2946-06-07 - Editor's Loudspeaker: Responding to Audience Feedback


Firstly, thank all of you who have sent feedback to the Cosmic Backgrounds team about this new feature - it's not even three shifts old, and we've already had hundreds of messages from the audience suggesting things we could focus on. Given that we know based on ingestion metrics that approximately ten to twelve percent of our audience members are out of range of any Hypercomm Relays at any given time, and far less than a third of our audience ingests our new content within the first twenty-four hours of its being published, this bodes well for the future of the Tales from the Inbox text feed feature.

Secondly, I need to address a common themes I've seen in the messages we've gotten Almost two thirds of the input I got suggested that I specifically focus on publishing stories related to the Reachers, the Angels, or both. A third of them suggest that I use this feed to catalog the frontier encounters which may be first sightings of the vessels of new xenosapient species.

  • While I do expect that we'll have content that touches on the Angels occasionally, be aware that Cosmic Backgrounds is subject to the law of the Confederated Worlds, and we cannot publish anything Naval Intelligence designates as a military secret, and that includes almost everything related to the Angels. If military secrets are broadcast to the datasphere from our studio, the resulting fines would probably put us out of business. If we are handed a story about the Angels, it is studio policy to give our local Naval Intelligence office the right to veto whatever content we make out of it, before it is published. Most of our audience know this already, but just as a reminder, those rules apply to the text feed, too.
  • The Reachers, by contrast, are legally fair game, and most of you already know how much we like to talk about them. Cosmic Backgrounds has been at the forefront of the re-entry of these odd, elusive sapients into the cultural forefront, after centuries of being considered nothing more than a data point in the historical record. Where I find reasonably plausible accounts of Reacher involvement in human affairs, I will of course share those stories, if they are sufficiently interesting. Since this is a text feed, I will leave playback of simple visual recordings to Sovanna, and focus on encounters which have a more interesting course of events.
  • The intent of this feed was not to turn it into a repository for stories about mysterious xenosapient encounters. We will have some content which fits that description, but not all of the dramatic events which take place on the Frontier have something to do with rare xenosapients. If you only wish to see accounts of a certain type, you can always configure your data ingestion protocol to search for the desired meta-tags.

Check your ingestion queue tomorrow for another exciting audience submission on Tales from the Inbox!


2946-06-07 - Upcoming Events: Aston Pesaresi at CBCP Centauri

Cosmic Background host Ashton Pesaresi will participate in several panels in October during CBCP Centauri, which is being hosted this year on the campus of Baumgartner University in the city of Pele. A full list of the topics of Ashton's panels, as well as dates and times, will be provided in mid-July, but it is possible that the convention will be sold out by that time. The only panel topic which we can confirm at this time is "The Interstellar Community as an Audience", as this panel topic was retained from last year's program due to high demand.

Entry passes to the yearly Convention of Broadcast Professionals can be reserved on the organizers' datasphere hub. Their hub also contains information about other aspects of the event, which will last six days.

It is possible that Ashton will miss one or two shows while attending the convention, but one of the other Cosmic Background personalities will almost certainly be on hand to fill in for him.

2946-06-08 - Tales from the Inbox: The Tatianus Ranch Sighting

It should surprise nobody that, within hours of my cautioning the consumers of this text feed not to get their hopes up about stories about the Angels, a cache of old material on that very subject has been given to me by an anonymous source. Following the usual, procedure, I took the content down to our local Naval Intelligence representative, who gave me enthusiastic approval to publish it for the Cosmic Background audience. I don't think our attache ingests this feed, but if she does: Lieutenant Simona Durand, thanks again for handling this quickly!

Our mysterious source sent me what he or she claims is all the publishable content from this source; given that I was authorized to publish it all after our local representative spent only half a day examining it, he or she must have some experience with the Bureau of Naval Intelligence's protocols. Perhaps our source comes from inside the bureau itself, but this is mere speculation on my part.

Evidently, this material was collected by an eccentric hobbyist in the 2720s or 2730s, and languished in hard storage on powered off devices for a long time. Many of the files are stored using encoding that none of my devices recognize, but about half are still readable (and Cosmic Background staff will work to get the rest translated soon). Note the date on this file; I shudder to think of the state of computing hardware in the mid 25th century. It's a wonder anything as old as these files is still readable on modern devices, but our tech team assures me that the means of storing text hasn't changed in a long time.

While I can find no other source for this material, I have discovered independently that the organization it is ascribed to was an active sensationalist reporting outfit in operation here on Planet at the time. A few other inquiries have convinced me that it is likely that this article really was published on the indicated date - as for the truth value of the reporting, the audience is encouraged to decide for itself.

