Part Five - Whenever the surface of one body slides over that of another, each body exerts a frictional force on the other.
They hit the open seas a little after four p.m. Dana knew they had little sailing time before the sun disappeared, but she wanted to be as far away from the shoreline town of Milford as she could by the time it grew dark. Being on the boat, preparing to sail, and going through all of the familiar activities of stowing away supplies and filling tanks brought her a comfort she desperately needed. She was thinking she could not be any happier, until she saw the smiling face of Grace Wilson walking along the wooden planks of the dock toward her.
The fall sun was closing in on the skyline of the city quickly. Dana took the bags of groceries from Grace and then extended her strong, bronzed arm to support the smaller woman climbing aboard. Her face was tight from beaming at the woman, happiness swelling her insides so much she thought that she would explode. It did not go unnoticed by her new shipmate. Then Grace slipped, and Dana stifled a groan as the smaller woman tugged her shoulder for balance.
"There's a tropical storm off Florida, so I think we'll head north instead."
"But I packed for the heat."
"You can borrow some of my clothes," Dana suggested, wary of the disappointment she heard. She untied the lines from the dock and started the inboard. "I thought we could go in to Freeport and buy some new things."
"Shopping?" A smile. "I'm in."
"You sure are easy to please."
"Oh, how I wish you'd try to find out," she replied with a laugh.
Dana found herself smiling as she steered the boat out of the marina. She cut the engine and readied to raise the sails. "See that handle?"
"Yep." Grace moved over to a black winch mounted to the hull.
"Grab it, and when I tell you to, start turning."
Doc set the boat into the wind. "Okay, turn away." She was glad the woman was here to help, because her arms and shoulders still ached despite the massive quantities of Ibuprofen. "Good job," she said as the sail rose and caught the wind fully. The boat began to break through the waves. "Ahh, that's much better," Dana sighed, feeling the vibration of the keel as the boat picked up speed. Grace smiled proudly.
"Come, sit with me," Doc said, patting the cushioned bench next to her. "You can steer while I mix us some toddies." Grace managed her way to her friend and took a seat.
"I don't quite have sea legs yet."
"Give it time." Then as an afterthought, "Do you want some Dramamine?"
"No, thanks. I tripped on that stuff when I was a sophomore. I can't take it without seeing little spiders crawling all over me."
Dana looked at the package. "How many did you take?"
"The whole package. It was like fucking LSD in that quantity."
Doc shook her head in dismay. "You never cease to amaze me, Doctor Wilson. But since you're sober at the moment, take the helm."
"No, I can't."
"Come on, it's easy." She took the woman's hands and placed them on the large leather-bound wheel. "Now keep heading toward that buoy, and watch out for icebergs." Grace tensed. Her mother had taken her to see the movie "Titanic" when she was twelve, and she still had nightmares.
"Do you want tequila, rum, or vodka?" Dana asked as she disappeared through the companionway.
Dana returned with a spiced rum and coke and handed it to her. "Watch out for the lobster pots."
"Where?" She panicked. "The little floating things?"
"Yes, the little floating things. Buoys mark where the pots are located."
"Oh. How fast are we going?"
"About ten knots. It's a good pace. This thing can only do about twenty, based on the hull length and shape and whether I can catch a wave and get her planing. We won't get too far, though, unless we sail in the dark for a few hours. We can anchor off the mainland or head to Fisher's Island. It's up to you, but we need to decide in the next hour."
"The mainland sounds better," Grace said.
Dana nodded. "The mainland it is. I'll find a cove to moor in overnight. Want me to take over?"
"Yes, please," Grace said, prying her tense fingers from the wheel and downing her drink.
Dana held to her promise, and by eight p.m. they had anchored in a cove close to the Mystic Seaport. Since it was the end of the sailing season, most of the cruisers had left, and plenty of space was available near the old tall ships.
Steaks and potatoes were grilling while she finished tucking away the sails. Rip was just beginning to come around and had vomited on the rug of the main cabin. Grace cleaned it up and tried to soothe the dog with gentle caresses. Once the hound fell back to sleep, she brought the carpet up to the deck and handed it to Doc. "Your dog, you clean it."
Doc tossed the carpet into the dingy off the back. "Tomorrow. Now we eat," she said, carrying a plate of food into the boat. With one hand she released the table from its hitch. Using her only dishes, she set the table and placed a small vase with a single rose in the center.
"Do we have a phone?" Grace asked as she came down the stairs. "Wow!" she exclaimed as she looked at the table. "You're quite domestic, for a sailor." Her eyes were on the flower, and she wondered where it had come from.
"The phone is here. You have to plug the handset...where is it?" She searched in a cabinet for it. "I don't use it to call people very often. Ahh, here it is."
"Why do you have it at all?"
"For the computer."
"What do you do on the computer all day?"
"I monitor information."
"No, I don't hack. Have a seat. I'll find some good eatin' music."
"How about something where people actually sing?" Grace moved over and knelt next to her on the berth as they went through the music tucked away on the shelf. Dana liked a challenge. Grace felt the warmth of the other woman's body through the cooling air of the cabin. She smelled good too, a little sweaty, but she liked the way it mingled with her hair and clothes. It was going to be hard not to throw herself at the brunette.
"Ah-ha, here, this is Cassandra Wilson. She sings a kick-ass 'Harvest Moon.'" She put it into the digital player with a Miles Davis recording and Boney James.
Throughout dinner, which tasted fantastic, Grace could not help noticing how much Dana had changed once they passed the breakwaters. Her manner was easier, her joking came more freely, and she actually smiled more than those cute little half-smirks. It was as if she were enjoying sharing her world with a foreigner and liking her job as a tour guide. And she was right--that was a kick-ass version of "Harvest Moon."
