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   Chapter 9 Alliance

Alliance: Book Three of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 22265

Updated: 2018-02-26 15:01


Chapter 9

Elena reached the Watering Hole with about five minutes to spare. She stared at the strip mall and smiled fondly at the non-descript place. She and Andre came here after bowling on their first official date.

"Because cheese fries cure a ringing in the ears, " she reminded herself with a chuckle. The cheese fries experiment was interrupted when Andre spotted Peter meeting with Jonathan. "Apparently this is the clandestine meeting place of choice for the people in the know, " She said to herself wondering if the bar had a secret advertising campaign going to that effect or if it just happened naturally.

Deciding to get into the spirit of the evening, she parked her car around the corner and out of sight from the bar's entrance. She was beginning to feel a bit silly, but figured if Jonathan didn't want her to be in spy mode he wouldn't have secretly slipped her a piece of paper.

Elena pushed open the heavy door and was hit by a wave of sound. Apparently Thursday night was hopping at the Watering Hole. From a booth in the back she saw Jonathan wave. She began working through the crowd towards him. The crowd was mostly composed of folks from the college. They didn't seem to be the average, barely legal crowd but more of a grad student or younger faculty mix. All of them seemed to have the air of academia about them though and several snippets of conversation she overhead as she moved through the crowd seemed to verify the assumption. When she reached the booth she slid into the bench opposite Jonathan. His seat was facing the door and his eyes kept darting as though waiting for someone else.

"Is someone joining us, " Elena asked, resisting the urge to turn around and look towards the door.

"No, " Jonathan said, still dividing his attention between her and the door. "Thank you for coming."

"I take it this is not a Smith approved conversation?" she asked. A waitress came by and as Jonathan already had a beer she ordered one as well.

"Not exactly, " Jonathan said. "I wanted to ask you about a pilot."

"Really, " Elena said, her voice level. "And you didn't want Smith to hear you asking about a pilot." Jonathan focused on her face. His gaze was so intense she could almost feel the weight of it.

"Anna Sorensen, " he said. Elena blinked in surprise. Jonathan leaned back a small satisfied smile playing on his lips. "She is a pilot. I can see it on your face, you know the name." He let out a long shaky breath. Softly, as though to himself he said, "I knew it." Elena was unsure how to respond. Luckily the waitress returned with her beer and she took a long sip, using the time to think.

"I don't know why Smith would be opposed to you researching more pilots for the military, " she began "Or did he think I would be more forthcoming if we were alone in a casual setting." Anger sparked in his eyes at her comment and she found herself leaning back in her seat as though to give him more distance.

"I'm not researching her for…" he clamped his mouth shut, but the anger was plain in his voice. There was also something more. Elena frowned and took a sip of her beer. Anna was a pilot. She was a year older than Elena and unlike Therese, Anna was accepted to the accelerated class. Their paths crossed frequently and while she wouldn't consider Anna one of her best friends they had always been on good terms. However, Anna died at age seventeen. Elena thought about what she remembered of Anna and could almost hear her on mind click as she made the connection.

"Florida, " she said. The Sorensens were based out of Florida. Just like Jonathan.

"She lived three doors down from me growing up. We were close, " Jonathan confirmed. "Little things started to make sense after I found out about the pilots. Her parents traveled a lot, sometimes leaving her with her grandparents sometimes taking her with them. Sometimes her grandparents traveled. One day they left and didn't come back." There was hurt in his voice now. The anger drained leaving him looking a little tired. "Everyone said her father was transferred. I never could find her."

"Damn, " Elena said. This was one of the reasons the Guild tended to live in closed groups. It left fewer people behind to wonder. If one day you left and never came back, the other Guild members knew who to ask the official questions. Elena stared at Jonathan for a moment and made her decision. "She died. Her parents too. I don't know about her grandparents." She told him. He leaned forward.

"How?" he asked. "Was it a ship malfunction like with ours or did an asteroid hit it or…" she could see his brain wheeling trying to think of what could have happened.

"This is just us?" Elena asked. "No Smith?" Jonathan nodded and Elena sighed. When the military visited skyside, the council cleared out all non-humans. She and Peter made it a point not to mention them, but with very little imagination they could easily see that the Guild had to be trading with someone. They were after all merchants.

"They were caught in the crossfire, " Elena explained carefully monitoring her own words. "Two rival factions were fighting and they were caught in the middle." Elena thought it was a rather simplified version of the Delgan Civil War which decimated an entire trade route along with the bulk of both sides of the Delgan population, but Jonathan seemed to accept it.

"I didn't realize there were factions, " he said slowly. Elena chose not to answer, allowing him to think the factions were within the Guild and merely human versus human arguments instead of anything more. They sat in silence for a moment each sipping slowly from their drinks. Jonathan seemed to be digesting the news.

