Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Along the Ashfold Road
by Robert Dawson

Big Boost
by N.E. Chenier

Ceres Beach Resort
by Paul Michael Moreau

by Michael Hodges

Space Squid!
by Myke Edwards

Dahlia and the Ronin
by Milo James Fowler

A Self-Digging Well
by Jay Fuller

World Without Rot
by Erin Lale

Water Finds Its Path
by Robert Lowell Russell

Turning Humans On
by Antha Ann Adkins


Biology of a Hyper-Evolved Theropod
by John McCormick

How Airplanes Fly, Really
by Eric M. Jones

You’ve Got Fantasy in My Science!
by Carol Kean




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips



Space Squid!

By Myke Edwards

STEAM ROSE, FOGGING THE porthole. Captain Milton Hines wiped it away with his sleeve, staring out at the dull stars hanging in space, light years away. His mouth puckered with every sip of space coffee, despite still being groggy from the three weeks of hypersleep he had been forced to endure. The middle of his back still hurt, but medically, he was okay.

“Captain? Do you want to hear about the past three weeks?”

Hines stirred from his reverie, turning away from the stars. His first mate, Simon “Belmont” Cranston, looked at him with anticipation. The tall, wiry man held a datapad in both hands, sitting in a chair next to Hines’ bed.

“Sure, sure,” Hines said. He took a gulp of the strong, hot beverage, leaning against the head of his bed.

“Shortly after you went into hypersleep, we were attacked by another band of space pirates.”

Hines sat forward with a start, nearly spilling his coffee. “Another band of pirates? We’re pirates! How could that happen?”

“Well, pirates do attack at will, Captain. Remember our successful raid where you, uh, got ...”

Hines sighed, clenching his fists at the throb in his back. “True. Did we fend them off?”

“Indeed. They didn’t take anything, but we lost three men.”

“Great.” He rolled his eyes. “What else?”

“Five days later, we were hit by a meteoroid. Six men in engineering were killed, another five injured. All damages have been repaired, but we spent three days at a way station to be back up to one hundred percent.”

Hines merely nodded, sipping his space coffee. The strong, drug-infused brew was supposedly the only thing that could truly wake someone from medically induced hypersleep. He was glad he would only have to drink it this once, even though the taste would be in his mouth for hours afterwards.

“Two days after we left, we were nearly sucked into a black hole,” Belmont continued. “Luckily, we had two auxiliary tanks of fuel from the station.” He cleared his throat. “I should add that we lost four men.”

“How did we lose four men trying to escape from a black hole?”

“One of our men went ... a little crazy during the maneuver. Kept screaming at people, saying they were Enochian Womb Bunnies. He shot three of them, only to be put down by Rogers.”

Hines nodded. Black hole madness. No more than a fable to planetlubbers, but an all too real condition he had seen more than he would have preferred. Hines thanked the stars for Rogers, the head of security, who always had a level head on his shoulders.

Belmont exhaled slowly, and Hines knew that the worst information of all was coming.

“What? Did we lose more men?”

“No, but ... there’s no more space steak. I just thought you should know.”

Hines gulped down the last of his coffee. “None of this would have happened if you just took the ship to a station. Better yet, back home. You’ve got a lot of making up to do, Belmont, starting with finding us a competent surgeon the instant we return home.” Shortly before Hines was injured, the ship’s surgeon committed suicide over his former lover leaving him for another woman.

Hines cleared his throat and looked around to make sure no one could hear, despite knowing that it was just the two of them in the room. “Did the cargo survive?”

“All cargo is accounted for, Captain.”

Hines narrowed his eyes. “All of the cargo?”

Belmont nodded with a knowing smile. “The space rum is safely locked away, sir.”

Hines narrowed his eyes so much they were practically closed. “Even the cargo we shouldn’t be talking about?”

“Ah. Yes, nothing to worry about there, Captain.”

“Good. Now get out of here so I can get dressed and take a look around my ship.”

“Aye, Captain.” Belmont nodded as he stood. “Don’t worry, sir, things will be shipshape before you know it.” He left the room.

Hines stood up and stretched. He felt the tight stitching in his back, covered with an even tighter bandage. Three weeks ago, he had led a raid on a pleasure cruiser in the Antares Belt. While they had successfully made off with millions in booty, Hines was the last one to leave, as always. While ensuring that his crew made it back home safe and sound, a brave passenger on the cruiser decided to try to stop him.

The passenger threw a knife at Hines, but the captain had been a pirate for a lot longer than the tuxedo-clad man was a hero. Hines twisted to the side, the knife scraping along the small of his back. He fell, vision quickly fading. The last thing he saw was the man’s head explode as two of his crew fired laspistols while they dragged Hines back to their ship.

The med-bed automatically fixed his spine and kidneys as he spent the next three weeks in hypersleep. His skin successfully sutured back together, it would remain raw and tender for some time after he awoke. With four previous trips to the med-bed behind him already, he knew to take it easy for a while.

