By Brantley Thompson Elkins
So here he was on Nowhere Near, safe as long as he kept his head down and his disguise in place. Security was light here; his ID chip had passed muster at entry. Nobody was going to bother him.
It was a good world to live on as well as hide on. Idyllic as all get-out, Tropical islands, tropical breezes. There weren't any large continents, no large centers of population, except for the Spaceport, and that was thousands of kloms away.
Laurent Millandon -- his name here, and he really didn't want to remember the other -- had a job at a marina on Taloa. No resumÄ, but he'd demonstrated that he could do the job, and didn't mind the boring parts like scraping paint and caulking joints.
He'd just finished refitting a private yacht for Katrina Douglas, another recent immigrant, or so he'd heard. Laurent didn't pry into things like that; could make for bad karma. God, she was beautiful! But thinking about that could make for bad karma, too. She wasn't for him.
Laurent had really sweated this commission; he wanted this boat to be a showpiece, put him on the road to recognition as a Shipwright -- a coveted status on this watery planet.
It was time for a shakedown cruise, and Katrina wasn't making it any easier to keep his thoughts on a professional level. She was standing there naked on the yardarm -- nudity was no big deal on Nowhere Near. Her magnificent body was the answer to any seaman's prayer, but not to his. It was a torment to gaze upon her, knowing that he could never╔.
The only mercy was that she wasn't looking at him. She was looking out to sea, as if she were mistress of all she surveyed.
Katrina proved to be a true mistress of the sea.
Had she come from some world where sailing was also honored as an art? Deepteach, he'd thought for a moment. But that was only knowledge; you didn't get this level of skill out of a machine, and never this kind of daring.
She took the helm of the Medusa as if she'd been born to it, trimmed the sails as if they were extensions of herself. Her tanned body was up to it; muscular but graceful. She was still naked. Laurent's loins ached with a desire he could barely admit, let alone salve. Heading into the wind, her dark brown hair blowing behind her, Katrina sailed as if this were a world cup race.
But that was just for starters. When they approached Cecilia Atoll, she didn't slow for a moment. Heedless of the reefs, she tacked hard to starboard. It was like threading a needle to find the passage, especially at their speed, but she found it. She screamed in triumph as the craft made it into the lagoon, then came hard about again, slowed the Medusa and dropped anchor.
They camped out on the beach that night, built a simple fire, shared a simple meal. Katrina talked about sailing well into the evening, but never about where she'd learned it. When Laurent raised the matter as gingerly as he could, she rebuffed him.
"People don't come to Nowhere Near to talk about their lives somewhere far," was all she'd say.
That pretty much killed their conversation.
Until they saw the light coming out of the sea.
Laurent's skin began to crawl.
These things were supposed to be extinct. Hunted down, exterminated. Those who had settled Nowhere Near had wanted nothing to interrupt their idylls.
He looked at Katrina. She knew. He could see the fear in her face. They must both be thinking the same thing: Perhaps it won't come ashore. Oh let it stay in the sea where it belongs.
No such luck. The gojira was crawling onto the beach now, its eyes glowing with menace, its nostrils seeking the scent of flesh.
Laurent looked at Katrina in anguish, imagining her torn to shreds, consumed by the sea monster. The thought was more than he could bear.
"Get away!" he shouted, and leaped into action, running towards the monster, heedless of exposing himself.
To his amazement, Katrina did the same.
"Are you crazy?" he yelled, trying to thrust her aside.
"Are you crazy?" she responded, trying to thrust him aside.
Why won't she be moved? he wondered.
He could wonder no further before the gojira was upon them. And then -- nothing. Nothing he could have expected.
The sea monster bellowed with rage as it attacked their invulnerable bodies, breaking its teeth and claws against their arms and legs, against her breasts.
"You!" Laurent shouted with joy.
"You!" Katrina shouted with joy.
Together they made short work of the gojira, hoping that this was indeed the last of its kind.
Afterwards, there were explanations.
"Reigel 5," Laurent said. "I was sick of the war there. It was turning into genocide. No proper work for the Velorian military."
He didn't miss the false mustache, the equally false warts and moles.
"Binkley's World," Katrina said. "They had me hunting frails in the hills. No proper work for a Prime. And they suspected that I was in the Resistance."
"But the sailing?"
"They do have seas on Aria. And a few old families are born to them╔. You never scanned me?"
"Discipline. Use one power, you're tempted to╔ you may╔ forget."
She nodded. It must have been the same with her.
"So what do we do now?" he asked.
"Nothing. The boat's unharmed. Nobody but ourselves as witnesses. And I think we can count on each other's discretion."
"I meant, what do we do now?"
Katrina's eyes lit up; he could see them sparkle in the firelight.
"If I'd only known," she cried.
"If I'd only known," he cried.
The rest was the sounds of love, by turns fast and furious and slow and gentle, far into the night.