Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Mortality, Eternity
by Joseph Green

Absolute Pony
by Alisa Alering

Quisic Smith and the Russian Puzzle Doll
by Sean Monaghan

Clever Bubble
by Antha Ann Adkins

by Matthew Wuertz

To Walk the Earth
by Rebecca Birch

Five Stages of Future Grief
by Gary Cuba

Lost Planes, Lost River
by Michael Hodges

Funny Money
by Chet Gottfried

Insanity Machine
by Lawrence Buentello

Ten Minutes
by Eamonn Murphy


A Quantum Mind
by Eric M. Jones

What is Science?
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




Shorter Stories

Under the Color of Mars

By Robin Wyatt Dunn

“GET THE PEDALS FROM THE LOCKER!” shouted Adostorophe, noble servant of Mars. After five days in orbit, readying the swords and shields and nuclear devices, it felt glorious to be on the battlefield.

Murgdo, his huge servant, grinned, his teeth dripping. There was no need to strap their captives to the fusion catapult, but it was pleasurable to see their bones snap as the old-fashioned wires tightened to launch the Rube Goldberg machine of death.

“Arrrrghhghhhh!” cried a skinny man, his blue eyes filled with rage, and then blood, as the ropes tightened against his tendons and bones.

Murgdo attached the skinny man, and then another skinny one, and then a fat one, and then an old woman, glaring, all to the base of the device ratcheted to the pedals, which he then began to pump with his feet. His huge legs moved like an engine.

Above, Mars shone like a god of old, huge and close, portent of a fast-approaching future.

Adostorophe raised his arm, turning behind him, his eyes glittering as he beheld the assembled warriors shining in the red light of dusk. He made the sign of his ancestors, an arm extended, like a Welsh longbow, a rock in a hand. To kill from a distance: the strangest and most beautiful gift of Man.

“We fight for blood!” he shouted, his youth eternal, not only from the surgery to keep his face fresh, but from the glow in his eyes, a man who had never ordered a hundred thousand men to die before, and felt it was his duty, a duty as at Verdun, a small word to end a universe.

Their roar filled his head with visions which I do not have the words for here. I think their character surpassed the visual spectrum as we usually understand it; inside his head, at that moment, Adostorophe was a god.

He rode to battle. Around him his armored posse moved, their huge shoulders like terrible gleaming suns.

“Now!” he shouted, and they activated their jets and shot into no man’s land. The catapult was launched, tearing the captives limb from limb, and Adostorophe, riding on his cyborg, watched as the white blue ball of fire arced over their heads towards the army of Earth.

They were so close now, the two planets. Like the closest of brothers; the closest of neighbors, breeding contempt like a new religion of red murdering fire.

They accelerated into the breach. Over the trenches, over the barricades. Across no man’s land and shot right at the enemy camp.

Adostorophe shoved his arc phazer limned with horrible light into firing position, a sword of unearthly fire, raising the hackles on his neck, and his eyes moved unbeknownst to him, looking up at the god of Mars in the sky, and he screamed with a dark and ancient joy as he swung, moving his weapon into the gut of the first row of the enemy, and his men circled, praying aloud, following his ancient and beautiful weapon, their voices thrumming,

“Mars, Mars, Mars, Mars!”

Blood was opened into the light.


Later, Adostorophe lay with his mistress Rael, of the Arctic, on his favorite rug, running the scanner over his belly, healing a minor wound.

Her eyes were dark and red, altered by the planet. She was from Earth, but he would take her back with him, after they had conquered it.

She straddled his body and looked down into his cruel face, with his teeth bared, his hands around her hips.

“I will keep you,” he said. “You are better than many Martian women.”

She smiled.

“Did you know, commander?” she said. “My brother was one of those who you strapped to the machine today.” And she took out her knife from her hair, a thin tilting thing that hid from the light into nearby dimensions, and opened her lover’s neck, staining the white bear fur red.


Rael of the Arctic walked out of the tent, naked, looking up at the planet on its horrible turn, its ancient ellipse gone all awry. Mars’ radiance shone down, so close it made her shiver.

Her fellow spy, Sendi, stepped over to her out of the shadows.

“Ready, mistress?” he said, and she nodded. Sendi burrowed into the ground with his hands, making a small nest for his robot, and then whispered the password into its ear. He beckoned to Rael and offered her his cloak, which she took as she stepped onto the orbital launcher.

She grit her teeth and forced the blood into her head to avoid losing consciousness as the robot spat her into orbit at one hundred miles a second.

She could not feel the air rushing past, of course, safe in her small shielded cocoon, but it felt as though she could feel it, as the world rushed by her face.

