Average Cargo Ship class Cargo Ship
|Average Cargo Ship class Cargo Ship|
Also known as an "Automated Cargo Ship".
|Type: TCG Grain Hauler|
|Canon||No. Unpublished, non-canon fan starship design.|
|Cost||MCr11,558.72. MCr10402.848 in quantity.|
|EOS||1132 (mostly; some examples still operate post-Collapse)|
|Model||Model/3 with extra capacity|
|Origin||Old Earth Union|
|Passengers||0 High/Med 0 Low|
|Reference||EXTERNAL LINK: MGT Forums|
|Designed with Mongoose Traveller High Guard rules, but portable to other versions.|
- It is a civilian ship, a Cargo Ship, and a Grain Hauler.
- It is a completely automated ship.
- "Cargo Ship" is part of the class's name as well as its function, thus the duplication.
- It carries no armament and a light defensive suite.
- It ordinarily carries no subcraft nor drones.
- It has a 221 sophont crew and no marines.
The ironically-named Average Cargo Ship actually is what its moniker declares, aside from its full automation: a hauler of cargo, cheap for its mass. The near-perfectly spherical hull, traditionally manufactured in 8 slices like a citrus fruit (resulting in the Average Cargo Ship's radial symmetry, and greatly speeding up construction since all 8 slices can be manufactured in parallel), is a compromise between effectiveness and thrift. The landing gear exemplify this balance, each one rated to support 10,000 tons each while being forged from a minimum of material. Being completely unarmed, an Average Cargo Ship never travels where pirates or customs (which, in the ship designers' collective opinion, are sometimes hard to distinguish) are expected without an escort. On routes with safe passage and at least several tens of thousand tons of cargo to be transported per month, cargo ships like this can frequently be found. It is sometimes tasked as a fleet tender, using its cargo space for fuel to help smaller Jump-1 ships bridge from main to main (or simply carrying ships within; more than one old Average Cargo Ship has been repurposed as a battle tender). When hauling freight, fuel is often the largest expense (...after the mortgage, if that has not been paid off). On the highest volume routes, where an Average Cargo Ship can reliably get 50,000 tons of cargo each way, getting back into jump faster is worth buying refined fuel. Most routes use much less than full capacity, and are normally only engaged in by mortgage-free Average Cargo Ships, taking another 4 to 5 days per trip for wilderness refuelling (mostly to process all the fuel). The AI is more than up to the task of taking off, making a beeline for the 100 diameter limit, performing jump calculations, entering jumpspace (...using batteries charged between jumps), waiting out the jump, letting escorts refuel before jumping again on multi-jump journeys, visiting a nearby gas giant or ocean and scooping fuel if its course says to do so, then maneuvering to and landing or docking at a designated starport, all while dodging any traffic that is not trying to intercept it.
Combat is nowhere in that list, though an Average Combat Ship is programmed to obey orders given by its escorts. Out of a stated desire to have there be something truly innocent in the universe, the software's designers intentionally made it unable to understand that one ship can deliberately attack another, so far as the sub-sophont-grade AI can be said to understand anything. Crews who have escorted an Average Cargo Ship through pirate encounters sometimes joke about the resulting barrage of navigation hazard alerts (every individual missile, laser shot, and once the pirate ships have been destroyed, shard of debris), and the Average Cargo Ship's insistent labeling of hostiles as "incompetent crew". The AI does at least forgive its escorts for the "hazards" they create, with a hardcoded rationalization that they were just reacting to the much bigger hazard of another crew so incompetent that they were about to destroy other ships by accident. As a last resort, the massive hull can take a while to disable or destroy; there is at least one recorded instance of a pirate scoring hit after hit on an Average Cargo Ship with a beam laser, only for the Average Cargo Ship to ignore it all the way through landing at a downport, whereupon marines hiding nearby scored some lucky hits with a volley of tac missiles and downed the pirate ship.
