Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


You’ll Always Have the Burden With You
by Ken Liu

by Aliya Whiteley

Adventures of Doria Quinn
by Joe Occhipinti

by Nathaniel Williams

My Soul to Keep
by Eric Del Carlo

Voices of { }
by Sean Eret

Foggy Planet Breakdown
by Peter Wood

Subcasting the Pain
by Erin Lale

Expansion of Space
by Brian Biswas

by Simon Kewin


Journey to the Bottom of Nothing
by Eric M. Jones

Giving the Gift of Science
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




Adventures of Doria Quinn

By Joe Occhipinti

I HAD LITTLE CHOICE ABOUT getting jacked. I got my first cybernetic device plugged into my cerebellum so I could get a job as a mining scout. I wanted to return to the family business as a space jockey instead of a roid rat like my poppa.

The procedure went well enough, I suppose, but the medic was dreamy, and things just kind of happened. I mostly grew up on my poppa’s ship, see. Mining barges aren’t known as the most private places, and it’s not like I had had much experience with men. It wasn’t my fault I lost my new ship.

There he was, his thin fingers tenderly stroking the lines of a funky tubular gun. He was irresistible—so attractive, so androgynous—a nice change from all the mining hacks I’d grown up with.

“What’s that you’re holding?” I asked him, a bit nervous about jacking an ocular.

He leaned against my medical pod, with a skin-tight black jumpsuit with gold cuffs. The golden icon worn by all high citizens was emblazoned across his chest. That was it for me.

“This is a brand new CI unit. It’s brilliant,” he answered in an offhanded but cheerful way.

“See-eye, that’s supposed to be cute or something?”

“It stands for cyber installer,” he smirked. “You’re in luck to be the first patient in our clinic to have this privilege.”

“What privilege?”

“I will be using this brand new implement on you. Organic aesthetic, isn’t it?”

“Really, you gonna jack me with that?” I asked, feeling the muscles of my neck tighten.

“There’s always a first time for everything,” he chirped.

“That’s not reassuring.”

“I can assure you the CI has been virtually modeled,” he said as he walked confidently towards me. Christ, I would have gotten out of that pod right then and there, but the cool markings that ran along his temples got to me. They led to his sparkling eyes. I’m not talking metaphorically, they actually sparkled, probably the result of too many components in his skull.

God, he’s cute and he must be rich, I thought as I stared at him.

“Well, shall we proceed, Daria?”

“I suppose,” I agreed. I should have known right then to stay away from him, high citizen and all.

“It’s quite safe,” he whispered in my ear.

“I bet,” I muttered, scared out of my wits.

His eyes, right in front of me, shined like the minerals embedded in the dark sooty asteroids my family used to mine. They brought me back to my childhood—the drumming of the barge’s engines, the smell of grease and ozone, flashes of drilling beams cutting through the darkness of space. I imagined my poppa standing by a port window, looking into what he called “the endless, unforgiving void.”

I remember the day when he spotted what every miner dreaded.

“Poppa? What’s wrong?” I asked. I was only a kid, you know, and it was a really, really shitty thing to happen to anybody ... Christ.

“Raiders,” he yelled. “Go get safe, Daria.”


I woke up in that medical pod all confused. I’m thinking, my poppa spent his whole life saving money for one of those barges. “Go get safe” were his last words to me ... that was the day I became an orphan, see.

“Hello there, Daria,” the medic said, reading my chart.

“Where’s my poppa?” I cried. God, I hate getting sentimental like that.

“Hey, take it easy.” The cute medic stood over me all smiles.

“Sorry, I was dreaming or something,” I explained and sat up too quickly. The room spun. The dark metal, soot and grime of the mining hulk my poppa was so proud of were still all around me. I brought my hand to my eyes as the light was truly harsh. I took several deep breaths, and slowly looked around the medical bay.

“Congratulations, you now possess enhanced visual acuity. Welcome to the cyborg club.”

“Why is it so bright?” I asked.

“Not unusual,” the medic began to explain. “The photosensitivity is an effect of your improved level of perception. You will get used to it. I think you should rest here a bit longer.” He shot something into my arm and I zonked out.


The way the ship was reacting, I knew these were no ordinary raiders. The mining barge shook violently as more electro-charged slugs slammed into us, hurling me against a power relay. The hull rupture alarm sounded; that’s the last thing you want to hear when you live in space. I stood up and looked around. My poppa had gone off somewhere.

