Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Remy’s Town
by Megan Neumann

by Andrew Hook

Her Robot Babies
by Brent Knowles

Beyond the Reach of Proof
by Seth W. Kennedy

Here Is a Fighter
by Eric Del Carlo

Invasive Species
by Kurt Heinrich Hyatt

Deciphering an ET Opening Screen
by Marilyn K. Martin

I Once Was Lost
by Edward Morris

by Melanie Rees

Respect of Headwaiters
by Tais Teng

Toy Soldier
by Leon Chan


A Case Against Saucers
by John McCormick

Atomic Light Bulbs
by Popular Mechanics




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




Invasive Species

By Kurt Heinrich Hyatt

THE GHOTE PACK EMERGED FROM the fern forest at the first light of morning and prowled around the thatch huts of the Verdans, searching ...

D’aar crouched on the mat floor of his hut clutching his fishing spear, a slim shaft of waterweed with a fire-hardened point. Behind him huddled his bondmate, hugging their two whimpering cubs.

There were padded footfalls outside, the intake of air into cavernous lungs. The wooden door shook from a sudden blow. A hairy snout sent a gust of rancid breath into D’aar’s face from beyond the wicker crack. Claws ripped into the doorway and tore it loose.

D’aar, his bondmate and their two cubs screamed.



The blade of the slidedozer struck the ground and plowed into the wreckage of the Verdan village, pushing a matrix of thatch, broken pottery, and scattered bones into the prepared pit. A cloud of carrion daybats rose and fluttered past the woman standing by the pit, heading out across the lake. She flinched, smiled nervously, and turned back to the technicians manning the newscanner.

“This is Megan Nevers-Eskew-Jones from the Interworld Inquirer reporting yet another village has been obliterated by the invasive ghote packs. On planet Verdana the indigenous humanoid population is a peaceful and vegetarian species, living in perfect harmony with their forest world, unwarlike and defenseless against this invasion.” She gestured toward a slidedozer which had backed away from the pit and shut down its engine.

“Interplanetary Realty has filed claim to this site under the Abandoned Native Property Code,” she continued, “And is pushing ahead with a planned lakeside casino resort. Mr. Eugene DeGras, head contractor for the project has agreed to say a few words to our Homeworld audience.”

DeGras had climbed down from the parked slidedozer and came swaggering up to the group around the newscanner. His greasy overalls seemed filled with equal proportions of fat and muscle and his narrow porcine eyes were guarded.

“Good morning, Mr. DeGras,” said Megan. “Tell us all how your little project is coming along.”

DeGras nervously cleared his throat, hitching up his overalls. “Well, as you can see, we got all the crap ... I mean debris, cleared from the site and surveyors are laying out stakes. I figure about a week we should have the casino foundations poured. Tennis courts and pool gonna be laid out by the lake.”

“My, I must congratulate Interplanetary for their speed and efficiency. Most impressive.” Megan exuded charm.

“Well ... thanks. Verdana is prime real estate, the only Earthlike planet in this star system.”

“I understand this is the second Verdan village destroyed by the ghotes which Interplanetary has been developing for offworld tourism?”

“Actually the third. I know it’s a crappy deal ... I mean, a bad deal for them natives. But they were just sitting around on their asses for centuries doing nothing to improve—”

Then Megan dropped the bomb. “What do you say to the rumor Interplanetary Realty imported the savage and fast-breeding feral swine from their island on the other side of the planet? An invasive species the Federation is unable to control without violating its Non-Interference Charter.”

Sweat beaded DeGras’s jowls. “Yeah, yeah, I heard them rumors too. Total bullshit ... I mean, bullshirt. They probably swam or floated over on some driftwood.”

“Swam or floated on driftwood,” she said sweetly. “For eight thousand kilometers?”

Staring at the lens of the newscanner, DeGras swallowed hard.

“Listen, I really hafta get back to work. Schedules to meet, you know.”

“Of course you do.” Megan’s smile was vast. “Thank you so much for your time, Mr. DeGras.”


