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Introduction:

Complete
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 was 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 snyth.”

I blinked, “what snyth?”

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, “than 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.”

“Shadow.”

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.”

“Go.”

“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.”

There was a pause and then, “we can go secure.”

I nodded to myself and took the left tunnel, “royal two and take the first left.”

“Copy, royal two and take the first left.”

I kept checking my scans as I moved and pulled out my phone to push a couple of buttons. At the next intersection, I went to turn left again when the wall behind me opened and men began pouring out. I took a slug to the side and grunted from the impact. One of these bastards was using armor piercing rounds, “Nine, this is Kitten. I hope you are wearing combat armor, I just took a hit from a poniard on my side.”

I was firing and rolling as I engaged them and before long it was only five men huddled together, “status Kitten?”

“Still green. Stand by I have a little local matter to settle with some gentlemen.”

I walked to the men on the floor, “well if it is not five of the big ten.”

One of the men stood up arrogantly and I slugged him in the mouth, “I did not say you could talk.”

I pulled my screen from the pouch on my back. I touched a couple of buttons and held it out to the first man as my gun slipped into its holster and I pulled the neural screamer out, “thumb print and password. If you use the panic phrase, I will use the screamer.”

One by one, I passed the screen around until the last one had finished and snarled at me. I stepped back, the screamer sliding into its holster and my other pistol came out, “the Imperials are on their way. You can wait and explain why you have been committing treason by dealing with lizards.”

I turned and started moving fast, I glanced back to see the five men scrambling by the bodies looking for weapons, “Nine, Kitten. I am back on the move. You have five amateur lizard scouts in front of you.”

“We heard Kitten.”

“Kitten this is Roger.”

I grinned, “go.”

“Tell me you did not stop to rob those men.”

I laughed, “local business Roger. They owed a debt for trespassing in my territory.”

He was silent as I continued to move. I hesitated at the next intersection, something was not right about the scan, “stand by Nine, there is something funny with my scan…”

The walls around me just seemed to open and I was surrounded with lizards, some in armor. I think the only thing that saved me was the fact that the armored lizards kept firing their nerve screamers into their own soldiers. I fired and rolled, pulling my force knife as I reached one of the armor suits.

I ducked under its arm and shoved the blade of my force knife through the armored suit and into its groin before spinning around it. I shut the knife down and pulled my screamer as the suit protecting me started to fall.

I shot the three closest lizards as I began moving again. My phone kept calling for me to answer but I ignored it for now. I slid past a lizard and I shot him under the chin. I shot point blank into the helmet of the combat armored suit that was behind him with the screamer, “I am a little busy Nine.”

I grabbed the suit arm and spun, throwing it towards the closest active armored suit while shooting two more lizards with my other pistol. I dropped and rolled aside as a screamer beam swept over me. Coming to my feet, I shot the combat suit across the room with my nerve screamer and used a lizard as a shield against another lizard bringing a blaster into play.

I grunted at the shock of another slug against my side. The top half of the lizard I was using fell away and I shot the combat suit with the lance in the face several times with my nerve screamer as I closed.

I fired my screamer into his head as I ducked behind the suit and spun as another screamer beam splashed against the suit. I came back out from behind the combat suit as it started falling away. I holstered my pistol and grabbed the heavy force lance as the suit fell. I rapid fired the nerve screamer into one of the two remaining suits.

With the adrenalin helping me I brought the heavy lance up and I fired it just before the other suit turned to run. I was a little surprised to suddenly be standing alone in the intersection. My screamer was empty, the suit I had fired at had taken a lucky hit and was down. The other combat suit I had fired the lance at only had a bouncing helmet and a pair of boots.

There was also a ten meter hole in the rock behind where it had stood. I guess I had put the lance on full power. I took a breath as I let the lance fall and changed the power pellet for my screamer, “Nine, Kitten.”

“Go kitten.”

I holstered the screamer and pulled my pistol and changed magazines, “turn left at the mass of dead lizards.”

I started walking again and checked the status of my body screen as it flickered and then stayed green. I had almost reached the next intersection when something out of a nightmare hit me. I had seen it coming and rolled to the side just in time. I did not even hesitate pulling my force knife as it spun and came back.

I dropped under it and thrust up with the force knife as its head moved above my body. As its body jerked and thrashed around I used my feet and pushed out from under its convulsing body, “Nine, Kitten.”

“Go kitten.”