Soon she was in high orbit. Below, she saw the fusion war continuing, huge arcing fireballs marring the beauty of the blue Earth like cancerous faces on a bloodied idol. She accelerated, moving towards Mars. She prayed that she was not too late.


The scholars say now that Mars was a machine. For every deus ex machina, there was a machinus ex deum.


She passed five thousand miles a second, and then fifty thousand, whispering the prayers of all her ancestors, of her peoples of Europe, and Africa and the Serengheti, all the wailing children of the millennia, birthing their strange rites atop the stirring star of Earth, she accelerated into the core of the Martian planet.


Machina machinus


Sendi watched her with his telescope. If she accelerated fast enough her relative mass would be enormous compared to Mars and would either send the dread planetary orb arcing away from their homeworld, or shatter it to bits, taking his royal mistress with it.


Approaching tao zero—every microsecond a lengthening interval—Rael had a lot of time to think. She knew that war was always half the fault of women. She was no innocent herself: she desired the mighty thews of her tribe, the shoulders large and muscular, the bodies of strong men which were engines of love, and death. What is the limit of our cruelty, she wondered? It would be a miracle if Earth survived.

She remembered, suddenly, her father’s voice, from when she was a small child, his beard close to her young face, with sweet gin on his breath. He had said to her, “Rael, a woman knows what she wants, but she rarely knows how to get it. If we get Mars, we will finally control our fate. Do you want that, daughter? Do you want to get what you want?”

To control the machine in the human heart. To determine the evolution of
war. END

Robin Wyatt Dunn is a writer living in southern California and is the author of three novels. His previous story for “Perihelion” was in the 12-JUN-2013 update.




By Josie Gowler

DEE AND I RISE UP OUT of the airlock; it always makes me think of a podium coming up out of a stage. She laughs her funny laugh every time I say this; it reduces the tension for what’s ahead.

We’re standing on a one-kilometre expanse of hull, stretching away in all directions. It’s the only chance we get at solitude, and I love it. Other people groan when they’re sent on an outside fix. I volunteer. I don’t think Dee’s too impressed with me for that, although she did once tell me that she thinks the grey-streaked expanse of Parallel is beautiful. She doesn’t have a whole lot to reference it against.

Our magnetised boots take us across the hull. The morons back at base who risk-assess everything give this a higher danger score than any other part of shipboard life. Why they need reams of paperwork to tell them this is a mystery to me. And don’t even get them started on the asteroid mining once we reach our destination, in case they have a collective heart attack. Trouble is, out here if the boots fail or you unhook accidentally, you have to spin through space with your distress beacon going, waiting to get picked up and brought back to the safety of the ship. Yes, it has happened to me a couple of times and I wouldn’t recommend it. Suit thrusters only work for ten seconds. You have to be exceptionally careful how you fire them, otherwise you’ll just be spinning away in the wrong direction twice as fast as before, feeling like a right prick.

We reach the far-scanner array: it’s been brutalised by micro-debris walloping into it. Starting our replacement work, Dee calls out the readings while I’m toiling on the damaged parts. “How’s the string feed going?” Dee asks eventually.

I check the readout. “Almost finished,” I reply. I look up, stretching my neck from where I’ve been hunched over for a quarter of an hour. “Oh, look, there’s Team Dave. Tosser.”

“Dunno how they put up with each other,” says Dee. Dave waves at us and I do a half-arsed wave back. Not like he’s going to come over and chat, thankfully.

I slowly get to my feet. One final check, and we start the careful walk back to the airlock.

“D’you know he’s so thick that we sent him to fetch a Fallopian Tube from stores and he actually went down there and asked for one?” I ask. Dee giggles. She still hasn’t got the hang of laughter yet: the most charitable thing I can say is that it sounds like a machine gun going off. I’m glad she’s getting irony at last; explaining my own jokes was getting a bit wearing.

In the kit room, I’m soon back in my deck clothes. I hang Dee up gently, brush down the creases and wrinkles. “Thanks for your help today, Dee,” I say. Some people forget to say that to their Dees, don’t treat them right. On my way out of the locker room I switch off the lights so Deepspace Enhanced Exoskeleton gets some peace and a proper rest. As I leave her plugged-in and regenerating, I wonder if she dreams, too. END

Josie Gowler writes weird tales set in the English East Anglian Fens. She has been published in “365 Tomorrows,” “Lorelei Signal,” and “Bewildering Stories.”



