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   Chapter 3 Councilor

Councilor: Book Six of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 23403

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:35


Chapter 3

The next morning, Elena awoke feeling more like her old self. "A night off now and again actually helps, who knew, " she said. Elena slipped her foot out from under the covers and wiggled her toes. She initially started with a scarlet polish, but had been unable to resist throwing a coat of glitter polish over it. "Cause nothing says I run the world like glitter toenail polish, " she said with a smile to her wiggling toes.

She slipped out of bed and opened her closet door. Ignoring the well-worn and newly washed clothing she took from her bags, Elena instead chose a blue blouse, gray pencil skirt and heels from her closet. She added clean underwear from the chest of drawers and headed off to the bathroom. A little while later she emerged, freshly showered and dressed. She even managed to wrangle her hair into an updo that she thought didn't look half bad.

"Not tromping through jungles today my friend, " She told Spin when she caught the cat staring. Elena picked up a pair of earrings and fitted them in her ears. "I am not fleeing raiders or even sailing through choppy waters." She walked into the kitchen and found a note from Jennifer saying the girl went out for breakfast. As Spin's food was the only edible left in the house, Elena thought it showed superior wisdom.

She filled Spin's bowl and decided to swing by the bakery on her way into the laboratory. She turned Jennifer's note over and scrawled her own return message asking Jennifer to list food items she wanted to include on the grocery list. The optimistic part of Elena's brain was hoping she would be able to get to the store sometime in the late afternoon.

A part of her wanted to immediately go to the stores, Calabrese Imports and Nibbles to check on things and make certain there were no problems, but she resisted, knowing Victor would have a status report on each and she might need the updates before she appeared. "After all, " she thought as she picked up the few items she needed and headed to her car. "I'm not quite certain where my paperwork lists where I was last. Probably ought to find out before someone asks me."

As getting stranded skyside during the offseason was a risk any pilot took, precautions were taken to justify the eight month long absence. Before she left, in addition to making certain all bills and paychecks were covered, Elena filled a large file with postcards from places around the globe, a schedule of timed shipments, and small souvenirs to be sent to various people. Victor managed it all for not only her, but the other eighteen pilots who sailed for her house. She was fairly certain that if he hadn't managed the same for Kiera's people, then he helped Stephen set up a similar system for those now considered the House of Terra when they had been stranded skyside as well.

Not knowing how many people would be in the office and laboratory when she arrived, Elena picked up a dozen cinnamon rolls along with her coffee. She figured the large box was also justification for not walking the few short blocks from her apartment to the lab. She felt only a minor twinge about the laziness though. As she spent more than eight months where all land travel was by foot she felt entitled to a short hop in the car.

"After all I'm saving a ton of money on gas, " she said to herself as she parked and gathered her box of treats. She thought about it as she climbed the stairs and realized she only purchased gas once in the past year. She was fairly certain that was a record, at least for her. Elena shook the thought away and listened for sounds of the office occupants. As it was still early she thought she might have actually beaten everyone in.

"At least I'll get to eat my cinnamon roll in peace before the craziness starts, " she thought immediately wondering if she could actually manage to finish her coffee before being buried in paperwork as well. She somehow doubted it, knowing that Victor would probably have left her a neat stack to start with in case she arrived while he was out. Elena sighed, but knew she couldn't complain too much. After all since hiring him, Victor took the brunt of the paperwork and had no doubt been just as busy as she during the off season. If she was honest with herself, she knew it wasn't the paperwork she was dreading. It was the council related items she feared would soon be showing up that made her twitchy.

Elena reached the top of the stairs and saw that the coded door to the laboratory was closed, as it should be. She waited a moment, but heard no sounds coming from behind the door. She couldn't remember if it was soundproofed or not and shrugged, giving up her eavesdropping attempt. She turned towards the office, noting that the light was already on and the scent of coffee had gotten stronger. Elena pushed open the door and stepped inside. Victor and Lisa, her friend and lawyer, were already inside. Victor was pouring two cups of coffee and Lisa was reading through what Elena strongly suspected was the day's schedule.

"I'm almost through with running the background checks, " Lisa was saying. "But I'm not quite certain how to vet them through the Council. Do we submit our files or just the names?" Before Victor could answer they noticed Elena arrived.

"Oh, " Lisa said with a smile. "We didn't expect you until later."

"You knew I was back then?" she asked. She walked over to the table where the coffee pot was located, placed the bakery box down and took a cinnamon roll to eat, gesturing to the others to take what they wanted.

"I love when they are hot, " Lisa said, picking up a napkin and a treat after setting down her paper. "Even if my thighs are calling you very mean names."

