Tso's Desperate Decision

Tso sat in the cockpit of the ship going over the controls once more when Nyarchagga entered and sat down next to him. “Feeling a bit nervous?” he asked with a smirk.

Tso sighed. “I don’t need you teasing me anymore about my past failures, Nyar. I don’t like the idea of everyone depending on me any more than you do, but that’s just the way it’s going to be. So leave me alone!”

Nyarchagga threw his hands up defensively and drew back away from the Sullustan. “Relax. No need to have a whelp right here. I just came to check on you. We’re all taking a break from our work, and I thought I’d see what you were doing.”

“Going over the controls for the millionth time,” he replied in total anguish. “I wish there was something else to do.”

“What about a game of Pazaak?” asked the Dug. “I’ll even go easy on you this time.”

Tso shook his head. “I always lose at those games.”

Nyarchagga frowned. “What do you do for fun?” he asked, and it actually seemed that the Dug was interested.

Tso looked at him for a moment. “Well,” he said with some reluctance. “The things I like to do you’d probably find very boring.”

“Probably,” admitted the Dug, “but at least it would be something to do.”

Tso considered for another moment whether he should tell the Dug anything, and deciding it couldn’t hurt he said, “Believe it or not I enjoy very much the excitement of being behind the controls of a ship. I love flying, and I love traveling from one system to another. There’s no greater feeling than to feel the ship soaring through space or the sky at my command.”

The Dug rolled his eyes. “But what do you like to do when you’re not doing that?” he wondered.

“Well,” said Tso. “I like to play games and things like that. I just don’t like playing them with people who are very skilled at them. It’s no fun when you lose all the time. I also like scouting out new places and seeing new things, and I enjoy very much the company of almost everyone in our group.”

At this the Dug sat up eagerly. “Who don’t you enjoy the company of?” he inquired.

Tso smiled. “Oh, no. Why should I tell you? You’ll just go cause trouble with that information.”

Nyarchagga’s face formed a devilish grin. “Is it Tarrsk?”

Tso shook his head. “I’m not telling you.”

“Come on,” said Nyarchagga. “What’re you afraid of?”

“You,” said Tso. “I don’t trust you. You could take something as innocent as a rose and turn it into a Rancor.”

Nyarchagga chuckled. “Thanks for the compliment.”

Their conversation was cut off suddenly, however, when a transmission came through. “This is Gariss,” came the gruff voice of the Barabel. “We just received a transmission from Marks. We need to get this ship up in the air. The storm has blown in our direction, and it’s going to be here in three hours. Marks said that it started blowing in this direction an hour ago, and it’s moving fast.”

“All right,” said Tso feeling a lump form in his throat. “I’ll get the ship ready for takeoff.”

“Good,” said Gariss. “Par’kiss suggests taking your time and letting the engines warm up first. Although it will cost us some considerable energy to do so we don’t want to risk burning out the engines.”

“Right,” said Tso, and he immediately flicked on the power to the cockpit. “Let’s see if we can actually get this thing off the ground.”

“Looks like you’ll get your chance to do what you really like before you thought, eh?” Nyarchagga remarked with a smile. “Just hope you don’t blow something in the process.”

Tso glared at him for a moment. “If you’re not going to do anything useful right now then you can leave. I think I can fly a ship across the frozen wastes without destroying something.”

“We’ll see,” said Nyarchagga with another smirk.

Tso sneered and turned away from him back to the communications’ counsel. “Gariss,” he said. “Where should we go?”

“See if you can find a safe place to park the ship preferably to the northwest away from the storm,” said Gariss.

“What about my friends?” he asked.

“They’ll either have to find us or we’ll pick them up on the way if we run across them.”

“Can’t we send out a message to them?” asked Nyarchagga.

“No,” Gariss replied. “We think they’ve gone beyond our range of contact or something’s jamming the signal. We tried to reach them, but there was no response.”

Tso and Nyarchagga both exchanged worried glances. “Something could have happened to them,” said Tso to Gariss.

“If so there’s nothing we can do about it,” said the Barabel. “We’ve got more pressing things to worry about. Night’s coming on, and Par’kiss says it will be much more difficult to get this ship to work with the temps dropping. We have to move now.”

Tso then switched off the communicator and sat back for a moment. He stared out the window as he wondered just where the others could be and why they hadn’t contacted them in some time.

“Hey!” snapped Nyarchagga, waking Tso from his thoughts. “I thought you were going to get us out of here.”

“I am,” said Tso as he sat forward once more and began powering up the ship’s engines. “I was just wondering what was going on with the others.”

“They’ll be fine,” said the Dug with confidence. “If we can get out of some of the scrapes we’ve been in I’m sure this planet isn’t going to kill them.”

