And here we go, the last of my series of patreon-exclusive posts from back in the halcyon days of February.
10 Sapient Alien Species for Mothership (and other games)
1) A decaying satellite crying tightband radio bursts into the night, orbiting a world of desertified continents, sterile acidic oceans, and unbreathable CO2 haze.
- The satellite will respond to attempts at communication using the 1420 MHz band. Its first messages will be used to establish baseline proficiency in math and chemistry with whomever it is talking to, growing in complexity and steadily increasing the amount of data transferred. (Example puzzles: Prime numbers. Fibbonaci sequence, hypotenuse calculation, identifying elements (hydrogen, then helium, carbon, oxygen, uranium etc, chemical compounds like water, sucrose, caffeine etc.)
- The satellite will be able to form a basic vocabulary in a few days if provided with sufficient data. It will try for sympathy. It will lie.
- The satellite contains 2861 digitized minds - all that could be saved of the eleven billion beings that once inhabited the planet below. All of these are close enough in complexity to a human mind that they can be loaded onto a run on an android logic core. Makeup of the population is:
- 00-23 - Chrysocratic landowning caste
- 24-30 - Diplomatic stratoeunuch caste
- 31-50 - Petrofascist party leadership
- 51-65 - Cryptotechnocratic monopolists
- 66-89 - Retainers of the above parties (roll again, ignore 66+)
- 90-99 - Literate scientists and scholars.
2) Colonial organisms like tube worm pipe organs, living simple lives and thinking simple thoughts around the deep-sea vents at the bottom of a subglacial ocean.
- Observation can tell that they are thinking, but can’t tell what they are communicating to each other, or to what extent they are aware of their observers.
- The beings can, very slowly, guide the growth of structures from dead segments of the colony (akin to coral formation) that appear akin to cathedrals to the human eye - these have no practical purpose, and so are considered art and thus valuable.
- Pressure differences would kill these creatures long before they ever made it to the surface. This does not stop a certain secretive band of investment firms who want to transplant one of the colonies and sell it as an art installation.
3) Dolphin analogues (highly social aquatic pack predators) from the shallow oceans of a high-gravity superhabitable world. Sleek pointed cylindrical bodies with powerful tails and steering fins.
- A rough lexicon has been established, basic communication is possible with machine intermediaries.
- The beings have shown great curiosity in human researchers and AI probes. Several have volunteered to be taken offworld.
- This is less good, because someone found that they are delicious.
4) A terrestrial planet orbiting an ordinary K-class star, spitting out tightband radio signals contining sequences of prime numbers at every nearby star. Every probe sent to the system, and all have been destroyed within a few hours of exiting hyperspace, providing only partial images of the planet’s surface. Light-tracery resembling major cities can be seen on the night side.
- Nearby planetary governments have issued a general lockdown - attempts to contact the planet in any way are considered an act of terrorism and will be dealt with militarily.
- Someone claiming to be a listening station on the ANONNET claims to have received a different message from the system - prime numbers in descending sequence, from somewhere in the oort cloud of that sun.
5) Beings whose homeworld is on a very pronounced elliptical orbit and so spends the majority of its year frozen solid. These creatures cocoon themselves in clusters around geological hotspots, favoring those rich in the radioactive materials they feed off in this stage. Clusters are connected by complex webs of neural ganglia that have burrowed through the rock - they clearly are talking to each other, but we don’t yet know what they’re saying. No direct contact has been made, only ground-penetrating scans.
- The planet is due to move back into a temperate zone relatively soon, which means the next stage of these creatures’ lives, if such things exist, is bound to happen. There’s an actual low-key war going on between the members of different university xenology departments over who gets first exploration rights, and thus first publishing on papers.
6) A very simple machine species - glossy metal spheres from marbles to soccer balls, running around the near-Martian desert on their little spider legs. They have a symbiotic relationship with equally-artificial solar trees that they use to recharge. There have been no signs of any sort of civilization beyond the artificial ecosystem, and it doesn’t look like the planet has ever had native life.
- Remarkably quick to pick up human language, but they only seem to mimic it so far. Common source phrases (often cut up into pieces) include:
- [Repeatedly babbling] “Hi!”
- [Passable imitation of Alec Guiness] “Hello there!”
- “God fucking damn it where did I put the tablet?”
- “Have you seen Fareeha?”
- “Hold this, I need to go take a shit.”
- “Pickup’s been delayed by three months.”
- “I swear the little bastards are listening to us.”
7) A solitary ambush predator, something similar to an amphibious octopus, native to the shorelines of hydrocarbon seas on a frigid methane world. Old, cold, and terribly, impossibly patient.
- The single specimen kept in containment by the KeterDevelopment Corporation has attempted to escape twice. After nearly dying in the first attempt due to the atmosphere and pressure outside its containment unit, it managed to kill an inspecting caretaker, steal their pressure suit, fill it with the appropriate gas mixture, and crawl out the airlock in the space of seven minutes.
- Video from a planetary probe has been leaked to the public: in it, one of the creatures is seen brutally murdering another using an ice hand axe before dragging the victim’s corpse back into the lake.
8) Long-range space telescopes have picked up a distant patch of space lit up like a bonfire in the infrared, without a visible star. Consensus is that the anomaly is an alien dyson sphere dumping waste heat. No coherent radio transmissions have been detected from the civilization, and no nearby stars show any signs of dimming or other drastic change.
- The expeditionary force to the sphere has been a cavalcade of disaster and it hasn’t even left yet. It’s burned through six directors, three expedition leads, an armed revolt by the shipwrights’ union, a breakout of Red Death, a major political scandal involving coverup money paid to specialist fetish simulation designers, and the performative suicide of its bookkeeper as an act of protest. Launch is still scheduled for two years from now.
9) A space-faring civilization that, some four million years ago, had managed to colonize over twenty solar systems before suddenly vanishing. Very little is left now, mostly crumbling orbital infrastructure, the buried remnants of surface settlements, and the shared biospheres among their disparate worlds. Most of their material culture is gone, and few partial bodies have been recovered.
- These beings had managed to create a quantum-entangled communication network that was linked directly to the brains of each individual and most of their active technology, allowing for constant real-time communication among the entire species.
- Some corruption in the ansible, either deliberately introduced or a naturally-occurring anomaly, was able to wipe out the entire species in a matter of minutes. The exact method is still unknown.
- Accessing the ansible is still possible through elaborate workarounds, connecting old implants to newer devices. The interior mindscape is universally described as hell.
10) Social, adaptable, omnivorous, migrating across the temperate plains and river deltas of their homeworld. They have fire, they have tools and specialized crafts, they have oral history and artwork. Six legs, humpbacks, and mottled blue skin aside, they are more like us than anything else in the universe.
- The political battle over these beings has drawn lines between the Preservationists (no interference whatsoever), the Gradualists (minimal guided interference) and the Immediatists (Immediate absorption into interstellar civilization), with religious groups siding with all three. Shots have been fired, ships have been sunk.
- The taboo has already been broken in secret by factions within both the Gradualists and Immediatists. Preservationists have been moving towards sabotaging these programs before they go too far.