Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Joy Ride
by Jude-Marie Green

Barnegat Inn
by Brian Biswas

Captain Quasar and the Kolarii Kidnappers
by Milo James Fowler

by Michael Hodges

Discord in Paradise
by Leslie Lupien

(225-50) Agnes
by Mark Ayling

It’s a Long Road to the Sky Train
by Michael Andre-Driussi

Not Her Kind
by Peter Wood

Down Courthouse Wash
by Steven L. Peck

Blink Twice
by Rebecca Birch

by Sean Monaghan


Mad Max, R2-D2 Return
by Adam Paul

Sixteen Shades of Ice
by John McCormick




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




By Sean Monaghan

AURA STEPPED FROM THE SHADOWS, feeling the shimmer off her steppingcloak glide and fade into the air behind. The brickwork wall loomed over her as she trudged through moonlight beginning her search for Gideon.

This was an unfamiliar realslice. She could sense cats, and baking. Stepping into the slices often reminded her of Middle Eastern countries. Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan. Cooking smells and shouting and animals lurking, usually blasting horns from distant traffic, but it was quieter here.

A ginger moggy leapt from a barrel and scampered across the alley in front of her. Aura tensed. Why did they keep sending her on runaway recovery to slices with so many cats? When she got back she was going to ask for her personal file again and highlight and circle and double checkbox the “canine” section and line out the “feline” with a Sharpie.

It was only about every other week that she tracked runaways anyway. Most of her work out of SliceOne was guiding researchers. Few people had a natural ability to move between slices, and even fewer could take others with them.

Aura came to the end of the alley and peered out into a narrow street. It must be winter, the night so dark already, but the market still busy with carpet traders and shoe sales under flickering gas lamps. A scuffle broke out at one of the taco stands. Aura watched for a moment, knowing that Gideon wouldn’t be far away.

Despite having known Gideon since training, she hadn’t seen him in months. Perhaps even a year. Usually between trips operatives hung out in the relax room, talking and resting. It was like he’d been avoiding her. With their history it was kind of no surprise, but still she was bothered by it. Perhaps even hurt a little.

Now there was an order out on him. It seemed wrong. Yes, a few agents had “gone rogue,” as the agency described it. Finding little corners of slices where the worlds were robust and not prone to disturbances.

But she couldn’t imagine Gideon doing that. Something was odd about it.

Slipping past the escalating scuffle, she knew she didn’t have long. Already her presence was creating ripples, exponentially from Gideon’s. She followed the street, heading out of the market to where a main thoroughfare joined. Looking left and right, she saw big wagons, drawn by horses and donkeys, some people on strange bicycles with up and down paddles, rather than circular pedals. Near her one of the cyclists tumbled off the machine, falling into the path of a wagon. She had to locate Gideon quickly.

Holding her left hand up flat and vertical, she lay her thumb and index finger across her nose and forehead, splitting her vision. She closed her eyes for a moment, letting the threads feel their way through the slice. The aether here was different, but she could feel the source of the disturbance, a hundred meters away, to her left. She dropped her hand and ran.

Darting around a big wagon draped in colored banners and flags, she hurtled along the cobbles. People were staring at her, but she couldn’t help that now. Ahead she saw a pub, the wooden sign hanging from a pole over the door, waving a little in the wind. Three people stumbled from the door, blood on them all. One collapsed into the gutter, his blood draining from a long wound in his neck. The man was dying. Someone inside had a knife. For a moment Aura hesitated, almost ready to help, to pull a slapbandg from her kit and stem the flow. This was far worse than they had told her back at the slice facility. Gideon was having a catastrophic effect on the local reality.

These disturbances were why the researchers needed “guides”—people who could get them home quickly if reality was becoming jeopardized.

