Letter From The Editor - Issue 64 - August 2018

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Issue 60
Stories
Dry Run
by Kurt Pankau
The Stowaway
by Stephen L. Moss
Mercy at Eltshan-time
by Stewart C Baker
Primum Non Nocere
by Caleb Williams
IGMS Audio
Primum Non Nocere
Read by Stuart Jaffe
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews
Vintage Fiction
Charity
by Julie E. Czerneda
Bonus Material
To Guard Against the Dark
by Julie E. Czerneda

Writing Fantasy

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Mercy at Eltshan-time
    by Stewart C Baker

Mercy at Eltshan-time
Artwork by Nick Greenwood

Qelna beloved,

Blessed be the Empress's name, and may this letter find you and your father in good health.

How are things at home? I know the days before Eltshan are a busy time, but I hope you are not overly neglecting your studies to decorate our home or go skating on the river which runs through the city.

Today we arrived in the system we have been sent to pacify. Just as our scouts reported, the fifth planet is surrounded by a graveyard of ships, each painted a ghastly crimson by the light of the system's dying red star.

Fleet Command is pleased: there are at least three dozen types of ship, none of which match any exot species we have encountered before. This alone, they say, is worth our two-year journey to this desolate star. Once we decode their secrets, we might learn of their origins and visit upon them the mercy of the Empress's peace.

And so, as ordered, I led my squadron of fire-spitters into the largest of the ships, a bulbous, segmented, shimmering hulk, which might once have been beautiful. In the swollen star's light, it looked strange and unnatural.

Inside the ship, we found death, but not the violent, battle-scarred death we had expected. Short, pale-furred exots with snouts like dogs and multi-jointed arms lay unmoving in every corridor. They looked almost peaceful, save for their eyes, which--to a one--had burst.

(I must insert, here, a reply to your father's inevitable complaint about the content of this letter. Your father thinks you too young to know the dangers of planets the Empress's mercy has not yet pacified. He does not want you scarred, he says, by the threat exot cultures pose to our peace and our safety.

Your father lives softly. Do not hate him for his fears. But a year from now you will be old enough to enlist in the Empress's ranks, and if you aspire to a command like mine you must know what we face.)

Fortunately, we had been following proper protocol, and none of us were exposed to whatever killed these creatures. Xenolinguist Ye, however, was unable to learn a single thing about the exots' origins. The ship's computers were all destroyed, their memories purged and their interfaces pulverized. At the center of one room, we found a pile of ash which Ye speculates might have been their printed records.

The squads which went to other ships reported different kinds of exot, from bird-like creatures with iridescent scales to women who looked disturbingly like us, save for their limbs, which were themselves as long as your father is tall. Everything else was much the same: Death and the complete destruction of anything written. The only thing we discovered of what had happened to them all was a single block of text, scratched on the walls of the smallest ship in the graveyard. An illustration accompanied it, a crude drawing of what appeared to be some kind of bug, standing on the planet below the ship with its legs raised, strange lines emanating from its outstretched tarsal claws.

Although our xenolinguists still struggle to make sense of the words, it is clearly a warning. Although the state of the sun makes the system unsuitable for resettlement, Fleet Command has ordered me to lead my squadron on an expedition to the surface and determine if the planet holds clues as to what killed the exot ships. Perhaps what killed them is something we can learn from or use.

I must go now and prepare my women for landing. I will write you again when I can.

With love and endless glory to the Empress,

Kitya

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