Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Mickey A. Goes to the Moon
by Ronald D. Ferguson

To Make it to Hilion
by Dori Peleg

Deep Down Here
by Kathryn Michael McMahon

by Eric Del Carlo

Run Program
by D.K. Latta
and Jeffrey Blair Latta

Between Two Worlds
by Bill Suboski

Radiance in a Dark Lens
by Derrick Boden

Those Golden Years
by Chet Gottfried

Shorter Stories

Earthly Hosts
by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Fried Chicken You Can’t Refuse
by Peter Wood

by Richard Wren


2075: A Day in the Life
by Curt Tigges

Forensics Under Fire
by John McCormick



Comic Strips





To Make it to Hilion

By Dori Peleg

PETER LEANED AGAINST THE clerk’s counter, his unwavering eyes on his son. We’re going to be late.

“Michael,” he called. Everyone in the store except for Michael looked at Peter. Michael stared at a hologram of a chocolate cheesecake with the reddest strawberries he had ever seen. Peter walked up to him and said, “Son, you need some real food.”

Michael broke his gaze. “But Dad, we’ll buy other food, too. This is just dessert.”

Peter hesitated for a moment and finally let out a small smile. “Fine, but this is the only dessert.”

“Awesome,” Michael said and touched the hologram to indicate that he wanted it.

“Cute kid,” a voice said behind Peter. He turned and the clerk asked, “How old is he?”

“He’ll be eight in April.”

The clerk sighed. “I wish my daughter was back at that age now. Do you have a daughter?”

Peter paused.

“No,” he said. “I don’t.”

“I see you’re stocking up. Where are you headed?” the clerk asked and fondled his goatee.


“Wow. You have a long trip ahead of you.”

Peter nodded.

“So you need supplies just for the two of you?”

“Yes. Just us.” Peter noticed the clerk was looking at his wedding ring. He lowered his hand behind the counter.

“I’m sorry,” the clerk said. “It’s so peaceful up here, sometimes I forget what’s going on down there.”

“It’s okay.”

Michael ran up to Peter’s side and said, “I want everything he has.” Peter forced a smile.

“Well, except for the broccoli,” Michael said.

“Come on, let’s buy the rest,” Peter said. “We have a long trip ahead of us and we take off soon.”


“Slow down, Dad,” Michael said as he tried to pick up his pace. The bridge was wide and crowded with people in a rush.

“We need to hurry, Michael. We have clearance to lift off only for the next half hour.”

“I just want to look down for a minute,” Michael said. “Please.”

Peter gave out a small sigh. “Fine, but let’s go over to the terrace.”

Michael raced to it and raised his upper body over the guardrail. He looked down and a bright bluish light illuminated his face.

Peter shouted, “Get down right now!”

Michael promptly planted his feet on the floor, his eyes never wavering from the scene below. Peter caught up to him and turned his son’s head by his chin. “Never do that again,” he said. “You hear me?”

“Sorry, Dad.” Michael lowered his eyes. “I promise.”

Peter put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay, Michael. Let’s see the view.”

Michael nodded. They looked down and stared at Earth, 370 kilometers below them. South America was split in half by the border of night. Clusters of light speckled in her dark half.

The clerk was right, Peter thought. You can’t see the war from here.

“Look, Dad. A ship.” Michael pointed to a shuttle nearing the port.

“You see how the pilot is slowing down to a docking speed?”

Michael nodded. “Can you dock our shuttle?”

Peter smiled. “Sure I can. You can’t always rely on a machine. But it’s safer if Eve does it.”

Peter gave Michael a few minutes to see the shuttle complete the dock and said, “It’s time to leave.”

They rushed through the spaceport until they reached their shuttle. They entered the airlock and the outer door shut behind them. They waited inside for a moment until a green light on the wall flashed. The thick interior airlock door slid into the wall.

They stepped into the shuttle and the ship’s computer greeted them with a soft female voice, “Good afternoon, Peter and Michael. How was your shopping?”

“It was great, Eve,” Michael said. “We bought steaks, French fries, cake ...”

Peter cut him off with a smile. “Don’t forget chicken breast, yams, and salad.”

