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.

April 28, 2010

Losing Control: Terrible Choices

Our journey ended in the middle of the Peruvian rain forest. At first glance, it was nothing more than a clearing at the foot of a cliff, but a closer inspection revealed much more. An unusual reddish tint glittered in the soil of the area and the foliage at its borders was dead or dying. The air felt heavier than normal even for the humid region we were in. Overhead the sky was clear and blue, but in the distance I could see the gathering of storm clouds.

"Are you ready?" Alex Kemp asked, standing beside me.

"For what?" I asked, my gaze flickering to him for a moment before returning to the cave's entrance in the side of the cliff. It looked more like a window than a doorway. If the cave was indeed a portal to other dimensions, realities, then the appearance seemed somehow appropriate, perhaps even significant. The more I stared at it the more I felt like I was standing in the shadow of death.

"Destiny," Joe Candle said, walking up from behind us.

"I don't believe in destiny," I said, despite the whispers to the contrary inside my head.

Dr. Michaels joined us, looking at the opening in the cliff and said, "If you did, there wouldn't be any point in being here."

"How will we know if she succeeds?" Brian asked from a few feet away.

Next to him, Olivia said, "We'll live through the day."

"If that were the goal wouldn't we be better off just about any place else?" Brian said.

"Don't worry," Gina said slipping a pack onto her back, "If she fails, there won't be a tomorrow for anyone, no matter where they are."

Olivia said, "At least here we have a chance to help."

I stepped forward to the entrance and laid my hand on the rock surrounding it. A tingle not unlike and electric shock, jolted through my body. I looked inside, but could see nothing more than darkness beyond the entrance. A cold shiver washed over me, my hands began to sweat and every impulse in my body screamed to run in the opposite direction. I took a deep breath and braced myself to enter the domain of the mystical and unknown.

"So this is where it all began," I said.

Dr. Michaels joined me at the entrance and said, "Circles always end where they begin."

"You could have told me everything from the start," I said.

He laughed and said, "You wouldn't have listened."

I nodded in agreement, remembering how little I had liked him the first time we had met. It was never that I thought he was a bad person, just that he seemed to be hiding something and now, it was obvious he had been. There was a lesson to be learned in the fact and I was finally paying attention to notice. My instincts were mostly right and ignoring them was always a mistake, perhaps even the mistake I was supposed to fix. Somewhere deep inside the cave before us that mistake remained a possibility, but I also wondered if the mistake was already made and the events ahead were now more of an unavoidable consequence.

"Probably not," I said, embracing my instincts. "I'm curious about something."

He raised a single eyebrow and waited for me to continue. I said, "When you were taken in Mexico, was it by Joe or Joey?"

"Joe," Dr. Michaels said, "it was time for me to come in before things got to complicated with Joey."

"So how did the plane end up with Joey's people?" I asked.

"Jack stole it," Dr. Michaels said.

I nodded. It made sense, but I was still reeling from the idea I had been working with people who I would typically label as bad. Obviously Jack was very much aware of Joey's plans, but I wondered if any of the others new the whole story. Tom never gave any indication if he did and the fact they would risk killing him, seemed to indicate he was not exactly on board with them, but it could also mean he decided to switch sides midstream as well. Kyra was a complicated case too. With her computer skill and curiosity, it seemed unlikely Joey could keep much from her. On the other hand, Joey kept her busy with a lot of projects which might have been an easy way to keep her from looking to closely at the various things that did not always add up. All it really told me was there was no one in either camp I could rely on for help. Everyone had an agenda.

Joining us at the entrance, Brian said, "The Incas had a legend about the origins of life which said the first man and woman, rose up out of the water and climbed out into the world through a window. This place makes me wonder if it was more than legend."

Dr. Michaels nodded and said, "There are many unexplained mysteries in the world. Inside this cave we may find some explanations."

"Or just more mystery," I said.

Joe joined us at the cave's entrance and, taking the first step inside, said, "We should hurry."

I paused for a moment, drinking in the sights and sounds of the outside world. The chirping of birds in trees and the rustle of wind through the leaves seemed to beckon me to leave the cave behind. Thunder echoed against the cliff and lightning crackled through the sky. Rain drops clattered against the red soil forming puddles eerily reminiscent of blood. It felt like a memory long forgotten and dismissed as nothing more than a dream. I shuddered with cold fear gripping my soul and turned my back on the world, stepping into the darkness. It was time to face the demons.

