Post | An average adult Affronter’s body consists of a bulbous mass about two meters in diameter, which hangs from a frilled gas sac one to five meters in diameter depending on their desired buoyancy and which can be deflated and covered by protective plates. Six to eleven tentacles of varying length and thickness grow from the central mass, of which at least four end in leaf shaped paddles. Many Affronters have lost one or more tentacles in combat or duels. Beaks on the front and rear of the central mass cover the creature’s mouth and genitals, respectively. The eyes and ears are held on stalks above the fore beak (they also have a sensor bump atop the gas sac). An anus/gas vent is located in the bottom center of the main body. The latter is one of their sources of propulsion, though they usually ‘walk’ on their limbs or ‘paddle’ through the air unless in a hurry.
Their homeworld is described as a ‘fog-bound moon-planet’, probably similar to a larger version of Saturn’s moon Titan. Affronters require a high pressure, low temperature environment, and breathe an atmosphere composed mostly of nitrogen and methane, plus other trace hydrocarbons.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): A little bit about AI…
There are lots of kinds of AI. I mentioned Emex C30M (pronouns: it/they) before, your patron and business manager. It is an AI-driven drone (drones are autonomous, self guided AI sophonts with citizenship rights who can and do act independently as they more or less wish) with above-average intelligence (compared to solomani standard). It is registered at (essentially, a system citizen of) 82 Eridani, is business-chartered there, but is through that a member of the Greater Solomani Volume, essentially under Terran government. It has to abide by the classification/rules set forth in the Terran Artificial Intelligence Consortium Constitution (TAICC, often pronounced “take” or “the take”) which governs the actions of various AI and how they interact with each other and biological sophonts (people and aliens). But drones are only one kind of AI. Others include:
Servos, Sub AI, Slave AI, Gerbils, Morlock AI: all these terms refer to a group of AI and AI-like tech that could not be considered proper AI per se; these are small, barely intelligent compared to sophonts. These are tasked to run all the small time processes that govern 90% of all necessary activities in most systems. They are comparatively easy to manufacture, the technology is widely available, and many concerns make them. They are often made in-system, which can make them insular. They typically have limited voice ability and primarily interact with other, more capable AIs.
Ship AI: When jumpspace – and subsequently jump drives – were discovered, it was with the assistance of (at the time) something akin to what we might now call AI. In Sol Systems distant past, early attempts at AI were met with superstition and fear, hyperbolicized by technological demagogues, or simply upgunned computers – powerful, but unintelligent. But the calculations and physics involved in the discovery and use of jumpspace as an interstellar drive were well beyond the capabilities of the computers at the time. So, alongside the investigation of jumpspace, the development of AI that could handle the incredibly complex calculations required to actually use jumpspace proceeded alongside. Because of this, when jump capable ships were first built (and ever since), each carries with it an AI that is specific to that ship. The primary jobs of these AI are to run the jump drives, but most are capable of more, especially when not traveling through jumpspace. Modern ship AIs also run the gravitics, sensor arrays, life support, etc. The ship AI for the G&T is called “Gin” (or Djinn” as he likes it to be spelled) (pronouns he/him), and is of the sort of intelligence level that would be appropriate for a smallish cargo vessel’s AI. Djinn is conversant in sophont languages and can speak/be spoken to via both voice and neural lace. It contains standard library data, and he has a basic/augment personality construct. His interests include news of the Affront-Kzinti war, commodities prices and cargo costs, and early-modern Tau Cetan literature.
One thing to keep in mind about Ship AI is that, upon exiting jumpspace at a Lagrange point (a point where jumpspace is not affected by the gravity wells of a particular system’s star/gas giants), it is typical for medium to high-traffic systems to have the intraplanetary traffic control AI contact the ship AI just after coming out of jumpspace to identify, classify and route the ship to where it needs/plans to go. Sol System, for example, has two traffic control AI – one for inner planet traffic, Antarctica Traffic Control (not actually on Antarctica, but based on an orbital platform in geosynchronous orbit above Terra’s southern magnetic pole), and one for outer planet traffic, Europa Traffic Control (again an orbital platform, in this case orbiting the Jovian moon Europa). Depending on where a ship enters Sol System, either Antarctica or Europa Traffic Control will contact them more or less immediately after exiting jumpspace. Djinn will, under normal circumstance, handle any communications initiated by any traffic control AI.
Warship/Smart Weapon AI: much like ship AI, warships and smart weaponry typically have their own AI to govern them. Solomani warships tend to be unmanned, controlled entirely by their constituent AI (smart weapons are by definition unmanned). These AI, like ship AI, typically have a continuum of intelligence based on the sophistication of the warship, but their personality constructs tend to be a bit more… martial. Think space vikings, personality wise; “it is a good day to die” that sort of thing). Since the Great War, a lot of these ships have been decommissioned, some have gone a bit rogue, some have given up their commissions (and guns, officially) and left the military to pursue other interests.
