Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Faceless Soldiers, Patchwork Ship, by Caroline M. Yoachim

Solaris, September 2017 (in Infinity Wars:Infinity Project #6)

Ekundayo is a watch officer on a space station in a space polity at war. The enemy are the Faceless, aliens who are, in fact, patchwork creatures--parts from multiple different intelligent species, including humans. They are terrifying, representing not just an enemy power, but the potential loss of personal identity. A virus, the Patchwork virus, makes possible their easy addition and removal of alien parts, and no one on Ekundayo's side of the war understands their shared consciousness, or wants to.

Her sister Neva is a combat officer on the same station, but Ekundayo, with sickle cell trait, is not eligible for combat duty. She's on the station, though, because sickle cell trait gives some resistance to the Patchwork virus, and potentially useful for some...special missions.

She gets drafted for one of those, until now hypothetical, special missions. An experimental counter-virus to the Patchwork virus appears to kill it. It will destroy much of what makes the Faceless so flexible, adaptable, and frightening. It could turn the war around. A Patchwork ship is now within reach, and with sickle cell trait, Ekundayo has the best chance of lasting long enough, remaining herself long enough, to deploy the counter-virus.

There's a plan for getting her back, but it's not guaranteed to succeed even if the Faceless don't recognize her as an enemy.

Once on the ship, she learns things about the Faceless that perhaps no one who has returned to human space has ever learned, and she has some terrible decisions to make.

This is a fascinating and compelling story. Highly recommended.

I bought the anthology that contains this story.