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.

October 19, 2009

Thawing Out: Tip Of The Iceberg

"No way!" Cherise said.

Considering the topic we were discussing, smiling was the last thing you would expect I would be doing, but then that was why I had called my friend in the first place. She has a way of putting me in a good mood no matter how bad things have become in my life. It was far from seeking sympathy, because Cherise rarely gives it, but her perspective on my life is often eye opening and even amusing which helps me laugh off the tears and the pain.

"Yep, right there in his office and visible to everyone on the whole floor," I said.

My bottom was not quite glowing anymore, but it was still tender to the touch and after sitting on it the entire afternoon, I was giving my pain threshold a break and laying face down on my bed. My work clothes had been peeled away and discarded to a corner of the floor where they would probably wait until I sent them off to the cleaners. Upstairs, the elephants were roaming around and making me wish I had waited for top floor apartment or taken Mr. Candle's advice and gone to Virginia's condo. If the day had gone a little differently I might have done just that, but when it was time to go home, all I wanted was to curl up on my familiar bed and complain to my best friend.

"Did you deserve it?" She asked.

"What would make you think I might have?" I said.

"Seriously?" She said.

The tone of her voice was meant to subtly remind me of the twenty years of mischief the two of us have witnessed together. Well, more than witnessed, we were responsible for it too, but I was trying to forget about those times for the moment. A glance over my shoulder at my bare, pink butt was more than enough of a reminder on how most of that mischief had ended and reinforcing that reminder was definitely not why I had called.

"I've grown up since all that," I said.

"Yeah, cause that was all such a long, long time ago," Cherise said.

"In a galaxy far, far away," I said.

"You wish," said Cherise.

"Okay, but really, it wasn't just me this time," I said.

I could hear Cherise swallowing on the other end of the call which was a sure sign she was not swallowing the story I was telling. It did not help that my story was heavily modified by the fact, I could not let her in on Q5 and what I really do working for Quondam Innovations. Still, I think I managed to tell the story in a manner consistent enough with the relevant facts and maybe the reason she was not buying it was the same reason I was having trouble figuring it out; Kyra's behavior seemed completely arbitrary, without justification, and with few exceptions, people do not do things without reasons.

"You don't think it's possible your boss sees the difference between mistakes you've made and what this other secretary did to make you look bad?" Cherise said.

"I'm not suggesting I'm perfect, but I think I've made enough of a positive impact I deserve a little credit when things go a little wrong." I said.

"It seems to me what you are saying and what you are feeling are in conflict. You obviously did something you shouldn't have and when your boss didn't let it go you find it easier to lay the blame elsewhere. What really surprises me is that you aren't blaming your boss, but some random secretary who you've suddenly got phantom issues with," Cherise said.

I blinked at my phone, a scowl spreading across my face. The conversation was not going quite like I had imagined. Instead of siding with me and helping me plot out a devious plan guaranteed to extract vengeance, Cherise was actually telling me the whole thing was my own fault. The unlikely and wild possibility that I had slipped into an alternate universe while escaping from Fu Xi's vault crossed my mind, but I had to admit it was far more likely my friend was being honest with me.

"So you are saying I deserved it," I said.

"I guess I am. My boss wouldn't spank me for walking out during work without so much as a word, but he doesn't spank me. Instead, I'd probably be unemployed after a stunt like that and to be honest, I think I'd rather have the spanking like you got if I had a choice. Consider yourself lucky," She said.

"Lucky and getting a bare bottom spanking in front of coworkers seems incongruous at best," I said.

"Look at this way, at least you didn't spend the rest of the day standing in a corner with your bare, red, butt on display," Cherise said.

A scarlet blush blossomed on my already pink cheeks at the very idea Cherise proposed. It was true the spanking at Jack's hands had been an utter humiliation, especially so with the entire team watching while pretending not to watch, but that had been the end of it. Other than Kyra's taunting eyes, no one had said a word to me about the incident and given past experience, no one was likely to in the future either. While not exactly lucky, my friend was right, it could have been much, much worse.

