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   Chapter 4 Storm Chaser

Storm Chaser: Book Two of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 9400

Updated: 2018-02-26 14:23

Chapter 4

Elena shook her head at the closed door and made her way back to the private space of her quarters. She hadn't bothered to bring her gear from the ship since she had such a quick turn around, but even though she hadn't stocked up on some of the kitchen basics, extra bathroom gear was already in place. She had just a small travel bag for transport between the ship and the Docking Facility. Elena pulled out one of the few sets of extra clothes she had and took them into the bathroom with her. She hadn't been in these quarters long enough to make much of an impression and the bathroom felt as impersonal as a hotel.

'That will change soon enough, ' she thought. Elena took a shower, a luxury after so much time ship board. For good measure she washed her hair twice. As she combed out her hair in the steamed up mirror she frowned, still debating what to do with it. All of her life she had worn the long braid most pilots wore. When she left the guild five years before, Elena had cut her straight black hair into a chin length bob. The act had been done partly to help her blend in more with society outside the Guild; after all it wasn't typical for women in their early thirties to have waist length hair. The other part, she had to admit had been symbolic. She was cutting herself off from her old life and never returning. Elena smiled wryly at her reflection and tossed the comb on the counter.

"Never say never, " she told her reflection. Now that she had returned, Elena couldn't decide whether to grow her hair back out or cut it even shorter as its current length meant the only thing it was right for was blowing in her eyes while sailing. Perhaps Gia, her beautician would help her figure something out. Her stomach grumbled, reminding her that she had missed breakfast and was edging into brunch territory. Elena let the weighty concern of hairstyles go, finished dressing and went down to the market to get something to eat. She took the files with her to read as she went.

Once in the market Elena grinned. She had missed the odd combination of alien and human foods that blended in the market's stalls. Deciding to throw a healthy diet to the wind, she moved from stall to stall, picking up her favorites from each and assembling a meal for herself. 'After all what dietitian is going to tell me how many calories or carbs are in a bowl of gedar?' she thought to herself with a grin. With her tray loaded she headed towards an empty table.

"I thought only teenagers still ate like that, " a voice said as Elena settled herself. She looked up to find her Aunt Catherine approaching with a tray of her own. "Do you mind?" she asked.

"Of course not, " she said with a grin. Catherine put her tray down and leaned over to give Elena a hug before sitting down. "Coming or going?" Elena asked. Catherine was the pilot for the Sea Rascal.

"Coming, " Catherine told her. "We docked last night from earthside. Heard you had some issues."

"Matrovean. They are especially thick around Herion right now." Catherine nodded at the information.

"We're headed toward Jacasota."

"Southern pass looked clear. They seem to be concentrated over by the third moon. Probably hoping to prey on the Sucal Traders. " Elena told her, spearing a forkful of hezan. To get to the Jacasota trade routes the Sea Rascal would have to skirt the planet Herion and its five moons. Catherine filed the information away and began eating her meal as well.

"How about yourself?"

"Going. Shove off around 2, " Elena told her.

"And those would be?" Catherine asked, gesturing towards the files Elena had set down next to her tray.

"Travcon asked if I'd be willing to take passengers since my crew's a temp. I wanted to check them out before I agree."

"Who'd they send you?"

"Two for college and one of their employees to check me and my home port out." Catherine nodded.

"That's fairly standard. They have to make sure it is safe for the folks they book with you. You must have come with a recommendation since they are sending passengers first time out and not just the staff check out. Who are the kids?" Elena gave the names of her potential passengers. Catherine nodded. "I know the families although the fact that Elliot is old enough for college makes me feel very old." Elena smiled. The guild families came from around the globe, but the number of them were small enough that sometimes the Docking Facility felt like a small town. Elena looked away from her Aunt to find Riko walking towards their table. Her smile became somewhat fixed. Catherine raised an eyebrow in question, but did not turn or make comment. She was after

all Alexandro's daughter.

"Good morning, Elena, " Riko said. She paused by the table and smiled down at Elena then turned her gaze to Catherine. "And to you as well Catherine."

"Good morning Councilor." Elena and Catherine said in unison.

"I will leave you to your meal. No doubt you have family business to catch up on." Riko continued on her way and Catherine shook her head.

"You know, I didn't realize she actually knew my name. I knew she knew who my father was but nothing else."

"She would have made sure to know it. She thinks Mateo and I are working on a super secret project that will be profitable for her to become involved in." Catherine raised her eyebrow again.

"And aren't you?"

"Well yes, " Elena admitted. "But it won't be profitable for a while. She just thinks I'm lucky and Mateo is a genius."

"My son is a genius, " Catherine commented. "It is both a source of pride and annoyance."

"I won't argue the point, " Elena said. "Speaking of sons, how are the plans for Nate's wedding coming?"

"My eldest is having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that he cannot just sneak off to Vegas to have a ceremony led by a sequined Elvis impersonator." Catherine commented allowing the change of subject for which Elena was grateful. After all what else needed to be said about Riko? She was a ruthless councilor who had decided she would be involved with Elena and Mateo. That wasn't a thought that sat well with breakfast.

After they finished eating, Elena wished her Aunt a good journey and made her calls to the families to check on her two passengers. Elliot and Freddie were everything their files said they were. They were also dock raised so they knew the basic rules of passage including the 50 lbs of gear maximum rule. Elena glanced at the cargo pants Elliot wore and figured another couple pounds worth of gear was stashed in the pockets. She decided to let it slide. The return load was light anyway with the lack of regular crew. 'Too bad Smith hadn't thought of that, ' she thought as she made her way back to the market. Somehow she didn't think her grandfather would have let it slide. The mental image of Alexandro ordering Smith stripped made her grimace.

'Probably a good thing he didn't think of it, ' she mentally amended.

The Travcon office was located right off the main market area and when she asked, Benjamin Valentine's bona fides were confirmed. While she was there she officially accepted the passengers and signed all three copies of the necessary paperwork. She was handed two copies while one was filed in Travcon's records. One copy Elena folded up and stuck in the back pocket of her jeans for her files. The other she walked to the station manager's office and had them add it to her travel docket.

Business complete Elena wandered the market, picked up lunch and a few things to take back with her. Mostly she observed the market in full swing. People from different planets haggled over the cost of goods and services using a combination of languages and hand gestures to accomplish their tasks. Here cobweb fine material from the Gedwa was sold to a Halper for his first-born's presentation gown. There a pilot based out of Boston sipped a steaming cup of veem while negotiating shipping costs with a Qarla merchant.

'The Qarla must have learned English from someone out of New England, ' Elena thought. 'Their accents are nearly identical.' All in all it was business as usual in the market. Elena paused at a stall offering doma fruit and paused to buy a small bag for her trip out. Glancing at her watch, Elena realized it was time to go. She returned to her quarters, picked up the gear she intended to take back with her and headed to the ship. It was 1:30 according to the large clock placed prominently on the port wall.

All three of the Storm Chaser's passengers were waiting for her. She smiled and they each handed her a certification slip from the weights and measures station certifying their baggage was under the 50 lbs limit. She nodded and they followed her onto the ship. Spin greeted Elena with a purr and a quick turn around the ankles to welcome her back on board. Elena bent down and scratched her ears.

"We have passengers this time, " she told the cat. Imperiously Spin surveyed the new comers. "Crew's bunks are that way, " she told her passengers, gesturing towards the door. "You'll need to stow your gear quick so we can get underway." Elliot and Freddie walked quickly to the door with Benjamin following. Spin mewed at Elena and went off to keep an eye on them. Elena smiled and went to the pilothouse. It was time to head back to Earth.

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