Story Idea: The System

I came up with this story idea last year. It was very late at night and I couldn’t sleep, and the ideas just started congealing in my head. I lay their for hours trying to fit all the pieces together, but by morning most of the details had gone.

I was never able to figure out where the story was going, or fill in the details about all the characters. There’s a lot going on here, and it felt like this was turning into an epic and quite complicated series of books. I just didn’t have the time to sit down and sort it all out, so I abandoned the project. Hopefully somebody else can join the dots instead.

The Setting

Humanity has discovered and colonized a trinary star system with multiple habitable worlds. Two other alien species live in this system, one of them with advanced technology, and we share some of the worlds with them.

medusa systemEarth didn’t really figure in my original plan. Maybe it has become uninhabitable, or maybe it’s just so far away that there is very little communication between it and the colonies. At any rate, the colonies are self-sufficient and have their own government (or governments). I like the idea of simply not mentioning Earth, or perhaps bringing it into the equation later on.

There are at least four habitable planets in ‘the system’ (you can add as many as you want, or even reduce the number). I’ve just given them working titles for now…

Gemini – A world just like Earth. The most heavily populated, and the center of civilization in ‘the system’. It is populated by both Humans and aliens (more about this below).

Ares – A barely habitable planet close to Gemini. It is cold desert world with harsh conditions. The air is difficult to breath and its small population live entirely indoors. It’s a slightly nicer Mars, but still pretty horrid. It’s a poor colony, but fiercly independent. The original colonists were probably prisoners or pirates, or maybe they just crashed their on their way to Gemini.

Caerelin – A water world with only a few small, rocky continents. This is the home-world of the Caerelis – an aquatic species with advanced technology (more about these below). Caerelin orbits the second star in ‘the system’. Only a handful of humans live there, and it is somewhat mysterious to the citizens of Gemini.

Minerva – A nicely habitable planet that orbits the system’s third, outer star. This has so far not been colonized, simply because of the distance between it and Gemini. A system-wide mega-corporation once established a small research outpost on Minerva, but contact with the outpost was lost shortly afterwards.

On to the aliens now…

There are three different species living in ‘the system’; Humans, Caerelis, and Nati.

The Caerelis

The Caerelis live underwater and have advanced technology.

Humanity was unaware of the existence of the Caerelis when they arrived to colonize ‘the system’. Coincidentally, the Caerelis began their colonization of Gemini at the same time. After a shaky start, the Humans and Caerelis agreed to share the planet.

Although they live almost entirely underwater, the Caerelis have claimed some of Gemini’s surface as they need it for industrial purposes .

The Caerelis are somewhat intolerant of Humans, and very secretive. However, they do allow a small number of Humans to live among them as ambassadors. Some people are even allowed to live as guests on the Caerelis home-world, but these are all part of a strange Caerilis-inspired cult.

The Caerelis are very intolerant of the Nati, and do not allow them to enter their borders.

The Nati

Nati (Reol - SG1)The Nati are a hunter-gatherer species with limited intelligence. They have no vocal cords but communicate through sign language. They are peaceful, docile are relatively weak.

At the beginning of our story, the Nati are thought to be native to the planet Gemini. Many still live in primitive communities, but some live alongside the Humans of Gemini as a kind of under-class. They live in slums and work very simple, manual jobs. They are considered by most to be both harmless.

The Characters

This story would have quite a long list of characters, each with complex back-stories that lead them to beginning of our story. Unfortunately, most of what I had figured out has since been forgotten. (There’s a lesson in this for all of us – write your ideas down before you forget them!). They are about to head off to colonize the planet Minerva (orbiting the distant third star), so they need to be a mixed bunch with a range of skill-sets.

One of the characters is from the planet Ares. He used to serve in the Aries military as a pilot (or he’s a mercenary). Another is part of the Caerelis cult and has spent time on the planet Caerelin. If you add planets, you should include characters from each of them too (you’ll see why later).

Oh, and one of the characters needs to speak the Nati sign language too.

One back-story idea I had (but couldn’t entirely figure out) was that a female scientist was married to the Caerelis ambassador, despite him being a big tentacled sea creature (maybe they’re telepathic or something). In her back-story she had an affair with another of our characters. Like I say, I couldn’t figure out how this fits in, but I thought it was an interesting idea.