She also made one other very good point which I cannot ignore; As much as I might want to blame Kyra for what happened, the only person to blame was myself. The extenuating circumstances, the part about the bad news I had received from Mr. Candle, was totally irrelevant in the terms of professional and unprofessional behavior. I had expected Jack to give me some leeway because of what I had brought to the team, but for reasons of his own he felt he had given me enough leeway already and that was not Kyra's fault no matter how much I wanted it to be.

"Have I mentioned I hate you when you're right?" I said.

"Every damn chance you get," said Cherise.


Come morning, the visible results of Jack's spanking were gone, but after the long drive into work my bottom was reminding me with renewed tenderness. I was certain Cathy and her coworkers could tell I had been recently spanked just by the way I walked and mumbled "good morning" to them. It was probably just my imagination but Cathy's usual smile seemed a little more sympathetic than normal and my eyes focused in on her hand resting casually next to her own backside. I was relieved when the elevator doors slid shut, taking me away before comments were made or questions were asked.

I was early and I thought I was alone as I made my into my office. As soon as I sat down, ruefully shaking my head as the cushioned chair felt like sitting on tone, I realized I was wrong. Jack Barker walked down the stairs leading from the smaller offices on the other side of Q5. We noticed each other at nearly the same time and Jack returned the rueful smile on my face with a half smile that looked sympathetic. My cheeks colored knowing he had caught me feeling sorry for myself and my sore backside.

"Good morning," He said, entering my office and sitting down across from me. "I'm glad you're here. I was thinking about you all night."

"That's funny, so was I," I said.

Jack's eyes grew a little wider and amusement flickered within them like a candle in a window. The half smile on his face transformed into a full one and his cheeks turned a light shade of pink. He leaned forward in his chair, resting his right hand on my desk and shifting his weight to the side in the chair. I had the impression he was about to conspire with me although what it could be about I had no idea at all.

"You know I've known a lot of narcissist, but I think you are the first one to admit to it so readily," Jack said.

Jack's half snicker, half chuckle told me he found himself amusing, and possibly me too, but I was not laughing. Maybe it was the effect of my still sore bottom or maybe it was that I really care a lot about what he thinks of me, either way his off the cuff comment was bruising to my already bruised ego. It was all I could do to keep the tears in my eyes from raining down my cheeks in an emotional hurricane.

"Hey it was just a joke. A lame one I know, but I'm not good at apologies and I know I owe you one for yesterday," Jack said.

"What?" I said, blinking like the proverbial deer in the headlights. An apology from Jack Barker was the last thing I expected on this morning. "What for?"

"I overreacted. I'm not saying you were right to walk out of here like you did, but with everything that's going on, I should have handled it differently. I'm sorry," Jack said.

"Walking out of here like that was probably the most idiotic thing I could have done with everything that is going on," I said. "My best friend in the whole world more or less told me so last night and she was right. I wouldn't have argued if you'd handled it another way, but I don't blame you for what you did."

Jack leaned back in the chair and his eyes returned to their normal size. The left corner of his lips curled upward and his head tilted slightly right while he regarded me more casually with the tense moment having passed. I stared at him a little too intently, enjoying the appearance of the contented, somewhat cocky man seated before me. Where another man might have dwelled at length on the mutual apologies and the reasons for them, he was more than happy to move on and leave it be. Part of me was pleased to leave it in the past and forgotten but part of me also felt their remained something to be resolved, although I cannot say precisely what that might be.

"Can I offer you some friendly advice?" Jack asked.

"That depends, do I have to take it?" I said.

"No, but then I won't promise it will still be friendly if it comes up again later," Jack said.

"I guess I have to listen then," I said.

"You don't have to. I for one certainly won't mind watching you bend over again," Jack said with a wink.

The blood rushed to my cheeks again and I leaned back in my chair in a feeble attempt to hide it from Jack. My more reckless side envisioned me getting up and walking around the desk just so I could lean over it with my bottom neatly pointed in Jack's direction, only to ask if he liked the view. Fortunately, the prude in me won out and I kept my imaginings to myself for a change. The growing smile on his face and the faint color in his own cheeks was proof enough that his own imagination was hard at work creating his own picture perfect scene starring the two of us. Oddly, the prospect of bending over for Jack did not seem quite so bad when it was just the two of us.

