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   Chapter 11 Haven

Haven: Book Four of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 29856

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:03


Chapter 11

Elena blinked and the world started to clear. She was still in her chair. The case had fallen to the floor and the necklace was no longer in her hands. Benjamin was holding her up and staring at her with concern. Thompson had a glass of water in his hand and he passed it to her, urging her to drink.

"What happened?" She asked still somewhat shaky. She took the glass from him.

"You fainted, " Benjamin told her.

"Don't be silly, " she said. "I don't faint. People in Victorian novels faint." Benjamin and Thompson both backed away.

"She must be feeling better, " Thompson replied with a half-smile.

"I'm fine, " Elena said, knowing she sounded peevish.

"Clearly, " Thompson replied dryly. "Last night you threw up and today you fainted. Clearly you are the picture of health."

"Threw up?" Benjamin asked.

"It was nothing, " Elena said. The men exchanged glances. "Just a bad dream and a lot of stress at the same time, " she said, annoyed that they didn't believe her, even if she knew it was unfair. She told herself it was the male solidarity she found annoying.

"And now?" Thompson asked.

"I've seen the necklace before and seeing it again sort of caught me off guard, " She told them. Elena noticed the necklace was sitting in a glittering heap on the coffee table. It had been discarded like a cheap plastic trinket.

"Off guard, " Thompson said slowly. He looked to Benjamin and then back to Elena. "Is this one of those things you can't say while I'm in the room? Because I can leave if you need me to." He gestured back to the sleeping quarters.

"No, " Elena said. "It's more of an 'I don't want to think about it' sort of thing." She sighed heavily. "I was wearing the necklace in a dream. I just never expected to see it in reality." Both men sank back into their seats.

"It looks a little fancy for running to the grocery store, " Thompson said. "Where were you wearing it, in your dream that is?"

"It was at a party, " Elena explained. Details seemed to pop from her memory and she started to see the pattern they made. She realized she started to go pale again when she noticed both men looking like they were about to come towards her. She blinked and waved them off. Elena set the glass of water down on the table and picked up her half full glass of wine. She drained the glass and set it down. She reached for the bottle and refilled her glass, pleased to see that her hands weren't shaking anymore.

"It was Mateo's engagement party, " Elena said. The words felt right and the details she ignored in favor of the mystery man she danced with were in agreement. The candles were scented with vanilla and the flower arrangements on the tables were small bowls of water with geshtan flowers floating in them. Vanilla was believed to be the scent of new beginnings, just as cinnamon was considered the scent used for funerals. The geshtan flowers were deep blue with silvery white markings on them and came from the planet Keldioc. Keldioc was the first trade route that the Calabrese House officially claimed as their own.

Much blood was shed in its taking, but in the end, they had exclusive rights to the planet's trade and because of it, they became one of the founding families of the Guild. Shortly after the trade routes were claimed, Lorenzo Calabrese's daughter Maria was married. She carried a bouquet of the geshtan flowers mixed with roses, and every table at the reception boasted the same. Their shape had become part of the family crest and the family colors were blue and silver because of them.

No Calabrese since walked down the aisle without the flowers making their presence known. In fact they were present at every major function the family held. Mateo had the last name of Andreseti from his father, but he was a part of Elena's House as a member of the Calabrese blood. With Alexandro intent on naming Mateo as his heir, the presence of the flowers would be insisted upon. Elena felt dizzy. She took a deep breath and smiled at the others, well aware that her smile crumbled a little around the edges.

"To Kiera?" Thompson asked. Both Benjamin and Elena stared at him.

"It is rather hard to miss, " he said with a laugh. "That man is smitten."

"Smitten?" Elena said.

"You prefer head over heels? Ga-ga, Mooney eyed, love struck, " Thompson said. "I can continue if you like." Elena stared for a moment at him. Thompson shrugged. "He has been slain by cupid's arrow, " Thompson continued.

"Enough, " Elena told him with a laugh.

"Normal people would have just gone with, they are dating, " Benjamin told him.