"Why did you tell me?" He asked finally. Elena looked at him with surprise.

"It seemed like you cared for her, " she responded. Jonathan stared at her for a moment.

"Peter Baranov wouldn't tell me."

"Is that why you were meeting with him?" Elena asked before she could stop herself. Jonathan smiled.

"He told you I met with him?"

"No, " she replied. "I happened to see you here with him."

"I see, " he said. "Does he know you are here?"

"I didn't tell him, if that's what you mean, " She said. "Of course that doesn't mean he doesn't know. He seems to know damn near everything." Elena felt a little sulky about the fact. Jonathan laughed.

"Not much fun being low man on the totem pole is it?"

"Not really, " she agreed.

"Peter said he would check into it, but that I would have to provide him with information."

"A trade?" she asked. He nodded. "Sounds like Peter, nothing for nothing."

"I would have m

Monday, " she told them. "Hopefully I can hire him."

"Good, " Mateo said. "Then we have a plan." He took a bite of muffin. "As long as you promise that I get to hammer him when we no longer need him."

"Deal, " Elena said, feeling better than she had since learning of Andre's betrayal. "Speaking of which, I need to call and cancel my date with him tonight."

Kiera winced. "Ouch, " she said.

"Tell me about it." Elena glanced at her watch. It was about the time Andre would be putting on coffee in the conference room. She dialed his cell phone number while Kiera and Mateo eased out of the office and into their laboratory. Elena appreciated the privacy and was relieved when voicemail picked up instead of Andre. At the tone she told him that she had to cancel because something came up that she had to deal with. It was quick and clean and Elena hung up feeling like a chicken for the amount of relief she got just from speaking to voicemail instead of Andre.

"Speaking of relief, " she said to herself. Elena opened one of the desk drawers and then reached for her purse. Slowly she began to extract the extra files and council related paraphernalia from its depths, tucking the items into the drawer. She was pleased to see a key in the drawer's lock. It would be a relief to have the items safe and not adding weight to her shoulder. Elena's smile dimmed and she opened the mouth of the bag wide. She rummaged deep into the purse, panic starting to build.

"No, no, no, " she said. Behind her she could hear Mateo and Kiera returning, brought by the panic in her voice. Elena emptied her purse out on the desk. Without the Council related items there was very little left. Still she pushed the items around hoping to see what was missing.

"What's wrong?" Mateo asked.

"The Council law book is missing, " Elena said. She shifted the items around again, knowing that the book was not hiding under her pack of gum, but unable to stop herself from looking. "Okay, " she said closing her eyes and thinking. "Where was it last?" She mentally went through her week. "I know I had it Monday, " she said. She remembered the roll of lifesavers stuck to its back cover and she had peeled it off, leaving a small scrap of silver on the dark brown leather.

"Lunch, " she said aloud opening her eyes. "I went to lunch at All Wrapped Up yesterday with Lisa and my purse spilled when I got out of the chair."

"Maybe it is on the floor, " Kiera said. "It could have slid out and under something without you noticing when you picked things up."

"Lisa picked things up, " Elena said. Somehow she didn't think her friend would leave a leather book on the floor. Lisa tended to view books as sacrosanct. Elena once saw her give a lecture to a complete stranger for folding down the corner of a page in a library book rather than using a book mark. Mateo pulled out his phone and called the restaurant.

At Elena's quizzical look he said. "They do breakfast wraps too." He had a brief conversation and at the end he turned off the phone and shook his head. "They didn't find it. Would Lisa have taken it?"

"No, " she said automatically. She thought of Lisa's curiosity and boredom and adjusted her no to a "Maybe." She ran a hand through her hair. "Damn." Elena began picking up the loose items and dropping them back in the bag. "I'll have to call her." Wisely Kiera and Mateo left her to make the call alone.

"This just isn't my day is it?" She said to herself as she pulled up Lisa's number from her address book. Elena looked at the time before pressing the call button. It was late enough that Bob would have left from the office and Lisa would be awake. Lisa picked up on the second ring, and Elena tried to shake off her mental pity party.

"Morning, " Lisa said. "I didn't expect to hear from you this early."

"Oh?" Elena said. "Sorry about that. Um look, yesterday when my purse fell did you happen to see a small leather book. I can't seem to find it."

"You mean the one with the words Council Law written on them in gold and writing inside small enough to make your eyes cross."

"That would be the one, " Elena said slowly.

"Yeah I have it right here. Very interesting reading once you get your eyes uncrossed. I just put on a pot of coffee if you want to come over."

"Yeah, I'll be over in about ten minutes, " Elena told her. She hung up and sighed. "Definitely not my day."

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