The Tauntaun Herd

Lialla and her team stood on a hill some three miles west of the ship and scanned once more the entire wasteland. A herd of Tauntaun was moving across the frozen desert in a northwestern direction. Lialla turned to the others. “Once again we find signs of life still existing out here. There must be some sort of plant-life growing out here.”

“Yeah, but we’re not looking for food supplies. We’re looking for a power supply or some sort of shelter,” Satchal remarked.

Lialla looked over at him. “My point is that if there is some sort of food supply there may be some sort of shelter. The Tauntaun most likely survive in caves like the Wampas. The Wampa cave was too small for us, but the Tauntaun cave might be large enough to house the ship. Since the Tauntauns travel in herds I’ll bet they definitely have a larger cave somewhere nearby.”

“But is it right to force the Tauntauns out of their home just so we have one?” Geldar pointed out. “I don’t feel right about that.”

Satchal glanced at him with a raised eyebrow. “I can’t believe you’d rather sacrifice our lives for a bunch of animals on some useless planet in the middle of nowhere.”

Geldar turned to him and was about to argue about how they were only visitors to the planet and that the animals were the ones who belonged here when Brin’tac cut in. “We should refrain from arguing, if at all possible,” he replied. “Gariss was right, don’t you think?”

Geldar bit his tongue. “Right,” he said simply, “but I still think that we must respect the creatures of this world as much as possible. We wouldn’t be very appreciative if they forced us out of our ship, would we?”

“Still,” said Lialla, cutting off Satchal before he could comment. “We should investigate the area where the Tauntauns are heading for. Perhaps we may find something more interesting.”

And so, after a great deal of arguing they finally agreed to follow the Tauntauns to their cave. However, the Tauntauns, it seemed, were not heading to a cave. They were nomadic creatures that never stayed in one place for too long, and they had just cleaned out the cavern that they had been using. Lialla and her team followed them for several hours, running as fast as they could until the Tauntauns outdistanced them and vanished over the horizon. At that point they stopped and tried to consider the situation.

“We’ve gone at least another couple of miles from the ship,” Brin’tac observed. “Maybe we should follow the tracks back to where we were and try something different.”

“The creatures seem to know where they’re going,” said Lialla. “I still think we should follow them.”

“But,” said Satchal, “we don’t know how far they’ll take us before they stop.”

“There must be food around here,” Lialla argued. “They must have a cave nearby for the Wampa to have had a cave.”

“What if they’re leaving their cave to find new feeding grounds?” Tarrsk remarked dismally. “There can’t be that much food around here to supply all of those Tauntaun with sustenance.”

“We should follow the tracks back then,” suggested Geldar. “If they’ve left their previous cave it may be just the place for us to take the ship.”

With that said they decided to turn around and follow the tracks back the way they’d come. Several more hours passed, and soon night began to fall. It was a good thing they’d turned around because the Tauntaun traveled on for some time and distance and would have led them straight through the deadly night to a cave some thirty to forty miles away. During the night the temperatures on the open wasteland dropped to nearly fifty below, and the entire group would have frozen to death.

Now as night fell they finally came upon the cave. A great heat emanating from the mouth of the cave was the first thing that any of them noticed. To their great delight it instantly warmed their frozen digits and joints, and for the first time since they’d crashed on Hoth they knew what it was like to be warm again.

“So there is some heat in this terrible place,” remarked Satchal as he took off the helmet of his environmental suit. “Look, you can even see stone where the snow is actually melted.”

“The heat in this cave is pretty strong,” said Geldar in thought. “Perhaps this is a sleeping volcano.”

“I can’t believe we didn’t find this place earlier,” said Lialla. “I thought we’d been this way before.”

“Who cares?” said Satchal. “The point is that we’ve found it now. We can probably move the ship here and finish repairs in the heat of this cavern.”

“Not likely,” said Lialla. “This is at least four to five miles to the southwest of the ship. We couldn’t drag it here, and if the ship flies here it may not fly again. Remember?”

“Look,” said Geldar as he stooped in near the western wall of the cave and brushed his hand across the rocks there. “There are definitely signs that something was growing here. Cracks in the cave floor and stumps of growth indicate that plant-life is attempting to make a home here. The roots probably extend far beneath this cave. The Tauntaun must have been feeding here for some time and have now left. They’ll probably return later when they think the plants here have grown again.”

“This still doesn’t solve our situation, though,” Tarrsk said gruffly. “So what if there’s life here. We have to find a power source or some shelter for the ship. This cave might be large, but I don’t think it would fit the ship even if we could get it here.”v “Let’s search the cave out further,” Brin’tac suggested. “We may find something more deeper in. Besides, night is here, and it would be too dangerous to make the trek back to the ship at this point and time.”

“I’ll try to radio them while you guys head out,” Lialla told them.

Off they went with glow rods raised high to light their way as the heat of the cavern grew more intense. At this point Satchal put his helmet back up so that the environmental suit could now protect him from the heat. The entrance to the cave was wide and large, but at the back it narrowed into a small passage.

“This passage is smooth,” said Geldar as he held his glow rod closer to inspect the walls. “Isn’t that odd?”

“And it looks like someone used a plasma cutter on it,” Satchal remarked as he, too, examined the wall.

They all exchanged questioning glances as Tarrsk readied his weapon just in case. On they went into the passage that sloped gently down into the deep darkness of the underground. The passage went straight as an arrow at first until at last it came to a fork in the road. At this point Lialla stopped them, for she had rushed to catch up with them.

“We’ve got a problem,” she said, her face shining eerily in the light of the glow rods. “The signal’s very weak. I could barely make them out.”

“What are you saying?” asked Satchal, his stomach turning with a sudden sense of dread.

“I think the storm has hit already.”

The End

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