A helicopter is not a good place to think. The darn things are just an engine with a giant propeller and the lightest framework possible holding it all together. Even the expensive military ones that are supposed to be stealthy are louder than first-row-center seats at a speed-metal concert. Conversation is possible only if you have on a helmet with a headset, and those are reserved for the crew. Passengers are left to pass notes and make hand-signals in order to communicate.
And so I was puzzled at the way Neeka and Leonora were cheerfully chatting away just a few feet from me. I couldn't hear a single word over the roar of the jet engine behind my head, and my hearing is considerably better than most people's. My eyesight is considerably better too, so I wasn't having any trouble at all seeing Leonora's smile and the way her gray eyes seemed so fascinated with Neeka's mouth.
Duh. She was lip-reading! Of course. She could probably do that trick in several languages. She'd certainly had enough time to practice. And the other part, making herself heard over the roar of the engine, was almost certainly her Voice – something I'd heard her use to excellent effect before. Its attention-riveting, compelling quality would make Marine Corps Drill Instructors envious.
OK, mystery solved. I knew how they were getting on so famously, but I still didn't know what they were talking about – but I just knew it was about me.
"Get a grip, girl," I told myself. "So what if they are talking about you? What have you possibly got to hide from either of those two? Aren't we being just the teensiest bit paranoid? And are we now talking to ourselves? Surely that's the first sign of insanity? Or would that be referring to yourself in the plural?"
I needed some air. Just a short stroll to help me get my head back on straight. I eyed the sliding door – or was it called a hatch? It didn't matter. Stepping out of an aircraft in flight would hardly qualify for the list of Smartest Things I'd Ever Done. Even if I could hold on, I probably wouldn't be able to get my feet down onto the skid. I'd finish the trip waving alongside the helicopter like a flag. I knew they sometimes flew these machines with the doors open so they could shoot out of them, so the wind couldn't be that bad. Still, finding out I was wrong would be a tad embarrassing, if not terminal. I decided that the whole proposition of riding on the outside of an aircraft should be filed under Dumb Ideas and left there.
Having disposed of that momentary distraction, I looked about for something else to occupy my mind. The mental isolation enforced by the incessant drone of the engine seemed to be sending me into a sort of sensory-deprivation funk. I had already begun to question my sanity and we hadn't been in the air that long.
The only other occupant of the compartment was Evan Cochran, a member of the Sigma Seven unit and our regular babysitter. 'Minder' was the official term for it. It meant his job was to keep tabs on us and to act a as buffer between me and anyone who pissed me off in order to avoid potential incidents. He generally vanished after a mission; I supposed back into his normal life, but I didn't really know. I didn't know Evan well at all. He'd probably been warned to keep his relationship with us on a strictly professional level. On this trip, he'd probably been sent to allay any reluctance Neeka might have about getting into a strange black helicopter. With her on board, I could be snatched up quickly. Now that we were airborne, he wore a helmet with goggles and communications gear obscuring his face. I couldn't even tell if he was awake. Just out of curiosity, I smiled at him. A few seconds later his chin rose about an inch and I saw the corner of his mouth not hidden by the microphone curl upward. That meant he'd been passing the time by ogling me, the rascal.
I used to be offended by stuff like that, but that seemed like that was another life. When the helicopter had picked me up, I'd been serving as Town Slut in a mountain crossroad community. Hardly a job for the easily offended. I was even dressed for the part. My present attire of light blue spandex tube-top and white knit short-shorts so thin and close-fitting they looked painted-on had been carefully chosen to advertise my status. I had been planning on rewarding the local High School football team with a locker-room gang-bang. Provided they won, of course. Since they were 14-point underdogs going into the game, I wasn't likely to have to make good on my promise, but I had to act like I expected to anyway. I wanted to be an incentive for our team and perhaps a distraction for their opponents. I didn't think I needed to try to dress provocatively, since a tube-top seemed to be the normal uniform for the job of Slut, with either a micro-skirt or the tight short-shorts I had on. Both were things that I'd brought to relax in, never expecting to wear them in public and certainly not expecting to wear on my other job as Superheroine.