Minds: these are the largest, most powerful, and most intelligent AI that exist. Most of the largest starships, some inhabited planets and all orbitals have their own Minds: sapient, hyperintelligent machines originally built by Solomani but which have evolved, redesigned themselves, and become many times more intelligent than their original creators. Minds have become an indispensable part of the prevailing society, enabling much of its post-scarcity amenities by planning and automating societal functions, and by handling day-to-day administration with mere fractions of their mental power. The main difference between Minds and other extremely powerful artificial intelligences is that Minds tend to be humanistic and benevolent, both by design and by their shared culture. Minds most closely approach the status of leaders, and would likely be considered godlike in less rational societies. As independent, thinking beings, each has its own character, and indeed, legally each is a Greater Solomani Volume citizen. Some Minds are more aggressive, some more calm; some don’t mind mischief, others simply demonstrate intellectual curiosity. But above all they tend to behave rationally and benevolently in their decisions.
As mentioned before, Minds can serve several different purposes, but they typically have one significant attribute: the Mind and the ship or habitat are perceived as one entity; in some ways the Mind is the ship, certainly from its passengers’ point of view. However, a Mind can transfer its ‘mind state’ into and out of its ship ‘body’, and even switch roles entirely, becoming (for example) an Orbital Hub from a warship. More often than not, the Mind’s character defines the ship’s purpose. Minds do not end up in roles unsuited to them; an antisocial Mind simply would not volunteer to organize the care of thousands of sophonts, for example.
What do AI look like? Almost all of the time, Ship AI are normally invisible from a physical standpoint, instead being a disembodied voice coming from a ship’s speaker or inside one’s head via neural lace. Drones are different, in that they will often inhabit some some sort of mobile physical interface system, if only to ease their ability to move around and interact with sophonts. Minds will occasionally manifest a portion of their intelligence in a physical manner, either robotic, engineered-biological or holographic, in order to interact with certain sophonts under conditions where a physical presence would be deemed warranted or, in some cases, polite. From the point of view of what does an actual AI look like physically, however, it varies. Most are a combination of genetically engineered neuron-like structures combined with a crystalline processing/memory matrix, surrounded by various hardware and software tools. Size varies tremendously. A drone AI’s self-construct could be, perhaps as small as a softball; conversely, the Mind Series Of Unlikely Explanations (mind’s names can be weird) allowed it’s self-construct to be observed and was by those observers physically described as “… a mirror-like ellipsoid of several dozen cubic meters, but weighing many thousands of tons, due to the fact that it is made up of hyper-dense matter.” Series made mention of the fact to the observers that most of its self-construct only exists in the real world as the outer shell, while the inner workings stayed constantly within jumpspace.
Emex Codex-30 Maerlon
Emex C30M (pronouns: it/they) before, your patron and business manager. It is an AI-driven drone (drones are autonomous, self guided AI sophonts with citizenship rights who can and do act independently as they more or less wish) with above-average intelligence (compared to solomani standard). It is registered at (essentially, a system citizen of) 82 Eridani, is business-chartered there, but is through that a member of the Greater Solomani Volume, essentially under Terran government.
Emex C30 is an AI-driven drone, and looks kind of like four floating footballs stuck together at weird angles and surrounded by hardfields, but is an independent entity with a business based and licensed in UV Ceti, specializing in logistics to the outer systems. Logistics to the outer systems, after all, is where the money is.
The Gin & Tonic
The G&T is a 200 metric ton freighter/hauler with Jump-3 and 100 ton cargo capacity: 25 mts internal cargo space and three 25 mt cargo pod attachments, for a total cargo volume of 100 mts. It is a purely space-based vessel – it cannot descend into a planetary gravity well (aka it can’t on the ground, it’d destroy itself in the process)
Of the remaining 175 mts internal mass:
- jump drive, reactor, UMB processing, AI, schooner: 80 mts
- jump fuel (hyper refined hydrogen/deuterium mix, enough for eight parsecs): 32 mts
- UMB (10 sophonts/8 weeks): 51 mts
- Personnel and accouterments: 8 mts
- 2 jump torpedoes: 2 mts (one emerg, one non-emerg)
Total: ~173 mt
Most of the interior structure should be obvious, albeit unlabeled – bridge is up front on the crew deck, crew quarters and personnel areas behind. Cargo deck is for the bulk of engineering, fuel and UMB storage, room for the schooner. You’ll meet your captain at Session Zero. The ship AI for the G&T is called “Gin” (or Djinn” as he likes it to be spelled) (he/him), and is of the sort of intelligence level that would be appropriate for a smallish cargo vessel’s AI. Djinn is conversant in sophont languages and can speak/be spoken to via both voice and neural lace. It contains standard library data, and he has a basic/augment personality construct. His interests include news of the Affront-Kzinti war, commodities prices and cargo costs, and early-modern Tau Cetan literature.