She stepped over the prone man and pushed her way through the doors into a melee. People shouting, chairs and bottles being thrown. Aura quickly built herself a concentration buffer so nothing could hit her. It wouldn’t hold for long, but she had to find him before he got injured. Weaving her way through the fracas she hunted left and right. With her concentration taken by the shield, she couldn’t pull together threads to pinpoint him exactly, but he had to be somewhere, the pandemonium was so exaggerated.

“Gideon,” she called. “Gideon, where are you?”

“Stay back,” she heard from near the middle of the room. His SliceOne accent distinct amongst the hollers and crashes swamping the room.

“Gideon?” She pushed her way ahead, deflecting swipes from the agitated patrons. She still couldn’t see him.

Two men collapsed in front of her and she saw Gideon, standing right where the two had been, his shoulder heaving as he breathed. “Aura,” he said.

Her tongue felt suddenly thick. She hadn’t expected any welling of feelings like this. “Bringing you in,” she managed to stammer.

Gideon nodded. “We should clear out. This way.” He grabbed her arm with a burly hand and yanked her towards the back of the inn.

“No.” Aura yanked herself out of his grip. “We’ve got to get home.” She reached into her robe for the slice device so they could slip back.

“You don’t understand,” he said, grabbing her again. “We need to get out of here.”

“That’s what I’m doing.” The maelstrom of brawling was getting rougher. She was tempted to follow him, but she knew that anywhere they went it would only get worse, they were the center of it. She pulled from his grip again.

Gideon blinked at her, with the long lashes she remembered from when he’d first come into the holding station and flirted with her. His deep green eyes sparkled in the lantern lights. For a moment the fighting slowed.

In the new quiet, Gideon bent and whispered to her. “It’s starting to dissolve. Let’s go.”

Aura had seen slice disturbances before, with landslides and the wrecks of space freighters, but nothing like this. Color seemed to swirl away from the clothing and faces of the people in the room. “What’s going on?” she said.

Gideon pulled again. “I’m no





           should ...”



Aura asked as Gideon fragmented, pieces of him drifting away, becoming swirls of color amongst cloudy wisps of vapor that she realized were herself. She moved her hand in front of her face, but all she could see were thin smoke-like ribbons and rills that perhaps were once her fingers. “Gideon,” she called, but her voice was thin, stretched as if a single high C sounding through some ancient church organ’s tightest pipe. She could still see him, see his twisting indistinct steamy essence, reaching and shifting for her, so she stretched what remained of herself, straining to connect with him and then


                                          felt           her

                             self slipping, sleep washing

                        over her


                                 mind, until she woke in a

hotel room.

Aura lay on the floor, breathing, her steppingcloak drifting down across her like a blanket draped by a mother over a tired child.

Bed. Curtains. Bedside table. Lamp. Tasteful Monet print on the wall above the bed.

Water was running in the bathroom.

Unable to move, Aura flitted at the edges of unconsciousness.

She thought through a mantra. At rest, I turn. The slice will guide. I move, I stay. At rest, I turn.

There, she thought, after fifteen cycles through the mantra, beginning to feel grounded. She didn’t know where she was, but it was quiet, except for the sound of running water.

Sitting up, she swept the cloak aside and looked over the room again. How had she come here? She stood and went to the bathroom, peering in the door. No one, but the shower was blasting away. She turned it off.

This was wrong. She’d traveled through more slices than anyone on the team. It was always a matter of balance. Guiding researchers to the odd realities was her main job, not twisting and swirling through ... something different. Had she been drugged?

Back in the room she pulled aside the curtains, expecting to see a city, an array of buildings, who knew when or where, but at least a city. The window looked directly out to a blank concrete wall. No way to tell where she was. She would have to go to the lobby, but when she tried the door the handle moved without unlatching.

Trapped, she thought, yanking on the door. Drawn somewhere unknown and trapped.

In the bathroom, she pushed on the ceiling access panel, but it was bolted down. Or just sealed, like the door. As if she was imprisoned.

Splitting her vision again, she tried to gather the threads.


