The Star Wars Expanded Universe Timeline is proud to present the never-before published third book in Scholastic's Adventures in Hyperspace series, The Big Switch, by Ryder Windham! Included are preliminary illustrations by Jeff Carlisle, footnotes and an afterword by Ryder Windham, explaining the history of this project, and a synopsis for what would have been Book 4: The Last Blade Master!
No copyright infringement is intended or implied. This is an unpublished work preserved here for fans and archival purposes; should Lucasfilm and Scholastic ever decide to publish it in the future, it will be taken down.
Chewbacca the Wookiee looked at the stellar black hole and let out a whimpering groan.
“Stop worrying, you big coward,” Han Solo said as he tapped the Millennium Falcon’s flight controls. “There’s almost a  hundred and sixty kilometers between us and that black hole’s event horizon, about twice the distance we need to keep from falling in.”
Chewbacca wailed his concern.
“Of course, I know what I’m doing!” Han replied as he checked a sensor scope. “Don’t you trust me?”
Chewbacca shook his furry head. Seated beside Han in the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit, he found himself unable to tear his gaze from the dark, gravitational nightmare that loomed outside the cockpit’s transparisteel window.
Han grinned as he confirmed the black hole’s coordinates on the navicomputer readout. “Chewie, I know you’re not crazy about the idea of using the  Ferra sector’s black hole for a gravity assist to the next hyperspace portal, but wait ’til you see how much time it will shave off our trip back to Tatooine.” Han gunned the sublight engines and veered toward the black hole.
The Wookiee yelped. Han replied, “Aw, just sit back and enjoy the ride.”
The Falcon raced forward and Chewbacca cringed against his seat. Outside the cockpit window, the black hole appeared to grow larger. But then the Falcon whipped past the black hole and then distant stars came into view. Before the Wookiee could breathe a sigh of relief, Han said, “Punch it, Chewie!”
Chewbacca reached a massive hand to the hyperdrive controls. A moment later, the stars in front of the Falcon appeared to elongate and slide past the ship. As the Falcon accelerated to faster-than-light speed and zoomed into hyperspace, Chewbacca glanced at Han and barked a question.
Han answered, “Oh, I think the black hole saved us at least thirty-five seconds.”
The Wookiee roared.
“Why’re you yelling at me?” Han said. “It’s better than losing thirty-five seconds, right?”
Chewbacca grunted in disagreement as he ran an in-flight systems check. According to the readouts, the Falcon was holding together despite Han’s reckless maneuver to save time.
“Stop sulking already,” Han said. “Remember what Jabba told us? If we don’t deliver his shipment on time, we won’t get our bonus!”
Although the Millennium Falcon looked like an old, battered YT-1300 Corellian freighter, Han Solo and Chewbacca had modified the engines, thrusters, and other systems to transform the ship into one of the fastest in the galaxy. Traveling through hyperspace, it did not take long for the Falcon to reach the Arkanis Sector, the region of space that was home to the sand planet Tatooine.
“We’re ahead of schedule,” Han said as he checked a chronometer. “We’re sure to get that bonus!”
Chewbacca answered with a happy bark. A moment later, the Falcon dropped out of hyperspace, arriving just outside Tatooine’s orbit. But then Chewbacca saw a bright blip appear on a sensor scope, and he let out an angry growl.
“Yeah, I see it too,” Han Solo replied as he watched a ship approach from Tatooine. “It’s a  Rendili StarDrive light corvette, the one commanded by the new Imperial Customs officer.”
Chewbacca barked a question.
“No, we’re not gonna turn back,” Han said. “We’re gonna deliver the stuff to Jabba, just like I said we would.”
The approaching ship was more than  five times longer than the Falcon. Although Tatooine was far from the center of the Galactic Empire, the Imperials kept a small  garrison in the spaceport city Mos Eisley, and they did stop ships from time to time.
Han said, “I’ve heard the new Customs officer takes his job very seriously. But I doubt he knows that we take our job very seriously too.”
A light flashed on the communications console. Han said, “We’re being hailed. Here’s where the fun begins.”
“Shut down your engines,” a voice droned from the Falcon’s communications console. “Lock all systems except commo  , and prepare to be boarded,”
Han transmitted an affirmative signal while Chewbacca powered down the Falcon’s sublight engines. As the Customs corvette moved closer to their position, Han checked the Falcon’s automatic weapons systems. Thanks to his engineering skills, he trusted that the Imperial sensors would detect the Falcon’s weapons as “locked” even though they were really on full standby.
The Falcon shuddered as it was snared by the Customs corvette’s tractor beam. As the Imperial vessel drew the captured freighter into its docking arms, Han muttered, “What do you think, Chewie? Wait until we dock, then open fire on the Imperials with everything we’ve got?”
Chewbacca replied with a concerned whimper.
“Hey, it worked once before!” Han said. “Aw, just relax. I’ll only blow up everything in sight if I have to.”
Leaving the Falcon’s cockpit, Chewbacca went to the main hold while Han stood in the passage tube and waited for the Imperials to enter through the starboard docking port. He did not have to wait long.
The port’s hatch slid open and gray-uniformed man stepped into the Falcon along with four Imperial stormtroopers. Han said, “Is there a problem, officer?”
Moving past Solo as he headed for the main hold, the uniformed man said, “You appeared to be in quite a hurry to get to Tatooine.”
“Really?” Han said innocently as he followed. “Sorry, I didn’t know there was a speed limit. I was just trying to deliver my cargo on time.”
“As you can see, we’re just hauling bottled water,” Han said as he gestured at the cargo crates stacked in the main hold. Chewbacca the Wookiee stood beside the crates and gazed uneasily at the stormtroopers as if he were afraid they might blast the bottles.
The customs officer said, “What is the destination for all this water?”
