| DAMSELS UNDER
GLASS: THE SERIES
| A Bug's Tale
by Van & Courier ©2000
| Chapter 1
Jamie Seaton set her
drink down on
the side table, stretched, and looked back at the flat-screen display
before her. On it, Margo Wells was smiling at her from Seattle
over steepled fingers. "And that's the news from
Gondaloo," Jamie finished, "more or
less." Jamie turned and looked towards the ocean-side window wall
of the Reef Lounge. Bright shafts of midday sunlight danced
the blue-green water and played across the nine centimeter thick
Jamie frowned and turned back. "There is one more thing,"
"Yesss?" Margo prompted.
"I tried calling Charlie yesterday to
congratulate her on finally sneaking her dissertation past her
committee, and Eve wouldn't put me through."
"Sorry for the cloak and dagger,"
Margo chuckled. "Bug's involved in a hush-hush project for my
Historical Preservation Foundation."
"'Historical Preservation?' How
deliciously mysterious," Jamie mused.
"Promise to keep it under your hat?"
"On pain of another of Kitty-Kat's
infamous 'surprise security inspections'?" Jamie asked with a dimpled
grin. "Of course!"
"Very well," Margo said.
"Charlie's in Arizona, working on an archeological project."
"She's on a dig?" Jamie
gasped. "Charlie, grubbing in the dirt?"
"She better not be," Margo
laughed. "She's testing a new non-intrusive imaging system she
develop. It uses seismic background noise to build a 3D
profile of what's beneath the surface—"
"Sort of like deep penetrating
radar," Jamie interrupted.
"Charlie describes it as
'Synthetic Aperture Acoustic Resonance Imaging'," Margo continued with
a wry smile, "'SAARI' for short. She can better explain the nuances of
the physics. I'm proud of the new image processing
she developed. It alone is a breakthrough." Margo
tapped a key and a sub-window appeared in one corner of Jamie's screen,
showing a simplified schematic of the SAARI system.
Here's the summary file," she said, "uploading now. The system's
eminently portable, scalable, and completely passive. This first
unit takes something like thirty to fifty hours to build a
single detailed image file, but it's only a prototype. Anyhow,
she's at a remote Anasazi site in the Arizona desert, and will
for the next ten days or so."
"'Anasazi'..." Jamie frowned in
concentration. "The cliff dwellers who mysteriously
disappeared from the
American Southwest a few hundred years ago."
"The very same," Margo confirmed,
"only the 'Ancient Ones' have been gone more than 700 years."
"Wow..." Jamie mused, then frowned
again. "Wait, I thought I read that all the Anasazi sites were
"Are they ever," Margo
chuckled. "Scores of Anasazi sites are catalogued, but no
are allowed, and their very locations are kept secret, to prevent
looting. It took months of negotiation to get
the required permissions from the various governments and Tribal
Councils involved. A friend of Charlie's is in charge of the
non-technological part of the project. She's a post-doc
and was Bug's college roommate."
"A looker, no doubt," Jamie
suggested, with a leering grin.
purred. She tapped several keys and what was obviously a college
picture of Charlie
and her friend appeared on Jamie's screen, replacing the SAARI
schematic. Both coeds were wearing UCLA sweat shirts, grinning
like goofs, and participating in the hallowed (and pointless) academic
tradition of The Human Pyramid. Teri Fournelle was indeed
a "looker", with curly brown hair and a strikingly beautiful
future reference," Margo cautioned, "Dr. Fournelle is not a
member of the Inner Circle, nor is she a candidate."
"Not yet, anyway," Jamie said
with a wink.
"You're incorrigible," Margo
sighed. "Anyway, Charlie, Dr. Fournelle, and a Navajo Police
Sergeant are quite literally up a canyon conducting the test. The
site's in a pocket valley in the middle of a very long slot canyon,
probably one of the few places left on the planet beyond the reach
of reliable satellite service."
"So she probably wouldn't have been
able to answer me even if Eve had put me through," Jamie said
with a smile.
"Probably not," Margo agreed.
"They're already backpacking in all their personal gear and supplies,
plus the scanning equipment, so more powerful communications gear
was not a priority. Well, I guess I better get some
sleep," Margo said, suppressing a yawn. "Say hello to Penny
and... Where is Penny, by the way?"
Jamie smiled coyly. "Uh...
She's taking a swim," Jamie said with practiced innocence.
