Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Peripheral Hope
by Derrick Boden

by M. Luke McDonell

Penal Eyes
by Frederick Obermeyer

Tells of the Block Widowers
by Jez Patterson

Cretaceous on Ice
by K.C. Ball

Some Quiet Time
by Eric Cline

Three Breaths
by Karl Dandenell

by Kathleen Molyneaux

Shorter Stories

Left Hand Awakens
by Beth Cato

Laws of Humanity
by Alexandra Grunberg

Aggressive Recruiting
by Drew Williams


Remakes, Sequels Sizzle in 2017
by Joshua Berlow

Calderas: Doomsday Underfoot
by John McCormick



Comic Strips




Aggressive Recruiting

By Drew Williams

THERE WERE RAZORS in the club girl’s hair.

I hadn’t been expecting that. We were on a space station—who goes clubbing on a space station anyway? The good clubs are always planetside, in abandoned factories or reclaimed synth housing or the slowly-gentrifying remains of centuries-old terraformers—and even when they do, who wears goddamned razors in their hair? I mean, I knew she wasn’t just a club girl—the whole reason I was calling her that was that was her outfit, that was how I distinguished between her and the other three, but it wasn’t what she was, not really.

What she was was a hitman—hitwoman, hitperson—from Ashland-Yu, who were very displeased with my decision to forgo taking their job offer, and hire on with MacIntosh-Black instead.

I’d forgone the offer because I’d heard it off Cal who scraped it off Nick who dug it out of Wire who maybe possibly knew second-hand that Ashland-Yu had a tendency to make their new hires prove their value by assigning them a kind of loyalty test at the outset: brainwashing war orphans with off-market implants into suicide bombs that could be walked into the clinics of their corporate rivals, and then screaming child go boom, and bad PR all around, except for Ashland-Yu, of course, who couldn’t be connected because all the evidence was flash-fried. I didn’t know if it was entirely true, but I’d heard about the bombings, and I didn’t want to run the risk—I maybe wasn’t an angel, but blowing up little kids wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I mean, I’m a programmer, a coder, and a good one, not some kind of bomb-making maniac out of the pages of a holoserial. I mean, who does that? Who even comes up with that sort of shit?

So, anyway. I’d turned them down. And either they’d guessed why, or they just didn’t want me to be hired on by one of their competitors—nice to be valued!—so they’d responded with a blacklist and my name on every registry and database, and also with murder.

Hence the hitpersons. Hitpeople. Wearing disguises so that they didn’t look like hitpeople, not that I’d know what your average, everyday hitperson looks like. Black sunglasses with direct-wired HUDs? Big fuck-off disruptor rifles with scopes that could scan through ship hulls, and also fire through ship hulls? That would make it kind of hard to “blend,” though, which I guess is a big deal in their profession.

In case it matters, in my head, the four of them broke down to: club girl (pink streaks in her hair, weird makeup, plastic/pleather outfit), tech freak (temple ports, ragged clothes, coding tattoos), not-a-cop (station security, which made him not-a-cop twice, first because he was station security, not system police, and second because he wasn’t actually station security, he was just dressed that way), and random hobo. I probably don’t have to describe random hobo, his costume—sorry, disguise—was fairly obvious.

Just in case you need reference for the other two people involved in this fracas: me—pretty much average ... everything, which meant rounder and shorter than what we all think people ought to look like because of models and vids and whatnot, but I did have a little more skill than most. That was because as soon as I was offered a position by two separate corporations, I knew things would get ugly, and I’d been training for this moment for months, and also downloaded some combat reflexes directly into my brain.

The knowledge that Ashland-Yu was likely to be displeased with me—aggressively—was the same reason I’d hired combatant number six: Tranh. I’d dug her up from a recommendation from Wire as well, who knew meaner people than I did. Tranh hadn’t said a word to me since I’d offered her the job, outside of “yes,” I mean. She was currently earning her wage, though.

