The Travel Agency

The next day Caitlin called the Principal of Bernadette’s old school, saying she was doing a piece on how well in recent years non-citizen Zone Mothers, and, particularly, their teen daughters, had been adapting to the Zone. Caitlin asked if they were they continuing discipline problems as they had been in the past. Unfortunately, said the Principal, yes they still were, they often returned as many as three times in a year to the punishment bench for a Level 2 strapping until they finally settle down and keep their place. One case she was dealing with right now was recently strapped for the third time in three months, and is going to have to repeat her year in consequence, having lost six full weeks of school.

There was dissent among the faculty at the school about how this could be improved, one group believing that making the strappings public and adding shaming and embarrassment to the pain was the answer. The other saying that a first strapping should be a Level 1 strapping (chris crossing welts and butt only) Level 2 should occur after this, then the Level 3 strapping should be the last resort. In their view the discipline needs to be harsher at every step above the first strapping and the student should be clearly warned at every strapping that not only would they be strapped again, the next time would be worse and more painful. The Principal herself inclined toward the second view, but both she, and the two teachers who backed her up in case of her absence, would have to carefully retrain with the FEM/DOM prison guards to learn the other levels.

Then there was one lone teacher who advocated loudly to anyone who would listen that the school should change to the cane. Her peers on the faculty just ignored her. But she had recently been advocating this in particular to the parents and spreading dissent among them. She was getting to be a real nuisance that must be dealt with soon. This particular faculty member has never tasted the cane herself, but if someone can be found who’s good at it, perhaps she could be confronted with the option of a genuine caning or dismissal.

Bernadette had to remember all her Deep Cover training to keep her mouth shut when this little tidbit surfaced.

So Caitlin asked her if there were any recreational activities they did that helped. No, the Principal said, they go through the regular mill of team sports, knitting clubs, driver training (the kids pay outside instructors with electrocars), and so on. But there was one club she still found a little bothersome, though it had been at the school forever. This was the Travel Agency, who researched and planned after graduation trips for themselves and any other student who could pay for the brochures of their choice. This club always seemed to be full of those new teenage non-citizens, including the one she had just strapped so frequently. Bernadette smiled broadly as Caitlin continued the interview well past the mention of the Travel Agency.

After concluding the interview, she had the Principal transfer her back to the School office secretary. There she asked for the name and number of the president of the Travel Agency and received it from him. Caitlin hadn’t told anybody there her last name and nobody asked for it. No one could remember from a Dictapad interview that she had black hair and black rimmed glasses. So in three weeks or even less her first name would evaporate out of the minds of both Principal and Secretary.

Bernadette remembered the Travel Agency well, and it was exactly what she had expected was still there. It was a mutual assistance club smuggling runaway teenagers over to GLC and teen contraband (read marijuana, legal in GLC, illegal in the Zone) from the other side. If you worked as a travel agent and successfully smuggled 3 runaway teens you got a ticket to be smuggled yourself, good for 6 months, and one of your 3 teens was removed from your list. You could either use the ticket yourself or let someone else be smuggled with it, and have them credited to your travel agent count. So a good travel agent could always show three trips at any given time and could keep one ticket ahead as an insurance policy.

There was also their share of the weed. The Travel Agents were smart enough not to deal for money, but always for in kind barter, and not always just from other students. Without their Madams knowing, some of the girls with the more lax houses did a brisk barter business with male travel agents. And some of the male submissive pairs were lovers and negotiated together.

There was a code phrase telling any agent you wanted a face to face with them: “romantic getaway”. You had to say it three times in any conversation for it to be acknowledged as a message. In the coffee shop or wherever, it was up to the outsider who showed up at the meeting to offer the in kind to the travel agent without any mention at all of weed. The travel agent would need to think it over, so he or she needed a Dictapad number. In a day or two there was a yes or no answer over the Dictapad, one of the cheap throwaways paid for by club dues, and, if yes, a transfer was arranged, with still no mention of the substance involved, usually in a park or other open space not well patrolled and the parties in the bargain could watch who was around them. The weed didn’t change hands directly. It was always in a dead drop nearby.

