Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


On the Road Again
by Michaele Jordan

A Prince of Blood and Spit
by Guy Stewart

by Brandon L. Summers

Little Ships
by Harold R. Thompson

Road Rage on the Hypertime Expressway
by Ken Altabef

Bug Out
by Cas Blomberg

By His Jockstrap
by Eamonn Murphy

Tamera’s Engagement
by John Hegenberger

Shorter Stories

From the Other Side of the Rubicon
by Sean Mulroy

To Be Carved
by David Steffen

Final Frames of the Eldrisil
by J. Daniel Batt


About That Colony
by John McCormick

Tesla and Newton
by Eric M. Jones



Comic Strips




By His Jockstrap

By Eamonn Murphy

THE YOUNG MAN WAS DRESSED IN TYPICAL early 21st century fashion with trainers on his feet, blue jeans on his legs and a loud T-shirt covering his torso. He had a satchel slung over one shoulder. He was tall and slender with short dark hair and the insouciant manner of a confident teenager.

It was eleven-thirty on a bright summer morning. He walked up to the mailbox affixed to a wooden post by the gate of a detached suburban house in Bristol, England. He opened his satchel and extracted a large manila envelope then flipped up the top of the mailbox.

He looked inside and frowned. After a moment’s thought he decided on his course of action, performed it and went on his way.


“Saturday night is the loneliest night of the week,” sighed Alan Hardwick as he stepped through the garden gate of his detached suburban home. Automatically he paused to check the mailbox and was not surprised to see a large manila envelope inside. As a research scientist he often received substantial mailings from scientific bodies, client companies or other interested organizations. He tucked it under his arm and walked up the path.

The cat stropped against his legs and demanded feeding as soon as he was in the door. His next job was to put the kettle on and then make the big decision of the evening: microwave or take-away for dinner.

He microwaved a lasagne and ate it. The TV Guide contained nothing interesting so he decided to settle down with a good book. First, though, he would check his mail.

He opened the envelope and tipped the contents onto the coffee table in his comfortable living room. There was a set of blueprints, which he ignored for the moment, and a letter. Unusually, it was handwritten. That got his attention. He picked it up and began to read.

Dear Alan,

I am sending this to you from the future to make your life happier. I dropped it off personally. I had a friend who left me a time machine when he died. There were rumours of its existence but the secret is reasonably well kept. Travel to the past is something to be careful about, for obvious reasons. I sent this letter to arrive today specifically because I recall that on this day you learned that a time machine existed.

Hardwick paused in his reading and remembered the day’s events. It was Saturday. He had gone to his office at the Bristol Robotics Corporation and done a little work on his current project. He was in charge of the department that endeavoured to make man-like robots. It was an uphill battle, not least because some of the higher management thought the project useless, arguing that there was no need for robots to resemble humans in any way. Rather they should be designed for their allocated tasks. Reluctantly they recognized that a public bought up on science-fiction films had a yen for humanoid artificial life so they let the research continue, but funding was minimal.

After work Alan had gone to the pub with one of his colleagues, John Grainger, a short, ginger-haired man from Glasgow who defied convention by being extremely affable and never head-butting anyone. Usually it was a fairly routine chat about the week at the office, the daily news and so forth.

When they arrived his friend was ribbing him about a new girl at work. “She fancies you, Alan. I saw her staring at you.”


“No, seriously. And she’s alright, Amanda. Very bright. A great addition to the team. I took her out for lunch yesterday and got her phone number. Here.” He tucked a slip of paper into the top pocket of Hardwick’s jacket.

This evoked a harsh laugh. “And what would I do with that?”

“Call her, maybe. Honestly, mate, all she could talk about was you.”

“Oh, pack it in, John. What are you having?”


They settled down for their usual few pints and discussion of the planet’s ills, which could all be sorted if only men in bars were allowed to rule the world. Or perhaps taxi drivers. Then Grainger saw a tall, dark bearded man leaving the pub and pointed him out excitedly.

“That’s George Armstrong Custer!”

Alan had just bought the drinks. He turned and looked at the departing figure.

