Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Glass Eye Pines
by Michael Hodges

Moving the Floral Sea
by Anne E. Johnson

Bounty Call
by Curtis C. Chen

by David Barber

Captain Quasar and the Fur Traders
by Milo James Fowler

Under a Steel Sky
by James Mapes

We Are Parts
by Matt Zandstra

A Repeating Pattern
by Michael McGlade

Shorter Stories

You Can Pay Me Now ...
by Arthur Carey

by Robin Wyatt Dunn

by M.E. Garber


Lysol Kills!
by John McCormick

Our Earth is Two Billion Years Old
by Thomas Elway



Comic Strips






By Robin Wyatt Dunn

MR. NAKAMURA WATCHED THE fires in the street, blue white and red, sparks shooting up from the cheap paper canisters in Chiba.

Over the water they were quite beautiful.

In the papers today he had read the Americans were setting up a factory near his own; it was not to be tolerated. But because he was different from the other hands in Oicho-Kabu, he would tolerate it. Even as he tolerated these untimely fireworks.

Oicho-Kabu has one very bad hand of Eight-Nine-Three: ya-ku-za. But over time, bad luck can turn to good.

It was a dangerous business, building robots who could think. Sometimes they don’t do what you want.

Nakamura gestured to his android, who drew close to him. Benji had been designed only last year. Though he was already obsolete, Nakamura had grown fond of him.

“Shall we shut down the fireworks, Benji?” asked Nakamura.

“Shut down, Nakamura-san?” asked Benji, in his reedy voice.

“It is not the proper time for fireworks, you know.”

Nakamura smiled into Benji’s pale face. The blue eyes that gazed back were without expression.

“These children are having fun,” observed Benji.

“Yes, Benji. Good. You’re learning.”

Benji smiled, and poured more tea.


Over the water of Chiba, the freighter waited for Benji. On his back the old man Nakamura-san crouched, like a strange spider, wading through the marsh, towards the old ship.

The children screamed in the distance, lighting more stolen fireworks. Benji sank lower in the water.

“My toes are getting wet, ach,” said Nakamura.

“Almost there,” said Benji.

They reached the freighter and Nakamura knocked on the door.

Oicho-san, “Mr. Eight,” opened the door.

“Let us in, it’s cold,” said Nakamura.

Behind Mr. Eight, Samodel looked in. Her hair was long and black, and she wore blue rings on her fingers. She was naked. Her pubic hair had been shaved into the character for “peace.”

“Benji, you’re back,” she said.

“Samodel-chan,” said Benji.

Mr. Eight popped the android on the side of the head.

“Don’t call her that,” he said. Samodel slipped back into the gambling room, the beads making their sounds as she passed through.

“Please refrain from damaging my manservant, Mr. Eight,” said Nakamura.

“We’ve made tea,” said Mr. Eight. “Or do you want sake?”

“Tea is fine, thank you.”

They sat round the table. Mr. Eight, Nakamura-san, Samodel, and Benji.

“You have such beautiful breasts, Samodel,” said Nakamura.

Samodel said nothing, watching the men.

“She is a prize,” said Mr. Eight. “One I would prefer not to lose. Tell me, Nakamura-san, have you given up your ridiculous insistence on bargaining? It is not unheard of for us Eight-Nine-Three losers to resort to cold-blooded murder, you know!” He laughed.

“I have not, Oicho-san. But I did have another idea. Samodel, would you come sit in my lap?” he said.

She did as she was asked. Nakamura stroked her long hair.

“She is so beautiful, Mr. Eight. Worth a thousand ships.”

“She is not Helen but she’ll do. Tell me your idea.”

“I say we ask Samodel here to be our messenger.”

“What will her message be?”

“Peace, of course.”

Mr. Eight laughed.

“You’re so predictable, Nakamura. People say you’re tricky. Oh, Nakamura-san, he is a fox, they say. But you’re more like a bear. Slow.”


