Petrolea 18b

Only one year. Victor bit his lip. He knew that once the station had gestated its new landers, he and Feroza would have company on the back of the Leviathan, and their honeymoon would be over. But ships from Earth would come with people from Earth. Important people.

Feroza’s thoughts ran in the same direction. “I’m not sure I like the sound of a military corvette.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry,” Al-Onazy waved a breezy hand. “There is something growing in one of the hangars up here that looks like it could be a good deal scarier than any human-built weapon.”

“And I certainly don’t like that,” said Feroza. “Taking up arms against the governments of Earth–“

“Which brings up the subject of Dr. Merchant’s official pardon,” Al-Onazy cut in smoothly.

“She did save all of human civilization,” Victor agreed.

Feroza gave him a cynical look. “I suspect it is more to the point to say I still understand and control the mechanoids better than any other person. Isn’t that right, sir?”

Al-Onazy’s eyes were cold above his smile. “Once our weapon hatches, there is nobody else I would trust to pilot our new gunship. For the time being.”

She went silent and thoughtful after that, letting Victor handle the end of the conversation.

“Hey,” said Victor, pulling off the helmet. “Don’t borrow trouble, all right? We stopped Petrolea from sporulating. We took care of a threat to human civilization.”

“And put it into the hands of a cold-hearted corporate villain,” grumbled Feroza.

Victor put his arm around her. “Well, we’ll take care of him, too.”

She looked up from the hollow of his shoulders. “Why, you helpless romantic, are you offering me an interplanetary war?”

“An interplanetary empire,” Victor corrected. “We can tell the mechanoids to build a pyramid for you, or a flying throne, hey? And then everyone can look at you and think, ‘oh, her flashing eyes and something something hair.” He rubbed his lips over the stubble on her head.

“Floating hair,” said Feroza. “To me, that suggests my palace will be in space. Now kiss me again behind my ear. And close your eyes with holy dread…”

Victor did close his eyes, breathing in her scent. Feroza had her amnesty, Al-Onazy had his mechanoid-wranglers, and Victor had a little before the rest of humanity caught up with them. Self-assembling space habitats, alien technology, and a route to the stars would all come later.

For we on honey-dew hath fed,/ And drunk the milk of Paradise,” Feroza quoted. “Speaking of which, the still probably has breakfast ready for us. Would you like to take me back home?”


“For the next year, anyway,” she said.

Victor took brushed his hair through the silky fuzz on her head. “Aren’t you worried about spending so long stuck with me? What if you were right the whole time and I’m, uh…”

“Insufferable?” Feroza knotted her eyebrows in mock-concentration and put a hand on his belly. “Of course I can’t know without further study.”

Victor squirmed under her fingers. “Good thing there’s this whole giant alien city to distract you.”

Feroza took his hand. “Let’s explore it together.”



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