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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). They are broken up into a slew of sub-species, all of which share the above traits.

Some dragon species can breathe fire, but no dragon sub-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's 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. During this time, the general difficulties of space forced them to revert to an authoritarian government. They've begun to scout out the earth to see if it's habitable or not, and haven't revealed themselves to any dragons or humans on earth yet.

Human technology stagnated during their time in space due to resource-conservation measures, but still managed to reach near-futuristic levels. 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, several dozen 30-foot tall mecha similar in appearance to Fortnite's B.R.U.T.E.s that can outclass a typical dragon in raw strength, and experimental Directed Energy Weapons that are actually fairly practical as weapons if a tad unreliable. However, they still walk around, mainly use weapons that utilize bullets as ammo, and are reliant on hydroponic gardens for food and mining ice off the moon for water. 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 from one organism onto another organism OF THE SAME SPECIES, which allows them to cure 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. And this is added to by the fact that there is only a quarter as many humans up on the station as there are dragons down on the surface.

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 to. 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 figure out how to do that do that, they need to do some experimentation. And the human in charge concluded that the most efficient way of going about that is 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. Some humans objected, but those who did were quickly and violently silenced.

But, naturally, the humans who objected weren't the only ones who didn't approve of this. The dragons, much to the shock of NO ONE EVER, wouldn't go quietly to this grisly fate. And that leaves my main question: What physical restraints would these near-futuristic humans use to keep their dragon test subjects under control? I'm asking for what materials they'd use, but also what shape they'd be and what features they might include in the restraints.

CONSIDERATIONS

The physical restraints in question need to fit a few criteria; please take these criteria into account in your answers.

  1. The restraints can't be slipped out of easily. If there is a way to slip out of or break the restraints that doesn't entail significant self-harm, the dragons are going to try it, and some of them are going to be successful. And that means a scared, stressed-out dragon running amok in their labs, breaking all sorts of expensive equipment and causing harm to others and possibly itself in its frantic search for a way out.
  2. The restraints aren't prohibitively resource-intensive. These humans aren't suffering from any completely crippling resource shortages, but they do not have infinite reserves of resources and are VERY aware of this. The restraints need to be able to do their job, but they also need to do so without requiring a ton of resources to produce and implement.
  3. The restraints need to not interfere too much with experimentation. The humans want to be able to run experiments on the dragons, and that means that the humans must be able to preform surgical procedures/injections on them and transport them to different rooms for testing purposes without undoing the restraints too much. Metal cages and crates simply won't work for this.
  4. The restraints shouldn't cause harm to the dragons. This is because they want to keep some degree of restraints on the dragons at all times, for identification/tracking purposes. The reasons stem more from practicality than from any concern for the dragon's safety; kind of hard to figure out how much of an effect a given drug is having on a dragon when it's bindings are tight enough to restrict blood flow, and you don't want your dragon test subjects choking to death because the collar is too tight. This does not mean the restraints have to be comfortable.

EDITS:

It's important to note that while humans have absolutely no compunctions about killing dragons during experimental procedures, they are a little bit more hesitant about killing them OUTSIDE of experimental procedures. Each dragon they abduct represents a risk of exposure, and they're not going to kill a dragon if they don't think they'll get some interesting info out of it beyond the autopsy.

By near-futuristic technology, I mean any technology that we could conceivably develop given 100 more years or so of technological progress.

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    $\begingroup$ What's the problem with just generic metal restraints? It seems to meet all of your criteria to me. Just restrain their limbs (including wings and tail) and mouth. $\endgroup$ Apr 6 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ @KlausHaukenstein The problem is that generic metal restraints may cause permanent harm when worn long term. Sure, they may use generic metal restraints anyway, but I'm wondering if they may have come up with other ways to restrain a dragon. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 6 at 20:35
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    $\begingroup$ generic metal restraints with cloth padding? $\endgroup$ Apr 6 at 21:02
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    $\begingroup$ Why do they need to keep the restraints on 100% of the time? Couldn't they only put them on for experiments then throw the dragon into a cell and take them off? $\endgroup$
    – 10dude
    Apr 9 at 2:18
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    $\begingroup$ Cloth padding would let the restraints slip off? Are these dragons cone shaped? Wings are always bigger than shoulders. Heads are always bigger than necks. Make their ankles conveniently wide to solve the legs, and voila. You can't slip off a manacle that is smaller than some vital organ further down a limb. Use leather or plastic zip ties if steel really bothers you. People lived in prisons with manacles on for years. $\endgroup$ Apr 9 at 12:05

