Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Silicon and Solitude
by Shane D. Rhinewald

Expedition of the Arcturus
by JZ Murdock

Nude Bargain
by Olga Godim

Dirtsiders on Cinnabar
by Patrick Lundrigan

by Tom Tinney

History of Humanity’s First Alien Contact in the Year 2023
by Eric M. Jones

Space Cadets of the Apocalypse
by Dave Fragments

Illegal Alien
by Betsy Streeter

A Tangle of Brilliance
by Charles Barouch


Playing a Role in Science Fiction
by Clayton J. Callahan

Prof. Pickering’s Practical Plan
by The Editors




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips



Nude Bargain

By Olga Godim

KATYA LUXURIATED ON HER massaging couch, while the credits rolled across the holographic screen. Her lover Mandy, the Acacia’s navigator, switched the video off.

“Don’t you just love ‘Cosmic Pirates’?” Mandy purred.

“Oh, yeah,” Katya agreed. “A handsome noble outlaw rescues a pretty damsel from robotic monsters and their alien masters. I adore such drivel.”

“Snob!” Mandy’s liquid brown eyes sparkled with mirth.

“An Oxford-educated art professional!” Katya parried.

“A salesgirl.”

“An entrepreneur.”

They both laughed.

Sara, the second engineer, shook her head. “You girls are insane. Real pirates are murderers, not handsome noble outlaws. They sell their captives to slave mines.”

Katya winced. She recalled the recent documentary about the Lumiranian slave mines. The twisted legs and mutilated faces of the slaves had haunted her afterwards for days.

“That was during the war,” she protested. “There are no real pirates anymore.”

“Not in our sector of the galaxy. Not after the military drove them out.” Sara collected her knitting basket and headed for the door.

“You watch ‘Cosmic Pirates’ with us,” Mandy said tartly.

“I’m off duty. Nothing better to do.” The door hissed shut behind Sara.

Reluctantly, Katya clambered to her feet. The couch slurped in disappointment.

“Don’t mind her,” Mandy said. “Do you have anything planned on Rendezvous?”

Katya nodded, gazing at the Rendezvous Space Station growing on the monitor. “Yeah. I’ve made an arrangement with a sculptor. I’ve seen his sculptures in a catalog. They’re terrific, Mandy! I’ll make a tidy profit.”

“What do you like best: art or money? Confess.” Mandy’s long, dark-brown fingers pressed on Katya’s shoulders.

“Both. I’m a cosmic impresario. I bring art and people of the galaxy together.”

“And get rich in the process?”

“That too.” Katya’s lips twitched. “I have to change for my appointment.” She disengaged from Mandy’s seductive embrace and headed to her cabin.


The sculptor’s studio on Rendezvous was tucked into a corner between a bakery and a hardware store. In the middle of the workshop, littered with tools, chunks of plaster, and drawings, a short, pudgy sculptor in a stained frock scrubbed frantically at a vaguely man-shaped lump of white material.

“Master Aramin?” Katya inquired uncertainly.

He lifted his bald pate, fringed by rusty tufts. “What?”

“I’m Katya, the art agent of the space gallery Acacia. I’m buying your sculptures.”

“Ah! Welcome,” he rumbled. He wiped his palm on his apron twice, shook Katya’s hand, and gestured for her to follow him into the next room. “Here they are.”

A bright ceiling light illuminated twelve rainbow-colored, life-sized female nudes. The sculptures leered at them, their breasts sticking out, their rounded hips beneath waspish waists frozen in a sensuous dance.

“Marvelous! Male fantasy come true! Even better than in the catalog.” Katya clapped her hands in delight. “I’ll definitely sell them well.”

Aramin sighed. “Nobody wants them here.”

“They don’t appreciate your talent.” Katya touched one smooth, peachy breast. “What do you make them from? Doesn’t look like any sculpture material I know.”

“Polystabin,” Aramin announced proudly, as if disclosing a revolutionary invention.

“Isn't that a medical thing?” Katya asked. “We're hauling a cargo of polystabin for a hospital network.”

“Yes.” The sculptor put a proprietary hand on a lilac thigh. “It’s used to immobilize broken bones; solidifies instantly. I mix it with color and spray over the sculpture frames. This way it’s easy to add a curve or remove excess volume.”

“How do you remove it?”

“The medics have another spray, antistabin, which melts it when the bone is set. They’re usually sold together. I spray the antinudebargain-stuff where I want to fix and wipe off the resulting goo.”

“These are harmless to handle, then?”

“Oh, yes. My brother is a surgeon. He said you could spray polystabin over an entire man—eyes, nose, and all—and he would live and breathe inside. He won’t be able to move though, like my statues.” He cackled gleefully. “No talking either.”

“Like your statues.” Katya grinned.


