Petrolea 5d

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Victor stopped the food extrusion and was fiddling with his gauntlet, trying to figure out how to print out walls to hold in an oxygen atmosphere, when something moved on the still.

“Oh, pucha. Another Gob.”

The little scavenger had spread itself out like a miniature city, with the cylindrical towers of its little processors pack up from the middle the mass of scurrying factors. Even as Victor watched, the little robots scuttled across the side of the still and into its inner workings. Without thinking, Victor reached out to brush them away.

Red lights in his visor. He swore for real this time and jerked back, the fingertips of his right glove scored with tiny notches. “That thing nearly chewed my glove off!”

“What?” said Dr. Merchant, “the Gob? You didn’t try to touch it, did you?”

“I…it tried to eat me!”

“Well of course it did,” she said. “Your suit is made of plastic and metal.”

“I thought they were treated in some way–ay! It’s going to break the whole still!” Error messages popped up in his visor and Victor nearly got his glove bitten off in his instinctive grab for his work.

“That still of yours is a whopping great corpse,” said Dr. Merchant. “Of course you should expect it to attract scavengers.”

How could she be so blasé about this? Victor poked impotently at the writhing mass of chewing factors. “How can I make it stop?”

“Piss on it,” said Feroza.

“What?”

“Urine. Wee. In the field, when the repellent coating wears off and we don’t have a tame Punisher to scare away scavengers, we empty our water reclamators into whatever we want safe. Factors don’t like the heat. And organic compounds, I imagine, taste bad to them.”

“But,” Victor flailed helplessly at the disgusting creature as it gnawed on their life-support engine, “I can’t afford to lose that water.”

“Do you have any other warm organics?”

Victor’s eyes went from the crawling, amorphous Gob to the bag of breakfast paste. “Pucha,” he said. “The food.”

The paste steamed when it hit the freezing Petrolean air, and the Gob recoiled and scuttled away from it. Wasting the stuff made Victor’s gut clench, but better lose a meal than his only means to make more meals.

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