Margo cocked her head to one side and
gave her freckled protégé an inquisitory stare.
"Okay, it was going to be a surprise
for your next visit, but I'll show you. I'm testing some
prototype technology of my own," Jamie admitted. "Eve, split
screen, please?" The screen displays in Seattle and Gondaloo
neatly divided, and Jamie and Margo were presented with the image of...
(and Jamie) could see Penny. She was underwater;
her arms behind her back, legs together, and all encased in a
tight, black sheath, from just below her bare breasts and waist to
her... flipper? Her joined legs terminated in a
transverse fluke of hard, black
rubber. Penny was also wearing a clear, full-face, diving mask
(with an incorporated, translucent, rubber ball-gag).
Her short blonde hair swirled and drifted around her
head as she dolphin kicked through the clear water.
"I had Eve adapt the basic rebreather
suit design," Jamie explained with a proud grin. "The buoyancy is
set so she's stuck at a depth of about two meters. Her arms are
secured to make a more hydrodynamic package. The next
version will have catheters and a feeding tube, so the experiment can
be... long term , and I'll have Eve add some color to the
suit... counter-shading, maybe some subtle stripes or spots...
something in colors to go with blonde hair and tan skin for Penny."
"Long term?" Margo asked.
"There are sensor buoys at either end
of the lagoon," Jamie said, gazing at the screen and apparently missing
her boss' inquiry. "I told Penny I wouldn't let her out of the
water 'til she touched each buoy in turn, a total of fifty times.
She swims that many laps almost every day, so I figured it was a fair
trial." On the screen, Penny could be seen surging through the
of the lagoon. "She's about halfway through her task," Jamie
said, admiring her friend's graceful style... and her bare shoulders...
and naked breasts.
"Long term?" Margo repeated.
"Huh?" Jamie asked. "Oh,
sorry. The final model will let Penny stay under for days.
want her to get too water logged."
"Of course not," Margo agreed.
"Well, I really do gotta go, so, if my schedule holds, I'll see
you on the Landing Beach next month."
"Okay!" Jamie beamed. "Lookin'
forward to it, and thanks for the call. Love ya!"
"Love you too, Freckle Fox," Margo
said with an affectionate grin, and broke the connection. She
pushed back from her desk, yawned, stretched,... and smiled
evilly. "Eve?" Margo called.
"Yes, Margo?" the AI responded.
"When Jamie has finished designing
her final version of Penny's involuntary mermaid costume, you
will make two such suits, and without Jamie's
knowledge. The second suit will be in Jamie's size, of
course, and the colors should be... oh... light peach and olive?"
"To go with her hair and
complexion," Eve responded. "Production of an additional suit
not be difficult. I'll prepare several color schemes for
your final approval."
"Excellent. This trip I can
look forward to a little... sport fishing," Margo purred.
She rose from her desk... and paused. "She said 'to go with
blonde hair and tan skin... for Penny'," Margo whispered.
"Eve, Red Queen override. What are Jamie's full
plans for this mermaid project?"
"Spoiler alert." Eve stated.
"Understood," Margo said.
"Jamie plans to have several copies
of the final suit design ready for your next visit," Eve responded,
"including one silver-gray suit in your size, and one
in brown, with filters to allow the suit's use in swamp conditions, and
with whiskers affixed to the diving mask."
"For a Kat-fish," Margo
purred. "Jamie, you little scamp!" Margo mused. "This is
now a Red Queen Project, Eve. Jamie is not to even
suspect that I'm aware of her scheme. Keep me informed of
all progress, and you are to influence her planning so that however
she intends to capture her guests... Drugged drinks,
"That is the tentative plan,"
"Well... Jamie's surprise will be
turned on herself..." Margo said, "and the Red Queen
will not be using her mermaid suit.
"As Your Majesty commands," Eve
Margo walked towards one opening door
of her office, grinning and shaking her head. "Little scamp,"
she mused aloud.
SOMEWHERE IN THE CHUSKA
NEAR THE NEW
MEXICO–ARIZONA BORDER, USA
Charlie smiled. The SAARI link
server's diagnostic program had finally finished testing every circuit
in the sensor net. She tapped the tiny display and the data
collection cycle began. "We're in business," she called back over
her shoulder, then snapped the weatherproof cover closed. "So...
first full scan in two hours, first usable image
in eight hours, and first full image in two days."
"If that toy of yours works as
advertised," Teri teased.
