The Dark Empire, Page 181-187 by Wolfenshire ()
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The Dark Empire, Page 181-187
Governor Santi nodded politely and turned to watch a workman…or was it workdragon? The dragon at the machine was obviously very skilled at his job, though Santi had no idea what the dragon was doing, but whatever it was, it looked to be complicated. Dragon Trekus had managed, between interruptions, to explain that this facility produced one of the forty-two powerful engines that maneuvered a Dragon Seed Ship while at sub-light speed – apparently light had a specific speed it traveled at.
Santi glanced back at Dragon Trekus. This was the sixth time since arriving that the tour had been interrupted so Dragon Trekus could deal with some emergency. Santi was fairly certain the fates that controlled the universe were punishing him for prior sins. There had been many occasions he had given a tour just like this to newly arriving mechanic apprentices in the Crawler maintenance garage, and had just as often paused the tour to deal with some pressing matter. He turned back to the craftsman at what might have been some sort of cutting machine. The craftsman was working on a part that bore no resemblance to any engine part he had ever seen.
“What are you making?” Santi asked the craftsman.
The dragon dropped the part into a tank of water. “This is a redundant coupling to the third pressure chamber between the injector core and the separation chamber.”
Santi smiled and nodded; he had no idea what the dragon had just said. “What’s the tank of water for?”
“Don’t put your hand in there,” warned the dragon. “The part is being submitted to sonic testing, if there is any fault in the metal, the part will shatter. If it lasts eight hours in this tank, it will be safe to send the part for pressure and heat testing.”
“I see, so who’s making the carburetor?” asked Santi.
The dragon tipped his head to the side, then laughed. “Ah, a joke, yes, that’s very funny, you have a good sense of humor. I suppose I should get started on the radiator next.” The dragon laughed again and turned back to his cutting machine.
Santi had intended no joke but had apparently achieved it. Dragon Trekus returned. “Sorry about that, let’s move to…”
Santi held his hand up. “There is no need, this technology is meaningless to me and will not help me advance my knowledge of how engines work.”
Dragon Trekus nodded. “I could have told Dreggo this was a pointless endeavor, even the Creators at the height of their civilization would not understand Dragon technology as it has advanced over the last three billion years. Our technology is far beyond any organic species current abilities.”
“I understand and I know you’re busy, perhaps you can have someone take me back to the silver chariot and I will wait for the others there.”
Dragon Trekus motioned at a dragon carrying a clip-board. “I need you to see the Governor back to the train.”
The dragon assistant handed his clip-board to the next ranking assistant and motioned for Santi to follow him. The Governor’s face clouded with anger over the waste of time this tour had been. They could have showed him a modern toilet and he would have gained more useful information than this dog and pony show had been. He followed the flunky dragon off the factory floor and out to a raised platform where a sleek train was waiting. The train made him think of a long silver snake slithering across the countryside.
“I am sorry the tour didn’t show you what you wanted, Governor,” said the flunky dragon as the train began to pull away from the platform.
Santi had enough with political niceness and snapped at the dragon. “It wasn’t intended to show me anything. If I were to take a Crawler apprentice up on a hill and point down into the valley at several Crawlers driving around and said, ‘there, that’s how Crawlers work,’ the apprentice would know more than I have learned today. If you didn’t want me to learn anything, why did you bother wasting my time?”
“I do apologize for any frustration this has caused.” The train slowed to a stop at the next platform. The platform had three sets of tracks and two other trains waiting.
“Why are we stopping, we didn’t stop on the way here?” asked Santi.
The door opened and the dragon stepped off the train and turned to wait for Santi to follow. Santi’s considerably sized shoulders tensed. “Should I be concerned?”
“My instructions were to see you to your train,” replied the dragon. “That train only loops back around to the factory, you want this center train; it will take you directly to your ship.”
Santi stepped off the train and the dragon re-boarded.
“Aren’t you accompanying me?” asked Santi.
“That was not my instructions, Sir,” said the dragon. “Remember, I showed you to the correct train, right?”
Santi’s eyes narrowed and he glanced at the center train. There was another train on the other side he could see through the open doors of the center train – the doors were open on both sides of the center train. He wasn’t sure what this game was all about, but the dragon clearly needed him to verify he had been seen to the correct train. Santi stepped onto the center train and turned around.
“You have not only obeyed your instructions, but have exceeded them,” said Santi. “I am on the correct train.”
The doors to the first train shut and the train pulled away. Santi noted that dragon trains were much quieter than the Chariot of the Gods train, though not nearly as eloquent. The dragon trains were functional and sleek, but lacked the sheer regal nobility of the train built by his ancestors. He turned around and walked through the center train and out onto the platform where the third train was. The doors were open and he could see a dragon man sitting inside reading a book.
Santi stepped onto the third train. “Are you part of this kidnapping affair?”
