Screaming Metal (Part 017)
The situation goes from inexplicable to life-threatening in a heartbeat and a flash of laser fire...
If this was indeed Il'on, then it would have been on Shake Hands well before the colonists.
It made sense. If it could broadcast over the local radio waves, then it could listen in on them too.
It had probably picked up and been listening to the voices of humans on Shake Hands for over a century.
It was aping, but to what end? What would be the point of trying to communicate with the planetsiders?
No Metal had ever communicated with humans. Because, of course, no functioning Metal had ever been found.
It was common knowledge. Every school kid across the galaxy knew this. Unless everyone was being lied to.
She shook her head. She was letting her thoughts get away from her. She wasn't thinking straight, which wasn't like her at all.
Functioning or not – which Il'on was not – it didn't matter. The job entailed bringing back a braincore. Full stop.
Suen broke the silence, interrupting Priyanka's thoughts. "Pree, Deshel, we've got company!"
ScrapHounds, thought Priyanka. She frowned. Time had run out. She should have been preparing for the next day.
"Stupid, stupid." She ground her jaw in exasperation. "Alright, Suen. See if you can't distract the ScrapHounds with another chase pack."
"This isn't a ScrapHound, Pree. You need to get up here right now. We have a starship on surface approach."
In slight disbelief, Priyanka keyed Suen's channel. "Did you say 'surface approach', as in not from orbit?"
"Correct," Suen replied.
A starship? On ShakeHands? The locals had zero interest in leaving the planet, and had cannibalized their colony ships for parts.
Moreover they had no defensive navy, so where had they gotten the starship?
Priyanka began her ascent – a careful balance of speed and dexterity, utilizing her feet to maneuver. "Configuration?"
"Looks to be an older model, Zmisposa-class. She's moving pretty slow, and hugging the ground, which is why I didn't see her until just now."
"How far out?"
"About ten minutes until arrival, three until firing range." Suen emphasized the latter, knowing it to be far more important.
Three minutes to climb out and get aboard the Alley Cat. A little too close for comfort.
She bit her lip and increased cable retraction speed. Almost immediately Deshel came over the comm.
"Not too fast, Pree. You won't be able to maneuver out of the way if something comes down.
"If I'm not out of this hole in three minutes, it won't matter. Get aboard the Alley Cat and be ready to take off if I tell you to."
"We're not going to leave you here, Pree," Deshel protested.
Priyanka almost laughed. "Leave me here? To hell with that. I want you get the Alley Cat out of here if that starship gets too close."
"A shot or two from their guns will bring the Alley Cat down on top of me. Not the way I want to go, thank you!"
Deshel's voice nearly cracked, "You think they'd fire on us?"
Priyanka began to speak, but Suen cut her off, "They're luddites, not pacifists. Remember how they treated us at the bar? Like we were a disease."
She continued, "I wouldn't trust these dirtsuckers with a flashlight. These jokers are so crazy they're flying a starship right up our portside."
"The sooner we're out of here, the better."
"Suen, you are probably more right than you know. Remember Shake Hands doesn't have a military," Priyanka noted.
The concern in Deshel's voice was clear. "You mean a bunch of amateurs are flying that crate?"
"More than likely."
"There's nothing holy about it. I want you two to get the Alley Cat out of here if I'm not out of this hole in three minutes."