8 Answers 8

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Type of restraints is dictated by what experiments you want to do

You want cost-effective, dependable and harmless restraints, but they aren't really necessary from the beginning, you don't need state of the art technology for basic experimentation, so i will disregard a "harmless" part in a few places. But, i will also provide a pretty advanced set of restraints, meeting the requirements, later in this answer. But if you want to be cost-effective don't develop new technology if you don't need it at the moment, use what you have, if this doesn't bring results, think of something new. (Also, when i use words cost-effective, cheap, expensive, i refer to the 2nd consideration of "resouce-intensive")

Start with severing the spinal cord

It's easy and reliable, paralyze dragon from the neck down and use machines to keep it alive. You'll probably need a few tries to be able consistently do that, but there are more than enough dragons. Sure, they won't be able to control their urination and defecation, also body will eventually start to break down, but this method is meant for short-term experimentation aimed to develop general theories about dragons' biology, let's say it's a step-up from autopsy. It's also the safest one, dragon can't really pose a big threat in this situation.

Screw with their bones

Literally, use metal (or whatever sci-fi material is best for this use) to lock dragon's joints by screwing together neighbouring bones in wings, legs, tail, skull, etc. If done right it will immensely restrict dragon's mobility, preferably not 100% to allow dragon some movement for "health benefit" but you can also just immobilize them. It doesn't harm body in a short-term, eliminates need for machines to keep subject alive and allows you to experiment on basically unchanged body, assuming human surgeons are able to do that without causing infection. It is not perfect for long term experimentation, but better than severing spinal cord. Also makes it hard to escape, even if dragon would break free it would shatter it's bones. enter image description here

something like that, but im not a specialist in implants

State of the art restraints

In this one im adhering to all your instructions and making full use of sci-fi setting. I came up with modular restraints created of metal and nanomaterials, using pressurized liquid or gas to conform to dragon's anatomy and using friction to make them unescapable. Nanomaterials, because this way you can stretch your resources, you can use cheaper base components, molecularly engineered to be much stronger. enter image description here

  1. Limb
  2. Metal rings - Attached to the frame, their main role is not to restrict movement but to provide support to inflatable sleeve
  3. Inflatable sleeve - Made of flexible and durable nanomaterial, pumped full of liquid when used, might possibly contain life function sensors inside.
  4. Valve - Used to pump liquid/gas into a sleeve, could also serve as an access port to sensors inside sleeve
  5. Metal frame - Providing stability and possibly allowing moving dragon's limbs into different positions by researchers.
  6. Possible structure of inflatable sleeve's surface for maximizing contact with dragon's scales, sleeve's interior surface is similar to gecko's foot, it's role is to maximize friction to disallow any movement inside.
  7. Hydraulically operated limb access port - most probably sleeve's interior would be divided in many sections, it could be used to create access ports operating similar to leaf's stoma.

There are many sizes and shapes of sleeves, which allows to completely restrict dragon's movement, by inflating them they can conform to wide range of shapes and sizes. Assuming dragon's are cold-blooded, you could cycle cold water trough sleeves to make them drowsy and more compliant.

Extras

How to recycle your dragon ? When dragon dies and you don't need it's corpse just throw it into meat grinder and feed next dragon with it. By doing this you can also research effects of cannibalism on dragons, them having their own Kuru disease could be important

How to store your dragon ? If you need to store living dragon on the space station, i would suggest external sensory deprivation tank. Cycle cold water of the similar density as dragon's body through the tank to slow down it's metabolism and make it docile then put it outside the station (if possible) mounted on some vibration cancelling supports, thermal insulation is not really that important in space, but tanks should be shielded from radiation. Also if something fails and dragon escapes it will just die in space. You will also have opportunity to research influence of isolation and sensory deprivation on dragon's brain activity, if you need it to be more awake just warm up the water. Dragon in this state would also need relatively little nutrition.

