New to Quest Five?
The stories are best enjoyed when read in order beginning with May 1, 2009.

Welcome To Quest Five
Allison Beaumont is having trouble finding a job after college until one day the wealthy and powerful Joseph Candle offers her a job at his rather unusual corporation, where mistakes can lead to bare bottomed spankings. Adopting the alias of Virginia West, she joins four highly skilled colleagues, racing around the globe in search of mysterious treasures, but wherever she goes, trouble is sure to follow.
Note: Some stories contain scenes of a sexual nature, corporal punishment, non-consensual corporal punishment, and strong language which some reader's may find offensive. If you feel this material might be inappropriate for you please move on to another blog by clicking the next blog link at the top of the page.

July 25, 2009

Measuring Up: Finders & Keepers

If you thought my comments might have changed things or that Mr. Barker might have rethought his way of breaking me into the group, you’d be wrong. Things went much the same way they had been going. From a group breakfast in the courtyard to Kyra and I being left behind to wait for a call that may or may not allow us to contribute to the search. I kept my opinions to myself until after they were gone.

“So what do you say we figure out where this thing actually is?” I said.

We had just sat down in the conference room with Kyra’s machines. She swiveled in her chair to look at me with a sly grin spreading across her face. I was doing my best to look innocent up to that point, but ended up grinning back at her like the devil I was feeling.

“What did you have in mind?” She asked.

“I’m just thinking here, and correct me if I’m wrong, but we’ve got every piece of information Dr. Michaels has right here inside these computers.” I said.

I waited for a moment as she nodded a confirmation to my assertion.

“Then it would follow they should be able to tell us exactly where this thing is likely to be.” I finished.

“They are already working off those search results.” Kyra said.

“Yeah but it seems to me the data is probably skewed by assumptions made by generations of historians and Dr. Michaels. Couldn’t we refine the data a touch?” I suggested.

“I suppose we could. What kind of refinement did you have in mind?”

“Let’s start with his familial affiliations.” I said.

Kyra lifted an eyebrow but having nothing better to do I guess she decided not to argue with me even if she thought I was nuts. I figured we had nothing to lose and everything to gain so I might as well put every thought I was entertaining down on the table and go for broke.

“He never married but he fathered three children with the same woman. His daughters went into service of the church and his son manage to find legitimacy and attempted to follow in his father’s footsteps. Given the information we have it’s unlikely Galileo was the social misfit that history paints him to be.” I said.

“I’m not sure I’m with you here.” Kyra said.

“Well, having children out of wedlock in the 16th century wasn’t exactly for the common man. Factor in that all early evidence in Galileo’s life suggests he was a very pious man, it just doesn’t add up for me.”

“Okay, sounds reasonable enough but I’m not sure how this will change my model.”

“In order to achieve any level of accuracy your model had to include some type of weighting based on the emotional attachments of Galileo. Or am I wrong?”

“No, you’re right. So you want me to skew his attachment in favor of his illegitimate children?” Kyra said.

“Not exactly.”

“Then what?”

“Let’s assume he was married to their mother.” I said.

“That’s crazy. She married someone else.” Kyra said.

“Actually she didn‘t. Recent evidence indicates she died in 1612.” I said.

“Where did you hear that?”

“One of Dr. Michaels’ reports.” I said.

“Okay assuming you are correct about that, what evidence do you have that even suggest they were married?”

“History may not record them as husband and wife but it does clearly record they lived together with their children up until her death. Given the customs of the time and Galileo’s spirituality, it just doesn’t seem likely he would have lived with her, slept with her, raised a family with her, and not married her.” I said.

Kyra was looking at me like I was spinning the greatest yarn every told. Admittedly, it was short on facts and high on assumption, but it did make sense to me.

