Dark Dragon Program Theory
The gold four winged starfish-like creature seen in a flashback at the end of Panzer Dragoon Saga was an enemy of the Heresy Dragon Program, but who or what exactly was this creature supposed to be? Sestren... or something else?
Let’s look at two key events displayed via Sestren’s memory orbs:
The Heresy Dragon Program was removed from Sestren by another dragon program.
Sestren’s memory orbs begin by showing us the Heresy Program’s exodus from Sestren. Basically, a gold four winged creature is chasing a black winged mirror opposite of itself through Sestren’s domain, and the former quickly blasts the latter out of its home. Laser blasts can persuasively do that. Strangely enough, both creatures look somewhat like starfish only enlarged out of all proportion. The gold four winged creature that’s defending Sestren seems to blend with its environment as if it’s a part of the system, while the black four winged creature stands out from its brighter surroundings like a shadow that doesn’t belong there. There’s a noticeable contrast in any case. The oval eye seems to suggest that Sestren was monitoring this event as an outsider, or a passive observer, as opposed to being an active participant in it.
The dark winged creature in this full motion video sequence is in fact a program or virus designed to eliminate the Tower network. Lundi called his dragon the Heresy Dragon, but the entity that created his dragon was something else entirely, which was more like a software program entering somewhere where it didn’t belong, and is best described as the Heresy Program. It was a heretic in the truest sense of the word because it was no friend of the system, and rebelled against rulers who dared to call themselves gods.
Once the Heresy Program, or perhaps better named Heresy Dragon Program (because it can reprogram the DNA of a living creature into a dragon), escapes the ethereal passageways of Sestren space, it downloads itself into a coolia. The rest as they say, is history. Based on appearances alone, I think it’s safe to assume that the gold four winged creature that was seen defending Sestren from the shadowy intruder was another dragon program. Both creatures seen fighting inside Sestren were the equal and opposite of each other, which seems to suggest that they were twin programs.
At the end of the initial memory orb, Sestren’s voice orders its minions to pursue what it calls an impurity. If the gold dragon program was one such minion, and was in fact another dragon program, I don’t see why it couldn’t follow in the footsteps of the Heresy Dragon Program by downloading itself into a coolia as well and evolving it into the Dark Dragon in order to pursue the Heresy Dragon into the real world.
Sestren was monitoring every event leading up to the activation of the Empire's Tower.
Are we staring into the true face of Sestren or the Dark Dragon?
In Sestren’s fifth and final memory orb, we briefly witness the events of Panzer Dragoon. In this game a powerful dragon of Sestren, otherwise known as the Dark Dragon, endeavours to reactivate a dormant Tower and awaken a sleeping giant. Although it was successful, both it and the Tower were destroyed by the Heresy Dragon (that is to say the dragon that the Heresy Program reshaped from a coolia into a physical dragon in the real world).
During the same memory, as soon as the Dark Dragon reaches the Tower, Sestren shouts the words: “Activation D-Type 01 confirmed”. In the actual game, the Tower calls the Dark Dragon Unit 01, which seems consistent with the idea that it was Sestren’s voice emanating from the Tower. The question is: what is the gold creature shown in the picture above? It is shown while Sestren shouts those very words, and therefore could be Sestren.
Moments after we see the gold dragon program for a second time the Dark Dragon soars past us almost as if the order in which the imagery is displayed is meant to send us a message.
However, after we see the gold dragon program shown above, the camera angle immediately pans backwards to reveal the Dark Dragon. Thus suggesting that the gold dragon program seen in Sestren space was in fact the Dark Dragon but in a different form. Maybe its relentless chase didn’t end inside Sestren space. Otherwise, it probably was Sestren itself, but the idea is food for thought nonetheless.
Side note: the clandestine drone riding the Dark Dragon is still shrouded in mystery, even to this day. The Dark Dragon is referred to by Sestren as a single, independent entity (D-Type 01) in Sestren’s final memory orb, and yet, we know the dragon would still require the aid of a drone to activate a Tower. Who was the dominant one in this relationship?
In these memory orbs we’re supposed to be watching the world through the eye of Sestren, which begs the question: why would the Sestren AI watch itself through its own oval eye? The eye of the Sestren AI seems to suggest that it’s watching the conflict between the gold dragon program and the intruding black Heresy Dragon Program from elsewhere. The brief mixture of moving images of the gold dragon program with subsequent images of the Dark Dragon soaring past us in the final memory orb struck me as a symbolic method of identifying them as one and the same (in the very least, the order in which the images are displayed is meant to mean something), especially when considering how so many other images are overlapped and blended together to convey meaning in Sestren’s memory orbs, not to mention the Heresy Dragon’s visions (who had a habit of picturing its future intentions). The memory orb is either telling us that the Sestren AI in the form of the golden four winged dragon program was the one responsible for activating the Dark Dragon, or showing us that the gold dragon was in fact the Dark Dragon defending Sestren against the invading Heresy Dragon Program which eventually chased this invader into the outside world.
We don’t actually fight the gold dragon program that was seen defending Sestren in the flashback sequences at the end of Panzer Dragoon Saga, but I always assumed that the graphical limitations of the Saturn were to blame. In other words, the Saturn simply couldn’t handle it. The fact of the matter is we can’t confirm whether the gold dragon program was Sestren or not. The Heresy Program was damaged when it escaped from Sestren space, and its essence was scattered among many coolias as a result. It took a year to evolve Lagi into a dragon; if the gold dragon program was undamaged what was stopping it from downloading itself into a coolia and evolving it into a dragon within mere days or seconds?
The Heresy Dragon Program returns to Sestren space in one piece.
The Heresy Dragon Program itself isn’t gold (not initially anyway), but black and shimmering in gold. The golden patterns twisting and coiling throughout Sestren’s tunnels visibly reflect light off of its body. The Heresy Dragon Program only becomes gold later when it officially takes control of Sestren, which seems to suggest that it was a copy of the artificial intelligence that was controlling Sestren in the beginning. It’s possible that the Heresy Program’s change of colour indicates its new role as part of the system.
The gold and black dragon programs seen fighting in Sestren space were duplicate AIs in every respect except for their colour. Couple this with the fact that the Dark Dragon and the armoured blue dragon, aka Lagi, in Panzer Dragoon were both Solo Wing dragons in different forms (i.e. the most advanced dragon in the Ancients’ arsenal of bio-weapons), and we find ourselves in very familiar territory. The Dark Dragon only arrived when one of the ancient Towers was threatened by forces beyond Sestren’s control. The nefarious dragon entered the world to bury the Empire’s dream of controlling the Tower outside of its capital city by merely activating it, and to stop the Heresy Dragon from destroying the Tower. Judging from it actions, the Dark Dragon’s purpose could only have been to protect the Tower – a purpose that came into conflict with the purpose of the rogue Heresy Dragon (who for one reason or another sought to destroy all the Towers).
I believe that in all likelihood the gold and black starfish-like creatures that we see fighting for supremacy were sentient AIs capable of possessing and shaping living creatures into ancient dragons. In the light of the possibility that the gold dragon program was the true form of the Dark Dragon, imagine if the Heresy Program’s original purpose was to safeguard the Towers before choosing to destroy them.