After they signed the contract and the insurance papers, Katya left the studio. Back on the Acacia, she waltzed around her booty. She would unload the statues on Bellimore Rock, a mining outpost in an asteroid field. The Rock’s population was predominantly males over the age of forty. The nudes should be a hit there. Perhaps she should hold an auction?

With her metric optimizer, Katya danced around Aramin’s masterpieces. She needed the holographic images for the auction database. Engrossed in her work, she hardly paid attention to the Acacia’s vibrations. Her fingers darted around the keyboard as the ship unclasped its grappling hooks from the station’s mooring and sped out into space.

“Next dock—Bellimore Rock,” she rhymed absently when Mandy stuck her nose inside.

Mandy circled the nudes in their transparent cases. “But these are obscene! If it’s art they taught you at Oxford, then I’m a black giraffe.”

“Black giraffes don’t exist.” Katya laughed. “It’s not high art, Mandy. It’s kitsch. I’m having an auction for these beauties on Bellimore Rock. I’ve filed an application already. I’ll triple my investment on them, I promise. Especially if I conduct the auction in a bikini.”

Mandy chortled. “You wouldn’t dare!”

“Ha!” Katya struck a provocative pose.

Mandy hooted and pounced, kissing Katya’s mouth.

Katya returned the kiss with interest before pulling away. She prowled around the nudes. “They’re so bawdy!” she sang. “I adore them.”


When she woke up, the lights were dim: nighttime on the ship’s clock. Her cabin was quiet, inviting her back to slumber. Too quiet! Katya jerked upright. The engines at work always produced a steady hum. Why had they stopped? Jumping off the bed, she hastily donned her black sweat suit, raked her coppery curls with her fingers, and raced for the bridge.

Nobody noticed her when she slipped in.

“I’ll kill myself before I succumb to those monsters!” Mandy yelled. Her dark, expressive eyes gleamed feverishly. “I won’t be a Lumiranian slave!”

“We must fight!” Kevin, the second pilot, screamed, waving his fist at the captain.

“With what?” Captain Bertram asked flatly. “We don’t have weapons to speak of. They’ll board us, take everything they want, and maybe leave a skeleton crew to pilot the ship. I hope Acacia is too old and under-equipped for them. If they want her too, we’ll all be dead.”

“Who?” Katya squeaked from the door. Her throat had gone dry.

“Pirates!” Mandy hid her face behind brown hands.

“What pirates?” Katya tried to catch the captain’s eyes. “It was a movie. There are no real pirates.”

“Apparently there are ... here, damn them.” The captain wouldn’t look at her. “They just ordered us to stop and prepare for boarding.”

“What do they want?” Katya could hardly hear her own voice.

“Slaves for Lumiranian mines,” Mandy mumbled into her palms.

“Everyone strong, healthy, and young,” the captain added quietly.

“But we are not at war with Lumirans anymore.”

The captain scowled; his eyes were as dull as his switched-off dials. “We don’t have a choice. They’ll blow Acacia to pieces if we don’t cooperate. They’ll board us in three hours.”

Katya stared at the stricken faces of the bridge crew. She envisioned the terrible pirates from the documentary, looting, killing, herding everybody into slavery. No! It wasn’t happening. She couldn’t be a slave! She wanted to puke, but one doesn’t puke on the bridge. She should go to a washroom, but her legs felt rubbery. They wouldn’t carry her.

Her body froze at the door while her mind spun furiously. She had an art shipment worth buckets of money: sculptures, tapestries, mosaics. Perhaps, she could bargain with the pirates. Could she convince them that they wanted tapestries more than living captives?

Impossible! If the pirates ever wanted anything artistic, it would be something banal and flashy ... like Aramin’s nudes. But, she couldn’t sacrifice the nudes. They would bring the best prices on the market!

She sucked in sharply. What market? She was such an idiot! Of course! Aramin’s dancing nudes were the ticket! And they were hauling exactly the right material to pull off that trick.

“I have an idea,” Katya blurted into the heavy silence. “We have tons of polystabin, right? For the galactic hospitals. If I spray every young crewmember with polystabin, they’ll all become temporary sculptures. I can make them ugly. Would the pirates want a sculpture of a stooped, sneezing woman, or a man puking?”

Everybody stared at her.

“Keep talking!” the captain barked.

Breathless at the improbability of her scheme, she elaborated. “People can live inside congealed polystabin. A surgeon on Rendezvous said so. And I’ll leave the older crewmen and the captain functional. And myself in disguise. If the pirates don’t find anyone young, what would they take instead?” Her eyes traversed from one stunned expression to another.

“Money. Equipment.” Captain Bertram’s face brightened. “And your plastic wenches.”

“Genius!” Mandy dashed to Katya’s side. Her black eyes radiated. “Make a statue out of me. I’d rather be a statue than a Lumiranian slave.”

“How long can people survive as statues?” the captain demanded.