Once dressed and groomed, Hines left his room. Outside, Belmont chatted with a crewman, both looking over a datapad.

“Ah, Captain. We were just figuring out when you would want to—”

The entire ship shuddered. Every bit of metal—floors, walls, bulkheads, light fixtures—vibrated like a Friscalian sting blob. Hines stumbled, steadying himself on the bulkhead behind him. He glared at Belmont.

“Any idea what that was?”

“Maybe the engines?” Belmont sighed. “We’re still not at one hundred percent.”

Hines rubbed the wound on his back. Pain lanced through it, but it hadn’t broken open. He started down the corridor.

Outside the door to the bridge, Belmont on his heels, Hines stumbled again with another violent rumble. He fell to his knees, hearing muffled.

“Call me crazy,” he yelled from the floor, “but did I just hear a roar?”

Belmont was halfway to the floor as well, nodding. “That’s what it sounded like.” He hit a button on the wall. The doors to the bridge slid open.

Sounds of chaos slammed into Hines as he stepped onto the triangular bridge, his hearing returned. Rogers sat at the tactical station, while the navigator and spaceswain furiously worked their respective control panels. Aides and assistants ran from station to station, taking orders and entering new ones. Normally well-lit, blue light now tinted everyone and everything the captain could see. On the viewscreen, Hines saw the source of the commotion.

“Is that what I think it is?” Hines asked.

“A space squid, Captain,” Rogers said. The muscular man with his glistening head looked over his shoulder at Hines and Belmont. “Orders, sir?”

Hines stood there, staring at the gigantic creature for a moment. Its huge, spade-shaped rust-colored body and even the single eye were larger than the pleasure cruiser they had raided three weeks ago. Six long, wild tentacles flew around it and them, while two even longer arms attached to the ship.

“Orders, Captain?” Belmont asked, shaking him from his reverie.

“Um ... well, throw everything we have at it.” He stepped forward, pointing to the viewscreen as if someone had forgotten their target. Everyone else seemed to be a lot more awake than he was, however. Hines called for an aide to get him a new mug.

“Firing torpedoes now, Captain.”

Hines held his breath as a flurry of torpedoes shot forth, slamming into the impossible-to-miss body of the giant reddish-orange creature. They exploded on impact, but didn’t seem to do much damage.

“Not a scratch?” Hines wondered aloud. “Fire psycho-rockets, Rogers. All of them.”

“Aye, sir.”

All forty of the missiles fired, one after another with barely a second in between. They split in two halfway to their destination, with each of those splitting again, all while spraying different colored gasses and blinking multi-colored lights. It was intended to cause a psychotic display for the enemy ... before they exploded on impact.

Hines didn’t even wait for the missiles to hit. “Shoot the damn thing, Rogers! Fire lasers, more missiles, torpedoes, whatever the hell we have!”

He would have killed for a space harpoon right about now. Whatever killed it, though, he was fine with: that thing was destroying his ship. Not only that, but a fabled space squid would be a tremendous prize and win bragging rights. Hines knew he had to take the upper hand, especially with as many close calls as Belmont had had during his absence.

Everything fired at once. The ship lurched again. Hines noticed that the two tentacles holding on swung like runaway sidewinders.

“Get us away, goddamsquidmit!” Hines bellowed.

The spaceswain at his right nodded and pulled on the control stick. The ship backed away from the giant creature, surrounded by the fading flashes of ordinance as all of the missiles and torpedoes hit it.

Again, the ship shook, but not as hard this time. Hines’ hearing muffled once more, but also not as bad this time.

“Another one?” he asked.

“Sounded like it,” Belmont said. “But I didn’t think sound could travel in space?”

“Squids can’t live in space either!”

“Good point!”

Both men held on for dear life as the viewscreen showed what Hines knew would be certain death. The remaining six tentacles shot toward them, slamming into the ship. Alarms and sirens screamed, while everyone not seated was thrown to the floor.

Hines struggled to stand, not worried about his back. Before checking on the safety of his crew, however, he looked at the screen.

His jaw dropped.

As the bridge crew regained their composure and quickly punched in commands, ensuring systems were working properly and alarms shut off, a ghostly silence fell over everyone.

The squid had them trapped, held tight in all of its tentacles. Not only that, but it was pulling them closer to its sharp-beaked mouth.

“That thing’s going to eat us whole,” Belmont whispered.

Hines only heard his heart beating, his blood rushing in his ears, and a single thought that he couldn’t wait to vocalize. In case of emergencies, all ships were equipped with one weapon never allowed to be used unless the captain could give a good reason for it.

“Send the nuke down its gullet,” he growled.

Rogers replied with a single movement with his hand.

The beak crunched down on the front of the ship.

