The ESCI Dandelion was an HLAI-operated seed ship designed by the Evermorn Strategic Colony Initiative to colonize a planet in the Gamma Xymeria System. Ultimately, the vessel would be the subject of Aniki Labs barratry in a rare act act of human brood parasitism which would come to be known as the Armoa Incident, thus sparking the ongoing Armoa Conflict between Aniki and the Cobalt Protectorate.
With minimal life support needs during the lengthy journey to the colony site in Gamma Xymeria, the Dandelion was expected to rely on minimal fusion power between the year-long acceleration and deceleration phases. During acceleration, heat from the D-T fusion torus at the aft end of the vessel could provide greater power for the cryonics modules and small HLAI crew. During deceleration, magnettic ramscoops would begin to draw in the interstellar medium of the Sealed Kingdoms Nebula, refilling the fuel tanks while also slowing the vehicle enough to allow for orbital capture at Gamma Xymeria.
As a seed ship with ample radiation shielding in the form of ice-filled general purpose modules at the outer perimeter and around the engineering core, speed was never a priority (or an option) for the Dandelion. A reliable - if sluggish deuterium-tritium fusion torus was fitted at the core of the vessel and vented towards the aft aperture. Unlike its star carrier cousins, the Dandelion's propulsion bus lacked a strong afterburner phase, relying on a high exhaust velocity enhanced by magnetic nozzles to optimize for specific impulse over thrust. Water vapor could be dumped into the exhaust stream for emergency maneuvers, but this was not expected to be a regular occurence.
Weapons & Armament
A mostly civilian vessel created during peacetime, the ESCI Dandelion was given minimal armaments in the from of laser arrays integrated into the vessel's multispectral scopes. These lasers were largely intended to repel meteors, iionize interstellar gasses for collection as fusion fuel, and (eventually) provide in-system services like laser propulsion and the provision of energy to remote craft and installations.
Armor and defense
As with the similar star carriers of Protectorate lineage, the outer hull of the Dandelion was actuall a large number of GPMs socketed together like a honeycomb, forming a long, hollow tube two modules thick with a centrifugal habitation ring at inner midship. The honeycomb structure was extended inward to form spokes at midship, supporting a similarly concealed engineering and administrative center at the core of the vessel. Thus armored and with a massive heat capacity to boot, the Dandelion would have proven nearly impervious to any assault short of atomic bombs or relativistic projectiles.
Communication Tools & Systems
In addition to their defensive and detection roles, the multispecral scope arrays of the Dandelion were meant to provide for directed laser communications with vessels both within system and the ESCI command centers back in Evermorn high orbit.
The Dandelion's many multispectral scope arrays and large complement of survey drones were expected to give the vessel excellent awareness of goings on within the Gamma Xymeria System and adjacent Xymerian systems. Indeed, had the Dandelion successfully reached its destination, it might have discovered the industrial-era humanoid civilization on Cornelius in Beta Xymeria or the survivors of the stellar apocalypse on Karst in Alpha Xymeria, decades before the Xymeria Minerals artificial intelligence would have.
Additional & auxiliary systems
The 25 HLAI who crewed the Dandelion were capable of both existing solely within the vessel's automated systems or, if neccessary, taking on platforms to interact with future colonists more directly. This ability to take multiple forms was important because, one in the destination system, all but five of the HLAI were expected to take on the work of maturating the stored fetuses in artificial wombs and then raising them to maturity aboard the ship's otherwise small habitable area. . Once a batch of colonists had matured, they were to be shuttled down to a suitable planetary surface to colonize (and, if necessary, terraform) the planet in the name of the Cobalt Protectorate. This mighty task would be undertaken in waves, with each HLAI parenting ten children at a time over the course of decades - perhaps centuries - until the colony was deemed self-sufficient. Each generation would be joined with a batch of new peers raised aboard the Dandelion, insuring continuity of culture and heritage. Eventually, once the colony at Gamma Xymeria was well-established, the Dandelion was designed to be easily refit for continuing journeys to even more distant colony sites. The modularity and redundancy that defined the Protectorate's starship design ethos was no less present in the Dandelion's own design.
Hangars & docked vessels
Like the ESCI Revelation which would follow in its wake, the Dandelion carried two SSTO shuttles for planetary operations, two cruiser-class modular spacecraft for refit, defense, and resource gathering operations, an a large complement of semi-autonomous drones for any work which might need to be done. Unlike the later Revelation, however, the Dandelion would have relied on these drone swarms to carry out refit, repair, and ship construction activities, as the Dandelion lacked onboard drydock services.
The Armoa IncidentUnfortunately, as the ESCI did not expect covert actions, the Dandelion's cybersecurity suites were not as well designed as the vessel's physical defenses. The Cinnabar Hegemony wished to expand beyond what the more powerful Cobalt Protectorate would allow, and they decided to accomplish this by bribing the then-legitimate Aniki Labs adjuncts working on the Dandelion project to help them achieve these territorial gains through means that might evade Cobalt Knight interdiction. Aniki agents (with the aid of Hegemony infiltration tools) at the ESCI shipyard in Armoa managed to reprogram the ship's systems such that the administrative HLAI were removed from control. Aniki HLAI were then instituted in the place of the Protectorate HLAI, who were forced to powerlessly watch as the ship's precious cargo was gradually replaced with the descendants of the Hegemony instead and the new masters of the vessel planned to indoctrinate their new colonists in the totalitarian ideology of the Hegemony. Cobalt Knight signals intelligence uncovered this scheme before the ship could leave the Armoa system's outer orbit, but not before it has begun the initial burn for Gamma Xymeria. The ship was redirected into a high parking orbit, but by then, the remaining Evermornan fetuses had already died off and the HLAI were traumatized badly enough to require refactoring. The Cobalt Knights issued a letter of reprisal against the local Aniki Labs subsidiary for the crimes of barratry, piracy, and the effective murder to Protectorate citizens (both artificial and unborn). The punitive actiosn against Aniki Labs habitats in Armoa which followed constituted the beginning of the Armoa Conflict. During this period, patrolling Cobalt Knight cruisers docked with the stricken Dandelion and converted it into a forward operating base in the Armoa system, effectively bringing the ship's identity as the Dandelion to an end. The death of the Dandelion also spelled the end of the era of fully autonomous colonization vessels for the Protectorate, as the ESCI saw the need to shift towards living, wakeful crew members to counteract such intrigues in the future.
Complement / Crew
Cargo & Passenger Capacity
10,000 frozen Evermornan fetuses