“Mos Eisley,” Han replied. “A restaurant named  Court of the Fountain.”
“That’s a Hutt-owned establishment,” the officer said.
“Is it?” Han said. “Do you know if the food’s any good? I’ve never heard anything bad about the place, but—”
““Under the Imperial  Anti-Racketeering Act, your cargo is officially confiscated.”
“What?” Han said. “But if we don’t deliver this water, we won’t get paid!”
As the stormtroopers began hauling the cargo crates back to the Customs corvette, the Imperial officer looked at Han and said, “I don’t like Hutts, and I don’t like anyone who does business with them. If I catch you again, I’ll impound your ship.” Glancing at Chewbacca, the officer added, “Shouldn’t this thing be in a cage?”
Chewbacca pretended he didn’t understand and remained silent. Han said, “Sorry, officer, I didn’t get your name.”
“Rench,” the officer said. “Captain Rench”
The Imperial Customs corvette released the Millennium Falcon, and Han Solo and Chewbacca returned to their freighter’s cockpit. As they watched the corvette move off, Han said, “Do you think Captain Rench and his men looked thirsty? Maybe we should have told them where that bottled water came from?”
Chewbacca let out a braying laugh and shook his massive head.
Han grinned. “No, I didn’t want to tell them either. Serves them right for making us late back to Tatooine.”
Han and Chewbacca guided the Falcon down through Tatooine’s atmosphere. They flew over the Jundland Wastes and headed for Mos Eisley Spaceport, a sprawling cluster of domed buildings and open-roofed docking bays. As they steered past other airborne vessels, a warning light flashed on the systems console. Chewbacca glanced at the light and groaned.
Han replied, “The  fulstar plate isn’t working? When did you last inspect it?”
“No, I’m not blaming you, Chewie,” Han said. “It must have burned out after our last hyperspace jump. We’ll just have to buy another one.”
They descended into Docking Bay 94. Chewbacca deployed the Falcon’s landing gear and then the landing jets kicked in, sending a swirling cloud of dust up and around the ship as it touched down. The dust was still settling as Han and Chewbacca stepped out of the Falcon to see Jabba the Hutt’s men were waiting for them.
“You’re late, Solo,” said Jabba’s assistant, the Twi’lek Bib Fortuna. “You brought the water?”
“Don’t get your brain-tails in a knot!” Han said. “I’m not even ten minutes late, and the water’s in the Falcon’s liquid storage tanks. I hope you brought some big barrels.”
“You were hired to deliver bottled water!” Bib hissed. “No bottles, no deal!”
“If it’s bottles you want,” Han said, “go ask the new Imperial Customs officer for the ones he took from me. But if you want pure mineral water for Jabba’s restaurant, you’re gonna pay me right now. Or would you rather have Jabba find out that it was your decision to let the Court of the Fountain run dry?”
Bib Fortuna’s orange eyes flicked nervously at Jabba’s other henchmen. He said, “Get barrels!”
The henchmen shuffled out of the docking bay. They returned two minutes later with a hoversled that carried ten large barrels. Chewbacca fixed hoses to the barrels and quickly transferred the water from the Falcon’s tanks. When all the barrels were full, Bib leered at Solo and said, “Because you are late, no bonus. Because you not bring bottles, I only pay you half.”
Chewbacca stepped forward and roared in Bib’s face. The Twi’lek cringed.
“Keep the bonus, Bib,” Han said, “but you’ll pay in full, or Chewbacca will grab your head-tails and make a wish.”
Bib threw his hands up defensively over his head and said, “Only joking! Ha ha! I pay full price!” Handing two credit chips to Han, he repeated, “Only joking.”
“You’re a real comedian, Bib,” Han said as he took the chips. “You’re lucky Chewie didn’t laugh your head off.”
“Get moving!” Bib said to his fellow gang members. “We must get this water to the restaurant before Jabba arrives!”
After the gang left, Chewbacca looked at Han and groaned. Han replied, “No, I didn’t forget that we need a new fulstar plate. But right now, I’m thinking of a lunch plate.”
Chewbacca grunted a suggestion.
“No, not the Cantina,” Han said. “Today, we’re eating at the Court of the Fountain. I want to talk with Jabba about Captain Rench.”
“No, we don’t have a reservation,” Han Solo said to the short alien who was the manager at the Court of the Fountain. “But I suggest you get us a table fast. My Wookiee friend is very hungry, and I’m afraid you sort of look like his favorite meal.”
Chewbacca smiled, baring his sharp teeth at the manager.
“Right this way!” said the manager as he led Han and Chewbacca to a nearby table. He took their orders and fled to the kitchen.
A waiter placed food and two large cups of water before Han and Chewbacca. Chewbacca ate his food quickly, then looked around the exotic dining room and grunted his approval. Han said, “Yeah, it’s more fancy than the Cantina, but I’ll bet the drinks aren’t as—”
Han was interrupted by a loud gong. He looked to the restaurant’s entrance and saw Jabba the Hutt arriving with his gang. As Jabba’s heavily lidded eyes scanned the room, he saw Han and Chewbacca and smiled.
“Ah, Han!” Jabba said as he slithered toward the two smugglers. “Just the fellow I wanted to see. Bib tells me you failed to deliver the water I ordered.”
Han grinned at Jabba. Raising his cup, he said, “If Bib’s telling the truth, where did this water come from?”
Bib Fortuna bit his lip nervously. Seeing the Twi’lek’s response, the Hutt laughed heartily. “Han, my boy,” Jabba said, “I do enjoy how you torment my assistant. But still, I ordered bottled water.”
Han shrugged. “I guessed Captain Rench of Imperial Customs might seize my cargo, so Chewie and I put the mineral water in the Falcon’s tanks.”
