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




No Good Conscience

By Edward J. Knight

THE WAITER’S JACKET DOESN’T conceal my gun. No matter where I tuck it, I can easily see the bulge in the mirrored elevator wall. I finally decide I’ll have to just put it next to the analyzer on the bottom of the room service cart. If Wilkingson’s security find that, I’m in trouble anyway, so what difference would a gun make?

Not that I expect them to thoroughly check. The first time I ran an order up to Wilkingson’s suite, they frisked me and inspected every nook of the cart. They also noted my name from my uniform badge and I’m confident they ran a background check. Too bad Marcel Deveaux isn’t actually my name. By the tenth time, they were just waving me through.

Habit. What a wonderful human failing.

As I leave the elevator, Calverton, the one who spends two hours daily in the resort weight room, waves to me. “Hey Marcel,” he says, “what’re you bringing da boss tonight?”

I wheel up to him and Billups, the one who reads mystery novels on duty. They remain seated in their makeshift hallway security station of folding chairs and a card table. They’d expressed their disgust in the resort’s unwillingness to let them maintain a real station with a desk and better chairs, but the resort’s manager doesn’t want them there at all. Since this Vegas hotel is owned by one of Wilkingson’s chief business rivals, the folding table is just one of a handful of small snubs exchanged between the men. It’s an annual snub, according to Calverton. Every year, the same visit and the same treatment.

I wave at the full cart and pull the cover off of one of the trays. “Tonight— bananas foster and cherries jubilee.”

“Mmm, she must be important,” Calverton says.

“You’ve seen her?” I ask. “Is she as smoking hot as the last one?”

Billups shrugs. “She’s older. Forties or fifties. Dressed classy too, not like the usual bimbos he screws.”

“You’re just jealous,” Calverton says as he elbows his partner in the side. “You just wish you could get some of that.”

“I know I could get some of that,” Billups says, “if I had his money.”

“Couldn’t we all,” I say, “couldn’t we all.”

Calverton grunts in agreement and Billups picks up his novel. I put the cover back over the fruit and wait until they wave me on.

When I knock on the suite door, Wilkingson yells for me to come in. I paste on my happy-to-serve-you smile and use my staff key. He waddles out of the bedroom in his robe while I park my cart next to the bar.

“Your usual, sir?” I ask.

“Yeah. No, wait. Champagne.” He calls back to the bedroom, “Myra, would you like champagne?”

I don’t hear her muffled response, but I already have the Dom Peringon in my hands. Wilkingson waves at me to continue and heads to the couch with the view of the city lights. Just like he always does. Habit. What a wonderful reliable failure.

I keep an eye on the bedroom as I pop the cork and pour the champagne. Since I am now part of the furniture as far as Wilkingson is concerned, I can easily dose her drink as long as she doesn’t emerge at an inopportune moment. She doesn’t, and the pill dissolves quickly in the bubbly.

When she does step out of the bedroom, she’s stunning. Her perfectly coiffed hair holds just hints of grey and she wears the hotel robe as if it were a queen’s dress. She is elegance in overnight attire. She’s also the resort’s Chief Financial Officer and married, which increases my appreciation of Wilkingson’s seduction abilities.

She makes a sour frown upon seeing me, but when I raise the champagne glass, she nods and strides over to me. She drinks deeply before Wilkingson motions her over to the couch. I give her his glass to take to him and then wait for my cue.

Per his pattern of the past week, Wilkingson toasts the beauty of his bed partner. He makes gushing remarks about her charm and poise and how passionate he feels around her. As he makes his little speech about fanning the flames of his ardor, I roll the tray over until I am four feet from the cuddled couple.

“... and so,” he says, “what better way to end our evening but with a fiery dessert?”

I strike the match and light the brandy. Myra oohs as the flames jump and I shake the pans—cherries with my left and bananas with my right. I serve her first and then Wilkingson. Then I slide the cart back to the bar and make noises as if I am packing to leave. Instead, I set the analyzer on top of the cart and draw the gun.

Myra manages four bites before she complains about feeling light-headed. Wilkingson suggests more champagne and she obliges. She eats two more cherries before she says that she’s really woozy and leans back on the couch. Her eyes flutter shut.

“Myra, dearest, are you all right?” Wilkingson asks.

I step forward. “She’ll be fine.”

To his credit, Wilkingson doesn’t flinch when he sees the gun. His eyes widen but then he meets mine.

“Your doing?” he asks quite calmly with a head tilt toward the unconscious woman.

I nod. “She should wake up in a few hours.”

“What’d you give her?”

“A variant of Royhipnol.”


I shake my head. “I’d think you’d be more interested in why I’m holding a gun on you.”

“Well,” he says as he calmly sets his drink down, “I presumed you’d come to that shortly.”


I extract the first cotton swab and place it on the end table, close enough for him to reach it but not close enough for him to try for the gun. As I do so, he studies me. His eyes flick over the gun, my arm, and my face. When our gaze meets, he tightens his eyes slightly, as if in a staring match. His cold, controlled visage matches my own.

“Rub the inside of your cheek,” I say.

He holds the swab up. “It’s damp.”

“A sterilizing agent. Now do it.”

He shrugs and does as I’ve ordered. Then he sets the sample back down on the table, a little closer to him than I’d put it in the first place. His muscles tense as I edge forward for it.

“If you lunge for me, I’ll shoot,” I say.

“My security would hear you.”

