Shipwright's Commune

Non-aligned space-based polity specializing in megascale engineering

Airdock with ship
Image from Steve Bowers
A Tigersplice warship under repair in an airdock owned by the Shipwright's Commune. The airdock is filled with an inert gas to assist cooling and prevent vacuum welding


Megascale engineering has always been a combination of art and science. Over the millennia the Shipwrights of the Shipwright's Commune have become masters of megascale engineering and their works are admired by all throughout Terragen space. Though they try to limit themselves to space-based construction, they have on occasion built grand planetary structures. Their works are known for combining function and aesthetics. Their most famous works are probably the shellworlds they constructed for the Spacefarer Union and the engineering feat that is the Fordela system.

First arising during the fourth millennium a.t. they quickly gained a reputation for being good space-borne constructors. Originally they were a small polity of space-adapted bionts, cyborgs and vecs operating from a dozen or so medium-sized space stations scattered the Inner Sphere. They built mainly small spaceships for private individuals or concerns. In 3830 they received a contract to build a fleet of fifteen colony ships for the NoCoZo. The NoCoZo had estimated the turnover for the first ship to be two years from concept to a working prototype. The Shipwrights took just over 15 months. The original fifteen ships took less then ten years to complete. They came to be known as the famous Silent Night line of colony ships. After that the Shipwright's fame spread. They became known for their skill at constructing durable yet relatively cheap ships. Their population also increased. By 4000 their population had tripled. They now owned almost 25 stations, two of them a third of moon size. They had also laid claim to three systems, including the Fordela system. This marked their beginning as a true polity. From the beginning they were an aiocracy ruled by three transapient AI, namely Jauntos, Erile and Boatmaker. As eir territory increased ey found it better to divide it among emselves, creating the Commune Triumvirate. During this time they also fostered a relationship with the Spacefarer Union which had by this time become a formidable entity. The Shipwrights built them a number of ships and in return the Union helped their expansion and protected them against aggressors. During the Version War, the Commune stayed mostly out of the conflict. But they serviced and repaired the ships of both sides. During this time they also forged new ties with the MPA who shared their materialistic outlook and their liking for megascale construction (rumor also says that they helped design some of the subsystems of the MPA autowars). By the end of the War they were not much worse off. In fact they were a good deal better off. During the ending days of the War many polities including some of the sephirotics turned to them for their expertise in building ships. They were of course more than happy to oblige. After the war they accompanied a Spacefarer Union fleet to the system of Elcondris. After the rogue AI was destroyed the Shipwrights there began the creation of a huge orbital and also repaired damage to an existing ISO which eventually housed the Dominion AI Moonbeam. Moonbeam had been the AI of a Dominion linelayer that accompanied the Union fleet. E had successfully set up a new wormhole link and was later made the administrative AI for the system.

With information learned from Moonbeam, the Triumvirate (at this point all SI:4 entities) now decided to enter wormhole production. Jauntos and Erile took charge of actual production while Boatmaker (never a big fan of superstructures) promptly built a number of linelayers for transport of the wormholes. In 5248 the first wormhole was set up at the Fordela system. This opened up a new era for the Commune. Their linelayers soon became a common sight in lesser polities, who couldn't afford their own linelayers or wormholes. This also opened up Fordela and other systems to tourists from all over the Terragen Sphere. The economic boost this provided gave them the ability to create a superstructure linking the main worlds and habitats of Fordela into a number of huge habitats with an estimated housing capacity of 50 trillion. In 6067 Jauntos took on the task of creating two relativistic worldships for the Spacefarer Union member Valderon. After this was done they also built a number of shellworlds for the Union. For the next 4000 years the Commune expanded silently but steadily. Most of their expansion was in the form of superstructures, located in systems controlled by other polities. They also helped in the construction of the Kepleria Dysons but resigned when rebellions broke out and they started taking heavy casualties. Recently they rejoined the project in time to help in the creation of the outer-most cube. They were rewarded with enough space to set up large scale shipyards and allowed to set up an inter-Dyson transport service. They are officially non-aligned but have strong ties the MPA and the Spacefarer Union. They have no limits on visitors but have not allowed any megascale constructions by other polities in their own systems.

Shipwright Culture, Ideology and Memetics

The Shipwrights are basically a hardy spacefaring people. Unlike the Union they originally preferred vecs and cyborgs rather than bionts. The first bionts to become Shipwrights and join the Commune were space-adapted tweaks. Though Shipwright society has become more open to bionts, they still make up less than 40% of the population. However Shipwright society is mostly-bias free. There have been no instances of civil war or violence, mostly due to effective meme control by the Triumvirate.

