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






By Kurt Heinrich Hyatt

THE FLAMES FROM THE BURNING tanker bellowed greedily behind her. Falle crouched beside a pile of rubble, her heart pounding as she watched green tracers arch overhead and geysers of dirt and flame from incoming beams.

She wiped at the tears streaking the grime on her face. At the parapet another defender clutched at his chest and fell back among the dead, his scream thin above the noise of battle. His force pistol rolled down the slope and came to a stop at her feet.

The incoming beams had stopped. They were almost here.

One of the raiders appeared and clambered over the parapet. He caught sight of the little girl beside the pile of stones and stopped. The grin which swept his face was an evil thing, sharp and wide as the assault knife he slid from its sheath.

Falle picked up the force pistol. The raider was reflected in a myriad of light patterns and images. The bead of sweat running through the beard stubble on his chin. Gore smearing the ornamental lacework of the knifeguard. A torn shred of cloth fluttering on his combat vest. The smile he wore was wider than the horizon, coming closer.

The force pistol jerked to life in her hand. She saw, as if a spectator looking over her shoulder, the raider perform a deep bow around the neon pencil from her weapon before flipping backwards to lie still on the sand.

More raiders appeared on the horizon. Again and again she fired, a little figure wreathed in smoke.

Abruptly, they turned and ran, their yells fading out across the valley. There was the whine of a hoverplane starting up, growing faint in the distance.

Falle lowered the pistol and stared at the barrel glowing red, at flames behind her reflecting from the polished tristeel. She held it to her breast while she climbed the dune and looked out over burning wreckage and sprawled bodies.

She was alone.


Mr. Chang drummed his fingers on the padded armrest of his targhide office chair and gazed out the plexglass window high above the busy workings of the aurumite mine. A faint clatter of machinery could be heard over the quiet drone of his air-conditioned office. He watched spirals of dust rising from the pit to paint graceful shapes against the pink Dustball sky.

There was the swish of his office door and footfalls moving across the carpet. He swiveled the chair to face his visitor.

Standing on the tan plush was a mass of veined muscle, a roadmap of scars and the mean and red-rimmed eyes of a wartpig. But facing the little man behind the huge desk his meaty paws trembled and sweat ran down the back of his combat vest. He nervously cleared his throat.

“You wanted to see me, boss?”

For a long moment Chang fixed him with a cold stare. Then he pushed a glass of water and a square of red stone to the front of the desk.

“Here before you is a twenty gram piece of refined aurumite, capable of energizing nine fusion reactors for a year, worth about two hundred creds on the Homeworld market. Beside it is a simple glass of water.” Eyebrows lifted above the antique spectacles. “Which do you think is the most valuable commodity on this planet, Mr. Gorth?”

Gorth swallowed heavily. He knew where this was going. “Um, the glass of water, Mr. Chang.”

“Very good, water. Without water, nothing on this windblown desert of a planet exists, including you, myself, the happy colonists of Haboob City, and of course this little mining enterprise of the Aurumite Corporation on the Homeworlds.” He tapped the rim of the glass. “There are only five known aquifers drawing water from fossil deposits, although there are bands of sandcrawlers, otherwise known as water prospectors, continuously searching for more. And what aquifers they do locate and file claim on, Haboob City pays a price our operations budget cannot support. Which is why I depend on you and your raiders.”

A silence descended on the room broken only by the faint cry of the wind and patter of sand against the plexglass.

“Tell me about the raid on Zak Crandell’s new find in Kilometer Twelve?”

Gorth ran a dry tongue over his lips. “Yeah, the family of sandcrawlers and their crew. Well, they had the shaft drilled down to the aquifer and all their equipment set up and ready to pump into their tanker,” he explained. “We hit ’em hard and fast before they could get off a distress call to the city.”

“So you were able to take over the claim and start filling up our tankers?”

“Well, not exactly.” A drop of sweat hung trembling from Gorth’s nose. “We were taken on by heavy and accurate pulse gun fire from behind the dunes. Lost five of my best men before we were able to make it back to the hoverplane and get away.”

“Heavy and accurate pulse gun fire,” Chang repeated calmly. He touched a row of buttons and a screen came to life on a far wall. Framed against a burning tanker a little girl in a torn and dirty dress held up a pulse gun, firing at an approaching band of Gorth’s raiders. “I understand she’s the daughter of the claim owner Zak Crandell. What would you say this child’s age would be? Ten, maybe twelve?”

Gorth turned pale beneath his tan.

