Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Carillion’s Schemes
by Michael Hodges

by Edward H. Parks

It Don’t Mean a Thing
by A. Miller

Morning Glories
by Jude-Marie Green

Take a Good Look
by Holly Schofield

Fifty Kilograms
by Jim Stewart

Jupiter Hero
by Rob Pearce

Breaking Eggs
by Justin Woolley

To Hunt a Sky Eel
by Daniel Ausema

Gone Fishin’
by Thomas Canfield

Archangels of Heaven
by Leslie Lupien


Faster Than a Speeding Bullet
by Eric M. Jones

A Turn to the Dark Side
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




Breaking Eggs

By Justin Woolley

THE SIGN FOR FUTURE PERFECT, a bar deep in the working class end of the city, hums with a steady sound that most people’s auditory augments will be filtering out as unnecessary white noise. They won’t be hearing the electric buzz, the constant pulse that is the driving force of the world around them. They ignore the undercurrent of this place. A whole city, overgrown and exuberant, refusing to see past the shining surface of manufactured facade, refusing to see truth buried within fiction, refusing to see the dark edges of their precious Cloud.

Ironic, I suppose, that I don’t see the world as they do either. Through my eyes the sign for Future Perfect is a looping tangle of orange neon, flickering above the doorway and spreading a feeble orange glow into the dark. Through the Plugged-in’s eyes the sign will be spinning, enlarging, flashing. A pretty girl will be standing on the street directing people in, smiling a promise she can never keep. Everywhere around them, from the animated signs of the bars in the street, to the passive advertising hanging in the sky, augmented reality is pumped into their minds.

I swallow, pushing down a fist-sized lump in my throat. I breathe slowly, trying to calm myself at being here, at being within the city. I steady myself and concentrate. I need to blend in.

As I cross the street I pretend I too can see this augmented world. I mimic those in front of me as they reach out and take something from the air, a ticket perhaps, a voucher for a free hit. Steam rises from a metallic mouth in the road like condensed breath exhaled into the night. People pass through it and I wonder if they can’t see this either. Surely they must feel the wet heat on their skin or have all their nerves been rerouted through some experiential filter? I shudder at the thought, the violation of one’s body.

The doorway to Future Perfect is wide. Two black doors open inwards from the street. The entranceway beyond is bare, no attendants, no signs, at least none that I can see. There are no bouncers either, no need for them. I can hear the thud of music filtered through the walls, little more than the vibration of bass. Someone ahead of me waves at an empty booth, another speaks to empty space and laughs. Once there were places they would lock you up if you talked to a wall, asylums they called them, for people whose minds were sick. Now, of course, genetic predisposition to physical or mental disorders will be revealed during in-utero testing and unhealthy foetuses destroyed, Darwinian treatment for the staged improvement of humanity. But when you cannot see the Cloud, when your augments are nothing but dummies designed solely so you can walk the streets unnoticed, then the whole world is an asylum of unseen hallucinations.

I walk up steps draped with velvet carpet and an automatic door unseals and slides open. When the seal breaks the music suddenly becomes clear, it gyrates with the beat of a distorted human voice over electronic drums. The room is fragmented with colour. Green lights blaze over the bar casting jade highlights on the faces of the staff. There are tables scattered around the room, some burn under orange, some sizzle under red, some rest under cooling blue. Where the patrons sit depends on their mood, depends on what type of hit they’ve had, depends on what type of emotional response they want. At the far side of the room, on a raised level, rapidly changing lights pulse in time with the beat of the music, the dance floor, the territory of ecstasy and release. Not something I can focus on now. I’m just here to meet someone, someone who doesn’t know they’re being met.

Joe Bramson is what K would call a nicely cooked egg. A Lieutenant in the Secpol—the Security Police—Joe is thirty-four years old and married to a Hun Xue named Lin Shen. He has two children, a boy named Timothy and a girl named Susan, both under six years old. He lives on the forty-second floor of a building on Wentworth Street in the Eastside Residential Docks. He is a Whitey, a Bai Tou, a Wink—white but trying to assimilate into the Chinese classes—at least that’s what he claims. He is dedicated to the protection laws and upholding security—at least that’s what he claims. He doesn’t like Naturals, and of course he doesn’t like the Unplugged—at least that’s what he claims. He does like cats though and would have one if his wife wasn’t allergic. Joe works a fortnightly rotation of shifts, drinks at Future Perfect every second Friday, and has a secret.

We’ve met before, Joe and I, twice in fact, each time the conversation has been brief but targeted so he’ll remember me. I need him to remember because this time I need him to trust me. This time I lay everything on the line.

