Denny “Stonecold” Mercer slipped out of his trenchcoat, damp from the showers of some little-known tropical capital, and hung it neatly over a bamboo chair. He removed his battered, “if this hat could talk, the stories it could tell” fedora and tossed it on the rack in the corner. All without taking his eyes off the woman on the bed: dark-skinned, exotic, of primordial, pre-whiteman breeding.

He’d completed his mission, against improbable odds, and brought home the bacon, squeal and all. He brushed the pleats on the front of his khakis, then undid the tricky knife/camera/buckle and let them fall to the floor. She was looking at him, ancient eyes staring out from the hard young body. He moved across to her, sat on the bed, checking around for snares, eye-holes, or listening devices. He reached to touch her soft, mounded breast and she sighed and rose towards him. “Aren’t you going to turn off the television?” Lluvia moaned softly.

So he turned off the television and tossed a yellow towel over the lamp. And once again sat down beside Lluvia, old eyes in a young body in an obscure tropical capital. Slowly, shyly, she reached up to him. And in the moment her soft hands touched his face he felt a shift inside himself, a deep, tectonic psychic shift, two worlds grinding into accommodation. Here he was. He eased down beside her, drinking in her touch and diving deep into a world where there was just no need to be anybody but himself.

She didn’t much like the looks on Tuan’s face as he viewed the screen of a “VIP” computer in the Presidents’ Lounge. Yes, THOSE Presidents in the Houston airport. He glanced at her, blank, and said, “There’s only one file here, Mei.”

“There should be at least six shots. Things got a little confused there, but…”

“It’s a video.”

That set her back. How could that be? Well, one thing to do. “Let’s have a look.”

He started to shuffle his chair to one side, but she perched on his knee with an arm around his neck and peered at the screen as he clicked the file. There was the usual bevy of idiot Window’s questions and kvetching, then Media Player opened on a close-up on the face of Aphra Alisandra.


Tuan turned up the volume. Aphra, looking into the camera in a mixture of faux embarrassment and possibly semi-valid sincerity, said, “Hey, Chinatown. Hope you’re not in Mexico watching this in a holding cell. Yeah, I took your camera. Beat Townsend to it by a nanometer. Sorry, kiddo. mayancalendargirls.comBut I really need this stuff and I’m not into chasing down that yacht asshole. Thanks for everything and maybe I can return the favor some day. Give me about a six month lead with this shit, okay? Then some day you’ll get an email from “Black Adder”. Respond and I’ll send you your stuff, is that cool? I figure you’re not going to be back up to speed in academia before then, anyway. And I’m going to see if I can make some of your troubles in Mexico go away. Good luck. Hope it works out with the little Flip. I thought he was pretty cute, actually. I mean, you know, considering. I’d nab him myself, but I don’t do short. Or smart. Hasta la vista, baby.”

They both stared at the screen until Tuan moved to shut it down before it repeated. They both sat, MeiMei leaning her head on his. “I gotta admit, she’s kind of cool,” she said. “For a back-stabbing, amoral bitch.”

Tuan nodded absently, obviously lost in thought. Finally he said, “Do you think she can really sort out Mexico for you?”

“I really doubt it. I told you who that asshole is.”

“Then there’s the Old Assholes Network, Mexico Chapter.”

“I don’t know. I really want to know what’s on that thing. Think maybe hypnosis might help? Recovered memories?”

“Aren’t those always about sex abuse by parents and satanic cults?”

“You know what? I’m actually not too keen to get back to work right away. I’ve always been a workaholic but…” she turned to kiss his brow. “I never had any reason to goof off before.”

“An excuse for procrastination and laziness. Few men could aspire to a higher calling.”

“So what’s this O.B. place like?”

“Ocean Beach? You’ll love it. It’s got a special beach for dogs.”

“You’d enjoy Seattle, too. Until it starts raining.”