The tradecraft isn’t wonderful, but you change what you see, by what you look for. FEM/DOM was checking the non citizen GPS’s, patrolling the neighborhoods watching closely those who lived there, or were using those reports for AI Shirley to catch spies. They weren’t sending anyone undercover because they thought they didn’t need to. They were watching everybody so closely that it wasn’t an important choice. Nor did they patrol either the schools or the green spaces, since ordinary personal and property crimes were so rare.

Bernadette was a natural, she was spy training ready as is from her Citizen School days. She was a long time travel agent and always one ticket ahead so, even though she actually wanted to stay, she had a fall back of leaving. After the video of her flipping off the Matriarch started to get circulated, she was ready to leave on the evening of the day that two small FEM/DOM cops and one very large one with an unusual hat showed up at her school.

So Caitlin had uncovered the Travel Agency President’s Dictapad number, and Abigail could take over from there. The call was instructive. For it Bernadette used one of the cheap, ten use Dictapads that could be recycled at any grocery or drug store. She would buy them in groups of six, and always carry a different one for each identity, rotating them regularly through all three, with a coded label on the pad to differentiate them. She used only five calls for business on any Dictapad , interspersed with five other random number calls from a list she regularly compiled from the Zone electrophone book, and with calls she made from different locations than Caitlin’s apartment, often on Caitlin’s travels for interviews.

This whole system was relatively simple tradecraft, but it made tracking which of her citizen personae was calling from where on what phone about what issues, and to whom very hard. It also confined any electronic eavesdropping to the other party’s phone. FEM/DOM used only a very little phone tapping and that only after their suspicions were fully aroused, since phone eavesdropping was personnel intensive, where GPS and Shirley the AI weren’t. So it certainly was adequate tradecraft for its FEM/DOM target. And for most of her ruses, like this one, such a light concealment was sufficient.

Thus Abigail, “Am I speaking to the Travel Agency? Yes. Well I’m in need of an unusual romantic getaway. This number was given me along with your legal name from an insecure open source, so would you prefer to discuss matters under a call name and with a more secure Dictapad? Herbert? That’s excellent. You may call me Abigail. I’m a former member of the Travel Agency from a few years ago and arranged many romantic getaways. And nothing is more romantic on a getaway than aliases. That’s excellent. You have my number on your caller ID. This is the Dictapad I’ll be using at the moment. I’ll be looking forward to your call.”

This was still the Zone, after all, and when something continues to work, it’s nobody’s place to change it no matter how insecure it might get over time. “Romantic getaway” was still in use after at least 17 years! Bernadette thought this would be the case.

Herbert called back a couple of hours later on one of the club’s own cheap Dictaphones and set a meeting time on a park bench in one of Montpellier’s green spaces. At the meeting Abigail described how both the service and the bartered in-kind could be two birds killed with one stone, “I frequently go over to GLC to purchase and store large quantities of shredded compost. You understand the type of compost I’m talking about? Good.”

Abigail laid out her needs, “I have two packages to bring over, one large and one small. The large one is your birthday present the small one is mine. Yours weighs 2 kilograms. (Herbert’s eyes widened and he just barely stopped his mouth from dropping open. A quarter kilo of weed was a major score for the Travel Agency.) Once you have your birthday present, I will call you for another meeting here 3 days after the exchange and you will direct me to your chosen dead drop for mine.

“Do any of you still go fishing in a boat on Lake Champlain? Frequently? Why don’t you bring your boat to the Crown Point/Chimney Point narrows. Where the derelict and closed Champlain Bridge was. You can cross the lake even in a small boat there and both sides are easy to get to by Electrocar. You like that option? Excellent. When can you be there? Next Sunday morning? Sounds good to me. Say, ten o’clock.”

The marionette dance of Caitlin flying to Chicago, setting up again at the Motel Omega, renting an electrocar, closing out the strong box at the Ritz, and paying the balance owed can all be abbreviated. As can Abigail’s two day drive to Albany where she arrived on a Saturday evening carrying two separate packages, and stayed at another motel. A very early morning start brought her to Crown Point at 9:30 am on a sunny and breezy morning, and she waited on still another park bench, in the tiny historical park on the point, well within sight of the small boat that she could already see in the narrows. After beaching the boat, Herbert walked up the slope to the park bench and sat beside Abigail.

