Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Clean Limbs of Robots
by Francis Marion Soty

Garbage Miners
by Sean McLachlan

All Comms Down
by Anne E. Johnson

Do Stand-Up Bots Dream of Electric Hecklers?
by James Aquilone

by Timothy J. Gawne

Human Faces
by Karl Dandenell

Charybdis Run
by Nathan Ehret

by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks

Halieis Anthropon
by A.L. Sirois

by Richard Zwicker

You Need to Know
by Michaele Jordan


Animated Pictures
by J. Miller Barr

by Eric M. Jones




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips



Shorter Stories

Dealing With the Dead End

By Michael Haynes

THE DEAD END BAR HAD A WELL-EARNED reputation as one of the cruddiest bars in the Omicron Sector. I should know, I’d worked hard to cultivate that reputation over the years. The building was a cargo hold carved out from a wrecked freighter I’d bought, perfect for giving the place a natural junky look. I kept the lighting low, brought in a bunch of beat-up tables and chairs, and decorated the walls with burned-out blasters, bits of pieces of engines and deflector generators, and quite a few not-quite-pornographic pictures.

We wouldn’t stand for any truly rough stuff; the Kalangar bouncers I’d hired made sure of that and as a result the local authorities kept off my back. Everyone knew you could make an unsavory connection or ten at Mia Santana’s bar, but you’d be perfectly safe while you were doing it.

Not that anyone was doing business here these days. Everything had gone to hell since the Meentoo showed up.

The Meentoo stank. Quite literally. Bad enough that none of our other customers stuck around once they’d arrived, excepting a couple of geezers who’d burned out their olfactory capacities years ago in one way or another. The Meentoo had attitudes to match their aroma, though they were good at not actually doing anything you could quite call “trouble.” And at almost three meters tall and a thousand kilos a head, they weren’t the type of folks you could just tell to wander along now and stink up some other joint.

Kitty sidled up to me. She was my right-hand woman and the person I expected to eventually take over for me as the owner of the Dead End. Had expected, that is. The Meentoo were not only smelly and passive-aggressively surly, but light drinkers and lousy tippers. A few more weeks of this and my cash reserves would be dry and then the Meentoo would have to find another bar, whether they liked it or not.

“A shame we don’t have lower ceilings,” she muttered. I’d been the one to make that observation first. It had been a joke, then, on the second day the Meentoo had been around, back when we figured they would be moving along soon just like everyone else eventually did.


The door opened and Carlo walked in, grimacing.

“I got bad news, Mia,” he said when he got to the bar. I saw him taking shallow breaths, taking in as little of the Meentoo stink as possible.

“What else is new, hermano?” Little brothers, almost always bad news.

“Those guys,” He gestured toward the table of belching Meentoo. “I know why they’re sticking around. There’s been a coup on their homeworld and they belong to the same clan as the leader who was ousted.”

“So they’ve got nothing better to do than sit around for the rest of their lives?”

“Well, thing is, there’s an election in a few months and they’re thinking their guy might get put back in charge and—”

“I thought you said there’d been a coup?” Kitty asked. “Doesn’t that usually end up with the old guard dead or in exile?”

“Meentoo politics. I don’t think anyone really understands.” He shrugged. “Anyway, they’re just cooling their heels here until the election.”

“By which time the Dead End will be only a memory.” I rubbed my forehead. “You’re right Carlo, that’s bad news.”

I sounded last call a half-hour early and told Kitty to call it a night. If we weren’t going to be selling drinks, we might as well go home and smell something other than the sour stench permeating the Dead End.

One of the Meentoo grumbled at me, pointedly looking at the clock on the wall.

“Closing up early tonight, guys. You’ll just have to wait for tomorrow to sip your next Siluvian Ale.” Two could play at the passive-aggressive game.

The lone bouncer herded our patrons out ten minutes later.

“You alright, Mia?” he asked me once the Meentoo were gone. His voice, like all of the Kalangars, sounded ridiculously pinched with nostril-plugs in place.

“Yeah,” I sighed. As alright as I could be.

The next morning, before I opened, Carlo burst through the bar’s door. He was grinning like he’d just won the lottery.

“Mia, I figured it out!”

“Figured what out?”

“How to get rid of the Meentoo!” He pulled out his pocket computer and set it on the bar. I bent to read the text it was displaying.

“Are you sure?” I asked him. “Because this ...”

Hermana, what have you got to lose?”

My reputation, I thought. But ... better that than the bar.

A week later, the stench of the Meentoo was finally gone. Kitty and I were busy behind the stick and the credits were piling up in the till. The bar was back to normal. Well, almost.

If I’d thought to wonder what smells might run the Meentoo off, I probably would have gotten nauseous just trying to imagine something so rank. That just shows how wrong I can be sometimes.

