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!


2946-06-06 - Sponsor Message: Chandler Rose | Trust Nothing Less

Our sponsor, Kosseler Shipbuilding, wanted to provide its own story for the new series. This story is well documented in local newsfeeds, and will be featured in a Kosseler datasphere marketing campaign - but our readers get to see it first. Our audience has always rewarded Cosmic Background's sponsors with their business, and I hope that, if you are in the market for a new ship, you'll consider what Kosseler products have to offer.

The station crew crowded the viewpanels to gawk at the ship which drunkenly maneuvered toward the outstretched docking collar. The little yacht's hull was mangled almost beyond recognition, and it was a wonder to the steadily increasing audience within the station that the vessel had not only survived its ordeal, but had made a successful star drive jump in its condition. The name of the ship, Eustace Shelby, was all but invisible, the painted markings scoured off those remaining plates of hull still attached to the vessel's bent frame.  

Shelby missed the docking collar once, then again, its few remaining maneuvering thrusters sputtering dangerously. Over the radio, station control suggested that the lone occupant of the limping ship take manual control and attempt to complete docking himself. 

"Hell no, boss. Shelby's got this." The pilot replied. His bravado, piped to the nervous onlookers, inspiring a scattered, tense cheer from the small crowd within. The ship's plight had been known aboard the station from the moment Shelby had completed its jump into the system eleven days prior, but until the ship was finally close enough for docking, they hadn't been able to see the damage with their own eyes. Some hadn't believed the pilot's story, when he'd first established contact. Now, it was easy to believe. 

Chander Rose, pilot and owner of Eustace Shelby, is something of an adventurer, who takes his little yacht into dangerous territory in search of lost treasures, derelict ships, and other mysteries. He has had more than his share of run-ins with criminals and claims to have had at least one encounter with a Rattanai raid-ship, but it was not fire from hostile weapons which had shattered his ship, but an accident so incredibly rare that no previously recorded incidents exist. Chandler's ship had survived a blind, head-on collision with a comet.

Chandler took Eustace Shelby out of Sebastiaan Station on the twenty-seventh of April, intending merely to go and see The Gorgons, three spectacular gas giants in a nearby system, for himself, as do many tourists and explorers passing through Herakles. His jump completed normally, but Chandler couldn't see the Gorgons' stellar primary, which should have been dead ahead. A collision alarm had sounded, but too late – the icy lump and Shelby were moving too fast relative to each other for there to be any hope of avoiding impact. 

Still, the autopilot corkscrewed wildly before its pilot could react. The screaming alarm had not yet ceased before Chandler, strapped into his crash-padded station chair, heard a roaring crash and the tearing of metal, the stars outside his viewpanel spinning too quickly to follow, dancing to a discordant tune played by dozens of shrieking alarms. The gravitics stuttered for only a few seconds, but it was long enough that the force of the ship's tumbling knocked its lone pilot unconscious. Chandler's last thought as his vision went black was that nobody would ever know what had become of him. 

When Chandler Rose regained consciousness, he was surprised to find that not only was he still alive, but so was his ship. Eustace Shelby, a Kosseler Pegasus, was in bad shape, with most of its external fittings torn off and its outer hull almost half-gone, but the cabin life support was still working. Any atmosphere breaches had been quickly and automatically sealed. Shelby still had main power and its Himura unit was intact. 

After a day's worth of EVA repairs, mostly to jury-rig new radio fittings, and to restore a small percentage of his original primary thrust, Chandler powered up the Himura and calculated a jump back to Herakles, every moment expecting something to fail. Yet, despite its bent frame creaking, the battered Shelby carried Chandler Rose to safety. 

On the third try, Shelby's autopilot found the docking collar, and a cheer rose from the crowd gathered inside the station. Chandler, uninjured but haggard, stepped through, and the cheer grew into a roar. Chandler Rose had survived his improbable accident. 

When asked later by a local newsfeed correspondent what he credited with his survival, Chandler did not hesitate. "My ship saved my life." He told her. "I'm alive today because of the engineers at Kosseler." 