The true irony in the ship class's name comes from how it is used. When used as a fleet tender, it is often large enough to carry all other ships and supplies - thus, being "average" out of a set of one. Likewise when carrying freight at less than full capacity, it will usually carry almost all the freight on a given route (and smallcraft to transfer cargo to the correct destination on a planet, as these routes tend to see less well equipped starports), save for occasional express parcels that do not wish to wait roughly a month (or more, if the Average Cargo Ship is making a circuit instead of a back-and-forth) for the Average Cargo Ship to return, which are usually handled by tramp freighters. On many smaller worlds (but still ones with at least a thousand tons of freight per month, inbound or outbound), an Average Cargo Ship has been by far the largest ship anyone has seen for a century or more, and some colony leaders have measured the growth of their economies by how full the Average Cargo Ship got on each outbound trip. On routes which fully use an Average Cargo Ship's capacity, it becomes just one more tool of the corporations that make said routes happen; the high cost means an Average Cargo Ship takes many years to pay off, but such long term investments are what many corporations are all about.
The amount of maintenance required exceeds what most commercially available central computer cores are capable of. An Average Cargo Ship thus has a "crew" of engineering droids (the first Average Cargo Ships used sanitation droids reprogrammed with various engineering software, and retooled based on their programming). Piloting and sensor operations (and a captain's central direction) are handled by the central computer. There is no need for staterooms, life support, administrators, officers, stewards, or medics (with repair and maintenance of the droids, as well as major repairs to the ship, handed by repair drones). These droids plug into the ship's computer just before jump, as they shut down during the transition into jumpspace; the ship's computer reboots them afterward. Transitioning back out causes no such problems.
Not available at this time.
General Description & Deck Plans
- Deck Plans for this vessel.
Basic Ship Characteristics
|Basic Ship Characteristics |
|1.||Tonnage / Hull|| Tonnage: 69,900 tons (standard). 978600 cubic meters. Streamlined Sphere Hull.
|2.||Crew||Crew:Pilot and astrogator run from ship's computer. 219 engineering droids (99 base-type, 20 interplanetary-type, and 100 jump-type) split between 150 engineers and 69 mechanics.|
|3.||Performance|| Acceleration: 1-G maneuver drive installed.
|4.||Electronics||Model/3 ship computer with extra CPU capacity distributed through the ship.|
|5.||Hardpoints||Space for 699 hardpoints. 0 installed.|
|7.||Defenses||None. Completely reliant on escorts.|
|8.||Craft||None. Robot crew inherently capable of EVA (extra-vehicle activity). Rescue Balls for crew escape unnecessary and not carried.|
|9.||Fuel Treatment||It is typically equipped with a fuel purification plant and fuel scoops.|
|10.||Cost||MCr11,558.72 standard (...no architect's fees - while the design is not standard away from the Solomani Sphere, blueprints are available). MCr10402.848 in quantity.|
|11.||Construction Time||24 months standard (thanks to modular manufacturing capability; see description). No reduction for quantity (modular manufacturing already invokes this benefit, manufacturing multiple mostly-identical pieces at the same time).|
|12.||Remarks||A large, fully automated transport.|
The first Average Cargo Ships were built in the Old Earth Union by a ship manufacturing concern that GSbAG records claim to have been an offshoot of the megacorporation, since reacquired and merged back in. The ship class was more popular in the Solomani Sphere than elsewhere in the Third Imperium, due mainly to vilani distrust of high automation.
Certain aslan corporations use the ship class too, having received copies of the blueprints as temporary peace offerings during the Aslan Border Wars. Their versions' ship's computers speak Trokh and speak of their repair drones as if they were driven by the spirits of the ship's ancestors. GSbAG has given an official opinion that this was a bit of whimsy added by whatever engineer adapted the design for aslan use, but most Aslan Hierate citizens with an opinion on the subject, especially noble males, consider it right and proper - even if it is unclear exactly what a ship's computer would consider "ancestors", but they say that is a matter for the computer to decide. Aslan Hierate Average Cargo Ships are as decorated as most civilian Aslan Hierate ships.
