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




Psi Prison

By Michael Andre-Driussi

IN THE PSIONIC WING of a prison located somewhere in the Evolutionary Republic of America, the cell door slammed behind Cyan.

He stood there for a moment, observing the room. As prison cells go, the place was not bad, but he had no illusions: he expected to stay there in solitary confinement until he was hauled out and shot. It was a surprising fate for a decorated Hero of the Evolution.

Paradoxically, what he felt was relief. All the months of tension were now gone. The raid at three a.m. meant there was still an hour or two before the winter dawn, so he lay down and dropped into happy sleep just after the light went out.

When the light came on again he saw the color photo of Blue Steel, supreme leader of the Evolution, hanging over his bed on the wall, just as on the walls of the other cells, and on the walls of the houses, the towns, throughout the nation.

The first day in prison is like the first day in school. Cyan knocked on his cell door the first five beats of “Shave and a Haircut” to announce his presence.

In reply, the door finished the phrase with a “tap-tap,” even though he could see through the spy hole that there was nobody standing there.

By this Cyan knew there was a telekinetic nearby, in the cell opposite or one of its neighbors.

He whispered, “Can you hear me?”

There was no response.

He held up three fingers.

Three taps sounded on the door.

So the TK was also a clairvoyant Esper. Cyan tried a sentence in sign language.

There was no response.

Cyan went to the window overlooking the prison yard covered with snow. He breathed upon the glass, and with his finger wrote, “Who?”

On the window, ghostwriting formed: “303.”

So it was the cell straight across.

Cyan fogged the glass and wrote, “Name?”

Below this, TK force wrote: “Name?”

Cyan scoffed at this time-wasting, but then he shrugged. He traced his name on the glass.

There was a pause, then appeared the word: “Impossible!”

“Give me telepaths,” wrote Cyan.

“Give me woman.”


“Recent nude.”

Cyan mulled it over and eventually sent a fifteen second image of his last lover taking off her dress.


Cyan received a telepathic burst:

Greetings, Cyan. This is 310. Your cell was emptied about a week ago, but I do not think it ever had an inhabitant more illustrious than yourself. You know the type of exchange system we have here, and I hope you possess a fairly refined palette since I am a gourmand, trading in food memories rather than smutty clips of naked ladies.

He went on to describe in high detail the sort of gustatory sensations he most desired. Then he sketched out the telepath network among the prisoners: who had what, and what each desired for trade.


The teleporters were all dead except for one, Blue Wind himself. The rarest of the psionic adepts, the jaunters had been ghostly thieves and assassins for the Evolution until the first turning when they were hunted down and executed. That was when Blue Wind was declared anti-evolutionary.

Cyan recalled a time as a teen when he had been wrestling another boy, bullying him with a painful grip. Suddenly his arms enclosed nothing but the boy’s empty clothes, and he fell forward in surprise. The next instant the naked fellow was behind him, had pinned him down, and proceeded to choke him unconscious.

That was an initiate’s early teleport, just a couple feet and without clothing. Not much, but enough to help when an executioner’s pistol is pressed against one’s head; enough to jump beyond a cell door.


Cyan had been an international agent of Evolution. His jobs were in corrupt and crumbling democracies, where he used their own forces against them.

In Canistan to the north, the psionics were organized as anti-psi agents working for the government. Somewhat paradoxically, psi drugs were readily available. Even so, Cyan had organized the disruption of a political event wherein one candidate suddenly started speaking gibberish. The prison was brutal.

Mexicorp was different. There the psis were registered, tattoos on face and forearm. By law their households were not allowed to cluster, meaning they were scattered rather than concentrated into ghettos. Psi shield helmets were common for police and government workers. Both sides had compromised Cyan’s job there. It was a polite society and the prison was no exception.

Back in the E.R.A., Cyan got medals for both jobs. It was dirty work, but the Evolutionary ends justified the means. Still, now that he was nearing his own death, he acknowledged a couple of betrayals. In one job there was the young man, the idealist he had thrown to the psi cops; in the other job was the woman, his lover, whom he could not ransom.


On the fourth morning, a guard came to take Cyan. The man’s face had a look that meant it was not an execution, so Cyan figured it was interrogation. He assumed the physical torture would be as bad as in Canistan, probably worse.

The guard led him out of the psi wing. After a few architectural twists and turns designed to thwart teleports, they came to a brighter building with doors of wood rather than metal: offices of administration.

When they stopped at a door, Cyan readied himself for a tough scene. The guard knocked and a voice bade them enter. The guard opened the door and Cyan stepped into the room where he was surprised to recognize an old friend behind the desk.

