It wasn't a tingling in her nipples, like with that "pulse bomb". But it was a definite feeling that something bad was happening, or about to happen, and she was needed. Dareen looked out her window and gingerly crept out to the fire escape. Nobody was out there to see her. She quickly thought of those FBI men who now knew her address, and looked down on the street. There didn't seem to be anyone observing her window. She got up and crouched, her toes curling over the railing, and jumped up, breasts bouncing over her concave tummy as she stretched out to full length.
Despite her uncertain yet serious mission she couldn't deny the sensual, bracing feeling of ascending and banking and swooping over the city, the warm, gasoline-scented air whooshing and caressing her naked brown skin. Arms stretched in front of her, legs back, she peered carefully at the streets below, her eyes picking through the lights that shimmered with the convection currents of the warm night air, the tops of cars and trucks, the darkness of the rooftops. She wished she had a better idea of what she was looking for, what she was being called to do. It was some kind of pure animal homing instinct.
Now the instinct told her to zero in. It was that corner, that dark street with no lights. Just past downtown. She knew how to slow down and land, putting her feet forward, extending her arms up and out in an "X". As her toes landed on the dirty sidewalk she saw them half a block away like it was close up. It was a mugging and possibly worse, two men in dark clothes grabbing a woman, one stuffing cloth into her mouth, high heels scraping uselessly against the pavement as they dragged her toward an alley. Dareen had only a moment of fright -- like any woman would -- before she realized her invulnerability. In two bounds she was upon them.
"What the?" Seeing a naked woman charging them was about the biggest shock either of the young criminals had ever experienced. Almost on instinct, one of them raised his gun and fired, a really stupid thing to do in any event, but here it just bounced off the girl's breast, making it jump and jiggle. To Dareen it only stung a little like being hit by a thrown pebble. And now she flew forward and grabbed them by their belts and ascended. Now it was the men who were shouting in pure fear and dire surprise.
The lady was middle-aged, looked like a waitress coming home from work, Hispanic in features. Her dress was ripped and Dareen could deduce what she had prevented from happening. Hovering over her, a little ridiculously like a naked Tinker Bell, Dareen said, "Did they hurt you, Ma'am?" Having momentarily forgotten her nudity, she took the woman's look of amazement as an inability to understand English. Fortunately Dareen knew some Spanish from college; she used to practice it on her Hispanic friends. "Bien? Hacen dano a usted?"
In fact the woman understood English perfectly well but, how does one react to a flying naked girl? Forgetting about clutching her dress together, she looked up open-mouthed and after a second or two remembered to shake her head.
"Me voy a policia," Dareen said. The men shouted again, more like a scream, like you hear on roller coasters, as Dareen flew them up and out. Somehow she knew where the nearest precinct was, and swung around to it, being playfully cruel to these beasts by hanging onto only their belts that stretched precariously away from their pants.
She kicked the double doors open with a strong bare foot and strode in to the desk sergeant, throwing the two would-be rapists onto the floor. "I found these on 17th Street, between Park and Federal," she said, wondering for a moment how she knew that information. "They were trying to rape a middle-aged Hispanic woman." She realized she sounded like a cop herself. But that was what this sergeant needed to know, wasn't it? "But she's O.K."
The assailants cowered on the floor. The sergeant, a tired wrinkled man in his late fifties, looked at them for a moment, "Johnstone, is that you?" He recognized an old face, now out on probation and then looked up at the naked girl with shock and contempt. "Girl, I'm about to arrest you for indecent exposure. I don't know what club you're from..." And then he got fixated on her breasts.
Dareen's eyes darted down and in a panic. She quickly covered her breasts and her crotch. Not wanting to show her bare butt, she backed out of the vestibule and jumped and flew off. The sergeant's eyes popped open. He huffed outside as fast as he could, just in time to see the thin, full-breasted form disappear over the buildings. The distant whoosh of air left a silence that was eerie. Was he losing his mind?
When he got back in, Johnstone was standing up. "It's real, man. That chick was flying!"
The sergeant looked at Johnstone, and at his confederate. "Hankins!" Then saw the gun in Johnstone's hand. The sergeant grabbed it from him and they calmed down and the sergeant gave him a familiar, serious look. Johnstone had violated probation, big time.
It was hard to fly while clutching one arm over your breasts and another over your crotch, Dareen quickly learned, yet as she headed home it was hard to undo the response her sense of modesty demanded. Once she got the message she was needed, she just had to do what she had to do, and until reminded by the sergeant's stare, she had forgotten all about her nudity. After all, a woman was about to be raped -- so what if I'm naked?
Actually, a big deal. Hardly anyone had ever seen Dareen naked in her entire life. Which was why that incident holding the door up in front of Pedro and Elly had been so tramuatic. And now that group included that woman (well, that wasn't so bad) but those two bad men, and worst of all, in the bright fluorescent light of that police station, the desk sergeant. She cringed at the thought that he believed her to be some kind of nude dancer or prostitute. She had never been so totally shamed.
And yet... she had done the right thing. She had saved a woman from a terrible trauma. And could only have done it naked. Why, Allah? Why such a predicament? Why can I only do good while violating dozens of Koran injunctions against brazenness or shamelessness, especially in women?
And she somehow expected she would be called to do something like prevent another pulse bomb from exploding. But when she got the call, although she apologized to that woman in her heart for thinking this: it was only a run-of-the-mill crime, the kind that has always happened, especially in big cities like Atlanta, that had nothing to do with getting hit by lightning or that mad scientist guy or that tingling in her nipples.
