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.

August 4, 2009

Diving In: A Single Taste

Back in my own office, I found I had a supervisory program on my computer which allowed me to monitor the lab and view results of current testing. The formulas were being analyzed and compared to modern equations. The results were incomplete but an error in them was flashing in red; incorrect speed of light. My imagination could have been running overtime, but I recalled from my basic physic course, in theory time travel was possible if one could travel faster than the speed of light. Of course I also recall faster than light travel is impossible, but mankind has long achieved the impossible simply by dreaming it was possible.

From the looks of things, it was going to take days to complete an analysis of the compasses and their equations. I decided it was best to not jump to conclusions and simply wait for the final results. If my theories were right, they’d be proven right when the analysis was done and if not, it’s better to be a silent fool than a proven one.

With nothing better to do, I decided to pay a visit to Kyra. She was busy assembling all the data in existence on the monastery, Marie Celeste’s picture, the nunnery, and probably anything else vaguely connected to our find. She didn’t even notice me until I sat down in the chair next to her at the conference table. I doubt she thought I’d notice, but she glanced at me before pretending to ignore me. I wasn’t deterred.

“I know you’re busy.” I said.

“So you thought you’d come over and annoy me. It makes perfect sense.” She said.

“I’ve been thinking.” I said.

“Sounds dangerous.”

“Why was the monastery ranked so low on your probable locations?” I asked.

Initially I had been thrilled we had come up with a location that wasn’t in keeping with where the guys had been searching. It had made me feel like I was contributing something positive and original, but in retrospective it wasn’t adding up for me. With everything I’d read about Galileo before we had left, a hiding place in connection to his most loved daughter seemed more likely than less. The obvious question was simple enough; Why had it seemed so blatant to me and so improbable to Kyra’s computer model?

“Uh because it wasn’t likely.” She replied.

“Well you see, that isn’t working for me.”

“What are you talking about V?” Kyra asked.

She stopped working and stared at me in an effort to make her incredulousness plain to me.

“I’ve been over every bit of the information we collected on Galileo. His attachment to Marie Celeste was not a secret or even a debated fact. With that in mind I can’t figure why your model would assume any connection to her would be dubious.”

“Look, I don’t make the results, I just create the framework and provide the data. Locations were ranked automatically as they fit inside the framework.”

“So your frame was flawed?”

“There is nothing wrong with my program. The data just didn’t support your conclusion.”

“That doesn’t make sense to me. The data does support my conclusion, it’s how I came to it. Maybe it wasn’t the most commonly accepted version but it was certainly a possible interpretation and your program should have included it.”

“What are you trying to do here? You want to blame me for the trouble you landed yourself in back there? I don’t care. I tried to help you and you nearly landed us both in the shit because you can’t win graciously. Now you want to lay it on me? Too damn bad. I’m not going to sit here and defend my competence to you, I don’t care who you think you are or what you think you know.”

I hadn’t expected her to take it personally. Her response seemed completely out of line with the question I was asking, but then again, maybe I was hitting a nerve. If there was a mistake made, given the companies method of handling mistakes, she might well want to avoid having it pointed out. For that, I could hardly blame her.

“I’m sorry I asked. I was just trying to understand something.” I said.

“You found the compasses. You proved yourself right and Gene wrong. What the hell else do you want?”

It was a fair question. The truth was I didn’t know what I was really hoping to find. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right with the computer’s predictions.

“It’s not about me being right or Dr. Michaels being wrong. It’s about understanding how something that seemed so obvious to me could be completely missed by both Dr. Michaels and your computer model. It doesn’t make sense. I’m not that smart.” I said.

“Now that’s something we can all agree on.” Tom Clark said.

He came from behind and nearly made me jump out of my chair. I would have been annoyed with him, but he had a smile on his face and there was little doubt he was teasing. Oddly, he wasn’t really looking at me but rather studying Kyra for her reaction. She barely even smiled.

“What are you two working on?” Tom asked.

“Nothing.” I said.

It probably came out a little too fast but I wasn’t sure I wanted to advertise my thinking any further than I already had. Kyra wasn’t receptive and given my experience with the team so far, that meant no one was going to listen.

“She thinks my computer model for the compasses was flawed.” Kyra said.

Tom seemed to be having an internal debate at the news.

“I’m just trying to understand how I could come up with the right location and the computer didn’t even consider it a possibility.” I said.

Tom looked between the two of us and then settled on a course of action.

“You should talk to Jack.” He said to me.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because he’s been asking the same question ever since we got back.” Tom said.

“Oh.” I said.

