Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Monkeys and Empire State Buildings
by James K. Isaac

Debbie Does Delta Draconis III
by Sarina Dorie

Becoming Einstein
by George S. Walker

No Good Conscience
by Edward J. Knight

Last Log of the Vancouver
by David Falkinburg

Saving the Galaxy and Taking Names
by Justin Short

Diplomacy in Springtime
by Jennifer Linnaea

Onkeymay Usinessbay
by Doug Donnan

Inside Magic Circles
by Brent Knowles


Cosmic Life Rays
by John McCormick and Beth Goldie

A Lost World On the Polar Ice
by Fitzhugh Green




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




Becoming Einstein

By George S. Walker

ON THE BLACK MARKET, THE Americans and Russians will sell you anything, but the Russians are cheaper. Dr. Enevoldsen used illegal access to a Russian spysat to zoom in on the mining facility in northern Greenland. He was so engrossed that he failed to hear Freyja enter his underground lab, flechette pistol in hand.

Pressing the pistol to his neck, she purred seductively, “Going for the gold without me, Dr. E.?”

Enevoldsen’s heart skipped a beat. Then annoyance took over. “I’m busy, Freyja.”

“Looking for your legendary anti-gravity Grail?” she whispered. He felt her warm breath against his ear. The gun didn’t move.

From the corner of his eye, he could see her skin-tight black leather. She pushed her hips against him, crowding her lithe body onto the chair with him.

“Do you think you could put the gun away?” he asked.

“Eventually. Tell me what you’ve found.”

Enevoldsen rolled his eyes. “The mine and smelter rely on robotic security from ElectroArmour, Ltd., but for the next gold shipment out of Greenland, the Danish Royal Mint will bring in Air Marines. We need to get in and out before then. With the artifact.”

“And the gold.”

“Gold,” said Enevoldsen, waving a hand dismissively. “A soft, weak metal.”

“What can you buy with your artifact?”

“This is about power, not money. The miners don’t even know what’s down there.”

He heard a faint click as she flicked off the safety. As she stroked the pistol along his throat, the red light from its laser sight glittered on the walls.

“Perhaps we could get some gold, too,” said Freyja. The way she said it didn’t sound like a suggestion.

He considered it reluctantly. “Transporting gold complicates the incursion. ElectroArmour is professional. Smart.”

“So are you. You and Albert.”

“Einstein’s strictly for emergencies.”

“Then you’ll just need to be extra clever, Dr. E.”

He felt her withdraw the pistol, heard the click of the safety going back on.

Who’d have predicted before global warming that the Kingdom of Denmark would own the richest island on the planet? Greenland’s melting glaciers had uncovered a heart of fertile farmland. And to the north, the most productive gold mine in the world.

Freyja rose from the chair. “Let me know when we’re going in.”

“Of course.” And not a moment before.

She slipped silently out of the lab.

One of his partners was a cyber-enhanced seductress, an assassin in black leather. And the other, his surgically implanted Einstein construct, was cursed. The black market device should have made him the greatest genius in the world. But each time he used it, he became a bit more Einstein and a bit less Enevoldsen.

He could steal the artifact without Einstein. But he’d need help against ElectroArmour. That was where the Russian mafia would come in. There was going to be blood.


Haggling with the Russians took a week.

It was late in the seventh day when Enevoldsen started north, but still bright outside: Polar Day in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Freyja wore mirrorshades when she joined him on the maglev train to Nuuk’s airport. In an era when New York was a drowning old city of canals, Greenland’s southern capitol of Nuuk was a gleaming metropolis of casinos and banks. Air taxis zipped between buildings with seemingly reckless abandon.

Their rented flitter was waiting at the airport. Enevoldsen launched on autopilot, and the flitter climbed soundlessly on magnetics, banking north to the remaining glaciers. And the gold.

Freyja glanced behind them at the gear Enevoldsen had loaded aboard.

“Not much room for gold,” she complained.

“We can’t fly in,” said Enevoldsen. “It’s a secure zone for kilometers around.”

“How are we getting the gold out?”