"My toys always work!" Charlie
exclaimed, grinning at her friend. "Besides, you picked the
location. There's probably nothing more exciting than an old beer
bottle down there."
Teri looked up from her
notebook. "As long as it's an Anasazi microbrew," she said with a
grin, then picked up her digital camera. "Smile," she ordered.
Charlie glanced around, to be sure
the sensor net, processing equipment, and a good view of the ruins
would all be in the image. Charlie brushed the sand from her bare
knees and smiled, striking as "super model-ly" a pose as she could
manage. The indirect, mid-morning light on the red-gold sandstone
should make for quite a picture.
Teri clicked off an image and set the
camera down. "You were there," Teri proclaimed proudly, in
her best canned announcer voice, "when the Fournelle-Paretsky-Begay
Expedition boldly marched into the magnificent desolation of
the Chuska Mountains, clawed their way to Site BC-131... and disturbed
"Shouldn't that be the Begay-Fournelle-Paretsky
from below the lip of
the cliff opening. The rope securing the wire ladder
they had rigged for relatively easy access to the Anasazi site shook,
and Janet's head came into view. "After all, I'm the only
one who knows the way back."
"Oh, I think I could find my
way out," Teri laughed, "but Charlie probably could get lost in
slot canyon." Charlie grinned and stuck her tongue out at her
college friend. "Anyway," Teri continued, "I'm easy."
"That's what the Tau-Kappa-Epsilons
said," Charlie interrupted.
Expedition it is, then," Teri finished, smiling, but pointedly ignoring
Charlie's jibe. "How's it going, Sarge?"
"I'm about ready to head back to the
cache," Janet answered. "I should be back late tomorrow... with
fifty more pounds of gourmet, freeze-dried, imitation food, and various
other odds and ends."
"Excellent!" Teri said with a
smile. "I'm gonna rig a sweat lodge down by the stream.
try and have it ready when you get back."
Janet smiled. "I'm gonna
need it when I get back."
"Oh," Charlie called, "and before you
leave, don't forget to—"
"The weather net gives a
point zero zero one percent chance of a flash flood down this
drainage in the next forty-eight hours," Janet interrupted with a
smile, "point zero zero five percent for the next five days,
and the report was only three hours old."
"Okay," Charlie said, with a sheepish
grin. Charlie had been very impressed by her companions'
stories about what things were like in a slot canyon during a
flash flood, especially during the daylong hike
through the slot to the pocket valley that hid Site BC-131.
Charlie remembered snaking along the sandy, occasionally damp floor
of the claustrophobically narrow canyon, the towering walls never more
than a few yards apart, and more than once only a few feet
apart. She had looked up at one point, and found a huge
log, most of a complete tree, in fact, wedged between the
walls at least 100 feet over her head. Janet had
remarked that in a way, you could say that log was
lucky. Most logs that got carried into a slot by a flash flood
came out the far side as splinters, most boulders as sand.
"One last thing," Janet said.
"Charlie, you want me to carry out that extra rope next to your tent?"
"Hmm... Thanks, but you better not,"
Charlie answered. "We might need it... for when we reposition the
sensor net and all."
"Okay, see you," Janet called, and
out of sight.
"C'ya!" Charlie and Teri chorused in
Teri stood, spanked the dirt from the
rear of her shorts, stretched, brushed the front of her work shirt,
walked towards ladder. "I told you we were bringing in way
too much rope, Little Bit," she remarked, then climbed down after Janet.
Charlie stood and brushed off her own
shorts and shirt. "I'll carry it out myself," she shouted after
her friend, then grinned. "Besides, my proud beauty," she
continued in a husky, villainous whisper, "rope has all sorts
interesting uses on a camping trip."
ON THE BLACK
Jessie was not
This was by far the worst thing Victoria had ever done to her,
the worst predicament of Jessie's nineteen years. She was coming
to regret this devil's bargain she had made with her cousin and former
guardian. 'I'll pay for your University education',
had finally agreed, 'just as I've paid for everything else
the six years since you came to live with me... and you can
start next Fall like you want... but you have to do something
for me . You have to help me test a few of the
items in my special collection, starting with my new horse'.
