Petrolea 9b

Victor wiggled his fingers safe in their gauntlet.

“Trying to establish handshake…”

“Don’t,” said Feroza, and something like a lead watermelon barreled past them. “We have to trust her instincts.”

“Her instincts almost got you eaten yesterday,” said Victor. “What the hell was that thing that flew–oof!”

The Dragon’s wings flared and Feroza’s back smashed into Victor’s chest as their dive flattened out. Victor caught the gleaming curve of another cannonball sizzling under them before the Dragon rolled sideways and he was upside-down. A lurch, and the third cannonball passed. This one was close enough for Victor to count its coiled segments, see his helmet reflected in a dozen black, swiveling lenses. The Leviathan was firing some kind of living munitions at them.

The ground loomed out from behind the Dragon’s thrashing wings, a great deal closer now. Victor blinked and it was gone, replaced by a gray sky. That should have been an improvement, except for the hundreds of black dots curving in toward them. The closest cannon-ball creature popped open like an umbrella, slowing, swerving toward them, reaching out with folds of barbed netting.

Victor wanted to hijack the Dragon’s behavior processor to fly them out of range of the cannonball creatures, but Feroza was right. Victor was no crack Dragon-pilot, and anything he could do would just interfere with their mount’s own efforts to get away. The Dragon dodged and dove, but now the attacks were coming from all sides, and it had no way to avoid them all.

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