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   Chapter 45 Storm Chaser

Storm Chaser: Book Two of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 18543

Updated: 2018-02-26 14:45

Chapter 45

The next morning Elena watched the Docking Facility fade into the distance with a sense of welcome relief. Thoughts of Peter, Riko, Danvers, Therese and the House of Librarians danced in her head, tangling into messy snarls. The information she was intent on downloading from the reader and into her brain didn't help matters. It wasn't until she and Benjamin retrieved the latest set of probes that her mind began to shift.

Mateo would have come up with some preliminary data about the planet. She would soon be able to see if the dreams were an accurate gage and she would also have something concrete to base her report and requests to both the Council and Riko. Possibilities could be crystallized into actions. Nerves however began to gain ascendancy as she neared the channel, thoughts of the military intruding on her plans. She signaled the channel entry and piloted the Storm Chaser through the center. The lights swirled and she braced for impact. Water sprayed over the bow as the ship coasted into the Atlantic. Elena scanned the horizon. Nothing.

"Either they are still refining their new prototype or they are getting sneakier about sending their ships in, " She told Benjamin. Neither of them had any belief that the military would just pack up and go home.

"Which do you think it is?" He asked. Elena could only shrug. She didn't know enough about Thompson to tell. For all she knew he could be the sneakiest bastard in the world. With a military encounter off the table for this trip, Elena could fully focus on Mateo's potential findings. She and Benjamin debated the possible outcome. New plants, new metals, new intergalacticly salable goods were all on the table, as were new diseases and other dangers. For the commerce side she figured between Andre, Mateo and herself they had a pretty good shot at finding something.

Even if they didn't find anything they could sell, there was always the possibility of creating something. Starting with a permanent human friendly settlement, via the Librarians, could make it a center of activity and commerce, even if the world was blasted rock with no natural resources of its own.

After docking and transferring cargo, Elena bid Benjamin good bye and headed back to town, Spin curled up comfortably in the passenger's seat. For the first time in a while she would be spending more than one night in her apartment. With luck Mateo would have enough good information to try to take the Storm Chaser through the channel on the next trip out. She had a hard time keeping her foot from flooring the accelerator.

Instead of driving home, Elena went directly to Mateo's new workshop. As she suspected, he was there. She stepped into the room to find Mateo and Andre sorting through pictures and papers on one of the work tables. Andre was perched on a stool with his feet hooked on the rungs. Mateo was frowning at a piece of paper.

"Something wrong?" She asked him. Spin trotted across the room wound her way through Mateo's legs and sat by Andre's feet. She meowed loudly until he bent down to rub her ears. Mateo broke into a grin at the sight of his cousin.

"You came straight from the ship didn't you?" He asked. She frowned.

"Of course, I knew you'd have data and were likely to be holed up in your lab, " she answered walking over to the table. Andre shook his head and sighed heavily.

"Pay up man, " Mateo said to him. Andre dug into his pocket and pulled out a twenty dollar bill. He passed it over to a grinning Mateo who tucked it into his own pocket.

"I bet that you would at least go home for a shower first, " Andre replied.

"Information first, " she said with a grin. "Shower later."

"Told ya, " Mateo said. He held up one of the pictures and waved it in the air like a fan. "So can I interest you in a little information?" Elena reached for the picture. He dropped it into her hands. Elena blinked hard and frowned.

"Is that a building?" She said. "I was betting on it being un-inhabited." Plans began to rearrange themselves in her head.

"It is uninhabited as far as we can tell, " Mateo said. Look at the state of these buildings. They are ancient and in none of the images we managed to get is there any sign of intelligent life. Whoever built those buildings left a long time ago." Elena began to flip through other pictures. Mateo separated them into four piles. One pile contained pictures of empty ocean above the water level, the second from below the surface of the water with glimpses of the aquatic life, one stack featured images of the sky showing constellations and the final stack showed glimpses of the land.

Each image was marked with the exact location date and time. From the water shots they could estimate how long it would take to get from the channel to land. The sky shots would enable her to create a searchable area for the Library's archives. Both were excellent, but for the moment it was the stack containing the land images that captured her attention.

Elena flipped through looking at ruins that would send an archaeologist into fits and lots of tropical looking flora. Mateo was right. Everything looked abandoned. All of the buildings were composed of what looked like light grey stone, meticulously shaped into giant blocks. There were roads in some cases. They also were of stone. In places small plants pushed through the stones, in others the accumulated dead plant matter obscured much of the road beds. Even when the roads were completely co

lances and hung back a little as Mateo went down the stairs with Kiera to retrieve the fallen box. They followed a little slowly and veered off towards Elena's car as Mateo followed Kiera to hers.

"See you later, " Kiera said with a wave. Elena returned it. Elena and Andre settled into Elena's car, Spin curled up in Andre's lap. To her surprise Mateo returned just as she fastened her seatbelt. He got into the back seat and shut the door behind him.

"So how do you know her?" Mateo asked. Andre started laughing.

"She is my neighbor, " Elena replied turning on the ignition and easing out of her parking space.

"The one whose apartment Jonathan bugged?"

"That's the one."

"You know she is a paleo-biologist right?" He said. "It means she deals with both plants and archeological type stuff." Elena looked at him in the rearview mirror.

"You've been paying attention, " she commented.

"Close attention, " Andre said. "Ever since she didn't drop into a swoon in his presence to be precise."

"Really?" Elena said with a grin. "No swooning? My, my, you don't think he has lost his touch do you?" Mateo heaved a heavy sigh.

"I thought she was interesting, so I asked. There is no harm in that, " he said. "But I mention this for your benefit, " he told her with exaggerated dignity.

"Oh, " she said. "Because you know she has been vetted by the Guild?"

"No, " Mateo said somewhat deflating. "I don't know if she has been vetted. But I'm pretty sure she has just been laid off. The box looked like stuff you would take home after cleaning out your desk." He paused for a moment. "And since she has the skills you need, and you know her AND she is already here, it might solve a lot of problems."

"I'd have to get someone to sign off on using her, " Elena pointed out. "And that would be assuming she wanted to work with me."

"Why wouldn't she?" Mateo asked.

"Because she seems overly spooked by the military and working with someone who looks to be a military magnet may not be something she is up for." Elena told him.

"Oh, " Mateo said. "She would be perfect though. Since she doesn't have any Guild connections she wouldn't have pressure from her family to let them in on what we are doing. And if she is already here the military won't know you went out and hired a botanist."

"Which would be good, " Elena said thoughtfully. "You know you are almost getting to be as devious as grandfather."

"I bet Peter would vet her if you called, " Andre said. Elena glanced at him as she pulled up to the stop light. He shrugged. "He has the resources to check into her past fairly quickly and if you asked him not only would he be happy you called him instead of Alexandro or Riko, but he would also get some insider information on what you are up to."

"Insider information?" Mateo said. "We could just be checking into Elena's neighbor."

"True, " Andre said. "But even if that were the case he could use just that little bit of information to poke at Riko for months." Andre looked at Elena as they moved forward again. "They really don't get along."

"I picked up on that, " Elena said dryly. They passed Zoltoy consulting its shop front gleaming with new glass and fresh paint. All three of them looked at the shop as they drove past. No one said a word, as if the store could hear for its owner. They turned a corner and it was lost to sight. Elena pulled to a stop in front of Mateo's building. Both men got out.

"I'll think about it, " she told Mateo. He nodded. As she drove home Elena wondered if calling Peter counted as a favor and if so what he would charge her for it. She knew there was no way it would come free.

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