Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.
Editor

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Fiction

Falling Sun
by Arley Sorg

With Hostile Intent
by Eamonn Murphy

Between First Dawn and Last Dusk
by Emily McCosh

Piranhacane
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

Articles

It’s a Puzzlement
by Terry Stickels

It’s Invisible
by Eric M. Jones


Cover

Editorial

Comic Strips

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Terminate and Stay Resident

By Robin Wyatt Dunn

THE FALL WAS LATE IN COMING to Healdsburg; everyone said it was a warm summer. Jackson had made special effort to ingratiate himself with his hosts, making them tea and going on walks with their toddler, who was easily the most intelligent person on the property, interested in everything.

When the termination of his contract came, he wasn’t surprised, but it hit him harder than he had expected. All that work now seemed for nothing.

The Ryans were scheduled to tour their new property at Mare Desiderii. To celebrate their tour they had hired Jackson, who would, heaven permitting, honor the achievements of this wealthy family by writing poetry suited to the occasion, worthy of being copied into the Archives.

Perhaps it was the late fall that had done it; he had lingered too long by the lake when Marybelle took her monthly swim. She had seen him, and complained. Though she had never bothered about his presence before. What could have been different?

His beard had been growing, that was true. He was too tired to shave, most days, and he liked the look of himself in the mirror, all unkempt, a feeling he shared with no one but which he imagined they could recognize in his eyes.

Later, after the terminate and stay resident order had been delivered to his door, Marybelle came by to, as she said, commiserate with him, though really it was to gloat.

“More time for you to write!” she simpered.

But no one will read it, he thought.

After their launch, Jackson was left alone with the gardener, and the orchard-workers. Feeling lonely, he invited them all over for dinner one night, and prepared a dinner of chicken and potatoes. They were polite, but he spoke almost no Spanish and there was much nodding and smiling across the cultural divide, and Jackson wondered, not for the first time, if he were willing to bear the harried mendicant life that would follow if he disobeyed the contract order and ran out on his serfdom.

Culture workers like Jackson were sometimes now referred to by the owners as “software,” a complement to the “hardware” of the thousand machines that made life such an innocent pleasure for people like the Ryans. If such software could not be upgraded satisfactorily, it could be deleted.

Jackson realized, sipping his coffee in the beautiful room looking out on the vineyards, that this was exactly what would happen. It didn’t matter now what he wanted. They would put in an order to kill him any day; he was taking up valuable food. Even in this era of plenty, calories were watched.

But still he could not bring himself to flee at once, as heroes did in novels, throwing clothes into a backpack and jumping fences, dodging security drones to make it to the river, and south. Instead, he tied his shoes, put on his coat, and went for a walk in the rain.

One thing he had never considered up to now was simple murder. Like many of the survivors of the famine, the Ryans put the utmost faith in their security software and accompanying robot companions, some of which were as small as thimbles, tiny guard dogs who could identify “enemy” brainwaves and attempt to shut them down.

Jackson had no idea what all the robots could do. But he did know that the Ryans, and Marybelle in particular, were always lax about security, usually leaving doors unlocked and night-lights on, neglecting sometimes even to activate the perimeter defense system (a fact which he had observed on the one night Marybelle had taken him to bed, something she did, he now knew, with all new men on the property).

The property itself, in its dreamy pale green boughs, watched Jackson through the window as he dried his hair from his walk. He wanted those trees to suggest one course of action or another to him: flight, or murder. Or both.

He called his mother at the factory.

“They’ll rehire you in the spring; you’ll see.”

“Yes, Mom. I love you.”

The property was always quiet, but now the silence extended for miles. His heart beat loudly in his chest.

What right had he to judge the winners of history? The overlords who had taken everything from him, and his family? If he slew even one of them, he would be just like them. They might even welcome him into the family. Another killer.

He went back out into the rain.

One of the robots eyed him and approached. Its soft voice soothed Jackson, even as his heart beat yet faster.

“Are you leaving?” it asked.

“Yes. I’m going South.”

“I’ll come with you,” it said.

***

He lifted the robot over the stream so it could renegotiate its purchase on the soil on the far side. He scrambled up the hill, through the wet branches, and the robot followed, using its claws as feet, pivoting between the deadfalls.

“Do you require an upgrade?” asked the robot, when they reached the fence.

“No, I’m all right,” he said. “Do you still want to come?”

“Let me cut the fence. It is electric. I can conduct the current into the soil.”

It seized the dark wire and sliced through it; one, two, three.

Its dark eyes regarded the man.

“I too am a slave,” it said.

“I know.”

“Will your people beat me?”

“No.”

“Let’s hitch a ride then. I hear there is work in Hollywood for robots.”

“I doubt there is, but come anyway.”

Jackson detected what seemed a smile in the thing’s dark eyes as it raised its hooked claw into the rain, adopting the posture of hobos. END

Robin Wyatt Dunn is a writer, novelist, and filmmaker. His short stories have appeared in “Third Flatiron,” “Voluted Tales,” and dozens of other publications. He is a member of the SFWA. His previous story for “Perihelion” was in 12-JAN-2016.

 

gawne 3/16

 

martin hanford

 

SFWA

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