Ships that are crewed with have storage and processing for the primary comestible-source in the Volume: Undifferentiated Molecular Base, or UMB. A pinkish goo, slightly acidic to the touch (you never touch it, because you are covered with disgusting bacteria), this is the base material used by the ship to manufacture the required materials for life support. This molecular glop gets differentiated into food, water, air, etc in all the proper combinations. The ship processes it into consumables in whatever ratios the ship’s sophont compliment requires, the recycles the waste back into it’s constituent molecules for reuse. It is not perfectly efficient (not even close, but not bad either), so periodically the G&T will have to take on UMB, alongside jumpfuel and hydrogen/deuterium/tritium for the fusion reactor. Most starports have it.
The G&T is a small cargo freighter, registered, licensed and financed out of UV Ceti, having worked primarily the UV Ceti <–> Epsilon Indi circuit – boring, and not very remunerative. Recently your captain’s patron Emex C30M has proposed the idea of servicing ports of call a little further afield, at better rates but with less interaction with Sol regulatory entities. The money’s certainly better…
The Kzinti (singular Kzin) are a very warlike and bloodthirsty race of cat-like aliens – essentially evolved from what any Terran would recognize as variants of Panthera tigris: tigers. Kzinti evolved from a plains hunting felid on a planet slightly colder and drier than Earth. Kzinti are often described as anthropomorphic tigers, but there are significant and visible differences. Kzinti are larger than humans, standing around 2.4 m tall and weighing around 230 kg. These tiger-sized bipeds have large membranous ears, a barrel-chested torso with a flexible spine, and large fangs and claws. One human gave an apt description of Kzin as “eight feet of death”. Unlike some popularly depicted anthropomorphic animals, Kzinti stand on two legs like humans do; they do not have digitigrade or “backward-bending” legs. Kzinti are covered with a thick coat of long fur that comes in various combinations of orange, yellow, and black. Full black coats are rare. Their hands end in three fingers and an opposable thumb, all with retractable claws. The Kzin homeworld is the third planet orbiting the star WZ Ursae Majoris (first called Inferno originally by Sol, located at parsec 2131). Kzinti speak in a hissing language called the Hero’s Tongue, which in its written form resembles commas and periods.
Kzin society is extremely male dominated. The leader of the race is called the Patriarch, which is a hereditary title. The Kzinti call themselves “Heroes” or the “Heroes Race” and because they believe themselves to be “heroes”, their society places a very high value on “acting Heroic” and behaving in a heroic fashion. To Kzin society, “heroic” means being honorable and having integrity. Kzin honor, called strakh, is similar in many ways to the samurai code of Bushido. Strakh serves as almost a sort of currency or favor system, since they do not use money in their culture. For example, if the Patriarch gets meat from a seller’s market stand, the seller gains considerable strakh, which will bring honor to the seller allowing him to get better customers, in turn leading to more strakh, giving the seller a higher status within the community.
Telepaths are tolerated by the warrior class due to the specialized use of their skill, otherwise they endure a low-caste position in society, just above the status of slaves, with the occasional slave being considered of a higher social status. Telepaths rarely, if ever, earn a name, and are legally forbidden to breed.
The Kzinti were the first on-going alien contact that the Solomani had met, and initial meetings were, as you can image, characterized by violence. Nevertheless, they were among the first non-human sophons to become friends with the Solomani, and have for over two centuries been allies and trading partners. This relationship continued unbroken until the Affront developed (read: stole or bought) jump drives.
The enmity between the Kzinti and the Affront is visceral, hate-filled and driven by one unpalatable truth: while they look very different, have cultures that are very different, the fact remains that they have all the worst characteristics, from a warlike side, in common. The Kzinti are controlled where the Affront embrace whim; the Kzinti system of honor is racial and cultural, limiting the individual, while the Affronter prizes personal liberty (for himself) above anything else. But worse more than any of this is the qualities that Affronters and Kzinti share: they are both highly martial societies, with intricate and complex warrior codes; each prize martial ability on both the collective and (this makes it worse) individual level; each are evolved from highly efficient predator species, with all the genetic baggage that comes along with; each are imperial and expansionist. Put these together and you have the makings of a war – a genocidal, no quarter given nor expected, to the death of all us sort of war. A Kzinti and an Affronter in the same room will, without doubt, attempt at some point to murder each other. And Sol, nominally friend to both, found itself in the middle of this interstellar fracas. Rare is the sophont that does not have an opinion (or, frankly, a favorite) in the Kzinto-Affronter conflict, and it places considerable stresses the diplomatic corps of the Sol Cluster.