not of the equine
variety. Jessie was nude and up on her toes, her feet
approximately two feet apart, carefully balanced on a pair of
raised stone blocks. Heavy shackles linking each ankle to its
respective block allowed Jessie to shuffle slightly on each rough,
stony perch, but kept her from lifting her legs. Further, her
wrists were bound behind her back with cotton rope, as were her
elbows. More rope was tied through her wrists with a carefully
compacted hitch, stretched to a pulley set in the stone ceiling
directly overhead, and down to a heavy wooden windlass set in the stone
floor several yards behind her back. The windlass had been
tightened 'til Jessie had no choice but to bend
at the waist, her bound arms stretched towards the ceiling, nearly
The worst of her predicament was
between her splayed legs: the aforementioned horse. A thick,
horizontal, iron bar was stretched between two heavy, upright, wood and
iron posts. It was triangular in cross section, like the huge
blade of a
very dull sword. The bar's height had been carefully adjusted
(by use of an elegant, worm gear mechanism) until the upward edge just
touched Jessie's loins. Her tractioned arms were increasingly
uncomfortable, but it was Jessie's elevated heels that kept her full
weight from pressing down on the cruel iron edge.
Jessie would have complained about
her treatment, but for two factors.
Firstly, Jessie was gagged. It
was something that bitch Drake had come up with. Wet leather
thongs had been wrapped around the middle of a heavy, leather, dog
collar, until its middle four-inch length was bound in a braided
cylinder, about an inch and a half in diameter. Then, wet
doeskin was wrapped and stitched over the coiled thongs. After
the leather dried, Drake had repeatedly worked saddle soap and oil
into the collar and wrappings. At the moment, the wrapped
leather cylinder was clenched between Jessie's teeth, the collar's
double-tongued roller buckle tightly secured behind her
neck. The smooth leather tasted terrible.
Secondly, there was no one in the
chamber to whom Jessie could address a complaint. After
securing her young cousin, Victoria had smiled, kissed Jessie's
left, locking the heavy oaken door behind her, leaving Jessie helpless
and alone in the torchlit, stone chamber. Jessie's best guess
was that she had been suffering in solitude for a little more than an
The chamber was stiflingly
hot. An iron brazier full of glowing coals shimmered in one
corner. Several branding irons jutted from the coals, but Jessie
knew they weren't there to be used. Victoria had assured her they
were "just for atmosphere". It was what the coals were doing to
the real atmosphere that added to her discomfort.
Jessie's red hair hung limply around her face. She gazed down at
her freckled thighs, flat stomach, and hanging breasts. All were
flushed and beaded with sweat. Her face was dripping, her eyes
stinging. Jessie shook her head, and watched as a salty drop fell
from her nose and splashed the gray iron between her
legs, leaving a trailing, black spot on one slope of the jutting,
How long is she going to
leave me like this? Jessie asked herself... when she
heard the door to the chamber being unlocked. Please let this
be over, Jessie prayed. Please let Victoria
have had enough fun.
The door opened and Victoria walked
into the room. She had a light, folding, wooden chair
in one hand, and a large, stemmed glass of red wine in the other.
Victoria's red hair was wet, and combed back in a tight, straight
ponytail. She was wearing an emerald green, silk robe, and
apparently nothing else. Jessie surmised her cousin had filled
the time since placing her in this predicament by either taking a
bath or a swim. Victoria opened the chair and placed it directly
before Jessie, then paced a slow circuit around her tractioned,
prisoner. Jessie slowly turned her head and watched her tormentor
with tired eyes. Finally, Victoria took a sip of wine, and
gracefully settled into her chair.
"It's insidious, isn't it Jessie?"
Victoria asked with a gloating smile. "You strain to hold
yourself off the bar for as long as you possibly can, the pain in your
feet and calves building and building. Soon they'll be
trembling... maybe even starting to cramp... and finally
they'll give out, and you'll find that the torture hadn't even really begun."
out of her face, defiantly glaring
at her cousin. Victoria took another sip, and crossed her
legs. "I'm proud of you, you know," Victoria announced.
Jessie's eyes widened. That was
possibly the last thing she had expected to hear from her cold,
usually distant and disapproving cousin.
"You bear it well," Victoria
continued. "So very strong... no weeping, whimpering, pleading
noises... not yet anyway... I guess you may be a McQuade after
Now Jessie was getting pissed. 'May
be a McQuade'? Jessie fumed. I'll show
you 'strong'! I can do this all day if I have to.
in her left calf.
...maybe. Even more than avoiding torture, Jessie didn't want
to let Victoria see her break. I can do this,
she told herself.