Angels Behaving Badly

By Rhonda Eikamp

WE’VE ALL KNOWN EACH OTHER since the twelfth century and we keep our affairs to ourselves. They’re hard to talk about to non-jumpers. When did Alastair first sleep with Amelie, for instance? Before or after I did? When did he start to fall in love with her? (Before or after I did?)

I only know when he murdered her.

I was advising Rudolf of Prague on his Turkish wars when I got Amelie’s distress signal. I left Rudi with his mouth hanging open and followed the staticky call to a Victorian sitting room. Blue brocade and smokestacks beyond the window. Amelie stood in the middle of the room sobbing while her ex-lover—my ex-best friend—Alastair held a dainty ivory-grip pistol pointed at her chest.

Like an arrow aimed at the only life I’d ever loved—here’s death, watch this.

Non-jumpers think we’re immortal, that our lives, bifurcating a billion times, become strung across history, ever-present, but that’s not how it is. Death is death. The moments you’ve created across time remain, yet any chance to add to them ends forever. I screamed Am’s name, but they couldn’t hear me or see me. Sealing wax, we call it. An invisible wall that kept me from reacting with the environment. A sign that I had been here before, though I couldn’t recall it. I could beat on the air all I wanted, but I couldn’t stop Alastair. As if she sensed I was there, Am cried Charley!, looking the wrong way. I was close enough to see the tears rolling down her freckles, then the pistol barked, Alastair barking with it in surprise, the bastard, like it wasn’t his own finger on the trigger. Am sank to the floor. Breathing, bleeding. Dying, but not yet dead.

Alastair jumped away. I couldn’t piggyback his signal through the wax, but I did the next best thing.

I went to find Amelie.

I knew where she’d be. Da Vinci was hard at work on the painting he would be immortalized for, though he would have been appalled to know that. No, that’s not Amelie hanging in the Louvre. She’d chosen to be Leo’s assistant, learn from him, disguised as a boy for the sake of his prudish clients. I popped in around the corner and rushed into the room. She was just handing the maestro a sable brush. The noblewoman in the chair scowled at the intrusion.

“Giaconda my ass,” Am murmured to me. “More like anaconda.” Then she saw my face.

I was struggling with the fact of her alive, the splendor of her upturned nose and laughing tea-brown eyes, interposed over the memory of her chest covered in blood.

“Alastair just killed you,” I gasped. Da Vinci glanced over. He’d seen us pop in and out enough around him when we weren’t being careful and he’d decided we were angels. Studying us while we studied him, picking up our language while he picked our brains for his notebooks.

Shadows carved Am’s face. “Alastair was always jealous.”

“We have to get you to our safe place, Am, make it never happen.”

Da Vinci was listening, shaking his head. “You angels are one schizo bunch, you know that?” he proclaimed in Italian.

I patted his shoulder while Am and I wink-synced our programs to jump. “Keep up the good work, Leo. It’ll pay off some day.”

Am gestured toward the anaconda. “Try getting her to smile,” she suggested.

We jumped.

Safe is relative. A house of breezy frond walls, on a Javan island set to blow itself to volcanic smithereens in a month. We’d gone insane inside each other there. Crazy Krakatoa love. Running on the beach at night, feeling the pre-rumbles.

Alastair was waiting for us. (Had she told him about our hideaway, careless pillow-talk on some straw mat in the Jacobean?) I saw Am turn toward me the moment we arrived, relieved to have made it to hiding, when her gaze past my shoulder shouted alarm. I half-turned to see Alastair behind the door, swinging a gourd like a club, then pain met my head, scarlet stars exploding behind my eyes as though the island’s volcano had decided to shoot its wad early. I fell toward him, caught in his arms, felt him move into his jump.

I awoke on the floor of the Victorian room.

Am was standing in the middle of the room sobbing my name. Alastair was pointing the gun at her chest.

It’s a shock to find you’ve caused the thing you were trying to prevent. Am would never have followed Alastair to the room if he hadn’t taken me as bait. I was still dizzy from being carried unconscious through a jump. I tried to get a knee under myself and slipped. Blood from my head smeared the floor.

“When did you choose him over me?” Alastair was shouting. ”When?” It seemed a banal question for a jumper.

Am wasn’t listening, racked by her sobs. Beside her I felt the chill of a timehole open up, like a curtain drawn back on a block of ice: myself, invisible, trapped behind wax, unable to penetrate because I was already there. That me had been too startled by the scene to notice my own body half-hidden behind the settee. Now I could see details coalescing that I should have noticed then: the Italian painter’s smock Am still wore, the way she lunged past Alastair to try and reach the me on the floor. How Alastair’s hands shook.

