Quarter Hammer class Construction Drone
|Quarter Hammer class Construction Drone|
The seed from which many drones sprout.
|Type: UDG Construction Drone|
|Also see||Industrial Vessel - Construction Vessel|
|Canon||No. Unpublished, non-canon fan smallcraft design.|
|Cost||MCr8.7595. MCr7.88355 in quantity.|
|EOS||Examples still operate post-Collapse|
|Hull||Open Frame Hull|
|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 and a drone.
- It is commonly found in a swarm with examples of the Fuelbag, Icepick, Mint, System Defense Brick, and Zip drone classes.
Quarter Hammers are collections of tools and systems gathered around an enclosure open on two sides. That enclosure, which accounts for half of a Quarter Hammer's tonnage, is one quarter of a construction bay, which might not be evident until seeing four of them linking up. Essentially, each Quarter Hammer is a 10 ton quarter of a 40 ton ship, where the 40 ton collective ship can only build new ships in 10 ton pieces.
A full team of four Quarter Hammers can build 10 ton drones in concert, using their arms to nudge raw materials into a common space, docking to enclose the space inside their construction bays, latching on to one another with the larger grippers of their grappling arms to stay in place while they build, then releasing to let the new drone fly away before they begin again. Quarter Hammers are individually less than graceful, with off-center maneuver drives, and will commonly link up when traveling long distances to let their relative torques cancel each other out. Between this and their asymmetry, most sophonts with an aesthetic sense find them mildly ugly, especially in comparison to most starships.
The main point of Quarter Hammers is to maintain and build drones for a swarm of drones, gathering resources for some purpose. Some are used to support jump bridges, others to deliver ore and raw materials to an established colony to supplement (or sometimes to kickstart) its economy.
With a sufficient supply of raw materials, four Quarter Hammers can build another four Quarter Hammers in about a month. When building up a drone swarm, a typical repeating schedule is:
- Spend one month building four more Quarter Hammers.
- Spend the next month building 3 Mints to keep up the supply of raw materials.
- Spend a third month building Icepicks or other drones as needed to support the swarm.
This sort of self-replication is the traditional means of expanding a new drone swarm, which typically starts with 2 Mints, 1 Icepick, and 4 Quarter Hammers. It is traditional for the first drones of a swarm to be built in that order, by a Legionary class Corvette or similar construction ship, mostly from resources on site - though the construction ship will arrive at the construction site with the first Mint in its hangar, complete and ready to launch.
The ratio of Quarter Hammers to other drones varies depending on how close to the desired final size the swarm is.
- At first (or after sustaining severe losses), when the swarm is dedicating its resources to maximum self-replication, a typical mix is 40 percent Quarter Hammers, 30 percent Mints, 10 percent Icepicks, and 20 percent total System Defense Bricks, Fuelbags, and Zips.
- A mature swarm will traditionally see 10 percent Quarter Hammers, 5 percent System Defense Bricks, and the rest depending on the swarm's function: a jump bridge will be mostly Icepicks and Fuelbags (and rarely grow beyond a few hundred drones total), while a swarm supplementing a world's economy will be mainly Mints and Zips.
Quarter Hammers are not naval architects. They can only construct things they have template files for. By default, a Quarter Hammer has template files for itself, the five other drone designs it is associated with (as listed above), and all relevant spare parts (including missiles for the System Defense Bricks). More may be added by the drone swarm's owner, depending on the swarm's function. Anything larger than 10 tons must be built in 10 ton pieces (taking as long as a larger shipyard would take to construct the object), then assembled (which often takes as long or longer than the time to construct all the pieces).
Not available at this time.
General Description & Deck Plans
- Deck Plans for this vessel.
Basic Ship Characteristics
|Basic Ship Characteristics |
|1.||Tonnage / Hull|| Tonnage: 10 tons (standard). 140 cubic meters. Open Frame Hull.
|2.||Crew||Crew: no sophonts. Software provides virtual Pilot, and constructs drones using preprogrammed templates.|
|3.||Performance|| Acceleration: 1-G maneuver drive installed.
|5.||Hardpoints||Too small for hardpoints. 1 firmpoint, unused.|
|7.||Defenses||None. Usually reliant on other drones in the swarm, or working so remotely that no pirate finds it.|
|8.||Craft||None (besides itself). With no crew, vacc suits and Rescue Balls are not normally carried.|
|9.||Fuel Treatment||It is not equipped with a fuel purification plant or fuel scoops.|
|10.||Cost||MCr8.7595. MCr7.88355 in quantity. (The architect's fees were amortized long ago.) Known to high precision after extensive manufacture by fellow Quarter Hammers.|
|11.||Construction Time||8 days standard, 6 in quantity. Quarter Hammers (which construct the majority of their own type) build one at a time, and thus use the standard rate.|
|12.||Remarks||A drone that, assisted by more of its own, can build other drones.|
The history of Quarter Hammers - both the models known in 1105 and beyond, and their predecessors - is, in some way, a history of exploration of the limits of self-directed artificial intelligence.