“You gotta be shitting me!” DeGras slammed the door of the construction module and stared down at the Verdan girl in rage and horror.

“Stinky Ed Valdez found her in the fern forest,” Steve Jeppson explained. “I guess she made it out of the village just before the ghotes attacked.”

“And he couldn’t have just left her there, huh?” DeGras retorted. “Godammit! The Abandoned Native Property Code ain’t no good if there’s a surviving native. This whole project is gonna go tits up.”

The girl was sitting at a table wolfing down a pile of lux rations Jeppson had set out for her. She had the typical Verdan features: slender body, pale green skin and pointed elf ears. Her liquid purple eyes nervously watched DeGras bang his fist into the plastoid wall.

Taking a measured breath, DeGras got his anger under control. “Okay, who speaks Verdan here?”

“I guess I do,” said Jeppson, reluctantly. “I used to ferry a bunch of scientists around Verdana when they first discovered this planet.”

DeGras stalked to a bench littered with blueprints and data sheets. He placed a thick finger on a map. “The nearest village what ain’t yet overrun by the ghotes is about ninety clicks from here. Them worthless turds from the motor pool got our scout jetwing fixed?”

“The main commo set is toast and they don’t like the sound coming from the plasma drive.”

“I don’t give a bograt’s ass if it sounds like a can of rocks,” he retorted. “Get this Verdan wedge on it and fly her outta here before them newsies hanging around outside gets wind of her and flushes this whole project down the toilet.”

The girl was looking back and forth at their faces in growing apprehension. She blanched as Jeppson stood over her.

“What is your name?” he asked in the Verdan language with a reassuring smile.

She took in the smile, relaxed visibly. “T’aal,” she replied in a whisper.

“Well, T’aal, we are going to take you to another village of your own people. Would you like that?”

The girl nodded dumbly.


The fern forest swept below the jetwing, an endless carpet of softly waving blue fronds. Flocks of colored flizzards rose from the foliage at their approach, scattering like bright fireworks. An ominous whine came from the craft’s innards, ran up the scale and vanished.

“Isa this piece of junk go take us where wesa headed?” announced a voice in accented but recognizable Terran.

Jeppson looked over at his passenger on the seat beside him. “Excuse me, but was that remark directed towards me?”

The Verdan girl smirked. “Yousa don’ remember T’aal, huh? I see yousa take white coat humans to my village long time back. Isa with other Verdan girls there hired to work as maids.”

“Yeah, I remember the place. So what were you doing at that village out in the forest when the ghotes attacked?”

“Isa waiting to get laid.”

Jeppson stared at her. “Come again?”

“All Verdan village elders have spinefruit cob up blowholes about unmatched younglings mating. Isa boyfriend never show up, bad for him on two happenings.” She pouted, gazed morosely out the viewscreen. “Stupid ghote pack come out of forest in afternoon, caught everyone with loincloths down. Usual time they show smelly asses just before suncome.”

“Well, the village DeGras has me ferrying you to has yet to be attacked—”

There was a banshee scream of lathed metal, a rippling blast, then silence. The jetwing sank in a shallow dive toward the trees.

“Holy gorth crap!” Jeppson flipped switches and pulled an almost dead control arm to force the nose up. “Better assume the crash position, shorty.”

“Crash position? Isa that one with boy on top and girl under—”

The blue ferns reached up and swallowed the tiny craft.


The wrecked jetwing lay beside a moss-covered boulder like a child’s broken toy, a column of oily smoke spiraling up into the trees. Jeppson dabbed a rag on an oozing cut on his forehead while he rummaged through the wreckage. T’aal stood to one side watching him, arms crossed, an angry elf.

“Much thanks for nice ride to my new village, Earth guy,” she nagged. “Isa always like walk in forest crawling with hungry ghotes. You know when they come, huh? Flizzards in trees stop making noise and it get real quiet—”

“Aha!” Jeppson pushed aside of crumpled fuselage to reveal the charred emergency pack. He flipped the locks, pried off protective padding and somberly eyed the contents. A case of whisky, the hiding place of Stinky Ed’s private stash. With a stab of relief he pulled out a small comm set tucked beside it. The tiny screen lit up, flickered to DeGras’ face.