“Eight hours, sir,” Katya improvised with aplomb. Her heart thumped wildly. She didn’t remember what Aramin’s brother, the surgeon, had said about that, but this was not the time to show uncertainty. If the pirates’ boarding inspection of Acacia lasted more than a couple of hours, they would all be dead anyway.

“Do it. Hurry,” the captain ordered. “And remove all belongings from the cabins. The pirates should find no traces of people berthing here.”

“Yes, sir,” Katya whispered.

“I don’t want to be a statue,” Kevin said as he followed Katya and Mandy off the bridge.

“They’ll take you as a slave otherwise.” Katya stretched on tiptoes, grabbed his wide shoulders, and shook hard. “Go get your stuff. Meet me in the small gallery.” She gave him a slight push.

Kevin’s blue eyes were glum. “I don’t want to be a slave either. I just graduated from the Space Academy.”

“Cretin!” Mandy whacked at his chest. “Did you watch that dreadful documentary?”

He walked away, stiff like a toy soldier.

“I’ll see you in the gallery.” Mandy slipped inside her cabin.

Biting her lip, Katya gazed after her lover.


“You’ll be okay,” she said, trying to reassure everyone assembled in the small gallery. “I promise. I’ll get you back into people as soon as they leave.”

None of them had any choice. Behind the seven terrified faces of her friends, the white canisters of polystabin and the gray antistabin siphons were stacked in neat rows.

“What if they kill everybody, including you?” Kevin asked from the door. “What if we suffocate inside?”

Katya gulped. Her own doubts reared, but she stifled them firmly. “Nonsense! We must hurry,” she said brusquely. “We have less than three hours.” She managed to keep her voice steady.

Mandy squeezed Katya’s shoulders and planted a farewell kiss on her lips. “Make me a very ugly statue.” She trembled as she squatted in the pose Katya suggested. In the last moment, when the white stuff started enveloping her head, she lifted a hand to cover her eyes.

Katya couldn’t have created an uglier statue even if she tried.

Sara, the second engineer, raised her knitting basket in front of her face like a shield. “To keep me company,” she croaked, attempted to smile, and squeezed her eyes shut. A stream of polystabin hit her shaking figure, and she froze under its white shell. The round, multicolored skeins in her basket turned into snowballs.

“Sufficiently dreadful,” Katya whispered gloomily.

“What should I do?” Kevin’s face was almost as white as the polystabin.

“Pretend you are puking.” She thrust a wastebasket into his hands.

“Soon, I won’t pretend.” His fingers clutched the basket tightly.

Katya turned the nozzle on him and pulled the trigger. What would happen if he puked inside the statue? Or took a pee? Better not to think such thoughts.

“I hope these are utterly disgusting,” she mumbled, pouring the white foamy liquid over seven immobile forms of her friends. She made hideous lumps in odd places. “I hope nobody wants any of them.” She stifled a howl. No time for hysterics! Later, she promised herself. She would find the time later for a long and spectacular crying fit.

Now, she had to erase all evidences of the extra crewmembers. Katya dragged their blankets and duffels into formless piles between the new sculptures and walked around them with her sprays. “Abstract art, the new style—Realistic Absurdity,” she muttered. Licking salt from her lips, she rained polystabin over the bags and beddings.

Finally, she lowered her last half-empty polystabin container and leaned on the wall between Mandy and Kevin. She felt numb, her knees wobbly. She had just turned all her friends into statues. Their combined fears hovered in the air like poisonous fumes; she could hardly breathe. Then her eyes stumbled over the clock above the door. Drat! This statue business had taken longer than she had anticipated. She wasn’t ready to greet the pirates yet.

Recalling all the profanities she had ever heard, Katya sprinted to her cabin. She could do it! She swallowed her tears and grabbed her maquillage kit. The scarlet imps painted on the lid sneered at her, mocking her pre-performance jitters. She plopped down in front of a mirror. She had played old hags at the student theatre. Multiple times. Well, twice anyway. She remembered the makeup: dark shades beneath her eyes, wrinkles over her cheeks. She glanced at the clock again. Did the digits switch too fast?

At last, an old lady with rouged cheeks and raspberry lips emerged from her cabin. Katya’s single artistic award, the outrageous crimson turban with golden plumes, crowned her head. Just as she rounded a corner, the entrance hatch buzzed open. Captain Bertram with five armed and armored brutes turned into the main corridor.

Katya took a deep breath and stepped in front of her audience. “Captain,” she chirped.

The captain whirled, and she was gratified by his sharp intake of breath.

“I hope you’re not giving away my statues. They represent the newest style, all the rage on Earth—Realistic Absurdity.” She dissolved into falsetto giggles. “You wouldn’t deprive a poor old woman of her livelihood, would you?”

Speechless, the captain stared.

