When Jaxxon discovers his adventure with Han Solo has been left out of the "History of the Heroes of Yavin", he is furious. Setting out with Amaiza to demand recognition, he meets up with other snubbed oddballs. Can this motley crew foil the schemes of Jabba the Hut?
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a six foot tall green star-hopping rabbit walked into a bar, and pulled up a chair next to a grizzled old human. "Eh, what's up, Doc?" the rabbit asked in a friendly manner.
This particular rabbit was an unusual sight, even in a tavern filled with an assortment of freaks and oddball aliens of the spaceways. He was wearing a tight red flight suit with white and yellow trim, and white gloves. He had green fur, except for the pink inside his long ears, and his big front buck teeth and large eyes dominated his face. A pair of blasters was holstered at his narrow hips.
Klaus Vandenganten, who was also known as Doc, was an experienced technician who repaired starships. Scratching his white beard and putting down his book, he smiled at the rabbit in greeting. "Not much, Jaxxon," he replied. "Did you come to ask me how the Rabbit's Foot is doing? Well, don't worry, my people will have her fixed up as good as new in no time."
"I hope so, cuz Amaiza an' I busted her up pretty bad on our last run. But I trust ya, Doc. Ya ain't never let me down before. Say, whatcha readin' there?" Jaxxon, who was often called Jax for short (which he wasn't), reached for Doc's book with a gloved hand. Taking it, he scratched between his ears as he read the title. "History of the Heroes of Yavin, by Voren Na'al. The complete adventures of Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo."
Doc gently reclaimed the thick volume. "It just came out, as part of the big celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of the Battle of Yavin, when they destroyed the Empire's first Death Star. It's a special edition old-fashioned book, with paper pages and everything. The author worked on it for years, collecting stories and doing interviews. It's supposed to have every adventure of Han and his friends, no matter how minor." Doc began flipping pages. "For example, did you know I'm in here with my daughter?" he said proudly. "Here it is, in the section on Han's early adventures in the Corporate Sector." He turned the book to show Jaxxon. "See? It tells about the time Han Solo rescued me from the prison at Star's End."
"Very interestin'," said Jaxxon. "Ya know, I had an adventure with Han Solo once, on Aduba-Three. I bet that's in the book too. Gee, I ain't never been in a history book before. How excitin'!"
"Aduba-Three?" asked Doc. "I don't think I've ever heard-"
Jaxxon flipped through the pages, searching the index, and then the chapter listings. "It oughta be in here somewhere...lessee, here's the Battle of Yavin, so it should be a little after that...Luke and Leia...no...not there...here we go, Han Solo...Ord Mantell...Skorr... Aquaris...Raskar...Power Gem..." More than a minute of impatient page turning passed by.
"I don't think I actually noticed-" Doc tried to interrupt.
Jaxxon turned the pages faster, getting frustrated. "Yavin blockade...Mimban... Hoth...Wait a minute! I can't be at Hoth already. Where's Aduba-Three? Where's Amaiza an' me?"
"Well," Doc said hastily, "perhaps not every story made it into the book-"
"Uh-uh. You said every adventure, no matter how minor. An' this wasn't no minor adventure! We hadda fight swoop- ridin' raiders, an' this huge fire breathin' lizard, an' save a whole world! How do you rate gettin' in the book, when me an' Amaiza got snubbed?"
"Now Jaxxon, I'm sure it was just an oversight. Maybe they could-"
"No, I'm askin' you a question, Doc. Did they interview you for it or somethin'?"
"No, not exactly, you see, Voren Na'al could hardly have traveled all over the galaxy tracking down every person who was going to be in the book. It says he relied mainly on interviews with the heroes of Yavin. Han evidently told them all about me and Jessa, and how he saved me from the Corporate Sector Authority."
Jaxxon's eyes narrowed. "Han Solo told 'em all about ya, is that it? And they put you in the book, is that it? And Han Solo just sorta forgot to tell 'em about me an' Amaiza, his old pals, is that it?"
Doc tensed. He was familiar with Jaxxon's sudden mood swings. "Now, Jax, I'm sure Han remembers you. Maybe Han did tell the author, and he left you out by mistake, or for lack of space. I'm sure Han wasn't embarrassed by the story or anything."
It was the wrong thing to say. A huge frown came over Jaxxon's face, and his mood darkened instantly. "Why, that no good smuggler...why, I oughta...that's just...that dirty little...if he thinks he can just forget about me...I'm gonna...as soon as I get my hands on him..."
Doc watched uncomfortably as Jaxxon sputtered, wishing he had never shown him the book in the first place. Suddenly, Jaxxon seemed to get a hold of himself. The rabbit looked grimly at the old tech.
"Of course you realize," Jaxxon declared, "this means war."
Far too many drinks later, Jaxxon placed a HoloNet call to Amaiza, who was supervising repairs to their ship over at Doc's Place. He appeared on her screen in the cockpit of the Rabbit's Foot, looking bleary eyed, and with one ear bent.
"Jax, what is it, honey-bunny?" Amaiza asked with some concern. "You were just going over to find Doc, and it's been hours. Have you been drinking too much? That's not like you."
"'Maiza," Jaxxon slurred, "I need ya to do me a favor. Doc showed me this Hist'ry book, see, 'bout the Rebellion, an' it's supposed ta have every single 'venture that Han Solo an' his friends ever went on...but here's the kicker...we ain't in it! Nothin' 'bout Aduba-Three anywhere!"
"Jax, you know you shouldn't drink that much. You just can't handle it. Now why are you so upset about this? It doesn't matter to me if we're in some old book or not."
"It's a matter of honor, 'Maiza. You oughta see this book. It's got all kinda piddly little stuff in it, way less important than what we did on Aduba. I ain't done much in my life I'm proud of, 'cept for stayin' by your side, but I wuz proud of that fight against Sergi-X Arrogan...Agano...Argannto...whatever his name was! We should be in the book, an' that's all there is to it!"
Amaiza knew better than to argue with Jaxxon at this point. Once he got an idea into his fuzzy green head, it stayed there. She also believed in standing by her man, even if he was a rabbit. "What do you want to do about it, Jax?" she asked carefully, dreading the answer.
"We're gonna go to Coruscant, an' find this Voren Na'al, and get him ta change his book."
"Jax, the ship is out of commission. We're grounded."
"We'll go on the Kuari Princess. It makes a run from here to the Capitol. 'Sides, that'll give the others a chance to meet up with us before we get there."
"Others?" Amaiza tried to be patient. "What others?"
"All the others who answer the ad. There's gotta be others who got snubbed too. Once they see my ad, they'll meet us on the Princess, an' we'll all go see Voren Na'al together, an' demand to be recognized!"
"Jax, honey, what ad?"
"Well, I ain't put one in yet. I figured I'd need your help with that. I want it ta be a HoloNet ad."
"Those can be expensive, depending on where you place them. We don't have a lot of spare money right now. Maybe you should reconsider this." Amaiza crossed her fingers behind her back, above her bikini bottom, hoping Jaxxon would see reason.
"Can ya do a search, sweetie, and find one we can afford?" Amaiza sighed, and turned to the shipboard computer. She punched in a few search commands, and waited for a reply.
"Well, Jax, it looks like all we can afford right now is an ad in the Life Monitor newsdaily. It's a smaller outfit, but it is based on Coruscant. We can get a quarter size ad for-"
"Thanks 'Maiza, yer a great lady, even if ya don't have fur. I'll see ya soon as I get back. Then we can write that sucker up an' send it in."
Jaxxon cut the connection, leaving Amaiza to rub her forehead in exasperation. It was going to be a long day. She silently told Jaxxon he was damned lucky she loved him so much.
The Kuari Princess had seen better days. The luxury starliner of Mon Calamari design had once been a favored conveyance for the rich and idle, but of late, the wealthy had abandoned it to the middle and lower classes. One never knew what sort of lowlife types one might find on a cruise now, such as, for example, a six foot tall green rabbit and a bikini-wearing former outlaw.
Jaxxon slouched in his seat, staring at the clock and getting more and more depressed. Amaiza stood by his side, trying to look sympathetic and loving for him. She was quite a sight to see, and many of the patrons at the Bistro on the Lido Deck turned to stare as they passed. Amaiza was still young looking, tall, curvaceous, and sexy, with platinum blonde curly hair, and orange-yellow eyes under heavy eye makeup. She wore a red bikini with high red boots, arm bracelets, large earrings, and a necklace. A pair of empty holsters were at her sides, since blasters were not allowed on the ship. Even though she turned heads, Amaiza had eyes only for Jaxxon. She looked at him now with a hint of guilty pity.
"Geez, where is everybody?" Jaxxon griped tiredly. "It's been three hours already. Are you sure the ad said the right place and time?"
"I'm sure, Jax darling. We wrote it together, remember? Give it a little while longer. I'm sure someone will show up." What Amaiza knew, however, and wasn't telling Jaxxon, was that she was sure no one would show up. She had chosen to place the ad in the Life Monitor because it had a small circulation among liberal, serious minded people. In short, none of its readers could be expected to follow through on such a ridiculous venture as the one described in the ad. It was her way of saving Jaxxon from being besieged by the legion of crackpots, fakers, and attention seekers who would answer such an ad. Without anyone to aid and abet him, she hoped Jaxxon would leave off his grudge against that poor author, have a nice vacation with her on Coruscant, and get back to their shipping work with minimal disruption. It made good sense to her. Later, he would thank her for helping him to see reason.
"I know there's gotta be lotsa people who wuz left outta that book," Jaxxon insisted. "They should be as ticked off as I am. Like the ad says, ya have ta give credit where credit is due." He glared at the clock again, tapping his large foot. "So where are they?"
