Conflict With Shadows

Conflict With Shadows

CHAPTER ONE

Six Years Before War



With his wrists in cuffs and his legs in shackles, Jonah sat in the back of the prison transport heading to Black Star, the Alliance secret dark prison. The facility had been constructed for people like himself, far among hidden stars. Because he had been labeled a terrorist Jonah was not given a trial, or any chance to prove otherwise. Jonah had never considered himself a terrorist. An assassin for hire, perhaps, better fit the description of his line of work. How exactly he got is his current situation, he wasn't sure. One thing he knew for sure, though, was that he had to have been set up.


Jonah was very good at his job of choice; so perfect in fact, that he could have never gotten himself captured on his own. No one in galactic society knew how he looked. The only description that had ever gotten out to the Locals was the color of his eyes. "They were shiny blue, so light that they looked like glass," were the exact words used. For a long time, he had been on the Alliance's most wanted list, classified of course.

His mind switched to just who could have set him up. He had gotten captured on Tiere, the capital world of the Alliance. Simon Kohl, one of his few trusted informants, was on Tiere. He was a short, seedy-looking man who believed himself to be one of the intellectual elite. Jonah could see Simon ratting him out to someone for fear of his own life, but Simon wouldn't set him up alone. However, he was the only lead so far that he had.

Jonah’s target had been the Senator of Chotis. He was not a high priority target, so the security for him was minimal. It was going to be an easy job.  Thinking about it now, it had been too easy.

He had lined up the sights on the sniper rifle to the head of the Senator making his way out of the Alliance Senatorial Building. There would be plenty of time to get away when the job was finished. Before the Senator disappeared around the corner, he pulled the trigger, and the Senator fell. It had been smooth and quiet. As he began dismantling the rifle, the door of the room he occupied burst open, and the Locals came through the door, guns out of holsters and pointed at him, followed by an Alliance Agent.

The Agent's name was Jon Vega, and Jonas knew him. He knew him because this same Jon Vega had been after him for nearly two years now. Now he seemed to have him. "You finally caught me, Vega. Someone had to have turned me in," he said to him.

Jon Vega stood there and watched as the prisoner was handcuffed. Jon replied, "It doesn't matter; you're not going to be free anymore in this lifetime."

Now he was being transported to Black Star. He placed his right hand inside his left, took his thumb, and started digging hard at his wrist. Soon drops of blood began seeping out. Jonah was not going to be going to this secret prison. Soon a slit formed in his wrist just above the arteries, and he used his thumb to slide out the hidden skeleton key he had stored there many years ago. Quietly he flipped on the key's power and placed it close to the cuffs’ computer, and it searched for the cuffs’ combination. A few moments later, the cuffs snapped open, and Jonah did the same to the shackles.

The single guard sitting across from him with the rifle had started falling asleep. The shackles had been attached to the flooring of the shuttle but had fallen away, so he quickly jumped at the snoozing guard, his elbow crushing the man's neck. The guard gave an uppercut to him, knocking him back. As Jonah fell, he grabbed the pistol from the guard's side holster and shot the guard in the face before the guard could react again.

The guard fell back against the hull, then slumped over dead.

As Jonah stood up, he heard the announcement over the speaker. "Coming back into real space now. Twenty minutes to Black Star docking. Get the prisoner ready, Case. He is nearly out of our hands."

Jonah smiled to himself. He made his way to the pilot's cockpit and slid open the door. Out of the viewport, Jonah saw Black Star in the distance. The co-pilot looked up, and before he could say anything, Jonah shot him in the neck. The pilot switched on the distress signal, just before he died. Jonah pulled the pilot from his seat and took over. Soon the transport shuttle had turned around and vanished back into hyperspace.

Jon Vega was eating lunch in a corner cafe on the busy streets of Sandal, the capital city of Tiere. His boss, Commander Dorman, slid into the chair across from him. "Jonah never made it to prison," he stated, trying to get a reaction out of him.

There was no reaction from him at all. He just looked back over his coffee cup. "How far did he get in that shuttle?" Jon had walked Jonah to the shuttle himself and watched it lift off.

"They found the shuttle on the Synoa mining colony, abandoned.  Apparently, he took a job on one of the carriers heading toward the seven moons of Gin Kojoda. That is all we know."

"You think he is coming back here?" Jon asked him.

Dorman nodded. "Very possible." He stood back up. "I'd watch your back. He might be after you for catching him."

I don't think so, Jon thought as the Commander walked away. He knew where Jonah might go.