Grace also enjoyed being waited on. She did not have to wash the dishes, or cook. She actually relaxed for the first time in...years? After dinner, Grace found her way to the sanctuary of the cockpit and sipped at another Captain Morgan and Coke. When Doc had concluded her work in the galley, she got a large, dark-blue cable-knit sweater and handed it to Grace.
"You look cold."
"Thanks," Grace said, placing her drink in a holder and slipping the wool sweater over her head. Doc helped pull the silky golden hair out of the collar as she sat next to her.
Dana leaned back to look at the cloudless night sky. Grace followed suit, looking at the bright star. "Taurus, the Bull." She pointed.
"The Pleiades." Dana pointed at the same constellation.
"The seven sisters. See?" She leaned closer and pointed to the tiny patch of stars that were part of the larger constellation.
"I only count six."
"That's because she's hiding."
"Why is she hiding?"
"She fell in love with a mortal, and he shamed her. The ancient Greeks believed that they were the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione. When Atlas was condemned to carry the weight of the Earth on his back, Zeus took pity on his grieving daughters and changed them into stars. That's one version. The other one is that the lech Orion was chasing the sisters through the woods, and Zeus took pity on them and turned them into doves so they could fly away, and they flew up to the stars. But the Australian Aborigines believe they're the two wives and five sisters-in-law of a man named Wurrunna. They landed up there on fast-growing trees. It's kind of funny, because they're about 415 light-years away."
"Are you sure a Texan didn't make up that story? Look, Ursa Major." Grace pointed. "Got a story for that one?"
"That's Callisto, a beautiful maiden from Arcadia. Zeus was in love with her, but when Hera found out, she turned her into a bear to wander the forest forever. One day Callisto's human son, the hunter, tried to kill her, not knowing she was his mother. Zeus intervened and flung Callisto into the night sky to save her."
"A bear with a tail?"
"Zeus stretched it when he whirled her around and flung her."
Grace began to laugh. "Is there anything you don't know?"
"Ursa Minor is Callisto's son, also put there by Zeus, so that they could be together. The Aztecs thought it was a three-legged puppet that danced around."
Dana stretched her arms along the back of the bench, her legs propped on the edge of the bench across from them. She relaxed into the fresh sea air and the warmth of company. After a few minutes of star-staring she began to nod off.
"Dana," Grace whispered into her ear. Dana's eyes popped open. "I think we should go to bed."
Dana sat forward and stretched her arms and shoulders, unaware of how long she had dozed.
"So, are there any particular sleeping arrangements you had in mind?" Grace asked as she followed the tall figure into the cabin.
"Pick a berth. They're all pretty comfy."
"Where are you going to sleep?"
Dana turned to her after closing the companionway. The light was dim at best. "I usually sleep up in the front cabin."
"You don't sleep out here?" Grace could not keep the disappointment out of her voice.
"No, Rip snores." She watched the nervous glances Grace was taking around the cabin. "What are you looking for?"
"There is no heat, Grace."
"Then I'll need another blanket." She took the thick wool one Dana was holding out to her. Dana froze. She had only two, and that had always been enough for one person. "Shit! Here, you can have mine," she said, walking to her cabin and removing it from the bed. She returned and handed her the thick fleece cover.
"I can't take it. You'll freeze."
"Come on, take it."
"No!" She found a berth as close to the front cabin as she could and lay down on it. "Leave the light on, please."
"Of all the stubborn...." Dana mumbled. Purposefully, she walked over to the prone figure. She yanked the cover back and grabbed her hand. "Come with me." She pulled her into her cabin and climbed on the bed. "Well, come on, I'm not going to be responsible for your freezing to death tonight. We'll go to shore and buy a few more blankets tomorrow."
Grace climbed up onto the large, soft bed and plopped down on her side next to her friend. Dana put her cover across their bodies and then laid Grace's out too.
A few minutes passed, and Dana began to relax.
"Now I'm too hot," Grace complained.
"Well, I am."
"Take off your sweater."
Grace sat up, short enough so that she did not have to worry about hitting her head, and tugged the sweater over her head. She reached under the covers and removed her slacks and tossed them to the end of the bed. She faced her still companion, who was barely breathing. "What about you--are you hot?"
"Yes... I mean no," she replied, flustered.
"You're sweating." Grace touched a bead of sweat on the strong face.
Dana sat up and hunched forward, pulling off her sweatshirt. Grace held her T-shirt for her when it began to come off with the other garment. Then Dana reached under the covers and removed her jeans. She leaned forward and hung them on a hook on the wall. The stretching made her shoulder cramp, and she shrank in pain.
Grace was at her side immediately and began to work on her shoulders. "Hold on, I got it," Grace said as she slid her practiced hands onto the muscle and began to knead and smooth it. "I should have realized you were still hurting. Roll onto your stomach. I'll be right back." She scampered off the bed and rummaged through her travel bag. She climbed back onto the bed with a tube of white gel in her hand. Then she slipped Dana's shirt up to her shoulders. Taking some gel in her hands, she began to rub it into the muscular, wide shoulders.
"What is that?"
"Menthol and aloe."
"It feels great," Dana mumbled. The hands felt good too.
"Can you take this off for me?" Grace asked, tugging gently at the shirt.
Dana paused and then lifted the rolled-up fabric over her head and held it in her hand as she lay back down on her belly. Grace kneaded her neck and upper arms, then moved back down to the lats and the traps. After a few more minutes of strokes and caresses, Dana was snoring lightly. Grace sat back on her heels, amazed, and with a sense of accomplishment warming her from the inside out.
