Chapter 38: Muscles & Mussels
About an hour later, we arrived at the Bullfrog Marina, one of the major landings on Lake Powell, the first- or second-largest reservoir in the US, its place switching with Nevada’s Lake Mead depending on water demands, rainfall, droughts, and such. Lake Mead has a higher maximum capacity, but these pressures prevent either reservoir from filling to that maximum level.
We’d come to the marina because there was a place here that would rent us the two-person kayak we’d use as transport for the next few days. We pulled in, did the paperwork, and loaded the kayak into the FJ’s bed, strapping it down lightly with a ratchet strap set I keep in the cab. Then we drove down to the marina proper, found a parking spot, lowered the kayak back to the ground behind the truck’s rear bumper, and began loading our gear into its cargo holds.
We strapped our largest bags in the open cargo areas at the bow and stern, having taken out everything that couldn’t withstand an accidental dunking. That left our clothing, which we didn’t expect to find much use for over the next few days anyway, and our camping food, which was protected from water in individual vacuum-sealed bags.
There were a few small water-resistant compartments along the boat’s keel between the inner and outer hulls for things we wanted protected from water. A few of the things we stored in them we put into dry bags as double protection, such as our smartphones.
When the boat had all our stuff in it, we put on the life vests we’d also rented, locked the truck and began hauling the laden watercraft out to the dock by the nylon straps at bow and stern, slipping it easily into the water alongside the dock. I climbed gingerly into the rear of the craft, being tall and ungainly, followed by Kaitlyn, small and gracile.
“Anywhere in particular you want to go?” I called forward to her.
“Let’s head for that point of land over there,” she suggested, pointing.
“Fine, but let’s go along near the shore to start. Powerboat wakes could swamp us.”
“Right,” she agreed, pushed us away from the dock, and began paddling.
“Did you see that sign back there about invasive mussels?” I asked once we’d gotten out away from the chugging of motors near the marina.
“Yeah, I’ve seen them before, too. It’s a real problem,” opined Kaitlyn.
“I’m not sure what our position on them should be as Gaia’s servants,” I replied, less certain. “I mean, on the one hand, we should be out to protect life, but on the other, the mussels are life. We got to this point in human history through all kinds of species invasions. It’s part of how evolution proceeds: a species gets pressured to move into a new territory, and those individuals within that species that have mutations favorable to the move survive in that new territory. Should we meddle with that?”
“But they’re invasive! They’re killing off local fish!” Kaitlyn objected.
“So are we, on both counts. Do we exterminate the human species, too?”
“Well, no…” she replied.
I didn’t capitalize on my advantage, just gave her the time to come up with a better argument.
“I think I read in the paper that they’re clogging water inlets into filtration plants,” she said several strokes later.
“It’s probably the inconvenience to the power plants that’s really driving the panic,” I replied cynically. “Boo hoo, we’re big business and it’s actually costing us money to make money.”
“That logic works the same on municipal water-works, too,” she pointed out.
“I suppose. I just don’t much like the idea of working to ‘fix’ nature for the convenience of industry, whether taxpayer funded or not. That sort of logic is what gives us clear-cutting of the Amazon rain forest.”
“Yeah. I dunno, Davie, I guess I just don’t see a world with zebra mussels pushing out local fauna as an improvement over what we already had. You speak of evolution, but it wasn’t evolution that brought the mussels here, it was humans. It’s our problem: we need to fix it.”
“Fair point,” I replied. Several strokes later, I said, “I wanted to show you that magical scuba trick anyway.”
“Ooh, fun!” she said and began bouncing in her seat, sending water splashing away from the gunwales, threatening to tip us.
“Settle down there, bouncy one!” I cautioned gently.
She rocked the boat several more times defiantly, turning to show me a toothy grin.
I just shook my head and paddled onward.
Once we’d gotten far enough from shore to be just small blobs to the nearest potential onlookers, Kaitlyn unclasped her life vest, took off her tee shirt, put the life vest back on, and carefully scooched her shorts off, stowing her clothing in a small section of the dry storage between the hulls and strapping her Tevas onto one of the boat’s tie-points. I followed suit once she’d finished, and we paddled on.
I was tempted to do without the vest on the calm lake waters, but I knew that was temporary. It’d last only until some yo-yo in a power boat or jet ski came too close and sent us on an artificial roller. Just as with the guy who’d kicked my bike over several months ago, I suspected there were a few around on this lake who’d do that just for funzies.