Also, dragons have no chance against humans. At least in my opinion, humans can just throw rocks at them from orbit, destroy their kingdoms with relatively minor damage to earth, then exterminate the rest either with brute force or biological warfare (pathogen custom tailored to kill dragons). But that's just my opinion.

Hope i helped.

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    $\begingroup$ +1. What a lovely, horrifying answer. $\endgroup$ Apr 10 at 3:03
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    $\begingroup$ This guy would be welcome at any sci fi conference I ever hosted but he can stay the heck away from my pet lizard! (Kidding) $\endgroup$ Apr 10 at 4:53
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    $\begingroup$ A very good, well-thought-out answer, though I do have a slight complaint about the external sensory deprivation tank. The question explicitly states that the humans would prefer not to kill their dragon test subjects outside of an experiment. As a result, they'd rather not let a dragon commit unintended suicide via vacuum exposure. As a result of this, they'd probably just put the tanks inside the station, ditching radiation shielding (the station already has that) in favor of insulation $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 10 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ Fair enough, this design is prioritizing crew safety at the expense of dragons, but they theoretically shouldn't be able to escape due to low temperature environment inside tanks. $\endgroup$
    – 4dam
    Apr 10 at 17:45
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Twitch

twitch http://www.tackntails.com/2013/11/twitching-more-than-just-rope-on-stick.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitch_(device)

The twitch is popularly believed to work by distracting the horse, but may act instead by triggering the release of endorphins from the horse's brain, producing a calming effect.[3] It is hypothesized that its effects are similar to acupuncture.1 The twitch is considered a humane method of restraint and is commonly used by horsemen and veterinarians to keep an animal still and quiet..

Your dragons would be fitted with a twitch, which works on them like Larry Niven's tasp. They become mellow. They look silly and the humans giggle. The dragons don't care. They are humanely restrained and can receive veterinary care.

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    $\begingroup$ Ok. You need extra for this. Two twitches! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Apr 6 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ So three twitches is right out, then. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Apr 6 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ Here is the good thing about the twitches: the endorphins. Those endorphins put the horses and the dragons in their happy place which is where they need to be for what these folks have planned. Happy, placid dragons a million miles away from the pain. Just like that. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Apr 8 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe if the twitches were increased from horse size to dragon sized? $\endgroup$ Apr 9 at 11:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Daron “That is why you fail”. -Yoda $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Apr 10 at 0:34
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Lovely Sedatives

enter image description here

Your spacemen have advanced biological engineering. They can map one animal's genome onto another, to give the new animal different legs and arms and wings and superpowers.

The spacemen are better at other biological things too. Like making futuristic sedatives.

The stuff in the blue syringe will put a dragon into hard suspension (a) without stopping its heart permanently; (b) so it can be woken up at a moment using the red syringe; and (c) so the stress of being repeatedly sedated and woken does not destroy the animal's brain.

When we need the dragon awake for experiments, we put on conventional physical restraints. Sometimes that means manacles and chains. Maybe a muzzle. Sometimes it means a dragon sized straitjacket. Sometimes it means a cloud of iron nails in the creature's hide and a big electromagnet.

Once the restraints are on, we use the red syringe to wake the dragon. When we're done we jab the dragon with the blue syringe, fold him up, and put him back in his storage drawer.

At least we USED to use the restraints. It turns out they are unnecessary. Blue induces euphoria in the dragon and is addictive enough that after a few jabs the dragon becomes compliant. He obeys all instructions. He wants to go back in the drawer you see. The faster the experiment is over the faster that happens.

