||DAMSELS UNDER GLASS:
by Van ©2008
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Future chapters will not have this many illustrations. In fact, some may have none.
|OUR STORY BEGINS
There were definite advantages to being the bodyguard of the richest woman in the world, especially if you loved your job (and your employer). Unfortunately, there were also definite disadvantages, one of which was the near impossibility of getting someone like Margo Wells to listen to reason and take her personal security as seriously as she should. Another was the near impossibility of getting a genuine day off. It wasn't that Kat Mayfair was the only person on the planet who could keep Margo Wells safe. TESSERACT International's CEO had an entire cadre of elite bodyguards, all of whom were world class excellent, individually and as a team. This Kat knew for a fact, as she had personally selected and trained each and every one of them. Factor in the unique capabilities of the EVE-6900 nexus of artificially intelligent avatars dedicated to Margo's well-being and the state-of-the-art surveillance and security technology installed throughout every TESSERACT facility, and you'd think Kat could take a personal day whenever she wanted—but nooo!
Her features set in what her Inner Circle Sisters called a "good-natured scowl", Kat strode down the elevated Biosphere tube-corridor that led to Margo's private office. It was a dark night. High overhead, the facets of the Biosphere's main dome were glistening indigo panels. There was just enough cloud cover to block the stars, but not enough to reflect the lights of Seattle. The cedar groves of the Biosphere's enclosed temperate rainforest "garden" were equally dark, and at the moment, they were shrouded in the artificial mist the automated environmental systems often generated on nights not programmed for a soaking rain.
The door to Margo's office opened with a swoosh as Kat approached. The office lights were as dim as the corridor, with the many large screens of the mirror-walls providing most of the illumination. The displays were animated maps of world climate simulations, rendered in bold, rippling colors. Kat knew Margo was preparing for an extended series of scientific and business meetings in Europe and Asia that would culminate in a United Nations conference of world leaders in Jakarta.
"Okay, I'm here," Kat announced. "What the hell is so important?"
Margo was standing at her desk, dressed in a casual after-work costume of black top, toreador pants, and blue jacket. She smiled at her frowning bodyguard. "And a pleasant good evening to you too, Katherine. Has the rain started?"
"Inside, or out?"
"Outside, of course," Margo chuckled. "This is a fog night in the Biosphere. I love fog nights. They're so eerie and primeval. Perfect for a naked nymph run followed by a dip in one of the forest pools."
"Last I heard, there is rain in the forecast for late tonight," Kat muttered. "Rain in Seattle... Alert the media. Anything else? Or did you just decide to disturb my evening for a weather report?"
Margo smiled, then turned and pointed to a framed photo, one of many on the credenza behind her desk. It was of Lourdes. The short-haired Kiwi was in an olive-green flight suit, standing in front of some sort of futuristic aircraft. "One of her new 'Official NASA Portraits'," Margo explained. "Did she send you one, too?"
Kat nodded. "I don't have mine framed yet."
"I'm so proud of our Lourdes," Margo sighed. "She's something of a celebrity in New Zealand, you know—their first non-commercial astronaut. Just think, she could be one of the first to occupy the International Lunar Base, or could even make the Mars Mission!"
"Yipee," Kat muttered, without enthusiasm.
Margo wasn't fooled. She sighed, walked around her desk, and embraced her bodyguard. "I know you miss her. We all miss her, but—"
"Don't be ridiculous," Kat interrupted. "It's the opportunity of a lifetime. A chance to make history. Not even I'm selfish enough to be resentful about something like that."
Margo kissed her lips, and embraced her again. "I know, Katherine," she whispered.
Kat returned the embrace for several seconds, then cleared her throat and took a step back. "So... a weather report and you wanted to show off your new picture. Anything else?"
Margo laughed. "As a matter of fact, there is. I've made a decision about my new personal pilot."
"I thought you were still mulling over the short-list," Kat huffed.
"Like I said," Margo grinned, "I've made a decision."
"And who is the lucky aviatrix?" Kat inquired. "And more importantly, why should I care? I've already screened all the final candidates for the required security clearance."
"You care because I need you to do the final, personal vetting," Margo purred. "I need you to evaluate her, shall we say, non-professional credentials."
