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Bogi Takács

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Latest 26 Nov 2022 | Updated Daily

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Toasted Cake 256: Wind-Lashed Vehicles of Bone by Bogi Takács

Toasted Cake Podcast

Toasted Cake 256! In which we ride.Araana picked a sticky seedpod off his coat and stepped out of the brambles, onto the surface of the wide and flat road left over by an empire long past.This story first appeared on Bogi's patreon.You can find Bogi at Bogi reads the world, dot com! Bogi is also bogiperson on a variety of social media.TC256-wind-lashed-vehicles.mp3

16 Nov 2020

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Power to Yield by Bogi Takács (audio)

Clarkesworld Magazine

This episode features "Power to Yield" written by Bogi Takács. Published in the July 2020 issue of Clarkesworld Magazine and read by Kate Baker. The text version of this story can be found at: http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/takacs_07_20 Support us on Patreon at http://patreon.com/clarkesworld

2hr 32mins

1 Aug 2020

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Episode #44: "The Need for Overwhelming Sensation" by Bogi Takács

GlitterShip

The Need for Overwhelming Sensation by Bogi Takács I am staring at the face from a thousand newscasts—the gentle curve of jaw, the almost apologetic smile. Miran Anyuwe is not explaining policy. Miran Anyuwe is bleeding from a head wound, drops falling tap-tap-tap on the boarding ramp of our ship, the sound oddly amplified by the geometry of the cramped docking bay bulkheads. “I’m looking for a ride out,” they say. They are not supposed to be on Idhir Station. They are supposed to be three jump points away, heading the accession talks, guiding Ohandar’s joining of the Alliance. I uncross my legs and get up to my feet—one quick, practiced motion. I bow my head briefly. “Esteemed, I will inquire.” [Full transcript after the cut.] Hello! Welcome to GlitterShip episode 44 for August 22, 2017. This is your host, Keffy, and I'm super excited to be sharing this story with you. Our story for today is a reprint of "The Need for Overwhelming Sensation" by Bogi Takács. Content warning: Sex and BDSM Bogi is an agender trans author who can be found talking about other people's writing at http://www.bogireadstheworld.com and @bogiperson on Twitter. The Need for Overwhelming Sensation by Bogi Takács I am staring at the face from a thousand newscasts—the gentle curve of jaw, the almost apologetic smile. Miran Anyuwe is not explaining policy. Miran Anyuwe is bleeding from a head wound, drops falling tap-tap-tap on the boarding ramp of our ship, the sound oddly amplified by the geometry of the cramped docking bay bulkheads. “I’m looking for a ride out,” they say. They are not supposed to be on Idhir Station. They are supposed to be three jump points away, heading the accession talks, guiding Ohandar’s joining of the Alliance. I uncross my legs and get up to my feet—one quick, practiced motion. I bow my head briefly. “Esteemed, I will inquire.” They nod. Their smile intensifies just a little, as if someone repainted the lines of their mouth with firmer brushstrokes. I dash inside, my entire torso trembling with fear of the sudden and the unexpected. I take a sharp corner and crash into Master Sanre. They steady me with both hands. “Iryu, breathe.” I gasp. “Slower. In and out.” Their presence calms me. It only takes a few breaths. “Iryu, look at me.” I stare up at them. Their eyes narrow, the lines of silver paint that I so carefully applied to their face in the morning crumple like spacetime clumps around a planet. The glass beads in their hair clack together. “Explain what’s wrong.” I mutter, still tongue-tied from the sudden fright. Miran Anyuwe is outside and injured. Miran Anyuwe wants to hire us. Miran Anyuwe— “Ward the ship, then come outside. I will talk to them.” They hurry outside, boots clanging on metal. I exhale again. I focus on the power inside me, direct it outside and into the wards. My remaining tension eases up. I’m not missing anything—I will be able to look at my master’s sensory logs later. I turn around and return to the open airlock. I stop for a moment as I see the two of them together. They look so alike, and the resemblance goes beyond gender, appearance, the light brown of their skin and the dark brown of their braids. They have the same bearing, the same stance. It’s clear both are used to effortless command. Miran Anyuwe commands an entire planet. My master commands only me and the ship. Is my master more powerful? It’s not about the head wound, it’s not about the desperate urgency in Miran Anyuwe’s gestures. It involves something innate that goes to the core of being. I knew my master was powerful. But did I overestimate Miran Anyuwe? Both of them look up at me, nod at me to come closer. I approach, unsettled. Miran Anyuwe is unwilling to explain. Details are elided, skirted around. Anti-Alliance isolationists, terrorist threats, an attack on Miran Anyuwe’s life. I don’t understand why they abandoned the talks and went back to their planet—surely they knew they would present a better target there? Were they trying to pull off some populist maneuver? I find myself dismayed that my thoughts are moving along less than charitable pathways, but Miran Anyuwe clearly has something to hide. I tell myself it is only the bitterness of disillusionment. But did I really want them to be that glorified, polished figurehead from the political news, that semi-deity with a charmingly pacifist stance? I excuse myself; I start preparing for launch. My master can keep Miran Anyuwe company. These ships do not run on pain; that’s a misconception. They run on raw magical power. It can be produced in any number of ways. Pain is just easy for many people. Of course, it’s a matter of choice. Even those who find it easy don’t have to like it.             I like it. I need it. If I go without, my body protests. Maybe it’s about the need for overwhelming sensation; I’m not sure. As I’m checking the equipment, I wonder why I’m having these thoughts—I think because of a foreigner on the ship, a potential need to explain. For all the newscasts and analysis articles, I know little about Ohandar. The focus is always on Miran Anyuwe, and the progress of the negotiations. I wonder if that means the Ohandar isolationists have already won. I slow my all too rapid breathing. There will be time to get agitated later. First to get away from the gravity wells, to a relatively clean patch of spacetime while still on sublight. Then we can decide—the client can decide. Miran Anyuwe has all the reputation credit in the world to pay. Of course, my master would nix all the dangerous maneuvers. I just hope Miran Anyuwe isn’t up to something wrong. I tug on straps, lean into them with my full bodyweight. They hold. They always hold, but it’s best to check. I undress. A lot of magic leaves through my skin surface—I’d rather not burn my clothing. I never have, but it heats up and that makes me worried. I’ve already adjusted the ambient temp a few degrees higher, so I’m not feeling cold. The chamber is mostly empty—my master is a minimalist, and I like this: distractions do not help. The lines carved into the bulkheads—carefully, by hand—are the same off-white as the bulkheads themselves. One day it would be pleasant to have wood, but I like this surface too: it reminds me of ceramics, some of our tableware from down planetside. Master Sanre is setting up the frame: pulling it out from storage inside the bulkheads, affixing it. They work quickly; we’ve done this so many times. I say I’m ready. I’m eager to begin; we were stuck on Idhir Station for days upon days, our time consumed with administrative tasks. I’m starved for a run, and we have the client of clients, safely ensconced in one of the bedchambers, but probably not yet asleep. Out on the corridor I felt their jitters, but this chamber is the best-warded on the ship. No distractions inside, no stray power leaking out and causing disturbance outside. I lie stomach down on a fixed-position pallet and my master straps me in. I wriggle a bit— everything seems to be in order. I smile up at them and they run a hand along the side of my face, smooth down my curls. I close my eyes for a moment and sigh a little. They chuckle. “So dreamy. What would you do without me?” “I would be sad?” I volunteer, my voice thin and little. They pat me on the shoulders. They start with their bare hands, slapping, grabbing and pulling at the flesh. It is all quite gentle. I relax into the restraints and my muscles unknot. Whatever Miran Anyuwe is doing, I couldn’t care less. Heavier thuds on the sides of my back. I can tell the implements by feel. I wish we would go faster—aren’t we in a hurry? Master Sanre fusses with the tool stand. They turn around, change stance. A whizzing sound through the air, a sharper pain. I yelp. Sound is good, it also helps release. We go on. On. My back burns. I groan at first, then scream. Tears and snot. I— “What’s going on in here?” Miran Anyuwe. How— The door was supposed to be locked—             Did you forget to lock the door? My master sends me a private message.             It locks automatically once the frame is disengaged, I think back over our connection. It should be encrypted, but now I am uncertain about everything. Miran Anyuwe strides up to us. “What are you doing?” Their voice wavers with anger and fear. I try to crane my head to see—I can’t, but Master Sanre disengages the straps with a quick thought-command. I sit up, trying to suppress the shaking caused by the sudden halt. I’m not sure where to put all the magic. I clumsily wipe my face and hug myself. Why is Miran Anyuwe so angry? They stare at each other. I wonder if I ought to say something.             