Confused, Jabba said, “If Rench took the bottles, what was in them?”
Lowering his voice, Han said, “I’d rather not tell you.”
Jabba chuckled. “Oh, Han, you are quite the rascal. But Court of the Fountain’s customers expect premium bottled water, so—”
“So refill the old bottles with recycled water like you always do,” Han interrupted. “Listen, Jabba. I didn’t come here to talk about how to run a restaurant. Rench told me he doesn’t like Hutts. He wants to put you out of business.”
Jabba grinned. “Are you telling me this because you like me, Han?”
“No,” Han said. “I’m telling you this because I like your money.”
Jabba laughed. “I like my money too!” He scratched his flabby chin. “Captain Rench is not my problem, Han. My problem is I have obtained a stone sculpture for my art collection from a dealer on  Unagin, and I want it brought to Tatooine immediately. Do you know any pilots who might be available?”
Han glanced at Chewbacca. Chewbacca nodded. Han replied, “How big is the sculpture? And how much does it weigh?”
Jabba snapped his thick fingers. Bib Fortuna placed an old datapad with a  built-in holoprojector on the dining table, then pressed a button on the device. A three-dimensional, light-generated image, a portrait bust of a Hutt, appeared in the air along with data about the sculpture and its location on Unagin, a minor trade world near Hutt Space. Han looked from the hologram to Jabba and said, “Relative of yours?”
Jabba beamed with pride. “My ancestor,  Great Bogga.”
Han read the data about the portrait bust, and noted that it was 4,000 years old. “Chewie and I can handle this job,” he said, “depending on how much it pays.”
“Six thousand credits now,” Jabba said, “and six thousand more when you return with the sculpture. And it better be in one piece.”
Both Han and Chewbacca knew the price was reasonable. Han said, “Okay, Jabba. You just bought a ride for big stone head.”
Jabba switched off the datapad and pushed it toward Han. “Take this. Bib will give you the credits.”
Han and Chewbacca rose from the table. After Bib handed three credit chips to Han, Han picked up the datapad and gave it to Chewbacca. Han said, “So, I guess this means we’re all set.”
“Yes,” Bib hissed. “All set, you are.”
“Good,” Han said as he picked up the datapad. “See you soon, Jabba. C’mon, Chewie.”
The restaurant’s manager saw Han and Chewbacca heading for the exit and said, “Excuse me… You forgot to pay for your meal.”
Looking away from the manager, Han glanced back at the table where Jabba and his gang still lingered. “Hey, Bib!” Han called out. “Are you sure we’re all set?”
“Yes!” Bib answered with some annoyance. “I already told you, you’re all set!”
“Thanks, Bib!” Returning his attention to the manager, Han lowered his voice and said, “Well, you heard the Twi’lek. He insists on paying for our lunch.”
“Very good, sir,” said the manager as Han followed Chewbacca out the door.
Stepping out of Jabba’s restaurant and onto the sun-baked streets of Mos Eisley spaceport, Chewbacca woofed at Han. Han replied, “No, I wasn’t expecting any help from Jabba. But if he doesn’t do anything about Captain Rench, all we can do is look out for ourselves.”
Chewbacca woofed again. Han said, “Yeah, I remember, we still need to replace the fulstar plate. I’ll buy one while you get the Falcon ready for lift-off.”
Chewbacca sauntered off to Docking Bay 94 while Han went to  Bargoon Tatooni, a nearby trading post that offered a wide selection of used spaceship parts. On his way, Han saw a squad of stormtroopers. He wondered if Captain Rench’s corvette had returned to Mos Eisley.
Han was just about to enter Bargoon Tatooni when three Jawas tumbled out through the front doorway, triggering an alarm as they went. As the alarm blared and the Jawas darted off in different directions, a young woman emerged fast from the doorway. Wearing grease-stained coveralls, she clutched a hydrospanner and shook it as she shouted, “Lousy shoplifters!”
Han said, “How’s business,  Kromer?”
In response to Han’s voice, Kromer spun around, swinging her hydrospanner like a weapon. Han jumped back to avoid getting hit. “Take it easy!” he said. “I didn’t swipe anything.”
“Solo,” Kromer gasped. “I… You surprised me,” Lowering the hydrospanner, she tapped a control box on her tool belt and the alarm went silent. She looked around nervously.
“Something wrong?” Han said. “I mean, besides those Jawas?”
“No,” Kromer said sharply. “They didn’t take much… no thanks to you.”
Han shrugged. “What did you expect me to do? Shoot them?” Before Kromer could answer, Han brushed past her and entered the trading post. Kromer followed.
The shop was filled with shelved bins of mechanical devices and parts. Han did not notice anything unusual about other customers, who ignored him in return. Glancing at Kromer, he said, “I need a fulstar plate.”
“I’ve got some refurbished fulstar plates in the storage room,” Kromer replied.
“You don’t have to tell me what you need,” Kromer said as she removed a square red plate from shelf.
Han’s nostrils flared, and he turned to see a portable oven on top of a workbench. Next to the oven was a stack of trays that held small round cakes. Han said, “Those smell like…  Wookiee-ookies!”
“I’m making them for Chalmun,”  Kromer said.
Han knew  Chalmun the Wookiee, who owned the Mos Eisley Cantina. “I didn’t know you could cook, Kromer. Chewbacca loves Wookiee-ookies. Can you spare a few?”
“I guess,” Kromer said. “But it’ll cost you.”
“Half a credit,” replied Kromer as she scooped up several Wookiee-ookies and put them in a small sack. “Plus what you owe me for the fulstar plate.”
“You’re a real sweetheart,” Han said as he paid Kromer.
“Not really,” Kromer said. “I would have given the Wookiee-ookies to Chewbacca.”