I grinned as I got to my feet looking around, “what is grayish green, a meter and a half tall, six meters long, four legs and has what looked like a thousand teeth?”
There was a pause and then a female voice answered that made a shiver climb up my spine, “Kitten this is Silver. What you described is a Scrathen Attack lizard.”

I stood froze as the memory of my mother’s voice came to me. I finally shook my head and looked at where the lizard had come from. I had only taken a couple of steps when another voice came on, “Silver this is orbit control.”

The same calm female voice came back, “go orbit.”

“We have a lizard carrier inbound to your position. ETA is fifteen minutes.”

I knew she was probably swearing right now. I stopped moving and used my other phone. As soon as it was answered I spoke, “this is Silver kitten I need dad.”

There was a pause and then a voice that never failed to calm or reassure me came on, “go.”

“We have an inbound carrier.”

His voice was calm, “vector and range?”

“Sliver this is Kitten, I need the vector and range of the carrier.”

There was a pause before orbit control came back, “inbound your location 280 on the deck 20,000 kilometers.”

Dad’s calm voice came from my phone, “tell them not to panic.”

I heard alarms from the imperial net, “Silver this is Orbit control. We have multiple heavy weapon signatures.”

The net went quiet for a moment as I walked carefully into the next intersection and turned left onto the ramp down to the next level, “Silver this is Orbit control. The carrier is down, well… gone.”

The same female voice that made my body tingle came back, “copy Orbit. Keep an eye on the lizards.”

I had just reached the bottom of the ramp and stood at the edge of the intersection when several panels dropped through the floor and lizards and men stepped out. I did not even pause as my pistol seemed to track onto the nearest threat while my other hand came up with my screamer. I moved side ways as they returned fire and then I was rolling and moving while shooting.

Nine kept calling for me to answer but I was to busy. I used the body of a large bejeweled lizard as a shield as I returned fire on the last two, a short thick bodied human and an overdressed lizard that kept snarling and cursing at me. I grunted with the impact of another hit as I shot the human.

I pushed the bejeweled lizard away and shot the last lizard with my screamer. I glance at my body screen to see it burning yellow, “Nine this is Kitten. You will find a group of dead at the foot of the ramp down, turn right.”

There was quiet before he answered, “copy, turn right at the bottom of the ramp.”

I started moving carefully down the tunnel, scanning in front of me. I had not reached the next intersection when I heard stone grinding and lizards arguing. I checked my weapons and moved forward carefully. A buzzing noise made me drop as my scan went red. The hallway above me was laced with laser beams.

I pulled a small sphere and tossed it ahead of me several feet. There was a large zap and the beams stopped. I lay still and waited, it was not long before a human figure walked down the hall towards me. I shot him through the head with my pistol and stood up to move forward. I had barely taken two steps before the tunnel was filled with lizards.

They were so tightly packed that when I dropped and fired into them with my screamer they all started screaming in agony. I rolled and came to my feet firing again as I moved forward. When the attack lizard hit me, it saved my life. I had dropped and rolled as I heard something rushing me from behind.

As the big lizard continued over me two armored lizards stepped into the hallway firing screamers. The attack lizards screamed as it was hit and continued rushing down the hall. It hit the two armored lizards and tried to tear them apart. I rolled to my feet and watched as the attack lizard grabbed an arm and jerked before twisting.

It did not break through the armor but I realized it did not need to as the armored arm tore off the suit in a shower of blood. The big lizard dropped the arm and turned to the other armored suit as it turned to run. I moved forward and drew my force knife. The armored lizard was down with the attack lizard on top of him. It had the armored helmet in its mouth and was twisting it back and forth as I came up along side.
I did not hesitate and shoved my force knife down through the back of the attack lizard’s skull. As it jerked and started thrashing around I fired my nerve screamer into the armored head below it. I continued into the intersection beyond, “Nine this is Kitten.”

“Go Kitten.”

“There was a laser net in the first hallway. I killed the controller but keep your eyes open. I am turning right at the intersection.”

“Copy kitten, we are approaching the top of the ramp now.”

I took the next hallway and walked cautiously down the middle. I came to the next intersection and slowly walked across. I had just stepped into the next hall when I felt the blow on my side. I spun and dropped onto my back. I was aiming back into the intersection to see two men running into it from another hallway.

I fired my pistol and screamer together before rolling and coming to my feet. Both men were down as I waited and then turned to keep going, “Nine this is Kitten.”

“Go Kitten.”

