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   Chapter 15 Pilot

Pilot: Book One of the Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 16641

Updated: 2018-02-02 13:07

To Elena's relief Peter passed the rest of the journey in phone conversations and typing e-mails. She relaxed as much as she was able and simply watched the landscape slide by. The monotony of the drive let her slide into a dull haze where many unsettling futures loomed.

"We will be there soon, " Peter said interrupting her thoughts.

"I know, " she replied. "I can see the skyline."

"Of course, " Peter answered, flushing slightly around the neck. Elena smiled at him. Who knew the council member could blush?

"Your accent thickens a bit when you have been speaking Russian a while, " she commented. He looked surprised and sucked air in through his mouth as if washing his accent down his throat.

"We will proceed straight to the military base, " he told her. His voice held no trace of an accent now and it was Elena's turn to be surprised.

"Straight there?"

"Yes. No doubt they have noticed your absence overnight and have your home watched for when you return. Your place of business as well. If we go to one of these places first they could grab you and have the meeting at their convenience. If we go straight to them, beard the dragon in its den so to speak then the time is of our choosing."

"I see, " Elena said. Her stomach dropped down into her toes and she could swear her heart stopped in her chest.

"I will be with you, there is no problem, " Peter reassured her. "Just think of me as your legal council. I am there to negotiate on your behalf. You do not need to say a word." Peter reached across the seat and patted Elena's knee. Privately Elena thought Peter's priorities were first the Council and then himself followed by his family's wellbeing. Her welfare was only of importance as it related to the other priorities.

'Although I'm not sure that's the correct ordering of his priorities, ' she thought. 'At least as long as I am a potential business partner with council sanction then I should still fall under his safe range. The trick is to keep it that way.'

Thomas wound the black sedan through the city streets, negotiating traffic and taking turns like a long time resident.

'Either he has been here many times before or he has some kind of GPS unit up front.' Elena leaned forward a bit to peer into the front seat. She didn't catch sight of any electronic direction producing equipment. She leaned back in her seat.

"Something wrong?" Peter asked.

"Does Thomas drive only for you?" she asked.

"Thomas does many things for me." Peter replied with a smile. In the rear view mirror Elena caught the edge of a slight smile on Thomas' face. It was not a smile that made her think of sunshine and daffodils.

"I meant does he drive for anyone else other than you, not what his general skill set included."

"Oh, well yes he drives only for me. Just as Marcus drives only for your grandfather."

"So you never loan him out?"

"Are you thinking you need a driver for something Ms. Calabrese?" Peter's voice was slightly mocking. "While Thomas is an excellent driver I'm sure we could find someone else suitable for you should you like."

"I was not thinking of myself actually, " Elena replied with a slight smile of her own. "But your brother."

"Nicolas?" The name burst forth from Peter's lips with a laugh. "Why on earth would you be thinking of him?"

"Well Thomas knows his way around my city so well, I would have thought you might have loaned him to your brother when he came to visit here." The smiles dropped from the faces of both men.

"As I said, Thomas has many skills."

"Of course." Elena turned to look out of the window as they drove. She caught Peter's expression in the glass and saw he was looking at her with the same calculated appraisal he had given her at dinner the night before.

'I should have kept my mouth shut, ' she thought to herself with a sigh. 'There was no reason to point out I knew he had been here routinely.' She could admit to herself it was the 'don't worry little girl, I'll take care of everything' attitude that had gotten under her skin. 'Never mind that I hope he does take care of everything, he didn't have to be so snarky about it.' The sedan left the busy city streets and headed down the road to the base built just west of the city. Elena swallowed hard and reminded herself not to bate Peter. 'At least not until he deals with the military.' The sedan pulled up to the gate and Thomas rolled down his window. They were asked their business.

"Elena Calabrese and guest to see Smith and Macmillan, " Peter told Thomas, who repeated the information for the guard.

"Smith and Macmillan?" the guard asked, skeptically.

"Those were the only names I was given, " Elena replied with a shrug of her shoulders. The guard stared at her over Thomas' shoulder for a moment and then retreated to his guardhouse. Elena assumed he was calling someone else who would either have enough information to let them pass or give him confirmati

it of a laugh. Elena smiled. "And the fact that you would even ask that is further proof that you know too little about the channels to go mucking about in them. Ms. Calabrese as you have been told is a pilot, one of our better ones as you may have deduced."

"So you believe you know better than us about these channels?" he asked stiffly. In addition to the clenched jaw, Elena could see his face becoming suffused with splotches of red, which she could only assume, was repressed rage. She wondered what would happen if he had a heart attack while they were speaking to him. Would it be considered aggravated assault?

"Quite frankly, yes. Do you intend to abandon this project or go ahead with it?" Peter asked. Smith's attention was focused on Peter and Elena felt she might as well not even be in the room. She wondered if either man would notice if she just slipped out and let them continue.

'Of course it isn't like I have anything to add. Peter is doing very well with it. Besides, ' she thought. 'This is why people hired high-priced attorneys in the first place.' She also found it fascinating to watch Peter work. 'Not at all like Grandfather.'

Sending her grandfather into this discussion would have been an unmitigated disaster. He was a captain, plain and simple. Used to giving orders and having them followed. A discussion like this needed the skills of a politician, which Peter had. Elena had the feeling any discussion between Smith and her grandfather would quickly degenerate into a shouting match that would end only when one asked the other to step outside. Debate did not seem to be either of their strong suits.

Even though Elena had a vague sense of where he may be going with his conversation she was not sure how Peter would end up getting there. She decided this was a match best watched instead of interfered with. She would no doubt get her turn.

"We have no intention of giving up something that is of such importance to National Defense, " he sputtered in indignation. Elena got the impression that he really liked using those words. It made what he had to say sound important rather than petulant.

"Very well then" Peter said. "I can see we must therefore reach an agreement."

"An agreement!" Smith practically screamed. "You want to reach an agreement? You will do what is needed."

"You haven't actually told us what it is the military requires, " Peter calmly pointed out. "Ms. Calabrese was asked to help determine the fate of the missing crewmen and if possible to assist with a rescue. Despite misinformation we have determined that all of the crewmen are dead and no rescue mission is actually needed. You have not asked us for further use." Smith's red face had darkened to nearly purple.

A slight tapping sounded at the door before he could retaliate. Smith spun in the direction of the door and ground his teeth. He glanced to the mirror and Elena's earlier paranoid fears about the mirrors being two-way glass were confirmed. He got up and walked to the door where he was given a note that he very quickly read. Smith let out a long breath and turned back to Elena and Peter.

"Please excuse me for a moment." He stepped out of the room and closed the door behind him.

"And the bell rings for Round 1, " Elena muttered.

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