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  • $\begingroup$ 1: A chemical that can render a dragon unconscious without the stress of being repeatedly sedated is definitely within the human's wheelhouse, but one that puts a dragon into hard suspension is beyond them. And an addictive chemical is going to have psychological effects that may skew the results of certain tests. They might employ a drawer-like system where they keep dragons hooked up to an IV drip that simultaneously provides all the nutrients the dragon needs and keeps the sedative flowing, but there's always the risk of the dragon shrugging off the effects of it and breaking out. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 8 at 11:43
  • $\begingroup$ 2: It's important to note that while their biological engineering capabilities may be considered advanced, they're also very new. They are currently limited to mapping one HUMAN's genome onto another; they're still figuring out how to map the genome of one species onto an entirely different species, which is why they need dragon test subjects. In short, I'm saying that they have near-futuristic sedatives, not futuristic sedatives. They may be really advanced, but only to a point that we could feasibly reach, given 100 or so years of technological progress. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 8 at 11:49
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    $\begingroup$ If the dragon breaks out of its sedative and starts thrashing around just turn on the spinning blades at the bottom of the drawer and grind up that dragon easy peasy. Then do an autopsy and update the sedative recipe accordingly. You will be fine provided this is a rare occurence. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 8 at 12:55
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    $\begingroup$ I suggest you change the world so the sedatives are, as you say, futuristic instead of merely near-futuristic. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 8 at 13:15
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    $\begingroup$ This is entirely believable since sedating an animal is much simpler than copying traits from one subject to the other in a way that doesn't Kronenberg the test subject. That's not something we will have in the next hundred years. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 8 at 13:23
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A Judas Dragon

One dragon with the ability to mind control / induce sleep / incapacitate other dragons has been bribed or otherwise induced to work with the advanced humans.

Combine with other powers like future sight and/or his own personal motivations (Greed? Factional rivalry? Hostage hatchlings? Researching the humans? Addiction? An unbreakable vow? A failed dragon romance? A romance with a human woman? Unbridled lust for silk weaving supremacy? A strategy to save the other dragons?) to generate plot arcs as needed.

The degree to which the Judas dragon's powers work on humans can also be customised.

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  • $\begingroup$ One slight problem; the humans are PARANOID with a capital P, A, R, A, N, O, I, and D. They are NOT going to tolerate having to rely on another dragon to subdue their dragon test subjects. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 9 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ If all they are all-8-letters-capitalised paranoid, maybe you should have mentioned this while framing the question. FWIW, Stalin was clinically paranoid but managed to use double agents, etc. (And, bizarrely, trusted, of all people, Hitler, to stick to the non aggression pact). They could use a cell or manacles as an insurance policy; if Judas double crosses the humans, all that happens is one experimental team goes wrong. Until then, it saves an absolute fortune in time and hassle and materials. $\endgroup$ Apr 10 at 2:30
  • $\begingroup$ "Oh, sure, we'll allow this one dragon to know EXACTLY where we're keeping his brethren, EXACTLY what we're capable of, and have him help subdue his brethren. What could go wrong?" I'll tell you what could go wrong: the Judas dragon could spring a carefully thought out double-cross that results in every dragon escaping and the humans exposed before they can say "eu tu, brute?" Also, their paranoia is heavily implied; people who aren't scared of something generally don't tolerate a fascist regime for long. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 11 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ Look, if you don't want to use the answer, don't use it. But don't make it out to be implausible. You had to make the humans 8th level paranoid to justify it not being a good answer. Yes, the potential for a double cross would always exist, and would have to be managed. As for the paranoia/fascism thing, that's your personally created nonsense. Look at WW2; loads of non paranoid French tolerated a fascist regime for very mundane reasons. Mussolini's selling point was that 'he made the trains run on time'. $\endgroup$ Apr 12 at 10:16
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Low Temperatures

Maybe dragons go incredibly sluggish when cold? After all, why else was their ice breath such a useful weapon? A variant on this has them extremely resistant to cold but only until a certain threshold temperature (maybe an enzyme malfunctions), or resistant to low temperatures but not to sudden changes in temperature. Dragon flies into a box full of dragon lollies and is snap frozen / thermally shocked with liquid nitrogen. Liquid N2 is not hard to make.