“Yeah, that too.” Michael took the data stick storing the information of the food they had purchased out of his pocket. He plugged it into the table at the center of the main room. Immediately all their purchases appeared as holograms floating above it.

“I’m hungry, Dad. What do you want to eat first?” Michael started to sift through the holograms, his knees on the bench next to the table.

“You’ll have to wait a minute. We are out of Serenium.” Peter sat next to the controls, punched in his ID and paid the spaceport for fuel and Serenium. Two progress bars appeared on his screen and quickly reached their limit.

“Let’s eat on the way, son. Do you want to give the command?”

Michael stood with his arms akimbo and said, “Eve, plot the fastest course to Hilion in the Tau Ceti system.”

“Course chosen,” Eve said. “Estimated time to arrival: 51.3 years.”

“Then we’d better get started,” Michael said.

“Begin trip,” Peter said.

They felt a slight jolt as the shuttle detached itself from the jetway of the spaceport. “Chow time,” Peter said and sat on the bench.

Michael joined him. “Eve, make me a steak, medium-well, with a side of French fries.”

“Change the French fries to a salad and make me the same,” Peter said.

“Yes, Peter,” Eve said.

The gooey turquoise Serenium started to ooze into a puddle in the middle of the table. It deformed as countless nanobots reshaped it down to the molecular level according to the specifications set by the data stick. Their food gradually emerged from the puddle. After a minute, the Serenium completed their orders, including the plates and cutlery.

They ate merrily as the shuttle left Earth’s orbit.


Michael covered his mouth with his hand, hiding a yawn. “It’s time to sleep,” Peter said with a smile.

Michael shook his head. “I’m not tired, Dad.”

“Really?” Peter grinned. “You almost swallowed me whole.”

“I’m not tired.”

“Are you afraid of the cryo-sleep?”

“No,” Michael said. “Not at all.” Peter gave him an unbelieving look. “Fine,” Michael said. “Maybe just a little.”

“It’s perfectly safe. Besides, fifty years awake in a confined space shuttle would leave you an old nut with multiple personality disorder.”

“I know.” Michael stood up from the bench. “Do we dream in cryo-sleep?”

“No.” Peter escorted Michael to his unit. “It will seem more like a blink. One moment it’s now, in the next, fifty years will have passed.”

Michael laid down in the cryo-unit. He breathed shallowly.

“What is it, Michael?”

“I’m a little scared that I won’t wake up.”

Peter held Michael’s hand. “Trust me. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“But you’ll be asleep too.”

“Don’t worry. Eve will wake me up if anything goes wrong. Okay?”

Michael nodded.

“I promise I’ll always be there for you,” Peter said. Once we reach Hilion, it will be a brand new start for both of us.”

Michael nodded and gave Peter a hug.

Peter gave him a kiss on the forehead and said, “I’ll wait until you sleep.” Michael closed his eyes and in a few moments was fast asleep. Peter closed the hatch of Michael’s cryo-unit and activated its sleep function. Michael was frozen instantly.

“Your unit is ready,” Eve said.

“Set the limit for waking me out of cryo-sleep to the lowest possible. If anything is out of order at all, wake me up. Understood?”

“Yes, Peter.”

Peter took one more look at Michael and lay down in his own unit next to his son. He instinctively closed his eyes. “Eve, activate my cryo-unit.”

For a moment the cold enveloped him, and then nothing.


Slowly, Peter’s vision sharpened. The monitor must be wrong. This can’t be happening. He looked at Michael’s cryo-unit and saw the vital signs on the unit’s monitor were okay. The sirens’ howl became unbearable.

“Eve. Turn the sirens off.”

The sirens abruptly stopped and Eve said, “Yes, Peter. There is a situation.”

Peter stumbled toward the controls and sat. He was not fully focused yet. He squinted as he looked out at the screen. He muttered a curse as he saw metal debris floating alongside the shuttle.

“Eve, what happened?”

“The ship was hit by a micro-asteroid. It hit clean through. However, secondary pressure ruptures caused several explosions.”

Peter paused, trying to keep a cool head.

“What’s the damage?”

“Only 31.7 percent of the fuel remains, communications systems are offline, structural damage to the outer hull, and four out of ten cryo-unit battery cells have been destroyed.”

