Small or ultrasmall automated ships which accompany mass streams of neumanns and other valuable commodities through space to their destination

Image from Juan Ochoa
LAI Herders and neumanns en route

Many commodities are carried from location to location in space inside cargo ships, especially volatile or dangerous goods. Other commodities can be sent by mass driver or catapult to the location, where they are decelerated by various means and concentrated for redistribution. This method of delivery was first used in the Old Solar system when the first asteroid miners began to send material in streams by solar or fusion powered mass drivers to the destination. However these unprotected streams were sometimes perturbed off course by minor bodies, or as time went by, increasingly intercepted en route by automated or manned 'pirate' hijackers, such as the interplanetary age Eurekan Cybercracy. For this reason mined material and other commodities were either shipped in huge armed freighters. or were accompanied by small semi-sentient armed guide ships, known as Herders.

Since those early days Herders have increased in sophistication, and now often accompany streams of ultratech machinery or nanofeedstock across interstellar as well as interplanetary space. The LAI herder vecships shown here ride along with relativistic neumanns, the boxes in the first picture.. once they arrive at the destination, the herders proceed to "supervise" the construction of whatever the neumanns are programmed to produce.

Herders 2
Image from Juan Ochoa
Arrival and assembly by a spaghetti worm

On arrival the first neumanns are shepherded together to produce a deceleration structure; once the entire stream is on site (or some times while it is still arriving) the neumanns will commence the construction of the predetermined structure (in the picture above a fractaroni spaghetti worm, a living being of hybrid nature) and also forage for feedstock to supplement any material obtained from the accompanying stream.

Herders accompany most interplanetary commodity streams, to guide and protect the goods against accidental loss and piracy, and to supervise the collection process; they are increasingly used to accompany interstellar packages for similar reasons, especially high value, sentient or dangerous produce.

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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers and Juan Ochoa
Initially published on 10 September 2005.