When we got to the narrowest point of the lake across from the spit of land Kaitlyn had selected, we turned at a 90 degree angle across the lake towards it, hoping to get across before any such people came roaring down the lake. Thankfully, we were able to make it.
Back along the spit of land, we found a semi-private cove which would be protected from the wakes. There was a small beach, and up on a low cliff there was a small camp site complete with a fire pit someone else had dug and lined with stone.
“It’s perfect,” I said. “Did you know this was here?”
“No, but there’s a fair amount of this sort of thing all around the lake. I was looking for a type of place, rather than a specific one. This just looked likely.”
“Glad I brought along an experienced guide, then.”
“That’ll be two pesos,” she replied.
“How ’bout two fingers?” I bargained.
“I’ll bank that,” she said, accepting my offer.
We paddled fast toward the shore, using our inertia to jam the nose of the kayak up onto the sand far enough that Kaitlyn was able to get out and grab hold of the bow’s carry handle before the lake’s desultory current and bobbing wavelets could work the kayak loose again. I climbed out behind her and helped her pull the boat most of the way up onto the shore where we tied it to a stunted juniper tree.
Tossing my life vest in the boat, I said, “Let’s go swimming!”
Kaitlyn smiled and unbuckled her vest, freeing her bouncy 34Cs.
We slipped into the water like homesick otters, swimming and splashing. To call it skinny-dipping is to miss the point: it was two natural humans swimming in a lake. To focus on our nudity would be as ridiculous as focusing on what clothes the lake’s fish were wearing.
The water this time of year is about as warm as it ever gets, a bit above room temperature, still cold enough to sap a swimmer’s energy, since water cools a body more efficiently than air. It’s about ten degrees colder even than a typical swimming pool.
Some half an hour later, we pulled ourselves out of the semiprivate cove we’d discovered and lay upon our tiny beach in a patch of sun to dry off.
“We’ll be going back in soon,” I informed Kaitlyn.
“Let me warm up first,” she complained.
“Ah, but that’s the trick: part of magical scuba is magical wetsuit! We’ll be as warm as we want to be down there.”
“Tempting, Davie, but I still want to soak up the sun here while we have it.”
That’s the main problem with small semiprivate coves: they imply nearby cliffs, which means you get sun for at most half of the day, and then only if your cove is lined up with the sun’s track across the sky. Ours faced northwest across the water, so we had only a tiny window of sun down at the waterline. Our cove gave us a fairly easy climbing path up to the top of the cliff along the shore where we’d have sun all day long, but could we get away with being naked up there? Maybe we’d dare that tomorrow.
After I’d turned myself a few times to bake out the chill, I got up and announced, “All right, up and at it. Your lessons await, young shishya!”
She grumbled, so I said, “Walk in or I throw you in.” She stuck her tongue out at me, but she followed me back down into the water.
“All right, so you know how to pull a bubble around yourself to redirect light, creating invisibility,” I stated, and Kaitlyn nodded affirmatively. I went on, “The wet suit part of magical scuba is the same idea, only you’re pushing out a bubble along your skin for holding air. Your body warms the thin air pocket, keeping you from getting too cold in the water. You regulate your temperature by modulating the thickness of the bubble to match the flow of heat into it from your body as a function of how much exercise you’re doing, balancing the amount of heat lost to the water by how cold it is and how fast it’s moving.”
I waited for another sign that she understood, got another nod, and said, “Slip into trance so you can watch me weave it.”
Once I felt her magical presence join me, I continued, “This is a rather strange spell to weave, Kaitlyn. Unlike the light redirection bubble of invisibility, you don’t weave it entirely around yourself and then let it shrink in upon you. If you did that, you’d quickly smother yourself once you’d breathed up all of the oxygen in the bubble, which isn’t much, on purpose.” She cocked her head in partial understanding but didn’t interrupt. I went on, “Instead…how to describe it? Imagine putting on a sock, except that it fits your entire body.”
“A bodystocking,” she put in. “It’s a type of leotard or lingerie.”
“Yeah, I think I’ve seen the sort of things you’re talking about,” I admitted. “Anyway, here’s the weird bit: you weave it from the top downward! You have to push a bubble of air from the surface of the water down around your body until it all meets down around your feet and crotch and such. Watch.” I then produced the effect I’d described then said, “Now you try.”
Up around the surface of the water where it touched her body, I saw a thin dip in the water, then watched the silvery air interface expand over her body, cupping its shapes intimately.
“Gorgeous!” I breathed, and she smiled at me in triumph. “Now, you can choose to stop the spell as far up your body as you’d like. Somewhere up your neck is my advice. Try that, and we’ll swim around a bit to get you used to it.”
