The first Bounder died before it even noticed the onrushing predator. It fell, sparked and dissolved into bones, organs, and squirming factors.
Feroza pointed and whistled again and the Dragon attacked another Bounder just as it compressed its spring legs. A leap to freedom became a sideways flop and a terminal shudder.
The forest guardian, a creature of plates and spikes like a car-sized metal hedgehog, died in a blast of fire, its plastic organs melting. A wild predator sprang into the air, a jackal compared to the tiger Feroza had unleashed. It spread helicopter rotors, but the path of its unlucky leap took it past Feroza, who swung her bone-steel staff like a featherball racket.
The little predator crashed into the ground, where a jab with the staff and a stomp from her boot convinced the factors that made up its skin that they had better chances of survival elsewhere.
Feroza watched the creature disassemble, wondering if she was doing the right thing. Certainly, she could reduce her impact on Petrolea if she left. When they reached Xanadu Base, Al-Onazy would be only too happy to send her back to Earth on the next rocket, probably in chains. But then what? He or someone like him would go on merrily draining the moon of its resources until none were left. Who would stop him if Feroza was in jail on Earth or dead in the jungle?
The honey-pot she had made was now a-swarm with orphaned factors. Some tried to reclaim their abandoned armatures of bones and organs. Others tried to self-assemble without them. Most fled or or were absorbed into Gobs and other scavengers. Feroza tried to bag as many as possible for the still.
If a person could survive indefinitely in the Petrolean jungle, what works might she accomplish? How might she act against the exploiters?
“You know what?” said Toledo as she worked. “I am thinking of what we can do with all this feedstock you’re collecting. Why stop at food and water and oxygen, after all?”
Why indeed? But Feroza was too busy with the slaughter to answer him.
“I have programs that will make a plastic film to cover the entrance. The walls, floor, and ceiling will need to be covered as well, to prevent oxidation.”
Feroza leaned on her staff, breathing hard, feeling her suit’s cooling fans whir. “We won’t have any leakage if you just keep fabricating spare oxygen canisters.”
“Leakage? Oh no. I want to flood the chamber with breathable air. I want to be able to take off this damned suit.”