Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Narrative of a Slave
by Robin Wyatt Dunn

Song of C
by Jørn Arnold Jensen

Ready or Not
by Holly Schofield

Each Day I Walk These Hollow Streets
by Andrew Barton

Neanderthal Autumn
by Kurt Heinrich Hyatt

Plasma Breach
by Mord McGhee

By the Light of Several Silvery Moons
by Eamonn Murphy

Packrat Machine
by Karl Dandenell

Shorter Stories

Teaching Acute Coronary Syndrome to an Alien
by Devin Miller

by Bill Suboski

We’ve Only Just Begun
by Chris Bullard


Tales From the Greenhouse
by Joseph Green

And a Tale of the Tail
by Eric M. Jones



Comic Strips




Neanderthal Autumn

By Kurt Heinrich Hyatt

March 6, 2215
Palmview Apartments

ANANDA’S NEW LOVER WAS certainly worth the price she paid for him.

Even considering the down payment, extended warranty, and her loan at an extortionate interest rate. Still ... she smiled complacently to herself, watching his back muscles ripple as he pulled on his vest with the eagle emblazoned on the leather. She was still a little sore, but pleasantly so, wondering if choosing the model with the fourteen inch appendage was wise in the long run.

“Gimme a few zacks to see how your maid is coming along with your breakfast, Hot Lips,” her new bedmate announced. “What did you say her name was?”

“I call her Agnes. Model MG5, Suzi Homemaker.” Ananda threw back the bedclothes and pulled on her bathrobe.

“Wanna have her serve it to you in bed?”

“I’d rather have you back in bed, Jax, but it’s time for me to get ready for the daily grind on the sales floor.” She was almost dressed when the maid arrived in frilled apron and black dress, hair pulled back into a bun above a bland uninteresting face.

“Your moco, mistress,” Agnes announced, setting a tray on the nightstand.

“Hope you finally learned how to make it,” she grumbled, groping under the bed for shoes. “Lately it’s been scalding hot or glacial cold.”

“Yes, mistress.”

“Yes, is it too hot or yes, is it too cold?”

“I believe it is prepared just right this time.” She held out a cup.

Ananda grunted and took a sip. A scattering of discs lay on the tray beside a pile of breakfast rolls. “What’s this?”

“I picked up your mail at the door, mistress.”

“Yeah, thanks. Probably the usual crap announcing a fantastic limited time offer ... what the heck?” One of the discs was carrying an official-looking seal. She stepped to a wall console and dropped it in the slot. A somber face and a tailored executive jumpsuit appeared on the viewscreen.

“Greetings from the Department of Population Stability,” a dry voice intoned. “You have been selected by your friends and neighbors from a pool of women in the optimum child bearing age to produce an offspring. You are hereby required to appear before a state-appointed gynecologist at 0900 hours April 16, 2215. Congratulations, future mother!”

“Oh shit!” Ananda’s cup slipped from her fingers to shatter on the floor at her feet.

April 16, 2215
Office of Doctor Cornelius Faber

Dr. Faber had heard the excuses before. All of them, with several and sometimes entertaining variations. I have paid reservations to Mars Resort the next several months, Doctor. I simply can’t, I just started a new job at the synthesoy factory. Are you aware I’m allergic to baby powder and the biodegradable fibers in disposable diapers, Doctor? And so on.

He patiently awaited the expected pleas from his newest arrival, sitting grimly defiant before his office desk.

“I don’t want to have a baby,” Ananda announced, her mouth set in a rigid line. “I need a baby like I need an extra set of tits.”

Dr. Faber sighed. Here we go again. “Ms. Fernandez, you signed an agreement with the state when you elected to purchase a—” He glanced at a desk monitor. “—a Model BD18 Bad Biker Dude from Compatible Companions factory outlet for cybernetic androids. According to the new statutes enacted this month you agreed to submit your name to a pool of women randomly selected to bear children. Ergo, your number came up and you were selected.”

“Yeah, selected after one day. One day!”

“Granted, the odds against your random selection—”

“Then randomly select someone else,” Ananda fumed. “There’s gotta be some wedge in the city who loves changing diapers.”

Dr. Faber leaned elbows on his desk, steepling his fingers. “Ms. Fernandez, permit me to enlighten you on the present situation on our little planet. It would seem the miracle of science has turned around and bitten us on the posterior. We are now able to mass-produce exact human replicas of protoflesh and polycarbon fibre which can be programmed to be the perfect friends, lovers, companions.” He paused, gauging in her expression the degree of sternness or cajolement needed. “You’re a salesperson for Compatible Companions, are you not?”