The barge began to tilt fast, so I went for the wall that was coming at me. I slammed into it and clung to the grating. It’s no fun when gravitational arrays go haywire like that. More weapons smashed into us ... then more. The hammering slugs, the gravity fluxes ... I’m telling you, that’s not anyone’s idea of a good day.

Someone picked me up and carried me in a different direction. “What are you doing? Where’s poppa?” I yelled.

The recently hired hand threw me into an egg. I was picked up a few days later by a survey craft. Got to be a ward of the Holy Empire for a while, in some stupid all-girls school. I was glad to be off on my own. Okay, I admit it, the medic was my first date.


I heard a soft whining sound and opened my eyes. The medical pod’s upper shell stood ajar. I sat up. The edges of things loomed at me; everything looked angular, not quite right. I inched my body to one side and placed my feet on the floor. No one was in the surgical room.

“Your scheduled time with us is ending, Daria. Please proceed to the exit,” the computer’s idiotic feminine voice announced. “You are medically cleared to depart, Miss Quinn. Thank you for choosing our medical facilities for your cybernetic enhancements. Please tell your friends about us.”

I walked out into the hallway, hoping to see that hot medic again. “Hello?” I called, but my voice was sucked away by the station’s porous walls.

I looked at my hands and noticed how full of detail they were—they appeared primitive, like the hands in one of those old movies. God, everything seemed so damned close. My stomach began to tighten. “Well,” I whispered, “this is what I wanted.” I felt my eyes welling up.

I heard a noise and turned to see him now dressed in a fancy leather vest and relic designer jeans. His naked arms were dotted with biolumen markings. His black hair was spiked with silver. I saw it, every strand of it. Most of us pilots get jacked eventually, despite the nasty side effects. Helps get the jobs, see. But, I was starting to freak. It was too much.

“Daria, I thought you had left.”

“You never told me your name,” I said, wiping my face. God, I hate crying.

“It’s Axium.” He smiled. “You look like you could use a drink. Would you like to join me this evening?”

I ran my jazzed up gaze down his crisp body. “Yea, what the hell,” I said, “but let’s take my ship and fly around the belts first. I need to try these new eyes in space.” The holographic data stream was supposed to give an “almost preternatural” visual response, according to the ads.

“Lovely suggestion, Daria, lead on,” he said, grabbing my arm.

I had preinstalled one of those on-board navigation systems that allow for an “out-of-ship” perspective. I jacked in and, by the gods, I felt surrounded. It was downright freakish. Coming out of the hangar, we passed a hulking transport ship, a massive freighter and several standard haulers; only when we hit open space could I finally relax. Space looked amazing. Okay, maybe it was worth it, I thought, feeling a little better.

The Holy Moradi stargate was an arched golden thing pulsing with energy discharges, “imposing as it is elegant,” as the dumb ads boasted.

“A bloody, holier-than-thou, waste of money,” my poppa would say about the look of it. I know why he talked like that. He didn’t much care for the ruling families, and his views on religion were, well, let’s just say he wasn’t the churchgoing type.

Axium was pruning himself. I knew my poppa wouldn’t have approved of him, either. We entered the gate, streamed away, and found ourselves in the next system.

“Very nice ship you have,” he said as he changed the pigment of his fingernails with some fancy pen-like device he pulled out of his pocket. “A recent model I take it?”

I laughed.

“I fail to see what’s so funny.”

“This frig a new model?” I choked. “You don’t know much about scout ships, do you?”

“Warships are a mystery to me.” He stared at me with narrowing eyes.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” I said.

“Oh, I just thought since you were full blood you ...” he paused.

“Yea, go on ...”

“On never mind. It’s nothing.”

“You thought I would be rich or something, right?” I snapped. “Well, I ain’t. My family were roid rats, living in the belts. We used to do okay though.”

“I didn’t mean to assume.”

“Well you did, and ...” I was about to let him have it when the comm system chirped up.

“This is the captain of the Stomata. We are under assault. Request assistance ...”

“Received, Captain,” I replied, looking at the transceiver. The distress call came from a mining barge. “What’s your status?”

“We got some damned pirate testing our defenses, and we’re not done clearing this belt. Ain’t about to let some bloody Gurns run me out. Can you assist? There’s two-hundred creds in it.”

“You can’t be serious,” Axium said. “You’re taking us into a battle?”