“The Russians are bringing the biggest, meanest flitter you’ve ever seen. Once we disable security from inside.”

They flew over green fields of corn and soybeans and lakes of glacier-melt. The closer they got to the pole, the more green surrendered to encroaching ice.

Enevoldsen landed their flitter at the airport in the old NATO city of Thule. The heated flitter pads were clear; snow coated everything else.

As they strode to the terminal, a frigid wind blew across the tarmac. A robot porter obediently carried their gear behind them, through the terminal and out to the front.

A man with a straggly beard and heavy parka stood by the curbside where the air taxis hovered. He held a sign hand-lettered in Danish: “Hund mand”—dog man.

Enevoldsen walked up to him. “We’re here.”

The man scowled and tossed his sign into the wind. “Follow,” he said in Danish so thickly accented with Greenlandic it was almost incomprehensible.

He led them on a long hike, past the air taxis, past the public transit stop, to an ancient military parking lot covered with snow and ice. An old electric truck stood alone at the far end of the lot.

They loaded Enevoldsen’s gear in the back and squeezed onto the bench seat, Freyja between Enevoldsen and the man wearing the parka. The man pressed the starter. The truck rumbled. Enevoldsen smelled oxidizing hydrocarbons and oil. The truck wasn’t electric at all. It had been retrofitted with an internal combustion engine, illegal in every country in the world.

Tires spinning, the truck fishtailed out of the parking lot, jumping over the curb onto the narrow roadway that led from the airport. Air taxis flashed past overhead. The man was driving manually, one hand holding the steering wheel. Enevoldsen glanced sideways at Freyja, noting the flicker of her right eye, her implanted hyperoptics seeing things his mortal eyes never could.

“Get many customers?” asked Enevoldsen.

The man grunted.

They rode in silence the rest of the way.

Well outside of town, following a snow-covered road that seemed little more than a trail, they eventually came to a log cabin surrounded by stunted evergreens. Snow covered the entire roof except for sprayed-on solar arrays and a satellite dish.

They got out of the truck. Enevoldsen heard a chorus of dogs barking.

“Inside,” said the man.

Carrying their gear, they followed him through the snow. On the porch, the heavy wooden door creaked as he pulled it open. The inside of the cabin was one large room, with an illegal wood stove in the middle. A rack by the door held an array of assault rifles and shotguns. There was only one door, no windows. A string of LEDs hanging from the rafters lit the room.

Freyja began examining the assault rifles, but the man scowled at her. “Payment,” he said.

Freyja glanced at Enevoldsen, her cold eyes questioning, “Should I kill him?”

“What about the dogs?” said Enevoldsen.

“You heard them.”

Enevoldsen handed him a one-time-use credit chip, and the man downloaded it.

“Dogs ready,” he said.

“We have to get our gear on.” Enevoldsen opened one of the bags, pulling out two thermal suits. He handed the smaller one to Freyja.

She peeled out of her black leather like a snake shedding its skin. They pulled on the suits, chameleon stealth-wear good to fifty below. Enevoldsen could see Freyja only by outline now. He noticed that the man’s eyes had widened.

“No questions,” said Enevoldsen.

The man shrugged. “Bring dogs back.”

Enevoldsen nodded, lying easily. The dogs would have to make it on their own: he’d be flying out with the Russians and the gold. He and Freyja shouldered the bags.

The man opened the door and led them around back.

The huskies didn’t see Enevoldsen and Freyja at first, but caught their scent: they began howling. The man yelled at them in Greenlandic. As he harnessed them to the sled, the dogs squirmed, eager to be off, their breath white in the cold air. The sled, harness and supplies all stank of dog.

“Map?” said the man.

Enevoldsen pointed to the computer on his wrist. Freyja sat in the sled with the gear. Enevoldsen stepped onto the runners at the back. The man ruffled the fur on the lead dog’s head and stood back, crossing his arms.

Then they were off.


They took a long break hours later, watering the dogs again. Freyja tossed each of the dogs a piece of meat, which they devoured ravenously, smearing blood on the snow.