Kyra pretended to ignore us, but by the slight tension in her shoulders I gathered she had already known that small tidbit of information and had chosen not to tell me. It seemed I was still doing an excellent job of staying on the outside of the team I was supposedly a member.

“I’m sorry I bothered you.” I said.

Kyra didn’t acknowledge me at all. She was studiously ignoring everything but her work. I left her in peace with Tom following me. I settled into my office and Tom sat down on the corner of my desk, much like I had found him in Jack’s office earlier.

“Is there something you wanted Tom?” I asked.

“I don’t get you.” He stated.

I scoffed.

“What don’t you get?” I asked.

“Are you trying to impress everyone around here or just yourself?” He asked.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“I’m just trying to figure out whether I like you or not. You see, you’ve got some good qualities but then you keep ruining them.”

“Believe it or not, I don’t really care whether you like me or not.” I said.

It wasn’t strictly true, but it felt like the right attitude to present to him.

“Yeah, that’s why you keep trying so hard.” Tom said.

Our eyes met for a brief moment of honesty. Deep down, I liked him, but I was damned if I was going to let him know that. I would have said something to keep him guessing, but we were interrupted by Jack.

“Get your stuff. Joe’s taking us out to celebrate.” Jack said.

Joseph Candle’s idea of celebrating was not exactly in line with my own. For starters the location was a hole in the wall, serving up French cuisine like it was a back alley in Paris. The menu was a chalkboard leaning up against the corner wall on the way to the facilities which were clearly an “enter at your own risk” area. The collision of aroma’s coming from the kitchen encouraged the patrons to load up on expensive wines served with strong cheese and crusty bread.

Mr. Candle seemed quite at home with a cabernet in his hand. I prefer a merlot, even if it is the hot dog of wines, besides, I like hot dogs too. Kyra copied Mr. Candle’s choice but I don’t think she was enjoying it as much as he. Jack and Tom opted for beer, much to the annoyance of the waiter. With the exception of Mr. Candle, we enjoyed the bread and passed on the cheese.

Dr. Michaels arrived a few minutes after the rest of us. He had stayed behind, supposedly to initiate a new series of test on the compasses, but I suspect it was simply a convenient excuse to avoid riding in the car with me. The disapproving glare he gave me as he made his way to our table certainly supported my hypothesis. He quizzically regarded our drinks for a moment before shaking his head and taking his seat between Mr. Candle and me.

“Is it not customary to drink champagne at a celebration?” Dr. Michaels asked.

The tone and phrasing of the question made me wonder if he had ever attended a celebration before or if he was merely interested in pointing out the aberration in the most irritating manner he could imagine. I don’t think I need to mention which way I was leaning.

“You may order whatever you prefer.” Mr. Candle replied.

Interestingly enough, he ordered the same merlot I was drinking. I was sorely tempted to order something else. It would have been too obvious though.

Loathe as I am to agree with Dr. Michaels about anything, the celebration hardly seemed to fit the name. After his observational comment, silence ruled the table. In some ways it was the comfortable silence of those who knew each other well enough to enjoy the company without mindless chatter filling the void. It was also the silence of those who have things to say but do not know how to say them without offending. I decided to break the ice and raised my glass.

“If we are celebrating, it seems a toast is in order.” I said. “To Jack for his leadership, to Kyra for her unwavering logic, to Tom for his much needed sense of humor, to Gene for his dedicated persistence, to me for my good fortune, and to Mr. Candle for bringing us all together.”

My words were met with surprised smiles and nods. Glasses were clinked and the awkwardness I had felt faded away. It could have been the alcohol, but I think there was an expectation that I would not be gracious enough to share the victory with the team. I enjoyed surprising them and truthfully, I was less concerned about credit than with fitting in.

Mr. Candle leaned back in his chair and looked upon us with obvious contentment. There was a special glance in my direction and I felt certain I had managed to restore his faith in me with those few words. There was something else in his eyes though, a memory perhaps, and I realized I had somehow once again reminded him of that special someone he had lost. I longed to ask him about her, but the moment was not right.

“So V, am I right in guessing you haven’t traveled much?” Jack asked.

I shook my head.

“Not outside of the country at least. Was it that obvious?” I said.

“No, I just noticed your passport was pretty new looking.” He said.

“I’m curious, what is your area of expertise?” Kyra asked me.

The question caught me off guard. I knew what Allison’s expertise was, but I had no idea what Virginia was supposed to be good at. Even as I considered how to answer, I found it ironic how little I knew about how I fit in with the team. In fact, it was safe to say I understood everyone else’s role better than I understood my own. Fortunately, Mr. Candle saved me from inventing an answer on the spot.

“Miss West’s skills are as diverse as this team. I’m sure you will all find her invaluable.” Mr. Candle said.