“Perhaps you’ve forgotten your past employment digging at the mine face at its lowest levels. Perhaps you would like to be reassigned back there?”

“Nossir, Mr. Chang.”

“Surveillance from our company satellite monitoring the water prospectors,” Chang explained. “Just before it passed out of range; it showed your little antagonist wandering off into the desert. Do you know what this means, Mr. Gorth?”

The raider tore his eyes from the now blank screen. “Um, nossir, Mr. Chang.”

“It means it is now safe for you and your brave lads to return to the claim, take it over and start pumping out water.”


It had not been a good day for Hal and Ernie. After an hour of drilling probes through hard sandstone, the possible aquifer indicated by their sensing equipment turned out to be a glitch in the calibration. The comm set on the terratrax, necessary to monitor frequent and violent sandstorms, expired after a series of asthmatic wheezes. And to crown a glorious day, a pillow block bearing on the starboard track runner seized, necessitating an emergency teardown under the blazing pink eye of Dustball’s sun.

Hal wiped his face with a greasy rag and squinted at the rolling dunes on the horizon. “Hey, is that smoke I see?”

Ernie dropped a wrench into the toolbox and peered at the horizon. “Yeah. Say, ain’t that in the direction of Zak Crandell’s new claim?”

“Pretty close to it. Why don’t you finish up here while I take a look-see.”

Hal hiked down a canyon of shattered sandstone monoliths, slogged up the side of a huge dune to look down on a valley below.

Smoke oozed lazily from a wrecked service truck parked next to an overturned water tanker. Scattered around the wellhead machinery were the bodies of raiders and defenders of the claim. With a chill, Hal noticed from torn clothing and position of bodies in the sand two women had been raped.

A low drone arose and the dagger shape of a hoverplane drifted over the hills. A line of tracked vehicles followed, pulling to a stop at the wellhead.

“Claim jumpers,” Hal whispered, easing himself down the dune.

Ernie had just completed repairs when Hal arrived, sweating and out of breath.

“You gonna have a coronary on me?” he asked.

“Claim jumpers over the hill, just arrived at Crandell’s claim,” he panted. “We gotta make ourselves scarce in this vicinity.”

“I found a cracked race in the bearing housing. It’ll last until we get back to Haboob City and pick up a new—holy shit!”

A strangely familiar hum came from behind them. A sound like a blaster ramping up to full charge, Hal thought, and turned to see a little blonde girl in a ragged and smoke-stained dress standing a few feet away. The force pistol she held in her tiny hands seemed enormous. He groped with the unreality of it all until he saw the crazed blue fire in her eyes sighting along the barrel.

“Don’t fire, we’re the good guys!” Ernie squalled, his hands reaching heavenwards. “Gimme a break, willya!”

The girl seemed to ponder his request before flipping off the safety catch.

“Let’s just back off a minute, honey,” said Hal reasonably.

“We’re not claim jumpers.”

“I don’t wanna die!” Ernie wailed, “Look, toots, just gimme three steps and you won’t see me no more!”

The muzzle of the blaster lowered slightly. The girl looked from Ernie to Hal. “Who are you?”

“Just a pair of sandcrawlers, water prospectors,” said Hal. “Had to stop here and make repairs on our rig. I’m Hal Chavez and the guy over there on his knees crying is Ernie Potts.”

“I’m Falle Crandell,” she said after a moment’s consideration.

“Your family had the claim to the aquifer over the hill, right?”

The blue in her eyes darkened.


Hal nodded in sympathy. “Look, we’re headed back to Haboob City and you’re welcome to come along. Why don’t you toss me your little toy and hop aboard?”

She glared at him, mouth set in a determined line.

“Not a chance, mister.”

“Okay, Miss Blondie,” Hal drawled. “You’re in the middle of the Firestone Desert, about thirty clicks from toy stores, ice cream, and a nice clean place to go potty. You wanna ride or trudge through the dirt?”

With reluctance she walked over and handed him the weapon.

“Thank you ever so much, Miss Crandell.” He turned to his partner. “Ernie, you want to show the lady a seat on our rig while I fire up the engines?”

“Um, I need a few moments first,” he replied uneasily.

“What the hell for?”

“I think I pooped my pants.”


“Boss, we have a problem.”

Flasco chewed the plastic end of his spindriver and contemplated the ominous red light on the pump console. A line of tankers were parked by the wellhead behind him, veiled by smoke from burning service buildings.

“Okay, Flasco, what kind of problem?” said Gorth, looking over his shoulder.