After some of the rather extreme stuff I'd done, I should have been sexually jaded. Being stared at by Evan should have had no effect on me beyond mild, detached amusement. But instead of staying cool and collected and aloof, I felt a surge of warmth go through me, followed by tingling in a certain intimate spot and a pleasant tightness in my breasts as my areolas crinkled and my nipples stiffened. I became acutely aware of my minimal state of dress and how the snug fit of my tube-top was betraying my growing state of arousal. In short, I was acting like a virgin just discovering that her body reacted strongly to masculine attention.
This not entirely unpleasant situation is because my ability to change my physiology at will is paired with the self-image I had when I gained it. Every time I Change and then Change back, the 'back' I change into is a version of 'me' from sometime after puberty but before I started to become The Dragon. The down-side to my body being reset in this way is that I regain my virginity in the process ... with all that implies. I easily hold the World Record for being deflowered, a painful event that every girl but me only has to endure once. In view of that, it's hardly surprising that pain and pleasure for me are very close and often merge into a single sensation. A highly pleasurable sensation at that, which partially explains why I tend to engage in that extreme stuff I mentioned.
There is a school of thought that some of my more self-destructive behavior could be more simply explained as a psychological problem stemming from the fact that almost every day I had my nose rubbed in evidence that I wasn't the person I thought I was, that I was someone ... something ... completely different and I was terrified of finding out where this was all going, so I took suicidal risks. Or not.
The psychobabble explanation was something that Neeka and Mom kept bringing up to comfort me. But all I heard out of all that was that I was probably crazy; like that was in any way news to me. I had gone off on the vacation that the helicopter pick-up had interrupted so I could spend a quiet week trying to come to terms with my fears. Only instead of making any headway with my head, I'd discovered that there were a good number of people just as crazy as I was and even some who made me look like a paragon of sanity and normalcy.
I'd also found someone who'd had problems very similar to mine for vastly longer than me and who had managed to cope with them. In Leonora de Vere's presence my issues seemed trivial. I really didn't know how long she'd been coping with being so completely different from the rest of the human race and frankly I was afraid to find out, but the simple fact of her existence was a rock to which I could cling and a tangible assurance that you could be something other than entirely human and still retain some degree of normalcy. Only 'normal' for Leonora meant being a vampire. At least she had a catchy label to cover her situation. The best I could do was autopsychogenesis, which I doubted would ever become a household word.
From the warmth on my face, I was sure I was blushing. When I glanced down, I saw that it went all the way down my chest and into my exposed cleavage, turning the tops of my boobs a rosy shade of pink that overwhelmed the golden tan that I preferred as a skin tone because it went so well with my blonde hair.
The smile I wore grew wider in proportion to the embarrassment I felt at being seen reacting this way. It made me look like a novice, and I had enough problems with people not taking me seriously. Without thinking, I leaned back against the seat, crossed my legs, and crossed my arms. I knew the last was a mistake as soon as I'd done it.
A 48-inch bust on someone my size means that my boobs stick out almost as far as my elbows. The result is I cannot cross my arms over my chest to cover-up. I just can't reach that far around. Yet, I still have that reflex. Only when I do it, things get squeezed out and up, or down and out, or this way and that, any of which totally defeats the purpose of doing it in the first place. In this case, my arms went under and the spandex tube-top rode up until it just barely covered my nipples, leaving the lower half of my boobs and a good amount of areola exposed.
As I considered how to gracefully get out of a position I'd just put myself into without calling attention to what I'd done, I saw Evan reach down and tug at his inseam. I knew that motion well. It meant he was getting an erection and he needed to give it some room to grow.
Being stared at in close quarters by a man was enough. I very much did not need to know that I was giving him a boner as well.
.... There is more of this story ...