My name is, James William Silver. My mother had been a platoon leader for one of the space marines elite commando units on a detached mission. My father had been a starship captain. They both made the mistake of crossing paths with and embarrassing several heads of very large corporations. I was born shortly after mother was asked to leave the services. She had to go into hiding in the Maze right after my father was assassinated.
They finally caught my mother when I was four. She took over thirty professional assassins with her before she was killed. From that time on I was raised by several former commandos and they started my education. By the time I was six I was running errands in the Maze for high level fences.
By eight I was a master with a pistol or knife. By ten I was a master picket pocket and began learning about alarms. By the age of twelve, I was a Sho-Dan, (black belt) in Jukidio, a mixed style of Aikido and Judo. I was also among the top students on the planet for the ancient earth art of Kendo. By fifteen, I was an arch master of military weapons and one of the top ten thieves on the planet. By the age of eighteen, I was considered the best thief on the planet and the most dangerous.
I had just turned twenty and decided to eat at one of my favorite old restaurants. In financial terms I could be considered wealthy. My last job had earned me over a million mega credits which I had invested. Before leaving my current residence, I checked the news. I watched as they talked about rumors of Vega reporting a theft. It even said they thought I was responsible.
I knew I would have to check the story, if for no other reason than to protect my name and reputation. Besides, I made it a point not to steal from estates of the big ten and Vega was definitely one of the big ten. Not that I could not get into or out of the estates, it was just that I left their homes in peace and expected them to stay out of mine.
I moved through the back streets easily. I set up my precautions and slipped quietly into Vanessa’s. I stood in the shadows and checked the room before slipping to my table in a shadowed corner. I smiled to myself as a young girl walked by me twice without stopping. I waited for her to return, “Allie?”
She jumped and then turned towards my table, “Damn it Shadow! How many times do I have to tell you not to scare me like that!”
I smiled, “I waited, but you kept ignoring me.”
She grumped, “Well ... your usual?”
I nodded and she walked into the kitchen. I glanced around the room to notice how much quieter it had gotten. I pulled out my pocket screen and started reading what little had escaped Vega’s security. Whatever had been taken was causing a stir. It also appeared to have been stolen from his estate. I thought about it and sent a message to Vega.
I did not know if he would believe me but honor needed to be addressed. Allie walked quietly to my table and set a bowl of fire stew and a large glass of water down. I had my hand over each and she frowned at me, “Shadow, you know momma would never put anything in your food or water.”
I grinned up at her, “Your momma was the one to teach me to never trust food or drink.”
She smiled and moved away checking other customers. I glanced down at the quiet beep of a return message, “They signed it with your glyph. Prove it was not you.”
I frowned, whoever had taken Vega’s property had not only made it look like me but had signed my name. I ate quietly until I heard another beep from my wrist. I slipped my right hand under the table and kept eating. They came through the front and back doors together. I watched as they glanced at a man sitting at one of the tables before heading straight for me, “Get up scum!”
I glanced up, my right hand coming above the table and the pistol coughed twice. The two men holding weapons fell back with their heads exploded, the other two stood frozen. In the silence I reached out and calmly took a drink of water. I watched the two men standing in front of my table as I set the glass back down, “Corporate security is not safe in the Maze. Who paid for the pick up?”
One of them cleared his throat, “We have a tac team outside.”
I smiled, “If you know who I am you know how little that means to me. Now who do you work for?”
He looked at his partner and back to me, “De’Santos.”
I nodded, “Let me guess. He wants what was taken from Vega.”
I stood, “Run sheep. Tell your team I will be out shortly and anyone I see from security is dead.”
They both backed towards the door and then they were gone. I knew they would be waiting outside and turned to the man that had told them I was there, “Informing in the Maze is not a smart thing to do.”
His face was white but I turned away. Others would take care of him. All the clothes I wore were special, in more ways than one. I walked to the door and pressed a button on my wrist band. I smiled at what I saw in the small holo and pressed two other buttons before reaching for the door handle.
The explosion that rocked the night was from two low grade military explosives. A second pistol slipped into my left hand as the one in my right hand coughed several times. It took about five seconds and then I stood on the quiet street with a dozen corporate security goons dead around me.
I walked away changing the magazines in my weapons. At the edge of the Maze, I walked into a building and up the stairs. On the roof I walked to the edge and lifted the fiber board lying there. I pushed it across the gap between buildings and then walked across.
