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   Chapter 5 Councilor

Councilor: Book Six of The Channel Riders By Valerie Gaumont Characters: 13434

Updated: 2018-02-26 16:36

Chapter 5

The twistings in Elena's gut lasted as she wrapped up things with the managers and went to pick up her car. She found herself worrying as she wandered down the aisles at the grocery store and paid very little attention to what went in her cart. As a consequence, when she arrived back in the apartment and began to unpack her groceries, she found she purchased predominantly frozen meals that required little thought to go along with Jennifer's chips and fruit leather.

"Well at least I like frozen pizza, " she told herself as she opened one and slid it into the oven. Jennifer and her cohort Meghan had plans out according to the note Jennifer left, so Elena was on her own for dinner. Elena shrugged and settled herself at the small kitchen table to work while she waited for her pizza. Even though she was accustomed to spending large quantities of time alone, after the nightly gatherings on Haven it felt strange to have an entire space to herself, especially for a meal.

"Maybe that means my life is getting healthier, " she told herself as she pulled the sealed council agenda to her. She dimly recalled a friend saying that spending too much time on her own wasn't healthy; that she needed to socialize more. "Who was that?" she thought pausing before slitting the envelope open. "Tina, " she remembered. "Damn." Elena closed her eyes and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

"I need to know, " she reminded herself. "And if it's nothing, then nothing will happen to her." Still the thought of exposing a friend to risk didn't sit well. "Especially since I don't know what's happening with Andre." Even though she no longer counted him on her mental list of friends, he was still someone she knew. "And I'd rather not start off my tenure as Councilor with a ruthless act."

As the thought occurred, Elena realized that was what disturbed her the most. She knew Peter was ruthless, any retribution meted out swiftly and vehemently to discourage others who would break Guild law. Her grandfather told her that he operated the same way, even though she had not asked for any details. Alexandro claimed one horrific example was better than a thousand small ones as people continued to test you.

Councilor Inoue Riko was, in Elena's opinion, a borderline psychopath known to have a penchant for torture and she heard enough stories and personally seen enough to know the ruthlessness of the rest of the councilmembers. Despite this, Elena was hoping that she would not need to develop that sort of reputation. Having Peter double check her findings on Tina felt as though she were taking that step. She did not want to become like Peter or worse, Riko.

"Nothing is settled yet, " she reminded herself, once again turning her attention to the sealed agenda. "No one is going to ask me to chop off anyone else's fingers tonight." She ripped open the top, the tearing paper having a final sound to it as she deliberately pushed thoughts of Tina away. Elena slid the single folded sheet out of the envelope and opened it. As she read the list, she relaxed a little bit as she realized she was on relatively firm ground with most of the topics.

As expected, the first item was the location of a council chamber on Haven. Elena already discussed this with Mateo, Kiera and Evan. As Senior Librarian, Evan provided her with two possible schematics for the council to choose from for the design of the chambers and Mateo and Kiera came up with a list of three possible locations. The files Elena brought back with her contained all pertinent details and, once the Council as a whole made their decision, she could send word back with one of her pilots so work could begin immediately.

The second item was also no surprise. The Council wanted to discuss a timeline for the building of a new Docking Facility. Mateo looked over the designs the librarians stored in the archives and came up with a basic time line for gathering supplies, construction, transport and final assembly. Admittedly nothing could be done until the Council decided on a location for the new DF. Mateo had a host of very scientific reasons why he needed to know the location prior to construction and sent a list with details in case anyone more scientifically minded than Elena wanted to dispute his belief.

In matters of technology, Elena trusted her cousin and felt comfortable with Mateo and his team's recommendations. She also knew the time line was based solely on recreating the previous Docking Facility and not any of the expanded plans up for consideration. She made a mental note to mention that when the topic was discussed.

"At least they put the location for the new DF as item number three which will help, " Elena muttered to herself as she continued down the list. Unlike the first two items, the third item had a couple of bullet points listed below. The first bullet point simply read 'Matrovean threat'. She nodded, having expected the topic, but was not terribly thrilled to have it arise on her very first meeting.

While losing the DF in the Matrovean attack was bad for the Guild, it was devastating for the Matrovean. From all appearances, the raiders were planning to use the captured DF as a base and with it gone, they were forced to retreat further into home territory than they wanted, using an established base instead of remaining in new territory. The forced relocation left them unable to control much, if any, of Guild territory they took.

To further complicate matters for them, in order to attack the Guild, the Matrovean raiding clans came together in a much larger group than they were ever known to work with prior. While their alliances held when they were gaining territory and adding much needed supplies to their cargo, the setback and destruction of a large portion of their armada damaged their alliance greatly. Commander McLaughlin who led the Patrol ships, the closest thing the Guild had to a military, began looking into matters and his reports were filled with encouraging signs of the Matrovean fleet's disintegration. Elena listened to the basic summaries, but Thompson was the one compiling the details for the most part.

"I should have gotten a copy from him, " she mused even though she was certain he gave some sort of summery to McLaughlin and that it would most likely be in the files. She wondered if she could track him down before the meeting to find either his full file or a copy of his summery. She had a rather extensive file on the life of William Thompson thus far, from the Mother Nelson listings, but nothing as practical as a phone number was included in the file.

