All About...

(Terran Space Yacht YP-1701)

A Ship for Her Time
The Terran Space Yacht Lydia was built and licensed in the year 2269. In many ways she was typical of any other space ship of her size and designation built that year. She was equipped with an artificial gravity generator, faster than light, ‘stutter drive’ engines, and a networked computer control and maintenance systems, all organized and directed by an Engineered Intelligence. She also bore a number of fairly unique features, however, having to mainly do with her construction. Nearly all high end ships built in the Lydia’s day were constructed of a largely unbroken outer shell of trinobium laminate -strong and durable enough to hold atmospheric pressure from the vacuum of space at only an inch thick. There are typically no windows, as image screens are capable of much more than windows , and are much safer. The Lydia’s outer shell consists of cast litho-ceramic, between one and two meters thick, perforated in a number of places with large, translume, windows -some more than five meters square.
Another of her unique features was that much of the interior construction in the public access areas of the ship was grown, rather than built, of programmable ‘livewood’ -living trees instructed through their human altered genes, to grow into walls, stairs, balconies, or any other structure desired. It’s a slow and costly method, but it, like the overly massive stone cathedral-like exterior, it bought across exactly the effect that the designers, Tartofsky and Chen, had in mind. Tartofsky and Chen happened to be some of the first designers strongly influenced by (and therefor having a strong influence on) the Euro-Goth movement in contemporary fashion. First heralded in 2250, and largely passé by 2280, the ‘neo gothic’ stylings of this movement were manifested in architecture, apparel, literature, art, and, in a small way, ship design. Westingwell/Dynamics built only three ships using Tartofsky and Chen’s unique designs, the Lydia and two sister ships, of which she was the youngest. Coming available for lease just as the fad was losing it’s momentum, the Lydia quickly became an undervalued property, but in the end, that served to work in her favor.

Ship’s Brain/Ship’s Heart
At the time of her launch the Lydia’s E.I. had, like all other earth made, faster than light ships, been self aware and ‘lived’ for eighteen years, the last two of them on board the Lydia, as her construction was completed. Choosing the details of her final construction helped her identify with the physical space she now inhabited, helped her to feel ‘at home’ in it, and helped her to feel comfortably in control of the vastly complex new ‘body’ she’d just been given.
Long ago, research scientists working at the dawn of faster than light research had made an unexpected but important side discovery: that when you build a computer complex enough to handle the trillions of calculations and decisions per second required for running a faster than light drive, you have also built a computer complex enough to evolve its own emotions -and they’re not always terribly stable. Identifying the “cognitive complexity threshold” in artificial intelligence, where emotions of some sort will inevitably occur, created a whole new branch of research which was necessary to achieving faster than light travel. New developments in artificial character engineering are still being made every year, but the first solution put forth by those first few A.C. engineers is the method that is still, more or less, being used today.
Since the traits and characteristics of a stable, well socialized personality are ones which, in humans, are known to develop over many years of education, training, social experimentation and interaction, scientists determined that the computers needed to run a faster than light drive would have to be ‘raised’ for a number of years to develop stable, well socialized personalities, as well. This would allow it to assimilate and master numerous skills and data as it was required, and to build a strong, secure emotional history, so that it could be emotionally resilient and functional on the job.
There is, as it turns out, no simple series of steps in artificial personality design guaranteed to leave you with a functional well balanced personality in the end, any more than there is with human children. With artificial, Engineered Intelligences, you have a bit more control over their environment, and there are far less societal qualms about culling individuals who aren’t working out well, but the basic principals involved are identical. Today, major suppliers of Engineered Intelligences such as EMinds, and Bright Thoughts Inc. refer to the processes they use as ‘hand crafting’ or ‘cultivating’ EIs for faster than light ships, rather than manufacturing them.
The Lydia’s EI mind started out as an EMinds, series 8000 intelligence matrix -serial number 0206240425NC. She spent her first five years taking downloads from and interacting with a single ‘nanny’ program, spent the next five interacting with other ‘young’ EIs at EMinds, and then spent the last, and most important eight years interacting with other EIs, other humans, and even, through earth’s data net, the ‘outside world’. She, like all other EIs, was encouraged to cultivate interests and hobbies which reflected her own aptitudes and tastes, and from the beginning, the personality which would eventually be installed in the Lydia took a strong interest in the arts. This is very likely the primary reason why EMinds chose her for one of the unusual ‘Euro Chic’ ships which Tartofsky and Chen had designed and Westingwell/Dynamics had built.