Carlo’s research and a quick run to a horticulturist a couple of planets over had done the trick.

So we had back our cutthroats, our swindlers, our smugglers, thieves, and mercenaries. All of whom sat in our lousy chairs under the same dim lights at our beat-up tables. Everything just like before, except that each table had a vase on it stuffed full of bright, aromatic flowers—lilacs, roses, and hydrangeas.

They almost made the place look cheerful. END

Michael Haynes has appeared in “Beneath Ceaseless Skies,” “Nature,” and “Daily Science Fiction.” His previous story for “Perihelion” was in October, 2013.



Parable of the Packet-Slapper

By Jerry L. Robinette

IT WAS THE FUTURE. Things were different but people were basically the same.

Dunwoody Fleen earned his living flicking data-rich photons into clouds, datasinks, and nodes on the info-sphere. He was a Data Routing Technician at one of the largest knowledge brokerages in the world—one packet-slapper among thousands performing that essential task.

He was also a young man in love, with an eye to his future.

He devoted his heart (and most of his concentration) to a vivacious archivist from the muni biblio. Gleena Gala was lithe and slick in the most current ways, a copper-headed joyboat with a smile that made his hands go still.

He sat in his workcube, fingers dancing with spurts of photons while his mind dreamed exotic dreams.

He knew Gleena appreciated fine things; he wanted to give them to her. He had his own yearnings, for independence, abundance, all the wonders offered by self-help ’casts.

He knew his genius was in his hands, so the logical plan was an intel-speakeasy. He would config the mesh and incoming streams. Gleena would mastermind archiving and data maintenance.

They could work from a shared hive-apt; their friends would be their first customers. Life would be a petri dish of vat-grown cherries.

Gleena seemed massively synced with the plan. They discussed it for almost twenty minutes before she was lured into a passing song-cloud.

He scheduled a day off, put on his finest corn-silk dashiki, and peddled to the West Lank Cash Bank. In one pocket he carried a databurp of notes, plans, and dreams.

The loan officer sat behind his flexiglass desk, listened quietly, scribbled notes. When Dunwoody finished, he pressed a button to summon a troupe of auditors. They shredded his databurp while the loan officer mocked him in a variety of foreign accents.

“No market,” he chanted in ersatz French. “No niche!” He used a German accent to make snide comments about the start-up costs. Bits of shredded burp swirled about like confetti. A security bot led him out. The burly bot walked him to the exitchute. He heard laugher receding into the background.

His heart ached, his dream seemed impossibly distant. He called in sick the next day and sat at home, juggling monorail tokens on his fingertips, trying to visualize some new route to a bountiful future with Gleena.

Maybe he was meant to be a DRT, and should just be the best ever at that. He would elevate the role to heights never before achieved. He would master every task, redefine the function, perhaps redefine the entire industry!

He blazed into work brimming with enthusiasm and home-brew stimulants. He reorganized his cube, repositioned junctions, and posted a Manifesto in the datamine. His fingers danced like never before, spraying data in graceful cascades.

He was contemplating further refinements when he saw his supervisor approaching. She smiled a bright, grim smile and carried a pasteboard parcel. He blushed, assuming it to be some sort of award.

She sat the parcel on his desk. He leaned over and peeked in. It was empty.

“Pack your phalanges and go. We don’t pay you to change things. You’re becoming a disruption. Just go away.”

Stunned, he just went.

Dunwoody stood on the street corner holding his box of personal effects, ruminating. How long before his employer notified his landlord of his termination? He wouldn’t be evicted immediately; his credit history was incandescent. So he’d have time to glom a new gig, probably. But that’d mean starting from zero, a whopping setback to a forward-thinking handman.

He zapped out of his reverie when he saw Gleena rounding the corner with a pair of workmates. He knew they’d seen him. Resisting the urge to flee, he sat the box down and greeted them with his flashiest waves.

Gleena introduced her friends, ignored the box, told some arcane tale of arcane office doings. Dunwoody listened fiercely. He barely noticed when one of her friends popped open a cloud of music.

Gleena talked. Dunwoody listened, hoping she wouldn’t ask about the box, trying to hear through the notes bleeding out of the song-cloud. He didn’t notice his hands reflexively catching the rhythm, flailing to the beat.

Could she have heard about his firing? How long could he hide it from her?

Gleena stopped speaking and stared at her friend, who was mimicking Dunwoody’s motions.

The friend grinned and shrugged. "Hot-cha-chango, that’s max how you’re jamming! Come on down the club, there’s bands will kill for flashands like yours to tune folks in!”

