Letter From The Editor - Issue 68 - April 2019

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Issue 67
The Gilga-Mess
by Alex Shvartsman
Reading Dead Lips
by Dustin Steinacker
All the Things You Want
by Andrew Peery
by Brian Trent
The Cost of Wonder
by Leah Cypess
IGMS Audio
The Cost of Wonder
Read by Alethea Kontis
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews
Vintage Fiction
Sweetheart Come
by Alethea Kontis
Bonus Material
The Story Behind the Stories
by Dustin Steinacker

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-   -   -   -   P   r   e   v   i   e   w   -   -   -   -

    by Brian Trent

Artwork by Michael Wolmarans

She's getting to her feet, retracting her parachute into her backpack, when the junkpunk materializes beside her.

He's a frightful apparition. Snout-like mask and rubber-rimmed goggles appearing in a pixelating rainbow, his spectarmor dulling to pewter gray to distinguish him from the eye-melting colors of trash around them. "Welcome to the Pile, arky. I'm Neil Rix, corporate crow."

"Vanessa Roderigo," she manages, still breathless from the exhilarating paradrop. "World Tree Arcology and… did you say corporate crow?"

His laugh is tinny in his rebreather. "My formal title is Perimeter Security Officer. The title of crow, well, that's what we call each other."

Vanessa can see why. There are real crows about, alighting on the Pile's undulating slopes of junk and flapping, half-buried newspapers. And the junkpunks patrolling the peaks and valleys have a decidedly avian quality to them, too; with their beak-like masks and black goggles, they make her think of medieval plague doctor costumes. Even Neil's bulky armor gives him the hooded appearance of a carrion bird.

She wonders what he looks like beneath the armor.

"Well, Vanessa," he says. "Follow me."

She obliges, trailing him up the nearest slope. They halt at the precipice, and she gasps at the viewpoint it affords. The Pile contains two centuries of valuable crap, a veritable fossil shale of specimens from bygone consumer epochs compressed into a layer cake of metal, paper, and plastic. A landscape of tin cans and corrugated steel, appliances and upended couches, with plastic goop marbling it like fat in a lamb shank.

"I studied your list," the corporate crow says. "How's this for your first shot?"


Vanessa sends out a cloud of her angels to snap pictures of this moment--her and the junkpunk atop this jutting pinnacle, the Pile rolling in all directions beneath them. Her angels are invisible, as angels should be. Tiny spycams riding the viscosity of air, always recording and transmitting information to the arcology cloud.

Neil Rix watches her. "What news agency will this be going to?"

"Not sure yet," Vanessa says.


His single word is laced with subtle emotional threads. Vanessa's sniffer program quickly breaks it down into a color-coded chart, based on millions of vocal analyses. There's a strong orange undercurrent of suspicion in his voice--he worries she is lying about her motivations for coming here today. Indigo threads of fear, too--RER is not the only excavation company working the Pile and competition is fierce, brutal, and lethal.

And hope.

Hope resonates through his voice like a seismograph reading in bright yellow. Hope, that by agreeing to allow this exposé into the lives of junkpunk families, good things might come of it. A better life.

"Good things will come of it," Vanessa assures him. "I'm sure I can interest one of the media agencies in this piece. It's completely unplowed territory. No one from the arcologies comes here. Most don't even--"

"Don't even know we exist." Her guide nods in his freakish mask and looks away, to the misty, predawn horizon where arcologies rise as pyramids and ziggurats. Vanessa can see her own arcology, designed to resemble a massive tree, the various districts supported by enormous nanosteel branches. Her angels take another volley of shots, with her and the junkpunk standing together on this mountain of garbage, civilization as a hazy dream in the distance. It's a spectacular image. Maybe the one she'll use for the article's splash page.

"Can we go into the tunnels now?" she asks.

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