“Just assume for a moment I’m right and they were married. Galileo first ran into trouble with the Inquisition around 1610 because he began supporting a heliocentric solar system based on his astronomical observations. History says he was merely admonished and told to refrain from publicly supporting those theories. Again, in the time period in question this seems a rather light sentence for a suspected heretic. We are asked to believe this light sentence came about because of his connections within the Church and his readily agreeing to denounce the theories, but what if it didn’t happen that way?” I said.

“Then what do you think happened?” Kyra asked.

“He was convicted as a heretic but because of his connections within the Church it was in certain powerful individuals best interests to sweep the matter under the rug. The Inquisition wouldn’t just dismiss the charges but they might have been convinced to punish Galileo to a lesser degree say by, annulling his marriage and marking his children as illegitimate. Such a move could have saved face for officials in Church who were connected to Galileo and allowed the Inquisition to levy it’s own form of justice.” I explained.

“I thought the children in annulled marriages were considered legit by the Church.” Kyra said.

“That hasn’t always been the case. In fact during Galileo’s lifetime the Church could have bastardized him from his own parents for his supposed heresy. The Church has come a long way since then but in those days, the Inquisition had far reaching power.”

Kyra nodded. Maybe she was starting to believe my farfetched tale.

“What you’re saying is the Church punished him in something like a sealed session in order to avoid a conviction that could have embarrassed certain high ranking members of the Church.” She said.

“Exactly. Galileo was closely aligned with the man who was destined to become the next Pope. Such an embarrassing relationship for the Church would have been very bad indeed and it is possible it would have given more credence to Galileo’s theories rather than discrediting them as the Inquisition preferred.”

“It’s crazy V, but it actually makes sense in a weird sort of way.” Kyra said.

I smiled a little relieved I had managed to make sense out of what had started off as just a wild hair.

“How long will it take to reconfigure your model with the new familial data?” I asked.

“A few minutes.” She replied.

She started typing away while I leaned back in my chair, feeling quite pleased with myself. A few minutes passed us by in silence.

“It re-ranked a few locals but they’ve already been investigated and we came up empty.” Kyra said.

I leaned forward and studied the screen and the re-ranked data. Nothing was standing out to me and I started to feel a touch of depression as it occurred to me that I had nothing really to contribute to the search. It was frustrating to have inadvertently proven Mr. Barker and Dr. Michaels right. The only comforting thought I possessed was that it was at least fortunate neither of them were around to rub my nose in it.

Then a new idea struck.

“It’s all about time.” I thought aloud.

“Huh?” Kyra said with a raised eyebrow.

“The compass, the calculations are about time right?” I asked.

“Um, yeah I think so.”

“Why did he care?” I asked.

“I don’t understand. Why did he care about what?”

“Time. He was a mathematician with a fascination with astrology. Astronomy was a mere side effect of that fascination, but then he fixated on time. Pendulum swings, patterns of appearances in the sky, degrees of rotation.” I said.

Kyra just blinked at me as if I’d lost my marbles. I laughed which did little to reassure her of my sanity.

“Galileo became obsessed with time. When men obsess over time it’s almost always because they want to change something that has already happened.” I explained.

Kyra shook her head at me, indicating without a word that not only did she not understand my thoughts, but she thought I was just plain wrong.

“He wasn’t trying to make a universal clock, he was looking for an arc to intersect the past.” I said.

“That’s one hell of an intuitive leap.” Kyra said.

“It‘s not about Marina at all. When Galileo was charged before the Inquisition in the 1630’s he kept correspondence with his eldest daughter, Virginia also known as Sister Marie Celeste. During his trial she was in near constant communication with him via letters, but whether it was stress, bad timing, or just her time, she died during the course of his trial.” I continued my random thinking aloud.

“So?” Kyra prodded.

I rose from chair and began pacing the floor thinking it all through. It was all coming together, but I couldn’t help but wonder why I was the only one to think of it.

“It’s in the monastery.” I said.

“What monastery?” Kyra asked.

“The one were she lived and died.”

“You aren’t making any sense, V.”

“He wanted to fix what he’d done to her.” I said.

“She was already dead.”