“Turk Eyes,” he said, dimly aware that the door had shut behind him.

“We meet again,” said the man with a smile. He wore a telepathic shield helmet. “Please sit down.”

Cyan took the seat, his mind awhirl. He had been braced for bad, but now a strange new hope began to sprout in him.

“It has been a long time,” said Cyan.

“You did me a favor once.”

“I tried,” he said, giving a dismissive shrug. “It succeeded.”

“I do not want you to be shot.”

“That makes two of us,” said Cyan. “Why exactly do you people intend to have me shot?”

“Listen, Cyan. Listen to yourself. You have separated from Evolution. You say you people instead of Evolution. For the public one needs a trial and legal justification. For us, people of our station, that separation I mentioned should be enough of an answer.”

Cyan’s seedling of hope was caught in a snap frost.

Looking away, his eye fixated upon a patch on the wall, a square of lighter color. Cyan had seen such a patch at Blue Steel’s office a few years before. It was a sign of the change, of the point when jaunters became junkers. Obviously a picture had hung there for many years, and he knew it had been the first Blue Dream photo. Cyan was in that famous portrait, along with Turk and Blue Steel and True Blue. Twenty-one psionic adepts, from Azure to Zaffer. True Blue had died in his sleep more than a decade before, but most of the others had been liquidated over the last few years.

Cyan recalled again the two colleagues he had betrayed: the man through action, the woman through inaction. He closed his eyes and said, “Now I am paying.”

“Let me try,” said Turk, pressing on. “You are saying that the Evolution I follow, the Evolution of Blue Steel, is not the true Evolution.”

“Yes, I guess it is as simple as that.”

“When did you concoct this idea?”

“Very gradually, during the last few years.”

“Let’s be more precise,” said Turk. “One year? Two? Three?”

“It seems a pointless question.”

“I assure you, it is not. I repeat: how long have you been a member of the anti-evolutionaries.”

“You know full well that I never joined the anti-evolutionaries.”

Turk Eyes sighed and said, “You make me resort to facts.” He opened a drawer from which he pulled a stack of files.

“Canistan,” he said, flipping through the top file. “Evolution’s victory there was almost achieved when suddenly a religious dictatorship turned everything over. You were sent there to purge the underground and reorder the ranks. After three months you were arrested, sentenced to two years of prison.

“Those years were hard on you, and it showed. It was expected that you would take a few months to recover at a resort, and then accept some cushy government job; but after two weeks you applied for another mission abroad. Why? Apparently you no longer felt at ease here. During your absence the country had gone through certain changes that perhaps you did not appreciate.”

When Cyan said nothing, Turk continued.

“That is, Evolution discovered the Junker Conspiracy. While the fiend escaped, the other Junkers were liquidated. But they were only the tip of an iceberg, an anti-evolutionary rot of horrific size. You had friends among those convicted and liquidated.

“So, two weeks and then off to Mexicorp. Your progress there was exemplary, yet the rot seems to have followed you. Your two closest agents were recalled under suspicion of anti-evolutionary conspiracy. The investigators established their guilt. You were expected to publicly disavow them, yet you said nothing.

“After six months of this you were yourself recalled. During the second trial, your secretary said you would vouch for her. At that point, remaining mute would look like a confession of guilt. Still you held back until Evolution gave you an ultimatum. Then, with your head at stake, you gave an oath of loyalty, cutting off your lover. You know what happened to her.”

Cyan glared at the patch on the wall. Turk sighed.

“You admit to believing for years that we have followed wrong policy, yet I am supposed to believe that you never joined a conspiracy of others. In any case, we hold all the proof.”

“Really?” said Cyan. “Then why do you need my confession? Proof of what, anyway?”

“Proof of a planned attempt on Blue Steel’s life.”

“Do you really believe this, or do you just pretend?”

“You telepaths are so much work,” said Turk. “If you were a non-telepath, we could simply have our prober come in and get the answers from you. But look, I will take off my shield and you can do a reading of me.”

Turk took off the helmet.

Cyan repeated the question and took a read. Turk was genuinely concerned and did not think the “proof” was real.

Before Turk could put his shield back on, Cyan asked, “What about spontaneous evolution?”

Turk’s mind registered a complex tangle of fear and hope.

“Now, now,” said Turk, helmet back in place. “I am the one asking questions here. Once, long ago, you convinced me that suicide was petty, subhuman stuff. I will see that you do not kill yourself. Then we will be even.”

“How is that? Your line of reasoning so far seems to point in the opposite direction.”

“We are going to forge a confession,” said Turk. “In it you will admit to belonging to a certain group since a specific year, but you will categorically deny planning an assassination—in fact, you will declare you abandoned this group when you learned of its criminal plans.”