You may speak, my master messages. “Powering the ship,” I say. My voice is wheezier, wavier than I’d like. This voice is not for strangers. My vulnerability is not for strangers. Not even for Miran Anyuwe. “You did not say you would do that!” Do what? I am baffled. “Powering the ship?” They glare at Master Sanre. “You are hurting him!” “Em,” my master says. “Different pronouns.” Miran Anyuwe looks startled; they know they of all people are not supposed to make assumptions. I feel they are gearing up to apologize, then thinking better of it. Some of their anger dissipates. They hesitate—I’ve never before seen them hesitate, then turn to me. “It will be all right,” they say. “Could you please leave?” I am trying to be courteous, but the magic is pushing against my skin. This is not a point to come to a sudden stop. What is their problem? “I am not letting them torture you,” they say, with a sudden shift of tone into media-proof reassurance. I wish I could hit Miran Anyuwe. With so much magic, it is dangerous to even think of violence. I force down the thought. “They are not torturing me. Please.” I wave my arms. My motions are increasingly jagged—I know I’m losing control. “I need to release the magic, please, could you please leave? It’s dangerous. You shouldn’t be in here.” “I would listen to em if I were you,” my master says quietly. “If you’re not leaving, I will escort you out.” They step forward. Miran Anyuwe recoils. “You—you brute!” They yell at my master. Then to me: “I will protect you!” This would be annoying or even amusing if I weren’t about to explode. I hug myself into a ball. I think I am making a sound…? I don’t see how my master grabs them and drags them physically out of the room. I can hear their huffs as they manually turn the lock. Hurried steps across the room. My master is practically flying. Toward me. Arms around me. I feel very small. “It’s all right. It’s all right. I’m here. I’m here for you.” Holding me tight. “You can let it go now. I will guide it. You can let it go.” I howl, convulsing, weeping. The magic tears at my insides as it rushes out. My master will have things to repair—I am suddenly angry at Miran Anyuwe for this, but then the thought is swept away; thought itself is swept away. Outside, the ship is moving. My master is so furious they have excess. They run up and down the length of the room, then just groan and push magic into the structure. “Next time I’ll have to do that out the airlock or I’ll just fry the controls,” they say. Calm enough to sound cynical. They shake their head. Clack, clack. “I’ll fix you up once I’m steadier,” they say. “It didn’t seem to leave lasting damage. I would’ve torn them in half!” I seldom hear my master talk about violence. But I understand the source of their fury now. I query the systems. Where is Miran Anyuwe? Pacing the corridor outside, apparently. I close my eyes and lay back. I don’t think I can face the client. I don’t think I can face anything. How could things go this wrong? “I’ll talk to them,” my master says. “You can rest. I’ll bring you your heavy blanket.” They cover me up. I wriggle into the warm, weighty duvet, grab armfuls of it. Some things are eternal, unchanging. My master briefly caresses my head, fingers playing with my short curls. My muscles loosen up. I can feel that some of the tension leaves my master, too. I turn my head, peek out from the blanket to gaze at them. They look like Miran Anyuwe; but they also look like me, and this time I just want to focus on the latter. People have mistaken us for relatives before, and there is something deeply comforting in this. “It’s not your fault,” they say. “None of this is your fault.” “But… the door?” I find it hard to move my lips and tongue. My mouth doesn’t work. “There was a malfunction.” They frown. “Don’t forget that Miran Anyuwe is a magical person, too, if not so powerful as either of us.” The message, unspoken: Be on your guard. I’m back in our room, still resting, the soft upper layer of our mattress bending obediently around my aching flesh. Master Sanre repaired what could be repaired right away, then set the rest on a healing course. I’m halfway to sleep, drifting in a white-fluffy haze, when the alarm sounds. I get out of bed, hastily dress, walk to the control room like a baby duck unsteady on its legs. Teeter-totter. My master looks up at me, and so does Miran Anyuwe. I feel they had been arguing. “Warships on our tail,” says Master Sanre. “We’ll need to jump soon, and hope fervently that they can’t follow us.” We’re still on sublight, and moving much slower than our target velocity due to the unwelcome interruption. I grimace, try to gather my wits. The warships must be after Miran Anyuwe; we ourselves don’t have enemies. I sense my master’s gaze upon me. “How soon can we jump?” they ask. “I can start preparing right away,” I say. I know the healing won’t be able to run its course, and I know that’s also what my master has been thinking. But if we are hit by a mass-driver, there won’t be any healing in the world to repair our bodies. Miran Anyuwe has stopped protesting. I want to grab them, snarl at them: If you think what you saw was bad, just see what happens now. Just watch. Will you turn your head away? A shot whips past our ship: the sensors tell me everything in minute detail. I shudder. Master Sanre tries to hail the warships. No response, just another shot. Deliberately missing? Intended as a warning? Then a third, aimed head on— My master jumps up from their chair. “We need to get out now!” They tackle me, hug me to themselves, push me down on the floor. My face flattens against the cold floorboards, my mouth opens. I gasp for breath. “Now!” they yell, and even without the familiar trappings, my body responds instantaneously, my mind rushes through the preparations of matter transposition. Magic rises in me, floods me, streams outward, suffuses the ship. I scream with the sudden expansion of awareness, the pain of white-hot power running along my spine, I keen and convulse as my master holds me down, grabs hold of my power to direct it outward— —we jump. Arriving clumsily at our target destination, off the ecliptic, too close to the system’s star. I cough, close my eyes to better focus on the sensors. I try not to focus on my body. Something feels broken, not a bone or two but a process itself; something biochemical knocked askew. Master Sanre rolls to the side, still holding me close. We remain there for a few breaths, ignoring Miran Anyuwe. We get up, holding onto each other. “We need to jump into Alliance space,” my master says, “who knows how fast they can follow us?” Very few people can make an entire ship jump as rapidly as I do; my magic simply has an uncommon shape that’s well-suited for this particular task. Miran Anyuwe doesn’t know this. Our pursuers don’t know this. “I’ll request a permit right away,” I say. “I’ll do it. You get ready to jump again.” My master is still trying to get through to an Alliance comm station when the warships show up. I can’t even make it to the power chamber. Pain unfurls, spreads out as I raise power; I flail and claw against my master who holds me strongly. The ship jumps. I’m half dragged, half carried. Two voices wheezing. My master and… Miran Anyuwe? They drop me down on the pallet, and the shape, the sensation identifies it to me. I’m in the power chamber. Straps are pulled, tightened across my body. “Can you do it? Can you do it again?” It takes time to realize my master is speaking to me. I nod, teeth gritted. “Can you do it?” Miran Anyuwe asks them. “Oh—” My master suppresses a curse. “Don’t bother about me!” “You’re shaking.” “Of course I am—” They raise their voice and it trembles. Suddenly I am worried: I need to bring this to a close, I can take the magic, but what about my master? I grapple with words for a few moments before I am able to speak. “I can jump us to Alliance space without a beacon.” “Without a permit? It’s illegal,” my master protests, but inwardly I know they are already convinced. The Alliance goons ask first, shoot second, not the other way round like the jockeys of these warships are wont to do. “I’d take Alliance Treaty Enforcement over these people any day,” I say, knowing full well that they have magic-users just like me. I used to be one of them. I wouldn’t be able to get out of harm’s way fast enough. More effort and I won’t be able to do anything at all, but one more jump I can manage, even against the gradient, against the odds— The warships are back. I strain against the straps and clutch at my master, scream at them to pull, pull because I can’t generate enough power in time, and after their initial hesitation they do it, and I can feel myself pulled apart, space itself getting fragmented and torn, unraveling at the edges— We are in orbit around Andawa, second-tier Alliance population center. We know this planet well. It’s easy for us to jump here. It will take the Alliance more than a moment to mobilize their forces. Andawa is peripheral, but not so peripheral as to be without protection. The enforcers will simply take a bit longer to arrive, jumping in probably from Central. My master undoes the straps, their fingers working as their mind is busy hailing Planetside Control. I try to stand, fall into their arms. Miran Anyuwe is silent this time, but I can tell they are shaking, and not just with the side-effects of back-to-back jumps with no jump point, no beacon. I make a motion toward them, then slowly collapse and fold into myself as my legs give way. My master topples down on the floor together with me, cradles my head. The warships soon follow. I can’t move. I can’t jump. I can’t think. I gasp and wheeze, try to push myself upright. My master pushes me back. “Don’t,” they whisper next to my ear. The enemies can’t quite jump into our ship—the wards still hold. They board the old-fashioned way, with lots of clanging and metal being cut. Where is the Alliance? Why are they so slow? Before my vision gives in, I see black-clad commandos stream into the room. I see Miran Anyuwe crouch on the floor next to me, taking cover behind the box of equipment. I don’t understand what the commandos are saying. I only understand what my master is thinking. On their signal, I roll to the side, bump into Miran Anyuwe, my arms around them. They smell of marzipan. I hold fast. Then I fall through space, through time, through awareness itself. Sharp, prickly grass. The sunlight scrapes at the back of my head when I open my eyes; I close them and shiver despite the warmth of Andawa’s sun. I grapple with the earth as I try to get if not upright, then at least on all fours. I can’t