"I don't think either of us wants that," I said, knowing full well the exact opposite was true.

"Which brings me to my point. Whatever this thing is between you and Kyra, you need to fix it," Jack said.

I nodded in agreement. Jack exhaled the breath he had been holding , I guess afraid I was going to explode at him. The snotty teenager in me wanted to ask why it was my responsibility and not Kyra's, but my tender backside was keeping that portion of my personality at bay for the time being. It was far from fair and probably nowhere near as easy as it sounded, but there was no denying that the problem had to be solved.

"I'm not even sure what the problem is but I'll talk to her," I said.

"Good because if it interferes with another mission you'll both be working mail delivery for a week with red butts," Jack said.

I gulped under the hardened stare of Jack's unblinking eyes. Before yesterday, I would have dismissed the comment as an empty threat, but after baring my bottom in his office for the spanking he had promised in the Philippines, I was no longer certain the threat was anything less than real. The slight nodding of Jack's head felt like an affirmation that he was serious and if his warning went unheeded, he would follow through.

"I'll fix it." I promised.

"Good," Jack said.

Needless to say I was all set to sit down with Kyra and have a very long conversation with her when she showed up about fifteen minutes after Jack had left my office. The day had other things in mind for us though. I had only just stepped up to her work area in the middle of the floor when red lights started flashing and alarms began blaring all around us. I half expected someone to jump on the intercom and scream, "Battle stations!"

"What's happening?" I asked.

Kyra took the time to shrug at me with glazed over eyes staring at me from the corner of her eyes and a partially opened mouth. The last time I gave my Mom a look similar to that I was picking myself up off the floor, wondering where I was, a second later. Kyra is lucky I am not my Mom. She turned back to the computer and began pulling up security logs in an attempt to locate the source of the problem.

Tom appeared out of thin air to my right and tossed me a gun. I snatched it out of the air, glad my reflexes were up to the challenge because otherwise it might have done a number on my foot. Jack and Dr. Michaels gathered around us a moment later and Tom finished passing out guns. It occurred to me that the rest of them had at least a little more of an idea what was going on than I did, but I at least knew the red lights and blaring sirens were not good things.

"Elevator security has been compromised," Kyra announced. "I cut power but they must have a portable unit in place because the car is still moving."

"Security?" Tom asked.

"Whoever it is has a partial hack into the building's mainframe. They've initiated bio-hazard lock down on all floors," Kyra said. "That means everybody is stuck where they're at."

"Can you override them?" Jack asked.

"I'm trying, but they've got access codes and a hardwire connection," Kyra said.

"Try activating the fire system, it's commands will conflict with bio-hazard's," I suggested.

"The bio-hazard protocols are designed with priority over the fire system," said Kyra.

"I assumed as much but the conflicting system commands might provide you a window to get in and shut the bio-hazard down." I said.

Kyra froze for a moment, her eyes locked on Jack who was looking at me with narrowed eyes and a wrinkled nose. Obviously I had created some sort of suspicion around myself, but I had no idea what. Jack turned to Kyra and nodded and she returned the nod with pursed lips. Her dexterous fingers typed unintelligible commands into the system at lightning speed and a few moments later the alarms shut off before restarting, but this time the alarm was the more familiar ringing of the fire system. I held my breath for a moment wondering if the ceiling sprinklers were about to douse us, but they remained off.

"It worked," Kyra said, unnecessarily.

"Order all security to this floor via the stairwells and get a location on the elevator," Jack ordered.

"I've issued the security directive, but the elevator is already here. Our guests are hacking through our door security now," Kyra said.

"How long?" Tom asked.

"Impossible to estimate with accuracy, but given their proficiency so far, I'm guessing less than a minute," Kyra said.