Tuan reached into his carry-on and pulled out two boarding passes. “Two first class to SeaTac,” he said. “I figured you’d want to touch base with your family.”

MeiMei turned in his lap to hug his neck. And whisper in his ear. “I agree with that bitch on one thing: I hope this works out, too.”

“It has to,” he said. “We already did the honeymoon.”

She was a hundred yards outside the reef, and pushing deeper with every dive. She felt slow and awkward with the strap-back SCUBA fins, but was getting some serious depth. Between recover spells, lying still on the surface with her hands and legs pointing downward, her mind and oxygen metabolism slowed with the meditation Royal had taught her years ago on Roatan. She started to ramp up another hyper-ventilation cycle and series of breath packs and there they were, like she’d known they would be. Knew they would be.That’s the way it was now, for some reason.

Bruto was there first, rocketing past her in his coarse way, shouldering her roughly aside. Her heart jumped. They’d come for her then, and they came to her now!

mayancalendargirls.comShe felt Pinoccio bump her feet, two other bodies slide along her legs, then Caruso made a pass at her waist as she shifted to an upright position, her head up as she laughed and whooped. When Bruto barged back through she caught his muzzle with cupped hands and he dragged her ten yards before diving and shaking her off. By the time she was back to the surface, Chido and Xochil had both nosed by, spinning her around.

Caruso nuzzled his beak into her crotch and she reached down to lean her hands over it. He reacted with a powerful ripple of his frame, powering him into what would have been a surface-clearing leap if she hadn’t been leaning on his nose. She shot up out of the water, balancing on him like the cross stroke of a “T”, then sailing off to splashdown with a happy yelp.

Okay, fellahs, she thought to them, let’s get down and get rowdy. It didn’t hit her right away, not until she was back on shore meeting Gareth and Kenny at the Paraiso, but she felt nothing sexual with the streaking black beasts. Not even a tingle. It had all been like rough-housing with her brothers, or playing co-ed basketball at college. One of the guys. And her guys had come through, had her back.

She lay on her back in the water, with her head lolling back, looking up at the sky. Waiting for one of those scamps to bump by her butt with a fin. And suddenly, out of nowhere, she remembered lying like that on top of an ancient pyramid. And feeling the body, seeing the face, of a man who wanted to offer her heart to the Gods.

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She hung, suspended in a state of no time, no space, no future or past. No more pain.

Rising and falling, a face looking sightless at the stars, surrounded by a sargasso of gold hair streaked with blood. Naked, mindless, a child of the currents and swells.

Then came the nip on her ankle.

Then the slickery slide around her legs, the caressing brush by her buttocks, the playful nudges in her stomach, then her groin.

Then the big, muscular body surging up from beneath her, forcing her dangling legs apart. The tensile fin raking across her crotch.

And her eyes opened again.

Slowly, she moved her arms forward, dragging through the resistance of the water, moving like sluggish bottom creatures, all soft and slow. She felt a slight touch at her knees, then the sleek torso rubbing up her abdomen, rubbing her breasts as she moved her arms around into a barely conscious hug. A hug she held for a long moment, clamping herself to that big, streamlined body. Then she was pulled underwater, a quick shallow dive that shocked her awake, brought her to the surface coughing and sputtering. She loosened her embrace and looked at the conical head riding the surface, nudging her throat, laughing at her. “Bruto!” she yelled. “You made it!”

There was not even the hint of her directing anything or calling any shots. After she had greeted the whole pod one by one–the males crowding playfully in, the females reticent, but sliding by to greet her, Mayab nuzzling her head as if concerned about her wound–they started moving away and she rolled prone in the dark water to attempt to move with them. She was stiff, weak, finless. Pinoccio, the big alpha, pressed up from below her, sliding under her stomach. She grabbed on, letting her hands slide back to the base of his flippers, extending her elbows until she lay on his back, head beside the dorsal fin. And he moved out in a powerful lunge, his flexing trunk moving beneath her chest. His pistoning flukes brushed her calves until she raised her legs to the surface, spread wide and trailing behind as he led the pod west.

