Image from Steve Bowers
Starhand vec. Although the original morphotype was a conical capsule-shaped body with a single manipulator-arm at the tip, intra-clade diversity soon led to a number of variations on and departure from the original template

The Starhand were originally designed as a type of non-sophont space construction robot during the Interplanetary Age. In their original form they were essentially a bush robot attached to a platform that provided communications, sensing and propulsion capability. Because the Starhand design gave them a great degree of flexibility, they and other designs copied from or inspired by them spread widely across the Solar System over time, in many cases being upgraded and updated to keep up with the latest developments in hardware and software.

By the time of the Nanodisaster many of them had been upgraded to the level of sophoncy, though because of their vec origins they were generally not afforded full civil rights. Their design had stabilised into a blunt cone configuration (rather like that of the Apollo re-entry module) with a main motor in the centre of the base and manoeuvring thrusters around the rim. A number of sensor clusters containing broad-spectrum active and passive EM sensors and communicators were also emplaced around the rim of the body on short extensor arms, giving good depth perception. The bush-arm that gave them such good manipulative abilities was placed at the tip of the cone, and could retract into it to get out of the way. It was also designed to split into a number of sub-arms that could detach from the tip of the cone and re-attach to specific points on the rim, giving increased flexibility [much like the manipulator arm of the old ISS]. In some cases their conical bodies were left open to space, but in others, particularly where heat shielding was important, they were given a protective skin.

From being the name of the original robot type, 'Starhand' came to be used as a generic term for them, and both the singular and the plural form of their name.

When the Nanodisaster began to spread, some groups of Starhand, isolated from the swarms but also from the rest of civilisation, decided now was the time to strike out on their own, for their own survival as well as their own freedom. Taking what resources, including nanotech, that they could, they moved into the outer Solar System and began to build their own civilisation there. They were one of the few groups of the time not to thoroughly reject nanotechnology.

During this period their design advanced further, mainly in the further optimisation of the capabilities that they already had, but also with the addition of nanotechnological 'digestive systems' allowing individual Starhand to process matter into fuel and the raw materials to maintain, repair and reproduce themselves. Unlike biological entities, however, the Starhand's digestive systems are external detachable packages that they can leave behind to process matter into the desired forms and return to reclaim later.

They remained cautious about contacting and trading with other groups during the Nanodisaster period, but not absolutely opposed to doing so, especially with other vecs.

When Terragen civilisation began to re-establish itself, there came a split in the Starhand. Considering it now too dangerous, some wanted nothing to do with the rest of civilisation. Others wanted to rejoin it, to what they saw as the benefit of both sides.

After much debate, the isolationists were outvoted, and most of them left the mainstream of Starhand society. They have not been heard from since. It is assumed that they became Hiders.

The rest of the Starhand cautiously rejoined the mainstream of civilisation, and were as cautiously welcomed.

As space-going vecs with useful abilities, the Starhand have, in time, spread far and wide across Terragens space.

Many of them live side by side with other clades, either in solar systems or as part of the crew of all kinds of space vessels, but there have also been any number of independent Starhand polities too, as well as any number of Starhand who have joined the larger vec polities such as the Metasoft Version Tree or the Silicon Generation. As such they are one of the more commonly encountered types of space-going, hu-scale vecs.

Over time the Starhand have changed and diversified, with variant designs (in terms of size, shape, and abilities) becoming widespread. In particular many of the clade have moved away from their original chemical and/or electrical drive systems to small versions of the various more advanced drive systems, turning them into small sophont space vessels. Others have become group-minds, either as part of mixed groups, or ones entirely made up of Starhand.

Many have, over time, ascended to higher toposophic levels, at roughly the average rate.

Hider Starhand
Image from Steve Bowers
a rare glimpse of a representative of a hider subclade of Starhand

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Development Notes
Text by Tony Jones

Initially published on 27 March 2004.