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   Chapter 22 Pilot

Pilot: Book One of the Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 19592

Updated: 2018-02-02 13:12

Peter and Elena looked at each other as they waited for the crowd to clear. Most of them disbursed in a quick, orderly fashion, filing out as they had come in. Elena noticed a couple of others stood to the side of the doors waiting.

"God that was a mess, " Elena said. "Didn't he ever ride the channels?"

"I don't know, " Peter replied. "I'll have to check when we leave. For security reasons I did not bring any electronics. A request for information will be sent when we have left the base. If he does have any experience riding the channels I doubt it amounts to much." Elena nodded and turned as Smith walked into the mostly empty room. He stopped and spoke with two of the men standing to the side of the door.

They stayed while the rest of their little group filed out with the rest. Elena noted they were younger than Smith and closer to her age and that they were both dressed in the same black on black Smith wore as opposed to the normal fatigues. She was sure that meant something but didn't really care what. They followed Smith over to where she and Peter stood.

"I trust you found the lecture informative, " Smith said. There was no questioning overtone to the words. Elena smoothed the frown from her face.

"Very, " she said dryly. Smith nodded.

"Then if you will come with us to the conference room we will bring Ian in for discussion." Smith turned sharply and led the way back out of the auditorium. Elena and Peter followed with the two as yet unnamed men following behind. Elena wondered if they were some sort of escort. Her mind was too preoccupied with Ian to devote much of her attention to them.

"If you will make yourselves comfortable, I will return shortly, " Smith said, opening the conference room door. Elena and Peter entered. Elena was surprised when the other two entered as well.

'Apparently not just escorts, ' she thought as she and Peter took the same seats they had taken the day before. The two men took seats as well, both on the same side of the table as Elena and Peter so that all four faced the door. The two men now flanked her and Peter.

'Odd, ' she thought. 'It isn't like we are going to run.' The man to her left had splashed on some sort of cologne or aftershave for the meeting and its spice tickled her nose. She resisted the urge to rub the scent away from her nostrils. Neither of the two men bothered to introduce themselves. Peter ignored them, although she could see a bit of a smile playing across his lips. She determined to ignore them as well. 'It isn't as if I am here to make friends anyway.' The door opened and Ian walked in with Smith right behind him. Elena thought that good planning as Ian turned ghost white at the sight of Peter and turned to leave. With Smith blocking the doorway there was nowhere for him to run.

'Stupid, ' she thought, resisting the urge to say the world out loud. 'Did he think no one would find out?' She mentally shook her head at the stupidity. 'Of course not completely stupid, ' she thought again noting the fear on Ian's face. 'If I had pulled something like this, left to Peter's tender mercies would be the last place I would want to be.' Of all the Council, rumors of his deeds were the worst. Other council members were talked of with awe and respect. Tales of Peter were told around campfires in the dark of the wilderness, in hushed voices designed to shiver your spine.

"Please take a seat, Mr. Jensen, " Smith said in a calm voice. "I believe you know everyone here." Smith stepped into the room forcing Ian forward to avoid being bowled over. He closed the door behind him and Elena could hear the snick of a lock as it shut. A look of resolution crossed Ian's face and she knew he had heard the sound as well.

Smith pulled out the chair directly across from Elena and gestured for Ian to take it. Ian sank into the chair and stared at Elena. She got the impression that it was less as interest in her and more that he was afraid to look at Peter and had to focus his eyes somewhere. She frowned at him and realized that she was angry with Ian. It wasn't the anger of his betrayal of the Guild, but rather that he tried to be a pilot without the slightest clue how do to it and his incompetence got twenty six people killed. Ian noted her anger and a cocky smile appeared on his lips.

"So I guess you have heard you have been replaced, " he said. "How sad for you." Abruptly the anger flooded her system. A pilot's first job was to assure the safety of her crew. She shot to her feet, the chair slamming into the wall behind her. She leaned forward, placing her left hand on the table for support. Her right hand she drew back an open palm and swung it down to slap into Ian's face as hard as she could muster. Behind Ian, Smith stared at her in surprise, but made no movement to stop her.

