Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Peace Bug
by Stephen L. Antczak

Shipping Error
by Robert Dawson

In the Garden With the Little Eaters
by L Chan

Species of Revenge
by Lance J. Mushung

To Live if it Kills Me
by Andrew Darlington

Freddy Norberg’s Fantastic Flight
by Finry

Death Egg
by Kim Daniels

by Sean Monaghan

Shorter Stories

Love in the Time of Alien Invasion
by Samuel Marzioli

They Call Me Wizard
by Robert Lowell Russell

Reverse Logic
by Sierra July


Let’s Fry Chicken Little
by Carol Kean

UFOs and Rockets
by Preston Dennett



Comic Strips





By Sean Monaghan

FRUSTRATED THAT I COULD ONLY RETURN to the cafe with bad news, I beat my way back along the dusty street. Kette would not be pleased.

Some screaming kids ran out from between buildings, a hoop robot chasing them. The thing had little pincers and zappers around its circumference. It fired barbs at them.

Laughing, the kids ploughed through traffic, oblivious to the enormous trucks and skimmers speeding along. Sirens blared and the hoop robot stopped at the sidewalk’s edge.

I tascered the thin little machine and took it with me.


“Robert, Robert, over here,” Julianne Kette called to me from the booth in back of Very Good Food Now, Fast Blessing Restaurant #8. Apparently on Minden no one had learned to abbreviate.

The place was half-full, mostly with miners and truckers. Dusty and foul-mouthed, they gobbled up huge plates of steak and sauce.

“Did you get—what’s that there?” Kette asked, nodding at the folded hoop robot in my hand.

“Confiscation,” I said.


I sat opposite her in the booth. She had a leafy salad and some thick bubbly blood-like beverage in a glass. From the corner of my eye I saw a waitress coming our way.

“Long story,” I told Kette. “No one’s heard of Laguna.” Nick Laguna, our mark, supposedly set down on Minden a week back. Hiding out here in the mines.

Bad egg from the beginning. Parents walked out on him when he was four—not that they’d been much as parents anyway. Had run shellac schemes to practically mint money. Created some nice looking investments that ended up to be just gloss and veneer.

Now he’d turned his hand to mineral baiting. Stash a lode, produce fake geological maps, start mining, and sell the claim, plant and all. Could multiply his money by five or ten times. And still get to keep the original lode.

Had a wife and kid out on Serpentine III living in the lap of that proverbial luxury.

“Well, that just can’t be,” Kette said.

“What can I get you?” the waitress asked.

“Let me grab—”

“We’re not staying.” Kette stood. She picked up the glass and downed half the contents.

“Just the check then?” The waitress spooled out a length of wire.

Kette took it and slipped it through her passport. While it worked, my tascer pipped from my pocket. I thumbed the it and the little machine reconfigured to a dialbox.

A message from Millie. Twenty hours old.

I’d have to wait until we were back at the hotel to listen and reply. There would be plenty of time then. Assuming we found Laguna.

I had to resist reading it right then. Millie was a long way off. It wouldn’t make any difference anyway. News might throw me off my game.

Kette passed the wire back and the waitress smiled, taking it. “Thank you. Come again.” She slipped away.

“Come on, Robert,” Kette said. “Got a man to catch.”

“I was kind of hungry.” I reached across to get one of her leaves. Something in the salad squirmed and I saw two little larva eyes.

“No time. We’re running out of leads.”


We took her bigtrack. She’d traded it for beads when we first arrived. Old joke, apparently. I didn’t get it.

“Do you know where he is, actually?” I said. I wouldn’t put it past her. Send me off gathering details, all the while knowing.

The vehicle thundered through the dusty streets as if looking for other vehicles to crush. The cab was six meters above the ground, and stuck out ahead of the tracks’ leading edges. Great for all-around viewing.

I checked the little larder in the shoebox-sized galley and found nothing.

“You won’t find anything in there,” Kette hollered from the wheel.

“I can see that.” With my dialbox-tascer, I phoned for pizza and joined her in the cab.

It should have been called a bridge for all the controls. It wouldn’t surprise me if the eighty-ton machine could fly as well as bore holes, lay pipelines and fences, and mangle hapless taxis and cars.

We passed by the last of the buildings and squatter tents. The bigtrack thundered on into Minden’s desert.

“I don’t know where he is,” she said. “We’ve got lots of details, but no concrete location.”

“So you’re operating on hunch?”

