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   Chapter 2 Storm Chaser

Storm Chaser: Book Two of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 8105

Updated: 2018-02-09 13:45

The Storm Chaser docked without further incident and Elena followed the crew down into port. Crowds swarmed the docking area. People, selling everything from food to good luck charms and merchants looking for new deals to be made, crowded close. Smells assaulted Elena's nose more than the sound and press.

The scents ranged from the warm smell of sizzling meat from a venders cart to spices and perfumes. There was also the scent of people who weren't human and the very distinct smell of humans who had been shipboard long enough to need a real shower. Deciding she fell into that later category she turned her steps towards the corridor leading to her quarters. Her crew disappeared into the mix barely leaving a ripple.

They were a temporary crew hired for the run, but not tied to the Storm Chaser. It was a fairly common arrangement for a new captain to try out crewmembers before signing them on full time.

'And with me still spending time earthside during the season, temporary works out, ' she thought as she pushed her way through the crowds. Elena shook her head at the mess. How the Council managed to clear an entire port out during the military visit was a feat beyond her comprehension. Still they had done it. More fascinating was the fact that they cleared out every non-human in the entire Docking Facility for the trip.

'That had to cost them, ' she thought. There was no way all of those merchants and travelers would lose custom and opportunity for that long without compensation. The Docking Facility wasn't exactly a scientific destination, but a hub of commerce. 'Still it wasn't my problem.' Lately she had decided to start reminding herself not to worry about things not on her plate. Too much was already there for her to deal with.

"Elena, " a familiar voice called. Elena turned and smiled as Jenna pushed her way through the crowd towards her. A Stetovan sailor looked annoyed as Jenna pushed past him. He clicked what were no doubt obscenities in his native tongue at her back while waving three of his six blue arms at the rudeness of earth creatures. Elena's smile broadened. It was good to be home.

"I see you made it in, " Jenna said finally reaching Elena. They hugged. Elena noted that Jenna was just as whiffy as she was.

"Barely, " Elena replied. "Some Matrovians wanted to debate my arrival time."

"I swear they get worse every year. We ran into a batch out on the Redgal run."

"They are expanding, " Elena said. "Redgal was Donas territory last time I was out that way. Which ship you on now?"

"William's Delight, " Jenna answered.

"Any captain I would know?" Elena asked. Jenna refused to be tied down with her own ship and not many of her family had ships of their own so Jenna hired out as a contract pilot. Elena always thought that sort of life seemed a little unsettled for her tastes, but Jenna seemed to like it.

"Captain Fulbright out of Virginia, " Jenna answered. She gestured with her chin to a man just walking into port. Elena put his age about mid sixties. His steel gray hair was cropped close in a buzz cut and he held himself as if he expected all his orders to be followed.

"He looks military, " Elena commented, thinking of Smith and Jonathan.

"I wouldn't doubt it, " Jenna replied. "He runs a tight ship, but there are worse things. Over all, not that bad." Jenna's stomach growled and she grinned sheepishly. "Those last second escapes always make me hungry once the adrenaline drains." Elena could feel the hollowness in her own belly and was forced to agree.

They made their way over to a vender cart and each picked up a drink and a basket of wiledish, a spicy meat that had been fried until crispy on the outside and tender on the in. It was a finger food meant to be eaten like French fries. They took their impromptu meal over to one of the free tables located in the open area.

"You ever wonder what the wiledese think of their existence?" Jenna asked as they sat down. Elena thought of the small boar like cre

atures as she twisted the cap on her drink open. She had gone with sweet water while Jenna had opted for desa, a fizzy drink that tasted a little bit like lemon lime soda.

"You mean do they spend their days wondering if they are going to be turned into fast food? I don't think they have much space for thought. After all their brains are smaller than your average hamster."

"True, " Jenna agreed biting into a wiledish stick. Elena laughed and began eating. Conversation stayed light and Elena found herself laughing easily. It was good to forget the weightier concerns. And she had to admit that was part of Jenna's charm. Weighty concerns were things Jenna never wanted to bother with.

With her stomach full though, Elena found her eyes starting to drift closed. The exhaustion from the last push was finally catching up with her. She could see the tiredness echo in Jenna's face as well. They cleaned up their table and said their goodbyes. Elena continued her trek towards her quarters but managed no more than ten feet of progress before council member Inoue Riko stepped into her path. Elena stared stupidly at her for a moment, tiredness making her slow.

"Good evening, Elena."

"Good evening to you as well." Elena mentally sighed. She was not in a mental state to bandy words with a council member. Somehow she thought Riko knew that which made Elena a little grumpy as well. It felt like cheating.

"That was quite an escape you made earlier. Five Matrovean ships. Quite impressive."

"It beat the alternative, " Elena said with a smile. If Riko knew about the earlier run than she knew Elena was not at her best. She tried to hold the grumpy inside.

"I'm sure it did. You must no doubt be exhausted."

"Yes I am. Actually I was on my way to my quarters to crash."

"Of course. I will walk with you so as not to keep you too long." Giving in to the inevitable, Elena began walking. Riko fell into step beside her. The older woman was a good three inches shorter than Elena and had the look of doll-like fragility. Her reputation was as ruthless as Peter's however and Elena reminded herself to stay sharp. While she wanted to quickly stride away, politeness forced her to slow her pace to match the elderly councilor.

"I have heard that Mateo is moving."

"Yes, my cousin is going to be working on a project with me and it will help to have him close during the preliminary phase." Elena was pleased that Riko had at least cut to the heart of the matter instead of dancing around.

"And have you thought about our discussion?"

"I have, " Elena replied. "We are still in the very preliminary stages of work. At the moment there is nothing to get involved in."

"And when there is?"

"I will consider it." Elena knew better than to give definite affirmations to a council member without assurances and conditions. If she became entangled with Riko there would be a well thought out contract in place. Riko smiled slightly in acknowledgement.

"That would be all I ask." They reached the door leading from the corridor to Elena's quarters. Elena fished the electronic key from her pocket. "And I will leave you to your rest. We will be seeing each other later." Riko turned away from the door and continued slowly down the corridor. Elena shivered as she let herself into her suite. Somehow Riko made the simple parting sound a bit like a threat.

As the door slid shut behind her, Elena let the travel bag slide from her shoulder to the floor. She left it where it fell, too tired to bother with it. As she locked the door behind her she idly wondered if Riko would appear every time she entered the Docking Facility. She hoped not. With the military dogging her steps earthside, she needed some escape. A council member popping up here would eliminate that escape hatch. Elena's tired brain refused to focus and she let it slide. She toed off her shoes and walked into the bedroom. Without bothering to change clothes, she fell into the bed and was asleep in seconds.

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