Petrolea 12b

Feroza looked at him, remembering the large and manifold family he’d told stories about in the aerie. How long would it be before Feroza’s own parents and sister found out what had happened to her? What version of events would they hear? Would mummy and dad still be proud of her, stranded a billion kilometers from home?

“Maybe,” she said, “we can make a new home.”

“What? Here?” Victor looked around. “On the back of a giant flying lobster?”

“Well, we could live anywhere, with your skills. We could go back to the aerie–“

Victor bumped his helmet against hers. “What do you want, Feroza?” he said. “To live here permanently? In God’s name, why?”

“What choice do we have?” she said. “I know you don’t like Petrolea–“

Es verdad.”

“–but maybe you will come to like it.”

“Like the Beautiful Girl and the Beast? This place has killed so many people.”

“We don’t know that,” said Feroza. “The people in Xanadu Base might have escaped. Leviathans aren’t fast. They could be up there now waiting for a signal from us.”

“And how are we going to send a signal, even if you’re right? We lost the comms station at Xanadu,” Victor hung his head. “And even if I could get a communication satellite into orbit, even if there is someone alive up there to listen to me, who would want to? After what I did?”

“I’m sorry I blamed you for what happened in the jungle. You weren’t responsible for that, and you’re not responsible for the destruction of Xanadu Base, either,” said Feroza. “They violated the rules, and Petrolea turned on them.”

“It? What it? Are we talking about some kind of planet-sized brain? Because that’s more ridiculous even than alien overlords or eco-terrorists with handshake gauntlets.”

“I agree.” Feroza lifted an eyebrow. “Petrolea doesn’t have a brain any more than this Leviathan. And yet the Leviathan flies.”

“The Leviathan flies.” He repeated slowly, thinking. “What do you mean the Leviathan doesn’t have a brain?”

“It doesn’t have a central behavior processor. It’s not really one animal. It’s an ecosystem. A community. Like a whopping great, flying Berg.”

“Well,” said Victor, “there were some programs I was preparing to use to hack a Berg.”

“Is that even possible? Hacking a Berg would be like hacking….” She wiggled her fingers. “Like hacking a whole city. No, even less, because in a city, you could bribe the mayor, and a Leviathan doesn’t have any executive control of the kind. It makes decisions with a distributed net of agents connected by radio.”

“And what do the agents look like?”

Feroza spread her arms as if to embrace the demonic legions around them.

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