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   Chapter 20 Haven

Haven: Book Four of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 22346

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:09


Chapter 20

Elena shipped out the next morning, Jennifer and Benjamin on board as the only crew. Elena let Jennifer practice taking the wheel a little on the way to the channel and again let her try to open the channel. Elena thought it was a fraction of an inch wider this time.

"Relax, " she told the once again disappointed girl after she fully opened the channel and slid them into the sky. "Your apprenticeship is for five years. No-one expects you to learn this stuff overnight." They made it to port safely and knowing that there was no food in her apartment, the group of them trouped up to Dockside Annie's, Spin following eagerly along and taking her place on the provided cushion like an ancient Egyptian goddess awaiting the offerings of her penitents.

Jennifer was somewhat taken aback by the warm welcome of Consuelo McCracken. As the enthusiastic chef added a few neon pink stripes to her already green and purple streaked hair and looked like a caftan covered mountain, assuming of course that mountains came in eye searing fuchsia, Elena could understand.

Jennifer seemed to relax as she saw some familiar faces scattered around the room. At least three pilots who sailed for Elena's house chose lunch at Dockside Annie's. Two of them had apprentices from the Foster House. Tables were quickly pushed together and lunch became a gathering. Consuelo seemed quite amused at Benjamin's presence in a bevy of females.

Realizing that none of the apprentices ever spent time earthside before, she and the other pilots suggested several things to do in the evening. While Elena declined to join she arranged for one of the others to pick up Jennifer so she could. After lunch the group split to return home and take showers and change clothes before their night out.

Elena made a quick stop at the lab to introduce Jennifer to Victor and to see if there were any problems. As a small mercy, things were quiet since she left, or at least relatively so. Claimants to Riko's seat were reduced to eight which Elena found troublesome. Lisa was pretty sure that they could easily disentangle themselves from Riko's house upon her death, which gave Elena at least some measure of relief. Thompson's DNA test went through whatever processes the labs conducted. Apparently, he was exactly who he claimed to be. Considering his training, Elena thought the results were a mixed bag. She had the feeling no-one from either side would be comfortable with him straddling the line between Guild and Military, at least not for very long.

Victor also passed Elena a set of keys before she left and assured her that everything was taken care of. Elena smiled and thanked him, glad that the project she asked him for was complete. Checking the time, Elena took Jennifer and Spin home. At the door, Elena handed Jennifer the keys Victor made and led her inside.

"That should get you into the front door, downstairs, the door up here, the mailbox and the garage where the car is kept. I had Victor set up a bedroom for you, " Elena told her. While they were skyside, Victor arranged to move all of the things from her spare room into storage, with the exception of her computer which now resided in a corner of the living room. The spare room was then set up as a bedroom for Jennifer.

"While you are an apprentice with me it is entirely your space. If there is anything you want to change, go ahead. The front bathroom is yours as well, " Elena said, pleased that her apartment had two bathrooms. She knew she didn't actually get enough company to warrant having a guest bath anyway.

"As a warning, " Elena continued. "The hot water can be a little dicey. It gets really hot, really fast, but then sort of cuts out completely after about ten minutes. Once it goes out you have to wait about twenty minutes for it to come back."

Elena showed Jennifer to both the bedroom and bathroom. Jennifer sort of followed, silently taking it in. "Um, laundry is here, with all the soap and stuff on the shelf." She felt a little awkward, never having had an apprentice or a roommate before. "You can change anything you like in your space, " Elena told her, knowing she was repeating herself, yet unable to stop.

"I've never had a room to myself, " Jennifer said. "Or a bathroom." She sounded dazed. Elena smiled, remembering her visit to the Foster House.

"Well hopefully it will help mornings run a little smoother. It won't matter as much during the season as we won't be home more than one or two nights at a stretch, but it'll help in the off season."

"Great, " Jennifer said, still looking around.

"Just let me know if you need anything. We ship out first thing tomorrow." Elena thought about her empty fridge. "We'll pick up breakfast on the way." She left Jennifer to settle and get ready for her night out. When Maria stopped by to pick her up, Elena told them to have a good time. Meghan, Maria's apprentice, and Jennifer were already giggling together and exchanging stories of their first trips out. Elena smiled as they left, remembering her first trip out under Deana Lang. It seemed like a lifetime ago.

Elena spent the evening in merciful quiet. She and Spin were alone and Elena hummed to herself as she did laundry. "All of this dealing with people takes some getting used to, " she told Spin.