Erik Bond's office was a bit run down, located in a part of the city that was considered shabby, and that was known for its criminal morals. There were, however, many honest people living in this sector of Necros. The rest of the city was thriving as this sector continued to fall into destitution. This was fine for the business Erik Bond was doing.

He ran an employment service of sorts. He found jobs for those who could not get jobs by any other means. Like a hit man.

A man walked in, closed the door, and walked up to Erik, who was sitting behind the desk. "What can I do for you, sir?" Erik asked, smiling.

"Do you know a man named Simon Kohl?"

Erik looked him over. "You a Local?" he asked, referring to the police.

The man shook his head. "No, he was a friend?"

"Then what do you want from me?"

The man sat down in one of the cheap chairs in front of the desk. "You hired him to find someone to kill the Chotis Senator. I want to know if this was your job, or if someone came to you with the job?"

Erik was taken aback. "Are you sure you're not a Local?"

"I'm not a cop," replied the man. "I'm the one who did the job."

After a few moments, Erik let out a sigh of relief. This man was someone in his world. "And you want more money," he finally replied.

"I want to know who gave you the job."

"My clients don't like to be revealed; its what keeps me alive, and in business."

The man pulled out a knife, its blade stained with dried blood. "Simon gave me your name with his dying breath, because he, too, didn't give his clients' names out."

It only took a second for Erik to change his mind. "I only met with a woman, called herself Soshiana. She was stunning, long black hair. She was thin, but strong as a bull." Erik paused and stared at the man, hoping to see some sign of acceptance. There was none.

Erik continued. "She dressed nice, and she came to me, just not here. It was over at Garden Park in the central sector of Necros. She gave me the details there. She never said if she worked for anyone. I assumed it was her job. She paid in cash."

The man just stared at him. "Is that the only name she gave you?"

"Yes," Erik nodded. "And there was something odd about her. No emotion, never even smiled, everything straight up."

The man seemed to think about it. Then he picked up the knife, stood up, and put it away. "Thank you, Mr. Bond. And if you ever have a job, look me up."

Erik stood up, being cordial. "I don't know your name, sir."

"Jonah."

"Just Jonah?"

"Just Jonah," the man confirmed. "Like, just Soshiana."

Jon Vega stood in the office of Simon Kohl. The man's body was slumped against the wall with his head leaning back, and his eyes were open but dead. The Tiere Local Agent, Ben Gettel, stood up from the body and turned toward Jon.

"Looks like a single stab wound in the gut," he told him. "Are we sure this was Jonah?"

Jon looked around, nodding. "Yea, I'm almost certain. It's where the trail led. We need to look around to see if we can find any evidence of where he might have gone next."

Ben began rummaging through the filing cabinets, and Jon sat down behind the desk and looked around. The top of the desk had been cleaned off, although it seemed as if several of the papers had been tossed onto the floor. He picked them up and looked at them. Nothing. Just advertisements and junk mail. He then opened the top desk drawer and found more papers, a bit of cash, and a file folder.

The papers were nothing, just more junk and bills. The folder was another matter. It held jobs he had been given to give to Jonah. The file folder contained all of Jonah's appointments, and there were many.

"I think I found what we need," he said to Ben, who turned around and walked up to the desk. "When we catch him again, we'll have more to charge him with."

"Is all that about Jonah?"

After a moment, Jon found what he was looking for. "Jonah was caught assassinating the Chotis Senator. This job came from a man from Chotis," Jon said. "From one Erik Bond." He turned to Ben. "Who's the Agent on Chotis?"

Ben smiled. "Her name is Saffron Baye."

Jon looked up at him and saw the smile. He used to date Saffron many years ago before he became an Alliance Agent. They were together when he had had Ben's job here on Tiere, as a Local Agent. "When did she get promoted?"

"Four years ago. Ray retired," Ben told him. "She was his second."

Jon let out a sigh. "Well, contact her for me, and tell her to expect me."

The Tiere Agent stood straight up. "It must not have ended well between you two."

"It was a mutual breakup," Jon told him. "Career choices and such." After a few moments, Jon stood up, taking the folder. "Just let her know I'm on my way."

"Sure thing," Ben replied.

Three days later, Jon arrived at the Local Agent office in Angora, the capitol city of Chotis. He saw Saffron sitting behind her desk. Her red hair was no longer down her back but was now cut just above her shoulders, but Jon noticed her bright blue eyes still shone when she smiled.

"Well, well, if it isn't my old beau, Jon Vega," she said before anything could come out of his mouth. Saffron continued, "Fancy seeing you here after you broke my heart."

Jon closed the door, finally, and walked on inside. "As I remember it, the breakup was mutual."

