Hummingbird class Courier

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Hummingbird class Courier
Wiki Navy.png
Type: XC Courier Ship
Category ACS
Size 400 Tons
Hull Configuration Box Hull
Streamlining Lifting Body Hull
Tech Level TL–15
Computer Model/9
Jump J-3
Maneuver 6 G
Hardpoints 4
Staterooms 3
Crew 4
    Officers 1
    Enlisted 3
High/Mid Passengers 0
Cargo 103 Tons
Fuel tank 0 Tons
Origin Uncharted Space
Manufacturer Various, original manufacturer unknown
Year Operational 999 (first encountered in Charted Space)
End of Service Examples still operating post-Collapse.
Cost MCr387.16. MCr348.444 in quantity.
Quick Ship Profile XC-DL63
Blueprint Yes
Illustration No
Also see Courier Ship
Canon Published, fan design
Era Third Imperium
Reference EXTERNAL LINK: MGT Forums
Designed with Mongoose Traveller High Guard rules, but portable to other versions.

The Hummingbird class Courier is a starship that closely approximates a courier ship.

Description (Specifications)[edit]

It is a vessel with 6-G and J-3 performance with a lifting body box hull.

This class of ship allegedly hails from a far-off sector that has never heard of the Third Imperium, and its design sensibilities lend credence to this claim. Aside from several interior peculiarities, the engines (both jump and maneuver) are in outrigger pods that can swivel, bracketing a cropped flying wing. This is typically the first thing people notice, and gives the Hummingbird a distinct sensor profile.

The original vessel was considered a Unique Ship (at least within Charted Space), which the original owner (during her stay in Charted Space) exploited for its unique artifact technologies. Some believe the original owner discovered the vessel and took it to the TL-15 world Sumeszu, where she had the ship reverse-engineered as best they could, while lying about its true origins. The naval architects were able to duplicate much of the original ship, but some of the technologies were not able to be duplicated precisely. The plans became widespread and began to be copied without licensing fees (which would have foiled any plans the original owner had to profit from this, though first hand accounts claim she gave the design as payment for assistance). The design is now fairly widespread throughout ship computer libraries in Charted Space, though actual instances of the ship are rare. It has never been adopted for large scale manufacture.

Between the regenerating life support, the repair drones, and the advanced software, there is almost no need for a crew, though not all the ship's software can be run at once. Typically, the virtual crew runs alongside one of anti-hijack, auto-repair, jump control, or intellect as appropriate. In battle, evade and fire control take over for a competent crew, though auto-repair can be swapped for fire control if necessary. Maneuver and library are always running.

The cargo bay is designed for 25-ton modules, fitted to standards few known ports provide; supposedly, this was a common size for weapons, base modules, and other such things where the original Hummingbird was from. In Charted Space, the bay will usually be filled with cargo, cargo and a single 50-ton module, or a single 100-ton module - just right for an advanced, size-reduced small or medium bay weapon, dedicated batteries charged from the ship's power plant (or extra ammunition storage), and a stateroom for the gunners. Another common option is either vehicle garages or hangar bays, with barracks, an armory, and supplies. Aside from this, weapon and maneuver capabilities are comparable to military corvettes, pushing the limits of what can plausibly be claimed as anti-pirate defense.

Between the capabilities and the high price for its tonnage, a Hummingbird feels like a luxurious, alien noble's ship, intended to claim to be a freighter while actually running missions, using its cargo bay for mission-specific equipment. A close examination of stories of the first encounters with a Hummingbird suggests that is exactly what the first ship of this class was.

Even today, there are debates about the proper mission and type codes for this ship class. It could qualify as a type AA armored trader - it has jump-3, heavy armor, and a powerful particle barbette - but it is not very economically efficient. Many of its design principles would qualify it as a type K expedition ship, but the cargo capacity is a little high for that. It has good exploration capability but is not cheap, so it is not a type S scout vessel. The original was and probably still is a class ZU, being a Unique Ship not precisely duplicated, but the production model is not unique. Ultimately, the classification comes to what the first known Hummingbird pilot said a Hummingbird is: a courier. Couriers are classified as type XC.

Image Repository[edit]

Not available at this time.