It occurred to me that they were coming to our floor with a specific purpose in mind and they were probably well prepared to deal with the five us. If I were them I would have brought tear gas or maybe some other gaseous agent designed to knock us all out the second they got the door open. Getting inside the building with gas masks and weapons would not be an easy challenge, especially if they were wanting to remain unnoticed, but my guess was they counting on surprise and speed for success which meant being noticed was not among the things they really cared about. In fact, they only things they were likely to care about were getting in, getting what they were after and getting out. Which left just one question; What were they after?

"Dr. Michaels, is the crystal secure in the lab's vault?" I asked.

"I put it there myself as soon as we had all the data for Kyra's modelling program," He replied.

The little time we had for preparation came to an abrupt end as the main door to Q5 swung open and a small metal canister bounced its way into the room with the hissing sound of a tire losing air. I took a last deep breath and ran for the lab at the back. I could not be certain, but in my memory it seemed Mr. Candle had mentioned the lab was airtight and had an isolated filtration system. If so, it was quite possibly our only chance to foil the plans of our most unwelcome visitors. I motioned for the others to follow me, but only Dr. Michaels seemed to understand.

Jack and Tom emptied their guns at the doorway despite it being void of any physical presence. At best their macho-istic act delayed the entry of our attackers, at worst, it told them exactly when the gas had taken effect enough to allow them an unobstructed entry. Kyra paused to glance between Jack and Tom, and Dr. Michaels and me. She decided to follow us, but the wasted time in deciding was too much. Kyra took two steps from her chair before falling to the floor. Jack and Tom dropped as well at almost the exact same time.

Dr. Michaels sealed the lab door behind us and then gave me a nod of approval. I sucked in air, hoping the gas hadn't reached the lab before we made it inside. It was then I noticed the right side of my face was numb and my arms and hands as well. The drool coming out of Dr. Michaels mouth was evidence enough that he was experiencing the same symptoms. I must have had a curious look frozen on my face because Dr. Michaels decided he needed to explain as best he could in slurred speech.

"Nerve gas," He said. "Inhalation speeds the effectiveness but any skin contact is sufficient for symptoms to manifest."

"How long til it abates?" I asked.

Dr. Michaels blinked and his eyes rolled back a little like he was studying the ceiling. I was tempted to follow his gaze but decided he was probably just thinking and the numbness was altering his normal facial expressions. I looked out through the glass and watched as five people entered the room covered in black tactical gear that reminded me all too well of an untimely awakening at the Bad Land Survival Camp. The leader of the group was about the right size and definitely had the right curves to be Olivia Stratford. I probably should have left room for some doubt, but I was absolutely certain it was her.

"If we're lucky a couple of hours, if we are really lucky, a few minutes, but depending on the compound used, the effect could be permanent," Dr. Michaels said.

It took me a moment to comprehend the slurred speech and a minute longer to process the unwelcome news mixed with the possibly good news. Outside, in the main room, the group made their way over to Jack and Tom where they secured the empty weapons on the floor and then proceeded to pull another three guns and two knives off of Tom's limp form. They moved over to Kyra next where one of them spent a little too long searching her body for weapons when the only one she had was laying useless on the conference table next to her keyboard. The one I suspected of being Olivia waved at Dr. Michaels and I. I pointed my gun at her but I knew it was a pointless gesture and so did she or she probably would not have flipped me off like she did.

In the back of my mind I knew the group would have been crazy to have used a nerve agent with permanent effect because no matter how careful they were, they could not guarantee that they themselves would completely avoid exposure. With that in mind, it seemed logical they would choose something with a very short term effect. The tingling in my fingers told me I was right and today was a very, very lucky day.

Olivia and her squad moved on toward the lab's vault, apparently satisfied Dr. Michaels and I were safely contained and the rest of our team was no longer a threat. They were undoubtedly aware of security forces on their way up in the stairwells but I doubted they had any worries in the direction. If they had not dropped a canister of their nerve gas in the stairwell it was fairly obvious the gas was sufficiently concentrated within Q5 to disable anyone without proper gear. All that added up to Dr. Michaels and I being the only ones in any kind of position to stop Olivia.