“Old man Crandell set up a really nice surprise for claim jumpers. State of the art booby trap on the pump controls.” He shook his head in admiration. “Looks like he had time to arm it before your boys took him out.”

“Well, stop farting around and disarm it,” said Gorth impatiently.

“Not so easy. See the pad by the panel? Reads the DNA of the operator. Wrong DNA reading and something very bad happens to life forms in the vicinity.”

Gorth eyed the control box warily. “What kinda booby trap we talking about here?”

“No way to tell until it goes off. Could be flesh-eating gas, lethal pulse of neutron x radiation, even a nest of sand wasps.” He stood up, dusting off his knees. “I could work through the alarm codes, one by one.”

“How long would it take?”

“About two weeks.”

Gorth scowled. “Okay, the pump control security system is deactivated by a DNA reading of Crandell’s hand on the pad, right?”

“Sure, but that crispy critter in yonder terratrax is what’s left of him.”

“But a blood relative would have the same DNA reading. Correct?”

“Sure, but what—?”

“Get a team out in the hoverplane and find that little girl, his daughter. And honk up Chang’s mine security staff in Haboob City on the off chance she makes it there.”

“Big sandstorm moving in, boss.”

“Then how far can she go? Just find her.”


The terratrax rode the storm like a ship in a heavy sea, swaying at each blast of wind-driven grit, riding up each dune and plowing down the slope. Hal eased around a dagger of basalt which loomed suddenly though the murk on his infrared control screen.

“Wonder why the raiders at Crandell’s claim left and then came back,” he wondered aloud.

“Probably forgot to bring beer for the party.” Ernie flinched as the storm lashed grit across the windshield.

“Yeah, some party. Murder, rape, destruction. I can’t imagine what that kid had to go through,” said Hal. “Must be a traumatizing experience for a child.”

“She’s traumatized?” Ernie snorted. “When I saw her blaster aimed at my nuts—”

“Okay, okay. Why don’t you drive the sled while I go back and check on her.”

“Hey, I bet the first thing she says is Are we there yet?

Hal picked up a snackbar and a juice tube from the galley and made his way down the narrow corridor to the crew’s quarters.

Falle had her nose pressed against a porthole watching the sand hurrying past. She greeted Hal’s arrival with a blank reptilian stare. “Are we there yet?” she demanded.

“You’ll be the first to know. Listen, I thought you might be hungry.” He held out the snackbar and juice tube.

She turned the bar over in her hand with distaste. “What’s this, a dried gomph dropping? Am I supposed to eat it?”

“Your very welcome,” Hal retorted. “I had planned to escort you to the five star restaurant in our cargo hold but I remembered our French chef is off today.”

With a surly grunt she peeled off the wrapper and stuffed it into her mouth.

“All right, I need to discuss what we’re gonna do with you.” He knelt in the aisle by her seat. “We’re about ten minutes from Haboob City. You got any relatives there? Maybe back on the Homeworlds?”

Finishing off the snackbar, she twisted the top from the juice tube and shook her head. “Just my father, Aunt Dee and uncle Brad. And they’re all dead back at the claim.” She craned her head to stare moodily out the porthole. “I’m glad I shot them.”

Hal blinked. “Excuse me?”

“The claim jumpers. They kept coming over the dune and I shot at them with the gun thing until they left.” She looked up at Hal, the doll face and pale blue eyes hard. “I liked it, especially the one with the knife.”

“The knife?”

Falle reached under her dress and unsheathed a serrated assault knife. She ran her fingers lovingly along the blade. “He’s the one who did bad things to my Aunt Dee. I shot him in the crotch.”

Hal took a deep breath. Picking up this lone survivor perhaps wasn’t the most life-extending decision he had made of late. He held out his hand. “Maybe it would be a good idea if I kept it for you, huh?”

She graced him with a mixture of defiance and scorn. “Okay, turn around, bend over and I’ll give it to you.”

“Whoa, hostility! I can see you’re gonna make lots of friends when we get to ...” He peered out the porthole at a line of winking lights. “Speaking of which, I think we’ve arrived.”

The terratrax joined a line of hovertracks, tankers, and sundry vehicles moving down a busy street. The sandstorm was winding down, revealing the polydome shapes of office buildings and brightly-lit storefronts. They pulled onto a side street and killed the engines.

