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   Chapter 20 Skyside

Skyside: Book Five of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 19095

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:28

Chapter 20

Kiera became a regular visitor to their dinner table in the weeks that Mateo was gone setting up the way station and Elena found her presence helpful. When Kiera was around, she put reports and requests aside to socialize and unwind. The social aspect helped with her stress level and Elena realized she had been taking far too few breaks.

"At this rate I'll turn into Grandfather before the season starts again and god knows, two Alexandros are not better than one, " she told herself. In addition to Kiera's presence, Melanie and Lucas stopped by often, taking breaks from their hospital. Elena thought that they needed more of the social life as well and was happy to welcome them to her space. She didn't want them to burn out either.

After dinner, card or board games became a regular treat and Elena found herself getting to know and like Melanie. She had a quirky sense of humor and knew how to make her far too serious cousin Lucas laugh. Thompson and Benjamin rounded out the group and Elena found herself thinking that it was not such a bad group to have.

Occasionally Consuelo would join them, usually bringing some sort of odd creation from her kitchen to try along with her booming laugh. Elena was unsure if Consuelo thought of them as friends or as Guinea pigs, but enjoyed the woman's company none-the-less.

As he warned, Thompson resumed his flirting ways although he toned it down for company. Even with the toned down version, Elena caught speculating looks flying from both Kiera and Melanie while Lucas occasionally favored Thompson with measuring glances, all of which Consuelo and Benjamin found amusing.

"I suppose if you can't watch a sit com you might as well be a part of one, " she thought.

When Mateo returned, the evenings continued, all of them finding the relief from official duties too welcoming to abandon and Mateo easily slipped into the group. With the way station up and running, Elena was able to set a regular schedule to open and close the channel with early and late arrivals waiting at the way station for entry.

Simon took his place at the way station leaving Sam to manage the port alone. The first day of the new system, Elena found herself holding her breath, waiting for calamity to fall. To her relief it didn't. Sam learned enough of managing the port that he was able to hold it alone. She smiled when she caught Sam bellowing at one of the Captains for taking the wrong anchorage, not flinching or backing down when the Captain bellowed back.

"Harbor masters never stay nice for long, " She told herself, pleased to see Sam in control.

The exploratory teams set sail and began their work with the as of yet unopened channels of the Calling touched pilots. Thompson gave no notice that he considered anything out of the ordinary about their departure.

"That doesn't mean he doesn't know, " Elena told herself. He seemed perfectly capable of ferreting out any secrets she might possess. "Which is his job, I suppose." She consoled herself. "He wouldn't be here if he weren't good at it."

Slowly information came in from Denali's party as well as her pilots. Elena was pleased she asked Denali to include Mateo's electronic version of homing pigeons on his trip, thus allowing steady progress reports as he made his way north. If anything went wrong, they would know exactly where to send a recovery team.

Akashi reported from the shipyard to let her know that the new pilot ship, the Phoenix, was complete. Commander McLaughlin did his recruiting well and trained the new crew by having them work alongside the more seasoned crews of the other patrol ships while waiting for the new ship to be completed.

On the day the ship was brought from the shipyard to Haven, all those in port came down to the docks to watch Elena stand in one of the launches beside the enormous ship's hull. She was relieved that she not only kept her balance, but that the champagne bottle broke nicely in a spray of foaming froth when she christened the ship. The crowd cheered on shore and Elena settled back down.

The Phoenix was almost immediately put into service escorting merchants and Elena knew that her crew would soon be well seasoned. While the Matrovean were no longer attacking in an armada, they were still numerous enough to be a threat. Even though Akashi's people at the ship yard returned to working on the projects commissioned by Riko, they frequently took breaks to repair damage to the patrol ships.

"None of the patrol ships have been seriously damaged at least, " she said after meeting with Akashi to discuss the ongoing repair work.

"No not serious, " he told her. "But the consistency is concerning."