“That’s what I’m good at,” she said. “Did you order food?”

“Of course. I’m hungry.”

She laughed. “Did you confiscate anything else?”

It took me a second. She meant the hoop robot. “Some jewelry and a nice blazer.”

“Yeah, you’d look good in a blazer. Might clean up real well.” She swung the wheel to the left and we bumped down and up through a dry wash.

“Where are we headed?” I said.

Kette pointed ahead. “There. See the smokestack?”

On the horizon under the orange-gray sky I saw the black stubby silhouette of a factory. A tall spike belched blue-black smoke. “It’s big, I said.

Something down in the back of the bigtrack graunched. Kette stomped on pedals and shifted one of the levers. The graunch went silent, replaced by a high-pitched whine.

“Crummy second-hand crap,” she said.

I saw movement off to the side and looked. A flying saucer towing a long banner. My pizza delivery. The banner read “Friday! Friday! Long May It Last! Pizzas, Bagels and—” a word I didn’t see because the saucer vanished in a ball of flame.

Behind me on the cab ramp a little machine-gun emplacement wound back into a slot.

The saucer spiraled down and bounced. On the second bounce I saw my charred pizza roll away.

“That was my lunch,” I said.

Kette leaned forward and looked at the blaze. “Oops.” She reached overhead and flicked one of the switches. “Try now.”

I scoffed and almost bit my tongue. “Friday! Friday! Long May It Last! will have blacklisted my delivery address,” I said. “And passed that on to every other place in town.”

“Well, that wouldn’t take long, would it?”

Which was as close to sympathy as I was going to get.


By the time we reached the factory’s outer fence, my stomach was just about chewing up its own lining. Once we got inside I was heading straight for the staff cafeteria.

“Robert, you think too much about your stomach,”

“There’s a certain minimum calorie requirement. Daily. I won’t be functioning at my peak.”

“Fine. Just don’t shoot anyone before we have a chance to ask them a few questions.”

Kette gunned the engine as we came to the fence. It was a solar-cell venetian emplacement that looked self-assembled. The cells glinted back like sparkly confetti at a wedding as they shattered under the tracks.

“Say,” I said. “What happened to that guy?”

“Which guy?”

“Sam? Graeme?” Something like that. She’d been dating him back on Holm before we headed over here.



“He got killed in an industrial accident.” She wound the engine down a fraction. I saw the stress lines for the engines on the displays and everything seemed bright green. Even with the fence it was like there was still ninety-nine percent in reserve.


“Don’t want to talk about it,” she said. “I’m at work now.” She glanced around.

“Maybe over a beer sometime?”

“Sure.” It was almost a grunt. And it meant no chance, no way, not ever and if you ask again you might just meet an industrial accident yourself. It wasn’t like her to get attached to people.

“Range?” she said. “Where’s the gate?”

I swung around and eyeballed the factory. “Eight hundred meters. Do we need a gate?” I thought of the confettied fence. Not a subtle arrival.

“Robert, Robert, Robert. You need to watch and learn here.”


“This all takes finesse.”

I had a feeling she thought finesse was a synonym for full-frontal assault, but I kept my trap shut.


Sure enough though, she pulled around onto the factory’s graded access road and drew the bigtrack to a stop outside the tall mesh gates. The wire shimmered.

“Slot-siphons,” I said.

“See, I knew there was a reason to bring you.”

I nodded. The wire wasn’t wire at all. The lines were all made from focused, channeled altered-space access points. I could see the nodes on the real-world steel uprights. The same kind of technology that allowed us to skirt physics and travel eighty light-years from Holm in a matter of hours.

If we drove through it, we would be sliced like a potato going through a french-fry maker.

Kette put a call through on the bigtrack’s mic set. She talked to the security section, asked them to open the gate.

“Deliveries on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” a gruff voice told her. I couldn’t tell if it was male or female.

“It’s Thursday,” she said.

“You’re at the wrong gate.”

“Where’s the other gate?”

“That’s the only gate.”

I peered through the mesh and saw the little security booth ninety meters in from the fence. It might have even been a robot.

“Explain,” Kette said.

“The delivery gate is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s a half-kilometer to the east.”

I looked and shook my head. No gate there. Not even a road leading in that direction.

“There’s no gate there,” she said.

“That’s right. It’s only there—” the voice sighed “—on Tuesdays and ... Thursdays.”

“Check your calendar.”

I grabbed my satchel. “Do you want me to shoot it?”

