Chapter 1: Caught
Melanie Lucas unlocked the door and let herself into her family's quarters. It had been a rough day at school, with lots of homework assignments to welcome her to the weekend. Plus, with this blasted election campaign, she'd be having to travel to some political meeting tomorrow evening – boring! It had only begun that week, and she was already heartily sick of it. Her father Tom was the Conservative Party candidate for President, and was expecting full support from his family: wife Barbara, 14-year-old daughter Melanie and 10-year-old son Fred.
She called out to her parents and was met with the voice of Robert Watkins, the Security Service agent assigned to watch the house when everyone was out. Good: no arguing with her father, no disapproving looks from her mother. Her father and she did not exactly share the same political views, which made for some occasionally tense dinner conversations. Every once in a great while, one would be able to convince the other on a point, but overall in her eyes, he was still the stick-in-the-mud and she was the young progressive.
A grim, square-jawed man in his late 30's, dressed in a severe black suit carefully cut to hide the holster of the needler that could stun at 50 paces, walked into the living room. "Welcome home, Miss Lucas. Your father called. Your parents' flight has been delayed. They'll be home within the hour. Your brother is staying with a schoolmate for the evening, and won't be home until noon tomorrow."
"Thanks, Mr. Watkins. I'm going to have a shower and start on my homework."
"Very well, Ma'am."
Upstairs, Melanie happily placed her bag on her bed, stripped off and daringly walked across the hall to the bathroom as bare as the day she was born – or at least as bare as she was at that resort her friends had dragged her off to last weekend. With this campaign, she figured that would be the last time she'd have a chance to go back there for awhile.
After luxuriating under the hot shower and towelling herself dry, she walked back to her room, as calm as she could make herself, still nude, a dry towel in hand. Placing the towel on her chair, she sat down, opened her computer, started up the word processing program and started working on the report that was due in her English teacher's in-box by the end of that weekend. She knew the rest of her weekend's schedule would be a zoo of tightly controlled photo-ops and campaign meetings, as she'd be expected to play Dutiful Daughter and be shown off behind her father. She didn't dare let up at school, as that would reflect poorly on the family as a whole.
Down below, her father and mother finally arrived. Robert Watkins greeted them politely but neutrally, and withdrew to notify the household cook. Melanie failed to hear them arrive, between concentrating on her homework, having her bedroom door closed and having her bedroom located at the back of the house. Tom marched smartly up the stairs to his unsuspecting daughter's room.
"Melanie!!" he bellowed, throwing open the door – and throwing caution to the four winds.
The naked teen pivoted in her chair, startled at the intrusion. "Daddy?" she squeaked. Then she remembered what she was wearing – or rather, what she wasn't wearing.
"Close the door, please, Daddy. I've just had a shower. I'm doing my homework while I dry off."
"No, we need to talk now." He glared at her as he strode into her room, his embarrassed wife following along.
"Where were you last weekend? You said you were with the Franklins."
"I was." The Franklin and Lucas families were old friends. She went to school with their daughter Lucy, also fourteen, and shared many classes. They were on the cheerleader squad together. Harry and Charlene Franklin had two other children: 10-year-old twins Laura and Leon, classmates of her little brother Fred.
"You couldn't have been. They're decent folks – they would never go to a nudist colony!"
"It's a naturist resort ... oh ... oh-oh..." As the realization set in, she turned the same bright pink shade as her mother. "Yes, I was with the Franklins, and yes, we were at a naturist resort ... um ... and ... yes ... we ... were..."
"In the nude..." Tom finished for her.
" ... in the nude..." She gulped. "It's a nice place, Dad."
"So you've assured me before," her father reminded her. "There's just one small point you neglected to mention." She winced. "The dress code," he prompted, glaring at his errant daughter.
"Sorry, Daddy..." Melanie put on her best ingratiating grin. "I didn't think you'd approve."
"Of course not!" Tom screamed. "And..." With an effort he got his voice under control. Best not to have the household staff hear them. Much more quietly he continued, "and your brother was supposed to go with you and the Franklins next weekend. Did he know that he'd be running around starkers?"
Melanie's blush became deeper. Barbara noted the lack of tan lines on her daughter's trim torso. "Yes, Daddy," she choked. In for a penny, she figured, in for a pound. No sense holding anything back.
"So, you're telling me that our good friends, who we've known for years, are closet nudists?" Melanie nodded, miserable. "And you too?" She nodded again.
"And how long have you known about the Franklins being nudists?"
"A couple of years now."
A coup-" Tom was astounded.
"After President Yamashita made that trip to Spica II, I got up the courage to ask to go to a naturist resort, and the Franklins agreed to take me with them to Sunny Glades." Tears filled her eyes.
Tom did some quick mental math. "So you've been going for the past six months?
Melanie nodded. "It's nice, and it's safe, and everyone there is friendly, and I always have a good time when we go there. I'm sure Fred would be OK there too, there are plenty of kids his own age to have fun with..."
Barbara looked sympathetically at both father and daughter. He was upset mostly because of how he found out, she was upset because her father was angry, and also because right now she was buck-naked in front of her very clothed parents, which was somewhat embarrassing.
"Daddy, I enjoy this. It feels really nice, it's comfortable. And I'm not doing anything wrong. If it was wrong, would Mr. and Mrs. Franklin take Laura and Leon with them?"
"They do? Both kids?"
