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




Between Two Worlds

By Bill Suboski

“THERE ARE THREE PRINCIPAL hypotheses as to the separation point of human and Cati. My own places this almost in the modern era, a mere ten thousand years ago. Harris puts separation forty-five thousand years ago and Langley argues that the last shared ancestor was at least one hundred and eighty thousand years ago.

“The evidence for each is both compelling and puzzling. My own background of genetics supports my view; yet I must concede that the archaeological evidence supports the Langley extreme, and tends to disconfirm my view, even as my genetic evidence disconfirms Langley.

“The Harris hypothesis is the newest, proposed just last year, an attempt to synthesize the two. As such, it has the least evidence for or against.

“What all three hold in common is that humans and Cati share a common ancestor, but that the Cati evolution since divergence resulted in Cati telepathy, which in turn led to the development of the psychosocial construct known as Union.

“Whether a human-Cati child could participate in Union remains one of the most fascinating and as yet unanswered scientific questions to date ...” —Professor Francis Pan Kurst, “Ruminations on the Split”


The lane was well kept, a two-tracked dirt road, lined on each side by lilac trees. It was almost invisible from the roadway, but she knew where to turn. She was too early for the flowers, but the trees were leafy and green, and the small road was like a living cocoon.

She was expected, and she drove confidently into the open area, climbing out of the buggy and plugging it into the recharge panel. No one to greet her. She lifted her bag from the trunk and walked to the front door.

Her thoughts raced yet were strangely calm. I mustn’t let on, not before it’s time, she thought. If that time comes. But, oh God, it’s good to be back here. At my worst, I thought I would never see these trees again. Times like this, when I think of the good things yet and soon to be, I know the barest strains of Cati Union.

He answered her knock and gestured her inside. He looked well, much as she remembered him, just a short time ago. But there was a difference. His former fluidity of motion was replaced with an odd stiffness. He spoke more slowly and much more quietly than when she had known him before.

“Command told me you were coming. My name is Jason Halberstadt. This is my family home. My grandfather built it about a hundred and twenty years ago, and it has passed down to the eldest child ever since.”

“Call me Miri ... It’s lovely!”

“You can stay here, one of the guest bedrooms. I changed the sheets, and there are extra blankets in the linen closets.”

He paused in the doorway, then spoke.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but ... are you sure you have to be here?”

“Yes,” she said, “Quite sure.”

He still didn’t move, looking her over, and finally he spoke again.

“Have we met before?”


One night a few days later, a cold night for spring, Jason lit what he called the “last fire of the winter” in the fireplace. He was not unfriendly, just somehow distant. She watched him pile kindling on the paper, then lay even heavier pieces atop the kindling. He lit the paper, and thick white smoke rose in curling whorls in still air as the flame bit the wood.

They sat, a meter and a universe apart, and watched the growing flames. Jason lit a cigarette, took a few drags, then quietly asked, “You’re the peacemaker, aren’t you?”

“Excuse me?” She was surprised by his now uncharacteristic forwardness.

“You met with the Cati. You were with the peace mission, after the Kamikaze incident.”

“Yes, guilty.”

“I read about it. I read everything I could. Public and military. And it came down to one certain subtext: the truce was a direct result of something that passed between you and the principal Cati negotiator.”

He flicked his cigarette butt into the fireplace.

“What exactly did you do?”

“I’ll tell you ... soon ... but not yet. Soon.”


One morning when she awoke he was already on the terrace. She joined him; he poured a coffee for her and a refill for himself. Miri had taken her first sip when he said simply, “I’m ready to begin.”

“Tell me how it was ...”

“I don’t remember much. Childhood memories, then a few hours before the mission, the crashing from nowhere on Haven.”

“Tell me what you know ...”

Jason paused then spoke. His eyes seemed far away, she realized that they were, as he remembered ...

“I tried to convince the others. It was so obvious. The gap from Haven to Asgard Gate was so obvious. Enemy supplies were low; they had to be low after the recent engagements. Haven to the Gate was the obvious re-supply corridor. My analysis of the intelligence was unwavering in the conclusion: sometime in the next two weeks the Cati would run a re-supply expedition between the two systems.