Han left Bargoon Tatooni with his purchases. After he was gone, a hooded man who had been pretending to be a customer stepped up beside Kromer. “I heard every word from outside the storage room,” the man said as he pulled back his hood. “You were smart not to warn him about the fulstar plate.”
“Always happy to help the local authorities, Captain Rench,” Kromer said with a smile. “Want a Wookiee-ookie?”
Chewbacca roared angrily from within the Millennium Falcon.
Han had just returned to Docking Bay 94 and was halfway up the Falcon’s landing ramp when he heard his friend’s cry. Carrying the fulstar plate in his left hand, he boarded the ship fast, dropping the sack of Wookiee-ookies as his right hand drew his blaster from its holster.
Chewbacca roared again. Han followed the noise and ran through the passage tube to his left. He shouted, “Chewie!”
Han found Chewbacca standing in the port-side corridor. A small metallic object was in the Wookiee’s hand.
Han looked at the object and scowled. “An Imperial homing beacon! Where did you find it?”
Chewbacca pointed to the ceiling hatch. Han holstered his blaster and took the homing beacon from Chewbacca. “Captain Rench or one of his troopers must have put it there when they boarded,” Han said. “Good thing you spotted it.”
Chewbacca grunted a question. Han replied, “Well, we could destroy the beacon, but that won’t stop Rench from coming after us again. I say we play along and let him try to track the Falcon. We might just be able to use his own beacon against him.” Placing the homing beacon in a vest pocket, Han continued, “As for right now, let’s get moving. Jabba isn’t paying us to stick around Mos Eisley.”
Han helped Chewbacca removed the burned-out fulstar plate and install the new one. Minutes later, the Millennium Falcon’s engines fired and the freighter lifted up and out of the docking bay.
As the Falcon rose away from Tatooine and entered space, Han and Chewbacca checked their sensor scopes. “Heads up, Chewie,” Han muttered. “I’ve got a reading on an Imperial corvette that’s rising fast from Mos Eisley.”
Chewbacca glanced at a scope and spotted the incoming corvette. He snarled.
“Ready to make the jump to Unagin?”
“Then do it!”
The Falcon launched into hyperspace, pushing Han and Chewbacca back against their seats. As starlight expanded and time unfolded around the Corellian freighter, Han removed the homing beacon from his pocket. He thumbed a small switch on the beacon’s side, turning off the device’s transmitter. Returning the beacon to his pocket, he said, “I do believe it’s safe to say that we’ve left Captain Rench eating space dust.”
The Falcon hurtled through hyperspace by way of the  Triellus Trade Route and then detoured onto the Hollastin Run. Dropping out of hyperspace, the Falcon arrived in orbit of the planet Unagin. Although Unagin was in the Al'Nasrl sector, which was technically part of the Galactic Empire, the Falcon’s sensors did not detect any Imperial vessels in the area.
Chewbacca kept his eyes on the space traffic while Han ran a systems check. “The new fulstar plate held up just fine,” Han commented. “Okay, Chewie. Jack the datapad that Jabba gave us into the navi console so we can pinpoint our destination.”
After the datapad was linked in, the Falcon began her descent to Unagin.
Using the coordinates from Jabba’s datapad, the Falcon traveled to a small spaceport and settlement near a wooded area in the planet’s southern hemisphere. Chewbacca surveyed a cluster of buildings at the edge of the settlement, then directed Han to land at a large compound of structures that were bordered by a durocrete wall.
The Falcon touched down inside the compound, and three Aleena came running out from one of the structures to see the Corelleian freighter. Chewbacca brought Jabba’s datapad with him as he and Han stepped down the boarding ramp.
Chewbacca held out the datapad and activated the holoprojector to display the image of the portrait bust. Facing the Aleena, Han pointed to the hologram and said, “Jabba sent us to pick up this sculpture. Understand?”
“I understand,” said the tallest Aleena, speaking in rapid basic. “I am Itto Bipsmik.” She gestured to the two Aleena beside her and said, “Forgive my children for staring. They have never seen a Wookiee before. Jabba’s purchase is ready for you.”
Chewbacca switched off the hologram and Itto guided the Wookiee and Han to a nearby storage shelter. Itto was about to open its doors when a starship’s engines sounded suddenly from overhead.
Han and Chewbacca looked to the sky. They recognized the ship. Han said. “It’s Captain Rench. But how?!”
“You led an Imperial Customs ship to my home?” said the outraged Itto Bipsmik.
“Not on purpose,” Han answered feebly as the Customs corvette descended fast and landed beside the Millennium Falcon in Itto’s compound.
Chewbacca growled at Han. Han replied, “No, I don’t know how Rench followed us here. But he can’t arrest us. We haven’t broken any laws… not yet, anyway.”
The Aleena children wrapped their arms around their mother as Captain Rench and a squad of stormtroopers emerged from the Customs corvette.
“Well, well, if it isn’t Captain Solo and his pet Wookiee,” Captain Rench sneered as he and his stormtroopers came to a stop beside Han’s group. “I admit, I’m surprised to find you so far from Tatooine. I can only imagine how you survived through hyperspace in that junk heap of yours.”
“Nice to see you too, Captain Rench,” Han said with a grin.
Rench looked at the three Aleena and said, “Do any of you things speak Basic?”
Itto nodded nervously.
“Excellent,” Rench said. “Please tell me the nature of your relationship with Captain Solo.”
“I am a trader,” Itto said, her eyes flicking nervously to her storage shelter as her children trembled beside her. “Solo is a pilot. We were just… talking.”
“Just talking,” Rench said, “to a smuggler who happens to work for a Hutt.”
“Smuggler?” Han said, sounding offended. “Hey, my ship is clean as a  kloo horn. If you don’t believe me, have a look for yourself.”
