"The project started in the early years of the 21st century. It was a heady time, the human genome project had finished only a few years before, and since then there had been an explosion of advances in genetic engineering. "Designer life-forms" we called our products. We had the idea we'd be able to sculpt anything we wanted from the very building blocks of life, fulfill everyone's dreams and make the world a better place. We had gotten just a little ahead of ourselves, the technology wasn't quite there yet, and the world wasn't quite ready for us either.
But just before everything was ready to collapse in on itself, and we were going to shut everything down and close up shop for good, word came down the vine that we'd landed a defense contract, a big one, enough to keep us all employed for years. Come to think of it, I don't even know which government had hired us, none of us asked. I don't think any of us got into the business with the idea that we would make living weapons, but we didn't question it. We were just happy to keep our jobs.
Things started out well enough. We ran experiments, we isolated gene sequences, we held high concept meetings. But we didn't have to produce anything, yet. The client wanted an armored behemoth, a living, breathing weapons platform that could traverse any terrain, endure any climate, and decimate human troops. We couldn't cope with the scaling problems for arthropods, and mammals had too many vulnerabilities, so a reptilian design was chosen. Some joker nicknamed it Project Draco, and the name stuck . . . if only we had known. So we ran with it, designing a creature that wore it's own armor and made it's own weapons, a true monster of legend . . . and then we hit a brick wall.
Oh, we made something all right . . giant lizards that could barely move . . . acid spitting creatures that could explode spectacularly . . . wickedly toothed predators that couldn't be controlled. . . and countless nightmares that were too warped and deformed to even draw breath. But we couldn't combine what we needed into one creature, and we couldn't produce anything remotely useful in a military engagement. War had broken out in the world at large, and every nation was struggling to produce the next big advancement. The pressure to perform was overwhelming, and time was running short. By this point the project had been running for years, with unimaginable amounts of wealth poured into failure after failure.
Dark days were looming, and few of us had any laughter to spare when someone jokingly mailed us a vial labeled 'dragon's blood'. We just tossed it to one side and tried to get back to work and produce something, anything to show enough progress to justify our own existence. That is, until the vial got mixed in with some other samples and someone tried to sequence it along with a batch of our other experiments. It practically broke the machines. What little we could follow of the genetic code was unimaginably complex. Every terrestrial animal shares certain base DNA information, but this was something new. It barely looked like a creature of this world at all.
Those of us in the lab that day made an agreement. We needed results. We wouldn't talk about this blood, where it came from or what it meant. We extracted the DNA and implanted it into one of the blank eggs we were preparing for our own experiments. Then we went back to work, and all secretly hoped that the egg wouldn't catch and we could all laugh at the joke that had been played on us. But, of course, that isn't what happened.
From the moment the egg hatched, we could tell this was something different. It looked like almost everything we had hoped for. Scales, fangs, claws . . . and preliminary x-rays showed a complex digestive system that as far as we could tell would eventually allow the creature to breathe fire, distilling food and minerals into a flaming liquid/gas mixture. The wings were new . . . but hey, extra mobility. The biggest problem was the size, we were looking at something quite a bit smaller than target. Still, it was progress to report.
Six days later, the dragon spoke to us. And not in baby-talk. He had assimilated a full fluency in English from listening to the scientists around him for six days. That was when we really began to understand we had something different on our hands. We attempted to keep him isolated at first, but he was possessed of a voracious curiosity, and few of us could resist him as he wheedled his way into the world of the laboratory. Within two weeks he had chosen a name for himself, Jonathan. Within a month he had read every document in the building, from scientific journals to the trashy romance novels the secretary kept in her desk.
The client was coming to review our progress soon, and we weren't quite sure what to do, but we were never given a date, and eventually rumors began to circulate . . . something had gone wrong. We don't know exactly why, but the project died then, not with a bang, but with a whimper. A war ended, or a government fell . . . or perhaps they just needed the funding elsewhere. Things were quietly wrapped up, assets auctioned, utilities turned off for non-payment. Most of our failed experiments had been terminated by then, but nobody could bring themselves to treat Jonathan like another test subject. I took him home with me one night, and never returned. Nobody stopped me on the way out, and nobody ever came looking for us. The world was already a much different place than it had been a decade ago when we began the project, and it would only change more in my lifetime.
Throughout the chaos and upheaval of the remainder of the 21st century, I watched over Jonathan. It eventually became apparent to me that he wasn't small . . . just young, very young. I have watched him grow slowly, even as I have aged into obsolescence. He has never lost his hunger for knowledge, consuming everything he comes across, learning at a prodigious rate. The world is a hectic place, and I have done my best to shelter him from it, but I fear now that I have done him no favors. He will have to cope for himself soon. The doctors say that there is nothing left to be done for me. I have never told Jonathan the truth of his origins . . . but I record these words here in case . . . just in case."
Dr. Damien Tyler
December 13th, 2095