Dana awoke the next morning to Rip's confused barks. The sun was filtering in the east-side windows. She was shocked to find her face nestled in the soft blond hair of her companion, shoulders touching, a hand--her hand--lying across a firm belly not her own. Grace was on her back facing away, snoring loudly. She pushed herself up, lifting the covers off their bodies, and peered down at the beautiful doctor for a few seconds. She was wearing only a white shirt and bikini underwear, her shirt pushed up slightly, revealing a lined abdomen. Dana wondered if she had done that in her sleep and looked at her hand. Then she let her eyes roam down to the muscular legs, and then back up the length of the finely-toned body to admire the peaceful face. Of course, by that time she was caught by half-lidded hazel eyes staring back at her. A golden eyebrow shot up under messed bangs.
"I'd better go see what's wrong with the dog."
Grace smiled and watched her retreat into the main cabin, clumsily pulling on her jeans and sweatshirt. She returned within a few minutes, her hair still messy and a sleepy look on her face. "We need to take her to shore and give her a chance to run that stuff out of her system. We could grab breakfast while we're there if you want."
"I want," Grace said, crunching herself to a sitting position. The covers slipped down her body, and Dana found herself staring at the nipples that were peeking through the thin shirt. "How do you feel this morning?"
Grace pulled the covers off her legs and slid forward, dangling her bare legs over the edge of the berth. "Excuse me," she said as she brushed past the frozen captain, heading for the loo.
By midday they were navigating the reefs off New Cape Cod, a sand bar washed by the big wave twenty miles northeast from its original position. They were anchoring just north of New Provincetown when Grace was reminded by her stomach that she had not eaten since the morning meal in Mystic. She was reading the "New Haven Register" that they had picked up at breakfast while Dana was going on about the radar navigation system she had on board and why it was so important after the big wave. With its force, the wave had redistributed several of the reef systems as well as many land masses along the eastern shoreline, making many of the oceanic survey maps of the late '90s useless for navigation.
"What's for dinner tonight?" Grace interrupted.
A questioning look.
"It's lamb burgers in pita with yogurt sauce. It's kind of Greek."
"Will I like it?"
"From what I've seen, you'll eat anything that hasn't been flying or mooing within the previous two hours. And this sheep ain't been bleating for at least a couple of days. But you won't know if you don't try."
That was going to come back at her, Grace thought deviously.
"Okay, how was it?"
"Delicious. You're a great cook."
Dana smiled with pride. She had learned to cook from her father. Making dinner and eating it had been the only time, besides summers on the boat, that they spent together.
"I'm beginning to enjoy many Greek things." She rubbed her belly. "Let me do the dishes tonight," she offered, grabbing the plates from Dana and carrying them to the galley sink. Dana poured herself and Grace more red wine, leaving Grace's drink next to her on the counter and carrying hers topside so she could sit under the stars.
Rip crawled up beside her on the bench and laid her chin on her lap.
"Still don't feel all there, do you, girl?" Dana remarked as she stroked the hound's smooth head. They sat like that for some time before Grace appeared. Unwilling to separate the two sailing mates, she sat down across from them. Dana thought she looked really cute in her sweater, the hem dangling almost to her knees and the sleeves covering her hands.
"So, what stories are you going to share tonight?"
Dana tried to stifle a yawn. The sun and cold air had worn her out, and she was tired. The alcohol only helped her relax. She wanted to relax for another reason as well. After watching her friend all day, she had made up her mind that if something was going to happen, it would happen tonight. She could not ignore the way her heartbeat or her breathing quickened when she watched the blonde, and her thoughts were going way beyond platonic, they were prurient. "Any genre in particular?"
"Tell me another story about the Greek gods. Zeus seems like the nicest one, always looking out for maidens in the forest and then tossing them into the stratosphere."
"You think Zeus was nice?"
Grace nodded. "So far."
"Have you ever read the poem 'Leda and the Swan,' by Yeats?"
"My brother was the English major."
"I'm no English major, but I had a lot of time to read, and whenever I found something I could relate to, I clung to it. Anyway, Leda was a beautiful maiden whom Zeus visited as a swan. The result of their encounter was the birth of Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra, who became the wife of Agamemnon. And Yeats saw the visit by Zeus as an annunciation to mark the beginning of Greek civilization."
"Can you remember any of it?"
"Grace, I can't...."
Grace sighed her disappointment.
"Okay." It was too hard to resist making her smile.
"A sudden blow, the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.
How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?"
"He raped her."
"What kind of poem is that?"
"On one level it's about a rape, but on another it's about annunciation, Grace. Yeats was a visionist, and he believed that history came in cycles. Evil, Innocence, Reason, Irrationality, Apathy, Morality: their prevalence in society is constantly changing as each year passes. The Greco-Roman time was a period of mathematical morality to him, and the coming of Christ was the end of that cycle. He was afraid we were approaching the end of the next cycle, and he thought the new cycle was going to be evil and dark. It was going to be forceful and not necessarily a pleasant transition."
"Maybe he knew the big wave was coming."
"Nah, but the Native Americans did."
"Let's go to bed."
Dana froze at the abrupt change of subject. She was not ready.
"Come now," Grace said, extending her soft hand. "I'm tired, drunk, and cold." Dana took the hand, noticing the warmth and strength. This time she was dragged down the hole into the forward cabin. With a small stroke with her thumb along the back of her hand, Grace let go and began to remove her clothes as she walked. First her sweater, then her jeans, off came her socks, and then her shirt. Looking over her shoulder, she tossed the shirt at the stunned dark-haired woman. "Let's see if I like something else that's kind of Greek."
Dana's feet moved forward of their own accord, her body completely disconnected from her mind. Her mind feared memories, but her body had none and was drawn by chemicals, incredible beauty, and aching desire.
Grace sat on the edge of the bed facing her. "Take your clothes off."
Dana pulled her sweatshirt over her head while Grace began to remove her jeans for her. Small hands unsnapped and unzipped more quickly than she could have herself, then pushed the denim over her hips and down her strong thighs, letting them fall to her ankles. Those same hands trailed a path down and then up the bronze skin. Fingers traced a large "V" scar on her right thigh.
