The history of the world which is still taught to our children is essentially a series of race murders.

-Sigmund Freud

The Sikariojin Sect had been formed in the eleventh century after the Second Exodus. It had evolved into a powerful and secretive fraternity to advance the mutual interests of rogue Gensmen who sold their abilities to the highest bidder. Mondilites regarded the Sikariojin as an urban myth on the Seven Worlds because the Genetate officially denied the organisation's existence for centuries. To foreigners they had a widespread mysterious reputation, evolving over the centuries to become interstellar problem-fixers for hire. For a price they stole secrets, destroyed reputations and toppled the governments of small star nations. However their main business was murder.

The Sikariojin had no qualm assassinating fellow Mondilites as long as their clients could pay and be discreet about it. One million Terrines was the base fee for eliminating simple targets. They were selective about which clients they took but for more important targets the price increased exponentially. In the past the small Tykran polities would occasionally invest a few billion to afford the luxury of having belligerent Genetate Sucrats terminated. The success of the Sikariojin rested on the reputation that once they committed to a client they would not relent until their objectives were completed.

The Sect had perfected the art of humiliating the Genetate by avoiding detection. They had assets in most high places ensuring the Genetate Secret Service kept chasing their own tail. A network of secret places across the Otremir allowed the Sikariojin to remain shadows, eluding the Genetate's attempts to clamp down on its rogue elements.

One of these places was Kolombo. It was a nineteen by seven kilometre frozen shard of iron drifting through a sparse asteroid belt almost eight hundred million kilometres from the system's red dwarf primary star. Far away the little red sun twinkled weakly through a haze of dust, appearing only marginally bigger than every other star. A dim burgundy glow was all that illuminated the grey-brown cratered mass of Kolombo, marking its existence as it tumbled across the dark interplanetary void. A gash along the surface opened into a cavern wide enough to allow several shunter-craft access. The cavern had been further excavated and filled with several docking cradles with extended airlock bridges attached to a facility dug deep into the asteroid core.

Though Kolombo was in a system forty-eight light-years rimward from Avundir, the most important of the Genetate home worlds it was not marked on any star charts. The solar system had been visited and surveyed by Tykran navigators millennia ago. They deemed the tiny, unremarkable red dwarf too far from any interstellar shipping route and its entourage of nine cold and dead planets as thoroughly unworthy of further human attention. No one bothered naming the star. Its location on star maps was labelled with only its standard reference number assigned by the Tykran Alliance's Astronomical Navigation Bureau. Because this system was like most star systems in the Otremir: were worthless and without human activity, it made the perfect location for a secret outpost.

Just like its owners, Kolombo officially did not exist.

Sensor clusters hidden across Kolombo's surface detected a wormhole distortion forming fifty thousand kilometres away from it as a small starship jumped into the system. Within the space of two minutes another six starships jumped within an equally close proximity to the asteroid. The Kolombo AI obeyed its programming and passively observed the ships it identified as Genetate registered civilian light transports to not betray its presence. All seven ships aimed the communications arrays at Kolombo and beamed laser signals at it. The inert AI was then satisfied with the identification codes that the ships broadcasted and came to life, beaming back authorisation signals for their shuntors to approach the asteroid.

The meeting cavern was deep inside the Kolombo's core. It formed part of a hidden complex which acted as a supply depot of materiel and munitions as well as guest quarters that were more like hotel suites for Sikariojin who needed a place to stay low when the heat was on them.

The cavern was a spacious heptagonal space. Its walls were carved out asteroid rock, the air still cold despite the temperature settings. Faint white light glowed along floor strips around the circumference of the cavern. It was cold, dark and nothing but the occasional creak disturbed the haunting quiet of space.

A wide white table filled the centre of the room with a series of computronium pads around it to morph into tailored chairs. Hatches opened from each of the adjoining corridors that led down corridors from docking airlocks. Sikariojin with their bodies uniformly covered in an all encompassing black garment with their face hidden beneath silver death masks took their places around the table. While most of them felt lighter they were not in freefall and could walk normally. The rotation of the asteroid provided a centrifugal gravity force of about 0.7 G. Computronium pads morphed into comfortable golden chairs matching their host's physical dimensions.

