Petrolea 12c

“The parasites?”

“Among other morphotypes, yes. The parasites are networked to each other and to whatever mechanoids are at work under the Leviathan’s skin. Information flows through all of them.”

“In other words everything is jury-rigged at the last minute with no planning. Only constant tinkering keeps everything working. Everyone talks to everyone else.” Victor was becoming more animated. “It’s a slum.” He shook the last of his slave factors from his gauntlet.

“I’m afraid I don’t see the significance of that,” said Feroza. But she imagined little Victor and the stories he’d told her of his life in the pueblos jóvenes, where animals were food or competitors for food, plants were what grew between piles of garbage, and the only clean, orderly place was the world beyond the screen of his phone.

“Alright,” she said. “So you might hack a Dragon if you just find the right place in the mental hierarchy and insert your command. The Leviathan, however, has no brain, no authority on the basis of which to issue commands.”

“How about starting rumors?” Victor said. “Rumors such as, ‘there are no humans here?'”

Feroza began to understand. “Or, ‘this would be a good place to build a pleasure dome?'”

“Why not?” Victor’s fingers twiddled. “Oh, this is an inefficient way to get anything done. At least it’s familiar.”

Feroza imagined the children moving randomly around the network, shouting and texting at each other about everything interesting they see. What’s interesting to them? A pot of stew, a dead cat, a stranger with shiny shoes, a gun. Summarize that as ‘food’ and ‘danger.’

The response was nearly immediate. The parasite population, which had been thinning out, again grew denser. Except now, rather than rushing the human intruders in a rabid frenzy, the creatures organized themselves. With their concentric circles of builders and rayed supply lines, the parasites now behaved less like an immune reaction and more like the imaginal cells of a metamorphosing insect. Or the stem cells of a fetus, differentiating into bone and muscle, gut and brain.

“What next?” mumbled Victor. “A slum will have grandmas, coordinating the information-stream coming from the children with what they hear from their daughters, cleaning toilets or picking trash in the city. One such daughter might call with news of a job opportunity, or a particularly good haul of metal and almost-intact furniture.”

The aircraft-carrier bulk shifted under them. Hot-air cowls bulged up on either side of its vast carapace like hills on the horizon.

“Finally,” said Victor, “there are the official sources of news: the radio, the political enforcers, and the churches. Come down too heavy there, and the little old ladies, oh, they’ll pull in the opposite direction. But if the Leviathan’s distributed brain is as contrary as my grandma, I might as well give up now.”

Feroza watched a group of tentacled creatures twine their limbs together and fuse into a new still, much larger than their old one in the aerie. “Just how much of this are you controlling directly?” she asked.

“Almost none,” said Victor as crab-sized mechanoids locked their bodies together to become building blocks. “They’re doing this by themselves.” From the cracked shell of the Leviathan, a new pleasure dome began to rise. “It’s what they were made for.”

Victor braced himself as his colossal mount writhed into the sky.

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