“True. But you’d be just as dead.”

He thinks about that a moment and then leans back. I scoop up the sample and, without turning my back, return to the analyzer. I drop it in the sample cup and quickly look at the monitor.

“I’m happy to pay her off, you know,” he says, “whoever she is.”

I raise an eyebrow.

“That’s a DNA analyzer, isn’t it? You want to prove paternity.”

I smile and double-check the test results, never taking my eyes off him for more than a fraction of a second. Then I pull out a second cotton swab and slowly approach him again. When I set it on the table in the exact spot and position as the first one, he stares at it.

“It is a DNA analyzer,” he says. “I remember the announcement from Roche that they were making them, now that the human genome sequencing project is complete.”

“Another sample, please,” I say.

He glares at me, with the stare of a man not used to being ignored. I briefly wonder how many lesser men have crumbled when faced with his commanding presence. I wonder how many underlings have scurried away in fear.

I grin wide enough to bare my teeth and gesture toward the swab with my gun.

“Please,” I say.

He snatches the cotton covered stick up and shoves it in his mouth. After a few quick passes back and forth, he throws it down on the table.

“Thank you.” I retrieve it and once again return to the analyzer.

He takes a couple of deep breaths to calm himself. “You’re not really a waiter, are you?”

I shake my head. I drop the swab into the sample cup, put the top on, and pretend to check the results.

“So who are you with?” he asks.

“I’m an independent agent.”

“Well,” he says, “you’ve obviously gone to a lot of trouble for that DNA. I’m sure they’re paying you a lot. I can pay you more.”

I shrug. “You probably could.”

“So how much?”

I shake my head while keeping the gun level on him. “I don’t want anything.”

He leans back on the couch and takes a deep breath. “Ah. So who was she?”


“Sister? Girlfriend? Maybe your wife?” When I don’t respond, he gestures toward the analyzer. “The one I knocked up. She must have meant something to you if you don’t want anything.”

I just look at him, my face blank and flat. Sweat beads appear on his forehead.

“Look,” he says, “if she’s pregnant, fine. I’ll pay for the abortion. If she’s already had the kid, I can set them up for life.”

“This isn’t about a kid.”

He leans forward, his face flushed.

“This is about you,” I say. “Your genes.”

“I don’t understand.”

I can’t help chuckling. “You’re known as a ruthless captain of industry,” I say, “a ferocious competitor on the golf course and a man who doesn’t take no for an answer. You’re also known for your charm with the ladies, though each of your three marriages ended with gag clauses as part of the settlements. There are rumors that you broke your third wife’s arm when she wouldn’t do something kinky in the bedroom.”

“Those rumors are false.”

“Maybe. Or maybe you’ve just got good lawyers.”

He wipes the sweat from his brow. “So what does this have to do with my genes?”

“Genes are a funny thing. It’s hard to relate them to higher level qualities, particularly traits like intelligence and perception. Or mental illness. However, there’s now one exception. Sociopaths.”


“Sociopaths. People who lack the conscience gene. Maybe as many as one in twenty-five of the population. They’re fully functional in all aspects of life except they have no conscience.”

“And I’m a sociopath?”

I gesture toward the analyzer. “Highly functional and well adapted, but yes.”

He snorts and wipes his brow again. “That’s absurd.”

“No, it’s not. Sociopaths don’t care about people. They only care about winning, and they’re often very good at it, since they’re not weighed down by a conscience. Winning is all that matters. And that’s all you care about, isn’t it?”

He grins. “I win because I’m good.”

“You are,” I say, “but you’re also a sociopath.” I gesture to Myra on the couch near his side. “You haven’t looked at her once since she passed out. I sincerely doubt you care about her beyond what she can do for you.”

He frowns and his eyes do dart to her for a moment, but they quickly return to me.

“So what do you want?”

“The same as you,” I say. “I want to win.”

“And how does holding me hostage help you win? You can’t expect much of a ransom.” His face now appears crimson and he labors to breathe.

“Oh, we’re not playing the same game,” I say. “Yours was about money and sex. Mine is ... something bigger.”

“What’s that?”

“Cleaning the gene pool.”

He blinks in surprise. “I don’t understand.”

“Getting rid of all you other successful sociopaths will make me the biggest winner of all.”

It takes a moment for it to sink in. His eyes bulge. “You’re insane!”

I chuckle, deep and unsavory. “Yes, yes I am.”

He forces his way to his feet. “You’ll never get away with this!”

He gasps from the exertion and clutches his chest. Then he sinks back to the couch.

“I already have,” I say calmly. “The first sample confirmed you lack the conscience gene. The second swab contained a drug that triggers a heart attack. It’ll be untraceable by morning.”

He tries to rise, but gasps and clutches his chest once again. His eyes, wide with terror, find mine. Then with a groan, he falls still.

I win. Again.

I check my watch. I’ll be only a little late returning to the kitchen. The guards will probably assume that was due to the double dessert. I survey the scene. Nothing is out of place. I tuck the analyzer and gun back under the cart.

As I head toward the door, my mind turns to the resort’s owner, Jonathon Reaver. He always spends the first two weeks of January in St. Bart’s, and I already have a waiter gig lined up. Habit, what a wonderful thing ... infinity

Edward J. Knight has been reading science fiction since he was very little, practicing it by building satellites for an aerospace contractor, and has now turned his hand to writing it. He enjoys tales that address moral struggles.


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