“No false confessions.”

“Shut up and let me finish. Part of this hinges upon whether your case is administrative or public. You understand the difference?”

Cyan nodded. Administrative trials were secret and rather summary.

“For your case to be classed as public,” said Turk, “it must have certain features. That is, details fit for public education. Among these is a type of willingness on your part, expressed in the form of a partial confession. Not so different from the loyalty oath. Then we go to trial, where we plea bargain. Realistically, you will get a sentence of twenty years, but that really means only two or three years, then an amnesty. So honestly, in five years you are back in society, restored and renewed. Take a few minutes right now to carefully think it over before answering.”

“No,” said Cyan. “The answer is no. Please have me taken back to my cell.”

“Sure,” said Turk. He gave a little chuckle. “I didn’t think you would agree immediately. Take some time, two weeks. Ask to come back to see me, or send a written declaration.”


Could Cyan spontaneously develop teleportation power? There was an old theory called “spontaneous evolution” suggesting such a thing: that high stress might cause the psionic mind to evolve new talents. But that seemed impossible, a locker room daydream.

If one found such a skill, how quickly would it develop? Cyan cast his mind back to his psionic testing, in the pre-Evolution days when psionics was illegal and underground. He was a teen at the time, and the testing revealed him to have latent telepathic and ESP abilities. That was a fairly typical combination, because three quarters of all psis had telepathy, and one third of all psis had two talents. Maybe one in ten had three talents. So he might have a sleeping third power that would be awakened under acute crisis.

Then again, the training took a number of months. Would he be allowed to live that long? Probably not.

Cyan tried another pathway: now that he was being pressured into false confession regarding Blue Wind, might not the “fiend” himself take notice and come teleporting from India to rescue him? He would suddenly appear in the cell beside him ... and then what? No jaunter had ever been able to carry more than twenty pounds with him, so there was no precedent for jumping out with another person. Maybe Blue Wind could jaunt in with fifteen pounds worth of escape equipment: lock picks, plastic explosives, compact submachine guns. Or maybe Blue Wind had pushed the levels to new heights undreamed of by Blue Steel, and he could carry another person to the other side of the world.

That seemed too nebulous. Cyan considered the notion of Blue Wind training up an army of jaunters, turning to the logistics of such an undertaking. Blue Wind had been away for a few years. In his first six months he might be able to find and train a lot of new jaunters, but they would be at the naked stage. Cyan wracked his brain for the development curve, and determined it was six years of training to get to the clothing stage, twelve years to get to the loaded stage. So there was no way Blue Wind could have anything more than naked scouts. Unless he had begun years before: thus validating the theory of the Junker Conspiracy as fact.

Cyan laughed bitterly to himself at this irony. Now that he was falsely accused of being in a false conspiracy, he had to pin his hopes upon it being more real than his accusers thought.


The next day a guard gave Cyan a pencil and some paper, ostensibly for his partial confession. Cyan set them aside for twelve days.

On the thirteenth evening he got a telepathic message:

Good evening, this is 310. We have an execution coming up tonight. Not sure who yet; he is not on our block. Our little tradition is to give our chum a send off, drumming on the door as he goes by.

Emotional turmoil edging on nausea blasted through Cyan. “Physical liquidation” had always been an abstraction to him, but now it was close. The prisoner would be led along this corridor, then down to the basement, where a psionic executioner would kill him with a single burst of telepathic assault. No, too romantic: more likely the guards would just shoot him in the back of the head. This is what had happened to the two he had betrayed; this is what would happen to him.

Cyan revolted against the sudden tide of helplessness by trying to figure a way to utilize the psi powers of the other prisoners. He reasoned that the guards could be subject to ghostly tugging and pushing by the TKs within sight, and for longer by the TK-CVs who could follow with ESP. If one could clairvoyantly shadow them down to the basement, he might even jostle the pistol into missing the shot. But to what end? The guard would just shoot again, and the guards knew who all the TKs were among the prisoners.

Only the junkers. A clothed one might teleport in with a silenced pistol and terminate the would-be executioner. A naked scout might blink in, and if he were an expert at weaponless combat, he could silently kill a guard, then don his uniform.

Buoyed by this new concept of scouts with lethal hands and feet, Cyan locked his knees and went into CV mode, leaving his body behind to go clairvoyantly through his door, turn, and walk down the corridor, heading for the next block. He passed through the iron door and, seeing one of the cell doors open, he rushed to look within it. Two guards were there, one mutely reading the sentence aloud to the prisoner. Cyan did not focus on reading his lips because he was curious to see the prisoner, and when the man looked up in silent shouting at the guard, Cyan recognized the face of a hero of SeaTac.