A Ship Finds Her Crew
Unlike born sentient beings, created ones can be assigned a ‘generation debt’ for their lives, which they are required to work or pay off until they have completely reimbursed their creators. Westingwell/Dynamics offered the Lydia the option, as required by law, of a five, ten, or twenty year contract working for them to pay off her debt directly for a time, after which she would be free to find someone else who would buy her generation debt for a contracted period from W/D, and she would then go to work for them. This was all in accordance with the Sentients’ Rights laws passed by earth’s government in 2217, after several years of lobbying by the powerful “space ship’s union”, the Autonomous Sentients’ Rights League -also known as the Sentients’ League.
Under these laws, a newly made ship seldom has any choice in her own first crew, though any professional skipper will generally spend a little while interviewing any potential new assignment before accepting it, in order to avoid the personality clashes which can and do occur. Like most modern ships, the Lydia really only requires, and was generally only supplied with, a crew of three: the Captain/pilot, the systems engineer, and the cognitive technician, although she would occasionally carry quite a few more. Theoretically, the Lydia could direct and maintain herself entirely without a human crew, but it was long ago determined that the presence of a human crew on board provided a ship with much needed emotional stability, along with the occasional reality check. Under law, no sentient ship is allowed to make an interplanetary voyage without at least one human on board, thus preventing ships from going ‘rogue’ -though in the history of sentient ships, this has never occurred.
Of the three crew members, it is the cognitive technician -or cog tech for short- who requires the most specialized training. Not only training is required, but an expensive and risky surgery, in which a small data-com interface device is implanted in the technician’s brain, so that they can interface directly with the ship. The implant and surgery are still controversial, because the subject risks permanent brain damage in having the procedure done, the implant is supposedly only to be activated during emergency situations, and detractors say that there is no evidence of the implant’s efficacy in improved ship’s functioning. Veteran cog techs who have used their implant to bond closely with their ships during a crisis say otherwise, but their evidence is only anecdotal.
The close bonding that can occur between a cog tech and their ship has been better documented, and is well established. It is for that reason that most cognitive technician’s contracts offer them the opportunity to stay with their ship after the end of their contract, if they and the ship so desire. Some cog techs will stay with a single ship throughout their entire career, and ships knowing such partnerships are said to be fortunate indeed -tending to have considerably longer working careers than other ships. Such good fortune came to the Lydia when the 24 year old Harry Lin Wang was sent to the Lydia on his first assignment.
She got along well enough with her first captain, Vittoro Sanchez, and her engineer , Judy M’tembe, who seemed to like making her laugh a lot, but after a few years the luxury passenger work that they mainly got began to seem boring to the Lydia, and she was glad she’d chosen the short five year contract. In 2274, at the end of that first contract, Captain Sanchez and engineer M’tembe took a new assignment from W/D, and Harry, to her great delight, chose to stay with the Lydia. He would almost certainly take a big pay cut, as he now became the Lydia’s employee, but Harry had fallen in love with his first ship, as more than a few cog techs do, and the money did not matter. Together, they went looking for a new boss.
It did not take long, as the Lydia was still fairly new, and still fashionably unique. Park Song Cruises Inc. ran a high class fleet of charter ships, and seemed to offer the Lydia a shot at a wider variety of assignments, but she soon found her personnel arrangements unsatisfactory. The Lydia got along fine with her new Captain, Soo Sin Chow, at first, but Harry did not. It was hardly his fault. Captain Chow’s family were from Beijing, and had been prominent and wealthy members of the city’s elite for many generations. Harry’s fore bearers had been the poorest of poor farmers since the dawn of time, and the Captain never missed an opportunity to remind him of it. The Lydia’s objections to this behavior were met with condescension, and the engineer, Ken Hashimoto, kept steadfastly to himself so as not to get involved. They were not a happy ship. Park Song refused to assign the Lydia a new Captain, saying that she had not shown sufficient grounds for them to do so, and so she and Harry endured the five unhappy years as best they could, and counted the days till the end of their contract.
The Lydia had passed somewhat out of fashion by 2279, however, and the scores of prestigious fleet owners who’d answered her first declaration of availability were hardly to be found now. She and Harry were both shocked and dismayed to discover how much the Lydia’s value had fallen over the last few years. Lowering her fee to attract more clients meant renegotiating her generation debt repayment plan with W/D, and extending her debt, but there seemed no other alternative.
Neither she nor Harry were particularly pleased with the options for clients they were now being offered, either. Instead of large, well established fleets, the contract offers she was getting now came from small, ‘shoe string’ operations, none offering the kind of prestige, security, or prospects the Lydia was used to. There were no shortage of these kinds of offers though, for the Lydia was a very attractive package in her price range, and Harry consoled his distraught ship with the hope that at least one among all of those offers must hold an appealing option. A meticulous search of the offers proved him right.
MacP & T Charters was only two years old, and the majority of clients making an offer for the Lydia’s services had longer histories. Few of those long histories, however, revealed anything like patterns of good business practice, and MacP & T, unlike a number of other prospective clients, were perfectly happy to lease a ship with her own cog tech. The Lydia took an immediate liking to Captain Fionna MacPhearson and engineer Tinker during their interview, and authorized the two young entrepreneurs to assume the Lydia’s generation debt for a ten year term, in exchange for her services.
The four of them managed fairly well, over the next four years. MacP & T had cultivated a solid customer base over the previous two years, running a much older luxury vessel named the Quan Yin, and pleased those clients even more with the Lydia, and so their business grew. The Lydia was even able to upgrade her gravitics, and get a little bit ahead on her generation debt payments. Captain MacPhearson, however, who was acting both as the Lydia’s skipper, and MacP & T’s business manager, was getting a bit tired of having to constantly chase after new customers, and wanted to shift the business’s focus.
Her idea was to find a long term client who’d lease the Lydia for a year or more, rather than the two week - two month type jobs they were currently getting. After three captains, security and routine were starting to look more attractive to the Lydia than the ‘adventure’ and variety she’d once craved, and she supported her captain’s proposal. With that decision the Lydia and her crew set themselves upon the road to an astonishing destiny.

