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   Chapter 34 Storm Chaser

Storm Chaser: Book Two of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 25905

Updated: 2018-02-26 14:39


Chapter 34

Details of the dream chased Elena through the night and it was something of a relief to see the clock reflect numbers suitable for rising. It was earlier than her alarm would announce, but Elena rose anyway. She looked at the notebook by her bedside and decided she needed a few minutes to organize her thoughts before taking pen to paper. Elena slid out of bed and made her way to the shower. In the bathroom mirror she caught sight of her reflection and frowned. She had the same look she had worn the first time she had outrun the Matrovean. Elena turned on the shower to let the water heat up as she undressed.

That trip out she was piloting the Wind Dancer on the Destal run. The Matrovean were hidden behind one of the moons.

"Keshog, " she said softly as she stepped into the shower's spray. "The moon of Keshog." Six ships came at them fast. She could see the fierceness on her grandfather's face as he watched them approach. He turned to her and seeing the panic rising in her eyes, had taken her face in his hands and stared at her until she could only focus on him.

"You focus on the ship, " he said. "Only on the ship. That is it. The only thing that exists. We will take care of the rest." She had nodded slowly. He kissed her forehead and left her in the pilot house. She watched him stride across the deck, issuing orders, readying the crew in the event they were boarded. The ship's weapons were readied and she saw the crew ready personal weapons as well. High-tech mixed with low-tech as weapons that would have blended with a Star Trek episode were strapped next to lethal looking cutlasses that pirates of Blackbeard's day would have proudly worn. A laser blast is good for distance, she was told in training more times than she could count. Technology sometimes fails while a sharp blade will always cut.

"Pirates in blue jeans, " she muttered as she lathered shampoo into her hair. "One day I'm going to find a punk band to write a song for them with that title." She smiled to herself a little at the old thought and again wondered if there were any bands that were guild raised. She rinsed out the shampoo and reached for the conditioner.

Her perusal of the crew didn't last long as she took her grandfather's advice. She poured all of her energies into the ship, racing to pull ahead and away from the raiders hoping the crew would not have to use their blades. Her awareness of the crew faded until she was only the ship and the movement. It was sometime later that her grandfather returned to the pilot house. She didn't react to his presence until his hands covered hers.

"That is enough, " he told her as he pried her hands away. "The threat has passed." Elena slid her consciousness away from the ship and realized the raiders were barely shadows on the edge of her field of vision. She let go of the wheel and nearly collapsed. Her energy more than depleted. Alexandro took her to the galley where Marco wrapped a blanket around her shoulders and placed a bowl of soup in her hands, commanding her to eat.

She caught sight of her face, reflected in the shiny surfaces around the galley. As she ate her soup, the crew came by, smiled and made sure Marco was feeding her right. They were all happy and she realized they were all relieved. Many touched her hair as though she were a talisman against the dark. They had been expecting fighting and bloodshed. They had gotten neither.

'Because of me, ' she thought at the time. Pride mixed with a heavy sense of responsibility filled her. This was not racing around the Docking Facility. This was not a game. People's lives depended on her skills. She saw the knowledge of that reflected in her eyes in the galley that day. She was three days shy of her twelfth birthday.

Now she was two months shy of her thirty-fourth birthday and saw that look in her eyes that morning. She frowned not having to be Freud to see the connection between the feeling and the eighteen pilots she welcomed the day before.

"Except there is a lot more on the line than one crew, " she said. She rinsed the conditioner from her hair and added some body wash to the mesh scrubby she used in place of a washcloth. She worked the soap into the net until it was dripping with suds and began to lather herself with the crisp scented suds the bottle labeled as ocean breeze. She found the name amusing, but the scent pleasing so she kept buying it. Not for the first time she wondered what the cargo in her dream had been. At the moment she couldn't think of anything she would carry that would be important enough to risk a channel in winter. She frowned as a thought occurred to her.

"I wasn't bringing goods earthside. I was taking something skyside." The thought did not give her insight to her cargo. The pipes groaned and Elena frantically began to rinse off the bubbles.

"Just a little more, " she said, hoping the hot water would last. Luck was not with her and she yelped as the hot water gave out and she was pelted with cold droplets that felt like the chandelier's crystal drops. Elena grit her teeth and resolutely washed off the last of the suds before turning the water off. She stood shivering and soundly cursed the ancient water pipes.

As they were accustomed to such abuse, they did not respond. She pulled back to shower curtain and grabbed a towel from the rack. She quickly dried her skin then wrapped the large bath towel around herself. She pulled a smaller towel from the rack and used it on her hair. When the bulk of the drops were cleared she wrapped her hair up, turban style with the towel to keep it out of her face. The mirror was fogged up from the steam of the shower, but when she ran a hand across its surface she was pleased to see her eyes no longer held the slightly haunted look.

"I suppose the cold water was good for something, " she conceded. She returned to the bed and sat down with the dream journal and pen. She had a feeling the first part of her dreams had been dreams and not part of the Calling, but for some reason the necklace bothered her. It was somehow familiar, but she just couldn't place it. Deciding there might be some clue in the ball room scene she recorded it and fervently hoped no one ever read the journal. She frowned over the part when she entered the pilot house and mentally blocked out the voice from the radio. She closed her eyes and tried to hear the words she ignored. They wouldn't come.

