Drones, called demi-humans in Japan, were humanoid yet bio-engineered entities built to serve the Ancients. Some drones were created in the shape of humans, possibly in the image of their creators who dared to play god with nature itself. The word drone itself is not a liberating term because it implies being a slave to a hive-mind. Such creatures are seen in nature where they are part of a collective (with a collective purpose), as opposed to being one unique individual among many.
Externally, drones could seem human, but their internal form was entirely different from that of a human. In Panzer Dragoon Saga, Azel told Edge that although she looked human on the outside, beneath the surface she was closer to the other monsters he had encountered. From this, players can gather that drones are highly advanced pure-type creatures hidden under the guise of a humanoid form.
Although Panzer Dragoon Orta’s encyclopaedia states that the identity of the Ancients was “lost with time”, many people among the remnants of humanity believed that the Ancients were gods because they created life itself in the form of living weapons. In the world of Panzer Dragoon, these living weapons of the past still came back to haunt the present day, making the future pay for the past’s mistakes. If drones were made in the image of the Ancients, then that would mean that the Ancients were the more or the most knowledgeable progenitors of the current human survivors. Zoah’s Book of Genesis talks about “gods” who created humans. It is possible that human-shaped drones were mistaken for actual humans.
Drones have the power to synchronize with pure-type bio-weapons such as dragons, to the point of becoming a single mind in order to literally wield them as a physical extension of their will. This was seen throughout the series. Drones had drawn the unwanted attention of the human Empire due to their unique ability to connect with and control otherwise inoperable Ancient technology. Because drones were born into servitude, servitude was apparently all they had ever known. This made them little more than a slave race that found the definition of freedom far too alien to comprehend due to never having known any different. Serving the Ancients also meant serving the will of the Ancients embodied in the form of the Towers.
In Panzer Dragoon Orta, the word “drones” is capitalized as “Drones” in the form of a proper noun. This was probably updated to emphasize the importance of these caretakers of Ancient technology, as well as further separate them from the generic term. Either way, Drones or drones seems to be more of a descriptive term than a proper designation (i.e drones are slaves to a collective will).
Drones in Panzer Dragoon
As the Dark Dragon chased the Heresy Dragon we get a brief glimpse of its rider.
The armoured Blue Dragon and its rider can barely stay ahead of their evil twins.
The Dark Dragon’s rider in Panzer Dragoon bore a striking resemblance to the Sky Rider in that his armor was, apart from its color, identical in almost every respect. It is likely that the Dark Dragon’s rider was a drone due to its allegiance with the Ancient technology, however the games never reveal his true identity. The story behind the two drones (assuming the Sky Rider was a drone too) was never revealed, although many fans believe the similarities they share were more than a coincidence. Both drones also wielded identical guns, further reinforcing the unknown link between them.
Team Andromeda never delved deeper into the background of the two riders, but they contrasted by design. The difference between the two riders is quite literally like day and night, or light and dark.
The Dark Dragon swoops down on its prey before it can react.
But before delivering the fatal blow, we catch a glimpse of the Dark Dragon's rider.
Before the Dark Dragon delivered a fatal blow to the Sky Rider, a glimpse is shown to players of its equally dark rider. The dark rider had noticeable black armor that blended with his dragon combined with two glowing eyes that betrayed his inhuman identity, separating the Dark Dragon’s rider from his more human Sky Rider counterpart (appearance-wise). The dark rider and the Dark Dragon blended like camouflage as if they belonged together, and were different parts of the same whole.
The glowing eyes alone were all the proof most fans require to confirm that he was a drone. However, some drones seemed more human than others as players later found out when comparing Azel to Abadd. According to Panzer Dragoon Orta’s encyclopaedia, drones had been masquerading as humans on the frontier for quite some time. It was reported that drones had existed in the Borderlands before the foundation of the Empire, pretending to be human.
The one other thing that separated the Sky Rider and the Dark Dragon’s rider from one another was their intentions, painting a picture of two equal and opposite drones: one endeavoring to free the world from the will of their Ancient creator race on one hand, and one helping to enslave it by serving their will unquestioningly, on the other.
After the Dark Dragon and rider killed the Sky Rider in what was a dramatic chase ending in his death, Kyle Fluge took up the Sky Rider’s role as rider of the armored Blue Dragon. The two dragons raced towards a sleeping Tower recently discovered intact by the Empire outside the Imperial capital, only now the Blue Dragon was chasing the other in a noticeable reversal of roles. The Empire begun a tentative examination of the Tower which resulted in no change to its dormant state; however, the Dark Dragon’s close proximity to the black monolith somehow brought it to life with fatal consequences for the nearby Imperial capital. The drone or the darker dragon or the combined two seemed to have activated the Tower the moment they entered communication range. Wasting no time, the Tower started securing the area; an army of pure-type biomonsters rose up from the sea without warning to do their master’s bidding. Huge flying bio-mechanical insects swarmed the Imperial anti-gravity warships guarding the Tower to remove the little threat they posed, then proceeded to engulf the defenseless capital in flames.
