Petrolea 11c

And before he worked himself up to say something like “because I value you more than what I can get out of you, too.” Feroza said, “We help each other, it’s what symbionts do.”

“I can’t argue with that.” Victor watched the Dragon as it slithered back and forth in front of them, crunching and flaming, working its way through the crowd of creatures with mechanical satisfaction. “Not that I’m complaining,” he said, “but why do those things keep feeding themselves to our Dragon? Can mechanoids even get suicidal?”

“It must be us,” she said. “We represent something their instinctive programming has no way to address. Their normal behavior has been overridden.”

“By the need to kill us?”

She turned to him, suit outlined in red light, monsters cavorting and burning around her. “Don’t be melodramatic.”

“Look,” he said. “I know I’m not a biologist or anything, but animals don’t work like this. All of these things attacking us.” Victor pointed up at the Leviathan’s mouth. “That big hose watching us. The whole damn planet massacred Xanadu Base.” He fought to control his breathing. “I mean…why?”

A creature like a geodesic ball filled with claws bounced over the Dragon and sailed through the air toward Victor. Feroza swatted the thing to the ground and crushed it under her boot.

“I suppose,” she said, bending to examine the spasming remains, “that once some Petrolean animals learned they could eat human technology, they sent out a signal. It was only a matter of time until we saw a feeding swarm.”

Victor looked out at the gibbering hordes of creatures, trying to imagine them as seagulls flocking to a dropped sandwich. “No,” he said. “We’re killing these things.”

“The Dragon is killing them.”

“Alright. But shouldn’t they figure that out and run away?”

“Perhaps we are seeing eusocial behavior, or these have some other way to store their genetic material offsite.” Feroza picked up a half-dead creature and shook it briskly. Factors scattered.

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