Fair and Warmer


5. A Beautiful Girl

He began to feel that she was even beautiful, and as he disintegrated the sheath in order to appreciate her better, he realized that it was undoubtedly the strange endocrine balance he had created in himself that was responsible for the attitude. Because there was nothing particularly well-designed about her. She looked unprepossessingly like a civilized woman, except a good deal fatter in places, which hardly helped matters from an abstract point of view.

Tensor could only assume that his point of view was becoming less abstract.

He observed that, upon his disintegrating the sheath, the noise was there again, issuing rapidly from her mouth, and lacking in detailed semantic significance. It was very curious, he thought, watching the rapid rise and fall of her pink-tipped breasts. He could not determine whether the signal indicated terror or fury.

She solved the problem for him by grasping a small metal object from the rack beside her and throwing it at him. He deflected it to the floor as it left her hand.

"What," he asked politely, "is disturbing you so?" He liked the angry sparkle of her eyes.

"You," she snapped. "Keep away from me."

"I don't understand," he replied, moving closer and reaching out his hand to obtain a tactile sensation of her lovely hair texture. The woman compressed her red lips firmly and stood there, uneasily watching him out of the corner of her eyes as he gently stroked her head.

"Do all females of your race look nice like you?"

She nodded cautiously and said, "More or less."

"Very curious."

A sly expression came to her eyes then and she smiled radiantly. "Look," she said, "would you do me a favor?"

"Of course," Tensor murmured with unaccustomed eagerness. This was a very interesting experience, even though he was constantly having to reinforce and add to the chemical shift in his body in order to hold down the possibility of fatigue. He could not recall ever before permitting such an unusual somatic state.

She gestured guilelessly toward the panel. "Would you help me repair my radio?"

"Radio?" Tensor echoed vacantly, gazing at the place indicated.

"Yes. I--er, have to report to my superiors that I may not be able to return, even tonight." Again she smiled dazzlingly and with devastating effect on Tensor.

"I'd be glad to," he said agreeably. "But I don't know anything about mechanical things. Couldn't you just tell me where your superiors are and let me teleport there? I'd let them know and come right back."

"Oh no," she replied quickly. She frowned a little wistfully. "No," she repeated, "they wouldn't like that. They never like anything easy. And besides--" again the smile "--I might not be here when you return, you know!"

"Oh?" Tensor said, puzzled that she knew that he might be concerned over her absence. Possibly she had some power of direct communication after all.

"It's just those cables that you destroyed over the panel," she told him in a softly cajoling voice. "I have some spares in the locker, and if you would help me replace them, it would be fine."

Tensor floated over and peered into the stumps, examining the composition and structure. He nodded and reconstructed them instantly.

She was obviously delighted and said, "I wondered if you could do that. May I use the radio now?"

Tensor stared at the whiteness of her teeth contrasting pleasingly with the redness of her lips. "Go right ahead," he murmured. He decided he had better leave soon.

He watched as the brilliant spots of color glowed and shifted. She spoke and the panel issued its response. "Control to Scout Three. What happened there a while ago?"

"This is urgent," she said. "Is the Captain there?"

After a noisy hesitation, the panel replied. "This is Commander Carson. What's up out there?"

"Listen carefully," she said. "I have an alien with me on the ship. He's already learned English perfectly. He is only slightly telepathic, so far as I am concerned, but he has great telekinetic powers."

"We were afraid of that. Is he dangerous?"

"Well--he killed Lieutenant Anderson. Completely annihilated her with a simple act of will." She glanced at the bewildered expression on Tensor's face, and favored him with a quick little smile. "He is extremely powerful. He would be a very good friend."

Tensor broke in asking, "What is all this talk now? I do not understand the purpose of it."

"Don't you worry," she murmured softly, reaching up and patting him on the knee. "Just have patience."

The panel rasped at them. "I see. Do you know if there are many of them?"

"He told me it was between thirty and a hundred, but nobody knows for sure. Presumably they don't have very much communication with each other."

"Ah," rasped the panel in a satisfied tone. "Just a minute. I'll get a directive from the Captain for you."

Tensor nodded slightly as he said, "Oh, I see. That is your Council you are talking to."

"Uh huh," she replied, dodging the hand that sought her hair again. She smiled coyly. "Now just wait. I want to hear what my superiors say." She pushed at him playfully, her smile growing strained as she desperately tried to kill time.

Tensor was amused. Yes, he decided, it was time to go. He was not at all sure that he wanted to go, but he felt that it was wise. He had never in his life engaged in such lengthy and violent exercise and was alarmed at the thought of the fatigue pains he would have when he restored his balance to a civilized neutral again.

The panel rasped noisily at them.

"Captain Jonas," it said, speaking in a different accent this time. "There's a war going on and we can't take any chances on how the aliens will feel about it. We have a fix on you and I'm sending a flight of homing missiles. Nuclear warheads."

She stiffened as she heard the sentence, her red lips drawn back from tightly clenched teeth. In a faint voice, she said, "I--I guess there isn't much I can do about it, is there?"

"Can you keep him there and busy so that he won't notice the missiles coming?"

She gave a short, brittle laugh. "Yes sir. I feel fairly sure I can keep him interested for--" she glanced speculatively at Tensor "--a half hour at least. Probably much longer."

"It'll only be fifteen minutes," the panel rasped. "We'll deal with the others as we find them. You will be decorated for this service, even though you are only a civilian. Posthumously, of course."

The panel was silent.

"Oh sure," she said in a deadly quiet voice. "I'm glad to be appreciated."

Tensor was puzzled. The conversation did not appear to make a great deal of sense to him. He hovered over the panel and gazed at it curiously.

"Just another superior," she told him. "It seems that practically everybody is my superior or was." She sighed and looked down at herself, wistfully thinking that it was a shame to have to waste all the carefully nurtured loveliness that she knew she was.

She looked up at Tensor, who had lost interest in the panel and was busily examining the outside in a viewscope.

"Come here, big boy," she said quickly. When he turned to face her, she added, "keep your attention over here."

With an agreeable smile, he floated to her and, in obedience to her directions, lifted her into his arms. She put her lips to his, her hands gently caressing his cheek.

It was a shock. Tensor let out his pent-up breath explosively and ran his tongue over his lips, tasting the mixture of saliva and lipstick. What should have been moderately repulsive to him had been transformed by the chemical sympathy in his veins into something quite overwhelming. His eyes were bright and eager.

"It's a dirty trick and I feel like a jerk," she whispered sadly to him. "But what else can I do?"

"I beg your pardon?" Tensor murmured happily. "I do not understand you."

"Oh well," she breathed softly, smiling a crooked little smile. "Neither one of us will ever know when it happens. A pity to spoil it so soon, though."

In his unaccustomed confusion, Tensor could not follow her thought, but he could grasp the immediate situation. He grinned and nuzzled her affectionately, and decided to stay a while longer.