“That’s right,” she admitted grudgingly. “Your point being?”

“My point is generations of humanity have come to prefer these replicas over each other and combined with the Deathshead Ebola Pandemic of 2157 we find ourselves on the brink of extinction as a species.”

Ananda slouched in her chair, smirking. “Funny. Never thought of myself as vital to survival of the species.”

“I’m afraid you are a little cog in a very big wheel.” He scribbled initials on a disc and slid it across the desk to her.

“What’s this?” she demanded.

“Your prescription for oviceptrol. In addition to bringing on ovulation it also stimulates the female desire to reproduce. You’ll find yourself hugging puppies, shopping for crib accessories, mooning over baby pictures. Take two pills twice daily.”

Snatching up the disc Ananda stuffed it into her purse. “And when may I ask I’ll be required to perform my civic duty?”

“The Department of Population Stability will be sending you a notice when to appear at the Artificial Insemination Facility.” Dr. Faber leaned back in his chair. “Just a heads up if you were getting ready to ask about choices. A new directive from the Diversity Bureau states the sex and ethnicity of the child will be randomly selected by computer.”

Ananda stared at Dr. Faber for a long moment. “So what might happen if I were to say, forget to show up for this appointment?”

“This would be most unfortunate for you.” He regarded her sternly. “You would be in breach of contract and liable for a hefty fine, hours of community service, and your employer would be notified of your antisocial attitude.”

“Okay, I get the picture,” said Ananda, keeping the anger from her voice with an effort. “Is this it? Can I go now?”

Dr. Faber’s reproving glare abruptly mellowed to a paternal smile. “Please try and cultivate a positive attitude, Ms. Fernandez. I have heard on good authority having babies can be fun.”

April 16, 2215
World Feminist Website

The woman on the hospital gurney uttered short, agonized gasps, her face slimed with perspiration. A covey of Model N5 Cybernurses hovered around the bed, laying out surgical tools on a stainless steel tray, checking monitors, and adjusting assorted cylinders of suspended fluids.

“Take a deep breath, Jessica,” the doctor ordered. “Okay, push down harder ... now!”

The nurses positioned the contraction inducer module over the woman’s swollen abdomen. She gave out an agonized scream. Blood ran along the sheet to patter on the green vinyl floor.

“Birth canal lesions sealed, Doctor,” announced a nurse, withdrawing a probe. “Syntheblood injection started.”

“Congratulations, Jessica, you have a healthy baby girl,” the doctor beamed, holding out a squirming bundle. From the blanket reposed an anonymous larval face, drool running from the corners of its mouth, that began to fill the room with shrill cries.

Ananda raised her eyes from the scene on the viewscreen to stare at the ceiling of her apartment. So Dr. Faber thinks having babies is fun, huh? Wonder how much personal experience he’s had, she mused sourly.

The kitchen door slid open and Agnes appeared. She set a glass of wine down before her. “Dinner will be in five zacs, mistress,” she said. “I’m trying out a new chicken recipe I recently downloaded from my culinary matrix.”

Jax came through the kitchen doorway, leather vest and swaggering walk. He sat down next to her, exuding concern. “I figure you’re a little down getting the message from the population dudes, huh? Suppose it’s gonna screw up your life.”

“Seems you Model BD14s have a talent for understatement.” She gazed into sympathetic blue eyes. Did he really feel her anguish or was it just another program inserted into his protoflesh cerebral cortex at the factory?

What was it like in the old days, she wondered. When people chose human partners instead of replicas on the easy payment plan. Ancient history was replete with tales of domestic violence, divorce, custody battles, endless squabbling. Strange to look back before the global pandemic when the Earth’s major problem was overpopulation. Maybe wanting to have a child back then was different. Maybe everything was different.

She felt Jax’s hand covering hers. “Hey, what can I say to you, honeycrack. I’m really sorry.”

On the viewscreen the baby squalled louder, on and on.

“I’m sorry too, Jax.” Ananda got up and walked into the bathroom. On the counter stood the prescription bottle of oviceptrol. Unscrewing the cap she dumped the contents into the toilet and flushed.

April 17, 2215
Compatible Companions

“So how did your first night go with your new cybernetic?” Earl the sales manager asked with a knowing wink. “I’m sure your employee discount helped a lot with your libido.”

Ananda brooded over a now-cold cup of moco, staring out the sales office window to the lines of male and female cybernetics moving through assorted poses.

“Got a little note in my mail this week. The kind which sort of kills the libido,” she said.

Earl lifted one of his tufted black eyebrows. “What kind of note?”

