Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Astronaut Dreams
by Joseph Green
and R-M Lillian

Virus Smugglers
by Erin Lale

Clone Music
by Guy T. Martland

Adventure of the Durham Monograph
by Robert Dawson

by Timothy J. Gawne

Too Much to Dream
by Richard Zwicker

Tour de Force
by Richard Wren

by Stephen L. Antczak

Shorter Stories

Free Wi-Fi at the Bordello
by Santiago Belluco

Ambivalence of Memory
by Jamie Lackey

Welcome, Distant Traveler
by Andrew Vrana


Pandemic: Zika
by John McCormick

Descent and Ascent
by Eric M. Jones



Comic Strips




Clone Music

By Guy T. Martland

2178 CE—Fagan

THE CROWD OF CLONES STARED at him, almost expectantly. Their eyes were innocent, open to suggestion. He’d arrived that morning, in a shiny blue vector-class shuttle; one he’d purchased off the back of his last album, “A delicate sunrise clinging to thunder clouds.” The craft stood next to him, proudly; his name, emblazoned in large red letters on the side: Fagan. His jumpsuit was of a lighter shade, his signature long hair the red of his name.

It had taken him a while to set this one up. Centhorio had distanced himself from the project. And it seemed that Andervich no longer wanted anything to do with him. The process had become almost a rite of passage, a way of obtaining the unique sounds for the next album. The primitive humans which stood before him were nothing more than tools, a crucial part of their brain underdeveloped.

He ran a schematic through his patch, a wetwired interface which ran like a leash through the bones of his skull, at the same time strengthening the box which housed his brain. Everything was ready.

On his command a connection sparked an order: a hatch in the blue craft’s carapace flicked open, a small swarm of mosquito-like machines swarming out. Except their buzz was more like a mechanical whirr. A few of the party started in fright, skittering off into the field; one caught his foot on a tussock of grass and fell to the floor. Maybe these were the ones he’d be most interested in, he mused: the ones who had developed some semblance of normal human nature, rather than those that just stood around him, impassive, separate from reality.

Within moments, the drones were on them, injecting viruses; viruses that would travel to the left and mid brain, stimulate the parietal cortex and cause sections of the amygdala and hypothalamus to grow, parts of the brain that would serve his purpose. Then he turned on his heel, left the tribe as they ran about confused and disturbed by his departure, even more confused by the equipment he had left behind.

2211 CE—Andervich

There were only a handful left. Sirius Andervich looked up at the darkened windows of the New York apartment, visualising the floor plan in his mind. He’d had a drone scope it out the previous day and knew roughly where he’d find what he was looking for.

In the early days of this project, which had become an obsession, he’d found many copies himself, trawling through thrift shops, record fairs. As the circulating copies had dwindled, he’d been forced to obtain them through a broker, paying increasingly large sums for the few remaining records in existence.

Of course, being a celebrated artist in his own right, Andervich could have used an intermediary, someone to break in for him. But as the project had run its course, he’d found he preferred his own discoveries, the part he played in locating these now rare items. It was exciting, stealing through the streets at night, adrenaline running through his body—before finally feeling the record in his hands, adding it to the collection he kept in a warehouse near the Hudson.

Light-footed, he climbed the fire escape, cat-like. When he reached the window, he pulled out two large suction cups from his backpack, attaching them to the glass. There was a dull clunk as the pane shifted, and then he was inside.

He darted across the apartment to where he knew the owner’s record collection was located. The spines of the records were captured in the light from his head torch. He flicked through them carefully, cursing quietly when he realised what he was looking for was missing. There was a dull thud somewhere in the apartment, the sound of floorboards creaking. He had to move.

Then he noticed the record player, a disc on its surface, the red sleeve on the table nearby. It was a signed copy—Fagan’s writing scrawled over the front. Despite everything that had happened, Andervich found it amazing that people still listened to Fagan’s music. Maybe the owner of this record was simply ignorant, or possibly sympathetic to Fagan’s perversions, he wondered.

Andervich picked up the record from the platter and sheathed it, sprinting back towards the window. He weighed up whether there was time to replace the glass, listening for more sounds. A light flickered on in the hallway, answering the question. And then he was gone, shimmering down the fire escape in a blur, dancing along the alleyway, one of the last remaining copies of Fagan’s “Eternal Entity” warm in his hands.

2175 CE—Fagan

Fagan was meeting the CEO of his record label, a man called Centhorio. The CEO’s office exuded wealth in an unnecessarily showy fashion. He’d made his millions in the cloning industry before retiring into what had been his first and longer-lasting passion—music. The walls to his huge office were polished mahogany, the desk fashioned from Chinese walnut. Amongst others was a picture of some sunflowers hung on the walls, one Fagan recognised as famous, although he couldn’t quite place the artist.

