Elementa entered the no-fly zone above Colorado an hour later. The fighter jets on her flanks gave her an aileron salute, then fanned out.
She went subsonic and decreased altitude, descending between the peaks and coniferous trees of the rocky mountain foothills, curving her flight path through familiar valleys and riverbeds, low enough to smell the trees and grass.
She landed at her government-funded log cabin ten minutes later. She tapped her earpiece and reported in to Badger:
"Heron has landed," she said. "Thank you for the escort."
"Our pleasure, Heron. Good job. Everyone here at the Bureau is proud of you."
"Does that mean we can skip the paperwork this time?"
"Only if you want your immunity revoked, Heron," Badger said, and Elementa could hear the broad smile on his lips.
"Okay, I guess you got me on the hook," she said. "By the end of the week?"
"As always. Don't forget the—"
"—supplement for overseas action. Don't worry, I won’t. You do your reports, I'll do mine, and we'll meet on Saturday to sign each other off. D.C. or Sacramento?"
"D.C. this time. The Secretary of State wants a word. Don't worry. Nothing bad."
"Okay." she said. "Is that all?"
"You know it isn't."
"I'm not doing a press junket until I've had some friggin' sleep, Badger. My body is still on Singapore time! I'll set an alarm for... I don't know, two p.m. mountain time? Tell Sandra she can book me however she likes after that. That should be enough time to get some air time before the evening news roll around."
"24-hour news cycle doesn't care. They want you ten minutes ago."
"I don't care. They'll have to wait. We don't have to dance to their tune; they need us more than we need them. I'm hanging up now, and I'll keep the phone off the hook until two! See you Saturday, Badger. Heron out."
"Bye, Hero—" Badger started, but she cut him off.
She looked around herself. The day was beautiful. The sun hadn't yet quite risen into the sky, and the air still smelled faintly of morning dew. Birds were chirping idyllically. She took a deep nose full of mountain and forest air, then dragged herself into her little high-security cottage. No matter how often she came here, she was stricken every time by just how beautiful and peaceful her safe haven was.
Thank God for the Metahuman Deputization and National Park Integration Act of 1947, she thought as she closed the door behind her and smelled the familiar smell of home. Behind her, the door fell into its lock with a satisfying click, and she could hear how the battery of security and defense mechanisms armed itself. She felt them hum to electronic life, like sharp cracks forming in the energy field around her, hidden beneath the earth, between trees, and in the walls of her home. She'd gotten used to it. It was like living a couple of blocks off the freeway.
She got out of her five-million-dollar metamaterial combat suit and tossed it over the backrest of the nearest chair. She yawned heavily. She was nearly sleepwalking already. With half-closed eyes, she grabbed a football jersey from the bedroom floor and put it on before finally collapsing into the softness of her mattress.
Less than a minute later, she was dead asleep.
She woke up groggily and with a dry mouth, moaning in discontent. Her eyelids still felt as if someone had used them to hang up church bells. Her alarm hadn't gone off yet. Her supernatural senses told her that the sun had just crested its zenith. Usually, she was a fast and steady sleeper, but today she'd woken one-and-a-half hours early.
And as some far-away tingling feeling in her abdomen pushed itself to the edge of her consciousness, she could tell why she'd woken up.
Holy shit, why the hell am I so horny?!
Her pussy was drenched. She hadn't been this randomly turned on since she'd been... nineteen? Or even younger? Fuck! Where was this coming from?!
For a moment she considered ignoring it and going back to sleep. She'd never masturbated in the cabin. It would have felt weird, even if the cameras were only outside.
She tried closing her eyes.
Twenty seconds later, she sighed. No way.
Why the hell not? I'm an adult. I can masturbate when I feel like it!
She took a deep breath, and turned herself over, putting her hands between her crotch and the mattress, letting her body weight press it into her palms, and gently started thrusting her hips into them. She felt her breasts being pressed together beneath her, and she rocked herself harder to rub them against the sheet, raising her ass into the air, fingers pushing into the sticky cleft between her lower lips.
She moaned softly. She hadn't realized how much she needed this. This felt great. She'd gone two weeks or three weeks without an orgasm. She'd been chasing down a way to defeat—whatever. She'd been so tense. Now, every time she tickled the nub of her clitoris, some of that tension seemed to fall off her like weights lifting off her shoulders. Waves of warm joy cascades through her body, and she remembered how it felt to be human instead of being the linchpin of human survival. It was just herself, and her body.
She thought warm thoughts, of pretty men -- not too strong-looking -- caressing her and kissing her, slowly creeping down her body before carefully pushing themselves into her. Someone loving yet passionate. Someone warm and unassuming. Someone that wanted her for who she was. Just the human. He was hot for her, and he was so deep inside her, and he looked at her with big eyes, and she felt him so close and so intimately, and he held her by the arms with his nice strong hands, knowing full well that he wasn’t half as strong as one of her fingers, but she let him hold her down because she wanted him just as much as he wanted her. She let herself be taken. Let herself be fucked. Yes…. He kissed her and he was so close and so warm and so hot and it was just the two of them and no one else and together they could do anything that they wanted, no matter how dirty or embarrassing because there was only the both of them! Yes! Only their bodies! Yes! Only their pleasure! Yes!! Only their need to give in and let go and explode and--
She came, and pleasure washed over her in a wave of warm, prickling satisfaction. She moaned deeply as her shivering legs and closed tightly around her hand and pushed it into the pulsating joy between her legs. Finally, she relaxed with a long, satisfied sigh. She felt so much better now. Fuck. She had really needed that – to let go, and enjoy herself. Her true, deeply human self, with all its human urges. It had been so goddamn long. All the press briefings and state dinners and cocktail parties and paparazzi. It felt like her whole life had turned into a performance, and she always had to be the very model of piety and upstanding citizenry. There was no place for her in the public mind for her to be a sexual creature. She was barely allowed to be fun.
Well... mostly. She'd been to the weird corners of the internet, and seen some of the stuff that some of her 'fans' commented. And drew. And wrote. And photoshopped.
She yawned and stretched, and turned herself over. She could already feel sleep return to her, now that she was so much more relaxed. As she slipped away into half-sleep, she had some half-coherent thoughts about how some perverted fan of her would react if she actually flew in through their window and stripped for them. It would be... weird and... funny to see their faces. It would be so wrong but... kind of... nice...
The thought slipped away and she fell asleep.