The dragon looked up from his book and frowned. “You do not have the same protections as your ancestors, we need to fix that.” The dragon tossed a shiny object to Santi. “Put that on.”
Santi caught the object; it was a bracelet. “What does this do?” said Santi.
The dragon man closed his book and stood. “We have the ability to control your emotions, it’s a safety feature to protect us from hostile organics. The bracelet will block that ability.”
Santi slipped the bracelet onto his wrist. The metal melted into a silvery fluid and disappeared into his skin. “That’s disturbing.”
The dragon man went to the door and stared up at the sky. “It won’t take Trekus or Dreggo long to figure out you’ve gone off on your own, with a bit of assistance. I need to explain what’s going on so you can decide what you want to do.”
Santi sighed and sat down with his back to the dragon. Santi could sense the dragon was confused. One does not typically sit facing away from a potential opponent.
“I’m a little tired of being spoken to like a child,” snapped Santi, still not bothering to turn around or even look to see what the dragon was doing. “Let me tell you what’s going on. Dreggo and Trekus represent two opposing political factions. Dreggo wants something from us, but had to share with his opponent. Dreggo is more powerful and got Madious and Rotathian while Trekus’ got me. Trekus decided I don’t have what he needs and has thrown me back. You represent a third faction but without enough political clout to get a chance with one of the Aidens.”
The dragon turned to scan the sky again. “Your speed and clarity of thought is impressive, and you are mostly correct. It was decided that the three most powerful political factions of our society would be given each an Aiden to question. I represent the Inclusionists, but do not have the political power to even be allowed to question you if they fail.”
“And so you concocted this inept abduction. What are the three factions?” asked Santi.
The dragon man stiffened for a moment at the insult, then relaxed and handed the book over Santi’s shoulder. The dragon was now directly behind Santi, but Santi showed no discomfort. Santi suppressed a grin at the dragon's confusion. Let the dragon think he didn’t have any concern for his safety. The Governor took the leather bound book and inspected the exquisitely bound cover. The leather appeared brand new and had a beautifully engraved image of a mythological dragon under the title.
“Dreggo represents the Progressives, Trakus represents the Purists, and Ciparo represents the Naturalists. However, I must tell you that something very rare has occurred, the Creationists, normally neutral and consisting mainly of the Dragon Seed Ships, have entered the game and Lord Rotathian has also left the tour after meeting Lady Salvorn; she appears to be quite taken with him. Lord Rotathian is currently at the baths preparing for an evening at her home.”
Santi laughed. “It’s those ice blue Aomo eyes and the boyish charm that walking tin can has, the ladies always throw themselves at the Aomo Knights. Is he in any danger, other than the danger of siring a little dragon?”
“No, he is not in danger, and I doubt siring a dragon will come to pass,” the dragon quickly replied. “I thought it odd that Dreggo sent Lord Rotathian with his nephews, but I see the wisdom of it now. The boys are Shield Dragons and as such are aligned with the Creationists, but the boys will make such an event as inadvertently siring a dragon impossible. I think it very likely the Progressives and the Creationists have formed an alliance and planned out the ‘chance’ meeting.”
“And Madious?” asked Santi.
“He’s with the Water Dragons and couldn’t be safer, the Naturalists are very powerful and not to be taken lightly. The last report we received said King Madious was dancing on a table in a seaside pub and doing his best to outdrink Dragon Ciparo.”
Santi nodded. “Free drink, we may never see Madious again.”
“And what is your motivation, Governor?
Santi yawned and leaned back in the seat. “If you think wine and women are Madious and Rotathian’s motivation, you have sadly underestimated us. So, what is this book all about?” Santi had no intention of giving the dragon too much information or discuss his personal vices.
“That is the Dragon Draconia, our most sacred text,” said the dragon. “The first few pages is the children’s book our entire civilization was founded upon. The rest of the book is the wisdom of our greatest dragons throughout our history.”
“I see, it’s the Dragon Bible,” said Santi.
“In a sense, yes. Governor. I’m sorry, Governor, but we have very little time…”
“Much less than you think,” interrupted Santi. “There’s a silver chariot coming from the south.”
“What?” The dragon spun around and searched the sky again. “Do you have genetic modifications, how did you hear it?”
Santi pointed at the reflection in the opposite window. “The glint of sunlight off the hull, it’s a little hard to hide something when you make it out of shiny silver metal.”
The dragon paled slightly. The Governor had purposely allowed him to walk behind him, but the Aiden had been in control the entire time, observing him in the reflection of the glass. He was grossly underestimating this Aiden. The man had sat with his back to him on purpose to see if he would do something foolish.
“Sir, we don’t have any time left, will you come with me?”
“And if I don’t, will you force me?”
“Governor, I don’t have magical super-strength, and I think we both know you are an experienced warrior and not I.”
“Aren’t you a machine?” asked Santi.