War is a time of bitter opportunity; conflicts decided not so much in battles as in the taking advantage of strategic possibilities. This supply run was one such opportunity. And I really tried to convince the field command, but the field command would not listen.

I knew why. In their heart of hearts, command knew I was right. They argued with me, not on facts, but rather on pragmatics: what if you are wrong? Do we really need to stop this expedition? Will we really lose if we don’t? What if it has heavy fighter coverage? Maybe it’s a trap. The time isn’t right, Jason; maybe in a month or two, but not now; we’re too tired and too thin. We need to play it safer, and wait ...”

He paused, eyes defocused, staring into space. Time stretched, Miri waited, neither impatient nor expectant; he would speak in his own time. The breeze rustled through the tree leaves. She closed her eyes, hearing all, entered a sort of trance, imagining his voice, with such clarity that when he spoke again she knew what he would say.

“We were losing the war. We had a few early victories, and then losses. Nothing dramatic, just steady losses. We could actually project—to within days—when the end would come. There was nothing to do, no Churchillian raid on Berlin, all was Dunkirk.”

Jason paused again.

“How do I know this? I had to be told my own name. My own life is a mystery to me. I can play the piano, speak in German. But I have no memory of ever having done these things before ... I remember ... a grandmother ... fresh-baked cookies ...”

He sighed, was silent for a time, and continued.

“In the end, they allowed me to recruit a volunteer wing. Command neither helped nor hindered us. I needed twenty-four soldiers, thirteen women and eleven men, including me, sitting catheterized and IVed and brain-plugged out between the stars, waiting for the enemy.

“We kept our engines off, sitting in the constant coldness, stomachs rumbling, waiting for battle. We made a net between the two systems, each ship about half a light year from it’s nearest compatriot. A giant spider web designed to catch the enemy. No radio contact, it might have given away our presence. Each of us was alone with his or her thoughts. The only punctuations to the endless wait were the twelve hourly beacons. These were disguised against the microwave background. It was a risk, but necessary for us to keep in touch.

“On the sixth day, O’Brien died. His ship stopped answering the beacons. I broke radio silence long enough to query O’Brien’s onboard. It reported a critical fault, a total loss of life-support, probably as a result of a collision with a micro-meteor. Most would be fielded and scooped away, but one in a hundred thousand might get through. I had already seen many young people die, so many, but I was still unreasonably sad. After all, we would all soon be dead. It seemed somehow especially unfair that against that backdrop anyone could die so meaninglessly.

“I had dredged up an old word. I found it in the history banks. Kamikaze. The divine wind. I chose it to honor my volunteers. I taught them the word, and the concept, and the very special way we would instantiate it. All had agreed to the modified rules of engagement. We could not survive. It was not possible, we were out-gunned too much. And so, I thought, I hoped, that by losing we might win.

“By day twelve, it all seemed academic. There was no sign of the Cati. I risked a long-range scan. Nada. I had been wrong after all. Time to fold up the tents and go home. Which meant more battles, more death on both sides, and a much longer war. A shame, a bitter shame, and O’Brien dead for nothing at all. I didn’t know what to do. So I gave it two more days.

“And then they showed up.

“Three of them. Dreadnoughts. A couple million tonnes each. And minimal fighter coverage, maybe a hundred. We were out-numbered four to one. But it could have been much worse. We would not survive, but we might make our mission. Without re-supply, the Cati would have to abandon Haven. If they lost Haven, then the end of the war would at least be in sight.

“We crept in, then started our runs. We were three groups of six and one group of five. We made standard strafing runs, but with the restrained rules of engagement. They made me very, very proud.”

“You shot only to disable?”

“More than that. I made them agree to not use deadly force. Under no circumstances, even if it meant their own destruction. All we had to do was slow the Cati down.”

“So you targeted their engines only?”

He nodded.

“And because you weren’t saving fuel for the return trip, you were able to maneuver all the more?”

“We disabled their fighters. Every last one of them. My boys and girls were pulling four-gee curves. It’s easy to do if you don’t plan to live more than a few more hours. The Cati hadn’t seen anything like it from humans before. We caught them by surprise.”