"The numbness seems to be wearing off," I said.

"I agree, it appears to be a fast acting, short term agent," Dr. Michaels said, his voice already several times clearer.

"So the gas should dissipate quickly even with normal ventilation," I said.

"It would except the fire control system shuts down the ventilation system in order to keep fires from spreading through it," Dr. Michaels said.

"You wouldn't happen to know how to disengage the fire alert?" I asked.

"That would be outside of my area of expertise, Miss West," Dr. Michaels said.

I spun around looking for anything that would give me a clue as to what I could do. Dr. Michaels simply watched me with an amused expression on his face, apparently brought on by my refusal to accept the situation was inalterable. My eyes locked on the view outside the windows, at the city, the clouds, the air. Everything we needed was just outside.

"A few moments of mixing with the outside air would be sufficient to dissipate the gas to safe levels," Dr. Michaels said, catching on to my thinking before I said a word.

We each had a gun and we were both reasonably recovered from our initial exposure, but in order to shoot out one of the windows that would matter, one of us had to go outside of the lab. If our guess was right about the air dissipating the gas it would only leave the person incapacitated for a short time, but with Olivia's team already working on the vault time was not a luxury we had. Whichever one of us stayed would have to stop Olivia and her team alone. Neither job seemed like something I wanted to volunteer for and Dr. Michaels appeared to be thinking the same thing.

"I'll do it," Dr. Michaels said. "You have a better chance of stopping them than I do."

I swallowed hard, knowing he was right didn't make the situation any better. Without help, neither of us really had much of a chance and the only hope I could hope to reach me in time was security teams that might be on their way up in the stairwell if they weren't incapacitated. The only person I could really count on was myself and the last time I tangled with Olivia she had very nearly killed me.

"I wouldn't even ask if I thought there was any other way," I said.

"It's quite alright. You should wait at least a full minute from the when the window shatters before exiting the lab. Also, it should only require two or three bullets to do the job, the pressure difference will do the rest. You may want to acquire my gun on your way," Dr. Michaels said.

I nodded. There was nothing to really say other than wishing him good luck and that just seemed a little too dramatic under the circumstances. Dr. Michaels returned the nod and placed his hand on the door. I stepped as far back as I could to limit the exposure I would have to the gas when the door opened. He looked back at me with a look of determination donning on his face. Dr. Michaels was definitely not the man I thought he was when I first joined the team. He was still arrogant, annoying, and narcissistic, but there was a lot more to him than just that.

He opened the door with a steady hand and rushed out into the main room, running until he had a clear shot at a window connecting directly to the main room. Three muffled shots rang out from his gun before he collapsed to the floor, but as he had suspected, they were enough. The glass shattered after a brief moment and the powerful breeze from the outside world swept through our office. I stared at my watch, waiting for the second hand to make a complete revolution while my hand grew sweaty with the gun resting in it.

The second hand was only halfway through the revolution when one of Olivia's men showed up to find out what had happened. He stared at me for a long moment, apparently trying to decide how much of a threat I was before disappearing again back toward the vault. I exited the lab as soon as the minute was up, not because I thought it was perfectly safe, but because I figured I had very little time before Olivia's team returned to take care of me.

I snatched up Dr. Michael's gun and tucked it into the back of my skirt, wincing a little as the hot barrel made itself known against my skin. Keeping my gun trained in the general direction of the vault I cautiously made my way toward the room. A slight amount of numbness had returned but it was dissipating even as I moved. Our plan was working, but as feared, it had left me the only one between Olivia and the Fu Xi crystal in our vault.

A gun fired and I crouch down and to my right after feeling the bullet's warmth as it passed my head on its way to a semi-permanent lodging in the far wall. They were waiting for me which made it a pretty safe bet they did not have the vault open yet. The only problem was they have a very defensible position which would definitely buy them some time for getting it open. I had to find a way to cut in on that time and their defensible position.

