The Search Heats Up

The news that the storm may have already reached the ship caused all of their hearts to sink. After all, what was the point of going on with little hope that they’d get off planet? Even if they could get off planet, due to some sort of luck or chance, they would never see Nyarchagga or Tso again.

“There’s always the possibility that they moved the ship,” said Brin’tac, after a moment of thinking. “We may still find them yet.”

“Even if that’s the case,” said Satchal, “how are we going to find them, and why didn’t they respond to our message?”

“There’s no sense worrying about it,” said Tarrsk with little emotion in his voice. “If the blizzard hit the ship then we’ll just have to deal with it. Right now we have to search this cave and see where it leads. I don’t like that the tunnel looks as though it’s been manmade. We should investigate. You never know what we might find in here.”

Satchal nodded. “You’re right,” he replied with jaw set. “We shouldn’t worry about things just yet. Let’s keep moving.”

But as he began to pass Geldar put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Satchal,” he whispered. “I sense that you are trying to force down your anxieties with anger. That can be dangerous.”

Satchal gave him a glare. “Handle anxieties in your own way, and I’ll handle them in mine. I can control my anger, Geldar, maybe even better than you.” His words were harsh and cold, but Geldar could see that he was restraining a bitterness that was deep within him. “Let’s just go.”

“But which passage should we take?” asked Brin’tac as he stood staring at the passages. “I don’t sense any difference between the two.”

“Always take the same passage,” said Lialla. “Then you’ll never get lost. I always go right first.”

“Fine,” said Geldar, still a bit worried about Satchal. “Lialla should go first with Tarrsk in the lead. Satchal and I will take the rear.”

This time Satchal closed his eyes and refrained from making another comment about Geldar’s take-charge attitude. At this point he was more concerned about Nyarchagga and Tso than about making any point about Geldar.

Thus no one argued, and off they went to the right. The passage continued on to descend deeper into the underground in almost a perfect straight line. Then, all at once, the passage turned sharp to the right, and it was as they rounded this bend that they began to notice that the heat was even seeping through their environmental suits.

“I don’t know how much more we’re going to be able to continue,” commented Brin’tac, who was warmer than the others due to his thick fur. “The heat is becoming to strong.”

“There must be some sort of lava pit down here,” replied Lialla. “Maybe he’s right. Maybe we should turn back.”

“You’re the leader,” Satchal replied crisply. “Whatever you say goes.”

“We could always try the other passage,” suggested Geldar.

Lialla paused to think a moment. “This passage was delved out by someone,” she replied. “It must lead somewhere bearable enough for sentients to dwell.”

“It depends on the sentient,” Brin’tac replied, “and on how long ago they built this passage. They may not have dwelled here for many centuries.”

“I say we should still try investigating a little further,” said Geldar as he turned to Brin’tac. “If you need to, why don’t you stay here or head back up a bit where it’s cooler.”

“I may just take you up on that offer,” said Brin’tac thankfully.

“I’ll stay with him,” said Satchal, who was very weary of the entire expedition. “None of us should be alone.”

“Good idea,” said Lialla. “We won’t be long.”

So Lialla led Geldar and Tarrsk on down the passage while Satchal and Brin’tac returned up to the main cavern near the entrance. Instantly, Brin’tac began to recover from the heat, and he felt somewhat foolish for turning back. However, he was glad to be away from the wall of heat, and since Satchal had come with him he felt comforted.

The End

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