She was the only one of the operatives who did this. It was what set her apart, and made her able to bring order to the slices quickly. She’d tried teaching others, but they never mastered it.

She stood by the bed and focused, then swung the stepping cloak around, picturing moving through the slices. She covered her face, turned gently and knew right away that it hadn’t worked. Dropping the cloak, she was still in the hotel room. The cloak was disabled.

She felt the cloak. The slice device had been taken. It was only an enhancer; she should still be able to slip through with her natural ability.

The window was a single pane of glass, floor to ceiling and wall to wall, and she considered smashing it with a chair then climbing up or down the exterior of the building. She imagined the chair bouncing back from unbreakable glass like in a movie.

She sat on the edge of the bed, considering her options.


Not right away, but she would think of something

The television flickered on. Gideon. He was sitting on a chair, apparently in another room identical to hers.

“Aura,” he said.

“Gideon. What’s going on?”

“This is your interrogation.”


He gave a little smile. “You knew this was coming.”

“You mean I was expecting this to be what happened when I chased you down to bring you in for questioning? No chance. You can’t hide out in the slices. You become like a splinter in flesh. An irritant. You get ejected.”

“Ah. Did you forget your defection?”

Defection? What was he talking about?

“Where is Salazar?” Gideon said.

“I don’t know any Salazar.”

“But it was in your report.” Gideon held up a sheaf of papers.

“Listen. I had a time-limited order to track you down and return you from a semi-medieval analogue slice with too many bloody cats. That’s what I do. My job. I track people through the slices.”

Gideon shook his head slightly, looking down at the floor.

“Look,” she said. “I know we have a history, that’s partly why I drew the assignment.”

“A history? That’s what you call it?”

“We were engaged, in case you forgot.”

“Oh, that?”

“You were in breach,” she said, scowling at him. “I don’t know what you thought you were going to retrieve from that place, but nonetheless, there you were.” She didn’t especially like this part of the job. Challenging, sure, but too fraught by half. Far better to guide a group of scientists.

“That’s your story?” Gideon said.

“I don’t know what happened after that. It seemed like a slice distortion to begin with, but then things went haywire.”


“You were there.”

Gideon nodded this time. “So, all that aside, what of Salazar?”

“I don’t even know who you’re talking about.”

Gideon’s eyes widened. “I—”

The hotel room’s door burst open. Aura leapt off the bed, backing up. Gideon strode into the room.

“Come on,” he said. “We should get out of here.”

He was still on the television. A recording? How could that be?

“I don’t think so,” she said.

“You shouldn’t be here,” Gideon, on the television, said.

The Gideon in the room looked at the screen. “And you shouldn’t be interfering.”

“No,” the television Gideon said, “that’s what I’m telling you.”

The Gideon in the room looked at Aura. “We’ve got maybe twenty seconds before they get here.”

Aura was still looking between the television and the room, trying to make sense of it. Clearly not a recording on the television, but it was definitely Gideon, with the mannerisms and body language, not some copy. “Where did you come from?” she whispered.

“You’ll be tried,” the television said. “Gideon. You need to abandon this or you’ll hang.”

Gideon picked up a chair and used it to smash the television. “Stand back,” he said, moving towards the window with the chair. Aura watched a thin line of smoke rise from the broken set, wondering who this Gideon was. He leant back and swung the chair at the window. Aura bent, covering her face with her hands. There was a crack, then a dull thump.

“Come on,” Gideon said.

Aura looked up, saw that the window hadn’t broken. It was wobbling as if it was just a thick sheet of Lexan. The chair was in pieces on the floor.

“Aura?” Gideon said. He reached out for the shimmering window, his hand slipping through as if the glass was water. “Let’s go.”

“Who are you? I don’t even know.”

“It won’t stay open long.”

“Tell me what’s going on.”

A sound from behind her at the door. She turned and saw the other Gideon.

“This is foolish,” he called.

