The Dragon tore into the skeleton, bright trails of light behind the hot tips of her cutting mouthparts.
Feroza edged forward and snatched up a steel bone from where it had fallen. Feeling rather like a cavewoman, she took the tool back to the gash she had made in the forest oil-pipeline. Petroleum streamed from the wound, already the center of a writhing clump of factors. Some of the little machines formed lines leading back to their nests in the undergrowth, stealing the resource. Others piled on top of each other within nets of spun plastic, self-assembling impromptu walls, reservoirs, and claws to protect this breach in the Berg’s body.
Feroza swung her bone-steel staff through them.
“What are you doing now? What’s that noise?”
“Killing the Berg’s repair-factors.” She took a deep breath. “Keeping the blood flowing.” Another breath. “Waiting for more parasites.” She backed away from the honey pot. Hid herself again. “My plan is working, and so we might live out the day.”
Toledo was silent for a while, digesting that. “Dr. Merchant,” he said eventually, “I am sorry I argued with you. I want to thank you. Without you, I would have nothing to feed into my still. We keep each other alive, right?”
“We all keep each other alive, Mr. Toledo. That’s what ecosystems do.”
“Eh? Yes, I suppose.”
Feroza didn’t have long to wait before the next Bounder arrived on its spring-loaded feet. And the next, and the guardians the Berg summoned to protect its oil, and the larger things that would prey upon all three mechanoids.
“I feel like Mr. R.M. Renfield,” said Feroza, “feeding flies to spiders and spiders to ants and ants to birds…”
“I don’t know what that means,” said Toledo.
“All for the glory of the great Count Dracula.” Feroza raised her right arm and broadcast a specific radio signal. “Come to me.”
The Dragon crashed through the undergrowth, mouthparts agape.