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– 587 years later –
"Well... I've lost it." Deshel's voice was a mix of disappointment and apology.
"What do you mean you lost it?" Priyanka turned and ducked under a bank of ceiling-bound monitors and equipment.
"I mean, it's gone. I had a positive ping and the field was narrowing…" He shook his head and shrugged.
"How close?" Priyanka leaned over the tall man's shoulder to get a better look at his virtual console.
In the dark, cramped command module of the Alley Cat, it cast a soft, light-blue glow over the both their countenances.
"Probably not more than a 500-yard area." He looked up and back at her. She was so physically close that they were breathing the same air.
She bit back a comment. 500 yards? That was a hell of a lot of scrapdiving. She squeezed her eyes shut.
Deshel immediately recognized the look of consternation on his boss' face. "Give me some time and I can recalibrate… maybe even–"
With a deep breath, she pulled back and returned to her own crash lounge, "Alright then, what about visual recognition?"
Pulling up a 3D holo-schematic of Il'on, Priyanka spun the figure in multiple directions. "Let's bring the recognition software online."
Deshel frowned. "You sure you want to tie up the processors like that? That software's a real hog."
No, of course she didn't want to, but the info they'd received on the location of the Metal's braincore was outdated, incomplete, or wrong.
Their options were limited, their time to complete this job even more so. So what choice did they have?
The best thing they could do now was to let software scan every piece of junk in the immediate area and try a data match.
The sooner they got started, the better.
"Well, if you'd prefer to jump out and eyeball it yourself, I'll print you a hard copy of the schematic, and you can take Suen with you."
"Hard pass," Suen's voice rose up from her position on the other side of the command module where she was buried in electronics and light.
Priyanka cocked her head to the side as if to ask, well? Deshel put his hands up and said nothing more.
"Suen, I'm going to prioritize perimeter sweeps, though. We don't need any surprises." Priyanka punched up commands on her own console.
"Appreciated." The smaller woman replied. Let me know if you need the extra power though.
"That bone we threw the Scrap Dogs has them fairly preoccupied. I don't think we need worry about them for a while yet."
Not long after their arrival, they had had to play dead when a Scrap Dog patrol detected their drive signature.
Wandering over, the patrol had sniffed at them for several hours until Suen fired off a controlled meta-particle beam, and they gave chase.
The Dogs were automated policing units – dumbots – set up by the Settlement Commission, along with the planet.
Galaxy-wide, wherever settlement-viable planets were found, the Commission prepped them.
Interested parties signed agreements, made payments, and launched themselves toward their new lives.
Upon planetfall, settlers found various automated machines already hard at work readying the planet for them; Scrap Dogs included.
The Dogs acted to patrol and protect the junkyards against illegal dumping, as well as monitor for contamination.
For the both the Commission and the settlers, it was investment insurance; good for the first several hundred years after planetfall.
Currently, Shake Hands had about 700 years of non-burnable, non-recyclable junk heaped in a 50km square landfill.
It was a huge fill for such a low-tech settlement, especially one that prided itself on its isolationist policies.
Moreover, one so young. The Shake Hands settlement was only just over 120 or so years old.
How they had accumulated so much trash in such a short time was beyond Priyanka. Were they importing it?
Some planets pulled in extra income that way. Was Shake Hands? She didn't know. Still, there was no denying the mountains of it around them.