Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Across the Distance
by Eric Del Carlo

In the Not-So-Helpful Unit
by Jeremy Szal

I-Juca-Pirama and Rosegarden
by Santiago Belluco

Snow Sharks
by Mord McGhee

A Chip Off the Old Block
by Eamonn Murphy

Girls of Summer
by Rick Novy

Most Certainly
by Brad Preslar

Psi Prison
by Michael Andre-Driussi

Shorter Stories

Revolution 2038
by Darren Goossens

by Jason M. Harley

Junkyard Dog
by Devin Miller


Playing With Dinosaurs
by Chett Gottfried

Prehistoric Monsters Roar on Screen
by Andrew R. Boone



Comic Strips





A Chip Off the Old Block

By Eamonn Murphy

ON HIS EIGHTIETH BIRTHDAY Gerard Craven decided to kill his father.

The idea came to him like a bolt from the blue as he stood on the steps of his club. It was closing, the last few drunks drifting out of its opulent interior. Some walked or staggered to later opening venues in downtown Bristol. Others used their smart phones, watches, wristbands, headbands, or belts to summon Gigglecars.

Gerard was saying goodnight to his friend Joe Kent while Leo, his son, stood silent behind him. He felt a tap on the shoulder and turned to see Paul Vale, a friend of his father’s.

“You sure know how to throw a party, Gerard.” Vale grinned and was obviously recalling the hired dancer who had wriggled in his lap during the celebrations. “You’re a chip off the old block.” With a wave he turned and weaved unsteadily away into the night.

“A chip off the old block?” asked Leo.

“An old expression,” Joe Kent explained. “He means that Ger is just like his father.”

Gerard watched the man walk away, unsteady on his feet because of a walking stick and maybe alcohol as well. He turned back to Joe. “That’ll be me one day. Tottering along on a stick and still waiting for my dues. Still coming here.” He nodded at the sign over the doorway behind them.

The Inheritors Club.

Joe Kent shrugged. “Why worry?” He was a rotund, jolly red-faced fellow with the air of a child who had never had a care in the world. He was seventy-years-old. “Like mine, your father pays the bills, runs the business and takes care of all the serious stuff. That leaves us free to enjoy ourselves.”

“Mine expects me to work,” corrected Gerard. “Five days a week. And now that Leo has finished school he’ll expect him to work, too.” Leo had just come back from his last term at a very expensive and exclusive private school where he had boarded for the previous seven years.

“I’m rather looking forward to it, Father,” said Leo.

Gerard merely grunted in reply. Leo would start out in the office, luckily for him because with his long, skinny frame, pale face and delicate blond curls he wouldn‘t really fit in with the manual workers in the lower ranks. That look had suited his mother—long divorced—but she was a woman. In fact, Leo was soft, even, to Gerard’s annoyance, slightly effeminate. Gerard blamed the posh school. He had started out on the shop floor of Craven Animal Feeds, driving a forklift truck occasionally but mostly humping twenty kilogram bags of various fodders and making local deliveries to farms and stables in the Cotswolds and the Greater Bristol area.

That had been over sixty years earlier. Urban sprawl had covered most of the farms with housing now, and the animals were under cover, too. Cows were cooped up like chickens, in stalls with a trough at one end for food and a trough at the other for waste. The few riding stables that hadn’t been concreted over were very expensive and very exclusive.

“My old man tried me at work for a bit but eventually decided it didn’t suit me,” said Joe complacently.

Gerard said nothing. An extended childhood might fit his friend but he wanted responsibility. He wanted to be in charge of Craven Animal Feeds and, even more, in charge of the family fortune. His father, Patrick Craven, still worked seven days a week, ran everything, and kept a tight grip on the purse strings. He was a domineering tyrant and Gerard was thoroughly sick of being under his thumb.

Patrick Craven was one-hundred-and-twenty-years-old but thanks to Rejuvenation treatments as fit as a man of forty. He wasn’t going to retire, thought Gerard, who had pleaded with him often enough to do so—and he wasn’t going to die any time soon. He might live to be three hundred.

So kill him.

Like an arrow, that stray thought lodged in his skull. And stayed there. He blinked in surprise.