even pull myself up on my elbows—I lose balance, smear my face and arms with rich dark dirt. Andawa is a garden world. Miran Anyuwe is speaking, has been speaking for a while now. I can’t make sense of the words. They reach under my armpits and pull. Gaps in continuity. Miran Anyuwe dragging me on some backcountry path and yelling at me, preaching that I shouldn’t live a life of slavery. I try to say that I am not a slave, I serve my master voluntarily, without coercion. My speech turns into mush—my mouth is too uncoordinated—and in any case Miran Anyuwe refuses to listen. I can’t walk unassisted, I can barely parse sentences and yet they are preaching to me, about how I ought not to be running away from freedom but toward it. Who’s running away, I want to say, but my systems checks are failing one by one, my biosensors are screaming. Words. Words. More words. Completely opaque. I’m lying on the slightly curving floor—a ship’s bay? Entirely unfamiliar beyond the reassuring calmness of Alliance-standard. Miran Anyuwe is sitting next to me, their left hand on my forehead. I try to bat it aside; my entire right side spasms. I gasp, force steadiness on my breath, ignore all the warnings. Miran Anyuwe speaks—the sentences elude me. I want to turn and see, observe the crowd whose presences I can feel pressing on my mind, but I can’t move; even my motions to shoo away Miran Anyuwe are little more than twitches. Someone, a sharp bright voice, finally: “…a medical emergency, Captain, we need to intervene.” I miss the answer. Then the same person, slower, pausing after each word: “Captain, you need to allow me.” Miran Anyuwe withdraws; I sigh in relief. Someone crouches down next to me and oh I know this mind-template, so familiar I fight the urge to grab and latch onto it, in this sea of incomprehension where in every moment an eddy or whirl can cause me to drift away. Ereni magic-user, delegated to the Alliance; they don’t call it magic, they have their own words… “Ssh.” A touch on my chest. “You are almost completely drained. I will help you if you let me.” I murmur something, hoping it will be enough, hoping the intent would be clear. I reach to the Ereni’s hand on my chest, but my fingers fail to connect. I’m not quite clear about where my body parts are situated at any given moment. Warm egg-yolk-yellow power floods into me through their hand and my cells drink it in, desperate for nourishment. I can move. I can live. Speaking doesn’t come as fast. Where is my master, I think at the Ereni now that my thoughts can move forward, Is my master safe?             ETA another twenty-five minutes, the Ereni thinks in my head. We are short on people to jump them here. The Isolationists have been apprehended and are being ejected from Alliance space. I look up at the Ereni—their appearance matches my mental impression of them. Black, thick-set, gender-indeterminate. They are still clenching their jaw. I know it takes a lot of effort to get exact numbers across—this is not a high-magic area. I nod, appreciating the effort. They hold my hand, squeeze it. Just as I understand them, they also understand me, through the shared demands of magic and the hierarchies it often creates. I sigh, look around. Across the room, a short, sharp-featured officer in the uniform of Alliance Treaty Enforcement glares at—me? No, at Miran Anyuwe. My interface works again, the error messages recede. The officer is a man, by the name of Adhus-Barin, with about half a dozen more lineage-names after his first. A nobleman from the Empire of Three Stars, one of the more socially conservative members of the Alliance. “Maybe we can try this again,” Adhus-Barin says. He looks about as angry as a noble in a mere Alliance captaincy position can be expected to look, his auburn-brown skin darkening further. His systems are probably frantic, trying to avoid a stroke. “You might wish to rephrase what you’ve just told me.” Miran Anyuwe seems proud as ever, but as my body processes the influx of magic, I can already tell the politician radiates fear, apprehension and… brokenness, somehow. An impression of someone caught in the act. “I was escaping from the Isolationists who were after me,” Miran Anyuwe says, “I wouldn’t have made it to Alliance space if not for these excellent people.” They nod at me. Am I supposed to smile, murmur thanks? I remain silent. They continue: “One of whom doesn’t even understand the Code of Life and Balance, I must say.” What is that? If I hear one more word about how I’m supposed to be some kind of slavery apologist… Adhus-Barin also glares at them. Is he waiting for Miran Anyuwe to incriminate themselves? The politician continues, shifting pace as if realizing they are no longer talking to their home crowd. “As you are no doubt aware, the Isolationists oppose our negotiations to join the Alliance, negotiations that I am leading…” They pause, uncertain for a moment. “Between two rounds of talks, I returned to Ohandar, where I was summarily attacked, and after my attempted escape, even my security detail deserted me at Idhir Station, so I had to seek out a private vessel for help…” “Your security detail betrayed you?” Adhus-Barin turns oddly mild, almost gentle. I don’t have to pry into his thoughts to sense a trap being readied. “They were all Isolationists, they turned against me—” Voice rising. Miran Anyuwe is losing their cool. “Oh, those kinds of roughshod mercenaries don’t appreciate going unpaid,” Adhus-Barin nods with empathy. “What could I have done? The talks were almost over and the funds—” They halt midsentence. I stare. At Adhus-Barin smiling, his thin mouth turning up in almost a sneer, at Miran Anyuwe standing statue-still, with only stray tremors breaking through their rigidity. The security detail going unpaid. Isolationists going unpaid. “Thank you,” Adhus-Barin says, “I do believe this will be enough.” As if a dam breaking through, Miran Anyuwe starts blabbering, words tumbling over each other. The statue falling apart. “The Alliance has to understand, the Alliance knows—isolationist sentiment has always been strong on Ohandar, we had to show the populace that isolationism was extremism, we had to—” “So you backed the Isolationist movement, steered them into violence,” Adhus-Barin says, one step away from gloating. “Created and funded your own rivals, so that you could point a finger at them and say, we are not like those people. So that you could revel in the position of the peacemaker.” “The Alliance knows! Don’t deny it! The Alliance knows!” “May I?” the Ereni says, then waits for the captain’s nod. “The Alliance knows. That doesn’t mean the Alliance assents.” “Exactly as Officer Enisāyun has it,” the captain nods at them again. “Undesirable allies often incriminate themselves during the accession process, as we have found.” He says it as if the Empire was innocent of all possible wrongdoing, and I wonder if Miran Anyuwe knows how the Alliance had taken its present shape, what had prompted the member states to create Treaty Enforcement, back it with real power and threat. I sneak a look at Enisāyun, and the Ereni glances back at me, shrugs. Miran Anyuwe mutters word-fragments, all sense lost in overwhelming anger, directed at us who thwarted the plan. We all gaze upon the spectacle. I pull my personal wards tighter around myself in case Miran Anyuwe lashes out. Officer Enisāyun asks to speak again, then gestures toward me. “The esteemed leader might wish to thank the young māwalēni here for saving their life.” Adhus-Barin makes a face. The meaning is clear—he would rather the politician would have perished, murdered by their own erstwhile allies. Let alone called esteemed leader, but then again the Ereni are fond of formality… and its ironic flipside. Enisāyun smiles softly. “We will make sure that the young māwalēni receives all due payment for services rendered—though from whom might be uncertain at this point…” Miran Anyuwe collapses. “It wasn’t me,” Enisāyun says, voice shaky. “Captain? It wasn’t me, Captain.” “I thought they were warded from all outside—” A voice from the back of the Alliance crowd, then another, “I warded them!” A door seal hisses, and my master dashes in, the familiar clang of boots on ship-metal. “Were they threatening anyone? I felt they might be threatening someone, so it seemed safer to shut them down.” “Excuse me?” Adhus-Barin seems utterly lost. It’s that kind of day, the Ereni thinks at me and I suppress a chuckle. “I have a policy of not interfering with clients’ minds, but they severely disrupted my ship, interrupted the jumping procedure—” Officer Enisāyun is shocked in the back of my mind. “—so I thought it would be safest to plant my safeguards on them just in case. They had no defenses to speak of.” An understatement, recognized by everyone present as such. When did my master have time to do this? I consider the events of the day, fail to find the exact moment. An intervention performed off-hand, with a stray thought… As Adhus-Barin regains his calm and goes through the motions of the cleanup, organizing transport for Miran Anyuwe to Alliance Central where they will no doubt have to endure another round of castigation before getting booted out of Alliance space, my attention is elsewhere. I knew my master was more powerful, I tell myself, but I understand at the same time that it’s not about power—or, rather, that power entails more than raw control. It entails being straightforward, honest, upright. And I know that between the two of us, we don’t need a planet. Master Sanre offers me a hand and I stand up—then they grab me, hold me tight to themselves, their tears trickling down my curls. END “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation" was originally published in Capricious #1 and is copyright Bogi Takács, 2015. This recording is a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license which means you can share it with anyone you’d like, but please don’t change or sell it. Our theme is “Aurora Borealis” by Bird Creek, available through the Google Audio Library. You can support GlitterShip by checking out our Patreon at patreon.com/keffy, subscribing to our feed, or by leaving reviews on iTunes. Thanks for listening, and I’ll be back soon with a GlitterShip original.