The Story

Our characters are setting off from the planet Gemini to explore and colonize the distant planet Minerva.

The mission has been funded by a mega-corporation, and they have orders to investigate the previous outpost that the corporation previously established. When they get there, they discover that the crew of the outpost have all been killed – violently.

They also discover a tribe of Nati living on Minerva. They are shocked because they all thought the Nati were native to Gemini. Unlike the docile Nati living on Gemini, these are incredibly violent. They soon realize that the Nati are responsible for the deaths at the old outpost. But how did they get there?

Later, they discover something even more unusual;  a huge disk-shaped object half buried in the ground. The object is vast – the size of a city.

As I mentioned earlier, the characters have interesting back stories, and we see these in the form of flash-backs. Most of the back-stories have one thing in common – the main characters have all seen something like this huge disk object before. There is one on each planet in ‘the system’. The one on Gemini is within the borders of the Caerelis, just below the surface of the water. Our pilot from Ares discovered one when he crash-landed in a restricted area of his world.

Whether you tell these back-stories in stages or in big chunks when they become relevant is up to you. If there are a lot of back-stories going on at once, it could get confusing.

The guy who speaks Nati probably has a slightly different back-story. His is about working with Nati back on Gemini, and how some of them were violent like those on Minerva. The corporation has obviously sent him to Minerva to figure out the connection. While he previously thought the violence was caused by a genetic abnormality, he now surmises that it is a racial trait. The Nati on Gemini must have interbred with those on Minerva at some point, but how?

Through our Caerelis cult member, we also discover that there were once Nati living on the planet Caerelin too. Maybe the Caerelis wiped them out.

What does all of this mean? What are the massive disk objects and who built them?

The Big Reveal

So you’re probably thinking that either the Caerelis or the Nati built the huge disk-shaped objects that are scattered throughout ‘the system’, and that they have sinister intentions. That’s the intention anyway. In fact, another alien species is about to be revealed.

Through our Nati translator, we learn that the Nati actually came from a distant star system long ago. They came aboard the giant disk-objects, but they didn’t build them themselves.

The disks were built by an advanced alien species. The aliens are gigantic, and when they make plans they think equally big. They’ve been busy colonizing every single planet and planetoid in their own star system, and several thousand years ago they sent probes to Gemini, Ares, Minerva and Caerelin.

The Nati share a home-world with these giant aliens (or maybe they come from a neighboring planet). They live alongside them in the way that rats live alongside mankind, infesting their ships and space stations. Several thousand years ago, some of them stowed away on the probes bound for ‘the system’.

John Wu artwork

There’s more. The probes aren’t just probes. The disk-shaped objects are actually landing platforms, designed to slow the decent of larger space-vessels. The aliens have claimed this system, and they are coming to make it their own. When they arrive, they won’t be happy to find their new home infested by Nati, Humans and weird underwater-aliens.

Enormous space ships appear from hyperspace and land on Gemini, Ares, Minerva and Caerelin simultaneously.

The Continuing Story

I was never able to figure out where the story should go from here. It seems like it suddenly explodes into a much bigger story, on a much grander scale.

Obviously the giant aliens are more advanced and more powerful than humanity, and this means big trouble. But they have obviously allowed the Nati species to survive, probably because they are too small and insignificant to worry about, so they might just destroy our cities and defensive capabilities and leave it at that. Either way, it’s bad.


ANOTHER STORY IDEA: The Reunion Conflict

But what about the Caerelis? Do they have a defense plan in place? I feel like they might be hiding some dark secret. And why did they wipe out the Nati on their world?

And then there’s Earth. I like the idea of Earth coming in at the last minute to save the day. When they re-take ‘the system’, maybe they start at Minerva and work their way into the more densely populated areas, using Minerva as a base of operations. That would allow us to keep using the same characters rather than switching back to the inner-system worlds.

If anybody is able to figure any of this out, please let me know. And if you have any ideas to further untangle this mess, please post them in the comments section below.