“Are you taking a week’s vacation dropping off the little wedge, Jeppson?” he demanded. “I got work for you back at the construction site.”

“The motor pool boys were right.” Jeppson explained. “The jetwing gave out and dumped about a click from the village.”

“Well, whatya want me to do? Honk up a luxury charter for you from Earth?”

“How about the supply shuttle?”

“Supply shuttle ain’t due back from Dropoff until tomorrow.” DeGras chewed his lower lip and seemed to be mulling something over. “Why don’t you just hike to the village, camp out there, polish up your Verdan language skills until we pick you up.”

“Boss, I just cracked open the emergency pack. No weapons or survival gear for our little stroll.”

DeGras looked bored. “Okay, instead of strolling, try running.” The comm screen went blank.

“Isa hungry again. Yousa find any food in box? How long we stay here, T’aal wanna go new village.”

Jeppson became aware of the unceasing litany of complaints behind him, like static from a defective comm set. His eyes fell on a scattering of speckled green feathers stuck to the broken plexglass of the jetwing, an obvious casualty from their plunge through the trees. A thicket of saplings protruded from under the hull. Jeppson grinned and slid the utility knife from his vest.

“Let mesa guess. Dumb Earth guy cutting down branch to make spear.” T’aal trailed after him. “We Verdans have spear too, for fish. Spear not go into ghote thick hair and skin.”

She certainly had persistence and a seemingly limitless supply of breath. Maybe this was why the boyfriend decided not to show.

“I’m making a bow,” he explained.

“Bow? What isa bow?”

“Can’t believe you grew up in a forest and never made a bow when you were a kid. I sure did growing up in the Earth colony on Neverworld IX.” Boyhood skills quickly returned as he shaped the thick sapling, fashioning a bowstring from control wire. He gathered a handful of reeds, fletching them with feathers from the dead flizzard, splinters of plexglas for arrowheads.

“You make tiny spear.” T’aal had ensconced herself on a log. “What dumb Earth guy do when ghote come? Shove tiny spear up its blowhole? Instead of making toys wesa should be walking—”

Abruptly, the unseen flizzards in the blue canopy above them ceased their chatter. An ominous silence fell. A huge ghote materialized from the shadows. It stood for a moment eyeing the two and licking its chops. Then it charged.

With a smothered wail T’aal took refuge behind Jeppson.

“I suppose now its gametime,” he muttered, fitting an arrow to his makeshift weapon and drawing back the bowstring.

The ghote gave out a startled grunt, staring down at the feathered shaft protruding from its hairy chest. A scream of rage was cut short by a second, then a third arrow. It swayed drunkenly and fell heavily to the ground.

“This is how it’s done in the big city.” Jeppson lowered his bow and grinned. He looked down at T’aal wrapped around his waist. “You okay, Shorty?”

“Isa think T’aal just pee her loincloth.” Her grip on his kidneys relaxed slightly. “You sure it dead? Maysa shoot more sticks into it.”

“Dead as a smelt.” He studied the screen on his comm set. “Looks like half a click to your new digs. Now, if there’s no further comments about my little spears, I suggest we take a stroll.”


The Verdan village seemed like a glimpse of some untouched paradise. It was nestled in a green valley by a sparkling lakelet encircled by snow-crested mountains.

“Would Interplanetary Realty love to develop this place,” Jeppson muttered, peering through a tangle of creepers at the forest edge. “Welcome to your new home, Bigears.”

The vision of paradise was lost on T’aal. “Isa see lotta men down there. Hope they all have long manprobes.”

Their arrival at the village became a major social event. Domestic chores, work in the fields stopped while the entire population gathered around to stare. Mats and cushions were provided by Chief M’lagg, the wrinkled and dignified matron.

“Of course she will be welcome here,” said M’lagg after introductions were made. “As our first human guest, we will find you strongest hut to stay.”

Jeppson surveyed the rows of thatched dwellings. “Speaking of which, how is the ghote situation here?”

