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Screaming Metal (Part 019)

As the Alley Cat maneuvers to escape the warship, Priyanka must decide her next move.

That roll, however, was intended to buy the moment or two the Alley Cat needed to kick on its thrusters.

Stuck on her butt in an awkward position, a frantic Priyanka still managed to magnetically lock herself to the cargo bay wall and floor.

As Deshel put the ship through evasive maneuvers, she screwed her eyes shut and scowled.

It was only then that she noticed the prickling burn crawling over her skin. She knew what it was, and realization brought bile to her throat.

It was the after effect of powerful laser fire far too close to the human body.

While there were no visible trauma, she shivered from the near-death experience. She couldn't calm it.

The atoms of her body had been brought to the edge of the excited state where they would've released their energy if pushed any further.

In other words, she had been just this side of being vaporized.

In that moment she would have ceased to exist; become light, ever expanding across the universe.

The shivering was relentless, weakening. She voiced it, grunting under her breath.

Her skin crawled as if covered in insects. She wanted to shed it, be rid of it, and not think about how close she had just come to death.

Claimjumpers were nothing new. She'd had guns shoved in her face more than once since that fateful day Sakal had saved her life.

It never ceased to frighten her, however; any fool not afraid of a weapon is not long for this universe.

But more than frightened, she was angry.

The current situation was about as dangerous as it could get. ScrapHounds, the authorities, angry yokels; they were all part of the job.

And there was little about the job she could not handle. But rare was situation where warships actually fired on you.

This whole scenario had an aura different from any she had previously encountered. This one seemed personal.

So be it. She'd already decided she wasn't going to be run off by either radio broadcast parlor tricks or traitors in her midst.

These farmers could raise a fleet if they wanted. Priyanka would show them how a professional finished a job.

Drawing breath through gritted teeth, she stood and stored the exosuit.

The Alley Cat now underway, she allowed the nullgrav auto-handrail to half-drag her through the corridor to the bridge.

"Report."

Suen said, "The dirtsuckers fired on us a second time, but the shot went wild. I was just about to return the favor."

Priyanka didn't hesitate, "Belay."

The fire in Suen's eyes told Priyanka the other woman was on the verge of disobeying. "I appreciate it, Suen, but hold."

"Stay with me. I need you right now. Don't worry, we aren't running. Not a chance." She turned to Deshel, "Distance."

Deshel's voice was steely. Unlike Suen, who took to bar fights like breathing, combat wasn't his forte. "Eight minutes and falling behind."

Priyanka dropped into her command couch and launched the interface, scanning the data from Suen and Deshel's consoles.

Deshel continued, "Five minutes until orbital velocity. Until the–"

Priyanka spoke a plain, simple sentence that spoke volumes. "They're stopping."

Deshel's voice faltered, "E-excuse me?"

Suen growled, "Over the pit."

Priyanka narrowed her eyes as she brought up a visual of the old warship settling over her claim.

"Someone knows why we're out here." Her voice was cold; not inviting comment.

For several minutes the bridge was quiet. There was no mistaking now that someone aboard had betrayed them.

Priyanka's fingers punched with anger as she worked her keyboard.

Deshel started to speak. "Pree, we can be in or–"

On the interface, Priyanka flicked a map with a link to blinking coordinates to both her crew members. "Put us down here."

**"Screaming Metal" – All Parts**

Read next: Time
Made in DNA
Made in DNA

American author/translator living in Japan. Haunts a variety of social media sites, loves writing, spends too much time thinking about pizza.

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Screaming Metal (Part 019)
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Time