Those words inadvertently gave Dunwoody the key to riches and success, as the originator of the DRT hand-jive. Within months he was hosting the uber-def holocast in the system, and on the verge of opening his own studio.

Gleena’s friend gained fame and fortune as the Founding Mother and First Fan. Less than a year later Dunwoody made his dreamboat Ms. Gleena Fleen; together they gesticulated forward.

And the rest will be history! END

Jerry L. Robinette has been writing fiction for most of his life. He lives in central Ohio and works as a software designer for the Online Computer Library Center.



Dirty Work

By C.E. Gee


They came at us from out of the Sun. We’d always thought that aliens would arrive from outside our Solar System, coming inward. Instead, they came from the inside out.

After an alien ship established orbit around Earth, it began radio frequency transmissions in multiple languages such as Sanskrit, classic Hebrew, Mayan, Egyptian; modern English, Chinese, French, Spanish, many others. Apparently, the aliens had been monitoring us for some time.

The aliens told us that suns are connected via hyperspace channels to black holes at the center of their respective galaxies. The aliens use these channels for interstellar transportation and communication.

The aliens also told us that not only was our Sun a terminus for a hyperspace channel, there is another hyperspace channel that passes very near the outside of our solar system, through what we call the Oort cloud.

The aliens informed us that billions of our years ago, their ancestors often used the hyperspace channel that was located near the Oort cloud.

At that time, our solar system had no life forms.

So said ancestors, who the aliens freely admitted were relatively unenlightened, used this area as a dumping ground for lavatory waste from their spaceships. The waste turned into globs of water ice, ammonia, methane.

Collisions, and their own weak gravitational influences, caused globs of this ice to merge or accrete into larger blocks, often corrupted by specks of space-dust and/or meteors.

Eventually, because of what we call gravitational force exerted by our Sun, what the aliens refer to as universal expansion, many of these blocks headed for our Sun became comets.

Some of the comets collided with Earth.

Hardy microbes and other micro-organisms, frozen and dormant in the lavatory waste, came out of dormancy, evolved. And here we are.

The aliens informed us that their mission was to clean up the environmental messes their ancestors had made.

They’re giving us one day to settle our affairs.

I’ve printed this message to hardcopy. I’m going to secure it as best I can. If someone finds this ...

Well, I really don’t know what else to say. My wife and I, we’re going over to the beach for our last day together. The coast is beautiful this time of year.

Goodbye; it’s been real.



The professor was bemused by the sight of his visitor, who was obviously a worker. Its carapace was unpolished, its pincers were too small to be that of a soldier, too large to be that of an intellectual.

But being a staunch liberal, the professor was sympathetic to workers.

Proclaimed the visitor, “My daughter 831, who was spawned a breeder but, like many of our youth, has forsaken her caste, is now a student at your university.”

The professor respectfully waved one antenna, replied, “You must be very proud. Forgive my conceit; we have a splendid institution here. She will receive a first class education.”

“I’m sure. Anyway, my daughter told me you’re the only one here who can figure out what I’ve got. It’s the weirdest writing I ever did see.”

The visitor held out short piece of pipe he’d been holding. The professor could see that the pipe and end-caps were not standard.

The visitor unscrewed one of the end caps, shook out a single sheet of paper, passed it over to the professor.

The professor glanced briefly at the writing on the paper.

The professor said, “I recognize this script. It’s alien; it’s rare. There’re only three of us on Tuk-Tuk who are capable of translating it.”

“What’s it say?” asked the visitor.

“Well, I’m afraid the translating will take a bit. Why don’t you come back about this time tomorrow.”

The visitor replied, “Sure doc. I was going to be around these parts for awhile, anyhow, visiting with my daughter and what not.”

“Where did you obtain this?” asked the professor, holding out the paper.

The visitor replied, “I’m on a crew that follows one of the environmental clean-up details around. After the environmental clean-up detail creates an asteroid belt, my job is to look for primitive artwork within the asteroid belt—you know, artwork for museums and art galleries and such. One of the robots I was overseeing found the pipe. My boss said because it wasn’t a piece of art, I could keep it.”

“Dirty work,” commented the professor. “But, I suppose someone has to do it.”

“Pays real good,” declared the visitor.

“I’m sure it does. See you tomorrow.” END

C.E. Gee is retired and maintains a blog entitled “Gardyloo.” His science fiction stories have appeared in “Bewildering Stories” and “Plasma Frequency.”



In the Maze of His Infinities

By Henry Szabranski

I DON’T EXPECT YOU TO UNDERSTAND, Ariadne. But I’m doing this for you. For us.

Ryan says there’s no such thing as infinity. That it’s only a mathematical abstract. The real universe, he says, is quantized and bounded, and everything has a limit. He says even time has an end. Well, Ryan is a fool. He spouts the measure of everything but he knows the value of nothing. My love for you, Ariadne, knows no bounds. After what I’ve done today even you must recognize that.