Centhorio didn’t turn to acknowledge the rock star’s presence as he entered, but remained standing, looking out over the view of London, watching tourist flyers circle St Paul’s cathedral below, forever enshadowed by the enormous skyscrapers that stood around it like a protecting fence.

He finally turned to face Fagan, just as the rock star was reaching for the door handle. Despite Centhorio’s obvious age and achievements, his appearance was that of a fit thirty-year-old man. Before he’d taken his current position, he’d run a company called Genotekk which, amongst other things, provided youth enhancements for an extortionate fee. They had also managed, step by step, to rid humans of various diseases.

“So where is it, Fagan? We’ve been waiting for months. You are well overdue ...”

Fagan paused before replying, tossing his long hair to one side: “I’m all out, Centhorio. There is nothing left to burn.” He sighed dejectedly.

“Your fans are starting to lose interest you know. Even the recordings of that secret gig didn’t sell as well as expected.”

“You mean it was only the number one album in twenty of the sixteen colonies? My true fans will stay with me. I’ll lose more if I come up with something uninteresting.”

“They’d still buy it.”

“The fact of the matter is I can’t think of anything. Let alone something uninteresting,” Fagan replied in a dejected tone.

“Have you tried seeking other forms of inspiration?” suggested Centhorio.

“Like what?”

“Films. Books—the axe for the frozen sea inside.”

“I have tried everything. You aren’t the first person to ask me these questions.”

His label had been increasingly pressing him for a new album over the past few months. Five years had past since his last, the critically acclaimed bestseller “Fandango and the elemental spark of eternities.” Like all his releases, this had only been issued in an old analogue format, as a vinyl record. It was Fagan’s thing, and he was in part responsible for a vinyl renaissance. Besides his record company loved it—digital copies of music no longer made any money.

But in the five years since the last release, he’d done nothing but enjoyed the excesses of being a rock and roll star. Much to the chagrin of those in the business. Even live, he’d performed only one gig, a secret low-key event guaranteed to generate publicity, in a cellar in old New York.

“Well, I have an new idea for you,” Centhorio said, his voice a calming mellow tone.

“What might that be?”

“In the past, musicians have often reached out to other cultures, other civilisations for inspiration.”

“What are you getting at?”

“Clones. My former life.”

“So what? You were a boring scientist before you decided to embark on this charade. Big deal,” Fagan replied petulantly.

Centhorio ignored the remark and continued. An orrery sprang into space between them. Centhorio pointed at an unnamed exoplanet. “Here is a population of clones, primitive beings. They have been placed there without any prior knowledge of what or who they are.” The diorama zoomed in. “On this particular island here.”

“I’m not interested in your experiments.”

“They are a blank canvas. All you have to do is prepare your colour pallet.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“I am saying that music is a fundamental part of what makes us human. We cannot function without it. And the same applies to the clones. I am no artist, I lack the requisite ... interpretive skills. But if you go there, I am certain sounds will emerge.”

“And if they don’t?”

“You were the greatest musician in the galaxy at one point. Don’t throw it away.”

Centhorio turned once more to the vista of London, his eyes following the contours of the horizon, lingering on the Bankside power station building. Fagan glared at Centhorio and swiped a glass and neighbouring decanter onto the floor. They broke into small, scintillating shards.

2213 CE—Andervich

He stood looking over the cargo bay, the grey bulk of the ship he’d commissioned filling the space. Within its hold were the contents of his New York warehouse, the entire collection. It was however, incomplete. He’d managed to find ninety-nine percent of the material, but had reluctantly accepted that he would be unable to find all of them. House fires would have destroyed some, others no doubt thrown away in the trash. But most of the runs of the later works—the clone music, were present. It was enough; it had to be enough.

He took another sip of coffee as he watched the techs and drones swarm around the craft, preparing it for launch. Tubes were being retracted from the hull, and a vast tranche of metal slid slowly back into place, concealing the complicated inner workings of the craft.

It was almost time. There was just the last, final check of the cargo before they set off. He looked over to his agent where she was reclining in a Barcelona chair, flicking through holo messages and nodded.

Outside the viewing gallery, a small crowd had gathered. Reporters, drone cams buzzing above their heads, clamouring for a scoop. “Sirius!” a few shouted, using his Christian name, their over-familiarity causing Andervich to bristle. His agent fielded them away. “There will be a press-release when we are ready,” she countered to their questions.

Close up, the craft looked even bigger. A vast field of smooth matt-grey which seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see. His wasn’t, of course, the only cargo. There were Genotekk products on board, for transport to colony worlds. A coincidence which seemed ironic to Andervich and slightly distasteful. But there was little he could do about it; piggybacking onto the craft had almost blown the project’s entire budget.

