by Amanda Saville

The night the fireball crashed into the sea, the stars were dazzling. Even the aquin families living in the deepest caves noticed their brightness. The next morning, everyone swam out to see what had landed in the water.

She was all flame and angles, burned and beaten, unconscious and partially buried in sand and rock. She hadn’t drowned the way things from the land usually did, and they found that curious. With careful hands they dug her out, marveling at the gills blossoming on her neck. They bandaged her wounds and fed her bits of fish when she was lucid enough to eat. 

When she truly awoke, sharp-eyed, she snarled and snapped, but was too weak to strike out. Instead of yelling harsh commands, they spoke quiet, patient words, teaching her their language. Her angles softened. Soon, children visited, distant at first, but growing bold. She learned to play their games. She had never known laughter before. Her wings curved like kelp fronds. They gave her a name. A real name. Surinla: “Beloved Star.” Her clawed back legs became a powerful tail. 

The night the stars flared again, even brighter than before, Surinla looked toward the sky. “I must go,” she said, “I won’t let their war reach this world.” She silently thanked the aquin with her now-gentle gaze, and returned to the stars, her purpose clear. Surinla, once Adaptive Draikh Soldier #992352, was no longer a blade, but a shield for the planet she now called home.

Illustration by Joyce Chng

© Copyright Amanda Saville and Joyce Chng

Amanda Saville does science by day and spins stories by night. When not exploring the worlds in her head she enjoys knitting, baking, and being fascinated by languages. She lives in North Carolina with her spouse, a small herd of houseplants, and her yarn stash.

Joyce Chng’s fiction has appeared in The Apex Book of World SF II, We See A Different Frontier, Cranky Ladies of History, Accessing The Future, The Future Fire and Anathema Magazine. Joyce also co-edited THE SEA IS OURS: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia with Jaymee Goh. Fire Heart, a YA fantasy under Scholastic Asia, will be published soon. (Pronouns: she/her, they/their)

Read the Rest of the February Issue

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