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



Space Cadets of the Apocalypse

By Dave Fragments

THE WORLD DIDN’T END on Mayan year zero but it tried real hard. Six calderas in the Pacific Ring of Fire, from Yellowstone in California to Toba in Sumatra, erupted. Ash and ejected rock blotted out the sun. Without the sun, plants died, animals starved, resource wars followed. My family survived by becoming bushwhackers.

The Genetic Plagues nearly ended mankind when ninety-nine out of one hundred women died. That was twenty years ago. Now, barely in my mid-thirties, I snagged a preferred posting by saving General Drayton’s life. I run a military freehold: a series of caves where I teach the survivors, abandoned orphaned teens, all boys, to be civilized. The caves hide us. In them, we grow vegetables and raise sheep and goats.

In the recesses of the cave, a stream of fresh water runs through one of the chambers, providing a waterfall for showering. I came around the corner and found Angel Wings, my youngest charge, washing the blood of a sheep from his body. The wings, tattooed on his back, set him apart. They also flapped as he pleasured himself. I stopped and hid as his body stiffened in soft moans and heavy breathing.

When Drayton and the soldiers overran a savage tribe, they found Angel Wings beaten, abused, kept only as the offering to some aberrant demigod of fertility in the hopes that the chieftain would father a girl child. Drayton might have freed him but I civilized him, educated him. He was ambitious, sneaky, and aloof. He wanted to be king of the hill and used his handsome body to gain power and position. I tried to sneak away.

He apprenticed with Big Butch, our meat-man, and convinced Butch to let him slay and gut the next day’s meat near curfew. When he came smeared in blood and guts, the other boys demanded he wash. Nothing stunted a boner or disturbed sleep like the smell of hot blood and rank entrails. “I know you’re behind me. Let’s talk—” Angel turned, exposing himself, “—a while.” He rubbed his body with a soapy cloth and motioned for me to join him. We regarded each other with that look that doesn’t lie.

“You’re avoiding the other boys again, aren’t you?”

“I don’t want to live a life this crude, this common. I cringe at their rough touch, their beards, their slimy habits, the satisfactions they seek. I hate waking in the morning feeling used and sticky from sleepy time frolics. They sleep the sleep of contentment without ambition. I lay awake wishing for more. The tribe raised me to lead men or die. For that, I want a wife and child.”

He was young, strong, intact, filled with the fire that all young men possess. I was the last of the original survivors. I stripped and stepped close enough to feel the warmth of his body as the water washed away the day’s grime. He didn’t want a one-night stand; he wanted to be the unseen power pulling my strings.

“I won’t stop your mates from satisfying their physical desires because you think it’s messy. I’ve told you before, cope with it. Families may not be possible ever again.”

Angel took a deep breath, pushed his blonde curls back, and shook his head. He brushed the water off my skin. I braced my mind and body to refuse what I thought would be an advance. He had less physical intentions.

“Drayton’s got old man lies and old man plans. I’m nothing but a boy-child to him, not a man, a gamin, a punk, a stripling,” Angel said.

“You’re working hard at not facing reality and being a man.” That much was true. However, his resistance would force us to reveal everything.

“You and Drayton had wives and children. You forget we haven’t. I want to feel the lips of a woman on my face, to touch her hands soft and mild, to fondle her tits, to live in her hairy parts forever. I want a baby sleeping on my chest. I want to slide my hardness deep into her softness and not spend the rest of my life with men poking their fleshy poles against me. I want it sooner than later.”

“The truth is that you sneaked away to do exactly what those boys did. You keep denying your body has needs. I’m not going to pat your head or wipe your tears for being clever enough to hide your self-gratifying acts. You’re too conniving and manipulative.”

He was right. Drayton and I dreamt of rebuilding civilization. It was Plan A. Angel Wings found out the truth behind our dream. For the past fifteen years, the cure to the interacting plagues was perpetually three years away, almost ready, but not quite ready. Artificial wombs waited to produce unborn girl babies if and only if the scientists managed to cure the viral plagues. The backup plan was cloning only male children. Beyond three generations even that failed. Only a handful knew that mankind was doomed to extinction. This handsome boy could tempt the dead to rise. He hesitated, shuffled, and gave me a look that melted my heart.

