Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Breeding Season
by Sean Mulroy

Personal Artifacts Lost
by Marilyn K. Martin

Lover’s Moon
by Ronald D. Ferguson

When it Comes Around
by Auston Habershaw

by Nolan Edrik

Shuffleboard on the Hubble Deck
by Iain Ishbel

This Perilous Brink
by JT Gill

Only a Signal Shown
by L.E. Buis

Shorter Stories

Thunder Lizard
by William Suboski

Blue Harvest
by Andrew James Woodyard

Heat of the Night
by Gareth D. Jones


From Oshkosh to Tomorrow
by Joyce Frohn

A Primer on Quantum Field Theory
by Eric M. Jones



Comic Strips





Personal Artifacts Lost

By Marilyn K. Martin

THE TRANSLUCENT EARTHMAN stumbled up the steps to the front door of the Earth History Museum, each step loosing a small spray of tiny particles—some sparking, others colorful—from his exposed skin and bald head. He was shabbily dressed, wearing a threadbare suit and tie under a mysterious framework of a gleaming hard metal.

Three-centimeters-wide metal strips ran length-wise down his limbs and torso over his clothes. They attached to encircling metal bands every twenty-one centimeters that held the shiny metal strips in place, an “assist technology” for a well-known physical weakness.

It was mid-morning as he staggered through the main automatic doorway into the museum, taking deliberate steps with an immediate follow-through—or stopping to rock a few seconds on one forward foot. At one point, he grabbed the bands on the trouser leg of his trailing leg and yanked it forward. “Come on, dang it! Or this will take all day!”

The humanoid-form security guard at the front desk was staring at him, after turning large cat-slit eyes to check his scanner after the strange man had come through the front door. No weapons. No diseases. No insanity. Not even temporary insanity on prescription medication or illegal mind-altering drugs.

Just a certain lightness or unsubstantial quality, with tiny blinking brain chips visible thru his nearly transparent skull around watery blue eyes that looked permanently “lost.” And an ancient suit that hung heavy on a nearly transparent body of throbbing blood vessels and shadows of bone under the exposed skin of his neck and hands.

Another body-phaser, sighed the extraterrestrial security guard. BTVs (Beam-Transference-Victims) were called body-phasers in street slang. And they were everywhere on this diverse planet that the guard’s Reptilian subspecies conquered not so long ago.

His species had shapeshifted to blend in with the natives, and then acquired wealth and power in the decades leading up to the bloodless coup. Helped along by a push to legalize mind-altering drugs, resulting in Earth people losing both memory and analytical skills, as well as any desire to fight—about anything. Plus allowing and certifying bad beam-transference electronics for instant-arrival travel, which was easy on a planet with such hurried and impatient people.

So on each beam-transference trip, three percent of each Earth native’s molecules never arrived at the destination. Enough bad beam-trips, and these translucent natives had no bodies at all. Their minds trapped in parallel dimensions where bodies weren’t necessary. And suddenly most of the hard-working business people, ambitious entrepreneurs, and technology geniuses were gone. Their voices heard occasionally echoing from another dimension, wondering where they were, and what had happened to their MacMansions, careers, and 401Ks.

A calm had then settled over the planet as the Reptilian invaders took the well-paid and more interesting jobs; robots replaced most of the other workers. The remaining Earth natives were given welfare and tiny apartments in massive housing projects on unusable land, mainly nuclear waste sites, garbage landfills, and smoldering SuperFund projects that had never been started—or finished.

The remaining natives didn’t care, spending their days studying which meal to order next from their building’s gigantic inner kitchen. (Meals were delivered to each apartment because fraternization might lead to collusion and dangerous ideas about “freedom,” and put a dent in the Reps’ control.) So most natives spent their days sitting alone on old RepRepo couches, laughing over hundred-year-old TV shows they never remembered seeing a thousand times before.

But occasionally one or another native who still had a functioning brain could be seen harmlessly wandering the streets on some minor errand. The Reptilians didn’t care; they had only rumors of a nascent rebel movement, which was scattered, hidden, and dysfunctional with no leadership.