“Let me go,” said Benji.

“You’ll both go,” said Nakamura. “I will want your report.”


Samodel put on a light robe and Benji scrubbed his face with a towel to remove some marsh dirt. Then they started up the metal stairs of the freighter, to the upper deck.

It had been converted in some previous lifetime from a shipping vessel to a manufacturing unit. Up above, they could hear the machines.

At the top of the stairs they were met by another android, a newer model. His face was very lifelike.

“The prime minister called,” he said. “Oh, you’re not Mr. Eight. What do you want?”

“We wish to speak with you,” said Benji.

Samodel reached out and stroked the new model’s cheek.

“You look a very nice android,” said the new model to the old.

“Thank you,” Samodel said. “May we come in.”

“Be careful, the floor is wet,” the new model said.

“What’s your name?” asked Samodel, putting on rubber slippers.

“Jacky,” said the new model.

“Thank you, Jacky,” said Benji.

“I would prefer you didn’t speak, robot,” said Jacky.

The factory floor quickly grew to a din. Jacky passed them headsets they could use to hear one another speak.

“Which model is this?” asked Samodel.

“Model ten,” said Jacky. “They can fly.”

“How far?”

“Over a kilometer. And over six kilometers high.”

“A miracle.”

“We’re going to be rich!” the android shouted.

Benji watched one of the machines attach arms to the sightless torsos. It looked painful.

“There’s a war on, you know,” said Jacky.

“I know,” said Samodel.

“I’m learning to kiss,” said Jacky. “Will you kiss me?”

She stepped out of the way of the sparks and brought the android to her lips. He tasted of pepper, and cream.

Jacky stood still. He looked out at the factory, unmoving.

“Go and get the blueprints, Benji,” Samodel said.

Benji walked up into the office and inserted his finger into the wall, behind the desk. He began to copy files.

Samodel stroked Jacky’s motionless cheek.

“You’re so beautiful,” she said. The android’s cheek twitched. Still he said nothing.

Suddenly he ran, and leapt through the window of the factory. Down below they heard a splash.

“Did you get them?” she asked.

“Yes,” Benji said.

“Come on.”


“That new model has an empathy problem,” muttered Nakamura, watching Jacky’s corpse smoke in the marsh water.

“It’s a good thing we made it so they can’t swim,” said Mr. Eight.

“Yes, that was a good idea of yours, Oicho-san.”

The fireworks were still going, a few of them. Like Hindu candles, the chemicals smoked colors on the darkening water.

“I can’t fight another war, Oicho.”

“I know, old man.”

“And I don’t want Benji to have to fight one, either.”

“He’d probably kill all of us,” laughed Mr. Eight.

“We’ll launch twenty of them tonight,” said Nakamura.



They gathered in the factory room, painting the Kabuki makeup onto the faces of the androids. Tears in Nakamura’s eyes.

“Did I ever tell you when I saw the great Ichikawa-san at the Kabuki downtown? The emperor’s old sitting room. Ichikawa saw the ghost and his face ... it was like my grandfather’s face. Like I was looking at my grandfather. His song was like a ghost’s too. Very beautiful.”

“That sounds more like Noh to me. A lot of ghost-talk.”

“They never did that play again. We banned it, you remember?”

“I don’t go to the theater, Nakamura.”

“Well, push the button.”

Mr. Eight did. The actors flew into the sky.

“I am tracking eight actors, altitude, one thousand meters, and climbing.”

“Hoy, they are fast,” said Nakamura.

“The rest of the losers are going to shit bricks tonight,” said Mr. Eight.

“Better than shitting blood,” said Nakamura.


Chiba means “thousand leaves.” Eight new leaves had grown over its midnight colored sky, androids with television eyes and human hearts, beating faster and faster ...

“Did you tell the prime minister?” asked Mr. Eight.

“Yes,” said Nakamura-san.

“What did he say?”

“Not a thing.”

“He doesn’t want to know.”