“I doubt we’d find anything of interest in your ship,” Rench said. “But I am curious about what we might find inside here.” He gestured to Itto’s storage shelter.
While the three stormtroopers leveled their rifles at Itto and Chewbacca, the fourth trooper stepped toward storage shelter. Han stood very still, knowing if he reached for his blaster that the troopers would open fire.
The trooper opened the shelter’s door. Inside, the portrait bust of Great Bogga rested on a hovering gravsled. Rench frowned and said, “A Hutt sculpture?”
“I obtained this work of art legally,” Itto said. “It is four thousand years old, excavated from the ruins on  Near Pando.”
“Art, you say?” Rench said. “I call it a piece of trash.” He nodded to the stormtroopers.
The troopers fired their blaster rifles, launching a trio of energy bolts at the ancient sculpture’s face. Itto shielded her children with her body as bits of stone exploded out of the storage shelter. When the dust settled, Han and Chewbacca saw that Great Bogga’s portrait was ruined.
“Let that be a lesson to you all,” Rench said. “If I catch any of you dealing with the Hutts again, you’ll all be sent to labor camps… or worse.” Then Rench faced Han and added, “By the way, the bottled water I took from your ship? I suspected it might be toxic, and a test confirmed I was right.”
“Is that so?” Han said. “Since you’re so determined to get rid of Jabba, maybe should have let me deliver those bottles to him after all.”
Rench smiled. “I suppose I should have. But as things turned out, right before you left Tatooine, I sent all the bottles over to Jabba’s restaurant. Good day, Captain Solo.”
Han, Chewbacca, and the three Aleena watched Rench and the stormtrooper squad return to the Customs corvette. As the corvette lifted off, Itto looked at the ruined sculpture and said, “Jabba will be furious. He will want his money back. My business is finished!”
“Be glad that the Imperials busted Great Bogga and not us,” Han muttered.
“I am so foolish!” Itto said. “If only I had placed the sculpture’s replica in the storage shelter instead!”
Han raised his eyebrows. “Replica? What replica?”
“Well, I’ll be  farkled,” Han said as he gazed at the full-size replica of Great Bogga’s portrait bust that rested on the floor of Itto Bipsmik’s garage. He glanced at IItto and said, “You made this?”
Itto nodded. “I used a laser  pantograph to cut it from a block of  anvilstone,” she admitted. “Only an expert could tell it is not the original. I was going to put it in my garden.” Behind her, the two Aleena children giggled as they ran in circles around Chewbacca.
“Stop playing around, Chewie,” Han said, “and come take a close look at this thing.”
Chewbacca stepped away from the children and moved up beside Han to examine the replica. The Wookiee brushed one hand over the portrait’s clean upper lip, then barked a suggestion.
“You read my mind, pal,” Han replied. “If we make it look a little older, Jabba will never know the difference. At least, I think he’ll never know.”
“What are you talking about?” Itto said. “You… you want to trick Jabba?!”
“We don’t want to trick him,” Han said. “But if Chewie and I go back to Tatooine empty handed, Jabba will want his money back from us as well as you.”
Itto considered the situation, then said, “But… what about the Customs officer? Won’t he try to stop you?”
“Rench can try to stop us,” Han said. “But that doesn’t mean Chewie and I are gonna let him.” Turning to Chewbacca, Han continued, “The only way Rench could have followed us here is if he planted another homing beacon or transmitter on the Falcon. To find it, we need to sweep the entire ship.”
Itto gestured to her children and said, “Can we help?”
“Yeah,” Han said as he headed out of the garage. “Get some dirt and spread it all over that rock head, then bring it to our ship.”
Chewbacca walked with Han back to the Falcon. As they entered the main hold to begin their search for the hidden transmitter, Chewbacca’s black nose twitched. He looked down, saw a small sack lying on the floor near the engineering station, and then barked at Han.
“Huh?” Han said, and followed the Wookiee’s gaze. “Oh! That’s a bag of Wookiee-ookies I bought from Kromer. I guess I tossed them in here and forgot all about them.”
Chewbacca growled hungrily as he bent down to scoop up the sack. Han said, “Always thinking with your stomach! You can eat them after we find Rench’s transmitter!”
Ignoring Han, Chewbacca reached into the sack, pulled out a Wookiee-ookie and popped it into his mouth. He reached into the bag for another, but was surprised when he instead removed a thin rectangular card. He groaned as he held it out to Han.
“A datacard?” Han said. “Maybe it belongs to Kromer.” Remembering Kromer had seemed anxious at the trading post, Han added, “Or maybe she wanted us to have it.”
Chewbacca ate another Wookiee-ookie while Han inserted the datacard into a slot in the engineering station. A small hologram, a recording of Kromer, suddenly appeared above the comm console. Han looked at Chewbacca and said, “Hush! You’re chewing to loud!”
“Listen, Solo,” Kromer’s recorded voice, “Captain Rench is in my shop right now, but out of earshot. He says you’ll be coming here for a new fulstar plate, and I have to sell you one with an Imperial transmitter in it. I sure hope you get this message. Watch your back!”
Kromer’s hologram flickered off. Chewbacca looked at Han and brayed angrily. Han replied, “You wanna know how Rench knew we’d need a new fulstar plate? Because when he and the stormtroopers boarded the Falcon and took the bottled water, one of the troopers must have rigged our old fulstar plate so it would fail. That tears it. Rench has messed with us for the last time!”
Chewbacca snarled as he accidentally crushed a Wookiee-ookie.
“That’s the transmitter?” Han said.
Chewbacca responded with a nod as he held up a wafer-thin metal strip that he had just removed from the fulstar plate. Han took the transmitter and placed it in the same pocket that held the Imperial homing beacon that Chewbacca had found earlier.