Amaiza scratched him soothingly behind the ears. A couple more hours, she hoped, and Jaxxon would give up. Then they could go back to their cabin and do what rabbits did best. Yes, she did feel a bit guilty, but everything was going to work out for the better.
That was when the Ewok tapped her on the leg. Amaiza looked down in surprise, and exclaimed with delight. The creature was short, teddy bear like, and covered with black fur. He had round ears sticking out of holes in a feathered gray leather hood, and bright black eyes above a wide pink nose and a jovial toothy smile. His stubby white fingers held a sophisticated video camera, an instrument in stark contrast to his otherwise primitive appearance.
"Aren't you a cute one!" said Amaiza. "You remind me of a stuffed animal I had when I was a child." Then she noticed the young human woman standing behind the Ewok, holding a book. The blonde curly haired girl with the slightly pudgy face was in her late teens, and wore a professional looking business jacket and skirt. A datapad and a pocket imager were clipped to her belt. "What can we do for you, honey?" Amaiza asked.
"I'm Cindel Towani, a freelance reporter, and this is my Ewok cameraman," the teenager said. "If you're Jaxxon and Amaiza, then I've come to the right place. I'm here about the ad."
Amaiza had a sinking feeling. "The ad? You read the Life Monitor?"
"At last, we're gettin' somewhere!" Jaxxon said. "I'm Jaxxon. Pleased ta meetcha."
"Teeha, sku!" said the Ewok, waddling closer to Jaxxon. "So, you got left outta the book, too, eh?" Jaxxon asked excitedly. "Who did you have an adventure with? Princess Leia?"
"No, I think you misunderstand," said Cindel. "We're not here because we were left out of the book. I never actually met any of the heroes of Yavin. Let me try to explain. I saw your ad in the Life Monitor, and I thought there might be a story in it. I'm just starting out, and I was hoping to get my first big break. Your story inspired me. It's the truth, and it deserves to be told. The Editor-in-Chief of the Life Monitor, Lib Noswal, shares the same ideals I do, and I'm hoping this story will impress him. If I could work there, it'd be my dream come true. But mostly, I'm here to stand up for the truth. So," Cindel said cheerfully, "where are all the people who got left out of this unfair and incomplete book?" She brandished her copy. "I'd like to start interviewing some of them right away."
Jaxxon frowned at her. "There ain't any. You're the only ones ta show up, and you ain't even got a complaint!"
Cindel looked around in surprise. "Really? Nobody? Well, maybe they just aren't here yet. I'm sure there's a lot of people who'll want to join us. As a matter of fact, we do have one here already. My cameraman fought in the Battle of Endor with Chewbacca himself. They took over an Imperial Chicken Walker, and helped to turn the tide of the ground battle. And he's not in the book either. Ewoks are hardly mentioned at all in this thing." Cindel held out her copy as if daring them to look it up.
"Eecha Wama!" said the Ewok loudly.
"What's that supposed ta mean?" Jaxxon asked.
"I think it's his name," Cindel replied. "He says it a lot anyway, so that's what I call him."
"Great!" Jaxxon said sarcastically. "I come all this way, and all I get is an Ewok who rode shotgun with a Wookiee. Why do I never get a break!"
Cindel looked offended. "Oh, excuse me, I'm sure the legendary hero, Bey, will be along any second, or maybe even Cody Sunn-Childe. Should we step aside to make room for them?"
"Jax," Amaiza said diplomatically, "beggars can't be choosers."
Jaxxon sighed. "Aw, all right. I'm glad ya came. I appreciate yer bein' willin' ta tell our story. Maybe it'll even help. Somehow."
"Don't mind Jax, honey," said Amaiza. "He's just having a bad hare day. Why don't you sit down with us and tell me about yourself. How did you end up with this Ewok, anyway?"
As Cindel took a seat, Eecha Wama began to sniff at Jaxxon. Jaxxon scowled and tried to shoo the Ewok away.
"Well, when I was around five years old," Cindel said, "my family and I crashed on Endor. My brother, my mother and father and I, we all sort of made friends with the Ewoks, especially this one named Wicket. We had no place else to go, and they took us in. But later, we ran into a Marauder King and a Witch Queen, and they attacked us, and they...my family...um, they all died, and I was left all alone."
"Oh, you poor thing," said Amaiza in a motherly tone. "That must have been terrifying."
Cindel looked a little haunted for a moment, then she shook her head. "I made it, though. I found an old man named Noa, and eventually, he took me off of Endor. He raised me, and when I was old enough, and I'd finished school, I went back to Endor. I made friends with this Ewok, who wanted to see the galaxy. I taught him how to use a camera, and now he works for me. He's affordable help, since all I have to do is feed him."
Eecha Wama was still sniffing at Jaxxon, leaning in close in an overly friendly manner. "Quit humpin' my leg!" Jaxxon exclaimed. "Or you're gonna be a stuffed animal for real!" Eecha Wama backed off, startled. "That's better. Now if we can just avoid any more small, furry creatures, that'll be just dandy!"
That was when ten Hoojibs hopped into the Bistro. A few patrons jumped aside, perhaps thinking that a number of vermin had infested the room. The Hoojibs were small furry creatures partly resembling rodents, and partly lop-eared rabbits. They had large droopy ears hanging down alongside their cartoonishly big, expressive eyes. A single thin, curly antenna with a tiny ball at the end arose from each Hoojib's head. Their paws were three-fingered, and their fur was either a pastel pink, yellow, or blue. As they hopped into the room, they called out telepathically to everyone present, making sure that no one thought they actually were vermin, and that no one stepped on any of them.
There's a good man, kindly lift that foot, thank you.
Please don't be alarmed, we are civilized beings.
One of the Hoojibs turned to their leader, Plif, with a questioning look. Why have we come into a restaurant, Plif old boy? If you wanted something to eat, we should have more luck on the engineering deck.
Elementary, my dear Hoojib Plif replied. We'll find people in here from all over the galaxy, who may have some clue as to the whereabouts of our Messiah. We can't afford to pass up any... Plif's eyes widened in surprise as he spotted Jaxxon in the back corner of the large room. Oh, dear! Oh, my!
What is it, Plif? Whatever can the matter be?
Plif had begun to quiver with fear and anger. I'm not sure I believe my eyes. Look over there, at that last table. Do you see what I see? Can that be real?
I'm afraid it is! The Hoojibs drew back in fear as a group. Like our oldest legends, come to life. Beelzebun himself, and just when we're searching for Ikrit.
Why would the evil one show himself now, unless it was to stop us from finding our Messiah? Plif bravely stepped forwards. What if he's done something to Ikrit? We have to stop him! Without looking back, Plif launched himself in Jaxxon's direction. Once more into the fray, Hoojibs! Follow me!
Crying out "Yi! Yi! Yi! Yi!" the other Hoojibs scattered in the opposite direction, disappearing under tables, chairs, and women's dresses. Plif jumped across two tables, and landed on Amaiza's shoulder. From that vantage point, the Hoojib found himself staring right into the face of evil incarnate, the dark one of Hoojib story and song, the father of lies, none other than the awful fiend, Beelzebun. What have you done with our Messiah, evil one? Plif demanded. Though I may die, I must stop you, if you stand in the way of his return!
Jaxxon was speechless. For a long moment, he simply stared into the fierce eyes of the little pink creature, inches from his green face. Then he burst out laughing. Jaxxon doubled over, holding his thin stomach, unable to stop. Everyone else just stared in bewilderment. Jaxxon looked up, got another look at the Hoojib, and laughed even harder. Plif's angry expression melted away in confusion. He shifted awkwardly on Amaiza's shoulder, looking from person to person.
Er, did I say something wrong? I suddenly find myself rather at a loss. Have I made some sort of error? Would someone mind enlightening me?
Against all odds, Jaxxon collected his wits first, and addressed the Hoojib. "Look, little guy, I ain't yer evil one, alright? You got me mixed up with another rabbit."
Amaiza lifted Plif from her shoulders and held him close to her face. "I can vouch for him, he's my boyfriend. He may not be the most moral bunny on the block, but he could never be evil."
Not Beelzebun? Oh, dear. I'm dreadfully sorry. I'm so very embarrassed. But you look so much like him, the way our stories describe him. Your size, your color, the way your ears stick up...those teeth!
Jaxxon made fists with his gloved hands. "Listen, small fry, I happen to be a Lepus carnivorous-"
Amaiza leaned in close to Plif and rubbed her nose on his. "And I think you're a Cuticus telepathicus! Jax, do you think if we had children, they'd look like this?"
Madam, control your ardor! This is most undignified for the spokesmind of the Hoojibs. And where are my fellows? Here now! Come out at once, you cowards!
One by one, all nine Hoojibs crept out from their hiding places and gathered hesitantly around Jaxxon, Amaiza, Cindel, and the Ewok. Plif glared at them from Amaiza's palms. How could you abandon me like that, in my time of danger? Some followers I chose!
You don't seem to be in very much danger at the moment. The Hoojibs all sported guilty but slightly defiant expressions. May we assume that this is not actually the evil one?
That is not the point! Plif began to rant at them.
The naturally inquisitive Cindel, however, stepped forward and interrupted. "Who are you?" she asked them. "You're telepaths, I know that, but where did you come from? I've never seen your kind before."
Eecha Wama, who was standing largely ignored in the back of the group, piped up with a "Yeesha, kush kush Hoojibs! Yubnub!" Then he did a little dance of recognition as Cindel raised her eyebrows at him.
"Hoojibs, is that what they're called?" she asked the Ewok. "Have you met them before?"
It is possible, young lady. I have been to Endor, after the destruction of the Empire's second Death Star. Plif thought hard. However, I'm not sure if I have made the acquaintance of this particular Ewok before.
"I'm Cindel, and this is Eecha Wama," said the reporter. A few of the Hoojibs hopped up onto them in a friendly and accepting manner.
