“What on earth did you do?” asked Feroza. He didn’t seem to be controlling these creatures explicitly, just calling them to assemble. And yet what naturally evolved behavior would so abrogate these animals’ interests?
That thought allowed Feroza to answer her own question. “You activated more old code, like you did to build our habitat.”
Victor nodded. “It makes sense for the aliens to build safety features into their machines as well as booby-traps. So if a miner got cut off from base, the mechanoid would build a habitat for him.” He jerked his thumb at their cozy little igloo.
Feroza looked down at the shifting shape of her Dragonlet and realized something. “Rocket-seeds are the same. They were designed for this purpose.”
“Eh?” said Victor. “What were Rocket-seeds designed for? Planetary defense? Killing humans?”
Feroza shook her head. “Spreading adaptable, programmable devices, digesting bare rock and metal and,” she gestured at their neat little home, “turning it into space habitats.”
“The mechanoids aren’t just a weapon,” Feroza said. “They are a tool.”
“These things could terraform the Solar System,” said Victor.
“Yes,” said Feroza. “Here is your value, engineer. Something much more precious than petroleum: space to live.”
“At the cost of all the infrastructure we’ve already put in space.”
“What’s more important,” she asked, “machines or people?”
“Well all right, but all this only assumes that the mechanoids won’t kill us humans on sight. Petrolean biology didn’t exactly make improvements to Xanadu Base or the orbital habitat.”
“But it did make improvements to our living arrangements,” said Feroza. “So what’s the differences between the way we treat the mechanoids and the way everyone else does?”
“Assuming they haven’t just decided to save you and me for desert,” said Victor, but Feroza knew she’d captured his imagination. “Dio, we could stop the sporulation and send out a warning and go home if we could control the mechanoids…and we can!” The Dragons’ snouts followed him as he jumped for joy.