“Nah,” she said. “It might be a person and that means paperwork.”

I shucked the satchel onto my shoulder and edged around the cab.

“Why aren’t they mentioning the fence?” I said.

“Off their schematics. Not their property, not their problem.”

“No. I’m sure it’s ... Oh.” She’d gone in and changed the perimeter. How stupid were these people?

All they had to do was give Laguna up. No trouble.

“Can you shut it off?” Kette asked.

“Too hungry to think,” I said. But I already had my hand on the door.

It swung open as she said, “We’ll get you something at the cafeteria.”

And I was at the base of the ladder when she shouted, “If there’s time. We’re on a schedule here.”

“First I’ve heard.”

“Get on with it.”

I had a box of gold nuggets I’d confiscated from a miner who’d bad-mouthed me back in the arrivals hall. I would have quite liked to have seen his face when they searched his bag and found it gone.

I’d stuck a dope patch on his bag, so he definitely got searched.

“Get on with it,” Kette hollered.

This was easy. I picked three of the nuggets. Pure gold doesn’t travel well exposed to alternate space. A couple of pioneer trillionaires had caused spectacular explosive space rips with their gold-plated yachts.

Taking aim, I tossed one of the nuggets high. The next went just above head-height. The third skimmed off the ground.

The explosion threw me off my feet.

I slammed into the track. Bouncing off, I landed face first.

A sharp stone jabbed my eye.

It felt like I’d cracked a rib. On the track.

I rolled on my side and stared at the sky.

Maybe they weren’t channeled altered-space access points. Maybe it was just some kind of force field.

As my head spun, I tried to think about Einstein and Hawking and those others. Andersson and Nkomo.

Physics was not my thing.

“You all right there?” Kette hollered.

I tried to sit and felt dizzy. I could see the fence still glowing. Still a perfect mesh.

A big vehicle rumbled out of the factory. Coming our way.

“Get up here,” Kette shouted.

The engines revved.


When I slumped into the cab, exhausted, Kette pushed the throttles up. “Took your time,” she said.

The door flipped around and banged my ankle. Like I needed more injuries. I could smell the bigtrack’s smoke. “Ladder,” I said, gasping. “Ribs.”

“What did you do to that gate, anyway?”

“Hungry, too.”

“Yeah. We’ve got that on the list. Do you think they knew were were coming?”

“Maybe. We haven’t been exactly subtle,” I said.

“If I had a middle name,” she said, and stopped.

I waited for the punchline.

Kette worked the controls fast.

Reaching with my left hand, I pulled myself up into the other seat. The co-pilot’s seat, really. Not that I knew how to drive the thing.

“So,” she said. “You asked me a question. I get to ask you one.”

“Didn’t realize it was an exchange.” My chest hurt as if I’d fallen on a burning coal. Now my ankle twinged, too. I hoped I didn’t have to do any running anytime soon.

Through the side and rear windows I saw we were paralleling the fence. The big vehicle sped along not far back. Four huge wheels and a narrow body. Raised up above the central part stood a kind of turret with a long barrel.

Aimed at us.

“Is that some kind of mining machine?” I said. I knew it was hopeful.

“Oh, that?” Kette glanced back. “It’s one of those tanks. You know, that the Simonthen family were selling to both sides back on Agathon.

“Not reassuring.”

“I figure if I keep following the fence they can’t shoot us. Too oblique.”


“If I let them pull up alongside, they’ll shoot straight through. The gaps in the mesh aren’t that big.”

“They could shoot over,” I said. “Or turn off the gate.”

Kette jammed on the brakes. My momentum flung me into the dash. I felt like I’d been cut in half.

Tracked vehicles stop on a dime. Whatever that is.

“Ideas?” she said.

“I’ve got ...” No I didn’t. I’d dropped the satchel when I almost blew myself up.

Scooting around, I saw the tank’s barrel rising.

They would shoot over the top, then.


Kette backed us up. From the angled body behind the cab, two of the little gun emplacements wound up.

Peashooters, I thought, against a howitzer.

“So my question,” she said. “Are you still seeing that woman? Millie?”

Millicent Alexandra Maru. What a time to bring that up. I already couldn’t concentrate from hunger—as evidenced by my screw-up at the gate—and Kette distracted me more.

“She’s doing okay,” I said.

I couldn’t tell her the half of it. Really, I just wanted to get home. Well, with my check from this job, that is.

Focused gunfire burst from our emplacements. The big barrel on the tank gave a dull woof sound. I didn’t see the projectile, but I saw the cloud of smoke.

