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Screaming Metal (Part 007)

Fear that Deshel may have sabotaged the job, Priyanka has a flashback to her earlier years as a junk-merc, and a betrayal...

"I'm not sure yet; I'm working on it. It's fat data, whatever it is." A whisk of Deshel's hand threw a graph above his console.

He was right. Whatever the Metal was broadcasting, it was heavy. What would it be transmitting? That mishmash of noise? Why?

Deshel continued. "The transmissions allowed me to calculate its position..." The look on his face was guilt-ridden and tense.

"You knew where it was all the time and didn't tell me?" Priyanka's voice lowered to a growl barely heard above the din of the room.

Deshel stood to face her. "I didn't know for sure it was the Metal. How could I? Why would I even think that?"

Priyanka jabbed a finger at him, her voice growing stronger. "But now you do. You had your suspicions and yet you didn't inform me."

"We hadn't been able to locate it, and not really knowing who was behind the transmissions... And well, I thought you might give up."

"Are you serious? Give up? Wha–" Priyanka's face flashed in anger, "Have you sabotaged us, Deshel!?"

Priyanka's heart beat hard in her chest and her arms began to shake with rage and a nervous fear of betrayal.

Her fist clenched tightly behind a bank of machinery where Deshel couldn't see it.

Fingernails cutting deeply into her palm, fear rose in Priyanka's breast and memories of her past returned to haunt her.

Priyanka had been working aboard the Locos under a captain named Sakal, the man who had taught her everything she knew about junk-hunting.

With a crew of four, he had done well and paid fair. No one was going to get rich under him, but Priyanka had been able to save.

He was a master mentor, taking great pains to explain his methodology behind locating Metals – digging into local lore being his preferred.

There were always clues, always hints of Metal "treasures" to be found wherever there were settled planets.

Captain Sakal hadn't wasted their time skulking around uncharted or potentially dangerous planets.

He just had preferred to pull a braincore from the comfort of a world with good food and drink if possible.

Sakal had often laughed, claiming he was attuned to the universe, using his info analysis talent to cherrypick planets and braincores.

The three years she had served with him had formed the core of her own methodology.

Nevertheless, everything came to a treacherous, abrupt end when the first mate decided to throw in with a group of pirates.

She had woken to the sound of heavy EVA boots clanking on the metal grating in the corridor outside her alcove.

But the dim, evening-setting lighting and a sleep-addled brain had kept her from recognizing danger until it was too late.

Harsh helmet light and rough, gloved hands had yanked her out of her sleep hammock to the cold floor with a merciless efficiency.

She barely had had time to cry out before she was being unceremoniously dragged down the passageway.

Twisting and jerking, Priyanka had tried to loose herself from the large, EVA-suited forms that pulled her along.

It had earned her a kick to the gut for her trouble. And so, doubled over, she had allowed herself to be hauled down the corridor.

The sound of a cracking helmet had been followed by a hollow grunt-cry and the telltale flash-bark of a laser pistol.

The voice had been a harsh whisper in the gloom. "Pree!" The captain. Then his firm, confident grip. "Get up!"

Her heart had raced as she stood, his arm on her elbow.

"School's out. It's graduation day, kiddo." The older man had told her.

**"Screaming Metal" -- all parts**

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Screaming Metal (Part 007)
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