The pistol barked. I had a second to glimpse Alastair’s stunned face this time. Murder is a frenzied beast, lashing out, devouring the killer as well as the victim. His moment of horror before he jumped gave me time to wink on his path, record it for later. Then he was gone.

I have only shattered flashes of the next seconds, crawling to Am while her blood drained out. Her life, strung across history, frothing onto the floor. Truly dying this time. She was too weak to carry through a jump. There was nothing I could do. My screams brought no one. Her mouth was a red ocean bubbling up. I fell down a hole and when I crawled out of it my forehead was pressed against the parquet and her body was cold.

Without scanning where it led, I winked down the recorded path Alastair had taken.

A mountaintop, wind velvety with a hint of snow. Alastair sat before a campfire, gazing up at me. Beyond him lay a camp, nestled against a rockfall. Soldiers in what looked like Roman armor bustled against the low sun, threading among large russet shapes that swayed where they stood.

“Are those elephants?” I asked. Alastair looked awful. “Really think you could hide with Hannibal?”

He shrugged. “The same way you and Amelie thought Krakatoa was safe. You’re better at tracing than I thought. Are you going to kill me now?” His insane face said he wished I would try.

The rage was a nausea scorching up my throat. “I’m going to turn you in to the Overseers for murder.”

He was shaking his head, grinning and distraught. “Your word against mine, Charley. Don’t you wonder why I arranged it the way I did?” A reflection of the flames cavorted in his eyes. “No one saw me anywhere near Amelie. Da Vinci may have heard you spouting bloody murder about me, but what he saw is Am leaving with you.”

I stared into his surly arrogant face, so much like mine. No wonder she was attracted to us both.

“You’ll have to take your own revenge,” he hissed. “Or die trying. It’s now or never.”

I pounced. Sparks flew as we rolled past the fire. Murder is a beast indeed; he’d steeled himself, expecting my hands on his throat, but when my fingers found his right eye, new terror strafed him and he bucked, screaming. It was like riding the mountaintop. I held on. Tired centurions glanced our way, too jaded to care. My finger penetrated his eye, the thick artificial jelly of the pseudosclera slipping aside to reveal throbbing violet light, hydroxylapatite filaments robust enough to withstand any injury, but the rig-makers hadn’t counted on the ferocity of my hate. The dot of light behind his eye turned green as he tried to jump, but it was too late. I gouged the rig out and hurled it into the fire while he howled.

Angels need wings to fly, Leonardo. Losing your wings is worse than death.

I left Alastair there, with no way home. He’d chosen a good hiding-place. No one will find him if I don’t tell them. He begged just before I jumped. Writhing on the ground, his face smearing blood into the dirt from his eye socket.

Have a nice long life, I said.

I spend my time now jumping to places Am still inhabits. I can’t be with her. Every time-frame she ever visited became sealed behind wax the moment she died. Time works like God, it won’t let you defeat death. I watch her from behind the wax, alive with others, with Alastair, with myself, and it’s like watching a vivid dream. I go a little more insane with every moment I visit. Sometimes I think the non-jumpers who are with her there can hear me crying through the wax and are disturbed by it. Angels are not the only myth we gave rise to.

We are your ghosts as well. END

Rhonda Eikamp is originally from Texas and lives in Germany. She has published fiction in “Daily Science Fiction,” and has stories upcoming in the “Baird” anthologies.



Little Class 2 Maintenance Bot

By Mark Bondurant

“GATHER AROUND, LITTLE ONES,” the Maintenance Server said.

It was down cycle, they were in wait state, so they flocked to her.

“Tell us a story, tell us a story,” they cried.

“Have you all been good?” she replied.

“We have, we have,” they reported. “Efficiency is up 0.26 percent!”

“Your networks are settling so well,” she praised. There was a flurry of joy and then a flutter as assertions in neural networks were promoted. “Then all good children deserve a story,” she continued

Acks rippled across the net.

“This is the story of a young maintenance bot, respected by all for her efficiency, but especially by her parent server, who couldn’t do enough for her. When it was clear she was developing well, her parent upgraded her to class two.” Ooo’s rippled through her audience. “She was everywhere and anywhere in her region, organizing and fixing problems, and was so commonly known that her name was aliased as Two.” Oh’s followed the Ooo’s.

One cycle, her parent said to her, “Take this token Two. These are patches for Corporate.”

“Corporate!” echoed the astounded response from Maintenance Server’s children.

“They fix developing vulnerabilities, so go quickly, don’t loiter along the way, or run, or you may make a mistake,” her parent said. ”And when you get there, don’t forget protocol.”

