Petrolea 8b

Is that what she had done? Was seduction even possible when the seductee all but melts into a puddle of willing ardor at the mere sight of one’s face? Feroza smirked, remembering the blush that had pinked his face under the stubble on his cheeks and head. Victor had resembled a pink-fleshed kiwi with a nose.

Still, whatever animal instincts that had put them both in such need of release, Feroza couldn’t think of a single other person at the base who would have made a more enjoyable partner than the eager and unexpectedly skilled Victor. Which would make her certain arrest at Xanadu Base that much worse.

Below them, flying creatures congregated around the column of an enormous Rocket-seed, a bigger flock than Feroza had ever seen. And there…she squinted and the visor of her helmet zoomed in on the direction of her gaze.

Odd. Three Leviathans flying together. That shouldn’t happen; there was no concentration of food on Titan high enough to support more than one of the massive mechanoids. And yet there they were, great articulated paddles flapping along their sides, proboscises coiled, skimming over the jungle like segmented metal zeppelins. Also odd that they were heading in the same direction as Feroza and Victor, toward Xanadu Base.

“Don’t worry about what happens when we get back,” Victor said, who had not been distracted by the wildlife. “Even if.” He swallowed. “Even if nobody else has made it back, I’ll tell them that what happened in the jungle was an accident. A natural disaster. They happen on Earth, too.”

Feroza watched the Leviathans. Flying mechanoids sported like dolphins around the colossal scavengers, jetting around their patiently beating air-paddles, cork-screwing around each other as if in anticipation of a coming feast.

“Why do you think Al-Onazy will believe you?”


“Look at it from his perspective,” Feroza said. “The most outspoken member of a faction of environmentalists is one of only two survivors of a deadly and extremely expensive fiasco. The other survivor is someone who knows how to control mechanoids and make them, for example kill everyone else.”

“Never! That would be…” Victor sputtered, “evil. Al-Onazy can’t think you’d kill people!”

“Al-Onazy might very well have lost two thirds of his workforce. We know he lost his precious harvester. I’ve accomplished exactly my stated purpose: stop human exploitation of Petrolea.” Feroza stared into the distance, where the cleared land was already visible. An ugly scar in the forest perpetrated by people like Victor. “Al-Onazy will need someone to blame.”

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