We got right back to our earlier play, only this time we were as warm as we wanted to be. Kaitlyn caught right onto the trick of adjusting the air bubble’s thickness to control temperature.
“It’s useful, Davie, but it doesn’t feel as good as cool water on naked skin.”
“I agree, so next we add the piece that makes it really useful: the head bubble. You can do this one of two ways. You can make it so big that you simply don’t run out of available air. This is fine if you’re just diving briefly. A good rule of thumb is that you need the bubble to be as big as your lungs for each lungful of air you want to take along with you. If you can hold your breath for two minutes and need to be down for ten, you need a bubble four times bigger than your lungs.”
“Five,” she corrected.
I shook my head and repeated, “Four. You’ve already got one set of lungs there behind those lovely breasts.”
“Oh, right!” she said, enlightenment dawning.
I resumed, “Such big bubbles are hard to magic up, hard to maintain, and they’re a drag on you while swimming, so if you need more than a few lungfuls of air, I recommend the trickier way, where you change the bubble’s interface from a simple passive forcefield to allow molecular exchange. This is one of those things that’s best done just watching me through the Gaia bond, Kaitlyn. Observe.”
I pulled a tight bubble of air over my head, scarcely thicker than the one I had over my body. Then, as I breathed up the partial lungful of oxygen I’d captured, I concentrated on the barrier and set up billions of little exchange points, outbound ones that selected for CO₂ and inbound ones for atmospheric O₂ and N₂, the inbound ones set in a 78/20% proportion to maintain normal amounts of oxygen in my bloodstream.
Once I had the basic setup complete, I then spoke loudly enough to get through the interfering layers of the bubble, “I had to do that last transform fast to avoid suffocating myself, but watch this bit down near my neck, which I left unchanged. I’ll do that last little bit much slower so you can see the details. Follow along on your own magical wetsuit when you start to get the idea; you don’t need gas exchange in the wet suit, but until you get the skill down, it’s risky to do it to a bubble over your head.”
I proceeded to demonstrate the trick of setting up the gas diffusion exchange points, then watched as Kaitlyn first set them up individually in her wet suit, then developed the skill into a repeating pattern that would continue over an area she concentrated on as long as she kept feeding in magical energy.
“Good!” I congratulated her once she’d converted about a square inch of the suit’s surface. “In principle, you could pull that suit up over your head once you had enough of it exchanging gas to counterbalance how much you breathe, but I find it simpler to maintain two very different spells, one for my body and one for my head. Do it my way until you get the trick of it; this is a potentially deadly spell, Kaitlyn, so I don’t want you innovating on it until you develop enough skill that you can get yourself quickly out of any trouble you may get into.”
“Yes, my guru,” she replied seriously.
“One advantage of the separate spells is that you can dispel one while keeping the other, so you can keep your magical wet suit on while you get rid of the head piece as soon as you hit the surface of the water.”
“Sensible,” she agreed.
Perhaps half an hour of practice later, I said, “I think you’re fast enough now that you can weave the head piece without smothering yourself. Give it a shot. I’ll be ready to dispel it if you struggle, but I think you’ve got this.”
Kaitlyn took a deep breath, pushed a thick air bubble over her head from neck to crown, mashing her spiky short auburn hair down, then got a look of intense concentration on as she raced to put enough gas diffusion points into the membrane that she could breathe freely. Her face began to ease, then to brighten. “I’ve got it, Davie! I’ve got it!”
“I see that. Now here’s the really cool bit: the design of those gas exchange points also works underwater!” I then let my knees buckle and sunk to the bottom of the shallow part of the lake near our camp site, fluttering my arms upward to counteract my buoyancy, which was higher than normal with the extra skin of air around me. When I got to the bottom of the lake, I grabbed a stone I found nearby and set it down in my lap, holding me to the bottom.
I was sufficiently quick at this that I was at the bottom for several seconds before Kaitlyn got the courage to follow me, slipping under the surface of the water along with me. When she got to the bottom, I passed her my rock, gave her the ‘one second’ sign and swam off to find another rock, walking it back across the bottom of the lake towards her, then sat down in front of her.
Kaitlyn beamed at me, clearly delighted with this new game.
Then I stood and began walking away across the floor of the lake, churning up the organics-laden silt, waving her along with me. We walked along enough that I could see that her gas exchangers were operating efficiently enough to keep up with this level of exercise. I increased the level slowly, eventually to the point that we began swimming around with our rocks in tow, fighting against their drag downward.