"But who wants to be normal?" He asked. Elena shook her head and began wrapping up the jewelry in the cloth coverings. She made sure the necklace from her dream went in first and was pushed to the very bottom of the bag. She was certain her actions were observed, but thankfully no-one said anything. Elena continued until all of the jewelry was put away. Somehow closing the case and fastening it shut made her feel better.

'Probably psychological, ' she thought. But some things she knew not to poke with a stick, so she didn't question it.

"So it's serious, Mateo and Kiera?" Thompson asked. Neither Benjamin nor Elena replied. Thompson lifted an eyebrow. "You know this information is a little more gossip column than state secret right?"

"Not exactly, " Elena said.

"They aren't exactly serious or it is a state secret?"

"A little of both actually." She told him. "He is thinking about potential serious, but no-one else knows at the moment and it would be preferable if it could be kept that way for a while."

"Okay, " Thompson said. "I'll keep Mateo's love life out of my reports." He smiled and shook his head as though he thought them foolish. Elena took a sip of her wine.

'Better foolish than dangerous, ' she thought. There was a flash of something across Thompson's face. If she hadn't been watching him, she wouldn't have seen it. Elena couldn't be sure, but she thought he might have made a connection. He seemed to do so fairly quickly. She was finding it rather disturbing and not for the first time she wished that the military chose a stupider man as their representative. She waited in silence while Thompson seemed to turn something over in his thoughts. Slowly, he began to smile.

"Ms. Nelson gave her boys a House so they would be respectable in the eyes of the Guild and Devon wanted you to use your House to provide respectable apprenticeship matches for his girls, " Thompson said slowly as though the points were still coming together in his mind. "Mateo needs to be married to be on the Council doesn't he?"

"How did you put that together?" Benjamin asked surprised.

"It's a gift, " Thompson said. Elena finished her wine, stood and took her empty glass in the kitchen. She picked up the case of jewelry and the stack of files that needed to be gone through from both the employment office and the Foster House.

"I'm calling it a night, " she told them, not bothering to answer Thompson's question, which she knew would let him know he was right, however he ended up at his conclusion.

"Sweet dreams, " He called as she started down the hall. He grinned wickedly. Apparently true confessions hadn't altered his personality much.

"That's the plan, " Elena muttered to herself as she closed the bedroom door behind her.

Elena set the files down on the bed and then made herself comfortable in her pajamas. Part of her was simply worn out by the day and wanted to drift off into sleep. Another part of her was worried that the dream would be waiting and she was in no mood to see what new details were added. She looked from the files to the pillow. Picking out staff from the employment office would be one way to stay up without making it look like cowardice.

Elena stifled a yawn and realized she was having trouble keeping her eyes open. "Reading resumes isn't going to help that, " She muttered to herself. "And I can't be afraid to fall asleep. It would kill me." Slowly Elena picked up the files and put them on the nightstand. "That way if I wake up from the dream and can't get back to sleep, I'll have something to do." Elena turned off the overhead light and slid beneath the covers.

For a long time Elena stared at the dark ceiling. Finally, she closed her eyes. She realized her heart was racing and she concentrated on making her breath slow and even. Her heart slowed down to normal and Elena drifted into sleep.

The dream was waiting.

The masked man she danced with looked the same. She could smell the vanilla candle and see the geshtan flowers in the various arrangements. Elena forced her gaze away from her partner and saw Mateo dancing with Kiera. Kiera's dress was made from the same fabric Elena picked up in the market and she allowed herself a moment of satisfactio

m as soon as you can get them here, " Elena told her. Alice nodded, poured herself a glass of juice and walked over to the wall telephone. Elena resettled herself at the bar and reached for the first of the girl's files. Alice arranged for her crewmen to stop by for interviews as the other girls began to wake up and ready themselves for the day. She made it through the first two folders by the time the first crewman arrived.

Elena moved to the couch and conducted the appropriate interview. It was a strange feeling to be signing approval for the crew of another's ship and she wondered if she would ever get used to it. At the end of the interview, she signed the paperwork as Head of House, Alice signed off as captain and pilot of the Stardust and Jacob became the newest member of her House.

