Petrolea 11a

Chapter 11

The parasite looked a bit like an octopus. Or a spider made of segmented metal hose.

Feroza flailed in the tangle of murderous steel pasta and Victor stared, totally frozen by his horror.

They hadn’t brought any weapons. Why hadn’t they brought any weapons? He could have designed some. Some program that would sever a Dragon’s head and turn it into a turret-mounted flamethrower. If only he’d thought–

Fire rolled over them.

Victor toggled off some virtual controls and pulled Feroza off the Dragon with him. The mechanoid itself slurped down the charred remains of the Spaghetti Monster as its body bunched and transformed from sleek jet-shape to caterpillar.

The Leviathan’s back looked like someone had tried to make an aircraft carrier out of scrap metal. What had from a distance looked like smoothly machined overlapping plates, Victor now saw were pitted and asymmetrical. Respectably-sized shrubs had self-assembled in the hollows and crevices, carving little chunks of metal from the flesh of the Leviathan to build their branches and whirligig leaves.

And of course the whole place was infested with creatures. Some were like lice, others like fleas or crabs or flatfish, and it looked like every one of them–parasite, epiphyte, or whose-a-site– was crawling from crevices in the uneven skin of the Leviathan to come, slavering, toward them. Tentacles lashed and claws flexed under the red glow shining from between the teeth at the end of the Leviathan’s snake-like proboscis.

Victor fought the urge to cross himself and looked at the scene with engineer’s eyes. Problem one: hundreds of horrible creatures wanted to eat them. Problem two: their ride was out of fuel, and was also hungry. The solution wasn’t actually that hard to formulate. Victor didn’t even have to nudge the Dragon with his slave factors. Another blast of fire and it was in amongst the parasites, eating everything that moved.

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