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# 2




Ah, life can be so grand and would stay that way if I could just convince myself to retire. I have all the E-coin and Zipcoin anyone could possibly use in a life time, but there is something about us Lock’s that just won’t go away and all the money in the cosmos can’t change. It is that insatiable lust that runs in our Gypsy veins for adventure and intrigue. Give us a day on a beautiful earth beach, a week of perfect golf weather and we might be temporarily distracted but just let the comtel twitch, twitter or ring and the caller utter those six alluring words. “I have a job for you.” In a blink we are off to the cosmos to risk our lives just for the adventure of it.


I was the recipient of the first prize ornament for the Death Valley 72 hole Golf Tourney. It was one of the most prestigious events in the golfing world and quite an achievement against a field of mostly Hybrids. It was not a prerequisite to inform the commission that I was 40 percent mechanically enhanced having both my arms replaced with androidic limbs connected to the nerves of the bioversion I lost a few years back in a shoot out on Mars, during the revolution.

The tourney commissioner Lung Gar was a Hermorphroreptilian-human hybrid who had little good to say about true humans and less good to say about human Gypsy’s and mercenaries. None the less it managed a smile on its frogish face as it handed me the winner’s ornament, a gold club with a platinum T and Ball. His voice came out as a cross between a bullfrog and a human female and though there was praise in the word it uttered there was contempt in the mood.

“Congratulations Travis Lock for winning this year’s Tournament of Masters. It is rare a human accomplishes such an honour.” Then it turned away and hopped off on its humanish/reptilian legs.


I was about to go find myself a beer, earth brew when Lung Gar suddenly stepped in front of me and said in an anxious voice. “I have a job for you.” I smiled because it had been weeks since an opportunity for A JOB, came my way and I was getting bored silly.

“Buy me a real beer and let’s talk.” I replied and led the way to the Club House Tavern.

Lung Gar didn’t like me and we both knew it, but he didn’t hate me either. He had said before that for a human I was a tolerable creature and somewhat more forth right than most. From the likes of him that was high praise but I was not able to reciprocate the sentiment for reasons I may…or may not write about in one of my stories in the future.


The Club House Tavern more commonly called the 19th hole was packed. Had I been on my own I would have turned around and gone somewhere else. I don’t like being crammed into a space made for two with a hundred others rallying for space, but Lung Gar had his own, private booth afforded the MC of the Tourney, a position he had held for as long as I had been golfing. He led the way pushing through the crowd like ho owned the place, which might have been a possibility since he had his froggy fingers into just about every business in the Valley. He was one point south of being Lordified, but was never quite able to garner that one vote to put him there.

We eased into the booth and ordered drinks, both choosing beer from a remote ordering panel. Then I spit it out. “What’s the Job Lung Gar.?”


Sometimes one must shake ones head at their own weaknesses. Mine was never being able to turn down a job, especially when there was a grave risk of deadly ends to it.

It turned out that Lung Gar had a lot more going in the Cosmos than a few businesses in Death Valley, none of which were huge but combined accrued him a tidy wealth to live the life of luxury. On Earth his influence was restricted to the Valley mostly because he was a Hybrid, which meant on Earth he was a lower class of citizen and most of his kind were criminals or servants. Human civilization hadn’t really achieved enlightenment even after the Catastrophe that nearly wiped it out.

“I own three mining colonies out in the belt and a Mega-tanker for transporting water from the Neptune water refineries. Abroad I carry more weight than here on earth and among my own kind I am a Vi-Lord. I also own seven cargo ships that service the terrestrial planets and colonies. One of them has been hijacked and is being used by a pirate ring. Some think I am behind it all. I want you to get the Albatross back.”

“You want me to take on a band of pirates.”

“Hybrid pirates, Coydog humans I suspect. The worst of the worst and unwelcomed anywhere.”

“You think more of my skills than I could take credit for.” I replied, but I may be able to help you out.”


I hooked a ride on the next shuttle back to IOTA. It had been weeks since I was in the office and my technosec, Ida spat out something derogatory about my absence. My Dad had programmed her that way just for the familiarity aspect. We Locks spend a lot of time on our own and don’t have many friends to banter with.

“Can it Ida or I’ll unplug you.” I replied good-humoredly.

Her holographic image appeared sitting at a desk straight out of a black and white 1940s movie, reengineered to recognize me. She smiled and rambled off a list of things she had accomplished while I was away, none of which really grabbed my interest.

“I have a job.” I replied and Ida shimmered happily.

Jake, my android leg-man drifted out of the inner sanctum of my office. He did a real good imitation of a bored human employee as he stretched and yawned like he had just woke up from a long nap. “What’s the gig boss?”