He left to drop the paperwork at the appropriate office and shortly thereafter the process was repeated with David and Christopher. They took their paperwork and Elena pointed out the section of the quarters where the crew's rooms were and let Alice choose which ones she wanted for her crew. The crew's rooms were smaller than the main rooms, but were comfortably appointed with the basic furniture they would need and Alice quickly chose three for her people. Elena knew they would return with their belongings after filing their paperwork so they could settle in before shipping out.

"At least Benjamin and Thompson won't feel so outnumbered, " She said to herself, returning to her files. "Until the apprentices and other pilots arrive that is." Elena wasn't sure she was anymore prepared for an invasion of teenage girls than they were. Elena began compiling lists of apprentices and which pilot she thought they would be suited to work with as people came and went around her. Her study of the girl's files was periodically interrupted as various applicants were sent over from the employment agency.

Elena shifted from the breakfast bar to the couch and back again while the various occupants of the suite circled around her like buzzing bees. Elena interviewed and signed on fourteen workers and a foreman with little trouble and notified both her aunt and her cousin of their passengers. She assured both Ambra and Catherine of the channel's depth so they could prepare their cargos accordingly.

Around one in the afternoon, Elena's stomach began rumbling and she was reminded that she had only given it coffee. She pushed her files away and went to see what she could scavenge in the fridge. To her surprise, there was a fairly large variety of items for her to choose from.

"Apparently someone went shopping for more than just juice, " She thought. All of the items could be found in the DF's market and Elena quickly assembled a sandwich, smearing soft cheese from the Degran on the crusty topped bread that was a Rahalo specialty. She piled three different types of meats from three different planets on top and called it good. She put her sandwich on a plate and grabbed a bottle of sweet water. She settled herself and her lunch back in front of the folders.

"And now we have Jennifer, " Elena said to herself as she flipped open the next folder in the stack. As she had with the others, Elena scanned the details. Jennifer was about to turn eighteen. She was accepted in the early aptitude training, but was caught sneaking out and as a disciplinary measure the Council ruled that she be denied early training.

"That could be interesting, " Elena thought as she took a bite out of her sandwich. "We can see if it is the early training itself that helps develop the Calling or merely the aptitude for it." Elena noticed she had scored in the one percent for location skills.

"Very interesting." Elena took a drink of water and flipped the page. There were no further disciplinary problems with Jennifer, or at least none that were listed in her file. Elena looked for her DNA tests and paperwork to see if her family signed off on her training. The DNA test had been done, but no-one in the Guild's database had been a match.

Elena flipped the test over and began reading the short biographical information. Her stomach sank in a sick feeling of dread as she read the information provided. The Guild database may not have a clue who Jennifer's father was, but Elena had a pretty good idea where to start looking. Anna Sorensen was listed as Jennifer's mother and as Elena knew, most of the Sorensens were killed in the crossfire of a civil war. Elena dimly recalled a rumor that Anna had a child, but had not given it much though. Elena estimated dates in her head.

"Jennifer would have been a little less than a year old when they died, " she mused. Typically very young children were left on the DF or earthside with a nanny or an older retired family member. After about age three they would be allowed to take short trips in safe zones so they would become more familiar with the ship. It wasn't until about age five or six that they would spend large amounts of time on the ship with their parents. Anna had not listed Jennifer's father on the birth certificate.

"If it was Jonathan and he joined the military right out of high school then she wouldn't have listed him, " Elena said quietly, knowing the Council would not have approved his involvement in raising a pilot. In fact if he was listed on Jennifer's birth certificate and tried to be involved while still pursuing a military career, Elena knew the Council would have no doubt arranged some sort of accident to take him out of the picture.

The Council was fond of permanent solutions. Anything that might come back to haunt them was eliminated before it could become a threat. Elena once again did the math, trying to remember the details that Jonathan gave her when asking about Anna's fate.

"Plausible, " she decided. "Very plausible." She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "Well hell, what do I do about that?"

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