Author's Note: Please note, although this story can be read without much knowledge of the Panzer Dragoon series, I recommend that you have completed Panzer Dragoon Saga before attempting to read it as many of the events and locations are directly related to the game. Also, doing so will remove any chance of this story giving away major plot twists, hidden details, and other events that are mentioned in this piece of fan fiction...
* * *
The vile smell of the rotting Slime Feeder filled the dome of the underground labs of Uru. Two Mutant Fliers - later and more advanced forms of the Mutant Hopper - were scrapping over the remains of another, simpler, but still deadly Mutant Hopper. Yet as they smelled the Slime Feeder's corpse, all thought of fighting over the last scrap of the Hopper was forgotten. The only thing that mattered now was to feed on the Slime Feeder, to tear apart its flesh, to become stronger and survive.
Alone, cold, and hidden in the shadows, a figure stood watching, unnoticed and unsensed by the deadly and uncivilized mutants. Grasped around the dark figure was a blanket of pitch-black, yet beautiful wings, and her hair was split into two black snakes that wound their way down to her waist.
Cautiously she looked around the sinister networks of tunnels. High above - from what was implanted in her memory - was the floating fortress, a magnificent palace built by the people, a wonder that proved of their intelligence, the foundation on the lake of Uru that could never be broken - yet it had. For why else would the laboratory be coated in darkness and smothered in monsters?
Snapping out of the trance she remembered where she was and that place was a world where the creation had turned against its creator and the creator had collapsed. It was a dangerous world for someone in a human body. Not even this armour - as tough as a monster's skin - could protect her from these freakish horrors.
She had stumbled as far as this point but could go no further. The drop from the end of the northern passage into the slimy dome was too far and too deep. Even with the powers the Ancient ones had given her it would have been impossible to land alive, so the chances of landing and continuing her journey would be next to nothing. Maybe Azel could have done it. After all, the Ancients had created a dragon to protect her.
Her thoughts strayed to Azel as she thought of her escape plan. Azel seemed to have everything, yet she had nothing. Azel had been the one chosen to save the world from extinction, yet she was just a failure, doomed to be left amongst these mutants who only seemed to want to destroy mankind.
Azel had the perfect body, created to perfection by the Ancient ones. She felt her own body, oddly shaped and lumpy in places, but her face was still smooth. Her wings were bent and mutated, and why her creators had designed her with them in the first place still remained a mystery to her... unless of course they were designed so she could fly.
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The noise of the Mutant Hoppers chomping had died down when the drone assembled enough courage to attempt the decent. Her wings felt stiff and awkward but she couldn't risk going back into the passage to practice, for fear of encountering another pack of monsters.
She fluttered her wings a fraction to get used to the feel. They hurt when moved but it was now or never... there would be more monsters arriving in the dome soon so she had to make it across the bottom of the half-sphere quickly. There might even be worse things than Mutated Hoppers and Luciches.
The drone failure jumped and forced her wings to open. They shot out behind her. She hovered there for a moment and it was like sitting on the back of one of the ancient dragons. Except when she realised that there was an empty blackness of shadow below, she panicked, her wings folded in, and her whole body dropped into the black abyss of darkness.
* * *
It was not a long drop, yet it was one of the most terrifying moments of the young drone's short and insignificant lifespan. She realized afterwards that she was gaining emotions like a human would - was this why she was considered a failure? Did the Ancients consider her dangerous because of this? But why then did they create such an artificial terror, the place and being between space/time known as Sestren?
So many questions, but never any real answers. Not in this world. The answering of a question in this world only creates a new, even deeper and more complex question.
The bitterness of the feel of ice-cold sludge brought her back to where she was. She had survived the drop as the sludgy substance she was now in had broken the fall, but she was sore all over. The artificial being wondered what it was that she was emersed in, as it was too thin to be the slime of a mutant. Maybe it was a combination of that and water pumped from the Tower, yet as she looked into the darkness she noticed the four pumps had stopped working as if the source of the water had suddenly ceased to exist.
A shiver had gone down her spine when she had realized the floating fortress of Uru was gone, but more now than ever when she became conscious of the fact that the backup supply for keeping a stable environment had died. Something - some unknown terror - had risen up against the Towers and destroyed what was the last hope for keeping the already dead planet alive. What would happen to all the monsters, would they be phased out of existence as well? What would happen to her? For the first time in her life she felt the emotion of fear - this thing, this being that was even stronger than her creators and their creations - it might be out to terminate her in addition to the Ancients and all their other creations.
She found out that her mutated wings could be used to force her body through the liquid. Gradually this slow-moving technique pushed her over to a gate on the eastern side of the central dome. It seemed that someone - not so long ago - had used this gate, as it remained unlocked. As she climbed out of the ooze, she wondered how a single human could have navigated and survived the journey through the lower floors to reach the Dome Gate Key. They couldn't have used one of the 'Floaters' that her creators had used to travel around these unilluminated passages because they no longer could get the energy they needed to run from the Towers.
Through the doorway was another passageway. The drone walked briskly to the end of it, being as quick and soundless as she could on the slab-covered surface. Where the elevator, giving a lift to the world above, should have been, was the shattered remainder of her freedom. She sighed. Would she ever escape this darkness?
* * *
Hidden in the debris of the elevator - which she gathered had been destroyed by warring monsters - the prototype of Azel slept. A new emotion - the dream - came to her. Her dreams showed herself, thousands of years ago, her artificial organs being grown and looked after by her creators. Then it showed all the time and effort put into her, discarded, forgotten by the Ancient ones and a new body being engineered... but not Azel. It was a boy. Tall, dark, his body seemed in everyway superior to her own. His form was well built and not mutated like hers, and she wondered why the Ancients hadn't chosen him instead of Azel. Could this be... her brother?
The dream flashed over to show Azel, the being she should have been made into, laying on some sort of bed. A young human, still just a teenage boy, stood across the room from her in the doorway. Azel seemed to be awkward around him and the drone prototype didn't understand why Azel was behaving like this. She later discovered that Azel had acquired the human emotion of love.
A flash of white and Azel had disappeared, but instead the illusion showed a golden monster that resembled what could only be a dragon. Yet even this magnificent creature slowly faded out of existence as the night - if there was a difference between night and day in this unlit cave system - became morning and the dream dimmed. Was this the future she had seen? Was that why her long dead creators had feared to complete her?
* * *
A dull strand of brightness beamed from the heavens far above the buried labyrinth of passageways. For many, that light would provide a shimmer of hope, but for the young female drone, it brought dread - just what would she stumble across in the totally changed outside world?
Some scraps of Mutant Flier wings lay distributed across the heatless stone floor. The artificial human ignored these, as she was not designed to digest food. Some of the monsters did not have to sleep either. She wondered why only some were created like that. Were only the ones that served Sestren like that? But then what did that make her... surely the Ancients wouldn't make something to go against their own creations?
* * *
After realizing that there was no other way to break out of the gloomy shadows, the man-made individual chose to endeavour using her canvas of darkness to take flight. She thought it would be agonizing trying to budge her wings, however this time they fluttered with fractional difficulty.
As her captivating wings beat slowly through the dull air, she saw above her the lake of Uru. Yet it was not, anymore, the attractive transparent sensation it used to be, but a barren, infertile trench filled with moistureless cracks broken open by the merciless sunlight.
The Drone F07, the failed prototype of Azel, had finally left the dungeon-like laboratory where she was brought into existence and arrived on the outside of the world. Yet, she began to wonder if it was really a good thing that she was reborn into this world, now that she had seen with her own eyes what had once been the floating brilliance of Uru, but was now an already dead planet...