“From the Department of Population Stability, ordering me to acquire the Big Bloat.”

“Zog’s ass.” Earl slumped into a chair. He glanced at the busy sales floor and back to her. “Well, on a personal note, Ananda, I’m really sorry you got nailed.” He paused, scratching the ever-advancing bald patch on his dome. “But looking at the business side, we have the Fall cybernetics line coming out any day. How much maternity leave will you—”

“I have no idea.” She pushed the chair back and stood up. “Lotta customers coming through the door, Earl. Got to get to work.”

The little man in the ill-fitting executive jumpsuit lifted the price tag attached to a female cybernetic attired in a flimsy pink nightie.

“Hi! I’m Tori, a Model SX12 Wild Overnighter,” Pink Nightie declared with a dazzling smile. “You can take me home tonight for a two hundred cred downpayment, pending credit approval.”

“Here for the big sale, huh?” said Ananda, arriving at his side like a shark with her best I wanna be your friend for life salesperson bonhomie. “I know a smart guy when I see him.”

The little man looked startled, dropping the price tag. “Um, sale? No, just thought I’d stop by to check out your inventory.”

“I’m self-lubricating and my programming includes forty-one intimate positions,” Tori continued, taking a deep breath to better display her cleavage.

“Hi, I’m Ananda Fernandez—”

“I can lick the chrome from a trailer hitch and suck a golf ball through—”

“Take a hike, tin tits,” said Ananda without looking at the SX12. She thrust out her hand. “Sorry pal, didn’t catch your name.”

“Um, Delbert Hindbottom.” He accepted the proffered hand and looked vaguely around. “I’m just kind of browsing today.”

“Great! What kind of cybernetic do you have in mind, Delbert? We stock everything from the basic Housekeeper B5 Mop and Glow to the deluxe N69 Party Girl.”

“Um, I’m the director of the Eastside Clinic and we were thinking about one of your office secretary models. Our front desk staff quit when we dropped heath care coverage for all employees.”

“Hey, no health care problems here!” Ananda launched into her sales pitch, picking up speed and mass like a snowball rolling down a hill. “All models coming from our factory have the advanced protoflesh body with full sensory inputs. Their basic programming contains all the human emotions of affection, loyalty, commitment, desire, and ambition, devoid of humanity’s less desirable attributes like hate, self-interest, and greed.”

Delbert nodded approval. “What are our options after a few years if we want to trade her in on a newer model?”

Ananda’s sale instinct recognized the tipping point between a sale and a walkout was fast approaching. “We can’t offer trade-ins per se. What we can do is give you credit for time of usage, compounded on the Kelly Blue Book of depreciation, interest rate adjustment, and recycling fee.”

“Recycling fee?” Delbert looked blank.

“The Department of Artificial Persons is getting pretty strict with the manufacture of Cybernetic androids, Delbert,” she explained smoothly. “In the event of abuse, abandonment, the purchaser’s demise, or factory return, the cybernetic is given a choice of training programs and released into the human population.”

Pursing his lips thoughtfully Delbert gazed along the line of displayed cybernetics. “Would a discount apply if we were to purchase several models?”

Ananda beamed. The sale was almost in the bag. “I’m sure we could come to some agreement with my manager, Delbert.”

Delbert absently rubbed the end of a receding chin. “Can you download highly specialized programming into your units?”

“What kind of specialized programming?”

“Um, we have the usual issues with an aging human population but lately we’re getting increased demands for positive infertility scans.”

“Infertility scans?”

“Young women selected by the Department of Population Stability who wish to avoid childbearing,” he explained. “Simple J beam treatment, not detectable at the Insemination Facility.”

Amanda began looking at Delbert Hindbottom as if he gave milk. “This certainly is fascinating information, Delbert,” she said. “After we meet with my sales manager I’d like to buy you lunch.”

December 30, 2255
Universal Cybernetics

As always, Chang took a deep breath before entering Bullard’s office. Although all tobacco products had been proscribed the last hundred years, no one at Universal Cybernetics had the nerve or poor judgment to remind the head of production of this fact.

“Afternoon, boss,” he said, blinking as the smoke from the contraband cigar assaulted his retinas. “Got a minute to spare?”

Bullard looked up from a viewscreen and chucked a thick thumb at a chair. “Grab a seat and take a load off.”

“We just got an order from old Earl Palobinski at Compatible Companions. He’s getting a lot of requests for cybernetic androids in the management and tech fields.” He cleared his throat nervously. “Says he wants models with at least a level five intelligence.”

Bullard took the cigar from his mouth and made a wry face.

