Petrolea 14d

“The enlightened thing to do,” said Victor, trying to keep his voice low, “is to stop this threat to the lives of millions of people.”

“Thousands of people at most, if we are still discussing the off-Earth population. And just how shall we stop Petrolea? By interfering with it more? This place was entirely quiescent until humans landed here, and it took us just two years to antagonize the ecosystem to the point of threatening our civilization. And now you want to pile even more folly and arrogance on top of that?”

“You’re talking like you think humans will just leave Petrolea alone.” Victor spread his hands and waved them, miming their boss back in Dubai: “Oh, we just lost an entire extraction facility and orbital station. I’m sure that that’s nothing we should investigate!” He dropped back into his normal voice. “They will come to rescue us.”

She grimaced at him. “That is not the topic I thought we were discussing.”

“Oh no,” said Victor, “because you won that argument didn’t you? You think you can just stay here and heal the animals and hug the trees. And when you come back to the rustic hut, oh, it’s Victor waiting for you with a pot of Petrolean stew and a big wet kiss.”

Feroza snorted. “Who kissed whom? I didn’t ask you to claim me as your jungle bride. I didn’t ask you to follow me or–“

“Or save your life?”

“Victor, we’ve both saved each other’s lives such a lot of times. Do you really want to keep a running tally of the debt?”

Victor couldn’t think of a way to respond to that without sounding like an asshole, so he decided it was time to storm off.

Given their living situation, that wasn’t easy. Victor had to spend a frosty five minutes strapping himself into his environment suit again. And crawling on his hands and knees through the airlock tube was humiliating.

But at least Feroza didn’t see the Dragon knock him over.

Victor’s helmet didn’t even have a chance to warn him before the conical head caught him in the side and bowled him over. Victor flailed on his back like an overturned cockroach while the metallic face rushed toward him again. Headlights and stiff tactile antennae swept over him. Mouthparts unlatched themselves and reached out towards him. The feeding tube extended.

With a gurgle, the mother Dragon poured jet fuel over Victor’s head.

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