“I think work might suit me,” said Leo, politely filling the gap in the conversation left by his father’s silence. “As long as there’s some time for rest and play as well.”

Gerard said, “Get us a ride, son.”

Leo nodded and tapped an app on his smart watch. A Gigglecar left the stream of traffic and pulled over beside the steps of the Inheritors Club. They bid Joe a pleasant evening and climbed in.

Gerard leaned back in the comfortable front seat, Leo beside him, and the driverless vehicle sped off for home. He was trying to dispel the outrageous notion of murdering his own father.

It wouldn’t go away.

“Doesn’t Granddad own shares in these things?” asked Leo.

“Yeah.” Gerard reflected for a moment then said, “That was smart of him. He got in early.”

Gerard was always ready to admit that his dad was smart. But so was he—damn it!—and it was time for the next generation to take over. Craven Animal Feeds had grown from a small shop to a thriving commercial enterprise that ran dairy factories, beef factories, and even a few exclusive riding stables. Most of these had been purchased with the profits from Gigglecars and all made money in their own right. But it was still a private, family-owned business. Gerard thought it was time to go public, sell shares, expand and really make the big time.

His father wouldn’t do it. He said once you were on the stock market you were at the mercy of global trends you couldn’t control. He was mad for control. And he wouldn’t retire.

With perfect timing, Patrick Craven had been rich enough, aged forty, to afford the new Rejuvenation techniques that came in the year 2025. Developments in bio-tech and nano-tech meant that human beings could be “tuned up” for better performance and longer life. Organs were revitalized and the blood was cleansed of its accumulated poisons. The techniques improved over the years and Patrick kept up with them, taking the latest treatments whenever he could afford them. He had great zest for life and would continue to take any new treatments developed in the future, he said.

The old bastard might go on forever.

The only consolation was that Gerard was an only child, so there were no rivals for the inheritance. His mother had died giving birth to him and his father had never remarried, or had any children outside marriage either. He kept a string of girlfriends but was careful not to stay with any of them for more than eleven months, so they could never become a common-law wife and had no possible claim on his money. The inheritance was all Gerard’s but the only way to get it was if his father died, something he wasn’t going to do.

So kill him.

It was a terrible thought. Patricide! But hadn’t Alexander the Great killed his father to take power? And Gerard was pretty sure that some English kings had done so, too, the Plantagenet’s if he recalled his history correctly. Perhaps it was a legitimate strategy for a man of ambition.

He decided to sleep on it.


The next day was Monday, which meant work. Leo tagged along with his father as he was spending a few weeks observing how things ran before taking on some post himself. That morning they were visiting one of the cattle factories in Gloucestershire, a vast barn of a place in which rows of unfortunate beasts stood in stalls all day while eating food full of growth hormones. The large and increasing population of the world needed feeding and this was the only way to do it. High flown moral notions about animal welfare had long ago been subsumed beneath that brutal reality.

Gerard and Leo arrived in a Gigglecar at about eight in the morning. Their mode of transport had Gerard thinking about the family fortune.

Driverless cars had been invented ninety years earlier, but most had thought they were just a gimmick and would never catch on. Patrick Craven, living in the English countryside, had noticed the decline of the good old English pub under the impact of drink driving laws. A self-driving car meant you could drink as much as you wanted. You couldn’t be convicted for being drunk in charge of a vehicle because you weren’t in charge. He had bought as many as he could and used them as taxis. There were no wages to pay and no supervision required because smart apps meant the customer used them as needed. Freed of the responsibility of driving, people tended to drink even more than before.

When Rejuvenation Therapy had been developed, it soon became obvious that it was only for the well-off. The National Health Service could not possibly afford to give it free to everyone. The mob had revolted. People had grown used to the rich having better houses, better cars, better spouses and so forth, but Rejuvenation meant they were getting more of life itself. To placate them, the government decriminalized all drugs. The ordinary man couldn’t extend his span but he could get stoned and high during it, especially as the cost came down once all substances were legal. The driverless vehicles soon became known as Gigglecars because the occupants were usually high. No one now could remember the original name.