“You have a sweet deal going on here. You get the boys with the good bodies and Drayton gets the boys with the damaged bodies for space duty. I want more than sticky nights with the gang. I want to be your partner for a year or two. I’ve heard that body of yours is too damaged to last much longer. When you join Homo Metallicus, I want to take your place. I want to be at the head of the line, first among equals to take over these caves or to run a crew in space and the worlds beyond.” Angel pressed his body against mine, succulent and sexy, all the right moves to seduce. I almost surrendered, right then and there.

By the stars themselves, this boy had balls—big, low hanging, brass balls. Mine were silicone, the real ones blown off by a cannon in a failed execution. The little sneak eavesdropped. He knew too much, damn him. Two days before, I thought I held a private meeting with General Drayton. We discussed Plan B and my physical deficiencies. I had two fingers gone on the left hand, half my right foot eaten by wolves, scars across my torso from when I was nearly disemboweled, and a piece of an ear missing. The doctors and scientists kept me alive with injections and drugs. I was their junkyard dog, keeping the pack in line, and I was destined to be lead robot on the next space station.

“Is that all?” I asked him.

“I want to be free of the imaginary cures and excuses you use as a ball and chain. We’ll be partners; brothers if that’s all you can hack. I’ll keep your secrets. You can keep your ambitions. Remember, I was the sacrificial lamb of a tribe of stinking savages. I took control after they captured me. It was easy to interpret their dreams, tame their lusts, and become king-like when you’re blond, fair-skinned. On a word from me, doubt filled their tiny minds and called up the green beasts of envy. They were my weak-willed, wild-eyed sycophants. These caves will run a thousand times better with me as your partner and successor.”

I wanted to squeeze the life from his damn neck and I could have done it right then and there. I might be old but I was still thirty pounds heavier and a head taller. Dead bodies are hard to explain. Was he just an ambitious boy or the misbegotten spawn of Machiavelli?

“Damn boy, Drayton will hang you by your balls till they rot from your body if you demand such things to his face.”

“That’s why you’re going to tell him I’m your lover and that you want me to replace you. It’s easy. Declare me your successor, publicly and loudly tomorrow morning.” He raised his flag against my body, thinking that he had me by the short and curlies.

“You dreamin’ boy? It’s not that simple. Drayton might explode and call hellfire down on all of us. It’s a delicate matter. I have to soften his mind, prepare our path. Go back to the others. If you tell anyone about us, I’ll knock your teeth down your throat so far they’ll pop out your ass. Do you understand?”

He understood but resisted.

“I’d rather spend the night in your arms, a new Morpheus for my troubled sleep. You and the night with me the stars, one and each together,” Angel said, pouting. I shooed him away with the back of my hand.

“Go to your own bed and play with those your age. It’s better we speak of these matters tomorrow or the day after but not tonight, not sweating in the passions of the night.”

I made sure he was asleep before I went back to my cave, retrieved my emergency radio, and made my way to the top of the mountain. Drayton needed to know Angel’s threats and my reactions.

“This blond dude is too smart for his and our good,” I said. Drayton laughed. He hurt my feelings.

“I warned you that little twerp was a serpent’s tongue. You got careless and let him find us out. You fix it. Put him on his knees in front of the others, slap his face a few times, and then pick him up, make him your butt boy.” Drayton’s voice crackled in my earpiece.

“I’m too old for romance and intrigue night and day. I resent the ego of the little bastard. He thinks he has a more perfect and enamour’d body and I think I should beat the crap out of him just enough to put him in his place and keep him quiet for a couple weeks. Think blackened eyes, busted jaw, jail time to teach him respect.” There was a delay in his response. I couldn’t figure out Drayton’s reaction. I clicked the call buttons twice.

“General?” I said to the silence.

“I didn’t go away.”

“I thought you wanted Lieutenant Windom to replace me?”