"Is this where the shark got you?" she asked, looking up into sky-blue eyes. Dana placed her hand on the probing one on her leg.
"Grace, I've never done this."
"Are we moving too fast?" she asked softly, hoping to the heavens the answer was no. She could feel the body begin to tremble and entwined their fingers together. Scooting back on the back, she pulled Dana closer. "We go as slow as you want," she whispered as Dana's body settled on top of hers and their faces were inches apart. Their warm breath intermingled, and Grace slid her hands down to Doc's hips, pulling her more squarely on top of her. "I just want to feel you against me."
Dana closed her eyes at the sensation of the soft skin of Grace's thighs sliding between her own. Inquisitive hands slid under Dana's shirt along her back. Dana was holding herself up on her elbows, enthralled by the sensual pleasure.
A formerly six-toed foot began to caress the back of her calf, also causing movement against another, more sensitive part of her body. Soft fingers ran along her jaw and then gently cupped her cheek. Dana opened her eyes and stared at the lips below her that were saying something.
"Dana," Grace chuckled. "Are you ever going to kiss me?"
Doc was feeling dizzy with arousal and sensation, the cabin was warmer than she remembered it being this time of year at this latitude, and every cell in her body was screaming, "Oh, yeah!" All except for the smooth muscle lining her stomach.
"I'm gonna throw up." She suddenly jumped off the bed and ran for the deck. Leaning over the edge, she lost her dinner and most of the wine she had consumed.
"Are you seasick?" Grace asked hopefully. She was dressed in her jeans and shirt. She let a hand caress the sweating, tense back. Instead of being soothing, it caused the bent-over woman to heave violently.
Doc shook as a chill worked its way down her body. She spun around slowly and sat on the bench of the cockpit, her head in her hands.
Grace was hurt and disappointed and was undergoing a serious ego check, but she managed to put her own feelings aside. "Do you want to talk about it?"
A shake of the head. "No."
Grace sat for a moment, reveling in the dejection, then got up to go to bed.
She turned around and sat back down.
"I have more bad memories than good, and sometimes they catch up with me at very inopportune times."
Grace nodded, still feeling a sob in her throat.
"Sometimes people...." She stopped, unsure of how to proceed. "I was...I mean in York, I was sometimes, many times...what I'm trying to say is, I have been with women before--I just wasn't willing."
"You were raped."
"Yeah," quietly, with a shame that should not have been.
"How often?" she asked softly.
"I lost count after the first year. As I grew older I was able to fight them off, most of the time, but sometimes there were too many or I was too weak."
"It's not your fault that they did that to you." She stroked the dark head.
"I just wanted you to know. It isn't you--it's my problem."
A sad smile. She leaned forward, giving Dana a light kiss on the forehead. "Do you want me to sleep in the other cabin?"
"Good." This time when Grace took hold of her hand and led her down to the cabin, there was no sexual intention or seduction. Dana stopped to brush her teeth and wash her face, then climbed into bed next to the sweet doctor. Grace tucked the covers in around them and lay back, wanting desperately to hold her companion but not sure if she would be allowed to. Neither slept very well, and even if the storm had not blown in and gently drummed the hull with rain and swayed the ship forth and back endlessly, Dana would have likely been topside by three a.m. anyway. She pulled up anchor and headed up the coast in the dark and drizzle, urged on by the need to leave that place behind her.
Grace lingered in bed, catching a few naps until sunrise. When she finally came on deck, Dana had sailed out of the storm into the choppy waters and dry skies of the Maine coastal shelf. Her ebony head was soaked, and she was shucking her yellow slicker when the blonde surfaced.
"Morning," Grace said quietly.
"Nope. I've been up for quite some time. We're in Maine waters now."
A nod. "Look, Dana, I feel really bad about coming on so strong last night."
Dana smiled crookedly. "Don't. I'm sorry I couldn't respond properly." She looked Grace squarely in the eyes. "I really wanted to."
Grace sighed in relief. "What are the plans today?"
"Today I have to navigate us through a six-mile reef channel, after I make us some breakfast. Here, take the helm." Grace slid into position, and Dana stepped backwards. As Grace took the large wheel Dana slid her hands around her slim waist and sat down on the bench behind them, pulling Grace onto her lap.
Grace turned around to face her.
Dana placed a hand on the warm, soft skin of an ivory cheek. The two moved together slowly, both overcoming fears, one afraid of rejection, the other afraid to touch. Their top lips met first and brushed each other tentatively, tenderly. Dana reached up further with her mouth so that the bottom lips could join as well. She was electrified by the softness of the mouth and the minty taste of a morning brushing still on the tongue that had insisted on entering her mouth. Grace had had every intention of taking any more sexual activity with the gorgeous sailor to a remedial level, but the tongue thing sort of slipped in on its own. She slowly drew away when she realized what she had done and also because of the fact that Dana's tongue had retreated and was dancing around hers timidly.
She leaned back to inspect any damage in the form of pallor and nausea and was surprised to see that Dana's eyes were just beginning to open. She leaned her forehead against Dana's. "Have you ever kissed before?"
"Yeah, a kid named Booger, in the sixth grade. Was I that bad?"
Grace smiled. "Not bad...his name was Booger?"
Dana's eyes darted around nervously and then found something of interest on the floor. Grace twisted around to see what she was looking at but found nothing. Got to be careful with what I say to her, she thought, realizing her mistake. She wondered how someone with such a violent past could be so innocent. "You haven't kissed anyone since before you were a teenager?"