“And afterward?”

“There were seventeen of us left. Five were dead, and Melanie, poor, sweet Melanie, was lost on a high-speed vector ... and O’Brien ... we made a formation, threw on our hibersleeps with no wake-up dates, and said goodbye.”


“The next thing I knew, I was wandering planet-side. Turned out to be Haven. I didn’t know how I got there. At first I was confused, not even knowing my own name.”

He paused. “The doctors weren’t surprised by the memory loss. There was a lot of radiation in the battle—fighters aren’t well shielded. They weren’t surprised by the memory loss. They were surprised that we were alive at all.”

Another pause.

“And how did we get to Haven? It could have been very bad, many difficult questions whose answers wouldn’t be acceptable, except that the Cati ... And that’s where you come in, little Miss Peacemaker.”

“So you do know how you got to Haven?”

“Yes ... there’s really only one explanation, isn’t there?”

Miri nodded.

“Your turn. How did you make peace?”

“Tomorrow.” She said. “Not too much in one day.”

She was strangely sad. She felt his pain, his loss, and his guilt. He was alive when others who had trusted and followed him had died. She blinked away a tear, unwilling to burden him further with her own sadness.


The next morning was overcast. They breakfasted outside anyway, creatures of habit, determined. The sky was gray with omens of rain until after eleven, but the morning held only a few large drops, no more.

They had strolled around the lake, meandering. Jason pointed out the beaver dam. At one point she thought she saw a brown flash of deer, but it was begun and over too quickly for her to be sure. They returned to the table on the patio shortly after noon.

“Will you link with me?”

He had a sudden wariness that seemed purely animal.

“I haven’t linked since Kamikaze. At least, I don’t think so. And I can’t be sure, because I don’t remember, but my impression is that I have mostly linked with machines.”

“But will you link with me?”

“Yes ... if it’s necessary, I will.”

“Do you like me?”

“Pardon me?”

“I have been here almost a month. Most of our interaction is impersonal and functional. But I’m curious. Do you like me?”

“You are a pleasant house guest. You clean up after yourself. I have no complaints.”

“But do you like me? Are you attracted to me?”

“I have been in my own place. I don’t think right now that I could be attracted to anyone. But, yes, sometimes these last weeks I have felt a strange affinity for you ...”

“Good,” Miri said. “I’m glad.”

“You were vilified in the press.” She stated it without inflection, simply a fact.

“I expected to be ... coward, traitor, Quisling ... I read them all ... Imagine it ... to be censured and worse, just for being insufficiently bloodthirsty.”

“Why did you do it?”

Jason’s eyes narrowed.

“What do you mean?”

“Your whole mission. Why did you do it? Why didn’t you just put some ugly fusion bombs on their vector and push the button from a million klicks away?”

“I wanted to re-introduce limited war. There was no need to destroy the re-supply ships, only delay them. And it worked. When they arrived at Haven, after making repairs, they were too late; our side had had enough time to consolidate. The Cati were turned away with a minimum of bloodshed. The remaining Cati ground forces had no choice but to surrender.”


The next day was sunny, the first warm day of spring. Humans have made a numbered calendar, with it’s Gregorian adjustments, but there is something very old in Earthly flesh that rejects the digitized year that the body might know the seasons.

Jason felt stirrings; not just an animal or sexual arousal, but a much wider stimulation. He felt a desire to move on, to heal and be done, and grow anew. They were spending a great deal of time together, going for walks in the mountain forests, talking some nights into early morning.

He was dismayed the first time he saw her swim nude in the lake. She didn’t ignore him, but she didn’t invite him either. She seemed indifferent, except—he knew her a bit now. Wasn’t that a lilt in the tilt of her head? A slight bounce in her step, and the faintest hint of a smile at the corners of her mouth?

This shiny, undine flowing from the lake distracted him, her body glistening silvery in the sun, and yet, and yet, at times Jason seemed sure that she was very, very gently teasing him. Not a sexual taunting, but a teasing, as if he wasn’t getting the joke ...

