Tales from the Inbox: One Violet Acre
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.
- Written by Duncan L. Chaudhri
Editor's Loudspeaker: Welcome to Tales from the Inbox!
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.
Cosmic Background Junior Producer
Editor of the "Tales from the Inbox" Text Feed
- Written by Duncan L. Chaudhri
Notice: Changing Behavior of the Cosmic Background Text Feed
2946-06-05 - Notice: Changing Behavior of the Cosmic Background Text Feed
With as big an audience as the Cosmic Background vidcast series has gathered, we find ourselves with an ever-increasing stock of material submitted by our fans throughout explored space and the frontiers. While we are committed to our twice-monthly Feedback Loop episodes, we find ourselves unable to fit all of the best material we're sent into these episodes. In some months, we are able to fit less than half of the deserving submissions into the available vidcast time, and as a result we've amassed quite a backlog of stories we've been unable to share without cutting into the other content which makes Cosmic Background what it is.
To address some of our deep backlog of potential Feedback Loop content, this text feed, previously used only to alert our audience of upcoming special events and opportunities to meet the people behind the show, will now also distribute worthy content from our inbox, cleaned up and edited by our assistant producer Duncan Chaudhri.
This is an experiment for us here at Cosmic Background, so we can't say where we'll take this method of content delivery in the future, but we are very hopeful that our audience, especially those of you out on the Frontiers who lack the hypercomm bandwidth to retrieve the full daily vidcast episodes, will find this to be a valuable addition to Cosmic Background's available content. Duncan, who most of you already know from his appearances on the vidcast episodes during Ashton's extended vacation in December, has been working behind the scenes on the show in a number of ways for almost two years, and we're all excited to see what he does with this new content.
Any submission, past or present, may be published to this text feed, in any order. If you want to earmark a submission specifically for this feed for any reason, make sure to tag the hypercast bundle with the “textfeed” meta-key. Our system will route these items directly to Duncan’s desk.
In addition to bundles containing text submissions from our audience inbox, this feed will also now occasionally host messages from some our sponsors. At this time, the only sponsor who has signed on to support this experimental content is Kosseler Shipbuilding, one of our oldest and most highly-regarded sponsors. Kosseler Shipbuilding's relationship with dates back almost to the beginning of the show, and we're very happy to provide the consumers of our new text feed content with promotions and special offers exclusive to our audience.
Notifications of upcoming events, giveaways, and other show news will continue to appear here; filter your subscription to only process hypercast bundles tagged with “shownews” if you want to see this text feed without the new content. This will filter out both Duncan's stories from the inbox, and any messages from our sponsors. We hope that nobody elects to skip this new content, but the option is there for you if you wish to use it.
Please address any questions or concerns about this change to the Cosmic Background customer relations inbox.
- Written by Cosmic Background Team
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