F3: Earthbound

I should probably point out that this story is partly a response to all those coming-of-age anime shows in which a teenage boy gets a giant robot to stomp about in, or discovers he has incredible ninja powers. They are usually “geniuses of hard work”, and when a battle looks bleak they just get really, really angry and level up discover hidden reserves of strength. I think relying on getting beaten up and pissed off when you’re piloting multi-billion dollar hardware is kinda silly. Thus: this! Although, sadly, it features no giant robots, because I didn’t want it to be just a response to daft animated fun.



He looks up at the stars with fire simmering behind his eyes. Penny’s up there, his sister the taikonaut swanning between the celestial bodies. He imagines her on the bridge of a barge lugging hundred-thousand ton cargo chains behind it, a great centipede crawling across the heavens. Perhaps she is staffing a mining ship, or one of the feeders that haul asteroids in towards the stripmine industrial zones. Maybe she’s even found herself a place on a scout ship exploring the far reaches of the solar system, deploying listening posts and disposable buoys to watch out for rogue comets and alien invaders.

The thought makes him furious. He is stuck down here, Earthbound, judged unsuitable for the duties Penny enjoys. It’s his anger, he knows, and knowing it makes him clench his fists and squeeze his eyes shut. It’s not fair. Everything he ever wanted he can’t have, and he feels cheated. His parents paid for the best gene sequencing for their children, and being starry-eyed dreamers they tried to produce taikonauts. Physically, intellectually, Alec is everything a taikonaut should be.

But after a long string of tests and examinations Alec was told that he was unsuitable. His emotional state fluxes too greatly, they said. His anger is unpredictable, they said. A potential danger to yourself and the team, they said.

Fuck the team. Alec wants to fly through space.

He lies on the grass, in the night, listening to crickets and owls and the rustling of foraging animals, and stares up at the night sky. He dreams of space, boiling with rage, and curses his sister’s name.

8 Responses to “F3: Earthbound”
  1. Justin says:

    Woah. How did you manage to slot exposition into something that compact?

  2. Shaun CG says:

    The honest answer is “no idea, I just wrote it”. The more pretentious but possibly accurate answer is that I was relying on certain SFnal tropes already being in readers’ minds, from which I could build with just a few words. The more common building blocks of most SF are so established that people can picture the sort of thing you mean almost instantly, so really they’re doing the worldbuilding, not the author.

    So basically, by cheating. ;)

  3. Justin says:

    Well, in terms of pacing and structure, I think it’s pretty close to perfection. :)

  4. Shaun CG says:

    Wow, thanks Justin – that’s high praise indeed!

    I’m looking forward to reading yours. I’m at work right now but should have time in a few hours.

  5. Neil says:

    I’m not sure using existing trope is cheating…just smart. As you say it lends itself well to flash.

    It’s good, and as one of four siblings I certainly related.

  6. GLP says:

    I always like reading your stuff, Shaun, and this is one of your best. Lots of back story inserted subtly into a short scene, painting a much bigger picture in the reader’s mind. As Justin says, it’s nicely done.

  7. Shaun CG says:

    Thanks very much indeed!

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