At other times, it seemed familiar, the talking and laughter, and, yes, even the look of her naked body. Sometimes, the sense of déjà vu was so powerful it frightened him. Other times, it was just right ...

A sunny day, almost hot, and she came to him after her swim, discreetly wearing a bathrobe, and said, “Can we link today?”


They sat on the patio. At first he thought they should be inside.

Miri fitted the cable to the back of her head. She felt around above her hairline. Her hands moved with the experience of practice; the plug-in took only a fraction of a second. She stood up, stepped to where he sat, and searched with her fingers through his hair.

She found what she was looking for; she snapped the free end of the cable into place.

“There,” she said, re-seating herself. “We’re physically linked. I’m going to start the interface in a moment. I need to tell you something first ... we knew each other before the war ... really well. I was your protégé, your student. I have stayed here before, with you ... but the war came along.”

“I suspected ...” His voice trailed off. Linking affected some people this way.


His dreams of hibersleep were cold and thick, and slowing down. Jason’s brain was stopping, his metabolism dropping to zero. The small fighter was changing patterns, shifting cognition from its human component to the library subroutines which were numerous but limited, and not nearly sophisticated enough to avoid the pursuers. And in the small cocoon-cockpit, Jason slid steadily toward frozen death.

The Cati never really woke him up. They took him aboard the second dreadnought. The most skilled Cati telepaths worked with the remains of the fighter’s computer to probe Jason’s mind. It was only a few hours since the battle, but already his radiation-caused injuries were destroying him. The telepaths stopped, then reversed the hibersleep.

His memories, fading as he had slipped toward death, were caught and held for him. The Cati read all that he was and all that he had been. They read all that he had wanted to be, all that he had ever hoped to be. They told him what they were doing, and they fixed him as best they could, which was better than they found him.

The telepaths made way to doctors. The slide to oblivion slowed, stopped, then reversed. He and his others passed into a simple sleep. The healing was slow but steady and, in a few days, Cati techniques had undone the injuries.

He dreamt, dreams of knowledge, of what happened after the attack, of the Cati reaction, of the rescue of his team. He lay on his back, somewhere, and felt immersed and surrounded in a profound gentleness. His thoughts, so thick and slow, came to him as icy slush; first, do no harm, but whether an accomplishment or exhortation he could not say.

Violating Union, debated at the highest levels, the Cati left a message in his mind, not consciously, but rather as an adjunct to his philosophy. It became part of how he thought, a certain knowledge, “thank you ...”


Jason and Miri were unmoving on the deck as the past lived again in their minds. Her thoughts were his thoughts, shared words. She knew, and therefore he knew. They were two, but together they were also more. Each was separate, but the electronic trumpet had blown, and the walls had tumbled down. The cable, ultramicroflux, was conducting as many messages between them as passed across the corpus callosum of each of their brains.

“The war ...” he said.

“The war started ...” she said.

And then they stopped speaking as two brains merged to one white hot consciousness, that pondered itself, and found its female part very unmachinelike, and its male part very gentle.

The war started when three drunken men raped a Cati female. She was young; rape was unknown among the Cati; as she was forced, injured, wounded, her pain echoed and re-echoed throughout the Union. This crime was so great that no memory of its existence remained; it was a new affront, far worse than anything any living Cati could imagine. It was beyond belief; it was psychic horror, monstrous.

The Cati had known that humans were different, but they had not known how great those differences were. Almost as bad as the original crime was the human attitude to it; acceptance, weak apologies, these things happen. No; not if you are United, not if each feels the pains and joys of others, and all celebrate and mourn Together. These things cannot, must not, happen.

The official apology was rejected, not in anger or to cause slight, but simply because it was unacceptable. The Cati could not accept a universe in which such terror was to become routine.

The Earth delegation was offended. The Cati withdrew. Earth forces pursued. The Cati delegation warned the Earth forces to stop. The Earth forces continued to pursue. The Cati warned again, then fired. The war started ...


They spoke together, one voice, every inflection and cadence matched and reflected in the other’s voice.

“The war ended ...”

