Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


From Gaia to Proxima Centauri
by Milo James Fowler

Suck the Oil Out With a Straw
by Robin White

L’enfer, C’est la Solitude
by Joe Vasicek

Tea With Silicate Gods
by Auston Habershaw

by Andrew Muff

Gina Starlight’s Got the Blues
by Sandra M. Odell

Passing History
by Bill Adler Jr.

A Planet Like Earth
by E.K. Wagner

Shorter Stories

Cold Deaths
by Michael Haynes

Leviathan Buffet
by Sarina Dorie

by Hall Jameson


How Far is Heaven?
by Gary Cuba

A.I. Invasion or A.I. in Education?
by Jason M. Harley



Comic Strips




Cold Deaths

By Michael Haynes

CARL’S HEART RACED WHEN Gilley’s voice burst through the commlink. “Oh, son of a bitch!”

“What’s going on, Gilley?” He scanned the icy surface of Warren III for his patrol partner. Carl had lost focus, surely for just a moment, fatigued from pulling back-to-back patrol shifts. Fine snow drifted through the moon’s thin atmosphere, impeding his vision.

Blaster fire answered, then Gilley swearing again. “Son of a bitch, son of a bitch.”

“Report, Gilley!” The other man, a maintenance tech, had been pressed into patrol duty with half the outpost sick. “What are you seeing?”

His partner’s fast breathing was the only sound. Then, “I’m at the base of The Monster”—the mountain dominating this side of the moon—“and ... Oh, Jesus, sir. A pod’s hatched.”

A cold chill snaked through Carl. “Sure about that, Gilley?”

“A—affirmative. There’s that awful red gunk all over here and I saw one of the damned slugs. I got it. Shot it, I mean.”

Carl was already moving in what passed for a jog in his patrol suit when he said, “I’m on my way. Find the rest.”

As he hurried toward the mountain, Carl also watched for the slugs. Ten per pod, capable of burning through anything in their path with acidic slime, they gravitated toward heat sources. Nobody knew if they were malicious or just a force of nature. Nobody wanted to be close to one long enough to find out.

Carl spotted two meandering perpendicular to his path, toward the base where he, Gilley, and the others lived. He let loose two well-aimed shots, frying both. Then he heard a pair of shots and more cursing from Gilley.

Carl took care to jump over the trails left by the slugs, lest his suit be compromised. Five down. Five to go.

He kept searching. The burst of adrenaline was wearing off and he felt weariness creeping in.

A break in the snow gave Carl a glance at his partner in the distance. Gilley stopped, took aim, fired. A gratifying burst of flame indicated another kill.

“Nice shot, Gilley.”

“Thanks.” Gilley’s voice was a rasp. “Christ, I think I saw another. Way downrange toward base ... Damn snow’s making it hard to be sure.”

“Don’t take any chances on one getting through,” Carl said. “Head toward what you saw. I’ll keep at it over here.”

Gilley confirmed the order. Carl kept moving quickly. Almost too quickly as he barely avoided another acid trail. He saw three parallel trails and jogged alongside them. One by one the slugs creating them came into view and Carl picked them off.

He’d just blasted the last of these, the one closest to the base, when Gilley’s voice cut in. “I got the bastard!”

Thank God. Ten kills.

“Good work, Gilley. Let’s head in. I don’t care if they’re still sick, the next shift can take over early. We’ve earned that.”

“Yes, sir, you’re the boss.”

The snow parted briefly again and Carl saw his partner a bit ahead. He jogged ahead to catch up with him.

Carl tapped Gilley on the shoulder. The other man jumped, then looked relieved when he turned and faced Carl.

“Nothing like an easy patrol shift, huh?” Carl said, trying to take the edge off Gilley’s nerves. The laugh in reply had an edge of hysteria.

They walked back lazily, Carl thinking it’d be nice to catch some shut-eye. Maybe get up early enough tomorrow to get time on the base comm so he could send a message to his wife and daughter.

“Shit!” Gilley’s voice, full of worry, interrupted Carl’s thoughts.

Gilley sat on the icy ground, looking at one of his boots. Mist—no, smoke—rose from it. An acid trail cut across their path at an angle. A few more steps and Carl would’ve stepped in it, too.

“Shit, shit, shit ...” Gilley scraped at the ground with his gloves, gathered up some snow. He rubbed it on his boot. For a moment, the smoke was gone, but then it returned, coming from his gloves now as well.

Carl radioed base but only static answered. He crouched down and helped gather snow, careful not to touch Gilley’s suit. All the while, his mind raced. Ten to a pod. There’s ten to a pod. What the hell?

Gilley shook his head. He looked at Carl, eyes wild, but his voice eerily calm. “It’s no use. Find the slug. Save the base.”

Carl hesitated. He knew it was the right call, but hated leaving a man behind.

“Go, sir.” Gilley seemed to be trying to grin, but it came out as something twisted. “Besides, you’ll have seven kills. I think that’s a new record.”

Carl shook his head absently. “No, six.”

“You already had six. I only had four.”

Carl ticked off Gilley’s kills. The very first one, then the pair shortly after ...

“No. Oh, no ...” Gilley said. “I didn’t get two then, sir. My first shot missed.”

Before Carl could answer, the acid did its fatal work to Gilley’s suit, eating through the last layer. Carl turned away from the horrible sight in the helmet.

He radioed base again. The static took on a more ominous cast.

Carl ran, not slowing even when pain flared in his side. When the base came into sight, he dropped to the ground. A small hole, neat and slug-shaped, was in the outer wall. He knew what he’d see inside—the damage done by decompression and freezing. His dead comrades. The ones he’d be joining soon, when the batteries in his suit ran down and he too succumbed to the elements of the alien moon. END

Michael Haynes is a member of the Codex Writer’s Group. His short stories have appeared in “Beneath Ceaseless Skies,” “Nature,” “Electric Spec,” and “Daily Science Fiction.” His previous story for “Perihelion” was in the 12-FEB-2015 issue.


gawne 3/16


martin hanford


call for stories