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art by Cheryl L Owen-Wilson

Regarding Your Unexpected Visit to the Surface of an Apparently Only Mostly Uninhabited Planet

Sylvia Spruck Wrigley obsessively writes letters to her mother, her teenage offspring, her accountant, as well as to unknown beings in outer space. Only her mother admits to reading them. Born in Heidelberg, she spent her childhood in California and now splits her time between South Wales and Andalucia, two coastal regions with almost nothing in common. You can find out more about her at intrigue.co.uk.

Find other works in the Postmark Andromeda sequence and other unrelated stories by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley at dailysciencefiction.com.

Dear Sir/Madam/Other,
We regret to inform you that the damage you have claimed to your spaceship, mainly the ingestion of asteroid dust and various dents and newly ripped fuselage, is not covered in your insurance policy.
The damage done to the space ship as you traveled through the asteroid belt could be classed as negligence, as it is quite clearly documented in the manual that it is unsafe to attempt to navigate through debris of any kind. This is specifically because of the risk of such maneuvers. However, we do understand that you felt that the situation was an emergency.
The critical engagement light is a known defect that only comes up for very few of our customers in a very specific set of events. Specifically, on models ranging from serial number 210t51A to 232q17B (you can find out your serial number by checking the plate set by the undercarriage), if you have been traveling for long distances without an appreciable atmosphere and the outer temperature has fallen below 100 kelvin while the inner temperature is still at a livable standard, then there is a risk that the temperature discrepancy--as per standards document 7656v53--would lead to a false display which, as you saw, gives the impression that the temperature gauge is no longer working and leads to inaccurate readings of the critical engagement light and eventually causes the alarm klaxon to sound with visual and aural warnings to land immediately before the ship explodes.
I can assure you that there was no danger of explosion in this circumstance and the space ship was completely competent to continue its flight.
The fact that the resulting resolution advisories resulted in your diving into the midst of flying asteroids is unfortunate, but I'm sure you can understand that, if you hadn't been near the belt in the first place, the maneuvers recommended by your safety system could not have led you into it.
You have further gone on to complain that you have an issue with natural predators in the area where you have crash landed. I must be firm that your policy does not include damage to you or the space ship as caused by animals, even two-meter high clawed beasts that survive on iron. It is interesting to me that you managed to land on one of the rare natural habitats of this beast, which is the only known predator of our space-faring vehicles. If you would like to bring back specimens, that would be useful for our further research.
I should note that if you had purchased the upgraded model of the XPRS99, it included an additional twenty-eight days worth of oxygen which probably would have lasted you for a free recovery (assuming you come from a country which includes social rescue and are up-to-date on your taxes).
If you look at the settings for the oxygen mix, you should find that you can reduce it quite a bit under the minimum recommended settings and have enough oxygen to last a further few days.
I have contacted the American consulate regarding your situation, but the US does not have a social space program and thus I am told that you are not eligible for emergency recovery.
I have also forwarded your details to the British Spacefarers Charity which undertakes to support rescue missions across our solar system. They have stated that if you can fly the ship to high ground and set off space flares, then they will prioritize your request for aid and hopefully instigate their recovery procedure for you within a fortnight (whatever that is).
Under the circumstances, it probably doesn't help to know that I have upgraded your software to the latest version. Unfortunately, I can't change policy and there's nothing else I can think of to do.
Should you return to Earth, can I recommend you upgrade your Unforeseen Circumstances Policy Plan, which does offer protection from wild animals (although supernatural entities are specifically excluded)?
I wish you the best of luck with this and future happiness using our product.
Mae Bernice Parsons
Customer Services
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Author Comments

I have been writing lots of complaint letters to insurance providers representing people unhappy with the service received. That led me to consider what the corporate response might be to more immediate problems.

- Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
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