Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Just Like [Illegible] Used to Make
by J.R. Johnson

by Molly N. Moss

Archimedes’ Gambol
by Eric M. Jones

Cynthia 2246
by Mark Ayling

Where the Rivers Meet
by Vincent Knight

A Woman’s Place
by Guy Stewart

Mindship Decommissioned
by Karl El-Koura

Anna Who Reached for the Stars
by Janis Zelcans

Mad Dogs Raid Mars
by Michael Andre-Driussi

Blissful Twilight
by Jessica Payseur


A Case for Nukes
by John McCormick

Nuns in Space
by Carol Kean




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips





By Molly N. Moss

LIGHTS WERE DIMMING FOR THE artificial night throughout the left hemisphere of the UNOH “Mary Read.” Ponenye “Pone” Alice sang an aboriginal folk tune as he rolled his cart of cleaning supplies along a corridor in the Genetic Engineering Research sector. He was in a good mood: after he finished his part-time work as a janitor, he had a date with the new botanical engineering intern, a sexy blonde goddess named Fricka Torp.

A familiar voice called to Pone as he unlocked the door to Jing Joe’s laboratory. “Doc’s giving a presentation.” Shem, one of the overnight security guards, flung up one hand in a wave. He strolled toward Pone, pausing here and there to make sure doors were locked. “Maybe you should clean the other labs, save Joe’s for last.”

“I’m in a hurry. Got a hot date later.” Pone grinned and pushed his cart inside the laboratory.

Eight men and women in business suits, plus Dr. Jing in his lab coat, stood around a workbench, peering at a chicken’s egg on a saucer. They looked around at Pone, annoyed by the interruption.

“What are you doing here?” Jing scowled.

Pone shrugged. “It’s 6 p.m. Time to clean the labs.”

“You can wait over there until we finish talking.” Jing waved Pone away to a corner.

“I must say your work is fascinating, doctor,” said one of the women as Pone rolled his cart to one corner of the lab. “What I don’t understand are the benefits humankind can expect from this research.”

“We know birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs. That dinosaur DNA is still there, but copy errors have occurred over time.” Jing lectured, while Pone furtively started sweeping the corner as he fantasized about his imminent date with Fricka. “If we reactivate a segment of dormant DNA, we can study the embryo to learn that DNA segment’s functions in a previous stage of evolution. We can compare specimens and eventually recreate the genome of a species of dinosaur. Imagine doing a similar study of chimpanzees, to better understand our ancestral DNA ...”

One of the men shivered. “Don’t they hatch into dinosaurs?”

“No. If the egg isn’t kept warm, the embryo stops developing.”

After further discussion, Dr. Jing invited his guests to dine with him in the orbital habitat’s food court. They departed, and Pone cleaned at a brisk pace as he imagined Fricka naked. On his way out he paused in the laboratory door, feeling he’d forgotten something. But every surface gleamed.

He hurried through cleaning the other research facilities assigned to him, then rushed to join Fricka for dinner. She told him about life in Norway, and Pone told her about life in Australia. They went for a walk in the hydroponic gardens. She showed him samples of her work with genetically modified corn, which grew tall as eucalyptus trees in the microgravity sector where she worked.

Back in Jing’s lab, a chicken’s egg on a saucer basked in the warmth on top of a coffee-maker, where Pone had misplaced it. Not long before the left hemisphere brightened for day again, the egg’s shell cracked. A hungry chick crawled out and tottered away in search of food.


The next month was both strange and wonderful. Doc Jing filed a complaint against Pone for breaking an experimental egg. Pone and Fricka saw each other nearly every night. He received a pay raise for his day job as a pharmacy assistant. Some personnel in adjoining laboratories accused Jing of letting a chicken escape, but an inspection found all the poultry secure in their coops. Various edibles went missing in the Genetic Engineering Research sector. Shem had to be hospitalized for a nervous breakdown; he claimed an ostrich was stalking him on his rounds. And then came the glorious evening when Fricka laid a hand on Pone’s crotch and demanded he make her feel the Earth move, even though they were off-planet.

Fricka, Pone discovered, enjoyed acting out scenarios. One night she requested a farm-yard rendezvous: a difficult environment to evoke, in the sterile surroundings of a space station. But all was well once he remembered the smell of chickens in Dr. Jing’s laboratory.

So they were entwined in passion on the laboratory floor, when Fricka gripped Pone’s shoulders and sputtered, “B—! B—!”

“Baby!” he agreed, and seized her hips.

Her fingernails dug into his collarbone. “BIG BIRD!”

For a moment he froze, bewildered. “Sesame Street” seemed a peculiar source for terms of endearment. But remembering his father’s advice that the mysteries of women are for no man to question, Pone gasped “Snuffleupagus!” and leaned down to kiss her.

