Petrolea 4b

Toledo was still talking. “…but I’ll need more oxygen to burn in its fabricators. And hydrocarbon feedstock.”

Feroza looked down at her steed. The mother Dragon had spread her wings as far as she could, her engines shut off in her exhausted glide. This was her fourth trip down from her aerie in the past hour.

“You mean blood,” Feroza said. “We will need the blood of Petrolean animals. More death, so we can live. So he could die.”

“He?”

“The Dragon!” Feroza wanted to scream with frustration. How could Toledo be so damn dense? “You killed the father Dragon.”

“So what? You favor your own first, then others. Humans are more important than animals.”

“Humans are just one species of animal. And there are eight billion of us. How many Dragons are there?”

Toledo scoffed. “Because there are more people than Dragons, that makes a person’s life less valuable? We’re not selling people and Dragons on the international exchange, here. The only reason to keep Dragons around is because we like having them around.”

“Why? What gives you the right to decide whether another creature dies?”

“I can figure out how to kill them,” said Victor, “that’s what.”

“So intelligence is the sine qua non for personhood?” said Feroza. “Are you prepared to offer yourself up for slavery under the next genius you happen to meet?”

“It depends, mi señora,” he said, voice suddenly dark and smoky. “What are your…orders?”

Feroza stopped with her mouth open, the Dragon rumbling under her. She thought they’d been arguing. Had Toledo thought they were flirting? Surely not. “I’m not talking about me,” she said. “If your dividing line is the species, what happens when we meet an alien civilization? How would you like it if a super-technological space-man reprogrammed your body to churn out food for him?”

“If the alien was as much smarter than me as I am smarter than a Dragon? I think my feelings don’t matter so much, eh?”

What a bleak moral philosophy. The law of the jungle applied to human interactions. But wasn’t that how most humans still governed themselves? Or failed to.

The Dragon was already searching for a place to land. “I’m done arguing,” said Feroza, watching ground slope up to meet them.

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