"I'm going to make breakfast," Dana said, her mood having changed. Rejection of any sort made her react in the easiest way, with anger. But she did not want to show Grace that side, had promised herself she would not, so instead she retreated. Next time she would do better, would learn how to kiss better, somehow. She forced Grace to stand by doing so herself. "Try not to hit anything," she said before disappearing below.
Dana flipped pancakes with one hand and signed on to Rachel's server via her satellite link to run a series of searches. Her primary objective was to find information on genetic duplication techniques and to determine which establishments were conducting research into cloning, specifically human. She placed the growing stack of flap jacks in the warm oven and refined her search. Cloning had become a huge business, and she had received way too many hits on her initial search. She cracked several eggs, added cheese and jalapeno peppers, and began to stir while verbally commanding the computer.
She refined her search to universities and companies that conducted the culturing and creation of human tissues. With that search she came up with twenty-two thousand hits. She saved the search and shut down.
She set the table, poured a few glasses of OJ, and returned topside to set the ship on the self-navigation system. "Come on, Doctor, it's chow time."
"I thought you'd forgotten about me," the blonde said as she entered the galley. When she saw the stack of food on the table, she smacked her hands together appreciatively. "Wow! I could kiss you for this."
Dana brought her a mug of coffee and slid into her seat without acknowledging the comment. Oh, boy, Grace thought, realizing that this might be a difficult day, at best.
Dana began the conversation herself. "Have you ever heard of taking a genetic map and duplicating it?"
"It's called cloning, Dana, and they've been doing it for two decades now." She shoved a large mouthful of buttered, syrupy cake into her mouth.
"No, I mean from a blueprint, not actual cells."
Grace swallowed. "You mean like from your blueprint."
"You mean like growing skin to match your genetic makeup and then planting it under a woman's fingernails."
Grace took a sip of juice. "They would have to have a cell to begin with. Even if it wasn't yours, it would have to be a like cell. Otherwise, they would have to resculpture all of your nucleotides, or most of them, and that would be an incredible chore. Even if they could change the nucleotides and the orders, with the machinery they have now it would destroy the cell. Supercomputers have come a long way, but...a nano manipulator would be the only way to make changes on that level without killing the organism."
Dana felt defeated. "Nano tech is not there yet."
"It's more likely that they have some of your blood or tissue and cloned it. I assume they took blood every so often and you had physicals in prison."
"The real question is, who would do this to you?"
"I have a few enemies." And that was the end of the conversation.
As soon as they had made it through the reef channel, Dana found a calm inlet into the mainland and anchored. Then she went below deck, where Grace was reading a pocket version of Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself."
"I'm going to take a nap. Wake me up in a few hours, and I'll make dinner," she said a little gruffly.
Dana crawled into bed facing the wall. A few minutes later she was joined by Grace.
"Dana," Grace said softly, "I'm sorry for hurting your feelings earlier."
"I told you, I don't have feelings."
"Yes, you do." A soft hand slid across Dana's belly. Breath warmed her ear. "Turn over," she commanded softly.
"No," Dana answered.
Grace gently prodded her waist and forced her onto her back. She rose up over the long, brooding form and raised her hand to turn the averted face toward her. Dana felt warm from the hand touching her body and the intensity in the green eyes drawing her out.
"You're way out of my league, you know?"
"Do you know what women do together?"
"Yes. But knowing doesn't make me any good at it." A foreign finger traced her lower lip while she spoke.
"It's not something I'm worried about," Grace whispered as she leaned in and captured the soft lips with hers. Boy, she had wanted to do that again all day. She let her tongue run across the lips and opened her mouth slightly. Dana parted hers as well, and tentatively her tongue came out to meet Grace. A few touches and they retreated to Grace's mouth to slide against each other. Legs began to do the same. Grace was sucking on Dana's tongue when she felt the strong hands brush against her nipples through her shirt. Okay, Dana, you're doing great, she thought.
Despite the heat between her legs and the urge to touch more of Grace's body, the nausea quickly arose again into Dana's throat. She pushed Grace away abruptly and sprang to her feet.
Grace fell back on the cushions and blew out her frustrations. A few minutes later Dana returned as white as a sail, her face wet from a cold sweat. She lay down on the mattress, exhausted.
A soft hand took hers and held it. "Go to sleep, Dana," Grace said softly.
Grace spent the evening reading and did not bother to wake Dana, eventually crawling in bed next to her until the next morning.
Dana spent the following morning searching the various databases of contractors and government facilities specializing in biological cloning techniques that she had found the previous day in order to find a recent case trial that matched her blood type and sex. The government required all genetic manufacturing to be documented within the private companies but available for government oversight. After finding twenty thousand hits, she narrowed her search to skin cultures. She was surprised to find that nearly three-quarters of trials were skin cultures. She narrowed it down again by searching using her penitentiary identification number and her Social Security number as well. When she was finished, she had come up with two trials at two separate medical facilities, one that matched her Social Security number and one her prison identification number, both of which had been used when labeling samples of blood while she was in York. After downloading the files pertaining to the trials--she knew a little about hacking herself--she looked around to see what Grace was doing. When she discovered her sunning herself, she went back below deck and began working on her programs.
"What are you doing?" Grace asked as she came down following an urgent need to eat.
Out of habit, Dana flipped her screen closed.
Grace smiled at her friend's sudden secretiveness. "That must be top-secret stuff you're working on."
"No." She would not call it that.
"Can I see?"
Dana hesitated, then peeked at the screen to make sure the browsing application had closed. When she was assured it was safe, she handed the computer over.
Grace flipped the screen up and was not shocked to find a password-input window, on a black background.
Dana reached over and punched in her password. Grace dragged her finger across the pad until the cursor rested on the icon of a black dog. She tapped twice, and the machine barked at her, and then a user interface flashed to the screen, prompting her for another password.
"What is this?"