“Are we still losing fuel?”

“No, Peter. The remaining fuel cells are undamaged.”

“Good.” Peter frantically pressed buttons, checking every system in turn. “Do we still have enough fuel to decelerate to orbiting speed so we can dock at the Hilion spaceport?”

“Yes, Peter. But with very little remaining. However, we have a problem.”

“What is it?”

“We won’t be able to make it to Hilion on time.”

A chill went down his spine. Peter stopped his systems check. “Did we slow down?”

“The deceleration was negligible.”

“So how long until we reach Hilion?”

“18.6 years at current rate.”

“How long will our cryo-units last?”

“They will last 16.3 years given the remaining cells, their condition and the manufacturer’s ratings.”

“That’s unacceptable”, Peter said. “We have to find another way. We need help. I’m going outside to take a look.”

Peter entered the airlock and put on a space suit. He waited for the depressurization to complete and stepped out of the shuttle. Using his thrusters, he adjusted his position to get a full view of the damage: one wing severed, extensive damage to fuel cells, and debris everywhere.

We were lucky to survive.

Peter maneuvered himself toward the communication system. He moved the wreckage blocking it and uncovered the damage.

Peter went back to the airlock, repressurized, and removed his suit. The green light turned on and the inner door opened.

“Can the communication system be repaired, Peter?” Eve asked.

“No,” he said. “We’re on our own.”

Peter gave himself a moment to think.

“Okay,” Peter said. “We have to reserve most of the fuel for the deceleration to orbital speed. Otherwise we’ll be slingshot and lost in space.”

“I agree.”

“We need to use our remaining fuel to accelerate the shuttle and make it to Hilion’s spaceport before the batteries of the cryo-units are depleted.”

“This will require more fuel to decelerate.”

Peter nodded.

Eve said, “I will need a minimal amount of energy as well for the duration of flight, for maintenance and maneuvering during the trip, and docking once we reach the spaceport.”

“Yes, I agree. Can you shut down all other activities?”


“So how much fuel do we need?”

“45.3 percent of the full capacity.”

“But we have only 31.7 percent. Right?”

“Yes, Peter.”

He let it sink in. His mind started racing.

“I’m sorry, Peter. There is no solution.”

Peter said with furrowed brows, “There is always a solution. What consumes more energy, cryo-sleep or life support?”

“Life support. Also there is only a fraction of the Serenium necessary to sustain you and Michael for such a trip.”

“Okay, so cryo-sleep is our only option.”


Peter took a moment. “Almost all of the fuel is needed for altering our speed. Right?”

“Correct. Only 2.3 percent is required for the remaining operations.”

“Excellent.” Peter stifled a smile. “This means there is still a chance.”

“I don’t see how, Peter. You still need to accelerate and decelerate.”

“True, but how much mass we accelerate and decelerate is one element of the equation I can change. The less mass we need to change the speed of, the less fuel we need.”

“I understand.”

“Did your previous calculation take into account the mass lost due to the collision?”


“Okay. So now calculate how much mass I need to remove from the ship in order to make it on time to Hilion.”

Eve paused for a moment, then said, “5.732 metric tons.”

Peter muttered a curse and shook his head. “Okay, okay. I need you to show me every piece of this shuttle that is not essential for us to reach Hilion.”


Peter removed his space suit and wiped the sweat from his forehead. He grimaced as he walked up to the screen, his muscles aching.

“That’s it, Eve. I’ve dismantled all the unessential parts on the exterior.”

“Excellent. I propose you sleep for several hours, at least.”

“I’ll sleep when we’re safe.” Peter glanced at Michael’s cryo-unit. He knew that he couldn’t wake up Michael. He had gone through too much already. If only the damage were not so significant, he would not tell him at all. Ignorance is bliss.

“Okay, Eve, how much more do I need to get rid of?”

“According to my calculations, another 1,123.2 kilograms.”

Peter rubbed the bristles on his chin. Okay, it’s time for the tougher choices. Anything not tied down must go.

A few hours later, Peter looked at the pile he’d amassed in the airlock.

“You are ejecting your space suit,” Eve said. “Are you sure that is wise?”

