Chewbacca the Wookiee looked at the stellar black hole and let out a
“Stop worrying, you big coward,” Han Solo said as he tapped the
Millennium Falcon’s flight controls. “There’s almost a
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
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
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
Han answered, “Oh, I think the black hole saved us at least thirty-five
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
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
in the spaceport city Mos Eisley, and they did stop ships from time to
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
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
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
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?”
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
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,
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
“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
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
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
“Just don’t try to sell me anold
pentagonal unit,” Han said as he followed Kromer into the storage room. “I
need a square plate, a red one for a YT-1300, nothing else.”
“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
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
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
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
Chewbacca glanced at a scope and spotted the incoming corvette. He
“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
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
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
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
“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
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
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,” Rench said, “to a smuggler who happens to work for a Hutt.”
“Smuggler?” Han said, sounding offended. “Hey, my ship is clean as
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
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
“I obtained this work of art legally,” Itto said. “It is four thousand
years old, excavated from the ruins on Near
“Art, you say?” Rench said. “I call it a piece of trash.” He nodded to the
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
“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
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
“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
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
Chewbacca rolled his eyes and let out a honking bark. Han replied, “No,
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
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.
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
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
“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
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
“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
Chewbacca let out a silent sigh of relief. Han shifted his hand away from
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
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.
Hyperspace: Book 4
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.
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
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.