“Come with me now,” the Gideon with his hand impossibly through the glass said. He was reaching his other hand out to her.

“You can’t trust him.”

“Shut up.”

“We’ll complete the interrogation, then you can return to your duties.”

“Unlikely,” Aura said. She grabbed the outstretched hand and Gideon hauled her through the window.








Gideon hit the bottom first, legs splayed like some superhero who’d leapt from a building. Aura landed too, like him, as easily as stepping from a bus.

“Huh,” Gideon said. “That worked well.”

“Where are we?” It was dark, twilight colors across the horizon, and it seemed as if they’d landed on a big plain; there was nothing nearby, no buildings, no trees. She couldn’t even sense cats. Or Middle Eastern cooking. This wasn’t like stepping into a slice.

“Halfway to Salazar,” he said

“You know who Salazar is?”

Where is the word. I know where Salazar is. Kind of.”

“And what is going on here, anyway? First I find you, get set to bring you in, then there’s some anomaly with the slice. Next thing you’re interrogating me in a hotel. But it’s not you. Here you are here, but again, wherever here is.”

“It’s nice to see you,” he said. “I miss you.”

“I ...” She couldn’t respond. She missed him too, regretted that they’d ended the engagement. For a flash, she wondered if he was seeing anyone, then shook her head, trying to banish that attraction. There were orders to bring him in.

“We should go. They might track us.” Gideon started walking, heading for the brightest part of the dim horizon.

Aura followed. To her left she thought she could see the silhouette of a copse of trees. Then from somewhere beyond and ahead she heard a bird screech. She hurried to keep up with Gideon. “Questions,” she said.

“Shoot, just keep moving.”

“You’re the real Gideon? The one I tracked.”

“That’s right.”

“And the other?”

“That’s me too. A real me, but not one you tracked. I have a feeling it was a reversal somewhere. It sounds too easy, but that Gideon is tracking another Aura. He found you instead.”

She took a moment to process this. “Another Aura.”


There were some buildings about a mile off, and the copse of trees had expanded, was becoming a forest. From nearby she could smell baking.

“Nothing quite seems real until we’re here,” Gideon said.

“This is why there was an order out on you?”

“I guess.”

It wasn’t twilight, Aura realized as the horizon brightened. It was dawn. Clouds were growing, and becoming deep red. She could hear the sound of traffic and some of the buildings were assembling themselves higher into multi-storey office blocks.

“I stepped through one day,” Gideon said, “just normal reconnaissance, but as I stepped I thought back, I got distracted, and my step through the slices didn’t work properly. I landed, like just now, in a blank world, which assembled itself around me. I still haven’t figured it out. Perhaps the world does exist, just that it takes a while to adapt to my presence. Perhaps it’s a construct from my memories. Perhaps it’s only my perceptions.”

“You came here through the window before?”

“Not the same window. Those analogues, they’ve figured out a steppingcloak suppressor system. Well, not hard really, they just implemented it. Even suppresses someone like you.”

Aura remembered swirling the cloak in the hotel room and nothing happening.

“Then I found Salazar. And I found you at the same time.”


“The other you. Well, an other you. Who knows how many there might be?”

“We do get around.”

He looked at her and smiled. “Lost your sense of humor, huh?”

“Looks like.”

The sun broached the horizon. The new world lit up, filled with buildings and trees. They were walking along the shoulder of a four lane bitumen road. Overhead a propeller-driven plane chugged by. The town was only about a mile off, but tract houses were fading in all around. A big Chrysler SUV backed out of a garage onto the feeder road.

“We’ll have traffic in a moment,” Gideon said.

“Is there a plan? To get back home?” The plane, Aura noticed, was turning, lining up for the airport.

“Get to Salazar,” Gideon said, watching the plane. “We need a vehicle. Follow me.” He ran down the gravel embankment. Leaping the grassy ditch, he scrambled up to the other side. The SUV whipped past him. “Come on,” he called, looking back at Aura.

