The Hunted Chapter 24 snippet (new writing)

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Claudio Reyes paced his office like a caged tiger. It was nearly impossible to believe! A Games Master was the head of the Syndicate? For all these years Ferini had been right under his now and he had missed him!
And the only way you know now, he reminded himself, was by tapping into Almir’s neural link without her knowledge!

If Almir learned of his activities, it would be another bone of contention to deal with. However, that was the least of his worries right now. There had to be a reason for Ferini to have wanted Almir back, he mused, something the man wasn’t telling her. Just what the hell was the Syndicate up to?

Reyes sat down and accessed his private file. A quick glance at the Intelligence reports showed the Syndicate was more active then usual lately. And the alarming thing was: it wasn’t all tied into the hunt for Almir. Ferini was planning something big, but what the hell was it?

Another report entered his network and Reyes sighed in disgust. As if I don’t have enough to worry about, he fumed, how the Hilgarian Empire wants to rattle sabers at our borders! They haven’t won either of the two wars we’ve faught, so why would they be trying to test our resolve now? Could there be some new weapon they’ve developed?

Either way, it left him in a bind and there wasn’t an easy way out. Almir had finally achieved what he couldn’t: reach the top echelon of the Syndicate, and that made her extremely useful to him. However, the Hilgarian moves couldn’t be ignored either due to the threat it posed for the entire Alliance.

Goddamn it, he fumed, rubbing his temples, why does everything have to happen at once? A week, two at the tops, and this entire Syndicate operation would have been finished! But no! The Hilgarians have got to make a move now. What are they trying to prove?

Thank God for Brindle’s cool head in the situation! Almir should never have voluntarily surrendered herself to the Syndicate like she did, but all was not lost. Thad was the chess piece he still had on the board to use, and it would have to do.

Command would want to know about this, he mused while opening the channel. With all that we’ve invested in Almir’s effort, Beatty had a right to know that she had succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Since neither of them had expected her to reach Ferini, this was going to be good news at a time when some was needed.

“Morning, Claudio,” Beatty said, bags under his eyes showing the Fleet Admiral hadn’t slept. “I take it you’ve seen the Intelligence reports on the Hilgarians?”

“Yes, sir,” he said.

“What do you make of it?”

“The Hilgarian’s wouldn’t make a move like that unless they had something up their sleeve, sir,” Reyes said. “Unfortunately, this operation took us all by surprise. My assets in the Empire are racing to try to learn what’s happening.”

“It’s put us in a tight spot for sure,” Beatty tapped his fingers on his desk. “I have three task forces headed for the area but right now, the cruiser Wales is all we have.”

One light cruiser against three task groups, Reyes thought, the space-borne equivalent of ‘Custer’s last stand.’
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