Issue #33 (May 1984)
Lomendol was tired; her beautiful purple eyes couldn't focus on the directional screen for more than a few seconds at a time. The hyperdrive unit could perhaps keep on going for an eternity, but she needed to rest. The chase she had expected to last no more than two working shifts, had gone on for more than ten. She let her hand rest upon the pilot drive panel, and gave control of the ship to the computer brain. After recording orders to be carried during her rest, she took some well-deserved sleep.
[quoteright]Meanwhile Cothlanur, target of her attention, had decided that it was time to get rid of the annoying persecutor. He thought he could lose his pursuer by hiding somewhere in the uncharted regions of the galaxy. Searching with the aid of the gigantic computer brain that was the core of his spaceship's consciousness, he found a small solar system with several interesting planets. One of the planets seemed able to sustain life like his own. "In fact," he thought while looking closely at the screen that was providing him data on life patterns and ecological conditions, "they already have life similar to ours." Without further delay he gave orders to the computer to take him towards that solar system, specifically to the third planet orbiting the sun.
Lomendol awoke from her sleep rested and ready to continue the hunt. She refreshed herself and took some nourishment, and went back to the control room determined to conclude her task. Looking at the computer screen, she was surprised to notice that the target had entered an unknown part of the galaxy-a solar system out of the way of regularly traveled areas. While scanning the screen, she noticed the target orbiting one of the planets close to the star that gave them life. She smiled knowiugly, "The prey feels safer just before it's caught." She instructed the computer brain to speed up, close on the target, and orbit. Without delay, she picked up a scanning device that would help her track her quarry, boarded a small atmospheric ship and went after him.
Cothlanur found himself in an interesting situation. He had abandoned his landing vehicle in a region covered with rich vegetation and was advancing by foot. He felt the humidity in the air-it was fantastic! That could only mean that the planet was rich in water. He could sense it, he could smell it, it was all around him. It was almost painful to see such abundance of liquid... But his survival instincts were strong enough to pull him away from his water-madness and concentrate on finding a good hiding place. He studied the natives from a distance, and found them surprisingly like himself. He noticed, though, that their style of dressing was very different from his own; they actually used clothing made of natural fibers. He felt hungry and wished he had remembered to pick up some rations before abandoning ship. Of course, if this planet could sustain life like his own, their nourishment needs might be similar to his. On his birth planet, water had always been extremely rare and expensive. In fact, his crime had been stealing a gallon of the precious water. Although his body needed a great amount of water, its scarcity had forced his people to use technology to survive with just a few drops at a time. A few moments afterwards Cothlanur came to a small strip of running water. He couldn't believe it. Running water! How extraordinary! He had sensed the moisture richness of the planet as soon as he came off his vehicle, but never expected to see water running on the ground. It was actually free-no guards, no fences, no containers... For a moment he paused, thinking it might be poisonous; then he saw some animals drinking farther away from him. They were drinking the shining, transparent, delicious water. Thinking it would also be safe for him, he got on his knees and immersing his hands in the crystalline, delicious liquid, he drank a whole mouthful. What a marvelous sensation, what a sinful delight! And if he wanted he could take another mouthful, and another, and another... Forgetting caution, he drank his fill of the delightful, refreshing and marvelous water. "What an irony," he thought, "becoming a fugitive for stealing some water, and in the process of escaping, discovering water in such abundance as would have made crime unnecessary." He was feeling happy, satisfied, and tired from the long hike, and decided to rest for a while. He found a secluded spot under a tree by the side of the water and lying down, still feasting his eyes on the beloved liquid, he closed his eyes with a smile on his face.
Lomendol was extremely skilled at tracking outlaws. Especially dangerous ones like the one she was after right now. If people could get away with the horrible crime this renegade had committed, their whole world would be doomed. She kept on scanning the area for signs of his presence. As soon as she got off her landing ship the rich humidity of the environment impregnated her body with a sensuous, caressing feeling. It was an almost sensual sensation of luxurious moisture. Her body's reaction to the presence of water in the air was so strong that she hesitated for a few seconds before she could take control of herself. She forced her subliminal mind to pick up as many details from her surroundings as possible. She perceived the likeness of the natives and the abundance of plants and trees. She found signs of her target, and hastening her step, readied herself for the final attack. She felt stronger than ever the presence of water all around her. She could smell it, she could almost taste it. Suddenly she came to the creek, and couldn't believe her eyes. She saw the incredible ribbon of running water. Across from it she saw the body of what she presumed must be her prey. But all her senses were overwhelmed by the proximity of the tempting water. She couldn't move. Never in her life had she thought of the possibility of seeing running water. Not even in her wildest dreams had the idea of drinking a whole mouthful of the crystalline nectar crossed her mind. It was beyond her capacity to understand. Little by little it dawned on her the amazing reality... Water! Water! Water was there at her feet, running free and wild, with no restraint or measure. Her legs trembling, she lowered her body and drank. Oh, how she drank! The delightful sensation embraced her body and she drank until she could drink no more. Satiated, she focused her attention on her prey, who hadn't moved at all during her water orgy. Without stepping on the precious liquid, she jumped over the creek and walked up to the prostrated figure. To her surprise, her portable scanner indicated that he was dead. She tried to look for wounds that might have caused his demise, but she was feeling tired, and felt the need to rest for just a while. Before she could finish her thoughts, her head was resting on the outlaw's chest, her eyes closed, and her body was filled with such an indescribable sensation of well-being that she couldn't help letting her face relax into a satisfied smile. That is the way they were found later. Their bodies locked into what seemed to be a loving embrace, on their faces expressions of love and happiness despite the cold touch of death. They were buried in the same grave. Because of their small stature and light bones, they were entered in the Register of Burials as Two Stranger Children.
Phyllis is a charming story-teller, is known for her fiery Latin American cooking, and is past Program Chair for SFRM.