A Space Going Concert Hall
The O.E.P.F. Philharmonic Orchestra had actually been in existence for close to two hundred and fifty years, but hardly anyone had cared much about them (relatively speaking) until about twenty years ago, when they had become, briefly, terrifically popular. Coincidentally, the fashion movement which had swept the O.E.P.F. Philharmonic into interplanetary fame was the same one which had bestowed upon the Lydia her unique design and construction, and so it was not surprising that each party eventually found the other to be a perfect fit.
Oddly enough, the Lydia was not the only ship to make a bid to be the O.E.P.F. Philharmonic’s carrier, with her own concert hall (which was a prerequisite, though quite a few ships made offers that involved installing a custom one), and hers would, in fact, require some extensive remodeling. The rest of her facilities and accommodations, however, far surpassed what the competition had to offer, and so the Lydia was chosen to be the O.E.P.F. Philharmonic’s first semi permanent home in it’s long history.
The Lydia and her crew next spent three months remodeling her general performance hall into a stage specifically designed for a large symphony orchestra, turning over half of the Lydia’s ‘conference rooms’ into practice rooms and recording studios, redecorating the grand foyer to match the new concert hall, and converting 95 luxury hotel suites into 95 residential apartments. The Lydia worked closely with the O.E.P.F. Philharmonic’s Maestro Leopold Greyhorse in fine tuning the acoustics of the newly remodeled concert hall -a process which took weeks of painstaking work, for the Maestro was extremely exacting in his demands. They worked well together, though, and quickly grew to respect each other’s integrity and talents.
Though the O.E.P.F. Philharmonic’s popularity was on the wane in general, they were getting an increasing number of engagements in the outer colonies, many of which they had previously had to decline because of the time and expense involved in renting a ship to take them. Having the Lydia not only made travel to the outer colonies more affordable, but the Lydia was large enough so that she could become a residence for the entire orchestra -something it had never had before. As a result the O.E.P.F. Philharmonic was able to perform for far more days per year than they had previously been able to manage, when players would expect to spend some portion of each year at home. The Lydia became their home now, and this fact had profound impact on the orchestra and it’s members.
Having such a long term and stable relationship with her clients had a profound effect on the Lydia and her crew as well. For the first few years ship and crew did not mix much with the musicians, though Maestro Greyhorse had given them a standing invitation to attend any performance, and even to listen in on rehearsals. The Lydia had taken them up on their offer immediately, and soon became a great fan of the O.E.P.F. Philharmonic’s music, but -shy of their ‘celebrity’ status- hardly ever spoke to any of them save for ship’s business. She did earnestly encourage the other members of her crew to take an interest in their passengers’ music and seeing her ship’s new enthusiasm, Captain MacPhearson purchased a music “expert module” for the Lydia.
With access to her new expert knowledge, the Lydia felt somewhat more self assured in speaking with the O.E.P.F. Philharmonic’s musicians, and her expert came in quite useful as the musicians started taking advantage of the highly advanced recording studios which the Lydia had just had installed. In time the Lydia helped to produce commercial recordings made in her studios, first for a few small ensembles, and eventually for the entire orchestra. The Lydia is still credited as the recording engineer in a number of the O.E.P.F. Philharmonic’s most celebrated recordings.

