Impress or die
Newborn dragonets, like newborn fire-lizards, are driven by a strong desire to survive. Retaining that birth instinct in the engineered dragons was a crucial element of Kitti Ping’s work. But Kitti put a clever twist on the fire-lizard template when she created dragons: the starving newborn dragonets would be driven to seek not food, but one to provide food. Impression, not consumption, was made the dominant instinct of the hatchling dragon.
This apparently simple reversal of the fire-lizards’ priorities was a masterstroke of Kitti’s design. Changing the focus of the fire-lizards’ strong birth instinct for survival into the dragons’ need for Impression resulted in hatchling dragonets totally fixated on Impressing to a human partner – a critical failsafe. A dragonet with the same birth priorities as a fire-lizard could easily turn on both clutchmates and candidates in the search for food. Worse, a dragon growing to adulthood without the controlling influence of Impression would present an unacceptable risk to the already beleaguered colonists.
Impression, then, was turned into the fundamental necessity for a dragon to survive the first few minutes of its life. Without Impressing, a dragonet cannot eat; without eating it will quickly succumb to starvation. Dragonets who fail to Impress die: a harsh but necessary solution to the potentially disastrous scenario of rogue dragons.
In creating dragons reliant on Impression, the onus was on Kitti to engineer the dragons to be as Impressionable as possible. The dragons were intended to be Pern’s frontline defence against Thread – losing them through failure to Impress was not an option. To ensure the success of the dragon project, and Pern’s future, the dragons’ requirements for Impression could not be too rigid. Here, Kitti made what could have turned out to be her greatest mistake: she started getting too clever.
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