TRAVIS LOCK MYSTERIES THE GIRL IN THE HOLOGRAM

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


In the distant future things have changed things have remained the same

Submitted: August 07, 2018

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Submitted: August 07, 2018

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TRAVIS LOCK MYSTERIES

BY

DONALD HARRY ROBERTS

INTODUCTION

There has been a Travis Lock Private Investigations since the late twenty first century when my Grandfather opened an office in the International Orbital Terradome Alpha, a stationary space habitat 200 miles outside Earths MF-Zone. The moon had a dozen colonies owned by various political and corporate powers that ruled the loosely organized Interspace United Agreement. Between Earth and the moon a trail of way stations were constructed as mankind moved toward colonizing the moon. By the time I took over the family business TLPI had become an agency that served warrants investigated off earth major crimes by contract and hunted down escaped criminals. It’s a tough job for one man but technology makes it possible. 

My Chevy PSV Hotrod class could make Sound speed in 12 seconds and cruise comfortable at Mach 3. I could get M4 out of her if I really pushed it and sometimes I had to. It was licensed for one forward, one port and starboard and one aft laser cannon, which I used infrequently and only when all other strategies failed. My personal weapons are a S&W Laser Pistol with a 10 shot power capsule and a Laser Scatter Staff with a three shot power capsule.

My office is equipped with state of the art Technostaffing that provides me with communications, secretarial support and a Mobile Artificial Investigation Assistant, MAIA, which translates nicely to my leg man.

CASE FILE

THE GIRL IN THE HOLOGRAM

1

I inhaled a burger made from laboratory beef and a synthesized bun with hothouse fries and washed it down with a good old fashioned beer made on Earth. Randy’s Nostalgeria Bistro was packed with mid-afternoon transferees waiting for the train to Lunar Station #3, the only international terminus orbiting the moon. Most people used it because it was cheap and the on board security is some-what laxed.

My eyes were peeled for a man, Jaka Mar a Hybrid Jackal who was transporting illegal oxygen pellets, a big commodity used by unlicensed prospectors in the moon. One pellet could keep you breathing in a mine for 72 hours and cost a hundred Zipcoins. No one ever pays for contraband with E-Coins which can be traced.

Jaka Mar was a known Violent whose reputation as a killer was cosmic news. But even he wouldn’t shoot off a weapon out here in space. Nor would I but I always carry my Taser with extended tentacles and super-charger. Hybrids are tougher than humans and standard charges don’t do much more than piss them off.

2

It was 14:31 hours when Mar entered the Bistro. He scanned the room until his eyes fixed on a pair of rough looking characters clad in typical miners’ trappings. I stayed put. I needed to make sure the sale went through and that I could get a clear shot at the Jackal.

Once eye contact had been made and there had been an exchange of nods I eased off my bar stool and circled the room as though I was making for the Lav. Jaka gave me a quick once over then ignored me. I was glad he did not seem to pick me out as dangerous.

Then, just as I reached the Lav I witnessed the exchange. Ten seconds later Jaka Mar was squirming like a worm on the Bistro deck and the two miners stood there with their arms raised high with my second Taser pointed at them set on wide spread.

3

I hit the button on my wrist com that went straight to the local Constabulary Unit and within two minutes five Autonobot security units were on site. I reported the situation, accepted the reward for the bust and snagged the contraband Zipcoins as a bonus. It should have been over.

I flipped the barkeep a couple of Zipcoins and headed to my office which was only a two minute Transvator ride away. I had planned to spend a little time relaxing in my office before heading for Earth to meet up with some friends for a round or two of golf. There’s no golf in the cosmos as good as the earth version, not even the best holographic courses on the moon or the open field Mars versions.

I didn’t get to relax and my trip to Earth was delayed indefinitely.

My desk comlink buzzed and an electronic imitation of a female voice came on. “Lord Ardent of IOTA is calling.”

“What would the station Governor want with a Private Cop?” I replied.

“A situation of a private nature.” A deep rich voice responded.

“My Lord. I didn’t realize the Comsec had already put you through.”

“Obviously Mr. Lock. Nonetheless I require your services on an urgent personal Matter. And so you know this commission will involve travelling to the Belt and dealing with rouge Hybrids.”

“Thanks for the warning My Lord. I can be on your doorstep in fifteen minutes.”

“I’ll be waiting Lock.” He dropped the Mr.