“You aren’t hearing me. His calculations weren’t to measure time, they were to find the arcs between the present and the past. He wanted to change the past, her past.” I said.

“His daughter’s?”

“Yes. It’s got to be there at the monastery. It would have to be there.” I said.

I was certain of it. Computer models and obnoxious archaeologists be damned. Galileo may have been extraordinary, but he was still just a man, just a father.

“Where was that monastery?” I asked.

Kyra looked like she was about to argue with me and then decided against it. She pulled up the historical references on Galileo’s oldest daughter and the name flashed to the screen along with an address and a map.

“San Matteo. It’s just outside of Florence.” She said.

“That’s where we’ll find the compass.” I said.

“My models don’t give it more than a tenth of a percent probability, V. Nobody is going to listen.” Kyra said.

“Not to me, but they’ll listen to you.” I said.

She shook her head.

“Even if I thought you were right, we’ve got nothing here to support this conclusion.” She said.

“Do you think I’m right?” I asked.

She hesitated long enough for me to understand she was less than certain.

“I think it’s worth checking out, but honestly if you’re right, everything we think we know about Galileo is wrong.” She said.

“I can live with that.” I said. “Will you call Mr. Barker or shall I?”

She thought about it. Her eyes flickered between the computer screen and me and I almost lost hope before she focused solely on me.

“Alright. Let’s call him together. I’ll back you up to a point because I think you’ve made a good enough case that it’s worth the look, especially since we’re so close.” Kyra said.

“Thank you.”

Kyra set up the computer to do a speaker call through my phone and I found out very quickly she was right. Nobody was going to listen because it didn’t come from Dr. Michaels. My skills and hunches were of no value to Mr. Barker, despite my impression from Mr. Candle that they were the sole reason I was part of the team.

“Miss West has identified a possible location for the compass that contradicts the computer models we are working off of.” Kyra began.

On the other end, Mr. Barker, Dr. Michaels and Tom Clark were all listening.

“Based on what data?” Dr. Michaels asked.

He made no attempt at all to hide the scorn and skepticism he so obviously felt at the news.

“My theories are based on an alternate interpretation of Galileo’s personality from the generally accepted historical awe.” I said.

“And what facts have led you to this erroneous conclusion?” Dr. Michaels asked.

His audacity to claim my conclusions erroneous without even hearing them out practically had my blood in a boil.

“Mostly it’s based on your current failure in locating the compass.” I said. “If it does indeed exist it would seem that the information you are working off of is at best incomplete and at worst inaccurate.”

“We are searching based on scientific probabilities, Virginia. It is in these places where the compass is most likely to be found and it would be a waste of our time and resources to go chasing after your hunches.” Mr. Barker said.

“If the data is being improperly weighted based on inaccuracies in the historical records then your probabilities are leading you from one wrong location to the next. It’s not even that far out of your way and all I’m asking is you check it out.” I said.

“Where is it you want us to look?” Mr. Barker asked.

“San Matteo.” I replied.

“That’s absolutely ridiculous.” Dr. Michaels said.

“Why?” Mr. Barker asked.

“Because Galileo never returned to San Matteo after his final trial before the Inquisition. He had no reason to; his daughter was dead.” Dr. Michaels lectured.

“Miss West seems to have a theory that would provide an explanation for why he might have gone there.” Kyra said.

“And what is that?” Mr. Barker asked.

Kyra gestured at me to step up and explain, but suddenly what had been sounding so rational and logical before was sounding ludicrous as I struggled for a way to explain myself without causing Dr. Michaels to roar with laughter, not to mention Tom and Mr. Barker.

“I think he might have been trying to find a way to travel back in time to save her life.” I said.

“You are suggesting the great Galileo invented time travel?” Dr. Michaels asked.

His laughter was just below the surface and I felt my face burn with embarrassment.

“No, I’m suggesting he was trying to and failed.” I said.