I am called Plif, and I am the spokesmind of my people, the Hoojibs. We come from the forested planet of Arbra, where the Rebel Alliance had an important base during the Galactic Civil War. I am here with my followers on a pilgrimage of sorts, to locate a great leader from our past.
"That sounds important," Cindel said. "Who is this great leader?"
Plif seemed glad for the opening to preach about his favorite subject. We are not a technological people, so we only have a spoken tradition to rely on, you understand. In any case, our legends tell us that four hundred years ago, a Messiah named Ikrit lived among us. He was not a Hoojib, but he was a close cousin to us. He was a Master of the Force, and he was greatly beloved by all. He showed Hoojibs how to become even closer to nature, and taught us how to enhance our telepathy to communicate with other species. One day, Ikrit foresaw that he would have to help save a group of children, trapped in a golden globe, on another planet. He left his heartbroken followers, and told them he would return when his mission was complete...in four hundred years! Those who knew him have passed away, but his story was told to their children. Now the time of his return is upon us. However, there is a small ambiguity over whether he would return to us, or if we had to go and find him. So I set out with nine other pilgrims to search for news of our leader. So far, no luck, I'm afraid.
"An' you thought I was some kinda monster, messin' with yer big leader," Jaxxon chuckled. "Geez, what an ultramaroon!"
That remains to be proven, you green giant. Beelzebun is also the father of lies, and you could be seeking to deceive us. At Plif's assertion, the other Hoojibs looked nervous again.
"Why don't you go back to the hutch and tell stories to the other kiddies?" Jaxxon sneered at them. "We got work to do here, an' we don't know nothin' about yer Messiah. I suggest you all scram!"
The obnoxious one is correct, fellow Hoojibs. We mustn't linger where we are not wanted. If there is nothing for us to learn here, we must continue our quest elsewhere. Plif and his friends hopped off of their chairs and their perches on Amaiza, Cindel, and the Ewok, and gathered to leave.
That was when the Zeltron woman came into the Bistro and spotted the small collection of Hoojibs. "Plif!!" she called out loudly. "Plif, is that you?"
Plif froze in surprise, then shouted out with telepathic joy. Dani?!?
"I thought it was you!" said the Zeltron, hurrying over with a big smile on her lips. "I saw you earlier, but then I lost you. Somebody said you came in here. I'm so glad I found you."
Well put me on a plate and serve me to the Slivilith! Dani of Zeltros, after all this time. It has been almost ten years, hasn't it? Plif hopped up into her hands with a glad bound. Like most Zeltrons, Dani was attractive and sexy. Her brightly colored skin was a shade somewhere between red and purple, as were her eyes and long hair. She wore a sleeveless shirt and tight fitting long pants made out of blue leather. People all around turned to stare and smile, affected by the personal magnetism of a Zeltron. Dani gave Plif a kiss on his pink fur, and hugged him until his eyes bulged out. Plif looked into her red eyes. Pardon me if this sounds rude, but you seem much different from when I saw you last.
"Different good, or different bad?"
Oh, good, yes, very good. When last I saw you, after we won the war with the Nagai and the Tofs, you were...how shall I put this delicately...depressed? Angry? Grieving? And that Nagai you were with, Den Siva...
"Oh, yes, that!" Dani laughed. "I remember. Don't worry, Plif darling, I'm better now. I stayed with Den for a while, until a good friend told me it was a classic case of loving-your-torturer, and that I should see a therapist. I saw one on Zeltros, and it was the best thing I could have done for myself. Before you know it, I told Den goodbye, and I even visited Iskalon to say my last good-byes to Kiro. Now listen to this. I went to put flowers on his grave, and do you know what his cousin told me? Kiro wasn't really dead! Of all the things men do, that's the worst. Instead of honestly breaking up with you, they pretend to be dead for two years, and they don't even call! So I swore off dependence on men. I'm my own woman now, and I've never been happier."
You do seem like a normal Zeltron again.
"Maybe a little deeper than most, after all I've been through. So, Plif, are you going to introduce me to your friends?" Dani asked.
Well, actually, they're not...
But Cindel was already coming forward. "Pleased to meet you, Dani, I'm Cindel, a reporter, and this is my cameraman, Eecha Wama."
Dani said a friendly hello to the Ewok, shaking his paw. "It's been a while since I visited Endor, but I do have good memories of the place. And nice to meet you, too, Cindel." Dani turned to the others. "And you are?"
Jaxxon looked pointedly at Plif, reminding him to shut up. "I'm Jaxxon, but my friends call me Jax for short, which I ain't. I'm the wildest son-of-a-bun to ever fly a starship."
Dani's eyes traveled all the way up Jaxxon's considerable height. "Is it true what they say about Bunnies and f-" "Watch it, Magenta," Amaiza said sharply. "The rabbit's mine."
Dani took in Amaiza's bikini outfit. "Were you looking for the swimming pool, Dearie, because I passed it on the way over here. It's out the door, and down the hall to the left."
Jaxxon stepped between the two women. "Ladies, ladies, maybe it's time for a drink. What would you like to have, Amaiza?"
"I'd like my blasters back right about now." Amaiza locked stares with Dani through Jaxxon's ears. Jaxxon decided to get out of the line of fire, and retreated towards the bar. After a moment, Amaiza went after him.
Yes, well, it sure is like old times, isn't it Dani? Plif waved a tiny paw in front of her eyes to get her attention. You, me, and an Ewok. It reminds me of the time we were on Endor together after our trip to Shawken with Luke Skywalker.
At the mention of Luke's name, both Cindel and Dani perked up, but for different reasons. "You both know Luke Skywalker?" Cindel asked.
Oh yes, very well indeed. I went on many adventures with him, as well as with Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian, See-Threepio and Artoo-Detoo. Luke and I were very good friends. I used to ride around on his shoulder quite often, as a matter of fact. And Dani spent a lot of time with him as well. She had a bit of a crush on him, if I recall correctly.
"Is that right," Cindel said, pulling out her copy of Voren Na'al's book. "I wonder if you're in here?" She began paging through it.
Dani had a dreamy expression on her lovely face. "I haven't thought about Luke in a long time...I wonder how he is? You know, it would really be good to see him again. Maybe even see all of him this time." She smiled hungrily and licked her lips.
Cindel looked up from the book, a little embarrassed by what she was hearing. "Um, I think Luke Skywalker is on Coruscant right now, and that's where we're headed, so..."
"Great!" Dani said. "It's settled. I'll come along with you people until I can find Luke."
"Well, that wasn't what I...I mean, you'd have to check with Jaxxon first, whether he..." Cindel looked uneasily over at Jaxxon and Amaiza, where they seemed to be arguing next to the bar.
"Don't worry about it," said Dani. "I won't cause any trouble. They'll be happy to have me along. If you've got a Zeltron with you, you've got a party, they always say."
I think I should very much like to see Luke again, also. In fact...attention, Hoojibs! I have just had a splendid idea. We shall accompany these beings to Coruscant, and seek out Master Luke Skywalker. As a Jedi Master, he may well have some information about Ikrit for us.
Another Hoojib piped up in reply. A smashing idea, Plif old boy. It would surely be better than this random searching.
Dani knelt down next to the Hoojibs. "You don't mind my company, do you, boys?"
Oh, not at all, Mistress Dani. Any friend of Plif's is a friend of ours."
Getting nervous now about what Jaxxon would say, Cindel tried to change the subject. She held up the book to show them the cover. "Listen, Plif, Dani, this is a complete history of the adventures of Luke Skywalker and his friends. If you were in here, what section would you be in, do you think?"
Plif thought about it for a moment. It would be shortly after the battle of Endor, during the war between the Alliance of Free Planets and the invasion forces of the Tofs and the Nagai.
"Right," said Dani. "I mean, I hung around with Luke a lot, but it was mostly wild times, like that narrow escape on Stenos. The Tof-Nagai war was when we really became heroes for the Alliance."
Cindel searched for another minute, then looked up at them. "I'm sorry to tell you this, but you don't seem to be in the book anywhere. And I can't find any mention of the Tofs or the Nagai either."
"What? You're kidding," Dani said. "Let me see that thing." She grabbed the book, and the Hoojibs on her shoulders peered at it as she skimmed it.
Jaxxon and Amaiza came back, carrying a pitcher of Lum and a tray of glasses. Jaxxon was looking a bit grouchy and subdued.
Plif hopped up onto the table to greet him. Good news, Jaxxon sir. We have decided to accompany you to Coruscant.
Jaxxon poured himself a glass of Lum. "Oh yeah? Who's this we?"
Myself, my fellow Hoojibs, and our Zeltron friend.
"Oh, no you don't," Amaiza said immediately. "No Zeltrons! Cherry girl over there has got to go."
"Yeah, and I thought I told you half pint rodents to scram," Jaxxon said.
Overhearing this, Cindel hurriedly broke into the conversation. "Jaxxon, you'll never guess what Plif and Dani told me. It seems they both knew Luke Skywalker very well, and adventured with him many times. In fact, they fought a whole war together that seems to have been left out of the book. Remember the book? How you wanted to make the author change it, because you were left out of it too? Well, here's two more people who can help you on your mission to set things right. And once I told them you needed their help, they agreed to come with us and demand that the book be revised. They even said they'd ask their old friend Luke Skywalker to intervene on our behalf. Isn't that great? I think that's really generous of them."
Jaxxon stared at Cindel, then looked at Plif, and finally looked at Dani. The Hoojib and the Zeltron smiled cheerfully and waved. Jaxxon didn't say a word. He simply sat down heavily in his chair and drank deeply from his glass of Lum, and then poured himself another glass. Amaiza sat down next to him and poured herself a large drink as well.