As I look around the room, scanning the faces of the patrons high on hits, my legs begin to shake. I flex my muscles trying to hold them still, hoping no one has noticed. I see Joe standing beneath the green glow of the bar. I take a deep breath, trying to settle my racing nerves. There can be no turning back from this.


The first time Joe and I met was three months ago. I approached the bar of Future Perfect and positioned myself beside him as he was about to order a hit. The barman, Hun Xue as I am, but far more obvious, turned to look at me.

“What will it be?”

I looked across at Joe. “This gentlemen was here first.”

“That he was,” the barman said, “but I’ll serve you before a Wink.”

Joe, straight faced, adjusted the black tie of his Secpol uniform without taking his eyes from the barman. He wasn’t angry, at least it didn’t appear that way, he would be used to treatment like this.

“This man serves in the Secpol,” I said to the barman, “I think he’s deserving of more respect than the average Bai Tou.”

The barman shrugged. “Suit yourself,” he said, turning back to Joe. “What’ll it be then officer?”

Joe glanced at me and then turned back to the barman. “A Carefree,” he said.

“Two,” I added quickly, smiling at Joe, just a friendly grin, nothing more meant by it. “I could stand to let go of some worries too.”

The barman placed our hits on the bar, a large glass of pink liquid and a fingernail-sized tablet. You took the tablet first I knew, and then drank slowly, the reaction releasing the emotional hit over time. I nodded to Joe, took mine with me and left. I never consumed it. I placed it on a table out of sight and left.


Joe’s at the bar now, the same spot as where I first met him. I’m halfway there, amongst the tables of joy and laughter, those under intense orange and yellow. I’m walking deliberately slowly. There are Secpol everywhere, more than I would like. My hands start to sweat and shake. My stomach turns over, wrapping itself around and tangling in a knot. I wonder if the Plugged-in ever feel this way, or have they abolished nervousness and fear? No. I know they haven’t. They fear us, and though they won’t admit it, they fear the system in which they live.


I think back to the second time Joe and I met. It was a month ago. I’m running these meetings over in my mind because I have to be sure. I have to be sure now is the right time. When I entered Future Perfect for that second meeting I had to wait. Joe was sitting with a group of other men, all wore the uniform of Secpol, crisp black and white, clothing to reflect the way they thought about the world. I couldn’t believe Joe was wearing that uniform. I couldn’t believe he could stand by those laws. Not with what was happening to his daughter.

I waited for Joe to leave the table, waited for when it was his turn to buy the round. I approached the bar, sidling up beside him once again. I didn’t look over. I let him notice me. I let the barman look at him and then turn to me.

“What can I get you?”

I looked over at Joe, and lifted my head, as if noticing him for the first time.

Ni hao,” I said. I indicated to him palm up. He waved it off.

“No,” he said. “After you this time.”

“Thanks,” I said. “What would you like? I’ll get it for you.”

“No I’m fine,” Joe said. “I’ve got to buy all those guys a round,” he indicated the other officers sitting around the table. “But thank you.”

“Sure,” I said, I ordered a hit and turned back to him, “so what do you do with Secpol?”

“Counter Terrorism Task Force,” he said.

“Oh, impressive.”

He looked at me for a moment. “For a Whitey you mean?”

“Well,” I said. “Yeah, for a Whitey.”

He smiled, laughing and shaking his head like he knew there was no escaping his place in society and what else could he do but laugh. “And what do you do?” he asked.

“I work in finance.”

“That’s not bad either,” he said. “For a Hun Xue.”

He picked me as a half-caste. Not many people could. I smiled and nodded. “I’m Peter.”

“Joe,” he said.

“Nice to meet you Joe.” Just like I’d never heard his name in my life. “So, you try and stop groups like the Unplugged then?”


“What do you think of them?” I asked. “Are they as dangerous as they make out?”

“They’re threatened by our way of life,” he said. “They hate our society and want to destroy it. There’s nothing more dangerous than extremists.”

I could tell he was spouting the standard line, thoughtless and empty. I decided to take a risk, to sew the seed for our next encounter.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Sometimes I think ...” I paused. “Never mind, best not to talk that way around the Secpol.”

“I’m not going to lock you up,” he said.

“My daughter was born with a congenital heart defect,” I said. “They missed it in testing somehow and, well, she was taken away. I’ve had children since but I sometimes wonder if she should have been allowed to have her chance.”

Joe didn’t say anything for a moment, then he said: “The law’s the law.” But I could tell he didn’t mean it. I knew he was the one. He was the target. He would give us our in.


