Sunday, January 8, 2023

7 Anomalous Aliens


This is part of what I must now call a semi-regular series, previous installments include:

The universe is filled with life, and we have met very little of it. We understand even less, and that great unknown is filled up with an astounding amount of bullshit: blurry photographs of nothing, clearly doctored video, claims passed around as fact without a single bit of evidence. Unidentified spaceship sightings are common as carbon and typically given far less consideration. The misinformation machine, whether fueled by ignorance or malice, dominates the discussion of aliens - outside of the web of a million lies, the prevailing attitude is that if they're real - real aliens, that is, and not just misidentified human craft, sensor glitches, or bullshit - they'll either be properly discovered at some point, or they're good enough at hiding that we'll never get the chance.

The beings listed below are those that sit in the middle ground between total fabrication and accepted part of life - those that have not been properly studied or formally contacted, but have accumulated enough verifiable evidence to prove that they (probably) exist. What precisely they are is another matter entirely, and only best guesses can be made with the limited information available.



A classic of cryptoxenology: black spheres that are incredibly fast, anomalously low-temperature, lack a visible a drive tail, and appear in groups of 1-9. Most evidence of their existence is low-quality long-range photography or meager blips in the scanner data. Theories abound - they are probes sent to observe us by aliens; they are probes to observe us sent by the government; they are hyperspace anomalies; they are life forms, not ships; they are a hallucination caused by too much time in hyperspace; they are a meme that's turned into a stand-alone complex.

They would have remained the generic unproven alien encounter were it not for a cluster of systems, all within a 35 light-year bubble, where Blackballs appear in-atmosphere. These seemingly-inert specimens drift half a kilometer or so above the surface (similar to tensegrity sphere habitats), only seeming to become active long enough to avoid contact with observers. If they are indeed tensegrity habitats, then something must certainly be inside. If only one could be caught...

Hypothetical Antimemetic Biota

Endemic episodes of lost time and memory loss among colonists on the garden world of Palaemon - separate from any shared pre-existing condition or apparent environmental cause - has led to a widespread belief in native life capable of wiping itself from the memory of the observer. In violation of both company and Alliance policy, the colonists have resisted the expansion of surface operations and have begun to form a loosely-defined animistic religion centered on these Ignotae. Offerings are left outside of airlocks, murals are painted with absences of pigment, wise men and fools try and reverse-engineer who they are dealing with from tracing the missing pieces. Somewhere, out in the purple jungles of the planet, something watches us, and we are blind to it.


The Runaways

Known through a single, well documented sighting. A rimspace mining vessel, while staking a claim on a gas giant ring system, witnessed three asteroids sharply veer out of their normal orbit, burn torch for three minutes and twenty seconds, and then transition into hyperspace. No further encounters have been confirmed, though there were a spate of claims when the news hit the noosphere.

Of great concern to observers are the anomalies shown in the asteroids' apparent drive capabilities: not only did the torch drives in use dwarf the output of any terragen propulsion systems by orders of magnitude, the hyperspace transition was much closer to the gas giant's center of mass than the normal minimum safe distance for a human-operated interface. Combined with the camouflage on display, more paranoid factions in the Expansion Sphere have used the Runaways as fuel for conspiracies of secret invasions, immanent or already underway.


The Basilisk Transmission

The story goes like this: an alien transmission was received by the long-distance communication station orbiting Arete, packaged with its own decryption code. Soon as it was unlocked, the data package started subverting the colony's governance node and most of its civil network. The comm station workers took down the whole satellite network to stop it from spreading out of the system. Alliance warships, in the system for a scheduled refit, bombed the colony into oblivion. The CTA then put up a quarantine around the planet and a hyperspace interdiction on the system, which remain active.

The official line is that rebellion had broken out on Arete, and that the governance node had been subverted by extremist elements of the Aretan Workers' Union. Most people buy this explanation, as it'd neither be out of character for the Aretans, nor even their first rebellion. But with the quarantine and interdiction in place, there's no way to tell what the actual situation is on the planet, or in the small iteration of the City around the system's lone ice giant.


The Barbelo Remains

At first glance there is nothing unusual at all about the original inhabitants of Barbelo: they were of that genre of aggressive, inventive species whose CO2-choked tombs dot the cosmos in their dozens. Nothing unusual there: acidic seas, pressure-cooker atmosphere, a few hardy strains of biota surviving in pockets.