"Amaiza," Jaxxon finally muttered quietly, "I just don't think this situation could get any weirder."
That was when the fat Wookiee child spotted the six foot tall green rabbit and remembered his father's wild stories about his adventure on Aduba-Three. The Wookiee was quite short for his species, and his chubby body was covered in soft wavy light brown fur. 'Fierce' would have been the very last word anyone would use to describe him.
'Annoying' would have been at the top of the list, due to his tendency to never stop making the whining and moaning noises that passed for his speech. When he made these sounds, his voice cracked liked an adolescent going through puberty, and he sounded like a bear cub in serious distress.
The Wookiee lumbered over to say hello to Jaxxon, carrying a large glass globe with him in his hairy arms. "Whiiiiiine, mooooaaaan, grooooaaan," he said to Jaxxon, who looked up wearily from his glass.
"Holy Hutch, what is it now?" Jaxxon complained. "Who is this? Did somebody order a drink in a glass ball?"
"Moooooaaaan, whiiiine," said the Wookiee insistently.
"Aw, go away, ya bother me," Jaxxon said.
Perhaps I can be of assistance as a translator in this instance, Plif offered. He says he is the son of the famous Wookiee hero, Chewbacca. His mother is Mallatobuck, and his grandfather is Attichitcuk. He is on his way from Kashyyyk to Coruscant to see his father.
"Groooooaaan, mooooaaaan, whiiiiine," the Wookiee went on.
I see. How interesting. It seems, Jaxxon, that he has heard of your exploits on Aduba-Three with his father. Chewbacca told him the story when he was small, and when he saw you, he recognized you at once. He has always been impressed with your bravery at facing the Cloud Riders and the fearsome Behemoth from below, and he is very excited to meet you.
Jaxxon tried to assimilate this new information, but he was rapidly running out of patience, and the Lum was starting to have an effect on him. "Slow down a minnit! You're Chewbacca's son? Can somebody tell me what's goin' on here?" Jaxxon looked to the others for help or sympathy, but they avoided his gaze. None of them were feeling all that welcoming to the young Wookiee either. His noises were rapidly getting on everyone's nerves.
Even Plif seemed to be annoyed. I am telling you what's going on, if you would only listen to me. This Wookiee, whose name is Lumpy... Plif turned to face the Wookiee. Wait a moment, can that be right? Lumpy? Oh, my. You have my sympathy.
"Who's going to be sympathetic to us?" Amaiza muttered. Cindel was looking at her book again. "Oh, great," she said to Dani, "would you believe he is in here? Look, page 642. Chewbacca's son, Lumpawarrump, or Lumpy, for short."
"Which he is," said Dani, "both short and lumpy."
"All right," Jaxxon said. "I'll bite. What's the glass ball for?"
Lumpy moaned some more, at length.
He says he is bringing it to his father, so they can use it to celebrate Life Day together. Apparently, this is a Wookiee holiday which is very special to both of them. There is a procession involving the globes and ceremonial red robes, and a festive meal. Since Chewbacca cannot come to Kashyyyk in time, Lumpy is going to him.
Lumpy whined and groaned a question to Jaxxon, while Amaiza rubbed her forehead.
Since he is traveling alone, he asks if he can stay with you, his father's old friend, until you get to Coruscant and find Chewbacca. It would make him feel better, and he is sure his father would appreciate it very much.
Jaxxon nearly choked on his Lum. "St-stay with me?" he sputtered. "What'd I do to deserve this?"
At that moment, the excited Wookiee fumbled the glass ball, and it slipped from his furry fingers. With surprising reflexes, the Ewok snatched it out of the air before it hit the floor. Head tilted quizzically to one side, the Ewok offered the ball to the Wookiee. As it happened, Lumpy was only a little taller than Eecha Wama, so they saw eye to eye at once. Sometimes, friendships are born in an instant. This was one of those times. Lumpy took the ball with a smile, and began to express his thanks.
"Whiiiiine, mooooaaaan, groooaaaaan."
It was not clear whether the Ewok understood, nevertheless, they were hitting it off regardless of language barriers.
"Eecha winga, du chuk," said the Ewok cheerfully. "Lowa pee chee wa-cha!"
"Moooooaaaan, groooooaaaaan," Lumpy said as they poked playfully at each other's fur.
"Ah lay-loo, gunda chay ook. Yub-yub yeeso tok tok," replied the Ewok. "Chewbacca ra-nockum Eecha Wama!"
One of the other Hoojibs hopped over and began to translate for them. The moment it became clear to Lumpy that the Ewok had actually fought with his father in battle against the Empire, the Wookiee embraced the Ewok like a member of the family.
Everyone rolled their eyes in dismay.
Amaiza nudged Jaxxon. "Please tell him to leave. I'm getting such a headache."
"I can't just tell him to get lost," Jaxxon said. "We want Han Solo and Chewbacca to help us correct the book later. Think Chewie would like it if he found out we told his son to take a hike? I hate ta say it, but it looks like we gotta bite the bullet an' let him stay."
Jaxxon managed to get Lumpy's attention. "Look, kid, it's all right with me if ya stick around. Just keep it down a little, okay?"
Lumpy yowled his thanks, while the Ewok let out a little cheer. "Yubnub!"
Jaxxon pointed across the room. "And could ya spend some time in that corner over there? That's right. And take the Ewok with ya. Go on, now. See ya! Thanks a whole bunch!" At that point, Amaiza removed the pitcher of Lum from Jaxxon's reach. "Hey," he protested. "Gimmee back my Hare Tonic."
"That's just so you don't overdo it again, green ears," she explained. "Last time you got too drunk, look what it got us." Jaxxon pouted and wondered if the situation could get any more irritating.
That was when Ken the Jedi Prince recognized Lumpy, knowing, as he did, everything about the heroes of Yavin and their families. Ken was sitting at a corner table, sipping a Glucose'n'CO2. He was a handsome human about twenty-two years old, with brown hair and gray eyes, wearing nondescript civilian clothes that showed off his nice build. When the Wookiee, the Ewok, and two Hoojibs wandered over towards him, he identified Lumpy at once. Just to be sure, he called out in their direction, "Lumpawarrump? Is that you?"
Lumpy turned towards the sound of his name. "Whiiiiiine?"
"It is you!" Ken said. "Come over here, Lumpy!"
The four fuzzy creatures waddled and hopped over to Ken's table. "I thought that was you," Ken said. "No," he said in response to Lumpy's questioning moan. "I've never met you before, but I've read all about you, and I've seen your picture lots of times. Too bad I don't speak Wookiee very well."
Not a problem, young sir, said the smaller of the two Hoojibs. We are telepaths, and can translate for you. My name is Snif, and this is Big Dif. We are Hoojibs from Arbra. You seem to know Lumpy already, and this is Eecha Wama from Endor.
"I'm Ken, a Jedi Prince. I don't really have a home right now, but I am here with my Dad. Say, are you guys here all by yourself? Where's your Dad, Lumpy? I'd really like to see Chewie again. I haven't seen him, or Luke Skywalker, or Princess Leia, or any of those guys, for ten years..."
Lumpy groaned and growled for a while, and then Snif translated. Lumpy is on his way to see his father on Coruscant, in honor of Life Day. And to answer your question, our companions are close by. They are an odd collection of beings, and one of them is rather rude, but perhaps they would be interested to meet you. If, that is, you really have been a companion to the heroes of Yavin...
"Sure I have!" Ken said. "I went on lots of adventures with them when I was twelve. I knew Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Lando Calrissian. We fought the Prophets of the Dark Side, and defeated Trioculus. Haven't you ever heard of me?"
I'm afraid not, but don't take that personally. If I understand correctly, our companions over there are seeking people exactly like yourself. That is, people who have been close to luminaries such as Luke Skywalker and his friends, but who have been excluded from a newly published history book detailing their exploits.
"Oh, I've seen that book advertised," said Ken. "I haven't picked up a copy yet, because I figured I'd already know everything in it. I grew up in the Lost City of the Jedi, you know, and I spent years studying about the heroes of the Rebellion. My droid teachers, DJ-88 and HC-100, taught me everything there is to know about Luke, Han, and the Princess. Since then, I've read a lot on my own. I'm sure I'm in the new book too, so I do want to pick one up eventually."
I wouldn't be too sure about that. We have a copy over there, and there seem to be some notable exclusions...
"Oh, I know what I'm talking about. Let me finish my drink, and I'll come over and take a look. I'll show you I'm in there." Ken downed the last of his beverage. SLUUUUUUURRRRRP! Then he pushed back his chair and stood up. SCRRRRRRAAAAAAPE! The Hoojibs raised their eyebrows and looked at each other, startled at the strangely amplified sound effects that seemed to accompany this young man. Hesitantly, they hopped after the human, the Wookiee, and the Ewok until they all reached Jaxxon's table.
"Hey, did I say you could come back already?" Jaxxon said by way of greeting.
Snif jumped up onto the table next to Plif. I didn't mean to cause any more trouble, Plif, but we stumbled upon this young man who says he also knows Luke Skywalker. Seeing as how Beelzebun here, er, I mean Jaxxon here, is looking for such individuals, I thought perhaps he would like to meet him. Finishing his explanation, Snif ducked, anticipating another rant from the tall green monstrosity.
Jaxxon surprised them all by remaining quite calm. "It never rains, 'cept that it pours," he said. "Oh well, the more the merrier! What's your name, kid?"
"I'm Ken," said the Jedi Prince, shaking Jaxxon's gloved hand. "Sorry to barge in like this. This Hoojib was just telling me that you have a copy of the new book on the heroes of Yavin over here. I'm in it, you see, and I just wanted to prove it to him. So, where is it? If I could borrow it for just a moment..."
