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The first story I can recall writing down was for an elementary school project, somewhere around the third-grade mark. The story dealt with space pirates hounding merchant vessels and mining rigs in Orion’s Belt, and the protagonists, whatever their names were, had been deployed to stop them. Were they and their employers corporate? Government? Paramilitary? I don’t recall where in society the heroes would have placed themselves; all I remember is that they’d been sent by someone to stop bad stuff from happening. Heroism is always hiring, I suppose. Anyway, space battles ensued. There was a boarding party. The space-pirate captain had a bionic eye that shot laser beams, and a good guy got fridged to up the drama. It all ended with a shocking cliffhanger reveal–the pirates were actually honest folk and the heroes had been unknowingly fighting for some greater evil. What a twist!

I turned that sucker in and got full points, and really, it’s just been downhill from there.