"May I interrupt your... midday
diversion?" a husky, alto voice asked from the open doorway.
Victoria smiled at her young,
suffering cousin, then turned to the door. "By all means, Drake
darling," she said. "Join us."
Despite the heat, a chill ran along
Jessie's straining body. Victoria was bad news, but Drake was
Drake sauntered into the chamber and
stood next to Victoria. She was wearing dark gray climbing
tights, a black sports top, and technical climbing shoes. The
slim, athletic brunette gazed at Jessie with feral amusement, then took
the wine glass from Victoria's hand. She took a sip, licked her
lips, and handed the glass back to Victoria's strong, freckled
hand. The seated redhead favored her friend and companion with
an indulgent smile. "Well?" she said finally.
"Your friend on the Ute
Tribal Council finally came through," Drake purred, "only a little
late. Those... pot hunters... you're planning on
dealing with are already at the site."
Victoria frowned. "Not
good. You were supposed to be there waiting for them."
"Only a minor inconvenience,"
Drake said. "If I leave within the next two hours, I can be in
position by 0100, 0200 at the latest. Plenty of time to be on the
road back by dawn."
"Acceptable," Victoria decided.
"Jessie, darling," she continued. "We'll have to continue this
little experiment at a later date. You're going with Drake to
apprehend some criminals."
Jessie raised her gagged head and
stared at her cousin. 'Apprehend'? 'Criminals'?
"Pot hunters who are planning on
looting one of the prime Anasazi sites I've had my eye on,"
Victoria continued. "Normally, I'd have the Sheriff or the FBI
deal with them, worthless as they are under most circumstances,
but these criminals have some information I require.
I may be able to have a significant impact on the illicit artifact
trade for years to come if I handle this carefully... and
privately . You will help
me, won't you?"
Jessie was wary. She knew her
cousin was often less than fully honest. Jessie was certain
Victoria had made more than a few questionable acquisitions of her
own. How else had she built one of the finest private collections
of Anasazi ceramics in the world? Victoria had things Jessie's
precious Anthropology books didn't seem to even know
about. Jessie's left calf was trembling again. Oh
well... anything to get off this horse, Jessie thought, then nodded
her weary head to the affirmative.
"Good Little Jess," Victoria purred,
then stood and turned to Drake. "Get her cleaned up and hit the
road. And be careful."
"Yes Mommy," Drake answered,
with a sardonic grin. Victoria smiled, trailed her hand across
Drake's trim, muscled shoulder, and left the chamber. Drake
slowly walked over the the brazier of coals. She grasped one of
the irons by its wooden handle, and slowly pulled it from
the coals. The end of the iron was forked, its two tines curved
and pointed. It glowed cherry red. Drake delicately
blew on the end of the iron as she walked towards Jessie. She
put her hand in the Jessie's sweat dampened hair and pulled the
prisoner's head savagely back.
Jessie gasped through her gag.
There was a flash of fear in her eyes as Drake brought the iron close
to her wet, freckled face, then she locked eyes with her
tormentor and glared defiantly. Jessie's nostrils flared above
her gag. She could feel the heat of the iron on her cheek.
Drake smiled. "Oh, you're
no fun," she accused. "You know Victoria would be
very angry if I branded you, don't you?" she said.
"So I won't." Drake tossed the iron into the corner. It
clattered, tossing glowing sparks into the air, and came to rest near
the brazier. Jessie could still see the glowing tip.
Drake tightened her grip in Jessie's
hair, and despite herself the tormented redhead mewed through her
gag. Drake leaned close until her face was inches from
Jessie's. "I don't really want to take you on this little
excursion," Drake said in a husky whisper, "but Victoria insists.
The order of the day is obedience. If you do one
thing I haven't told you to do while we're in the field,
I'll haul you back down to these chambers, and we'll play with my
favorite toys, understand?"
Jessie swallowed around her gag and
nodded her head, or rather tried to nod her head.
Little motion was possible with her hair still in Drake's very
"Gooood," Drake said, with a
gloating smile. She then released Jessie's hair and walked to the
door. "I have some gear to inspect and pack," she announced, "so
I'll be back for you... in one hour."
Jessie's courage faltered. She
screamed through her gag... but the heavy door was already
closed. She sighed miserably and hung her head in despair. 'One
hour!' Her calf was trembling again.
Jessie composed herself... and the trembling slowly subsided. I
this, she decided.
A Bug's Tale