Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Consulting Editor


Who By Fire
by Jeff Samson

Shit Eatin’ Dog
by Bob Sojka

Joshua Who Could See
by Elizabeth Streeter

Calliope Muse
by Rebecca L. Brown

Waver of the Image
by Joe Occhipinti

Salvation of Sam
by Ellen Denton

Three Into Two Won’t Go
by Ann Gimpel

3rd Dragoon Regiment and the Liberation of Contagor’e-Mare
by Don C. Ciers

Collector’s Item
by Doug Donnan


Journey Through the Center of the Earth
by Eric M. Jones

Mars: A New Look at the Old Hump
by J. Richard Jacobs





Comic Strips



Salvation of Sam

By Ellen Denton

IT WAS NOW TWO YEARS since Sam had gotten out of prison and been posted on Rika 4. He shook his head with disgust as he looked at the expanse of flat, brown sand stretching as far as he could see in all directions. He still had a hard time accepting that he was on some dump of a planet that didn’t even have virtual reality-escape machines. Even prisons had them these days.

After he had so badly screwed up on the Startop 2 project, he didn’t exactly expect his next assignment to be in some Garden of Eden, but this? This was too much. It was bad enough living in cramped quarters with a communal shower and no climate controls, but to not even be able to get a few hours of blissful escape from it all was cruel and unusual punishment.

Sam went back into the work hut where six technicians, all sticky with sweat like he was, hunched over glowing computer consoles. He slipped into the chair in front of his own workstation and started listlessly reading through digital data feeds. His eyes scanned each column of facts and figures as they rolled down the screen, when suddenly, he saw something that brought him up short.

“Carl!” he shouted to his chief tech. “Have you seen the most recent information on Celest 4’s atmosphere readings?”

“Uhhh ... no ... I don’t think ... I don’t really remember.”

“Come over here and take a look at this.”

Carl shuffled over to Sam’s desk and read over his shoulder. “I don’t see anything unusual. What am I supposed to be looking at?”

“Right here!” said Sam, jabbing his finger against part of the computer screen.

Carl leaned forward and reread what Sam pointed at. “Wait a minute. That’s not ...” He moved beside Sam so that he could scroll back and fourth between different screens himself, comparing the information on each. “Oh shit! This has got to be some kind of mistake. I hope it’s some kind of mistake. Boss, I’m sorry. I completely missed this before.”

“This isn’t the time for remorse. Run everything again. Backtrack on all the data and cross-check it with at least two weeks of beta scans. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves or start alarming anyone with premature information. Just run everything again and we’ll see what we’ve got.”

Carl left and Sam swung around in his chair, letting out a deep breath. As potentially frightening as what he saw was, this was the kind of thing he used to live for and what he had previously built a stellar career upon. Prior to the Startop 2 disaster, he had been at the forefront of almost every major and important project in this sector. He was a brilliant analyst with a mind as sharp as a laser. He had been the person relied upon to predict life or planet threatening occurrences long before they could ever happen. It only took that one slip on Startop 2 to bring both his life and his career crashing to the ground around him in shambles.

It had been firm, zero-tolerance policy for all personnel on that project that no drugs or alcohol be consumed at any time during a tour of duty. He ignored it, got shitfaced drunk one night, came on duty with a screaming hangover the next day, and missed something he should have easily caught. Two months later, over 1,500 people were dead as a result, trapped and crushed, when the underwater Newton-Crowly research facility imploded. Among the dead were some of the most brilliant scientific minds earth had to offer, along with their dedicated, loyal and hard-working support staff. It was a staggering loss. A full investigation ultimately revealed what Sam had missed earlier and before the retro-bio-scan was even done on him, he admitted to having been too hung over at the time to do his job properly.

After the court-martial and a lengthy prison term, he was relegated to a boring, uneventful, tech supervisor job on what he thought of as a dung heap of a planet. The base mainly collected and monitored routine and relatively unimportant data streams for the other colonies. He thought of it as little more than a central, data sewage system for the sector—a galactic dead-files facility. In the two years he had been here, it had remained as uneventful as paint drying. He had by now resigned himself to spending the rest of his life on dead end jobs like this on planets that offered little to offset the boredom and drabness. His mind was as sharp as ever though, and what he saw today was subtle, like catching the flick of a butterfly wing out of the corner of an eye. It was just a bare wisp of information, but if he was right, it was the first indication of a major, potential disaster that could affect every planet in the sector. This was the way he would redeem himself and he could barely contain his excitement at the idea of again doing the work he loved so much: research, analysis, and heroic solutions. His reverie was cut short when he realized Carl was standing by his desk wide-eyed and shaken, with a sheaf of papers in his hand.

“Boss, you were right. We reran and rechecked everything and it’s just what you thought. Something is going wrong with the atmosphere on the colony planets.“

“OK. You know what to do. Get everyone onto coordinating the data feeds and send them to me so I can start a more detailed analysis. Meantime, I’ll alert command on the situation. They’ll probably have a shuttle here for me within the next 24 hours. You’ll be in charge while I’m gone. You know the drill. I bet you just never thought you’d be using it here.”

“You got that right.” Carl said as he left to coordinate with the other techs. Sam turned back to his desk and alertly started tapping keys on his computer console.

A few minutes later, he lifted off the headpiece of the virtual reality-escape machine and looked over at the clock on the milk crate next to his cot. There was still a half hour before he needed show up at the work hut. He pulled the headpiece over his eyes again and laid back down with a rapturous smile on his face. infinity

Ellen Denton has had stories published in White Cat Publications, Underground Voices, Transformation, Horror on the Installment Plan, You and Me, Things Japanese, and Vampires2 magazines. She has taken 4th place in “Echoes of the Right to God” international essay contest, 1st place in On the Premises mini-contest, and honorable mention in “Reading Writers” suspense fiction contest.


once crowded sky