If you're in the market for a new vessel, consider Kosseler Shipbuilding products, built to only the highest standard of quality, safety, and comfort. Whether you travel for business or pleasure, can you afford anything less?

In honor of Chandler Rose's amazing story, the buyer of any new Kosseler Pegasus who mentions Chandler Rose will receive a 5% discount on their final purchase price. The first one hundred buyers who mention Cosmic Background will receive an additional 5% discount.

(These offers apply only to purchases of new vessels and are cumulative with other outstanding offers from Kosseler Shipbuilding only up to a 20% total discount. Void where Kosseler representatives and/or products have been banned by law. Claimant need not be physically present to purchase. A delivery fee may apply to orders placed from outside the Core Worlds. See Kosseler's datasphere hub for more details, and to see the features of the Kosseler Pegasus product line.)

2946-06-06 - Tales from the Inbox: One Violet Acre

This inaugural submission was sent in by a regular viewer of the vidcast stream, Marta K. Regular viewers might notice that this is the same Marta K. who submitted content which made it into the 21 March Feedback Loop vidcast episode. Marta is a member of the Naval Survey Auxiliary who primarily operates on the Coreward Frontier.

This submission was made late last year, before she submitted the story Sovanna brought to your attention two and a half months ago, and while the submission which appeared on vidcast was not dated, I have reasons to suspect that the events described in this story occurred first.

Marta included a lengthy and very kind letter with her story, along with enough surveillance camera evidence to prove this story to my satisfaction.

Verner's island was two hundred twenty-two paces long and fifty-three paces wide.

Given the length of his stride measured against the long axis of the shuttle, which he knew was exactly eight hundred nineteen centimeters, he had calculated that this made his island about one hundred seventy meters long and forty meters wide. Further calculation, including pacing its width at various places, had led him to conclude that his island was almost exactly four thousand square meters of real estate. On some worlds, four thousand square meters – slightly less than one acre – was a fairly sizable patch of land for one person to own. On a world known only as the fifth planet orbiting a star with no name other than its seven-digit catalog number, one acre was a stiflingly small prison. 

For Verner, used to the cramped confines of Stacy Lee, the small size of the island was not high on his list of complaints. It was large enough that its thick growth of violet-leafed alien vegetation outpaced the needs of his inoperable shuttle's emergency food fabricator, but not large enough to host anything big enough to consider Verner a potentially tasty new treat.
It had been almost a full Terran year since Verner had landed his shuttle on the island to take biological samples: a full year since his discovery that the battered landing craft he'd rode down from Stacy Lee had suffered a fault and bled its reaction mass into the grey sand while he was rummaging about in the underbrush for critters to stuff into stasis jars. 6206920e had orbited its sullen red primary four times in that period, and the full cycle of seasons – dry, cloudy, monsoon, and scorching – was now routine. 

Just before sunrise, Verner rose, as he always did, to watch the pinprick of fast-moving light that was Stacy Lee rise above the southern horizon; as soon as it was in view, he hurried into the derelict shuttle's cockpit and cranked up all the juice the shuttle's batteries could spare and sent a distress signal. He'd done the same thing almost every morning for three hundred seventy-four days, but it never seemed to get through the planet's strong magnetic field. Getting a distress signal out was all but impossible, but Verner had little else to use the power for, besides processing alien shrubs into tasteless rectangles of human-digestible food.

This morning, he sent the signal as usual, then clambered up to the top of the shuttle's hull to watch his orbiting ship disappear once again over the horizon. Stacy Lee had been his only home for nine T-years – he wondered who, after he had died on this forsaken, nameless world, would stumble across his ship. He hoped whoever did would treat it well, rather than consigning it to the shipbreakers. Stacy Lee was too good a vessel to be melted down for scrap metal.

As soon as the orbiting starship vanished over the watery horizon, Verner turned around to climb off the shuttle. It was then that he noticed the thin trail of smoke curling up from the far side of his island in the predawn gloom. At first, the significance of this new development didn't occur to him; he stood staring slack-jawed for several seconds. He had set no fires the previous day; something new had happened on his island, on his precious one acre of lush violet growth and grey sand.