This article was written by Mark Ball.
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  • Sam

    I like the idea of an uninvolved Earth, many Kiloparsecs away. The gargantuan aliens land and kill many Nati, Caerelis, and Humans, so everyone’s trying to survive and hide from the big guys, sort of how humans lived in “Terminator”, but without the whole, “Robots took over and are going hunting” thing. That’s my taste in stories. I like to be unsure of a happy ending and even expect the protagonists to end up dead. Maybe because the Nati, Caerelis, and Humans are so small and smart, they can break the big aliens’ machinery with things too small for the giants to see. You have a good idea, here. I’d love to see it as a two part series of books, although it would work with any other medium.

  • Thanks. Yeh, with so many flash backs, and with the fragmented ideas I have for taking things forward, I can see this working well as a series of comics. It would definitely have to be a series of some description; the ideas I have for what happens next don’t even involve the same characters. They’re also very grim.

    • Ashton Reed

      what ideas do you have next? Can you tell me?

  • Dylan

    The Super Aliens land and… nothing happens. At first. Massive ships enter atmoshpere smoothly and flamelessly, and descend upon the landing platforms. There is a media blitz, panic, excitement, political upheaval, what have you. An attempt at contact is made, but all attempts fail. The ships are a scanned and analyzed, their mass measured, their magnetic fields sought out, and their gravitational pulls valued. And that value is exactly nothing. Their magnetic fields are also nonexistant, and their mass remains a constant zero. According to all scientific instruments, the ships do not exist, but they are clearly visible and matter does not pass through them. The Caerelis attack the ships almost immediately upon landing using a vast, obviously prepared effort, but (of course) the assault has no effect. Simultaneously, the human ships on their worlds in a similarly pre-planned fashion, also useless. The heros question how such measures are possible unless the governments knew of the aliens, but then the real trouble starts. The aliens begin to move in. They do not use weapons, in fact, they don’t even acknowledge the current inhabitants of their new homes. They simply begin to harvest resources from around their landing zones and using them to build structures in space. Seemingly by magic, areas from which resources will be gathered are heated to apocalyptic temperatures and then cooled again when clear of hinderances (such as lifeforms). Afterwards, Silent, non-existant craft gather resources from the scorched landscape. This is done without prejudice, and civilized lifeforms are not targetted, although they inevitabely end up in a “hot zone”. These aliens, completely immune from anything the good guys can throw at them, are moving in, regardless of indigenous life. It’s questioned whether the aliens even know other lifeforms are there. As soon as orbital structures are completed, they silently enter atmosphere and find homes on the landscape, sometimes on top of already-existing settlements. Nothing can hinder these beings, and the heros fear nothing can. Evacuations begin.

    • Interesting. That would certainly be disturbing. But how do the Nati fit in?

  • Dylan

    Perhaps the Nati, having originally come from craft of this type, are the only beings (outside of the aliens) capable of interacting with them in any meaniful way (entering the ships, etc.) Or perhaps the Nati are telepathic, and they can communicate with Nati already inside the new Alien ships. This provides a way to beat the aliens: the heros (through Nati servants) must convince the Nati inside the ships to disable them somehow. If the Nati suceeded, the Aliens would probably kill them when they found them, so you get a bit of innocent sacrifice there since the Nati probably wouldn’t understand what they were being instructed to do. And then the Aliens would be forced to leave their no-longer-functional ships and step out into the world, tipping the odds in favor of the indigenous peoples.

  • Harel

    I must say the concept of “silent ships” with no physical presence that our instruments can detect sounds very cool.

  • Harel

    On a different note, that picture of the Nati is stunning, where did you get it?

    • The Nati picture is actually a Reetu from Stargate SG1

  • Menden

    Silent ships idea also in doctor who

  • Lane

    Reminds me a little bit of the back story from KOTOR and KOTOR2, the “builders” and the “starforger”. I like it a lot though!

  • Darren

    If this was a book series, I would absolutely read it.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, it’s a Reol. It’s right there in your picture’s filename.

    • Oops. Reol, sorry. Reetu were the invisible crab things

  • Nick

    So working the Nati into Dylan’s comment.

    A long time ago (few 1000 years) the Discs landed. There were issues with the flight, these being the first discs the Aliens had sent out, it was not surprising. After they landed there were massive failures with all of them. The Alien homeworld never received a communication back so they concluded these worlds were dangerous, the Aliens on the Discs were abandoned.

