Screaming Metal (Part 021)
Forced to abandon the site of the Metal, Priyanka enacts a bold plan.
"Yes, ma'am," Deshel said. "Suen, give me a local structure report."
"Holodar shows no man-made structures in the vicinity. Forests withstanding, the area is clean to seven meters off the floor."
"I want to be pulling leaves and twigs out of my teeth, Deshel," Priyanka ordered.
He turned to her. "I don't think there's any nee–"
She didn't bother turning back to face him. Her tone was cold and flat. "It wasn't a request."
Deshel's reply was clipped, "Yes, ma'am. Down to seven and a little."
The Alley Cat moved away at a decent pace, giving the impression she and her crew were abandoning their "claim."
But their path and altitude allowed them to steer near and disappear behind a mountain range large enough to cover their true intention.
Once out of both line of sight and holodar coverage, Priyanka enacted her plan. "Slow us down and take us through the route I sent."
Suen piped up, "What are you planning, Pree? Are we going to attack?"
Suen was obviously excited. The thought of launching a counterattack thrilled the woman.
Priyanka's reply, however, was a bucket of cold water. "We're going to watch."
The disappointment in Suen’s voice was obvious. "Watch them do what?"
"That's what we're going to find out. By watching."
Suen pressed the issue, "What if they beat us to the Metal? What if they get to him first? You can't let them have him. We have to attack!"
Deshel interjected. "You realize that that warship, even as old as it is, could destroy us with a well-placed shot or two, right?"
Suen stood, her jaw set. "We can take them. We go in tonight on foot, sneak aboard and take control of the ship."
Sensing the other woman was still spoiling for a fight, Priyanka kept her tone level, "This is not the time, Suen."
"We wait. We find out who they are and what they're up to."
"They're stealing Il'on!"
"We don't know that yet. Could be locals–"
Deshel cut in. "The dirtsuckers probably think we're just stealing from the junkyard. They probably don't realize the Metal is down there."
Priyanka ignored Deshel's interruptions and calmly continued. "Could be the locals are just protecting what they think is theirs."
"As Deshel said, it is highly unlikely – unless one of us told them – that they know the Metal is buried in the junkyard."
Deshel was defensive, "I didn't tell anyone. They could have been informed from off-planet, too. We discussed this."
Priyanka closed her eyes. "Yes... Again, part of the reason you are both still at your stations."
Suen spoke up, "I–"
Priyanka held up a hand. "We don't have time for this. Get us into position."
The junk-merc returned to her console. "We'll decide what to do after monitoring the situation."
Suen cursed silently, giving Deshel a look, but he only shrugged his shoulders. They returned to their own consoles and set to work.
Priyanka's route took the Alley Cat deep into a mountain range on a long, snaking path.
The hours passed unnoticed, quiet except for the smart, professional voices of the three crew members calling out information.
Coordinates reached, the crew set the Alley Cat down in a forested valley that hid their position from all but aerial reconnaissance.
The ship safely parked, Priyanka and crew hiked to a vantage point from where they could spy on the warship with portable monitoring equipment.
Despite the late hour, Priyanka had decided it would be best that they camped out.
Normally she would have left either Deshel or Suen aboard the ship in case they needed a fast exit.
But nagging suspicions about the motives of her crew outweighed her desire for precaution. She was unwilling to leave anyone aboard the Alley Cat.