“Interesting.” Dr. Michaels said.

I glanced at him wondering what he meant.

“So you’re like Jack? You know a little bit about everything.” Kyra said.

“Enough to get by.” I answered.

Only then did it occur to me that I had never known what Jack Barker’s contribution to the team was beyond being the leader. He always appeared relaxed, even when he’d been fed up with me. I guess I’d just assumed his talent was putting up with the insufferable Dr. Michaels.

“Any hints to our next assignment yet?” Dr. Michaels asked.

I was admittedly curious as well but hadn’t thought it was an appropriate time to ask for some reason. Mr. Candle didn’t seem surprised by the question.

“I’m still sorting through, but should have something for you soon.” Mr. Candle answered.

“Sorting through what?” I asked.

It was out of my mouth before I had time to consider whether or not I should be asking.

“A variety of sources.” Mr. Candle answered.

It was honest and evasive at the same time. I was impressed at his ability to think on the spot, yet annoyed at his consistent ability to answer questions without answering them at all.

“If I shouldn’t be asking, just say so, but I’m trying to understand just what sort of things it is we are likely to search for.” I said.

“Anything lost to the world for more than a decade.” Jack said.

Everyone laughed but me. I guess there was a joke in there that I was missing. Before I had a chance to inquire further, dinner arrived. The conversation took a turn toward the mundane as we politely polished our plates and drank more than was probably wise. We finished off with dessert which was by far the best part of the meal. After a single taste, I no longer had any question left as to why Mr. Candle had chosen the place.

The limousine returned us to a deserted QI. It was dark outside and unlike our time in Italy, the city lights hid the many stars in the night sky from us. I felt uneasy as we rode the elevator up to the 32nd floor. There was no reason I could pinpoint, but something just didn’t feel right. I tried to tell myself it was just the wine and the silence of night. Then the doors slid open to flashing red lights and an alarm blaring.

Tom instantly had a gun in his hand and was out in the corridor signaling for the rest of us to stay put. Jack had his with him as well but apparently the rest of us were a little less likely to be carrying. I found myself wishing I had not left mine in my desk. Of course walking around with a gun isn’t exactly my thing anyway and I was plenty happy to let Tom and Jack handle the situation.

Fortunately, there was nothing to handle. The floor was empty except for us. Whoever had tripped the alarm was long gone. It didn’t take long to figure out that they’d take the compasses with them. Dr. Michaels was furious, but I had the feeling he, along with everyone else, wasn’t all that shocked.

“Not only did they steal the compasses but all my analysis results have been deleted.” Dr. Michaels complained.

“Don’t touch anything. I might be able to restore them.” Kyra said.

She pushed her way in and began to work her magic on his computer. I slipped into my office and pulled up the monitoring program I’d been running before we had left. All the data was still intact on my system. Maybe I should have shared the information with the others but something told me I should keep it to myself for the moment. I made sure to save it and then shut the computer off. Jack walked in just as I was turning off the monitor.

“Something?” He asked.

His eyes were looking at my monitor. I shook my head.

“Nothing.” I said.

Jack nodded in a way that told me he didn’t believe me but he wasn’t going to push.

“Who would do this?” I asked.

“It’s hard to say. Could be any of a half dozen groups and if you include private collectors, the numbers go into the hundreds.”

“With the security up here? I can’t imagine there would be more than a dozen suspects with the capability.” I said.

Tom walked in with Mr. Candle right behind him.

“You’re probably right. I’ll see if I can’t narrow the list down.” Tom said.

“No, I don’t want you wasting time on it. I’ll use my connections to track down our thieves.” Mr. Candle said.

Tom was obviously as surprised as I was. Jack seemed less so, but even he gave Mr. Candle a curious look. If everything else hadn’t convinced me there was more going on in Q5 than met the eye, that moment would have. Nobody argue with Mr. Candle but I was equally certain no one agreed with him. It only made sense for Tom to investigate unless Mr. Candle already knew who had stolen them and we all knew it.

“Was Kyra able to salvage any of the data?” I asked.

“No. Whoever did this knew what they were doing.” Kyra said.

She joined us with Dr. Michaels.

“Everyone should go home and get some rest. You’ve all had a long day.” Mr. Candle said.

“You can’t seriously expect us to pretend nothing happened here tonight.” I said.

“I don’t but there is nothing left to be done here tonight. Go home.” Mr. Candle said.


  1. Ashley, Outstanding post. Cant wait to read more getting very interesting

  2. Ashley, "curiouser and curiouser," as Alice said!
    You are certainly keeping my interest.
    Warm hugs,

  3. New team rule: Always order in when celebrating a successful find.