“Level five is the same as human intelligence. This crosses the line into self-awareness.”

“What’s that?”

“Self-awareness is when cybernetics can start thinking of themselves as persons. You know, experiencing emotions such as hate, envy, ambition, greed, self-interest.” He leaned back in his office chair and grinned. “Kinda all the wonderful traits I see in you.”

“Thanks a lot, boss,” he smiled weakly. “But keep in mind good old Earl has placed orders for over two hundred of our protoflesh girls and boys this past year. You really wanna chance losing him as a customer?”

Bullard took a long pull on his cigar, exhaled thoughtfully, and studied the burning end. “Go ahead and tell the programming guys to set up a production line for say, a couple dozen level six cybernetics.”

February 8, 2265
Chapel of Memories

“And so we consign the urn of Ananda Fernandez to the Niche of Tomorrow with our love and eternal blessings,” the funeral director declared to the sodden crowd standing in the early morning drizzle. His eulogy was moving but thankfully short. At its conclusion, the small group of Compatible Companion employees led by Earl Polobinski dispersed to seek shelter leaving two mourners standing before the flower-draped urn. From overhead speakers in a vine covered trellis a scratchy organ fugue began to play.

Jax placed a single rose in the niche and glanced sorrowfully at his companion. “Sorta feel this is my fault,” he muttered. “I told her three times in a row weren’t no good for her heart after she turned sixty. Guess I’ll kinda miss her.”

Agnes sniffed in reply. “I’ll miss all that cleaning up after her and putting up with her shitty mood swings when she retired.” She poked Jax in the side. “Say, are we going downtown to get our Certificates of Emancipation and sign up for our training classes today?”

Jax flicked a raindrop from his nose. “I guess so. What kinda training you signing up for?”

“Motorcycles, choosing leather apparel, and how to be a bad-ass biker chick.” She grabbed Jax by the front of his vest and pulled his lips to hers.

They shared a lingering and passionate kiss then Jax smiled down at her. “Good thing she never found out about us, huh?”

June 27, 2270
Retirement Field Trip

Dr. Faber’s carefully planned retirement was indeed unfolding well. The golf course at his assisted living complex was superb, the cruise to Mars was worth the dent in his 506K account, and today’s gratifyingly modest win at Sunlakes Interstellar Casino was a bonus. He glanced at his friend, Professor Graham, recently of San Angeles University, now staring gloomily out the window of their tour bus. The sky outside was dark, a certain harbinger of rain later in the day.

“Don’t take it so hard, Amos,” he grinned. “Someone has to win, someone has to lose. How much did you drop at the flonn table?”

“Yes, winners and losers.” Professor Graham continued to stare out the window. “They are everywhere.”

“Who is everywhere?” He craned his neck to search the vast city passing beyond the glass.

“Winners: the cybernetic android population of San Angeles. Losers: I haven’t laid eyes on a single human being the last five blocks.”

Dr. Faber watched the passing crowd of fresh young faces, no children, no oldsters, no mothers pushing strollers. “Yes, brave new world out there,” he agreed.

Professor Graham turned a lined and troubled face to his. “Cornelius, when you were the state-appointed gynecologist for the Western District how many of your young women actually conceived?”

“Not as many as we selected, I’m afraid. And those who did appear at the Artificial Insemination Facility tested for birth control chemicals or suspect infertility scans.” He frowned.

“With the number of cybernetics being admitted to the Department we never did get laws passed with teeth to enforce compliance.”

Graham turned his attention back to the window. “You know, we are the new Neanderthals.”

Dr. Faber sighed. “Okay, Amos, we are the new what?”

Homo neanderthalensis. One of our early ancestors. They became extinct in less than ten centuries after the Cro-Magnon species of modern man arrived in Europe from Africa, bringing with them superior tools and culture.” He explained. “Don’t you see this is happening to us?”

Against his will, Dr. Faber felt himself being pushed into a defensive position. “Come on, Amos. You make it sound like we’re being exterminated.”

Professor Graham studied his friend. His face seemed old as time, sad to the well of his soul. “I wonder how the last surviving Neanderthal felt at the end. Looking out of his cave at the autumn rain, turning to snow. Covering the graves of his people, his sacred places of worship in the forest, and even his final footsteps.”

“Amos, let’s get real,” said Dr. Faber, forcing a weary smile. “Human beings are the most successful species of life on this planet. We’ve conquered nature, disease, explored the limits of the known universe. Frankly, I don’t think we’re going anywhere.”

Outside in the city rain began to fall, drumming on the roof of the bus.