Shocked, he broke his effort and snapped back to his body, where he rushed to vomit into the toilet. He vomited again and again, his stomach a knot of pain, until he heard the drumming in the corridor. He stumbled up and took position at the door. The drumming was louder on the left as the guards approached with their prisoner.

Then they flashed by: two big figures in uniform, dragging between them a third. This hero of SeaTac was now a broken doll, his legs trailing behind him. A bit of garbage being taken out.

It started to seem unreal again to Cyan, but a moment later the prisoner shouted, “Cyan! Cyan!” And Cyan was sick again, knowing that the victim had been used as a prop to get at him.

He slept badly for the remainder of the night. When the overhead light came on in the morning, he took up the pencil and started to write his partial confession. While he was self-aware enough to chide himself for having fallen for the one-two punch of Hope and Fear, he put that aside.

“In Year 18, I was approached by an agent of TpF ...”

The weeds of Fear began to strangle his garden of Hope. What if Cyan were really just the bait to lure Blue Wind into a prepared trap? What if, now that Cyan was forging a link to the anti-evolutionary, and fervently hoping for rescue by one way or another, he was actually betraying the side he belatedly believed in?

“Their ideology was scientific at first, and I was duped for seventeen months ...”

Of course Blue Wind must know that Cyan had been arrested. Even as Cyan reached out toward him, Blue Wind probably probed toward Cyan. If the E.R.A. could locate Blue Wind, that would be disaster enough.

“When at last the TpF removed their mask to reveal themselves as criminals with murderous intent, I directly broke all contact with them ...”

Despite his nagging doubts he worked on this project for a day before submitting it to the morning guard to deliver up to Turk Eyes. He thought he would be called to interview immediately, but instead he lingered in limbo for two days.

Two armed guards roused him at two a.m. They marched him down the corridor, then the twisty turns, arriving at the land of offices. Cyan felt his hope rising, anticipating a semi-jocular reception from Turk Eyes, but when the guards opened an office door there was a stranger behind the desk.

Cyan absurdly wondered for a moment if he had been brought to the wrong room. The door closed behind him.

“Sit ya self down,” said the man. Cyan realized there was a third person present, a secretary taking notes. He sat down.

“I gots the duty of ’zamining ya while Turk Eyes’ away.”

“I prefer Turk Eyes.”

“Ya gots da right ta make a statement, or ta refuse,” said the man. “But in dis here case, seems to me a refuse would take away yer partial confession. Dis would end da ’zamining, an’ turn yer case administrative. Ya gets it?”

Cyan nodded. Something had gone bad with Turk, or this was just the “bad cop” switch to throw him off. Either way, he had to act fast.

“I will make a statement.”

“Dat’s good. Ya inna verra bad spot. I don tink ya really gets how bad it be.”

“I will do everything to serve Evolution. Please tell me the accusation in detail.”

The man nodded, a smug smile flickering on his lips. He selected a file and handed it to the stenographer. Cyan was bewildered by this, but as the woman began to read the accusation in a flat monotone, he reasoned that having the subordinate do the chore avoided the prospect of the other being exposed as only semi-literate. It would degrade the dignity to have the one in authority stumble over big words; whereas delegating the task served to reinforce the authority.

Cyan bridled at this ignorant hayseed put in power over him. He was a new generation, all right, but he seemed brutish. If this was Evolution, he seemed a step or three backward, nearly subhuman.

Something in the robotic recitation distracted him from his temper: a claim that during his mission in Mexicorp he had begun negotiations with a representative of a foreign power regarding the forceful reinstatement of the pre-Evolutionary regime. Then followed the name of the diplomat as well as the time and place of the meeting. Cyan listened more closely now, and in his memory appeared an insignificant little scene that seemed to match the date. This was clearly the fruit of interrogation of others, but it was such thin gruel that he nearly smiled in relief.

Finally the stenographer got to the alleged plot to assassinate Blue Steel by way of poison in his afternoon beer.

Then the man said, “Ya done heared da accazation, an’ now ya plead guilty.”

“No,” said Cyan. “You have my partial confession. What I wrote. I will not go along with these ridiculous new charges.”

“What ya wrote ain’t gonna cut it,” said the man. “No way, no how. It’s all bullshit, jes’ like da las’ two times. No more partials for da likes o’ you. Was needed now is a full confession, full o’ plans for direct action, not jes’ airy egghead bad-thinkin’ stuff.”

It was tiring for Cyan, which added to the nightmarish quality. After more arguing, a new prisoner was shoved into the room. The interrogator asked Cyan if he knew him. Cyan said he looked familiar, but he could not remember.