"Because finding out why he got det

ention in the tenth grade is so much more useful than actually being able to contact him." Elena shook her head and made a mental note to check with Lisa to see if her background checking software would be of use.

"Maybe it's more practical, " she thought. Somehow she didn't have high hopes. "Although surprising him would be fun." Elena smiled at the thought of it. For quite a while, Thompson refused to even give out his first name when dealing with her, let alone any other pertinent details. She was pretty much convinced he only told them the Thompson part so they wouldn't simply call him 'hey you' during their interactions. Being able to call him on a number he thought no one had was appealing on many levels. "He'd probably just be amused I bothered to track him down though, so I doubt I'd actually get the upper hand." She decided letting the amusement fade.

Elena deliberately pushed thoughts of Thompson away and moved on to the next bullet point. The second bullet point was labeled 'patrol ships' and she knew it was a reference to building more ships, in effect, building up the Guild's military forces in preparation for war, although at the moment no one was willing to come out and say that directly. Elena frowned. The Guild had not contemplated all-out war for a long time. In fact the last official war-like action was the battle that led to the closing of the channel now named Blood.

"And the Blood's been blockaded for well over a hundred years, " Elena mused. "Not that the Patrol can't fight." She knew all members of the patrol were well trained in the specific fighting tactics needed in skyside battles.

Occasionally there were skirmishes when trade agreements failed and things turned hostile. Losing a merchant based channel rider happened often enough. Sometimes it was because the Guild ships were caught between warring factions of alien races, but more often ships were lost due to raiders. The Patrol ships were accustomed to keeping Raiders at bay and they occasionally boarded and seized attackers, but had little experience with actual war involving planned battles and military tactics. The Patrol was a defensive organization only.

From frequent discussions with McLaughlin however, she knew he was willing to give war a try. He lost a ship, the Defender, in the Matrovean attack and Elena spent much of the off season trying to keep him from bringing the fight to the Matroveans in retaliation. She was fairly certain only the fact that he would need full Council approval for such an action and only had Elena was what kept him in port. At the time not only was she on her own, but she was not even named as a member of Council at the time.

Until the season opened, he was forced to be content with sending out reconnaissance ships to track the Matrovean movements and escorting channel riders to their destinations, protecting them in destabilized territory. One look in his eyes though and even a fool could tell he wanted war.

Elena leaned back as she thought about ships, or more accurately the building of them. The shipyard run on the new planet managed to build a replacement vessel for the Patrol. It took the bulk of the off season and all other projects were put on hold during construction. The Phoenix was launched a few weeks prior to the channels re-opening for the season. As it stood, that shipyard wasn't large enough to build more than one patrol ship per season. Bulking up the Patrol would take time and a whole lot more resources if that was the route the Guild wanted to go.

While there were several earthside shipyards capable of building channel riding vessels, Patrol ships were never constructed on planet. Earth's channels did not have a deep enough draught to allow even a completely unloaded Patrol ship passage. Elena knew the Council had arrangements with an off-world shipyard to construct and repair the patrol ships, but where that was had been concealed from the general population as a safety precaution.

"Although it might come up on the Lorenzo, " she thought. "Unless they want to build them all on Haven." Elena thought of Akashi, the man running what was technically now her shipyard. He came to Haven as a part of Elena's deal with Riko. As the elderly councilor's health began failing and her heir apparent, Hashi started eliminating any potential rivals, Akashi requested a change of alliance for his house. Akashi, his house and his shipyard were now a part of Elena's allied houses, not Riko's.

"We still haven't worked out what that means for our agreement, " she remembered. Akashi's change of alliance meant that a new partnership agreement would need to be written between Elena and Riko. She hadn't been in any rush about it as Riko seemed to fade further every time Elena saw her and she had no desire to partner with Hashi in any capacity once Riko was gone. There was just something about him that made Elena's skin crawl.

"And making Haven patrol ship building central may make it a target, " Elena thought, frowning at the agenda. Surely she wasn't the only one who thought making the Guild's emergency retreat location a target was a bad idea. "Besides, I have the feeling they are going to want someone else in charge of it. God knows I would if I were them." Haven, despite being the temporary home to the Guild was officially part of her House's territory, not neutral ground.

At the moment with the pilots of her House maintaining the channels to and from Haven as well as managing the day to day community and her cousin in charge of building a new Docking Facility, the rest of the Council had to want someone else in charge of the bulking up of military might. Some of the Council, she knew considered her an unknown, while some, like Alex Barton, actively disliked her. Her perceived accumulation of power had to be making many of them nervous.

She shook her head and once again looked down at the page she held. Aside from an item listed as other business, nothing else was on the agenda. "So half and half, " she decided setting the page down and trying unsuccessfully not to be nervous about her first Council meeting as a counselor.

"Half I am well informed about and can discuss reasonably well and the other half I am unsure about or should probably avoid looking as though I am trying to control."

The timer on the oven dinged and she went to retrieve her pizza. Once again settled with her plate, Elena pulled the stacked files towards her and began preparing for her meeting with James. Between the two, Elena decided the colonization of an alien planet sat more comfortably with her than war and the general suspicions of the Council.

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