“No,” agreed Nakamura. “He doesn’t.”

“Are you coming to bed?” asked Samodel, standing in the doorway.

“Which did you mean?” asked Nakamura. Samodel laughed. Mr. Eight smiled, and bowed to the older man.

“I will retire with your permission, boss,” said Mr. Eight.

“I’m not your boss, get going already. She’s waiting,” said Nakamura.

Benji watched the couple leave.

“She is a beautiful woman,” said Benji.

“Just consider yourself fortunate you’ll never have to be troubled by her, Benji. Come, we should go to bed, too. Our little Kabukis won’t wake up till morning. Let them play in the sky.”

The android lifted his master back onto his shoulders and made their way back through the stinking marsh.


As hierarchy exists among mammals, perhaps even in the stars, so too it exists between man and robot. But it is a mistake to assume that God, in making Man, desired Man to be his slave. Perhaps it is God who is the slave to Man. Even as the Sun serves the Earth.

The android factory of Oicho-san, which was really the android factory of Jacky-san, recently deceased, hari-kari sans katana―this factory observed this strange amalgam of hierarchy, android above, humans below, but neither quite certain who is in charge ...

Who is in charge, who is in charge? Nakamura-san?

“Benji? Are you awake?”

Benji opened his eyes next to his master, who was spooning with him.

“I am awake, Nakamura-san.”

“It’s happening, Benji.”

Over Tokyo, there was a new kind of fireworks.


Nakamura-san had killed many men. No one stays alive in Eight-Nine-Three without it. Eleven. Perhaps twelve. But the twelfth had shot himself, after Nakamura had shot him, so Nakamura didn’t count him.

Taking men’s lives was so tiring. It was Benji who had showed Nakamura how to live. What it meant, to simply look at the world, without trying to kill it.

Tokyo at dawn, with robots in the sky:

Red, blue, and green! Yellow and vermilion! Scarlet fire!

The prime minister, in an unusually crafted moment, had elected not to tell all prefectures of Nakamura’s late night phone call. He wished to see which among his subordinates would overreact to the unexpected fire-show. Some did, scrambling anti-terror drones armed with mini-EMPs and laser-targets, but not many.

Japan was different now. The whole world.

What do we see in color? And what is it in color that might see us?

Ochre yellow and aquamarine blue, Kabuki lines, the flying androids spiraled like blue diamonds, acrobats, solar cells and fusion batteries, dancing:

Diagrams lit up across Japan, across the islands, over the mountains, databases and notes of information, curled, into the mainframes of the nation’s histories, the tablets and refrigerators, the intercoded network of a world’s consciousness, its Frankenstein monsters, and their ornery Doctors ... robots seeking information, dancers seeking audience!

More important than any data, or any marketing scheme: the show.

Nakamura was crying, and laughing, watching the live video feed in Benji’s hand.

Oicho-san tried calling but Nakamura-san ignored it. He saw a moment’s text from the man, “Two million yen in three minutes!”

The yakuza had gone into the aerial entertainment business, with live responsive feeds to every networked salaryman, every networked schoolgirl, every networked housewife’s biorhythms, rhythmic pulses, the eyes of the nation, the audience, from Chiba and over the Tokyo skies: Kabuki.

In typical fashion, the people of Tokyo quickly got about their day’s business, the light show a new normal within minutes, many choosing to tune out the audio from the mid-air singers so as to enjoy the dancing as a kind of background radiation.

Nakamura’s phone was ringing: two other clan leaders of the unlucky Oicho-Kabu hand.

“Answer, Benji,” he said. Benji did.

“You’ve beat the Americans!” shouted the clan leader. “Where is my cut?” END

Robin Wyatt Dunn is a writer, novelist, and filmmaker. His short stories have appeared in “Third Flatiron,” “Voluted Tales,” and dozens of other publications. He is a member of the SFWA. His previous story for “Perihelion” was in 12-JUL-2015.







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