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THE DRAGONS

When standing on all fours, a typical full-grown dragon is about 3 times as tall as a human. They are quadrupedal with opposable thumbs, with four legs and two or four wings, and can reasonably be expected to remain in the air for at least several hours at a time (and that's the low limit for sick or malnourished dragons).

Some dragon species can breathe fire, but no dragon species has inherent fire resistance. There are a few other 'inherent' abilities like ice breath, a venomous tail stinger, breathing underwater, and silk-weaving. Also, some of them have 'superpowers' of sorts that are not normal for their sub-species, such as super-hot scales, mind-reading, future sight, or the ability to communicate with plants and accelerate their growth due to circumstances of birth or genetics.

They are social creatures, and their societal structures at the moment are largely made up of Medieval Monarchy-dominated kingdoms. By some fluke of convergent evolution, they ended up with emotions, thought patterns, and psychologies nearly identical to humans despite having started at the top of the food chain rather than the middle.

They do know that some humans exist on the planet with them, but in their minds, humans are prey creatures noteworthy for making little metal daggers and wood/stone dens for themselves. They are technologically and socially behind the dragons, and the dragons have absolutely no clue that other, crazy-advanced humans are hanging around up in orbit. The realization that there are humans up on a metal palace in the heavens who have unlocked the esoteric secrets of trapping and harnessing lightning, traversing sections of the sky where the air is thin enough to cause a dragon to suffocate, and giving traits from one creature to another is going to come as a big shock to the dragons.

THE HUMANS

The humans abandoned earth in favor of a space station in earth orbit for a time due to an incoming extinction event, and the dragons evolved and took the humans' place in the grand scheme of things while they were gone. There are still humans on the surface that didn't retreat to space, but they are at a medieval tech level, slightly behind the dragons.

Human technology stagnated during their time in space due to resource-conservation measures, but still managed to reach near-futuristic levels. For example, they have reliable spacecraft (that are sadly not capable of FTL travel), holographic projectors that can be paired with motion sensors for a 3D interface or used to cloak a ship from view, tiny chip-like implants that can monitor vitals and brain activity, and experimental Directed Energy Weapons that are actually fairly practical, if a tad unreliable. They haven't changed much, aside from limited forays into genetic engineering; they have yet to figure out how to make entirely new DNA, but they can 'map' known DNA patterns onto a living person's genome, curing genetic disorders.

Note that the humans are capable of communicating with the dragons through a 'translation device', despite the fact that neither of them is capable of speaking the other's language, but as a general rule they don't bother communicating.

The humans have a pretty distinct technological advantage over the dragons, but the dragon's abilities might tip the power balance back in the dragon's favor, and the humans are aware of this.

THE SITUATION

When the humans first sent down their scouts to assess Earth's status, they were pleasantly surprised to learn that their homeworld was habitable and some of their kind had survived, albeit in a primitive state. Unfortunately, the humans had been ousted from their top position in the game of life in favor of dragons, who have all the advantages of sentience and opposable thumbs paired with the fact that they are 20-foot tall apex predators. In fact, the Dragons even hunted the humans who remained on earth for food or kept them as pets! So the humans decided not to descend back to earth en mass, thinking that a cautious approach was best.

The dragons quickly perked the human's interest. For one, they are, much like bees, able to fly despite the fact that conventional physics tells them that their wings wouldn't allow them too. Plus, they'd really like to figure out how to get some of the dragon's abilities (anyone in favor of getting Telepathy?).

Now, to get these abilities, they need to map dragon genes onto their own genome, and to do that, they need dragon genetic material. And they concluded that the best way to get this genetic material was to abduct live dragons seemingly at random from the planet and subject them to horrifically inhumane medical experiments that often leave the dragons dismembered, traumatized, and/or dead. And at absolutely no point will they reveal themselves to any dragons aside from the ones they kidnap, ruling out all possibility of negotiating with a particularly amoral dragon monarch who's willing to trade her own subjects for advanced technology.

And that leaves my main question: Why would they pick this horrifically amoral and seemingly impractical method of acquiring dragon genetic material? Note that their reasons don't have to be legitimate ones. They just have to seem legitimate to them, such as religious doctrines or ****ed up economics.

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  • $\begingroup$ Related: UFOs that allegedly abduct and thoroughly probe humans. $\endgroup$ Apr 4 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ @EmilioMBumachar The relation is intentional. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 4 at 19:52

5 Answers 5

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  • Revenge. They are angry at the dragons for some past event, and feel like they're "getting even" in some sick way.
  • The dragons try to suppress their powers, so the humans force them to manifest
  • Safety. The humans are terrified of the dragons and aren't sure what additional capabilities they might possess, so they brutally ensure that even if they can escape bondage they won't be able to do much harm
  • The resources required to capture, contain, feed, and study the dragons are precious and are greatly needed by some subset of the human population. The dragon study project is unpopular as a result, and the only way to make it politically acceptable is to demonize the dragons and make sure the general populace sees them being mistreated as much as possible. (cf today's prisons)
  • Religious purification. The dragons are the spawn of the Devil, and must be purified with torture to give them any chance at salvation. Revealing their secrets and thereby benefitting humanity gives some small value in the eyes of God, but so little that as much of their innate evil must be expunged as possible. (cf self-flagellation, mortification of the flesh)

I rather like @daron's answer, though -- chop away bits to figure out what parts of the body are required.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting idea for the first one, that could be easily tweaked a bit to reflect a human attitude of "Hey, we humans were meant to be on top, not you. Get off of our old spot in the hierarchy". It would also dovetail nicely with the third, where humans feel threatened by another sentient species that is more physically powerful than them and seek to take some of that power for themselves. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 5 at 13:02
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They don't see the dragons as sapient, and don't have any animal cruelty laws.

