Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Baby Wars
by Eric Del Carlo

by Kurt Heinrich Hyatt

Genocide in Three Acts
by Jenny Duptsi

Memory Farm
by Richard Wren

Schrödinger’s Suicide
by Daniel Roy

Chandler’s Hollow
by Sean Patrick Hazlett

Test Case
by Kris Ashton

Pink Adventure 87
by Gregor Hartmann

Shorter Stories

by Robin Wyatt Dunn

Dropping Payload
by Mord McGhee

Breaking the 3 Laws
by Trevor Doyle


Sex and a Sensawunda
by Ann Gimpel

Sunshine 2: the Sequel
by Eric M. Jones



Comic Strips





Dropping Payload

By Mord McGhee

HIS FINGERS SHOOK. MUT FROZE, head tilting. “Damn,” he said. His hand opened and the Cali-cobra wire fell to the floor. He didn’t care if it broke. It wasn’t his. He held his breath and listened. The buzz was distant, yet there.

I thought I’d lost them.

The thought was absurd. A centuries old corporation like Trub-Wutend didn’t lose. They wouldn't stop coming until the target was acquired.

All because you were in the wrong place at the right time. He wasn’t being honest. No, it’s because you hit record. They’ll never stop, Mut.


The hairs on the back of his neck stood up.

Asset management drones. God, I hate them. So far he’d survived three weeks of lethal hide and seek. If I could have thirteen minutes and two seconds to uplink. Maybe a few extra seconds? Maybe then?

He almost had a chance. Finding an open door was too good to be true. He felt bad, the apartment was nice. He’d been trying to link to a good, brand name console. The moment he heard drones return, it was already too late.

An explosion rocked the earth. Mut was tossed rag-doll into the air. He grabbed at air, everything was upside down so fast there was nothing else within reach.

He slapped onto the ground. Explosion two roared, rumbled. Technique. Probe detonations. Their job was to scatter the rat. Once he made a run for it the drones would drop payload.

If he didn’t move maybe they wouldn’t hear him? If he didn’t breathe they couldn’t sense carbon dioxide. Flame raked his leg. A grunt escaped. Making a sound was bad, but he saw bone! He gasped at the puddle—red blood mixed with creamy clotting agent. Both legs were there, the skin on the right shredded.

The drones closed in.


Time stood still. It became brief flickers of movement revealed in light cut by slices of black. He rolled onto his back.


A sentinel drone screeched. Target acquired. Shit! Here it comes.


Thunder crashed. His guts melted. Concrete and fiberboard rained down.


He folded into a ball. A chunk scraped his wrist, another clocked his temple.


The buzz drifted away. He uncurled, spat dust, and rattled his head.


They weren’t using satellites to track him. He was sure of it. He’d cut the positioning links but the drones still came.


They’re using a ghost! Invisible tracking, human pilot. Yellow lights sputtered, ending the blackouts. They emitted a sallow glow and mad-scientist electric zaps.

Mut searched for a way out.

He never saw what hit him.

A dampener blanket crushed his internal systems. His Human Relation GENIe was offline, vision enhancements gone, and pain buffer shut down. Hurt catapulted into his body.

He clenched his teeth tight and moaned. His eyes darted side to side and he couldn’t stop them. Grim confirmation, he was being haunted. Worse. The dampener blanket was evidence of illegal Poltergeist activity.

Mut scrambled. The lights zapped again, arcs of blue. He saw a shadow on the far edge. Fright pushed madness buttons but reason slapped him across the face. It’s your own shadow.

Then he felt it.

Behind you!

Mut whirled, fists raised. You going to punch a ghost? “Come on,” he growled. “Show yourself.” Searing heat washed over him. He smelled burning plastic, rubber. His head swelled, a balloon about to pop. He screamed and ran.

Everything grew faster, harder, stronger. Pain. Cold. Heat. Breath. Silence. He burst into the open air. Internal readouts initialized. He’d broken free of the dampening blanket.

Pipes. Rubble. Trickling liquid. Black and blue sky. The moon twinkled; Venus glowing beside her. Data flooded his senses. He pulled up, resting on a ledge for half a second. He gulped for oxygen. A drop of fresh blood trickled over the clumping brown clot above exposed ankle bones. A red tear drawing a thin line down synthetic steel.

Something moved behind him. It clicking, skittered. Mut engaged Ghost Dowse filter. It wasn’t exact, but he would see the Network and the ghost. It wore the skin of a giant spider. Veins of blue flame pulsated under a translucent exoskeleton. Venom sacs big as footballs dangled under horrific, meter long fangs.