“Good work, Chewie,” Han said. The Wookiee whimpered a question. Han replied, “Sorry, pal. You ate all the Wookiee-ookies. Good thing you didn’t eat Kromer’s datacard too!”
Chewbacca whimpered again. Han said, “I’m sure Kromer would be happy to make some more Wookiee-ookies for you. That sure was crafty of her, baking up a batch so she could sneak a message to us. She must be pretty worried about me.”
Chewbacca rolled his eyes and let out a honking bark. Han replied, “No, I’m not getting all mushy. It’s not my fault if women find me irresistible. Now, run a complete diagnostic on the fulstar plate, then reinstall it. I’ll check to see if Great Bogga is ready to go.”
Leaving Chewbacca, Han stepped outside the Falcon. He found Itto and her children standing beside the replica portrait bust, which now rested upon a gravsled. The children’s hands and the replica were covered with gray dirt. Han inspected the replica and said, “Great job, kids! Now it looks old as well as ugly!”
“But what if Jabba learns the truth about the portrait?” Itto said nervously. “And what about that awful Customs officer? I believe he really will send us all to labor camps!”
“Don’t worry,” Han said confidently. “All you gotta do is keep silent about the replica. Chewie and I will take care of everything.”
Chewbacca emerged from the Falcon, then helped Han load the replica onto the Falcon. When they were done, Chewbacca left Han briefly to say goodbye to the Aleena family. Itto’s children were sad to see the Wookiee leave.
As the Falcon lifted off, Chewbacca barked a question in the cockpit. Han replied, “No, I didn’t leave the Imperial homing beacon and transmitter on Unagin. I activated both devices and brought them with us.”
Looking concerned, Chewbacca whimpered. Han replied, “Don’t you get it? I want the Imperials to follow us!”
Just as the Falcon left Unagin’s atmosphere and stars appeared outside the cockpit, a warning light flashed on the sensor console. “I knew it,” Han said as he glanced at his scopes. “Rench’s corvette is waiting for us in orbit. Quick! Plot a course to get us back near that black hole in the Ferra sector!”
Chewbacca began tapping buttons as the Imperial Customs corvette came into view. A light flashed at the comm console. Han switched on the comm and said, “Looking for us, Captain Rench? ”
“Prepare to be boarded, Solo,” Rench replied.
“No thanks,” Han said. He steered away from the incoming corvette, and raced for the nearest hyperspace portal.
The Falcon was still moving fast toward the portal when the entire freighter quaked and began to lose speed. “They’ve snared us in their tractor beam,” Han said as his hands flew across the controls.  He brought the Falcon about in a rapid rotation until she faced the Customs corvette, then he increased energy to the deflector shields and hit the accelerator.
Chewbacca yowled as the Falcon launched straight at the enemy vessel. Before the Imperial pilot could react, the Falcon reversed field in the tractor beam and dived under the Customs corvette. Han used the combination of the tractor beam’s draw and the Falcon’s thrust to break free of the beam.
“Now I know you must be carrying illegal cargo!” Rench said over the comm. “You and your Wookiee will go to the spice mines of Kessel, and I’ll send that Aleena family with you!”
“You’ll have to catch me first,” Han replied.
The Customs corvette’s laser cannons opened fire, launching a hail of green laser bolts at the fleeing freighter. Han swerved to avoid the barrage of laserfire and raced back to the hyperspace portal. Three red energy bolts slammed into the Falcon’s shields, but the shields held. Before the Customs corvette could fire again, the Falcon vanished into hyperspace.
Chewbacca checked the navicomputer and barked. Han replied, “You wanna know why we’re going back to the Ferra sector? Because there’s more than one way to use a black hole!” Rising from his seat, he added, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get an escape pod ready.”
By the time the Falcon reached the Ferra sector, the Customs corvette was already following the freighter’s path through hyperspace. “Stay locked on the homing beacon’s signal,” Captain Rench commanded the corvette’s pilot. “When we exit hyperspace, I want to be right behind Solo’s ship!”
The Customs corvette dropped out of hyperspace, arriving dangerously close to the stellar black hole. The Millennium Falcon was not in sight. The startled Imperial pilot said, “Captain Rench, we need to change course immediately.”
“Not until we capture Solo,” Rench said as he leaned over the navigational console. He pointed to a moving blip on a sensor screen and said, “There’s Solo’s ship! Looks like he’s going to use the black hole for a gravity assist to escape! Go after him!”
“But sir, he’s moving too close to the—”
“That’s an order!”
The pilot sent the corvette in the direction of the vessel that carried the homing beacon. A moment later, the vessel came into view, but it was not the Falcon. Rench gasped. “An escape pod?”
The Customs corvette’s engines began to whine as they suddenly strained against the power of the black hole’s awesome gravity. Rench shouted, “Get us out of here!”
Wrestling with the flight controls, the pilot said, “It’s too late. The black hole’s got us.”
Rench hit the comm console and bellowed, “Solo, you fiend!”
A moment later, Solo answered, “I hear you, Rench. Don’t ask me how your homing beacon and transmitter wound up in one of my escape pods, but it’s not my fault you chased the pod into a black hole.”
Rench bellowed, “I’ll get you if it’s the last thing I ever—” And then his transmission ended.
From a safe distance, Han and Chewbacca watched as the escape pod and Customs corvette vanished into the black hole. Turning to face Han, Chewbacca woofed a question. Han replied, “No, Chewie. I didn’t enjoy watching that happen. Escape pods cost money, and now we’ll have to get a new one!
Chewbacca shook his head and barked at Han. Han answered, “Money is not the only thing I ever think about. I also think about doing whatever is necessary to keep me and my best friend out of an Imperial labor camp.”