Jaxxon shared a dubious look with Amaiza. Cindel gave a shy little wave from where she was sitting. "Um, I have it over here," she said, smiling at Ken. "I'm Cindel."
Ken smiled back, and reached for the book. "Thank you very much. This'll only take a minute. It should be a fairly large section." Ken flipped through the pages. "Wow, this is a large book. There must be a lot of detail about me in here. Let's see here, five years after the Battle of Yavin...okay, it mentions the Alliance of Free Planets forming S.P.I.N. (the Senate Planetary Intelligence Network)...that was when Trioculus, Zorba the Hutt, the Prophets of the Dark Side, and all those Moffs caused so much trouble. That was when I came up from the Lost City of the Jedi and joined forces with Luke Skywalker. Okay, then, here's where it mentions Trioculus, so there ought to be something about my father Triclops and me...hmmmm...I just can't seem to find it..." Ken checked the index, to no avail. "Are there pages missing, or something?"
Jaxxon chuckled loudly. "Don't feel too bad, kid. You ain't the only one ta get left outta that thing."
"Most of us have been," said Amaiza. "We're going to Coruscant to get the matter straightened out."
"Maybe Ken wants to come along with us," Dani purred, eyeing Ken's broad chest.
Ken was still flipping pages in disbelief. He looked up at the sultry voice, noticing the Zeltron for the first time. Like any male would, he began to stare. Cindel noticed, and decided to distract Ken before it was too late.
"Ken," Cindel said loudly. Reluctantly, he looked in her direction. "I'm a reporter covering this story. I think it would be a great idea if we all sort of sat down and told about what we did with the heroes of Yavin. I'll need it for my story. My Ewok can film it, too. What do you say?"
"What?" Ken said. "Well, sure, I guess." He looked down at the closed book cover. "I can't believe they left me out!"
Plif tried to console him. I too, was close to Luke Skywalker. So was Dani. Jaxxon and Amaiza fought with Han Solo. All of us want to be added, so...
"Hold on a second," said Ken. "Maybe I got left out by accident, but all of you guys too? I don't think so. I know everything there is to know about the adventures of Luke and Han, and I've never heard of any big green rabbit, or any little pink rabbits, or a red woman."
"Well, you're about to get an education," Dani said, moving closer to Ken. "I'd be happy to tell you all about myself. Once you've gotten to know a Zeltron, you can never go back-"
Cindel walked between Dani and Ken on purpose. "Okay, Eecha Wama, you can set up here. Get a good angle, and check the lighting." The Ewok got busy with the camera. Dani just smiled knowingly and sat back down.
"I can't believe there are stories about Han and Luke that I've never heard before," Ken said doubtfully.
"Just sit down, Mr. Know-It-All," said Jaxxon. "You might learn a thing or two."
Cindel offered Ken her seat, which was well away from Dani's, and Ken took it. "If there really are some new stories to tell," Ken said, "I'd love to hear them, but I've probably already-"
"Okay, quiet, please," said Cindel. "We can do this like an interview, but mostly I just want you to tell your own stories. I don't need a lot of detail, and please focus only on your experiences with the heroes of Yavin, all right? Who wants to go first?"
Jaxxon stood up, his ears reaching to seven feet above the floor. "C'mon Amaiza. Let's you an' me start. This wuz my idea, so I'll do most of the talkin', but feel free ta step in any time."
"Whatever you say, Jax," Amaiza rolled her eyes.
Jaxxon and Amaiza stepped in front of the Ewok's camera, next to Cindel, who was holding a wireless microphone. Already dazzled by Dani, and now presented with the shapely Amaiza, Ken didn't know where to look next. Finally, he forced his eyes away from Amaiza's red bikini and settled on Cindel, who seemed a lot more attainable. He decided then and there that Cindel rated high on the cuteness scale.
"Okay, Eecha Wama, roll it," said Cindel. The Ewok's stubby fingers moved expertly over the tiny controls.
"This is Cindel Towani on the cruise liner Kuari Princess. I'm here with several veteran adventurers and freedom fighters who once struggled alongside such heroes as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, and Han Solo. Their exploits should have been recorded for all to admire, but instead, a great injustice has been done." Cindel held up the history book. "Voren Na'al's new history of the heroes of Yavin claims to be comprehensive, but the deeds of these brave heroes are sadly and inexplicably absent from the book. These outraged and unfairly snubbed star warriors are on their way to Coruscant to confront the author and demand that justice be done. I have here, Jaxxon and Amaiza, who fought with Han Solo himself to save a world from despicable raiders. This is their story..."
"It all started about fifteen years ago," Jaxxon said. "I wuz down on my luck, and stuck with a busted freighter on a rim world called Aduba-Three, way out in the boondocks, when Han Solo an' his Wookiee pal Chewie-"
"Han and Chewbacca were looking for a place to lay low," Amaiza interrupted. "Crimson Jack had stolen the money they owed to Jabba the Hut, and they had to steer clear of Jabba's bounty hunters..."
"Jabba the Hutt, did you say?" Cindel asked.
"No, not the Hutt. The other Jabba. Jabba the Hut. Can't you hear the difference? Not the big slug, the yellow guy with the ugly face."
"I don't think I've ever heard-"
"As I wuz sayin'," Jaxxon went on, "Solo shows up, and right away, he gets into a firefight with the local uglies. A buncha farmers noticed, and offered to pay Solo to defend 'em from a band of swoop riders who were raidin' their village. These bad guys were burnin' crops, stealin' women, an' all kinda nasty stuff. So Solo hires as many helpers as he can find. That's when Amaiza an' me came into the story. He wuz lucky ta get us, but the other pickins were mighty slim. Lessee, there was Hedji, he was sorta like a man sized porcupine, a droid, and a human boy, called himself the 'Starkiller Kid'..."
"Starkiller?" Dani said under her breath. "What kind of name is that? Adventures of the Starkiller...sounds like somebody who stalks celebrities."
"Then there was Don-Wan Kihotay," Jaxxon continued, "a crazy old man who thought he was a Jedi Knight. He even had a lightsaber, but..."
So he wasn't the real article? Plif asked.
"Naw, I figger he read a buncha books and got carried away with his dreams."
Even so, to dream an impossible dream is the essence of heroism.
"Yeah, whatever," said Jaxxon irritably. "Anyway, we all rode out to the village, and first thing, we hadda fight off a flock of giant birds with human heads."
"Human-headed birds?" Ken said doubtfully. Jaxxon frowned at him and cleared his throat loudly.
"So there was this shaman type in the village, an' he said we didn't need ta fight the raiders, cuz this giant monster was gonna do it for us. We figgered he'd smoked a bit too much of the local devil grass."
"But he was right, Jax," Amaiza put in.
"Well how wuz we supposed ta know? Pretty soon, here come the raiders with their leader, Sergi-X. Solo got all noble, an' pledged to defend the village, 'specially this cute chick named Merri. Then all hell broke loose. Swoop riders were blastin' everything ta bits, includin' the droid, Hedji was shootin' his quills, Chewie was rippin' arms off, Kihotay was swingin' his lightsaber like mad-"
"That old man saved my life, Jax," Amaiza said.
"Yeah, I know. He was still a nut. So there we were, Amaiza an' me, firin' for all we wuz worth. That was when I first took a liking to her. She liked me too, I could
tell. I'm irresistible to women. It's the fuzzy tail."
"Dream on, green ears," Amaiza said. "I was too busy trying to stay alive to notice. But I'll admit, over the years, you did kind of grow on me."
"Humph," Jaxxon said.
"So, what happened with the battle?" Cindel prompted. "You said something about an old shaman..."
"That's right," Amaiza said. "The shaman started chanting, and suddenly, an enormous fifty foot high lizard burst out of the mountain. The shaman made it attack the cloud riders, and it shot energy beams from its head and bashed their swoops out of the sky."
"A giant lizard that fired lasers from its head?" Ken said dubiously.
"You have a problem with that?" Amaiza said curtly. "At that point in the battle, Sergi-X flew down at the shaman, and the lizard picked up its foot and stepped on both of them."
"Making him an ex-Sergi-X, right?" Dani smiled. Amaiza ignored her.
"Now that the creature was out of the shaman's control, it went on a rampage, threatening to destroy the whole village. Han rallied us, and kept us fighting-"
"That was when I bravely ran out to face the monster," Jaxxon said proudly.
"That was when I had to chase after you and save your cotton tail," Amaiza corrected him.
"Told ya she cared about me, right from the beginning!" Jaxxon smiled broadly.
Amaiza scratched Jaxxon's ears fondly. "Somehow, Han guessed what he had to do. He grabbed Kihotay's lightsaber, and Chewbacca carried him close to the monster. Han stabbed it with the lightsaber, there was a bright flash, and the giant lizard disintegrated and blew away in the wind. When it was all over, the villagers paid us what they could, and I gambled my share into enough money to fix up Jax's ship. Later, we went into the, um, 'shipping' business together. I'm not sure why I decided to stick with this big green dope at the time, but I guess I made the right choice, all things considered..."
"And Han Solo?" Cindel asked. "What happened to him?"
"We didn't see him again, after he left Aduba-Three," Amaiza said. "Still, I knew him from way back in his smuggling days, when I was with the Black Hole Gang, and...Oh, I guess Jax was right. Somehow I expected better from Han than to forget all about us when he was interviewed for this book."
"Really," Ken said. "I can't understand how such a convincing story got left out of a serious history book."
"You better not be callin' Amaiza an' me a liar!" Jaxxon snapped. "Or you're askin' for a rabbit punch."
Perhaps we had better move on to the next tale. Plif hopped up in front of the camera. I would be delighted to go next, but Dani's story and mine are intertwined, and we would do well to tell them together.
Dani smiled and sauntered over to the camera. When she got close to Jaxxon, she stroked one tall ear. "You irresistible thing, you," she purred. Jaxxon blushed a darker green.