"Next time I'll have to listen, " she told herself. "Of course maybe if I forget about it, then later the words will come to me." With no better option she continued to record the dream. At the end she had no further clues as to her cargo. She did recall thinking of Kiera and green, growing things when she first woke up and as she had with the ball room scene, she wrote it down in case it was important later.

By the time she was finished it was close enough to her normal rising time that she felt the need to get dressed and start her day. She already showered and recorded her dreams, the process took less time than normal. Since she still had to come up with the exact questions she wanted Benjamin Valentine to answer for her prior to accepting him on this trip, Elena figured an early start was not such a bad idea.

Rain was still coming down and even though its pace had slackened, she still caught the hiss of ice against the glass. She thought of driving over to Nibbles and pulling her car into the employee lot, but decided that would be more trouble than it was worth. Walking on empty sidewalks with a little bit of ice seemed safer to her than driving in a busy street coated with ice. Instead of her normal jacket she pu

for a trench coat, but the sheer size of it made her coat look like a child's garment.

"Any particular chair?" He asked.

"Take your pick, " She told him, handing him the bottle of water. He settled himself in the chair across from her and twisted the cap off his water bottle. She settled herself back in the same chair and wondered if she was going to be spending most of her earthside time occupying it.

"So you have some questions, " he started.

"I do, " she said, pleased that he had cut to the chase.

"Mostly because you and your cousin are up to something super secret and you don't want a third party ratting you out before you are ready." He began to laugh. The laugh shook both him and the table. "You should see the look on your face, " he said.

"Ratting me out wasn't exactly the way I would put it. We aren't doing anything illegal."

"Probably because you are doing something no one thinks can be done." He shook his head. "I did my homework. Mateo is very good at what he does, as are you. People guessed about the Calling. Some think they guessed wrong and that you left not because of the Calling, but because you wanted to set up shop independently of your grandfather. Now you have pilots flocking to you. Some of whom were known to be affected by the Calling. Instead of turning them away as useless you took them in. I have to believe something unusual is up."

"Apparently I am no good at nefarious plots, " Elena said. She took a long draw of water.

"I doubt too many people are paying attention to that aspect at the moment if it's any consolation, " he said. "Most are blinded by the store downstairs. They figure you need transport ships to make certain you can supply it year round and grounded pilots would be a good source for that. As for Mateo, " Benjamin concluded with a wave of his hand in the air. "Word is that your Aunt Catherine is thinking about retirement and from all accounts Mateo does not get along with your cousin Therese. It would be natural for him to transfer to your house and avoid the possibility of hers."

"Very logical, yet you still seem to think that isn't the likeliest of scenarios?"

"No I think you are up to something, " he flashed a grin. "I have the feeling it will prove quite interesting." Elena had to smile at the assessment.

"Have you ever worked for any of the council members?" She asked. He lifted an eyebrow.

"You would assume that because I am devious?"

"No, simply asking because I want to know."

"Ah, " he said. "My loyalties. I have never worked for the council or any member current or past in any capacity. My mother was a pilot, my father was guild raised. I am guild raised. My mother was of the Burgess line based in Detroit. My father's family was the Shuler line based in Boston. Both were only children of only children. I was an only child. My parents were killed by raiders when I was seventeen and I am currently thirty seven. I stayed involved with the guild doing, odd jobs. I believe that covers most everything." He gave her a wry grin and Elena had to laugh.

"You know if you are going to preempt my questions this is going to be a very short interview."

"True but I have never been overly fond of interviews."

"So both of your parents were from US lines, " she said.

"Yes, " he responded. She nodded. While it didn't automatically stop him from having allegiance to one of the council members it was a good bet that they would not have his focused loyalties. The United States did not have their own councilor; none of the new world did, instead tying back to the established European seats. It was not a very happy system and was the source of a great deal of friction in the past couple of decades. Elena had a brief flash of her mother, but blocked it out for later thought.

"Consuelo, and a few others, refer to you as Bennie V, " Elena said, distracting herself from the past and potential lethal politics.

"They do, " he said with a smile. "It is a holdover from a time when a more rough sounding name helped me in the odd jobs I managed to do."

"And those jobs were?"

"More varied than I could name on short notice. Some of them took me to various places I would not care to revisit even in conversation. None of them should prove burdensome to you." Elena nodded fairly certain that was the best she was going to get. Despite the lack of details she still trusted him.

"The Valentine came from this?"

"A nickname that stuck, " he said with a smile.

"You are still working for Travcon?"

"I am, but they do not ask for detailed analysis of my trips, merely that I do what they request of me."

"So a confidentiality agreement would not put you in a difficult place?"

"No, " Benjamin said. "In fact it would help out a great deal." Elena stood and walked over to the shelf. She picked up a pen and a piece of paper, walked back to the table and handed it to the grinning Benjamin.

"I have the feeling you decided on me before this interview."

"More or less, " she said. Benjamin signed the paper and handed it back to her.

"We ship out with Friday's tide."

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