Today's installment of Tales from the Inbox will publish the first piece of this material. Because of the extreme age of this source, I do not consider it time-sensitive, and plan to make several Tales from the Inbox posts sourced from this cache in the coming weeks and months. For those of you who will inevitably bombard my inbox with demands for the whole source to be made immediately available, remember that not everyone who ingests this text feed is a tireless seeker of data pertaining to the Angels, so I plan to intersperse these items with other kinds of stories. Also remember that if there really were anything new in my source, Naval Intelligence would have denied permission to publish it to the public datasphere anyway.


TYPE = newsfeed_archived_3.2c 


type: text, 

publication_name: "The Centauri Enigma", 

publication_type: local_news_gossip, 

provider: "Centauran Media Group, Inc." 


TIMESTAMP = "2456-01-30@12:48:17Z", 

TITLE = “Small Town Visited By Aliens: Visit by Angels Suspected” 

AUTHOR = “Roberta M. Roderick” 


HARCORT, SPD, PLANET, CENTAURI: The small mountain prospecting community of Harcort is, for perhaps the first time in its many decades of history, a center of frenzied activity today after an alleged visitation by intelligent extraterrestrials in the early hours this morning.   

The tiny community of only 147 residents was the source of over fifty calls to local emergency response between local times of 3:10 and 4:25 AM, each reporting being overflown by unauthorized aircraft, strange booming noises, or the nearby landing of an unauthorized aircraft. As the remote region of Spine of Planet was once a haven for outlaws and brigands from more civilized regions of Planet, local authorities scrambled a suborbital to deliver a response team, but when they arrived in Harcort at about 4:45 local time, they found no sign of the expected local outlaws. 

According to Kress Voltolini, a local prospector and witness to the night’s goings-on who spoke to this reporter, the landings at Harcort were not aircraft, but landing craft from a spacecraft in orbit over Planet, though Centauran Control detected no unidentified craft in local space at the time. 

‘Three of them flew over my place at about three oh five,’ Voltolini said. ‘They woke me up and scared the hell out of me.’ When asked what the engine noise sounded like, Voltolini insisted that there wasn’t any. ‘Was the damn sonic shockwaves that woke me up.’ He said, ‘They were going really fast when they passed over the first time, then they looped back around slower, and went down over the rise. When they passed the second time, they were totally silent.’ He described the appearance of the craft as ‘a dead ringer for the grainy stills of the Angels they took during the Grinner war,’ but confesses that he did not have a good sense of the scale of the craft.  

The rise in question, just north of Harcort proper, is home to three goat ranches. The night’s activity, alien or otherwise, seems to have been centered around the Tatianus ranch, farthest from town. While this reporter could not collect statements from anyone from that ranch, she did manage to secure a statement from Lev Jurek, a handyman who was working at a neighboring ranch last night. At his telling, the alien formation flew right over his head while he worked on a failed segment of sonic fence and two of the ranchers stood in the gap to keep the animals inside the pen. Jurek also mentioned specifically the lack of engine noise. ‘I think they were gliding in.’ He said. ‘But they didn’t have wings, so I’m not sure what made them glide.’ 

Jurek went on to say how the three small craft landed silently on the grounds of the neighboring ranch. Using binoculars from his toolbox, the handyman says he watched from afar as two surprised people staggered out of the Tatianus ranch house to meet a trio of monstrous aliens, one coming out of each ship. ‘I think ol’ man Tatianus knew ‘em.’ He said. ‘Pretty sure that’s who went and met those things, but it was hard to see for sure.’ Jurek describes the aliens as ten to twelve feet in height, towering over the figures of the human ranchers, bipedal and with three equally sized and spaced fingers on each hand. He says that they were wearing some sort of full-body suits and suggested that he didn’t think they could breathe Planet’s earth-like atmosphere. 

Jurek’s story appears to be mostly corroborated by those who were in the Tatianus ranch up to this point, though this reporter only has thirdhand retellings of the stories of two employees of the Tatianus family who staggered into town at about 4:15, shouting that aliens had landed at the ranch. What Mr. Jurek said next cannot be corroborated and is nothing short of sensational. 

‘They talked to Old Man Tatianus for a few minutes.’ Jurek explained. ‘And eventually he pointed up toward the Spire, and they left. Flew up over the mountain, where a fourth, a bigger one, joined them, and they disappeared near the peak.’ The Spire seems to be a local name for Mount Valdimar, the third-highest mountain on Planet, whose plateau shoulder is only about forty kilometers from Harcort by air. 

This reporter was able to determine from local records that in his youth, Braden Tatianus was a climber, who made three ascents to Valdimar’s summit with fellow climbers Felix Bennett and Cornelio Ingomar - on a fourth attempt, Bennett perished in a fall and the ascent was scrapped.  