The shabby Earthman practically fell onto the semicircular front reception desk, pale splayed fingers holding onto the marble countertop for dear life. “Hello, Sir,” wheezed the bald Earthman politely, as he straightened up before the security guard.

“Good day to you, too, Sir,” replied the tall security guard politely with barely an accent.

“Nice to meet ya’. I’m Rocky!” the shaky man continued cheerfully. “Born and raised on Earth here. And I’m hopin’ you can help me out with somethin’ valuable I lost, which I’ve been lookin’ for ever since.”

“I need to make sure that you understand that this is a historical museum,” the guard pressed gently. As one of the less vicious subspecies of Reptilians, his invader species hadn’t killed everything in sight. And it tried to display empathy toward the damaged but non-dangerous natives as a PR tactic, to make their draconian government appear less vicious.

“Oh, OK,” answered Rocky genially, nodding. But the guard couldn’t tell if Rocky really understood where he was.

“So you understand that we are not a hospital or other medical establishment?” pressed the security guard. “Sometimes that ancient nuclear fission reactor out front looks like an old-fashioned medical chamber to some visitors, once used for scanning or treatment.”

“A reactor? That’s what that is?” Rocky exclaimed, turning jerkily to look back out the main glass entrance to the blocky mass on the front lawn. “I thought it was one of those new vending machines for, ya’ know, Hot Cooked Meals,” he blurted out, turning again to face the security guard amid the jangle of metal exo-skeleton, and a light spray of his escaping body molecules.

The guard smiled stiffly, which was all his humanoid face covered in green/black scales would allow. “No. And we wouldn’t have permitted you into this museum anyway carrying a ... Hot Cooked Meal,” he replied pointedly. “Too much potential for stains or aroma-displacement on artifacts. The cooked meat alone possibly triggering air-cleansers in the Anti-Carnivore Food section. I’m sure you can sympathize with our enormous task of trying to protect these historical artifacts of your species.”

“Well, yeah, sorta,” admitted Rocky, looking down at the marble desktop to add softly, “Stuff like that are, ya’ know, definitely more important than people these days.”

Suddenly his face wrinkled, as he straightened and tilted his translucent bald head back and opened his mouth. Achoo! He sneezed, and tiny clustered molecules from his head blasted outward in a noticeable spray.

As Rocky righted his wobbly head, blinking, his brain was sparking. The artificial brain chips were rerouting pathways for thought and sensations, to replace whatever molecules had just been ejected by the violence of sneezing.

“Dang! I hate it when that happens,” sniffed Rocky. “It’ll take me another few weeks to get my creativity back. And I really want to finish that haiku poem I just started for my neighbor sweetheart, Terminal Theresa. I just needed three more syllables. Or maybe it’s four.”

Museum visitors were congregating now, to stare at the back of the Earthman in the ratty suit standing by the reception desk. A fine spray of multi-colored particles were still falling away from his head, and drifting lazily downward. And a soft sucking sound revealed hidden vents in the reception desk, which appeared to be vacuuming them up.

“Are you looking, perhaps, for our Molecular Storage Laboratory?” the security guard asked directly, as he subtly gestured for the staring crowd of mostly Reptilians behind Rocky to disperse.

Below the marble desktop, a silent phone was blinking, and the security guard made an unhappy face. Someone in museum management had obviously chosen that moment to look over at their Entrance Security monitor, and became alarmed by Rocky’s odd behavior and the growing crowd behind him. So now, undoubtedly, management wanted to know what was going on at the museum’s reception desk.

“Yeah, that’s it!” nodded Rocky, as another brief spray of head molecules fluttered out and downward. “Glad you said that, Sir! I kinda lost my thoughts there after I sneezed. I forgot what they called that place.”


Rocky, in his old-fashioned suit and metal framework, shambled out of the elevator minutes later, about ten levels underground. Thankfully, there was a pitted and burned sign on the opposite wall, even if it was originally from another city: “Molecular Storage, Chicago, Illinois, Laboratory 4004.” Only the laboratory number had been scribbled out, with a black-marker arrow instead pointing to the left.