Their long cultural superiority has made them see themselves as superior beings. The conventional belief in their society is that the beings are about as smart as dogs, and that while using telepathy they can mimic some sort of intelligence by stealing the intelligence of humans, they are individually pretty stupid.

They also haven't actually learned the dragon language for the most part, so their noises just sound like babbling.

As such, much like humans would, they have no real brake on their cruelty and do cruel medical experiments on them just as humans do to animals. Their telepathy only works when alive, so obviously any experiments will be when they're alive.

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  • $\begingroup$ A good explanation, but one that doesn't rule out why they simply don't get genetic material from the corpses of dragons, which is much safer than actually kidnapping an angry, fire-breathing dragon. The humans can actually understand what the dragons say thanks to translators, but then again, the Africans being able to understand and speak English didn't stop the Europeans from labeling them as unintelligent sub-humans, and they had the advantage of actually being humanoid. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 4 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ We don't just get genetic material from animals, we torture them in lots of horrible ways. Live experiments also give more information than dead ones. As I said, they haven't learned the language for the most part. While they have translators in theory, most may not be aware that's an option, or believe that dragons can speak. It's like, maybe someone has invented a dog to human translator, but most people don't care or want to use it. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Apr 4 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ True, but then again, the Africans being able to learn and speak English didn't save the Europeans from labeling them as "apes" and enslaving them. They can have translators both in theory AND in practice, and still end up treating them as non-sentient. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 4 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ The popular position on slaves was that they were primitive people who were better served being slaves. While slave owners were shitty people and did shitty things, they in theory were not supposed to torture them for lols, and there were some convictions of people who tortured clearly submissive slaves for pleasure. As such, I was suggesting a stronger disbelief in their intelligence, which would allow greater cruelties in popular society. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Apr 4 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ Firstly, we aren't dealing with popular society. We're dealing with humans who've been up on a space station for centuries and whose society and opinions may have wildly diverged from our own. Secondly, these humans aren't torturing dragons for lols, they are torturing them to "further our understanding of science and nature", which, in our world, has been enough of an excuse for Southern doctors to perform all sorts of f*cked up medical experiments on black slaves during the Antebellum period, some of which had a whopping 100% fatality rate for those experimented on. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 5 at 11:35
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They figured it enhances the traits they want.

Things like telepathy are obviously out of their knowledge of physics, so the dragon's genes must have tapped into it somehow (as evidenced by letting them pass it on to their children).

The torture makes the dragon go into fight mode, trying everything in its power to escape. Using DNA from a dragon that was using its power beforehand seems to increase the potential of the powers (assuming it actually transfers). Dismembering does something similar, as the remaining powers become more concentrated in the remainder of the body as you chip stuff off.

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  • $\begingroup$ The abilities they want aren't enhanced by trauma or dismemberment (quite the opposite, in fact) but the humans might not know that. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 4 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Brinstar77 How do you test does the dragon you just captured have the Psychic Screech ability. Just strap it to the floor and torment it enough until it tries to Screech at you (or not). $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 4 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Daron Dragon telepaths have parts of their brain that react to stimuli (such as say, a suffering dragon in the room to the left) that non-telepaths do not. And this reaction is detectable on an MRI machine. Therefore, it's easy to test for telepathy. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 4 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Brinstar77 Perhaps it's easy once you know what to look for. But I wonder how many dragons they had to go through before finding the correct part of the brain hmmm. . . ? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 4 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Daron The answer; none. They just need to scan a telepath's brain activity, compare it to a non-telepath, and just like that, they've figured out which part of the brain is associated with telepathy. But figuring out how damage to the brain affects telepathy, or what happens when you remove it... well, that's a whole other matter. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 4 at 14:12
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The Brain is Poorly Understood

It started with telepathy. The spacemen didn't know how to study the telepathy from a physical point of view. So they revert to more barbaric methods. Capture a dragon. Torment it and until it reveals its telepathic powers or not. Maybe use tazers and acid and loud noises. Maybe strap it to the floor and leave it in a dark room for three days. Depending on the results either keep the dragon or eat the dragon.

Next you start chopping off body parts. Is the telepathic centre in the left leg? I dunno, chop off the leg and see if it makes a difference. Then chop off the right leg. Then remove some organs. Keep going until the powers disappear.

Eventually they realize telepathy comes from the brain. They have gone through several dozen dragons at this stage.

Next they open up the skull and start poking about. The dragon is still alive at this point. Otherwise how do we test if it loses its powers? Continue like before, only now remove sections of brain instead of organs.

This has to be done before there is any hope of finding which part of the genetic code controls telepathy. How can we find the code if we don't even know which organ it contributes to?

This barbarism is not so important for studying the other superpowers. But by the time they had cracked telepathy, the spacemen already had the facilities and were in the habit of torturing. So they stuck with it.

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Other methods of acquiring dragon genetic material were tried and failed.

  1. Ask dragon nicely. Result: human eaten.

  2. Attempt to retrieve genetic material from dragon feces. Result: much genetic material from prey species, minimal from dragon and no way to distinguish the two.

  3. Attempt to mate with dragon and collect genetic material in the process. Result: human runs away with sexy dragon lover.

  4. Attempt to draw blood from sleeping dragon. Result: part of human eaten.

  5. Capture dragon and forcibly remove pieces with DNA: Success!

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  • $\begingroup$ Good point, though I think 3 would go a bit differently. The result I'm imagining: Mating failed completely due to differences in sexual organs, failure to acquire the dragon's consent resulted in the dragon torching the would-be sexual partner. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 5 at 13:06

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