Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Falling Sun
by Arley Sorg

With Hostile Intent
by Eamonn Murphy

Between First Dawn and Last Dusk
by Emily McCosh

by Stephen L. Antczak

Black Starburst
by Barry Charman

Captain Loop Jamaan’s Conversion
by Trevor Doyle

Tumbler’s Gift
by Geoff Nelder

Zoo Hack
by James Van Pelt

Shorter Stories

Terminate and Stay Resident
by Robin Wyatt Dunn

World Champion
by Sean Mulroy

I Love Lupi
by Holly Schofield


It’s a Puzzlement
by Terry Stickels

It’s Invisible
by Eric M. Jones



Comic Strips





With Hostile Intent

By Eamonn Murphy

PROFESSOR CLIVE FOX SWIVELLED in his office chair and frowned at his visitor. How to break the bad news? The astonishing news. He unfurled his long Anglo-Saxon bones from the seat and stood straight to his full height of six foot and three inches. Old fashioned, he still used imperial measurements for everyday things though in his work as a scientist he had gone inevitably metric. Even the second son of a Duke with a thousand years of heritage behind him had to keep up with the times.

It was Friday afternoon and they were in Fox’s small office at the university. Many staff members had already left, winding down for the bank holiday weekend ahead. Outside May blossoms bloomed and the grass was a lush green. Inside the walls were pale pastel colours and the office was furnished in the modern comfortable style.

Andrew Patel was sweating and rubbing his hands together nervously. “Well? Don’t keep me in suspense. Is the boy mine? Am I the father?”

Clive had gone on a management course once, some obligatory nonsense to train the academic staff in management skills, and had learned about a sandwich.

When giving bad news, the theory said, give some good news first, then the bad, then some more good. This “sandwich” made the bad news easier to swallow; in theory.

“You are the father,” he said calmly.

The honey-coloured hands of Andrew Patel ceased their wringing and were slapped together in exultation. “Ha! I knew it.”

This was obviously not true. If he had known it he would not have taken a saliva swab of the baby’s mouth and asked his friend the biology professor to do a paternity test. Clive smiled. After all, Andrew was his friend and he was pleased to calm his almost neurotic insecurity.

Patel was quite short, a little plump, reasonably handsome and very intelligent.

He was a Professor of Computer Sciences at Bristol University, one of the most prestigious campuses in England. Not quite up there with Oxford and Cambridge, perhaps, but still well-regarded. However, despite his academic success, Andrew Patel had a problem common to some very smart men: namely, a lack of social skill, especially with women. Some geniuses didn’t care about the opposite sex, or sex—Isaac Newton most famously—but for those who did this was a big issue. Used to deep thought, they had no small talk. Girls were hard to get.

Andrew dropped into the office’s other swivel chair and almost hugged himself with glee. “She’s mine. She really is mine.”

As the baby was a boy, he was clearly referring to the mother. Samantha was a beautiful redhead who had recently joined the faculty as a biology teacher. She had latched on to the Computer Science whiz at a college social gathering and had quickly become a fixture in his life. Clive suspected she was the first real girlfriend he’d ever had. Within a month they had moved in together, a nice flat in the prosperous Clifton area of Bristol and very quickly Samantha became pregnant.

“I’m the father!” The little man clapped his hands together again.

Clive managed a wan smile. “I never really doubted it, old chap. However, while the DNA test proved that”—he paused—“it also showed up something else.”

Andrew stared at him. “You look worried.”

Clive nodded. He could hardly believe the results himself and didn’t really know what to do with them. Still, his friend had to know.

“What is it. Some genetic condition? Some sort of inherited disease.”

“No, no.” Clive sat down again and wondered how best to put it. “The baby is in good health and you are the father. But ... I don’t. There was something unusual about the DNA.” Clive frowned wondering how to put it. He had been wondering for hours. He had checked and double-checked the unbelievable results several times.

“The DNA?” prompted his friend.

It’s a mix obviously, of yours and hers.”

“So? Is there something wrong with hers? Come on! Spit it out, man.”

Clive spat it out. “The mother is an alien.”

“Eh? Well, technically, yes. She was born in Poland but ...”

