grittier nature, the inclusion of an AI that was of an older nature, with built-in quirks that likely wouldn't exist in the 'current' version of an AI, but it also really spoke to the idea that even emergency services of the future have to deal with hand-me-down technology.

I also liked that it addressed the perspective of someone who goes out to put their life on the line for others, and how sometimes that one life is all that matters, getting that one more person out safely.

Failure is an event, not a person.


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Reply #13 on: March 22, 2016, 01:24:05 PM
Oddly, I found this story kind of hopeful. Not because of the nuking of Chicago, of course, but at the development of emergency first responders into a superpowered power-armored interstate team.  I really liked that idea and how they are using the technology to go above and beyond the incredible things they already do, not just using the tech complacently but still pushing the tech to its limits.

I liked Fizzy, too, an adapted AI that they'll keep around as long as he is able to perform his function.  In this case his peculiarites were actually a major asset trying to keep the kid calm, since he could dial up his cartoonish side while he chatted with the kid on the private comm channel while he kept to his more businesslike side when he talked to the first responder.

Solid story, I liked it a lot.


I didn't notice any audio issues--I listened to about half on iPod earbuds, and about half over car speakers.  Maybe a difference in audio settings?




Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #14 on: March 23, 2016, 03:34:58 AM
First of all: the story. WOW. Just...wow. Totally didn't care that it took me over an hour to get to work, today. Thank you, John Markley.

Second: the narrator. Again, WOW. Excellent job, Carl Allery.

Third: I didn't have any problems with the sound, and I was listening in my car, as well. Since all I listen to is podcasts, I have bass turned way down, so maybe that had something to do with it.

Awesome episode.

Echo on all counts.

One question, though - was the voice of the AI also Carl Allery? Because if so, he pulls off an incredible "cowboy Mat Weller" impression!

Also, if anyone has more info about the author for his wiki page, I didn't have anything to copy from the episode post, and I haven't had time to put the tiny bit of bio in the episode intro on the page, yet. (So, if anyone feels so inclined as to add an easy edit to their edit count....)

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matweller

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Reply #15 on: March 23, 2016, 11:48:29 AM
One question, though - was the voice of the AI also Carl Allery? Because if so, he pulls off an incredible "cowboy Mat Weller" impression!

Also, if anyone has more info about the author for his wiki page, I didn't have anything to copy from the episode post, and I haven't had time to put the tiny bit of bio in the episode intro on the page, yet. (So, if anyone feels so inclined as to add an easy edit to their edit count....)
Carl was concerned that his southern might be somewhat lacking, so I offered to be Fizzy. ;)

Sorry, I didn't receive any author info with this story. This is not unusual, but I was also unable to locate any sign of the author online. I was hoping someone who had the info would see the request for it above and make it available, but that hasn't happened. I'll make some calls.



adrianh

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Reply #16 on: March 23, 2016, 12:38:11 PM
A general "me too" to the excellent world building, story & narration.



vf-xx

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Reply #17 on: March 23, 2016, 03:11:30 PM
This was the first story in a long time that made me want to finish it before getting out of the car and into work (a NPR moment maybe?)

I really like how it incorporated what tech could do to be helpful, while maintaining a personal story.

I also couldn't help but think think of 9/11 while listed to this.

Very powerful storytelling .



Cygnwulf

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Reply #18 on: March 23, 2016, 05:17:39 PM
So long time lurker and this story has finally driven me to post.  It hit me hard and in a very unexpected way.
Alasdair couldn't have described this breed of person any better in his outtro. 
I grew up the son of a fire fighter.  He would usually talk some about the fires, about how some entries went, about frustrations with fellow firefighters, and so on.  But there were times where he wouldn't talk about them at all, and it wasn't until I was a little older that I started to understand why.
I spent time at the station and knew many of the people he worked with.  They were a rough bunch, sometimes crude, fond of their vices, and they didn't always like each other.  But they were also some of the best people. They were the ones you could count on when it mattered.

Once or twice in recent years he has been willing to talk about some of the bad ones, at least a little.  They were always bad when they lost someone.  The worst ones were the ones where they couldn't save anyone.  So while I haven't been in this situation myself, I understand the drive that people like this to at least save someone

The last bit, about how he realized that he didn't want to die at the very end, only AFTER the kid was safe, made me have to stop the car for a few minutes and clear my eyes before I could finish driving to work.

I know many people like our protagonist.



Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #19 on: March 24, 2016, 02:01:15 AM


Sorry, I didn't receive any author info with this story. This is not unusual, but I was also unable to locate any sign of the author online. I was hoping someone who had the info would see the request for it above and make it available, but that hasn't happened. I'll make some calls.

That's okay, Mat - I didn't intend to criticize your efforts. I was hoping to motivate some ambitious forumites to explore the wiki a bit.

This Wiki Won't Wrangle Itself!

I finally published my book - Tad's Happy Funtime is on Amazon!


matweller

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Reply #20 on: March 24, 2016, 01:03:14 PM


Sorry, I didn't receive any author info with this story. This is not unusual, but I was also unable to locate any sign of the author online. I was hoping someone who had the info would see the request for it above and make it available, but that hasn't happened. I'll make some calls.

That's okay, Mat - I didn't intend to criticize your efforts. I was hoping to motivate some ambitious forumites to explore the wiki a bit.
There's no harm in asking. I've put out the digital feelers; we'll see what we get. We have plans to make sure I have better access to this information in the future, so hopefully it'll cease to be an issue.



awfulhorrid

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Reply #21 on: March 26, 2016, 04:51:05 AM
I'm kind of glad to know I'm not the only one to whom this story brought tears to their eyes. Yeah, I've known a few of these people over the years myself, both first responders and people who would just hope in to help without worry for themselves. (Hugh Siegel ... yeah, the name was different, but I've known him.)

I also lived in Chicago for about 13 years, working downtown on and off a lot during that period. I know that city well and can picture the buildings mentioned because I've walked right past them, been inside a few of them. "To the north, where most of the nukes that made it through hit, it looks like the sun is rising into a black noon sky as tens of square miles are consumed in a single common conflagration" ... that sent a bit of a chill up my spine. That's where I used to live. Lincoln Park, then Edgewater ... so, yeah.

TLDR? Great story that really touched me deeply.

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Fenrix

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Reply #22 on: April 04, 2016, 04:13:32 AM
I pictured Fizzy as basically Clippy in a fireman's hat. Now I will always hear Clippy dialogue in Mat Weller's voice. So there's that.

All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”


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Reply #23 on: April 04, 2016, 02:29:05 PM
I pictured Fizzy as basically Clippy in a fireman's hat. Now I will always hear Clippy dialogue in Mat Weller's voice. So there's that.

Haha, Clippy finally redeems himself.



Devoted135

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Reply #24 on: April 18, 2016, 03:51:37 PM
This was such an amazing story. Unlike a similar past story whose name eludes me (um, Caribbean narrator in a big combat-ish suit, lost her sister, south side of Chicago in ruins), I felt like the descriptions of the tech were exactly enough so that I was able to picture everything well but not get too distracted from the actual story. First responders are amazing people, and this was a beautiful tribute to their sacrifice, and also their heart. Nicely done!