    The crew that stepped out of the Disc’s knew they were stranded on these worlds. What stepped out were nothing like what’s here today but these advanced beings would become the Nati after thousands of years.

    So what happened to the Nati? Without their technology the planet could not support them. Kind of like how in prehistoric insects were massive but because of today’s factors they are small. They became less intellegent with every generation. Their “de-evolution” happened faster and faster, because of their shortened life spans they bred much faster than they had in the past. Knowledge was lost, it only took around 500 years for sign language to become their means to communicate. Telepathy was gone, not because they couldn’t do it but because they didn’t know how.

    The information above is not know yet in the story, that gives some background that we would learn later.

    The Nati are evacuating with the Humans to area’s on each planet that the Aliens do not seem to want. We cannot defeat the Aliens but they may let us coexist if we stay away.

    This area of the story would go over the creation of the new city that the Nati and Humans create. We eventually create a scout team that include the main characters of the story.

    The scout team will find a terminal. A giant terminal. The Aliens have no need to fear the inhabitants of the planet so they don’t even guard anything. The scout team moves closer to inspect it, the Nati character (who will have a name and a background established at this point, he is one of the main characters) will collapse and start shaking. Everyone moves to defensive positions, they have no idea whats going on. After about a minute, he gets up. He has knowledge, all of the Aliens knowledge, then darkness. The terminal explodes.

    Looking out to the lands we see ships are lifting off and some have already started moving to the scout teams location.

    The aliens are aware something accessed their system but what? Nothing except them would be able to connect but something did. This “being” is not in any of their systems and their Telesig (Telepathic signature) is not registered at all. This shouldn’t be possible.

    The scout team brings the Nati back to the city, he needs medical treatment after the explosion.

    Sorry, the above text may be confusing. Tough to format w/o italics and such. Let me know if people like that direction or if it’s too cliche.

  • Mark

    Very interesting concept. I have an idea regarding the giant discs: suppose that, instead being landing platforms, they are actually enormous, self-sufficient colony ships that contain giant aliens. Maybe they’ve been hibernating for millenia, or maybe the ships hold the “eggs” or other juvenile form of the aliens. Or maybe the aliens have simply been living there, biding their time. Then you would have a situation where the aliens would essentially emerge from the ground, much like in “War of the Worlds.”
    Alternatively, perhaps the discs are not part of a plan for colonization, but rather they are just small outposts of some sort. Maybe they’re autonomous communications relay stations, or a navigation beacon that sends out a signal to help ships orient themselves. They could be abandoned “gas stations.” This approach would result in the main characters feeling quite small (more so than a space traveler probably does already), as it would suggest that their solar system is just a minor blip on the radar of the giant aliens. This might further emphasize the idea of the Nati (and the humans and Caerelis, for that matter) living like rats among the giant aliens, although at this scale, maybe ants would be a more accurate comparison.
    One way or another, this whole premise is very intriguing. I particularly like the idea of a comic series/graphic novel.

  • Dylan

    Well thank you Harel, it was a way of making the aliens super-advanced in a novel way, I’m glad you liked it!

  • Dylan

    That’s quite good! But a minor change: The Nati’s telepathic ability never dwindled, it was just used for simpler things such as communicating emotion, not operating equipment. The advanced aliens thought the colonists dead and the worlds dangerous until the Nati population reached a level where their telepathic signals were so great that the advanced Aliens sensed them. They realized the worlds were inhabited and upon learning that their colonized had devolved into “lesser” beings, began harvesting the worlds.

  • Dylan

    LOVE Doctor Who! Yeah, I was taking the concept of the voidship and expanding it to a whole fleet that travels normal space. Nothing is original and all that. Though if I’m gonna be emulating anyone, Doctor Who is a great place to go, eh?

  • there are creatures like nati but in in different worlds but the theory says we cant involve the earth!!

  • Morley

    You’ve essentially rewritten “Firefly” with aliens. Nice.

    • I don’t think there’s anything shameful in that. If you strip any scifi setting down to it’s core you’ll see similar ideas repeated throughout even the greatest of scifi works. What I think is the most important part is what you DO with these concepts, and how the story plays out.