“Chicago, Illinois” had been lined through more respectfully. The metropolis had been destroyed by a huge military satellite that crashed to Earth after the Reptilians had taken over and were replacing Earth’s orbiting satellites with their own. Chicago was now Riverside, a small shipping and fishing port on the Great Lakes. Again. But former Chicagoans everywhere still carried a vague sadness over its destruction.

The Earthman stopped in front of the correct door. But it wasn’t opening. He had to ball up his filmy hand into a fist to make any sound on the door loud enough to be heard from the inside. Rocky hated these old-fashioned doors in his present condition because they had no sensors to just open automatically once they detected a living-mass presence.

“Uh, please! Enter!” called out a middle-aged masculine voice from inside, with a touch of surprise. It took both of Rocky’s semi-transparent hands to then try and twist the well-worn metal doorknob. But suddenly the door flew open from the other side. A nine-foot tall humanoid hybrid, Reptilian and Insectoid, loomed over him with scales and antenna, and seemed to be smiling. “Hi, there! The security guard at the entrance upstairs said that a body-phaser was on his way down.”

“I’m ... Rocky,” the shabby man said breathlessly, one hand on the door frame. “Mighty glad to meet ya’, Sir.”

Rocky stuck out a shaking, translucent hand, which the humanoid hybrid stared at a second. Nobody shook hands anymore except for the occasional native. Yet the hybrid knew that it was a gesture of trust and potential friendship. It was an ancient Earth custom from when armored knights used to meet, to show that there was no weapon in their “fighting” hand.

The hybrid reached out and grasped the translucent hand with his three scaled fingers, spiky insect hairs marching up his arm. “I’m Randolphagrim Zetelo the tenth. Most just call me Random.”

Random had some spiky insect hairs atop his head semi-braided into a mohawk, an earring with an electronic-diamond in his small pointed chin. He had a tattoo on his long, segmented neck that read “Keepers of the Past Know All Your Secrets,” and wore stained white overalls over a long-sleeved gray tee shirt.

“Good Morning,” he nodded politely as Rocky dropped the handshake. “So you used to do a lot of traveling?” queried the hybrid. “As a professional who always wore a suit and did a lot of handshaking?”

“Yeah, I owned my own corporation before I got, you know, body-phased to the point I couldn’t beam-travel anymore. And then the Reps took my corporation over,” answered Rocky politely, with just a touch of sadness. Then his blue eyes focused keenly on the hybrid. “Why do you ask?”

“No reason,” Random shrugged. “I don’t get many visitors, let alone any body-phasers. I really thought you guys were all dead by now,” he added innocently. “But ... you seem remarkably mobile for losing so much tissue mass,” Random added, frowning at Rocky’s pale, translucent hands and head of tiny, sparking brain chips.

“Gotta say, your brain tissue rebuilders were more capable than most head-chippers I’ve seen. Must be Pleiadian work, very nice. So that’s what keeps you going.” Random stood aside for his visitor to enter. “Come on in, Rocky. And I’ll see if I can help you.”

Inside, the room was large and circular, with a high, three-story dome overhead filled with fluttering spider webs beneath a cracked and dark, built-over skylight. Dozens of vertical incandescent tubes around the wall lit the room, carefully placed among the huge, molecular-gas storage tanks.

They were stacked six tanks high, each tank with a bar code and numerous gauges to keep the living contents inside alive. Transparent tubes ran from every tank, stapled carefully to the old plaster, “eggshell” painted wall. The tubes all ended inside a Sorter computerized tank, which sat beside Random’s desk, with his huge computer monitor embedded in the wall.

Rocky nodded to himself. These Molecular Storage places all looked more or less the same. This one was the biggest and one of the last, and he hoped it could help him more than the others had. He didn’t immediately spot any of the over-growth tanks. “So, are those rumors true?” he asked Random. “That you guys sell off the old molecules to grow human meat?”

Random’s face hardened, just slightly. Surely this stupid old man didn’t know what he was talking about. “No,” Random answered, forcing a smile. “Those are just rumors.”


