Petrolea 4h

BackFirst

“Alright, maybe you disagree that mechanoids deserve basic rights, but what about people?” Toledo asked. “What about the people in the jungle when you brought the entire ecosystem down on our heads?”

“I didn’t kill those people,” Feroza watched the enormous parasite waddle closer to her, unaware of the danger it was in. Unaware of the meal that it would soon be. “I know you’re not responsible, either, but you did bring the harvester into their territory. It was too tempting a target. You should have listened to us when we said that Petrolean life had become too aggressive to–“

“I tried!” he said. “And I was never supposed to be sent into the jungle to arrest you. I am a programmer, for God’s sake!”

Feroza couldn’t afford to let herself become as emotional Toledo. Forcing her breathing to slow, she bent her legs a precise 160 degrees and jumped, shrieking static across the AM bands.

The Bounder launched itself away with a kick from its piston-like hind legs. Feroza watched it arc through the air, flipping those legs around, turning them into springs with which to cushion its fall. A fall which brought it nearly on top of the mother Dragon.

The Bounder squealed over Feroza’s radio and kicked its piston-legs, but they weren’t oriented at the right angle to do any damage. Hooked mouthparts scrabbled and sparks flew as the buzz-saws in the Dragon’s mouth bit into the carapace of the giant metal flea.

“Dr. Merchant?”

Feroza realized she’d been staring at the fighting monsters, breathing heavily, for far too long. How was her oxygen? Good. Fine. It was fine.

“Dr. Merchant? Feroza? What has happened?”

“The Bounder is down,” she reported. “It’s scattering.”

Factors sloughed off the Bounder’s steel skeleton. Some of the little robots managed to escape, but most fell prey to the Dragon’s overpowering radio voice. They marched into their new master’s body cavity, not even pausing to disassemble and transport the armature, organs, and other tools they had so painstakingly fabricated. Nor the fuel tanks they had just filled.

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