Abigail was wearing pastel blue harem pants, a recent GLC fashion and welcomed for the sake of her scar, just like her boy shorts underneath. Above was her cream pullover top showing enough of her cleavage that buttonless was a very good idea and with three extra inches in the length to visually lengthen her torso when she wore it tail out. As well as thin strapped white sandals with no real heel. She pointed to the two packages at her feet. “Here is your birthday present and mine. I’m sure you are satisfied with the quantity of this dope and I think you and your fellow agents will find the quality of it a nice birthday surprise.” Herbert smiled, just a little bit smugly, thinking to himself, “I see…”

Then, first, the carrot, “You’ll be getting your citizenship certificate this year, won’t you? And I’m sure you’ve understood that anyone who can pay for your travel service with 2 kilos of dope at GLC prices is quite well off. I don’t happen to have a submissive male at the moment, and I’m looking for a vigorous young man to be my Maleservant, seeing both to my domestic comfort and to my erotic pleasure. I would, of course, want you to cook well and clean thoroughly, like any well educated Male Citizen.

“If you enter my household, I’m sure you will require some training in oral service. The Citizenship schools neglect this aspect of submissive duties. I’m always willing to sponsor my Maleservants with training to do their sexual duties by the best instructors in the Zone, the women of the whorehouse Elizabeth’s Secret, and, while they train, I don’t mind supporting some of their own recreation, if they want.”

Herbert nodded. Abigail was definitely a Dominant Woman, but of the most dangerous type, one with an unshakable assumption that she was going to have her way in all things and also with an hypnotic and spellbinding voice tending toward a dusky contralto.

“Personally, though I require subservience and subordination, my definition of them is a little more fluid than many of my sister Matriarchals. This is one of the reasons that to serve me you will need brains and good judgment. Your handling of this transaction tells me you might have enough of them. The need for brains and judgment is also one of the reasons I never employ more than one Maleservant at a time so they can be free of a spying Siamese twin and a mutual demand to spy themselves. Thus they can actually use those brains and judgment. I enforce discipline with a hole pierced wooden paddle. This is not as immediately terrifying as a cane or a police strap, but I can tell you that, emotionally as well as physically, any time I paddle you, you’ll never want it to happen again.”

Abigail, had just described a life that was almost a paradise for a Zone submissive, the right mixture of restraint and freedom and the elimination of the constant espionage that actually hampers by far the greatest number of submissives in pleasing their mistress and fulfilling their wishes. These would probably be worth a paddling now and then. But…a dangerous Dominant Woman, still.

“When we meet again, I’ll give you the number of my next Dictaphone, which will be in service after I’m clear that my package has come over intact. You may call and set a date starting at noon and into the evening. I’ll finance an afternoon marketing trip to purchase fresh ingredients for the dinner (of your choice) that you are going to make me, and we can commence a more formal interview then.”

Then the stick. “Look me in the eye. You are getting what amounts to payment in advance, so don’t you dare double cross and burn me on this. It’s been some years since I was in citizenship school. I’ve travelled other places and studied in other schools, one of which taught me how to kill without weapons. If I were to stand up right now and walk casually behind you, it would be no problem at all for me to break your neck before you even know that anything has happened. I know your real name, I know your home address and Dictapad number, and I know where you go to school. All you know is my call name, Abigail. So don’t screw me over. Clear?”

Herbert shrunk a little on hearing this and had long lost the smug smile he started with. Maybe a little too dangerous a Dominant Woman, but, still, a nice starting household package deal. “Yes, ma’m. Good luck on your journey and I’ll be eager to hear from you in 3 days. I’ll have no trouble getting these on my boat, and it’s time I shoved off.”

Abagail treated herself to a nice, late breakfast at a little diner in the north of Albany, and then went back to the motel, which was just a stone’s throw from another office of the rent-a-car agency. A Dictapad call or two found a regular light plane shuttle from Albany to Montpellier leaving at 2pm daily from a small private airport. She reserved a seat for the next day. She stayed over one more night to rest. Then just before noon, she checked out, and returned the electrocar to the small car rental office.