Minutes later, Rocky had removed his metal framework and ancient workday suit. He was now just a frail translucence, bobbing midair in his yellowed briefs, a crudely stitched pocket on his right hip revealing a small, tinfoil wrapped cylinder. He was now held up by industrial-strength metallic balloons, padded string loops beneath both armpits.

Random sat at his desk, staring at his computer monitor displaying blinking, colorful icons in an alien language. He glanced over at Rocky, hovering about two meters away. “Sorry about all the motion, natty-man,” Random offered, using the street lingo for a native. “I couldn’t get an anti-grav license for a, quote, obsolete industry. So I had to order old military-style helium balloons.”

“I’m OK,” answered Rocky feebly, as each bob and jerk of the balloons released a tiny spray of his loose molecules. “Just as long as I don’t lose consciousness. It would take three days, on average, for me to wake up.”

Random blinked, and then turned back to his computer screen with a new urgency. He certainly had no desire to babysit a passed out natty-man for half a week.

Random didn’t need a keyboard because his six fingertips had surgically-embedded sensors. They flicked On when he pointed one at the computer touchscreen. He could make the icons move, or blink in or out with an accompanying verbal command.

“Alright, let’s see if I can find most of your missing molecules, Rocky. Or enough of them to give your body and brain more substance,” began Random, staring at his computer screen. “Rank travel history, most visited sites down to least,” he said to his computer. “Then start sorting and filtering each designated tank’s molecules,” he added. “If you can’t find any more than one-percent compatible molecules in our tank, check for a database at the location we can beam in.”

Suddenly multiple boxes popped up on his computer screen, with different colored borders, icons flashing or rapidly changing in each subscreen box.

Random’s fingers gave the “stretch-out” command to one of the bordered subscreens, and it enlarged to dominate the monitor view. “First, I’m gonna pull all the molecules you just lost after you sneezed at the security desk. That’ll be my fresh baseline.”

“You can do that?” asked Rocky, amazed.

“Sure,” answered Random quickly, not wanting to divulge any details. “So I’m putting a Capture energy-field around you ... now. Try not to squirm.” A hazy gray-blue gas halo suddenly emerged from a circle feature on the ceiling above Rocky, which descended to surround Rocky’s pale body, head to toe, with a gaseous substance about seven centimeters thick.

“It tickles!” blurted out Rocky. “I haven’t felt that in a long time.”

“OK,” continued Random, absorbed in his screen, as a swift shooshing sound was heard nearby. A gas full of small particles rattled its clear tube as it zoomed from the closest storage tank into the Sorter. “I’m not going to scan it for assassin-particles. The front entrance just scanned you for weapons when you came in. And I strongly doubt you are a member of the radical rebels or any enemy extraterrestrials,” Random added with a sarcastic smile.

“It also cuts out an unnecessary procedure. We’re pressed for time here, Rocky. Between your weakened condition, and the multiple tanks of sucked up molecules from different locations you visited that I need to attempt to phase you with, this may take awhile.” Fingers poised mid-air, pointing at his computer screen, Random glanced over. “Ready?”

Rocky nodded, then watched the blueish haze around him swirl, as more gas was ejected from the overhead circle and into his Capture field.

Zzzzap! Random swore sharply and pointed at the Emergency Shutdown circle in the corner of his embedded screen. Phoom! Dead silence, as the lights turned Off then immediately came back On, just long enough to deactivate any electronic-trigger explosives hidden in the room.

“What the heck was that?” came Rocky’s weak but startled voice. Random’s head snapped around. Rocky was still blinking with surprise, but conscious, as a small black cloud on his left side was slowly dissipating. While Rocky’s right hand was busily checking his tinfoil packet in his briefs’ pocket on the other side.

“Sorry about that,” apologized Random, pointing a finger at the top of his computer screen, and highlighting “Resume With Caution—Full Report to Security.” “That was an assassin-particle. You probably picked it up at the security desk upstairs, from one of the many Beings who were passing behind you. But it stopped at your skin because your molecules don’t register as Reptilian.

“If it had detected you as a Rep, the assassin-particle would have burrowed in before exploding. And you’d be a bloody mess all over my floor about now. But ... no big deal,” sighed Random. “Reptilians have a bad reputation all over the cosmos. Probably a shapeshifting bounty hunter in the entrance area, aiming for our rather imposing security guard. But his assassin-particle probably got sucked up with your molecules after you sneezed.”

