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   Chapter 10 Skyside

Skyside: Book Five of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 23355

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:22


Chapter 10

The beginning stages of the evacuation went smoothly. In fact they went more smoothly than Elena anticipated. Elena chalked this up to Benjamin's scheduling and the fact that general evacuation had yet to be called. Commander McLaughlin agreed to hold off on the general announcement for a few days, allowing Elena to work through the scheduled meetings and to speak with the Captain of the Star's Delight.

Captain Vasili arrived to speak with Elena looking slightly green around the gills. To Elena's surprise he was young for a Captain, and still had a half-grown look to him. He seemed to be composed of long limbs he hadn't quite grown into yet and his facial hair looked a little spotty. His voice cracked a little from the stress and he swallowed convulsively, his large adam's apple bobbing up and down. Elena tried hard not to stare at it as she spoke to him. He answered all of Elena's questions quickly and easily and was willing to do anything she asked. It was a trait she found strange in a captain, but appreciated non-the-less. She was quite sure others would not be so amiable.

With the addition of the ships already held by the families of the patrol ship's crew, all of the families of the patrolmen could be evacuated at once on the cruise liner, eliminating a substantial number of the DF's current population. Captain Vasili would drop off his passengers and return to take another load. Elena hoped that by the time they returned, a passenger list would have been created and the ship could be reloaded smoothly.

Benjamin was dispatched to his friend Eric to find out how many workers would need passage and worked on creating a list from that angle. Thompson was sent to the Librarians to give them what advance notice was possible so they could prepare themselves. Abel Morely sent back his thanks and an estimation of when the Librarians' ships would be ready to go as well as how many people they would be transporting. Luckily, they had their own ships and would just need an escort.

Where she could, Elena gave advance notice so people could prepare and panic be avoided. Several of Eric's work crews were sent throughout the DF to assist with packing and loading and to make certain that once a set of quarters was evacuated, no one returned to loot whatever remained.

Elena was unsurprised when the aides of the various Council members arrived before the general announcement was made. Luckily, each had a ship for emergencies and she told them to pack what they needed and scheduled a time for departure for each of them. They each contracted separately with Eric's people to pack and load their ships.

To her surprise, none questioned her authority, each merely took their assigned time slot for leaving and retreated to strip down the Councilor's quarters. She found their acceptance more disturbing than their outrage would have been. As it was useful, she pushed the thoughts aside and instead wondered if someone would attempt to take the large dragon statues that guarded the inner sanctum to Riko's domain or if they would be left behind. As her dragon dream was recurring nightly, she tried not to dwell on any form of dragons and decided not to head to the docks until Riko's House ship left, just in case.

The general announcement of evacuation went out over the DF's announcement system and even though she knew it was coming, she felt herself grow cold and swallow hard. The Cloudskimmer, Crazy Chicken and Wave Hopper were all loaded and sent as escorts back to the planet. When the Dolphin's Friend arrived they were assigned as an escort to the Star's Delight and assorted other ships and sent back to the planet, eliminating a large number of those awaiting transport.

With the announcement, all attempt at normal daily activity ceased. Eric's people were forced to break up several fights as tension ran high and tempers flared. Luckily, no more than a few bruises were earned by the combatants. Even though entire sectors of the DF were assigned passage and left to pack, people came to her in droves. Her door was permanently open and lines extended down the hall as people reported in to be assigned space for evacuation. Dreams, as well as sleep, became a scarce commodity as Elena began taking short naps instead of sleeping through the night.

As they worked, Elena noticed that the furnishings around her quarters were slowly thinning out and realized that Benjamin was sending the various items from her quarters back to the planet whenever a ship had space. He went through each of the individual rooms, packing up gear and marking who they belonged to. Elena was relieved that her people would be getting their things as well, but found it odd working in the stripped down quarters.

In the interest of having extra, he stripped down all of the yet to be inhabited areas and sent as much of it on as possible. Very soon all that remained was the basic furniture in each of their four bedrooms. Even that changed when the living room furniture was moved out and Elena's desk was moved into the space. Oddly enough the stripped down, office like living quarters with stacks of paper as the only decorations, put people at ease instead of adding to their panic.

"It's because of the set up, " Benjamin explained in one of their few lulls. "All Councilors have an aide, a runner and a bodyguard. Jennifer has been serving as a runner, me as an aide and Will as a bodyguard. The familiar configuration sets them at ease. It lets them know that no matter how crazy things are, the traditional law and order still prevail. The Council is still in charge. You are just their representative."

