Petrolea 4c

Once a water- and methane-spewing cryovolcano, the Factory Berg had been covered over and converted by Petrolean life into an energy plant. The vast colonial organism of cooperating factors used the volcano to distill petrochemical fuel and oxygen to burn it, consolidating the energy that ultimately powered the entire local ecosystem.

Landing here on the forested slopes would not be easy, but the mother Dragon Feroza rode might not have the strength to make it all the way down to the plains. Now it was just a matter of letting go.

Feroza weighed only 13% of what she would have on Earth, but her long-haul environment suit more than quadrupled her mass. She had a great deal of inertia, and could only very slightly control her descent. A fall that would have been instant death on her home world became a long, panicked dance of shoving hands and spinning, kicking legs.

Finally, Feroza stood on the steep incline of the lower Berg, leaning against the strut of a Whirligig Tree and trying not to vomit. No plumes of carbon dioxide snow rose from her suit; it was intact. She would live long enough to hunt down some food for the mother Dragon and thus more effectively enslave her.

Toledo must finally have realized that he’d upset her. “Look,” he said, “I’m sorry I killed the Dragon, all right? But that funnel and valve idea you had–“

“If not that, then something else,” she said. “We could have found some other solution.”

“Maybe.” He didn’t sound convinced. “But what’s wrong with this solution?”

Feroza decided to assume that this man honestly didn’t understand her, and tried to explain. “You are perpetuating a cycle of death, Mr. Toledo. You killed the Dragon, which forces me to go down the Berg to kill more creatures, all so we can stay alive long enough to kill yet more.”

“It’s either that or die, Dr. Merchant.”

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