36mins

5 Sep 2017

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Signal Boost #16: Fran Wilde (Horizon) and Bogi Takács (Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction)

The Skiffy and Fanty Show

In today’s episode of Signal Boost, Fran Wilde, author and tech consultant, joins Paul to dive into the final book in her Bone Universe series, Horizon. Fran and Paul discuss some of the worldbuilding and where this newest book takes us. Then Bogi Takács, writer of short-form speculative fiction, joins Jen to talk about Transcendent 2: The […]

22 Aug 2017

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321. The Immigrant Experience in SFF w/ Sabrina Vourvoulias, Rose Lemberg, and Bogi Takács

The Skiffy and Fanty Show

Immigrating, changing priorities, and translating, oh my! Sabrina Vourvoulias, Rose Lemberg and Bogi Takács join Julia in this two-part discussion episode about their personal experiences as immigrants to the United States and how that experience has affected their writing. They also discuss the challenges that immigrants face in the publishing industry and speculative fiction community. We […]

20 Apr 2017

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Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus by Bogi Takács (audio)

Clarkesworld Magazine

Our second podcast for April is “Some Remarks on the Reproductive Strategy of the Common Octopus” written by Bogi Takács and read by Kate Baker.Subscribe to our podcast.

27mins

14 Apr 2017

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Toward the Luminous Towers by Bogi Takács (audio)

Clarkesworld Magazine

Our fifth podcast for September is “Toward the Luminous Towers” written by Bogi Takács and read by Kate Baker.Subscribe to our podcast.

