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   Chapter 33 Pilot

Pilot: Book One of the Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 19324

Updated: 2018-02-02 13:19


"It tastes a bit like honeyed pears, " Elena said taking a sip from the paper cup. The bottle the drink came out of was clear glass and showed off the golden liquid well. Alien letters were inscribed across the glass in black. She scraped her nail against the glass and was pleased to see part of the lettering flake off.

"That was my take as well, " Andre said. The adaptation to the upper floors had been complete and they were sitting at the conference table. Various goods surrounded them and they were trying to figure out names, and details for the new products. Products they had already been through lined the shelves off to one side and a stack of potential labels and advertisements mounted to press board were leaning against the wall. In the past ten weeks Andre had done an amazing amount of work.

"It is a bit too sweet to drink on its own, " Elena commented.

"Yeah, " Andre agreed. "Whenever we had it we always mixed it with either vodka or club soda. Sometimes it was added to a dry champagne if it was a festive thing."

"You know, " Elena said thoughtfully. "We have several drink concoctions that would make good mixers. Perhaps we could have a selection of cocktail additives." Elena stood up and retrieved several different bottles from the shelves. The bottles were similar, but the drinks they contained differed. One tasted a bit like strawberries, one was tart like cranberries with a dash of lemon. She arranged the bottles on the table. "The shapes of the bottles are nearly identical."

"And we could put notes on the label about mixing for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic consumption." Andre made a note. Elena attached a tag stating the flavor of the drink in the bottle and began setting them back on the shelves. From downstairs the steady pounding of hammers thudded and a buzz saw whined. The air was heavy with the sharp tang of freshly cut wood. While the upstairs had been completed the downstairs was still under construction. The work was almost done. Nibbles, as the store would be named would soon be ready to open.

"I think that's the last of what we have, " Andre said looking around. "I should have some ideas for the drink labels complete by the time Peter and Mr. Calabrese get here." He stood and stretched. Elena admired way the material stretched across his chest before deliberately reminding herself he was off limits. Andre smiled and reached for the coffeepot to refill his cup. He refilled hers automatically as well before setting it down. Elena had been pleased to find he was as big a caffeine junky as she was. Elena took a sip.

"That will be great, " she said. "That way we can get a consensus before we go to print. You have worked really hard on this. Thanks for putting in all the extra hours."

"Like you haven't put them in as well, " he said with a smile. "At least I didn't have to work the floor during holiday rush as well as work with this. And thank god I didn't have to meet with Smith and Co." Elena smiled.

"True, this wasn't exactly the best timing. But Valentine's Day would make the perfect opening." She sipped her coffee. In truth between the holiday rush, military meetings, taste testing and all the little details needed to open the store Elena was feeling a bit worn thin. Christmas day had been the only day with nothing scheduled and she had basked in the idleness and solitude with the one call to her grandfather the only interruption. Squeezing details about printers in between Smith's briefings was not an easy chore.

"Last week I asked Smith if his ships were in full color or just black and white, " She commented. Andre snickered.

"What did he say?"

"He asked me if that was code for anything." Andre laughed and took another sip of coffee.

"Jonathan still asking you out?" Andre tilted a half smile her way at the question.

"Yeah, " she admitted. "But he is only doing his job." Elena shrugged. She had decided to take Jonathan's multiple coffees, drink, and dinner invitations in stride. Andre laughed.

"Oh yeah, " he said. "I'm sure taking you to the movies is a military directive." Andre shook his head at her.

"Probably not, " she admitted. "I wouldn't put it past Smith to suggest it though. And I can't see him being displeased." She gestured with her coffee mug at Andre.

"Fair enough, " he admitted. "So when is everyone getting in?" he asked letting the subject of Jonathan drop.

"Next Wednesday, " she said. A secure port had been located about three hours away. Her grandfather would be bringing the Wind Dancer, Peter would be on his ship, Gregori's Dream and a crew from the council shipyard would be bringing the Storm Chaser. Both the Wind Dancer and Gregori's Dream would be heavily laden with goods bought from the families to go directly to the repackaging area located a few miles from the docks. These would be the first goods on the shelves of Nibbles, with replacements soon to follow once the channels reopened. It wasn't the thought of the new store that made her grin though.