“That was a sharp little snap there,” said Rocky, staring at the dissipating black cloud at his left side from the mini-explosion. “Glad to know I still got some working nerves in my rib cage, maybe even my lungs.” He patted the tinfoil packet in his briefs’ pocket. “I been saving my last Marlobro cigarette for over a decade, hopin’ I’d have enough substance someday to smoke it.”

Random was absorbed in his computer screen. “Well, you now have about 3.7 percent more molecules than you did before you came through my door today, Rocky. And up next, I’ll try to phase you with compatible molecules swept up from Moscow, your most visited location, before you went translu. And then compatible molecules swept up from several Australian cities, and the capitol of the African Congo, in descending order of the places you beam-traveled to the most.

“Hopefully I can reunite you with at least 10-25 percent of your filtered molecules from each location you spent time at,” explained Random, fingertips signaling his computer screen. “And you can stop walking around looking like a ghost-bot with a blinking brain, trailing molecules wherever you go.”

“Sounds good,” nodded the hovering Rocky amiably.

“So what were you doing in all those cities before the Reps took over?” asked Random, turning, as tubes quivering with compatible, hopefully lost-Rocky molecules zoomed into the Sorter computer. “You said you ran a corporation. What was your product or service?”

“Oh, it was a product, alright,” answered Rocky, feeling a slight burning sensation now, his body thickening and very slowly lowering the metallic helium balloons a centimeter at a time.

“We sell armaments. I mean sold, like once upon a time,” Rocky joked. “You know what I mean.”


Rocky exited the elevator forcefully, hurriedly, as the sun began to set and the museum was getting ready to close. Almost back to his old Type A personality, Rocky was taking long drags from his saved Marlobro cigarette, the lit end flaring a prismatic blue from each inhale. Filling out his threadbare suit, he strode confidently into the entryway, eyes flicking around quickly, taking in everything.

At the front reception desk, the same security guard was on his infra-museum phone. “Random? Reception security desk here. Did the body-phaser pay, or arrange payments?” He listened to the answer carefully, then nodded. “His entire titanium exo-skeleton? Perfect! We may get our employee char-grill in the back yard yet.”

A jaunty Rocky marched over to place a solid hand on the marble desktop, as the security guard hung up his phone underneath. “Wanted to thank you again for all your help, Sir,” Rocky smiled. “I was a little ... scattered when I first came in. I really appreciate your help and patience.”

“Anytime,” the security guard nodded. Rocky then took one last, long drag on his Marlobro, now smoked down to the filter. After glancing at the security guard, who was watching the outgoing crowd at the front door, Rocky flicked off the last, burnt tobacco pieces on his spent cigarette.

Then he pinched the remaining filter—hard. His phased-in fingers felt the snap of the starting timer. He dropped it in the trash basket beside the reception desk, nodded at the security guard one last time, and then marched out the main door amid the rest of the departing crowd. He never looked back.


Boom! Rocky was three blocks away when the museum exploded. He jolted to a halt as the ground shook, as did other pedestrians. Then, as most people broke into a terrified run away from the museum, Rocky just squatted to cover his head with his arms, until the debris and body parts had stopped raining down. Then he rose slowly as the sirens and responders started arriving, heading to the flattened, flaming museum in the near distance.

Rocky held up his phone-camera to take photos of the chaos, as his tongue unlatched a hollow molar in his mouth. He then maneuvered a small electronic ball out of the tooth and under his tongue, where it attached and started vibrating in Send mode.

“Bolshevik One here,” he barely whispered, focused on picture-taking. “The deed is done, the building I chose has my signature. So no taunting announcements to leave clues. Just notify the other rebel groups. The war to take back our planet has begun ...” END

Marilyn K. Martin is a writer and humorist. Her stories have been published in several of the “Third Flatiron” anthologies, and “Steampunk: The Other Worlds.” Her book, “The Best Computer Humor on the Web,” is widely available.


screaming eagle 6/15


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