Issue 4 Preview: Transmission Scumm
“Johnson, Johnson–is it light? Feels like I haven’t seen daylight in forever.”
“Yes, sir. Morning is coming. It’s over.”
“Reports indicate the craft is in low orbit, on an exit trajectory. Broadcasting a final message before departing our planet.”
“But why? Why leave after coming so far?”
“Burn-out, sir. The visitor partied too hard. In the end the people of Earth–our people–were far more radical and righteous dudes.”
“More radical dudes. Hmm. I wonder–at what cost? The coastline cities are gone–the Midwest an irradiated husk. We haven’t heard from London in over twelve hours. Hard-partying, yes. But at what cost? Johnson? Johnson, can you hear me? Johnson….”
Oof. Good morning, remaining peoples of Earth. Was that as good for you as it was for me? Sorry if things got a little weird there towards the end – your pal Scummy’s never tried ouzo before. Y’all probably have a spare “Greece” lying around somewhere, right?
Anyway–folks, it’s been a blast. I mean that mostly metaphorically and only, like, twenty-five to thirty-five percent literally. You people have been so gracious hosting Planet Scumm these past few days and it warms my distributed network of mitochondrial “hearts” whenever I see such a fine bunch of primitive, barely sapient apes. Godspeed, Earth. I hope to visit again when you’ve got a few more cycles of weapons research under your belt.
But before I leave, one last broadcast from the upper atmosphere of that kooky planet we now all know so well. The place they call the Big Blue-Green Space Marble. Here are the stories from across the cosmos.
Lemme tell ya, it gets lonely out here when you’re traveling from system to system. That’s why I can sympathize with the subject of Laduke Ely Loomis’ The Rewilder. Rewilding is tough work, made all the tougher by roaming gangs of mutated neo-Luddites. Sometimes all that keeps you going is good food, good tunes, and a good partner at your side. Or, barring any of those, a creepy robot with a bunch of stim syringes.
Our next report comes from the war-torn planet of, uh, of… well, it’s really hard to pronounce. But you all know the place I’m talking about. Seems that after all the bloodshed there, the two warring parties are finally coming to an uneasy peace. “Uneasy,” in this case, means there’s still a fair amount of gun-waving and knife-sharpening. M. Raoulee brings us a first-person account in Memorial.
Lobsters! Maybe you hate ‘em, maybe you love ‘em, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: the lobster is the natural ally of the robot. That bond couldn’t be any clearer than in Arno’s Claw by Klaus Wenzel, the latest addition to Planet Scumm’s venerable (and delicious) catalogue of true crime reporting.
Finally, we have a terrifying tale that I’m sure many of our listeners know all too well. The Foundling by Chris Moylan features a monster so frightening, so cunning, and so flat-out disturbing that several members of our production staff literally died from shock upon hearing it. The creature I’m talking about is, of course, an itty-bitty baby. Don’t you laugh! Scummy technically can’t have “children” in the traditional sense but whenever I start budding, you better believe I squish those little cloned bastards while they’re still small. They plot against you otherwise!
All that and more coming up later. For now, as I gaze down upon this beautiful planet, I only have one thing to say: If it isn’t warp-jumping away from the wreckage of a once-civilized world, it isn’t… Planet Scumm!
EXCERPT FROM THE FOUNDLING BY CHRISTOPHER MOYLAN
It began when their baby was just over six months old and learning to form words, or parts of words, picking bright little sounds out of a stream of babble and holding them out to the adult world to see what magic they would do there. The spell was immediate; everyone loved his chatter, and indulged it to no end.
He was a precocious little boy, with quick green eyes and a nimbus of white, wavy hair that sent old ladies in the street staggering and gasping when they first caught a glimpse of him holding court in his stroller. He was a natural performer, turning his head to the side and gesturing with his doughy arms as if he were expounding on matters of great import. The ladies would answer with mock seriousness, nodding sagely and returning fully formed words for his baby sounds.
This would go on all day if Kate didn’t lose patience finally and make an excuse to draw the conversation to a close. She loved her little boy’s chatter, but the truth was it could go on and on. Even when they walked away from the nice ladies Gabriel would continue his observations as the carriage rolled down the sidewalk. She couldn’t help but suspect that he was responding to something genuine in the ladies, something that comes with carrying a child for nine months, giving birth, all that.
At home he pulled himself up by the railing of his crib and babbled, while his mother tidied or cleaned diapers or lay spread eagle on the floor by the crib, pining for the days when all she had to do was manage an office of thirty cranky bureaucrats.
After one of their mid-morning meet and greets, Gabriel was so tickled that he continued babbling full force into nap time. Boh! he said, rattling the plastic letters on the opposite ends of the play pen and kicking the blanket with his pudgy legs. It was the first time he had singled one syllable for emphasis. He tipped his head back and looked down, leveling a green livid stare into his mother’s eyes. Boh!
“I’m not sure what that means, mister Shakespeare,” said his mother, exhausted and just a bit fed up. But as she spoke the room took on the distinct odor of warm milk. A stream of thin gray liquid soaked through her bra to her blouse. Boh! her boy said, bouncing with one hand on the rail, the other reaching to be picked up. A drop of blood trickled from his nose, staining his lips. She took him in her arms and nursed him for the first and last time, blood mingling with the grayish milk dribbling from the side of his mouth as he nodded off to sleep.…