Based on what players find out later in Panzer Dragoon Saga about drones being able to activate Ancient technology, the Dark Dragon’s drone rider may have been the key to the Tower’s reactivation.
Drones in Panzer Dragoon Saga
Edge is stunned when he sees Azel for the first time in her hibernation chamber.
Frost blows over the drone's icey pale face in her eternal resting place.
Drones were explored more fully in Panzer Dragoon Saga, when players were first introduced to Azel, a character inseparable from the game’s storyline. Azel was a female drone who was built in the genetic engineering labs of Uru during the Ancient Age. Her name Azel meant servant, and served as a lingering reminder of why she existed.
The Uru logs recorded by the Ancients themselves, which Edge found in the underground lab beneath Uru, told the tale of Azel being stolen while still incomplete during an attack on the installation. The identity of these attackers was not revealed, but they later gave Azel a purpose that did not involve automatic slavery to her creators. Lundi’s journals verified the existence of people in the Ancient Age who did not agree with the creation of the Towers and who, as a result, were seeking to destroy them, and therefore a connection was established. These rebels, whoever they were, reprogrammed Azel to seek out the destruction of a Tower located near her birth place, the lake of Uru. Azel’s creators hoped that she would not become an instrument of destruction.
Ancient anti-gravity engines litter the site.
The Imperial flag ripples in the wind above the site.
According to Craymen, the Tower of Uru itself was indestructible from the outside, but an enemy could break into it and take control of the Tower from the inside. Azel was meant to merge her mind with the Tower, and ensure its destruction from the inside out. This was Azel’s Ancient duty because it was only something a drone could do, and was the sole reason why the Empire left no stone unturned to find her: the Empire wanted to control the Tower for its own ends. Both Craymen and the Empire searched for her when they learned her true purpose, but Craymen found her first.
The story of Panzer Dragoon Saga, began in an excavation site on the frontier of the known world where Azel had been resting in silence since the twilight years of the Ancient Age. It is possible that Azel was originally built to control the Tower of Uru, which is why the Ancient rebels targeted her specifically for capture in the first place. However, in order to control a weapon as complex as a Tower, Azel’s intelligence was enhanced, and in the process, she gained emotions that in turn gave birth to a sense of identity.
The Ancients would never grant a drone free reign over his/her emotions unless such a drone was absolutely loyal to no one but them. Based on what players learned about the Ancients, especially about the Light Wing, it seems that the Ancients wanted to keep their creations under strict control, so Azel’s kidnappers may have been responsible for enhancing her intelligence, and in doing so, freeing her from the life of an emotionless biological machine. Alternatively, it is also possible that she was already intelligent and had always had the potential for emotions, but no longer being in the presence of her creators and not having been completed by them gave her free reign over her destiny.
Azel rode a huge black dragon called Atolm. The two were linked telepathically and unified. Azel could sense when Atolm was nearby when they were separated from one another.
Craymen's flagship distorts the air as it moves into place behind them.
Craymen steals Azel from the Empire to use her as a weapon to win the war.
The Imperial traitor Craymen lifted the Ancient sleeping chamber housing Azel from the excavation site the moment the Imperial mercenaries guarding the site came under attack by a pure-type bio-monster. He left no survivors (with the exception of Edge) and grappled the device, with Azel still asleep within it, aboard his flagship. It appeared to be made out of the same boney white, timeless material that all Ancient ruins were constructed from.
Craymen freed Azel from her Ancient duty when he woke her up from an unknown period of hibernation. He named her the one word imprinted on her sleeping device, the word Azel. Azel immediately became attached to Craymen and looked up to him for guidance; she embraced his ambition to restore the world to its former self, even if that meant reactivating the very Tower she was meant to destroy. It is possible that because being a servant was all she knew, Azel could not resist the temptation to serve a new master, lest she found herself without direction and lost.
Azel’s surfacing emotions forced her to question her own innate nature, and after lengthy reflection of herself, chose to go against it in the end. However, she defended Craymen with her life, standing between Edge and his vengeance no less than three times before culminating in a final decisive showdown. Edge could not persuade her to stop, as she remained single-mindedly loyal to Craymen until seeing the consequences of realizing his goal. Linking with the Tower was permanent, and Azel could sense the Tower’s true purpose: to enslave the world.
Atolm inspires fear even in the most fearless of warriors.