The plane’s engine was louder. It was circling, dropping lower.

“Is that them?” she said. “The other Gideon?”

“More than likely. You should move.” He turned and ran across the road, heading towards the houses.

Aura watched the plane. She slid down to the ditch, jumped and crawled up after Gideon. The plane was losing altitude, swinging around to line up on her position. Gideon ran up the front walk of one of the houses. He tried the door. Aura saw him step back a little, then lift his foot and kick. The door shuddered in its frame.

“What are you doing?” she said as she came up. The plane flew over the house.

“Getting us a ride.” He kicked again and the door popped open. A woman inside shouted. Gideon ran in.

Aura looked back at the plane. It had slowed somehow, its nose was pitching up. Its propellers had also angled up and she saw a horizontal rotor near the back. A geometry changer, shifting from a plane to a VTOL. It began hovering over the street.

“Get out,” the woman in the house shouted. “I’ve got a gun.”

Aura heard another crash. The woman was standing at the end of a hallway, looking through a door to the side and holding a small pistol. Behind her there was a baby in a highchair.

“Sorry,” Gideon shouted out of sight. “Just borrowing your car.”

The VTOL touched down.

An engine started in the garage. The woman fired the pistol.

The side door on the VTOL opened.

With a crash, a Mustang smashed backwards through the wooden garage door. Aura ducked flying splinters.

“Get in,” Gideon hollered, throwing open the passenger door.

She saw the other Gideon in the VTOL’s doorway.

Another shot from the pistol. The baby was crying. Aura leapt into the car. Gideon thumped the accelerator. Aura’s door slammed shut. She glanced over her shoulder to see the VTOL winding up again, the door closing.

“Hold on,” Gideon said.

They bumped over the curb, swung around another backing SUV, then sped along the street.

“You had this all planned?” Aura said.


“Improvising a Mustang?”

“Corvette would have been better, but most of these places will have a practical car and a fun car.”

“And a gun?”

“That, I hadn’t counted on.”

Aura looked back. “The plane’s in the air again.”

“Check the glove compartment, see if there’s another gun.”

Aura clicked it open. Maps, baby wipes, a flashlight. No gun. “Sorry.”

“Uh-huh. We’ll have to lose them in the city.” Gideon swung the car onto the main road, pushed the speed up over eighty. The plane kept tailing them.

“If we make it to the city.”

Gideon glanced over. “Glad you’re going with it,” he said. “Nothing seems to surprise you.”

“Whatever. Operating at the level of shocked here.”

He nodded. Swinging the wheel again, he swept the car onto the 270 degree swirl of a freeway interchange ramp.

“Lots of questions, though,” she said clutching the door handle. “For instance, how are we expecting to outrun a plane in a car?”

“Lose them in the city.”

Looking ahead, as Gideon darted through the freeway traffic, she saw they were quickly approaching the looming buildings of downtown. The city was much bigger than she’d thought at first. Like Chicago or Philadelphia, awash with high-rises.

The plane fired on them. A missile streaking overhead, impacting a semi. The truck twisted, jackknifing. Gideon braked, dragging the wheel. The car slammed sideways. He let go of the brake, pulled the wheel back. The Mustang shuddered, swept past the burning wreck. He slowed, made for an exit ramp. They dropped away from the freeway, onto surface streets, slipping in amongst rows of five and six-storey tenement blocks. Gideon turned into an alley and stopped. From the distance Aura could hear sirens. She sat back in the seat, trying to slow her breathing.

“Salazar is just a place,” he said. “You can’t get there. No one can. Almost no one.”

“But you know how to get there?”


“And why they want it?”


“Which is because?”

Gideon pressed his lips to a thin line. After a moment, he said, “It holds the key, I think.”

“To? Tell me the whole thing.”