“I am going straight at the next intersection.”

“Copy Kitten.”

I was ten feet from the next intersection when my scans fuzzed. I dropped and rolled to the right as both walls opened up and lizards rushed out. I did a back flip off the ground and grabbed a lizard. As I spun around it, there was a barrage of firing and the lizard I was using jerked. I rapid fired both my weapons as I dropped and rolled. I came up as an armored hand grabbed for me.

There was not really time to think. I dropped my weapons and grabbed the suit by the back of its wrist. I pulled and slid along the outside of the arm as the lizard stumbled forward. My right hand went to the back and top of the helmet while my left released the wrist and came up to grab the chin.

As I slid around the back of the suit I jerked back with my right hand and twisted with my left. There was a pop and I heard sizzling as the combat suit went limp. I released the suit and retrieved my weapons. Nine was calling me and I took a breath as I glanced at my body screen. It was flickering from yellow to red and I shook my head, “go Nine.”
“Status?”

I grinned, “did you know you can kill a lizard combat suit by twisting the helmet up and to the left?”

There was a moment of silence, “ah… no, I did not know that.”

I checked my weapons and changed charges and magazines before I started walking again. I holstered the screamer since I was down to my last change. I turned right at the intersection following Dan’s blue nine probe, “right at the next intersection Nine.”

“Copy Kitten.”

I walked down a brighter lit hall and as I got to another intersection a large group of men came running from where I knew the ramp was. I pulled my left pistol as I started firing. I was against one wall and shooting at them as they came into sight. I could not believe that none of the men so far had body screens. True a body screen was extremely expense but so were suits of combat armor.

I grunted as another bullet slammed into my side and my body screen went red and screamed a warning. I shot the last three men as they came at me together and leaned against the wall, “Nine, this is Kitten.”

“Go Kitten.”

“My body screen is in the red. I doubt if I can make it to the ramp down and across the last level. There is a drop shoot in the left corner of this intersection… it comes out in the anti chamber of Morse’s center lair. I will do my best to clear it for you.”

There was a long pause and the female voice I could only think of as my mother spoke quietly, “give them hell Kitten.”

I took a breath and changed magazines before pushing away from the wall and moving into the intersection and then to the narrow drop shoot. I holster my pistols and pulled two spheres. I armed both and tossed them down the shoot before drawing my pistols again. I counted to five and jumped into the drop shoot as two explosions from below shook the tunnels.

I landed on my feet and dropped into a crouch as both my pistols came up. I was picking targets from the scattered men and lizards as they shouted and started taking cover, they did not make it. I grunted as my body screen flared and died and the last guard dropped as my right hand pistol locked open.

I changed the magazine with my last one and slowly moved through the carnage to the big double door, “Nine, Kitten.”

“Go Kitten.”

“Anti chamber is clear. Preparing to enter the center lair.”

“Copy Kitten.”

I slipped my left pistol into its holster and pulled a small flat wire with a box on one end. I knelt and slipped the other end of the probe under the door and watched the tiny screen. There were three human guards to the right and two lizards to the left, one in a suit of combat armor that looked engraved. In the center of the room were two men and a lizard. Morse, a tech and a richly dressed lizard were standing by a stunning strawberry blonde girl.

I pulled the probe out and pulled out the small tools of my trade. It took all of fifteen seconds to unlock the door. I stood up and pulled my screamer, “Nine Kitten.”

“Go Kitten.”

“I have five men and three lizards in the lair. Your dove is present and one of the men is working on the collar. I am going in.”

“Copy Kitten.”

I took a deep breath and opened the door. I just started walking towards the Synth. I shot the three guards as I walked forward, first in the chest and then in the head. I shot the armor suit and then the other lizard with the screamer. As the richly dressed lizard turned towards me, the tech yelled that he had it.

I raised both weapons and as the lizard started pulling a large pistol I shot him through the throat and head. I had kept the pistol pointed past the lizard at the tech as I shot Morse with my screamer. As the lizard fell away I shot the tech as he was pulling at the collar. I was still six feet away as the tech fell back, pulling the collar with him.

I stared and my eyes darted to the bright green ones that were looking back at me. I spun away and knelt as the world around me started to spin and blur, “Nine, Kitten.”

“Go Kitten.”

“The lair is clear and secure but I have a problem. I am having problems with my sight and everything is… spinning on me.”

There was a real long pause, “the alarm for the collar went off.”