Enevoldsen checked their position on the moving map display. They were inside the secondary security zone, but outside the primary zone with its guard towers and robots.

Freyja stretched. He could barely see her in her stealth-wear, a ghost against the snow.

“This is boring,” she said.

“If you wanted to shoot something, you should have picked off one of the reindeer we saw earlier.”

“It’s not always about killing things, Dr. E. Sometimes it’s the lack of competition. Why are you the only one trying to steal the artifact?”

“Because I believe in the impossible.”

“The artifact is impossible, or stealing it is?”

“I’ve studied the gravitational topography of Greenland. The mine is missing a hundred kilotonnes of mass.”

“Not just the gold?”

Enevoldsen snorted at her ignorance. “Orders of magnitude more: A missing mountain.”

“Your artifact is that big?”

“Not volume, mass. Sometimes the impossible answer is the only one that makes sense.”

“What does Albert say about the impossibility?”

“What difference does it make?”

“You said yourself it’s impossible. Would Albert agree?”

“Einstein isn’t an oracle to consult like tea leaves.”

“He’s your competition, isn’t he? You’re afraid he’ll prove you wrong, tell you there’s nothing in the mine but gold.”

“I’ve told you, Einstein’s strictly for emergencies.”

“Boredom is an emergency. Albert, are you in there?” taunted Freyja. “We need you. Desperately.”

“Einstein only comes when I want. He ... he ...” Enevoldsen shuddered as the world became insubstantial. He felt himself fading, surrendering to the Einstein intelligence.

In the nightmare hours that followed, he had fits of consciousness, as if sleepwalking, but wasn’t in control. The scenery changed and he heard bits of conversation and laughter. But when he spoke, the words weren’t his. He was thinking in German, a language he didn’t understand.

Finally, he clawed his way back to the surface of his mind, forcing the Einstein construct back into its mental coffin.

Enevoldsen slowed the dogs, bringing the sled to a halt on the snow.

Freyja turned to smile at him. “Why are we stopping?”

“Where are we?” asked Enevoldsen.

Realizing he wasn’t Einstein, her smile faded. “You’re the navigator.”

He looked at the moving map on his wrist. They were deep into the outer security zone, almost to the fence around the primary zone. But on the wrong side, the north side. Why the hell had Einstein chosen this side?

“We’ve gone the wrong way,” he said. Einstein had driven the sled for hours. “Why didn’t you stop him?”

“Who?” she asked innocently.

“You know damn well! I had everything planned down to the minute! Now we’re coming in toward the north gate. I want the south gate! You’ve screwed everything up.”

Freyja got off the sled. “Plans are boring. You’re supposed to be smart. Improvise.”

“If you weren’t so stupid, I wouldn’t have to improvise!”

The dogs had turned in their harnesses to watch the shouting.

“What did you call me?” Freyja asked coldly.

“Stupid. Bumbling. Scatter-brained. Insubordinate.”

Freyja drew her flechette pistol. The dogs began barking. She raised the pistol.

“But nonetheless, a partner,” he added.

“You called me stupid,” she said. She flicked off the safety.

Enevoldsen looked down to see the red tracer beam centered on his sternum. “Do you really think you can get the gold without me?” he said scornfully.

The lead dog twisted in the harness, baring its fangs, growling.

She turned toward it. “Don’t snap at me!” She fired once. The lead dog dropped dead in its harness.

“You crazy—” he began.

She swung the pistol back at him.

“That was the lead dog,” said Enevoldsen.

She shrugged. “We’ve got extras.”

“But it’s the lead dog, you fool, the alpha! Packs have a complex social structure. You can’t just—”

The tracer beam moved up. He guessed the red dot was on his forehead now.

“You shouldn’t have snapped at me, either,” she said deliberately. She held the pistol in one hand, cybernetically stabilized against the wind.

“No, Fräulein Freyja,” he said softly. The words came unbidden, not his own.

“Albert?” She looked at him quizzically, lowering the pistol.

He grimaced. “No! No! I’m me, Dr. Enevoldsen! I’m in charge, not Einstein!” He took deep breaths of the cold air, fighting to stay in control.