Once I was satisfied that Kaitlyn could maintain a high level of metabolic output with her current magical scuba setup, I walked us back through the settling silt clouds near the shore, perhaps 15 feet under the surface of the water where it was still light enough to see but where the two of us would be clearly invisible to anyone except someone looking straight down through the water from the cliffs above us. And we’d be able to see them in turn.
I dropped my rock to the lake floor and then clamped my feet around it, motioning Kaitlyn to do the same. Then I put my hands on her waist and delighted in the look of surprise as she noticed that our suit’s bubbles instantly merged, allowing us to touch each other just as on the surface. I used my grip to lift her up, pulling her away from her rock, mainly just controlling her buoyancy until her hips were at a level with my head. I then gently pulled her legs apart, tilted her backwards, and waited for her to relax, realizing my plan.
Shortly, I felt her legs wrap gently around my head, bringing her nether lips to my own lips, and I began to tongue her gently, hearing her growing cries, attenuated as they were through the air lining her body through to our interface point, and also partly echoing through the water around us.
I caressed her buttocks, ran my hands around her hips, along her outer thighs, back up her inner thighs, across her belly, and down her flanks to cup her buttocks again. All the while, I tongued gently in towards the center. She’d joined me in a Gaia bond by that point, so it became a matter of what we wanted rather than what we separately wanted.
I brought her to a screaming orgasm underwater like that, the sound oddly thin and burbly through the strange media, but the feeling was similar to what we had ashore, differing mainly in the sense of freedom. We were having sex while nearly weightless, something very few people have ever done.
After Kaitlyn calmed, I felt her begin to flex and climb back down my body, hooking her feet under the rock I was using to anchor us to the bottom of the lake. We kissed for a good minute in that position and whispered endearments to each other, able to clearly hear them now that the path from mouth to ears was more direct. The sound echoed strangely inside the bubble, but we understood each other perfectly.
Then Kaitlyn squatted down into a bowlegged pose and pulled my body through the bow until our genitalia were aligned, and she pulled me up into her, pushed me back down, and pulled me back up. We were having vaginal intercourse underwater!
I let Kaitlyn keep control, simply enjoying the sensation of floating weightless as she built me to my own orgasm, our passions mixing through the Gaia bond so that we came to a simultaneous release without planning it consciously at all.
When we’d completed our exertions, she pulled me back into an embrace and we held each other like that under the water, warm and both sexually and socially content, wordless in each others’ arms.
Perhaps ten minutes later, she whispered across the bubble to me, “Wanna go get some mussels for dinner?”
“I got all the muscles I want right here in my arms,” I joked back, sliding my hands down her back and grabbing double handfuls of my favorite muscles, those at the top of the backside of her legs.
Kaitlyn let out a satisfied groan, then said, “C’mon, let’s go take a swim; see what we can see.”
That sparked a thought, so I said, “Hang on, before we go: with the invisibility spell you know how to redirect light, right? It’s a simple application of the same idea to lens light down from the surface to make an impromptu diving light.” I then demonstrated the skill to her, lighting up the lakebed for her.
My light was soon joined by a second, and off we swam, wearing nothing but an air bubble each.
We didn’t find much down there, mainly a lot of lost fishing tackle and snapped fishing line. Ick!
She pulled her head towards me perhaps half an hour later, merging our bubbles and told me, “I realize that I don’t even know what I’m looking for, Davie. Do you?”
“Dumb furriner here,” I said, trying to excuse my ignorance.
“Hmph. Well, we should probably find a ranger and ask them to show us where they’ve been found and what they look like before spending more time on this. Until then, we’re just farting around in the water like turistas.” That sparked a thought, an obvious thought. “What happens if I fart in this magical wetsuit, Davie?”
“It’s trapped until you dispel your wetsuit. Then, hoo-boy!” I replied.
She got a somewhat urgent look on her face, then her look of concern relaxed into her clever-idea face. “I just figured out another good reason for separate body and head spells.” I heard a strange reverberating sound through the water, then I saw her magical wetsuit break up into thousands of bubbles around her nude body, a widening of her eyes and mouth as the shock of the cold water hit her all at once, and then she began stroking for the surface.
I breached shortly after her amidst a froth of smelly bubbles. “The wroth of Ritchie be upon ye, Kaitlyn!” I yelled, but I only got laughter in reply.
We stroked for shore and walked up the sand like some kind of fantasy mer-people. I dropped my bubbles only after I’d fully left the water, leaving me dry. Kaitlyn was wet, but she pulled up a drying sand shower and was soon dried off herself.