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   Chapter 3 Pilot

Pilot: Book One of the Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 6989

Updated: 2018-02-02 12:53

Elena went up to her apartment, her brain racing as she put things together. She unlocked her apartment door and was relieved see it looking exactly as it had when she left. The day, however, was worn thin. She left in the morning, but now late afternoon rays were slanting through her windows in a warm buttery yellow that belied the cool shadows creeping in around the edges.

Elena locked the door behind her and leaned on it for a while. She couldn't tell if anyone had been in her apartment. 'How did someone tell?' She thought to herself, it wasn't like she could dust the entire place for fingerprints. There was one thing she could know for certain that the military would have taken had they found it. Elena crossed the living room and flipped up the edge of her carpet.

When she moved in she devised a secret cache for herself, just in case. The boards did not appear to be moved. They appeared to be nailed down just as before. Elena went to the kitchen and pulled her hammer out from under the sink. When she moved in she pried out most of the living room floorboards to create a safe haven for anything she didn't want found. It didn't look like it had been tampered with because she had made sure to un-nail all of the floorboards so they all looked like they had been re-done at the same time. She then laid her secrets between the joists and nailed the floorboards back into place. In the five years since, she had never once taken them back up.

Elena pried up the boards nearest the couch and reached into the dark hole, retrieving the leather satchel she had stored there. She sighed with relief when she saw the papers peeking through just as she had left them. She placed the board over the hole and emptied the satchel's contents on the floor. She sat Indian style on the rug behind her and counted. It was all there. She sighed with relief.

Now she had to figure out what to do. Slowly, she placed the papers and maps back in the satchel. As she picked the last map up, she realized it was very similar to the one MacMillan had shown her earlier. It was coated with a sealant to make it waterproof and had creases and markings from heavy use where his was a fresh, crisp sheet, but it was the same section of water.

Elena unfolded it and put her finger down where MacMillan said the USS Navigator had disappeared. With her other hand she placed a finger where she knew the Marta Channel entry to be. On a map it didn't look that far. In reality, it was a lot of open water.

"And it makes no sense, " she said aloud to the room. "Marta is variable; no one uses it this time of year." Like many of the channels, the depth varied from season to season. Marta's peak season was between February and late May. By mid June few captains would risk their hulls and by August 25th, when Macmillan stated the USS Navigator was lost it would be a noteworthy feat to get an unmanned life raft through without scrapping bottom.

"And the USS Navigator sounds big." She said aloud. Actually anything with a twenty-six-man crew was substantially larger than anything she had ever piloted. Most ships were built along the lines of either an old fashioned cutter or a schooner depending on the captain's taste, and crewed by three to five people, including the pilot. Elena shook her head and refolded the map, tucking it back into the satchel. She placed the satchel back beneath the joists and nailed the boards back down. She adjusted the t

hrow rug to make the floor look undisturbed and sat on the couch, her mind twirling with a thousand thoughts. She closed her eyes and rubbed them with the heels of her hands until red spots danced inside her eyelids.

"Focus, " she said dropping her hands into her lap and opening her eyes. The specifics of the channel were not important right now. The images of the twenty-six crew members floated through her mind and she sighed.

"No, " she said. "I can't help them." She stopped riding the channels and what happened there was not her concern. Her primary concern had to be self-preservation.

"Ian, " she said. Such a short name, it sounded like it belonged on a soap opera and not involved in this well organized life she crafted. Ian saw her with the military. It didn't matter whether he was there because the families sent him there or if he was a traitor to the Guild. He saw her as she saw him. Her eyes drifted towards her cell phone sitting next to the couch. She placed it there to charge the night before and did not bother grabbing it for a quick run to the coffee shop.

Elena reached over and picked it up, unplugging it from the charger. If she called now she could tell her side, perhaps even warn the Guild of military interest if they did not already know. If they found out on their own, things would not be pretty. She dialed her grandfather's phone number from memory, realizing as she pressed the little buttons that this situation wasn't going to go away on its own.

The last words her grandfather said to her as she packed to leave echoed through her brain as the phone began to ring. 'You can walk away from the life, we will not stop you. But you cannot walk away from the blood that flows in your veins. Sooner or later it will call you back home.'

The call rolled straight to his answering machine. 'Of course, ' she thought as his voice rumbled out inviting her to leave a message and call back number. 'It's Sunday.' The one day of the week where her work addicted grandfather refused to do business. She stifled a short burst of panic laughter. On Sundays he turned the sound down all the way on his machine so he could not even hear the message. Monday morning he listened to them all and called everyone back. His voice rolled to a halt and the beep sounded.

"Grandfather, its Elena. I… um had a really odd day today with some men from the military base here asking me about some of their lost captains or pilots or something that they seemed to believe I knew something about for some reason. I saw Ian while I was there. Maybe he told them something about me. You remember how crazy his sense of humor is, all those practical jokes he used to pull when we were kids. Anyway, I was just calling because I wanted to hear your voice after a bad day." Elena paused and decided there was nothing else she could add that an outsider could hear with safety to the family. "Okay, well I'm sorry I missed you, " She concluded.

Elena hit the end button on her phone and stood staring at the dark screen. She oddly enough found the words she said to be true. She missed her grandfather. The thought of dealing with the military terrified her. Whenever she was scared her grandfather always made the bad things go away. She may have been the pilot, but since she had first taken the wheel, he had been her captain as well as her grandfather. Voice tap or not she found herself wishing he had been answering his phone.

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