flashfic

The Dragon Festival

Once, on a tidy planet whose clouds wrote combinatorial equations across the sky in the morning and sieved the light into rich colors in the evening, there was a city of robots.  The robots had governed themselves for almost 496 of their years, and since they had a fondness for number theory, they planned a festival to celebrate.

The robots gathered in a gloriously orderly convocation, with representatives from every segment of their society.  There were robots who recorded the thrumming of the city’s shimmering bridges and the tread of robot or alien pedestrians or the murmuring of the wind, and arranged these sounds into clattering symphonies.  There were robots who repaired other robots and painted them with the finest fractal designs.  There were robots who sculpted careful habitats for the birds who lived among them, and robots who delved the planet’s shadowed depths for rare minerals and robust metals.

Robots do not sleep the way we sleep, and for twenty-eight nights and days they deliberated.  As marvelous as their city was, they felt something was missing.  On the twenty-eighth day, they agreed that their world lacked one special thing: a dragon.

Since dragons did not exist in their part of the galaxy, the robots decided to build one.  They spent the better part of the year in research and design.  They consulted symbologies burned pixel by pixel into old starships and oral histories collected from deep-dreaming visitors in ages past.  They tested exoskeletons based on various luminous alloys, for robots are nothing if not empirically minded.  And when they had any doubts, they erred in the direction of beauty.

At last came the day of completion, when the dragon was released from its protective shell and powered on.  It was silver-bright and keen of visage and sleek, and its wings hummed with the stardrive that the robots had given it in case it wished to travel.

The robot dragon was pleased to make their acquaintance.  To the robots’ surprise, a second dragon soared down from the sky to join it.  This second dragon flew on wings of storm, although it limited its electric discharges out of consideration for its hosts.

The robots politely inquired as to how the storm dragon had become aware of the city’s endeavor.  The storm dragon replied that, above all things, a dragon is a state of mind, and it, like the storm dragon, had been born of their welcome.  It was particularly pleased that another of its kind was to be found here.

The two dragons were eager to travel.  But they promised to visit once a year, and the annual dragon festival became one of the robots’ favorite holidays.

for an Anonymous Benefactor