But then the excavations began. A partial skeleton was found, and then another, dozens of them. Then hundreds. A mass grave? The excavation went deeper. A structure, built in a region of low tectonic activity. Signs of attempted breach - all failures. A series of chambers, arranged in a circle some 20 kilometers around, linked by a single long hallway. Filled top to bottom with rows of shelves and niches, and on each there was another skeleton. Thousands, then tens of thousands. Hundreds of thousands. Ground-penetration scans revealed another ring of chambers below the first, then another, then five more beyond that. All identical. Millions of individuals, neatly arrayed in their niches.

In the center of the great crypt-ring is another skeleton; five hundred meters tall, its knees pulled up to its chest, sitting upright. Around its skull is an enormous circlet of worked metal.

A second complex has just been found.


The Samarkand Hyperspace Gate Incident

The Samarkand Gate is a well-known xenoartifact - a long-defunct hyperspace door in a decaying orbit around a brown dwarf. The device has been picked to the bones by xenologists hoping to find some clue to its creators or purpose, but there are no signs of planetary or orbital development in the Samarkand system at all - at least not within the last ten million years or so.

Its state of affairs as a minor tourist attraction was expected to continue indefinitely (with some talks of stabilizing the gate's orbit and moving it back out to a stable lagrange) until it reactivated. This should have been impossible, given the amount of degradation in the machinery, but less than an hour later, a ship emerged from the folded space beyond the ring.

Unlike many mystery ships the vessel appeared to be well within known technological capabilities, resembling middle interplanetary period vessels now centuries behind the modern terragen average. It broadcast a series of wideband radio signals (which remain undeciphered - they don't seem to follow any sensible patterns of first-contact protocol) and remained at the mouth of the gate. Attempts at formal contact were made by the few ships in communication range, but no response was received. After half an hour, the ship turned around and re-entered the wormhole, and the Gate returned to inactivity.

While there's still no sign that the Gate can be reactivated from the terragen side, post-Incident studies (bolstered by some lucky measurements of the Gate's exotic energy discharge during the Incident) have been enough to narrow down the region of space the mystery ship originated in. If the calculations are correct, it is roughly 1500 light years coreward and widdershins from Samarkand. Uncharted territory, so any expedition would be extremely slow going - still, talks are already underway. 


The Worms

Longhaulers drifting into port with their crews massacred. Frantic spacers waking up from cryo to find something growing in their stomachs. Entire stations quarantined, suppression marines brought in by the platoon. Asteroids found floating still and silent in hyperspace, honeycombed with dark chambers. Blurry video of things long, wriggling, deep red. Cultists proclaim the end of humanity and the coming of the Conqueror Worm. A pilgrimage, to the distant planet where all things go to die.


  1. By my own admittance several of these are not as good as they could be, but my rule of thumb for these sorts of posts is to keep 'em modular anyway, so pick and choose what you like is name of the game.

    Really proud of the Worms, though.

    1. I love the visuals. Feel like they don't have any sort of measurable intelligence in terms of mathematics or cooperation, but DO have the ability to exploit it, e.g. sending out distress signals as bait. Something made to prey on intelligent empathic species.

    2. That is a very viable train of thought.

  2. I love this, feels kinda like weird Neon Genesis Evangelion or other old sci fi cartoon stuff

  3. The Worms feel like they'd mesh well with the Worm in Stellaris.

    If you're not's kind of hard to explain.

    1. (The Worms are my version of the Gaunt so they will fit in wherever fine alien parasites are found, I think)

    2. The Worm in Stellaris aren't quite a parasite. It's...a giant cosmic creature and if you make your space empire worship it you turn into some weird alternate universe pseudo-undead version of your original race.

      That's the simple version. It's more screwed up than that.

    3. Oh that sounds extremely my jam

    4. Take a look:

      "They're honestly not very good love poems. But it is, our scientists agree, quite difficult to generate love poems procedurally, and quite unusual for a black hole to send love poems at all."

      As fiction, it's decent. As fiction in a RTS game, it was...deeply disconcerting.

  4. These are all great - there's enough to start with in each one but they are balanced with the right level of ambiguity to trigger the imagination. Nice work.

  5. Some fantastic world building! The Barbelo Remains are like really cool, mysterious Necrons. The Samarkand Gate also poses a great mystery and a cool set up for adventure

  6. Philip K. Dick would be proud to invent something like the Ignotae. I am eager to hear more of the Barbelo sepulchres.

    1. The Ignotae are mostly me returning to the well of good old SCP-055-style antimemetics. i do love that gimmick.

  7. At one point i was doing some cryptid themed worldbuilding and I decided to make Hidebehinds into smth similar to the Ignotae :D