I sighed, “it was pulled off as the last man fell. She is behind me and… and I am afraid to turn around.”

There was a chuckle, “welcome to the club. Tell her to sit and close her eyes.”

There was a crackle from the radio, “Silver this is Roger.”

Mom’s haunting voice drifted out to me, “Silver.”

“I am coming down.”

There was a really long pause as I gasped and fumbled for my other phone, “Roger this is not…”

“I know what I am doing Silver. I will be good and let your marines lead the way.”

I shook my head and dialed by feel. I was almost completely blind and was feeling very sick. When the phone clicked I heard it over the other phone and knew they had tapped into dad’s phone, “this is Silver kitten. Tell dad Roger is coming down. He is going to need guides and protection. Tell him I… I might have screwed the pooch. My body screen is gone. I only have half a magazine and a trickle charge in my screamer. The dove is uncovered and I… I can not see and I think something is wrong, I am sick…”

Dad’s voice calmed me, “buck up kid, I taught you better. Close your eyes and use your other senses. We will make sure Roger stays safe, you just protect the dove.”

I almost sighed as I closed my eyes and turned my head, “your highness please sit behind me and close your eyes.”

I lifted both weapons and pointed them at where I knew the door was while listening. I heard the rustle that told me she was sitting close behind me. I could hear shooting from a distance and after almost five minutes I heard men moving around in the anti chamber, “Nine this is Kitten.”

“Go Kitten.”

“I have movement in the anti chamber.”

“We are still at the foot of the ramp Kitten. You have hostiles.”

I concentrated on listening and when I heard them rushing the doorway I started firing. I swept the doorway with the screamer and shot at the sounds I heard. Six seconds and it was over. A beautiful voice drifted to me, “they are dead.”

I nodded as I holstered the screamer, it was empty anyway. I closed the chamber of my pistol and put it away before pulling my other pistol. It was only a minute before, “Kitten this is Nine. We are in the anti chamber and prepared to enter.”

I sighed and lowered my pistol, “We are still here, you are clear to enter.”

I heard the shifting and metal footsteps of combat armor coming from the door. I listened and heard what I thought was eight people entering the room. One of them came closer and knelt beside me. I heard my mother’s voice and almost cried, “we are here Kitten.”

I nodded and lowered my pistol to the floor before sitting down. I winched as I felt her armored hand on my ribs, “broken?”

I nodded, “cracked I think.”

I heard her radio crackle as it came to life, “Silver, this is Bronze. Roger is descending from the first level. We have old lions in support and they are leading.”

“Copy. Just watch the walls.”

I heard her stand and start giving orders to secure the area from the ramp to the lair. If anything, I was feeling worse when I heard the commotion by the door. I opened blurry eyes to see a man in plain clothes walking through the door with dad beside him. The scraping of stone had me lunging up and diving to cover the Emperor with my body while spinning and firing the three remaining round from my pistol.

The searing impact of rounds in my chest and shoulder tossed me aside like a rag doll. I heard the multiple shots echoing around the room as I crashed to the floor. Dad was there before I could move but I knew it was bad. One lung had been hit and my right shoulder felt like it was shredded. Someone else knelt over me and then a small female hand cupped my face, “look at me my kitten.”

I turned pain filled eyes to the voice and green eyes that looked back. It almost felt as if I was falling into them. The memories came next, flashes of girly scenes I could not understand. When it stopped I was looking clearly into the princess’s face and felt her wonder as if it was my own. I could almost feel her heart beat in time with mine. Everything started going dark and I heard an angel’s voice cry out.

I woke in a large soft bed. I could feel a warm soft body against mine and knew it was the hers before I even opened my eyes. There was a soft laugh and a gentle shake that had me opening my eyes. I looked into green eyes inches away from my own, “I… should not be looking at you.”

She smiled, “to late my kitten. You belong to me and I belong to you.”

That felt… more than right. I sighed and relaxed, “I think your father might not like that.”

She caressed me, “he is… satisfied.”

I finally looked away and around the richly furnished room, “where are we?”

“The Imperial palace.”

I looked at her, “On Timbo?”

She nodded and I moved to the side of the bed while feeling my shoulder. She followed me and put her arms around me, “the doctor said you have to take it easy.”

I glanced back at her, “what is your name?”

She grinned, “Catherine but you can call me… Cat.”

I could not help it, I grinned and then burst out laughing. Her silvery laugh echoed my own as she hugged me.
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