He nodded. “I was running down a slicethief about three months ago. Toby Miller. I guess you saw the sheets on him. He was from the outer slices originally, doing similar work, but limited. His slice only had access to two or three others, so they weren’t dealing with our issues. Anyway, he’d met some of us, even though he couldn’t naturally get into SliceOne. His department closed down, but he managed to track one of our people and, well, then he got a job with our bureau.

“Toby was with us for about three years before he went rogue. He’d found something that accessed more angles to the slices. Sub-slices. Like here. Since he was used to only a few slices, when he was trained in moving through more, he saw something and started experimenting with himself and found ways to access worlds we hadn’t even considered.

“That would have been fine if he’d filled in some reports. But he didn’t. In one of the really hard-to-access spaces he set himself up. Fancy penthouse apartment, money.”

“Seen that kind of thing before,” Aura said.

A cop car, sirens blaring, sped past the entry to the alley.

“Yes. So I was tasked to bring him in. Tracked him fine, mostly, but through layers I couldn’t imagine. Worlds that were almost pure duplicates, worlds with different physics, worlds with no sun, with two suns, where Earth was a moon around a gas giant. And variations within those. It was as if the slices we know about can be infinitely sliced themselves, with endless variations within.”

“So the other Gideon? He’s from one of those almost pure duplicate worlds?”


“And you found all this out with your tracking?”

“That’s right.”

“So why was I tracking you?”

“Misinformation. Toby has planted sleeper data in places all over. Computer codes, paper files, rock markings.”

“That’s a joke?”

“Yes, but he put information into our databases that I was rogue, made it easy for the stream to paste a capture order on me. That’s why the other Gideon was— is—chasing you.”

“So how do you know all this about him? Toby.”

“I caught him. Briefly. He was restrained and I was questioning him when he just twirled his finger and vanished.”

“Guess you should have restrained his finger too.”

“Yeah. That was something new.”

“And Salazar? What’s that about?”

“It’s a convergence. Toby found it. If you access Salazar, you can access anywhere. Hard to get into, but once you’re there, you can go anywhere.”

Aura leant back, staring out through the windshield, trying to make sense of it. She’d been a slice guide for nearly fifteen years, thought she knew her way around. There was sometimes talk about other slices, besides the few hundred that could be accessed, but only as if there might be a few others, maybe even a few hundred more. Never any consideration of effectively infinite numbers. “How did you find me?” In some ways it made sense, not all steps were two-way; sometimes she had to take convoluted return tracks, brief stops in odd slices to get back to SliceOne.

“Been tracking Toby a while. Sensed you out of place.”

“And the window thing? What was that?”

“I primed it. Listen, the only way we’ve figured to move between the slices is with the stepping cloaks, right. It’s not the only way. In fact, stepping cloaks can be a hindrance in some cases.”

Aura nodded. “So what now?”

“Find Toby, bring him in.”

But if there was no way to hold the man, why bother? Better to survive, return home and just report. See if they could get a dead-or-alive bounty on him, then trying to hold him live would be moot. And right now the immediate concern had to be the pursuers. The plane.

“You know how to get to Salazar?”

“Yes. Not from here, though, only from a few places. We’ll need to shift through to another slice before we try. We’ll be followed.”

“Otherwise return home?”

“That’s a little more complicated too.”

“Not accessible from this slice?” Aura said

Gideon moved his hands, clutching the wheel. He glanced over his shoulder. “We came through that window, the slice formed around us. At the moment it’s still fresh. We’d need to backtrack.”

“Through the other Gideon’s slice?”

“Yes.” His hand moved towards the ignition.

From his other hand she saw a glint of light. A ring. A simple gold band.

“We’re still married?” she said, her own hand on the door latch.

“We—” He lunged for her.

Aura yanked the car door open and leapt out. She swirled the steppingcloak. Gideon tumbled across the passenger seat. His outstretched fingers slid against the cloak fabric.

Then, smells, cooking and blossoms. The shimmer from the steppingcloak glided and faded in the air behind her. Cats. She was back in the semi-medieval world where she’d first found Gideon. In the same alley.