The cargo was protected by two locked doors. Being so valuable, theft of some of the items had been a concern. But reassuringly, the security programmes confirmed no one had entered the bay. He walked past the racks of albums, checking the numbers of all thirteen. And then moved onto the other releases, the singles, EPs. Nothing seemed to be missing, he noted with relief.

2176 CE—Andervich and Fagan

Andervich had reluctantly agreed to meet Fagan. They had at one point been friends, around the time when Andervich was the brains behind Fagan’s legendary immersive live visuals. But after the low-key New York gig, there had been a huge argument. It had been about Andervich’s then fiancée, who had turned out to be immune to Fagan’s rakish charm. Fagan had lacked any contrition, laughing in Andervich’s face before shouting him out of the backstage dressing room. Andervich recalled the muffled sounds of Fagan trashing the place as he stood outside, shocked and angry.

It had been a few years since they’d spoken. Centhorio, however, had brokered a deal, offering cash which Andervich needed for his subversive, but increasingly well-received art projects. The CEO had insisted that Andervich’s influence was one that Fagan needed; the confluence of their artistic talents had worked so well for the earlier works, there could be no one else. So Andervich had decided to put their differences aside, at least for the few weeks it would take.

They were in a penthouse bar that afforded views over the London night. Between the glittering skyscrapers, you could just make out the silver snake of the Thames far below; flyers scuttled around the buildings like sparks. For once, Fagan seemed calm, open to this new suggestion, and seemed happy to have once again joined forces with his old friend.

They outlined how they’d both travel together to the planet, both visit the clones. Over the next week, while Fagan lounged around the hotels of London with various groupies, it was left to Andervich to arrange the craft that would take them to the planet; Centhorio authorised the cargo, which would be the crucial component to the trip.

A week later, Fagan was woken from a drug-fuelled reverie by a frustrated Andervich, who’d been waiting for him in the hotel lobby for two hours. After administering the Genotekk sober bite to his neck, Fagan woke quickly. His anger at the rude awakening was caught in check, doused by the lack of any hangover or stimulation whatsoever. He extricated himself from the bodies entwined around him as Andervich watched, smiling thinly.

The journey out there was largely uneventful, barring a few micrometeoroid impacts which failed to puncture the craft’s diamond composite acroshield. Fagan mostly kept to his cabin, consuming various concoctions of illicit substances.

They found, as expected, the planet of clones, set in place by an offshoot of the company Genotekk. A planet of individuals, denied any education, any of the usual social interactions of society. They were little more than cavemen. Andervich watched in horror as the machines rolled out of the shuttle’s belly, setting free cocktails of viruses which would change the clones’ minds. He tried to communicate with some, but it proved impossible.

Over the next few weeks, the viruses took hold. Primitive pathways were enhanced in the clones’ brains. They began to beat out rhythms on drums. Fagan dropped musical instruments amongst the group, entranced by the primitive noises they began to make. He eagerly started to record the sounds, while Andervich sat in the shuttle, locked in his cabin.

2177 CE—Fagan

Fagan’s label seemed happy with the new album. The whole marketing, distributing, promoting rollercoaster began its heady dance; Fagan soaked up the entire experience, bedding numerous adoring fans, enduring the spectacular obliteration of his senses nightly like only a rock star could.

The reviews were more than favourable, Fagan credited with genius in many camps. His tour sold out, although Andervich refused to be involved, having distanced himself from the project. Fagan bought himself a new spacecraft and added another planet to his portfolio of real estate. A city was built which bore his name—his name once again immortalised.

But as always, the record company wanted more. And so did Fagan.

2211 CE—Andervich

Andervich was settling into the journey. Unable to ever stop working, he’d included a small studio in the hold for the few weeks it’d take to get there. He’d been working on a sculpture, commissioned for a world called D. It was an artwork which would disintegrate if somebody spoke a specific word. He imagined the visitors to the gallery shouting random words at it, hoping that they would be the one to cause the structure to collapse.

However, there was a problem. He just couldn’t get the resonance in the structure right; it wasn’t specific enough, which wasn’t good enough. He put the work to one side and wandered through to the viewing gallery, in an attempt to lose himself by staring into the black void of space. But he couldn’t stop thinking about why he was there, about Fagan and what had happened. It seemed almost delusional that Fagan had recorded his last visit to the planet, having had some clones cut illegally; that he was somehow above the law.

2178 CE—Fagan

Fagan had placed the new clones on a different part of the planet for album number thirteen. “Number 13—unlucky for some,” he said to the drone camera’s lens. “But not for me. This recording is for posterity!” he exclaimed.