She shook her head and turned to the nearest dog. Grabbing it by the scruff of the neck, she pressed her pistol between its eyes. “You’re the new leader. Capiche?”

The dog’s ears wilted.

Together they removed the dead dog from the lead harness and strapped in its replacement.

“How’s the improvising coming?” she asked Enevoldsen.

Still shaken by Einstein’s emergence, he scowled. Freyja had become a major liability.

Freyja took her seat on the sled. The dogs were reluctant to pull now. Enevoldsen cracked the whip to get them moving.

He drove them until he could see the security fence, then slowed to a halt. The fence was three layers of electrified chain link, topped by razor wire.

“Now what?” asked Freyja.

“I have a black market opener.” Enevoldsen looked at the fence. “I just have to find the gate. The north gate,” he added bitterly. He mushed the dogs forward, following the perimeter. The sled’s runners hissed over snow and ice. Eventually he came to the gate.

Hindered by thick gloves, Enevoldsen punched in the stolen security code on the opener’s keypad. The gate parted in the middle, sliding back on both sides. He heard the whir of powerful electric motors, but no siren. After driving the sled through the gate, he stopped. There were no approaching guards or robots, but he knew cameras were zooming in on him. He thought he heard an alarm in the distance. No point in being discreet now.

“Get off,” he ordered.

Freyja climbed off the sled. He rolled their bags off it onto the snow. He handed the satchel of gas grenades to Freyja, keeping a gas mask for himself. Then he took out a lightning missile.

In response, he heard big cargo doors opening on the building in the center of the mining camp. The doors were on the south side, the side he’d hoped to approach. Multi-tracked security robots surged around both sides of the building.

Time for one last call. He speed-dialed the Russian flitter on his computer. “We’re in,” he said.

Shouldering the missile launcher, he aimed at the radar/communications tower atop the building and thumbed the launch button. The missile streaked over the snow and struck the tower. Ball lightning raced up and down the girders. Antennae exploded. Electricity arced from cables, showering sparks onto the snow below.

The dogs yelped, backing up and overturning the sled. Freyja was sprinting south toward the mine entrance.

“Still bored?” Enevoldsen shouted after her.

He picked up the second missile and launched it at the speeding robots. Lightning ricocheted from robot to exploding robot, crackling in the dry air.

The terrified dogs were trying to go in all directions at once in the harness, yelping as they dragged the upside-down sled through the snow. They finally settled on a direction, heading back out through the north gate.

The lightning was dying out, just scattered zaps of static electricity. Five robots still advanced toward him. Freyja was nearly to the mine with the gas grenades. Out of missiles, he threw a time-entropy field activator onto the snow between him and the robots. Then he grabbed his backpack from the pile on the snow and jogged south toward the mine entrance.

Seconds later, he heard a gurgle of rushing water behind him. The robots sank into slush, then the ice re-froze, trapping them. The ice wouldn’t hold them forever, but it didn’t have to.

Another explosion shook the ground behind him: In the middle of the mining camp, the main doors of the gold smelter were gone, smashed inward. From over the north fence, the Russian flitter flew out of nowhere. Then the thunder of its sonic boom caught up with it, shaking the air. The flitter’s railgun fired again, exploding the ice where the robots had been fighting to free themselves. Robot fragments and ice chunks showered Enevoldsen.

He ran toward the safety of the mine.

He was out of breath by the time he reached the entrance. “Freyja?” he called. Panting, he pulled on his gas mask and shouldered his backpack. A body lay on the rock floor by the lift. Not Freyja’s, he noted with disappointment. He pushed the lift’s button to recall it from the depths of the mine.

He heard the whir of the motor, barely audible over the continuing explosions outside.

The open-cage lift arrived. Freyja stood inside, flechette pistol in one hand and the bag of gas grenades in the other. The bag was nearly empty.

“Going down, Dr. E.?” Her eyes regarded him coolly above her mask.

“Level Q6,” he said, and stepped in beside her.

The lift descended. He could see tiny lights far below through the mesh flooring of the cage.

