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Think of a pterosaur. Or a big—very big—bat, with lizardy scales, a long slender neck and tail and hollow, waffle-structured bones, and enormous leathery wings. The tail is thin and ropy, with long wisps of hair at the end. The chest is deep and beneath the wings are gill-like bellows which supercharge the dragon’s bloodstream with oxygen, giving them additional power for flight.
Dragons are not natural creatures. They were genetically engineered from a pterosaur-like native flyer once found on Earth, and a similar beast from the planet Oni. Modifications were made so they could become a true Helper Species for human colonists; thus, they fly well in the atmosphere of terrestrial planets, and can carry light loads, which the original species could not do well.
Average wingspan varies between seven to nine and a half meters. Average speed is about 50 kilometers per hour, and up to 65 or 70 kilometers per hour when diving or gliding under ideal atmospherics. Average flight endurance, four to five hours. With significant gliding time, or a break to rest on the ground, two to three additional hours flight time per day may be added. Thus, depending upon atmospheric conditions, a dragon may cover between 250 to 400 kilometers per day.
The head is smaller and the snout shorter than a pterosaur’s, as though a horse’s face had been elongated. Heavy brow ridges protect the eyes. Those eyes are double-lidded, with an inner protective lining, like a cat’s. Nostrils are oversized, the jaw large and powerful, eyes like those of raptors: good at long distance, not as good close up. Dragons probably have a limited ability to see colors. Small pointed ears are set at the top of the head above and behind the brow ridges. Hearing is good but not spectacular. They tend to use scent as their primary sensory input.
The body skin is pebbly and tough; imagine a rhinocerous crossed with a monitor lizard. Dragons also have flat scale-like divisions in the skin on their backs, shoulders, and upper legs, which overlap the pebbled skin. These are similar to the scales on a snake, which serve as a protective and temperature regulating system and probably make them more aerodynamic.
The skin of the wings is leathery, and tough. The wings are on a joint permitting them to be cambered (tilted, or angled) like a bat’s, so they are agile in the air. The wing camber system can also be used as drag, to assist in landing (think of the flaps on an ancient airplane, if you have ever seen one).
Long fluffy fur grows out between the scales on the dragon’s shoulders and neck. The long manelike ruff across the back of the head and neck may be a temperature-control mechanism, or a genetic engineering artifact.
Colors vary; geneticists believe their scale and fur colors will consolidate over time, but natural selection has only had about 1200 years to exert pressure, and Queen selection and mating has little to do with dragon color and much to do with size and strength.
Packdrones, which are thought to be “throwbacks” to the original species, are slower and smaller, and tend to be short-tempered; they generally cannot and will not take on a rider. They are never accepted into a dragon pack. They tend to be treated (by “real” dragons) rather like a cow that has an embarrassing tendency to look somewhat like a real dragon. Mostly packdrones are ignored by their dragon cousins.
Everything on a dragon is about flight: A cross section of dragon bone reveals the waffling that makes the wings strong but keeps the dragons light. Wing joints and leg strenth help with takeoffs and landings. The valved bellows system helps make burdened flight possible. This is a sort of super-lung, which functions like a four-stroke piston engine:
- dragon raises wing; valve opens, inhale
- dragon lowers wing, valve closes, pressurized oxygen is forced into bloodstream
- dragon raises wing, valve stays closed, lungs suck carbon dioxide from bloodstream
- dragon lowers wing, valve opens, exhale
This supercharger system gives the dragon more power for flight than most large flying creatures such as an eagle.
This Helper Species is utilized as couriers and aerial guardians on the colony worlds Bootai, Azureign, and Little Shanghai, and casakin holdings at Linlary Catap*y, where gravitic and atmospheric conditions make burdened flight possible.
(Author’s note: In the case of Azureign, additional neon in the atmosphere means thermals (currents of rising air) go up faster and higher in the atmosphere. This more energetic thermal system assists the dragons in faster flight. It also results in more aggressive weather systems on Azureign, including extraordinarily strong tornados, waterspouts and dust storms, and extensive and frequent forest and grassland fires.)
The Oracle’s Encyclopedia for Young People
Terra, 1875 Galactic Era
Legends of AZUREIGN: https://amzn.to/2L9Ec0H
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