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   Chapter 9 Haven

Haven: Book Four of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 16904

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:02

Chapter 9

The man waiting by Elena's door watched her approach. He shifted his weight from foot to foot and Elena tried to decide if he was nervous or needed to use the bathroom. He wore a pair of black slacks and a white oxford shirt, neatly tucked in. His brown hair was beginning to gray at the temples and Elena could see tufts of gray in his mustache and beard. His brown eyes looked a little uncertain, but kind. Elena didn't recall seeing him at the wedding and it was clear that her grandfather did not recognize him so she doubted she currently held a contract with him or his House.

"May I help you, " she asked coming to a stop in front of him.

"I most sincerely hope so, " He said with a nervous smile. "Are you Captain Calabrese?"

"I am, " Elena told him.

"I'm Devon Hightower, I serve as the guardian, so to speak, of the Foster House."

"Oh, " Elena said, recognizing his position, if not his name. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her key. "Won't you come in then?" she opened the door and stood to the side.

"I would appreciate that." Devon walked into her quarters and Elena could see that Benjamin and Thompson made it in before her. Both men were sprawled on the couch and appeared to be having a spirited debate about hockey of all things. From what she heard at least one of them was a fan of the Red Wings. She suspected it was Thompson. At her entrance the conversation stuttered to a halt. Devon stared at the men as though unsure what to do.

"Mr. Hightower, this is Benjamin Valentine and Will Thompson of my House." Devon seemed to relax a little at her introduction. He stepped forward and shook hands with each of the men. Thompson seemed amused by his introduction. "Devon Hightower is the guardian of the Foster House." Elena finished the introductions, ignoring Thompson's amusement. Elena noticed there was a full pot of coffee in the kitchen.

"Would you care for some coffee, Mr. Hightower?" Elena asked.

"Devon, please, " He said. "And yes, I would love some."

"Please have a seat, " Elena said. "Anyone else for coffee?" There were a couple of assents and Benjamin stood to help her bring it to the living room.

"Do you want me to take Thompson out?" the big man asked in a low voice once they were in the kitchen.

"I suspect Devon is just here for donations, " Elena whispered back. "There isn't much he can learn from that." Benjamin nodded and the two of them brought coffee, cream and sugar back to the seating area.

"I really need to pick up a tray of some kind, " Elena said with a smile as they passed things around and everyone fixed their cups to suit their tastes.

"So Devon, " Elena began. "How may I help you?"

"Do you know much about the Foster House, Captain?" He asked.

"Some, " Elena said, liking the fact that he didn't delay with small talk. "And please, call me Elena. You take in orphans, if I remember correctly."

"Yes, " Devon said. "Orphan girls to be precise. Our charter only allows us to take in those with the ability to pilot so that they have a place to live while they are training."

"What happens to the boys?" Thompson asked with a frown.

"They go to the boy's home, " Devon said. "Steve Gilders is their current guardian."

"I see, " Thompson said. He sipped his coffee and Elena wondered what he was thinking.

"With the girls, we house them and teach them the basics here on the DF, reading, writing, arithmetic those sorts of things and of course have them tested for training and help them with their training as future pilots. When they come of age, we do our best to situate them with apprenticeships to the best of our ability. Which is of course difficult, given my status." Elena was puzzled for a moment.

"So you have no House, " Benjamin said, clarifying it for Elena.

"No, " Devon said, sounding relieved that Benjamin stated the fact for him. "It is always the way. Only someone with no House can run the Foster House."

"Which would limit your contacts for setting up apprenticeships, " Elena said, understanding. Having no House meant that he wasn't just collecting pilots for his own House which made him a perfect neutral during their upbringing, but when it came to placing the girls, he would have to take whatever offers he could because he had no connections to other Houses. The very thing that made him perfect for his position was also his biggest handicap in performing that job.

"That is not exactly a good thing, " she finished.

"Exactly, " Devon said, pleased that she understood. "When they pass the early aptitude test my girls are placed in apprenticeships at the age of fourteen and we have some say over things. As they are still minors, we can send people to check on things to make sure everything is going well and the girls aren't mistreated."

"And since the apprenticeship is for five years, that would only leave you with a one year vulnerability." Elena said, thinking out loud more than commenting.

"Yes, however, many of our girls go thr

the problem with no-one harmed." Elena ground her teeth and was very glad she was having this conversation over the phone rather than in person, even if she couldn't see Siobhan's hands.

"That was the idea, " she managed to say, keeping her voice light. "Of course if any of them have family, they would have to sign off on the project."

"Yes, yes, " Siobhan agreed. "I will have the Foster House guardian, David or Damon I think it is, send you the files on the eligible girls to look over for potential candidates and meanwhile, we will run a DNA test on the girls and if anything pops we will have any remaining family sign off on the project. After all they weren't willing to claim the girls before, why should they get to claim them after they become valuable?"

"Would you include copies of both the DNA testing and the signed notice in the files as well, so that I can make sure I have all official documents in case something comes up later, " Elena clarified. She was not willing to go on faith that the Council politely asked all family members. She figured they would only ask the family that mattered. Although personally Elena couldn't see anyone who was willing to let a child of their House grow up in the Foster House fighting the Council for control of the girls.

"Of course, it never hurts to be too cautious. Those girls could turn out to be very valuable. I understand wanting to protect your investment. I will get things settled with the Foster House. How long will you be docked?"

"We ship out the day after tomorrow, " Elena told her.

"That should be enough time to run things through the system and get you the files, " Siobhan said. "And with so many pilots still here due to the Matrovean matter, we might actually get lucky on the signing as well. That way you can at least take the files with you when you ship out. I knew you were an excellent choice for this regardless of Alex's distaste over the Ian Jensen matter. After all it was his blood who betrayed the Guild. I will have what files you need sent to you as soon as possible. Good journey Elena."

"Good journey, Councilor." Elena hung up the phone and frowned. She turned back to the room.

"I'm beginning to feel dirty every time I talk to a member of the Council, " she told them.

First Peter thought she was isolating the military personnel so she could easily kill them off if they learned too much and now Siobhan was willing to help her use orphans as test subjects. She walked back to the couch and sat down heavily, feeling twice her age and more tired than seemed rational. Elena took a healthy swig of coffee to try and wash the bad taste out of her mouth.

"This will work better, " Benjamin said, pulling a flask from his coat pocket and handing it to her. Elena unscrewed the cap and took a healthy swig. The liquor tasted of pears and burned going down her throat. She closed the flask and handed it back to him.

"Thanks, " she said. "What was that?"

"Theran Losnan, " he said, taking his own swig and holding the flask out to Thompson. "Losnan is something like fruit infused whiskey, if that helps any." He explained as Thompson took the flask.

"Nice, " Thompson said, passing it back after taking a drink.

"Probably be quite scarce for a while with things as they stand. Orchards don't tend to do well in combat zones."

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