Secretly, though, Nyarchagga was just as worried as Tso, if not more so. He’d been traveling with Brin’tac and Satchal for so long that he had forgotten what life was like without them. He would never really admit it to anyone, but he was rather fond of both of them. It would devastate him if they didn’t return.

The cockpit of the ship now sat in silence with only the hum of the engines filling the room. For thirty minutes neither one spoke as they considered the possibility that they would never see their friends again. Then, at last, Par’kiss broke the silence by announcing that he thought the engines were ready to go, and at that Tso fired them up and grabbed the control stick to ease the ship into the air.”

The ship rattled and rocked as it started up into the air, and the tension in the ship was so thick it could be cut only with a lightsaber. The ship ascended some thirty feet into the air before Tso kicked in the rear thrusters to send them forward across the wasteland. To his left he could see the dark clouds of the storm pressing in towards them, and he grimaced as he thought of what would happen if they were caught in it.

Then, all at once, a loud snapping sound shook the ship, and instantly it twisted counter-clockwise. The thrusters had kicked in but the left stabilizer had broken sending the ship spinning in circles like a top. Tso jerked hard on the controls to compensate, but when he did so the right stabilizer snapped as well veering them on a course right for the storm.

“Way to go!” cried Nyarchagga in dismay as he thrust his head forward to see out the viewport better. “You’re going to kill us all.”

“Not quite!” snapped Tso, and he shut the thrusters down and slammed the ship’s rear thrusters into action. The ship immediately slowed to a stop and halted now dangerously close to the mountain, which was just to the left and beneath the ship.

Just then Par’kiss’ voice shot over the communicator. “Both left and right stabilizers are shot! You’ll have to reverse it to get us away from the storm. There’s no way we can turn until both stabilizers are repaired.”

“I don’t have any guidance systems!” Tso cried. “There’s no way I can steer this thing for long without guidance systems especially going in reverse. I won’t be able to see if something’s coming up at us.”

“Fly higher,” said Par’kiss. “You won’t hit anything if you’re high enough.”

“What about power?” Tso shot back. “Will we have enough?”

“At this point power is the least of our worries.” It was Gariss this time, and his voice was sharp and cold. “Just do it!”

But Tso knew in his heart that to do this would doom them all to being stranded on Hoth. Even without both left and right stabilizers he knew he could still get the ship off planet if they had enough power. However, if they expended the energy by flying high into the air they’d never make it. Scanning around the terrain as best he could Tso desperately hoped to find something to save them from the storm.

And there it was. A cleft of the mountain was just wide enough for the ship to land on. If he could just manage to get the ship down on that cleft, and if it could support the weight of the vessel, they might be high enough that the snow would not bury them. The winds might threaten to knock them off, but sheer rocks wall rose up on the east and north sides of the cleft that might save them. At that point, desperate as he was, Tso saw it as their only chance. With no guidance systems and no left or right stabilizers, Tso dropped the ship down towards the cleft and gently eased it into place. Gritting his teeth as the ship touched the stone and the landing gears sunk into the snow that covered it, Tso spent the next few moments praying that this move wasn’t a mistake.

“What are you doing?” Nyarchagga wondered after the ship touched the cleft of the mountain. “Didn’t you hear what they said?”

Tso glanced over at him with worry etched on his face. “I’m hoping I didn’t just make a huge mistake,” he replied.

Then another voice cut in with the same question. Gariss was furious. “You stupid Sullustan! What the @*(& are you doing up there?”

Tso was reluctant to reply. “I’ve landed us on the mountain,” he replied. “So far it seems to be holding. I’ve landed us on a large cleft. It might be…”

“You @#$@@$ idiot!” Gariss shot back, cutting him off. “Are you trying to kill us all? I told you to get the ship out of here.”

“I…” said Tso, but he was cut off again. Par’kiss was saying something in the background.

“The ship’s belly thrusters are buried in snow,” said the Devaronian. “We’re not lifting off again, at least for now. The snow is too deep, and it will take some time and energy for the thrusters to melt the snow before we can use them again. Otherwise we will cause the engines to fry since they have no room to fire.”

Gariss continued to curse and swear violently, and Nyarchagga quickly switched off the com-channel. “No sense in hearing any more of that,” he replied with a glance over at Tso. “I really hope you know what you’re doing, Tso. If not we’re going to have one heck of a battle on our hands when we try to fight our way out of this thing.”

Tso was stunned. “You mean you’d fight with me if they tried to kill me?” he said, not sure what to think of that comment.

Nyarchagga smiled. “Of course,” he replied. Then his smile twisted into a sadistic one. “I’d want to make sure we got out alive so that I could kill you myself.”

The End

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