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   Chapter 9 Skyside

Skyside: Book Five of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 22673

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:22

Chapter 9

The Windsong was loaded with all of the emergency goods Elena managed to collect along with her messages for Mateo and Sam. They collected a small mailbag from the Librarians and were headed back to Haven before the Cloudskimmer even approached the DF.

Elena met with both Evalene and Rene to make certain they were ready for the Cloudskimmer's arrival and was surprised to find that both the dressmaker and the stationer appeared to be taking everything they owned. Elena expected a complete gathering and relocation of goods from Evalene as her shop was, despite the length of time she occupied it, a temporary space in the market, created to look like an actual store by the creative placement of thick cloth walls, awnings and carpets. Even though she was expecting it, seeing the dismantling of those fabric divides was still a little bit shocking.

The dismantling was nothing compared to Rene's. When Elena went to check on the theatrical Rene to make certain he was ready to ship out, she was surprised to find the store front stripped to its bare bones. As she watched, Rene and his son began breaking down displays and counters into separate parts, laying them flat in long stacks like lumber. Others came and took the stacks away, ferrying them to the docks and Rene's waiting ship, piloted by his sister, Sophia.

"Ah Captain Calabrese, " Rene said spotting her arrival. "Come to check up on us?" Rene was smiling and looked very much in his element. His elegant suit was replaced by heavier working clothes, but he still managed to look tailored, as though he had just stepped out of a catalog advertising working clothes for the high end professional pretending to be a laborer.

"I just wanted to make certain you had everything you needed, " She said unable not to smile at his enthusiasm. "I didn't realize you were packing everything, but the kitchen sink."

Rene laughed and favored her with a broad wink. "Ah, Captain, but the sink was packed yesterday. It is very important to maintain good hygiene at all times."

"Of course, " she told him. "I should never have doubted you."

"Of course not, I am Rene, " he said with a flourish. "But I hear we are not to be as primitive as we first thought. I hear a café will be available?"

"Of a sort, " Elena confirmed. "Although not as high end as you may suppose. Logan Plantations will have a small supply outlet in Haven. Apparently we represent a potentially steady supply of consumers. Luckily I managed to negotiate a non-off season price scale for the outlet."

"Fabulous, " Rene said clapping his hands in delight. "I will make certain to obtain more canned fuel for my non-electric carafe. It is good to know we can at least be civilized even in a time such as this."

"It is, " Elena told him. "And if you are on schedule then I will leave you to your packing. Safe journey to you."

"And to you as well Captain." He replied. Elena left him to his packing. Thompson, who waited outside joined her as she headed back to quarters.

"All well?" he asked.

"Fabulous apparently, " Elena said with a smile.

"Captain, oh Captain Calabrese, " someone called. Elena and Thompson paused and turned to see a man wearing the uniform of Danvers, the premier restaurant and gathering place to see and be seen walking briskly towards them.

"You know, " Thompson said with a smile as they watched the man approach. "No offense to Consuelo and her mess tent, but I have always thought that Haven was lacking in the fine dining department."

"Perhaps we can build them a place overlooking the scenic Haven harbor, " Elena said dryly. The man in the Danvers uniform reached them and smiled at Elena while ignoring Thompson.

"Captain, thank you for waiting. Our manager would like a word with you if you have a moment."

"I suppose I can spare a moment, " Elena replied. The man looked relieved.

"Thank you Captain. If you will please follow me." He turned back towards Danvers and Elena and Thompson followed him back to the restaurant, Thompson walking a little behind Elena as though he were the guard everyone seemed to think he was.

She spoke with Thompson, wanting to make sure that he didn't feel insulted by the treatment. He seemed more amused than anything and claimed that if acting as a bodyguard let him wander around more or less freely, he was all right with being ignored in conversation. It still made Elena feel vaguely uncomfortable. She couldn't quite decide if it was due to the fact that he was being ignored or that everyone was treating him the way she usually treated Marcus, her grandfather's bodyguard.

Less than an hour later, Elena and Thompson were once again back on their way to quarters having scheduled the evacuation of Danver's staff and accoutrements. Thinking of Rene she wondered if the Danvers team would try to take everything including the kitchen sink with them as well.

"I really hope they don't try and take the walk in fridge with them, " Elena said as they walked. Thus far they hadn't any problems with weight restrictions through the new channel, it being able to accommodate even the fully loaded Librarians' archive ships with ease, but with captains used to limiting gear to fifty pounds per person she could imagine the mental adjustments needed for kitchen equipment would be quite painful for them.

"I have a feeling they will try, " Thompson said with a smile. "Did you see the spare generators and fuel tanks boxed up in the storage area when they took us through?"

