Petrolea 7b

“Well, this insulation is certainly effective.” Feroza turned around. “I don’t see any condensation on the wall at all.”

Victor cleared his tight throat. “Yeah. Just on the, uh, mouth of the airlock.”

Calling it an airlock was generous. Really, it was just a series of valves composed of plastic petals. They were stiff and sticky enough to form a fairly good seal, but from here Victor could see the droplets of water forming around the dimpled hole in the center, where their air and hot water tubes lead to the still and the rest of the hangar.

“It would help if we had a sheet we could cover it with,” said Feroza.

“Good idea,” said Victor. “That will save us from having to look at a giant, wet plastic anus all the time, hey?”

She looked at him, eyebrows a nearly horizontal line over extremely un-amused eyes. “Quite,” she said.

Victor could have slapped himself. Another uncomfortable pause later, he said, “We should have enough feedstock for a sheet for the insulated door, yes, and dinner. And then it won’t matter, because we’ll be able to fly back to Xanadu Base tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow,” Feroza repeated, her voice flat.

“Yes,” said Victor. “After we sleep.”

The word “together” congealed in the air between them like water beading and dripping off a plastic sphincter.

“I’ll just see about that sheet.” Victor put on his helmet, got down on his hands and knees, and penetrated the airlock.

 

The still hummed along next to the airlock exit, a cage-shaped bulk covered with a growing population of guardian and repair factors. Small scavengers like Gobs wouldn’t stand a chance against the new defenses, and some judicious tinkering with the Dragon’s behavioral processors ensured they’d leave the life-support engine alone.

Victor had every reason to be optimistic, even self-congratulatory. He had survived a day in a Dragon’s nest. But could he survive a night with Feroza Merchant?

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