It was a sunny August day and starting to get hot when they arrived at the beef factory. The boss was already there. Patrick Craven was a big, solidly built man with short hair and a jaw shaved blue. He had a competent, confident air about him and a no-nonsense manner. He usually wore jeans and a check shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He liked beer and television, dirty jokes, and pretty girls. This bluff, hearty persona concealed a sharp business brain, but he got on well with the men on the shop floor. English workers don’t object to a fellow doing well, but they hate it when one puts on airs. Patrick Craven never did that.

He hadn’t attended the birthday party, not through any ill will between him and his son but simply because it wasn’t his style. He was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, while Gerard was feeling the effects of too much red wine. Leo didn’t drink alcohol, so he was fine.

“Alright, Dad?”

“I’m fine, Ger. Had a wonderful time with Moira yesterday and I feel twenty years younger. She’s a woman of real character. In fact we ...” He stopped talking because his phone rang. He pressed the call answer button. “Patrick Craven.”

He listened attentively. Gerard kept silent and thought about Moira, his father’s latest squeeze. She was a woman of thirty who ran some kind of Internet business supplying specialist food to pampered pets. Patrick had been seeing her regularly for the last six months, which meant she had about five months left before he finished with her.

The call ended. “Everything okay?”

“No, Ger. That was the plant manager. A few of the forklift drivers are off sick, some sort of bug going around, and the dung is backing up. They’ve managed to clear it out of the stall area but there’s a holdup in getting that pile out to the lorries.”

“Shit,” said Leo.

His grandfather grinned. “Very witty. The manager is out now trying to organize some agency workers but it’s getting urgent. Still remember how to drive a forklift, son.”

Gerard looked down at his neat, pinstriped suit.

His father looked impatient. “Oh, don’t worry. You won’t get dirty. The stuff is in big open-topped containers. All we gotta do is pick ’em up in the forks and load ’em onto the flatbed trucks waiting.” He looked at Leo. “I don’t suppose they taught you to drive a forklift at that posh school?”

“Regrettably not, Grandfather, but I shall be happy to learn as soon as possible.”

Patrick Craven grunted. “Come on, Ger.” He led them round the side of the building. A mountain of dung as big as a house was heaped up just outside the back entrance. It had rained the day before and now the wet mess was stinking in the hot sun. Piled high, some had slipped down and was too close to the wall for Gerard’s liking. A man with a digger was scooping it into open topped containers as big as Gigglecars. Four forklift trucks stood idle to one side.

Patrick Craven jumped into the nearest and started it up. Gerard reluctantly did the same, casting a wistful look at his suit as he did so. The bloody thing would stink to high heaven after this. He hadn’t driven a forklift truck for at least five years, but the controls were familiar to him. Soon he was back in the rhythm of it, easing the forks gently under the containers, raising them and tipping them back slightly, sliding them onto the flatbed trucks that awaited the stinky cargo. Fortunately, the lifters were designed with canvas roofs which could be removed in warm weather and had been, so he didn’t get too hot. Unfortunately, the dung was quite wet and black splashes landed on his shoulders now and then as it slopped in the boxes. He cursed under his breath.

The foreman bought out coffee after an hour and they stopped to drink it, standing in the shade of the factory wall. The foreman was an old hand who had worked there for most of his life. While Gerard stood silently next to Leo, thinking of the stink permeating his clothes, the old guy chatted amiably to Patrick Craven, more like a friend than an employee.

“I see the son’s still not afraid to get his hands dirty,” he said after a while.

“Or his suit,” said Patrick.

The old man cackled at that, and then smiled. “You should be proud of him, sir. He’s a chip off the old block.”

“He’s not so bad.” Gerard caught an admiring glance from his father.

Then why not let me take over, he thought.

“Back to it, son.” A matey slap on the back urged Gerard to resume the hot, dirty work.

Kill him.

The idea was looking more attractive. If he was the boss, Gerard certainly wouldn’t be moving hot dung around, chip off the old block or not. He resumed his seat in the forklift and angrily pushed the gear lever. It jerked forward. The container of dung jerked as well and a bit fell out onto the concrete paving.

“Steady, son. Hope you’re not too rusty with these things.”