"Hey!" Amaiza took a step towards Dani, scowling. "I told you to leave him alone!"
"Don't get your bikini bottoms in a bunch, dear," Dani said. "Jaxxon's a big boy. He can take care of himself, can't he? Besides, I'm only having a little fun."
"Uh, yeah," Jaxxon said nervously. "Zeltrons are supposed ta be good at that. Um, Dani, why don't I just sit down while you and that rodent talk to the camera?" Jaxxon squirmed past the Zeltron and quickly sat down. Amaiza followed, glaring at Dani.
Ahem, I shall now begin, if that is all right with you, Cindel. Cindel nodded to Plif, and the Ewok pointed the camera at the Hoojib.
"This is Plif, a Hoojob from the Planet-"
"-a Hoojib from the planet Arbra, and Dani, a Zeltron from...where are you from?"
"Two more brave adventurers who have been deprived of their rightful fame for having fought alongside Luke Skywalker himself. Plif and Dani, let's hear your story."
Yes, well, thank you for the chance to speak. Where shall I begin? Ah, yes, soon after the Rebel Alliance was forced to leave their base on Hoth, their fugitive fleet arrived at my homeworld. Their survey team decided it would make an ideal Rebel base, but they had not yet become aware of my people's intelligence and our prior claim to the place. Once that became clear, Princess Leia and Chewbacca, being people of honor, were willing to leave us alone. However, considering that they had also rid our cave of a horrific monster called the Slivilith, we invited them to stay as our guests. Arbra became a long lasting base for the Alliance, and many missions were launched from there. I'm not sure why it has been left out of Voren Na'al's book. You would think it would be at least as famous as Hoth base, and-
"Remember to stick to the point," Cindel said.
Certainly. My apologies.
"Can I ask a question?" Ken interrupted. "Didn't the Rebels have a huge fleet at the time? If they relocated to your planet, where did they put it?"
They hid the fleet in Arbra's sun.
"Ooooh, they hid it in the sun. I see."
Young man, the sarcasm and disbelief I sense in your thoughts do not become you. And please do not interrupt. Now, where was I? Oh yes. Luke Skywalker came to Arbra, and while we did not immediately become friends, I did admire him from the start. I first went with Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia on a mission to Kabray Diplomatic Station, in search of data on the second Death Star, then under construction. I wanted to expand my horizons, and to represent my people in the Alliance. It was an odd mission, successful of course, but there was a point where Princess Leia had to calm down a Lahsbee-Huhk going through puberty, by singing to him.
"I remember that," said Dani, snickering. "She sings really badly, but the Huhk liked it."
After the Rebel victory at Endor, I joined Luke on a mission to the water world of Iskalon, to help with diplomacy as a telepath. That was when I first met Dani, and her companions, Rik Duel and Chihdo the Rodian.
"That's right," said Dani enthusiastically, "so can I talk now? I want to tell how I first met Luke."
"Go right ahead," said Cindel.
"I'm not very proud of it now," Dani began, "but I used to be a thief and a con artist with Rik. I guess he was the first man I had an unhealthy dependence on. We operated on Stenos for a long time, until one day, the cutest Rebel in the universe showed up on my doorstep." She sighed. "Luke Skywalker. What could I do but pretend I was a Rebel too? Han Solo was there too, and the Princess. They all got in the way of the scam we were running, so Rik made me double cross Luke. But I was sorry. A few years later, Luke came back to Stenos with Lando Calrissian, and I told him I was sorry. I tried very hard to make it up to him, in the true Zeltron fashion. But he played hard to get. I'll never know how he kept on resisting me. To this day, I wonder. But that's okay. I'm going to get another chance, as soon as we land."
"Could you stick to the story, please?" Cindel said. "I'd appreciate that."
"Sweetie, this is the story. Luke and Lando were looking for Han Solo, who was frozen in carbonite. They tangled with some bounty hunters, but we all got away, and I decided to take a vacation with Luke. Rik had gotten so boring. I stowed away on Luke's ship, and we all went off to the planet of the Lahsbees, in search of more of that secret Death Star information."
"What are Lahsbees?" Cindel asked.
"Oh, they're the cutest things, like little pink and blue kitten people. Until they hit puberty, that is. Then they turn into these incredible Huhks, these big white violent ogres. It turned out the secret information was hidden in the Huhk city. So Leia and I went and found it. But then I left again. I guess I was put off by Luke's refusal to...you know. I didn't know where else to go, so I went back to Rik. When Rik heard about the Imperial attack on Iskalon, he decided we would go there and steal what we could from the wreckage. And that was where I met Plif. I was so happy to see Luke again, I told him I loved him. Do you know what he said? All he said was, 'I know.' What kind of man says that? I ask you. Then the Iskalonians attacked us, and Luke was amazing fighting them off. It was the first time I realized he had all these Jedi powers, too. But that only made me want him more. The Iskalonians got upset, and told us all to leave. But Kiro, Luke's Iskalonian friend, decided to come with us. Our next diplomatic stop was Shawken. Luke went off and did his diplomat thing, and Rik, Chihdo and I went exploring in some old tunnels. We accidentally activated an old weapon buried down there, but Kiro stopped it. Which was good, too, because that weapon would have destroyed the whole galaxy."
Dani speaks the truth. We were indeed fortunate.
"A weapon that could destroy the whole galaxy?" Ken sneered. "Yeah, right."
"Luke said it would have, and I trust Luke," Dani said firmly.
Young human. Plif looked sternly at Ken. I am becoming rather irritated by your doubting comments. You were not present during these events. Whether you mean to or not, you are questioning my honor and veracity as spokesmind of my people. I insist that you keep your misplaced incredulity to yourself.
"Yeah, what he said," Jaxxon added. Then the rabbit realized he was supporting a Hoojib, and fell silent.
Please go on, Dani. Dani gathered her thoughts. "So, we all went back to Endor. The Princess was happy to see me again, too. Luke and Leia talked about the future of the Jedi, and suddenly Luke decided to train a bunch of new Jedi. Or, not exactly train, but he did start to teach us some fighting skills. There was Kiro, me, a lizard man named Dracos, Rik, Chihdo, and a man named Barney."
"Oh, that's an impressive group with which to rebuild the Jedi order," Ken muttered.
"He just wouldn't teach us anything about the Force," Dani continued. "I'm not sure I could ever feel the Force anyway. I was there to be with Kiro. I was starting to fall in love with him, you see. I mean, I still wanted Luke, but Luke was out of reach. And Kiro was very sweet. But all that got...interrupted by the Nagai invasion." "Who are these Nagai you keep mentioning?" Cindel asked.
The Nagai were a white skinned humanoid warrior race from a star cluster beyond the galactic rim. They came to our galaxy as conquerors, and started a war with the Alliance of Free Planets."
"A war?" Ken asked. "When was this?"
Shortly after the Battle of Endor, Plif replied.
"You mean the fight with the Ssi-Ruuk invaders, right?" Ken insisted. "I've never heard about any war in that time frame, other than that."
You really should read more, young man. You might learn something. The Nagai joined up with an Imperial remnant looking for revenge against the Rebels. They attacked several Alliance worlds, until they finally provoked a war.
Dani turned serious. "I first met the Nagai on Kinooine, with Luke and Kiro. They had a base there, and I got captured, and this Nagai named Den Siva, he...took an interest in me. He tortured me. He wanted to know why Zeltrons were such strong fighters."
"I thought Zeltrons were known for other things," Amaiza said dryly.
"The only thing we do better than fight, is love, yes. But we're pretty good fighters too, as the Nagai found out. Den Siva was also...he became obsessed with me, even after Luke and Kiro rescued me. Den and Kiro had a fight to the death, over me. I thought Kiro died. I got pretty depressed after that. I wasn't myself. Plif, I'm not sure I want to go over this again. I'm past all this, and I don't think I-"
That's quite all right, Dani. I'll take it from here. We Hoojibs did our part in the war effort after that, telepathically scanning Nagai prisoners for the Alliance. The Nagai continued to attack more planets, but things began to look up when the great hero, Bey arrived to help.
"You actually met Bey, face to face?" Cindel asked, awed. "What was he like?"
"Come on, Plif, tell me more than that. Bey is one of my heroes."
You told us to stick to the story, Cindel. To continue, just as the Nagai were making progress with their invasion, their old enemy the Tofs appeared, following them from their home planet. The Tofs had enslaved the Nagai for centuries, and they wanted their slaves back. It turned out that the Nagai invaded because they were fleeing from the Tofs.
"Toughs?" Cindel asked. "What were they like?"
No, no, Tofs. They were a sadistic bunch of club wielding, evil brutes. Their appearance almost fooled me into not taking them seriously, but once I saw them laughing while they slaughtered the Nagai, well...
"What did they look like?"
Plif hesitated. They looked like big fat green pirates, the kind from the old sailing ships. Much like something out of those awful old holodramas about the water planet Drexel. The Tof star cruiser even looked like a galleon, sails and all.
Ken laughed out loud. "Big fat green pirates? This must have been quite a war!"
Plif gave Ken a warning glare. Things came to a head on Zeltros. I went there with Luke, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Dani to get the Zeltrons to join the fight. Two groups of enemies attacked us there, both Tofs and Nagai, both interested in the Zeltron fighting ability. The Nagai were led by Den Siva, who was obsessed by Zeltrons, and the Tofs wanted anything that the Nagai were interested in. Sadly, the Zeltrons themselves were much more interested in throwing parties. Faced with the Tofs, the Nagai decided to change sides and join the Alliance. Now it was the Alliance and the Nagai together against the Tofs. We Hoojibs helped tremendously in that battle, attacking the Tofs and draining their blasters of energy. We are energy eaters, did I mention that? Then Luke and I went up to the Tof command ship in orbit and blew it up, saving Zeltros. It was my finest moment.