That was when he observed that Fricka had fainted. Groaning with unsatisfied need, he rolled over onto his back.

He found himself looking at an eye the size of a basketball, set in a feathered head bigger than Pone’s whole body. Its long snout was filled with teeth the length of Pone’s hands.

“Ack!” Pone scuttled backward, walloping his head on a supply cabinet.

“Bock-GACK!” The toothy head smacked the ceiling, then hurtled backward out of the open lab door.

Over a restorative cup of coffee in the food court, Pone decided he must’ve hallucinated the poultrysaur due to hormones and Fricka’s cry of “Big Bird.” When he shared that theory with her, she blurted something in Norwegian that sounded shockingly rude. She let him walk her to her cabin, but she didn’t invite him in.


Pone wanted to talk about their thwarted rendezvous, but he suspected Fricka didn’t. However, she had to eat. Planning to converse with her over breakfast, he arrived at the food court an hour before any restaurants or the cafeteria were scheduled to open. Much to his surprise, clattering noises were already coming from behind the Szechuan kitchen’s scroll-down storefront.

Bleary-eyed cooks straggled into the food court. The Szechuan chef halted outside the storefront, frowning as he listened to the thuds and rattles. Pone wondered briefly if the Chinese restaurant was getting robbed, but his curiosity vanished when he spied Fricka trying to sneak into the food court.

“Oh hell,” she growled as he jogged to her side.

“Come on. Don’t be like that.” Out of the corner of one eye, Pone saw the Szechuan chef beckon a night security guard to join him by the storefront.

But Fricka faced him, her hands on her hips and wrath flaring in her cobalt blue eyes. “Don’t be like what, Pone? Like I’m a grown woman whzillao knows what she saw last night? Who expects her boyfriend to take her seriously, instead of telling her she’s imagining things and making him imagine things too?”

Pone saw the chef and the guard nod to each other. As the chef unlocked the side door, the guard readied an aerosol sedative and a stun gun. Together they vanished through the dark door.

He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling lost. “That’s not what I meant, baby.”

“Baby! I haven’t been an infant in nearly thirty years.”

A rising burst of Mandarin split the air. The Szechuan chef fled shrieking out the side door, the guard close behind.

With a crash like a lightning strike, the storefront exploded. Shards of shatterproof plastic shattered in all directions. A skateboard-sized chunk knocked Pone down, and he lay dazed and breathless. From the Chinese restaurant a chicken more than twelve meters tall, with a snout full of teeth instead of a beak, stomped out into the food court.

Restaurant and cafeteria staff peeked out to investigate the bedlam, and promptly withdrew back into concealment. The giant quasi-chicken stretched its wings, fluffed out its feathers, and sniffed the air.

Fricka gave cry to an ululating scream as she whirled around and ran. The poultrysaur sniffed in her direction. With a thunderous squawk, the monster dashed after its prey. It clamped its jaws around Fricka from her waist up, and tilting back its head swallowed Pone’s sexy blonde goddess whole.

Someone had activated the alarm to summon security. Guards swarmed into the food court and opened fire with their stun guns on the giant quasi-chicken.

“Bock-FACK!” shrilled the beast. It sprinted away with a pack of sentinels attempting pursuit.

Pone sucked in a ragged breath and struggled onto his feet. All he could do was watch, helpless, as one by one the guards abandoned their chase of a monster much faster than themselves.


Luckily, the trail of feathers and excrement proved easy for security personnel to follow. Video of squadrons tracking the poultrysaur was displayed in real-time on all the public newsfeed monitors. The denizens of the orbital habitat watched their progress with mingled hope and horror.

At work in the pharmacy, Pone turned to junior pharmacist Vikram Vallurupa, a self-professed nerd. “Is there any hope Fricka’s still alive?”

Vallurupa arched his thin eyebrows and pulled a hand-held computer out of a pocket in his lab coat. “Well, one risk is asphyxiation. You said the creature is about twelve meters tall?” His slim fingers flew over the keys as Pone described the monster. “I estimate its stomach volume to be ... an average human breathes about ... she’ll not suffocate for, let’s see, around two and three-quarters hours.”

“Thank God.” Pone dropped onto a chair.

“Of course,” added Vallurupa, putting away the hand-held, “the creature’s stomach acid is also a hazard.”

“How bad can that be?” As Pone watched the monitor, the security squadrons arrived at the zero-gravity orbital habitat core. “Birds collect rocks and stuff in their stomachs to help them digest food, but mammals don’t. So bird stomach acid must be weak.”

Displayed on the monitor, the guards encircling the giant quasi-chicken pondered a quandary. Housed in the orbital habitat core were all the most delicate power generators, life support controls, and other equipment requiring dense shielding from vacuum, radiation, and debris. Subduing a twelve meter, eleven ton poultrysaur could cause lethal structural and/or systems damage; so could allowing the giant quasi-chicken to range free.