"You bastard, " she said with vehemence. "Your stupidity sent those people to die." Elena placed her right hand next to her left on the table and glared at Ian. Her handprint was a red welt across his cheek and he stared at her stunned. Smith cleared his throat.

"Perhaps we could discuss this a little more rationally, " he said. His eyes had narrowed from shock to speculation and Elena realized he had not really factored her into the day's equations. She was just someone he could use to get what he wanted from the Council. She could see in his eyes he thought Peter was the one he was going to deal with. Elena straightened up, sliding her hands from the center of the table to its edge. The man to her left stood and retrieved her chair from where it had collided with the wall.

"Thank you, " she told him calmly. Elena sat down and he reseated himself. Smith sat down on the same side of the table as Ian, but made sure to place an empty chair between them as if already distancing him

you we have no intention of harming Mr. Jensen." Smith seemed just as surprised as Elena about Peter's acceptance. So surprised, she noted that he didn't even argue the conditions.

"Very well, " he said. Privately Elena wondered how the council was going to pull this off. With a start she realized it wasn't really her concern. Her concern was here, walking a very fine line when teaching the military about the channels. Elena almost wished she were going back to the Lorenzo with Ian. Everyone stood except Ian who slumped in his seat, a greenish cast to his skin. Smith nodded to the man standing beside Peter.

"Ms. Calabrese, I realize you came here with Mr. Baranov. Jonathan will be happy to drive you home." Smith indicated the man standing to her left. Elena looked at him and he smiled. It was the sort of smile she associated with car salesmen and the television news reporters. Too much teeth, not enough humor. Elena looked to Peter. He nodded.

"I think that will be excellent as with Ian and your man in our vehicle things will already be a little cramped, " Peter replied.

"Very well, " Elena said, figuring anything Peter had to say to her would be transmitted later. She turned back to the toothy Jonathan. "I would be happy to accept your offer, " she told him, even though it was Smith who had offered him. 'At least we have moved from Smith and Macmillan to Jonathan, ' she thought resignedly. The meeting broke up and they all trooped down the hallway and out of the door. A car was parked beside Peter's car and Thomas eyed it with distain. She couldn't blame him, it looked like a stripped down cop car. Jonathan steered her towards it while everyone but Smith piled into the car with Thomas.

"We will follow you out, " Peter told Jonathan as he slid into the passenger's seat beside Thomas, relegating the unnamed man and Ian to the back. Elena inwardly sighed with relief. Even if the car ended up circling around, someone would watch to see her get out of the gates. Jonathan nodded his acceptance and steered them towards the entrance. As advised, Thomas followed. Elena gave directions to Jonathan and glanced around the car. It had a freshly cleaned smell and no personal belongings at all inside, including a pair of sunglasses, she noted as Jonathan squinted into the sunlight.

"I think your boyfriend is worried about you, " Jonathan said with a smile. Elena frowned. "Mr. Baranov is following us, " he clarified.

"He isn't my boyfriend, " Elena said automatically. Jonathan smiled.

"Really?" he asked with interest and Elena realized that wasn't exactly the right thing to say. She turned to look out the window for the short drive. Jonathan dropped her off in front of her apartment.

"See you soon, " he told her as she got out of the car. She wondered if he was going to be in all of her meetings. He pulled away from the curb and Thomas slid into his spot. Elena looked down as Peter rolled down the window. Thomas got out of the car and opened the back seat. He blindfolded Ian, shut the door walked around the car to open the other door and blindfold the military man.

"Who keeps blindfolds in their glove box?" she asked as he finished. Thomas shut the door and turned a smile her way. The eyes were laughing.

"We do, " he said. He returned to the driver's seat and she realized it was the first time she had heard him speak.

"These are my contact numbers in case anything comes up, " Peter said, handing her a business card. She took it from him. "Do not hesitate to contact me for any reason great or small as I will be your Council contact through this ordeal." She nodded and tucked the card in her purse.

"Safe drive, " she told him. He nodded, rolled up the window and let Thomas speed them out of town.

"I wonder what the other drivers are going to think about the blindfolded men in the back seat?"

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