Curtsy was in a bit of a state by the time they reached the long dock at Casa O’s, swinging between a wild elation at having free-ranged “her” dolphins, sadness at knowing she’d never see them again, and dread that the ocean might not be totally hospitable for newbies like the Discovery Gang. She was biting her lip and frowning by the time she nudged the rumbling Narcruiser up to the dock. MeiMei suffered from no such equivocation: she was scared stiff they’d get nabbed and was already piling up dire outcomes from chasing after the Nahual.
Aphra scanned the dark restaurant and sniffed the air for unexpected perils, then hopped out onto the dock. Aphra’s second drawback as a spy was a steep susceptibility to seasickness. She’d been a little queasy shooting around the relatively open water off Sac Bajo, and had no doubts how she’d feel a half hour into blasting off for Cozumel and points south. She was screamingly apprehensive about letting the Chink and the Dink set off without her to chaperone, but there was no way for it and she just had to put a game face on it. “Got your communicator handy, there, Ensign?”
Curtsy held up the clear, watertight Pelican case that protected the unbranded, highly modified satellite phone Aphra had given her (along with instructions she made sure were also heard, and therefore comprehended, by MeiMei). “Aye, aye, Uhuru.”
Another thing right there, letting a piece of gear like that out of her hands. A big bleeding trail right back to her and full of incriminating shit right up to its touchscreen crammed with quasi-legal pirate apps. Oh, well.
“Have a fun trip, kids,” she called down from the dock. “See you in a couple of days.” I hope to hell.
MeiMei tried to take an edge off her jitters (or just delay setting out). “That Marine acted like he expected a few privileges ocoming when we bring the boat back.”
“I’ll straighten him out pn that when the time come.”
MeiMei laughed, “Brash, baby. What street were you working up stateside?”
“Easy street, bee yatch.”
Curtsy, figuring that was about as sentimental a goodbye as they were going to get from Ms. Lez Be Friends, nudged the throttle forward. The big launch slid smoothly forward, then put out a little thrum as she aimed it at South Point and dialed on a few more RPM’s.
Aphra stood watching, shaking her dandelion-coiffed head as the Maxum moved off into the darkness, grumbling with the urge to flex its over-tuned muscle. She heard the pitch change at the point, Curtsy putting the throttle in the kitchen and bringing the little thunderboat up on a spanking skim across the higher waves out of Isla’s lee. She caught a fleeting glimpse of it just as it past the point, a streak silhouetted by the glow trail of the rising moon. She stood for a minute, staring, the muttered, “Just bring it back to mama.”
She didn’t yet know, as she walked the planks back to Casa O’s, that her golf cart had been sabotaged by local taxistas as an expression of their opinion that tourists should go to downisland restaurants in public transportation, not rented flivvers. When she did find out, she didn’t even go particularly ballistic, just took it as an omen.
For that matter–she snagged the sealed cell phone and gave it a closer look–where did anybody get stuff like this? She was pretty sure you couldn’t get satellite positioning of individual private vessels from the iPhone app store.
“What the hell is this thing?” she yelled at Curtsy.
The blonde girl turned and shrugged; probably her response to a lot of questions, was MeiMei’s guess. Then she proved her wrong by yelling back, “I think she’s some sort of spy.”
MeiMei must have showed her astonishment because she yelled again, “Some things I saw in her room.” Just never mind what she had been doing there at the time. Or not doing. Or whatever it was. Turns out chicks aren’t even as interesting as men.
MeiMei digested that one for a shocked few minutes and shouted. “We didn’t find her did we? She found us.”
Another shrug. MeiMei opened the case and held the phone behind the little windshield to examine it. The whole GPS was just wrong, somehow. Like a military graphic on TV. Some of the search apps were also just a bit too knowing. And the rest she couldn’t even figure out at all. Hmmm. She looked back at Curtsy, who nodded, then turned her face back into the slipstream.
She pointed back behind them (where she’d been keeping an occasional eye out the whole trip) and MeiMei stared blankly, then saw a black back cut the water, the dorsal fin knifing up and back in the waxy moonglow in their wake. She felt a thrill she couldn’t identify and smiled with pleasure.
“Think it’s your pals?” she bellowed at Curtsy.