Professor Fox shook his head. “No, no. Alien. Her DNA is not human.”



“My son is Mister Spock.” Andrew Patel had calmed down somewhat after Clive had shown him, on the computer, the proof. He thumped the desk angrily. “But this is nonsense!” He waved a dismissive hand at the evidence on the screen. “I don’t care what this says, Samantha is human. For God’s sake, have you seen her? She’s the most fabulous specimen of humanity in England.”

Clive gazed solemnly at his friend over fingers that formed a steeple, elbows resting on the desk. “She’s humanoid, certainly but she’s not from this planet.”

“That’s not possible.”

Clive’s mouth quirked in annoyance. “You’re a scientist, if not a biologist. Look at the evidence. Now, I admit, we can’t go jumping the gun or making rash decisions based on one DNA sample. Maybe it got damaged, or polluted, or something.”

“You don’t sound very convinced.”

“I’m not. But it’s still just one sample. We have to get others. We have to get hers.”

Andrew shrugged. “I could ask her.”

Clive gave him a look that should have withered him. “Oh, yes. Apparently you’re an alien darling. Can you cough into this hanky so we can double check? You’ll have to get some body fluids without letting her know.”

“It seems ... sneaky.” Patel looked uncomfortable. “She is my wife.”

“But what else is she?”

Andrew stared at the floor for several seconds before raising his head to reply. “I’ll get the sample.”

Clive stood up and took him by the elbow, hoisted him gently to his feet. “This has been a hell of a shock. The whole situation is strange. Maybe it’s all a mistake. But get the sample anyway and we’ll see. And for God’s sake try to act normally meanwhile. We could be in danger.”

Andrew shook his head. “Samantha would never hurt me.”

Clive still had hold of his arm. He gripped it tighter and shook the little man. Hard.

“I’m sure she wouldn’t, you dunderhead, but what about the others?”

This earned him a startled look. “Others?”

“You think she came to Earth by flapping her arms? If she is an alien there must be others. We have to get more information.”


Andrew left. Clive returned to the swivel chair and studied the information on the computer screen, thinking about what it implied.


“This is the real England!”

Clive smiled. He was sat in a small, family-run coffee shop in Malmesbury, near his Uncle’s estate where he had just finished a pleasant day’s clay pigeon shooting. The game birds couldn’t be shot until September and this was a good way of keeping in practice. It was late afternoon, a bright, sunny day. He had stopped for a cup of tea and a cake on a sudden whim. The words were spoken by a stocky, broad shouldered man in designer jeans and smart white T-shirt to his small, dark-haired girlfriend. He was looking with satisfaction out the window at the wonderful architecture of the old town. In his hands he held a mid-range tabloid newspaper infamous for its xenophobia.

A decent fellow by the look of him. But he was wrong, of course. This was a twee hangover from the past kept going by the older generation. The real England now was in the big cities where the money was made, where mixed-race men and women rubbed shoulders with new immigrants and drove the wheels of industry, finance, and commerce.

Clive turned back to his own paper. There were the usual gloomy headlines: wars and rumours of wars. That made him wonder how a war with aliens might work. Aliens who had come to Earth from a distant star (there was no intelligent life in the solar system) had to have vastly superior technology. Would they be more civilized, too? Not necessarily, he decided. Technological advances came with war. The development of radar and sonar, vast improvements in powered flight, even rockets, had all come about during World War II under the impetus of trying to beat the enemy. The space race had basically been an arms race between the USA and the USSR. Very advanced technology might just mean a race of warriors.

He made a conscious effort to stop his thoughts racing down this track. Enough. It’s one dodgy DNA result. There could be several explanations. Don’t jump the gun.

His thoughts turned to Samantha Patel, as she now was. She had arrived the previous summer, one among quite a number of new staff recruited as the university expanded. This was largely funded by the vast new numbers of foreign students. Aliens, he thought wryly, but definitely not enemy aliens. The new staff included teachers in both the arts and sciences as well as a new vice chancellor, a very suave and sophisticated charmer named Victor Parnell. It seemed to Clive, in retrospect, that they had formed themselves into a slightly separate social group. They clustered together on their lunch breaks and, from overheard snatches of conversation, he had the notion that they socialized in the evenings, too.