“Very bad.” M’lagg looked grim. “Village not yet attacked but men go to lake to fish, gather food in forest. Many killed, eaten. Cause other problem.”

“Other problem?”

“Women work in fields away from lake, forest, mostly safe. Now, no unmated men left for village girls.” She considered Jeppson with new interest. “You unmated, single man?”

The drift was obvious. “Um, yeah, but I’m kinda married to my job and—”

One of the girls in the circle of female faces pushed forward. “Isa T’oon, best maker of baskets in valley.”

“Isa J’aill, best baker of tarowbread and waterfish cakes,” announced a second, elbowing her aside.

“Isa W’llon, finest weaver of cloth.”

And so it went until an eager horde of Verdan femininity surrounded Jeppson, announcing their talents and matrimonial assets.

Abruptly, M’lagg clapped her hands. “Enough!” she barked. “S’lykk, take our honored guest to the hut of the Dried Flower. His companion will be welcome at the hut of Unmated Girls. Noonsun we feast!”

The hut of the Dried Flower was clean but smelled faintly of flizzard droppings. Jeppson was standing by his sleeping mat, getting his bearings when T’aal stormed in. She jammed fists into her hips and glared at him.

“I T’aal!” she declared. “Isa lick chrome plate from launch trailer hitch and suck sport ball through refueling hose!” Then she stomped off, slamming the hut door.

“I don’t think this village is ready for T’aal,” he mused.

The comm set on his belt began to beep.

“Yeah, this is Jeppson.”

“Hey Steve, the supply shuttle just got back from Dropoff,”

Stinky Ed’s face announced from the tiny screen. “DeGras says we can pick you up day after tomorrow.”

“Oh joy, two whole days in this rustic hole,” he replied. “By the way, I found your case of whiskey instead of weapons and survival gear in the emergency kit. Thanks a lot, pal.”

“Um ... none of them broken, I hope?”

“I’ll make you a present of the empties.” He made a face. “Just remembered, got invited to lunch with the chief. I heard Verdan chow is worse than roadkill.”

“Well, here’s something else to chew over, Steve. The shuttle pilot told me he heard DeGras used to have a Verdan girlfriend. She was from the first village to get overrun by the ghotes and now it’s a snazzy mountain ski resort for the Homeworld super-rich.”

“I always knew he had trouble keeping it in his pants.”

“Uh huh. Well, this Verdan girlfriend happened to be called T’aal.”

Jeppson felt an icy finger trace a path down his spine. “Must be some kind of weird coincidence.”

“Okay, but she’s been the sole survivor at three villages wiped out by the ghotes.” There was a pause then Stinky’s voice held a note of urgency. “I think something very bad is going to happen at your rustic hole before DeGras comes to pick you up. Aside from getting drunk on my booze, what are you gonna do?”

The bow and its stack of crude arrows were propped up by the hut doorway. Jeppson pondered them, stroking his chin. “I’ll think of something,” he said.


It was the Verdan version of dinner and a show. The show was Jeppson, flanked by a cluster of native children of undetermined sex, staring at him from mouselike, wondering eyes. His hosts had evidently put forth their best effort, a bewildering variety of dishes set out on mats in the huge central chief’s hut. At the far corner by the unmated females mat Jeppson caught a glimpse of the ever-hungry T’aal shoveling it down.

“Mesa beg you to try the pickled fish eyes in spinetoad secretions.” M’lagg pushed a plate toward him. “And here is mesa favorite, regurgitated swamp plums with maggot glaze.”

Jeppson smiled thinly. “Gee, how yummy. But I’m on this low sodium diet. And my digestion has been a little sensitive since I killed that ghote by my downed jetwing.”

M’lagg stopped chewing her mouthful of fermented fern grubs and gaped at him. Utter silence fell in the diners around the mat. “You ... you killed a ghote?” she whispered.

“Yeah, and he’s probably stinking up the woods not far from here.” Jeppson looked from each incredulous face, guessing the timing was right. “In fact, if I could get a couple of your boys to hike out this afternoon where the jetwing crashed I got a little Build and Learn project for them.”