“The Russians have arrived,” he said.

“I heard. Are they loading gold, or blowing it up?”

Freyja stopped the lift at Q6, and Enevoldsen slid the door open. Three tunnels led away from the lift, illuminated by yellow LEDs strung along the walls. Thick steel posts reinforced the tunnel.

Enevoldsen consulted the computer on his wrist. “This way.”

Freyja walked beside him in the tunnel. Flecks of gold glittered in the rock.

“How will you know the artifact when you see it?” she asked.

“If it were visible, the workers would have found it.”

“Albert, can you see it?”

“Stop that!” He hurried ahead to escape her voice.

A minute later, the LEDs along the walls suddenly winked out. The hum of the ventilators faded.

Enevoldsen cursed.

“Your Russian allies knocked out the generators,” said Freyja. “Are we close?”

“Maybe. I can’t see.”

Freyja snorted. “I can see perfectly.” Her implanted hyperoptics. Her glove clamped onto his arm, pulling him forward. Their boots echoed in the rock tunnel. “What should I look for?” she asked.

He glanced at the computer on his wrist, the screen adapting to the darkness. The source of the gravitational anomaly was ten meters ahead. “It will be on the ceiling, if there’s anything to see.”

She led him forward, then stopped. “Do you see that?”

“See what?”

“Look up.”

He looked, but saw nothing. Shaking off her hand, he raised his wrist, shining the computer’s light on the rock ceiling.

Exasperated, Freyja moved his forearm. “There,” she said. “Are you blind?”

Enevoldsen couldn’t see anything. “Describe it.”

“A pulsation of light. It’s coming from a crack in the rock.”

Enevoldsen pulled off his backpack and removed the electro-sonic chisel. He thumbed the activator.

“Ow!” said Freyja.


“That whine is like fingernails on a chalkboard.”

“I can’t hear anything,” said Enevoldsen.

“Of course you can’t,” she muttered. “Such an ordinary man.”

He raised the chisel toward the ceiling. “Where exactly ...”

“I’ll do it!” She took the chisel from him. “Crouch down so I can climb on your shoulders, Albert.”

“I’m not Albert!” He seethed, but crouched. She climbed onto him. He straightened, swaying unsteadily beneath her weight in the darkness. Her legs clamped under his armpits, and she tugged him forward. She must have gotten a handhold on the ceiling.

He heard the crackle of rock splintering. Chips and grit rained against his face and arms. He closed his eyes.

“This would be quicker with explosives,” she said.

“Don’t you dare damage the artifact!”

More rock fell, in larger pieces. A chunk landed on his boot, and he staggered briefly, wincing. “Can you see more of it?”

“Dr. E., don’t you think one of us should have stayed topside to watch them load the gold?”

He gritted his teeth. “If we’d come in through the south gate ...” Chips and rocks continued falling. He kept his eyes squeezed shut.

After a couple minutes, the noise stopped.

“I’ve cleared the opening beneath it and on the sides,” she said. “Why doesn’t it fall?”

He tried to look up, but her body blocked his view. “Get off.”

She slid down his back.

He raised his wrist to illuminate the hole. A sphere the size of a football was nestled in the rock. It was silver, covered with scratches. The sight took his breath away. How many millions of years had the artifact been embedded in rock down here, awaiting discovery?

“I was right,” he said. “You see? That’s why it doesn’t fall. It’s repelled by the Earth, not attracted.”

“So ... we go up to the next level and dig down? The Russians will be gone with the gold by then. Forget the artifact. Take video, claim discovery, and move on, Dr. E.”

“No! If I can just deactivate it ...”

“Ask Albert.”

Enevoldsen glared at her, hoping she saw his look in the dark. “Einstein has already fouled things up.”

“Well, if you’ve got a better plan ...”

“I just need to think.”

“Fine. I’ll go check on the gold.”

“No! I need you to see!”

“I can’t stay down here all day. The Russians will think I don’t want the gold.”

“There has to be a solution.”

“There is. Albert.”