There were three young gentlemen there and no other customers, so she asked if one of them would save her the nuisance of finding an electrocab and take her to the small airport, a couple of miles away. Driving around a blonde with a sassy short cut and showing that much cleavage is always high on any young man’s list, so they flipped coins and the winner took her there in the electrocar she dropped off, since it would be driven back to Chicago after being checked over, so an extra 5 miles or so on the odometer wouldn’t matter. Abagail made sure to tip him generously and give him the smile that says, “Too bad I was in a rush and had to leave….”

The shuttle started from a private field in GLC to the rather countrified and easy going Montpellier Airport where there is always runway space and runway time for the shuttle to land and get to it’s own rented hangar. Then both pilot and passenger can go through Cus/Pas. Abigail detoured to the ladies room, and Caitlin, who made the original flight to Chicago, emerged.

Three days after the package exchange at Crown Point, GLC, Abigail called Herbert to arrange the park bench meeting. On the bench Herbert opened the conversation, “Ms. Abigail, before we get down to business I just want to express the deep gratitude of all the Travel Agents for the quality of the product. It left us all speechless….for a long, long time. Thank you.”

Abagail noted the subservience of his address to her. He was still deciding whether or not to take her offer, but had enough brains to signal that he might. And though he was perfectly subservient, he still felt confident enough to exercise a little dry wit. Further, the whole transaction was an outrageous sequence of events that he managed to handle with reasonable judgment and aplomb. So he was flexible. It’s just a shame that we’ll never see each other again. Unless, of course, she needed him. Maybe as a one time driver…

She smiled at him. She hadn’t done so up to then. It melted Herbert’s heart. The most dangerous Dominant Woman he had ever known! Almost out of a spy novel! He hadn’t given much thought to what might be inside her package. At first he was too cowed by the possibility of getting his neck broken. He had decided that she wasn’t bluffing. Submissives teach each other informally at least one thing, how to read women. Your ass was literally on the line every time you talked with them. Most won’t give you a “can’t sit down” beating like the Principal or any cop, but you don’t leave a whipping by ANY Matriarchal with much comfort available for your butt! So you have to know when they’re lying and how to respond to it. She wasn’t lying about killing him or paddling him. And the smile just now was sincere.

The Sunday he scored the dope, he hosted the informal get together of all the Travel Agents, male and female. They passed around only one joint, and passed it only twice. It knocked all eight of them on their asses and into la la land for an hour and a half that felt like a week! That had fully occupied his mind until this meeting. But now he wondered about her package again.

“So where is the dead drop?” Some of her smile bled softly into her question.

Herbert replied, “In the women’s public toilet down there, behind the latrine in the farthest stall. I put it there and I’ve been watching it like a hawk. So I know it’s still there. It’s all yours. Would you prefer me to leave before you emerge?”

“No, I’ll flash the package at you when I emerge. Leave then.” When she did so, the transaction was finished, and both went their separate ways. He had completely forgotten to ask for the phone number. Maybe he had let himself forget. Abigail stood out in his mind for a good 20 years as “the one who got away”. After the assassination no photographs of Bernadette were ever shown or given to the press. Why will be made clear later, so it never even entered the mind of the poor boy that they might be one and the same.

Commander Hawkins was worried. She was used to having trouble finding fugitive spies, but this was getting absurd. She was on the hunt for Bernadette Johnson and she was absolutely nowhere. Not a single FEM/DOM beat patrol had turned up a trace of the woman.

Or even a woman remotely resembling her description: taller than average, perhaps about 5ft 8in, medium build, perhaps about 125 lbs.,very short blonde hair, short torso and long limbs (a body type that cries out for long hair and with very short hair looks gawky); favoring flowing ankle length dresses with tiny patterns, and empire waists sitting just below the breasts; or caftans falling straight from the shoulder.

Nothing whatever tight on her bottom where her ugly cane scar would press against it. And nothing showing of her legs. That description alone should have made her stick out among Zone women. There was little height variation among them, most gathering tightly around the mean of 5ft 5in. Three inches taller would register everywhere.

This is one of the reasons Commander Hawkins herself always looked so outsized. At 5ft 11in and 185 lbs she actually wasn’t as large a woman as she appeared standing in uniform next to fellow officers. But the dark navy blue fully padded shoulder tunic and generous straight legged trousers of the force were all that was needed to give her a presence, as when I first saw her, of the back of a navy blue beer truck.

