The female Wampa slumped to the ground, and none of the members of the Supreme Chancellor’s Special Task Force needed to be prodded into motion. Charging down the passage in the opposite direction of the mercenaries they knew were right behind, Geldar, Satchal, Brin’tac, Tarrsk, Tso, Nyarchagga, Gnat, and Lialla plunged further into the pitch blackness of the icy cavern. If not for the bright light that Gnat was shining ahead of them and the glowing lightsabers of Geldar and Satchal they would have been completely blind. Behind them, only one other person remained alive after the blood bath of the Dark Jedi and the two Wampas. Kradlo, one of Tianti’s Anomid aides stood frozen in place as he stared at the dead body of his former employer.
“No time for sorrows!” Geldar shouted as sympathetic as he could as he grabbed the Anomid and shoved him down the narrow corridor. He and Satchal had attempted to chase after the Dark Jedi, and so they were forced to pass the stunned alien on their way to escape. Kradlo moved without feeling as the two Jedi herded him earnestly along.
The group made their way through the dark passages as they wound for about twenty meters deeper into the caves. Then, all at once, they came upon the lair of the Wampa where two juveniles stood ready to pounce. However, with a fierce growl and a shot from his blaster rifle from Tarrsk above their heads, the Wampa pups cowered away deeper into the lair to escape from this unknown terror.
The group didn’t hesitate at the lair. Finding a side passage with the guidance of Gnat, all of them charged off to their right and up a steeply ascending slope. The passage was much narrower than the first, and it was obvious once inside that the Wampa used it very infrequently. It was rugged and hard to traverse, but due to the fact that after only about twelve meters they saw sunlight they knew that the path was a quicker route to the surface. Brin’tac guessed that either the passage was used to allow the male Wampa to leave the passage and therefore trap any unsuspecting creature within the cave between himself and his mate, or it was probably used to reach higher up on the mountain to catch prey that existed higher up.
They reached the entrance only a short five minutes later and rushed into the bright light of the afternoon sun. Glancing about to get their bearings they spotted the downed transport shuttle still smoldering off to the south of the entrance. Next to it, the mercenary ship still sat unmoving as if it were a predator protecting its most recent kill.
Before anyone could speak, the ship suddenly fired up its engines, and as each of their stomachs leapt into their throats they watched it ascend into the air. Their only hope of escape lay in that one starship, and there it went soaring into the sky above their transport ship. As if to make sure they would not repair the damaged transport, the ship fired several more times on the wreckage before it blasted off through the sky towards space. As the biting wind whipped around them and threatened to freeze them all where they stood, each of them felt hope slip away as they realized that they were probably all standing in their own tombs.
Gariss and his men arrived shortly after the ship vanished into the cloud-covered sky, and each of his men dropped their weapons to their sides as they watched in disbelief. “That’s it,” remarked Hodge. “We’re all dead.”
“Shut up, Hodge,” Gariss snapped. “We’re not dead until we stop breathing, and even then I’m sure we can find a way around it.”
At that moment the people who he’d been paid to kill turned to face him with weapons partially ready for a fight. Gariss instantly stepped forward to avoid any disaster. “Who’s the leader of this outfit?” he asked with palms open to indicate he came to offer a truce.
The Bothan diplomat stepped forward. “I am Brin’tac Kyen’tir from Kothlis. Although we have no real leader I have many times been the spokesperson. You must be the leader of this band of mercenaries.” Brin’tac’s voice was obviously cool and collected, though it was obvious to those that knew him that he was not happy with the idea of having to try to make a truce with a group of mercenaries that had just been trying to kill them.
“We are Daragald’s Blight, a mercenary unit that works in the Outer Rim,” said Gariss as he motioned his men to lower their weapons. “We were hired by a Jedi named Wraith to kill all of you, but since the Krayt’s-@#$ decided to break contract we have no reason to fight with you. In fact it seems best if we work together to try to get out of this mess.”
“Agreed,” said Brin’tac matter-of-factly. “Do you have any ideas?”
Gariss only stared at the Bothan for a moment as if trying to size him up. “I’ve always got an idea,” he said as he spat in the snow out of the side of his mouth. “Par’kiss,” he called without looking. “Take ten men and get to that transport ship to see if anything works. We’ll be there as soon as we’ve skinned these blasted snow beasts and cooked them.” He then spoke to Brin’tac again, though he did not even indicate it with a nod. “Any of you know how to repair a ship?”
“We have some technical skills,” remarked the Bothan, “but none of us is very proficient in it.”
“Fine,” said Gariss. “Then why don’t you go with the team back to the ship and scrounge up something to keep yourselves warm and then go out hunting for something. You can do that, can’t you?”
Tarrsk gave out a low growl, but Geldar clutched his friend’s shoulder to calm him. “We can do that without any difficulties,” the young Padawan remarked, though he really wasn’t sure what they might use to protect them from the terrible cold. “If there is anything out here to eat we will find it.”
Gariss regarded him for a moment and smiled. “Fine. Make sure you find plenty to go around. We’ve got about twenty-four mouths to feed and clothe before the night comes and we freeze to death.” He then turned towards Par’kiss, and his team which were just setting out. “And Par’kiss!” he called. “See if you can get that transport’s heaters working. If nothing else can be fixed at least get that up and running.”
Par’kiss acknowledged his leader with a nod of his head and started off down the low slopes of the mountain towards the ship. As he left, Gariss turned back towards the cave without another word to the others, and he and his mercenaries descended back into the hole leaving Geldar, Brin’tac, and the others standing there still in shock and disbelief.