When the camera zooms in we see Azel awake for the first time.
Azel deactivated when experiencing great distress (such as the death of Atolm which violently divided their unified state), and could only be reactivated with the aid of an Ancient resting device inside the Tower which Craymen somehow knew how to use once Edge brought her to him. Watching Craymen being brutally murdered caused the same type of shock reaction whereby she fell into unconsciousness again like before, at which point, only the Seekers and their understanding of Ancient technology could revive her. One sign that Azel is truly feeling actual feelings was when after Atolm died, she said she would miss him.
Azel was later able to destroy the Tower of Uru after using it to open up a gateway to Sestren that allowed the Heresy Dragon to finally return to his point of origin and finish the task of freeing humanity from the shackles of the Ancient Age that it started so long ago. It was never made clear if opening up a gateway was an ability exclusive to Azel, however. It was more than possible that the Heresy Dragon was reprogrammed or freed by the same people who stole Azel in the Ancient Age to destroy the Towers.
More detailed technical information regarding drones can be found locked away within Panzer Dragoon Saga in a report compiled by the Seekers called the Drone Record that was cut from the game for no apparent reason. The Drone Record itself is a translation of Ancient logs, which cannot be found in the game for fans to learn more, providing insights into the nature and duties of drones from the perspective of their creators who, judging from their words, took a very callous approach towards drones.
The Ancients kept the production of highly intelligent drones to a minimum because their minds were too complex to mass produce. These drones risked developing an identity of their own, thus resulting in a number of undesirable side effects such as problems synchronizing and subservience, which could only be solved by their swift termination. Azel arguably fell victim to replacing one master for another when she was woken up by Craymen; she seemed to follow him like the father she never had.
A slave gaining a sense of identity was not an ideal situation, or so it would seem. It is possible that a drone becoming self-aware would start questioning its purpose in life. There were only a few cases where drones would “self-correct” after suffering “severe psychological trauma” or in other words would overcome these problems, and then were spared from what could be described as a culling of the weak. Their production was kept to a minimum but was necessary to operate complex structures.
This artwork describes Azel's appearance visually.
Azel was particularly striking in appearance. She had pale skin and jet black hair that seemed perpetually bound by moist into a tale shape. She was very slender, and wore a thinly layered outfit split vertically down the middle by contrasting colors on either side – one side was bony white and the other was silky black. Both sleeves and gloves were black, however, meaning that the symmetry of the whole suit was not exact. One thing worth noticing is that Azel wore a brown leather coat which Craymen gave her for a large portion of Panzer Dragoon Saga. However, she does not wear the coat at any point after his death, so it could be assumed that she did not need it at all. Due to this sudden change of heart, some fans have drawn the conclusion that she wore the coat as a sign of affection, rather than to keep warm, or perhaps as a uniform. It may have simply been the first gift that Craymen gave her, a sign of servitude that Azel no longer wore after his death when she moved away from his ideals.
Azel had a face devoid of expression as if it were molded into shape to hide an inner struggle with herself. One theory is that this was a sign of a former life where she was never meant to feel anything at all. Azel’s single-mindedness and willingness to follow Craymen could be attributed to her inner struggle against her servile nature.
Azel’s black and white appearance also contrasted with the multi-colored world of many shades of grey around her. Visually, this was more than adequate for the task of making her seem very distinct among human beings. When laying eyes upon her, Azel stood out of her surroundings as unnatural and out of the ordinary unless among the Ancient ruins drones once called home.
Azel prepares to depart to search for Edge despite An'jou's warning.
With one final nod of gratitude, Azel leaves never to be seen again.
In Panzer Dragoon Saga, Azel fell in love with Edge, expressing her feelings to that effect before Edge left for Sestren. Edge never returned, but despite there being little hope of his return, Azel searched for him afterwards. It was thought that since she severed the path to Sestren through the Tower of Uru, she must have searched the world for other Towers in the hope of finding another gateway. She headed west at the end of Panzer Dragoon Saga on a coolia, the opposite direction of the Tower of Uru, regardless of the fact that electrical storms were brewing there, and without concern for her own safety. When she encountered An’jou, Azel demonstrated her newfound caring nature by helping up a child who tripped and fell, and that was the last time players see her.
Azel leaves Orta a message inside Sestren.
Before Azel departed in the final ending cinematic, An’jou asked her if the friend she is apparently risking her life to find is worth dying for. Fans gather from this determination that she was compelled by her love for Edge to do everything within her power to find him despite the fact that her search was doomed from the start to end in failure. Abadd later revealed that Azel combined a human’s genes in Sestren with her own genes to create Orta, and thereby metaphorically gave birth to a human drone hybrid. In a recorded message to Orta, Azel told Orta that she (Orta herself) was the answer to her fruitless searches. Fans conclude that this meant that Orta’s father was Edge, because it was clear that she was searching for him despite his apparent death. Edge may have been the only human to ever visit Sestren, which makes him the prime suspect, although the human’s DNA could have also come from a recording that Sestren had made of the physical reality.