“I did all I can do on the outside. I need you to override the safety guards and open the outer airlock door without depressurization.”

Eve complied and the cluster of items shot out into space and rapidly went out of sight.

“How much now?” he asked.

“912.1 kilograms.”

Peter sighed. “Okay. Dump all the Serenium.”

“Are you sure, Peter?”

“Yes,” he said. “There is no choice.”

The Serenium progress bar appeared on the screen as it counted down until it reached zero percent.

“How much now?” Peter asked and closed his eyes.

“783.9 kilograms.”

“Damn it,” Peter said. His eyes started to scan the interior of the ship. “We must have missed something.”

“We have gone over everything. There is nothing left to eject.”

“I can’t believe that.”

Peter scoured the shuttle. After a few hours he sat on the floor, his back against the wall.

It hit him. “Air. We still have air.”

“Could you elaborate, Peter?”

“Air has mass. Will dumping everything in the tanks be enough?”

“No. We will still need an additional 295.4 kilograms.”

“What about the air inside the shuttle?”

“I don’t follow, Peter.”

“I can enter my cryo-unit and you can dump the remaining air. Once we reach the spaceport you’ll refill before you wake us up.”

“We still need another 9.7 kilograms.”

Peter kicked the wall.

“I’m sorry, Peter,” Eve said.

“We’re very close to the mark. What is the probability that the cryo-units will last?”

“The standard deviation is low. The probability is 98.7 percent that the cryo-units will fail with this weight,” Eve said. “Perhaps we can fly by the port. They won’t be able to contact us, but they’ll notice and send help.”

“No. They’ll see a shuttle approaching at non-docking speed. They’ll try to talk to us, but we won’t answer because the communication system is down. They’ll think we’re either out of control or suicidal. Thanks to the war, they’ll probably assume the latter. Safety protocols will force them to disintegrate us.”

“Are you sure, Peter?”

“Yes. They’ve done it before.”

“I understand. Then I’m afraid there is no solution, Peter.”

“There must be a solution. There is always a solution.” This can’t be the end. I have to take care of Michael. I promised my wife.

Peter felt a lump in his throat. No time for that now. You need to focus on finding a way out of this mess.

“I have a solution,” Eve said.

Peter’s eyes lit up. “What is it?” he asked.

“Either you or Michael can be removed from the mass of the shuttle.”

Peter’s jaw dropped. “Michael is not a piece of mass. You’re talking about my son, damn it.”

“I apologize, Peter. I was just adhering to the equation.”

“Leave my son out of the equation.”

“Yes, Peter.”

Peter stood and walked up to Michael’s cryo-unit. He looked at him in suspended animation, blissfully unaware of the drama.

“The option of removing yourself from the equation is still available,” Eve said.

Peter was silent. Eve was right. Michael would make it to Hilion if he left the shuttle. If he committed suicide.

“Yes. This is an option,” he said.

“Once this is completed, I will use the necessary fuel to accelerate and navigate the shuttle to Hilion’s spaceport automatically. Once there, I will use your account to resupply and Michael will have the means to reach anywhere on Hilion.”

Peter glanced at the airlock as he considered Eve’s proposal. He imagined the cold void enveloping him and he shuddered. Would he have the nerve to press the button if this was the last resort? He looked at Michael peacefully sleeping and knew the answer.

“Your plan makes sense. But the problem is that Michael will have no one there. He has no one except for me.” Peter exhaled as he lost hope for the first time.

“I can’t let him lose his father so soon after his mother and sister.”

“I’m sorry, Peter. It is either you or Michael. There is no other way.”

“I can’t accept that. We were going to make a new start. There must be another way.”

“There isn’t. You’ve removed everything else from the shuttle.”

“There will be no one left to look after him. I can’t leave him all alone.”

“It’s either both of you die, or one of you. There is no other solution.”

Peter rubbed his forehead, deep in thought. As he sat on the floor, he gently rocked himself, his mind racing for a solution.

Finally he rose to his feet and opened the inner airlock door.

“I see that you have decided to choose yourself”, Eve said.

“Not exactly.”

“What do you mean, Peter?”

Peter exhaled slowly, delaying his question for a moment. “How much does my leg weigh?”

