Still reading off Rachel Swirsky’s Campbell recommendation list because wow. Benjanun Sriduangkaew has published mostly in anthologies, so this is one of your few opportunities to read her online, though more are coming soon.
Grass crackles and hisses. She draws the blade, its petals unfurling razor mouths, and recognizes that this weapon is personal to her. All generals have them: a bestiary of blades and a gathering of guns, used to an edge and oiled to a sheen. She maintained a smaller collection than most; this was one she always kept at her side.
The grass is stilled, coils of circuits and muscles and fangs, petroleum stains on Lunha’s sword. She fires a shot into its vitals to be certain. A detonation of soundless light.
Her datasphere snaps online. Augmens bring one of the walls into sharp focus, an output panel. At the moment, audio alone.
“We had to make sure you were physically competent.” A voice keyed to a register of neutrality, inflection and otherwise; she cannot tell accent, preferred presentation, or much else. “It is our pleasure to welcome you back, General Lunha.”
“My connection is restricted. Why is this?”
“There have been some changes to data handling at your tier of command. We’ll send you the new protocols shortly. It is routine. You’ll want a briefing.”
“Yes.” Lunha attempts to brute-force access, finds herself without grid privileges that ought to have been hers by right.
“Your loyalty to the Hegemony has never been questioned.”
“Thus I’ve proven,” said Lunha, who in life served it for sixty years from cadet to general.
“We will not question it now.” The panel shimmers into a tactical map. “This world would offer its riches and might to our enemies. Neutralize it and the woman who lures it away from Hegemonic peace. Peruse her dossier at your leisure.”
The traitor planet is Tiansong, the Lake of Bridges, which in life was Lunha’s homeworld.
Their leader is Xinjia of Pale Cascade, who in life was Lunha’s bride.