Not a lot of people knew Commander Hawkins by name, but no one who saw her in uniform ever forgot her. The Amazon Cop. And this size as well as the gentleness of movement and gesture you often find in taller women was very comforting and trustworthy. Citizens would tell her things, that, perhaps, they would never willingly say to another cop, without any threat or loudness whatever on her part; unlike the five foot & little more on the beat that got there by her toughness alone and whose gruffness and impatience of manner always separated her from the citizens she was protecting.

Bernadette should have been equally visible. Blonde was a very rare hair color in the Zone. The Scotch clan history of the Matriarchals gave them a lot of red, red brown, and auburn, mostly with freckles, but the major influx of women from non-clan families at the Inception shifted the more usual color to Medium or Dark Brown. Truly black hair was also rare (a mistake in Caitlin’s legend in deep cover) and so was vivid blonde.

A tall blonde woman with short hair and long arms wearing an ankle length dress with an Empire waist. Cops everywhere are trained to observe, and Zone cops were supposed to know, or at least recognize, the name of everyone living on their beat (though less so since the budget cuts expanded beat size), so somebody on the force should have noticed her as at least NOT being from the neighborhood, even if no patrol could recall someone from the neighborhood.

The reports also noted that her eyes were that absurdly vivid and rare color called Cornflower Blue. Some of the very vivid Redheads in the Zone had them, but green was a far more common color there, and the Brown haired Zone Women were about evenly split between Brown to Hazel or Grey to Dark Blue eye color.

Bernadette was like Robin Hood, always being seen by someone in the afternoon or evening talking to groups of other women, which is where the descriptions were coming from, and then just vanishing. And the groups were odd, too. Very close in age range, centering around 35, which by now should be Bernadette’s own age, the group of women you’d always see in pairs together or alone but, never, ever with any male submissive. What Bernadette was saying to them was as yet obscure, but, just like her citizenship class, an awful lot of the women were wearing jewellery with the letter B. So likely they vividly remember Bernadette’s horrid story. Why was she here? And why can’t I find her?

So reflected Commander Hawkins. When the first reports started coming in, hers was the unpleasant duty of telling the Chief Matriarch about it. Her orders of 17 years standing were still on the books: find Bernadette Johnson and spy on her. Hell, nobody, in counterintelligence below Hawkins’ rank was even working 17 years ago. Retirement and death had just about eliminated the SEC/SPY generation from the force, even her old pals lieutenants Harper and Watson the 6+ft perpetrator controllers. They still kept up the training, but had clearly lost some flexibility and wind and they were slated to retire by the end of next year.

Hawkins herself? At around 55 she was a little young for it, and counterintelligence did less desk sitting, even at her rank, than anybody except the beat cops, so while she was now a little flabby, her weight had not risen. But it got lonely when the gals you came up in work with were almost all gone, particularly when they abandoned the Counterintelligence Triumvirate and gave head of it to Hawkins alone. It was well deserved. Hawkins was the best spy catcher the Zone had ever seen, better than even the infamous Micha Haaretz of SEC/SPY.

Hawkins was a very private woman and still carried the torch for “Julie” whose real name she never knew and who vanished as completely from the Zone as Bernadette was now vanishing within it. She’d really not made any personal friends. Ten years ago when she made her reputation by busting the killers of Mossad, the two women she’d saved by doing it, Elizabeth the Madam and Sally, her whore had been more than generous with the hospitality of their house, and both took care of her sexual needs gently and with real affection. Elizabeth particularly. But Elizabeth retired and is now somewhere back in GLC, Sally is now the Madam of their whorehouse.

And Julie? When Hawkins was promoted to Captain, Julie had, from completely out of the blue, written her a letter congratulating her, signing it “Julie” in quotation marks. In the correspondence which followed, he learned that she was with GLICIS and was very apologetic that she was hide to Hawkins’ seek. It was Hawkins herself who suggested that they treat each other as mutual confidential informants. After a letter or two, Julie agreed, as long as no secret information passed.

She hadn’t written too much to Julie in recent days. The last seven years had been relatively peaceful after the Matriarchs got it through their thick skulls that Mossad was too dangerous a playmate and Israel had been allowed to colonize Maine, which is what they had been trying to do in the first place, and do it by subversion of the Zone.

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