The hunting trip was incredibly successful, and things seemed to be looking up for the survivors. A herd of Tauntaun were moving across the slopes not more than eighty meters from the crash site. Moving up along a ridge and gazing down onto an open tundra below, Tarrsk and the others lowered their blasters and leveled them on the creatures. Being in the open tundra with no protection the Tauntaun’s could not escape the accurate fire of Tarrsk and the others. Before long fifteen Tauntaun were dead.
The herd was rather large, and a good sixteen adult Tauntaun remained with almost a dozen juveniles. Geldar, Brin’tac, and Satchal all attempted to soothe the remaining Tauntaun in an effort to gain their aid, and with the Force helping them they managed to tame about six of the adults before the rest of the herd escaped over the ridge to the east.
With the six Tauntaun aiding them they managed to haul all of the dead Tauntaun back to the ship. As night came upon the frozen wastelands Geldar, Tarrsk, Tso, Brin’tac, Lialla, Kradlo, and Satchal all finally returned to the ship with their food source in tow.
At that point, Gariss and the other mercenaries were already back and working on repairs to the ship. When they told Gariss of the catch they had made he immediately sent everyone out to skin them and prepare their meat for storage. Who knew how long they’d be on Hoth or if they’d find another source of food as large was what they had gotten, and the mercenary commander wanted to make sure that what they had was going to last them a long time.
That night they ate a very rationed meal. Between the Tauntauns they killed and the Wampas they had an ample supply, but with twenty-four individuals all needing to eat that food would not last them a real long time. Thankfully, though, the ship already had about two months of consumables for at least ten people, so that would give them another source of food for a time. However, Par’kiss believed that altogether this food supply would only last them about a month; two if they ate it sparingly.
“How long will it take to effectively make repairs?” Tso wondered when the entire group of survivors met in the lounge area that night.
“Well,” Par’kiss said with a wince. “Actually it appears that this ship is probably not going to be capable of space flight again. The guidance systems are trashed and the hyperdrive is a complete wreck. No long range communications systems are functional, and since the ship is on its side it can’t lift off. On top of that the hull has been breached in nearly thirty-three places, and without scrap material to patch up these holes it won’t make it through the atmosphere.”
Nyarchagga, whom they had found lounging in his room with the heat up enough to make the room feel like a sauna, huddled in his blanket and said, “Why can’t we just use parts of the ship that aren’t functioning to patch up the holes. If the hyperdrive is a mess we could strip it down to the bone and use the parts to patch the holes.”
Par’kiss thought of that a moment and nodded. “We could do that, but we still don’t have the guidance systems. It would take a very skilled pilot to get us off planet without them.”
“Do the sublight engines work still?” Tso asked, his heart beating loudly in his chest. He was a pilot, but he wasn’t real confident in his skills. To fly without the guidance systems was like flying blind. He wasn’t real sure he could do it.
“Yes,” Par’kiss told him. “However, the lateral thrusters are damaged. We can fix them, but we’d have to jury-rig it. We don’t exactly have the parts we need.”
Tso then fell silent as the mercenary leader now spoke up. “The fact is we don’t have a pilot to fly the ship even if we can make repairs.”
“On top of that,” Par’kiss added, “the longer it takes for us to get the ship repaired the less power we’ll have in the ship. By the time we might effectively repair the ship enough for making a space journey we might not have enough power left in the power cells to even lift off.”
“What if we cut back on the usage of power?” Satchal put in. “If we don’t use the heat and the lights while making repairs unless we absolutely have to will we have enough power?”
Par’kiss nodded. “But that still doesn’t give us a pilot.”
Every time they mentioned a pilot Tso’s heart skipped a beat. He knew one of his companions was going to mention him, and when Brin’tac put his hand on his shoulder he knew just who would do it. “Tso is a fine pilot,” the Bothan told them all. “If we can get the systems functioning he will be able to fly us off this frozen world.”
Tso lowered his gaze to the floor and said nothing. What else could they do? If the long range communications systems were gone and irreparable then they couldn’t call for help, and the chances of anyone finding them on Hoth were very slim. The only hope they had was getting off world and flying to some planet or space station nearby. But is there even any civilization near Hoth that we could fly to?
Gariss considered Brin’tac’s suggestion as he measured Tso with his penetrating gaze. “Are you sure he is capable of handling this?” the Barabel wondered aloud.
“He is more than capable,” Lialla put in. “You should have seen him handle those pirates we ran into near Darga Prime. He was weaving our ship all over the place to keep them from hitting us. He’s good enough.”
Tso wanted to yell at them all. This was a lot of pressure they were putting on him, and he couldn’t get out of his head just how close they’d come to being blown to pieces by those headhunters. He’d thought the ship was going to explode at any moment with or without the pirates continuing to fire on them. And then what about the transport on Coruscant? Every vehicle he had was either destroyed or nearly destroyed. He shook his head. But there’s nothing else I can do. There’s no other pilot, and we can’t just stay here.
Geldar saw Tso’s downcast expression and closed his eyes, using the Force to project feelings of confidence in his friend. You can do it. The Force will be with you. Trust in your own abilities. You are not a failure.
Instantly Tso’s expression changed, and he looked up at the mercenaries around him as he set his jaw. Geldar continued to project the confident feelings into his mind. “I won’t let you down.”
The mercenaries all continued to watch him for a time until Gariss broke the tension. “Fine. I don’t see how we have much choice. Either we stay here and freeze to death or we attempt to let your pilot get us out of here. Come tomorrow morning we begin working on this ship in preparation for liftoff. Everyone understand?”
They all acknowledged his commands with a nod, even those that were not mercenaries, and with that Gariss dismissed the meeting by saying, “Tonight we sleep with the heat on low only in sections where we can seal the heat in. Also we will avoid using any power unless necessary.” Then he turned and walked away.