“Ernie, why don’t you head to the parts depot and pick up our bearing. See if they know anyone who can fix our comm set while you’re there.” He looked over his shoulder to see Falle coming down the aisle. “I gotta make tracks to the Peaceforce Station, fill out a report about the raid on Crandell’s claim, and find out what to do about little Miss Sunshine here.”

The girl poked Hal in the ribs. “Can I have my blaster back?”

“Not a chance, kid!” he retorted. “Why?”

“Because I want to point it at baldy here and see him poop his pants again.”

Ernie glared at her and lurched from his seat toward the hatch. “I’ll pick up the parts but I need a pit stop at the Sandcastle Bar first for a cold one.”

“Don’t get shitfaced, we need to get back to work. What say we meet back at the ’crawler about six?” He studied Falle. “Why do you always have to be such a gomph’s ass?”

She favored him with a smile. It was the first time he had seen her do this and he decided he didn’t like it at all. There was something really ... feral ... in her smile.


“Look buddy, we already got five reports of claim jumpers all over Dustball to investigate, plus eight murders, thirty armed robberies, and the hijacking of an aurumite shipment in Haboob City alone.” The sergeant behind the cluttered desk looked tired and overworked. He pushed a stack of forms toward Hal. “Just fill out a statement and we’ll assign a case number. Now what about the kid?”

“I guess she’s the lone survivor of the raid on her father’s claim,” Hal explained. “Anyplace I can take her?”

“Well, the City Shelter for Displaced or Abandoned Children has a long waiting list. Check with them tomorrow. You’re gonna have to hang onto the kid until they have an opening.”

“You have to be kidding!” Hal sputtered. “Do I look like some kind of babysitter?”

“You accepted legal responsibility for her when you rescued her out in the desert. That’s the law here on Dustball.” He turned his back and began punching reports into a viscreen. “Have a nice day.”

Standing at his side Falle snickered. “Seems like you’re stuck with me.”

“I was about to say the same thing to you,” he retorted. Hal sighed and took in the torn dress and grimy face. “I suppose if we’re going to be seen together I should be doing something about you looking like a rag doll someone dragged out of an interplanetary landfill.”


The bartender at the Sandcastle Bar watched the end of shift workers from the aurumite mine surge through the doors whooping and shouting to friends. Soon there would be spilled beer, bar fights, passes at his new and highly nubile waitress and hopefully ... tips.

“Need another refill, pal.” Ernie dropped an empty shot glass into the pile before him.

“Coming right up.” The bartender hated whiny drunks but they were usually the best tippers, worth a little forced sympathy. “So you’re giving up water prospecting, huh? Working here in the city for your brother?”

“Danged right. Called him up at his tanker repair shop and heard he’s looking for a good wrench turner. No more sweating my brains out in the desert for me.”

“Hey, Danny, how they hangin’?” A tall woman in the uniform of mine security slipped onto the stool beside Ernie.

“Elaine Dante, long time no see.” The bartender beamed at the new arrival. Elaine was one of the good tippers. “What’ll it be?”

“Schooner of Fresian ale, nice and cold.”

“You still angling for the job of security chief at the mine?” He placed a foaming mug before her. “I guess you’re still hunting for the guys who hooked the aurumine shipment, huh? Promotion in the bag if you can find them.”

“Nah, old Chang has us out combing the whole city, looking for some little girl.” She took a long pull at her mug, belched appreciatively.

“What did she do, hijack the shipment?”

“Hell if I know. He just sent out an order to find her and turn her over to some spacer named Gorth.”

“Snotty little blonde brat,” Ernie announced to his pile of empty shot glasses.

Elaine looked over at him with interest. “This is funny. Chang didn’t say nothing about her being blonde.”

“Had a blaster pointed right at my family jewels,” Ernie slurred. “Then good old Hal decided to be Mother Theresa instead of leaving her little shmart-mouthed butt in the deshert.”

“Say, mister, you mind if I buy you a drink?” said Elaine, grinning.

Ernie blinked at her myopically. “That would be real shwell of you, buddy.”

“Bring my friend a shot of whatever he’s having,” She said to the bartender. “Him and me got a lot to chat about.”


The dressing room door opened and the saleslady ushered Falle past racks of children’s clothes into the waiting area. “Here’s the little lady, all shiny and new like a Homeworlds penny,” she gushed. It was indeed a vast improvement with the new blue dress, shoes, a ribbon in her hair and a freshly scrubbed face. “Would she be your daughter?”

Hal pushed himself off the uncomfortable and cushionless couch and groped for his wallet. “No ma’am. I was blessed by a benevolent fate that she is not,” he smiled.