His father was a couple of yards behind him, leaning against the brick wall of the factory, still finishing his coffee. The foreman had gone in.

Rusty with it. That will be my excuse, thought Gerard.

He slammed the gear stick into reverse and pressed down hard on the accelerator. The truck moved quickly backwards, straight at Patrick Craven.

Who jumped nimbly out of the way.

The back of the forklift slammed into the wall. The container of dung was stopped dead but the dung was not. A few wheelbarrow loads of it spilled out of the top and onto the forklift.

The forklift was open topped.

Gerard was covered in dung.

Patrick Craven nearly wet himself laughing. The fact that he could have been killed completely escaped his notice.


That night Gerard had about three showers but the shitty stink still seemed to linger under his nostrils. He lived with his father for convenience and Leo was currently under the same roof for the same reason. It was a mansion house near the original Craven Animal Feed Store in Dursley, Gloucestershire. The gardens covered a couple of acres and a large conservatory contained an Olympic-size swimming pool. The basement had a fully equipped gym and sauna. There was a cook and a few other staff to take care of their daily needs. The place was comfortable but not extravagant.

They usually met up for dinner at around seven, though it was very informal and attendance was not obligatory. On this occasion they were all present. The dining room was that of a plain suburban house, no fancy crockery, and the food served up was plain, hearty fair as well. Leo was quiet as usual. Gerard was pondering his miss with the fork lift and wondering how he would have felt if he’d succeeded. He looked at his father now, tanned and fit and pouring a glass of white wine for Moira.

Looking at her—long, dark hair, pretty face, hourglass figure—Gerard had to admit she was a fine woman and had made his father happy. Briefly his thoughts turned to his own love life, moribund lately after a painful split last year. Well, women were like buses. Another one would come along eventually. He looked at the old man and had a sudden surge of affection. How would he feel now if he had killed his own father? A pang of regret made his heart twinge and he felt ashamed of himself. There and then he resolved to drop the whole silly idea.

Patrick Craven stood up and hoisted his glass. “Son. Grandson. I have an announcement to make.” He was grinning like a schoolboy who had just scored a winning goal in the last minute of the game.

Gerard looked up. “What’s that, Dad?”

“Yesterday, while you were celebrating your birthday, I proposed to Moira.” He grinned. “And she said yes.”

Gerard looked at Moira who smiled back at him. His mind raced. She was just thirty with no children. Thirty was the age, he knew from experience, when women felt their biological clocks ticking and wanted babies. Heirs to threaten his inheritance! He looked at his father.

There was no doubt about it, the bastard had to die.

He grinned. “Congratulations, Dad. That’s wonderful news!”

Leo, young and less adept at deception, looked like a man who had swallowed a rotten egg. Eventually he managed a wan smile and said, “Congratulations, Granddad—and Moira, of course.”


Gerard stepped out of the shower early next morning and toweled himself dry. The smell of dung seemed to be finally gone. He admired his lean, fit body in the mirror, studied his goatee and thought about shaving it off and getting a girlfriend again. Were beards in or out at the moment? It was hard to keep track.

Then he thought about murder again.

It had to look like an accident, that was the problem. Gerard had grown up watching clever English detective mysteries on television and he knew that with modern forensic science and computer aided policemen—not to mention CCTV coverage of almost every square foot of Britain—there was very little chance of getting away with murder. Somehow his father had to die in an ordinary way: a stroke, a heart attack, a fall. In yesteryear men younger than a century had died that way often. Patrick Craven was a hundred and twenty and still as fit as ...

As what?

Rejuvenation treatments kept away the worst of the decrepitude of old age but even so, a man of six score years had to be failing a little. He couldn’t be as fit as a younger man.

Gerard ran downstairs. His father was just finishing breakfast.

“Hey, Dad. How about a few laps of the pool before work?”

Patrick raised an eyebrow. “Eh? Why bother?”

“I’m in the mood for a contest.” This was not so unusual. Since the age of about twenty, Gerard had felt the traditional urge of the eldest son to supplant his father and was forever trying to beat him at everything, from chess to horse racing. Sometimes he won, sometimes he lost, but his father took it all good naturedly.

“Feeling Oedipal again, Son?”

