Valin hunkered down in the cave corridor, waiting for the Inventrix to leave her latest and most powerful creation. With her familiar granite features set in a frown, the Inventrix moved like time nipped at her heels. Because it did. For all of them. Especially if there was another enemy attack on the way. But the head of the Cog Clan strode away, wearing her flying leathers snug against her lithe body, her farviewing goggles perched atop her graying head.
The clockwork of the security door was more intricate than he thought, especially for a second level techwork like himself. But he broke the pattern. The cogs clicked in their eerily silent housings when the massive door swung open on smooth hinges, folding back on themselves like a parchment letter creased four times.
If Valin would never become a Navigator, he still yearned to touch one of the bomber-dragons.
He moved into the vast vault of his leader's genius and saw spying microfyers, intricate farviewers, and separatory funnels filled with the acrid stench of one ingredient created for pseudo-metal. But he saw two glowing lights rising above his head by the height of four men--no, by several meters.
And a cheery baritone voice intruded on his study, "Hello!"
Surprised, Valin jumped to the nearest wall sconce to increase the gaslight.
The light increased...and the luminescence glinted off of a massive creature of brass pseudo-metal.
While other flying bomber-dragons were about the size of three full grown men, this one was--so much more. Not only massive in scale, but remarkable in make. Its eyelids blinked with a faint sigh, its pseudo-metallic skin crinkling as its great quicksilver eyes narrowed on him in curious speculation. Its great feet weren't mere holding clamps for chemical pot-bombs filled with acid, but rather were long and lithe as a man's hands, though possessed of sabre-like claws. And its wings twitched upon its back, not like the ornithopter dragons--the ones Valin so desperately wished to pilot--but like a true winged animal.
The dragon blinked and hunched its serpentine neck down to his level, its skin possessing neither greaves nor grooves, only smooth metal-flesh as elastic as a man's.
"Hello," came the voice again from within its muscular seeming chest.
Valin was so fascinated he forgot the gnawing fear eating at his insides. The muzzle was precariously close, and warm air vented from its nostrils nearly the size of his own head. The chest moved in and out--another breath. A cooling system!
"Are you to be my Navigator? Mother says I need one, but that I'm not ready to fly just yet." The dragon's nose vented more breath upon him. "She says I'm not ready for many things."
The creature sounded petulant as a child. Never mind that this machine was speaking. None of the Inventrix's other creations could do more than spit out tiny preset parchment messages. And the sound of the voice, it couldn't be recorded on wax cylinders for the movement and heat of the beast would disrupt--
"Perhaps you are young like me," the dragon chirruped pleasantly. "I didn't know how to speak at first either. But I can teach you. Mother taught me."
"Mother?" Could it mean the Inventrix?
The creature seemed almost to smile, its mouth stretching back in a manner unnatural for any real animal. The teeth within the maw was a land of pointed daggers...
"You do speak! Come, I've found you, and you must be my Navigator." Its wings unfurled, the metallic sinews contorting. Cooling wire veins could be seen pulsing within the membranous skin of the wings, almost opaque. "Now I can fly at last. To your position, Navigator--um, sir."
"Valin," he supplied, at a loss.
The dragon pushed its soft nose into his chest like a young wolfling pup wishing to be petted, and Valin's hand unconsciously stroked at the muzzle, soft as velvet, cool as the touch of the cave's wall.
As he stood dumbfounded, a mournful sound came from the creature. Its optics--those quicksilver eyes and the obsidian chips of its pupil--seemed to mist over. "Do you not want to be my Navigator?"
“I-I...all I've ever wanted is to be a Navigator. To fly. To soar among the clouds. But you must not need a Navigator...you're sentient."
"That's what Mother called me," beamed the creature proudly. "I was created to learn things out on my own. Adapt, like she says. She said I can choose whether or not to fight, and that if I do, I'll be fierce because I'll know what it means to love. She said my Navigator would be smart and brave enough to break in here to see me. She designed it that way. Now come fly with me, Valin! Oh, please! I've waited so long!"
As Valin touched the muzzle again, the beast nudged harder, making him stumble. When he peered around, he saw two large doors at the end of this massive vault--a doorway to topside? Feeling an elation he'd never known in the caverns of other techworkers, he found the locking mechanism and quickly discerned how to open it. The doors hinged outward and the cool breeze ruffled his hair.
The dragon pranced on his feet and its wings unfurled to their utmost length, its neck straining forward and its eyes closed to half-mast in pleasure.
In the light of the moons, he could see the dragon's fitted harness. With a firm grip he began to climb aboard the dragon's back, and settled himself into something that was different from a battle-fitted seat. There were no levers, but rather a set of buttons that seemed to imply directions in three-hundred-and-sixty--a communication device, not a controlling panel.
Up. They could rise into the clouds. When he pressed the ascension button, the dragon bugled in excitement and launched itself out into the morning air.
With a whoop, Valin and his new companion were airborne.
This story was based on an actual dream I had of a man stealing his ruling inventor's flying battle dragon. Even my subconscious lives in a sci-fi/fantasy world.