In theory, Quarter Hammers are the key component that lets a swarm of drones assemble an exponentially growing number of themselves. In practice, every time this could get started, events have overtaken the swarm to stop it. Sometimes what stops the expansion is pressure from nearby megacorporations, who do not mind a new supplier of raw materials per se, but do object when it starts becoming a potential rival or supplying enough to disrupt sector-wide markets. In the Virus era, all infected Quarter Hammers were destroyed within ten years of infection - primarily by other infected ships that saw no value in an unarmed drone (not creative enough to realize the potential); secondarily by those wishing to purge Virus from their area, who saw the threat and thus treated Quarter Hammers as priority targets. And then there is the fact that, aside from Virus, few have been willing to turn this design over to full self-replication indefinitely (stretches of a few years have been tried, to let a starting set of drones grow to thousands or a few million), at least where there was enough of a planetoid belt to result in a truly massive swarm.
This slow timescale is often the first thing pointed to, when sophonts compare it to media depictions of self-replicating anything. Those media depictions inevitably show something that can replicate itself in seconds (sometimes minutes). Under optimal conditions, taking care to construct infrastructure so it does not run out of resources, Quarter Hammers achieve an effective doubling time of 3 months. In an entire year, a group of Quarter Hammers and other drones can only increase their number 16 times, and that is if everything goes right.
The Vilani tell a tale of one system - with different names, years, and coordinates so the historical record is disputed (unless this simply happened multiple times, with different sectors not finding out until much later), but always a system where only the asteroid belt was inhabited - that announced plans to improve itself by this means, over the objections of the Ziru Sirka, which was by then too weak to stop said plans. Reports over the first four years showed everything going to theoretical plan, after which they diverted half the production to domestic goods, slowing the swarm doubling time from three months to six. Things continued to go as predicted for the next four years, at which point more production was diverted to make habitats, further slowing the doubling time to a year. Then around year 15 or 16 of the experiment, ships stopped coming back from the system, earning it a yellow zone. A recontact expedition at year 20 likewise failed to return, which upgraded the system's zone to red. Finally at year 50 an armed naval expedition went in, only to find the asteroid belt completely missing. The system has since been recolonized with a proper mainworld selected, but in the thousands of years since no one has found a trace of the earlier inhabitants. Whether this tale is true or not, the Third Imperium has a law dating from the Ziru Sirka, suspended during the Rule of Man but reenacted by the Sylean Federation and lasting until Virus spurred more restrictive measures, forbidding unmanned drone swarms with more than 100,000 tons simultaneous manufacturing capacity (40,000 Quarter Hammers, which takes 3-4 years to reach when starting with 4 Quarter Hammers), though there are loopholes about what constitutes "one swarm".
Many different models of Quarter Hammers have been produced over time. The version listed in this article is the most commonly encountered version in the Third Imperium, which version dates from a private development effort in Solomani Rim Sector in -2148, during the Second Imperium. An interlocking series of six drone classes were designed: the Fuelbag, Icepick, Mint, Quarter Hammer, System Defense Brick, and Zip drone classes. After initial experiments went well, the design files were stolen and distributed throughout the Second Imperium, which cracked down on attempts to use the stolen intellectual property. As a result, these six designs wound up well-preserved but largely unused, and were among the more readily recoverable artifacts after the Long Night - though as noted above, the maximum size of the resulting drone swarms was regulated as of the dawn of the Third Imperium.
Class Naming Practice/s & Peculiarities
Quarter Hammers are almost always known by numerical identifiers. Most are never individually addressed by anything other than the computer coordinating their drone swarm, and thus only nominally even have an identifier in any sophont language.
Selected Variant Types & Classes
- Type UDG class Industrial Smallcraft
- Quarter Hammer class Construction Drone
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