"It's a program I'm writing that simulates the pathology of a dog for veterinary purposes so that they can conduct experimental clinical research electronically. Normally, research takes months or years. This can speed up the trials to within minutes, or days, based on the supercomputer speed and complexity of the experiment."
"I have them for all sorts of animals: cats, horses. I started with rats."
"What about humans?"
"I have one of those too."
"I'd like to see it."
Dana reached over and quit the dog-simulation program. She found herself dizzyingly close to Grace and leaned away to catch her breath. She hit two keys to activate the voice commands. "Open Imma."
"Hello, Doc," a sexy alto voice greeted as the user interface logon came on. "What would you like to do with me today?" it asked.
Dana's face began to burn.
"What exactly does this program do for you?" Grace asked, amusement in her voice.
Dana turned her flushed face to the doctor and cleared her throat. "You can give Imma a disease that I have programmed and try different approaches to curing it. Or you can have normal pathology and simulate what might happen when you introduce certain molecular compounds, such as drugs or toxins."
"What kinds of diseases?"
"Everything from a cold to certain cancers. I start by changing the cellular chemistry that creates the proteins and hormones, depending on the nature of the disease: mutational, bacterial, or viral. Of course, it depends on the pathology of the disease and how the chemical imbalances within the intertwined system of the body affect each other. The program monitors the bodily functions by simulating medical tests from blood pressure to lumbar taps. Want to try it?"
"New User, Imma," Dana commanded. "New ID 'Doctor Wilson,' Password 'Good Samaritan.'"
"I would have preferred 'My Lover.'"
Dana cleared her throat and was about to speak. She then hit the toggle switch for the keyboard board. "You can change your password yourself," she said, her lip curling up the right side of her face in a half-smile.
Grace tapped her name and password in.
"Hello, Doctor Wilson. What would you like to do with me today?"
"Jealous?" she asked Dana.
Dana shook her head, still smiling.
"Whose voice is that?"
"Some babe who read the dictionary on the Web. I downloaded her bytes and fed it into my computer. I think it gives her character."
Grace used a series of pull-down menus to choose Imma's age, weight, and ethnicity. Then she chose a disease and began to treat it with a series of drugs from a choice of aspirin to the latest cancer drugs, and the computer monitored her progress. She also was able to vary the dosages and the frequency.
"Can you perform surgery?"
"No, that would be a virtual program, and I don't do virtual. I'm not really a programmer; I focus more on problem-solving. Rachel is the programming whiz."
"But you wrote these yourself?"
"Yep. I pulled most of the medical information out of the government's Human Body Project, and I try to update it with any new postings that they publish as to new drugs or some new cellular chemistry they discover. I think it's as accurate as our knowledge is. But this is mainly for internal medicine." The base program, not very slick, had originally been written for nano technological warfare, but she did not want to tell Grace about that, not yet.
Grace chose a new disease while Dana made lunch. Imma had a bad case of diabetes mellitus and had not been eating properly. She complained to Grace of headache, nausea, and stomach cramps, as if she were a real patient sitting on a gurney in the ER. After a good half-hour of trying various treatments, Imma eventually grew better.
"Med schools would eat this up."
"Nothing replaces personal care, Grace. You should know that."
"That's true, but starting students in their second year with this would be great. And think of the implications in fields like pharmaceuticals and biomedical research. And if you could create one for surgery or ER Trauma, you'd be a millionaire."
"I don't want to be a millionaire."
"You're missing my point. This thing has potential. Why is it sitting on your laptop?"
Dana took the laptop from her hands and began to shut down the controls. She placed a plate with chicken and peppers in a tortilla in front of Grace. "I'm not sure the world is ready for it. And technically, I do not keep anything on my hard drive. I download all of my programs from a remote server." She put the computer away and returned to the galley for her own plate.
"I could help you with a trauma version if you're interested."
Dana had not thought about working with anyone else, but the idea of spending time with this woman appealed to her immensely. She moved over to her own bench and sat down with a plate. "That's a hands-on program, and I told you, I don't do virtual."
Hands-on, Grace was discovering, was very difficult for Dana to handle. "You will just have to learn something new," she said, moving over and sitting on Dana's lap. "Learn where to put your hands and how to touch." She took hold of the large, tough hand and slid it up her body to gently cup her breast. She moved it around in a small circle as her nipple hardened beneath her shirt. Dana felt her own breath quickening and her throat beginning to parch. Grace leaned forward and began to softly brush the long neck with her lips, gently sucking and releasing, then moving slightly higher to repeat the action until Dana could no longer breathe enough or keep herself from moaning. Her other hand had found the other breast on its own and was circling. When Grace reached the tender parted lips, she placed a small kiss on them. "Lesson One is over," she said, mimicking Imma's sexy voice. She slid off Dana's lap and sat down to consume the burrito. "After lunch I thought we could do that shopping you promised."
"Right. Shopping," Dana repeated, in an aroused haze.
"What's it like out there?" Dana asked, following her up the stairs after lunch. It had begun to drizzle lightly as the storm finally found them again. "Yuk, shopping it is," she said, grabbing her slicker and handing it to Grace to wear. "Come on, Rip, we're going ashore." She beckoned the dog from the stern. She then pulled on a wool sweater and placed a red wool ball cap on her dark head.
The shops of Freeport were as packed as they had been for over a century. People were always trying to get out of paying taxes, and Freeport summoned the "Live Free or Die" pilgrims in droves. The couple stayed on the main strip themselves, where they could walk through the mist from store to store. Using her credit card, Grace bought herself a few pairs of slacks and sweaters, her own slicker, and two dresses she could not live without. Then they went to the shoe store, and Dana found herself with her arms full.
"Want to eat?" Dana asked as a last resort, exhausted.
"Okay," a perky Grace.
"Let's take these things to the boat, and then I'll make arrangements to take you to the best food in town."