The lock and alarm on the door took less then a minute and then I was walking down the stairs. On the third floor I opened the door and walked down the hall. I opened the door at the end of the hall pulling the pistol on my right leg. I shot the man behind the desk and the two leaning against the wall.
I walked across the room and opened the other door. There were five men in the room but I only had to worry about two. I shot the security officer against the wall and his partner by the window. My pistol was pointing at the man behind the desk, “Clark, I warned you to stay out of my area.”
He held his hands up, “These are Imperial cops...”
I shot him before he could finish. I looked at the two men as I slipped the pistol back into its holster, “Local business officers. Have a nice day.”
I turned to leave and heard the click of a particle weapon arming. I did not look back and I did not move, “This was local business.”
“But you interrupted our business.”
I slowly turned, “And?”
He smiled, “We need to know about a synth.”
I blinked, “What synth?”
They looked at each other and the one that had been talking to me looked back at me, “The one that was taken from the Imperial palace on earth.”
I looked back and forth between them, “Please do not tell me one of these assholes stole one of the emperor’s daughters.”
They looked back and forth at each other and I could almost see them deciding to kill me. I shrugged, “It does not matter unless he has unlocked the collar right?”
I watched them relax, “The collar is still intact or it would be screaming.”
I sighed, “Then just track it.”
They grunted, “The signal is jammed, the closest we got was here in the Maze.”
I blinked, “If they are hiding her in the Maze you will not find her with corp security.”
They nodded, “We just figured that out.”
I shrugged again, “I will put the word out. No one in the Maze wants Imperial trouble.”
They grinned, “Everyone says that. Who do we thank?”
I turned towards the door, “They call me Shadow.”
I walked out and left quietly through a back door. I was a couple of blocks away before I slipped into one of my caches. I took everything I had on me off and dropped it into a disposal chute. I watched as it flashed and was destroyed before pulling new equipment out of hidden compartments. I sent a coded message to Dad about the synth and walked away as fast as I could, I had other business to take care of.
I moved out of the Maze and through the business district. I boarded the tram for Balif with a false pass and sat back to wait. Everything I was using said I was someone named George Albert, a low level accountant that worked for De’Santos.
When I left the tram, it was to walk into an apartment building and then down several sets of stairs. Just because I did not steal from the big boys estates did not mean I could not get in or had not prepared for something like this. I opened a panel that gave me access to the shopping tram belt. I turned on a special device in my belt and set it for De’Santos estate before climbing onto the belt.
It was almost fifty minutes later that my belt beeped and I reached up to grab an overhead bar. I pulled myself to the side and moved down the belt shaft another hundred feet. The small air vent opened easily and I moved carefully so that I would not make any noise. When I reached the other end of the vent I slipped a small probe through the grate and watched a screen on my wrist.
After I was sure it was clear I reached out to push two false screws I had placed here more than two years ago. The grate moved easily and closed back into place without a sound. I crossed the huge basement carefully and stopped beside an old rack of clothing. The panel here looked like an electrical panel but was really an access panel. I climbed the narrow ladder for six floors before I stopped.
I knew I was on the second floor of De’Santos’s mansion. The shaft was sheathed in a silver looking net that blocked sensors. I paused only long enough to clip a small box to my belt and push the button on its side. I opened the hidden panel and stepped into De’Santos’s study. He looked up as the panel opened and then reached out to push the small button on his wrist.
I smiled as I crossed the room and he frowned. I knew his panic button was no longer able to send out a call for help. I pulled a small flat screen from under my shirt and held it out to him. His face was angry, “You will not get away with it.”
I pulled a small plastic weapon from the small of my back and his face went white. Neural screamers were forbidden for a reason, “Put your thumb on the screen and give your password. It had better not turn the screen red because you gave your panic code either.”
He glared and then put his thumb on the screen, “Lizards.”
The screen flashed and then began to scroll through every account he had and transferring it to mine while I pulled it back, “I had a policy to stay out of your estate if you stayed out of my part of the Maze. You did not do that and sent corp security after me.”
I stepped back, putting the screamer away and then small screen. I pulled the pistol from my right leg and shot him through the forehead. I slipped back through the hidden panel and closed it behind me. It was an hour before I stepped back onto the platform and boarded another tram. This one was a bullet tram and it took me twenty minutes to travel two thousand kilometers.
