Sophont Ships

Horus near star 3
Image from Arik
The sophont ship Horus in close orbit around a star

Terragen space swarms with a multitude of different kinds of sophont space vessels, all engaged in an equally large range of tasks and activities. They might link worlds and systems as traders and couriers, or be warships, or be explorers and researchers on the edge of the unknown. They might be part of the vast range of in-system or trans-Nexus vessels, or they might link those worlds outside of the various wormhole networks, or they might expand the boundaries of Terragen space either as formal agents or from a simple love of travel. In one way or another they bind the Civilized Galaxy together. Because of their autonomous nature as persons they are sometimes rejected in favor of more predictable and controllable sentient ships or even non-sentient expert systems, but many value the more personal and flexible services that they can provide, especially for sensitive and complex tasks.

The boundaries of this group are not entirely distinct, but in general sophont ships are distinguished from space-capable vecs by their larger size and transport function, from sophont habs by their higher mobility, and from aioid pilots in that they have mentalities strongly tied to a particular ship body. Within their group they are extremely diverse, ranging in size from tiny courier-vessels who carry only inactive uploads or other important personal data from point to point in a single system to vast Empire and Civilization ships that are more mobile worlds than space vessels. In composition they may be standard bioships, cold-tech iceships using the technologies of cryovecs, more standard Terragen inorganics, or various hybrid combinations. In terms of technology there are some who would not be out of place in the Interplanetary period, while others bear the latest transapientech. The physical type of a particular ship may be anything from ubiquitous to vanishingly rare. Some are one-offs of unique design, while others are representatives of clades or model-lines with hundreds of millions of representatives. Sophont ships vary hugely in their mental capabilities as well; some are difficult to distinguish from their more numerous sentient ship kindred, while others again are superbrights or transavants with abilities that verge of their much rarer transapient 'relatives', the mobile S1 and S2 ISOs that may also be called ships. The one thing that links them all is that space is their native environment; they are as at home in it as fish are in the sea.

In addition to the distinctions mentioned above, the environments in which they are intended to operate also divide sophont ships. Cryogenic Hider ships are very different from those engaged in starlifting operations. Relativistic interstellar ships are another breed altogether; some of them look down on other types of sophont ships as mere 'paddlers', limited to the 'shallow waters' around stars, while they travel the deeps of space. Needless to say many of the 'paddlers' do not agree with this designation a few speak derisively of their deep space brothers and sisters as yokels who lack the sophistication to negotiate the complexities and interactions of insystem life. Some can forage for themselves and extract raw materials and collect energy from the natural environment, refuelling repairing themselves or even reproducing. Others are much more specialized and rely on their relationships with the rest of civilization.

Some sophont ships have withdrawn from mainstream Terragen culture and live as Backgrounders among the cold dark icy bodies between the stars. Others, such as the Sagittarius Preservers, have set off on voyages of exploration of their own beyond the edges of the Terragen Sphere; few of these return though some send back messages.

Entirely outside the scope of the Civilized Galaxy there are sophont ships representing the 'ahuman' and 'anti-human' Terragen factions. These are poorly understood and encounters with them may be distressing or even fatal. Further afield, some of the more technologically adept xenosophonts appear to have equivalents of the Terragen sophont ships, but these are even less well known and understood.

Whether as allies and equals to other ordinary sophonts or as servants of the transapients and archailects or both, sophont ships are critical links: an essential part of what makes the Civilized Galaxy possible.

  • AI, ai  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Etymologically, Artificial Intelligence, although the original use of the term "artificial" has long been meaningless in this context. Broadly speaking, "AI" means any non-organic sentient being, although it is most often applied to those of SI:1 or greater (in contrast to aioids). When spelt in lower case the term can refer either to any subsingularity aioid as well.
  • Artificials  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    generic term for any sophont of a non-biological nature [noun]
  • Diademata, The  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Halo drive Colony ship, launched from Corona in 9255.
  • En'en Suifu and Tattoi Jueru  - Text by Chris Shaeffer
    Two famous bioships in the service of the Zoeific Biopolity.
  • Freegems  - Text by Tony Jones
    Former Diamond Belt sophont starship clade.
  • Futurological Congress, The (Civilisation Ship)  - Text by Steve Bowers
    A civilisation ship with an unusual quest.
  • Juggernaut Class  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev;
    Excluding the Keterist battle-moons (which are more ISO than Capital Ship), these are the largest warships ever built in Terragen history. The approach of a Juggernaut Class vessel is an awesome sight: a cylinder some 280 kilometres in length and twenty five kilometres in diameter, accompanied by a swarm of giant autowars that are dwarfed to apparent mote-size by their parent vessel.
  • Leviathan Class  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    These MPA capital ships were the largest warships of the Version War until the construction of the Juggernaut class.
  • Linelayer  - Text by Steve Bowers
    Specialised spacecraft used to transport wormhole mouths to distant locations.
  • M-Life  - Text by M. Alan Kazlev
    Machinic non-biological life as seen in neumanns, hylonanecologies, and other inorganic organisms or ecologies. In practise M-life, B-life and A-Life tend to merge, especially because of the ubiquity of biotech and bionanotech.
  • Mother of Machines  - Text by Anders Sandberg and M. Alan Kazlev
    Self-emergent autowar clade, recently embarked on migration to the galactic core.
  • Nabla Biowars  - Text by Liam Jones
    Rogue but civilised clade of biowars derived from vitriolic biochemistry
  • Order of St. Christopher - Text by Anders Sandberg
    Solarist starship religious order, founded in 5378 by Nos D388. The members are all starships (mainly relativist craft), serving the Divine Order by transporting beings, equipment and especially wormholes to where they are needed. During the Version War the ships of the order were involved in refugee transports, linelaying and scouting, their efforts gaining them a formal blessing of divine gratitude from H. H. the God Emperor. The order has since then largely been active in the Perseus rift and in the Amalgamation effort.
  • Reason for Diplomacy  - Text by Chris Shaeffer
    Ascension Class warship: Reason for Diplomacy.
  • Sagittarius Preservers, The  - Text by Liam Jones
    A clade of intelligent mobile habitats dedicated to preserving and disseminating a wide variety of lifeforms.
  • Sentient Ships  - Text by Stephen Inniss
    Interplanetary or interstellar vessels that are aware and may be quite intelligent but, like robots or animals, do not have the full suite of faculties that characterize sophonts.
  • 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).
  • Starhand  - Text by Tony Jones
    A clade of space-going vecs descended from space construction robots.
  • Starlark, The  - Text by Steve Bowers
    One of a numerous class of ships built after the Great Expulsion, as the population of Earth sought refuge in the worlds and habitats of the Solar System and among the stars.
Related Topics
Development Notes
Text by Stephen Inniss
after the original by M. Alan Kazlev
Initially published on 14 August 2001.

Completely revised from the initial version 1/9/2014
Additional Information