“So he was an H.G. Wells fan was he?” Dr. Michaels taunted. “Oh wait, dear Mr. Wells wasn’t born for another two and a half centuries. Oh I know he traveled forward in time and H.G. Wells got the whole idea for his fiction from Galileo?”

The hysterical laughter from the three men on the other end of the call had my face blossoming red in humiliation and anger. Even Kyra was giggling. I threw my hands up in the air but the gesture was even more useless with only Kyra able to see.

“Never mind.” I said. “Obviously, you aren’t even going to be kind enough to humor me with a trip to the monastery.”

“Now that’s the first intelligent thing you’ve said on this call.” Dr. Michaels piped in between laughs.

The call disconnected shortly after without so much as a goodbye. I envisioned it as an accidental hang up with Mr. Barker laughing so hard he dropped the phone on the ground. I’m not quite comfortable with making a fool of myself, but with all the practice I’m getting lately, I think I’ll be there soon.

Day wore on into night and I found myself sitting alone in my hotel room. The more I thought about my crazy theory, the more I became convinced I was right. It all made sense if you put yourself in the shoes of the man. The only problem was no one was going to even check it out. Even if everything else failed, my theory was just too far out in left field for anyone to give it a second thought.

That was how I convinced myself I had to find it. Talking Kyra into helping me was a little more difficult, but in the end I understood her well enough to make it as irresistible to her as it was to me.

“You’re as smart as any of them and you know damn well my theory deserves enough attention to be checked out. They aren’t going to do it so it falls to us.” I said.

Kyra sat on the edge of my bed. At first I thought she was staring off into space and trying not to listen to me, but as I followed her vacant stare I realized she was staring at her reflection in the glass of the balcony door. I couldn’t read the thoughts going through her head, but some of them I knew anyway.

“I can deal with being wrong Kyra. What I can’t deal with is never knowing. Can you?” I said.

“This is crazy. If Jack finds out…” She said, her thought trailing off into the night.

We both knew the risks. I was willing to accept all the responsibility, good and bad, but I needed Kyra. Running off alone into the night to rundown a theory would be the really dumb thing to do.

“They haven’t found it. They aren’t likely to find it. You know it and I know it. Maybe I’m just as wrong, but what if I’m right?” I said.

It was all the arm twisting she needed. A slight smile spread across her face. She hid it better, but the truth was plain enough to see; She was as tired at being left out as I was. Sitting around another week with nothing to do but pull up pointless satellite images and correlate various tidbits of irrelevant data, was not something either of us wanted to be doing.

“Alright. Let’s do it.” Kyra said.

“Thank you.” I said.

“If we get caught, I’m telling them you made me help you.” She said.

Fair enough. True enough. We changed into something a little more appropriate for lurking around a monastery, jeans, tees and running shoes. I grabbed the car keys off the dresser top and almost as an after thought I took the gun out of my case and slipped it in the back of my jeans, hidden by my shirt. Better safe than sorry I told myself.

We made it out of the hotel without any of the guys noticing. Kyra navigated while I drove and other than the few necessary words to get us to San Mateo, we traveled in silence. The whine of the engine and the whir of the tires on asphalt were comforting to my pounding heart. I felt like I’d just snuck out on a Friday night after being grounded, only this time it was Jack Barker who’d be waiting for my early morning return. The only real question was whether he’d be as angry as Mom and Dad always were or if we found the compass, would it make all wrongs, right.

The sisterhood to which Marie Celeste had once belonged was long gone from San Matteo. The life she lived within it’s convent walls will never be known to the world and standing before what remains of it, I could only feel it was for the better.

It was in places like this an unwed woman would be confined, doomed even, to live out her days toiling away for little purpose and even less reason. San Matteo was not a wealthy convent in the days of Marie Celeste. It was a place for those of little wealth and less respect. The letters written by Marie and saved by Galileo tell little more than everyday curiosities but within the words a picture starts to form. It was not a place of overt happiness, but there was peace to be found in the simplicity of life outside the confines of the city.