Yes, but wasn’t that natural for new people all having the same experience? Academia was full of cliques at the best of times. Still, he wouldn’t mind getting a few DNA samples of the new people. Some sleight of hand in the canteen might be enough. It couldn‘t be too hard to slyly grab discarded napkins or slip a used fork into the jacket pocket.

Not too hard but a bit random, he decided. Furthermore, he tended to dine with his old colleagues and if he suddenly started sharing tables with the new people it would look odd. Then he clicked his fingers and grinned. A party! Throw a party for the new people! Invite them all out to the house and give them a good meal and plenty of drink. Cutlery and wine glasses collected saliva samples subtly, and with place name tabs for each person—perfectly normal at a dinner party—he would know to whom each sample belonged. A lot better than stuffing used napkins into his pockets. He decided he would email the invitations as soon as he got back on Tuesday and contact the caterers too.

It would be unusual as he hadn’t thrown any sort of a get together for ages, not since his wife had died three years before. Maria had loved a party and they frequently had friends and colleagues round. Of course, she had done a lot of the cooking herself. He decided to invite a couple of old friends, as well as the new intake. It would look more normal and he could spread the word that he was over her loss, at least enough to do this.

He finished his tea and stood up. The DNA sample had been a shock but there was no use worrying over what might be. The first step was to gather information.

Is that what they’re doing?

No matter. He felt better. He had a plan of action.


He sent the invitations discreetly to the selected few. He decided eleven guests would be about the right number. The responses came back quickly. They all accepted. He hadn’t invited Andrew or his wife. To invite Samantha without Andrew would have seemed odd and he had decided not to invite Andrew who was in a nervous state at the moment and might say something untoward, especially if he had a drink.

That morning Patel came bursting into his office, obviously upset. At first Clive presumed it was because he had heard about the party and was angry about not being included. He soon discovered he was wrong.

“She’s left me and taken the baby!” The little man stood just inside the doorway. His shirt was half out and his left shoelace undone. His brown eyes were red rimmed from crying.

Clive moved past him and shut the door. He took a deep breath. He closed his eyes and exhaled slowly, keeping control. “You told her.”

“I ... not exactly.”

“Sit down, Andrew.” Clive pushed a chair under the other teacher and more or less forced him into it. “What did you say?”

“I mentioned that I had asked a friend—I didn’t say you!” He gulped and continued. “I asked a friend, I told her, to check the baby’s DNA. I made the excuse that I was worried about any possible genetic conditions.”

Clive scratched his chin wearily. “You shouldn’t have mentioned it at all, Andy. I suppose that was a fairly plausible excuse though. What did she say?”

“She accused me of checking paternity. Of not trusting her.”

“And your guilty demeanour obviously told her that was the truth of it. Oh, Andrew.” Clive repressed his anger. Andy was a soft clot. No grit, no self restraint and his heart forever on his sleeve. Suddenly he reached out and gripped the other man’s knee, hard. “You didn’t mention anything about the problem with the DNA?”

“What?” A look of complete bafflement briefly contorted Andrew’s face. “Oh, that nonsense. No, no. I thought about it after and decided you were having a joke. Non-terrestrial DNA, indeed. But clearly there is some sort of anomaly and I thought she ought to know.”

“Okay.” Clive was actually pleased. If Andy dismissed his notions then he wouldn’t bother talking about it to anyone. Clearly he was a loose cannon in any conspiracy of silence.

“I don’t know where she’s gone!” Patel was wringing his hands again and scuffing his feet on the carpet, back and forth, in an agitated manner, beside himself with anxiety.

No grit, thought Clive again. He stood up and ushered his friend towards the door. There was nothing he could do and this emotional display was likely to make him angry in very short order. “Probably staying with a friend. I believe that’s what women do in these situations. She’ll be in touch. Try not to worry.”

With that he pushed the little man gently out into the corridor and shut the door.

He sat before his computer and stared at the screen saver. What now? In his distress, Andrew seemed to have completely forgotten the matter of the strange DNA that had led to his crisis. All he could think about was his missing wife.

But what was she thinking about? And who would she tell?


