Petrolea 3c


Victor should have predicted what happened next. It wouldn’t have changed his decision to – what was Merchant screaming at him? – “Murder an innocent creature,” but they needed pressurized oxygen and the Dragon’s internal organs were designed to pressurize oxygen. Now they had access to those organs. If Victor had warned Merchant, she might have tried to stop him. Then again, she might have done something about the other Dragon.

The mechanoid reared over Merchant’s head and brought itself down between the biologist and Victor, wings splayed, engines growling, face plates pulling back to expose the nozzle of its flame thrower.

Victor dove away from the stream of fire the beast belched at him.

You had to really work at it to dive in Titan’s 0.15 gees. Victor had a good couple of seconds hanging helpless in the air while he contemplated all the choices he might have made.

At least the stupid animal tracked him with its fire. The body of the first Dragon didn’t catch. The precious oxygen in its compressors did not explode and kill them all.

Finally, the floor! Victor found himself sliding across it.

Thank God he hadn’t jumped the other way, or he’d have flown out the window and into the cold, empty air. Thank God he didn’t need to be touching the ground to work his handshake gauntlet.

He wiggled his fingers and factors detached themselves from the body of the dead Dragon and scuttled across the floor toward its enraged mate.


For a second, Victor couldn’t figure out the telemetry. Then he got it. Merchant had stepped on one of the factors. Just put her foot on the irreplaceable tool and smudged it from existence.

“¡Miércoles! Do not…do that!” It wasn’t easy to land, control his factors and speak English all at the same time. “If that thing raises the temperature in here, the oxygen will explode. Right? So control the Dragon.”

“Control her? You killed her mate.” Merchant was shaking so hard, he could see the tremors through her environment suit. But she slid to the side, much more practiced at moving on Titan than was Victor, and rolled to her feet. Now, standing between the Dragon and the wall of the cave, the biologist spread her arms and legs and broadcast white noise from her suit’s transmitters at maximum volume.

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