Petrolea 2c

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Feroza considered the nature of her hosts. Dragons were the apex predators of this latitude, flighted because nearly all pursuit predators flew in the high-density atmosphere of low-gravity Titan. Their ecological niche was something like tigers or great white sharks. Not much social behavior, but like the smaller Punishers, Dragons were viviparous. Their young were not constructed in factory-hives, but by fabricators tucked inside the body cavity. Surely that implied parental investment in young. And even tigers didn’t live together as mated pairs. Assuming a mated pair with children was what she was seeing here.

Ting ting ting ting the oxygen warning drove upholstery tacks into her thoughts.

Warnings. Distress signals. Ha.

With her gloves trapped in the skin of the Dragon, Feroza could only interface with her suit by means of eye movement tracking, a slow and frustrating process made no easier by the damn alarm. Like the angel of death tapping her skull with his bony index finger…there. She was ready.

Now, in which direction to direct her cry? Would a mother or father Dragon tend to a complaining juvenile, or rip it apart? Feroza needed an example of what gentler instincts she could expect from these giant predators, and that meant child-rearing.

She aimed her transmitter away from the adults and focused instead on the nearest sleeping juvenile. She flicked the device on at its narrowest beam and highest setting.

It was the equivalent of clapping her hands in front of the face of an infant. The Dragonlet’s headlights flared on. It thrashed and reared up, crying its own radio distress signal.

Feroza double-checked that her receivers were recording as the Dragonlet woke up one of its parents. Fortunately, not the one to which Feroza was currently glued.

The other parent mechanoid slid from the shadows like an enormous serpent, wings, engines, and landing gear tucked up on its back, sensors extended on a flexible neck-like tube of helically linked factors.

The parent Dragon – what Feroza decided to call the “mother” – bumped “her” iron snout against the distressed baby. She nuzzled it, feeling down its flanks for damage. Finding none, she began to turn away, but Feroza activated her transmitter.

The mother Dragon stiffed. Feroza could almost imagine the sigh of resignation as she turned back to her Dragonlet. Her mouthparts pulled back.

A black stream of nourishing gasoline flowed into the baby’s gaping maw. A pause and a muffled clank as machinery re-aligned within the mother’s head, and the baby got a sip of the precious liquid oxygen needed to burn that petroleum.

The baby stopped crying and curled up. Carbon dioxide frost steamed off its belly as it began to distil its meal.

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