The loving daylights, p.1
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Copyright (c) 2003 by Lynsay Sands
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For Aunt Leigh, a woman who has amazing taste and style
and is as beautiful inside as she is out.
And for my dear friend, Melanie Jackson.
Thanks for sharing Sonora with me.
1:40 P.M. , Thursday
"D and C meeting in twenty minutes, Jane."
"Yep." Jane Spyrus straightened from her worktable and smiled at the tall blonde standing in the doorway of her office. "I'll be ready. Thanks for reminding me though, Lizzy."
"No problem. Want me to stop and grab you on my way? Just in case you get too involved in what you're doing?"
Jane didn't take offense at the offer. She was famous for getting involved in projects and being late for meetings. "No, that's okay. I just have a couple more adjustments to make; then I'll head right over."
Lizzy Hubert nodded then moved slowly into the room. "What are you working on?"
Jane immediately shifted to block her worktable, aware that her face was flushing with embarrassment. "Nuh-uh. You'll see soon enough."
"Can't blame a girl for trying." The blonde laughed and gave a shrug. "See you in twenty minutes. I'll save you a seat."
Jane waited until the door closed behind the other woman before relaxing, then she turned to peer down at the items on her worktable. She shook her head.
It was silly to be embarrassed about this latest project. It was a brilliant idea. At least, she thought so. And she wasn't embarrassed by the BT Trackers she was also going to reveal today. Well, not as much. Yet, somehow, these mini-missile launchers made her blush and want to squirm every time she thought of presenting them. Of course, this was one aspect of her job that she truly disliked anyway. Jane loved creating new weapons and spy technology for B.L.I.S.S. but loathed presenting them at the monthly Development and Creation meetings. She was a very poor public speaker. Stammering and stumbling over her words, she knew she often sounded like a fool. It was amazing to her that Y approved any of her inventions for production.
Jane made a face at the thought of the head of B.L.I.S.S. Y was a hard-as-nails exagent who came across as all-knowing and all-seeing. She was the most intimidating woman Jane had ever encountered. Jane supposed it was the woman's lack of expression, which left one uncertain as to what she was thinking. That was also probably part of the reason it was so hard to gauge Y's age. Her face was remarkably unlined, yet she'd been at B.L.I.S.S. forever--or so said Jane's gran.
Gran would know, too. All of Jane's family was involved in the intelligence industry in one way or another, most of them field operatives. Gran herself was an exagent and a contemporary of Y's and Jane's own parents, James and Elizabeth Spyrus, had both been working for B.L.I.S.S. when they died. Her mother had been a top agent with the highest clearance. Her father had been a scientist, working in D & C. They had been killed when their car exploded on the way to a company party when Jane was just five. It was later learned that another agent had changed sides and sold the names of her coworkers to a consortium that had been out to put an end to B.L.I.S.S. James and Elizabeth had been two of six employees killed before the agency sorted out the matter.
After her parents' deaths, Jane had found herself living with her grandmother. Maggie Spyrus, James's mother, had seen to it that Jane took all the lessons necessary to grow into a good agent: languages, martial arts, sharp shooting. But in the end, Jane had decided to follow her father's path instead and joined D & C. She just didn't see herself as the risk-taking type. She preferred dusty old books and tinkering with technology to the adrenaline-pumping, life-threatening, derring-do of being an operative. She liked to think that her job developing innovative new weapons and gizmos was just as important though.
Picking up a tiny Phillips screwdriver, Jane made the last of several necessary adjustments to one of the prototypes of the BMML. It only took a couple of seconds; then she straightened, removed her glasses, and stared down at her creation with a pleased sigh. To the unknowing observer, this BMML--B.L.I.S.S. Mini-Missile Launcher--looked like nothing more threatening than a neon-pink vibrator. Which was the idea, of course. That was its "cover." No one would ever dare to investigate, either.
Grinning, Jane began to pack everything away into her briefcase, then reached across the table to turn on the radio. She kept it tuned to an '80s hits station, and "Whip It" by Devo filled the room. The opening beats made her pause and bob her head. There was just something about the song: Jane didn't particularly care for it, but darned if every time it played she didn't find herself stopping what she was doing, cranking up the volume, and moving to the beat. As she did now. With the vibrator-like BMML still in hand, Jane began bebopping around her office. When the chorus started--the only words she knew--she began singing into her creation.
"Am I interrupting something?"
Jane froze, with the neon-pink BMML still raised to her open mouth. Staring down, she wished the floor would split open and swallow her whole. It would have to be none other than Richard Hedde, standing in the door to her workroom. His smirk was so wide that Jane's own face ached in sympathy. She would never, ever hear the end of this.
Trying to pretend her face had not just gone as red as a tomato, Jane lowered her makeshift microphone, turned off the radio with feigned calm, and faced the one person in D & C that she absolutely loathed. "Not at all, I was just t-testing my latest invention."
It was possibly the stupidest thing Jane had said in her life, and something Dick did not have the grace to let pass. "Truly, Jane, I've always known you were socially backward, but if you don't even know the proper way to test that thing, you're more hopeless than I thought."