Chewbacca lifted his eyebrows and woofed a question. Han smiled. “Of course, you’re my best friend! I need to tell you that?” Then he faced the black hole, gunned the Falcon’s engines, and said, “Let’s see how fast we can make it back to Tatooine this time.”
“I expected you sooner, Han,” Jabba said as he slithered forward, leading his gang across the floor of Docking Bay 94. “I do not like waiting.”
“And I don’t like running into trouble,” Han said. “But it happens sometimes.” Han and Chewbacca stood beside a repulsorlift gravsled at the bottom of the Millennium Falcon’s boarding ramp. On the gravsled, a cloth tarpaulin was draped over a large object.
Jabba looked at the tarp and frowned. “I hope the sculpture was not damaged.”
“See for yourself,” Han said as Chewbacca yanked the tarp away to reveal the object on the gravsled.
Jabba gasped as he gazed upon the portrait bust of Great Bogga. Lifting his right hand, he wiggled his thick fingers to summon Bib Fortuna. Bib moved up beside Jabba and said, “Yes, mighty Jabba?”
“I am overwhelmed with emotion by the sight of my ancestor’s stony visage,” Jabba said. “My stomach is restless with desire. Fetch me a bucket of Klatooine  paddy frogs immediately, so they can have the honor of being consumed by me at this most historic moment.”
“Yes, mighty Jabba,” Bib said. He ran off.
Chewbacca watched Jabba wriggle his bulky form closer to the sculpture. Although Chewbacca was not afraid of Jabba, he was concerned about how the Hutt would react if he discovered the sculpture was a replica.
Han did his best to look bored but he was anxious too. He let his right hand dangle near his blaster, just in case things went bad.
Bib Fortuna returned with a bucket of paddy frogs. Jabba downed the creatures in two large gulps. He continued moving around the hovering gravsled to inspect Great Bogga’s portrait from every angle. Then he reached out and dragged a stubby fingertip across the sculpture’s surface, looked at his finger and said, “Aha!”
Chewbacca whimpered. Han brushed his fingers against his pistol’s grip.
Jabba’s mouth stretched into a wide smile. Holding up his fingertip for all to see the smudge of dirt on it. “The seller told me the bust was only recently unearthed on Near Pando. This fresh dirt proves the bust is authentic!”
Chewbacca let out a silent sigh of relief. Han shifted his hand away from his blaster.
Jabba told Bib to pay Han and ordered his other men to transfer the sculpture to a waiting sand skiff. After Bib handed three credit chips to Han, Jabba said, “Just so you know, Han, I believe your problems with Captain Rench are over.”
“Oh, really?” Han said casually. “How do you figure?”
“Just before you left for Unagin, a shipment of what appeared to be bottled water arrived at my restaurant. A simple test confirmed the ‘water’ was toxic. Somehow, all the bottles were then shipped to Coruscant, a gift from Captain Rench to the Emperor. I imagine the Emperor will be most displeased, and that Rench will be sent away for a long, long time.”
Hearing this, Han and Chewie glanced at each other. They had no doubt Jabba was responsible for sending the “gift” to the Emperor in order to force Rench to leave Tatooine. But instead of telling Jabba about Rench’s fate, Han just shook his head and said, “Well, I guess that just proves Rench can’t get along with anyone. Right, Chewie?”
“How do you like that, Chewie?” Han said after the gangsters left. “I guess Jabba decided Rench was a problem he had to deal with after all.”
Chewbacca woofed a question.
“No, it’s best to let Jabba think it was his own scheme that made Rench disappear. I just wished he’d framed Rench earlier. It sure would have saved us a lot of time and energy! But what’s done is done. C’mon, let’s go to Bargoon Tatooni. I want to thank Kromer personally.”
They secured the Falcon and were halfway to the trading post when they saw Kromer approaching on the street. She cried, “Han! Chewie! I saw the Falcon land, but then I saw Jabba and his men, and I waited until they left, and…” Her lower lip trembled, and she threw herself at Han and embraced him.
“We’re all right, Kromer,” Han said, “Thanks to you.”
Kromer smiled. “If you want to thank me, you can take me out to dinner.”
“Huh?” Han said. “Why would you want me to take you out? I mean, you know how to cook, right?”
Kromer pushed herself away from Han, glared at him, and then turned and stormed off, heading back to the trading post. She did not look back.
Lifting his gaze to Chewbacca, Han said, “I said something wrong, didn’t I?”
After learning that
Scholastic was hoping to publish a series of illustrated Star Wars books
for young readers, I proposed a series featuring Han Solo and Chewbacca
before the events of A
New Hope. At my
suggestion, artist Bill Hughes drew a few try-out sketches for the new
series, but Scholastic hired artist Robert Rath. I
contracted to write four books, and Lucasfilm approved my
synopses for all four stories. I
was working on the
third manuscript when my
Annmarie Nye, informed me
that artist Jeff Carlisle, who'd also produced try-out art, would
illustrate the two remaining books. Shortly after completing the third
manuscript, which was titled The
Annmarie told me
that Scholastic had decided to cancel publication of the third and
fourth books because of low advance orders on the first two books.
The Big Switch features a character named Kromer. I did that in tribute to Star Wars fan Kayla Kromer, who achieved international nerd fame for her fantastic home-made Millennium Falcon bed. I also liked the name 'Kromer,' thought it sounded good for a mechanic in Mos Eisley. I went so far as to get permission from Kayla to let us use her likeness for the character, which Lucasfilm approved too, but then the book was cancelled. Such is life.
The Last Blade Master
Han and Chewie are transporting an antique business droid, CZ-4—a gift from Boonda the Hutt to Jabba—when their hyperdrive malfunctions. They are forced to land the Falcon on a world inhabited by the Numm, humanoid aliens with primitive technology. The Numm are unable to provide the parts needed to repair the Falcon’s hyperdrive. Rotten luck! The Numm become nervous at the sight of CZ-4, apparently because they are fearful of droids. While Han and Chewie consider their next move, CZ-4 goes missing. This is bad news because the droid is Boonda’s gift to Jabba. If they ever hope to do business with the Hutts again, they must recover the droid.