The rich night sky above us helped me to understand why Galileo would have picked such a place to send his daughter. He himself had lived in a small house not far from the walls of the convent and gazing up at the stars I wondered if he had chosen the place for the stars or if the stars had chosen the place for him.

Quietly, Kyra and I made our way inside. As we crossed over the threshold it was like you could feel yourself stepping into history. Our soft soled shoes echoed as we stepped carefully down the aisle. It was a simple place of worship, extravagant in its beauty and art. Looking around I began to doubt my conviction. There was nothing of Galileo or Marie Celeste to be seen or, I feared, to be found.

Kyra was smart enough to have brought a flashlight along and as we looked around through it’s spotlight I found myself wondering if we’d know the compass if we found it. No one really knew what it looked like, because no one really knew if it even existed in the first place. Creeping along in the darkness and shadows, we came to the end of the aisle way. We hadn’t found anything of even the slightest bit of interest.

“Where to now?” Kyra asked.

Her words reverberated against the hallowed walls.

“I don’t know.” I replied.

I looked around and found a corridor leading off to the west. We started walking down it with nowhere else to go. The thrill was leaving us and the excitement was fading as hope struggled to hold on.

And then we saw her.

It was like a ghost watching us walk down the narrow corridor. Her eyes were scolding as if they knew we didn’t belong where we were. Kyra nearly dropped the flashlight and I stopped dead in my tracks. The simple portrait of Sister Marie Celeste had an eerie quality to it in the darkness, but upon closer inspection it was just a trick of shadows and light. I recognized it from the books I had gone through before we left, but I had never expected to lay eyes on it directly.

We continued down the hallway until we were standing right in front of it and there I stopped. I wasn’t sure why, but every instinct told me we had found what we were looking for. Kyra continued to look around but my eyes were locked on Marie Celeste.

Kyra shined the light at the portrait and the flash caused me to blink and step back from it. I held my hand to shield my eyes from the glare for a moment and then turned to look at Kyra.

“What are you doing?” She asked.

“Looking.” I said.

“It’s a portrait not a compass.” She said.

Stating the obvious was definitely her thing, but understanding it was another thing entirely. My gaze returned to the portrait but not Marie Celeste herself, but rather her frame. There was something about it, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

“Look at the frame.” I told her.

Kyra rolled her eyes at me but did as I asked, shining the light on it again. Both of us shrank back from the sudden glare again, but this time I realized what was happening and why.

“Shine your light on the top right corner.” I said.

“Oh my God!” Kyra said.

I simply smiled and nodded. We had found Galileo’s compass.

The compass was actually two compasses divided into four pieces. One piece of it had been inserted into each corner of her frame, visible only by the gold circles which when connected to their other half allowed the compasses to be adjusted with precision. It was a surprise that there were two but even my cursory examination revealed significant formulaic differences between them.

Kyra carefully wrapped the pieces in cloth and packed them away in her bag before we slipped back outside to the car. As we drove away, the sky was beginning to brighten. Kyra and I were smiling with the confidence it was going to be a good day.

The good feeling lasted right up until we walked into my hotel room. Mr. Barker was sitting on the front edge of my bed. I didn’t need to ask to know he wasn’t happy. Kyra swallowed hard and seemed to shrink back behind me upon seeing him.

Maybe sneaking out to hunt down the compass hadn’t been such a great idea.


  1. Ashley, a fine chapter and yes it was the right thing to do.
    Despite the idiot doctor a lot of what Galileo and Da Vinci studied would have been considered fantasy at the time.
    Warm hugs,

  2. No matter what Jack decides to do next chapter, V has more than proven her worth here. A spanking or two won't make the unauthorized outing any less worthwhile after all is said and done. I am of course hoping he gives them both what they deserve, if only to keep the eventual "I told you so's" to an absolute minimum.

  3. Ashley,

    Good story. I like the scene in the monastery. very well written.

  4. For all her trouble and bad attitudes (both V's and the teams) it's good to read they found it!