4

Back in the 21st century there was a major upheaval on earth that changed the nature of politics which in the short version explains a fusion between capitalism, feudalism and Dictatorships and somehow the survivors of the upheaval made it work. On the other hand there still remained a great divide among races, cultures and religious doctrines that continued to cause conflicts on earth and many of the colonies. Fortunately Lord Ardent made laws to suite his rule and his security forces upheld them strictly. There was only one accepted life style on IOTA. His. Too bad he wasn’t powerful enough to expand his rule and maybe one day he would be, but for the time being he answered to the Omegacorp organization.

I made his doorstep, via a Transvator in twelve minutes. A Hybrid greeted me pleasantly at the door and led me to the Governor’s office chamber. The butler reminded me of that ancient character the Cheshire Cat. Governor Ardent reminded me of Humpty Dumpty and Bozo, two other ancient mythical creatures of old earth.

5

Lord Ardent got right to the point. He placed a holojector on the desk and activated the image. It was a hologram of a young woman, beautiful and mostly human but part hybrid. It happens that way with natural conception. Her feline features were noticeable but subtle. Mostly it was the eyes, very cat like though blue, a sapphire blue.

“A kidnapping and ransom.” I suggested.

“Unfortunately no Mr. Lock. She was a trusted Consort. With information not meant for public attention. I would like to believe she was kidnapped for that information but I am led to believe she was a spy, planted here for the very purpose of garnering information. She caught on I think, a week ago, that I was questioning her loyalty. Two days ago she vanished. Her signature was traced to about Mars then my Techs lost her though it is likely she was headed for the Belt, where she came from.”

“You want me to find her?” I suggested. “And bring her back.”

“I want you to find her but I doubt bringing her back will be an option. What I need you to do is find her and discover who she sold that information to. If it gets back here any future plans I have for IOTA and its inhabitants will be destroyed.”

Across the Cosmos there are many sects. Most are attached to a Political Regime or a Corporation.  But guys like me are registered Gypsies with no particular Loyalties. We are for hire by anyone who will pay our fee. Our greatest protection comes from our Custom and rule to never divulge the purpose of our clients business.

6

Some call our kind Knights, others refer to us as Cavaliers but most commonly we are called Mercenaries. Personally I don’t care what they call me as long as I get paid for the job, half up front, half on completion and all expenses paid. Standard fee is a million E-Credits five hundred thousand in advance and two hundred thousand for immediate expenses. Governor Ardent paid up without a twitch. “There is an extra million if you have to dispatch her. It was a nice way of telling me I would probably have to kill her.

Her name was Sharonia Ess, at least that is the name Ardent knew her by. I was already wondering if I could actually kill such a beautiful creature. Deep inside me the answer was , “NO”.

I went back to my office riding the skywalks. I wanted time to assess the immediate future which played out as an ancient horror flick back in the 2D film era of the 20th and early 21st century. I even had a couple of movies stored on an obsolete Flash drive of the time. There are some that believe these films depicted the history of those days. I had my doubts but the Jury was still out. Someday I would go to the forbidden zones on Earth and find some answers.

7

The Belt. No one knows exactly how many micro colonies exist in the Belt, ring of asteroids that is rich in minerals and serves as a border between the Terrestrial planets and Jovian Planets. Beyond the Belt there is another world of people who are nomadic and are commonly referred to as the Water Lords. They control the much needed water that arrives in massive tankers once a year to enhance the Terrestrial Planets’ Civilization’s dwindling supply. Rogue suppliers called Comet Wranglers actual deliver small comet to Water processing plants across our region of the Cosmos. The Political Regime of the Belt acts as a barrier and Charges any ship going through their space a Transport Access Fee.

I was trying to figure out what a minor Lord like Ardent, in the grand scheme of the so called civilized world could have that the Lord of the Belt would find so important. It also crossed my mind that this might just be a local thing and that one small faction wanted something from Ardent, maybe something as mere as control of IOTA.

I put together a travel bag and stored in the rear of my Chevy PSV Hotrod then made all the customary provisions for a long absence and of course instructions what to do if I did not return and had made no contact. In this job there is always a strong possibility that death could be the end result of a case. My death.

I engaged the Emdrive engines, coasted out of IOTA space then launched toward the Moon. Then I engaged the auto-drive and sat back leaning my head against the seat to rest. A proximity alarm would wake me when I was within 5000 miles of the moon. I was tired. Sleep came easy.

8

I eased my PSV into a docking bay aboard my Cosmic Ranger, a long range cruiser class vessel that could make excellent time across the vast reaches of the cosmos.