Margo's smile turned rather coy. "Don't be cute. I need to know if she'll accept being close to the Inner Circle—not that I'll be recruiting her any time soon, of course."
"Of course," Kat chuckled.
"Anyway, my new pilot, or rather my final selectee for new pilot is..." Margo tapped a key and the global warming simulations shrunk to icons and migrated to various menus, and a new image occupied the main screen.
The image was the smiling face of a blond woman.
"Barbie Radcliffe?" Kat asked. "You're going with Barbie Radcliffe?"
Margo laughed. "I don't believe she goes by 'Barbie', at least it's not in her file." She tapped a key and an abbreviated set of personal stats appeared next to the portrait.
Born: 6 November
5' 9" Measurements:
"She looks like a Barbie," Kat muttered.
"Right now, Ms. Radcliffe is in Glendale finishing the acceptance certification on my new QSST."
"Another new toy?" Kat sighed.
"I assume you're referring to the aircraft," Margo purred, "and not the pilot. I'd like you to join her."
"For the 'personal vetting' you mentioned."
Margo smiled. "I need to know how she'll react if she stumbles across any Sisterly Shenanigan's in the course of her new duties."
"You mean when she stumbles across Sisterly Shenanigans," Kat chuckled.
"Exactly," Margo chuckled. "Please be... discrete."
Kat smiled back. "By which you mean, even if she starts kicking and screaming and my evaluation is negative, I'm to make sure the secret of the Inner Circle remains a secret."
Margo nodded. "This shouldn't be the most unpleasant assignment I've ever given you." She tapped a screen and another image appeared on the display wall. It was of Barbara Radcliffe, a very wet, bikini-clad Barbara Radcliffe, on a tropical beach.
"Gondaloo," Margo confirmed. "She delivered a new tilt-rotor to Jamie a while back, and took the occasion to enjoy a week's vacation at the resort."
"So, she's a slacker," Kat huffed.
Margo laughed, and shook her head. "Jamie and Penny begged her to stay, and it was the first time off she'd taken in two years."
"Jamie's always been a sucker for blond Brit-birds," Kat noted.
"Hence her infatuation with Penny," Margo chuckled. "Anyway..." She tapped another key and another image appeared. Barbara was still wet and on the beach, but this time she was nude. "...I believe Barbara Radcliffe could be very nice to have around on a regular basis."
Kat stared at the screen for several seconds. One thing was crystal clear: with her strong, high-cheeked features, and trim, athletic figure, Barbara—or Barbie, or whatever she called herself—was very easy on the eyes.
"At times you can be embarrassingly transparent," Kat muttered, "even when you think you're being the Mysterious Red Queen, mistress of all she surveys, manipulating her clueless underlings like some sort of Cosmic Puppeteer."
"Whatever do you mean?"
"You think you can dangle the first blond bimbo that comes along in front of me and I'll stop pining for my absent Astronaut," Kat huffed.
Margo was the very picture of innocence. "The thought never crossed my mind," she objected.
"Anyway," Margo continued, "be aware that in addition to the Gondaloo chapter of the Sisterhood, Elke is also acquainted with Barbara."
Margo shook her head. "A casual and professional relationship, as far as I know, and that's professional from Elke's point of view." Margo opened yet another image file. It showed Barbara Radcliffe in what Kat recognized as one of the weight rooms of the TESSERACT Headquarters Health Club. "Elke snapped this photo for the Health Club website. Can you think of a better enticement for new team members to check out the facilities?"
Kat snorted in derision. "Either that or it'll intimidate the hell out of anyone not already in perfect shape," she muttered.
Margo smiled. "Anyway, Barbara may be uninhibited enough to sunbathe au naturel on the beaches of Gondaloo—"
"Especially," Kat interrupted, "since Freckle Fox and Penny were probably already prancing around in their birthday suits."
"Just so," Margo laughed. "To be explicit, I need you to gauge her reaction to the sort of things we find recreational."
"As you've already explained," Kat huffed. "Anything else?"
"Don't scare her away, if you can help it," Margo warned.
Now it was Kat's turn to play the innocent. "Who, me? I wouldn't think of it. But what if she does show an aversion to things... 'recreational'?"
"In that case... we go very slowly," Margo explained. "I'll still offer her the position, and we'll just let things develop from there."
"You can always lure her into Virtual Reality and have Eve plant the appropriate subliminal suggestions in her subconscious," Kat purred. "A little time in the dungeons of the Kul'Dakar amazons should work wonders. Look at what it did for Ronnie."
Margo favored her bodyguard with a We-Are-Not-Amused stare. "Are you trying to make me punish you?" she demanded. "It won't work. I know the aversion to subliminal programming I had Eve plant in your subconscious is still firmly in place."
Kat laughed. "Very funny." A few seconds later, her smile faded. "Uh, you are kidding about Eve programming me, right?"
Margo's smile was carefully enigmatic. "Anyway, please join Barbara in California. Late this week will be fine. She's staying in one of our guest houses while the final modifications to my QSST are completed."
Kat nodded. "By your command, Your Majesty. Anything else?"
"Yes. You're aware of my 'you break it, you bought it' policy with respect to the Inner Circle, are you not?"
Kat laughed. "Of course."
"Then perhaps you'd like to explain this." She tapped her keyboard and the images of Barbara Radcliffe were replaced by a single, large video image of a different blond female.
The blonde in question was Elke Weber, Senior Inner Circle Sister and Margo's confidant. The amazon-like beauty was in a dark chamber with concrete walls, probably part of the Biosphere foundations and lower support chambers the Sisters had nicknamed the "Katacombs". She was nude, but for the elaborate rope bonds of a Shibari suspension and some sort of leather gag. Her tan, toned, well-muscled body was shining with sweat.
"And you've decided to torture Elke... because?" Margo inquired.
Kat grinned. "It's Tuesday?"
Margo favored her bodyguard with another unamused stare.
"Since when do I need a reason?" Kat demanded.
Elke's arms were folded and bound behind her back and her arms pinned to her body in the waist, torso, and shoulder-yoking web of a "box-tie". Her ankles were lashed to their respective thighs, and the suspending ropes left her dangling in midair, knees splayed and leaning forward a few degrees from the vertical.
"The gag?" Margo asked.
"It's one of those expanding pear gags," Kat explained, "with the quick-setting gel-foam in the core. You know the kind. They fill the entire oral cavity... the forward part, anyway."
Margo sighed. "And your plans for the evening?"
Kat frowned. "You aren't going to be a spoilsport, are you? I haven't violated any of your precious bylaws."
"Your plans?" Margo reiterated.
Kat smiled. "Elke has volunteered to help me test the new 'Smart Sybian' I've developed with the help of Evil-Eve. It has all the best features of my current Sybians—bands of TIKLER beads lining the phallus and the clit-teaser—with the addition of hunter-seeker robotics."
Margo smiled at the screen. She noted Kat's ropes had included Elke's breasts in her bondage, and the mildly constricted globes were bulging, making her friend seem better endowed than usual. "I'm afraid 'hunter-seeker robotics' requires amplification," she purred.
"When I get around to letting Evelyn lower her onto the machine," Kat explained, "the phallus and teaser-tentacles will automatically compensate for any attempted evasion on her part."
"No matter how she tries to squirm away," Margo said, "the 'fun parts' will squirm towards the appropriate anatomy?"
"Towards, inside, and/or around," Kat confirmed, "if the technology lives up to expectations."
"And you captured Elke Weber without violating the rules," Margo demanded. Clearly, she was skeptical.
Kat laughed. "Oh, she volunteered."
Now Margo was quite skeptical. "Unlikely."
Kat's lips curled in a coy smirk. "I didn't say there wasn't motivation." She pulled out her PDA and tapped the tiny screen, then nodded at the display wall. "May I?"
"You may," Margo purred.
Kat tapped the screen again, and a new video image appeared on the wall, beside Elke's. It was of Charlie Paretsky, another Inner Circle Sister and Elke's lover.
"The old do-as-I-say-or-I'll-torture-the-Bug' trick," Margo sighed.
Kat nodded. "Works every time."