"You were spotted at Dockside Annie's having dinner with your fellow councilor and Jennifer stopped in to pick up her debit card." Victor told her.

"Accepting the council seat was a necessary evil, " she told him. "And somewhat spur of the moment. Had I been given the time I would have told you first." She replied, sensing a slight reproach in his tone. Elena chewed a bite of her breakfast and washed it down with some coffee.

"Actually, if I had time to think about it, I probably would have run away screaming."

Victor shook his head, looking slightly amused. "Well it wasn't too much trouble in the end, " he told her consolingly.

Lisa shook her head and gave a good humored eyeroll. "And since Victor was able to pretend he knew all about it, everyone thinks you were in complete control the whole time."

"Well except for the Matrovean aspects anyway, " Victor added. "No one thinks you control them."

"I can't believe that beautiful place is gone, that library…, " Lisa sighed. Elena smiled. Lisa's love of the written word ran almost as deep as that held by Evan Greggs, the Senior Librarian on Haven.

"We had time to transfer everything off of the DF before it was destroyed, " Elena assured her.

"And there will probably be the same window like ceiling in the new one when it is finished. There might be a different view though. I'm not certain if the new station will be built in the same location."

"Ah, " Victor said. "That is probably part of the discussion then."

"Discussion?" Elena asked.

"Yes, you got a schedule from the Council secretary, " he continued. "You have a meeting scheduled aboard the Lorenzo a week from now. The schedule was addressed to me as your assistant so that I could put it on the calendar, but the enclosed agenda was sealed for council eyes only. I placed it on your desk."

"Oh, " Elena said. "Thanks. Did they schedule a lot of things?" she asked slowly.

"Not many, " Victor assured her. "And most will be take place in Haven as the season is open. They appear to be just general Guild business. The first one is scheduled here on the Lorenzo partially because Council chambers have not been officially designated on Haven and apparently the Council owned ship is viewed as being more secure."

Elena remembered the gathered crowds waiting outside the ad hoc council chamber when she, Commander McLaughlin, and Mateo were called in to explain what had happened in the Council's absence. She wasn't certain how secret the council tried to keep the meeting, but whatever attempts they made failed miserably. Elena shook off the thought.

"So I have a few days then, any immediate concerns?" Elena's heart sunk as she saw Victor and Lisa exchange looks. "Oh, this is going to be bad isn't it?" she asked.

"Not bad exactly, " Lisa said slowly and rather unconvincingly. "But perhaps you had better sit down." Elena finished her cinnamon roll, wiped off her hands and threw away the napkin.

"Conference room?" she suggested. Both Lisa and Victor nodded. Elena took her coffee to the conference room and pulled a large file along with her notebook out of her bag as Lisa and Victor gathered their things and joined her. Elena lifted an eyebrow in surprise when Victor closed the conference room door behind himself before taking a seat. Normally, they just left it open as the small room had notoriously bad air flow. She felt nerves begin to dance in her belly. Lisa looked to Victor to begin.

"Well, " he started slowly as though still gathering his thoughts. "When you shipped out with Kiera's people… the House of Terra, " he corrected. "To prevent them from becoming test subjects in a laboratory, those left behind executed a… duck and cover sort of routine. People were moved around like some sort of giant shell game. It was really something to see, they are quite adept at protecting their own." He sounded impressed.

"Kiera mentioned they had done so many times before, " Elena replied thinking of the conversation she had with Mateo's new wife.

"It showed, " Victor said, his respect clear in his voice. There was nothing Victor liked more than a well-executed plan. "When the dust settled, it was found that those who planned to take the children for testing had no connection to the Guild or the military folks who were looking into the Guild. I don't know who they were, as Stephen didn't share that knowledge, but we weren't involved."

"Well, at least we aren't responsible for putting them in the crosshairs, " Elena said. It was one of her biggest worries, that somehow she made Kiera and those like her targets. She felt a giant however hovering over their heads.

"True, " Victor said nodding. "They were grateful for the emergency assistance and were just as eager as we were for the season to open again, maybe more so. There was a great deal of relief when messages began to arrive and everyone knew those who went with you were safe. After the relief, came speculation."

"Speculation, " Elena repeated, knowing this was the basis of the giant however.

"Yes, " Victor paused and took a sip of his coffee.

"Apparently many of them are tired of hiding, tired of always being on the run. Especially those with families, " Lisa told her.

Elena could understand. Kiera and those of the House of Terra worked with plants, seeing what any plant needed to grow in a healthy manner as well as all of the innate properties in the plants they touched. They could also enhance the growth of the plants, turning a seed into a fully grown plant in seconds in a way Elena still had trouble not mentally calling magic, despite the fact Kiera claimed it was similar to the way Elena opened channels.