“Custer? Oh, yes. The Nobel Prize winner. I met him at a seminar once and we got on quite well. He gave me his number and said we should get together sometime.”

Grainger looked at him as if he had grown a second head. “Custer wants to socialize with you?”

Hardwick shrugged. “He was impressed with my research, he said.” A quiet, shy man, Hardwick was not one to trumpet his own achievements but he had gained a First Class Honours degree from Cambridge University, done postgraduate work at the California Institute of Technology, and was widely regarded as one of the world’s top scientists in his field. Grainger knew this but seldom thought about it.

They sat down. After a couple of pints Grainger suddenly said: “You know Custer’s big secret?”

“He’s been married four times?” asked Alan.

Grainger shook his head and looked around the room to check that no one was listening. Then he leaned forward and said quietly: “He built a time machine.”

Alan laughed. “We call that a clock around here.”

Grainger shook his head. “No. I mean it. I went to Bristol University, you know, and there were rumours about it back then.”

Alan pulled a face. “It sounds like a load of nonsense to me.”

His friend shrugged. “It probably is. Still, there were rumours.” The discussion had turned to other matters and Alan forgot about Custer.

I remember that on this day you learned that a time machine existed.

On this day ...! How could anyone have known that. His odd conversation with his friend John about Custer’s alleged time machine—a notion he gave no credence—had taken place only a few hours ago. He filed that mystery away for future reflection and continued reading.

I know that you once lived in hope of getting a real live girl. It has not happened. It never will. You are too shy. You seldom get up the nerve to ask one out, and on the few occasions you do, the date goes badly. You will try too hard to impress. You drink too much to conquer your nerves and then make a fool of yourself. The girl thinks you are a dork and there are no second dates.

Not long ago you resigned yourself to a lonely bachelor life.

Alan was not married. His few dates had been exactly as the letter described. He could cope with the opposite sex in day-to-day life, but when any prospect of romance or sexual liaison loomed he turned into a stammering, blushing wreck and exited as soon as possible. He had always been that way. Now, aged thirty, he had settled for a quiet bachelor life. He was intelligent and sociable and had a few good friends—all male—but no female companion. Whoever had sent this letter knew him intimately. Shockingly so. His heart beat faster as he read on.

I cannot send you a girl to love but I am sending you the next best thing. In the future, technology will improve. (You know this. Dork you may be but you are in the top one-percentile when it comes to intelligence.) As I write, we at the Bristol Robotics Corporation have developed androids that are virtually indistinguishable from human beings and that can be programmed for anything. We have also developed 3D printing to a level beyond your wildest expectations.

Alan put down the letter and studied the blueprints. They were in the format used for genuine design work but the contents, the micro-circuitry, the level of sophistication ... he had never seen the like! If they were fakes they were composed by someone very clever. He decided to study them more closely later and continued with the letter.

Using the blueprints enclosed you can build a large printer in the basement of your home and using the program enclosed you can then print this beautiful android. She will be your mate for life. Obviously, you will have to keep her secret from the world but she will be nice to come home to and awful nice by the fire. You can turn her off when not needed.

Good luck and have lots of fun with her. I am ninety-eight years old now and these developments have come too late for me to enjoy today. I decided that perhaps I could arrange to enjoy them yesterday instead.

I envy you.

Yours Sincerely,

Alan Hardwick.

Alan gave a low whistle when he saw the signature. He leaned back on the sofa and stared at the ceiling for a long time.

A long, long time.

After a while he picked up the blueprints for the 3D printer. He could tell that the parts would be quite expensive, but he would be able to build it. Then he looked at the drawings for the android.

She was perfect. Some of the synthetics used for her skin and muscle would be hard to source and he might have to use substitutes in places but he was sure he could make a pretty good stab at her.

He laughed at the image.

He looked at her again. A woman for me.

A woman. No. A souped-up rubber doll!

He threw the plans contemptuously on the coffee table. He took a few deep breaths and picked them up again.

I should burn these, he thought. As long as they exist I’ll be tempted to build her—it. I should burn them and carry on with my quiet, Victorian bachelor life.


I should go and get a real woman.

He suddenly remembered the bit of paper in his jacket pocket and took it out. Then he took a deep breath and picked up the phone.