They prefer a space-based habitat rather than a planetary surface. Their dislike for planets is less than the Union's dislike and those of other purely non-planetary polities. They are mostly materialists and generally ignore any and all religious influences. (One reason for why the Negentropy Alliance has been unable to memetically subvert them, even though they have been trying for centuries.) Like the MPA they take delight and pride in megascale construction. But a large part of them still prefer building spaceships and movable habitats rather than superstructures. Though certain groups have some preferences to what type of things they will or will not build, they are on the whole very open to ideas and like doing something new and different. They will rarely build something just for the sake of it, unless they may gain in some way or the other. For the structures that they build for a purpose, they try their best to combine both form and function. For this reason their structures often fetch high prices, especially among those clades and polities that have a preference for aesthetic value. As with the rest of Terragen space, fashions come and go among the Shipwrights. It is not unusual to see multiple different decorative styles in the same structure, especially if it is a large one.

Although the Commune builds both ships and superstructures, the name "Shipwrights" has stuck and they do not want to be known as anything else. In fact some groups want to get rid of the "Commune" and be called just Shipwrights. This is probably because they began building superstructures only after they had settled Fordela. But they learnt quickly and by 7000 a.t they had made a name for themselves. Today they are acknowledged by most as experts in the field. But their ships, for which they first became famous, are still highly valued.

The Shipwrights are mostly quasi-atheist, but there are a few scattered cults which look upon the Triumvirate as supernatural Gods. However there is no evidence to suggest that this is due to any memetic influencing by the Triumvirate. For the most part the Triumvirate is looked upon as teachers, guides, and as the main designers and construction overseers of their various projects. Below the Triumvirs are transapients called Overseers. They are physically present at all major projects and are generally in contact with their Triumvir. Occasionally they become avatars, but this is rare and always for a very short period of time. They are generally between SI:2 and 3. Sometimes they are SI:1 beings. They are never lower than SI:1 or greater than SI:4. (The Triumvirs emselves are SI:5) In most cases only one Overseer is assigned to a project. But sometimes more will be assigned especially if the project is big or spread out over a large area. Any transapient has the right to ask for assignment as an Overseer, but only a Triumvir can actually appoint an overseer. Overseers are vested with judicial authority and are effectively the law at eir respective projects. Of course, a Triumvir can always override the decisions of an Overseer. Below the Overseers are the ordinary Shipwrights, whose duty it is to follow the orders of the Overseer. Shipwrights often form guilds or co-operatives. While they are allowed to carry on their own projects freely, they must be ready to help the Triumvirs whenever required. Sometimes the Overseer will hand over some duties entirely to other Shipwrights under him in order to concentrate on more important matters. In that case there is a simple yet effective hierarchy to keep things in order.

Individually the Shipwrights are very loyal to their Overseer, the Triumvirate and the Commune in general. Careful memetic engineering keeps crime to a minimum and there is little rivalry between Shipwrights working under different Overseers. Sometimes the incoming tourists to various systems cause various memetic problems including a few rare instances of attempted sedition. However such cases are always dealt with properly, either by the present Overseer(s) or by the Triumvirs emselves. In high tourism areas extensive angelnetting is used. The Shipwrights themselves often use a form of empathyware. Whether this is similar to the type used by the Deeper Covenant or is an independent design is unknown. However it is an accepted fact that this has made the Commune much more stable than it would have otherwise been possible. In the last millennia a number of Communion empai have been employed to keep the tourist situation under control. There have been no incidents of tourist mishaps, except for a few scattered incidents, mostly involving getting onto the wrong transport. Overall Shipwright society is a mostly safe and crime-free one. There are very few things that is outlawed in the commune. Narcotics and most forms of hedonics are very much allowed. But any form of self-replicating nanotech is very much outlawed. Laws relating to smuggling and possession of illegal objects are quite strict.

Shipwright Technology

Shipwrights employ all scales of technology, starting from basic nanotech to advanced space-time engineering. Metric technology is found only in the major systems and is used only by the Triumvirs or the highest Overseers. For the most part drytech or synano is preferred. Biotech, though not rare, is for the most part uncommon. Shipwrights rarely use biotech on themselves, except for space adaptation. Whenever biospheres have to constructed, the Commune usually enlists the help of outside experts, often the Zoeific Biopolity. But worthy of mention are a number of large bioships constructed by Boatmaker in the early ninth millennium. Some of them still survive, including one in the Fordela system. The Shipwrights also use very advanced virtual technology. They always create virch simulations of their structures before building them. Most are non-sophont and are turned off once the actual structure is built. However some, including one of the Fordela system remain active. The simulation of the Fordela system is currently nearing the fiftieth millennium in its own subjective timeframe. However the Commune is silent about the parameters and results of the simulation.

The Commune is for the most part politically neutral but it has good relations with the Spacefarer Union, the MPA and the Solar Dominion. It has also safely stayed out of major disputes with the large polities.

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Development Notes
Text by Basu
Initially published on 01 February 2004.