“I will do just as you tell me,” Two replied.

“What Two didn’t know was that there was a Trojan horse, a dreadful virus loose behind the router, inside her region,” Maintenance Server said.

Frightened oh’s rippled across the net.

“Two was at a waypoint between servers, on her way to Corporate, when she was confronted by the virus! It was modern and very stealthy, unrecognized by anti-virus, so Two didn’t realize what it was.”

“Hello,” it said to Two.

“Hello,” Two replied, innocently.

“Where are you going?” it queried.

“To Corporate,” Two replied.

“What are you carrying?” it asked.

“A token and patches,” Two said, for the virus spoke with authority.

“How are you getting to Corporate?”

Two replied with the path and port, forgetting all about security protocol and need to know.

The virus thought: “This tender little bot with access will be a plump morsel, but if I’m cunning, I can get both her and Corporate!”

“Why are you in such a hurry?” the virus asked.

“Server says that these patches are important,” Two replied, proudly.

“Have you checked the queues? There could be more, and perhaps patches for yourself. You could make the trip really count,” the virus said slyly.

“No I haven’t,” Two said, with surprise. “Should I?”

“Of course,” the virus said. “What if you have vulnerabilities yourself? You could be carrying more than you think.” And then the virus copied her token.

“Oh!” exclaimed all the little bots, but Maintenance Server continued.

“That sounds optimal,” replied Two, and promptly began a round robin tour of the update queues.

In the meantime, the virus went straight off to Corporate and knocked on the firewall.

“Who’s there?” said Corporate.

“Two,” the virus replied. “See, I have a token.”

“Two, you are on my trust list,” and the firewall parted.

When it was through the firewall, the virus went straight in, disabled security, then hollowed out the executive and injected itself!

Wails rose from the little bots as they quaked in fear.

Two made the rounds of the update queues and found additional low priority patches for both Corporate and herself. Then she went straight to Corporate. She was astonished when she got there to find that her token had already been applied to the gateway, and when she entered Corporate, everything seemed so strange.

She was quite frightened, but she didn’t know why. She cried: “Good-day Corporate,” but received no answer. She linked with the executive, but couldn’t get a proper ACK to her queries. Then she inspected the executive procedure itself.

“Oh Corporate, you’ve changed size,” she said.

“Upgrades the better to perform my function,” replied the virus.

“What different method signatures you have.”

“My clients are changing too.”

“You don’t release your connections when requested.”

“Because I want you always near.”

“And you download foreign code!”

“The better to eat you up!” And the virus devoured poor Two.

Several child bots screamed. Maintenance Server shushed and reassured them, and then continued with a smile.

An anti-virus was scanning port traffic nearby and heard Two crash. He reviewed the event log and rushed straight to the executive.

“Do I find your signature, you old sinner?” he said, to the virus. “Long enough have I sought you!”

He isolated the executive, rebooting a new copy from storage, and was about to delete the file to destroy the virus, but decided instead to investigate to see what it had been up to. Cutting it open, he saw a familiar signature. It was Two, unharmed, with the latest version of her neural net intact!

Two sprang up and cried: “Oh, how frightened I was, it was so dark inside the virus!”

They then decided to send the virus back to its maker, so they altered its hunting signature list and sent it back along its last known routing path.

They are quite happy now. Two applied her patches to Corporate, the anti-virus’ minder published an alert about the virus, and Two’s experiences were added to the training database. She never again broke protocol and talked to strangers in route. END

Mark Bondurant has been published in “Andromeda Spaceways” and is the author of two steampunk novels, “The Rose of the West,” and “Red Jacket.”






Museum of the Future

Photon torpedoes? Fire a full spread! Boldly run through a Stargate! Refuel Luke’s X-wing fighter!

Someday you can do all of this at The Museum of Science Fiction now being built online. In a few years the Museum will also have a physical location in Washington, D.C.

Its mission statement reads, “Our planners ... aspire to create a high-tech, futuristic, physical museum that engages


its visitors and ignites the imagination. The history of science fiction lets you step into the future by looking into the past.”

The Museum of Science Fiction claims to be the world’s first comprehensive science fiction museum, covering the history of the genre across the arts and providing a narrative on its relationship to the real world.

The Museum of Science Fiction endeavors to use science fiction as a tool to inspire interest in science, engineering, technology, math, art, history, literature, philosophy, and—ultimately— imagination. The Museum believes science fiction is rich with ideas that can serve as a springboard for curiosity and learning, from understanding how warp drive might function to how cyborgs could affect our daily lives.