Petrolea 3a

BackFirst

Chapter 3

“You’re doing it wrong,” said Victor.

Dr. Merchant’s head turned inside her fishbowl helmet, little more than a dark smudge under the slick of oil and boiling oxygen. “Ah,” she said. “You’re awake.”

She lifted her dripping hands toward the maw of the Dragon, as if Victor might have missed it. “You see I am using the Dragon’s maternal instincts to win for us a fresh supply of oxygen.”

What Victor saw was Dr. Merchant kneeling before a Dragon, holding up an oxygen canister while the mechanoid dribbled liquid oxygen into it. No, onto it. Most of the oxygen boiled away in the -160 air, but a few drops actually managed to bubble into nothing on the rusty floor.

Victor blinked at her for a few moments, first trying to figure out what she thought she was doing, then waiting for her to see the obvious flaws in her plan.

“You know you’ll never fill the canister that way,” he said.

Dr. Merchant didn’t put down the useless canister. “So help me. Can you program the factors in your gauntlet to make a funnel and valve?”

Victor tried to imagine a device that would mate a standard oxygen canister with the flamethrower nozzle of a Dragon. “It’s impossible.”

“Do not tell me what is impossible,” she snapped. “Help me, man, if you want to survive.”

Victor bit back the first response that came to his mind and tried to focus on the problem of respiration. “We need a compressor or refrigerator to condense the oxygen back into liquid for storage.”

“Unnecessary,” she said. “The Dragons compress and refrigerate oxygen inside their bodies. Now, if it were possible to train the Dragons to hold still long enough…”

If his hands had been free, Victor would have waved away the biologist’s speculation. Instead he just lay there, welded to the other Dragon, and said, “I have a better idea.”

Dr. Merchant was a biologist. Her specialty was the whole, but Victor’s specialty was the parts, and he knew what parts he needed.

Next

This entry was posted in Stories and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.