"The ones who sent letters home mentioned that even though there were dangers in Haven and the living is somewhat primitive, there was a certain… freedom in no longer having to hide, " Victor continued.

Elena nod

ded. After all she had to hide her piloting skills and knew the weariness of keeping secrets.

"Stephen mentioned that many of them were writing back with the request that the things they left behind be sent along to them. Many of them are not planning to return earthside."

Elena nodded again. "I saw some of the shipping manifests. Many of those settling are working smaller farms outside the town, " she told them. "Evan has started working with some of them to establish a school of some sort."

"And a lot of those still here want to join them, " Lisa told her getting to the meat of the matter. "Even though he doesn't know all of the details, Bob is helping some of them sell their homes, or at least the ones who were in the area to begin with, other agents are dealing with the more distant properties. Bob is however helping to arrange temporary housing for those coming here from out of town. He believes they are just being transferred to a different office or moving closer to elderly family, all of the usual reasons people decide to move." Lisa's husband Bob was a real estate agent and Elena wondered how much he knew.

"Does he know some of the details?" She asked curious.

Lisa shrugged. "I told him it was part of the project I was working on with you and he respects the confidentiality agreement you had me sign. Besides, I couldn't figure out a way to explain off-world resettlement without sounding crazy. When you explained it to me, I still didn't actually believe until you took me to Haven. At some point though, I would like to share if you are willing to take him, us, with you on a trip out. It might help him is settling some of the issues here. I really don't like not telling him something this…immense."

"Sure, I think we can do that, " she told Lisa. Elena blinked, the conversation finally hitting her like a body blow. "Colonists, " she said incredulously. "They want to be colonists."

Lisa and Victor both nodded. Lisa opened the top folder she brought with her. "We've been making a list of people, along with their basic skills, number and ages of those in their households. We told them there was a series of background checks needed before the possibility could even be considered. We also told them nothing was definite. They seemed fine with that."

Elena let out a yip of a laugh and shook her head even as she realized the yip might sound slightly hysterical. As anyone associated with the group that had gone through a background check came out with a spotless record, Elena had no doubt that no one minded the checks or thought they wouldn't pass.

"We have been compiling resumes and basic data as well, " Lisa continued ignoring Elena's half strangled laugh. "Stephen said someone named James is in charge. He is apparently in control of their giant shell game, or at least the local branch of it."

Elena sighed and opened her folder, bowing to the inevitable. "Mateo made a list of things we are going to need. He mixed people in as well. Maybe we can start matching people from the two lists and see where we are. It would at least be a place to start." Elena handed the multi-page list to Lisa and looked over to Victor. "And I guess we will need to schedule a meeting with James, the master of the human shell game. Not today, I would just like to see where things stand today, but sometime before I next ship out."

Victor nodded and started making notes. He looked relieved and Elena was glad someone did. Lisa scanned the first page of the list and smiled. "Who made this list?" she asked sounding amused.

"It was a group effort, " Elena told her. "I added a few things, Mateo and Kiera each added things and I think Benjamin put some items on there as well, why?"

Lisa cleared her throat and began to read the list out loud. "Twinkies, optometrist, water heater, bug spray, obstetrician, pens and pencils (all varieties), whet stones, dentist, pvc pipe, " she read. "And that's just a part of the first page."

"I think there are plumbers listed on there too, " she told her friend with a grin. "And the twinkies are for Benjamin. As he is dealing with Haven's insanity while I am here, I plan to get several boxes of those to go with me. Those are very important. That's why they are underlined, twice."

"Why don't I start with separating out supplies from people and see where we end up?" Lisa suggested with a laugh.

"Sounds like a plan, " Elena said. "Was that all of the emergency - deal with immediately- stuff?" She asked hopefully. Victor gave her a somewhat pitying look and Lisa laughed. This laugh held little humor. "Of course not, " she corrected herself with a sigh. "Clearly that wouldn't be everything. What was I thinking?"

"Congratulations were sent from a variety of folks when you received your seat, " Victor began reading from his notes. "Most of those congrats also held a request for a meeting at your earliest convenience, either here or skyside depending on your schedule. Several are more than willing to discuss things over the phone as well if you find that more convenient." He glanced at Elena and hurried to reassure her. "I don't think there are any current problems, I think they more or less just want to get on your radar. The Council sent over a couple of boxes of things for you. Those boxes are still taped up and in your office. They also sent over what looks like some sort of new councilor handbook, " Victor told her reading from his list.