Did Braden Tatianus discover an artifact of the Angels on the mountain with his friends? Did this artifact claim Bennett’s life, or did he perish in a fall as was reported at the time? Was last night’s visitation the return of the makers of some artifact, and if so, why did they make contact with Tatianus rather than going directly to the mountain and potentially avoiding detection? The local authorities aren’t saying what they think, obviously. One can only hope the truth of this strange event will come to light in coming months… 


2946-06-09 - Tales from the Inbox: KR-122

"Quetzalli to unidentified ship, transmit identity and state your business." Nirav tried to sound as authoritative as possible. With Quetzalli's transmission laser locked onto the oncoming vessel and boosted to full power, he had no doubt the transmission had gotten someone’s attention. 

As soon as he released the transmit control, a timer began to count down the seconds until his transmission had reached its target. With no information on the ship except the size and range of a blip on his display, Nirav could do little but wait for a reply. 

On the other side of the plot, a cluster of much larger markers represented the rest of the convoy and its hired escorts – little Quetzalli was the last ship in line. Nirav, the only member of Quetzalli's compliment on duty in the middle of the third shift, didn’t want to wake the others – after all, he knew they were all sleeping. 

"On duty” was a rather generous name for what Nirav was doing, and he knew it. He had no idea how to fly the ship; he was on the command deck solely to answer the comms and wake the others in an emergency. With the ship’s helm slaved to the convoy control network through all its star-drive hops and local-space maneuvers, Nirav spent most of his duty hours playing games on the console. 

Newer ships’ computers could field comms inquiries automatically and even detect emergencies, but Quetzalli had been purchased in a hurry and on a tight budget. Its crew module, only one hundred square meters of deck space divided into seven cramped compartments, had been designed with a small family in mind, and it was an uncomfortably small home for five adults, none of them habitual spacers. The novelty of interstellar travel had worn off in the first week, and by the second, restless tempers had flared, and by the third, they’d cooled again into a collective lukewarm apathy. For Nirav, everything had settled into a dull routine of bland meals and sleep, duty shifts and empty hours in the lounge. 

Of course, now there was a new ship on the nav plot, creeping up to the convoy in interstellar space. With no stars within fifteen ly, the stranger could not be a chance meeting. Nirav suspected it was a straggler, another small ship like Quetzalli which had suffered a misjump or fallen behind, but he also remembered stories he’d read back on Earth about the spacer outlaws who supposedly infested the Coreward Frontier. Might a single small pirate ship try its luck against the convoy’s superannuated Navy escorts? 

The timer on the console ticked over to zero, then turned yellow and began counting back up, indicating that Nirav’s transmission had reached its target. After the same amount of time elapsed, the timer turned green. Most spacers probably didn’t need the computer to remind them of the limitations of light-speed on radio waves, but Nirav was glad of the help. 

Two seconds after the numbers turned green, a response came in. “This is KR-122, Lagounov speaking.” The voice was a woman’s, nasal and bearing an accent Nirav didn’t recognize. “Returning to formation.” 

Nirav decided he’d been right about the ship being a straggler. Though dominated by three huge liners, the convoy had dozens of smaller, older ships like Quetzalli, and any of them might suffer a misjump due to a calibration error or equipment fault, landing far outside the intended arrival area.  

After several seconds, though, Nirav realized that the incoming ship still had no information tag on his display. This meant KR-122 had no functioning identification transponder. The inspector from the Navy escort squadron had buried his rhetorical boot in the posterior of Quetzalli’s little crew back at Centauri for failing to keep their transponder in good order for just this reason. If a ship did happen to mis-jump, the slaved autopilot would automatically try to return to formation at high speed, but only with a working transponder would the Navy know not to fire on the straggler. KR-122 would be in danger of being fired upon – or of a severe tongue-lashing from a frigate’s skipper – if the escorts detected it. 

KR-122, you’d better get back on convoy control and fix your transponder before someone else notices.” Nirav hoped Lagounov would get the message in time to address the issue. Their ship was probably no larger or better crewed than his own and would need all the time they could get to find out what was wrong with their transponder. 

Such a failure might have gone unnoticed for hours in the first week of the convoy, when the escorts spent all their time charging after self-styled hotshot free-spirits who resented the Navy’s firm convoying regulations and calmly explaining to inexperienced new spacers how to undo the results of ignorant button-pushing. In the third week, however, everything had settled down, and the Navy was only too happy to make examples of anyone who made trouble – Lagounov and her ship risked being run down by one of the escorts’ gunships and towed to an unfriendly rendezvous with the convoy commander. 