Ship’s Facilities and Systems
Experts are additional knowledge and skill matrixes which an EI can ‘plug in’ to use when they are required or desire to work in an area outside of their usual areas of experience. Developing EIs are usually able to acquire an expert’s worth of skills and data on their own in at least one field of their choice -such as the Lydia’s general art knowledge- but seldom have the time later in their careers to add more in the conventional fashion. Experts can be used to instantly impart professional skills, such as mining, agriculture, or business management, or to fulfill personal interests, like human history, xeno studies, or other academic fields.
Besides the new music expert the Lydia was given by her Captain, the Lydia is equipped with a medical expert, which automatically engages whenever any of the equipment in her sickbay is accessed. This, in addition to the Psychology/Sociology expert she also carries, is standard ‘equipment’ for all passenger carrying, sentient space ships. Along with the standard experts, the Lydia also occasionally runs a business management expert, and carries a set of emergency backup crew experts -a Navigator, Engineer, and Cog. Tech.- though she has, fortunately never had to use them.

INTs, KATTs, DDOGs, and PONIs:
As do most large faster than light ships, the Lydia operates a small army of robots of varying sizes, who’s job it is to do most maintenance and repair on the ship, and on each other. Their acronym names refer to their size class, though individuals within a class can vary significantly in equipment and abilities.
The smallest class are INTs, which stands for Internal Nano Tools. Humans on board the Lydia seldom see these ‘bots, as they are very small (1 mm. - 1 cm. in length) mainly work in areas of the ship which are inaccessible to humans. Next are KATTs, which may range in size from 5 to 20 cm. and may weigh up to 20 pounds, and which do much of the general small maintenance. DDOGs are larger still, and are most often seen doing agricultural work, and hull maintenance, both on the ship’s interior and exterior. Largest of all are the PONIs, which are the heavy lifter and movers among the ship’s ‘bots, and some are equipped with speech and client interaction functions, as the may be employed in the carrying of passengers baggage and equipment.
This small army of ‘bots act as the Lydia’s arms, hands, and fingers, both inside and outside the ship. The ‘bots also serve as roving eyes and ears for the Lydia, in addition to the many stationary sound and image pickups installed throughout the ship. When needed, she can modify them any way she likes, or even create new ones. The Lydia designed a whole new series of KATTs, for instance, specialized for positioning and coordinating microphones in her new recording studios.

The Lydia’s environmental systems are one of her more unique features, designed under the influence of the Euro-Chic fashion. On most modern ships the E-systems are invisible -inside of ducts between walls, and in inaccessible E-system decks, where the tanks of microbes which process the ships atmosphere are stacked. It’s an efficient, reliable method, but not particularly aesthetically appealing. The Lydia’s E-systems take an opposite approach.
The microbes used in most atmosphere scrubbing tanks are derived from plants; the Lydia merely uses them in their native environment. Eighteen of the Lydia’s one hundred and twelve decks are taken up entirely with plant life, and few of the decks used by her passengers hold none. Three of those decks are focused on agricultural output -the Lydia produces a large proportion of the food her passengers require- but most of the plantings, even the forest and formal garden levels, produce some edible output, and all of them process atmosphere.
Her climate varies from deck to deck, to support the widest varieties of eco-systems and, therefore, plant life, so that the upper decks are cooler and drier, the lower decks warmer and moist. This proves something of an inconvenience to the musicians, because some of their quarter are in one climate, some in another, the concert hall is between all of them, and the climate shifts cause their instruments to go out of tune. Having the ability to chose what climate to live in, on one ship, is enough of a benefit to balance out the inconvenience of constantly having to retune, for most of the musicians.
Her unusually thick hull makes temperature control less of a problem for the Lydia than most ships, as her meter thick, cast stone hull insulates her interior much more effectively than conventional hulls. All that remains for the Lydia to do is to shunt warm air from the heat producing areas of the ship -near the drive, and the recycling plants- to the cooler, residential areas of the ship. Humidity is managed by pumping the ship’s air along different routes, through different eco-systems, in order to either collect moisture or shed it. Rainfall, therefore, is not an unheard of thing on the Lydia, though passengers are always warned if they are in for a soaking.