Electricity could be an alternative or complement.

A sensitive organ

Lifting this one from the Tripods / White Mountains trilogy I read as a child. There was a species of alien that was generally superior to humans but that could easily be killed or knocked out by a bit of pressure on the right spot on their lower back. They foolishly hired humans as masseuses and one of them found the spot.

The humans just have a strong servant grip the dragons protruding nerve sac.

Plain old steel manacles

Dragons are still ultimately made of meat. They aren't breaking 20mm steel manacles any time soon. Plain old mild steel. 1 on each foot, 1 on each wing, 1 on the neck, probe away. Handy when they thaw out from initial capture. You could be extra inventive and have someone with a sedative dart gun or dragon taser on standby.

Note that it is utterly impossible to slip out of neck manacles. Wing manacles and leg manacles ought to be no different. It worked on people for centuries.

Straightjackets are another option.

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  • $\begingroup$ 1: Forgot to mention this in the question, sorry. Dragons do become more sluggish in low temperatures, but not incredibly so. They can still operate in low temperatures, they just have to expend more effort to do so. The humans may keep the cells cold because of this, but other methods will have to be used in addition to reduced temperatures. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 11 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ 2: The dragons don't really have a sensitive organ. The only real exception to this rule are organs that are already sensitive in other creatures, such as eyes and such. Plus, the dragons are a lot more likely to eat the humans than to hire them as massagers; if it existed, they likely would have found it during their initial forays into studying dragon biology. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 11 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ Do you actually have a real dragon? All of these are suggestions that you, as an author, could choose to write in. By all means don't adopt them, but why argue with them? I'm not talking about human masseuses btw, I'm talking about a few guys holding chains and one gripping his Sensitive Bits. $\endgroup$ Apr 12 at 10:21
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Brain stimulation reward

In Larry Niven's Known Space universe, there is a simple electrical device called a droud that directly stimulates the pleasure center of the human brain. There's a pretty good short story where the bad guys basically do a "French Connection" on someone, who then willingly sits still and starves to death under the influence of the droud they forcibly placed on him.

Very importantly, this is not science fiction. In the real world, it's called "brain stimulation reward" (or "BSR"):

Scientists have successfully performed brain stimulation reward on rats (1950s) and humans (1960s). -- Wikipedia

The absolute best thing you could use to pacify a creature while you vivisect it would be a whole-perception replacement, something like the brain-jack used in The Matrix. But that is a really high technical hurdle. (It might not even be possible.)

By contrast, if your humans have spacecraft, they almost certainly have the tech they'd need to discover the location of the pleasure center in a dragon brain. (As noted above, real-world humans accomplished this in the 1960s.) Then they'd need to build an implantable device that applies an electric current to that location. And then they'd turn the device up to 11:

This stimulation does not appear to lead to tolerance or satiation in the way that sex1 or drugs2 do. -- Wikipedia


1 & 2: Speak for yourself, bub!

How would this be accomplished as a practical matter?

Phase 1 : Taming

You begin by taming a dragon. Lure it with foods it likes, and make no move to capture or harm it. Do this repeatedly.

Once it trusts you enough to hang out near you all the time, begin to deliberately spoil the dragon all day every day: provide it with its favorite foods and all the creature comforts you can devise. Spare no expense. Have people working in shifts to rub its tummy, scratch behind its ears, etc. Bring the dragon all its meals, more than it can possibly eat. Never let its cup sit empty.

Phase 2 : Brain study

Do this, with absolutely no dirty tricks, until you can get the dragon to sit for an MRI. It does not need to be conscious for this, it just needs to be stationary. Perhaps it's even possible to use classical conditioning to make it sit perfectly still.

While it's sitting for the MRI, give it some physical pleasure. This may be as crude as providing some kind of sexual stimulation. If it were cat, I'd just stroke its belly. Do whatever you can to cause pleasant sensations for the dragon. (BTW, identifying those things is something you have have plenty of opportunity to do during the taming phase.)

Now you know where a dragon's pleasure center is.