Full automation comes with a high degree of security. There are tales of Average Cargo Ships where the master passwords were lost, which thus sat in a starport immovable and impenetrable, until the starport authorities claimed the starship for nonpayment of docking fees, found themselves no more able to board and take charge than anyone else, waited for the reactor fuel to run out so the active security measures would shut off (in particular, the maneuver drive activating to resist any attempt to move it from where it was last ordered to be), then finally called in wrecking and salvage crews, the whole process sometimes taking around a decade. Another tale - unlikely-sounding, but with documentation - tells of four generations of security officers who kept escorting the same Average Cargo Ship, and how each generation tried from time to time to hack through the ship's security; the great-great-grandson of the first generation's protagonist studied business instead and simply bought the ship, presented the passcodes to his great-great-grandmother on her deathbed, brought her aboard before she passed away, then rechristened the ship with her name in accordance with her final words.
There were a few efforts to tinker with and upgrade the ship class over the thousand-plus years of its service. In the vast majority of cases, these have resulted in ship AIs that failed when they entered jumpspace. The blueprints include code for the ship's master programs to be copied exactly; upon inspection, it turned out there were less notes than normal for this type of software. A search of company records discovered that the AI was the fruit of trillions of generations of neural net training to calibrate through simulated entrances to jumpspace, which project had apparently been the genesis of the Average Cargo Ship's design. The result was completely unreproducible except by copying the compiled code bit for bit, with no hope of understanding how that portion of the program worked. By the time this was discovered, the programmers involved had long since retired; those who could be tracked down had died (usually of old age). In effect, the program had become a modern artifact. Attempts to adapt this code to produce a more general AI have mostly failed, although a few research projects have produced interesting leads. Among the few things that are known is that the ship's perfectly spherical hull means there is little difference between a jump bubble and a jump grid, and the ship's jump drive is a mixture of both approaches that would not work on any other shape of ship.
There were more efforts to dismantle and decommission the ship class, usually instigated by vilani distrust despite the ship class's long history of profitable service. The promise (and historical fulfillment) of long term profits defeated every such attempt.
Virus was much more effective at finally killing the class. Although the heavy security made infection of the ship itself difficult, the engineering droids - which could receive but usually ignored communications from outside the ship - provided a means for Virus to take over, at least enough to destroy the ship from within. Once the threat became clear, no more Average Cargo Ships were manufactured. By the time effective enough countermeasures began to spread, the Peacemaker strain had begun to evolve, instances of which were much better suited to the task of running a fully automated ship - when they could be trusted. Fully automated transports would eventually be manufactured again, but by then understanding of AI had advanced enough that these were recognized as a different ship class.
Where Virus never penetrated, though, the ship class continues operating. This is primarily the spinward parts of Aslan space, and their colonies in and near Trojan Reach Sector - though they are kept away from the Regency, which is believed to be violently opposed to the idea of continuing to operate this class. This has resulted in some nicknaming the class the "Aslan Cargo Ship".
Class Naming Practice/s & Peculiarities
Ship Interior Details: The top and bottom 5-deck "systems areas" of an Average Cargo Ship have been likened to beehives or ant mounds: units going from here to there, serving a communal purpose with logic hard to understand to the casual observing sophont. Between these areas lie 30 decks of fuel and cargo, so droids seeking to transit from one side to the other do so externally, climbing along the hull (which has 8 tracks of 0.1 G grav plating, each tracing from a port in the repair drone bay, straight down to a landing gear, and on to a port in the maneuver drive; these tracks are usually only enabled during flight to facilitate this).
The "Grain Hauler" classification represents the fact that the cargo area is pressurized and under environmental control. Some Average Cargo Ships do indeed haul grain (and other agricultural products) on a routine basis, though this is far from the only cargo the class carries. In some portions of the Aslan Hierate, this ship class is known for hauling large quantities of live, small animals (and the grain to sustain them during the trip), intended as seed stock or to supplement some colony, where the robot crew (having no need to eat) is trusted to honorably not poach these animals during transit.
Selected Variant Types & Classes
- Type TVG class Grain Hauler
- Average Cargo Ship class Cargo Ship
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