The chief blinked. “You say, Build and Learn?”

“Well, more like Payback’s a Bitch project.”


The ghotes emerged from the fern forest as the sun crested the hills and prowled about the thatch huts. They sniffed the scent of warm bodies inside and licked their chops, grunting in happy anticipation. The pack leader had just extended his claws to the first wicker doorway when he paused, uttering a surprised snort.

A line of Verdans stood in the dim morning light, clutching little sticks. With gratified hoots the pack lumbered forward. A shower of arrows tipped with splinters of plexglas scattered among them, embedding haphazardly in necks and legs.

The ghotes, not realizing what was happening uttered howls of rage and pain and continued the attack. In the next volley the aim of the bowmen was better and ghotes began dropping, writhing in agony. A final shower and the last surviving ghote turned to flee only to sprawl in the dirt, an arrow embedded in its spine.

“Again, this is how it’s done in the big city, guys,” said Jeppson, lowering his bow. His grin reflected things had worked out better than he had hoped. In the back of his mind he wouldn’t have been surprised if his nervous crew had dropped their makeshift weapons and fled at the first sight of claws. They gathered about the dead ghotes in awe.

M’lagg appeared and pushed one of the bodies with her foot. “Isa they dead ... all of them?”

“Kind of hard to nap with an arrow in your ass.” He slapped the nearest Verdan on the back, almost knocking him down. “Say, this deserves a little celebration. How does roast ghote sound to you?”

The circle about the dead ghotes sucked in their breaths. “You mean ... wesa to eat this ... creature?” said M’lagg, aghast.

“Sure. Cut off the hair and claws and it’s just a pig.” He looked about him. “Hey, which one of you spacers snagged the case of whiskey from the crunched jetwing? Lug it into the chief’s hut while I check something out.”

The girls in the unmated females hut were peering through slits in the wall watching the group of bowmen. Their faces beamed with expectation when Jeppson entered the doorway.

“I T’oon, best basketweaver in valley,” one announced, moving in for the kill, but was pushed aside by another.

“I J’aill, finest baker of tarowbread.”

“Yeah, yeah, heard this all before, girls.” He walked over to the row of sleeping mats. “Which one of these belongs to T’aal?”

The matrimonial interest in Jeppson evaporated. “The one with blue blanket,” said T’oon sourly. “Our new sister left early this morningtime. We saw her walk down path to lake.”

“Uh huh. I’ll bet she had a real good reason for a stroll.” Things were beginning to crystallize around a very nasty scenario. He pulled the blanket back. On T’aal’s sleeping mat lay a silver pendant with a pulsing red jewel at its center.

“Oh, pretty necklace!” the girls exclaimed, crowding nearer. “Wesa not know T’aal have. Maybe time she let us wear?”

Jeppson studied the programming buttons on the metal case. “Well, you might not want to wear it taking a walk in the woods. It’s a gametracker.”

The circle of faces looked blank.

“The forest hunters on Swampworld used a similar type for years. They’re electronic gizmos which can be programmed to send out an ultrasonic signal irresistible to prey. In this case ...”

An image of the wrecked village by the lake came to mind. Scattered bones in the mangled thatch of huts. Dried blood on sleeping mats.

Drums and the wailing of flutes started up in the direction of the chief’s hut. Jeppson looked over his shoulder and smiled. “Hey, we’re gonna have a shindig to celebrate. You girls like shindigs?”



The shuttlecraft circled low over the huts, settling onto a field just outside the village. A hatch slid open and DeGras and four of his workmen walked down the ramp. Stinky Ed Valdez scratched his head and gazed down the empty rows. “The place looks deserted, boss. Think they got themselves overrun by another ghote pack?”

DeGras nodded blandly. “Sure looks like it. Gee, what a tragedy, another massacre of them poor Verdans.”

“Want me to have a look for survivors?”

“Probably a waste of time, but go ahead.” He unrolled a sheaf of blueprints he had tucked under his arm. “Dan, start filling out them forms for Native Property Abandonment. Phil, get on the horn and see if Brad can cut loose a pair of slidedozers. I wanna start breaking ground for the luxury golf course Interplanetary wants built here.”