“Anyone can see he isn’t my father,” Falle huffed. “If he was I’d be butt ugly and smell bad like him.”

The saleslady seemed bemused. “My goodness, if it wasn’t for the age difference I’d swear you two were married.”

They took the transport shuttle across town and got off at the side street leading to the terratrax. As it came into view she tugged at his sleeve. “Listen, about what I said in the clothing store.”

Hal appraised her thoughtfully. She seemed abashed about something, chewing at her lower lip and fidgeting.

“Well, don’t be shy. Spit out what’s on your mind.”

“It’s about my new dress and stuff.”

“What about the dress and stuff?”

“I kind of forgot ... to thank you.” She twisted her fingers together. “And I’m sorry I called you ugly.”

Hal was completely taken aback. “Wow, gratitude and common courtesy. I didn’t know you had it in you, Blondie.”

She flushed. “Okay, you’re not the best example of good taste and personal hygiene. In fact—” She peered over Hal’s shoulder. “I think we should leave now.”

He followed her gaze and spotted the black tailfin of a hoverplane behind the terratrax.

“If it isn’t Miss Crandell and Mr. Chavez.” Gorth and four of his raiders stepped from a side alley. They had their hands resting on the butts of their force pistols. “How about a nice scenic flight into the Firestone Desert,” said Gorth. “I hear it’s right pretty around sunset.”


The sun was low on the horizon, painting a red tableau of parked water tankers and the group of raiders. Walking down the ramp from the hoverplane with Falle close behind him Hal was relieved to see the bodies of her family had been removed. There was still a lingering trace of sun ripened corpses overlaid by smoke. Gorth gave him a final shove in the direction of the aquifer pump unit.

“Flasco, like you to meet Miss Crandell and her friend Mr. Chavez.” He grinned at a little man loaded down with toolbelt and meters. “The little lady has volunteered to help us with our small problem.”

“Right, some small problem.” He took in the little girl staring at him with cold blue fire in her eyes. Damn, she’s got a mean set of peepers, he thought. “Your father showed you how to arm and disarm the DNA reader on the pump controls, right?”

“Of course he did,” she replied sullenly.

“Glad to hear this. Tell you what, lots of candy in store for you if you disarm dear old Dad’s booby trap.”

“Lots of candy, huh? I’m almost eleven years old, not five, you little pile of puke,” she retorted. “Go take a hike.”

“Kinda thought she’d say that.” Gorth jerked out his force pistol and shoved it against the side of Hal’s head. “Care to make any more dumb decisions, Miss Crandell?”

Falle contemplated the circle of grinning raiders. The expression on her doll face could have been carved from marble. She walked over to the pump console and began pushing buttons. A siren began to scream while a red eye blazed into life. sandcrawlersShe placed her hand on the DNA sensor pad and twisted a switch. The siren squelched off and the red eye segued to a mellow green. She looked up at Gorth.

“It’s safe to operate now,” she declared. “But I have to go potty real bad.”

Gorth smugly holstered his weapon. “Flasco, get the tankers over here and start up the pumps. I’m gonna escort the kid over by them sandstone slabs so she can have a tad of privacy. Oh yeah, why don’t you tag along also, Mr. Chavez.”

The whine of water tankers starting up echoed back and forth among the crags.

“This is far enough.”

Hal saw Gorth had his force pistol out and a determined set to his jaw. He grabbed Falle and pushed her behind him. “Getting ready to tie up some loose ends, huh, dirtbag?” he said.

“Well, we can’t have Miss Crandell here showing up in Haboob City claiming beneficiary’s rights to Mr. Chang’s new aquifer, can we?” he snorted. “Okay, which of you gets it first?”

A flash of green incandescence lit up three silhouettes on a sandstone slab. A wave of superheated air washed over them. The group of raiders about the well head became transparent before blossoming into fountains of green gas. Faint cries drifted across the valley.

“What in the goddamned blazes of hell?” Gorth snarled, then uttered a thin scream as the assault knife slid into his vitals. He took a single palsied step before falling on his face in the sand.

Hal watched in utter disbelief while Falle jerked the knife from Gorth’s body and with surly contempt wiped it clean on his shirt.

“You know, I’m not complaining,” Hal said after a moment’s contemplation of the silent water tankers clustered about the well head. “But I thought you disarmed Dad’s booby trap at the pump?”

“I didn’t disarm it because I couldn’t,” she said “I’m Zak Crandell’s adopted daughter.”