I’m metres away from Joe now and my certainty about him being the right target is fading. He’s afraid to go outside the system. He doesn’t believe in it but he won’t break out. What happens from here depends on what frightens him more. A woman moves in beside him and starts speaking to him. She is dressed in black, tight black that hugs her body but leaves her legs bare, slender pillars of porcelain that extend down to her black stilettos. Her chest is bare as well and the twin shapes of her breasts bulge upwards, firm and round. Just below her waist, right in the centre, a blue glow pulsates through the black of her clothes—if they can be called that—a sexual augmentation. They speak briefly and the woman leaves, her offer turned down. At least in this Joe is righteous.

I can’t stop thinking about Paul. His face is in the back of my mind, fuelling my insecurity. During the last conversation I had with him, right before he left on his own mission, he seemed as confident as I am, as certain that his egg would flip. He was to target a Corporal who worked in records. K said it should have been simple. We don’t entirely know what happened—we aren’t told the details of mistakes like this—but when Paul gave his target the pitch, asked him to help the cause of the Unplugged in return for whatever it was they had on him, he hadn’t bitten, he hadn’t taken the offer. Paul was arrested and we haven’t heard anything since. I’m sure he’s already been chipped, augmented, and given alteration drugs, a fate worse than death, a reprogramming of the mind and body that goes against everything we believe. Torture would be nothing compared with that. I don’t want to be augmented. I can’t even stomach the thought. What if Joe raises the alarm? Calls out that I’m Unplugged? I feel like I’m going to be sick.

The barman brings Joe a hit. He’ll be leaving soon. It’s time. It has to be now. I breathe in deep and full through my nose and release it through my mouth. It’s time.

They call these missions egg flips because the whole thing is ruined if you try and flip them too early or too late. Now should be the perfect time. Joe Bramson is a nicely cooked egg. He’s ready to trust me. The information we could gather from him will help us avoid the ever-tightening Secpol net.

I wipe my moist palms down the outside of my trousers and move beside him. I think about what will happen if he doesn’t say yes, if they take me away like they took Paul away. I don’t think about that. I can’t. I say:

Ni hao, Joe.”

He looks up at me. “Hi,” he says. “Peter right?”

“Yeah,” I say.

He’s looking at me. In some ways I’m nervous for him, but then again, like K says, you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

“How have you been?” I ask.

“Not bad.”

He’s lying. I know how he’s been.

“Listen,” I say, moving in close to him, lowering my voice to the barest of whispers, “I know your daughter is rejecting her augments.”

He looks up at me and I see his eyes flash. Anger, surprise, I’m not sure which, maybe both. I continue talking, spurred on by nerves.

“We know you’ve been keeping Susan’s rejection hidden. It’s even happening with basic medical monitoring systems isn’t it? You know she’ll never take to cognitive enhancements if that’s the case. She’ll be an outcast, at best she’ll be sent to special school and funnelled into a menial job, maybe she’ll live out her life in a Naturals colony, maybe worse.”

“Alright,” Joe hisses, his voice piercing through his clenched teeth. “Keep your voice down.” His eyes have thinned. “What do you want?”

“I want to help you.”

Joe looks at me. “What do you mean you want to help me?”

“I can get Susan somewhere safe, somewhere off the grid. She’ll live among Naturals, but not in the colonies, in a community of people who have chosen to live that way.”

“Undergrounders?” he says. “You’re an Unplugged.”

I look around, checking to see that no one has taken unwanted interest in our conversation. There was disgust when he spat out that word, and that frightened me, but also something else, fear, and that gave me hope.

I nod. “We can help you.” I pause. “We aren’t terrorists. We only want freedom, for people like Susan.” Here it goes. I will live or die by this moment. “I’ve got a proposal for you.”

I lean in even closer, and I give Joe Bramson the pitch. I try and flip the egg. He is looking into my eyes as I look back into his.

“We will keep Susan safe, give her a chance to live a respectful life and all you have to do is give us some information.”

Joe stares at me for a long moment. I can’t read his expression. I can’t see what is turning behind his eyes, but I try and maintain a calm exterior, try not to let him seen the torrent of fear thrashing inside me. Joe looks around.

“I could be aug-stripped and exiled just for listening to you and not immediately raising an alarm,” he says. “A squad of Secpol should be descending on you right now.”

This is good. The way he’s speaking makes me think he hasn’t already alerted his comrades. I wouldn’t know if he had, all Secpol will have a silent trigger, a single gesture, perhaps even a single thought, enough to bring reinforcements scrambling.