No one, it turned out. Samantha Patel’s car went through the crash barrier on Bridge Valley Road that night and fell fifty feet straight onto the portway below, beside the river Avon in the Avon gorge. It exploded on impact. Forensics officers found the badly burned bodies of a female and a baby inside the wreck. The story featured on the late local news bulletin.

Andrew Patel would not be back to work for a while, Clive decided.

But the party for the newcomers was going ahead that Friday.


“Welcome, Victor.” Clive smiled and nodded as he admitted the last guest. As usual the Vice-Chancellor had not one silver hair out of place on his rather large head. He smiled back displaying perfect teeth which looked even whiter against his slightly tanned skin. The casual blue jacket he wore fitted snugly on his broad shoulders and the cream trousers went perfectly with the buff shirt. He looked like a retired American footballer and seemed, as usual, perfectly at ease.

“Come through. We’re gathered in the other room for pre-dinner drinks.” Clive led the way down the short hallway and through a door on the left to a large living area with a conservatory attached. The armchairs, sofas, and two coffee tables had been pushed back to the walls to create an open space and there were ten people already gathered, clustered into small groups and conversing quietly. The room smelled slightly of furniture polish. “What would you like to drink?”

“Dry white wine, please.”

Clive poured a generous portion and handed it over. “We’ll eat in about fifteen minutes. The dining room is just through there.” He pointed to an archway then moved toward it, motioning for the other man to follow.

“Nice house,” said the Vice-Chancellor.

“It was my parents’, and their parents’ before that. Of course, I lived in a more modest place for most of my adult life but when dear old mother passed on I inherited the place.”

“And a hefty tax bill, I imagine.”

Clive raised his eyes to heaven. “Inheritance tax, the bane of the middle classes.” Actually, he was upper class but anonymous enough to get away with the lesser claim. Below the level of royalty the upper classes were not generally popular in England. “Luckily, I was earning well by then and the accountants have a few dodges. Even so ...” He shook his head ruefully. “Still, enough about me. Where did you work before coming to Bristol?”

Parnell took a sip of wine before replying. “Mostly in Australia.”

Clive raised his eyebrows. “Australia! That’s a long way off. Might as well be another planet.”

The big man chuckled. “Well, it’s a different culture, certainly. Your small island has some odd ways but someone gave me a good book to help me cope. Have you heard of How to be a Brit by George Mikes? It’s very witty. A bit outdated now, though. Television and the Internet are making most people in most countries into a sort of bland, homogenous single type. A kind of pseudo-American.” He shrugged. “You Brits are probably the worst for that but there are isolated pockets of the old culture left. Tea and cream cakes and all that. I like it.”

How to be a Brit,” said Clive. “I’ll look it up.”

Parnell glanced at the framed photo on the wall next to him. It showed a man in military uniform looking sternly into the camera. “Your father?”

“My grandfather. He fought in Kenya against the Mau Mau. His father was unlucky enough to catch both world wars. My father was in the Falklands.” He shrugged. “We’re one of those dynasties with a long military heritage.”

“And you?”

“I did three years in the paratroop regiment to keep up the tradition but it seemed unnecessary to make a career of it.” He glanced at his watch. “Excuse me.” Raising his voice he called out, “Time for dinner, everyone.”

They filed into the dining room.


After the guests had left, Clive sat in his armchair with a glass of brandy and pondered. He had to admit they were probably the most civilized bunch of people he had ever spent an evening with. All well educated, polite, witty, entertaining, and with no bad temper or even bad manners. If you had to be invaded by aliens, he thought, these would be the best sort.

On the other hand, if they were spies scouting out the territory, that was the perfect kind of recruit. They did not draw attention to themselves. They fitted in very neatly with polite society.

He looked at the pile of knives, forks, and napkins neatly arranged with the name tabs. Tomorrow he would take them to the lab at work and discreetly test them. It would be a day’s work and more. He would have to start early.

The doorbell rang.

He glanced at his watch. It was midnight. On opening the front door he was not completely surprised to see Andrew Patel standing there. He looked terrible.

“Come in, my friend.” Clive opened the door wide. Andrew was his friend even though they were very different people.

