Revised Chapter 26 part two (90% new writing)

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“Matthews gave me no choice, sir,” Reyes said.

“I don’t give a damn what he did,” Rollins clenched a hand into a fist. “You overstepped your authority on killing him without consulting me, understand?”

“Yes, sir,”

“Is Almir alone to take on that death squad?” Rollins said.

“No, sir,” Reyes said. “I sent both Commanders Brooks and Paul to assist her. They should be arriving on scene any time.”

Rollins watched Brindle’s continence brighten. He might not be her lover anymore, Rollins mused, but he still cared about what happened to her. If he didn’t know better, he would swear the young man would sacrifice his life for her if need be.

“What do you think the odds of her surviving are, Admiral?”

“I’d say they’re even with our assistance,” Reyes said. “Otherwise eighty-twenty she gets killed.”

“If she dies, Admiral,” Rollins said. “I’m holding you personally responsible for it! You were not cleared for the memory block or the shut down codes you had installed.”

“Someone needed to keep her under our control,” Reyes protested.

“There were other ways to do it,” Rollins said. “Have you ever heard of the carrot and the stick, Admiral?”

“No, sir,”

“That’s where you use a object that motivates her to keep her under your thumb, Admiral,” Rollins’ voice was ice cold. “Sometimes you need to learn how to use psychology.”

“I only did what I thought was right, sir,”

“Which was not authorized, Admiral,” Rollins said.

“I’m working on trying to get her back on our side, sir,”

“Admiral,” Rollins said. “Do you think she’s going to like us even more when she learns we arranged her command staff? Goddamn it, I pay you to act, not to think!”

The silence on the other end of the channel was deafening.

“Now,” Rollins said. “You need to make sure your agents are in place to help Almir. We do not have the time to wait for another incarnation of her, understand?”

“Yes, sir,”

“Make it happen, Admiral,” Rollins cut the connection.

Leaning back in his chair, he ran his hands through his hair. If Reyes weren’t such a damned good cloak and dagger type, he would have eliminated him long ago. However, as long as his plans depended in the Admiral, he was going to have to deal with him.

The fool that the asshole is, he reminded himself with a groan.

“Now, Thad,” he said after regaining his composure. “What is the word on Carver’s moves?”

“Sir,” Brindle sighed. “It gets worse everyday with him. He’s got a secret police force ready to move now. Under the guise of the ‘Secret Service’ or ‘SS’ they are prepared to make a massive round-up of political dissidents and politicians in the near future.”

“That’s not good,” Rollins said, knowing he was making an understatement. “Any word as to when this is supposed to happen?”

“Not to my sources yet,” Brindle said. “All I know is it will be after a ‘big event’ like the ‘terrorist attack’ on the Galactic Trade Center was.”

“Carver’s moving faster then we can keep up with,” Rollins said, looking at the ceiling again.

After all the planning he had made, he mused, his plans were in danger of unraveling. Carver was moving faster then he had planned for. He had assumed the man would move slower, but he was consolidating his power quickly instead.

Who would have thought that one could transform a fifty-planet democracy, he thought, into an Empire so damned quickly?

If there was any chance of saving mankind, they had to more to the second phase. There wasn’t much choice in the matter; if Carver were allowed to continue, then everything would collapse. On top of it all, Almir was trying to get herself killed too!

“Thad,” Rollins sighed. “Tell Reyes that it’s time to activate ‘Operation Phoenix,’”

“I understand, sir,”

“We’ll make our move in one week,” Rollins said. “I don’t think Carver will make his move before then. If he does, then we’re going to be scrambling.”

“I will alert Reyes, sir,” Brindle said, standing up to depart.

“And Thad,” Rollins said.

“Yes, sir?”

“I’d appreciate it if you kept a watch on my back,” Rollins said. “Since my family is being watched over, I’d appreciate it if you keep the SS off me.”

“It will be my pleasure, sir,” Brindle said.

“Dismissed,” Rollins said as he reached over to his com system.

As Brindle departed, he felt a wave of anger wash over him again. Honestly, he told himself, could Reyes do anything right? The woman was a very special person, and their fate rested in her hands. Just what part of that couldn’t he understand?

She has such a propensity to violence, yet doesn’t relish in it, he told himself. It’s rare to see that in someone with the brutality she is capable of. And she’s not psychotic, despite what Reyes might think!

“Helen,” he said to his secretary. “Can you get me Senator Trisholm, please?”
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