As uncomfortable as Elena found the assessment, she had to admit there was some validity to it. Those who entered her quarters, including the Commander, seemed reassured that everything was functioning properly. Chaos was not reigning. The Council, in some form or another was still in control. Elena tried not to let the thought of her as Council frighten her and pushed all thoughts that weren't practical into a mental box marked 'deal with later'. There was no time for personal doubts to rise.

'At least not now, ' Elena though as she scheduled the departure of those who worked in the DF's laundry. As the lists were being copied for Mateo so that he and Kiera would not be working completely blind, Elena tried to get basic information such as age and occupation on the lists. Oddly enough being asked for basic information seemed to calm people as well. Elena shrugged and chalked it down to some form of standard procedure she missed.

Mateo sent a message back telling her at first to send whoever she felt was needed. When word reached him of the general evacuation, he merely wrote back "Do what needs to be done, give us what notice you can." Elena did her best to comply, sending copies of passenger lists as far in advance as she could and hoping he could place the people some

d. Elena found herself holding her breath with every shot. Many of the shots landed true, reminding her of the patrol ship's superior weapons and for a time it looked as though the weapons might discourage the Matrovean as they had time and time again. The line of patrol ships held. But the Matrovean numbers made them bold and they pressed forward sacrificing ships, often leaving them dead in the sky, finally causing the Patrol ships to slowly retreat.

No one spoke as Elena pushed for more speed and everyone on board watched the battle. Weapons sizzled and Elena gasped as one of the patrol ships near the defense perimeter was surrounded. The smaller ships fired mercilessly onto the patrol ship as though avenging itself for all past defeats. The patrol ship valiantly fought back taking out several of their attackers. More came, like a pack of rabid dogs sensing a weakness.

With a blast that seemed to shake the very fabric of the cosmos, the stern of the patrol ship exploded after several concentrated blasts from the Matrovean. The other patrol ships began their retreat in earnest as the Matrovean seemed to gather close to watch the fallen patrol ship in its death throes.

Elena's shock burned away as she quickly realized it was not simply watching the defeat of one of their own that caused the patrol ships to flee. The destroyed Patrol ship lost all guidance systems during the attack and the explosion on deck propelled it in a direct course with the DF's power station.

"Oh my god it's going to hit, " Elena said. She recalled that many of the safety systems were removed as well in the hopes that if the Matrovean took the station, they would destroy themselves if they attempted to use it. "Hold on to something, " she called warning to the deck, knowing that without the safety locks if the lost patrol ship collided with the power cells it would not only take out most of the DF, but send shockwaves out in every direction.

The Storm Chaser was still close enough to feel and possibly be destroyed by the repercussions. Everyone moved away from the railings and towards the center of the ship. The patrol ships raced away and as if unaware of the danger, the Matrovean surged forward.

Time seemed to slow down and Elena felt as though she were watching the world move in slow motion. The fallen patrol ship, whose name, The Defender, could clearly be seen on its side, edged closer to the DF as though it were executing a swan dive for a group of photographers. Lines of red and blue fire could be seen racing across its deck as the oxygen from the ship's system ignited. Elena prayed that no one was still alive on the ship. Slowly the burning ship seemed to kiss the energy cells for the DF.

"Maybe it won't…" Jennifer began softly. A dull muffled thump reached their ears and time returned to normal speed as the DF exploded outward. Elena clung to the wheel, adjusting her course to ride the wave of force that raced towards them, using the momentum of the explosion to accelerate her speed rather than let it roll her.

It was like surfing a tsunami. The patrol ships seemed to do the same and Elena saw them approaching fast and hoped they were spaced far enough apart not to be blown into her. Luckily her smaller size seemed to make her move faster and Elena was able to just barely stay ahead of the larger ships. In the sky behind them, Elena saw lights flashing.

"What's happening, " She asked Jennifer, unable to take her attention away from the wheel until the energy wave dissipated.

"It's the Matrovean, " Jennifer said with awe as she studied the sky through the telescope. "A lot of them were too close to the explosion and caught fire and then it looks like they were too close to each other so the fire is jumping from ship to ship." Elena felt a grim satisfaction in Jennifer's description. "They look like there are trying to run away from each other. It doesn't look like anyone is following us."

"Good, " Elena said. Hopefully the fact that the Matrovean were not accustomed to working in larger groups would hurt them. The wave was beginning to dissipate and her arms ached with the strain of holding the ship to its course. As the ship's speed returned to normal, Elena relaxed her grip. Her vision widened from the narrow focus of their course.

Off her starboard Elena saw the Intrepid, the Patrol's flag ship. On deck the flagmen were frantically signally, asking if the Storm Chaser was all right. At Elena's nod, Benjamin signaled back that they had no casualties.

"Although I think we are a long way from fine, " Elena said as she watched Benjamin relay the message.

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