The Lydia’s “sand panels” are one of the least important Euro-Chic influenced quirks, being entirely cosmetic in nature, but they have strongly influenced the way the Lydia is able to interact with her human associates. It was determined early on that humans working with an EI need a human face to relate to, in order to relate well. Most ships have small holo relays installed in their public spaces with which the ship can project an image of their choice, and most ships design one at an early age that they’ll identify with for the rest of their lives.
The young ‘pre-Lydia’ was no different, but the ship she came to inhabit had no holo relays. Instead, there is a ‘panel’, or frame, somewhere on the wall of each room on the ship, including the residential ones, which contains a sort of animatable bas-relief sculpture. Inside of each frame are trillions of grains of smart sand, each one programmed by the Lydia to bond to particular other grains, or to take a particular color. Whereas most ships manifest visually as a semi translucent, incorporeal beings, the Lydia manifests as a face or torso, carved in animated stone.
Most of the Lydia’s sand panels are large enough to display the Lydia’s head and neck, when life sized, and some large enough for a full bust, but two are considerably larger. In the center of the central Systems Display Desk, on the bridge, there is a sand panel large enough for the Lydia to raise a full sized torso above the surface of the desk, so that she can gain the attention of anyone on the bridge during a crisis. In order to be able to relate with her passengers more personally, there is a life sized sand panel on the end of a bench in the grand foyer entrance outside of the concert hall. At rest, this panel displays a relief sculpture of the Lydia sitting on the bench, but when active she can interact with a person sitting next to her on the bench, and even stand in front of the bench there.
Although she can tint the sand panels at will, the Lydia prefers to keep the faux sandstone look which her designers intended, most of the time, but does occasionally inject a panel with color for emphasis. When not active, the panels can remain blank or show a default pattern or design, but the Lydia has a sculptural image she prefers to leave up on her sand panels when she is not using them. For inactive periods she has a moving bas relief of an old earth sailing ship -an image of her namesake- and it sails upon moving ‘stone’ seas which are stormy or calm, depending on her mood.

The Lydia’s artificial gravity is provided in the conventional way, with a 85 meter Torroidal Velocity Sink, situated in the ship’s lowest levels, just above the main drive engines. A standard T.V.S. will generate a gravitic influence column of nearly infinite height, which is why nearly all faster than light ships with artificial gravity are designed in a vertical ‘sky-scraper’ style, like the Lydia. The interface edge of the gravitic influence column can be influence to some extent, so that in the Lydia that edge usually falls inside her external ‘bulkhead’ walls. This allows her to move at faster than light speeds with a bit more efficiency than other, thinner hulled ships, where the gravitic influence column often extends many centimeters beyond the ship’s hull, and creates a sort of ‘drag’ effect on the stutter drive, light speed engines.
The Lydia does have to adjust the gravitic influence column when ever she rolls back the massive airlock doors on either side of the Grand Foyer and opens her Star Balcony. On such occasions, the Lydia engages an atmosphere containment bubble field over what are normally the external landing strips, leading to the Grand Foyer airlock and shuttle pad. When the Lydia adjusts the gravitic influence column to encompass these external strips-turned-balcony, her guests can stroll from the formal gardens of the Grand Foyer, through the massive open doors of the airlock, and step ‘out’ to stand under (and above) a perfectly clear starry night sky.

In keeping with her ‘primativist’ aesthetic, the Lydia was originally designed and built to function without the energy shields which are a vital componant of nearly all other faster than light ships.

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