Phase 3 : Actual brain surgery

The droud is a pretty simple device: just an electrode that can be attached to the pleasure center, connected to a wire that runs from the electrode, out of the cranium, to a base electric device that controls the electrical current. You can build this while the other phases are underway.

The difficult part here is making the dragon sit for brain surgery. If you have any kind of drugs that work on dragons, use them. If you have poisons or chemicals that can incapacitate them, use that.

Physically restrain the dragon while it is doped-up or paralyzed. These restraints do not need to hold the dragon forever, just long enough for your surgeons to puncture the skull and insert the electrode. This may need to be done roughly, which is helped by the fact that you don't really care about the dragon's well-being.

The second you get that electrode in there, turn on the droud. If it's placed right, this will calm the dragon. If that happens, you're home.

Phase 4 : Do your evil Mengele stuff

Keep the dragon in this state for the duration of your horrible experiments. Feed it intravenously if possible; otherwise, keep it on a liquid diet that you can pour into its open, slack-jawed mouth.

The first thing I'd recommend is to locate the pain center, so you can disable that.

Every time you're going to mutilate the poor creature, turn up the droud enough to drown out any pain the dragon might experience. It may take some experimentation to figure out the right settings; until you get it right, you can always just turn the droud up to a setting just short of physically damaging the brain.

Phase 5 : Get those sigmas

At some point you'll want to repeat this with other dragons. I'd try to fashion some kind of helmet with a retractable electrified spike in it, located in just the right place to reach the pleasure center, the idea being that you can slip this helmet on a sleeping dragon without alarming it, and then immediately drive the spike into its pleasure center.

This probably requires a custom-made helmet for each dragon because of small physical differences. The necessary measurements are non-invasive, so you can take them during the tail-end of each new victim's taming phase: just have a couple of guys bring a big measuring tape along when they go to stuff more ambrosia into the unwitting dragon's mouth.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a bit slow for the human's tastes. They'd like to skip right past all the taming and brain surgery and go straight to the Evil Mengele stuff. Still, the humans could employ dragons who've been outfitted with devices tapping into their punishment/reward brain centers to serve as guards, which are preferable to normal guards in mechs because it's easy to punch something metallic and alien, but punching a fellow dragon, even one reduced to a mindless drone, is a whole other matter. $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 11 at 18:49
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Formulate a special drug with anesthetic properties. Tranquilize the dragon and then inject it with the drug. The drug should keep the dragon in a state of semi-conscious, but unable to move about. When it is about to wear off, simply inject another dose of the drug.

This would only work for experiments that do not involve cognition of pain, mobility, or other such things. However, it would be very effective for keeping the dragon quiet and still for a short-term period.

You could also store the dragon in a cage of some form when not being used for experiments. During this time, the dragon would be able to eat and drink as normal. Then, when needed, all that would have to be done is to inject it and wheel it out of the cage.

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The dragon-burrito

Many animals can be successfully restrained and soothed by wrapping them in a blanket, thus immobilising their limbs:

A kitten wrapped in a blue towel

This works well for winged animals, too:

Seven baby bats individually wrapped in yellow cloth

Of course, you can't have them look so adorable or you'll never have the heart to experiment on them. What you'll use will be something between a straitjacket and a piping bag open at the front (warning: actual experimental animal restraint devices, upsetting if you, like me, like rodents). You can make them out of high tensile strength cloth, or a net of sturdy material like metal chains, appropriately padded. You can inject directly through the cloth or into the gaps in the net, and for larger surgery sites you can cut a window and/or undo some links. You may need a muzzle for the fire-breathing thing, though.

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  • $\begingroup$ Doesn't quite fit the 'aren't prohibitively resource-intensive' requirement. A full-blown dragon-sized straightjacket requires quite a bit of material per dragon, and in their mind, the benefits of this (near-complete immobilization of the limbs, slight soothing effect) outweigh the costs (each restraint device requires quite a bit of resources, the humans don't really give a c**p about the dragon's emotional state anyway). $\endgroup$
    – Brinstar77
    Apr 20 at 11:53

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