“Tracking,” Kette said.

Our guns swept up and fired at the shell. I peered through the cab’s overhead dome. It had gone up and over the fence. A low load of propellant, just enough to get it across.

“Come on, come on,” Kette said.

An explosion shuddered the cab.

“Got it,” she whooped.

Almost right away the guns focused back on the tank.

“We should get out of here,” I said.

“No, we ...” She stood up. “Out.”


“They’re lowering the barrel.”

I looked. She was right. The tank was taking aim right at us. We were still rolling backwards, but in a moment we would be square-on. Our guns didn’t even seem to scratch the tank’s carapace.

“Wait,” I said.

Kette scrambled around me. “Your funeral.”

I had a second to spare. Maybe.

Sitting in her seat I pulled up the targeting console. With the imagery I had the guns aim right up the barrel.

I followed her down.


My foot caught a rock as I stepped off. I found myself flat on my face again. The ground stank of carbon, like burnt toast. Had there been a fire here, or was it just from the projectile exploding?

Kette hauled me up. “Where’s your magic satchel?”

“I’m down to pockets.”

“It’ll have to do.” She pulled me along. We stayed in the shadow of the bigtrack.

“Did you target the guns?” she asked.

“Yeah.” My knee hurt. I kept up as best I could, limping.

“Good thinking. Might buy us a little time.”

Light flashed. I heard the sound of the big gun again. Instantly followed by an explosion.

“Got that one, too,” Kette said. “Come on.”

The bigtrack rattled along backwards just faster than a brisk walk, a little slower than a run. My knee started giving me shooting pains as we moved along beside the three point tracks.

“Is there a plan here?” I asked.

“Trust me.”

She ran on and went around behind the machine. I worried that if I followed I would stumble and the tracks would crush me.

I ran around anyway. If I didn’t, I would become a target for that big gun.

“All right,” Kette said as I joined her. She wasn’t even puffing.

“What’s all right?” I wondered.

“We’re behind it now. Oblique to the wall. It’s not designed for close proximity. Better out on a wide battlefield.”

“It will shoot overhead again.” I kept moving. The bigtrack’s huge stern loomed over us.

“No. It’ll fire directly at the cab. But, if I’m right, we’ll have about a half-second before they fire.”

“A half-second?” But it got it right away. They would turn off the fence. We could dash through as the tank fired. Hopefully not getting caught in the blast.

The bigtrack would shower shrapnel like a metal hailstorm.

“Any moment now,” she said. “Watch the fen—”

She stopped as the gunfire ceased.

“Out of ammo,” I said.

“Not a scratch on that thing, either.”

The fence blanked.

“Go!” Kette yelled.

I moved. My knee gave out.

I smacked into the ground. The leviathan’s huge track rolled at me.


The explosion seemed to obliterate the bigtrack.

I was already rolling.

Most of the debris went upward. I kept rolling.

Kette screamed my name. She grabbed my arm and pulled. I must have been moving too fast. She succeeded only in stumbling herself.

I heard the zzzt sound of the fence re-engaging.

This was tech I’d never encountered before.

“Your boot’s on fire,” Kette said.

The fence sliced up a lot of the chunks of metal. They spun away at strange angles. Momentum, and influenced by unnatural physics.

Some got through. One had hit my sole. I could feel the heat on my foot.

I stripped the boot off.

“Come on,” Kette said.

With a bad knee and a stocking-foot I wasn’t going to be coming on anywhere in a hurry. “Where?”

“There.” She pointed to the tank.


The tank had a ladder on the side like the bigtrack. Like the bigtrack had once had. That machine now lay as a field of blackened metal shards. The two tracks had stayed together though. They’d flopped out like dead worms.

The tank had turned on us. We made even worse targets than the bigtrack. Especially so close in. The tank had been designed with vast industrial battles in mind. Battles scattered over tens or hundreds of square kilometers.

I don’t know how I made it across the rough ground. The big factory continued to chug away nearby. As if this kind of thing was as regular as swatting flies.

Kette shoved me at the ladder. The thing had to be moving at twenty-four kilometers an hour.

Somehow I caught the bottom rung. I hauled myself up and swung my good knee over.

I reached out and helped Kette on.

“You know we’re sitting geese now?” I looked up at the top of the ladder. A six meter climb.

“I know. You go first.”


I pulled on up. At any moment I expected the tank’s crew to surge to the edge with handguns. They would take wagers. Make us wait until we were nearly at the top.