The war ended after Kamikaze, day 911 of peace talks, all fruitless, until one member of the Earth negotiations team re-entered the conference room with a grief so strong that it was felt even by the more weakly United Cati. The Cati had not known that this was possible, that any human could feel with such intensity.

They conferred among themselves. Unknown to the humans, the Cati were just then receiving the news that the tactical resupply of Victory had been thwarted, but that this time, for the first time, something had been different. Very different. A possibility. Sameness is lethargy and difference is hope. A light long dark in the Cati Union again shone very weakly in the night.

The enemy had attacked but not killed. What could this mean? Humans always killed. Humans always killed. They knew no mercy, no empathy, no Union. They always killed ... until now, until today.

And it was somehow connected to the female. Grief burned so strongly in the human female Miranda. So strongly. The Cati looked at each other, puzzled. Her grief was a flame, a pyre. They conferred, and then they asked to meet alone with this female, actually a junior member of the diplomatic team.

Protocol was upset. Miranda didn’t care. She was so lost that she could not focus on the least parts of her assignment. She did not notice when the other humans left the room, leaving her alone with the Cati. Bad enough to be left behind, to have her friends and teacher sneak away, leaving her to peace talks. Worse that she lived when they had died. Not mere survivor guilt, but a deep sense of betrayal. She should have been with them. But he had not allowed it. Jason had shamed her, left her behind to a meaningless life, when all that she had sought to be had been with them.

The leader of the Cati delegation approached her, tentatively, awkwardly, and with great respect and deep reverence, entered the upper layers of her mind.

Are all humans like you?

What do you mean?

Her answer, a question stunted by intellectual torpor, frozen in grief.

Do humans feel so deeply?

No ... others are better than me ... I am weak ... please ... leave me alone ...

The Cati delegate was puzzled, he pulled back. The psychosocial rules of Union are absolute. Yet he needed to know. Needed to understand. There was more here than he knew. He pulled back mentally, but then remembered something that he had seen humans do. He reached out and squeezed her hand.

She stirred, her cheeks wet with tears, and to his great surprise, the Cati delegate felt her invite him back. He entered again, tentatively ...

You are weak because you live ... when those-you-need died?

Yes ...

Yet they died so that Cati would live ... and you are weak because you live?

Yes ...

You are not merely glad to live?

No. Not like this ...

You would have died for Cati?

Yes ...

The delegate left the room, spent just over three hours in consultation with his government, and when he emerged, announced the conditional surrender of his people to the human race. He then asked again to meet with the junior member.

Can you do this thing?

Yes. Yes. Yes I will. Yes ...

Can you, truly?

Yes ...

Some died ... most lived.

Her mind jumped. The Cati nodded, another human gesture.

He is with us, injured but healing, and will be returned to you. He stood for us, you stand with him, and we stand together ...

The Cati paused.

Will you, for a time, Join with us?


“And so I am the ambassador, standing between two types of humans. The first Earthling to know Union, and with unprecedented authority. The way it had to be. They could only surrender to someone who held life so dearly that she would die rather than kill. And you, Jason, my teacher, my love, are the first person to show them that.”

She paused. The ultra microflux jack lay on the table. He did not know when she had unplugged.

“I would like to stay. I would like to live here. I would like to again be your student. But, I have to ask you something first, something very important ...”

“Which is?”

“What is my name?”

“You are ... you are ...”

He stopped, puzzled.

“I don’t know.”

“You do ...” Her voice was gentle, tinged with sadness and hope. “They hold you in high respect. They love you deeply. And when they found you, after you took so much pain not to hurt them, they couldn’t bear the thought of more for you. So they protected you, kept your memories, but kept you safe from the deepest pain and loss. When you say my name, you will be complete again ... if you want that.”

He thought a moment, considering all, feeling relief. It’s over, finally, truly over.

“It’s a brave new universe, isn’t it ...? Please stay, Miranda.” END

Bill Suboski is a systems analyst when he is not writing. He has an associates degree in business computing and experience coding for diverse systems. His previous flash fiction for us, “Agamemnon,” was published in the 12-JAN-2016 issue.


Frank Wade comp




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