Curtsy shook her head and leaned toward her. “No chance. Dolphins swim like fifteen knots, cruise at seven or eight maybe. Top speed maybe twenty.”
Well that settles that question, MeiMei thought. And actually, she’d been wondering, “How fast are we going?” Fast as a motherfucker isn’t really quantity.
“Fifty, fifty-five,” Curtsy called, pointing to a speedometer that hovered around sixty MPH.
“Fun idea, though,” MeiMei shouted. “Your buddies tagging along.”
She wasn’t prepared for the sad look on the blonde’s normally cheerful face. “I mean, they obviously really like you. And you seem to…”
She broke off then went ahead. “I’ve heard a few things. You love those animals.”
Curtsy turned a searching look on her, then grabbed the throttle. All three hypertrophied Evinrudes toned down a few notches and the boat settled down. Suddenly they weren’t jamming from wave to wave. They were still moving damned fast, but going up and down with the shape of the sea, not hopscotching across the peaks. She gave MeiMei another look.
“I mean, if you don’t mind my asking.”
“Well, I dunno,” Curtsy said guardedly, sizing her up. “Does anybody like talking about their sexual perversions?”
“I’ve met people that’s all they want to talk about. And I mean some creepy ones.”
“You consider being queer for dolphins creepy?”
“I think it’s kind of cool, actually.” She’d been surprised to first realize that, but there it was.
“It has its drawbacks.”
“I feel like I’m talking to some sort of LBGT or something here, but… were you always this way? Did something happen to make you…?”
“I don’t know. It’s not just mammals, it’s animals that move sleek in the water. Sharks, and manta rays. Killer whales? Whoa! Wet panty time.” She stared straight ahead, but MeiMei could sense something welling in her. She probably didn’t talk about this much.
“I worked at SeaWorld when I was in like high school, the one in California. That’s when I started diving.”
“Sounds like your dream job. Why didn’t you just stay there?”
“You can’t guess? Fired for illicit conduct with Shamu.” She pouted a moment, upset at the sheer injustice of a love that can’t speak its name. “Who by the way isn’t even the real Shamu. Kind of a Scamu.”
“Killer whales? God, how macho can you get?”
“Big. Black. Slick. Free willies.”
She drove on in silence for awhile, laid her hand on the throttle grip, then changed her mind. “I was like a little girl–maybe the first time I ever felt anything sexual–I don’t know. We went to the Children’s Pool in La Jolla. There were all these seals and sea lions there. Baby seals are sooooo cute, I had little mask and fins even then, when I was maybe eight. Paddling around seeing these animals flashing around got me all excited. You know, like flushed and my tummy flipping…”
She shot MeiMei another look and started backing out. “I don’t know if you’ve got a morbid curiosity or just want to find out why a cute California blonde with great tits doesn’t have a boyfriend.”
“Maybe I’ll get to that after I figure out how a cute little China doll making three figures a year doesn’t have a boyfriend.”
“So what are you queer for? Stone gods with curses on them?”
“Actually only goddesses get The Curse. But I don’t know… I just don’t meet any guys that trip my trigger. In high school I went through a phase with big football studs. I was like four foot nine, maybe ninety pounds and I dug the idea of a guy who could pick me up and toss me around. In fact, I liked the actual act of being picked up and tossed around.”
Curtsy seemed to be listening, so she went on. “But I grew out of that. I just like a guy I can talk to at all levels, you know. I always wanted to meet a guy smarter than me who wasn’t a founding member of GeekAnon. I met enough academic dorks in college, but I end up comparing them to…”
“Something like that, maybe. A guy who knows things, can blow my mind. But can also move, you know. Around universities, you meet some pretty cool guys, but nobody with creative flexibility.”
“Creative flexibility? That’s your idea of where men are at?”
“What, that’s kinkier than waterproof skin and breathing out the top of your head?”
“Got me there.”
“Ironically, I met a guy recently who seemed to fit the bill. Had me all intrigued. Then he sort of morphed into a jerk and blew me off.”
“Well, he somehow got the idea that I was planning some sort of pirate raid to steal a relic from a rich. powerful Mexican yachtsman.”
Curtsy giggled as she slammed the throttles back to Full Lunge Ahead, “Dudes! Where do they come up with this shit?”