Travis Lock Mysteries
Travis Lock Mysteries8 mins 227 8 mins 227
The Albatross had been a medium sized battleship back in the days when rebellions were a rite of passage for any up and coming world ruler. Lung Gar had salvaged it from a free float scrap yard about half way to Mars from Earth and refitted it for a heavily armed Cargo ship running from the Belt to a refining colony on the moon. It was a good ship because of its armament and that it was small enough to land on the moon.
It was docked at IOTA for repairs and it didn’t take a genius to figure out the attack was not about stealing its cargo but getting it immobilized enough to need dockyard repairs where it was incapable of defending itself. The pirates who organized the hijacking knew exactly what they were doing and now they had a heavily armed ship that could take on just about any cargo vessel out there.
“And it was refitted with an Em-drive engine. It’s as fast as any ship out there now.” Ida added at the end.
“I suppose it is going to clean up on the mining cargo ships from the Belt.” I contemplated verbally.
“I do not believe so,” I replied. “I looked up some stuff on the Colonial Dragnet. The scuttlebutt going around is that the Albatross is passing through the belt and heading for the Jovian planets.
It took a nanosecond to put two and two together. Water. The Jovian Corporates were all about water. The pirates were going after the water tankers from Neptune. They processed Ice and sold it to the Terrestrial Planets. There was no actual agreement in place. It was just business. We need their water and they supply it at a price, and for the most part a fair price.
Without the usual agreements between Government factions, pirates were only criminals in the minds of those whom they robbed. If they had water to sell at cheaper rates to the less affluent colonies of the inner planets no one would question where they got it.
My gut told me I was getting into something that might be too big for one PI, mercenary and his android shadow and that there was something of a conflict brewing in the solar system that echoed war. Maybe the greatest of all wars, far more voracious than petty rebellions and revolutions between political and corporate factions. If I kept going I sensed that I could be a contributing factor to the outbreak of the war or, with vague hope, a deterrent. Stop the pirates, avert a war and become an unsung hero. To Dream…
But to earn my keep my only job was to get the Albatross back into its rightful and legal dockage. Taking on a pack of Coydogs is almost as insane as trying to prevent a solar war. Nonetheless, I was going after them. I told Jake to activate my android crew and be ready to weigh anchor in 36 hours. I needed the time to do one more thing. Something I do every time before going out to face the dangers of the Solar system, a series of things actually
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 at Randy’s Nostalgia Bistro. I ate like it might be my last visit which it could be. No one can ever out guess fate.
Then it was off to Anjee’s Massage parlor. There are massage parlors, and then there are other massage parlors. Anjee’s was legit, no hanky panky like those dockyard joints that cater to a variety of hardcore spacefarers and other degenerate types. I always waited for Anjee, a big cuddly Bearman with strong half human hands and claws sharpened just enough for gentle bark scratching.
After that I returned to my office and reset my will, updating to include a refund to Lung Gar if I failed to complete my mission. That done I called my old man. We didn’t talk about the mission or what could or would happen. We just talked for an hour. We never said goodbye at the end of these talks but we always knew it could be the last one. Then I took a sleep aid and got a good long rest because it was likely to be the last one I would get for a long time. I boarded my ship at 04:00 hours Earth Meridian time. The whole solar system still runs on earth time. There is a faction that is trying to change that but so far a solar wide time increment has not to be invented. We launched at 10:00 hrs.
I can fly my ship if I have no other choice but, to be honest, I have an android crew, a pilot, navigator, communications and flight deck engineer. They can do it better and faster. Then I have weapons tech androids to maintain and man the ships laser canons. It’s an old fashioned system since the introduction of smart ships but the new technology doesn’t have conversation modes. At least I can talk to my crew, even if most of it is technical.
Ida ’s frizzled in on the holo-imager. She at her desk fiddling with a computer which is all for show but it’s a nice humanist touch.
“What do you have Ida?”
“I have found some info on the pirates that hijacked the Albatross. The leader is a Coydog named Draz Argyle, once a….”
“Never mind Ida I know who he is. This commission is starting to go sour already. He might call himself a pirate but the reality is he is a mercenary, which means whatever he is up too he is working for someone a lot bigger than him and bigger than Lung Gar, probably one of the Corporates looking to take over the water transport trade.”
My next thought was to contact Lung Gar and cancel our agreement, but I knew the creep well enough that he would have me blacklisted in a minute and that would mean no more jobs.
“Pilot. Maximum speed. I want to catch this creep before he gets too far out.”
“Aye Skipper.” The pilot responded in its electronic, no emotion voice. I felt the ship lurch as the Em-drive kicked into overdrive and the inertial damper activated.
I climbed into the control chair where a captain would sit but to me, it was more like an observation post. The androids did all the ships operations and kept me duly informed and in turn, I would submit any changes to course or other concerns. Mostly I just sat there mulling over what I was going to do when I caught up to the Albatross. I had little doubt anything was going down without a fight.
At top speed, the outer rim of the belt would take 3 and ¾ days to reach. As far as I could determine the Albatross had a day and a half head start on me but according to her specs she would be at least five days in flight. If I could maintain max-speed I might be able to catch her. But as that thought rose in my mind another, slightly humorous one followed. My ship was faster but a lot smaller than my quarry and it outgunned me. I imagined the ancient myth of David and Goliath than a mouse accosting an elephant. Humorous yes but the end story was the mouse and David came out the victors of the stories. Then I forced my mind to concern itself with the truth about Draz Argyle. He never did anything without something to back him up and in piracy, there are no safeguards of back up plans.
I was remembering my last encounter with him, which didn’t turn out well at all. He spent six months in a labor camp in the belt because of me, but then he damn near killed me and I spent six months recouping. When we met again there was a moment of no aggression between us and laughed the incident off. I decided to contact him directly.
“Comdroid. Do whatever it takes to contact the Albatross.”
I knew two things for sure. It was going to take time to track the Albatross if it could be tracked and even if Comdroid did find it I had huge doubts that Draz Argyle was about to have a friendly conversation with me, knowing I wouldn’t be calling for a friendly chit chat or set up a golf date.
I retired to my quarters and signed into my Cosmonet account which, way back in the day was the amalgamation of all the social networking sites taken over by the Ruling Dictators of the time. What was good was it held a vast archive of history that when edited for real news painted a pretty clear picture of man’s mother earth and its volatile society predating the earliest expansion programs that started the colonies on the moon and Mars and the first mining colonies of the Belt.
But I wasn’t there for history or nostalgia. Cosmonet had its current scuttlebutt information floating around and it is always worth snooping since untethered posters put a lot of garbage out there but every now and then something valuable leaked through. My search for info was all about seeing if anyone had posted anything about the latest pirate raids or unfamiliar ships cruising through their region of space. It could even happen that some undisciplined crewman from the Albatross would put something identifying out there.
I summoned my personal search bot giving it key search words but nothing obvious then I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes. It was a proximity alarm that brought me to my feet in a hurry.
I hit the com-switch. “What is it, Pilot?”
“It is the Albatross Skipper. Its commander would like a conference with you. Peacefully if possible he suggested.”
Sometimes crap happens that you really weren’t expecting but I figured out one thing. Draz Argyle was way ahead of me.