30mins

25 Sep 2016

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Episode #26: Three Flash stories by Kat Howard, Nino Cipri, and Bogi Takács

GlitterShip

The Face of Heaven So Fine Kat Howard There is an entire history in the stars. Light takes time to travel, to get from wherever the star is to wherever we can see it, here, on Earth. So when you think about it, when we see the stars, we are looking back in time. Everything those stars actually shone on has already happened. But just because a story already happened, that doesn’t mean it’s finished. Full transcript after the cut. ----more---- Hello! Welcome to GlitterShip episode 26 for April 19th, 2016. I'm your host, Keffy, and I'm super excited to be sharing these stories with you. It's been a while since GlitterShip last ran flash fiction, so I'm treating you to an episode with three flash stories in it. This episode also marks the return of Bogi Takács, whose fiction previously appeared in GlitterShip episode 3, "This Shall Serve As a Demarcation." Our first story today is "The Face of Heaven So Fine" by Kat Howard Kat Howard lives in New Hampshire. Her short fiction has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, anthologized in year's best and best of collections, and performed on NPR. Her debut novel, Roses and Rot, will be out in May from Saga Press. You can find her on twitter at @KatWithSword. The Face of Heaven So Fine Kat Howard There is an entire history in the stars. Light takes time to travel, to get from wherever the star is to wherever we can see it, here, on Earth. So when you think about it, when we see the stars, we are looking back in time. Everything those stars actually shone on has already happened. But just because a story already happened, that doesn’t mean it’s finished. Juliet was the bleeding heart of a story, made flesh and made gorgeous. She was all eyeliner and fishnets, the kind of girl who looked like she’d carve designs on her own skin, not because she was trying to hurt herself, but just for the beauty of it, you know? It wasn’t ever herself that Juliet cut, though. It was her lovers. All of them. That was the deal. A fuck, and then a perfect star, cut out of their skin. The scars were like a badge of honor. Proof you’d been with her. People would ask her to put them some place visible, those little stars she cut out of people, but Juliet chose. Juliet always chose. I fell in love with Juliet the first time I met her, which doesn’t make me any different from anyone else. I know that. That’s just how it was with Juliet. If you fell in love with her, it was an instant, headlong crash. I don’t think she fell in love back. It didn’t matter. She was like a star – so bright that everything else seemed dim when she walked into the room. It was enough to be in her orbit. I met her for the first time at a party. I knew who she was. Everyone knew who Juliet was. She was a love story with a knife, and a tattoo of an apothecary’s vial. But when we met, I was dancing, and some guy bumped into me, and I tripped. When I put my hands out to catch myself, it was her shoulders that they landed on. She leaned close, her lips almost brushing my ear, “You’re Rose, right?” I nodded. “Let’s dance.” We did. We danced until I could taste her sweat mixed with mine, until I wasn’t sure whether the ache in my thighs was from exhaustion or desire. We danced until I saw stars, her hand under my shirt, tracing a constellation on my skin. Because of the distances between the stars and the Earth, some of the stars we see in the sky have already died, burnt themselves out. Some people think that’s sad, that we look up and see things that aren’t there anymore. I think it’s beautiful. It’s like, because we can still see them, in a way they’re still alive. After, when her fingers were still inside me, her head resting on my chest, I asked: “What do you do with the stars?” Juliet was silent long enough that I thought she wasn’t going to answer. Then she said, “There was a boy, and I loved him. It was the kind of love people write poetry and songs about. “He burned brighter than the stars, and then he died. And I didn’t. I thought I would, but I didn’t.” She climbed from the bed, and looked out the window. “I promised I would cut him out, and hang him in the heavens. That way, everyone can see him, and when they do, they’ll know he was worth everything.” Juliet cut the star from the skin on my chest, right over my heart. She used a dagger. “It was his,” she said when I asked. It hurt. Of course it hurt. The star of skin was the least of what she was cutting out of me. I had never wondered before how it was that people fell out of love with Juliet. The scar healed cleanly. Not just cleanly, but perfectly, a star shining on my skin. I look for him in the sky. That boy that Juliet loved so much that she would change the face of heaven for him. I don’t know how long it takes the light from those stars, the ones that she hangs, to reach us here, but I know that it will. I wonder if light reaches back in time, too. Maybe it’s impossible, but a lot of things are, and they happen anyway. I see the stars, and I wonder if that boy ever looked up at the sky and knew how much Juliet loved him. The kind of love people write songs and poetry about. The kind of love that is written in the stars. END Our next story is "A Thing with Teeth" by Nino Cipri Nino Cipri is a queer and genderqueer writer living in Chicago. Their writing has been published in Tor.com, Fireside Fiction, Podcastle , Daily Science Fiction, and other fine publications. A multidisciplinary artist, Nino has also written plays, essays, and radio features, and has performed as a dancer, actor, and puppeteer. They currently work as a bicycle mechanic, freelance writer, and occasional rabblerouser. A Thing with Teeth by Nino Cipri She started with Elena’s books. Sylvia tore out the blank back pages first, then the title pages, the dedications. Finally, the words themselves, the brittle pages of the story. She tore them into strips, sucked on them until they were soft, chewed them into balls and swallowed them. Sylvia thought she could detect hidden tastes on the pages. The worn copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon that Elena had kept since childhood was faintly sweet, like store-bought bread. The sex guide tasted coppery, and Elena’s journals had a hint of fake cherry, like cough drops. The books of poetry were minty, but with a bitter aftertaste. Elena’s letters were next. Torn into pieces, swallowed, hidden in the cavern below her throat. Sylvia could taste the dust on them, the fine desert sand that Elena said got into everything. She could taste gun oil, the military-issue soap, the hand-lotion that Sylvia had mailed across continents and oceans. She'd imagined Elena running into her dry, chapped knuckles when she'd packed it up. This stuff is worth its weight in gold around here, Elena had written. You’re a goddess. I miss you. I miss you. I miss you. The words echoed in the empty part of Sylvia’s chest. Her stomach felt like an empty house, filled with dust and ghosts. She swallowed the death notification from the Army, and then the letter from Elena’s commanding officer. It included all the details that the official notification had left out, typed out in unadorned English: the ambush, the ground-to-air missiles, the crash, the fire. We couldn’t recover her remains from the wreck, he wrote. I’m sorry. It’s likely that she died from her wounds, and not the fire. She probably went quick. Sylvia thought again of Elena’s hands. Had she worn that lotion that day? Had she smelled its perfume before she died? Sylvia tore the letter into strips and let it dissolve on her tongue. If hope was a thing with feathers, what was grief? When the books and letters were gone, she ate their photos, the black-and-white strips from photo booths, the matte prints from their civil union, the out-of-focus pictures from their honeymoon in Puerto Rico. Still hungry, she started on Elena’s clothes next, the T-shirts with the ironic slogans, the cotton briefs, the lacy bras she rarely wore. Sylvia ate the sheets off their bed, both their bathrobes, a washcloth, a slipper. She ate Elena’s pocketbook. It took her four days and a heavy kitchen knife to finish off a pair of old hiking boots, chewing and chewing and chewing. All that and she still felt hollow, carved open like a canyon. Sylvia stood