“Let’s think about this,” said Feroza. “If you learn to love Dragons, I’ll learn to love people.”
His head jerked up. “Which people, exactly?”
“I don’t know,” Feroza raised an eyebrow behind her visor. “Do you think I should start with the aggregate and work my way down to the individual, or the reverse?”
Victor grinned at her.
So did Rusty. Or at least, it gaped its slavering mandibles, and the new buzz-saw and soldering torch clicked into place.
“I think his feeding apparatus might handle some live prey,” said Feroza. “I ought to go hunting.”
“Wait,” said Victor. “I had an idea before…well. Before. And I wanted to test it. Now that we have three big carnivores guarding us, I think the experiment might be safe.”
“An experiment?” asked Feroza.
“More of a proof-of-concept.” Victor wiggled his fingers and lights blinked on across the blasted landscape of the Leviathan’s carapace. “I’ve been trying to figure out how much control we can get out of this thing.”
“‘This thing’ being a fundamentally decentralized communal mechanoid with no more executive function than a colony of pyrosomes.”
“I have no idea what that means,” he said, still air-typing.
“The Leviathan is a like a slum, right?” said Feroza. “No mayor to bribe?”
“In that case, I have held elections,” said Victor. “Watch this.”
He tapped his finger on the air and Mechanoids scuttled out of cracks in the Leviathan’s armor. The little creatures converged on Feroza and Victor in an eerie repetition of the day they had landed here. But rather than attacking, the mechanoids climbed up onto the Dragons’ backs, clamping their legs donating their factors wholesale into the Dragons’ swarms.
“I have my control programs installed in every factor the Leviathan produces,” said Victor. “By now, almost every parasite and processor cluster’s bugged. I could make the Leviathan’s proboscis wave hello to you, but I thought this would be more impressive.”
Rusty grew before Feroza’s eyes, his skeleton elongating as other mechanoids fused themselves to him.