"Do we get to dress up?"
"It's usually casual. But if you want to dress up, we can go for low-quality food and high price."
"Good food," Grace said.
Thank heaven, Dana thought.
Dana took a few minutes once they reached the boat to rest her feet. She hated shopping, which was why her clothes had not been replaced in three years. Grace had insisted on her purchasing several new pairs of jeans, a black sweater, shoes, and underwear. Dana had at least been allowed to pick out what she bought, although she had a clothing quality-assurance rep overseeing her final purchases. All had been her choice, except for a large, black leather jacket that Grace had insisted on buying for her. When she held it up to Dana's chest, green eyes sparkled for some mysterious reason, and Grace found herself practically swooning.
"So what kind of food does this restaurant serve?" Grace asked Dana, who was lying on deck next to Rip, listening to the waves lap against the fiberglass hull. Grace was sitting Indian-style next to her, munching on pretzelsticks.
"It's not a restaurant. It's the home of my dad's old business partner."
Grace eyed her with interest.
"They owned several fishing boats together. After Dad died, he brought the boats up here and re-established himself. It was hard for him, staying in Conn after Dad died. And the fishing is better here." She pulled the brim of her cap down further over her face.
"What happened?" Grace ventured carefully.
Dana lifted her bill up and studied her friend for a sad moment. "You read my file."
"A file doesn't tell the whole story--at least that's what you told me. Was business bad?"
"No." Dana hid beneath her hat.
"Do you know why?"
"He wasn't happy, I guess. He didn't talk much to me, but I figured it had to do with Ruth leaving him. He thought he had failed her and couldn't live with it. He was a good man, Grace, and I don't want to talk about this anymore."
Grace nodded her understanding.
Grace wore her new dress to Tony Pole's house even though Dana had told her she could wear jeans if she wanted to. They were greeted at the door of the gray shingled cape by one of the largest men Grace had ever met. Tony was a six-foot-eight block of meat. He had a white, fluffy beard that wrapped around his jaw, no mustache, and dark-brown eyes. Dana looked like a shrimp compared to him, and Grace an ant. After the initial hugs and squeezes, Tony led them into his cedar-paneled study, decorated with scrimshaw and wooden model tall ships. He excused himself to tell his wife that the guests had arrived. Grace leisurely walked around the warm room, which had a fire burning in the stone hearth. She stopped and studied a shelf of framed pictures.
"Wow, is this hunk your dad?" Grace asked, holding up a picture of a dark-haired, blue-eyed man and a young Dana, both in yellow weather gear, standing in front of a white fishing troller. "He's so handsome. And he looked happy."
Dana leaned over to study the photograph in Grace's hands. "They had just bought their second boat together."
"How old were you?"
"Seven, eight." Dana shrugged. "I was so proud of him."
"You look like him."
Dana looked at the picture for a moment, a sad smile passing over her face. "Ruth used to think so too, but then she realized he wasn't going to be wealthy. She had always wanted that country club membership." Dana took the picture out of Grace's hands and replaced it on the shelf.
Tony re-entered the room, his eyes flitting on Dana, a love passing at the sight of his best friend's daughter.
"Tony, does Fuzzy need any help in the kitchen?" Dana asked, needing to leave the room full of her father.
"You have to ask her. She doesn't tell me that stuff."
Dana smiled at his gruffness and left the room to find his wife, Fuzzy.
"You know, I haven't seen her in over a year?" he said to the cute blonde admiring his scrimshaw pipes.
"She's certainly on the go all the time."
"How long have you known her?"
"A couple of months."
"Well, I'm glad she's making friends. I worry about her. She's had a rough time of it."
"That's an understatement."
Tony sat in a large leather chair and urged Grace into the one next to him facing the fire. She slid into the soft leather. "What's your line of work, little lady?" Every lady, even Dana, was little to him.
"I'm a doctor."
"Of that physics stuff too?"
"No, I'm a medical doctor."
Grace smiled at the term her father used to describe the profession.
"Did you know doctors were not considered gentlemen in Colonial times but rather skilled workers like blacksmiths?"
"All it took to be a gentleman in those days, Mr. Pole, was land ownership, not skill or social relevance."
Ooh, she'd brought a smart one. "Want a drink?"
"Absolutely. Can I ask you a question?"
"Go for it, kiddo."
"How come you didn't take Dana in after her father died?"
He studied her a moment as he poured her a whiskey. "Dmitri left no will, so when her mother refused to take her, she was made a ward of the court. I had a few DWIs, and my petition was turned down by the Board."
"I'm sorry, I was...Dana doesn't like to talk about herself."
"It's okay, hon."
"How does a mother refuse to take her own daughter?"
"Ruth didn't want anything to do with her past life. She had a new husband, two babies."
"That's no excuse."
"I think it's criminal what she did."
They sipped their Canadian whiskey in silence and watched a log burn.
"You know, it touches me that she still comes to see me, and brings her friend. I feel blessed."
Fuzzy set out a perfect Maine seafood dinner of lobster bisque, clam fritters, and a fillet of sole that melted on the tongue. Halfway through dinner, the front door opened and a cool breeze blew through the house.
"Ma!" a deep voice bellowed from the foyer.
Dana's eyes twinkled.
"In here, baby!" Fuzzy yelled.
Loud footfalls echoed through the hallway headed toward the dining room. Then a mountain in the form of a man filled the doorway.
"Booger!" Dana exclaimed and walked over, wrapping her arms around the thick torso. He squeezed her back, lifting her off her feet, his long, brown hair falling into his face.
"Hey, Shrimp. Long time." He finally put her down. "Oooh, I'm in time for dinner."
Dana patted his stomach. "Still don't miss a meal, I see."
Grace was shocked at his All-American good looks and easy demeanor. He didn't look like a "Booger."