“Or,” Vallurupa said contemplatively, “the gizzard stones may allow birds to digest tougher substances than mammals can process.” He flinched from Pone’s withering glare and mumbled, “But that’s just a hypothesis.”

Shown on the monitor, the guards aerially converged on the dinochicken and tried to trap it in an improvised net. “Bock-BACK!” the beast screeched, a dark mustard-colored spray erupting from its backside. Cursing, soaked guards launched themselves away.

Pone leaped to his feet and paced alongside the shelves of sedatives, scanning labels. Without a word he seized a case of liquid butabarbital and marched out of the pharmacy. Jogging after him, Vallurupa called out, “Stop, Pone! You don’t have authorization to take that—”

But Pone only flipped a middle-finger salute over his shoulder. He broke into a run toward the orbital habitat’s core.


Fricka’s coworkers in the microgravity hydroponic gardens and laboratories tried to sympathize with Pone’s loss. Pone ignored them. Holding the case of liquid butabarbital tucked under one arm, he snatched up a hatchet and chopped off an ear of corn bigger than his body. In spite of outraged protests, he stripped off the wrapping of leaves. Sitting on it to hold it still in the microgravity, he poured one vial after another of sedative on the big thick kernels.

“Just what the hell do you think you’re going to do with that?” The senior botanical engineer folded his arms across his chest, glaring at Pone.

“Chickenzilla ate my girlfriend. If Fricka is alive, I want her back. So Chickenzilla needs to take a nap.” With that, Pone balanced the colossal ear of corn across one shoulder as if he were carrying a log. He trotted with high, bouncing strides through the hydroponic gardens.


A demoralized assembly of security guards hovered in the airlocks leading to the orbital habitat core. Pone pushed his way through their midst, the colossal ear of corn serving at need as a battering ram.

“Halt, civilian!” A burly fellow wearing captain’s stripes tried to block Pone’s way. “We’ve got a rampaging wild animal to deal with. Only security personnel are allowed here.”

Pone thumped the security captain aside with the forward end of the ear of corn. He then got his first unobstructed view of the situation in the orbital habitat core.

Feathers spinning lazily through the air proved Chickenzilla had panicked on first encountering zero-gravity. Reeking beads of the dark mustard-colored muck recently excreted by the poultrysaur drifted at random. The giant quasi-chicken appeared quite happy now, however: Chickenzilla flapped its wings in broad, slow strokes, gliding between catwalks connecting massive humming machines whose functions Pone couldn’t guess.

He braced himself as best he could in the airlock, his feet spread wide to wedge him in the frame. Pone studied the monster’s flight path for a minute, judging his aim. He flexed his biceps, visualizing the result he hoped for. Then he hurled the ear of corn two-handed, like a huge spear.

Straight and true the ear of corn soared to its destiny. It glanced off Chickenzilla’s breast, eliciting an indignant squawk and sending itself and the monster tumbling in opposite directions. But Chickenzilla stabilized itself with a few judicious flaps of its mighty wings, then sniffed the air. With clucks of pleasure the beast propelled itself in pursuit, grasped the corn with its clawed toes, and flapped to a perch on a catwalk. There it mowed rows of kernels into its toothy maw, while Pone shushed the curious audience of security personnel.

A few minutes later, Chickenzilla tucked its mighty head under one wing. Loud, gurgly snores echoed through the orbital habitat core.


Fricka, as they soon discovered by prying open the poultrysaur’s mouth, had thrust both arms into Chickenzilla’s crop and clung there. By doing so she’d saved herself from being dissolved by stomach acid, though she was weak from inadequate oxygen and blood loss.

Pone visited her in the hospital as soon as he was allowed. While there, he received a visitor of his own.

“Don’t think I don’t know this is all your fault, Pone.” Dr. Jing stalked into Fricka’s infirmary room with his fists clenched. “That experimental egg wasn’t broken. It hatched! Your carelessness could have got everyone killed!”

Shrugging, Pone said, “Maybe. But I solved the problem, and now you have a live specimen to study.”

Jing trudged out of the room, grumbling doubts and threats. When Pone looked at Fricka again, her blue eyes locked gazes with his browns. She motioned for him to bend close to her lips.

He did, eager to hear his freshly-rescued girlfriend’s gratitudes and promises of rewards. She held his face in her hands.

“I’m going to get better,” Fricka breathed warmly in Pone’s ear. “And then I’m going to kick you right in your Ernie and Bert.” END

Molly N. Moss is a resident of Georgia, a freelance writer, and an avid fan of science fiction comedy. Her stories have appeared in “Big Pulp,” “Interstellar Fiction,” “Silver Blade,” “The World of Myth,” and elsewhere. She is currently working on a novel.


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