      • Benjamin Collins

        if you strip any story to it’s core you’ll find that there’s only realy five stories out there being rewritten over and over.

        • I’ve heard it said there’s only 7 basic plots, although I try not to let that worry me. Mixing & marching & adding extra detail can still create a unique experience.
          Here’s an article about different plot types:

          • Benjamin Collins

            I have that bookmarked somewhere on one of my other computers I just couldn’t be bothered checking just for the sake of accuracy.

    • The only thing Firefly about it is that there’s more than one habitable planet in the same system. Firefly didn’t invent that idea, and it wasn’t the first to use it in fiction

  • CameronMcLeod

    I’m new to this site, but am an aspiring writer. I’m allowed to use some of the idea in this, correct? My plot is completely different but I love the solar system layout.

    Anyways, great ideas.

    • Sure, Cameron, take what you need. You might want to avoid using the alien names as I use them quite frequently in my own fiction, but other than that, knock yourself out.

      I think there’s a general understanding that no writer should (or would want to) copy everything they see without putting their own twist on it, and it sounds like that’s what you have in mind. Just bare in mind that this is an extremely popular article, so others writers might be borrowing quite heavily from this idea too.

      BTW, if you do use some of these ideas, I’d be very interested in seeing the finished result. We might be able to help you promote it!

      • Time Traveling Detective

        i am doing a story on super heros protecting earth from alien invasions. think you can help me with that? Another story i am doing is about a time traveling detective trying to prevent an alien race from taking over all of time and space.

  • ThThThrisher

    The nati remind me of the Prauns in district 9

    • Jack Hemsley 1

      The Prawns are black.

      • The prawns are green 🙂

        • Jack Hemsley 1

          Some are green, some are blue, some are red, all have black parts.

  • JeredNA

    the massive aliens arrive but nothing happens, the heroes on minerva enter the ship unnoticed meanwhile the caerelis and humans on gemini have started a military attack on the ship there. however once the heroes on minerva board the ship they find its crew long dead, the ship obviously arrived on auto pilot. the heroes tell the corporation that hired them just before they are attacked by nati who also boarded the ship, and lose contact with gemini. the corporation tell the caerelis and human forces who have thus far made no progress in damaging the ship on gemini, that the ship is empty and they cease fire. however on caerelin once the caerelis forces stop their attack on the massive alien ship, it starts to make weird noises. and returns fire. it turns out that the disease that infected the first two ships and killed their entire crews, didn’t badly affect the third ship. it lays waste to caerelin and advances upon gemini, where human militairy forces have managed to destroy the landing pad that the empty ship is hovering over, sending the empty ship in to the ocean. the caerelis send the majority of their military to caerelin in a releif effort leaving the humans on gemini to fight the aliens on their own. but the mega-corporation that sent the heroes to minerva has sent word to earth who have arrive in the nick of time with a large star fleet consisting of earthen ships and their allies. in an intense battle that show cases the massive guns on the alien ships and the intense size of the human (&co) reinforcements, the day is eventually won when a small human assault team gains a way into the alien ship where they encounter booby traps and the terrifyingly massive aliens, which are surprisingly easy to kill as they are slow and unarmed. the heroes kill the nati who attack them on minerva and escape the empty spaceship but they still face many more nati and the deadly animal inhabitants of minerva.

    sequel: what will happen to the heroes on minerva who are trapped in the hostile enviroment with no comunication to gemini. just when they think that all is won the victors on gemini receive news from ares and earth simultaneously that a huge disk shaped object the size of a city has crashed landed killing thousands. will the aliens be more prepared this time. and we learn the brutal truth behind the nati on caerelin and the caerelis cults plans against humanity, but how will the heroes on minerva alert the humans of gemini, and does the nearly extinct race of caerelis really still pose a threat?

  • Mark James Featherston

    How about instead of landing ports the disc, powered by the planetary cores, create wormholes back to the aliens home systems. So instead of huge ships landing you suddenly, and perhaps violently what with displaced air/water and unleashed secondary energies, have colony city/forts appearing.

  • tdevlin

    I am a younger writer and I find this story very intriguing. Is it alright if I use some of it as a short story? It won’t be published or shared on another site.

  • Guest

    Is it alright if i use the core idea of this story for two stories i am doing?

