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.

March 28, 2010

Taking Control: Sea Fever

I had us in Quito, Ecuador, only a few hundred miles from Mount Chimborazo, before sundown. Tom made arrangements for a small private plane in the morning while Kyra set us up with the rooms for the night. I would not have minded a return visit from Tom, like the previous evening, but he was still stewing over not going after Jack and Gene. He could not know and I certainly could not afford to mention it, I also wished it was the course of action we were pursuing. Jack had told me to go after the library, observatory, mountain, whatever it is and for a change, I was listening. Deep down I knew it was the right choice. Still, it was difficult to keep my concern for Jack and Gene buried within myself. I retired to my room early and alone, not because I did not want company, but because I feared in staying with the others I might well change my mind for the worse.

In dreams, I was at sea. It should have been peaceful and quiet, but storms raged over gray waters and swells swirled like all the oceans were draining away. A lone schooner fought the current with torn and ragged sails flapping like white flags of surrender in the wind. From above, I examined the deck made of splintered and polished wood, nailed side by side. Alexander Kemp held tight to the rail and pointed out beyond the forward horizon, warning of something I could not see, could not imagine. He looked up and nodded for me to look behind. The helm spun free, unmanned, while Mr. Candle wrestled with Mr. Candle.

Together they smiled at me and one yelled, "To port!" while the other said, "To starboard."

The old woman from the caves pushed the two Mr. Candle's aside, each to their own and said, "Only you can decide."

Torn between the choice, I asked, "But what's the difference between Joe and Joey?"

She said, "The Y."

"That's not an answer," I replied, shouting over the wind and rain.

"No, but it's a reason," She said.

Waves crashed over the bow and the planks began to crack and snap. The rails ripped themselves from the deck to whip through the wind and ultimately crash into the sea. White sails tore away from their lines, floating away on the currents of the storm. Alex and the old woman were swept away by crashing waves, disappearing to the depths of the raging waters. The Mr. Candle's were all that remained and even as the schooner ripped apart beneath them, they turned on each other, fighting for victory until the bitter end of us all. Sinking through green-gray water, I struggled for breath against drowning. My eyes snapped open and I sat up in bed, gasping for air.

"You're leading them to their end," My grandmother said sitting on the bed beside me in her child-like form.

"Who?" I asked, wishing I was still dreaming and yet knowing I was not.

"Your friends," She said, sounding sad, "everyone really. You will only find death and destruction on the mountain."

"Are you certain?" I asked.

She said, "I would not be here otherwise."

"Unless of course there is something up there you would rather I not know," I said.

She shook her head at me and said, "I would be disappointed, but part of me always knew you would fail."

I said, "Perhaps, but at what am I failing? You've offered me nothing beyond half truths and riddles."

"I offered you everything I had to give," She said, her voice full of spite, "but you have turned your back on me. You are your mother's daughter."

"Is that such a bad thing?" I asked and she disappeared, leaving me alone to ponder the question.

With the morning sun I rose and prepared myself for the day ahead as best I could. Tom was all business, minimally cordial while his eyes continued to scold me for turning my back on our friends. We boarded the small plane just after breakfast and were in the air by a quarter after eight. Against my better judgment, I allowed Tom to file a false flight plan with the tower, hoping he would see it as a sign I still respected his opinion. If he did, he gave no outward sign, focusing on piloting and remaining uncomfortably silent. Unsure what more I could say or do, I left him alone with the controls.

I eavesdropped on Gina and Brian for a few moments as they continued a light-hearted debate centered around the legend of Atlantis. Beside me, Kyra played quietly with her computer, ignoring me almost as completely as Tom. For a brief moment I wondered if Jack ever felt as completely isolated as I did. It is nice to be the leader when everyone happily agrees with your decisions, and very lonely when they do not. I could have ignored it all, was in fact tempted to do so, but these people were as much friends as colleagues. I knew I needed their help if we were going to be successful and the more willingly it was given the better chance we had.

Turning to Kyra, I asked, "Is everything alright?"

"Fine," She said, glancing at me for a mere second before turning back to her computer. I knew better.

"It's just you've seemed a little distant," I said, knowing I did not have the luxury of waiting for things to work themselves out.

Kyra paused in whatever she had been doing, giving me her full attention for a change. She said, "I don't like it when things don't add up and lately they've been doing that a lot."

"Maybe I could help?" I said.

"You could, but will you?" Kyra said.

I said, "What is that supposed to mean?"

"It's like Tom said," Kyra said twisting herself to look me directly in the eyes, "You know more that you are sharing."