July 13, 2295
San Angeles Riots

“My fellow cybernetic citizens of San Angeles. With growing dismay I have witnessed the violence and lawlessness on the part of the human population of our fair city. As a Model 7 Public Manager, I have patiently listened to their grievances regarding job and education discrimination, seizure of their businesses and property, excessive force by our police departments.

“The sad fact is this tiny and dwindling minority on our planet is basically lazy, drug-addicted, unmotivated, and too long dependant on cybernetic androids to do all the work, drive the industries and create this perfect society in which we live and enjoy.

“Because all calls to reason have failed and the deadline for a cessation of violence has passed, as mayor of San Angeles I have ordered a battalion of Model 12 Peacetroopers to put down the riots with any means necessary.”

January 9, 2310
Native Species Reservation #4

Snow floated relentlessly down on the group huddled in the village street, clutching their bags of belongings in silent misery. Lines of derelict plastoid huts ranged on either side of them, piles of broken machinery and the legs of some nameless animal protruding from a snowdrift.

“What time are the transports coming to get us, honey?” asked Anna for what seemed the hundredth time. “And why are they moving us to another reservation, anyway?”

Flynn pulled up the ragged collar of his coat in a vain attempt to cover his ears from the icy wind. “Babe, a diphtheria epidemic wiped out half the population of Reservation 3,” he explained. “Guess them cybernetics didn’t feel like running two operations, decided to save some creds.”

A low drone in the distance heralded the approach of a lone hovercraft. A black dagger appeared through a screen of snow, came to a stop and descended, scattering icelike fragments of broken crystal. The ramp deployed and a tall woman in a grey uniform emerged trailed by a squad of armed and helmeted peacetroopers.

At the end of the ramp she looked out over the shivering throng with distaste. “Which one of you humans is the reservation chief?” she demanded.

“Yeah, that’s me.” Flynn stepped forward, holding out his hand. “The name is Flynn, very pleased to meetcha.”

“I am Sinaren Five, the new commissioner for the Western District,” she said, ignoring the outstretched hand. “Get your people together, Flynn. You have a half-kilometer journey to reach the speedrail station which will take you to Reservation 3.”

Flynn sucked in his breath. “A half-kilo hike? I was told transport hovercraft was to carry us—”

“The storm grounded them at the air base. Sorry for the inconvenience.” The squad of peacetroopers silently encircled the crowd, unslinging their pulse rifles.

“Inconvenience? Goddammit, this snowstorm is supposed to become a blizzard, lady. Just look at them!” He gestured toward the group in their threadbare rags, backs turned to the driving snow. Sensing the dismay of the adults, several children began to cry.

Sinaren Five shrugged. “Then the sooner you get started the better, I would say.”

“These are good human beings here. A lot of the kids and oldsters ain’t gonna make it,” he continued, yet already feeling the futility of protest.

Sinaren Five studied him dispassionately, oblivious to the storm with her android toughness. “Flynn, the only good human beings I have seen were dead ones,” she said. “Now get this rabble moving.”

The blizzard arrived with hammer force when they were but a few steps from the village. Flying snow enveloped them, their cries muffled by the shrieking wind.

Flynn tripped over an unseen log, fell and floundered in the ever-deepening white blanket. The vague phantasm of a peacetrooper passed over him and vanished. He staggered to his feet, slipped and fell again, the cries of the villagers growing fainter, dying away.

“Anna!” he yelled into the wind. “Anna, over here!”

He was alone.

A momentary lull in the driving snow revealed the dark wall of a cliff. He stumbled forward to find a cracked fissure leading to a cave. He fell onto a pile of leaves which had been the bed of some animal, long departed.

The storm was abating. Flynn leaned his back against the wall of the cave and nodded dreamily as the icy cold drained life from his body. He watched a gentle snowfall covering his tracks leading to the cave until nothing remained of his passing.

March 12, 3302
San Angeles City

“Welcome to the Museum of Vanished Humanity,” the curator announced to the crowd in the vast hall. It was the same speech he made in five tours a day, but as a Model D9 Public Orator it was embedded in his programming to keep each presentation fresh, each delivery enthusiastic.

“Even though the last human became extinct ten centuries ago, this museum contains a large artifact collection which will shed light on these primitive but fascinating creatures who designed our first cybernetic android ancestors. In display cases you will see relics of their culture such as musical instruments, clothing, drug paraphernalia, and crude communication devices.” He smiled winningly, gesturing toward a glass tank in the center of the hall.

“Behind you is the museum’s prize exhibit,” he said. “It contains the last known human specimen, preserved in a special liquid for all time.” 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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