"I must have missed that, " Elena replied. She shook her head as they rounded the corner. Lined up in front of her quarters were several messengers, each patiently waiting their turn for an audience. As she and Thompson neared, Elena saw one of the messengers leave and another one step into the living quarters.

"I'm guessing Benjamin has a system, " Thompson told her. The line of waiting messengers straightened as if getting to attention as Elena approached. She heard Thompson stifle a laugh and resisted the urge to elbow him, figuring it would ruin her image. They stepped around the messengers and entered the quarters. Benjamin looked up as they entered, relief clearly written on his face. He finished taking the information from the current messenger and dismissed him.

"It seemed prudent to start scheduling, " Benjamin said, holding out a notebook for her. "Apparently seeing Rene's and Evalene Dupry's establishments actually pack up to leave set off a wave of interest."

"Yeah, we stopped to schedule Danvers removal on the way back, " Elena told him as she looked over the list, recognizing several well-known names and places on the list. Benjamin paled with the news.

"Danvers, " he repeated incre

. "And a slow organized evacuation is better than a last minute rush." She took a sip of her coffee, feeling the liquid scalding her mouth, but relishing the relief from the numbness that seemed to have taken over her body. She swallowed and took a deep breath, releasing it slowly. When she spoke she felt as though her voice were somewhat distant from her as if the real Elena was somehow far away and watching her body go through the motions of the meeting.

"I would rather be safe than sorry. Even if evacuating the civilians ends up being unnecessary and the Matrovean don't come this way. We could always call it a drill and take notes, so that if a full evacuation becomes necessary in the future we can evacuate properly."

Commander McLaughlin nodded, pleased with her response. "I think that makes sense."

Elena took a deep breath and let it out slowly, realizing that there might not be any gong back once she started down this path. She felt her body thaw and once again felt connected to it. "You mentioned six resorts were still in operation. Was the Garatas one of them?"

"Yes, " McLaughlin said. "There are only five currently occupied by humans at this time."

"Can we send word to them and have the cruise ships return with their passengers?"

"We can, " McLaughlin told her.

"I think that might be best, " Elena said. "I would like to keep panic to a minimum, so inform the captains and pilots of the change, but don't make it common knowledge at the resort if at all possible."

The Commander nodded. "We can make it seem as though the ships need to return for basic maintenance, " he told her. "Most of the cruise lines use the ship as a floating hotel with passengers merely leaving the ship during the day; a maintenance recall would not seem terribly out of place and if done after people retired to the ship for the evening, it would lower the risk of anyone being left behind."

"How many passengers can the Star's Delight hold?" Elena asked.

"I'm not certain, but I can send her Captain to you, " the Commander said. "You think she can be used as a personnel transport?"

"I believe so. Do any of the patrol ship families have their own ships?" Elena asked.

"A few, " he told her.

"Since your sector is bound to be more organized, we might want to evacuate them first. That way the patrolmen also know their families are safe, even if they are the last to leave in the evacuation. It will also set the seriousness of the situation."

Slowly they began to plan the evacuation of the DF. Benjamin and Thompson moved in from the sidelines and took part in the discussion, suggesting ways to minimize panic and keep the process moving at a decent pace. Elena was very grateful for their calm presence and insights.

"If you can give me a few days to meet with some of the larger groups and get them organized for removal, I think it would cut down on general panic as everyone rushes to leave the station." Elena decided. She figured that with her contacts and Benjamin's they could manage to calm a fairly large group of those left behind.

As the conversation continued Commander McLaughlin seemed to relax, confident in the way things were proceeding. By contrast, Elena felt that each word ramped up the tension inside her own skin. By the time their discussion was over, McLaughlin left, looking lighter on his feet than he arrived and Elena felt as tense as a bow string.

"I just scheduled the evacuation of the DF, " she thought. Somehow the thought kept repeating itself, echoing inside her brain as though her head were a giant empty cavern.

"Just breathe Elena, " Thompson said. He refilled her coffee mug. "Just breathe."

"I just scheduled the evacuation of the DF, " she said aloud, allowing the sentence to escape so that it would stop rattling around inside of her head.

"It needed to be done, " he told her.

"I know, " she said slowly. "But I'm the one who did it. Me. I am evacuating the Docking Facility."

The door chimes sounded, causing her to jump a little, sloshing her coffee from the cup into the saucer.

"It's your next appointment, " Benjamin told her as if he were afraid she would snap.

"I know." She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to present a calm image to the world. Now was not the time for a break down. She promised herself that later, much later, she would allow herself the luxury of screaming. Now, there was business to get done. "Okay, " she told them. "Let's begin."

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