“Nah, I just feel full of beans. You scared, old man?”

“That’ll be the day,” drawled Patrick Craven, a man bought up on John Wayne movies.

“So let’s do it. To the pool!”

To the pool they went. Gerard was a good swimmer and had won a few school trophies years before. His father was not as fast but had a steady rhythmic stroke that he could keep up for a long time.

They dived in. The son set off at his fast pace, the father at his steady one. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. On the fourth run, Gerard lapped Patrick.

“Five to me, four to you!” he called.

His father kept up the steady pace and made no reply.

Gerard speeded up. If he was going to induce cardiac arrest the old man would really need to be pushing hard, that hundred-year-old heart pumping frantically. The work soon paid off.

“Ten to me, seven to you!” he called a short while later.

No reply. Was it his imagination or did pater look a bit grey? Gerard flipped neatly as he completed his eleventh lap and speeded up some more. The thought of all the power and money that would soon be his gave him added zest. He had always said his father swam like a lady, all sedate and calm, while he himself performed a splashy crawl that churned the water as if a speedboat was going past.

When he turned to start his thirteenth lap he saw that Moira and Leo were by the side of the pool, watching. Moira looked worried. Leo’s expression was as inscrutable as ever.

Gerard was about to raise another jeer for his dad when he felt a sort of twinge in his chest. He slowed the pace a little. Was it indigestion from swimming so soon after breakfast?

The twinge turned to a severe pain. It felt as if an elephant was sitting on his pectoral muscles, crushing him. It was hard to breath. Panic and confusion! Weren’t these the symptoms of a heart ...?

He blacked out.


Gerard woke slowly.

Something was making a noise off to his right. It was an annoying sound, a persistent and regular beeping.

He was flat on his back. He tried to move his head but felt a sharp pain go right through it. Instead, he managed to swivel his eyeballs downward and look at his torso. There were leads attached to his chest.

He moved his eyes to the right and found that the source of the annoying noise was a heart monitor on a stainless steel hospital trolley beside the bed. He shifted his view leftward and saw his father sitting on a blue chair watching him carefully.

“He’s awake,” a voice said.

Gerard let out a long, resigned sigh. Then he spoke. “Hello, Dad. What happened?”

Patrick Craven managed a wan smile. “Your super-competitiveness got the better of you, Son. Putting on that burst of speed in the pool after a dozen laps was too much. You over-exerted yourself.” He patted his chest. “Heart attack.”

Gerard sighed again. The plan had been to give his father a heart attack but he had bought one on himself.

Typical. Just my luck.

“How do you feel, Son?”

“Pretty rough,” Gerard admitted. There wasn’t much point in pretending otherwise.

His father leaned forward and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “You’ll have to take easy from now on. Seems you’ll have a bit of a dodgy ticker after this. Don’t worry. I can handle the business.”

“You want me to retire?” Gerard could hardly believe his ears. This was the exact opposite of what he had planned. “I’m only eighty!”

“Not retire, necessarily. Just take it easy. Don’t take on any heavy responsibility. Don’t stress yourself.” Patrick shook his head. “I wouldn’t want you to do nothing at all and turn into a useless pudding like that friend of yours. What’s his name?”

“Joe Kent.” Gerard had no intention of being anything like Joe Kent. The exact opposite. He planned to take over.

His father stood up. “I’ll let you be now. Leo is outside and he just wants a quick word, okay?”

Gerard didn’t feel like seeing anyone but he was too tired to argue. “Yeah, send him in.”

Father exited and son entered. He sat in the same blue chair and looked at his dad. His face bore a peculiar expression. Finally he said, “Can I ask you a question?”

“I can’t stop you from here.”

Leo took a deep breath. “Are you trying to kill Grandfather?”

Gerard sat up suddenly and tried to take the guilty look off his face. The heart monitor made a rapid beeping noise then calmed down as he regained control of himself.

“Certainly not! Whatever gave you that silly idea?”

Leo was watching the monitor screen. He spoke very calmly. “These things make great lie detectors.”

Gerard looked up at the ceiling. “I am not lying! What on Earth makes you think I want to kill my own father?”