Rushing back into the shuttle, Verner unlocked the locker and pulled out the rail-carbine stored within, loading a magazine of ferroceramic slugs with trembling hands. The last time he'd needed the weapon, it had been to scare off a flock of uncomfortably toothy xeno-avians who had decided to claim one of his prospector drones. That had been years before, and light-years closer to Sol. Still, the weapon, unused and stored safely in the intervening time, hummed to life.

It took Verner only a few minutes to creep through his one-acre jungle toward the smoke. He made almost no sound; the pinkish, mossy undergrowth absorbed the footfalls of his bare feet, his boots having long since come to pieces. In his mind, he rattled through several possible explanations for the smoke. Perhaps, he considered, it was merely a small volcanic vent, or perhaps a pile of decaying vegetation had spontaneously caught fire, as they sometimes did on Earth. Even as he rattled off perfectly reasonable explanations, he knew that wasn't what was happening. He could sense it in every trembling, violet leaf he brushed past. He was not alone on his island.

Peering out of a stand of bright flowers as long as his arm, Verner caught sight of the source of the smoke. A pitted metallic ovoid, perhaps three meters long, sat on the pebbled north-east shore. Next to the object, which was certainly artificial, someone had built a small fire, whose embers now emitted the thin trail of smoke Verner had seen from his shuttle. Verner couldn't believe his luck. He didn't recognize the landing craft's design, but the odds of someone else landing on his one-acre island, on this remote world beyond the colonization frontier, were impossible. Had one of his distress signals gotten through after all? And if so, why hadn't he received a response from Stacy Lee?

A subtle sound from the foliage behind Verner caused him to look over his shoulder, but just as he did, the barrel of what could only be a weapon poked him in the kidneys.

"Oy. Drop that gun." A woman's voice, hoarse from a lifetime of shouting, barked into his ear.

Verner's heart leaped, then sunk. Someone else had come, at long last. But who else but his competition would brave a trip out this far? And given his luck, which of his usual cast of competition would stumble on the world he was marooned on? He dropped his carbine to the mossy ground, then turned around slowly. "Been a while, Marta." He croaked, his voice broken and faint. After all, he'd had no use for it for almost a year.

"Verner?" Marta responded, standing up. She drew the gun back, but kept it trained on Verner. "I thought I recognized that piece of junk in orbit... You look like hell." Though there was nothing funny about the situation, Marta barked out a short laugh at Verner's expense. "Nice place you chose to take a vacation, though!"

Verner sighed. Somehow, he knew he should have expected that despite impossible odds, even being marooned on an alien planet hadn't saved him from yet another encounter with his ex-wife.

2946-06-06 - Editor's Loudspeaker: Welcome to Tales from the Inbox!

Greetings, fellow fans of Cosmic Background, and welcome to Tales from the Inbox! As the team webmaster announced a little while ago, I'll be your host as we explore some of the amazing stories the audience has sent to our studio over the past six years, which never quite managed to find a time slot on the main CB vidcast episodes. 

When Sovanna Rostami, the amazing host of the Feedback Loop episodes which you all know and love, suggested this method of bringing more of the submitted content to light, I'll admit I was, like most of the studio staff, quite skeptical; Cosmic Background is a vidcast service, and I wasn't sure this audience would warm to a text-only supplement to the show, even if this was a way to consume more of our most sought-after content. 

That was a month ago; by now, most of us have come around to seeing things Sovanna's way. I'm excited to be given the chance to bring you this experimental new content – I've already spent the better part of a week digging through our inbox submissions and picking out some of the best items that will translate best to this format. 

Expect the first installment of Tales from the Inbox to be ingested into this feed within a few hours. As Sovanna says at the beginning of each Feedback Loop vidcast, we do not verify the stories we are sent. That means that while I do plan to exclude the ones that are easily disproven, I can offer no guarantee that every submission is completely factual. Thankfully, I know that the Cosmic Background audience knows from long experience with Feedback Loop episodes to make up its own mind about the outlandish stories we are sent. 

That's all I've got to say for now. 

--Duncan Chaudhri

Cosmic Background Junior Producer 
Editor of the "Tales from the Inbox" Text Feed