"I have unfounded suspicions and theories which don't make much sense," I said, forcing myself to meet her gaze. "Sharing them would be reckless and irresponsible at this stage."

"I think I know what you mean, but with all this strangeness around us, don't you think it would be best if we all shared our thoughts?" Kyra said.

"I don't trust Mr. Candle," I said, deciding to be blunt.

"Why?" Kyra asked.

"Both the question and the answer," I said, struck by a flash of remembering the old woman's words in my dream.

"Huh?" She said.

"Exactly," I said.

"Are you going to explain that?" Kyra asked.

"I'm not sure I can, but it comes down to what you said, things don't add up," I said.

Kyra's lips twisted while she considered whether or not to tell me something. She said, "Do you remember you asked me to look for patterns taking time out of the equation?"

I nodded.

She said, "I didn't find anything, but Gene found the idea interesting and he asked me to run a similar analysis on the writings he was studying from Q5's various finds. You see, he was convinced there was something linking them all together."

"I remember," I said, thinking of the pattern he had shown me, "Did you find something?"

She nodded and said, "Yeah, only it doesn't make any sense."

"What did you find?"I asked, wondering if maybe I really did not want to know.

She said, "The computer is 88% certain the exact same person wrote all of them."

I blinked trying to come to terms with the implications of such a finding. It was without any doubt impossible, but I was beginning to wonder if anything truly was impossible. Ghosts that aren't ghosts, strangers that seem to be old friends, two Mr. Candle's when there is only one, and now, one person writing a dozen different messages with hundreds of years separating them, all of these things should be impossible and yet I was beginning to believe they were all true.

Kyra said, "It's impossible of course. One person could not possibly have been in all those places nor lived long enough to have spanned the years separating their creation. But, you said take time out of the equation and so I did. Now I want to know why? Are these things all faked?"

"It's one possibility," I said.

"On a hunch, I ran another analysis," She said, watching me, "It varies slightly from find to find, but there is anywhere from an 82% to 93% certainty that you are the author. Would you care to explain that?"

Possibilities rambled through my head, none of them possible. It was a hoax, it had to be. Only I was the perpetrator, but I was not. The look on Kyra's face told me there was still more. I said, "I can't."

Kyra said, "At first I thought you were involved in some elaborate hoax, most likely cooked up by Mr. Candle himself. I was all set to confront him and demand the truth, but I decided to do one more analysis first. I put time back into the equation. Not the supposed time these writings were created, but the time they were found. That's when I figured out things are even more impossible than they at first seemed."

"I'm not sure I'm following you," I said.

"Well there are plenty of these finds you could have been involved in faking, but there are three in particular which stand out as quite impossible," Kyra said. "You see, three of these were found and documented before you were even born. Now, either you look really good for a fifty year old woman or there is something else going on here."

"Could this be the result of someone tampering with your analysis programs?" I asked, recalling our trip to Italy and a similar feeling I had at the time.

"I thought of that," Kyra said, "but I can't find any evidence of it."

"But you have a theory?" I asked.

"Just that something very odd is going on and you seem to be smack in the middle of it," Kyra said.

I asked, "Could someone have tampered with the raw data?"

"You mean replaced the original writings with ones done by you?" She said.

"Not exactly, but something like that," I said.

"I suppose it is possible, although very unlikely," Kyra said. "Assuming someone did though, why would they?"

"One reason stands out to me," I said.

"And that is?" Kyra asked.

"To drive a wedge of mistrust between myself and the rest of this team," I said.

"I hate to interrupt," Tom said, "but you might want to take a look at this V."

"What have you got?" I asked, making my way up to the cockpit with Kyra right behind me.

He glanced over at us and said, "Looks like someone else is already on their way up the mountain."

It was not all that hard to make out the people dressed in bright red and blue, making their way over the mountain pass. They still had a long way to climb before reaching the observatory, but by the looks of it they had a good day's head start on us. Kyra pushed by me to get a better look for a moment.

"It's Kemp," She said.

"There is no way we're going to beat them now," Tom said.

"They're still at least a day from the observatory by my estimates," Kyra said.

"Yeah, but we haven't even started the ascent," Tom said.

"Maybe we can start higher up," I said.

"If it was possible, you can bet Kemp and his crew would have started there," Tom said.

"Maybe they didn't have all the information," Kyra said. "Maybe they don't even know what they're looking for yet."