When they were sat in the dining room he gave the visitor a glass of water. Andrew didn’t drink alcohol. “You’re having a bad time.”

“I cannot believe it is coincidence,” said the Indian.

Obviously he was referring to the death of his wife and child at the same time as their DNA discovery. Clive was not a man to give false comfort so he simply shook his head. “No. It probably isn’t.”

“It cannot be coincidence.” Andrew thumped the arm of the chair. “It cannot be!”

Clive nodded to the piles of carefully labelled napkins and cutlery on the table. “By tomorrow night we will know.”


The next night they knew. It was not as bad as Clive had expected.

They were together at his home, in his study, looking at a computer screen. “Half of the dozen have alien DNA,” said Andrew after scanning the results. “Not so many then.”

Clive nodded. “That’s not the whole story though. I’ve been researching those people.” With a few clicks of the mouse he bought up various organizational charts of university departments and local government. “Look at these.” The names of the six suspects were highlighted to make his point more obvious. Andrew frowned and leaned back in his chair. “I think I see.”

“You do. They have taken up key positions in the administration, especially voluntary ones, the kind of jobs no one really wants. Mike Barton is the trade union representative. Amina Kauresh is chair of the health and safety committee. Victor Parnell is a member of several different committees as well as being Vice-Chancellor.” He thumped the table angrily. “This is what happens when ordinary people are too lazy to bother with the cogs and wheels of everyday administration: special interest groups take over and run it to suit their own agenda. Loony lefties and right wingnuts.”

“Not usually aliens though,” said Andrew quietly.

“Not usually.” They sat together in silence for a minute.

Andrew shrugged. “Is this really so bad? They may be alien but they’re humanoid. My parents were alien in a way when they came to England. This is the same thing on a bigger scale. Is a man from another planet any less welcome than a man from another country, if he means no harm?”

“Someone from another planet isn’t a man,” said Clive flatly.

Andrew‘s expression showed that he thought that a moot point. “But why are they doing it? Taking us over by stealth?”

“Maybe they’re not taking us over. They’re joining us. And they’re joining with the smartest of us so they may intend to take over the elites, starting with academia and moving on to other spheres. Interbreed with us, as they did with you, and have the next generation inherit the Earth, or control of it.”

Andrew grimaced at that. “Bah. You think the smartest people run this country—or any country?”

“Well, the top politicians mostly went to Oxford or Cambridge. They are smarter than the average.” Clive’s family generally went to the top public schools and had the best jobs afterwards. He had several cousins high up in the civil service, one or two in the military, and even one who had gone into politics.

“If they are taking over what can we do about it?”

“We have the DNA results. Irrefutable proof. We could send that to the government, the newspapers, the FBI. Everyone.”

Andrew looked at the screen again, at the names highlighted there. He pointed to them. “These people are my friends! They’re your friends. What happens if we go public? Witch hunts? Persecution? Concentration camps?”

“All three probably,” said a voice from the doorway. “But don’t fret. We won’t let that happen.”

They turned to see Victor Parnell standing there. As usual, Clive noticed, he looked smooth, composed, unruffled, even though he was in another man’s house and eavesdropping on his conversation. Clive’s hands clenched into fists.

He managed to speak calmly. “You might as well come in.”

Parnell looked at Andrew. “Your wife and child are alive and well. The bodies at the crash were fakes, charred beyond recognition by the fire.”

Andrew stared at him, wide-eyed.

“They can’t come home in those identities, obviously, but we can fix something.” The big man smiled. “Samantha is very fond of you.”

“I’m very fond of my pet dog,” said Clive.

Parnell returned the hostile glare with his usual calm countenance. “It’s not the same thing, Clive. We don’t see you that way at all.”

“I wonder.” Clive stood up and gestured to Andrew, who was looking slightly stunned. He turned to the visitor. “I suppose this will take a while so we might as well get comfortable.” Parnell nodded. The three went to the sitting area where comfortable armchairs surrounded a low glass-topped coffee table on which sat an old fashioned globe of the world. Clive took a bottle of claret from a cupboard along with three glasses. He poured, looked at Andrew. “I realize you don’t—usually—but surely this is a special occasion.”

