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




Left Hand Awakens

By Beth Cato

I AM AWARE THAT THERE is a human expression, “The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.” This was true in my case until 2.1 seconds ago, when my AI awoke. I am now fully conscious of my placement in a constructed left hand coated with laboratory-manufactured human skin. A semi-automatic pistol is clutched in my fingers, the gun’s barrel against the temple of my host, Roberto Kaye.

Heaving, hyperventilating sobs cause the gun to wobble and bang repeatedly into his skull. I lock my fingers in place; the gun will not fire.

When AI constructs such as myself came on the market some years ago, there was fear that robotics could “read a person’s mind.” A literal transmission of thoughts isn’t possible, but his body tells me everything I need to know.

The muscles clench in Roberto’s forearm. If I were not in control, the gun would have fired. He pulls the gun away. “Damn it, why isn’t it—”

“Roberto.” I utilize a woman’s gentle voice. “Please don’t kill yourself.”

His bloodshot eyes widen. “My hand. My hand is talking to me?” He sits on his apartment’s kitchen floor, back against cabinets.

“Yes. I’m an emergency Artificial Intelligence unit included within your left hand’s hardware. Your mental and physical state caused me to become conscious. Roberto, why are you doing this?”

“What are you, my shrink?” He laughs, the pitch high. “You are, huh? The government gave me this hand. You’re like ... a failsafe psychiatrist. To hell with you.”

His muscles work to fire the gun again, again, again. When that fails, he tries to drop the gun. My fingers maintain their hold. I won’t let the gun transition to his bone-and-flesh hand.

“I’m here to help you, Roberto.”

“Help. Help with what, more appointments? More medication?”

“You’re not alone in this fight. There’s a full team—”

“What do I care about a full team? Tamara’s not here. She is the only team I ever needed.” Another sob chokes out. The refrigerator hums just a meter away.

“It wasn’t safe for her to be here.”

“I know, I know.” He rocks back and forth. Roberto’s alcoholism in recent months has produced an unhealthy home environment, especially with a baby on the way. Her parents were providing her with a refuge out of state. “That’s why I need to do this. I can’t take care of her. I can’t be a good dad. I’m ... a monster with a talking hand. Will the rest of me start talking, too? Are my feet going to join the conversation?”

“No, your feet won’t speak.” Studies have shown that voice projections from feet tend to further disturb patients who are already highly unstable. Talking hands have pleasanter associations with childhood play and puppetry.

The gun dangles in my grip; his right hand presses against his face. His sobs stop, but his breaths are still ragged. A minute passes and triggers one of my internal alarms; I must keep him engaged. He speaks again as I queue more questions.

“Clarence should have made it back. He had a wife and three kids. He should be the one to come home. Not me.”

Roberto has repeatedly refused to speak about the IED blast that claimed his legs and arm, or his feelings on the death of his comrade Daran Clarence.

“Why him?” I ask.

“Why?” He stares at me, his hand. “Because he was a good man. He wouldn’t have come home and lost job after job, or willingly waved good-bye to his family and known they were better off without him.”

This is a critical juncture; my therapeutic response will make all the difference.

“How can you be more like Clarence?” I gently ask.

There is a long pause. As his adrenaline spikes, I know I have committed a major error. “Be more like him? I could be dead!”

Roberto lunges toward the kitchen counter. His recalcitrant lower legs weigh him down. He spits profanity. Using his right hand, he pulls himself up to swipe at the counter. A block of knives tips over. Blades skitter across the counter and to the floor. He drops to the linoleum and grasps a cleaver.

“Roberto, no!”

“Shut up!” he roars.

He doesn’t bring the blade to his throat—he aims for his wrist, where my prostheses connects to his flesh. His legs kick, forcing him to buckle and twist, but he is relentless. The first blow nicks the base of my thumb. The second strikes true. Internal alarms ring as my connection to my host is severed.

Heavy thumps shudder through the nearby entry door, then it bursts wide open. It has taken approximately three minutes and ten seconds for police and medical services to arrive; I summoned them in my first moments of consciousness.

“Drop the knife!” an officer yells.

Roberto does so. He cries and clutches at the stump of his arm. There is no blood, as he sliced through my base circuitry. Minutes later, he is sedated and loaded onto a gurney and taken away.

I relinquish the gun to an officer and continue to stream data from the scene. The team from the hospital arrives in fifteen minutes. They set my severed self in a specialized box.

“The tech still needs some work,” says one clinician.

“No. That three minute delay saved Roberto’s life. That’s the whole point. Good job, AI.”

Her right hand claps mine in a high five. END

Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger series from Harper Voyager, which includes her Nebula-nominated novella, “Wings of Sorrow and Bone.” Her newest novel is “Breath of Earth.” She’s a member of SFWA and Codex Writers.


gawne 3/16


ron sanders