She’d ridden Caruso and Bruto and Gitmo, lying in rapture on their backs. They’d come for her! She hugged them tight to her heart as fragments of the night came back to her, crashing into her head unbidden. Those fuckers had left her for dead! And God knows what they were doing to MeiMei. She’d killed some of them. Good. They’d left her dead in the water! But her true friends, her real lovers, had come for her. She shuddered on the undulating back, salt tears streaming down into the sea. They came and rescued her.

A hour later, she was laughing into the night, howling at the moon. The instep of her left foot was pressed against Pinoccio’s fin, the right foot on the throbbing back of Yaqui, standing erect with spread legs as they blasted her forward through the night like a water-skier. They’d done this dozens of times at Discovery, Curtsy’s looks and figure quickly vaulting her into the showpiece slot for riding on dolphin beaks. But this new pose worked better for long hauls and the beasts were practically frisking with the fun of romping her across the water like a moonlit golden goddess.

They passed a small boat, very low in the water, and the people seemed very excited as she blew past, waving. Later she waved to a fisherman, who damned near fell out of his boat. They were close to shore then, she could feel it. When she could see the dark shadow of land, strung with human lights like a diadem of sparks, she looked for landmarks. And finally made out the park at Tulum, the unmistakable ruins. When she saw the lacy white break line at the reef she jumped off the backs of Guido and Bruto, almost pulling off a flip before hitting the water.

They were all around her at once, whistling and nudging. She laughed and stroked them all, slapping the guys on their melons or shoulders. “This has been so great, guys. I wish I could just take off with you, hang out forever. Come back when I’ve got my fin, okay?”

Pinoccio bumped up under urgently, but she chuckled and disengaged.

“I can’t let you take me inside the reef there guys. There are already going to be fishing boats out and they just blast around at top speed inside there. And might even shoot you.” She waggled a scolding finger, “You keep biting fish out of their nets, you’re not making any friends.”

Finally, she swam towards the reef, which was close to the surface at this low tide, getting nudged and bumped and felt up the whole way. Once her feet brushed the reef, she knew they wouldn’t follow her any further. She could make it in from here easy. Get some clothes and food and… They Came For Her!

She paddled until she hit a gnarly head underwater, found footing on it and stood up, raising her out of the water from her nipples on up. She clapped her hands and saw a dozen beaks break water, looking at her. She felt like singing them a song. She blew kisses and waved, “Good bye, dudes. And you’re welcome for all the fish.”

She made it about halfway to shore, tiring and in a dicey state of mind as she did her lazy crawl. So the panga was on top of her as soon as she heard it.

She reacted too slow, diving as deep as she could, but not deep enough to avoid the bottom skeg on the outboard motor hitting her head and grooving the scalp right down to the bone, like a plow. For the second time in eight hours she drifted in the water like a corpse; tawny naked flotsam the waves hustled towards the beach south of Tulum.

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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.

Oddly, the pounding sprint across open water had a soothing effect on MeiMei’s nerves. She even stood up, taking the wind in her face like Curtsy. Which, she quickly realized, was also better on her kidneys and assorted innards than getting butt-kicked by the bucket seat every half-second. The drumming became a soundtrack at that point, a drummed mantra that calmed her as she stared into the silvery trail the rising moon was drawing across the black Caribbean as if for their particular benefit. She looked at Curtsy, smiling into the blast of warm, wet air as her moongold mane whipped behind her. She pulled off her black watchcap and shook out her own hair, joining the rhythmic scalp massage to the bucketing beat of the hull, found herself smiling as well. Where did Aphra get a black watch cap in Mexico?

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.

Around five thirty Curtsy spotted the fins.

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…”

“Indiana Jones?”

“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.”

“Really? Why?”

“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?”