Prior to re-entering the Guild, Elena hadn't realized how solitary she was. Even though she had friends, she rarely invited them over to her place. She had an active social life, but always kept people a little distanced. She supposed it was partially to avoid having to explain her past as a pilot, but figured it was mostly because she was a very solitary individual at heart. Elena found she just liked being alone more than she liked people a lot of the time.

"Luckily I had time to get used to having people around again on the ship and the DF before Jennifer moved in, " she told the cat. Once she was clean and her freshly washed clothing was repacked in her bag, Elena settled down with a novel that had nothing to do with anything remotely Guild related. It was a high adventure tale of a dashing spy who, in James Bond fashion, saved the world and got the girl all in a day's work. Elena considered the book mental candy and indulged her sweet tooth.

Sometime later, Jennifer returned and as she did her laundry, Elena listened to her descriptions of everything she saw as the quiet girl chatted excitedly. The city scared her less than the jungle and Elena suspected it would be that way for most of the new apprentices. They had after all grown up in a completely man-made environment. The only nature they saw

eats were created, this is a viable fear. Earthside differences in nation or politics would matter very little in light of the bloodshed that occurred when the seats were established." Evan shook his head sadly and Elena wondered how much the Librarians were involved.

"In addition, " he continued. "You may be an unknown, but all of the other Councilors are very well known. Many would take the chance on you rather than continue to look towards the people who if they didn't engineer the deaths of leaders or potential leaders, still let it happen. I believe that if you take the seat then the potential claimants to the other seats will find themselves very well protected. Those who objected in the first place will want the other two seats filled as fast as possible, you see, to deflect any possible merging or alliances between the three New World seats."

Elena had to admit it made a bizarre sort of sense. "Wouldn't they just kill me and have done with it?" she asked.

"It wouldn't do much good, " Evan replied shaking his head. "By taking the seat, no matter how long you sit upon it, even if it is only for one hour, the seat becomes official and they will have to abide by Council law and fill it after the eight month period, just as they would any other seat. Killing you would serve no purpose."

"I hadn't thought of that, " she said. "So more people would be safer?"

"I believe so."

"Damn, " Elena said, not wanting another reason to take the seat. Evan patted her on the back in commiseration.

"Just something to consider. You should be fine with your current time line however. It is only after Mateo and Kiera wed that the clock will start ticking."

"Thanks, Evan." Elena said frowning at the image. Somehow her mind attached the ticking clock to a cartoonish pile of dynamite. She found herself hoping that Yosemite Sam was nowhere in the vicinity. Evan chuckled.

"So have you decided on an escort for the engagement party?"

"Escort, " Elena said with a smile, glad of the topic change. "I planned to go alone."

"Oh no, that will never do, Elena, " Evan chided her. "As Mateo is of your House, you must be seen to endorse his engagement, development as a Head of his own House and acknowledgement as your Grandfather's heir."

"Of course I endorse it, " Elena said, frowning. "I'm hosting the party, aren't I?"

"Then you must be seen to enjoy it, make it a pleasure and not a chore, or others may take it amiss. There are those who will not be pleased with the announcements."

"I'll make certain I enjoy myself. I'll smile a lot, " Elena promised.

Evan sighed. "Part of the enjoyment is dancing the required dances. If you do not have a partner, you will not be able to do that."

"Is it that important?" she asked.

"It is, " he confirmed.

"Damn, " Elena said again. She felt that she should have known Evan was not bringing up the topic merely to lighten the mood. She mentally ran through a list of men she knew who were unmarried and might possibly be available.

"Thompson would not be a bad choice, " Evan said. Elena stared at him.

"Somehow I think walking into this sort of function and having them announce my escort as a Houseless man who is working for the military might be a tad bit on the awkward side and shift focus from the happy couple."

"There is no reason the military need be mentioned. And technically he has a House. The Nelson House was never officially disbanded. As he is unmarried, he can claim it as his own. I checked the laws." Evan slipped a thumb drive from his pocket and passed it to Elena. "Should anyone question it, I have made copies of those pertinent to the situation." Elena took the thumb drive and stared at Evan.

"Oh and he will need a House symbol." Evan pulled a small box from his pocket and handed it to Elena. She opened the box and looked inside. On a puff of black velvet sat a golden star suspended from a crimson ribbon. It was similar to the one Alexandra Nelson wore in the painting Elena saw of her. The exception was that it looked a little more masculine; less like a pendant and more like a medal that a foreign dignitary would wear at a state affair. Elena closed the box.

"Evan, are you trying to play matchmaker?" Elena asked.

"Of course not, " Evan said shaking his head. "But those of the Guild belong with the Guild. And Mother Nelson's children have been lost for far too long."

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