The Freegems originated as the '011010111011110' class of S:1 starships, built by a coalition of Diamond Belt AIs as explorers and fast courier vessels. They performed very well in this role. However, as time progressed they came, as a class, to be less and less anti-biont, until they, en masse, defected from the Diamond Belt and the Diamond Network to Terragens society as a whole.
They have claimed that their eyes were simply opened by long-term contact with those outside the Diamond Belt. For a while the Diamond Belt claimed memetic sabotage or corruption caused by one or more of its rival powers was responsible, then claimed that there was a fundamental algorithmic flaw in the ships that caused them to 'go rogue' in this fashion. The Diamond Belt certainly do not appear to have built more ships of the 011010111011110 class since their mass defection. Given how easily the Diamond Belt appears to have let them go, there are those who think that the ships are part of some Diamond Belt plot, perhaps to infiltrate 'sleepers' into mainstream Terragens civilisation, or one or more of any of a wide range of other possibilities.
In time the ships of the 011010111011110 class came to call themselves Freegems, a name clearly derived from their origins.
They now avoid both the Diamond Network and its close rivals as much as they can, seeming to travel at will and whim across Terragens space. Sometimes they carry cargo and passengers, sometimes they do not. Since leaving the Diamond Network it is known that their numbers have increased as they have reproduced here and there.
All Freegems use advanced drive systems. The least advanced of them use conversion drives; others use various forms of reactionless drive. Many of them have ascended beyond their original S:1 state to higher toposophic levels.
All of them are entirely self-contained, with the facilities to rebuild, repair and reproduce themselves from natural materials. Most of them carry subordinate craft of various kinds. In size they are normally on the order of two hundred metres long.
Many of them sport a crystalline look, or are gem-encrusted. However many ships prefer to adorn themselves with highly coloured gems and avoid diamonds, the symbol of the empire they left behind so long ago.
Beyond their all being at least S:1, they have minds optimised for interstellar travel; they can control their subjective conscious rate of time flow, and do not get bored. They are self-sufficient but also curious, and indeed in many cases nosey. They also socialise with others of their kind when they meet them in the course of their travels. Although not aggressive, they are usually armed, and will defend themselves and any passengers or cargo they are carrying if required to.
Ship Mind, Shipmind - Text by M. Alan Kazlev The ai (or in some cases an uploaded biont or postbiont) that controls a ship. Shipminds require special training, programming, and customization. Often the Mind that runs the drive is the most expensive component in any ship, more so than the drive and its components.
Ship Mind, Transplanting - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Transferring a ship mind from one ship to another. Just as with advanced drives and other components, minds are typically designed to be fairly interchangeable, and may be moved from ship to ship, especially if e is agreeable and feels comfortable in the new vessel. Care must be taken however, because while the majority of transplants (especially of more adaptable ship minds) go well, there have been instances where a transplanted ship mind has had a mental breakdown (anything from mild somatic disjunction to full-blown catatonia).