Screaming Metal (Part 026)
The crew goes fishing for a clue, Pree gets a hit.
The tavern patrons came, ate, drank, chatted, laughed, and left. Over and over; the pattern repeating, the patrons marking their time in specific increments.
Moreover, they were remarkably well-behaved, acting more like children at school library than adults at a drinking establishment.
The trio had definitely been to rowdier places.
Several patrons offered them casual glances; one woman smiled but otherwise did not communicate or even make eye contact after that.
There were a few scowls, but no one seemed particularly offended or surprised by the presence of off-worlders.
Or by the fact that they were still present on-planet at all. Whoever had fired on them, apparently wasn't in this crowd.
As far as bars went, it was relaxed and would have been enjoyable if the trio had been there to enjoy themselves.
"Either of you two, recognize anyone?" Priyanka asked.
Deshel made a non-committal sound.
Suen nodded to a guy chatting with a woman partway up the large set of stairs alongside the far wall.
"The Tender, but that's about it. Maybe that guy over there, but I can't be sure. I didn't really bother committing people's faces to memory."
"But I didn't come every night like Deshel," she added with a smirking slight.
Deshel leaned over the table, his voice low but angry. "What're you trying to say!? We wouldn't have gotten as close to the–"
He stopped himself, calmed, and continued. "Wouldn't have gotten as close as we did without me."
"Shut up, the both of you." Priyanka scolded them like an impatient parent. "We aren't getting anywhere sitting here."
"Maybe we haven't been noticed, maybe no one remembers either of you. So get up, mingle, and jog some memories."
Suen looked incredulous. "You want us to tell them we're looking for the…" Like Deshel, she stopped herself before mentioning the Metal.
Priyanka shook her head. "Don't be that dense. You're an off-worlder. That should be enough to pique their interest."
"They took a shining to you before, Suen." Deshel smirked.
Suen scowled as she stood, left the table, and headed for the stairs to the second floor.
Priyanka looked at her navigator. "What are you waiting for? Ask the Tender to turn on some tunes."
Deshel stood without comment and walked over to the bar, insinuating himself between two groups and made a show of calling to the Tender.
Priyanka leaned forward on the table and cupped her chin with a hand as she watched the pair go, then shifted her attention to the approaching man.
He stopped several paces from the table. "Mind if I join you?" He was perhaps a little younger than Priyanka, tall and fit.
His clothes were a bit on the shabby side, but that was probably more an indictment of planetary policy and not his fashion sense.
Priyanka tossed her head to the opposite side of the booth. "Suit yourself."
He sat with a smile. "Not from around here, are you."
Well, hello, she thought. Took you long enough. Priyanka shook her head and smiled back, "That obvious, huh? Just here on deliveries."
He nodded. "Yeah, not often we get off-worlders here."
"We aren't very welcome from what I hear. My crew and I have kept a low profile so far, but space rations become tedious."
Direct provocation. Thrust a stick in the bee's hive to see what she can stir up.
He made a face and shook his head. "Yeah, well, some of the older generations had… have this silly notion about isolation."
"Not such a bad idea," she stated. "Keeps the more questionable influences away from the planet."
"Yeah, it is what it is, I supposed, but keeps things from getting exciting."
Priyanka decided to toy with him a bit. "Am I exciting?"
He blushed and fumbled over half-formed words that didn't quite leave his mouth. "I just mean that it keeps a lot of good influences away, too."
"Yeah, so…" he coughed and lowered his voice. "See, my friends and I… we're interested in 'influences' from around the galaxy."
His comment quieted Priyanka.
He turned to look back at a small group of people doing their best to pretend to be looking anywhere but in her direction.
They were doing such a colossally bad job of trying to be inconspicuous that she almost felt bad for them.
She looked him straight in the eye. "I'm not making those kinds of deliveries. That's not the kind of junk I'm interested in."
The look on his face fell and quickly went from disappointed to frightened.
"I, um…" He stood a little too quickly, catching his calf on the seat and nearly lost his balance. "Sorry… Sorry I bothered you."
Priyanka took a deep breath and sighed as she watched him stumble away to his friends. The group scampered out the door.
In truth, she hadn't meant to frighten him away, and instead hoped he'd catch the subtle reference she'd made. Nothing doing, unfortunately.
He and his friends were out the door, their gazes locked on the flooring in hopes of melting into it from the looks of it.