As predators of feral von Neumann robots, the feeding apparatus of the Petrolean Dragon must be robust and flexible. When in flight, protective plates interlock to create an aerodynamic profile and protect the delicate sensors. When hunting, these sensors are exposed, along with the feeding and hunting apparatus, which includes pincers, saws, cutting torches, and the distinctive blow-torch.
The entire feeding-sensory assembly (or “head”) is manufactured piece by piece in internal fabricators, these pieces swapped out as the dragon grows and moults. Thus, the head is not an integral part of the somatic factor swarm (“body”) and can be removed completely without causing irreversible dissasamebly (“death”). Like the structural chassis (“skeleton”) and internal fabricators (“organs”) the head is a tool manufactured for a purpose by the swarm of finger-nail-sized factors.
Dragons and other so-called “viviperous” mechanoids swap somatic blueprints to generate designs for the next generation. Each partner contributes half of this “genetic” information, but one of the partners is solely responsible for using that information to manufacture the chassis and factors (what would in an animal be flesh and blood) of the offspring. This “female” mechanoid retains its role over the course of its life, although female and male Dragons are not particularly sexually dimorphic.
This reproductive strategy contrasts with that of the “factory-made” mechanoids, which build an enormous nest to churn out more factors (or one might say that a huge factory churns out factors). See also “nomadic-swarm” mechanoids, parasites that hijack the factors of other mechanoids, and were domesticated to create the handshake gauntlets.
Interestingly, nothing like eggs seems to have evolved on Petrolea.
Some design sketches for the “Petrolean Dragon” from my novella. These were meant to inspire simon-roy in his illustrations, so whatever he comes up with might look totally different from what you see here.