  • Time Traveling Detective

    this helped me a lot with two stories i am writing. like the plot every unique.

  • QuantumKnife

    This is a very complete idea! I like the idea of earth coming and saving them at the last second, but a way to squeeze a sequel would be to make the colonies unhappy about earth ‘abandoning’ them (Did Earth?) and have the colonies declare war against earth. Once again, awesome idea! Thanks for putting this out there!

    • Jack Hemsley 1

      That’s gave me a good idea for a sci-fi novel in which several colonies declare war on Earth to escape the tyranny. Thank you.

  • Ashton Reed

    -Ashton Reed.
    I want to write a book or a series about this story and maybe go on with it. I have written a book before but it is not yet published. Hopefully it will be soon. If i do continue this story i may just actually check out your other stories and maybe some how create one as a sequel. If i ever do finish this book or series i will make sure that you get most of the credit for the idea.

    Some random Aliens blew up earth but
    right before that happened the humans built a portal to Gemini, which makes it
    a very populated planet.


    He is a young master of the military
    of Ares. He is strong enough to hold two large guns. He also has a little bit
    of an Irish accent.


    A man in his 30s who lives with the
    caeralis. He is half human and half Caerelis. He can hold his breath for about
    an hour and a half. He is known as the
    fastest swimming human just because
    he is half human in the system.


    An extremely intelligent scientist.
    Odesnal is her brother. She is known as the smartest human in the system. She
    can speak Nati too.

    The Discs

    The disc like spaceships are called
    Graenavolans. Owned by the Tanalgi (pronounced Ten-aauu-ggy). They built
    hundreds of ships. As they were about to go and find more planets to take over,
    the Nati got on too about 7 of the ships. The Tanalgi left and then noticed the
    Nati so they got mad and built something called a Turandanal. It is a psychic
    mind turner. They put one on each of the 7 ships. They turned them on and it
    started slowly.

    One at a time the Nati went mad. Then
    there were hundreds of Nati that went mad. They destroyed everything. They
    killed lots of Tanalgi including the captains. The ships one by one went
    down. 4 landed on the 4 main planets and
    the other went down. But those Mind turners are still on. Slowly the Nati one
    all planets are going to go rapid and destroy everything.

    But the Caerelis knew about this. That
    is why they don’t let Nati live on their planet. That is their big secret. But
    as the Nati went rapid the Tanalgi came back to find the wrecked ships and
    thought that the Humans and the Caerelis shot them down. They got mad. They
    were all fighting each other Humans fighting Nati and Tanalgi, Tanalgi fighting
    all three, and the Caerelis fighting the Tanalgi. Then the Nati just killing
    them all.

    At the end of the story, not the war,
    one of the stars burst. It turned into a massive portal. Then a giant spaceship
    flew in. It was a spaceship form Earth from an alternate universe. They save
    the day by destroying the Nati and the Tanalgi. Then the war ends and the Nati
    race are wiped out. The 3 main characters help the humans from earth (Including
    themselves) to destroy the bad races. But later in a sequal or another sequal
    if this story is a series, the Other Earth humans start to take over.

    • Ashton Reed

      If you want to read the first and only book I’ve written you can. Basically it is about a very high tech planet that never felt the need to leave their planet for hundreds of thousands of year. There are always short stories in-between every story. Its basically crating a universe. I might not be done with the series, i may want to write a sequel to Exeledor Ends

  • Ashton Reed

    this below is just adding on to the story, not the story itself.

  • JeredNA

    This story line reminds me of Lost. The way that all the characters have experiences in the past that help them piece together whats happening on the bizarre desert planet.

  • Colton Dempsey

    What do the Caerelis look like

    • I’ve always imagined them to be some kind of crustacean, probably with several arms for pulling themselves through kelp forests.
      I guess something octopus-like would work too, but maybe with a shell.

      Why a shell, you ask?
      Because they’re a fearful and private species, and this probably comes from their natural ability to hide inside a shell. They protect their borders, generally don’t play well with others, but are usually non-confrontational. I see them as being quite a sneaky and manipulative species though, preferring diplomacy and espionage to conflict. This antisocial nature would make them difficult for humans to get along with, without putting them directly at odds with us.