at the mirror with her aching jaw held open, peering into the inside of her own mouth. She half-expected to see words imprinted on the red skin of her throat, black letters crawling towards the tip of her tongue. Her breath fogged the mirror. When Sylvia spat, there were threads of blood in the saliva, mixed with something darker. Ink, maybe. Sylvia walked out of her house in her pajamas, into the cold, damp air. She ran her fingers over the bark of the oak tree that dominated the backyard, then knelt down on the grass and stared up at the sky through the branches, at the chalky moon, the glassy stars. She stared at her hands, the bitten nails and torn cuticles, knuckles dry and chapped. She pressed her fingertips to the cool, damp ground at the foot of the oak tree. It parted easily, and she came up with two small handfuls of dirt. Hesitantly, she put one in her mouth, pouring it past her lips. She worked it around her tongue, and then swallowed it. Sylvia worked quickly after that, digging her fingers into the damp sod. She clawed up chunks of the ground, shoving handful after handful into her mouth. By dawn, she’d swallowed enough dirt to fill a grave. She lay back, her hands caked with soil to her elbow, belly distended, lips and chin black with soil. Finally, she thought. I’m full. END And, our final story is "Increasing Police Visibility" by Bogi Takács. Bogi Takács is an agender Hungarian Jewish author currently living in the US. E writes both speculative fiction and poetry, and eir works have been published in a variety of venues like Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Capricious and Nature Futures, among others. E has an upcoming novelette in GigaNotoSaurus and a story in Defying Doomsday, an anthology of apocalypse-survival fiction with a focus on disabled characters, edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench. E also recently guest-edited an issue of inkscrawl, the magazine for minimalist speculative poetry. You can find Bogi on the web at http://www.prezzey.net and on twitter as @bogiperson.  Increasing Police Visibility by Bogi Takács Manned detector gates will be installed at border crossings, including Ferihegy Airport, and at major pedestrian thoroughfares in Budapest. No illegally present extraterrestrial will evade detection, government spokesperson Júlia Berenyi claimed at today's press conference... Kari scribbles wildly in a pocket notebook. How to explain? It's impossible to explain anything to government bureaucrats, let alone science. Kari writes: To describe a measurement— Sensitivity: True positives / Positives = True positives / (True positives + False negatives) Specificity: True negatives / Negatives = True negatives / (False positives + True negatives) Kari decides even this is too complicated, tears out the page, starts over. To describe a measurement— Janó grits his teeth, fingers the pistol in its holster. The man in front of him is on the verge of tears, but who knows when suffering will turn into assault, without another outlet. “I have to charge you with the use of forged documents,” Janó says. “How many times do I have to say? I'm – not – an – alien,” the man yells and raises his hands, more in desperation than in preparation to attack. “Assault on police officers in the line of duty carries an additional penalty,” Janó says. The man breaks down crying. Kari paces the small office, practices the presentation. They will not understand because they don't want to understand, e thinks. Out loud, e says: “To describe any kind of measurement, statisticians have devised two metrics we're going to use. Sensitivity shows us how good the measurement is at finding true positives. In this situation, a person identified as an ET who is genuinely an ET.” The term ET still makes em think of the Spielberg movie from eir childhood. E sighs and goes on. “Whereas specificity shows us how good the measurement is at finding true negatives.” How much repetition is too much? “Here, a person identified as an Earth human who's really an Earth human.” The whole thing is just about keeping the police busy and visible. Elections are coming next year, Kari thinks. Right-wing voters eat up this authoritarian nonsense. “So if we know the values of sensitivity and specificity, and know how frequent are ETs in our population, we can calculate a lot. We can determine how likely it is for a person who was detected at a gate to be a real extraterrestrial.” Alien is a slur, e reminds emself. Eir officemate comes in, banging the door open. He glances at eir slide and yells. “Are they still nagging you with that alien crap?” The young, curly-haired woman is wearing an ankle-length skirt and glaring down at Janó — she must be at least twenty centimeters taller than him, he estimates. She is the seventh person that day who objects to a full-body scan. “This goes against my religious observance,” she says, nodding and grimacing. “I request a pat-down by a female officer.” She sounds practiced at this. Janó sighs. “A pat-down cannot detect whether you are truly an extraterrestrial.” “I will sue you!” “Sue the state, you're welcome,” he groans and pushes her through, disgusted with himself all the while. Kari is giving the presentation to a roomful of government bureaucrats. E's trying to put on a magician's airs. Pull the rabbit out of the hat with a flourish. “So let's see! No measurement is perfect. How good do you think your gates are at detecting ETs? Ninety percent? Ninety-five percent? You know what, let's make it ninety-nine percent just for the sake of our argument.” They would probably be happy with eighty, e thinks. E scribbles on the whiteboard – they couldn't get the office smartboard working, nor the projector. Eir marker squeaks. SENSITIVITY = 99% SPECIFICITY = 99% “And now, how many people are actually ETs in disguise? Let's say half percent.” That's probably a huge overestimate still, e thinks. “So for a person who tests as an ET, the probability that they truly are an ET can be calculated with Bayes' theorem...” E fills the whiteboard with eir energetic scrawl. E pauses once finished. The calculations are relatively easy to follow, but e hopes even those who did not pay attention can interpret the result. Someone in the back hisses, bites back a curse. Some people whisper. “Yes, it's around 33 percent,” Kari says. “In this scenario, two thirds of people who test as ETs will be Earth humans. And this gets even worse the rarer the ETs are.” And the worse your sensitivity and specificity, e thinks but doesn't add. E isn't here to slam the detection gate technology. “This, by the way, is why general-population terrorist screenings after 9/11 were such abysmal failures.” Americans are a safe target here; the current crop of apparatchiks is pro-Russian. This is math. There is nothing to argue with here. Some of the men still try. Kari spends over an hour on discussion, eir perkiness already worn off by the half-hour mark. “We can't just stop the program,” a middle-aged man finally says. “It increases police visibility in the community.” Kari wishes e could just walk out on them, but what would that accomplish? “I had a horrible day,” Kari/Janó say simultaneously, staring at each other: their rumpled, red-eyed, rattled selves. “I hate myself,” Janó says. “I'm useless,” Kari says. Then they hug. Then they kiss. Below their second-story window, on Klauzál Square, an extraterrestrial materializes out of thin air, dodging the gates.  _____________ Endnotes: For those interested in the actual calculations, the Bayes' Theorem page on Wikipedia demonstrates them with the numbers used in the story, in the context of drug testing. I first heard the terrorism comparison from Prof. Floyd Webster Rudmin at the University of Tromsø, Norway. END "The Face of Heaven So Fine" was originally published in the February 2013 issue of Apex Magazine. "A Thing with Teeth" was originally published in Eunoia Review in 2013. "Increasing Police Visibility" was originally published in the June 2015 issue of Lightspeed: Queers Destroy Science Fiction. This recording is a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license, which means you can share it with anyone you’d like, but please don’t change or sell it. Our theme is “Aurora Borealis” by Bird Creek, available through the  Google Audio Library. Thanks for listening, and I'll be back on May 3rd with a GlitterShip original. [Music Plays Out]