Rogers pressed a yellow button at the top of his console.

Tentacles pulled the ship closer, the beak opening for another bite.

Rogers jerked his arm back, like he had touched something hot.

The mouth closed on even more of the ship, tearing through the forward hold, petty officers’ quarters, and health spa.

“Forcefields holding strong,” someone called out. “No vital systems damaged.”

Rogers sat back in his chair and sighed.

As the mouth opened again, a tiny cylinder flew into it.

Everyone held their breath in unison.

The mouth started to close.

Nobody moved.

The tentacles let up as the eye grew wide. The putrid orange flesh of the space squid expanded as the bomb exploded in its stomach.

“It’s no Tsar Bomba, but it looks good,” Rogers reported.

Immediately, everyone on the bridge sprang back into action. The navigator plotted a quick course to escape. The spaceswain used the course and steered away. Rogers programmed for the laser banks to recharge. An aide finally delivered the captain’s space coffee. And Hines stood next to Belmont, admiring his well-trained crew.

“Congratulations, Belmont,” he said. “Yet again, you didn’t kill us.”

Belmont’s cheeks reddened as he smiled. Hines noticed his eyes flick up to the viewscreen. Belmont’s smiled quickly faded. “We’re not out of danger just yet, Captain.”

Burned, blackened, and moving significantly slower, the space squid had somehow managed to survive limitless amounts of ballistics and even a nuclear bomb. As the ship crawled away, the squid maintained pace.

“Casualties?” Hines called out.

“Twelve,” an aide replied.

“Life support?”

“Holding at seventy-five percent.”

“Systems down or damaged?”

“Atmospheric control at sixty-two. Artificial gravity at eighty-nine. Air pressure at seventy. Plumbing and septic at forty—”

“How much ammo?” Hines asked, cutting him off.

“Down to fifteen percent on the laser banks, but currently charging.” Rogers said. “And that’s all that’s left.”

“Not everything,” Hines muttered. He flashed a glance at Belmont. “Ready to try this?”

Belmont shrugged. “We have to be at least one-thousand kilometers away from the blast.” He looked over to the spaceswain. “Can you get us to a thousand clicks within five seconds?”

“Can do, sir. Thrusters are at ninety-eight percent.”

Hines and Belmont looked at each other, nodded, and went to opposite sides of the bridge. With the key they each wore around their necks, they both opened blank hatches.

“On my mark!” Hines yelled. He stared at the red button, only accessible with his key. Belmont had his own button on his side of the bridge. This would only work if they both pushed their buttons at exactly the same time.

“Three,” he said. The quantum de-dimensioner, also known as Weapon T-47, would shoot forth from the ship at one hundred sixty kilometers per second.

“Two.” When it struck its target, the weapon would envelop it in a ball of energy one thousand cubic kilometers.

“One.” They had stolen it from a Space Navy vessel some six months ago, a prototype going through the final testing phases. Hines hoped he would never have to use it, but knew it could get them out of a very sticky situation ... like a space squid.

“Mark!” Hines slammed his fist onto the button, hearing a positive chirrup as he did so. Belmont had done so at exactly the same time, allowing the missile to fire.

He swung around, staring at the viewscreen. Next to him, the spaceswain had started his path away from the space squid, the engines pumping for their most important job ever.

Two of the longest seconds of his life later, the missile slammed into the creature, its tentacles waving in fury, reaching for them but not quite making it. Its eye grew wider and its beak gaped in shock and anger. A bellowing roar slammed into them. Hines gripped the console out of instinct, still confused at the physics of that roar. A split second later, it cut off.

Where an enormous, moon-sized ball of quantum energy glowed one second ago, nothing now stood in its place. Not space, not blackness ... nothing.

The space squid and everything inside of that quantum energy ball had been removed from their dimension. Silence reigned supreme on the bridge.

“Mister Cranston,” Hines said after a tense minute. “You are relieved of duty.”

Belmont cocked an eyebrow. “Captain? What for?”

“For not knowing how in the hell to captain a pirate vessel. None of this would have happened if you had taken this crew home after I got injured.” He paused for a moment as the assembled bridge crew murmured their assent. “Now if you excuse me, stand back while a pro does it.”

Belmont cleared his throat, but said nothing. He merely stepped away, out through the doors of the bridge.

Hines reached behind himself, rubbing his back. The wound had not reopened. “Navigator,” he said. “Plot a course away from here. Far away.” He sipped at his now cold space coffee, mouth puckering.

“Where to, Captain?”

Hines smiled. “Space Station P-Twelve-Seventeen. Home of the Country Fried Space Steak.”

As the ship sped away, Hines’ stomach grumbled in agreement. END

Myke Edwards has been writing stories of the fantastic and outlandish for most of his life. Upon graduating from a reputable creative writing program, he settled in Toledo, the safest place from squids of all varieties. Read about his daily exploits here.






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