Jane hadn't considered it possible, but she actually flushed deeper. Mouth tightening, she put the BMML into her briefcase along with one she'd adjusted earlier. "Is there something you wanted, Dick?"
"Just to remind you that the D and C meeting is in"--he checked his wristwatch--"five minutes. We wouldn't want you to be late. Again."
Jane's teeth ground together in irritation, but she merely closed her briefcase, picked it up, and crossed the room, walking with all the dignity she could muster. "I was just heading that way."
"Sure you were. After you finished testing your invention, right?" He laughed as she grabbed her jacket off the hook by the door and stepped into the hall. Following her out of the room, Dick pulled the door closed behind them. "By the way, Jane. I hate to burst another bubble, but your little prototype there was invented by someone else years ago. It even has a name. I believe they call it a vibrator."
"Ha, ha." Jane picked up speed in an effort to escape her coworker. "Thank you for the newsbreak."
"Any time," he called after her. Though she couldn't see his face and refused to turn and look, she co
Muttering some unpleasant descriptive words under her breath, Jane continued along the hall to the conference room. She was relieved to find it almost full. That meant Dick would shut up. Temporarily at least.
"Jane!" Lizzy was seated halfway up the left side of the table. Jane moved in her friend's direction.
Other than Dick, Lizzy was the only member of the D & C department who was near Jane's age. All the rest of the members were older and had been recruited when B.L.I.S.S. was first put into operation. A job in D & C at B.L.I.S.S. was a lifetime job; the secrets were too big for anything else. Anyone who was thinking about signing on there had that explained quite plainly before they did. No one joined D & C at B.L.I.S.S., then quit. Jane didn't know what would happen if anyone tried such a thing, but she suspected it wouldn't be good. As far as she knew, it hadn't come up. No one had been foolish enough to try or even wanted to. This was a great place to work, with unlimited funds and almost unlimited freedom.
"I can't believe you made it on time for a change," Lizzy teased gently as Jane hung her jacket over the back of the saved chair.
Jane gave a somewhat forced smile and sat down, very aware that Dick had followed her. Much to her relief, he didn't comment, just kept on walking, taking one of the two seats at the far end of the table so that he sat with his back to the windows.
"Y will be impressed to find you here and not stumbling in after she starts the meeting," Lizzy continued.
Jane grunted. Y never seemed upset by her tardiness, instead was almost expectant of it. Jane half suspected that leniency was part of the reason Richard was so obnoxious to her. Where Y seemed to like her and was very patient with her lateness, Dick didn't get the same treatment. He wasn't particularly well liked by anyone.
As if summoned by her thoughts, the door suddenly opened to admit Y and Jane's supervisor. Y was the head of B.L.I.S.S., but Ira Manetrue was the head of D & C. The gentleman, an old flame of her grandmother's, had taken Jane under his wing the moment she'd started here, and he considered himself something of a mentor to her. All of which made Dick all the more furious. Jane almost understood that part of his unhappiness, but Richard brought his troubles on himself. If he were just respectful and less of a greasy brownnoser he'd get further, but he made himself so unpleasant she couldn't bring herself to tell him so. For the most part, she ignored him like everyone else. Or tried to.
"Good day, everyone," Mr. Manetrue greeted the room as he and Y took their seats at the far end of the table. Settling in with notepad and pen at the ready he asked, "Who's going to start the presentations today?"
His gaze zeroed in on Jane, but she glanced down at the pen she was twiddling. She would have to make her presentation eventually, but she didn't have the courage to actually volunteer to do it...or be first. Fortunately, the others weren't so shy and several raised their hands. Jane felt relief seep through her as Mr. Manetrue gestured for one of them to start.
Time passed swiftly as the others' prototypes were presented and displayed, but Jane had a terrible time paying attention. She was all too aware that as each person finished his presentation, she herself grew that much closer to giving her own. She started trying to remember what she would say. She always memorized a sort of speech for these meetings...and always forgot every word the moment she stood up. This time, the words appeared to have fled sooner than usual. Her mind was a complete blank.
"Jane?" Mr. Manetrue's voice pierced her panicked thoughts. She glanced up to find all eyes turned expectantly on her, and immediately she felt her heart sink. It was her turn.
Swallowing nervously, Jane picked up her briefcase, set it on the table, then stood and opened it. She started to retrieve items, noting with a sort of detached interest that her hands were shaking. Wishing once again that she weren't such a poor speaker, Jane closed the case and held up two small silver boxes.
"I...um..." She stopped and cleared her throat, then tried again. "Last month we lost one of our agents when she was forced to remove all her clothes and jewelry--including the wristwatch tracker, which is standard issue to all field operatives. She was later found dead." Jane paused and took a nervous drink of water. Forcing a sickly smile, she continued, "That incident got me thinking about a t-tracker that would never be discovered."
"And you came up with a cigarette case?" Richard asked, snickering.
"It isn't a cigarette case." Jane rotated it so that he could see the box's thickness. "Besides, it isn't the case itself that is the tracker." She opened the object so that everyone could see the long white items inside. "I came up with BTTs--B.L.I.S.S. Tampon Trackers."