Charlie, the "Bug" in question, was dressed in a tight-fitting bodysuit of what appeared to be purple latex. Only her ball-gagged head was exposed, and the outfit incorporated the straps and buckles required to restrain Charlie's arms in the self-hugging pose of a classic straitjacket. Additional straps bound her encased legs together at the knees and ankles. The diminutive scientist was incarcerated in what was probably one of the Katacomb's countless holding cells. For some reason, she was smiling around her gag.
"What's she so happy about?" Margo demanded.
"Oh... 'happy' probably isn't the best description," Kat purred. "That's a breathable latex suit, by the way, the kind with billions of microscopic pores?"
"Of course," Margo nodded. "Wouldn't want our Charlie to develop an unsightly rash."
"It's also completely lined with millions of TIKLER nano-beads," Kat continued. "Through the crotch and over the breasts about half are tuned to arouse the appropriate nerve-endings; but the other half, and all the other beads, elsewhere, are tuned to tickle."
TIKLER technology stimulated any neurons in close proximity without direct contact with the skin, thus avoiding the abrasion caused by longterm exposure to something like a mechanical vibrator. It was Charlie's invention, an irony not lost on her Inner Circle Sisters whenever the diminutive scientist was the victim of TIKLER "torture".
"So... why isn't she gibbering and writhing on the floor?" Margo inquired.
"Please!" Kat sighed. "Give me some credit for subtlety. The entire system is under Evelyn's detailed control, and can deliver anything from a near-subliminal, tickling caress—to a good-natured tease—to an enthusiastic goose—to exquisite and prolonged tickle-torture, on any part of the anatomy."
"Not to mention the occasional multiple orgasm," Margo muttered.
Kat smiled. "Charlie is Evelyn's toy for the evening." She glanced at her PDA. "At the moment, our favorite physicist is being ever-so-lightly tickled on her ribs, inner thighs, and armpits. Hence the involuntary smile. Next on Evelyn's agenda..." She tapped the screen. "...are her feet, nipples, and behind her knees. Followed by..." She tapped the screen, again, and her smile broadened. "...a slow build to a prolonged, full orgasm, with waves of moderate tickling rippling up and down her entire body just as she peaks."
"Evelyn is a thoroughly evil avatar," Margo sighed.
"Yes," Kat sighed. "I love her so."
Margo smiled. "Let me guess. You captured Charlie, placed her in her current predicament, then gave Elke the choice of searching the entire Katacombs for wherever you've hidden her precious Bug—"
"All while Evelyn was tickle-torturing the object of her affection and displaying the image on every screen she passed as she conducted her futile search," Kat purred.
"Or," Margo continued, "she could 'volunteer' to be your toy for the evening, and thereby earn Charlie something of a reprieve."
"Like I said," Kat said, "she volunteered."
"She could have just asked Eve-Prime to intervene," Margo noted. "Elke has the seniority."
"But that would be dishonorable," Kat sniffed.
Margo gave her grinning bodyguard and Inner Circle Sister a light, teasing slap on the left cheek, then kissed her lips. "It's just as well I'm sending you away to exorcise your post-Lourdes demons at someone else's expense," she sighed, "otherwise you'd work your way through the entire Inner Circle 'til you came to me; and after that outrage, I'd have no choice but to ship you off to Hong Kong for a year of punishment in Madame Lian's dungeons."
"And who would vet your new pilot?" Kat inquired.
Margo focused on Elke's image. "And where is this 'Smart Sybian' machine of yours?" she inquired.
Kat smiled at the huge, hi-definition display filling half the wall. "Oh... it'll be along. I told Elke she has a couple of hours to escape, and if she does manage to wiggle out of my ropes, she can tie me up."
"The phrase 'snowball's chance in hell' springs to mind," Margo purred.
"Anyway," Kat continued, "my new machine scuttles around on multiple legs, like a giant pill bug. I imagine it's a rather disturbing sight when it wanders into the room, settles to the floor under your helpless body, the phallus with its nest of wiggling mini-tentacles deploys, and you start being slowly lowered onto its back..." She consulted her PDA. "...which will happen in about a half-hour."
"Did I mention you're thoroughly evil?" Margo asked.