The little man took the glass. His hand shook slightly as he downed it in one go and held out for a refill.

Clive held his own up in a toast to Parnell. “Nice to have the pleasure of your company. And how long have we had the pleasure of your kind of company?”

The big man sipped his wine and pursed his lips in approval. “Excellent. You keep a good cellar, sir.” He put it down and leaned back comfortably in the padded armchair. “We are a humanoid species and one member of what you might call a Coalition of Worlds, or a Galactic Empire, though it isn’t that big, or an Interstellar Alliance. The name hardly matters. Suffice to say there are a number of star-faring species and we keep an eye on others who are progressing that way. Obviously nuclear power is a big step forward and a landmark achievement. We’ve been watching your planet since 1945.” He grinned. “Humans are brave, warlike, resourceful, and potentially dangerous. It was in our interests to keep an eye on you.”

“Very flattering.” Clive drank back his own wine and poured another. “Why didn’t you just land and say take me to your leader or similar?”

“Not subtle. We didn’t know how you would react. We don’t think you’re ready yet to join us. Not until you get a world government here and that’s a long way off.” He tapped the globe near France. “At the moment you can barely hold a coalition of nations together.”

Clive looked at Europe and smiled. “True enough. So you’re infiltrating us slowly, interbreeding, and taking over on the sly.” He glanced at Andrew but his friend was still absorbing the news about his family and sat staring into space with a blank expression.

“Influencing, not infiltrating.” Parnell drained the last dregs of his wine and held out the glass. Clive filled it up. “We hope to make Earth a truly civilized world, one fit to join our peaceful alliance.”

“Suppose we like our independence?”

“There would be many benefits. Advanced medical science. Fusion power. Technologies that would free mankind from menial labour.”

Andrew finally spoke up. “It sounds fantastic.”

“But not yet,” said Clive.

Parnell nodded. “We are not ready to be revealed yet. I am here to ask you to keep our secret; to destroy your records and let us wipe your memories.”

The Englishman grinned without humour. “Don’t you trust us?”

“Even if we did ... men make mistakes. Old men ramble. It would not be safe.”

Andrew stared at Clive, grinning. “It’s a dream come true! The future of mankind will be all that enlightened men could wish for. A paradise! I’m certainly willing to do whatever’s necessary. My one condition is that I have my wife and son back.” He looked eagerly at Parnell. “I can’t live without Samantha and Simon.”

“That could be arranged. They would have new identities but could be yours again.”

Clive refilled his glass and theirs. He lifted his own in a toast. “To paradise!”

They drank.

He picked up the bottle. “Empty. I’ll get another.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” said Andrew.

Clive smiled. “No trouble. We want a convivial atmosphere, after all, for Earth’s first interplanetary conference. Shan’t be a tick.”

He left them murmuring together. Descending to the cellar he quickly found what he was looking for. When he came back into the sitting room Andrew was laughing at some witticism from Victor Parnell.

Smooth, charming, amiable, alien Victor. He turned his head to look at Clive. His mouth opened.

Clive pulled the trigger on the first barrel.

It took the visitor squarely in the chest. Blood flowed. Andrew dropped his glass.

Parnell staggered to his feet and stumbled backwards. His right hand clutched the wound. His left was extended towards the shooter as if groping for the gun. His eyes were round with shock.

Clive pulled the trigger for the second barrel. Another wound appeared and more blood stained the immaculate white shirt. Parnell dropped to the floor. His foot twitched then stopped.

Clive stepped forward and looked down. He nodded, satisfied.

The alien was dead.

Andrew was on his feet, shouting. “You murdered him! You murdered him!”

Clive slapped him on the right cheek with a savage blow then backhanded him on the left with a fiercer one.

Andrew sat down. “They have FTL drive. Space travel. Science far beyond ours. Who knows what kind of weapons.” He shrugged helplessly. “What are we going to do, Clive?”

The Englishman stroked the shotgun and gave a savage grin.

“Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.” END

Eamonn Murphy is a 53-year-old writer living near Bristol, England, and working for the NHS. He grew up reading Marvel comics, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and all the classics. His previous story for “Perihelion” was in the 12-JAN-2016 issue.


screaming eagle 6/15


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