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“Is there some sort of name for this crap?” Curtsy asked with a trace of disgust. She’d smeared the black paste (the composition of which Aphra hadn’t shared with them) on all her exposed skin, but didn’t much like putting it on her face. For one thing, it smelled like an evil science lab.

“Blackface makeup,” MeiMei said offhandedly as she put finishing touches around her diving mask.

“Pigment envy,” was Aphra’s reply.

MeiMei smiled, but was getting a whole different slant on Aphra. Hard person to pin down, she was thinking. First she’s the aloof model, then the wealthy patron, then wants to get into your pants, now she looks very much at ease getting ready to go commit a felony in Mexico. On the other hand, since this was just a prelim to her own felony theft caper, she couldn’t really object.

And she was really glad they had the boat. The big, insanely fast modified Cigarette that rumbled powerfully under her bare feet as like a tiger purring while waiting to leap. This was one piece of engineering with “getaway” and “eat my wake” writ large in every detail of its design and execution. And had scared the crap out of her when she’d taken its wheel for about a minute during their test run around Sac Bajo. Fortunately Curtsy had a relaxed, natural calm about rocketing across the slight chop, running with not lights at speeds ranging up towards “bat out of hell”.

And you know, there was a little extra frisson in knowing they were driving an hinky-snagged aquatic hotrod with a criminal record before they even got around to perpetrating anything illegal themselves.

“I was a water skier,” she’d explained. “Pretty competitive in high school.”

Aphra had said, “Know what, Gidget? You got one great ass and a face that don’t stop, but I do believe you’re crazy.”

A thought that MeiMei echoed now, rocking in the dark, menacing boat, staring at the lights of Dolphin Discovery. But, she reflected, is this crazier than what I want to do?

They all had their fins on now, Curtsy had the nylon bag slung over her shoulder… there wasn’t anything else to fool around with, no more excuse not to jump it off.

Aphra had the same thought. She had been watching the horizon for anything backlit against the distant lights of the Cancun hotels, but now sat beside Curtsy on the gunwales and motioned MeiMei to join them. “Let’s get this done before the moon comes up, shall we ladies?”

She put her hand over her mask like Curtsy had taught them, then toppled over backwards into the dark sea. MeiMei heard the second splash as Curtsy keeled over, then rolled back into the water herself. She touched muck: the boat was anchored in about four feet of water with a grassy bottom. She stood on the tips of her fins and eyed Discovery in the distance.

“Got a bit of security, I see,” Aphra said as she moved her snorkle slightly forward.

“Guess that’s my fault,” Curtsy said. They didn’t used to have watchmen outside like that.

Aphra turned and you didn’t have to see inside the black mask to know she was rolling her eyes upward. “You take lead,” she said, and again MeiMei got the impression it wasn’t the first “job” this woman had been on. Curtsy adjusted the gym bag over her shoulder and moved smoothly and silently towards the pier, nothing but a shadow in the night sea.

MeiMei hung on the chainlink, breathing through her snorkle with only half of her mask above water. She was finning lightly to maintain her position, but a harder kick would alert the girls just below her feet that there was something to be aware of on the surface. The “watchmen” seemed mostly to be watching their cellphones. Thank Christ for texting, MeiMei thought. She could hear each little snick each time Curtsy squeezed the bolt cutters on the fence links below, but know that was just because her ears were under water. Aphra rose and breathed, then went back down. Curtsy didn’t seem to need air. She must be spending five minutes underwater with each descent.

She could feel a slight vibration in the fence with each snip, but there was no change in its general rigidity. Then heard a sharp snort and almost levitated right out of the water. She calmed when she saw the sleek surge in the water inside the inner fence. Or course. The dolphins had been aware of them since they showed up and were in there checking them out.

Probably some alpha males up close here, vigilant. The rest back in the center of the pool. Two more slick backs moved in the water like waves, then there was an entire head above water, staring at her with eyes she just had to admit looked intelligent. And kind of sexy. She got a glimmer of where Curtsy was coming from. These things were super-touchable and definitely should be set free.

