“I’ll tell them it was my mistake that got everyone killed. You don’t have to be punished for all this…” Victor’s gloved hands shifted over her armored waist. “All of Petrolea.”
“Someone must atone,” said Feroza. “Why not me?”
“Atone?” Victor repeated as if searching his mental dictionary. “Why?”
“Why? We slaughtered a family of Dragons to give ourselves a place to have sex.”
“Asu!” He said, “You and your guilt! No pleasure without pain, hey? What are you, a nun?”
“And you are a chimpanzee,” she said, “or a spoiled child. Never considering the consequences–“
“And what would be the consequences of you dying alone in the woods, huh? Is there some karmic scale here you think you’re balancing?”
“Not karma,” said Feroza, “martyrdom. Maybe my incarceration will send a message.”
“What message? In God’s name, animals on this planet literally have gasoline for blood. People won’t stay away from Titan even if one of those Leviathans eats Xanadu Base!”
They swooped over the line of logging, nothing below them but methane streams running between broken debris and self-assembler weeds.
Feroza remembered the speech she had prepared for the strike’s last stand. How grand she had thought herself, how noble and self-sacrificing. Except she had sacrificed everything except herself. Her life stretched before her, cold and lonely as the greasy wasteland below.
Victor stayed silent until the habitat was in sight. “Look,” he said. “I’m…not happy about how we met each other, but what happened after that…I am glad to know you.” He patted her, gloves thumping against the belly of her suit.
Feroza didn’t answer. She stared, dry-eyed and thin-lipped at the dome and tower of Xanadu base in the center of a broad circle of chewed-up battleground.
“What on Earth?” she squinted. Commanded her visor to enhance the image.
And saw the full magnitude of the disaster before them.
The enormous mechanoid squatted atop the remains of Xanadu base like a vulture on the carcass of an elephant. Its huge wings were folded, its proboscis flexed, wormlike, through a crack in the dome. Even from here, Feroza could see the white smear of the habitat’s outgassed and frozen air.
“Victor,” she said, “turn us around.”
“What?” he said, “I don’t…I can’t–“
“Turn us around!” Feedback squealed against Feroza’s scream as the feeding tube curved up, turned. Cage-like teeth spread and a red searchlight stabbed up at the clouds.
Across all the meters of murky frigid air, Feroza felt the weight of the Leviathan’s regard.