The Shadow Council had arrived. A Shadow was the representatives of each Sikariojin sect of the Seven Worlds. They sat around the table in silence. Each month the seven Shadows, sinister imitations of Sucrats met in one of their locations to coordinate their organisation. As they had for centuries, the Shadows were leaders of their planet's sect. They rotated often with other Sikariojin Masters in order to avoid the possibility of discovery. Masters knew many members of their kin but hence the title the incumbent Shadow was always kept a mystery.

"Now that we're all here the Council is now in session," announced the Shadow of Mengshir. The baritone voice was synthesised and unrecognisable, as all of them.

"Before we proceed into other business I have an important matter to raise," answered the Shadow of Shinir.

There was a nod of acknowledgement to proceed from the other six black shrouded figures around the table, their silver death masks eerily passive and unreadable.

"The Trussica job did not go to plan. We have lost a member."

"Yes, the son of Lucin Veiser was not eliminated. Care to explain that?" asked the Shadow of Kadanir. The silver mask hid the sneer.

"Our junior kin, Lamacris Brusca was given this assignment. Our Trussic assets found what was left of her corpse washed up on an island south of Aaqoo. A shame, she showed great promise."

The tabletop holo-projector lit up like a sapphire to show the image of a Trussic beach of golden sand stained with a mutilated corpse of what only with an educated guess looked like a young girl. There was no head or arms and the flesh was gashed in many places from where marine predators had snacked on the body.

"The Wetware was destroyed then," said the Shadow of Avundir with a hint of relief.

"No evidence of the contrary was found," confirmed the Shadow of Shinir.

"How fucking embarrassing," scolded the Shadow of Kadanir. "Murcin Banastre hired us for that job and we fucked it up royally. This is not good for our reputation. Worse when your client is a Sucrat."

"He won't be a Sucrat much longer," said the Shadow of Shinir.

"Don't start that again," chided the Shadow of Enkir.

"I merely mention it because the damage this failure has caused is superficial and temporary at best."

"That doesn't change the fact appropriate action must be taken. Who killed Brusca?"

"Ah," began the Shadow of Shinir. "This is where it all gets very interesting."

The image floating above the table rematerialised as stock news footage of the announcement of the new Firsts on Trussica began playing. Kerin Veiser appeared moving down through the crowds along an Aaqoo boulevard with a triumphant swagger, being congratulated and hugged as went along. He was very much alive to the ire of the seven Shadows. That was very bad for their business. The recording paused and the youth behind Kerin was expanded. They noticed the glint of a remarkable gold ring on his hand.

"Dorianin Sencascin Banastre, the son of my Sucrat and our client on this job," explained the Shadow of Shinir. "He compromised the whole operation and his psychological profile suggests he got in our way just because of a stubborn sense of loyalty to his friend and a chance to spite his father. Remarkable."

There was a moment of silence. The Shadow of Gwadilir said finally, "An assassin of the Sikariojin was killed by a seventeen year old boy?" The figure pointed at the image of Dorianin. "Him?"

"Un-fucking-believable," continued the Shadow of Kadanir. "He's wearing Brusca's ring gun like a like a fucking trophy! This boy has a lot of guts."

"Well if you saw the news on the way here you'd know that young Veiser is taking Banastre on his Test as a Companion," said the Shadow of Shinir. "Brusca was a terrible loss but alternatively we've been presented a great opportunity here with this boy."

"I agree. He's seems a cunning little shit," the Shadow of Mengshir said. The others nodded as well. The Shadow Council was unanimous.

Very few people had stood up a Sikariojin and lived to tell the tale. The Sikariojin believed their members to be the best of the best. If one of their own was killed it simply implied their killer was better. Sikariojin tradition dictated that such a person was worthy to join them as their victim's replacement or face elimination.

"Veiser and his Companions will be travelling to Zyraenica aboard a Seven Sun Liner called the Kosma Perlo," said the Shadow of Shinir. "I will arrange to have Banastre intercepted along the way by one of a Sikariojin Master. The timing will be tight but it will be done."

"Excellent," purred the Shadow of Avundir. "The boy may have killed one of our juniors but I doubt he's stupid enough to provoke a Sikariojin Master."

"Young Banastre will be in be in mortal danger if it turns out Brusca's death was a fluke," insisted the Shadow of Illinir. "For his sake he better be a fucking wunderkind."

The Shadow of Shinir looked into the flickering image of the boy's sullen eyes, "Dorianin Banastre will accept our offer to become Sikariojin or he will simply be terminated."

The Shadow Council had resolved the matter. The holo-projector turned off forcing the cavern back into the cold gloom as the Council moved on to their next item of business.