23mins

22 Apr 2016

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StarShipSofa No 402 Stewart C. Baker and Bogi Takács

StarShipSofa

Coming Up…Tiki Shark Art Hawaii Inc.Main Fiction: “Behind the First Years” by Stewart C. BakerOriginally published in Cosmos magazineStewart C Baker is an academic librarian, haikuist, and speculative fiction writer. His fiction and poetry has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Nature, and Flash Fiction Online, among other magazines. Stewart was born in England, has spent time in South Carolina, Japan, and California, and now lives in western Oregon with his wife and children—although if anyone asks, he’ll say he’s from the Internet. His website is http://infomancy.net/Narrated by Support this show http://supporter.acast.com/starshipsofa. Our GDPR privacy policy was updated on August 8, 2022. Visit acast.com/privacy for more information.

1hr 25mins

16 Sep 2015

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Episode #3: "This Shall Serve As a Demarcation" by Bogi Takács

GlitterShip

THIS SHALL SERVE AS A DEMARCATION by Bogi Takács I. Tiles flip over, land to sea to land. Enhyoron grimaces, rocks back in their chair, eyes still fixed on the ever-changing map. I can feel their moods on my skin and my skin burns, flares with frustration, chafes against my simple cotton garb.  I sit up on the futon and pull up one sleeve to examine my arm—lighter-toned in branching lines like the bare, defoliated frames of trees in winter. I used to be cut along those pathways, gleaming metal and shapeforming plastic set into flesh, embedded to remain inside—a part of me forevermore. A full transcript appears under the cut. ----more----  [Music plays] Hello! Welcome to GlitterShip episode three for April 16th, 2015. I’m your host, Keffy, and I’m super excited to be sharing this story with you. First, some quick queer publication news: two new releases from Aqueduct Press (a feminist small press) have some queer content in them. Those are Caren Gussoff’s Three Songs for Roxy and Lisa Shapter’s A Day in Deep Freeze. Both books are part of the Aqueduct Press Conversation Pieces series and are available for purchase on the Aqueduct website at aqueductpress, all one word, dot com. Links are also available in the transcript on the GlitterShip website. Our story today is “This Shall Serve As a Demarcation” by Bogi Takács Bogi Takács is a neutrally gendered Hungarian Jewish author who recently moved to the US. E writes both speculative fiction and poetry, and eir works have been published in a variety of venues like Strange Horizons, Apex, Lackington's and GigaNotoSaurus, among others. E has upcoming stories  in Clarkesworld, titled "Forestspirit, Forestspirit" and in Queers Destroy Science Fiction titled "Increasing Police Visibility." In addition, e helped Rose Lemberg assemble the Alphabet of Embers anthology and will guest-edit the next issue of Inkscrawl, a magazine of minimalist speculative poetry. THIS SHALL SERVE AS A DEMARCATION by Bogi Takács For A, M and R; for the path walked I. Tiles flip over, land to sea to land. Enhyoron grimaces, rocks back in their chair, eyes still fixed on the ever-changing map. I can feel their moods on my skin and my skin burns, flares with frustration, chafes against my simple cotton garb. I sit up on the futon and pull up one sleeve to examine my arm—lighter-toned in branching lines like the bare, defoliated frames of trees in winter. I used to be cut along those pathways, gleaming metal and shapeforming plastic set into flesh, embedded to remain inside—a part of me forevermore. The Collaborators took it all out—Enhyoron took it out, softly murmuring as they adjusted, readjusted, readjusted; molded rather than cut. Magic as technology. Still, I wept in pain, thrashing against my restraints, keening like a foam-cat stuck in bramble. I shudder as the memory passes through me, but I don’t miss the metal—I only miss the domes of Red Coral Settlement, the sounds of all-surrounding water pulling me down into sleep every night. There’s no way back now, now that I’ve taken a stand in the war between land and sea settlements, and I’ve chosen neither. Enhyoron push themselves away from the wall console, stretch out their strong limbs, their wide shoulders. They move with firm determination. “It’s time to go.” “I have done so much wrong,” I mutter, my tongue slow. “The land will not accept me. The sea will not accept me,” I whisper to Enhyoron, and they grab me by the neck, push me down into the dirt. “They already have. You think I’m the only one?” Enhyoron says mildly, somewhere above me, standing guard over me. I smell green and the sweet-rot smell of spring decay. A band of invisible light connects my mud-sodden front to the ground and I weep in relief. Their words resonate in my head: “The planet accepts you before you can accept yourself.” We walk back—I’m unsteady on my feet, and my eyesight is hazed over with exhaustion. “This planet knows the meaning of sacrifice,” Enhyoron says, gaze firmly fixed forward toward our makeshift camp. I don’t get to mourn the technology softly scooped out of my flesh. I don’t get to mourn my break with my home. We have no time. The land has requested my presence, and the sea has given assent. Can I call my home an eyesore? Was it ever really my home? As the antenna-tops of Red Coral Settlement peek out of the water, all the stainless steel seems crude and out of place against the billowing clouds sweeping across the horizon, the ever-renewing waves of the sea. Still, do I want it gone? I turn around. The landfoam is encroaching, drawing closer to the cliff edge, heaping up in small iridescent piles. In a few days it will go through another growth spurt, rushing toward the water, solidifying, extending. A map tile will flip. Red Coral Settlement is foamproof. The people will be gathered inside, huddled together as the structure croaks, but holds. I’ve been through many such transitions on the borderlands. Settlements changing from undersea to underground. Hard chunks set into the soft soil and fluid of the planet-surface, unmoving when everything else flows. Disrupting. I am reminded of my body, run my hands down along my sides. The metal is gone, only the pain remains. Enhyoron knows my thoughts. “It’s not sustainable,” they say. “The settlements will be gone in another long cycle. The question is, how much damage can they do to the planet until then?” I used to live there. I know how much damage they did to me. Enhyoron pulls me close, and we hug; I mash my face into their coveralls. “I am afraid,” I whisper. They smooth down my tiny curls—I have hair on my head again, after so many years. “I know, Î-surun, I know.” II. The land and the sea were perturbed when the people started to guide the foam. Guide is a Settlement term, a poisonous euphemism. They forced it into their own paths, rushing along linear trajectories at high speeds to assault other Settlements. The borderlands changed shape in unprecedented ways. My nightmares started. The planet screamed. The first dream was the most terrifying. Sea-foam melted away the land like acid, as I’d seen many times, but then it turned around and surged toward me. I was naked, with no envirosuit. I panicked—I wouldn’t survive outside, the foam would eat away at me, the air would poison me. I woke stunned. The battle of Lapis Lazuli Settlement only came afterward. I wish I could say that I ran away from my task to guide. But I was instructed to seek out the Collaborators, pose as a defector and destroy them from within; Red Coral Settlement knew precious little about them, but deemed them dangerous. I took an envirosuit and a small buggy. I knew the Collaborators were somewhere out there, trying to live on the surface, not in shards irritating the planet’s skin. I knew they existed, but I had no more information. In retrospect, I just wanted to kill myself. After that battle. I was so eager, driving myself forward, into destruction. Akin to the destruction I had caused. Not seeking the Collaborators, just desperately trying to run away. I drove to a deserted clearing, flecks of foam hanging from the treesprouts and slowly worming themselves forward on the ground like mindless slugs. My hands shook so hard as I stripped out of my suit that I could barely unlatch the clasps. I knew foam spores were floating in the air outside the buggy. I deliberately exhaled, then held my breath as I opened the top hatch and clambered outside. Was this bravery? Of course it burns like acid; and it is drawn to magic, being of a magical nature in itself. It does