“What statues?” One of the pirates regarded her with suspicion. “Who is that?”

Katya adjusted her turban with a languid, deliberate gesture, smiling so sweetly her teeth ached. “You don’t want them; they’re no good for young men like you. Maybe, I can interest you in tapestries or mosaics?”

“Lead the way, old hen!” the pirate leader (she assumed) barked.

“Of course.” She cringed and ushered the pirate band to the small gallery. Her hands shook.

The captain trudged along mutely between his captors.

Once there, the pirate leader studied Mandy’s squatting figure. “This is disgusting.”

“Look, this other geezer is puking.” One of the pirates shoved Kevin’s statue. It clanked hitting the floor. Katya followed its trajectory with her eyes. She hoped Kevin inside was unhurt.

“That’s all you have?” Ignoring Katya, the pirate leader addressed the captain. His voice out of the helmet’s speaker sounded sharp and cold. Meanwhile, his crew amused themselves with the statues.

“Well.” Captain Bertram sighed. “We have another gallery.”

Katya rubbed her arms. Her muscles ached after hours of handling three-pound polystabin canisters. “I can bring you a few samples,” she piped.

“Show us,” the leader ordered. His eyes narrowed behind his transparent helmet.

Katya’s lips trembled, as she took them to the larger gallery.

They spotted Aramin’s statues and gathered around them, hooting.

“You wanted to keep these hussies for yourself?” The leader snorted. “Crazy crone.”

She shuddered. She had perfected this act for one of her student roles as a hysterical old spinster. Following that script now, she dropped on her knees and covered her face with her hands. “My profit, thieves!” she keened. She couldn’t separate her acting from her real feelings.

“We’ll take them.” The leader sniggered maliciously and directed his people to remove the statues. Immobile as a statue himself, Captain Bertram watched from the door. Katya sniffed in her corner, behind the shapeless piles of polystabin concealing blankets and duffels.

After the pirates marched out of the gallery, Katya heard them roaming around Acacia. Their harsh voices, augmented by the helmets, echoed in the small ship. They looted the sleeping quarters, the kitchen, the engineering, and the bridge.

Would they come back to the gallery? Would they take her into captivity? Kill her? Kill the captain? She felt old, as if her aged coquette’s makeup had suddenly invaded her body. She wouldn’t be surprised if her hair turned silver inside the ridiculous turban. When the pirates’ voices stopped reverberating between the walls, she still wouldn’t move.


The captain found her in the same place he had left her, sitting on the floor, hugging a white blob of polystabin, probably someone’s pillow. He squatted in front of her.

“They left! Amazing performance, Katya.”

Katya’s throat didn’t work. She shook so hard, her teeth clattered.

The old captain watched her for a few moments and then slapped both her cheeks hard.

She jerked away. Her hands flew to her stinging cheeks, but her tremors stopped. She sniffled and eyed the old man with resentment.

“Feeling better?”

She nodded. “I gave the nudes away!” she wailed.

“You sold them for the highest price: our lives. Great bargain, if you ask me.”

She scrambled to her feet. “I’ll start melting the stuff off the people, sir.” She sniffled again.

The captain stood up too and bent over Katya’s hands, kissing them gently. “You forgot to put makeup on your hands,” he murmured and ambled toward the bridge.

Katya glanced down at her young, freckled hands. “Drat!” she said. Her old drama teacher would’ve reprimanded her too. She picked up a heavy gray canister of antistabin, pointed the spout at Mandy, and pulled the lever. The gray foam bubbled around the young navigator, produced a strange chemical smell, and trickled off, leaving Mandy shaking and sputtering.

“How are you?” Katya’s heart beat so loud, she couldn’t hear her own words.

“Stiff.” Mandy wiped gray residue off her face. “It wasn’t too comfortable.” Her eyes settled on Katya’s turban and widened. “What are you wearing!?”

Katya turned to the next statue and squeezed the spray handle viciously, suddenly gripped by a frenzy of destruction. She poured and poured, discarding one gray canister after another, until the gallery resembled a sea of gray foam. People, yelling, spitting, and laughing, stuck out from it.

By the time she was done, her every muscle felt as dead and gray as the foam. She was a part of it. She let go of the last canister, and it sank into the foamy pool. Seven former statues waded towards her through the knee-high, smelly mush.

“How are you?” Mandy murmured. She attempted a grin. “Nice turban.”

“It’s over!” Katya’s eyes glistened. She tore the turban off her head and tossed it up. It sailed to the ceiling, a bright flake of sunlight over the gray froth, and fell down speedily.

“What will I tell Aramin?” she wondered. infinity

Olga Godim is a writer and journalist. Her articles appear regularly in local newspapers. She has had short stories in “Lorelei Signal,” “Sorcerous Signals,” “Aoife’s Kiss,” and other publications. Her first novel was recently released from Eternal Press.