LS3 is always busy. Like said before the security is laxed, except for patrolling Automaton Units keeping order in the Commerce Rings and then only because the merchants don’t want interruptions in business.

After securing my PSV I headed for the primary ring where most of the activity occurred. My point was to track down an import/export agent who dealt with Merchants from the Belt. There would almost certainly be a supply buyer trading of gold or silver and maybe platinum The Belt depended on the Terrestrial Planetary System for food, water and oxygen pellets.

Of course I wasn’t about to ask any questions concerning Sharonia Ess. That would attract unwanted attention. All I needed is to know what ships departed in the last three days for Mars and what colonies they were going to, Better yet it would be helpful if one didn’t stop at Mars at all.

I could have gone to the Port Entry and Departure office but that too could have raised some red flags somewhere. Instead I headed for the bars where I was most likely to find knowledgeable Spacefarers with helpful information for the cost of an Earth beer. Everyone likes Earth Beer and would never turn a free one down.

The sleaziest bar of them all was a joint called the Rusty Cosmos. It had been around so long my Grandfather talked about it and my old sire had a few anecdote stories to tell me in my youth. But it was one of the best for finding loose tongues.

9

I blended in to the riff raff of humanity and Hybrid rejects most of who were already drunk as skunks. Some were out cold, propped up in chair until they came to enough to order another drink, and on rare occasions food which was expensive and mostly greasy and on the verge of rotten. Hybrids could handle on the verge rotten but most humans puked it up ten minutes after eating and some rushed themselves off to a med tech.

I went to the bar and ordered a whiskey and Earth Beer. I slugged down the whiskey and turned the shot glass upside down on the bar top. That sent out a message to anyone who knew what it meant. Looking for information. Mythology said it meant looking for a fight but no one asks for a fight now days. They just got to it.

I waited twenty minutes but got no bites. Not until I saw a familiar face did I pick up on why.

Zarang Caw belonged to the Hybrid Crow species. He was more bird than human and about as nasty as nasty can be but smarter than smart. He owned Rusty Cosmos and had a hand in most of the underworld shenanigans that go on aboard the station. The fact is he was Lord Governor of LS3 so whatever law there was, was written by him which was limited to anything goes except if it interferes with station business.

His eyes fixed on my upside down shot glass, Some scrawny human stuck out his hand and Zarang dropped a Zipcoin into it then kick the poor creep in the ass with his taloned foot.

10

He moved in and took up the stool next to mind. “What are you looking for?” he asked. . The words came out clear enough but they were screechy.

“I want to know about ships that departed from here over the last few days heading for Mars or maybe The Belt.” I answered straight up knowing that dancing around with this beak faced Lord wouldn’t get me anywhere or anything.

“An honest human. Rare in here. And you don’t look like you’re a down and outer.” Lord Zarang noted. “So now you can be more honest and tell me why you want to know about ship business.”

I lied with complete believability. “I am looking for a creep who stole a bundle from me. Too much just to let go as an irretrievable loss.”

Lord Zarang thought for a minute then said. “Tough luck Travis Lock, but I don’t think anyone here can help you. People who run out on their debts don’t talk about it, not even here.”

I wasn’t too surprised Zarang knew who I was but it caught me that he figured a client skipped on paying me. But that didn’t matter. What did was he took my lie as my word and let it go. Then proceeded told the bar tender to get a print of all the ships departing for Mars and the Belt. I bought him an Earth Beer, which went over well.

“Are you going to keep up your hunt?” He asked.

“As far as Mars but I am not sure it’s worth heading out to the belt. I hear things are getting pretty hot out that way.” I replied hoping Zarang would not pick up on my impromptu fishing line.

“There is always some intrigue going on out there. I don’t know how they survive. I can’t see anyone out there making a life. Seems like every couple of weeks there is a rebellion breaking out…or trying to. But what might interest you is Lord Governor Ardent has been paying special interest to the Belt for some weeks now. I sure would like to know what he is up to.”

“My guess would be No good.” I injected into the conversation.

“He has sent spies out there apparently.” Zarang added accusingly. “If he keeps it up he could start a war.”

11

Zarang turned my shot glass up right and order me another whiskey and a beer. “Enjoy your visit Travis Lock and I hope you don’t need to ask any more questions.” He said then went away. “Politely he had told me to mind my own business now that I had some helpful information. I drank down my beer and whiskey and cleared out. I got more info than I had bargained for. Lord Ardent had more on the go than wanting his consort back…or silenced.

