Star Wars: Cruise Control | Scene 5.1

Tcho Praetor moves swiftly through the corridors of Dame Metropolis, feeling the weight of the medkit in his satchel as it thumps against his thigh and the uncomfortable heat of the flush across his cheeks. Emla’s here. His ears feel like they are burning, too. He decides to head to the Snowscape, hoping the chill of the artificially cold environment will help him clear his head. He knows he needs to stay focused on his mission, but right now Tcho just feels alone and out of his depth. PD-101 told him there are no other Rebel operatives on this vessel, no one to help him investigate the moff’s plans. The droid was apologetic about it but expressed that he cannot jeopardize his own position for this matter. The news was disheartening, to say the least. Tcho had not expected to have to do this entirely on his own, but he will, if that is the way it has to be. This moff is up to something that no one knows about, and Tcho is the only one in a position to find out. At least that blue-haired loon seems sympathetic and helpful. Maybe if things don’t quite work out here, she can put me in touch with some of her Rebel contacts.

The Snowscape is a multideck extravaganza, designed to provide cold-weather entertainment novel to the majority of galactic citizens who come from desert, jungle, or urban worlds. Sledding and snowboarding courses snake down a hill that starts two decks above. A few chairlifts are spaced out around the rocky synthetic snow mound to carry patrons back up to the top for another run or a relaxing beverage. At the top of the slope, hot drinks are served at the faux ski lodge or cold ones at the Ice Cavern Restaurant carved out of a solid block of frozen water. At the base, a mechanic is just finishing up making some repairs to one of the lifts. 

Rental coats and sporting equipment are available from kiosks through the space, all marked with the Dame Snowscape Lodge logo. The large open expanse of the lowest level is filled with an ice rink that is crowded with skaters of varying skill levels. Around its edges, customers sit on benches watching their children or cling to railings trying to build up enough courage to head out onto the ice. Entrances to fanciful ice caves are partially hidden throughout the Snowscape.

Tcho pauses along the side of the rink, leaning on the railing lost in thought. He should be planning his next move, prepping to break into the moff’s quarters just like it was any old job, but his mind keeps returning to Emla. It should not matter to him that she is here. There is nothing left between them, and she is not the sort of person who would offer apologies even if she could appreciate anything other than her own comfort. Tcho berates himself for letting this upset him and breathes in the pleasantly chill air. Whatever small amount of relaxation it provides evaporates when he hears the words every criminal hates.

“Hey, you there! Pantoran! Stop! We have some questions for you.”

Instincts are hard to suppress. Tcho darts behind a knot of people and ducks down. Please don’t start shooting. He shucks off the crew uniform jacket, slings his satchel over his shoulder, and snatches a castoff Snowscape coat from a nearby bench. As he slips it on, he uses the passengers for a screen and heads down the long room. He grabs a red and black scarf off another bench, thinking to conceal his gold facial tattoos and lavender-tipped white hair with it, but the continued shouts of Stormtroopers indicate the futility of such a disguise. A quick change is not going to work; time to run.

* * *

Sergeant Renault has spent the past hour going from blue-skinned alien to blue-skinned alien, and so far it has all been a bust. His underlings in “Ape” Squad have reported that none of the crew members they have questioned know anything about a Pantoran on staff, but it is a big ship. From the comms chatter, none of the other squads have had better luck finding the person of interest in connection with tampering with the moff’s cargo. The next room on Renault’s list is a large, crowded entertainment space. Across the short axis of the oblong ice rink, he sees someone in ship uniform with blue skin. Looks kind of young, hair is pale with some lavender. That fits the bill. Then one of his underling calls across the way, and the alien runs. Yeah, this is our guy. 

“Civilians, out of the way! There’s a criminal!” Renault orders as his unit begins trying to shove through the passengers. The crowd is slow to get out of the way of the Stormtroopers, busy as they are enjoying their vacations. Renault puts in a quick call to Ms. Diol to inform her of their progress.

“Oh! You must be Snowtroopers!” someone calls out, thinking the squad is part of the cavernous room’s theme. Other passengers crowd around, trying to see how they are equipped for the conditions. Some thank them for their service, others marvel at the sight of the Empire’s might. 

Face concealed by his helmet, Renault frowns, uncomfortable with this type of attention. His troopers are not so shy. They get a bit distracted answering questions and showing off equipment. Renault snaps at them, pointing out where the alien is, now in a different coat. Trooper LB-553, always the go-getter, assures his leader, “I’ll get him!” He takes off at a run straight out onto the ice. Lacking the crampons of an actual Snowtrooper, his feet fly out from under him. There is a resounding crack as his head smashes into the solid floor. 

Renault orders him to get himself to the medbay and urges the rest of the unit across the ice. “C’mon, you numbskulls, don’t let him get away!” He himself stays on the sidelines, pushing through the crowd and trying to figure out where this runner is headed. “Split up and surround him, you apes!” he shouts to that useless lot. “Fan out!” Damn, it’s cold in here, he thinks.