Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Issue 14
On Horizon's Shores
by Aliette de Bodard
Shadow of Turning
by Joan Savage
For Want of Chocolate
by J. F. Lewis
Hunting Lodge
by Jon Crusoe
Folk of the Fringe Serialization
The Fringe
by Orson Scott Card
Bonus Audio Play
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews

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On Horizon's Shores
    by Aliette de Bodard

On Horizon's Shores
Artwork by Dean Spencer

Alex and Thi Loan transferred at Sapalawa Spaceport, from their small shuttle to a military Naga craft -- the only ones still allowed to crawl between the stars with the fuel shortage.

Because the thought of their mission on Horizon weighed on Alex's mind, he said, "You've read the files?"

Thi Loan shrugged. "There isn't much. Professor Kishore died -- and then . . . suddenly there wasn't enough fuel for the spaceships." She smiled, a showing of white teeth against her tanned skin.

"It's a little more complicated than that," Alex said, darkly. "I can't believe they have no idea why it happened." He'd seen the images in the wake of Professor Kishore's death: the automated boats at their anchors, their control panels and quantum brains jammed by the song of the hatirkas. And that was it. That was all it had taken to paralyse the quadrant: no more boats meant no more algae oil, and no more oil meant no fuel.

Thi Loan shook her head. "Horizon's a reservation, not Federation territory. There was just Kishore and the other xeno posted here. Not enough to really investigate. And you know they're not going to pull anyone off of the algae gathering stations."

"You really think our presence will make a difference?" Alex asked, bitterly. He'd read the mission brief; he knew what they wanted of her.

Thi Loan shrugged. "We've had our successes."

"Yes. I wish to God they'd take those and leave us alone."

"They never do," Thi Loan said. "That's the whole point of having xenos." There was reproach in her voice, and he wasn't sure why.

Alex said, "We'll see when we get there. See what we can do to understand why the hatirkas are stopping the ships." But he didn't want to get there.

Again, silence. Thi Loan sat in her chair, as regal as an empress.

"Alex," she said, gently. "We'll board soon. You have to reconfigure now."

He shook his head and didn't move.

Her face was that of a mother reproving a wayward child. "It won't get better if you put it off, you know."

She was right, as usual. But . . .

He'd seen the orders, and he didn't want to get there. He didn't want Thi Loan to get there. He was getting the standard xeno modifications -- enough to ease his way among aliens while he tried to discover the cause of Kishore's death. But she was going all the way from human to tirka to adult hatirka. Her job was to get the hatirkas to stop doing whatever it was they were doing that had shut down the boats. To get production restarted on the Federation's precious spaceship fuel.

And to achieve that aim, they were subjecting her to a barely legal metamorphosis, using brand-new, untested nanos; and more importantly, that metamorphosis would be irreversible past a certain stage. If they didn't succeed quickly, Thi Loan would become so alien that the nanos wouldn't be able to restore her to human form. But they didn't have a choice. Xenos never had a choice, not with the Federation pulling the strings.

Thi Loan was still watching him. With a sigh, he pressed his hand on the terminal by the side of the chair, and felt the familiar tingle as the computer connected with his palm.

"Authentication complete," the computer said. "Alexander Paul Cadogan, xeno number 186554." Then a pause, and another tingle. "Nanos reprogrammed for assignment on planet designated 'Horizon.'"

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