When Dareen climbed back into her bedroom window she immediately dove under the covers. She felt her powers ebbing and then going away. Good, I'm back to being a normal girl. She thought and thought and said a little prayer and then, calmed down, drifted off to sleep.
It was a hot night and she awoke to throw back the covers, sweating. She put on her shortest, coolest nightie but it seemed immodest. Yet it was hot, too hot to even think about strapping herself into a bra. Again she drifted off to sleep.
In the morning light she got a crazy idea. Yet it seemed fitting. Hanging in her closet was a thin full-length burka with a veil. She had gotten it from an aunt who was liberalizing and had a bunch of them she wanted to dispose of. Dareen felt drawn to it and decided to take it.
She stood next to it in her short nightie, touching the thin black material. Back where she was born, Syria, it was brutally hot in July. She had heard from cousins that to beat the heat some of the more adventurous women went around with nothing on underneath. Dareen found herself eager to see what that would feel like. All covered up and still comfortable?
She flung it on over her head and it draped over her nude body. A quick look in the mirror over her dresser and she adjusted the veil, moving it up to the bridge of her nose. Only her eyes were showing. She thought then of what had been told to her many times, that she had pretty eyes. Now, the eyes showed just a trace of narrowing at the corners, the sign that she was smiling. Yes, she had never felt so pretty. Just my eyes, my big brown pretty eyes. And all covered up, aaahhh. She gulped. It might be a tool of male oppression, this burka, but in some ways it is quite a sexy fashion.
She looked down and saw her bare toes poking out the bottom. Pointing to the kitchen, and the ritual of making coffee. She could drink it by lifting up the veil. Having a blanket curtain, instead of a door, made this scene seem even more old-country. She pushed through it.
She had forgotten that Elly would be there, at the table in front of the little TV, in her short shorts and T-shirt, eating cereal -- which she could hardly keep in her mouth as she exploded with a big snorting laugh.
Dareen looked down. The burka was made for women with more normal dimensions, obviously. It was loose and flowing except around the bust. Her breasts pushed forward like balloons, stretching the fabric that was thin enough that the big dark circles of her areolas could be seen clearly. The huge nipples stuck out, cockeyed, nearly poking holes through the thin black cloth. Dareen's outfit didn't exactly hide her body like it was supposed to. Quite the opposite. If there was a magazine like "Maxim" or "Playboy" in fundamentalist Islamic countries, Dareen right now probably looked like the cover girl.
She had to admit it was funny. And yet, keeping the air of mystery, she met Elly's eyes with smiling eyes of her own, and silently padded over to the table and sat down. They ate while watching the TV. Dareen permitted herself a sigh -- again, the Cobb News Network. This time the chicken clucking sounds were accompanying footage of a politician who had opposed the war with Iraq. He walked with a limp. They didn't say this, but it was because he lost part of his leg while fighting in Vietnam as a young man.
Now the local news. And not your typical beginning. A cartoonist's rendition of a girl flying through the air, naked except for a mask and thigh-high boots, and the fanfare of movie music. The girl was turned a little so her breasts can't be seen, nor her crotch. "She must be a super hero," the anchor man began. "Folks, this cannot be believed but it's been corroborated and must be true. A rape and mugging in progress in the East Downtown area was foiled by a NUDE woman who, and this again is corroborated and true folks, FLEW without the aid of any visible means of propulsion, stopped the crime before it began, and carried the perpetrators to the Ninth Precinct House." Now mug shots of two shady-looking black men. "Kendrease Johnstone and Taurus Hankins, men with a long previous criminal history, have been charged and are being held without bail. Before being incarcerated they confirmed the story, as has Sergeant Philip McMickle."
A wrinkly old cop, shaking his head as he tells his story to the microphone, trying as best he can to maintain his standard this-is-how-you-talk-to-the-press copspeak. "The, uh, perpetrators were brought in by a, young female, uh, without clothes. She then jumped off the front step of the precinct house and I saw her achieve a, uh, flight over the Barnham Building. The flight was witnessed also," he added quickly, "by Officer Spinella who was outside."
The newscaster continued, "This is believed to be connected to the incident of last week, when the perpetrator of a convenience store robbery in the Alpharetta area turned himself in after reporting being apprehended by a flying nude woman. That man, currently under observation at Modoc Psychiatric Center, is being questioned again. So are the two suspects from last night. None of them has been assigned a lawyer, federal authorities having taken charge of the prosecutions under the Patriot Act.
"In addition, there was an incident later last week when a nude woman was seen lying in the garden in the middle of the Perimeter Center Traffic Circle and then flew into the air and out of sight. The officers who were about to apprehend her on the obvious charge, indecent exposure, have now come forward with that story.
"To return to last night's attempted crime, the victim, Isabel Cortes-Hernandez, reported the incident independently, confirming the relevant details." A middle-aged Hispanic woman, speaking in a thick accent, "She saved me. She was desnuda. And she flew." The woman then crossed herself and brought up the crucifix that had been around her neck and kissed it. "Gracias a dios, she saved me." She was close to tears. Now a man hugging her, her husband.
"The mystery super hero has not been identified," the newscaster said, breaking into a smile, "because none of the seven persons known to have seen her have been able to describe her face. Evidently they were all distracted by her, uh, endowments.
"Still, whoever she is, we have a super hero in the Atlanta area. For lack of any better name, NakedGirl." And the word "NakedGirl" was emblazoned in brave block letters across the cartoon of the nude woman.
Elly looked at Dareen. Dareen's silent eyes looked at Elly with a deep sense of seriousness. She was not conscious of it but she turned slightly, the balloon-like breasts turning too, as it happened causing one of her nipples to point directly at her roommate.