Hey, now. Shhh. Don’t struggle. You’ll only hurt yourself.

I’ve learned a lot today. Not just about you and Ryan. See that blue glow? It means this transline is powering up. Soon it’ll be ready.

Don’t look so surprised. I’m not just some dumb space jockey, ferrying you scientists back and forth between The Construct and the base. Or an easy lay you picked up at the spaceport bar. I do my own research. I speak with everyone who visits.

The explorers always warn me to stay away. Say it’s haunted. That the Builders didn’t abandon it, only got lost inside their own maze and couldn’t find their way back out again. They say infinity isn’t something human minds can cope with. Say if we stare too long into the tunnels or venture too far down them we’ll go mad. Well it doesn’t stop them. Or you and Ryan. And it’s not going to stop me.

It all seemed so different this morning, didn’t it? Life is full of surprises. That’s another lesson I’ve learned today.

I admit I was excited. Not just about entering The Construct again—although it’s always a rush, even after all these times—but about us. About our future. Or what I thought it would be. I believed you, Ariadne. I believed all that stuff about how I was the one for you. How we’d be together forever. I was really looking forward to showing you around.

Had to ruin it, though, didn’t you? By bringing Ryan.

Awesome. That’s what you kept saying. You and him. Staring around, all wide-eyed, like little kids. “The things we’ll learn,” you said. You smiled at me, but I saw that look. That little frown. Micro expressions, isn’t that what they’re called? And I saw you hold his hand, when you thought I wasn’t looking. I didn’t believe it. Not at first. He was just a colleague, I thought. Your nerdy workmate.


But then we reached Grand Central. I know you got some fancy name for it: Aleph Nexus, Cardinal Prime, Cantor’s Cathedral ... whatever. We pilots call it Grand Central. You can see why. All the translines converging, reaching out to infinity. Beautiful. Awesome. I guess you forgot I was there. You and Ryan, holding hands. Spouting nonsense.


You scientists. Always so sure of yourselves. What was that crap Ryan came out with this morning? How if The Construct was really infinite inside it would collapse upon itself, form a black hole? Idiot.

I’ve been coming to The Construct for years now. Longer than you think. Exploring it, mapping it, bit by bit. Whilst I waited for you researchers to finish your rotations and ship out again. I’ve probably been inside longer than any of you. There’s stuff only I’ve seen, Ariadne. I couldn’t wait to show you. You think Grand Central is awesome? It’s nothing compared to some of the places I’ve seen. I’ve got it all here, coded in. A map I’ve made of the infinite.

Oh, yeah, I know all about the translines. How they whisk you away. How you can travel for years and never reach a destination. How some people arrive before they’ve left. How some people never return. And I know about the sleep pods the explorers use, how they keep you in stasis until the sensors pick up a region of interest. Oh, yes. Sorry about that one over there. It’s a bit dented. Ryan was stronger than I expected. Maybe he saw me coming. Didn’t matter in the end, though. The wrench settled it. I didn’t mean to use it so hard, but he gave me no choice.

Yeah, he and that pod won’t be going anywhere soon.

Here we go. The transline is ready. Beautiful, isn’t it? Wait a moment whilst I get inside this pod over here. Stand back. They’ve got cutting lasers, did you know that?

Jeez. Tight fit. Guess it was meant for you, huh? Let’s see ... this button here, and that one. There you go. Green. All systems go.

I had to bust up the external comms link on the shuttle that brought us here. When you get back to it you won’t be able to call for help. But I’ve set the return route on the nav computer. Clever girl like you should be able work out the instructions and return to the base on Pluto. I’m pretty sure you can.

Don’t look at me like that. I’m not crazy. I know exactly what I’m doing. Like I said, I don’t expect you to understand. Not this version of you.

I believe in perfect love, Ariadne. That you can love someone an infinite amount. You were perfect for me. I was perfect for you.

Until you messed it all up.

The Construct, the translines, they’re a fast path to the infinite. It’s why the Builders made them. A direct line to all the possibilities the universe has to offer. In the infinite, everything that can happen will happen. Is happening, right now. An infinite number of times. And if this map I’ve made is right, I’ll find you again. The real you. The one that loves me back. The one that never met Ryan. The one that would never touch him. It’s a mathematical certainty she exists. Out there, in this maze of infinities.

The power is beginning to fade. It’s time for me to go. To say goodbye.

Have a good life, Ariadne.

Until we meet again. END

Henry Szabranski has a degree in theoretical physics. His fiction has appeared in “Beneath Ceaseless Skies” and “Daily Science Fiction,” amongst other places.






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