"A pilot through and through, " Andre said.

"What?" Elena asked.

"That grin. You can't wait to be on board the Storm Chaser."

"Well it is my ship, " she said. "My very first ship." Her voice took on a dreamy quality and Andre laughed and shook his head.

"Pilots." Elena stuck out her tongue at him. "So have you told Smith when the ships are getting in?"

"No, " Elena said shaking her head. "He would insist on coming down to the docks and then more than likely demand to search all three."

"I can imagine how well that would go over, " Andre said thinking of his cousin. Elena grimaced.

"I imagine missing limbs would be the end result of that."

"Probably, " Andre agreed. "

and all of the customers had gone. Her staff was circling idly. TJ was adjusting a lampshade that didn't need adjusting. And Max was sweeping an already swept floor. She shook her head and smiled. They really were a great crew.

"He's gone now, " she told them.

"Who was he?" Emily asked. Elena had known the question was coming.

"Someone who is not terribly thrilled with my family, " she told them. "He was angry with one of them and couldn't find him so he decided to yell at me. No big deal."

"Well I personally don't like him, " Emily said in a huff as she struggled to button her coat over her bulging belly. Elena thought she looked almost ready to pop.

"That's what I like about you Emily, your open mind. You're not still driving are you?"

"No Steve insisted, even though I still fit behind the wheel, " she answered somewhat grumpily. As if summoned, Steve pulled up to the curb. Elena gave a wave to him as Emily struggled into the car. One by one the rest of the staff left. She locked up and returned to the second building. The workmen were packing up and calling it a day as well. She watched them file out and then locked the door behind them. Elena returned to the conference room where Andre was once again drawing. He looked up as she walked in.

"You know it wasn't an accident, " he said.

"Yeah, I know."

"This is why I went to art school, " he told her leaning back and running his fingers through his hair. "I always hated this crap."

"Me too." Elena looked out of the window for a moment. "I suppose we should call and tell someone to tell Alex Barton."

"Who?"

"The council member who heads his family."

"You think he doesn't already know?" Elena turned towards Andre and let out a sigh.

"He probably does. But still I suppose it should be called in." Elena picked up her cell phone and stared at it for a second wondering if she should call her grandfather or Peter. She decided to call Peter. Technically she could say it was because he was her contact while dealing with the military and that her grandfather rarely remembered to turn on the phone when he wasn't expecting a call. The real reason however was that she didn't want to hear if her grandfather wasn't surprised by the death.

"Peter, " she said as he picked up the phone. "Ian Jensen is dead. It is believed he was high or drunk or something and slipped in the shower."

"Really, " Peter said. His voice sounded vaguely amused. Elena ground her teeth.

"We don't know if the family has been notified, but figured you would tell Mr. Barton who could convey the information where it needs to be."

"They harassed you over this, " Peter replied. All of the humor had drained from his voice.

"Both of us yes, " Elena replied.

"I see. This will be dealt with. Think no more of it." Peter hung up the phone. Elena pulled it away from her ear and listened to the dial tone.

"I don't think I like the sound of that."

"What did he say?" Andre asked. Elena relayed the conversation. Andre frowned at the humor and then turned a speculative gaze at Elena.

"He likes you, " he informed her.

"What?"

"He likes you."

"He finds me useful, " Elena clarified.

"True, " Andre agreed. "But he also likes you." Elena frowned at him and Andre held his hands up. "He never gets ticked off when I'm hassled over Guild business."

"And how often are you hassled over Guild business?"

"Not often, " Andre admitted with a smile. "Wanna stay and order pizza for dinner?"

"Didn't you have pizza last night?"

"You can never have too much pizza, " he told her. "You can also not have too many bad horror flicks. I think I have a couple I didn't get around to last night. Nothing erases a bad day like a grade b horror flick."

"True, " she said nodding. "That sounds like a good plan."

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