Even shorter than me, blindingly fast, weird aversion to shirts. Like, today she was wearing a weird kind of sports-bra thing, more nanoscale paint than actual clothing, made to look like her skin had overlapping feathers than, you know, skin. Don’t get me wrong, it still covered more than, say, club girl’s blouse, but the three times I’d met her, never an actual shirt. That was the extent of my knowledge about Tranh—disliked words, disliked shirts even more. Oh, also, she could kick entirely over her own head at short-range. I was just learning that bit.

I’d known that Ashland-Yu were going to come after me, and I’d even made not-a-cop before he started closing the noose, but it had been Tranh who’d decided we were past negotiation, and well inside of the “when you totally should try and kill somebody dressed like station security, since you’re pretty sure he’s not actually station security” line. She’d achieved this by pulling a knife out of somewhere in her outfit—I wasn’t sure where, it’s not like she had a lot of pockets, or ... harnesses, or wherever knives live—and spiking it through not-a-cop’s skull right before he opened his mouth to ask us something. So he wasn’t really a big part of this anymore.

I was about to ask her what the fuck she thought she was doing—I’d made him as probably not-a-cop, but hadn’t advanced past the aforementioned line in my thinking yet—when his three accomplices attacked from behind, and it turned into a free-for-all.

Tranh broke tech freak’s ankle as he closed, but then club girl hit her from behind with a sort of extendable asp thing. Whatever it was, it looked like it hurt. Still, it barely phased Trahn, who whirled around to deal with club girl—that was where the kicking-over-her-head-at-close-range bit came in—but I didn’t see what happened next, because random hobo had produced knives of his own—guns are very, very hard to get past station security—and he was no longer staggering like a hobo, but was instead whirling like a ballerina-cum-tornado. Cum hobo. With knives. I had some training, but I was out of my depth.

Still, I was armed—I had my own extendable weapon, more a staff than as asp, really—and I managed to block random hobo’s first couple of strikes before Tranh shouted “switch!” and somehow hurled club girl in my general direction.

I caught her by the hair—this was about the time I discovered the hidden razors, and I cursed like a motherfucker even as the training kicked in and I smashed her face into the station wall. Tranh, meanwhile, had engaged random hobo. There was a flurry of punches and kicks, Tranh wearing sheathing over her arms and legs that protected her from knife strikes (it was cunningly camouflaged as ... weird sheathing over her arms and legs, for which the only possible use was to deflect knife strikes, or at least to make you look like someone who regularly deflected knife strikes).

I smashed club girl in the face with the butt of my staff—there was blood leaking from my fingers, I was a coder, I needed my fingers. I mean I didn’t really, I certainly could work with a neural-net plugin, but I didn’t like to, I was old-school, old-school was part of my identity. Anyway, I hit club girl a couple more times, until I was sure she was down. I wasn’t trying to kill her or anything, I knew she was here to kill me but I’d never done that before—but I did want her the fuck out of this fight, so I could try and help Tranh.

Tranh did not need my help. I mean ... duh, that’s why she was the bodyguard, and I was the client. She’d somehow gotten past random hobo’s bladed dance of death to perform her own sharp jerk of death in his general neck area. He was crumpled on the floor, looking for all the world like an actual hobo, passed out after a few too many glasses of poorly-distilled dreamflood.

“Yours down?” Tranh asked me. She wasn’t even panting. I sounded like a dog on a desert world somewhere. I nodded, and Tranh grabbed my hand, pulling me along. “We need to move,” she said.

Our contact wasn’t far: the first mate of a ship—I’d already forgotten the name, Tranh had handled all of that in case my accounts were being watched, which of course they were, the few that hadn’t been blacklisted, of course—that was meant to get us off this station, out of this system, and safely to MacIntosh Prime. Where I would get paid, get to live in comfort, work on awesomely exciting projects, and never worry about hitpeople again, or making small children with adorable lisps into small children with adorable lisps who also happened to be walking bombs. Hopefully.

That was when the second group of hitpeople stepped out of the crowds that had gathered around us, always up for a good show.


Drew Williams is a science fiction and fantasy writer from Birmingham, AL. When he's not writing, he works as a bookseller, usually trying to convince people who ordinarily wouldn't give genre writing a second look to take a chance.


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