not abhor technology; it only abhors attempts to coerce. What Enhyoron finished, it had started. I was thrashing in a puddle of my own body fluids when arms suddenly held me, when hands wiped the tears, the snot, the saliva, the blood off my face. I don’t remember well; I think I might’ve had a seizure, my brain giving in to the unbearable, unassailable input. Two brown eyes stared at me, skin the same if lighter shade. A round face, a thick neck disappearing into leaf-brown coveralls. I had no room for thoughts in my head—I didn’t know if this person was one of the Collaborators, and the group had no uniforms, just a symbol. A symbol I had not known then: the open hand. I could not speak. But I grabbed their coverall sleeves and would not let go. This was how I first met Enhyoron. The planet alerted them, sent them to me. A disturbance, again. At first, they didn’t ask questions. No one did—not a single one of these bright, non-uniformed and only loosely organized cavalcade of people of all kinds of genders, shapes and sizes. I even saw someone like me, neither of the two most common genders as Enhyoron was both. Could the Collaborators even be called a group, or just a set of people with mostly aligned goals? I still don’t know. The people waited for my reconstruction to run its course. My own lack of language isolated me better than any quarantine. My previous life is cast in gloom and wrapped in gauze. I lost a lot; planet-adaptation is usually gentler because it is usually supervised. It still pains Enhyoron that they could not have been there from my first breath of unfiltered air. But I remember this. I remember signing up, back in Blue-Ringed Octopus Settlement, talking to a dark-skinned lady wrapped in a turquoise uniform and discussing my options. At that point, I was sure I had options. I had the magic, and a deep willingness to serve. Serve my people? I hadn’t understood yet that it was best to avoid ones speaking in the abstract. They would re-form me, neurotechnology and implantations and all the training; ostensibly to help me control my magic. Also, always unsaid: to help them control me. And I gladly complied. I wanted no part in a war. But after Blue-Ringed Octopus was washed away and us stragglers, ragged and shocked survivors with wide-open eyes, were picked up by Red Coral, they told me I had no other choice but to fight; for I had the power. And the foam could be guided. I saw Lapis Lazuli Settlement crackle and burst under the pressure, imploding upon itself deep inside the earth. I was among those who made it happen. They pulled power out of me, tore it out of me—guided it, they said—until I was utterly spent, until there was nothing left, until the enemy settlement was gone. The eternal war of land settlements against the sea, sea against the land. But the sea itself, the land itself spoke out, their voice hammering in my head. No longer tolerating the people’s actions. I didn’t know if the others had heard. I heard, but did not listen. Not until much later. All around me it was soft and twilight-dark. Enhyoron was there, running a hand along my smooth if patchily colored skin. Admiring their handiwork? I understood how much effort it had been to remove the shards and slivers from my body, to remove the contamination. I knew them beyond speech, from the way they carried themselves, from their gentle accepting kindness, and the words shaped themselves in my head long before my mouth could move. They helped me walk, take the first hesitating steps. How much of my nervous system had been regrown? A staggering percentage. They helped me eat, spoon-fed me, guided my hands in the true sense of the word. They were patient, and I tried so hard, with all the eagerness that I had to serve, so cruelly exploited once; even before I knew that it wouldn’t be exploited again. They could’ve done anything to me in that state. They chose to heal me. They hadn’t betrayed me, hadn’t sent me to destroy life. And I wouldn’t betray them. Not now, not ever.  “I wish to serve you,” I said, my first sentence.  They shook their head, a sad smile on their androgynous face. “You understand nothing.” We talked. So much we talked! “I… I wasn’t built to destroy,” I said, voice edging into a whine; again after so many times. The well of tears was very deep. “Originally…” Enhyoron leaned close. “Are you sure?” I thought of the configuration of implants. Intrusion, invasion. Settlement. Even my spine cut open. They had said it was for my benefit, it was to improve my magic, I was a civilian—this ran through my head: I was a civilian, before the destruction of Blue-Ringed Octopus, before I was conscripted into war—magic had so many peacetime uses… But who would need this in peacetime? Was there ever peacetime on this planet, or just brief cessations of neverending hostility, like tiny gasps of breath? What had I agreed to, in my eagerness, my naivety—I had thought this would be good, I could be helpful— I thought of the settlements scarring the planet. “When the entire establishment is corrupt, it corrupts those who serve it,” I said slowly, haltingly. “If you have a need to serve, it is best to serve a person, not an organization,” Enhyoron said. “A person who respects your no.” They were silent for a moment. “A person you trust. A person you love.” I knew they were alone. I knew they were painfully lonely. I knew they were thinking of themselves. But it was only much later that they accepted my service. Improve. Like guide. Words themselves are twisted, take on new meanings. I had to disentangle myself from that bramble, and I fear I’ve only partly succeeded. What would Enhyoron ask of me? III. The landfoam waving in the wind, hanging off the cliff wall in thick fluffy braids. Red Coral Settlement in the distance, on the water—in the water. I’m not serving Enhyoron to cause destruction, I tell myself, but yet I know not what they will ask of me—what the planet itself will ask of me. Yet we are aligned, we are together. “Those who wish to stay inside their cages can stay,” Enhyoron says. “I’ve disavowed coercion.” It strikes me I know little of their past; but they say these words with conviction and force. There has been something to disavow.  “Kneel,” they say on a more gentle tone, and I do so. The landfoam twines around me, touches my skin. It feels warm and dry. I bend my head and close my eyes.  “I will guide you,” Enhyoron says and a twinge of fear runs through me. Too-familiar words. But they continue differently: “We protect life,” Enhyoron says. “We do not seek to harm. We do not destroy—we seek to build. We seek to sustain—not to dismantle. What is harmful will, with time, dismantle itself.” They put their hands on my head and guide me as the magic rises up in me, running along paths in my body that still feel new. Power soaring to the sky. The landfoam rises, rises; multiplies with a newfound strength drawn from me. I shudder, but I know my reserves are deep. I recall the destruction. Enhyoron holds me from behind, crouching down into the mud. I breathe with their breath.  “This shall serve as a demarcation,” Enhyoron says, “a border we vow to uphold, a chain-link of mountains to stand between sea and land. And we will uphold it, until person will lift arms against person no more, until we collaborate with the planet instead of settling, until the time of intrusion runs out and the body rejects the invasion.” They pause. Their words give me renewed strength. The planet itself ripples. “We isolate the harmful,” they say. “We do not deny its existence. And once it is gone, the planet can reassert itself, and the border between land and sea will again move freely on the foam.” A sudden flash of insight—from outside my skull? Is the foam the planet’s defense mechanism? “We are the planet’s defense mechanism,” I whisper to Enhyoron as the giant spires of the mountains solidify, and I waver, my energy spent; spent but not ripped out. Offered of my own free will, I think and smile. And of my own free will it will likewise replenish itself; for I choose to live. I have stopped running away. Enhyoron embraces me as I topple forward, holds me firm and tight. END “This Shall Serve As a Demarcation” was first published in Scigentasy in July 2014. This recording is a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license, which means you can share it with anyone you’d like, but please don’t change or sell it. Our theme is “Aurora Borealis” by Bird Creek, available through the  Google Audio Library. Thanks for listening, and I’ll talk to you again on April 23rd. [Music Plays Out]

23mins

17 Apr 2015