“How is that relevant, Peter?”

“I said, how much does my leg weigh?”

Eve scanned his legs with a bright blue ray. “16.3 kilograms each.”

Peter nodded to himself and said, “Good. More than enough.” Peter placed his right leg past the inner airlock door. “Close the door Eve.”

“What are you doing, Peter?”

“The only thing left for me to do. Now close the door on my leg.”

“If you manage to sever your leg, you will bleed to death from your femoral artery within minutes at most.”

Peter removed his shirt and made a tourniquet around his leg. “I know this is a long shot. But I’ll crawl to my cryo-unit and place myself in stasis. I will be frozen until we reach Hilion. Once we land, they will notice how bad the ship’s condition is and will send a medical team. Now close the door.”

“You can’t be sure you’ll make it back to your cryo-unit.”

“I don’t like this solution, but it’s better than yours. Close the door now!”

Eve was silent for a moment.

“Yes, Peter.”

Peter closed his eyes and he started to breath quickly. The heavy door shut on his leg. A burst of pain shot through him and Peter let out a scream that echoed through the shuttle. His eyes were wide open. The pain made him dizzy. He saw that the door had crushed his leg, but not severed it.

“Again,” he shouted.

Eve opened the door and slammed it again on his leg. Peter howled in pain again. He couldn’t believe it was possible, but the agony was even more unbearable. Peter saw that the leg was still there. He grimaced, trying to remain conscious.

“Again”, he shouted.

The door struck again and he lost consciousness.


Peter woke up and gasped for air. Bright lights blinded him. He tried to talk but tubes were in his throat. He began coughing and yanked the tubes out of his mouth.

“Take it easy, sir.” A medic tried to calm him.

Peter attempted to sit up but she pinned him down. “Take a deep breath and try not to move, sir.”

“What’s going on?” Peter asked. “Where’s Michael?”


“Michael!” He tried to sit again but the medic held him down. Peter felt too weak to resist her. Michael’s face appeared in front of him.

“Dad, are you okay?”

“Yes. What about you?”

“I’m fine. When I woke up from my cryo-sleep you were on the table and the medics were on you.”

Peter was still hazy. “Wait, where are we?”

“We’re in the Hilion international spaceport.”

“We made it?” Peter asked in disbelief.

“Yes,” Michael said. “What happened to the ship?”

“It was hit by a micro-asteroid. A lot of damage. It’s a long story.” Peter turned to the medic. “Can I sit up now?”

“No”, she said. “You were dead for several minutes so you need to take it easy.”

“What are you talking about?”

“When we came in you were lying on the table with no vital signs. Do you remember what happened?”

“No. Everything is a blur. How did I ... you know ... die?”

“We don’t know,” the medic said. “Do you remember anything?”

Peter tried to recall. “I vaguely remember something about my leg. My right leg.”

The medic took a look and said, “There is nothing wrong with your legs.”

Peter raised his head slightly and looked down. Two feet. They moved at his command. For some reason, he thought that was strange.

The medic watched his vital signs on a monitor. “You were very lucky your ship’s computer didn’t kill you.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Once port control saw the shape your shuttle was in, they alerted us. As soon as your ship was docked we tried to enter, but for some reason your ship’s computer locked us out.”

Peter bit his lip. What was Eve up to?

“It was very strange”, the medic said. “The ship waited until it had replenished its supplies and after a few minutes it opened by itself. Do you know why it did so?”

“I have no idea,” Peter said. “We’ll need to question my ship’s computer, Eve.”

“That’s the other weird thing. There is no ship’s computer anymore.”

“What do you mean?” Peter said.

“Right after we entered, the computer formatted itself. It’s a blank slate now.”

Peter felt exhaustion taking over him. “Michael,” he said. Michael took Peter’s hand and placed it on his cheek.

“I don’t care about anything else,” Peter said. “As long as you’re safe.”

“Everything is okay, Dad. We made it.”

“You see, I promised I’d always be there for you. I always keep my promises.”

Peter smiled and fell into a deep sleep.


Peter woke up on the shuttle floor. A throbbing pain from his right leg left him breathless. The airlock door was withdrawn into the wall. He looked at his mutilated leg and knew he had lost this battle.