Then Curtsy was beside her, her head right behind her ear. “That’s Bongo,” she said. “My favorite. Take a slow, deep breath and come on down here, we’re going through.”

MeiMei took a few breaths of increasing volume, then bent at the waist and stroked down with arms. She grabbed the fence like Curtsy had told her and tugged her way down into darkness. She felt a hand on her shoulders, nudging her forward and to the right. And there was no fence there. She didn’t know that Aphra had wired the cut fence back, leaving a triangular opening like parted curtains, but she knew she could move through… and then get back up the world and score some more air.

She remembered to tip her head back and exhale as she rose, then tip forward to bring the purged snorkle out of the water without having to blow it out. She sipped in air, then took deeper draughts as she breast-stroked under the catwalk to the inner fence. Where she could just reach out and touch the four dolphins that waited on the other side of it. Wow!

She stroked Bongo’s head, marveling at the smoothness. Like a wet watermelon, she decided. She saw the sharp little teeth, as if he was smiling at her. This was worth the whole caper, right here, she thought.

This time MeiMei felt the fence give as Curtsy cut. And realized that Aphra was bundling the sides away, binding them in position with the baling wire from the gym bag. And she felt the fence shudder as the first dolphin nudged through it. And slid along her calf as it came out. They were out here! Right around her! She could hear and feel more movement as the herd or whatever they call them moved out through the gap in the fence, exploring his new breach in their captivity. She shook over all over, a visceral spasm to realize she was surrounded by them. Then she heard footsteps on the catwalk above.

She froze, wiped out by adrenal rush of panic mixing with whatever endorphin spasm the dolphins had triggered in her. Caught! Shit!

She looked up, saw three smooth heads break the water to stare upwards with her. Then Curtsy hit the surface and MeiMei saw that she was holding some sort of ab workout device, all metal tubes and surgical rubber. Which seemed surrealistic enough that she looked closer even as her throat pinched with fear.

Not helped when she realized that it was really a stubby spear gun in Curtsy’s hands, pointing up at the measured footsteps on the planks above their heads. With a black shaft tipped with a sharp device that had “alien ninja death device” stamped all over it. She gave up on processing information, just lay in the water shivering while the feet passed overhead, then moved on.

At some point she felt Aphra’s hand on her gooseflesh shoulder. “It’s okay now, honey. Alls we gotta do is go out the other fence and swim off.”

She looked at Curtsy again, still pointing the speargun with a grim, killer look and pose. Which relaxed as she turned back to the other two, grinning. “Pablo. Still texting that Canadian chick, I’ll bet.”

She saw MeiMei staring at the speargun, smiled and moved the spearpoint closer to her. “Trank head. Put a man so sleep even faster than a dolphin. The sort of thing I like to keep around.”

“Well, don’t forget we gotta get that gun back to SeaHawk, “Aphra muttered. “No can we, oh, I don’t know…get the fuck out of here? Less you want a goodbye fuck with your buddies?”

Curtsy’s head disappeared and re-appeared outside the fence in a remarkably quick time. MeiMei stared as the water around the blonde churned with fins and whorls, the big mammals frolicking around her. MeiMei repeated her dive under the outer fence and came to the surface sliding through glossy bodies. She surfaced a few feet from Curtsy, who had pushed her mask up on her head and was joyously slithering around the escapees. She grabbed the side fins of a big male and pushed her lips to his glistening back.

As the others watched, she surged off into the night, lying on the beast’s back with the side of her face pressed right behind his dorsal fin.

“Getting a tow job,” Aphra said from behind her. “And people call me queer.”

MeiMei watched as the dolphin pulled Curtsy south towards the boat. “She’s so happy. She’s really, like, in love with them, isn’t she?”

“Yeah, they say once you go seafood, you never go back, ” Aphra said as she nudged her into motion. “Now all we gotta do is go get what makes you happy, Chinatown.”

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