Kat laughed. "On numerous occasions. I assume Eve has already booked me a flight and made all the other arrangements?"
Margo nodded, then kissed Kat's lips, again. "Get out of here, before I take Elke for myself."
Kat bowed and backed towards the door. "The Red Queen's every wish is my command," she intoned. The door swooshed open, she spun on her heel and strode across the threshold, the door swooshed closed, and she was gone.
Margo turned back to stare at the pair of images on the huge screen. After several seconds, she tapped a few keys and a small window opened. It displayed the names of all Inner Circle Sisters currently on the TESSERACT Campus, and it was a short list, due to the lateness of the hour and the fact that her Sisters were often away from Seattle on business. Her eyes slid down the roster of potential playmates; then she pressed a key and made her selection.
Elsewhere in the Biosphere, one of Kat's "Cylon" capture-bots was activated. It rolled from its recharging station, turned, and whirred down the mirrored corridor, heading for its designated target.
The guest house had a state-of-the-art alarm system, like all TESSERACT facilities. In addition, as soon as Barbara Radcliffe became a short list candidate for the position of Margo's personal pilot, she was upgraded to Senior Executive status for purposes of security, and was afforded additional protection. Passive monitoring of her temporary quarters was only the first layer of defense. A dedicated security avatar began active monitoring of the Glendale TESSERACT Hanger where Margo's new aircraft was being readied, as well as her assigned ground transportation and her person. Barbara's privacy was respected, of course. The EVE-6900 avatar "shadowing" her every move maintained a "personal firewall". She was completely unaware that an artificial intelligence dedicated to her protection was watching her every move, 24/7.
Kat didn't even try to spoof the system, even as a security exercise. She had designed or approved all of its elements, and if she was aware of any weaknesses she could exploit to approach her "target" without triggering an alarm, she would have patched them, long ago. Kat took the expedient approach—some might say the cheating approach—and used her authority to have the avatar doing the monitoring "relieved" by her cyber-partner, Eve-L.
"Local surveillance is now under my total control, Kittykins," Evelyn announced in Kat's earpiece.
"I've told you not to call me that," Kat growled as she approached the front door of the guest house.
"I know you have, Kittykins," the avatar's disembodied voice responded, "but it's sooo cute, and every now and then it does you good to be reminded you aren't in total control of the universe."
Kat didn't rise to the bait, but continued up the steps to the porch. She was wearing one of her typical kinky-girl-about-town costumes: black leather pants and boots and a black leather toreador jacket over a skintight bandeau of blood-red spandex. She was carrying a small gym bag of black leather. Kat's athletic and feline figure might have attracted considerable and appreciative attention from the neighbors, if she had allowed herself to be seen, which she had not.
The guest house was situated at the end of a cul-de-sac in a high-end, suburban development in the hills above Glendale, and was screened from prying eyes by dense shrubbery and a tall fence. It was modern in design, with thick concrete walls and a sloping tile roof that sported photovoltaic panels and numerous skylights. There was a swimming pool in the backyard which doubled as a cistern for the wildfire suppression system.
The front door unlocked itself as Kat reached for the handle, then immediately re-locked after she entered.
"Barbie is still out running?" Kat inquired.
"Of course," Evelyn responded, "and will be for another half-hour, more or less. I have micro-bugs embedded in her watchband and iPhone, and have tapped into the traffic monitoring grid, as well as various gas stations, convenience stores, and other local business security cameras. She's under direct observation for approximately seventy percent of her route."
Kat made a quick inspection of the entire house, being careful not to disturb anything. The furnishings were sparse but tasteful, and only a few items could be identified as Barbara Radcliffe's personal possessions, the majority of which were in the master bedroom. This was temporary housing, after all.
The basement was empty, with the household systems tucked away in locked utility closets. Several steel stanchions were evenly spaced around the main room, and the vertical runs of the I-beams they supported were pierced by circular openings at regular intervals, to reduce their overall weight. Kat smiled. The support columns would be excellent for post bondage and the openings could serve as anchor points for all sorts of rigging.
