Star Wars: Cruise Control | Scene 10.6

Sandwich in hand, Gomarr leans on a cocktail table, enjoying some light refreshments on the observation deck. So far, this is a safer way to observe stars than camping out at a dig site. Then the door bursts open, clattering against the wall, and Tcho stumbles through. Gomarr is pretty sure that he sees wisps of smoke coming off the undergrad’s back. Buddy, you been shot again? he wonders. You can’t keep doing this to yourself. The Gamorrean casually pulls out his comm and rings JT to let her know that Tcho has arrived. She does not answer, but hopefully that just means she is already in position herself.

Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow. Tcho let the Stormtrooper catch up a bit, but now he finds he regrets it. His arm and back burn with the heat of a blaster bolt, a feeling with which he is becoming far too familiar of late. The new room is dim, but it is also populated with stargazers, which Tcho hopes—for their sake as well as his—will dissuade further gunplay. There can be no doubt that his tail knows his destination now, so Tcho finally embraces his long-suppressed stealth instincts and ducks down behind a cocktail table. He just needs to get across this one final room and into the escape pod he and JT set up. Preferably, given the pain he is in right now, without being shot again.

Sergeant Renault closes the distance. The other troopers were holding him back, just like his too-tight helmet and his too-heavy rifle. Unencumbered now, he bursts through the door onto the observation deck and looks around at all the startled passengers, his eyes—one brown, one glowing red—searching for the Pantoran or the possible exits to which he might be headed. Knife in hand and without a helmet, he presents a crazed picture to the shocked witnesses, but he does not care. There is movement across the room, a flutter of tablecloth at a table or two, and then Renault sees his target dash toward one of the pods. Renault charges forward, knife raised, but the Pantoran is already inside. The alien turns around, and Renault sees his gold eyes widening in alarm as he frantically slaps the door-close button repeatedly. The door starts shutting, and Renault hurls his knife. It catches in the seam for a moment and then is pushed out. Renault slams into the fully closed portal and growls as the pod hurtles away from Dame Metropolis. He scoops up his knife and stalks over to a viewport. The civilians shuffle away to give him space, and a few moments later, he is granted the gratifying sight of the pod exploding.

* * *

Once they have chosen the observation deck as the getaway location, Tcho and JT return in the small hours of the night during one of the periods in which it is closed to the public. Tcho springs the door to the lounge, and they select a pod. JT gets right to work, half under one of the consoles. She has told him that she works with machines and technology, but this is the first time he has really seen her in her element. Tcho crouches next to her in the tight quarters, searching through her backpack for the torque wrench she has requested. “It’s on the bottom on the left, under the seven and a half square,” she calls out from the belly of the escape pod.

“All right,” Tcho mutters, trying again, “I know what a square is.”

“Uh, no,” JT clarifies. “It’s not actually shaped like a square. It’s used to square things up.”

He fishes around in her bag and then pulls his hand out, distressed to see it covered in oily grime. “Ugh!” When their roles were reversed, he at least had the courtesy to place his tools out in an orderly fashion, not this unhygienic mess. 

JT sees no problem with the oily situation. “You’ve got to avoid rust! Rust is the enemy. Your fingers will heal; the metal won’t.”

She resumes work with a small welder and sparks start flying. Tcho cannot help but ask, “Is this safe?”

“Oh, yeah, it’s going to look really good. There’s not going to be anything left of this.” Her tone is clearly meant to be reassuring, but he notices she did not really answer his question.

“But what about me? I’m going to be right there when it explodes.”

She sticks her head out, blue hair all askew, oil smudging her face. “Well, don’t be right there. Be in the spacesuit.”

“Yes, but,” he gestures around at the cramped space, “the escape pods are not very large.”

JT shrugs. “You’ll be hurled out into space, but I’ll come get you,“ she says casually. “Don’t worry. I’m a pretty good pilot. And the good news is that in space, there’s no ground you can fall and hit.” She closes up a panel and runs some leads to another one, then points in a vague way at a third. “It’ll be all right. Just don’t push that button.”

“So, wait, I have to set it off myself?”

“What? No. Don’t worry about it. Everything’s on a timer,” she says cheerfully. “Just don’t be late.” She pops on her helmet and flips down the visor. “Stay safe, citizen,” her modulated voice intones.

I’m entrusting myself to a madwoman, Tcho thinks, not for the first time.

* * *

There is one terrifying moment of a crazed Stormtrooper with a scarred face and glowing red eye hurling a knife at him. It is followed by relief at it getting stuck in the door instead of his own chest and the subsequent panicked thought that the blade will interfere with the pod’s vacuum seal. Then Tcho’s brain starts working again, and he realizes that will not matter at all since he will be in a spacesuit. Which I had better get into quickly. Tcho yanks out a duffel stuffed under a panel. “PD, what did you put in here?” he mutters as he opens the bag and pulls out the suit. Thankfully it is relatively straightforward to put on and seal, so he has it all taken care of with time to spare. Then he backs as far away from the panels JT worked on as possible and steels himself for the explosion.

When JT’s bomb goes off, the blast is mainly directed toward Dame Metropolis to make a big splash from the viewer’s vantage point while covering Tcho’s escape. Still, the force that hits him is significant, hurling him away from the cruiseliner. He spins out of control, all sense of equilibrium lost; there is no up or down. He has never been in a weightless environment before, and the enormous expanse of space around him is simultaneously overwhelming and crushing. He feels like he is moving quickly, but at the same time, there is nothing his eyes can latch onto for reference. These conflicting sensations continue for far too long. 

Tcho knows that the friendly human’s heart is in the right place, but he wonders whether JT herself is.