At first, Han and Chewie suspect that the Numm are responsible for taking the droid, but they soon discover that this moon has another population: a group of war droids who have been terrorizing the Numm ever since their ship crashed centuries ago. The war droids once fought on behalf of the Krath, a long-forgotten secret society that once menaced the galaxy.
It is the war droids who have abducted CZ-4. The war droids’ leader is known as the Blade Master (his arms house retractable metal swords), and he wants to cannibalize CZ-4 for parts. Chewbacca winds up competing against the Blade Master while Han rescues CZ-4 from disassembly. Chewie defeats the Blade Master. Han not only rescues CZ-4, but deactivates the other droids.
CZ-4 and Chewie figure out a way to quickly reprogram the remaining Krath droids to aid the Numm. The no-longer-threatened Numm are grateful to Han and Chewie, and lead them to the ruins of a crashed freighter (maybe the one that delivered the war droids to the planet). Chewie is able to salvage parts from the freighter’s wreckage, and uses these parts to repair the Falcon. Taking CZ-4, Han and Chewie are now able to continue on to Tatooine, where they deliver the droid to Jabba. Jabba tells them he has another job lined up for them.
Notes: Boonda the Hutt has appeared in Droids comics and other stories. CZ droids and Krath war droids are drawn from the EU, and were included in The Essential Guide to Droids. The Numm and their moon are my invention.
[R1]FYI, this info is basically scientifically accurate, that a heavily-shielded spacecraft could be 160km (100 miles) away from a black hole without getting sucked into it. It’s when you get within 50 miles of the event horizon that you’re a goner.
[R2]The Ferra sector is in the Outer Rim, near the Arkanis sector. It is my invention that there is a stellar black hole in the Ferra sector, but I don’t believe this violates any continuity. I selected the Ferra sector for its location between Hutt Space and Tatooine, as those two locations also figure into the story, and I want to keep fans of the Essential Atlas happy too.
[R3]Info about this vessel being used by Imperial Customs is consistent with SW: Galaxy Guide 6: Tramp Freighters.
[R4]Info re. the respective lengths of the ships is consistent with the Falcon’s data and this Wookieepedia page:
[R5]Info re. Imperial garrison on Tatooine is consistent with various published books.
[R6]This line is consistent with the “general override broadcast” mentioned in Brian Daley’s Han Solo’s Revenge, page 355 of the TPB edition that collects all three Solo novels.
[R7]According to SW: Complete Locations, page 132, Court of the Fountain is a “Hutt-owned exotic restaurant” in Mos Eisley.
[R8]The Imperial Anti-Raceteering Act is my invention.
[R9]The fulstar plate is a hyperdrive component that was mentioned in Star Wars: Adventures in Colors and Shapes (Buena Vista Records, 1984). According to that book/record, the Millennium Falcon used square red fulstar plates.
[R10]Unagin is an established location. According to Star Wars: The Essential Atlas, Unagin is a minor trade world, a common stop for ships coming to and from Hutt Space.
[R11]It’s consistent with published reference that some datapads are equipped with holoprojectors. The New Essential Guide to Weapons and Technology, page 179, shows one such datapad.
[R12]Jabba’s ancestor Great Bogga is an established character who appeared in the Tales of the Jedi comics.
[R13]According to Star Wars: Galactic Phrase Book and Travel Guide, page 35, Bargoon Tatooni is a trading post that “offers the best prices on used spaceship parts and cookware.”
[R14]Kromer is a new character, a young woman. The character is named after Kayla Kromer, who fabricated the Millennium Falcon bed that became famous by way of the Star Wars website. I believe Ms. Kromer will appreciate this tribute.
[R15]The references to the colors and shapes of the fulstar plates draws from info in Star Wars: Adventures in Colors and Shapes (Buena Vista Records, 1984).
[R16]Wookiee-ookies were introduced in the “Star Wars Holiday Special.” Chewbacca likes to eat them.
[R17]Kromer’s namesake, Kayla Kromer, popped up again on the Star Wars website after she posted photos of Star Wars-themed cookies that she made. Again, a fun tribute, but trust that the Wookiee-ookies are actually significant to this story.
[R18]Chalmun is consistent with published reference.
[R19]Navigational info is consistent with The Essential Atlas, pages28-29. Kind of nerdy, but I think some readers will get a kick out of it.
[R20]Kloo horn is a wind instrutment in the SW universe.
[R21]According to SW: The Essential Atlas, the planet Near Pando (located in Hutt Space) has mysterious ruins.
[R22]This is a Hutt expletive, introduced in one of the Jabba comics, The Hunger of Princess Nampi, scripted by Jim Woodring, who was making an in-joke that only cartoonists would get. The word “farkles” was originally coined by cartoonist Mort Walker (creator of Beetle Bailey), who defined it as “intensely concentrated spots of reflected light” in his own humorous lexicon for comic strip art.
[R23]The “laser pantograph” is my invention, but sounds like a plausible device. I think readers will grasp that a “pantograph” is a tool used to make reproductions.
[R24]According to Wookieepedia, anvilstone was a type of very hard stone mentioned in the novel Outbound Flight.
[R25]In this sequence, Han uses a dangerous maneuver to escape a tractor beam. I did not invent this maneuver, but appropriated it directly from Brian Daley’s Han Solo’s Revenge. In the collected edition of The Han Solo Adventures, you can find the maneuver described on page 352.
[R26]Klatooine paddy frogs are a favorite food of the Hutts according to various published references.