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   Chapter 3 Storm Chaser

Storm Chaser: Book Two of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 8649

Updated: 2018-02-26 14:20


Chapter 3

The incessant jangling of the doorbell woke Elena many hours later. She grumbled as she pulled herself from the bed. She had not been in the suite long and many things were still factory standard.

"Apparently some psychopath decided on the doorbell." The bells got increasingly louder each ring and by the time Elena crossed the central living area she could feel her brain rattling. She hit the door opening mechanism and the ringing stopped as the door slid open. A tall man with the bulk of a football player stood framed in her doorway. He wore wire rimmed glasses and a three-piece pin striped suit. His skin had that pale look that let her know he didn't spend much time off the Docking Facility and in normal sunlight although his blonde hair had been cut in what she thought of as the latest style for men about her age who had to dress up for work but didn't want to look like their fathers.

"How tall are you?" She asked. The man smiled.

"Six foot seven, " he replied, his voice showing a hint of amusement. Elena blushed.

"Sorry I'm not at my most polite when I first wake up."

"My apologies for waking you." Elena glanced over at the clock. It was set to Docking Facility time, a weird version of time that had been established to keep everyone on the same schedule no matter where on earth they hailed from. At the moment it was showing the time as 9:30 am.

"No problem, I over slept anyway. Come on in. Can I get you something to drink?"

"What ever you are having is fine." Elena motioned him in and the door shut behind him. His face maintained the bemused look.

"It will be coffee then, " she said, gesturing for him to take a seat. He sat and Elena walked towards the kitchen area. Halfway there she stopped, realizing she had just invited a stranger in for coffee. Elena shook her head. Earthside her paranoid nature would have stopped him at the door and asked for id and still made him only talk to her outside. Such concerns were not ones to worry about on the Docking Facility, but she was surprised at herself for slipping back into the rhythm of things.

'So much for my innate paranoia, ' she thought. Elena turned around. "I forgot to ask who you were." She commented. Elena ran a hand through her chin length black hair. It reminded her that she really needed a shower. "Sorry I'm kind of out of it this morning."

"It's all right. I am Benjamin Valentine. I work with TravCon." Elena nodded and continued to the kitchen to make coffee. TravCon was a business akin to a travel agency. It stood for either traveling connections or traveler's connecting. She couldn't remember the exact wording, but she knew who they were. Their job was to help find passage for people without ships who needed to get to or from the Docking Facility. Her grandfather occasionally worked with them. Elena got two mugs out of the cabinet and when there was enough coffee for both she filled two mugs using the pause and pour function. She brought the mugs back to where Benjamin Valentine waited.

"I hope you like your coffee black, Mr. Valentine. I haven't managed to pick up milk or sugar yet."

"That will be fine, and please call me Benjamin." She handed him the mug and took a seat across from him.

"So Benjamin, what brings you by?" Elena sipped her coffee. Since she had being paying attention to her dreams the headache aftermath of the Calling faded, but she still found a tight coil inside her unwind at the taste of coffee.

"Have you heard of TravCon?"

"Travel connections or something to that effect I believe, " Elena said.

"That is correct. We help people get to where they need to be." Benjamin reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a slim silver case. He popped it open and pulled out a business card. Elena took the card from him, glanced at and put it on the occasional table next to her.

"And you are here because…?"

"I am here because I have three people who need travel back earthside, close to your listed home port. Or close enough that they can arrange transportation from there."

"I see, " Elena said sipping her coffee.

"It was noticed that your crew is remaining at the Docking Facility while you will be leaving later today."

"It was, " Elena said, not really comfortable with someo

ne checking up on her plans.

"The trip was registered with the Guild of course." He said with a salesman's smile. "As a reputable agency we are allowed to check. We look at all of the outbound ships' travel plans if it makes you feel any better." It didn't, but she let it go.

"And who needs transport?"

"Two kids heading back to college in the fall. One has a summer internship starting in a few months and the other has never really spent much time outside of the Docking Facility and their families wish them to spend some time acclimating to more earthside focused living before integrating with the system." Elena smiled at the phrasing, remembering her shock after spending so much time skyside. An adjustment period was always needed. Benjamin pulled two files from his portfolio and handed them to her. She flipped through the information on both of the kids. One was from a family she knew. She hadn't realized he was college age yet, but it fit. The other seemed legit as well.

"And I fit in where?" She asked, knowing the answer.

"If you are willing the two would act as crew for the trip back in addition to a small fee to cover the cost of their passage." Elena tapped the folders.

"The contacts listed are on the Docking Facility?"

"Yes."

"I'll contact them and let you know."

"That is all we could ask for." Benjamin stood and offered her his hand. Elena smiled at it.

"You mentioned three passengers Mr. Valentine." Benjamin smiled and sat back down.

"I would be the third passenger."

"Oh? And your references, would they be on the Docking Facility?"

"Travcon will gladly provide any references I need."

"And will you be working as part of my crew for the trip earthside."

"Sailing is not really my strongest skill set, however I can perform basic tasks and I am a very good cook. I would be willing to serve in the galley for the trip or Travcon will pay extra for my passage."

"I see and your reason for traveling earthside?"

"Why, earth is my home. Is it not natural I should visit there?" There was a teasing glint to Benjamin's eyes and Elena smiled, finding herself liking him.

"Yes, I can see a tan like yours needs a great deal of maintenance, " she commented dryly. Benjamin laughed. It was a deep barrel laugh that echoed out of his massive chest and rolled over her. "The two other passengers have legitimate reasons for travel. I'm afraid I will need one from you as well, " she said in the wake of his laugh.

"Very well. It is quite a simple reason really. Standard procedure. You are a captain we have not used in transit before. And you are traveling to a port not used for connections before. Indications are it will soon become a well-traveled port. Travcon wishes to know more about it."

"Indications?"

"A partnership with two council members, one of whom is Black Pete while a third has sent agents to ask questions, a business the entire Council is watching as a model for expansion, acting as a military liaison and being named Friend of the Guild all make you a person worth watching, Captain." He smiled at Elena as she tried to shrug things off.

"It has been a busy few months."

"Of course." Elena stood and Benjamin stood with her. She held out her hand to shake. He shook it delicately, as if he were afraid of crushing it.

"If everything checks out we have a deal." She looked up directly into his eyes. "But everything will be on the up and up or you get bounced. I don't traffic." He smiled at the term. Technically all channel riders fell into the category of smugglers. Trafficking was just the line the Guild drew for what was acceptable smuggled cargo and what wasn't. Unacceptable had more to do with what would draw the eyes of the law to the Guild rather than any moral or societal stance. With the military watching her every move, Elena knew she had to take an even firmer position.

"Understood, " Benjamin said. "The rate schedule is in the front of the top folder. Please let me know if there is anything else you require." She walked with him over to the door. It slid open with a slight whoosh of air.

"I plan on leaving around 2 DFT, " she told him. He nodded. "I'll let you know by noon if everything checks out."

"Thank you Ms. Calabrese. We will be in touch."

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