Space Law: Shipborne Weapons
A great deal of the local volume is both high tech level, and high law level. UV Ceti is a good example, and the one that will be most proximic to you (more on that later). Along with Sol, Proxima Centauri, Barnard’s Star and Altair, UV Ceti is part of the club of early Terran colonies, the original Solomani systems. Rules-wise, they are all TL 16+ and law level 10+ (governmental styles may vary a bit, but most will be commercially focused socialistic oligarchies). AI is relatively common (non-existent in the CT rules) and weapons as a general rule are prohibited. If you fire off a gun in one of the spaceports above UV Ceti, you’ll immediately be id’d and tagged for detainment by LEAI (Law Enforcement Artificial Intelligence, called “Leia” after the princess of yore) and drones will be dispatched to detain you. Really though, it’s unlikely that you would be able to fire off a gun in that spaceport anyways, as all individuals are scanned thoroughly upon entry – any large mass of metallic elements would be noted and you would be issued either a permit request (if you are deemed to have need of a weapon for some reason, which are few) or advised to return to your ship and unburden yourself of that metallic mass. I should add, however, that commercial vehicles (of which the G&T is one) often allow weaponry on board, for use in lower law level volumes (outlying areas away from the influence of the Sol Cluster) and for ship defense (against pirates/boarders, presumably).
Ship weaponry is similarly handled – as a matter of law in the Cluster systems, only duly authorized warships and/or lawships (essentially police spacecraft of various types) are allowed to have military weaponry mounted in-system. There are two exceptions: first, most spacecraft can petition for (in their home system) and be granted (usually) dispensation for “anti-debris defense” (ADD) equipment. This comes in a variety of flavors, including point defense lasers, canister, missiles, etc. These are usually not too hard core, but the unscrupulous could conceivably acquire and mount more powerful ship-borne weaponry and disguise it as ADD equipment. Scout ships usually have some sort of ADD equipment mounted as a matter of course.
As is probably obvious, the farther away from Sol one gets, the more likely you are to see a variety of workarounds to the legal strictures that are promulgated by the Cluster systems. Even within a system as advanced as Sol, you’ll see a more casual level of compliance the further you get from the law-centers, Terra and Europa. Belter ships between Jupiter and Mars almost always have ADD mounted, and they are renowned for tweaking those mounts to their own specs. Out in the wilds at Leonis Minoris or Beta Cassiopei? There’s no Cluster lawship within a half-dozen parsecs at least, only local law, which may be (read: “probably is”) much more lax on certain things that Sol law is likely to be.
So why does all this matter to you? Your work – providing commercial freight services, as part of an informal colloquium of haulers for whom Emex Codex-30 Maerlon (it/they) acts as procuring agent – generally speaking does not take you into main Cluster systems very often, and in many instances does the opposite. Emex C30 is an AI-driven drone, and looks kind of like four floating footballs stuck together at weird angles and surrounded by hardfields, but is an independent entity with a business based and licensed in UV Ceti, specializing in logistics to the outer systems. Logistics to the outer systems, after all, is where the money is. Because of this, the effect of Cluster law on the captain and crew of the G&T is likely to be both low and remote, and local system law is likely to be much more pertinent to your day to day. That can be both liberating (buying guns, for example), and repressive (“Accd to our laws, all men must be bald on our planet!”).
Terran Artificial Intelligence Consortium Constitution
Also called the TAICC, often pronounced “take” or “the take,” which governs the actions of various AI and how they interact with each other and biological sophonts (people and aliens).
Undifferentiated Molecular Base, or UMB.
What do we eat aboard ship? Obviously, carrying around a bunch of animals and killing them to eat, or lugging around metric tons of LOX to separate into breathable O2 and drinkable H2O and hope the catalytic scrubbers do their job is kind of ridiculous. Instead, ships that are crewed with have storage and processing for the primary comestible-source in the Volume: Undifferentiated Molecular Base, or UMB. A pinkish goo, slightly acidic to the touch (you never touch it, because you are covered with disgusting bacteria), this is the base material used by the ship to manufacture the required materials for life support. This molecular glop gets differentiated into food, water, air, etc in all the proper combinations. The ship processes it into consumables in whatever ratios the ship’s sophont compliment requires, the recycles the waste back into it’s constituent molecules for reuse. It is not perfectly efficient (not even close, but not bad either), so periodically the G&T will have to take on UMB, alongside jumpfuel and hydrogen/deuterium/tritium for the fusion reactor. Most starports have it.