General Description & Deck Plans[edit]

  1. Deck Plans for this vessel. Note the longer lower deck: the back of the ship swoops down to a tail toward the bottom.
    2 Hummingbird traveller deckplans.png

Basic Ship Characteristics[edit]

Following the Imperial Navy and IISS Universal Ship Profile and data, additional information is presented in the format shown here [1]

Basic Ship Characteristics [2]
No. Category Remarks
1. Tonnage / Hull Tonnage: 400 tons (standard). 5,600 cubic meters. Streamlined Lifting Body Hull.
  • Dimensions: 25.5 meters long by 45 meters wide (24 meters wide not counting outrigger pods) by 7 meters tall (15 meters tall if outrigger pods are turned vertical).
2. Crew Crew: One each pilot, astrogator, engineer, and gunner. All but the engineer can be run from ship's computer. Does not include any crew required by the modules.
3. Performance Acceleration: 6-G maneuver drive installed.
  • Jump: 3.
4. Electronics Model/9 ship computer.
5. Hardpoints 4 hardpoints, only 2 used.
6. Armament One dorsal particle accelerator barbette. Original had a longer barrel than standard (and may have been misidentified as a particle accelerator); ones manufactured in Charted Space use standard models.
7. Defenses One point defense battery, mounted along the sides.
8. Craft None. Crew's vacc suits allow EVA (extra-vehicle activity). Rescue Balls for crew escape usually carried among examples manufactured in Charted Space; original was not so equipped.
9. Fuel Treatment It is typically equipped with a fuel purification plant and fuel scoops.
10. Cost MCr387.16 standard (no architect's fees - while the design is not standard, blueprints are available). MCr348.444 in quantity.
11. Construction Time 10 months standard. 7 months in quantity.
12. Remarks Blueprints on file are known to not fully capture the original design, but the blueprinted version can be manufactured by the highest technology level starports in the Third Imperium.

History & Background (Dossier)[edit]

The first recorded encounter with this ship class took place in 999 on Sumeszu, where the jump flash suggested a misjump. Rescue crews found a lone, apparently (and unsurprisingly) disoriented human pilot. They were able to make contact through the transparent forward viewport, verbal communication being ineffective but managing to communicate through pictures the location of the highport and that they wanted the ship to go there. One of the crew stayed attached to the front like a limpet during the entire docking procedure, walking the pilot through docking procedures by gestures and pointing. After docking, the pilot got out of the ship, and the crew discovered why they had been unable to speak with her: she spoke no language known even in what linguistic databases were available. Fortunately, she had translation software that was eventually able to pick up Anglic.

Her ship's astronavigational database was presumed damaged, as the coordinates she gave for where she came from pointed into the Great Rift, to a location with no known habitable worlds. It was suspected she came from much further in that direction, possibly Provence Sector or coreward, as she had never heard of the Third Imperium or most of Charted Space.

After further dialogue, and a misadventure when one of her ship's repair drones got out and began scouting the highport without the pilot's knowledge (surprising and scaring a few arachnophobic crew), the pilot allowed the highport crew to thoroughly scan her ship to try to reproduce it. A lull in traffic allowed the shipyard crew to entirely focus on this project, finishing a prototype in only several months. The tales the pilot told of her home are improbable enough that they were initially filed as "Niikiik-Luur", or "false knowledge", but further examination has elevated them to "unlikely but not disproven".

Her claims about her ship were more credible. Supposedly, it was an evolution of the Q-ship concept: instead of just a secretly armed merchant, this was a transport where the entire cargo bay was often used for various mission-specific equipment while looking like it was just carrying cargo. It could fit missile and energy weapons, small fighter squadrons (6 per Hummingbird - 2 each in 3 25-ton modules, and another 25-ton stateroom and life support module - was apparently typical), survey and exploration gear, small invasion forces, or advance bases that could be quickly ejected once their destination was reached. (It was subsequently realized, based on her description, that these "advance bases" may have been nanotechnology weapons, able to manufacture an invasion force if they could just be smuggled onto a planet. A well-piloted Hummingbird is capable of evading mild levels of orbital interdiction.) The robot spider motif for the repair drones was reportedly cultural as well as functional; ones manufactured for subsequent Hummingbirds are not as intelligent as the original, but they do the job, and their shape has been captured into the blueprints well enough.

She was quite clear that hers was not the only Hummingbird where she came from. Certain other Hummingbirds - but not hers, she insisted - may have been used for slave transport, or at least for treatment of sophonts beneath steerage passage. On those Hummingbirds, it was standard practice to seal off engineering access and the side ramps, herd a large number of people (between 100 and 200) into the lower deck, and the crew luxuriate on the upper deck while the ship was in flight. Any mass uprising or sabotage attempt (such as removing the panels or trying to break the engineering access seals) resulted in warnings being issued and the cargo bay doors starting to open, only closing when the objected-to activity ceased. Lone would-be saboteurs were often beaten to death by their fellow remaining passengers and then placed in an airlock for disposal. Rations were stored in the ship's locker and tossed down a briefly-unsealed ramp twice per day. Presumably communal freshers were installed for such voyages, but the cargo bay was thoroughly cleansed after each such trip.