Leo shrugged. “You’re sick of waiting for the inheritance. You want to take control. I don’t blame you,” he added hastily. “Granddad’s had a good run. It’s time for new blood.”

“I am not trying to kill my father!” said Gerard.

Leo watched the monitor again. “Yes you are. I was suspicious when you backed that forklift into him but the silly swimming competition this morning confirmed it.” He smiled. “That backfired a bit, didn’t it?”

Gerard could think of anything to say. He looked sideways at his son. Physically Leo was insignificant. A wimp. Mentally, however, he was cool, patient, disciplined and hard as nails, it seemed. Just like his mother.

Leo continued: “Say, for argument’s sake, that you did want to dispose of Granddad, I would be happy to help.”

“That’s sick,” said Gerard. It was not so much what Leo said as the cold way he said it.

“Oh, come on, Dad. It’s all about money. For the last couple of hundred years the people with money have been waiting for the parents to bite the dust so they could get the capital, even if they were doing okay. People like us can never be too skinny or too rich. And we’re not sentimental, either.”

“You’re a callous bastard.”

Leo looked him straight in the eye. “So are you. You packed me off to boarding school early because you didn’t want to take care of me. That’s the other thing we do—our class—fob the kids off with nannies, carers or schools. Like I said, we’re not sentimental. Leave that nonsense to the proles.” He pressed his lips together and looked annoyed. “Trouble nowadays is that this damned Rejuvenation therapy has cocked up our usual system. To put it bluntly, the previous generations won’t go away.”

“We have another problem,” said Gerard. “Moira. If your grandpa marries her she might get everything if he snuffs it. We can’t let that happen.”

“So we’ve got to bump him off before the wedding.”

Gerard was hurt by how casually Leo said it, but admitted the truth of the statement with a nod. “And it’s got to look like an accident.”

Leo stood up. “I’ll see if I can figure something out. Get well soon, Dad.” With a cheery wave he departed.

Gerard slid down to a prone position and prepared to go to sleep.

My son is a monster, he thought.

But then, so is my father’s son.


Gerard was out of hospital within a week and spent the next week trying to think of a plan. Nothing came to him, or Leo, apparently, as the boy had not approached him with any ideas. Then suddenly, out of the blue, opportunity knocked.

“I’m going to check out the new spaceship,” said Patrick one Saturday morning over breakfast. “See how they’re getting on. It’s behind schedule.”

Gerard nodded absently. “No surprise.” It was an old adage of his father’s that any major project took twice as long as the original estimate and cost twice as much. His latest investment was in a commuter spacecraft. Hypersonic point-to-point transportation was not a brand new idea—hardly virgin territory Leo had quipped when he heard about it—but was potentially lucrative. On the plateau that was once home to Bristol Airport, a consortium was constructing the new ship that would fly to Florida in less than an hour.

“I wondered if you’d like to come along.”

Gerard was about to say he would give it a miss. Then he recalled that the tall, upright rocket was networked with scaffolding at the moment.

“Yes, certainly,” he said. “I’ll grab Leo, too. He’s the next generation of the business, after all. Needs to keep abreast of what’s going on. What time are you going?”

“This afternoon. I‘m taking Moira shopping now.” Patrick grinned broadly. “Wedding stuff.”

“Not long now,” said Gerard. This was a sharp reminder that he didn’t have long, either. No more moments of sentimental fondness for dear old Dad could be allowed to clutter his consciousness. He steeled himself for what he had to do.


A few hours later they stood on a concrete slab looking up at the huge, shining structure under construction. In shape it was similar to the old Space Shuttle but while that had depended on an external fuel tank and solid fuel boosters to get it into near orbit this new design did not. It carried its own fuel and would launch at a forty-five degree angle, reaching space in minutes and then almost falling back to its destination. The speed of the trip was enhanced by the Earth’s rotation from west to east. The return journey to England would take slightly longer.

A security guard had admitted them to the fenced-off site. The engineering industry was still English enough to stop work at midday on Saturday so there were no actual workers about. The guard didn’t know them from Adam but fortunately a large billboard proclaiming “Another fantastic development from Craven Industries” was decorated with Patrick’s grinning visage. When shown that and three identity cards proving them all to be Cravens, he let them in.