My eye found the canister they had tossed and the poetry of the plan made me smile despite everything. I backed my way to it careful to stay out of a direct line from the vault room's doorway. Once I had the canister I crept back, keeping myself hugged tight against the wall. The closer I got to actually committing to my plan the more uncertain I became that it had any chance of working, but survival comes down to doing the best you can rather than doing nothing at all, or so Rick had told us back in Utah. I had my doubts but in the end I knew I was doing it because I was not giving up the crystal without a fight.

I threw the empty canister so that it hit the door frame and then bounced inside the room. While it was busy making a commotion I shoved off from my secure position and twisted so I had line of sight into the room. There were three people in my direct vision and none of them were looking at me. I started shooting and hoped it would all be over before any of them had the presence of mind to start shooting at me.

Our unwelcome guests scattered like cockroaches in the light and I was pretty certain I had wounded at least two of them, but the only way I was going to maintain my advantage was to pursue them into the room and dangerous as that course of action was, I did it anyway.

"I've got it," I heard Olivia say. "Everybody out!"

The sound of shattering glass caught me off guard as I made my way into the doorway. It was not all that surprising of an exit strategy but I had failed to put it together on my own. I shot at a flash of motion jumping out the window, but at the same time a boot connected with my hands and sent my gun flying. A fist followed the boot a second later, only it was aimed at my head. I ducked and threw myself at the source of the attack. Our bodies collided and my momentum took us both down to the ground.

I rolled off, placing myself between the attacker and the window and at the same time realizing the rest of the unwelcome guests had left us via the recently shattered window to the outside world. Ordinarily a jump like that would have been a bit suicidal, but they had obviously brought the gear to survive. The only positive thing was I had Olivia still and she had the crystal.

Olivia rolled up to a kneeling position and reached for a gun. Before I could stop and think I launched myself at her again, sending the two of us sliding into the main room and her gun sprawling across the floor. I ripped the mask off her face and gave her a black eye for old time's sake with a punch that would have made my brother proud if he had seen it. Olivia punched me in the gut, knocking the wind out of my and then pushed me away and off her as I gasped.

On the other side of the room I saw Dr. Michaels start to move a little and his eyes caught sight of Olivia. A quick glance at Olivia reveal her staring at him as well and there was no doubt the two of them knew each other. Three week prior, I would have assumed the worst about Dr. Michaels in that moment but with all that I have learned I realized whatever he had done with Olivia it was not what she had done with him.

Olivia shook herself out of the moment and ran for the opened window in the vault room with me out of her direct path. I was not read to surrender though and I followed, diving after her and managing to grab hold of her ankle, sending her back down to the ground one more time. You might think after being put down that many times a person would learn to stay down, but one thing about Olivia, I was certain she was as stubborn as I was.

We grappled with each other, each of us trying to get the upper hand. I told myself I only needed to hold her a few more seconds and then Jack or Tom should arrive to help. Olivia seemed to know the same thing and so her struggle turned from determined to desperate. Unable to get herself free of me, she decided to take me with her and with one big effort she threw us both out the window.

Reflexes and survival instincts were in full control of my body and somehow I managed to let go of Olivia and grab hold of the window frame, rather than free falling with Olivia. I watched as her suit wings caught the air and sped her away until she pulled her chute. It was only then I realized I was dangling from the building with only precarious grip keeping me from plummeting 32 stories to my death. The fact my hand was bleeding from broken glass jabbing into it and my feet and other hand were unable to do anything to improve my situation started to sink in and my mind went to work trying to figure out how I was going to get myself out of this situation. Nothing was coming to mind and the blood from my own hand was making my grip on the frame slip. Just when I thought it was all over, a strong hand grabbed my arm at the wrist and started to pull me up. I looked up to see Jack Barker on the other end of that strong hand.


  1. They've only brought back two artifacts so far and both of them have been stolen. Not a very impressive track record. Someone should probably be fired.

  2. Ashley, verily a "cliffhanger", well done.
    An excellent and fast moving chapter, thank you.
    Warm hugs,

  3. Fantastic Post, Ash, lots of action..great story i am enjoying it can not wait for the next post