Melanie nodded through her tears. "And Henry Whitmore, and..." she rattled off the names of a few other people that Tom knew well. Henry was an old party stalwart. Tom remembered his words of warning six months earlier, when the Conservatives were aiming to make political hay out of President Yamashita's all-nude visit to Spica II.
"How – how did you find out?" Melanie asked.
"Come downstairs." Tom turned away, looking at his watch. Just time for the six o'clock news. "Don't bother to dress, we don't have time."
Melanie grabbed her sitting towel and followed the other two to the living room. Tom turned on the system-wide news. To Melanie's horror, she saw the first story showed a video of her – unpixellated – that had been obviously taken from within the biodome of Sunny Glades. In the picture, she was preparing to dive into the pool there, being cheered on by a half-dozen or so equally nude – and equally uncensored – classmates of both genders. Melanie watched as the week-ago version of herself knifed smoothly into the water, surfacing about a metre away.
"Oh," she gasped, "I see what the coach was saying. My form does really suck." Desperately she smiled at her glaring father. "I'll work on that!" Behind her, Barbara stifled a giggle.
The announcer was saying, "And now questions are being raised within the Conservative Party about Tom Lucas' suitability as a candidate for higher office."
Another face came up, that of the infamous social conservative and evangelical minister, the Very Reverend Matthew Calhoun. "If he does allow his daughter to cavort so shamelessly, he is unfit to run this country. My church will have no choice but to withdraw its support."
The Conservative Party Whip came up next. "We don't have the full story yet, we will issue a statement later."
"Can we expect it for today?" grilled an aggressive, unseen reporter.
"Later, please. I haven't even had time to talk to Mr. Lucas about this."
The private phone, a limited line that only accepted calls from the Conservative party executive and other elites, rang in Tom's study. Everyone could hear Watkins' voice, followed by, "Just a second, sir." His footfalls could be heard as he came closer to the living room.
Robert Watkins gave only the slightest sign of surprise at Melanie's lack of attire. "Mr. Lucas? It's the Party Whip for you."
"Thank you, Watkins. We'll take it here."
At that, their bodyguard DID do a double-take. "Sir?" He cocked his head in the general direction of Tom's unclad offspring.
Tom pointed off-video-pickup to his young streaker. As soon as she was out of frame, Tom opened the connection.
"I can see from your face you've seen the news reports," started the whip.
"Yes, I have." Tom sighed. "I wish I hadn't, but that's the way things are. How did this video get on the net?"
"As near as the police have been able to find out -"
"The police are involved?" Tom exclaimed. Melanie blanched.
"- it appears that the server hosting the school swim team's private videos was hacked. This video was posted there by a member of the team on the suggestion of your daughter, so that the coach could review your daughter's form. It appears completely innocent, if you ignore her lack of swimsuit. The police have leads on who did the hacking, and hope to make an arrest at any time."
A horrified Melanie mouthed the words, "Oh, great."
"Whatever possessed a good girl like her to do something like this? We'll have to spin it as a schoolchild prank, a momentary lapse of judgement, unless she wants to come out as a full-fledged nudist -"
Melanie pointed at herself, nodded and clearly mouthed, "I am!"
"- which would raise another set of issues."
Tom's fingers caressed the bridge of his nose. This was shaping to be a much more difficult weekend than he'd originally anticipated. Off-camera, Melanie began pacing in frustration.
"How secure is this line?" he demanded.
The Whip started. "It's a scrambled line. Very secure."
"My daughter obviously thought the school swim team's website was 'very secure', too." He sighed again. "Let me tell you something. First, she's been going to this resort every weekend for the past six months, and no, I didn't know. It was with trusted friends of mine who I now learn are nudists themselves. Second, we get home, and she's upstairs in her room, doing her homework ... in the nude. Third, right now she's right over there -" he pointed just off camera "- and dressed the same as when we just got home, although that's more my fault, we almost missed the news report and I had her hustle."
The Whip's eyebrows were rising higher and higher through this monologue.
Tom turned to Melanie. "We can have you apologize. Or we can issue a statement apologizing on your behalf."
"No." Melanie's voice was firm, although she was staying off-camera. "I don't feel I did anything wrong. I don't think the Franklins did anything wrong in taking me there. I don't feel that Bill, who took that video, did anything wrong. I don't think Miss Stevenson, who asked us to upload that video so she could study my swimming technique, did anything wrong. The only one who did anything wrong is that creep who cracked the server and stole that video."
"So," Barbara interrupted, speaking up for the first time that long and painful evening, "Do you consider yourself a nudist?"
"'Naturist', it's naturist." Melanie took a big breath in, forcing herself to be calm as she committed herself. "Yes, I guess I do. In fact, I am."
The Whip began sweating. "We're going to have to come out with some sort of statement on this. This is going to be a political disaster, Tom. You know that."
"The other major party's candidate spent a solid week in the nude, being followed by reporters and having every move being carried on system-wide TV. What are Calhoun's alternatives? Start his own party? They'd never get the votes, he knows he's not popular enough that he can carry the day no matter how many anti-nudists he gets."
"He can draw off enough to defeat you, even if all he does is withhold his support."
"My daughter has made her decisions, and I think you'll find she's as stubborn as I am when she thinks she's right. Plus, I think you'll find we might just get support from wavering pro-nudists who previously supported our party."
"I hope you know what you're doing."
So do I, thought Tom. So do I.