Hal whistled silently. “Looks like Mr. Chang at the mine was so eager to get his mitts on this aquifer he forgot to check out some facts.”

A hot wind sighed across the valley floor, heralding the coming sunset. Falle raised her face to Hal, then dropped her gaze to the sand.

“So, what’s going to happen to me now,” she asked. “I suppose ... we’ll be heading back to the city. Maybe they have room now at the Center for Displaced or Abandoned Children?”

Hal realized he was no longer looking at the cold and feral eyes of a revengeful survivor, but the face of a lonely and frightened child.

“Actually, I was thinking of how swell we get along together. And since good old Zak Crandell thought what a bright idea it was to adopt you maybe I could put up with doing the same.”

Hal felt her hand slide into his. From the corner of her eyes two tears slid down her cheeks. Then she smiled, a soft and happy smile this time.


The new chief of security for the aurumite mine stood on the tan plush before Mr. Chang’s ornate desk. She had her thumbs hooked into her gunbelt and was idly watching the busy workings of men and machinery through the plexglass. She seemed almost bored.

Mr. Chang felt a worm of unease. He loved browbeating subordinates, especially the late Mr. Gorth whom he enjoyed reducing to a state of quivering jelly on occasion. It appeared if Ms. Elaine Dante was any more relaxed she would be asleep.

“The aquifer on Kilometer Thirty has run dry and our contract with the one on Kilometer Eight is about to expire.” He assumed his sternest expression. “We have at best two days of water left to sustain our mining operations.”

“Yes sir, I’ve seen the reports,” she replied.

“Our surveillance satellite has shown the claim at Kilometer Twelve is up and running at full blast. Do you have an explanation, Ms. Dante?”

“Evidently the young Miss Crandell inherited the claim. She and her partner obtained funding from a major Homeworlds bank when it was discovered the aquifer held millions of deciliters of fossil water.”

“I promoted you to security chief as a reward for locating Miss Crandell and now you tell me she is running the operation there?” His scowl deepened to no avail. His attempt to intimidate Ms. Dante was going nowhere. “And what’s this about a partner?”

Elaine shrugged. “The partner is a Mr. Hal Chavez and the operation is called the Crandell and Chavez Water Company.”

Chang’s mouth fell open. “Are you serious?”

“Yessir. In fact, our finance department contacted them regarding a possible purchase of their water output.”

A faint flicker of hope arose with another spasm of heartburn. “And what was their reply?”

An enigmatic smile played over Elaine’s face. “I really don’t think you want to hear their reply, Mr. Chang.”

A chime sounded from a ceiling speaker. “A priority one communication is coming in from Homeworlds,” crackled a metallic voice.

A jowled and stern-looking executive in a tailored grey jumpsuit appeared on a wall screen.

Chang turned to the screen, pushing his glasses farther up the bridge of his nose. “Good morning, Mr. Calomini. What a pleasure it is to see you,” he said, affecting a weak smile. A priority one call from the Director of the Aurumite Corporation was most unusual. Ominous.

“And good morning to you, Mr. Chang, although perhaps it won’t end this way. The Board of Directors has decided to terminate your employment at the mine on Dustball.”

Chang started as if he’d been slapped. “Terminate my employment at the mine!” he sputtered. “You can’t do that, I have seniority ...”

“Dustball is a Right-to-Work planet. We have the option to terminate at will.” The face on the wall screen looked impassively down.

“But ... why?” Chang groped for an argument which would avert this catastrophe.

“Seventy percent of shares in the Dustball aurumite mine have been purchased by a local investor.”

“Local investor?”

“Crandell and Chavez Water Company. Part of the agreement was your termination, effective immediately.” Mr. Calomini’s lips moved slightly in an expression of sympathy. “Deep regrets, Mr. Chang and best of luck.”

The wall screen went blank.

Two burly security men appeared on either side of Elaine Dante. She nodded toward the big desk.

“Escort Mr. Chang to the main gate,” she ordered. Voicing threats and shrill protests to no avail he was hustled down the elevator, past gaping office workers to the steel exit barrier.

“I have a final message to deliver, Mr. Chang,” she said as they stood on the dirt road.

Angrily shaking off the guards’ hands, Chang straightened his suit and glared at her. “Well, what is it?”

She looked at one of the guards who spun Chang about and planted a number fourteen size boot on his rear, sending him sprawling face-first into the gravel.

“Miss Falle Crandell sends her regards,” said Elaine Dante. 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.


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