“I can’t help you,” he says. “I ... I just can’t.”

“No one will ever know,” I say. “We’ve done this before, more than you realise. The information you give us will simply allow us to help others the way we will help Susan.”

He looks at me again, this time his indecision is clear, there is a battle inside him, a battle between duty and love.

“She’s your daughter,” I say.

And it’s enough. As I speak these words I see him reach the decision to help us and again I feel a little sorry for him, it will be a decision he regrets.

“What exactly—” he pauses, checking around us again, but with the grinding electric beat and the eclectic illumination of the coloured lights no one is paying us any attention. “What exactly would I need to do?”

“Come with me,” I say. “We’ll collect your daughter and go to a safe-house. Once there, you’ll answer some questions and that’s all.”

“What questions?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know.”

“And you promise my daughter will be kept safe?” he asks, his mind clearly becoming more frantic as he tries to weigh up the situation.


“When do I need—”

“We go now,” I say, “or not at all.”

Joe Bramson puts his emotion generating drink down on the bar, takes a long breath, stands and says, “Then let’s go.”

A weight is lifted from me. I flipped the egg. I follow Joe Bramson from the bar, maintaining some distance behind him. Once outside I pace myself to catch up to him.

“Follow,” I say as I pass, and in a few steps I turn into a dark alleyway. I reach into the pocket of my jacket and remove the device K has given me, the device they call a Jack-Jumper.

“What’s that?” Joe asks.

“Our safe-house has security protocols against anyone who’s Plugged-in,” I say. “I need to encode your primary cognition augments with a passphrase activated on retinal scan.”

Joe looks at me suspiciously.

“We don’t have much time,” I say. “Where’s your uplink?”

Joe lifts his shirt. On the side of his body just above the hip is an implanted unit, a disgusting thing embedded in his flesh. He unclips it, runs his fingers in a pattern over the touch screen to unlock access, uplinks are biometrically-coded and only Joe can allow access to it. He makes a motion to hand it to me, before pulling it back again.

“Is this software traceable?” he asks. “Secpol have regular scans done.”

“We’ll delete it when we’re done,” I say, “and it’s untraceable.”

Hesitantly Joe hands me his uplink, the connection between himself and the Cloud and the access control for all his augments. I know little about how any of this works and yet I know the effect it will have, a hack-job. This is our greatest tool, something they don’t even know we can do. They think us too stupid or backwards. They underestimate us, and that is why we will win.

“I’m sorry,” I say as I plug the Jack-Jumper into Joe’s uplink.

His eyes go wide.

“What are you—” he starts but the hack-job begins too quickly for his protest. Joe’s pupils dilate to the point they almost fill his irises. A blue ring lights up inside them. He collapses to the ground and begins to shake, seizing as all his sensory augments explode with debilitating input. His muscles twitch and contort as random impulses are shot out from his brain. And while all this is happening to Joe here, somewhere underground an Unplugged hacker is scanning through his recorded files, his installed knowledge, every trace of fabricated understanding he has gained, downloading it all. Joe’s cognitive augments are being hacked, it is not a delicate process and what will be left of his mind when it is done is little more than mush, what K calls a scramble, but it is necessary.

I wait for the blue ring to fade from Joe’s eyes, my sign that the hack is complete and I can detach the Jack-Jumper. When I unplug it, Joe is left shaking on the ground. A string of drool hangs from the corner of his mouth. I stare at it. A strange thing to make me pause but as the saliva drips from his mouth onto the cold and dirty concrete ground it is like a sign of his humanity. Biology leaking out from his technology riddled body. I don’t have time to mourn for him. I turn and leave.

Do I feel sorry for him, the man I have left quivering in an alleyway? Yes and no. He was Plugged-in, but he was still a man and one brave enough to want for something outside the confines of the oppression in which he lives. We will try and help his daughter, that was not a lie, but we will do so only if it can be done at little risk to us.

I’m sorry Joe Bramson, there was never anything wrong with your daughter, I think you understood that. A human being is not born broken. This world is what’s broken and your sacrifice will help us fix that. Forgive me.

I walk away into the city. A city where every head that turns and every eye that watches looks out onto something different. As I walk through the twisting streets I look up at the ashen clouds floating across the clear sky and I listen to the true hum of the city. END

Justin Woolley has has been an engineer, a teacher and a magician. He has also authored several graphic novels, including “King and Country” from Gestalt Publishing. In 2012, his work was Highly Commended in the QANTAS Spirit of Youth Awards.


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