“You make it sound like Petrolean life has more right to these resources than we do.”
“Of course it does,” she said. “Even if the mechanoids weren’t already here when we arrived, every sentient creature deserves to live.”
“Huh? There is no intelligent life on Titan.”
“Yes,” she said patiently. “‘Sapient’ means ‘intelligent.’ ‘Sentient’ means it has feelings. And you can’t deny the mechanoids have feelings. You can’t deny,” she said, over his hemming and hawing, “that the father Dragon suffered as you ripped his body apart.”
“All right,” said Toledo, “so maybe it suffered. So what? A chicken suffers when one kills it.”
“Even in the Middle Ages, Jains and Brahmins could live without killing,” she said, “and this isn’t the Middle Ages. We have no need to be cruel to animals to survive any more. We were just coming to realize that on Earth, and then,” she said, mostly to herself, “we discovered Petrolea.”
Feroza examined a clear spot of ground, but a few whacks with her field shovel confirmed that under the oily mud was the nose of another nascent Rocket-seed. It was an excellent source of concentrated fuel and oxidizer, of course, but impossible to break into. She moved on.
“Oh yes,” said Toledo. “I forgot. You think meat is murder, but I bet you’ve never had to eat a chicken or starve.”
Feroza turned her path into a circle with the Dragon in the center, looking for places where she could tap into an oil line. “That is nothing but the wealthy and influential West not caring to give the poor an alternative to meat.”
“Oh, ‘the poor,’ you say?” Toledo actually growled into his microphone. “You self-indulgent little princess. Do you know anything about ‘the poor‘ or where we come from? There were times when I would have killed someone for a chicken to eat.”
“But that’s just it,” said Feroza. “You didn’t need to–“
“No. This is crazy. You’re crazy. I’m crazy for having this stupid conversation with you. You took the oxygen from the dead Dragon and when I reprogram its fabricators, you will eat and drink the stuff they make because if you don’t, you’ll die.”
“It is better to die than live at the expense of others?” Feroza’s frayed patience finally gave way. “And why am I in this position, where I might die like the friends and colleagues you killed with your incompetence?”
“My incompetence,” Toledo’s English was deserting him. “…the Leviathan! The stupid…stupid…¡Estupidez ideológica de una ecochiquita privilegiada, desenfrenada y decadente!“
From the French and Latin cognates, Feroza assumed that was not complimentary. “If I regain my original beliefs and determination to uphold them, both of us will die. So consider carefully what you say to me.”
The only response was the whistle of the carrier wave.