My old man had a sense of humor, bigger than mine, but then he was a better PI than me too, though I don’t think he did a lot of pirate hunting and mercenary stuff. Like all generations things expand while others collapse and the real PI work that Dad did went down the shooter a couple of years after I took over the business. Dad was somewhere out there retired and kicking back with a nest-egg to rival the biggest Corporate Lords. He could have bought himself a lordship and still been wealthy beyond imagination, but he decided just to use the Cosmos as his personal play ground.

I brought this up for a reason which will become evident somewhere down the story telling road.


“Can the act Jake. There’s real business at hand and Ida I want you to get me all the info you can find on the Cosmonet about a ship called Albatross.” I handed out orders just like a real boss.

“On it.” Ida replied as she vanished into the matrix of the never, never world of digital dynamics. She was gone for a long time…for a computer generated secretary.

“What do you want me to do?” Jake asked clearly.

“Until I say otherwise you will be watching my back like a hawk. I might be getting into the Coydog world and even for us Gypsy types that means dangerous and you better arm yourself with a Laser and Taser. Put them both on heavy stun, but if you have to…” I instructed.

“Just call me Lock’s Shadow.” Jake replied in a poor attempt at humor.


Funny thing about Jake. He was a machine but in some aspects he was better at things than any human or Hybrid I knew, one of those things being a shadow. I always knew he was there, somewhere but I never saw him and he was so good at faking human idiosyncrasies it was difficult to tell he was an android. He was the only one I ever met that had learned to blink randomly. It was kind of eerie watch. I hoped always he never got destroyed or broke down because he was indeed irreplaceable.

I checked my E-account. Lung Gar had made his down payment on the job including expenses. Then I headed down to the station docks. If you want to know about ships you will get the best answers from people who work the docks. People, Hybrids and androids mostly. Dock work was beneath most humans. I often wonder how they survive except that they still controlled the government, corporations and most of the money. And they breed like rats.


The other thing you should never forget is the docks, even if there is nothing obviously sinister going on are a dangerous place to be, especially on IOTA. Most of the workers were there because they could hide out from whatever trouble was daunting them. Dock yards are an unofficial safe place and if you take someone out there you better have a real good reason. I was there to look up an old friend and one of the few permanent workers on the docks. His name is Devret . That’s it, just Devret and no one dared ask why. He’s a tough guy when he needs to be and could bite your head off, literally, being a Croc Hybrid with a maw to suit his breed, but with a contrary attitude.

If you want info out of Devret you don’t ask direct questions you start a story and let him finish it and making it hypothetical. I wanted to know if the Albatross had ever docked at IOTA, when and for how long and if there were ever Coydogs around at the time. So I started my story using an old kid’s tale about an ancient pirate named Black Bart who sailed the seven seas in a ship called the Fortune and added a side- note that in those ancient days the Albatross bird was a harbinger of ill tidings.


He responded by telling me a story about a bird and some dogs that visited an old farm. When the dogs ran off they had the bird with them but all the feathers had been left behind. Translated, the pirates had taken the Albatross while it was at anchor, silently and without commotion which suggested the whole take over was planned. The only question was: who was on the inside to make it happen?”

“Nice story Dev. I’ll be weighing anchor myself in a few days. Can you make sure my ship is ready to sail?”

“Will do Travis Lock and by the way, the story has a subplot.” Dev replied. “The owner of the farm where the bird was taken from went with the dogs. The feathers that were left behind disappeared into space.”


I returned to my office to get what info Ida had dug up about the Albatross. I got there seconds ahead of a creep whose idea of a good time was making mince meat out of guys like me. He came with a message about something that shouldn’t even have had time to get down the grape vine so I figured someone had a tap on the inside.

I didn’t ask his name. Why bother. Meat head suited him just fine with his bovine human cross. He even kept the horns he was born with, which in a lot of places was a legislative no, no. They sure gave him an edge when it came to delivering messages.

“If you keep working for Lung Gar all you are going to get is dead.” That’s all Meat head said before he raised his half hoof half fist up to pummel my face, but it never connected. My shadow friend zapped him with a mega-Taser and dropped him cold. Then he dragged him away. There’s nothing like having an android to cover your back.


Crap like this happens when you are in this kind of business but not usually so soon. You usually have to rattle a few cages first, but then most of the time any rules you think are in place don’t add up to much. It’s a survivor’s game, always has been and always will be.

I flicked on Ida’s imager and sat on the corner of the desk. She looked up at me and gave me a movie-olla frown. “You can’t just keep turning me on and off like that Boss. It really screws up my algorithm.”

“Ok Ida. I’ll try and remember. In the mean time tell me what you dug up on the Cosmonet about the Albatross and its current owner?”

To be continued...

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