The man told the prisoner to remind Cyan of where they had met before.

“Cyan coerced me to poison Blue Steel’s beer.”

“We ain’t dere yet, goober. I’s axin’ where y’all met las’ time.”

“That was in Mexicorp, where he started me on my terrorist plot against the Evolution’s supreme leader.”

Cyan remembered the man now, so there was a certain amount of veracity to it, a damning half-truth that was being spun up into a swamp fever fabrication.

The charade dragged on, a daisy chain of lies, half-truths, and absurdities. Cyan nodded off and was woken up to sign the confession. He knew then that he was guilty of killing those other two, the man and the woman, so even if he was innocent of plotting against Blue Steel, his real actions had been worse.

He signed.

Guards walked him back to his cell, a heavenly place lit with morning light, and he fell asleep before his head hit the mattress.

In an hour the cell door opened again. He thought it was breakfast, but no, it was a guard to take him back to interrogation.

This was the pattern for seventy-two hours: long grueling sessions separated by sleep of one or two hours. The pale sunlight at his window might be dawn or dusk. The corridor was always the same.

You are so well-informed about my after-dinner conversations in foreign countries, you must know that this one had no consequences. Only ’cuz we done busted ya, jes’ inna nikka time. What is Turk Eyes doing these days? In prison he be. What did he do? He botched axin’ you. Troof be what’s useful to Evolution, lies be what’s harmful. We has da right ta invent useful images what da people take for real. Your reasoning here reminds me of the way Turk Eyes thinks. Turk Eyes was over-schooled, like you. I’s always tryin’ ta use my schoolin’ in da service of Evolution. Dat Turk, he was gone bad. Was? Sure, he gots shot las’ night. Administrative judgment.


For Cyan, the rolling back of Evolution had gone so far that it was forward again. The original mode of supermen leading the non-psis was still in effect, it had not been compromised. These new supermen were the stage beyond “blue.” Did they think of themselves as “indigo?" They had no need for literacy, and what was the point of written words in a telepathic world?

The public trial itself was like a dream. Cyan had plenty of food and plenty of sleep. There were crowds and television cameras. When they asked him whether he pleaded guilty, in a clear voice he affirmed he did. When they asked him if he acted as an agent of the counter-evolution, he again affirmed he did.

It went on like that, but all too soon it was over and he was back in his cell. Once again waiting to be shot.

The door drumming began down the corridor.

Cyan felt befuddled with confusion; they could not be drumming for him, yet, could they? He forced himself over to the door to drum and watch.

Steps came, slow and dragging. Suddenly his co-defendant entered the range of vision, hands cuffed together behind. He stopped and turned to face Cyan’s door. His guard gave an order and he turned to continue his death walk. Cyan saw the guard walk by and then out of range.

The drumming diminished until quiet returned.

A gentle rapping at his door went: tap, tap-tap-tap, tap.

Cyan moved to his window, where he fogged the glass with his breath.

“He did well,” said the ghostwriting. “You have ten minutes. How you feel?”

Cyan made a so-so gesture with his hand.

“You will do well, I’m sure. A tip: empty bladder now.”

“Don’t watch!”

“Ha! I give two minutes ...”

Cyan used the toilet.

“I will always remember your last girl. Pretty!”


“They coming.”

Cyan felt a rush. After a moment, he wrote, “You helped me much. Thanks.”

The key snarled in the lock. The door swung open to reveal the guard and a bureaucrat. The civilian pronounced Cyan’s name and rattled off the text of a document. They twisted his arms back and put on the handcuffs. He heard the drumming in the corridor.

Cyan led the two down the corridor. There were the steps down to the cellar. Cyan went down, followed by the guard, but the bureaucrat stayed behind.

The stairs were narrow and dark. The drumming had ended. Cyan felt he was backstage now, that an event was over.

At the bottom of the stairs, another corridor. They walked along for several minutes, longer than he thought they would.

A dull blow hit the back of his head. There was a breath of peppery smoke. His knees gave and his body made a half-turn as it fell. Cyan was wondrous that he felt nothing in the gathering darkness, his cheek against the cool floor.

No junkers. No rescue. Just as well. Fight the good fight.

A vague figure of darkness bent over him, a big pistol hovering close.

A smashing blow struck him on the ear with a roaring silence. END

Michael Andre-Driussi is an Associate Member of SFWA. He is the author of “Lexicon Urthus: A Dictionary for the Urth Cycle,” and “Handbook of Vance Space,” a guide to the science fiction worlds of award-winning Grand Master Jack Vance.


winchester 11/16



crazy liddy 9/16