The message Azel left behind said that all drones could do was choose to believe in their own free will and follow a path of their own making. That in itself was almost implying that she had to go against her own nature to make free will possible. She also seemed to have become the actual voice of Sestren. That could possibly explain her fate. Orta, too, faced the dilemma of being the maker of her own fate or letting others do it for her.
Drones in Panzer Dragoon Orta
Orta meets Abadd for the first time but he somehow knew about her before they met.
In Panzer Dragoon Orta players first meet Abadd, a drone who was supposed to revive a group of Ancients from hibernation which he refers to as his “ancient masters”. Apparently some of the Ancients planned to return. Whether or not these were the same Ancients who constructed the Towers in order to save the planet and stop human beings from wiping themselves out in global conflict, is not clear. If there were separate groups, both created drones to serve them. Abadd made the observation that he was awakened prematurely, which suggested that the time was not right for either his or their return.
The creators of Panzer Dragoon Orta made Abadd stand out much more than other drones; his physical appearance made him appear inhuman. He looked almost alien by design rather than by accident, which made no secret of the fact that he was a drone, and immediately separated him from normal humans as if the developers wanted players to know that he wasn’t human the moment they saw him.
Drones such as Azel may have been made in humankind’s image, but Abadd only looked vaguely human-like, giving onlookers some pause for thought, and leading fans in particular off the trail completely where it made sense before. It is unclear why some drones were more or less human than others. When considering that drones were created in the image of their masters and that they reflected their creators like a mirror, one conclusion that is drawn from this is that Abadd’s not entirely human and robotic appearance was meant to remind players that his masters were not quite human, or even human at all. Alternatively, Abadd may have never been meant to mingle with people in one harmonious mix like other drones may have, considering his alien appearance (if they were ever meant to do so at all). Panzer Dragoon Orta’s encyclopaedia went as far as to describe drones as artificially created humanoids which could cover a wide range of appearances; a human facade could merely be one of many that people had not seen yet. Therefore it’s possible that Abadd may not be the only drone of his kind.
The Empire wasn't the only one searching for her.
Abadd’s loyalty to his masters could not be more singleminded. The overseer created to control all the Towers at the heart of the Sestren Data Network called Sestren Exsis, said that its purpose was to obey what he called “the will of the ancients”; Abadd may have shared the same purpose or a similar fate. The Ancients who constructed the Towers not only created drones to serve them (in other words to do all the Ancients’ manual work for them which was too dangerous for the Ancients to perform themselves), but to carry out their will in their absence. Abadd fell into that category by possibly being a servant of the same Ancient masters that Sestren served, referred to by Sestren as “the ancient ones”. However, Sestren never referred to them as anything beyond that in terms of who or what they were, nor does Abadd refer to his “masters” as anything more than that.
The world is still dying.
Abadd could not resurrect his fallen masters so he decided to do the next best thing in his mind by repopulating the world with a race of drones to lord over the little that remained, revealing how much he twisted himself to fit his masters’ vision of the future. First though, he needed to unlock the secret of how drones could replicate and perpetuate themselves when the Ancients forbid it by somehow making it impossible for them to reproduce. For that, the key lay within the DNA of the half human half drone hybrid, Orta.
Abadd was woken up by the Empire but it seems that he was meant to wake up much later. Fans speculate that Abadd was meant to wake up after the Towers had completed their task. Because that never happened, he remained in a state of perpetual hibernation. This may have been what Abadd meant when he said that he awoke too soon, or as he put it “prematurely” (his word). Abadd did not seem to regard humanity too highly, if he regarded humankind as anything that was not beneath him at all. When he found himself in a world ruled by a human empire, all he saw was what he described as “filth and destruction”, suggesting that his masters were somehow different. It would explain why Abadd believed that his masters or even their creations were more worthy of taking their rightful place as, in his words, “lords over this world”, and why Abadd was so determined to reclaim it in the name of his now dead masters to the point of losing his own sanity; that was the only way he could complete his mission. In his own words, “There is no other way!” In Abadd’s mind, repopulating the world with drones made in his own image was the next best thing to bringing his masters back alive.
Abadd's mare in its final form is a giant of itself.
Abadd did not take orders from the Empire for long. He may have only helped the Empire make its own dragons until he earned enough trust or bought enough time to make a larger superior one for himself (which he used to neutralize several dragonmares by blasting them out of the sky with powerful lock on lasers).