“Boss! Boss!” Stinky Ed came pounding down the street. “You’re not gonna believe it but there’s a huge pile of dead ghotes at the other end of the village shot full of arrows.”

“What!” A sheet from the blueprint roll fell to the ground. “You see any Verdans around?”

“Yeah! They’re all in the big chief’s hut having some kinda party.”

A party was indeed in full swing, lubricated by bottles of whiskey being passed around. Drums and flutes competed with raucous laughter and chatter from the female and male eating-mats.

“This very good.” M’lagg tossed aside a clean picked ghote bone and belched appreciatively.

“Beats the hell out of pickled fish eyes, huh?” Jeppson clinked his bottle to M’lagg’s in toast. “Here’s to more dead ghotes and pig roasts.”

“Yes, yes!” M’lagg was obviously half in the bag. “Here to more roasting pig from dead ghotes.”

Music from drums and flutes petered out as DeGras and his four companions entered the hut. He scowled when he caught sight of Jeppson. “Exactly what in hell is going on around here?” he demanded.

“Party time, boss. Wanna join us?”

“Party time, eh? Lemme tell you—”

An avalanche of Verdan maidens from the unmated females eating-mat descended on DeGras’ four workmen. They were feeling no pain from the fast-disappearing case of Stinky Ed’s whiskey.

“Hi, Earth guy, I T’oon, best basket weaver in village.” She grabbed Dan by the arm. “Come, T’oon want to show you her basket.”

“I J’aill, best baker of tarowbread in valley,” announced another, jerking Phil toward the hut doorway. “Come, J’aill want to show you her oven.”

Surrounded by Verdan females the four Earthmen were hustled though the door.

“Have good time, Earth guys,” said M’lagg with a tipsy leer. “Bake tarowbread, weave baskets, make little cubs.”

“Hold it a second!” DeGras bellowed but was answered by a fading chorus of giggles. He glared at Jeppson, his little eyes mirroring rage, frustration and confusion. “Jeppson, we need to step outside,” he growled.

At the far end of the street a dense cloud of daybats were feeding on the ghote carcasses. DeGras sucked in a measured breath. “Okay, Mr. Delivery Boy, what happened here?”

“You probably noticed the native population on Verdana was being wiped out by the ghotes. I just showed them how to make a weapon to defend themselves. Worked pretty good, don’t you think, boss?” Jeppson decided to jerk the chain a little harder.

“By the way, roast ghote is to die for.”

“You just violated the Non-Interference Charter here on Verdana,” he grated.

Jeppson smiled. “But that’s not what’s really bugging you, is it, DeGras?”

A dull red glow crept up from DeGras’ bull neck. He seemed about four heartbeats from having a stroke. “You got any idea of how much Interplanetary Realty was gonna pay us to build a golf course on this site?”

“Yeah, I heard something about it. Oh, and you haven’t asked me how the Verdan girl we rescued from the wrecked village is doing.”

DeGras looked startled. “Huh? You mean T’aal?”

“Nice you remembered her name. Looks like she forgot her pendant when she went for a stroll by the lake early this morning.” The gametracker dangled from his hand, the red jewel no longer pulsing.

DeGras stared at the gametracker, swallowed hard. He searched Jeppson’s face, seeing only smiling innocence. Grabbing the pendant he stuffed it in a shirt pocket. “Yeah, well ... real tragedy her being the sole survivor,” he stammered. “Might be a good idea to check up on her. Down by the lake, you said?”

Jeppson watched him disappear into the forest. He was no longer smiling.

Jeppson pulled the comm set from his belt and flipped it open. “Hey, Megan, it’s me, Steve,” he said. “I’ll be sending you my story on Interplanetary Realty’s activities here on Verdana. Yeah, real New Pulitzer Prize stuff. Oh, I think the Federation Bureau of Investigation would like a copy, too.”

A cloud of flizzards were screeching and circling a large fern tree by the water’s edge. A tiny face pushed through the blue fronds at DeGras’ approach.