Saffron smiled. "You broke up with me so you could become an Alliance Agent. Besides, if you hadn't, I probably would be sitting in a cottage somewhere worrying about your health or something."

It finally occurred to him it was a joke. "Ben set this up?"

She nodded and laughed a little. "Yea. He told me he picked on you a bit."

Relieved, Jon sat down across from her. Then she sat up straighter and spoke. "So I hear you tracked the infamous Jonah here."

"Yea, I believe so. I think he came to see a man named Erik Bond, who issued the job for the Chotis Senator assassination."

Saffron handed him a card she had written up for him. "And I found him. He has an office in the city of Necros, north of here. We can be there in a couple of hours."

"The sooner, the better," Jon said. "The last man he visited ended up with a knife wound in the stomach."

Both stood up, and Jon let her lead the way out the door. "I have an aircar waiting outside."

Two and a half hours later Jon and Saffron walked into the office of Erik Bond. Erik was surprised when they showed him their identifications. "What can I do for the Alliance Agent Corp?"

Jon took out the folder he had taken from Simon Kohl's office. He took out the paper about the Chotis Senator and slapped it down on Erik's desk. "You hired Simon Kohl to get someone to kill the Chotis Senator."

Erik was surprised. Beads of sweat started to form on his forehead and neck.

'Oh no," he thought to himself. He glanced at the paper, and he knew they knew. "It was only a job."

"Your job is to hire criminals to kill decent people." Both Saffron's voice and posture showed anger.

Jon tapped her shoulder, trying to calm her down. "So you admit this was your job?" he asked calmly.

Erik just nodded, shamefully. There wasn’t much else he could do.

"Now I have another question," he continued. "Has Jonah come to visit you?"

Suddenly, he remembered the knife Jonah had pulled out in front of him. He didn't want to see it again. Erik thought about it for a minute before answering the question. This would be the first time he had ever sold anyone out. He remembered what he told Jonah. It would be the second time.

"He was here," he finally said. "He wanted to know who gave me the job."

"Did you tell him?"

"I told him that a woman calling herself Soshiana found me in Garden Park."

Soshiana worked for a man known throughout the galaxy as the Godfather of the Galaxy, Thermonte Electrik, and was a name known to Jon. But Soshiana was no ordinary woman. She was a bio-tek, the only one known to exist still. Bio-tek production had been outlawed decades ago. It seemed that the process of combining technology with flesh, even near-death flesh, made those who were operated on to go mad, killing others or themselves.

But this Soshiana was one of a kind. One, she was strictly loyal to Thermonte, and no one else. Two, the problem with the other bio-tek experiments seemed to have been fixed. He had always wondered who had done the job on her.

Jon turned to Saffron. "I know where to go now." He picked up the paper from Erik's desk and placed it back in the folder. "You want to come?" he asked her.

"Wouldn't miss it for the world," she answered, then walked to the door and motioned for the Locals to enter before turning back to Erik. "Erik Bond, you are under arrest for conspiracy in the death of Senator Lawler of Chotis, and anything else we can find."

The Locals took Erik into custody and cuffed his hands behind his back before taking him out the door. "Contact the Agency in Angora, and have him transported to the prison there.  I will deal with him when I get back."

"Yes, Ma'am," one of the Locals replied.

Jon looked at her. "Not going to let the Locals take care of it?"

"You have been away from the Local Agency. Death of a senator is Planetary jurisdiction. "

It took two days from when Jonah left Erik's office to find Soshiana. Or, in other words, Soshiana found Jonah. He was in Garden Park when she came up to him.

"You’re the man they call Jonah," she just stated.

"And who are you?"

"I'm Soshiana," she replied, holding her hand out for a greeting.

Jonah stood up from the park bench he was sitting on. "You set me up," he said in anger.

"No, I did not. But my employer did. And I am here to take you to him."

"Then let us go," he answered.

Soshiana stood there, arm outstretched, her hand opened. "Please be cordial first, Jonah. Shake my hand."

Jonah just looked at her. This woman was strange. He finally reached out and shook her hand. DNA scan, he realized. She smiled and said, "Follow me; it's time to meet my employer."

They took a Skimmer into the mountains just east of Necros. There was a huge house built into the side of a mountain, overlooking a lake. Once they set down, Jonah followed her into the house. The foyer was large, with dark hardwood floors. It was minimalistic and lit very dimly. He saw a painting of an older lady on one of the walls.

She pointed to a closed door on the side. "That is the den. He is in there waiting for you." Then she turned to go further into the house.

"Where are you going?" he asked her.

"I have other things to do," she replied, walking away.