This time I was not hiding who I was and walked out of the tram station and climbed into a service cab, “Vega’s estate.”
There was a whining sound and a human voice came through the grill, “State your name.”
There was a long pause before another voice came on, “Is this some joke?”
I smiled and sat back, it was a moment before the cab rose and took off much faster than traffic controllers allowed. It was not long before it slowed and descended to stop in front of what looked like an earth castle. There were over twenty men in full combat armor waiting when I stepped out of the cab.
There was a man in a very expensive suit standing behind the armored men. I stood still waiting and one of the armored men moved forward, “Drop your weapons on the ground.”
I smiled, “No.”
“Drop your weapons or we drop you.”
My left hand flicked and the neural screamer was suddenly pointing at the armored figure, “You know what this is. I have no intention of letting you or your men kill me without a fight. If I had wanted your boss dead, he would already be dead.”
I waited and then slowly put the screamer in the small of my back. The man in the suit suddenly walked forward and stopped in front of me, “I want it back!”
I smiled at him, “When I kill the man who took it, I will be sure to send it back.”
He glared at me and tossed a piece of paper at me, “Your glyph!”
I snatched the paper out of the air and turned it to look at it closely. It was very good, except for one detail, “Whoever did this used the image from a job I did six months ago.”
Vega looked from me to the image, “Six months ago? How can you tell?”
I shrugged, “I make slight changes every time.”
I looked around thinking and ignored his stare. I finally sighed and turned back to him, “It was taken from here on your estate? I have a policy not to steal anything from an estate of the big ten.”
I watched his mouth twitch, “And De’Santos?”
I shrugged, “He sent men for me into the Maze. You stay out of my house, I stay out of yours.”
Vega smiled, “That simple?”
I nodded, “That simple. I do not steal from your homes and only ask that you stay out of mine.”
He turned away and stood thinking before looking back at me, “Whoever did this took one of only two captured Lizard decriptors.”
I could think of one reason off the top of my head but ... I held up my hand, “Give me a second.”
I walked several feet away and took out my phone and carefully punched in a number, “Imperial consulate.”
“I need to speak to the officer in charge.”
“What is the nature of your business?”
“My name is Shadow.”
There was a long pause and a voice I recognized came on, “It seems you are pissing people off.”
I grinned as I looked back at Vega, “That happens a lot. Tell me, could a Lizard decriptor unlock the synth collar?”
There was a silence I did not like on the phone, “Not by itself. Are you telling me they might have a decriptor?”
I sighed, “One has been stolen. Let me call you back after I check something.”
I closed the call and called another number that was answered by only a click. I took a breath, “Silver in the red.”
“The Maze is about to get a regiment of Imperial Marines. I need info.”
There was a pause before another voice came on, “Send request.”
“I need to know what a Lizard decriptor can be used with to bypass imperial family protocol.”
“That is restricted.”
I grunted, “I know it is restricted damn it. Why do you think the Imperials are going to be sending Marines into the Maze?”
There was a long pause, “Stenor’s number generator.”
I swore, “Nothing about this is easy. All right, what do you have on, Peters, Malbo, Sampson, Dodge and McConnell?”
They were the only other thieves on the planet I thought good enough to get into Vega’s estate and steal something, “Dead. Edwards took out Peters. Mosley took out Sampson. Donelson took out Malbo. Harris took out Dodge and McConnell is missing and believed dead by Zolles.” (Edwards, Mosley, Donelson, Harris and Zolles were five of the big ten).
I cursed, “Go silent and change comms to the secondary.”
I turned to Vega and called the consulate back. I did not have to go through the phone tag game, “What do you have?”
“Stenor’s number generator. Get someone over to the head office of Finance.”
I closed the phone and walked back to Vega, “You are the luckiest son of a bitch on the planet.”
Vega jerked as if I had hit him physically, “What!”
I looked at the guards in their armor, “You have maybe twenty or thirty minutes before you have a company of Imperial Marines smashing in here for a little talk. Get rid of the armor; call whoever you have investigating this and I will get back to you.”
I turned and walked towards the cab. One of the armored men raised his weapon. I stopped and looked back at Vega, “If someone fires a weapon from one of these suits of armor there will be a crater where your house stands. The Imperials are here and you know what that means.”
I got into the cab, “Starport. Emergency override, omega two.”
