Feroza stood up and shuffled to Victor. She put her own arms around him. Cold comfort in an environment suit, but still. “I promise I shall find a way to protect humanity from Petrolea.”
“And I will help fix these creatures.” Victor extended an arm to the rusty Dragon, and it tried to bite him.
He swore and waved his handshake gauntlet like a demented South American wizard, and soon the wounded creature lolled under a blanket of Victor’s slave factors. The little robots swept back and forth across the ruined chassis, clustering around the places where she’d cut away the worst of the rust, soldering, welding, reconnecting, ferrying raw materials from the piles of metal shavings and hydrocarbon pap Feroza had prepared for them.
Victor amused himself by playing with his camouflage, removing rusty flanges and cages of wire from his suit, examining the reactions of the other Dragonlet.
“What are you going to do when the Dragon recognizes you as human and its trip-wire program comes on?” Feroza asked.
“I’ll hold it still while I command the slave factors to rebuild my suit,” he said, “as if that were obvious.”Hm. Yes, it’s definitely the arms that Dragons don’t like. When I let it see my real profile with two arms, the tripwire program blinks on. But…” he folded his arms behind his back and the Dragon visibly relaxed. “Maybe these things’ original masters had no arms? How’s it going over there with Rusty?”
“Well, if it’s going to be your pet, he should have a name.”
“By that logic…” Feroza looked at Victor capering before his Dragon. “Yours reminds me of a fat and friendly pony I used to know. I shall call him ‘Mr. Biggles.'”
“I am not calling him Mr. Biggles. He isn’t fat, he isn’t friendly, and he isn’t my Dragon. He’s a poorly-optimized machine.”
She shook her head. “Think of him that way and you’ll never understand his behavior.”
“I don’t want to understand his behavior.”
“Of course you do. That’s why you’re experimenting with your camouflage, trying to understand his instincts, behavior, and ancient coding.”
“I suppose,” grunted Victor.