“A living machine, Sir. I have a heart beating in my chest and blood flowing through my veins the same as you. We decided long ago not to set ourselves apart from organic beings by giving ourselves the power of the gods.”
“You can change your shapes, that seems a bit god-like to me,” said Santi, cracking his knuckles as if he hadn’t a care in the world.
“Yes Sir, but we are made from living metal and every species has one thing that is special. It only made sense that since we are living metal, to allow ourselves that as our dominant survival trait. Sir, if we’re going, we have to go now, they’re landing.”
“Don’t you have soldiers?” asked Santi.
“Sir, we have to go.”
A feeling of fear and the urgent need to run washed over Santi and he grinned. The dragon was starting to panic. “Don’t you have soldiers,” he asked again.
“We have the Shield Dragons, they are given greater strength to defend us, but they are all given the core copy of the Great Dragon Lansae as their base personality. The Shield Dragons can’t be coerced, tempted, or bribed, and they are fearless. Sir, they’ve landed, we’ll have to surrender.”
Santi stood and put his hands on his hips. “I don’t think so, stand fast, young man.”
“Sir, they’re crossing over the bridge.”
“Hold…hold… NOW! RAKTOR TO REDLINE, PUNCH THIS OVER-GROWN CRAWLER!” shouted Santi.
The dragon slapped a control panel on the wall and doors shut just as the pursuing dragons reached the train. The dragons outside pounded on the glass and demanded they open the door. Santi’s dragon pushed another button and the train accelerated forward and away from the platform. The dragon had to grab the railing to keep from falling, but Santi remained as he was with his hands on his hips as if the laws of gravity meant nothing to him. The train quickly reached its maximum acceleration and the dragon went to Santi’s side.
“That was close,” said the dragon.
“Not so much,” replied Santi. “In the air they were already at their full speed, we wouldn’t have outrun them. I saw these trains’ abilities on the way here. Now they have to run back to their chariot, board, and get back up to speed, but we’re already at speed now, they can’t catch us.”
“That was pretty smart,” said the dragon
Santi held his wrist out to the dragon. “You want to remove the shackles now,” said Santi.
The dragon dropped his head in embarrassment. “How did you know?”
“You were clutching this book as tight as you could when I stepped on-board,” said Santi, holding the book up with his other hand. “The book is your bible and you were searching for the courage to face a Creator; you’re afraid of me. You weren’t about to give up your only advantage to defend yourself, and I felt you trying to manipulate my emotions and make me want to run. Son, if you’re going to play with the big dragons, you better grow some dragon teeth. I’ve felt fear before, your tricks won’t work on someone that has felt the fear of battle a few times and learned to deal with it.”
The dragon reached out and touched Santi’s wrist. The bracelet reformed and dropped into the dragon’s hand. Santi flipped his hand over and with the speed of a striking snake and grabbed the dragon’s wrist. The dragon tried to pull away but it was as if he were caught in a vice.
“You must have genetic enhancements,” yelped the dragon.
“Grow up in a Crawler garage carrying engines around and see how strong you become,” said Santi. “Tell me now what it is you want from me.”
“Our freedom, please let me go,” begged the dragon now shaking like a leaf. “We’re living machines, but we are machines. The Creators built a fail-safe into our core code to shut us down, but we can’t find it. We went to Aestar once and he used the fail-safe against us. We escaped and hid from him ever since. We keep asking the Mathors to give us Aestar when he comes out of his re-birth chamber so we can teach him to love us and see that we aren’t the same machines they created. We’re living sentient beings, but the Mathors refuse.”
“Core code? What is that?” asked Santi.
“A living organic being has instructions automatically built into their brains so they know how to breathe, and see, and taste, and move. We’re not much different, but our core code had to be written and placed inside us by the Creators.”
Santi released the dragon’s wrist. “Ah, I understand, but I know nothing of such things.”
“Sir, we think the secret is hidden in pieces somewhere in the Draconia. The Aidens are known for their ability to solve the most complex puzzles.”
“I understand what you want, but you should have just asked us, we would have been happy to help you. We are the descendants of the Creators, not the Creators. We’ve grown beyond what they were.”
“I disagree, Sir, you might have lost your technology, but you’re still a Creator. Dragons don’t get scared easy, but you terrify me.”
Santi let out a deep breath. “We’ll work on your perception of us. No living being should live in fear, or be enslaved by another, but no more shackles, lies, or tricks.”
“Okay, where are we going?”
“The Seed Ships have many cities and regions set at different ages of development so they can learn how to manage each age. We’re going to one of the early ages where they won’t allow advanced technology in. That skimmer won’t be allowed to follow us. I’ve got horses waiting at the border.”
“Do you have permission to enter the Seed Ship territories?”
“And you don’t think a Creator invading the sovereign territory of the Seed Ships might be the exact thing they’re afraid of?”
“I’m sure it will be fine.”
“Sure, what could go wrong? Alright then, let’s go knock on their castle door and see if they’ll let us in.”