Alan Hardwick’s old bones ached and he shifted uncomfortably in his hoverchair. He was watching the time machine in the basement of his old house. It consisted of a metal base and a glass tube about eight feet high and six feet in diameter with a metal cap on top. It looked like an old-fashioned thirteen amp fuse. He remembered how annoyed Professor Custer had looked when he first said so, all those years ago. His good friend was dead ten years now but Alan never forgot him.

He turned to the elderly lady sitting beside him. “How long has he been gone, dear?”

She smiled and patted his hand. “About an hour. Be patient.”

The glass tube glowed brightly. The glow faded and a young man now stood there wearing jeans, T-shirt and trainers. He pushed open the glass door and stepped out into the basement room.

The old man spoke. “Well?”

“All done, granddad.”

The old lady grunted. “Did you have to send you the blueprints and the program for that girl.”

He patted her knee. “You know I did, Amanda. I had to because that’s how I remember it. I knew he wouldn’t build her then because I know I didn’t.”

“I was always worried that you would,” admitted his wife.

He chuckled. “She kept you on your toes, dear.”

His grandson stood in front of him, head cocked to one side and a curious expression on his young face. “How do you know what he will do.”

“Because I know what I did,” said Alan, a trifle impatiently. “It’s a time loop, David. “It can’t be changed.”

The boy nodded. “But it doesn’t make sense. Why would you send back an android mate for him in the first place? Surely the predictable outcome of that is that he would keep her and not bother looking for a human mate.”

Alan nodded. “I know. I’ve had a long time to think about it but”—he shrugged—“that’s not what happened.”

“But that’s what you would expect to happen, isn’t it?”

“I kept the letter a long time. I’m sure I remembered it correctly.”

“Do you know what I think?”

“I’m afraid to ask,” said the old woman.

David wrinkled his brow in concentration. “I think that lonely young Alan grew up and never got a wife. I think that when he was ninety he decided to give his younger self a present and took him back the 3D printer and the female android program. He thought that young Alan would live the same life he had, but with some solace. Some sex, at least. But young Alan didn’t do what was expected.”

“You think I changed my future,” said Alan.

“Obviously, you changed it, granddad, but not in the way you planned.

“But ...”

“You know what happened, but it’s not the result one would expect.”

“You’re saying ...”

“I’m saying that in some alternate timeline you lived a long, lonely life and sent a consolation prize back to yourself. That future gave young you such a fright that you went out and changed it. The impetus was lust, of course. He was a young man full of seed.”

Alan frowned. “You’re saying I hoisted myself up ... by my bootstraps.”

The grandson shook his head. “Did you see that android gal! I’m going to print me one asap. No. You got young Alan thinking about a life without companionship and he couldn’t face the prospect. He lacked confidence, sure, but he was in the prime of life and raring to go. That gorgeous android kick started him to go out and get a real girl.” He pointed to his smiling grandmother then nodded at the old man’s groin. “You hoisted yourself up alright, granddad ... by your jockstrap.”

Amanda made a disapproving noise. Alan frowned.

“But ... I sent the envelope back to make sure my life happened as it did. If what you say is true—if in some alternate timeline there’s another Alan Hardwick who never married, never got a woman and sent back the letter and the blueprints—there would have been two letters back there in 2015.”

David opened his satchel and pulled out a large manila envelope. He threw it on the table.

“There were.”

Alan‘s mouth opened but no sound came out.

His grandson continued: “I took this one out of the mailbox and left yours.” He put it in his grandfather’s lap.

Alan Hardwick stared at it for a long time. Eventually he said, “Would you leave me, please. Just for a while.”

His wife and grandson moved quietly away and went upstairs.

Alan sat in his hoverchair and thought about time and space and choices. His grandson was no fool. There had been two envelopes. He thought about that for a long time. And then wept for the lonely old man who had given him a
happy life. END

Eamonn Murphy is a 53-year-old writer living near Bristol, England, and working for the NHS. He grew up reading Marvel comics, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and all the classics. His previous story for “Perihelion” was in the 12-DEC-2014 issue.


one year


star run