Screaming Metal (Part 020)

Not the cut-and-run type, Priyanka's planning to flush out the traitor AND get the braincore.

"Ma'am?" Surprised, Deshel questioned the order.

Had Deshel assumed they'd leave Shake Hands now that their real reason for being on-planet had been discovered?

Priyanka didn't doubt it. No one sends a warship to stop intergalactic dumpster diving.

The most the crew had ever faced were unfriendly scowls and a fine or two.

A warship was right out of left field—not necessarily forbidden, but definitely overkill.

Someone wanted to scare her so bad, she'd drop her claim altogether and hightail it to another system. Well, that wasn't happening.

Priyanka wasn't the cut-and-run type. Especially not when betrayal was concerned.

No. She was going to flush out the traitor and get her braincore.

The data flashed on their screens.

Priyanka's voice was low and cold. "Stay. On. This. Route."

"And, Deshel…" She removed her interface to look him in the eye. Her tone drew his gaze.

"If you are a centimeter off in any direction, I'll throw you out of the airlock," she finished.

Deshel's eyes went wide with surprise. "Pree, what—"

"Suen, ready countermeasures and keep an eye on that holodar. If anything sneaks up on us this time, I'll throw you out after Deshel."

Suen's eyes narrowed; she didn't take threats well. The hot-tempered member of the trio, she was always ready for a scrap.

Priyanka held the other woman's stare. "Follow my orders, or step off the ship, right here, right now."

She turned to Deshel, "That goes for you, too."

"What the hell, Pree?" Deshel protested.

"Hell is exactly what I had in mind if either one of you sold us out to the locals."

Deshel's voice was sympathetic. "Aw c'mon, Pree. No one here would do that to you. This is crazy."

Priyanka nodded. "Crazy, it is. Crazy, as in attacked by a warship. But it's also why you're both still seated at your stations," she conceded.

Her conviction was strong, despite having absolutely no evidence they'd been betrayed.

Nor could she prove that the locals hadn't just decided to jump them. The poor fools could just be desperate. Or dumb.

They probably didn't have a clue as to what was in the junkyard; they just knew that if she wanted it, they wanted it.

Clueless opportunists. Fools who didn't have enough get-go to do something for themselves.

She was in a very precarious situation: she had to trust her people.

Of course, that's how she preferred it. She wanted to trust them. She had for several years.

The thought that maybe one or both of them was trying to stab her in the back plagued her.

Priyanka grimaced as the memory of the look on Sakal's face as the traitor's knife plunged into his side returned to her.

She set her mouth in a hard line, and then struggled to hold back the storm of feelings that hit her like a hammer.

She turned away from her crew, covering her head with the interface once more.

"I want that metal." Her words were soft, but they rang clear in the cramped space of the bridge.

"Once we have it, you can go your own ways. Until then, cooperate, and you'll be paid as always."

Deshel and Suen both nodded and likewise returned to their work.

Suen was first to break the silence that followed. "Holodar confirms the warship is not in pursuit."

She continued, "Maneuvering thrusters only. Looks as if they are repositioning the ship."

Deshel followed with his own report. "We are approaching a 35-minute gap."

"Out of holodar in five minutes." Suen again.

Priyanka said, "Take us well beyond their holodar capabilities before turning us around."