Starting Point: Aunt Chelsea’s Planet


I should have sold it. I still can, but now I know too much about the place to offload it on someone else without some guilt. Why aunt Chelsea gave it to me in her will I’ll never know…

OK, OK, let me start at the beginning. I’m John Hargreaves. I’m an actor. Yes, that’s still a career. Synth-actors still don’t have the range that a human has, so we humans still can have a career as an actor. What was I in? Um, well… I used to work in an amusement park as train engineer.

Yes it’s not a true acting career, but it paid the bills. I could improv some of my lines, and the train drove itself. But that’s beside the point. About a year ago, I came home from being Engineer Bill… Yes, that Engineer Bill, and there was a message waiting for me. It was a e-letter from a probate attorney.

My aunt Chelsea Hargreaves had passed away a month before. Turned out she was allergic to the latest anti-aging regime. Sad really, she was a pistol. I already knew she had died from my dad, but I didn’t know how much she cared for me and my sister… Aunt Chelsea never married, never had kids, but she did dote on my sister and me. I just thought that she was a crazy scout working for the Confederation.

Turns out that she was a private contractor, and a successful one. So when she passed on, we all found out how much money she had. Dad and my uncle Earl were set for life, for as long as they could possibly live. My sister got aunt Chelsea’s ship, the Sparkle Twilight. Sis did take after dad’s side of the family. She’s planning to head on out and see what she can see.

Me… I got DM-54.234-28 e.

No, it’s not a computer or robot. If you look it up, it’s the fifth planet in the DM-54.234-28 system. It’s a “marginal” world, one that needs some terraforming. And it was all mine…

So, what did John Hargreaves find on his inherited planet? Could he afford to even visit it? Of course, his opening sentence implies that he did, but it’s probably not very often. The story implies that FTL travel is commonplace enough that private ownership of starships is a thing. Maybe he caught a ride from his sister?

So, what can you do with a marginal planet, in dire need of terraforming? And what the heck was aunt Chelsea doing with that planet?

Starting Point by John Reiher

Image credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

  • John H Reiher Jr

    I got two comments on this from my sharing it on Google+:

    Akuro Adennyciia:
    I don’t crash land a tramp freighter on it, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t want to revisit pitch black.

    Pierre Savoie:
    I hold a housewarming party. Literally. If the mean temperature of the place is less than 40 °F pole-to-pole, drop some nukes to stir up the tectonics, get more CO2 in the atmosphere.

  • michael

    does anyone know how long it takes for mark ball to reply to emails? i sent him a revised alien profile article and he hasnt got back to me after about three weeks.

    • Sorry about that Michael. I’ve been super busy and distracted by an awesome and addictive side project.
      Thanks for reminding me. I’m back to the real world now and you’re at the top of my to-do list.

  • I found this:

    Aunt Chelsea’s Planet
    Summary: (Insert name) inherits a planet from (insert name). However (insert name) had passed away a month before. Turned out (blank) was allergic to the latest anti-aging regime. As other of the family got a lot of good things from the inheritances, (Insert name) got DM-54.234-28 e (starbound planet). It’s a “marginal” world, one that needs some terraforming. Question that pop up are what did (insert name) find on the inherited planet? Could they afford to even visit


    Amazing seems to be the same story starter idea.

    • I think John told me this is a revival of something he shared elsewhere a few years ago, so that’s not surprising.
      It also reminds me of an episode of Hyperdrive in which somebody buys a planet on ebay.

      • Ah I see. Well it is funny to find his story ideas posted on another site :
        Just like this one:

        A Monster
        Summary: (Insert name) is a women or men (depending on the character), or at least well vary appears to be. At a conference before the amassed biologists and geneticists. They explain that they are genetically a woman or man now, the process of transformation taking 5 years to complete. This was accomplished through gene-engineered retro viruses that remove the Y or X chromosome and replace it with a copy of the existing X or Y chromosome. These same viruses are also 90% infectious to all males or females. They inform the conference that everyone all have been exposed to these viruses and it can’t be stopped.

        Well his Avatar picture here looks better 😉

        It is funny that the poster of those ideas promotes another Sci Fi Ideas web site (one that looks like gray wall paper compared to yours)


        Yeah I bet if Ebay will be around long enough they might indeed sell planets.

        There is a group of Con artists right now selling Star Names

        (The International Star Registry is a for-profit organization founded in 1979 for the purpose of giving the general public the novelty of unofficially naming stars. ) Hey Mark would you give me 100 pounds so you can unofficially name one liter of Ocean water? Or are you interested in a square foot of real estate at the bottom of the Ocean? )

        Fun idea for a story though ..I agree with that

      • John H Reiher Jr

        Actually, Aunt Chelsea’s Planet is original, not something I created earlier. I had a brainwave, an inspiration particle hit, and my muse gave me a wet willy.

    • John H Reiher Jr

      Nope, at the bottom of that entry, they link back to this post. So they just borrowed my story idea and modified it.

      • Yep makes sense, the avatar did not look remotely like you..;-)

        I just found it because I did start to write a little story on that and wanted to see if DM-54.234-28 e. was maybe a real system / exo planet

        • John H Reiher Jr

          Don’t stop writing! Keep it up and write that story VR! To help you out, I define “marginal” worlds as having an atmosphere rich in CO2, but do have life, mostly pond scum and precursors to photosynthesizers like blue-green algae. It’s shirtsleeve, if you think 20° to 30°C to be shirtsleeves, if not shorts and sandals. 🙂

          • Yep I am going to write something . Actually I am already doing it as we speak – As with most Sci Fi Stories I am of course transplanting it into “my universe”.

            As with most things there is a quite technical description as to what marginal worlds are.

            Nice for trying to help though.

            If you want you can check out how BoCA (Bureau of Colonist Affairs) classifies Gardenworlds here:

            • John H Reiher Jr

              The best planetary typography I’ve seen is John Lumpkin’s system for his Human Reach novels:


              Aunt Chelsea’s planet is either Eosian Oceanic or Archean Oceanic.

            • Very nice I am sure, but I spend a considerable amount of time and effort to create my Universe, why should I use someone else. In the context of the Galactic Chronicles ..these Planet classifications do make sense.
              So while not taking anything away from Mr. Lumpkin, I hope you don’t mind if I stick with mine.

            • John H Reiher Jr

              Oh, I’m not saying that you should. I was just pointing out a similar system. Yours is a nice one as well.