“No hurry to come and get T’aal,” she whined. “Isa like sitting hours in tree having flizzards poop on head.”

“Shut up and climb down,” DeGras ordered. He glanced back at the village where the drums and flutes of celebration had resumed.

T’aal dropped from an overhanging limb, shaking fern leaves from her hair. She strode up to DeGras and crossed her arms.

“Okay, Earth guy. Yousa owe T’aal two hundred creds for leaving pendant thing in village,” she said. “Please to cough up now.”

“Is your hearing going out? Does music and happy voices sound to you like a village overrun by ghotes?”

She stared up at him. “What you say, ghotes not come?”

“Yeah, they came all right but your surprisingly inventive and soon to be unemployed jetwing pilot showed the natives a way to wipe out the whole bunch. In fact, they’re chowing down on them right now.”

Her mouth fell open. “They eating dead ghotes?”

“You ain’t heard roast ghote is to die for? And they’re drunk as skunks on booze they got somewhere.” He shrugged impatiently. “Listen, I gotta get back and round up my crew. I hear Interplanetary has its eye on another village farther down the valley. He pulled the gametracker from his shirt. “Here, you’ll need this when we get there.”

“It turned on!”

“What! It was switched off ...” DeGras gaped at the pulsing red jewel. Frantically he thumbed buttons. “Goddammit, it won’t reset! That bastard Jeppson must have locked in the timer.”

The screetching of flizzards in the forest above them faded away. In the abrupt stillness came the sound of heavy bodies pushing through the underbrush. The ghote pack materialized from a tangle of vines, orange eyes shining.

T’aal and DeGras looked behind them at the big tree by the water’s edge and the beckoning refuge of high branches. With simultaneous screams, stumbling and falling they fled with the speed of abject terror.

They never made it.


The two ghotes wandering the forest clearing were not happy ghotes. Their normally fierce little eyes were haunted, bloodshot from lack of sleep, worry lines around their snouts. They rooted for tubers while nervously eyeing the treeline.

A hovercraft swooped overhead, causing them to freeze in terror, uttering little whimpers of fear. It circled the long line of fence and landed with a descending whine of turbines. A ramp was lowered and a crowd of humans surged up to the wire.

Megan Nevers-Eskew-Jones waited until her crew had set up the newscanner. A tech gave her a thumbs up and she broke into a dazzling smile.

“Good afternoon, Homeworld viewers,” she announced. “We are here today with the Verdana tourist shuttle to view the last surviving ghotes on this side of the planet. This surviving breeding pair has been granted status as an endangered species by the Homeworld Federation. As you are aware, the Verdan humanoids the past year have hunted the ghotes to near extinction.”

A tourist in the crowd waved for attention. “What’s the latest on the Interplanetary Realty scandal here?”

Megan looked smug. “Information gathered by our undercover reporter Steve Jeppson has resulted in seizure of all property on Verdana from Interplanetary. A Verdan Tribal Reservation has been created which will allow the Verdans control over all the resorts, casinos and hotels built by Interplanetary Realty.”

Another hand was raised. “What’s the plan to save the remaining ghotes?”

“Well, this fenced valley enclosure—”

A flicker of arrows came from the treeline. There were squalls of pain from the ghotes merging with horrified screams from tourists behind the wire. A band of Verdan hunters emerged and, ignoring the spectators, drew stone knives and gutted the still twitching ghotes. This produced more screams and several tourists dropped to their knees, retching.

The comically distraught image of Megan Nevers-Eskew-Jones went viral on every planet in the Homeworld system along with her blurted cry of unintentional historical irony.

“Oh, the humanity!”

The Verdans tied grass ropes to the feet of the dead ghotes and dragged them off into the forest. END

Kurt Heinrich Hyatt is a native of Canada living in Arizona. He started writing science fiction in 2010. His stories have appeared in “Encounters Magazine,” “Bastion Science Fiction,” “Nebula Rift,” “Jupiter Science Fiction,” “Aphelion,” and many others.




ad rates


adjacent fields