Taking in the expressions around her, Jane felt her stomach roll over. It was Y who finally asked, "Am I to understand that those are actual tampons?"
Jane bit her lip. While Y didn't sound upset, she also didn't sound overly impressed. "Well, yes. They can function as actual tampons as well. But they also hold tracking devices that have a range of--"
"But what if the agent isn't menstruating?" Y asked calmly. Richard was staring in horror, but B.L.I.S.S.'s leader seemed unrattled by the invention. Her matter-of-fact attitude had a settling effect on Jane.
"Oh, well, I thought of that. There are lubricated and unlubricated." She held up a second case and opened it. Inside were several more tampons, distinguishable from the others only in that they were an off-white. "The lubricated are easily inserted and easily removed and only serve the purpose of tracking, while the nonlubricated are absorbent and--"
"The tracking device is waterproof, I presume?" Y interrupted again.
"Yes. It's at the very center of the tampon and tightly sealed. The circuitry has an estimated life of two years."
Y nodded, then sat back without comment. Everyone was silent. Most of the older members of D & C were eyeing the BTTs speculatively and nodding. Lizzy was grinning encouragingly. Dick--well, he was sneering nastily, obviously just waiting for an opportunity to tear at her.
Deciding not to give him that chance, and that she'd said enough on this subject for now, Jane replaced the two silver cases in her briefcase. Taking a deep breath, she then removed two more items. One was a four-inch-square flat piece of wood with a spike sticking out of it; the other was a banana. She set the wood, spike up, on the tabletop, then impaled the banana peel and all. Next, she retrieved several foil packets from her briefcase, wondering all the while what on earth she had been thinking. These next inventions had seemed brilliant in an evil gleeful sort of way when she'd come up with them, but now--with all these eyes trained on her--they seemed the most foolish things she'd ever designed. What had she been thinking?
She hadn't been: That was obvious, Jane decided. She tossed the little packets back into her briefcase.
As she reached to retrieve the banana and it's spiked holder, Y asked sharply, "What are you doing?"
Jane paused and flushed. "I decided to skip this item. It's rather silly, and I thought I should just move on to--"
"No skipping," Y said firmly.
Mr. Manetrue nodded. "Even if an idea doesn't work out, Jane, it may spark another from someone else here, or even yourself. That's what these meetings are about, remember?"
Jane exhaled unhappily, then replaced the banana and the spike on the table cloth. She retrieved the small foil packets from her briefcase. "This idea...Well, my gran was telling me once about an agent friend of hers who was raped while on assignment. So, well...I thought--" Her face was flaming and she knew it, but she had no choice but to continue. Straightening her shoulders Jane blurted, "I c-came up with the B.L.I.S.S. Shrink-Wrap Condom."
Richard was not the only one to laugh this time, although most of the other laughs were embarrassed titters. Jane did her best to ignore them. She walked over to hand a packet to both Y and Mr. Manetrue, then she returned to her spot and opened the condom she'd kept for herself.
She removed the latex circle inside the packet and doggedly slipped it onto the banana, ignoring Dick's loud, uncontrolled mirth. "Once it's fully stretched out and applied, it reacts to human body oils and begins to constrict. Earlier I applied a special cream to the banana meant to emulate those oils, and as you can see the condom reacts quite swiftly."
The room had gone quiet again. Even Dick had stopped laughing. The condom shrank around the banana, forcing it to shrink too. When the peel actually burst, squirting pulpy mash out the bottom of the rubber, he along with most men in the room crossed his legs and grimaced.
"As you can imagine," Jane suggested, "this would significantly discourage any sexual interest or the possibility of rape."
Much to her amazement, Y burst out laughing. The woman eyed the banana mash leaking out all over the table from the now pencil-thin prophylactic. "Diabolical," she crowed. "Although it would probably have more use as a torture device to get information out of double agents or such. I doubt many men intent on rape would take the time to don a condom," she pointed out mildly. "Is there a way to stop it once it's activated?"
"Yes." Jane produced a small jar of cream from her case. "This will make the latex relax at once."
She opened the jar, scooped out some cream, then began smoothing it over the straining condom. As she'd predicted, the rubber immediately loosened around the shriveled banana peel.
Y nodded in satisfaction. "Anything else, Ms. Spyrus?"
Relieved, Jane smiled. She removed the shrink wrapped banana, wiped up the mess left behind by her experiment, and put it all away. Then she peered at her last two items: The BMMLs.
Dismay again claimed Jane. Looking at the neon-pink vibrator-missile launchers, she suddenly realized that every single item she'd brought today was sexual in nature. Even the Tracking Tampons had to do with reproductive organs! She had to wonder if that meant something. Was she desperate? Lonely? True, most of her time was spent alone in her workroom. As for a social life, she really had none of which to speak. She had the occasional coffee or pizza with her neighbor Edie, or the infrequent lunch with Lizzy, but she hadn't had a boyfriend in quite some time. There just hadn't seemed to be the opportunity since graduating from the university. Was her repression releasing itself now through her inventions?
The Loving Daylights by Lynsay Sands / History & Fiction / Romance & Love / Humor / Mystery & Detective have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes