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   Chapter 34 Pilot

Pilot: Book One of the Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 15061

Updated: 2018-02-02 13:20

Wednesday arrived and Elena decided to put Ian Jensen out of her mind. Smith had not brought up the incident at their Thursday evening meeting and she hoped he considered it a moot issue. She also hoped he would keep himself out of her daily life, but had little hope of seeing that wish fulfilled. Still he hadn't been by the shop since. Elena was willing to take that as a good sign.

She and Andre headed down to the docks. Today was the day she would see her ship. It would be a good day. The sun was a bright circle in the deep blue bowl of sky. Elena and Andre chatted aimlessly, the conversation ranging from bad horror flicks to politics and art. With a start Elena realized they had become friends. She smiled to herself as she took the exit off of the highway.

"Something amusing?" Andre asked.

"I was just thinking how nice it was to talk to someone I don't have to hide Guild business from, " she told him. He nodded.

"Yeah, " he said. "Even when you are just talking normally you have to always watch that something doesn't spill out that you can't rationally explain."

"True, but sometimes that can be fun as well, " she told him, thinking of the housewarming she had attended. "Kind of conversational tight rope walking."

"Yeah but when you slip you really end up going splat." The exit led them to a split in the road and Elena turned left.

"I don't know, some of those last second saves are quite interesting. Sometimes you don't know how fast you can think until you have to avoid a free fall." The road led them towards the water. Not many ships were docked here and the area seemed to be more warehouses and empty berths.

"Looks like this dock has seen better days, " Andre commented as he shifted his gaze out of the window. A few of the buildings had fallen into disrepair. To Elena it seemed like a place where the bulk of the shipping industry had gone elsewhere, but the warehouse district was too far from the city center to become a popular haven for those seeking trendy lofts and clubs.

"Well it certainly looks like a place that would be used for smuggling." Towards the end of the docks she spotted three ships unloading goods into two waiting trucks. "Guess this is the place." She parked near the trucks and they got out of the car. She took the leather satchel from the back seat. All of the papers regarding the Storm Chaser were inside as well as the maps from under the floorboards. She would be stashing them on the ship, leaving nothing behind in her apartment to be found in the event of a search. Elena was careful to stay out of the way of the workers. Her grandfather stood off to the side watching the men work. Peter stood next to him. As she and Andre made their way to the two captains, Elena took a good look around.

Although many of the buildings looked to be in a state of slight disrepair, brand new surveillance cameras had been installed so that no part of the docks was hidden from sight. Elena was certain many other security measures she couldn't see had been taken care of as well. She could also tell that the docks were not fully abandoned. Several warehouses were still in use by those other than the guild and the end of the wall of warehouse buildings let off into a surprisingly pretty marina where little white boats, toys for the rich, were nestled in the water. Surprisingly the channel riders did not look too out of place, riding that middle line between commercial and pleasure craft.

"Well, you made it in good time I see, " Alexandro said as Elena reached him. He pulled her into a hug. She breathed him in and smiled. "It is good to see you, " he said as he released her.

"It's good to see you too, " she told him. "How was the trip?"

"Fine, fine. We got a very good deal on the merchandise and should have enough for the opening. With that and our first run of the year, we should be off to a very good start. Providing you can pull this off." Her grandfather beamed down at her and she could feel the waves of pride as a nearly physical thing. He had no doubt she could pull this crazy stunt off. It was nice to have someone believe in her.

"Construction is nearly complete. They should be finished in a few days. Andre has pulled some wonderful designs together and we will go over and finalize our choices when we meet tomorrow. The printers are standing by and I believe Mr. Baranov has managed to secure a re-packaging facility where alien goods will be turned into

the dreams where she opened new channels. The dreams had become clearer since she had been paying attention and the headaches had completely faded. A few weeks before her dreams had shown her opening the new channels and Elena was almost sure she understood how she did it.

"In theory, of course, " she said closing the logbook. She hadn't had a chance to test that theory and had promised Mateo she would not do so until he had completed his safety devices. He was making progress though. The excitement in his voice when she spoke with him fairly bubbled through the phone line. Mechanics had always been his gift and he felt about it the same way she felt about piloting.

To the side of the table was a stand of rolled up maps placed in a gridded box to keep them organized. Elena pulled one out and stretched it across the table. It was a weatherproofed nautical map. There were no markings on it; no dots, lines or notes, just an untouched map. Elena re rolled the map and tucked it back in its little square. She swung her leather satchel on to the table.

Next to the newness, her scuffed and salt stained satchel looked quite disreputable. Elena smiled. It made her feel somehow better about the space. She glanced over to the kitten. She had her head inside the padded alcove always installed in the captain's quarters for the ships cat. Boots never slept in hers and Elena wondered if the kitten would be any different.

"Does it suit you?" she asked. The kitten backed out of the alcove and looked at Elena. Somehow Elena got the impression that the kitten considered the quarters inferior, but would tolerate them if she had to.

"There is nothing as regal as a channel rider's cat, " she quoted an oft-heard guild saying. The kitten mewed. "I suppose you'll need a name, " she told the kitten. Elena walked towards the door to continue her tour of the ship. The kitten followed. Elena turned kitten names over in her head as she walked. She would need to announce the kitten's name when they stepped off the Storm Chaser for the first time, after all tradition must be served.

Elena finished her tour, noting the top of the line equipment in the pilothouse. She ran her fingers over it like a greedy child. The Wind Dancer's systems had been compiled over time and placed wherever there was room. Here everything was installed at the same time.

"That will change eventually, " she told the kitten thinking of the steady advancement of technology. "Actually it might change pretty soon, " she corrected herself thinking of Mateo's current projects. "I might as well enjoy this as long as I can." Elena finished her tour and picked up the kitten before starting down the gangplank. She walked towards the group clustered on the dock.

"I'd like you to meet Spin, " she said, announcing the kitten's name. Peter seemed amused by the name. Her grandfather merely reached out and gave Spin's head a rub.

"Pleased to meet you Spin of the Storm Chaser."

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