Thousands of eyes reflected.

Mut gasped. “It wasn't me,” he said, stumbling backwards. The thousand eyes stared. “I didn’t do anything. Please!” The ghost spider reared and hissed. Mut turned and bolted.

Then ... he saw hope!

It can’t follow you into the river! Mut saw the severed end of the Network tracing the shore. The gap above the flowing water was salvation. With a desperate cry, he sprinted faster than the wind.

He didn’t make it.

His cry changed into a wail of agony as a wave of torture flowed over his back. It was a thousand lava-hot pins and needles. It slowed him, but he wouldn’t stop. Not now.

Almost there. Move. Move!

Mut glanced over his shoulder. The ghost in spider skin was on his heels. Spiny legs churned, whirlwind speed. He charged the flowing water with every bit of strength he had left. His legs pumped. He tensed, ready to leap.

Mut’s body rocked in a direction he hadn’t planned. Pressure and weight drove him to the ground. His muscles twitched, protesting. His shirt tore and skin peeled away as a fang retracted. The sting of venom was icy fingers digging into warm meat.

Now! Now! Jump!

Mut sailed through the air with one vertical vault. He plunged into the slimy, frigid river. Beneath the world was black. He heard whispers. When he broke the surface the ghost spider gnashed and stamped. Mut flipped the bird. He turned and flailed, swimming for his life.

Golden Triangle’s confluence bought precious time. If he could have those thirteen minutes and two seconds to uplink before the ghost found him again on the other side ...

... then maybe.

Maybe then!

Mut exploded out of the water and scanned. The ghost wasn’t waiting to finish him off. The river saved his life. Still, he was glad to be out of it. There was something old, dark and desperate in those waters: ancient gods best left alone.

Move, you don’t have time to screw around. Find shelter.

He glanced at the bleak, gray sky and felt faith leak out of his soul. If I have one. The rubbery flap of skin torn by the fang fell open. Blood and froth. His body was running out of clotting agent.

He pushed it closed and plucked a bridging clip from his rib cage. He bent it until the flesh held together. It wasn’t bad doctoring for a tech. He ripped a sleeve and wrapped it around the mangled ankle.

And then ...

... he heard the sound of dread.

He drew sharp breath.

A wasp of fear nested in his head.

Two specks appeared in the gloom over the far shore. The drones wouldn’t have the problem that the ghost had. They dropped, hovering above the water. Relentless. The sentinel drone screeched.


He ran up a hill. He scanned for anything that might help. He tripped over a bent fence. An acrid scent filled his nostrils. He got up, leaving a crimson smear on the asphalt. The drones kept coming.



Now as loud as a freight train.


His mind unraveled, panic pulling at the threads of sanity. He shouldn’t feel terror this way. That’s for the humans. But he did. He saw a light. A door. There was a wooden sign: “Jim's Tavern.”

The drones were so close he couldn’t think.


He slipped inside. He pressed his back to the door, heaving to catch his breath. The buzz rattled glasses and bottles. There was a handful of whiskey-faced old men. One slammed his drink. He snapped, “Goddamn drones!”

Mut stood stiff as a statue. None of them did more than glance at him. He cracked a smile, limped forward, and mounted a stool. Outside, the drones receded. He didn’t know why they didn’t blow the bar to bits. Maybe because there was too much life? Too many lights? Not enough Network? Who cares? I’m alive.

A middle-aged woman stepped out of the back room and snatched a mug off a hook. She poured from a single tap handle behind the counter until the mug was full with thick, brown beer. She approached Mut, face devoid of emotion. Her voice also thin on tone. “On the house.”


She measured him for a moment. Her eyes softened. “Your insides are showing.”

“Yeah.” He sipped. The liquid was thick and sweet. He smiled, “I’ll be fine,” held the mug up, “now.”

She touched a crooked finger to her chin and showed a twice as crooked smile, “No worries, Hun. Your kind’s okay with us. Those bastards have no place in here.” She waved the finger over the old men, “Ain't that right, boys?”

As one they grunted and raised their mugs. “Aye.”

Mut sighed. Did I walk into the Twilight Zone? The bartender went into the back room without another word. Mut took stock of the damage to his body. If he was going to find a way to survive this mess he’d have to make a new body or uplink out of this one.

It was beat to Hell and back.

Then I can disappear. END

Mord McGhee is a former rock singer/guitarist turned author. His debut novel, “Ghosts of San Francisco,” won the 2014 Silver Global Ebook Award in Science Fiction. He also writes television reviews and commentary for “The Horror Within” magazine.