When he stepped out of the craft, this one a deep, blood shade of crimson, something seemed different. He’d been expecting this: it was a new batch of clones, on a different planet. A distant drumbeat and a melody, something that soared through the heavens like an eagle on a thermal reached his ears. A grin broke over his face. It seemed to have worked again: the natives were making the music for his next record. He could do this himself, without Andervich’s boring presence or even Centhorio’s technical abilities.

The clones were glad to see him, but he didn’t plan to stop for long. They offered him some of the food they had cooked, a mulch of beetles and pap. And he pretended to enjoy the company, the new rhythm of the group.

Later, while he ran around their primitive settlement, collecting the recordings, they followed him like a flock of hungry sheep, all the time watching him with eager eyes. But he wasn’t interested in them; album thirteen was to come. He looked up at the nearby nebula and the title of the album began to form in his head.

The music had taken over; this planet was dead to him now. He took one final look at the place, the faces still looking at him expectantly. Then he boarded the craft, never to see the planet again.

Forgotten by Fagan, the human clones on the planet clustered together for warmth as a bitter winter drew in. The planet’s climate was such that it was for vast tracts of time uninhabitable, but the summers were long and were suited to the surreptitious growth of clones. A fact Centhorio had known about—his batch had been removed and their organs harvested long before.

A wave of ice followed, encasing the entire world’s surface. The drumbeat stuttered, and then finally gave up the ghost. A month later, there was no one left. The bodies of the cloned humans froze even before the local wildlife had a chance to feast.

But Fagan had slipped up. After a series of high-profile clone murders, attitudes towards clones had shifted, their rights now similar to those of conventional humans. The scene of the crime was discovered by a journalist who had tracked down the inspiration for the best-selling thirteenth album. And so Fagan’s lies were exposed, his record sales dropping to nothing.

One evening, not long afterwards, he jumped to his death from the very penthouse bar where he and Andervich had met. Centhorio’s involvement in the affair was buried deep; too deep to fathom. But he, at least, had disposed of his clones humanely.

2211 CE—Andervich

The craft was in orbit above the infamous Planet J56c, more commonly referred to now as Helliconia, after its seasonal similarity to a planet in the eponymous novel. Also circling the planet were a select number of journalists, invited by Andervich’s agent to witness events.

Andervich insisted on accompanying the cargo on its final journey to the planet below. He wanted to ensure the records were all placed in the correct spot, the place where Fagan had quickened the cut clones. He stood on the beach, under the burning sun, gazing out to sea, wondering what the planet looked like when the water froze. The evidence of the crime lay scattered around, moth-eaten, crumbling human skeletons littering the strand. He tried to ignore the cams that bobbed behind him, absorbing his moment for others to watch.

Behind him, on the small island, were the racks of vinyl which had come to symbolise Fagan’s life and crime. The incomplete collection which represented an incomplete life. The project had started as one of reverence, to honour the dead clones, but had turned into a personal obsession—a way to assuage the guilt he felt for being involved in the project’s inception. He’d made the trip itself a form of art, his next piece a black mark on the hedonist formerly known as Fagan.

Over time Andervich had managed to secure almost every remaining known vinyl recording of Fagan’s work, as well as his ashes. The few digital items had been erased from history by a viral hack a few years before. Andervich and a few close colleagues were the only ones who knew how it had done this, but the antipathy towards Fagan at that time was so strong, there were few objections. The city that had once been his had even changed its name out of respect for the dead.

As he examined the racks for the last time, Andervich found himself humming one of Fagan’s earlier tunes. He quickly stopped himself, hoping the cams hadn’t noticed. Then he realised that this was part of the plan—to erase the memory of Fagan’s music, so no one else could remember it. Soon the sounds would fade, and Fagan remembered only as a footnote to one of Sirius Andervich’s works.

He caught himself in the reflection of the shiny shuttle’s bodywork. The effects of space travel had worn his features, giving him a grizzled appearance. Not for the first time did he wonder whether what he was doing was right. Was this his choice to make, to destroy everything somebody had lived for? It certainly didn’t make him the better artist. But, he thought, there are different endings for every story, for every life; this just happened to be the end of Fagan’s.

Back in orbit, a series of satellites bearing planet-busting weaponry circled lazily. Fagan’s music would be played one last time, the orbiting speakers located in the vacuum of space where their diaphragms would vibrate but issue no sound. And when the last sequence of Fagan’s music had finished, the trigger would activate. END

Guy T. Martland is a pathologist from the South Coast of England. His stories have been published in “Albedo One,” “Shoreline of Infinity,” “Encounters Magazine,” “Nebula Rift,” and elsewhere. He can also play a 19th century violin.


ervin ad 4/16



martland 10/16