There were a few tiny windows set high in the thick, soundproof, basement walls, and all were protected by steel grids of anti-burglar bars. They had the code-required quick-release mechanisms, to allow escape via the sunken window-wells in the event of fire, but Kat knew there were computer-controlled actuators in the locks which would allow Evelyn, and thus Kat, to defeat the mechanisms and render the bars as secure as if they'd been chained and padlocked. In point of fact, with its wire-protected and inset lighting fixtures and solid steel doors, the basement could be made into an escape-proof dungeon at her command. The same was true of the much smaller attic tower space that provided access to the roof.
The rest of the house was equally secure, with security-glass windows and steel shutters that could be lowered against storms or wildfire (and to prevent escape).
The guest house was modern and comfortable, and any occupants—Kat excluded, but Barbara included—would never suspect it could also serve as a high-security prison.
Kat completed her inspection, carefully hid her gym bag where it would be ready-at-hand but safe from casual discovery, and settled in to wait for her quarry to return.
"Thank god it's Friday," Barbara muttered under her breath as she reached the turn onto the cul-de-sac that ended in her temporary quarters. She slowed her pace to begin her cool-down. She realized she really didn't have to be in Glendale for the remainder of the modifications to Margo Well's new jet, but it gave her an opportunity for additional hours in the simulator and a chance to fly new models of similar aircraft. If this was a boondoggle, she'd make it a working boondoggle.
Heart rate approaching normal, she did a few stretching exercises on the guest house's front porch, then pulled her iPhone from her fanny pack and triggered the TESSERACT security app. The front door opened and she crossed the threshold. She tapped the screen again, and the living room's HDTV/computer monitor came to life. There were no new messages waiting in her e-mail queue, personal or business.
"Damn," she swore, as she headed for the master bedroom. She had hoped to hear whether she had been selected as Margo's new pilot. It seemed to be taking forever for the wheels of TESSERACT's personnel management machine to grind out a decision. At least she was still in the running... as far as she knew.
Barbara stripped off her running clothes, adding to the modest pile of dirty laundry in the master bath's hamper, then turned on the shower and stepped under the stream of hot water. It felt glorious. She decided to try the Greek/Armenian place she'd found via her iPhone's restaurant guide app. I wonder if they require reservations? she thought as she turned off the shower. She dried herself with a soft, fluffy towel, then returned to the bedroom, drying her hair as she went.
Suddenly, Barbara was grabbed from behind! Whoever her assailant was, she was female—Barbara could feel a pair of leather-clad breasts being pressed against her naked back—and she was very strong. Barbara's arms were pinned behind her back, so tightly that her elbows touched, and something, a cloth of some sort, was pressed against her mouth and nose. The towel was still draped over her head, so she couldn't see anything.
The cloth had a cloying, sweet odor, with an acrid edge, and the cloth was thick enough and the hand holding it tight enough to reduce her screams to depressingly quiet, well-muffled moans. She struggled and squirmed, for all she was worth, but her captor knew her business. Barbara's head began to spin. She had to get away—but it was hopeless! She continued to fight her captor—then became aware of a buzzing sound, just at the edge of hearing—and the spinning got worse, and her struggles grew weaker—and then she found herself falling into a deep, black pit, still unable to scream, and still naked—and falling—and falling.
Barbara opened her eyes. She was still in the master bedroom, and was still naked. Her hair was dry, so she surmised she had been unconscious for some time. This was confirmed when she focused on the sliding door that led to the backyard patio and the pool. The vertical blinds were drawn, but she could tell it was night. She had been unconscious for some time... for hours.
There was one more not-so-minor detail: she was bound and gagged!
A large wad of something soft and silky was stuffed in her mouth, and some sort of tape was keeping it there. Whatever the tape was, it covered her entire lower face, from just under her nose to beyond the point of her chin. She tried to force the stuffing out and open her mouth, but the tape was strong, and stuck to her skin like super-glue. It was almost as if she didn't have a mouth, as if her lips had grown together!
Her arms were folded behind her back and she was bound with a veritable spiderweb of white cord from her shoulders to her ankles—including her big toes! The thin strands were tight enough to dimple her flesh, and were hitched and looped into one tight network that punished and defeated all of her efforts to escape. It was what she believed was termed a "hogtie", with her knees bent and taut lengths of cord linking her ankles to her wrists and her wrists to her toes. It was impossible for her to straighten her legs, and the mere attempt made the cords binding her legs and pinning her arms to her sides to bite even tighter.
