Petrolea 4a

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Chapter 4

The Dragons had carved their aerie into the chimney of a Factory Berg. Already, the window was lost in the ammonia clouds. As Feroza and the mother Dragon glided down the slope of the Berg, the tapering walls above were almost as vertiginous as its foundations below.

“I’m sorry,” Feroza told the Dragon.

The bus-sized mechanoid made no response, but Feroza could feel the vibration in her chassis, see the factors of her flesh growing more sluggish in their reactions. I am tired, she seemed to say, when can I rest?

“Oh, it’s nothing,” said Toledo’s voice in her earphones. “I am confident we can get oxygen indefinitely.”

Feroza decided not to tell the engineer she hadn’t been apologizing to him, but to the innocent animal whose mate they had slaughtered and whose children they now held hostage while they used her to collect food and fuel.

Feroza wasn’t happy to be in charge of that project, riding the Dragon down the mountain like the hallucination of some mercury-poisoned equestrian. At least she wasn’t forced to stay in the hangar with Toledo and his macabre “still.”

This machine is great!” Toledo was back up at the top of Berg in the Dragons’ hangar, chattering happily as he rendered their living-space habitable. “It’s already cracked enough oxygen for both of us, and I’m confident about water and even digestible food.”

Toledo called it “wilderness survival.” A program cooked up by some bloated, greedy business-vampire in Dubai or London: hack the native life into life-support modules in the field. As if we weren’t disturbing the ecosystem enough already with a single base at Xanadu, let’s make it possible to grow a hundred bases overnight!

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