Without a backward glance, Joe led the way through the winding, narrow tunnels of the cave. We were forced to crawl on hands and knees in near total darkness, descending ever deeper into the cave. The smell of wet dirt and stale air left little wonder as to why the ancient cultures of region thought of caves as a doorway to the underworld and afterlife. It took little imagination to reinforce the idea of death hanging over you like a mist in the air. I tried to focus my attention on moving, but my thoughts kept wandering to the unanswered questions swirling in my head.

Part of me hoped Joe was a liar, hoped he would prove to be everything I once thought him to be. If that was the reality, then we would exit the tunnels and find ourselves alone. There would be no more need for charades and the truth of his intentions would soon be revealed to me. It would involve me and no one else and no matter what would happen, I could live with the results.

The rest of me knew better. The charades were already over and the final confrontation was upon me. Joey, the man I had known as my employer, as Joseph Candle, as my grandfather, would be there at the end of the tunnels and he would not be alone. My nephew would be present at the very least, if not his parents and mine as well. Joey would be holding all the cards and no matter what I chose to do, there would be a sacrifice to be made and some of them would be more than I could bear.

We emerged from the tunnels into a large cavern decorated with stalagmites and stalactites. In the middle of the cavern a small pool of water was surrounded by a rim of what appeared to be granite. It seemed completely unnatural and out of place. The air moved as if circulated by fans and scent of mold and mud tickled at my nose. To the right of the pool, a small ledge hung over it and standing on the ledge, Joey smiled down at me.

"You're just in time," Joey said.

"Don't do it," Joe said, putting himself between Joey and me.

"Auntie!" My nephew cried from near the water and began to run toward me, until Jack stopped him by placing his gun on Geoff's chest.

I took a step toward Jack, glaring anger into him like knives from my soul. I said, "I should have killed you when I had the chance."

"Yeah, but you didn't," Jack said smiling. "Better luck next time."

"Since you made it in time, I'll give you the choice Allison," Joey said, as Mark and a couple of nameless goons disarmed Joe and his companions. "Will it be you or your nephew who opens the portal?"

Reluctantly, I tore my eyes from Jack and turned my attention to Joey. "Why?" I asked.

"Because the portal must be opened and the key will die. I wish there was another way, but there is not. So, I leave the choice in your hands, provided you will make it," Joey said.

"But why must the portal be opened?" I asked.

Joey sighed and started to motion to Jack. I said, "If I'm going to die here, I think I deserve to know why."

Joey paused in his movements and turned back to me. He said, "Because if it isn't opened, everything will end on December 21, 2012."

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

Joe stepped forward and said, "You're wrong Joey. Nothing will end unless the portal is opened here today."

I looked between the two men. They stood nearly identical in pose and just as firm in their convictions. Neither had bothered to tell me the whole story, but I was long passed the point of being angry over secrets and lies. They were reflections of each other, sure enough. Two different men, but with the same methods and stubbornness. It was only then I understood the situation before me and the mistake I was dangerously close to making. I could trust neither man and that meant I could only trust myself.

I left myself the clue I needed to find the right path. The portal would be opened no matter what I did. My responsibility was to close it. My heart ached in my chest with the realization and I finally understood why I would make the wrong decision in the first place. I looked away from Joe and Joey to my nephew. Frightened tears wet his cheeks just as sad ones glistened in my eyes. I cleared my throat and opened my mouth, prepared to make the unthinkable choice.

My eyes flickered closed as I searched for strength. The cave faded away, replaced by a grassy cliff high above the ocean. It was the place of my recent strange dreams and suddenly I knew it was more memory than dream.

My grandmother laughed and said, "You still don't understand."

"What?" I asked as the sky began to rain.

"I've always been true to what I am, but you," She said, shaking her head, "you betrayed everyone."

"No," I said.

"Denial does not change the truth," She said, watching my every move. "You cannot change what you are."

"Fortunately, I don't need to," I said and my eyes snapped open bringing the cave back into focus.

"I acted against my nature," I said aloud, although more to myself than those around me.

"What?" Joe asked, turning to me.

I laughed. It was all so simple when things made sense like they should. My mistake was not in trusting men I did not trust. It was in following a course of action I knew to be wrong because I thought it was the only choice. This time I would make a new choice and things would be different. It was a chance, but when a chance is all you have, it is what you take.

"The portal won't be opened," I said, walking toward Jack.

Jack said, "One more step and he dies."

"Go ahead," I said continuing to walk toward him. "If you kill him then you need me to open that portal and that won't be happening."

Jack knew I was right. It was written in his eyes as he stared at me. He was also afraid of me. The gun in his hand trembled a touch as he swung it away from Geoff and pointed it straight at me. I smiled and ran straight at him. The sound of the gunshot echoed in the cavern causing pebbles to fall from the walls and ceiling, like rain. I blinked through the pain of the bullet ripping through me and kept going toward Jack, colliding with him and taking us both tumbling to the ground.