“Why, because he’s your idea of romancing the soldier, because he’s your match in physical size? Problem is, Windom has a lover and I have plans for him. So that’s not going to happen. I don’t care how; find a way to partner-up with your youthful Angel Wings for a year or two. Tomorrow, give him the old reach-around and make him your bitch. That’ll work to keep him happy. Let everyone think he’s your staff of power, keep your hands on him, and his independence will shrink with time. I’ll approve him as second in line when I come to review the new class of men.”

Bad news. I felt that I had to stand up for myself at this point. I wasn’t one of Drayton’s soldiers that could be ordered to do whatever he wanted.

“I might be old, done evil deeds, and look ugly, but I’m still the boss of this cave. Taking a lover this ambitious and impetuous would cramp my style and complicate my educational plans. I don’t want the little Puck to find the rest of my secrets and hold them like a knife at my throat. Believe me, he’s capable of that.”

“I think your so-called secrets are overrated. Be Pan to his Daphnis.”

“Take a Brutus to my bed? A viper to my bosom? Not likely. I need him under control, not undercover. I don’t want to argue.”

Drayton cut the radio link without comment. I shrugged and went back to my chamber, alone. Drayton didn’t wait long to act.

Soldiers arrived before sunrise, yanked me out of bed, gagged me, and tied my hands and feet. A sharp jab in my thigh made the world go black.

The lights came back on and I hung naked above vats of space-rubber, a breathing tube glued to my mouth. I caught sight of Angel dangling behind me, struggling. We were now space fodder for the construction crews. Six other volunteers already covered in space-rubber lay on slabs next to robotic bodies. Drayton watched. I poke both middle fingers at him and he laughed. My fate was the last stop of humanity where the old and diseased were transformed into useful tools. As I sank into the vat of space-rubber, he spoke.

“I did everything but beg you to change your mind last night. You made your decision. I made mine. The cold hard truth is that the viruses cannot be cured. The infected must leave the planet; otherwise, Earth will be barren and lifeless. You’re assigned to the new space station at Lagrange Four. There you will build and launch the first interstellar spaceship. Your destination will be the Centauri star system.” That was the last time that I heard a human voice that wasn’t electronic or amplified.

The space-rubber changed skin, melted bone, and hollowed out the body. The soldiers hoisted me out, set me on a table to cure. Space-rubber acted irreversibly, converting men to near indestructible skinsuits, and leaving nerves intact to bind to specialized fibers on the robotic skeletons. They slipped my hollow body over the metal arms and legs of the robots. My altered skin stretched over the metal framework. Once again I had arms, legs, torso, and a head. Thousands of optical control fibers pushed into my body and merged with my human nerves to create the control system of the new robot. In two days, I would be a hybrid, a cyborg, a mechanical man suitable for surviving and working in space.

I could see Angel Wing’s lovely body disappear into the mixture and come out a rubbery black homunculus, thanks to nanomachines and quantum science. All of our fragile human organs were gone, replaced by nuclear power cells, computers, electric motors, and cables. We didn’t need clumsy spacesuits, air to breathe, food and water to eat. I would be in control of a new body, ready to build huge new machines to explore the stars.

Silicone memories would retain the accomplishments of the human race. Machines would do more than merely serve flesh and blood. Mankind will journey on nuclear fire from metal ships, land on strange, new worlds with metal feet, and build our offspring in our image, from machine. Our descendants will never know disease or the failures of love, or the sting of betrayal, or wars caused by lies.

One day, thousands of years in the future, Angel, Drayton, and the rest of us will send a message back to Earth. It will say simply: It is ready. The new race of men may answer in strange new languages. They may speak in odd and discordant tongues, sing new songs, write different words but they will be our children and they will understand the sacrifice of the ancients. Their progenitors left them to save them. Their progenitors transformed oblivion to dreams. These new humans will find a legacy of uncounted new worlds waiting, a gift built on the lives of their parents. And they will know that they never again need fear death. Mankind has conquered the stars.  infinity

Dave Fragments retired to the countryside of Western Pennsylvania amid the deer and squirrels to write short stories and poetry. He has published over 40 short stories in online publications and print anthologies, plus poetry. For many years he did research into coal liquefaction and heterogeneous catalysis.