Once she was out of his sight, Jonah reached down from his boot and removed the knife he had used against Simon. He slowly made his way to the door, waiting to be attacked, but no one struck. He opened the door and walked in.

Sitting on the sofa on the far side of the room was a big man, overweight by the looks of him. He had a mustache and neatly trimmed goatee naturally colored to cover up any grey. He had a drink in his hand, and he waved it around as he spoke. "It's about time you showed up, Jonah. I have always wanted to meet the great secret assassin."

Jonah gripped the knife in his fist. "So you set me up to go to prison," he said harshly.

"I knew you would escape and find me," Thermonte told him. "I had to find out just how good you were."

"What are you talking about?"

The fat man took a drink. "I want to offer you a job, Jonah. You would become so rich, and I can guarantee that the entire galaxy would believe you to be dead. But you would be rich and alive."

Jonah just shook it off. "I'm already rich. I have millions in cash."

"Not anymore, my friend," the Godfather replied. "All of that was seized when they captured you."

"Because you sold me out."

"Ehh," was the reply. "Minor detail. I will replace all that just for you to sign up to work for me." He took another drink.

Jonah didn't say a word. He just thought about it. There was something he needed to know. "So why did you set me up?"

"As I said before, I knew you would escape. I wanted to see just how good you are, and you are good," Thermonte said to him. "Escaping right before incarceration, that was excellent work."

"So it was a test?"

Thermonte nodded in agreement. "Yea, that is a good way to put it."

"Do you do this to all your employees?"

"Just the outstanding ones." After a moment's pause and a drink large enough to finish the liquid, he asked, "So, are you in?"

"I don't know," was the reply. Jonah was trying his best to think this through.

"Well, you had better hurry and decide." Thermonte stood up and made his way to the wet bar to his right and walked behind it. "The Alliance Agency Corp are on their way here. In fact, they are almost here."

Jonah looked around almost frantically, instinctively. "Are you setting me up again?"

"Of course not. The Locals are looking for you. You're an escaped criminal, and they are following your trail. Simple as that."

Jonah calmed himself down, though he was still holding the knife, waiting for a fight. "How would you fix it, so they think I'm dead, without killing me?"

Thermonte poured himself another drink while explaining. "I have a facility out beyond galactic civilization. Your face would be changed, your fingerprints and your DNA would be hidden. The entire process takes about nine months, and then you would be given a new name and a new outlook on life."

There was a beep, and Thermonte turned on a nearby monitor. "You better hurry and decide. The Locals are about to land."

What choice did he have? Jonah agreed to join, and Thermonte gave Soshiana the go-ahead. She led Jonah from the room, which would be the last time anyone would see him.

Thermonte Electrik finished his second drink, and as he poured himself another, Jon Vega and Saffron Baye were led into the room by one of the Godfather's associates, followed by Locals. "Nice to see you again, Agent Vega. Welcome to my humble home."

"Not so humble by my standards," Jon replied. "I think you know why we are here."

"Of course," Thermonte replied, walking out from behind the wet bar. "It's about that escaped convict. He was here. And to protect me, my men shot and killed him."

He nodded to one of his men. They went out and brought in a body and laid it on the floor. Jon knelt beside the body and examined it. It looked as if his face had been shot up with a Blast Shot, a projectile weapon. "We sure this is him?" Jon asked. "His face is gone."

Saffron handed him a DNA scanner. Jon took it and touched the face and waited for the result. It came out positive. "It's him," Jon said, still somewhat wary of the result. "It's Jonah."

Then he stood up and looked back at Thermonte. "So you hired him to kill the Chotis Senator, and then killed off the assassin?"

"Now, why would I do that? Senator Lawler and I were great friends. We appeared together several times at public events."

Saffron grinned. "A criminal and senator together."

"Just because I am rich, doesn't make me a criminal, Agent Baye. And unfounded accusations will get the Agency into trouble," Thermonte said seriously. "Now I would hope you would take this body and leave."

Jon knew he was right. His name was not on any paperwork he had gathered on the Senator's murder, and neither was Soshiana's. Thermonte Electrik's tracks were covered well. They all knew he was a criminal, but without proof, nothing could be done. And everyone here would say it was self-defense.

He ordered the Locals to take the body away. But before he left, he spoke once more to the fat man. "Don't leave anytime soon, Mr. Electrik. We still need to fill out a report for the records."

Thermonte nodded. "Sure thing, Agent."

Twelve hours later, Jonah was led to a secret landing port hidden in the mountains. Soshiana watched him board, and the ship took off for the facility far out beyond civilized space. To the galaxy, Jonah the assassin was dead, and the Godfather of the Galaxy was considered a hero.