A wedding ring. He was the wrong Gideon.

Aura ran.

She felt a slight disturbance in the air, then a thump. Looking back she saw the Mustang shimmering in. The throaty engine revved.

Turning onto the street, Aura sprinted. The cobbles were uneven under her feet. People in rough-sewn clothing milled around, horses pulled wagons and coaches. Rainwater and excrement lay in puddles along the roadway.

The Mustang burst from the alley, shuddering across the cobbles as it turned. A horse reared, whinnying.

Sprinting along the main road her breath became ragged. The car’s horn blared. Townspeople rushed out of the way.

Then, in the air, a plane. The same plane that had fired on them. It was moving fast and low, rotors humming, already shifting to helicopter mode.

There. The pub where she’d first found him.

The Mustang bowled through fruit stalls and smashed aside flimsy wooden wagons. People screamed. The plane fired a missile.

Aura ducked as the missile skimmed over the Mustang’s hood, impacting the road. The explosion lifted her off her feet.

The Mustang kept moving. It sped past her and through the smoke. Stunned, Aura heard more screaming. The plane buzzed in overhead, slowing to a standstill almost right above.

She was lying on her side in a puddle. Dazed, she struggled to her feet. Her right arm hung at her side, the shoulder felt sprained, even broken.

The pub’s door was open and people were pouring out. Gideon came with them. Her Gideon. Just getting her feet under her, she shouted at him.

He did a double take, and ran over. “Aura.”

“You need to come home,” she said.

“Get inside with me.”

Already the Mustang was turning. The plane was almost on the ground.

Gideon put his arm around her, his hand under her injured shoulder, and he half-carried her inside the pub.

“We don’t have long,” she whispered.

The room was almost empty. The drinkers had fled, but for two still slumped across tables.

“You found Salazar?” she said. Not even knowing if she could trust him.

“No. But found out what it is.” He went to an unconscious man and hauled him up.

She heard small arms fire from outside. The other Gideons shooting at each other.

“We should go,” she said.

“Your arm’s hurt. Can you step?”

“I have to. Will you come?”

“Of course, I’ve caught my target.” He indicated the unconscious man.


“How do you know?”

“You told me.”

“I did?”

The door burst open. Gideon stood there bleeding from his scalp, leaning on the door frame. A pistol hung limply in his hand. “You’re under arrest,” he called. He was breathing hard.

“I’ll come quietly,” Aura said, and took her Gideon’s hand, spinning the cloak.

“Wait,” the Gideon at the door called, raising the gun.

The other Gideon, the third one, appeared at the door behind him, shouting something that was lost in the step away from the slice.

The shimmer faded and Aura opened her eyes. “It’s you?” she said. She was back in the plain white departure room.

“Yes,” Gideon said. He dropped Toby Miller to the floor.

“So we can get to Salazar?” She imagined the excited researchers beside themselves when they heard.

“We can. But not many of us can step through. It takes a very fine focus.”

Aura nodded, wondering if she had that kind of focus.

“The trick,” Gideon went on, “is keeping Miller here. And keeping the agency from getting him. Imagine the disruptions.”

“Yes of course.” Aura sat down and slipped the cloak from her shoulders. She hoped Gideon would train her. She wanted to see all these places, to experience the plethora of slices.

“Also,” Gideon said, holding out his open hand, fingers stretched wide. There was a thin gold ring lying on his palm. The engagement ring.

“You’ve still got that?”

“Thought about tossing it, a couple of times. Couldn’t do it.”

She stood up, smiling. “I’m glad.” END

Sean Monaghan is a New Zealand-based writer. His novels include “Rotations” from Lucky Bat Books, “The Tunnel” and “Habitat” from Triple V. His short stories have appeared in “Asimov’s,” and frequently in “Perihelion Science Fiction.”


Adventurous Professions