Elena found herself agreeing and knew that it would become much more concerning once the season opened and the Guild returned in force. While many ships were like the Storm Chaser with defense weaponry built into the original design, much of the Guild ran family ships that stuck to what had always been safe routes and never had any use for cannons. Many of the family ships had crews that didn't even routinely carry more than a buck knife for general work.

Elena shook her head. The sailors she grew up with on her grandfather's ship always carried cutlasses and knew how to work the ship's defenses. Many of them even fancied themselves modern day pirates. "Of course Grandfather tended to send his ship into questionable waters rather than always sticking to the safe zones."

She knew she could suggest the crews carry weapons and assist with retrofitting gear onto the previously unarmed ships. "But having weapons and having the training to use them are two completely diff

the destruction of the DF we couldn't keep Kiera's people separate from the Guild any more. Uniting their Houses was the only way to prevent major problems."

Catherine softened a little. "I don't suppose there were pictures taken?" she asked.

"Yes and video, " Elena said quickly.

"I suppose I wouldn't want bloodshed on my account, " Catherine said grumpily.

Mateo appeared in the doorway, one of the messenger probes from the island outpost in his hands. He didn't seem to notice the arrival of his parents at first. "Hey Elena, " he began. "The Wind Dancer was just spotted on its approach with Gregori's Dream and the Sea Dragon close behind. We have about a day…" his voice trailed off as he looked up and spotted his parents, his mother still wearing an angry expression.

"Hi mom, how was your trip?"

"Fine, just fine, " she answered. "How was your wedding?"

"Um, necessary, " he replied hesitantly.

"Oh?" Catherine said. Elena caught a slight glint of amusement in her Aunt's eyes and wondered if Mateo saw it. "Does this mean I am soon to be a grandmother?"

"If I promise to work on that every chance I get, will you be less angry with me?" he asked, in a slightly mocking tone.

Catherine chuckled. "It's a start. In addition, you and your wife will be sitting down to dinner with us tonight, after which we will be watching the video of the wedding, looking at all photos. I take it that you managed to have a proper wedding?"

"Rene planned it, " Mateo said defensively. "Of course it was proper."

"Really, " Catherine said. "Well that is something." She turned to Elena and gestured towards the probe. "Since I'm sure you will no doubt need to prepare for the arrival of my father as well as the other assorted Councilors, We will pass on lunch, Elena. I'm sure my son will show us around." She turned back to Mateo. "We can start with your little brother. You didn't manage to get Lucas married too while I was gone?"

Tomas winked at her while he and his wife followed Mateo back out of the door and into town, Mateo protesting that nothing untoward had happened to his baby brother while their parents were away. Elena sighed, knowing that even though her Aunt was upset to have missed the wedding, she realized it wasn't a deliberate slight and would in time forgive everyone involved.

Elena sunk down into one of the more comfortable chairs as she thought about the arrival of not only her grandfather, but Peter and Riko. "At least it's family and business partners arriving first, " she said although she knew that the other Councilors, a few of whom did not like her or were at best ambivalent towards her would not be far behind. Their arrival would give her a chance to set the tone and potentially get all three of them firmly on her side by the time the others arrived. She would have to think through her actions carefully.

Elena always hated politics, but recently found herself more and more drawn to their depths. Usually her political responses were done on the fly, spur of the moment responses to dull anger and reprisal, actions instantly chosen to deflect suspicion. This time, she had to plan things out several moves in advance. She thought of just getting on the Storm Chaser and sailing off somewhere, but knew it wouldn't help.

"They would just be here when I get back, " she told herself. "And they would have already chosen my fate instead of letting me have a say in it." As Elena began to plan, she realized that she was no longer willing to blindly accept the Council's ruling. And that if they reacted poorly in their response, she might just have to stand against them. A shiver ran up her spine as though someone had just walked over her grave.

"It's best we keep that from happening, " she told herself.

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