“Damn,” I whispered.

“What? Damn what?”

“Well, it’s my first time, see.”

“First time?”

“Never fought the Consordium before.” I looked straight at him, smiled, and added, “Hey, there always a first time for everything, right?”

That medic turned whiter than normal.

God that felt good. It wasn’t really true. I’d been in a skirmish before, but the care bear deserved it.

“You’re joking,” he peeped.

“Don’t worry,” I told him, “this ship’s been virtually modeled.”

Axium didn’t say much for the rest of the trip. He just changed his fingernail colors incessantly with his dumb pen. I was feeling a little bad about the whole thing, and by the time we got to the belt I was gonna offer to place him in an egg and send him off. Then he opened his mouth again.

“I knew that I shouldn’t have asked you out,” he pronounced. “You did choose a lower quality implant.”

“You’re such an ass,” I said, turning on the afterburner way sooner than I should have, just to watch him squirm. That was a big mistake.

“What are you doing?” he whimpered as his sweet, androgynous body was pelted against the seat.

“Look,” I pointed to the far-off battle scene on the view screen. “There’s our fight. Too bad we don’t have time to land and refit. These armor hardeners aren’t gonna do much good.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, they’re great against energy weapons but they don’t do much against kinetic charges, which is usually what the Gurns use. Just gonna have to make due.”

“Daria, please. I’ll replace that implant with a better model. You won’t have to wear dark glasses all the time. Just get us out of here.”

“Meh, I can handle these guys. Hold on ...”

The Stomata was using defense drones against three fast-moving raiders. I could see the tiny robotic ships’ tracer fire. But the pirates were ignoring the drones and aiming their weapons at the barge. In the distance, two other mining craft blasted asteroids with drilling lasers as if nothing was going on. When you work in the business, yield is everything. Poppa never liked to stop mining, even when pirates were nearby.

I caught a glimpse at the console. “Damn,” I yelled, after seeing the afterburner had eaten through a good chunk of my capacitor reserves. If that pretty medic hadn’t riled me up, it all would have been fine.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“We’re short on energy, that’s what.”

“Well, you do have backups in this thing, right?”

“Not really. I got the cheapest modules you can get.” That wasn’t really the case, but not too far off from the truth. Did the best I could with poppa’s insurance money.

One of the raiders had scrambled after me. I fired four pulses. My laser had better range, so the Gurn had to veer away before he could fire.

“Yea!” Axium yelled. “Brilliant!”

“Are you enjoying yourself?” I asked him.

“It’s exhilarating. Go get that one,” he replied pointing.

That’s when Gurn projectiles slammed into us. My poppa used to say the Gurns hunted in a pack, like wolves. Now I knew what he meant. The raiders were playing with me. I looked down at the flickering panel and saw my shields were gone. The raiders’ weapons had fractured most of my starboard armor plating. Stuff’s too brittle for kinetics, see.

For a moment, that slimy smell of burned polymers and flashing warning lights blended together until I was back on my poppa’s barge. Then, I remembered I was jacked into the new nav system. It was nothing to locate the other Gurn that was bearing down on me. I wasn’t no kid this time. I could do something about these bloody pirates. This time, I told myself, I wasn’t helpless. I punched the afterburner and trained my weapon on the attacker.

With my long-range pulses and the enhancements, I thought I had the edge, see. My pulse laser scorched into the Gurn raider over and over again. Wouldn’t you know it though, just before I cut through his armor, my lasers stopped cold as the last drop of capacitor reserves went poof.

I found myself helpless, with no active hardeners, no weapons, and no way to scramble out of there. “Oh no,” I whispered, watching with my jacked eyes the other raider barreling up from behind. I reached over to Axium and patted his pretty hand. “We’d better get in the egg,” I said.

We found ourselves floating in space. There we were, protected only by a thin sheet of metal with a low-grade life support system. After finishing off my ship, the raiders raced towards the barges. I don’t know why they let us live. The bloody Gurns would have taken us prisoners if they knew who was aboard. Axium would have fetched a nice ransom. I hit the tiny engine on the pod and headed towards the nearest station.

We never went on another date after that. Go figure? END

Joe Occhipinti writes fiction, blogs and teaches. His novel, “Strangers in the Gale,” was a 2013 semi-finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Contest.  He has published in “The Forge,” “Gryphonwood,” and the anthology “Twisted Tails VII: Irreverence.”


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