Patrick Craven extended both arms to indicate the vast site. “Look on my works ye mighty and despair” he quoted.

“The locals claim it’s an eyesore, Ozymandias,” said Leo.

“Luddites,” said Gerard. He was looking up at the spacecraft admiringly. He had to admit it was one of the old man’s better ideas and would eventually boost profits. Like the Gigglecars, it was an investment in the future. “Shall we get up high and have a look around.”

“Sure.” Patrick turned back to his grandson. “I hope you’re not scared of heights, Leo.”

“A little.”

Not as scared as you should be, thought Gerard. He could scarcely believe such a golden opportunity had fallen into his lap.

They clambered up ladders to the first escalation of scaffolding. Gerard had grown up with the expansion of Craven Industries and over the course of years had visited several buildings in the making. He was used to construction sites and nimble on the planks and poles of scaffolding, as was his father. Leo proceeded more cautiously.

Patrick tapped the ferroplastic hull in front of them. “Feel that. Twenty-five millimeters thick. Each panel is two square meters. The steel frame is lightweight carbon fibre but solid as a rock thanks to the clever lattice of girders and struts bracing it inside. Marvelous what they can do with modern materials.”

“It’s fantastic, Dad.” Gerard’s heart was racing with excitement. Now that the time had actually come he wasn’t at all sure he could do what he had planned. “Why don’t we go straight to the top? See how it looks from there.”

“Good idea. Come on, Leo.”

Gerard lagged behind a little as his father started up the next ladder. He nudged his son. “This is our chance,” he whispered. “No witnesses. One little nudge, a tragic accident.”

Leo nodded.

“You look a bit green around the gills.”

“I’m not that fond of heights. I’ll manage.”

Minutes later they were all on the top deck of scaffolding up at the very nose cone of the ship. Gerard and Leo were puffing slightly but Patrick looked flushed and excited. He leaned on a guard rail, gazed across the countryside and pointed.

“Look! There’s the home place. And just over there you can see the A38 where the original shop started.” He turned a half circle. “That glint on the horizon is the cattle factory.”

“You’ve done well, Dad,” acknowledged Gerard.

“We own most of the land around here now,” said Patrick. “But I’m not finished. I’ve got big plans! More cattle factories in Herefordshire and Worcestershire. I’ve put in a bid to buy out Bryant’s.”

Gerard shook his head. He and Leo stood behind Patrick who was right on the edge of a six story drop.

This was the moment. One big push.

He wasn’t sure he could do it.

“Moira wants children, you know.” Patrick turned his head and grinned at them. “But don’t worry. By the time I’ve made Craven Industries the biggest agricultural and transportation group in Europe there will be plenty for all my offspring. You won’t go short.”

Gerard saw red.

“Damn you, old man.”

In sudden, violent temper at the thought of rivals for his inheritance, he did what he might never have done in cold blood. He pushed his father over the handrail.

Patrick Craven was taken utterly by surprise. He reached out and grasped at the pole beside him. Gravity took him before he could get a grip. Shouting in protest, he fell to his death.

Gerard leaned over the safety rail and looked down at the broken body far below.

There was a shove from behind.

He cried out as his torso also went over the rail. His legs slipped on the scaffold planks and went out from under him. He twisted somehow and managed to grab, wrap his fingers round the rail.

He looked up to see Leo’s sombre face.

His fingers were slipping.

“Leo! Pull me up!”

Leo didn’t move. “Sorry, Dad. Rejuvenation treatments can only get better and you might live for a thousand years.” he shrugged. “I can’t wait that long for my inheritance.”

“No. No! You can’t do this!”

“Like you said, a tragic accident. Grandfather slipped over and you grabbed him, tried to save him but went over yourself.” Leo shook his head. “So sad.”

Gerard was barely clinging on by his fingertips. “I’m your father!”

Leo’s mouth twisted in a wry smile. “No shit.”

Gerard’s fingers slid off the handrail. He lost his grip.

As he fell to his death he realized what he had missed about Leo: little, soft, pampered, ruthless Leo.

He was a chip off the old block. 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-MAY-2016 issue.


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