"Didn't a bunch of bug-like guys, the Hiromi, help you with that?" Dani said.
The less said about them, the better.
"Well, I guess I'll try to finish this up," said Dani. "I feel okay now. Just didn't want to think about Kinooine any more. Anyway, the war ended pretty soon after that. Bey went under cover as a Tof and found out that the Tof Crown Prince was at their base on Saijo. Luke's team went in and captured the Prince. I went with the team, and so did Den Siva. We couldn't seem to get away from each other, you know? He was there on Zeltros, he was there on Saijo...like a lousy date that just won't end."
"That ended the war?" Ken asked. "What happened to the Nagai and the Tofs? How come I never heard about either of them?"
The Nagai went back to their home, taking the captured Prince with them, hoping to ransom him for their people's freedom. They promised not to come back, and so far they haven't.
"That's quite a story, Plif and Dani," Cindel said. "It's going to make Voren Na'al's book a lot bigger." Cindel thanked them and paused to check the camera, still held by the Ewok. Suddenly she cried out. "Oh no! I just realized. You Hoojibs are telepathic! We've all been hearing you, but the microphone hasn't! I only got half the interview." Cindel cursed in Ewokese.
All this time, Lumpy had been sitting quietly and listening raptly, holding his glass ball carefully on his lap. Story time was always his favorite time, and he always kept quiet for that. Now he spoke up, reminding everyone that he was there. "Whiiiiiine! Grooooaaaaannnn!"
Lumpy wants to tell the story of his greatest adventure, Plif reported hesitantly. He wonders if it is his turn yet.
Before anyone could stop him, Ken told Lumpy to go ahead. "That would be great, Lumpy." Everyone else shared a horrified look, and tried to crawl under the table.
Lumpy proceeded to make enough continuous noise to almost send everyone running to the pharmacy for migraine tablets. Plif was forced to translate, if only to create time intervals when Lumpy was not whining and groaning. The Wookiee told the story with great relish and pride, and an obvious excitement.
Ah, these...are the events of Lumpy's great ordeal...um, adventure. When he was three years old, his father tried to make it home for Life Day...and while Chewbacca was on his way, Lumpy had to wait for him...
So...Lumpy tried to eat a cookie...a Wookiee Ookie?...while waiting, but his mother said no. Then Lumpy took out the garbage...then he watched a holographic circus...then he dried some dishes...and still waited...Oh, would you get to the point, you hairy adolescent!
Yes, that's a bit better...Imperial Stormtroopers came to his tree house...and Lumpy refused to say where his father was...so the Stormtroopers decided to...they what? They messed up Lumpy's room. Well, that's what he said. Lumpy tried to stop them, but they messed it up anyway...so he wandered off and watched a cartoon. What kind of adventure story is this, anyway?!
A Stormtrooper ripped the head off of Lumpy's stuffed Bantha toy...then Lumpy assembled a toy mini- transmitter...but the Stormtrooper smashed it...What ridiculous kind of Stormtrooper was this??
Then Lumpy's father arrived, and Han Solo knocked the Stormtrooper over the porch railing and sent him falling down into the forest...and they all got to carry the Life Day globes and eat the Life Day meal. The End.
Ken very much regretted having encouraged the Wookiee. "That's the most pathetic story I've ever heard!" he burst out.
Lumpy seemed offended, and he made more noises at Ken. Plif translated. Lumpy says you have hurt his feelings. He demands that you tell your own story, if you think it is so much better.
"All right," Ken said. "All right, I will." He took his place in front of the camera. "As I said, my name is Ken," he said to Cindel, "and I'm a Jedi Prince." Cindel raised her eyebrows at that new information.
Jaxxon snorted in disbelief. "Yeah, an' I'm Yoda's taller brother. See my green ears?"
"I first met the heroes of Yavin ten years ago," Ken said, "a year after the Battle of Endor. The Grand Moffs were fighting for control of the Empire, and they had to find a candidate for Emperor. For years, there had been a rumor that Emperor Palpatine had a mutant three-eyed son, who would clearly be an heir to the throne. The Moffs knew a Slave Lord named Trioculus who happened to have three eyes, so they pretended that he was the Emperor's son. Of course he wasn't, but the Imperials followed him anyway."
Cindel looked uncertainly at Ken. "I hope you're sticking to the facts here... without, um, any embellishment."
"Why would you say that?" Ken asked. "As I was saying, there were these fake Prophets of the Dark Side at the time, who held a lot of power in the Empire, and Trioculus had to get their blessing. They said he had to have the Glove of Darth Vader in order to rule, so he had to find it. This was the right hand glove, which fell down the Death Star core shaft when Luke Skywalker cut it off. SLLLLICE! It was indestructible, so it didn't get burned up, and later Trioculus found it on the bottom of the ocean on Mon Calamari."
"How did it ever get there?" Cindel asked. Ken shrugged.
"I'm glad it wasn't the old boot of Darth Vader," Jaxxon said. "That'd be kinda ripe by now."
"Are you in this story at all, Ken?" Cindel asked, "because we don't have-"
"I had to set up the background, all right? At the time, I was twelve years old, and I was living miles underground in the Lost City of the Jedi on the Planet Yavin. I only had caretaker droids to live with, like my best friend Chip, and I had a pet Mooka, which is kind of like a four-eared dog-bird. I had to learn everything from the Jedi Library Computer. That had the whole history of the Jedi in it, and the droids taught me everything there was to know about the Civil War, and all about Luke and Han and Leia and what they did. They taught me every one of their adventures," Ken looked challengingly at Plif. "My greatest wish was to meet them, so one day I figured out how to unlock the only turbolift to the surface. And up I went. ZZZZIIIIIIP! But Trioculus was on Yavin looking for me and the Lost City. The Prophets had told him there was a Jedi Prince there who could destroy him. What that meant was, I knew he was an imposter and not the real son of the Emperor. He didn't want anybody to know, so to find the city entrance, he started burning down the rain forest. FWOOOOOSHH! On the surface I met Luke, Han, and Chewie, and I took them to the Lost City to get away from the fire. Down in the city, they had big machines to change Yavin's weather, so we made it rain, and put out the fire. SIZZZZZZLE! Trioculus had to go home empty handed, but he did put a bounty price on my head. Then Luke said I could join the Alliance and learn about the Force."
"That must have made the Empire pee their pants in terror," Amaiza said. "Did they offer to surrender right away?" Jaxxon cackled loudly.
Ken realized he had been asking for it, so he simply sighed and continued. "Han Solo was building a sky house on Bespin near Cloud City, and thinking about asking the Princess to marry him. He threw a party there, and Luke and I went to it. It was pretty fun, and I remember Han and Leia danced the Space Pirate Boogie. But then all these villains showed up on Bespin too. One was Jabba the Hutt's father Zorba, who found out that his son had been killed by Princess Leia."
"Jabba the Hut?" asked Cindel.
"No, the Hutt. Big old slug with braids? Anyway, Zorba swore that Princess Leia would die for that. But then Trioculus showed up too, and he also wanted Leia, to be his Queen."
"Go Princess Leia!" said Dani. "In demand!"
"First of all, Zorba played Sabacc with Lando Calrissian, and won the Governorship of Cloud City. So when I accidentally got arrested for speeding in a cloud car, the Police gave me to Zorba. He knew about the bounty on my head, and that Trioculus wanted me. Trioculus captured Princess Leia on his base, so he and Zorba each had what the other wanted. But Trioculus wouldn't trade Leia for me, because he wanted to marry her. So instead of trading, they got into a huge fight. Zorba won, and had Trioculus frozen in Carbonite, just like Han Solo once was. I used a Jedi Mind Trick to get away, and Luke rescued the Princess. Zorba's smuggler friends blew up Trioculus' base, BRACHOOOOOM, and Zorba thought the Princess had been blown up with it."
Cindel held up a hand. "I'm having a little trouble keeping all this straight, so could you try to-"
"Slow it down a little? Sorry, I get a little excited when I talk about this sometimes. Okay, Luke told me it was time for me to start school, and he took me to Mount Yoda on the Planet Dagobah. That's where they have DRAPAC (Defense Research and Planetary Assistance Center) and the Dagobah Tech school. I took the entrance exams, but I didn't want to go, really. So when these Duros came to ask for help on their planet, I sort of ended up on the Millennium Falcon with Han and Luke, going to Duro. That's where we ran into my Dad. I mean, that was the first time I met him, but I didn't know who he was yet. He knew me, though, because we both had half of this pendant. See, I never knew who my parents were, and I thought one of them might have been Obi-Wan Kenobi, because of my name, Ken, but the caretaker droids never told me the truth, because they were trying to protect me from the dark side until I was old enough-"
"Would you mind cutting to the chase?" Cindel asked.
"Okay, okay. My father turned out to be Triclops, the real son of the Emperor. He was being held in an insane asylum on Duro, but he escaped and ran into me by chance." Cindel blinked. "So that would make you..."
"Right, Palpatine's grandson."
"Oh, for the love of-" Jaxxon shouted.
"Let him talk!" Cindel said sharply.
"Thank you. See, Triclops was the rejected son of the Emperor, who never loved him. He grew up secretly hidden in insane asylums and reprogramming institutes. He was kept alive because when he slept, he had evil genius dreams about weapon specifications and war machines. An implant in his tooth was a transmitter to beam his ideas to Imperial Probe droids. He's not insane, but everybody said he was. The real reason nobody in the Empire wanted him on the throne, ever, was because he's a pacifist who despises the Empire and wants it destroyed.