Barbara struggled for several minutes, but remained exactly where her captor had left her, on her stomach, with her breasts squashed into the soft pile of the carpet. She tugged on her wrist bonds and winced in pain. There was an added detail of her condition that was particularly trying: several tight strands of cord were tied between her legs and were actually cleaving her sex, and as with the rest of her bonds, any significant movement on her part caused them to slide and tighten.
And speaking of her captor, there was no sign of whoever had perpetrated this outrage. Except for her tightly trussed and helpless self, the bedroom was empty. She noticed that the closet door was now closed, as were the doors to the bathroom and the rest of the house. Also, the clothes she'd intended to wear to the restaurant and had arranged on the neatly made bed were missing. Someone, her kidnapper, no doubt, had tidied up while she was unconscious.
She focused on the small keypad on the nightstand beside the bed. It had a "panic button" that would summon help in the event of an emergency. This certainly qualified, but the little red button under its little red cover might as well have been on the moon for all the good it did her in her current state.
What the hell is going on? Barbara wondered. Why has someone kidnapped me? What does she hope to gain? She struggled, again, ignoring the added discomfort caused by her efforts. Does she want to steal or sabotage the new aircraft? She knew her kidnapper would never be able to get near the thing, even if she stole her access badge. Fear coursed through Barbara's helpless body. Will she torture me for the proper codes? Even if she knows about the biometrics and brings me along to let her in... security is just too tight... like these cords.
Earlier in the week she'd received an e-mail from TESSERACT's Security Division. It explained that if she was selected to be Margo Well's personal pilot she would be required to complete "Special Security Training" that would cover kidnap avoidance, resistance to interrogation, and methods of escape. Apparently, it was something required of all senior executives and their immediate staff and the message had included a link to an online training manual. She'd opened the file, but had been far too busy to worry about things like how to wiggle out of ropes and handcuffs. She struggled again, and winced as the cords bit tighter, once again. Not that it would have done me any good if I'd studied every page of the blessed thing, she mused. No matter what she did, it was hopeless. The cords remained exactly where they'd been positioned by her captor, and her groping, fluttering fingers couldn't reach anything that even resembled a knot.
Suddenly, the bedroom door opened and a woman entered. She was a slender and unmistakedly athletic brunette, clad in black leather boots, pants, and jacket. She was beautiful—but it was a hard, predatory beauty. Barbara's eyes popped wide. She recognized the woman! It was Katherine Mayfair, Margo Well's personal bodyguard! She'd seen her at various TESSERACT events, always at Margo's side, always on the alert. Am I safe? Barbara wondered. Am I rescued?
Kat smiled down at Barbara's helpless form, in a manner that sent a chill rippling through the prisoner's bound and gagged body.
No... I'm not rescued, Barbara realized.
Kat turned and sat on edge of the bed. "Finally awake, are we?" she chuckled. "Anyway, welcome to A.R.E. training, Ms. Radcliffe. That's 'Avoidance', 'Resistance', and 'Escape', of course." She leaned back on her elbows and crossed her leather-clad legs. "I've taken the liberty of throwing your dirty laundry in the washing machine, by the way, and I've ordered us a pizza." She glanced at her watch. "It should be here any time. I noticed the six-pack of Heineken in the fridge, so we're all set."
Barbara squirmed in her bonds and forced an incredulous, well-muffled, questioning moan past her gag.
Kat's smile grew sinister as she watched Barbara struggle. "You won't get anywhere that way," she purred. "I can tell I've got my work cut out for me, teaching you how to escape. Anyway, it's something Margo's new pilot will have to learn." Her smile brightened. "Oh, that's right, you haven't had a chance to check your messages in the last hour. Congratulations, Barbie. You've got the job."
Barbara's eyes popped wide, again. I'm Margo Well's new personal pilot? That's very good news! She noticed Katherine Mayfair's gloating smile, and another chill rippled down her spine.
Or is it?
|THE END|| Adventures in Personnel Management