Stalling for time, Enevoldsen studied the artifact. That look was his mistake. “Einstein is not ... is not ...” But he couldn’t hold on as Einstein’s curiosity overwhelmed him.

“Those aren’t scratches,” he said thoughtfully, but it wasn’t him speaking. It wasn’t he who moved his wrist to shine his computer’s light on it.

“The surface is covered with patterns. Engravings of symbols. It’s fascinating, Fräulein Freyja.” Enevoldsen felt himself pushed down further. Einstein’s voice became an annoying buzz. Vision tunneled away.

Some time later he came to himself abruptly. Enevoldsen looked down to find the silver artifact in his hands. His elation was interrupted by rocks raining down from the hole overhead. The roof of the tunnel made deep cracking sounds.

“Run!” shouted Freyja. She grabbed him by the arm, and he nearly dropped the artifact as she pulled him forward.

They raced up the tunnel, back toward the lift. Enevoldsen heard the roar of the tunnel collapsing behind them. Without the artifact’s upward pressure, there weren’t enough steel posts to support the weight of rock.

When Freyja stopped his flight, he realized they’d reached the lift.

“I thought there’d be a ladder,” she said. “Where are the stairs?”


“Albert! Where’s the escape shaft with the ladder?”

“I’m not Einstein!” he snapped. He held up his computer, but the only things its light revealed were clouds of dust rolling from the collapsed tunnel. He blinked dirt from his eyes, breathing heavily through his mask.

He looked down at the artifact and an idea dawned. “We’ll use this to raise the lift cage. Get inside!”

He followed her in. She shut the cage door.

“Where’s the switch?” he asked. “How did Einstein turn this off?”

“Switch? He drew an equation on the surface.”

Enevoldsen looked at the sphere, baffled. The scratches still looked like random scratches to him. Where had Einstein found patterns? “Which equation?”


“Which equation? The volume of a sphere? The Pythagorean theorem? Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence? The time-entropy formula? What kind of symbols did he use?”

“How should I know? Albert! Dr. E. needs help!”

“No!” he snarled. “I just need a hint!” But he was fading again, Einstein resurgent.

He couldn’t see what Einstein drew on the sphere, but felt the artifact fly upward from his hands, crashing against the roof of the cage. With a groan, the lift cage strained against its brakes, rising in the shaft. Metal shrieked against metal, echoing in the tunnels as they rose to the surface. Enevoldsen fought to ask, “What’s the equation?” but no words came, nor any answer.

The lift must have reached the top of the mine, because he felt Einstein reach up and draw on the sphere.

Enevoldsen regained control. He stood dazed, cradling the artifact in his arms. And with a squeal of worn-out brakes, the lift began sinking.

Freyja opened the cage door and dragged him out. “Come on! The gold!”

Outside the mine, he squinted in bright sunshine. The Russian flitter was parked by the gold smelter. Men in parkas struggled to winch a heavy cart up a ramp into the aircraft. Freyja waved to them, but there was no response.

“They can’t see us because of our stealth-wear. Here!” he shouted. “It’s Enevoldsen!”

They turned in his direction, raising weapons, finally seeing him. Freyja dove flat onto the snow, aiming her pistol.

“No! Don’t shoot!” he shouted at the Russians. “I’m Dr. Enevoldsen!” He no longer cared about his share of the gold, but still needed their flitter to escape.

They lowered their weapons and spoke among themselves in Russian. He overheard his name. Then after a brief silence, one word, “Da.” They began firing.

A chest blow knocked him backward onto the snow.

Exclamations of pain came from the Russians as Freyja returned fire. Then there was silence.

Footsteps ran across the snow, and Freyja knelt on the snow beside him. “Are you hit?” She looked concerned.

He looked toward the Russian flitter. Two corpses lay in the snow, along with the overturned cart of gold. The other Russians were out of sight. He looked down at his chest, expecting to see blood. There was none. Instead, the artifact had a crease where a projectile had bounced off, leaving a tear in the metal.

“Oh, no,” he gasped.

Freyja shook him. “Hit or not?”

“No,” he said. “But—”

“Good,” she said. “I can take them out. It’s better this way—we get all the gold. Think you can fly that thing?”