That was a little known code a friend had added to all cabs and it had an immediate affect. I sat back to think, if the thief was not local than he had been brought in. Ten minutes later I stepped out of the cab and merged with the crowd. I slid through a little used doorway and walked down a long hall.
I knocked at a bright red door and slowly opened it. Val was looking back with a grin and set the nerve screamer back on the desk beside him, “Hey Shadow.”
I smiled, “Hey Val, what is shaking?”
He laughed, “Imperials.”
I nodded, “Everything is going to come to a screaming stop soon.”
He frowned, “The girl?”
I took a breath, “Tell me you do not know where the Synth is?”
Val grinned, “Morse walked her out.”
I shook my head and pulled out my phone. It was only good for calling one person now anyway, “Go.”
“Morse the slave monger. He sells mostly to the lizards.”
“Where can we find him? The Generator was taken just before we got there.”
I cursed and Val looked at me in alarm, “Below the Maze and probably scan blocked.”
I hung up and looked at Val, “I need a clean phone.”
He tossed one from the corner of his desk and I dialed a number. I waited for the click, “Silver, riding the tiger.”
There was a hushed whisper, “Go.”
“Clear the basement and get everyone out of the Maze. Tell dad I am hunting Lizards and using Morse as a guide. Tell Dan I want the hall vacuumed before school. Go dark, go dark, go dark.”
I hung up and looked at Val as he sat up straight, “Shadow?”
I turned to the door, “Find a hole Val. Watch for my message.”
I was out the door and running. I slowed at the bend and carefully opened the door. I walked across the crowded hall to another door and took the first door on the left. I put my hand on an access plate and a hidden door opened. I walked into a room like a few I had prepared around the planet and went straight to the flier.
I stripped before I got there and did not bother destroying anything. I pulled the combat rigs out of the flier and quickly put everything on before slipping into the seat. I touched a remote and the outer wall dropped into the floor and I was out and gone. It was a twenty minute flight to the Maze and I made it in five.
The engines were screaming and I knew every cop within a thousand kilometers was dialed in and tracking. I noticed the Imperial fighters circling the Maze as I closed and hit the deck, “Hot flier, hot flier, hot flier, this is Imperial Fighter Delta Seven, stand to.”
I smiled to myself, they were going to be screaming murder in a minute, “Delta Seven, this is Silver Kitten. I say; Blue three, Imperial one, one red, two, in the clear. I am hunting lizards, go to back ups. Lions on the ground.”
I dropped the flier to slide along the ground and hit a button on the console. I knew what was happening to the imperials comm and shook my head as I rolled out of the sliding flier. It was only a dozen feet to the doorway I needed but it felt like a mile as time stretched. I was in the door and heading down a dimly lit stairway when the phone I had been using came to life, “Who gave you those codes!”
I kept moving, “A toothless lion. Tell Roger I am on the scent and would appreciate someone following me incase I find your missing dove.”
There was silence and then another voice came on, “The Silver Lions are following, Roger, out.”
I almost stopped in shock, the Emperor could not be here! I hurriedly used the other phone Val had given me and it was answered with, “Go.”
“Roger is on planet. Tell father to gather the children and standby.”
I hung up and slowed as I reached the first corner. I turned the corner and one of my pistols came up as Dan held up his empty hands, “About time kid.”
I shook my head, “One day Dan. How far are the probes ahead?”
He shrugged, “There are three, one outside his center lair, one at blue nine and the last at yellow twelve.”
He tossed a chip, “Watch your scans, they are not working right, blocked and scrambled I think.”
I nodded as I slipped the chip into a slot on my wrist band, “The Silver Lions are following. Help them if you can.”
Dan sucked in a breath, “You better start running then. If the Silvers are here, we do not have time to dance silly.”
I laughed as I tossed the chip back and turned to start a slow jog down the slopping tunnel, “The only one that dances silly is you Dan.”
“Silver Kitten, this is Silver Nine.”
I only slowed slightly before putting a phone bug in my ear, “Go Nine.”
“Entering your back trail.”
I spun around a corner and fired twice and watched two men fall, “You will find a toothless lion around the first corner.”
I kept moving as I heard, “Roger Kitten, toothless lion around the first corner.”
I slowed at an intersection, “Can you go secure on this freq?”
Before I got a reply, three lizards converged on me. I held a pistol in each hand and in less than two seconds they were dead, “Say again Nine I was playing with some lizards.”