The bar tender handed me a hard copy of a list of ship departures for the last week. Six logged in for Mars and three for the Belt. One of the ones going to the Belt was bound for Edenville, the largest legit mining colony in the Belt. I was just about to head back to my ship when I saw Jakar Mar come in. About a dozen and a half red flags popped up. He should have been in jail for at least a year. What the hell was he doing on LS3?

I dipped my head down so he couldn’t get a good look at my face and watched him make his way through the crowd. He was searching for someone then he stopped and fixed his eyes on a woman sitting with her back to the crowd.

“Who would have the guts to sit like that in a place like this?” I thought

She turned to acknowledge Jakar’s arrival. If not for real, mentally my jaw dropped.

“You are supposed to be dead,” I whispered.

“A hand touched my shoulder gently.” You better come with me Mr. Lock.” I turned to meet the smiling face of the bar tender.

“I guess I saw something I shouldn’t have.” I said.

“And my guess is you have more on your mind then lost revenue.” The bartender replied.

12

I thought he was going to take me to Zarang. He didn’t. Instead I was escorted to curtained booth at the back of the room and was nudged inside. My eyes nearly popped out, but I pulled myself together and said calmly. “Seems like you haven’t been kidnapped after all.”

Sharonia Ess smiled showing fangs that had not shown up in the hologram. “I know why you are here but it isn’t going to happen. The man who hired you must be stopped before he ruins everything.”

“We are taking over IOTA.”

“So you are not taking information to your boss,” I shot back.

“I am the boss Lock.”

My loyalty goes to the people or person paying me. That’s the way of us Gypsies, but that does not mean we will get ourselves killed over it. I looked the cat straight in the eyes and smiled. “I got it but what about the people. Some of them are loyal to Ardent and would, I think, fight for him, especially his private guard.”

“You humans always think in violent terms. There are other way to take things over.” Sharonia Ess replied.

Nice thinking but it won’t happen that way. Lord Ardent will lock everything down the minute he learns there’s trouble and the only way you put him out is by force. I know that much. I also know he has his guard on high alert. He knows about you or at least that you are dangerous. And I doubt I am the only one he has sent out looking for you.”

“What will you do?”

“Basically my job is done. I found you; or rather you found me and saved me a long expensive trip to the Belt. You have also told me that you don’t have the information he thinks you have or that you are serving a higher authority.”

13

I know for a narrative this part is a little anti-climatic but that’s the way things went, but that is not how it ended. It was just the beginning of something much bigger.

Sharonia Ess didn’t give me any choice. She said she couldn’t allow me to get back to Lord Ardent with the news of her plan. I don’t know if she was going to lock me up or kill me but I wasn’t about to let her do either one.

No one ever fires a laser in a place that a missed guided shot could destroy the entire station, but sometimes you gotta do whatcha gotta do to survive. The two shot laser derringer was in my hand in an instant. One shot burned into Sharonia’s chest killing her instantly, the other hit the bartender in the neck and he dropped to the deck dead as a door nail. Everyone else backed off.

As I turned to go Zarang blocked my path. “All you did is make the pot boil a little hotter Travis Lock. Someone will pick up the pieces and this time all hell’ gonna break loose. But not for a while maybe. Lord Ardent will get wind of your deed and I expect he will be rounding up anyone and everyone that remotely looks like a rebel.”

“What about you Zarang?”

“Lord Ardent and I go back a long way. We owe each other.”

“You knew all along why I was here.”

“Not exactly. I knew Ardent had sent someone out looking for his wayward consort. I wasn’t sure until Mixer took you to that booth.”

“Did you know she was her?”

“Not until you killed her, which by the way is reason enough for me to take you in and hang you.”

“But you are not going to.”

“Not id you are off my station within the hour. I will take your Cruiser in compensation.”

I was gone in fifteen minutes. The cruiser could be replaced. I doubt even a Lock can get himself resurrected. A few hours later I reported to Lord Ardent and he paid me off including the extra million.

I devoured burger made from laboratory beef and a synthesized bun with hothouse fries and washed it down with a good old fashioned beer made on Earth. Randy’s Nostalgeria Bistro was packed with mid-afternoon transferees waiting for the train to Lunar Station #3, the only international terminus orbiting the moon. Most people used it because it was cheap and the on board security is some-what laxed. Most people would retire on two and a quarter million E-Credits but not Travis Lock. I’d just take a little time off and head for earth for a little vacation and wait for the next job.

 


© Copyright 2018 Donald Harry Roberts. All rights reserved.

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