"Run Geoff!" I shouted, struggling with Jack for control of his gun.

Geoff stood paralyzed for a moment. It was too much to ask of him to understand the dangerous situation surrounding him. He looked around the cavern and then headed toward the exit as fast as his little legs could carry him. I turned my full focus on Jack and hoped someone in Joe's group would be smart enough to help Geoff get out of the cave. Jack found my wound with his free hand and dug his fingers in, making me scream in pain. The anger pulsed through my veins giving me strength I never knew I had. I rammed his gun hand against the rock floor over and over until he released the gun, yelping in his own pain. I grabbed the gun and rolled away from him. He pushed himself up off the floor and turned to pursue me, but I was ready. I pulled the trigger dropping him to the ground for the last time.

"Bring him here," Joey commanded.

I spun around to see Mark climbing the step like rocks leading to the ledge where Joey waited. Mark was carrying Geoff in his arms with Joe running after him. I was too far away to get a good shot with all the stalactites and stalagmites in the way. A few feet away from me, Joey's other goons were struggling with Alex, Olivia, Gina, and Gene. Joe was Geoff's only chance unless I could somehow get to them in time. I pushed myself off the floor, ignoring the searing pain in my chest and ran for the ledge, dodging through the stalagmites like safety cones.

By the time I reached the ledge, Joe and Joey were rolling on the ground wrestling with each other. Mark stood on the edge, holding Geoff over the water. I leveled the gun at Mark and stepped closer to him. Shooting him was out of the question so long as he held onto my nephew, but I wanted to be sure he knew if my nephew was dropped, he would die.

"Stay back," Mark said.

"This is going to end one of two ways," I said, standing my ground. "Either you put my nephew down on the ground and we all walk out of here or you drop him in the water and I put a bullet in your brain. It's your choice."

"She'll do it," Olivia said, coming to stand next to me. "Trust me, I know."

Mark shook his head and said, "I'm dead either way."

"No!" I said as Mark released his hold on Geoff, dropping him into the water below. I ran toward the edge, knocking Mark off the edge and knelt over the water. The surface splashed black water into the air, swallowing Mark into its depths. Geoff had already disappeared.

The ground began to shake and stalactites fell from the ceiling crashing down around me and splashing into the water below. The water's surface bubbled and human shapes began to emerge, covered in black, oil like ooze. Behind me, Joey began to laugh the maniacal laugh of an insane man. I forced myself to my feet and stepped back to jump in the water after my nephew before it was too late.

"Wait," Olivia said.

I turned toward her and she offered me the staff, complete with jewel mounted in its headpiece. For a moment I could not figure out why she was offering it to me. Memory returned though amidst the panic and I remembered the only way to close the portal was with the staff. I had failed at keeping it closed, but there was a chance I had made a difference and if I closed the portal as well it would be the best I could do with what I was given. I grabbed the staff and dove off the ledge, slicing through the boiling surface below.

It felt like falling. The black forms that had been trying to pass through the surface fell through the water with me. My ears echoed with their cries of pain, sorrow, and disappointment. I turned and twisted and tried to control my direction and speed without success. Geoff was nowhere to be seen and at the rate I was falling through the water, I would never reach the surface in time for a new breath anyway. I closed my eyes and surrendered to the current.


  1. Ash,

    very good story. the ending was a surprise.
    Thank you for the awesome story,This story kept me fascinated from the very beginning. great writing
    AL :) PS Looking Forward to the many more stories to come in the near future from you

  2. Al, I debated how to bring this story to a close for several months and even when I wrote this section I was still not quite sure it was the right path, but I'm pleased you enjoyed it. There are indeed, many projects in the works and hopefully the first of them will come together in the next few weeks. I will post informational updates on those, here and at Imagine The Stories when they become available.


  3. Ash, well knock me down with a demolition ball, the end came a little quicker than I thought.
    I hate it when a good story ends and this one is very good indeed.
    I know how much work is involved in a project such as this, and it is very much appreciated.
    I hope that you intend to publish, at least E publish.
    I look forward to reading a lot more from you in the not too distant future.
    Warm hugs,

  4. Paul, I should have mentioned to Al as well, there is still one post left, coming on April 30th. It has been a true pleasure writing this story and sharing it. The feedback you and others have given me has made the project well worth doing and I can't say enough how much I've appreciated the effort. I do have every intention of producing a few ebooks over the next several months. I've settled on a previously undisclosed project to be the first and with a little luck it will be finished very soon. I'll keep everyone posted on the progress and of course, I'll be keeping up with the weekly shorts over on Imagine The Stories.