On the display, KR-122 inched closer to the formation. Ample time had elapsed for his opposite number to receive his warning, yet the ship did not change its course or activate its transponder. Any moment, the powerful sensor systems on larger ships farther up the formation would pick up Lagounov’s ship. Nirav sighed, instructing the ship’s lone comms laser to point at the nearest Navy ship. He pitied Lagounov, who was probably just as out of her depth at the controls as he was himself, but rules were rules, and Nirav didn’t want to give the Navy any reason to blame Quetzalli for protecting KR-122. 

Lagounov finally sent a reply, just as the console announced that it had a solution to transmit to the convoy commander’s frigate. “Quetzalli, how do I do that?” The woman’s voice, though calm, carried a hint of uncertainty. 

Nirav sighed, then instructed the laser to spin all the way back around to send to the straggler again. “Can’t help you with repairs, KR-122.” He sent. I have no idea what you’re flying.” He barely had any idea what he was flying, but he wouldn’t admit that on an open channel. 

“Who am I talking to?” This time, the signal delay was noticeably smaller; KR-122 was getting closer. 

Nirav glanced over to verify that his ship’s transponder was still working, and that, as the ostensible commander for the rest of the shift, his name was being broadcast in addition to the ship’s name and identification codes. Could Lagounov not see the identification signal? Once again, he set his transmitter to seek out the Navy escort. They would deal with Lagounov and her confusion. 

Nirav’s console flickered wildly, then its display surface darkened. As he pounded his fist on its side, the command compartment’s lights died as well. The hum of the atmospherics cut out seconds later, and Nirav felt himself drifting away from the crash-padding of the pilot’s seat. He froze in panic, imagining himself and his compatriots drifting silently in interstellar space until the air ran out. 

Just as he recovered and started trying to remember where the manual alarm control was, Nirav heard the atmospherics whir to life once more. A moment later, the lights came on and he fell ten centimeters into the chair as the gravitic systems reasserted themselves. 

“What the hell was that, Nirav!” McCreary, the only person on Quetzalli with prior experience in interstellar travel, suddenly filled the doorway behind the pilot’s station. He hadn’t even bothered to throw on a shirt after jumping out of bed, and evidently microgravity didn’t cause him any problems. 

“Uh. I don’t really-”  

The older man pushed past Nirav to jab at the restarted displays. Nirav tried to stay out of McCreary’s way, but he didn’t think what had happened was his fault. Quetzalli had experienced a few electrical problems when they’d first bought it, but they had fixed most of them. Evidently, one had slipped through. 

The nav plot came back on, one of the last consoles to reassert itself. Nirav glanced at it and immediately noticed something missing. “She’s gone.” 

“Who’s gone?” McCreary glanced at the plot only briefly while he scanned through the ship’s system statistics too fast for Nirav to read. 

“There was a ship here.” Nirav poked his finger into the ghostly constellation of lights hovering over the nav panel to the place the missing ship had been. “A straggler called KR-122.” Had the ship suffered a power failure too? What could cause two nearby ships to have such problems at the same moment? 

“Not our problem right now.” McCreary pointed toward the hatch. “This one’s not your fault, Nirav. Run down to the patch panel by your quarters and check those power feeds. I’ll monitor from here.” 

Nirav started to protest – he thought someone should raise the alarm so the Navy could go find KR-122 – but then he looked closer at the nav plot and saw that even the radar blip he’d first noticed had disappeared. Wondering if he'd fallen asleep on duty and dreamed the whole episode, he nodded and left to follow McCreary’s instructions. 

Today's story was submitted by Nirav R. Nirav is a relatively new member of the Cosmic Backgrounds community, and the community of spacers generally – in fact, he asserted in his message that he'd lived on Earth his whole life until this past October, when his employer went bankrupt. Rather than chance the job market on Earth in today's economy, Nirav banded together with four of his old coworkers to buy a battered but still jump-capable starship, the Quetzalli, which they pointed toward Maribel and the Coreward Frontier.

I can find no record that a ship designated KR-122 was present in this convoy when it left Herakles. Was the intruder a brazen pirate? A ship which couldn't afford to pay the convoying fee? A dying vessel trying desperately to keep up? Was she a ghost ship, or some form of convoluted espionage from the Hegemony? Audio recordings of the transmissions were provided with Nirav's submission, so it seems unlikely that he made it up.

We here at Cosmic Background wish Nirav and his four compatriots all the best in their travels, and hope they find what they are looking for at the Frontier. Perhaps, if they encounter this vessel again, they will allow us to publish the rest of this story. Similarly, if someone knows KR-122 and would be able to supply Lagounov's side of this story, I would be happy to publish it.