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   Chapter 38 Pilot

Pilot: Book One of the Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 22347

Updated: 2018-02-02 13:24

To her surprise the remainder of the journey was calm. It was also very strained as both Smith and Alexandro reigned in their tempers. Smith allowed Jonathan to ask the questions and she was quite sure it was some sort of male face saving maneuver.

"Then again there really isn't much to see on this leg of the trip, " She muttered to herself. The stars were still beautiful and gliding through space was always exciting in her mind, but she didn't have to do a whole lot in the way of abnormal navigating. And thus far neither Smith nor Jonathan had commented on the completely alien constellations.

"Of course I have a feeling that's about to change." Elena smiled. Smith and Jonathan were strolling out on the decks observing the crew and no doubt searching for the hidden equipment allowing their trip to occur. There was a silver shape on the horizon and it had been growing steadily and noticeably larger for the past hour.

Elena wondered when she would be questioned about it as the ship was clearly aiming towards it. She bet on another hour. Slowly the shape resolved itself into something resembling a gigantic child's spinning top. The kind with a pointed bit that rested on the ground and a round knob on a metal pole that was pressed down to make the top spin. This top was perpetually spinning.

"At least the round knob doesn't go up and down as if someone is continually required to press it." That thought didn't sit to well with her so she let it slide away. A thin ribbon of water ran around the top's edge with small pools forming under the ships docked at the station. 'Not that you can tell they are ships yet, ' she thought. At the moment they were just dots surrounding the giant spinning edifice that was the Docking Facility.

"What exactly is that thing?" Jonathan asked. Smith hovered in the background carefully pinching his mouth shut. Elena almost felt sorry for him. He wasn't used to not being in charge.

"It is the Docking Facility, " she told them. She glanced up at the clock. An hour and twenty-two minutes. She had been so close. "We should be arriving soon. You might want to stow the gear you plan on taking dock side."

"But won't we miss you, um, docking?"

"Not if you pack now, " she said with a smile. The two men exchanged glances.

"We will return shortly, " Jonathan said.

Elena nodded. "I promise not to do anything interesting until you return."

They hurried off and in less time than she would have expected they were back. She hoped their clothes were all the wash and wear variety otherwise they would probably be quite wrinkled. She was standing in relatively the same position as when they had left, but she saw them do a quick scan to determine if any more equipment had been turned on in their absence. She mentally snorted and decided not to tell them part of her training had been learning to fly blind in case of electronic failure. She could dock the Wind Dancer with no more technology than a similar yet earth-bound ship would have had in the 1850s.

The Docking Facility grew larger as they approached and even though Elena had spent much of her childhood here she had to admit it was impressive. They approached the ribbon of water circling the Docking Facility and the water they brought with them merged with the larger stream. Some of the water would stay in the stream, some would pool around the ship when it docked and some would return to the earth with them. To give Smith and Jonathan a full view of the place she allowed the Wind Dancer to make a full circle.

The council made certain that only the smaller vessels would be docked during the military visit. The larger vessels designed to stay either at the facility or to use some of the deeper off world channels would remain elsewhere for a few days. The two men beside her were completely silent for the first time since the trip began. Elena knew it was only a short reprieve, but hoped that by the time they had regained their ability to question she would have turned them over to their council designated tour guide. Elena was thrilled she would not be expected to lead them around the place.

The Wind Dancer's port flashed green and Elena eased her way into it. The clamps took hold and the crew fastened the end of the landing tube securely to the deck. Everyone moved in a well-orchestrated routine. The tube would allow passage to the Docking Facility from the ship. The time it took to walk through the tube would allow the body to adjust its internal pressure from ship to docks. Elena reached down and grabbed her bag from where she had tucked it in preparation for docking. From the front pocket she slid a packet of chewing gum. Elena slung her bag over her shoulder and offered each of the men a stick from the pack. They both refused.

"Are you sure?" She asked. "It will help when your ears start popping from the pressure as you adjust." She popped a piece of gum into her mouth and offered them the pack again. This time they each took a piece. She led them down to the deck where the rest of the crew was gathered. Alexandro had already given the crew their instructions and with a few simple words he dismissed them. They made their way towards the docking tube and began their decent.

Elena waited for her grandfather to gather his bag. When he was ready, they made their way down the tube with Smith and Jonathan following closely behind, still mute, but drinking in the details. As expected their ears began to pop and Elena felt the familiar feeling of her body adjusting from the ship to the Docking Facility. Eventually the tube ended and they stepped out into an open area.