“Well, I—”

“Doesn’t matter. We’ve got Albert.” She studied the flitter. “We’ll split up. You have a gun?”

He shook his head.

“Then hide behind something. I’ll cover you.”

At that moment there was a blur of motion above the mining camp, and explosions around the Russian flitter. The overturned cart by the ramp was blasted apart, scattering gold bars everywhere.

Sonic booms rumbled over the camp, and he spotted two Danish attack flitters banking sharply in the distance, turning back for another strafing run.

“The gold!” wailed Freyja.

“They must have come from Thule!” said Enevoldsen. “But there were no Air Marines in Thule. Someone betrayed us!”

The Russian flitter’s ramp folded up partway and jammed. Then the flitter rose vertically. Enevoldsen heard the electronic squeal of its railgun charging up. Freyja pressed her hands to her ears.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” said Enevoldsen, looking around for a vehicle.

But Freyja was sprinting toward the remains of the cart. “Where are you going?” he shouted after her.

He spotted a small flitter behind one of the buildings. It was a recreational model, smaller than the one he’d piloted from Nuuk. If the dogfight between the Danes and Russians lasted long enough ...

He turned to see Freyja. She was lugging a heavy gold bar with both arms, trudging through the snow.

“Leave that!” he commanded. “There’s no time!”

“You leave yours!” she retorted.

He looked down at the artifact. “Never!”

They converged on the small flitter. Enevoldsen tilted back the bubble canopy. There were two seats, no cargo space. The skin of the flitter was pure black—a solar model. He hoped it had been charging long enough.

From the distance, shrieks of projectile weapons split the air as the Russians and Danes fought.

He and Freyja clambered into the flitter. As he hot-wired the control console, Freyja pulled the canopy down and sealed it. He had the artifact in his lap, Freyja the gold bar in hers. He took off, barely clearing the security fence, heading for Thule. The controls were sluggish.

Freyja watched the aerial battle. “All three flitters are tracking us,” she said. “The only way we’ll escape is if they all kill each other.”

Enevoldsen ignored her, turning his attention to the artifact in his lap. He turned it over carefully, finding the crease where it had been hit. The bent metal was paper-thin, titanium-strong. He removed his gloves, but his fingers couldn’t flex it. Something protruded from the opening. Not wires, but something that looked like feathers with tiny gears. Gingerly, he pushed it back inside the artifact.

Abruptly, the aircraft turned upside down. Enevoldsen’s head struck the canopy, and the inverted flitter shot straight up into the air. Freyja’s face was contorted against the clear canopy, her body pressed against his. A spider-web of cracks spread from her gold bar against the canopy.

“What are you doing?” she exclaimed.

“It’s the artifact! Interacting with the magnetics.”

Escaping air whistled from the canopy as they climbed toward orbit. Enevoldsen’s ears popped. He twisted, reaching toward the sphere on the floor of the inverted flitter. He found the crease, forced his fingertips into it, and pulled.

Abruptly, the flitter righted itself. Enevoldsen and Freyja tumbled into their seats. The flitter began losing altitude. They still had their gas masks from the mine and hurried to put them on, sucking oxygen.

“If I can discover how to control the interaction with the magnetics,” he said, “I can make it to Canada.”

If?” she said. “Albert! We need you!”


“You’re so pessimistic, Dr. E. So dim. Albert likes experimenting, trying new things. He explores, he improvises, he listens to me, he—”

“Is insubordinate! Like you!” Enevoldsen envisioned strapping Freyja to the artifact, rocketing her into space. He was fighting for his identity, foundering. And realized with dawning horror that Einstein had planned everything from the start.

Freyja shook her head. “What do you think, Albert?”

“I think, Fräulein Freyja, we should fly to Canada. Just the two of us.”

Freyja leaned over and kissed—Einstein. infinity

George S. Walker is an engineer working in Portland, Oregon. He is an active member of SFWA. His stories have appeared most recently in the anthologies “Gears and Levers I” and “Bibliotheca Fantastica,” as well as in numerous online magazines.