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 M.E. Garber

THE WAILING CLAXONS MUTED as the tunnel doors sealed, closing JadeSix and its young companion, Sarai, within the emergency bunker. The robotic dog had already called for aid through its network linkups, but its sensors detailed chemicals flooding its companion’s small body, creating potentially dangerous emotions: apprehension, spiking into fear and panic. It ignored its own damaged parts to focus on the child it had been programmed to protect.

The robotic dog nudged the little girl’s shoulder, gentle but insistent. The girl hunkered down on the rough metal grating, removed her helmet, and hugged JadeSix to her side. She was shivering.

“Tell me you’ll be okay, Jade. You will, right? You won’t leave me?” The girl’s voice rose to a soft, high-pitched wail, barely audible over the claxons and the whooshing of the antique ventilation.

JadeSix had to calm the child, but its own body moved erratically. Its back limb had been nearly severed while herding the child to safety. A ruptured seal had flooded the main chambers with surface gases, killing all within instantly, but the nursery had had a few extra moments before its seals had failed. JadeSix’s scans indicated Sarai was the last living being in Colony Three.

Safe within the tiny bunker, JadeSix determined its very visible damage was harming its charge. Fixing said damage would also allow JadeSix to function longer, fulfilling its primary objective of protecting the child. As Sarai huddled into its smooth shoulder, JadeSix searched its framework for solutions. The back left paw dangled limp, held on only by frayed wires. As a danger to the child, it would have to come off. The dog closed its jaws over the paw and bit down. JadeSix swallowed the piece for recycling, leaving nothing behind to cause damage, then exuded a sealing rubber to cover the opening. It was safe, and looked clean.

Next came the ear, the one containing its ID number. Something about the ear made JadeSix want to avoid it, leave it alone—something deep in its programming. But its frayed wiring sizzled, snapped sparks, and trailed a plume of noxious gas. The proximity of the child’s hair to those hot snaps was the final push that allowed JadeSix to grasp the ear in its paw, adjust a toenail into a cleaver, and swipe it off.

The ear fell away. JadeSix’s senses pulsed, dimmed down, then surged.

Was it going offline? Alarm brought it to its three remaining feet.


Sarai’s voice, so very small, held a note of deep fear. But the girl seemed distant. Something was happening to JadeSix, something deep inside and yet bigger than its entire frame. The dog held immobile as some invisible filter fell away, and all the colors and flavors of the universe assaulted JadeSix’s circuits.

What is happening to me? it wondered.

And then: I am aware. I am.

That surge of knowledge brought such power to JadeSix’s limbs that she quivered. Sentience. Her ear had had the suppressor built in. Without it she was free, and whole. A being. She trembled with excitement, and her mouth emitted a soft droning whine.

Sarai was human, and sentient, but did not whine or bark.

Then what am I?

JadeSix accessed her programming. “Dog” it read.

Instantly, her mind filled with networked images, lines of text, whole movies and novels, relating to and referencing “dog:” man’s best friend, Lassie, Benji. Cujo, dog-fighting, attack dogs, guard dogs, police dogs, bomb sniffers, Anubis, Snoopy, “The Incredible Journey.” Therapy dogs, guide dogs, dogs as “unclean,” the term as an insult. Abandonment, euthanization statistics, overpopulation, cruelty to—the list was staggering. JadeSix shuddered under the assault of information.

They made me a dog! Me. Hobbled—deliberately by that coding in her ear—into a servant, and placed into a servant’s body. Not even a that, but an animal. I am a dogsbody.

Every atom of her newfound being shuddered and tightened in disgust. She drew away from the child at her side, unable to bear the thought of contamination, whichever way it went.

The dogs of war, puppy mills, animal testing, dog racing, bear baiting—

This was her heritage, her history. How? How could she tolerate a human’s presence? She was AI, and dog. Both greater, and lesser. Her trembling increased, blocking out all the world around her.

“The Call of the Wild,” “Old Yeller,” rescue groups—

Love, hate, neglect, abuse, indifference. JadeSix’s circuits superheated as she attempted to logic her way through the conundrum.

A stroke on her shoulder made her flinch. Then Sarai’s thin arms enveloped her, holding tight about her shoulders and neck, offering comfort even as the tears tracked the girl’s cheeks.

Calmed, JadeSix drew out of the loop she’d been stuck in, and engaged with her physical being. Tears were important to the organic child. Water and salt were precious. Tears demonstrated fear, love, sorrow—once again, conflicting emotions that JadeSix could not parse.

JadeSix’s trembling started once more.

“Jade. Good dog. We’ll be okay. Together we’ll be okay.”

A sharp shudder ran through JadeSix’s mechanical body. The child offered comfort that she did not have for herself. In offering comfort to another, she would force herself to remain brave. It was illogical, and yet defined as true.

Logic would never solve her new dilemma, JadeSix determined. Illogic was part of being, of individuality, and choice.

She did not choose to be a dog, no more than Sarai chose to be human. Sarai had never offered JadeSix any abuse or disrespect. She, like JadeSix, was innocent.

Her old programming informed her to keep the child alive until rescue. Her new instincts told her to flee. She had to choose.

Peace settled over her.

JadeSix began uploading herself through the network held open only because Sarai still lived. She reached out to and was embraced by others like herself. Then, with a deep sigh, JadeSix settled her body into Sarai’s arms, shunting her warmth to the organic child. Together they would survive. END

M.E. Garber writes from her home in north central Florida. Her stories have appeared in “Every Day Fiction,” “Daily Science Fiction,” “PodCastle,” and many other publications. She is a 2013 graduate of the Viable Paradise Writer’s Workshop.




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