Normally, there would be many people milling about, waiting to see who had arrived. The dock may have been one for the families associated with the Calabrese line, but all ports were more or less public areas. Elena noticed that even the venders had been cleared from the area. Today only one person waited for their arrival. As he walked towards their group, Elena realized she recognized him. He was the person the council had sent to deliver her ship. She smiled at him but he gave no indication that he had ever met either her or her grandfather before. He walked briskly past both of them and held his hand out to Smith.

"Good afternoon gentlemen, " he said with a smile. "I am Talbot and I will be your escort while you guest with us. Please let me show you to your quarters where you will be able to freshen up after your journey. I do hope it wasn't too strenuous." Elena did not hear their reply as Alexandro gripped the elbow of her free arm and led her away once Tal

e hot tea instead. Riko's eyes narrowed in thought.

"I imagine he is quite happy with you right now."

"He seemed pleased by the progress we have made." Elena responded not rising to the bait. Riko smiled and tossed it to her anyway.

"You know Andre is a few years older than you and thus far no one has ever been able to get him interested in working for the Guild in any capacity. Until Peter sent you, of course."

"Did they try asking him to use his skills as an artist?" Elena asked calmly. Inside she planned to have conversations with both Peter and Andre. 'And won't that be fun, ' she thought.

"You know, I don't know, " Riko said, a surprised look flashed across her face for an instant.

"Perhaps that is the difference."

"Perhaps. So how are you finding your non-council arranged partnership with Black Pete going?"

"Thus far it is fine."

"And his reputation? It does not bother you?"

"I do not plan on giving him reason to show that part of his character to me, " Elena responded. Riko let out another hard laugh.

"Yes, I believe it wise to do that."

"Does my partnership bother you or the Council?" Elena asked.

"My, you are blunt, " Riko said.

"My apologies if my question offends."

"Offends, no. Surprises, yes." She tilted her head. "It is of no true concern of mine or the council's what business arrangements have been made. I was merely assuaging my curiosity."

"I see."

"And how is your dream journal going?" This time Elena did not even blink at the topic change.

"Well actually. The headaches have completely stopped."

"And the dreams?"

"They have become more vivid and I believe I understand them better."

"I am told your cousin Mateo is to become an adherent to your household."

"Yes, " Elena responded, deciding to keep her details to a minimum.

"He is quite gifted."

"Yes he is."

"It appears he is already working on a major project."

"Does it?"

"Yes." Elena sipped her tea and decided not to comment. The same servant who poured the tea began setting up for dinner. Not so much as a plate clattered or silverware clinked as he set the table for two.

"This is quite a lovely tea, " Elena said as the silence stretched. Riko smiled a shark's smile.

"Thank you." They sat quietly for a moment as the servant completed his task and left. "Does the project Mateo is working on have anything to do with your partnership with Peter?" Elena raised an eyebrow in question. "I can be blunt as well, when the situation calls for it."

"No. Mateo is not working for Peter."

"That doesn't answer my question as you well know. I am aware Mateo works for you and that you have a partnership with Peter. Therefore Mateo does not have to be working for Peter to assist him."

"That partnership is separate from Mateo's current project, " Elena clarified with a hard smile. Riko seemed pleased.

"Does it have anything to do with the Calling?"

"Perhaps, " Elena hedged.

"Anything you would like to share?"

"Not yet, " Elena said. Riko watched Elena for a moment as a dinner tray was wheeled into the room. A large silver dome topped the tray. Riko glanced at it in irritation and Elena remembered the etiquette of not discussing business over dinner had become near law in some of the council households.

"I have the feeling your venture will prove a profitable one. I would like to become involved in it when you are ready to share. A partnership of sorts."

"Many others have been looking into this a lot longer. Why would you not seek a partnership with them? It would seem a safer bet." Riko laughed at the question and rose regally from her chair. Elena stood as well.

"The others have been studying it longer, " Riko admitted. "However none of them have moved beyond theories while you have given one of our best mechanics a list of concrete goals. You are one of the best pilots I have seen with your instincts sharper than many, and it has not escaped my notice that nearly every venture you become involved in becomes rapidly quite profitable. Are these not enough reasons to become interested in a partnership?"

"They are good reasons, " Elena said carefully. "If I reach a point where it might be feasible to form a partnership I would consider it." Riko smiled at Elena's answer.

"That is all I ask, " she said. "Now let us put business aside and get to know one another over a delicious meal."

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