"Booger, this is Grace," Dana said, introducing her to the man. He reached his huge hand out and Grace hesitated. With a name like Booger, one could not help wondering where his hand had been. Eventually she shook it, and they settled down to eat.
Booger and Tony spent the hour talking to Dana about the past season's fishing and the acquisition of another boat but the lack of an adequate captain. Grace thought it was a job proposal to Dana, but Dana only smiled and listened intently.
Fuzzy was kept busy refilling their plates and cracking up the group with one-liners, and eventually she was urged by Dana and Booger into reciting dirty limericks. Grace never knew so many words rhymed with "bucket."
"I had the most wonderful evening," Grace said as they climbed into the cockpit from the dinghy. "Great food, great company, and I even got a little insight into your childhood shenanigans. And I met Booger."
Dana followed the chatty woman below deck, glad that she had enjoyed herself but a little hesitant about having opened up, even to Grace. Doing this, bringing her on a cruise, falling in love with her went against everything she had promised herself she would never do.
"Do you know what would make this day even better?"
"Let me guess," Dana said with a mischievous half-grin. She put a pot of water on the stove to boil.
"It's not tea, Dana."
"I don't want to ruin your perfect night, "Dana said seriously.
"You mean by puking when I touch you?"
"Yeah," Dana said, with a little laugh over how this woman had such a way with cutting through the niceties.
"I have a theory about that," she said.
The water was boiling, and Dana placed tea bags into mugs and poured hot water over them. She handed a mug to Grace. "You have a theory about my impromptu emesis?"
"But as a good scientist, I need to see if I can disprove it, if you're a willing test subject."
Dana warily looked at her over her mug. "What is this theory?"
Grace carried her mug into the forward cabin. "I can't tell you without possibly skewing the results. Come find out," she said, taking off her coat and clothes until she was sitting on the bed in her brassiere and underwear. Dana closed the companionway, cracked the windows, and climbed on the bed next to her, her eyebrow stuck in her bangs.
Grace took her mug from her and placed it on the shelf next to her own. Dana pulled off her sweater and jeans until she was in her white cotton T-shirt and underwear as well. Grace surveyed the cut of muscle and legs for several seconds, then lay back on the bed. "Tell me, Dana." Her voice was deeper and husky, causing the strangest sensation in Dana's chest. "What would you like to do?"
Dana leaned on her side, propping herself up on her elbow, and thought really hard about how to answer that question. Her eyes roamed the attractive body lying next to her.
"Would you like to touch me?"
"So why don't you?"
"Touch me," she commanded in a whisper, taking the larger, coarser hand and placing it on her naked side. Dana let her hand wander over the body, checking the round, fair face periodically for signs of distaste, but she saw only enjoyment, and that encouraged her. She moved to a kneeling position and allowed both hands to explore the legs and belly and shoulders beneath her. When Grace took her hand and ran it over her breast, Dana began to hyperventilate. Grace let go of her hand and unlatched her bra so that she could remove it. She placed Dana's hand on her bare breast again and moved it so that it rubbed her hardening nipple. "Would you like to kiss it?"
"Don't be shy, Dana. I want you to."
Tentatively, Dana leaned forward, placing her mouth on the skin.
"Use your tongue--it feels good when you do," Grace kibitzed. Blue eyes watched the reaction of the face as she used her tongue on the hard nipple. The groan urged her onward. She moved over to the other breast and performed a repetition of the previous act, getting similar results. O-da-lally, she thought to herself. Grace had taken hold of her hand and led it down her belly to a more sensitive area, about the size of a quarter. Dana slid her fingers over the soft, damp material of Grace's underwear. It was only a matter of time before her hand was inside the material, stroking her. She formulated through a posteriori analysis that certain areas elicited different responses, as did different pressures and directions of movement. When she began to test the dynamic relationship between the oral effects on her breast with the digital impetus on her groin, she was astounded by the assortment of groans, moans, jerks, and grinds she produced, not to mention wetness. Oh, yes, she thought, as she sucked hard on a nipple and slid a finger deep into Grace. She had a sense as to what the petting was doing to the woman. As the intensity grew for Grace, Dana watched in wonder. When she felt the muscles grab her fingers and saw Grace stiffen in spasms of release, she was a little concerned and withdrew her hand and released the breast.
"Are you okay, Grace?" she asked the sweating woman.
Grace's arm was over her eyes, and she began to laugh. "Very okay," she answered breathlessly.
"It sounded like it hurt."
Grace lifted her arm and looked at the woman sitting up watching her with such concern. "It feels really, really good, Dana. Haven't you ever had one?"
"You mean climbing to the top of a cliff and then having someone push you over the edge?"
"Never mind, just the way I've seen it described. I figured it hurts when you land. But, no, I have never had that pleasure. I've been kind of turned off by those kinds of thoughts."
"You aren't now?"
"Mmmmmmmmm," Dana mumbled, lying down next to the naked woman, her underwear pushed down around her ankles when the touching became intense.
"You have a gentle touch," the doctor said, running a finger up her arm.
"I think it's psychopathic to push someone off a cliff."
"Different strokes for different folks."
"You mean not everyone likes it around and around?"
Grace began to laugh and leaned over and softly kissed the full red lips.
"So, what was your theory?" Dana asked, slipping her legs under the covers.
Grace followed her example, the air in the cabin beginning to chill. "My theory? Yes, my theory. You don't like to be dominated physically. It turns you off."
Dana slid closer and wrapped a long arm around her new lover, kissing her shoulder and nestling into the crook of her neck. "Do you want to push me over the edge, Grace?" she mumbled into the silky, herbal-smelling hair.
"It has crossed my mind, a few hundred times," Grace said, running her fingers up the strong forearm that held her.
"I'm not ready."
"I know," was the quiet reply.
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