Once she was satisfied with the quality of the reproduction, the pilot took her ship and left. News of an eccentric ship design spread. Here and there, examples - almost always one-offs - were manufactured by those desiring a distinct look. Most of those who commissioned one imagined a more dedicated mercantile or exploratory use, and were disappointed enough that most Hummingbirds became second-hand or even third-hand ships within their first decade. On the other hand, owners who appreciate and profit from a Hummingbird's flexibility - usually having access to different modules for different missions - have tended to keep their ships. In some sectors, it is popularly associated with hotshot smugglers who like to appear to be carrying one thing when in fact carrying something else, and have grown beyond ordinary smuggling components. For instance, there are blueprints available for a 25-ton module that appears to contain a bunch of probe drones, but actually consists of 2 tons for one probe drone, 3 tons of shielding "to protect the sensitive electronics" (while actually making the interior difficult to scan), and 20 tons of cargo. Certain savvier smugglers will only carry 16 tons cargo and 6 tons for 3 probe drones: 2 in front so they can launch one, then a second one to prove they are not running a 1-drone scam, and the third in the back in case they are boarded, so they can open the rear of the launcher and show off that probe drone (which, being mounted in the back, blocks all view of anything in front of it - to wit, the cargo).

The number of Hummingbird sightings are rather more than the known construction examples can account for, suggesting that some have been constructed off the books or out in the Wilds. A common conspiracy theory - that the original Hummingbird had an artifact jump drive - seems highly unlikely, as it would need to travel tens or even hundreds of parsecs per week to show up everywhere a Hummingbird has been seen (after removing known instances of subsequently-manufactured Hummingbirds). Some reports claim most of these (again excluding known subsequently-manufactured Hummingbirds) are the same pilot, having not visibly aged in over 100 years; if these are not just look-alikes or confused reports, that pilot would have had to be using anagathics for over a century as of 1105.

Class Naming Practice/s & Peculiarities[edit]

Ship Interior Details: Ship crews from the Third Imperium, Zhodani Consulate, Solomani Confederation, and Julian Protectorate agree: something feels a bit off about serving aboard a Hummingbird. The design was clearly made to humanoid standards, but not the standards that have propagated throughout Charted Space.

Aside from the external details (see above), the dorsal airlocks open directly onto the bridge, which is not firmly separated from what can best be described as a "crew lounge", which contains engineering space for the fuel processors and secondary power plant as well as the power capacitors and machinery for the barbette. Rather than lifts or ladders, inter-deck access is provided by paired ramps, like staircases in a grand ballroom, with point defense lasers packed in above and below the ramps. At least the ramps terminate in bulkhead-grade iris doors, to isolate hull breaches to one deck. While the captain's stateroom has noticeably finer trimmings than the other two staterooms, that is not too unusual.

Most of a Hummingbird's hull contains a crawlway between the outer armor and the inner walls, not big enough for a human but sized for the ship's repair drones, allowing them access to most places they need to be without needing to venture outside the ship. It is possible to smuggle a negligible amount of goods in this space, but any hull-penetrating scan will detect this. The engine pods are set up to be maintained remotely, with only the drones directly touching the drives under normal circumstances. The drones - which look like pet robot giant spiders - nest in the primary engineering space, where the relatively well-equipped workshop can provide them with spare parts to deliver and install.

The original Hummingbird had foot and hand holds along the exterior top surface and extended artificial gravity about 3 meters above said surface, allowing people to stand or crawl (usually in vacc suits, unless travelling slowly in atmosphere) up there during flight, with retractable covers so that unused holds do not spoil the aerodynamics. The blueprints faithfully capture this but declare it an optional feature, only recommended for stunt flying (which is usually too low-revenue to use a starship for). The original pilot's claims that some of the crews she flew with could wield by hand, or personally be, starship-grade weapons, and that these holds were for them to attach securely to the ship while using these weapons, are surely absurdist fantasy. They would allow a fire team equipped with heavy weaponry to attach to the ship and strafe targets on a planetary surface, but using a starship as a grav tank is not cost efficient.

Selected Variant Types & Classes[edit]

Civilian Ship - Courier Ship:

References & Contributors (Sources)[edit]

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