But I got up and over without anyone coming. No one on the top side either.

Kette joined me. “Like it’s all automated,” she said.

I went to the hatchway behind the turret and tried the handle.


“Well,” she said. “It was never going to be easy.”

I felt around my pockets. I found a little portable burner. Good for getting through a wooden door. Useless for three centimeters of Kevlar steel.

The tank rumbled along underneath me. The vibration felt kind of soothing to my bad knee.

A flashlight, a spool of monofilament, a twincell battery, a music player, and my dialbox-tascer.

Another message from Millie.

I hadn’t even read or replied to the last one.

That could be bad news. I opened it up.

“What are you doing?” Kette asked.

“Some personal business.”

“Your job, in case you’ve forgotten, is to get us inside this thing.”

“I didn’t forget.” My job was everything she couldn’t do, or couldn’t be bothered to do. “But this is important.”

She huffed and knelt next to the hatch. She started playing with the codelock.

“Robbie,” Millie said from the dialbox’s bead display. “Thought I might have heard. Pity you’re not here. The test came back positive.”

I felt a shudder. It wasn’t the tank. What was it? Surprise for sure.

“Is she sick?” Kette said. “Sorry man. Come help me here.”

“Stop listening. She’s not sick.”

“Oh. Does that mean ...”

“Yes. It means I need to get on back home. For a long while.”

“That’s why you’ve been so distracted.”

“I’m not distracted.”

“Do I need to list the ways you are?” She didn’t look up from the codelock. “Falling over. Losing gear. Asking dumb questions.”

“All right. Stop it. I’m going to be a father.”

“Well, you need to live through this. Come help me here.”

I noticed the turret swinging around. I hadn’t realized it could do that.

And as it pivoted I saw that it had a smaller disrupter gun mounted alongside the big gun.

Like my little robot tascer, but a hundred times more powerful.

“We’ve got about fifteen seconds,” Kette said.

I dropped beside her. She was screwing up the decode.

“That thing’s especially for repelling boarders,” she said.

“I know.” I cracked the dialbox in half and pulled out the usplug.

“What’s that? Is it meant to—”

“Let me concentrate,” I said. I jammed the plug into the codelock and let the dialbox run numbers. I glanced up at the disruptor.

“You should get out of here,” I said.

“That’s not a standard dialbox, is it?”

“Modified. And you thought I wasn’t concentrating.”

“You were about a billion kilos—”

The hatch clunked and slid aside.

We practically squashed each other getting inside.

A man stood facing us, holding a gun.

I tensed. Despite all the shooting earlier, he really had the drop on us now.

The interior stank of machine oil and bananas. I saw some skins draped over the side of the main console. Lights flashed around the driver’s hollow.

“Well,” he said. His accent made him sound like he was from some plutocracy somewhere. “Aren’t you two very determined?”

“Nick Laguna,” Kette said. “I’m claiming arrest on the basis of industrial espionage.”

He nodded. “But I’m holding the gun.”

“This man,” Kette said, “Has just found out that he is about to become a father.”

Laguna’s eyes slitted. “Should that make—”

Kette moved fast. With a kick, she swept his legs. He slammed down on the steel deck. The gun clattered away. She cuffed him.

“Can you drive this thing?” she said, looking at me.

“Well, my foot’s sore and my knee’s bung, but—”

“But you really want to get home, right?”



On the flight back to Holm, with Laguna in our legal brig, I found Kette in the observation dome. The swirling mesh of altered space flowed around. The lights were entrancing.

“I like it down here,” she said. “Peaceful.” She had a beer and a bowl of corn chips. Our usual informal celebratory feast.

“How did you know?” I said. “Back there.” I got a beer for myself.

“You don’t get to do that,” she said.

I smiled and slit the lid. “I’m not the one that’s pregnant.”

“If she doesn’t get to drink, nor do you.” Kette hadn’t even looked around.

I binned the beer and got a soda. “Am I allowed corn chips?” I sat with her.

“How did I know what?”

I took a handful. “That he was there. And that he wouldn’t shoot.”

“You found him. All your information. We just needed to get in.”


“And I didn’t know that he wouldn’t shoot. But I just needed some distraction. He never knew his father. So I figured that would distract him enough. Very good timing, by the way.”

“I’m sure you would have thought of something.” I took a slug from the soda and watched the lights.

“Yes,” she said. “Yes I would have.”  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.”



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