"There are also the standard business reviews for both of the stores and the various contract businesses. The perfumery is particularly thrilled with the shipment you sent at the opening of the season along with the extra samples for their consideration. They sent over an order for the next shipment for you to look over." Elena nodded as he continued down his list. After the request to export colonists, it all seemed rather tame. Finally, he wound to a close.

"Okay, " Elena said, her pen still as she finished scrawling her own notes. "Lisa, anything else?"

"Just Tina, " Lisa replied with a frown.

"Tina?" Elena said thinking of their mutual friend. As far as Tina knew, Elena was just a small business owner running an imports store. "Is something wrong?" The last time Elena was home Tina was traveling, dealing with some sort of corporate merger. As Elena was uncertain what she actually did, she didn't know the details.

"Yeah, well after you were named as a counselor, the Guild sent over a link to some sort of database and search engine so that we could run our own background checks on people since that is something each councilor has to do apparently."

Elena nodded remembering the rules. "Which you were unable to resist using?" Elena guessed knowing her friend. There was very little Lisa enjoyed more than research.

"Well it was addressed to your tech team, so Victor and I flipped a coin to see which of us that was and I won." Lisa told her with a grin. "Just so you know, you are short on entourage members."

"I'll get on that, " Elena told her. "Were you thinking of adding Tina to the list?"

Lisa's smile faded. "Not exactly. I started out looking into the people who wanted to ship out with you. Going the business first route. But nothing was coming up on any of them. I would get their education and work history and all that, but everything else was squeaky clean. It was kind of a letdown, so I looked into myself just to make sure the system worked."

"Makes sense, " Elena replied.

"Yeah, well now I know where that permanent record everyone talks about goes. You had a record of me taking third place in the fourth grade spelling bee in my file. Complete with pictures I might add."

"They like to be thorough, " Elena said, hoping Lisa wasn't offended. "The information isn't public knowledge. Only those doing the background checks see the information and they only pass on a yes or no for vetting with an occasional conditional requirement."

"Conditional requirement?" Lisa asked.

"Yeah, that would be something like, we noticed that there were a lot of speeding tickets issued to this person and then one day they were all taken off, so check into why they were wiped off the record and as long as it is something that can't come back on us you are cleared." Elena explained. "I was warned about Kiera's people because they all came back so squeaky clean that it looked like their records were professionally wiped. I asked Kiera about it, she told me why and I accepted her explanation. I didn't have to tell the Council why as that was considered a private matter for my House, and now I suppose Mateo's, to deal with."

Lisa shook her head. "You know this is what makes the Guild law books so bizarrely fascinating to study. There are all of these tiny rules governing minutia of things like using wax seals and determining Head of House status, but then there are these large sections of 'here's our advice now, go do what you want'. It is so strange."

Elena smiled. "It is due to a number of factors, " she explained. "Part of it is that the Guild includes people from a host of different nations, each with their own traditions and customs. When the Guild was formed everyone had to find a way to deal with each other. So they codified certain things to create a unified organization and let others slide. Besides on a ship, the captain has ultimate control with the crew following orders. They are a hard lot to wrangle, even the ones who are more legit merchant than pirate. Following the minutia makes you one of the group and helps you identify others who are also part of the whole, but as long as you follow the few basic rules you can pretty much run your life as you see fit."

"Ah, " Lisa said. "Well, once I found out my spelling bee third place ribbon was recorded for posterity along with a very adorable picture of me in pigtails I might add, I decided to look up Tina."

"Did you finally figure out what she does for Groban, Inc?" Elena asked, curious.

"No, " Lisa said frowning. "I could only find records for Tina dating back about seven years. All seven of those years she worked for Groban, Inc." Lisa sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "Groban, Inc. has also only been on file as a company for seven years. Their corporate website says they've been in operation for twenty years, but there is no information on them any further back than seven years. No taxes, no incorporation papers, no records of any kind. And even the paperwork that can be found on them for the seven years is…textbook perfect looking. It's as if someone said, we need to have something legit looking, but wasn't too worried about the details. It's not the same wiped clean record of the others, it's just a whole lot of nothing. Unless I missed something, Groban Incorporated and Tina popped into being seven years ago more or less about the same time we met her at Art's benefit gala."

"Great, " Elena said with a sigh. "And I was worried Smith would go undercover." Elena rubbed her forehead. "Okay, print out all the info you have on her and Groban and hand me the file, I'll pass it on to someone who might know more and we'll see what we can find out. " Lisa nodded, looking relieved and Elena mentally added to her to do list.

With everything more or less outlined for her, Elena took her notes and files back to her office to begin to sort through the events of the past few months and to chart a possible course for the future. She sat down at her desk and pulled the first stack towards her, relegating her worries about Tina to the back of her mind for the moment.

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