"It would be the first time, but that's a glacier encasing the mountain's summit," Tom said, glancing between me and the view outside. "The best I could manage is a controlled crash landing and there's good odds we'd be stuck with no way out except straight through Kemp."

"There has to be another way," Kyra said, looking at me as if I was supposed to pull a rabbit out of the plane's controls.

"What about a helicopter?" I asked. "Couldn't we set one of those down on the ice?"

"Yeah," Tom said, "but I couldn't get it a lot higher up than where Kemp's people are now. We'd still be behind."

"Kyra," I said, as an idea formed in my mind, "am I right in recalling there was a way into the observatory from above?"

"It's difficult to be certain from the images we have, but there was a vent shaft which seemed to intersect the observatory,"Kyra said.

I glanced back into the plane at the far wall and nodded. It was not exactly my first choice of things to do, but there really was no other option left open to us. Returning my attention to the cockpit, I found Tom and Kyra both staring at me. They were waiting for an explanation, but I think they both already knew what I had in mind.

"Get Tom the coordinates for that shaft," I said to Kyra and turning to Tom, "We'll parachute out in the target zone for that shaft and then you'll have to go back and get a helicopter to pick us up at that pass. We'll rendezvous in twenty-four hours."

"No way are you going down there without me," Tom said. "If nothing else you'll need me to get you through Kemp's people to even get close to the pass."

"We'll manage, Tom. I'd rather have you with us, believe me, but there is no one else who can fly this plane and bring the helicopter to get us out of there," I said.

"I don't like it," Tom said.

"Do you have any idea how dangerous a jump you are proposing?" Kyra asked.

I said, "Yeah, and unless we want Kemp to get into that observatory first we don't really have a choice. I'll go alone if I have to, but honestly I'm going to need some help down there."

"You can count me in V," Gina said, joining the conversation from the rear of the plane.

"Jumping out of a plane was definitely on my bucket list," Brian said. "Although, I must say I planned to knock a few other things off first, just in case you know, but I'm with you."

"Fine," Kyra said, "I'm in, but if you get me killed, I swear I'll haunt you for all eternity."

I nodded at all of them, proud of them, proud of myself and said, "It's settled then. Everybody pick a chute and get ready. Tom, we'll be counting on you."

"You're insane, but I'll be there," Tom said.

Kyra gave Tom the coordinates for our jump and as maneuvered us around for the best approach, the rest of us got ready. Brian helped me secure my chute and afterward we put together what few supplies we had to take with us. None of us were totally prepared for an extended stay in high altitudes on a glacier, but hopefully the observatory would be a shelter for us. As long as we had enough food and water we would be fine, unless we could not get into the observatory. If that was the case, then my ghostly grandmother was right.

"Two minutes," Tom said, and I slid open the plane's door.

"We're going to have to do this fast," Brian said, icy wind rushing at us.

"We'll go in order," I said, "Brian first, Kyra second, Gina next, and I'll go last. Wait a count of three and jump."

"You need to pull your cords as soon as we're clear of the plane," Brian said. "It's not going to be that far of a drop and you need to give your chute as much time as possible to slow your descent."

We all nodded. Tom said, "Entering the zone in three, two, one, now."

No time for second thoughts, I watched the others go and then stepped to the edge and jumped. Exhilaration washed over me as the ice and rock below rushed ever closer toward me. I pulled my cord a few seconds after the others, enjoying the thrill and feeling oddly safe at the upward jerk of my opening chute. Landing on the uneven surface of rocks and ice was difficult and had us all laying flat, but we all made it one piece.

"I was beginning to think you weren't coming," A raspy voice said.

Looking to the source, I could hardly believe my eyes. The old woman from the caves stood atop the rocks, staring down at me. Her wooden staff was planted into the ice like a walking stick, supporting her weight. A heavy cloak sat on her shoulders with the hood flapping in the wind behind her. Her face was stern and serious, skin and lips cracked from exposure to the cold and yet her eyes seemed to be laughing at us, at me.


  1. Ash,
    excellent story. liked the convo that V and Kyra had. the jump from the plane was cool. seems that this form of the team really is getting along good.

  2. Ash, your imagination does you credit, A+. :D
    Piling mystery on top of mystery, I'm loving this.
    They are all very brave, I don't think that I could jump from a plane.
    Warm hugs,

  3. Al, The teams does seem to be working, but it does seem like looks can be deceiving, especially around V.

    Paul, Thanks. The mysteries should start unraveling, but there are quite a few to be addressed. I don't think I'd be jumping from any planes either. I'll leave that sort of thing to my fictional characters. lol