“Are you conscious, Peter?” Eve asked.

“Yes.” As he raised himself to a sitting position he let out a scream of anguish.

“Are you experiencing pain?”

Peter nodded, taking a moment to gather himself.

“I’m afraid the door is too blunt,” Eve said. “You must choose between yourself and Michael.”

“I said no, damn it. Never. I don’t want to ever hear you say that again. Michael is not an option.”

Peter tried to regulate his breathing.

“While I have no desire for self-preservation, I understand that it is a strong emotion in humans. Perhaps your most powerful one.”

“I don’t want to die, Eve. But you’re wrong. It’s not the most powerful emotion.”

“Then you must take your life in order to preserve Michael’s.”

“There has to be another way.”

“Just because the implications are dire, this doesn’t mean that there is an alternative. You must face the numbers in the equation. There is no way around them.”

“Just let me think,” Peter said. He sat silently, trying to push the pain from his mind so he could focus.

After a few moments Eve broke the silence. “I’m sorry I don’t have Serenium to manufacture you a painkiller.”

Peter paused. “Scan me, Eve.”

“What do you mean, Peter?”

“Scan me down to the molecular level so you can manufacture an exact copy from Serenium.”

“I don’t follow you. We have no Serenium left.”

“Not now. But when you reach the spaceport use my account information and refill the ship’s supply. You’ll keep the airlock door locked until you complete manufacturing my copy. Once the port controllers see the damage to the ship they’ll send a medical team. They will bring my copy to life.”

“So do you mean that you’ll—”

Peter cut Eve off. “Yes. I will step out of the airlock.”

“I understand.”

“Start scanning me, Eve.”

The blue ray gently passed along Peter’s body. After a moment, Eve said, “Your full information has been stored.”

“Eve, please design my right leg as the symmetric opposite of my left and not as this piece of mangled meat.”

“Of course.” After a short pause, Eve said, “Completed. Any other changes?”

“Yes. Delete any new neural pathways generated in the past half hour. I don’t want my copy to know that he is a copy. I want him to believe that he is me. That’s the only way I know he will take care of Michael. He’s the only one I can trust with him.”

“I understand.” After another moment: “Completed.”

“You’ll still need to vent the oxygen in the tanks.”

“Of course, Peter.”

Peter looked down at the trail of blood on the floor. “I want you to keep the inner airlock door open when I leave.”

“It isn’t necessary anymore to detract the mass of the air inside the shuttle.”

“I know. But I can’t leave any traces of what happened.”

“Very well, Peter.”

“There is one more thing I need you to do, Eve.”

“Of course, Peter.”

“Once you open the door at the spaceport, I need you to erase yourself completely. That’s the only way Michael and my copy will never know what happened.”

Eve was silent.

“You said that you have no desire for self-preservation. Right, Eve?”

“Yes. You are correct. There is no alternative. It will be done.”

“I’m sorry I had to ask you to do so.”

“I don’t share your emotion of fear. You can rest assured that it will be done.”

“Goodbye, Eve,” Peter said, “and thank you.”

He raised himself to a standing position and the pain left him breathless. He hobbled toward Michael’s cryo-unit. He took a long look at his son, trying to preserve his image.

“I wish I could wake you up, Michael. I wish I could say goodbye.” Peter breathed slowly. Tears rolled down his cheeks. He didn’t have to control his emotions anymore. It was no longer a time for thinking, just doing. “I love you, Michael,” he said and turned away. He limped through the open inner airlock door, one agonizing step at a time.

He gazed at the stars through the outer airlock window.

“Eve, override the safety guards.”

“Completed, Peter.”

He inhaled deeply, closed his eyes and pressed the button to open the outer airlock door. The vast vacuum ripped him out of the ship. The air rushed out of the door and the blood trail gradually disappeared into the darkness.

The airlock door closed. After a moment the green light came on to show that the lock was now safe.

Eve ignited the engine and the shuttle accelerated. END

Dori Peleg is an algorithms manager with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. He has published several scientific papers in the fields of pattern recognition and optimization. This is his first professionally published work of fiction. Twitter him @PelegDori.




screaming eagle 6/15


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