"As a slave on Kessel, he fell in love with Kendalina, a Jedi Princess captured by the Empire. They had me, and I was hidden in the Lost City of the Jedi by a Jedi, so I wouldn't be in danger of going over to the dark side. My mother was killed when the Empire found out she was a Jedi, so I never knew her.
"But I really should finish the other story first. Now where was I? Lando lost Cloud City, so he set himself up running Hologram Fun World instead. Han and Leia decided to elope there, so of course that's where Zorba the Hutt showed up and captured the Princess. Then the Grand Moffs captured Zorba, and remember, Zorba had Trioculus frozen in Carbonite. So they got Trioculus back, and as soon as he was unfrozen, he threw Zorba into the Sarlacc on Tatooine and got ready to marry the Princess. But Luke, Han, and I had snuck in and switched Leia for a Human Replica Droid, and Trioculus married that instead. The Droid shot Trioculus with a laser beam from its eyes and killed him. ZAAAARK!"
Ken paused to take a breath. "Then, Luke and I got captured by the Prophets of the Dark Side, and the Supreme Prophet got me to tell him where the Lost City of the Jedi was. He told me all about my past and who my father was. He tried to take the Library Computer with all the secrets of the Jedi in it, but Luke came after us and rescued me. My father was being held by the Alliance, but he escaped into the jungles of Yavin. He left a letter for me, saying he loved me, and that was when I decided I had to find him. I waited until after Han's wedding to Leia on Yavin, then I went after him. When we were reunited, we went around fighting the Empire in secret, trying never to let on who we were. Good thing, too, because the Emperor came back five years ago, and he would have been very interested in capturing us. We've been together for the last nine years or so, and even though he is hard to live with, he is my Dad. So there you have it. My story really should have been in that book. And I think it's a lot better than your story, Lumpy."
The Wookiee made a series of grouchy noises.
Plif stood up on his hind legs and faced Ken angrily. You should be ashamed of yourself for telling such an enormous pack of lies, young man. I hope you are not doing it solely to get attention. An absurd story like that one will only cause others to ridicule you.
"What?! You don't think I'm telling the truth? Why not?"
There is any number of reasons. First of all, there has never been any Lost City of the Jedi on Yavin Four. There are only ancient Sith ruins. Do you think if Luke Skywalker had access to a Jedi Computer Library, he would have struggled so hard to find tiny scraps and fragments of Jedi lore all these years?
"Well, the computer got shot. It was destroyed by the Stormtroopers."
A most convenient excuse. But explain this...I read about Leia's wedding, and it was on Coruscant, seven years ago, not ten years ago on Yavin.
"I don't know...maybe they renewed their vows-"
Do you really expect us to believe that you are a Jedi Prince and the grandson of the Emperor himself? Even when Dani was a con artist, she would most certainly have fabricated a more believable story than that. It's patently ridiculous. And did you have to make up a mutant genius father who has three eyes? That truly is the final-
Suddenly, a cold shadow fell over the Hoojib. That was when the three-eyed mutant son of the Emperor Palpatine appeared at the table, looking for Ken.
"Hi, Dad," said Ken.
Plif cringed and slowly turned around. Triclops was a tall, thin, sinister looking man with long white hair sticking out in all directions. He had scorch marks on his temples from Dark Side Lightning shock therapy long ago, and he was dressed in plain, loose fitting gray clothes. He regarded the Hoojib with a grim, intense stare, then turned to face his son. "Ken," he said in a deep, raspy voice, "I see you've found some new little friends. I hope you haven't been telling them too many of our secrets," he said significantly. "Perhaps it's time for you and I to go back to our room and have a little talk."
Plif couldn't resist. As Triclops spoke, the Hoojib peered ever so slowly around in back of the newcomer's head. Triclops had a lot of white hair back there, all rather unkempt, and nestled in the hair was...Plif leaned forward to get a closer look...
A frightening eye opened suddenly in the center of all that hair. Plif leaped a foot in the air and dove off the table under a chair. The other Hoojibs scattered. Cindel and several of the others gasped in surprise.
"Come on, Dad, I wasn't done talking to my friends," Ken protested. "Can't I stay a little longer?"
"You know we have business to conduct once we reach the Capitol. There are plans to make, and meetings to arrange."
Dani, Amaiza, Cindel, and Jaxxon shifted nervously in their seats. All of them were uneasy about the new arrival. The Ewok backed slowly away, sensing danger. Lumpy whined anxiously and gripped his glass ball tightly.
Plif peeked out from beneath the chair and examined Triclops. The man seemed peaceful enough, but the telepathic Hoojib could sense frightening things beneath the surface. The man was indeed a pacifist, but there was a hidden potential for great rage buried inside him.
"I know," said Ken. "Just a few more minutes?"
Triclops stood there brooding. "Very well. I'll expect you in our cabin within the half hour." With that, he turned and walked stiffly out of the Bistro.
When he was gone, Jaxxon breathed a sigh of relief. "Well, I think I've heard enough stories for one day. How about we go stretch our legs, Amaiza?"
"I'm with you, Jax," she said quickly.
Ken tried to smile. "I'm sorry about my dad. He can be kind of rude sometimes. But it's not like he grew up with the best socialization, either. It looks like I have to go, but can I meet you here tomorrow? I really do care about getting all of us into the book, and we are still going to the same place."
"Sure, kid, whatever," said Jaxxon tiredly. "As long as you don't bring your father along. He gives me the creepin' heebie-jeebies. Yeesh."
"I'll meet you all here too," said Dani, who had brightened up again rather quickly. "Right now I want to go shopping at the Arcade. If I'm going to be seeing Luke again, I'll need something sexy to wear."
"You mean, other than what you have on," Ken said. Cindel wore a miffed expression.
"Oh, this old thing," said Dani. "He's seen this before. I need something that'll really set the Knight on fire. See you all later." With that, she flashed them all a winning smile and walked jauntily out of the room.
"Okay," said Ken. "I'm going too. It was great meeting all of you. I liked hearing about all the adventures, too. Sorry if I seemed a little..."
"That's okay, Ken," said Cindel, looking up into his face.
"I had a little trouble believing some of it too. You're forgiven. I will see you tomorrow?"
"Uh, yeah," Ken smiled shyly. "See you...tomorrow." He backed away awkwardly and hurried out of the room.
Jaxxon turned to look down at Lumpy. "Why don't you make yourself scarce for a while, too."
Lumpy shrugged and lumbered off, making soft wuffing noises as he went in search of something to eat.
Plif telepathically gathered the rest of the Hoojibs around him. I think it is time for us to seek out some energy- based sustenance as well. What do you say, Hoojibs?
A capital idea, Plif old fellow.
Let us be on our way at once.
Plif turned back to Jaxxon as his people began to hop away. We shall see you tomorrow, but until then, if you will take my advice, steer clear of that Triclops fellow. You may not be the evil one, but I'm not sure he isn't.
Jaxxon just watched the Hoojibs leave. The rabbit heaved a heavy sigh.
"Don't take it too hard, honey-bun," Amaiza said to him.
"Think about how the day started off. You really didn't do too badly. Granted, the only one who really came about your ad was Cindel, here, but look, you got one, two, three, four, um, five...well, several people who once ran around with the heroes of Yavin and who got left out of the book. From where I'm standing, you got pretty lucky."
Jaxxon looked at her with a sarcastic expression. "Yeah, like my mother always used ta tell me an' alla my seventy nine brothers and sisters...be careful whatcha wish for. Ya just might get it!"
Suddenly, Cindel caught Jaxxon's attention. She was standing there with a perplexed look on her face. "Has anybody seen my Ewok? Or my camera?" she asked plaintively. Jaxxon glanced around. Eecha Wama had indeed disappeared.
Spooked by Triclops, Eecha Wama had left the Bistro, waddled through the cavernous Grand Ballroom, and slipped into Xerrol's Place, which was the place to drink and socialize on board the ship. So crowded was the nightclub, and so short was the Ewok, that hardly anyone noticed him at all. Eecha Wama quickly saw that he was hardly the most unusual alien in the place. His curious stare fell upon a fantastic array of life forms, all trying their best to lose themselves in a bottle of Corellian whiskey, or a tall glass of Lum. The bartender had eleven arms, and all of them were busy. On a small stage, a glizband comprised of penguin like creatures in sequined tuxedos played with a high tech swinging sound.
Eecha Wama moved through the room, encountering a host of oddities at every turn. He ran smack dab into a solemn Vindicator who asked if his conscience was clear. When he retreated, he almost backed into a group of very drunk Freelies. Seeking safety against the wall, the Ewok ducked out of the throng. He lifted his camera and began to film random things, hoping to show them to Cindel later for a few laughs. He spotted five Zeltron boys talking with four android children. Next to them sat a large frog like Night Beast, looking forlorn. A Snogar and a Snow Demon were given a wide berth at the bar. Watching the band were a Hammerhead, a Snaggletooth, a Walrus Man, a Squid Head, a Prune Face, and a couple of Whills. At one table, a muscular barbarian from Illyriaqum on Shiva Four was surrounded by admiring women. A group of Fairfolk, teachers of the Force who looked like flying Jawas, bobbed past. And, most exotic of all, Eecha Wama noticed a Duck and a Dog tied to a post by their owner.
The Ewok was distracted by a white haired older human woman bustling past, balancing a drink on a tray as if she knew how to do it from long experience. She sat down next to a human male about the same age, and smiled lovingly at him.
"I came back soon, Krelman," she said to him.
"And I was waiting, my dear Ackmena," he said. "Like I waited all those years, and finally won your heart."
"This is rather romantic," she said. "You and I together on our honeymoon cruise. It's exciting and new."
"Yes," mused Krelman. "It's like we've set a course for adventure, our minds on a new romance."
"I'm sorry I made you wait so long," said Ackmena. "I used to be afraid of love. Afraid of getting hurt."
"Now," Krelman reassured her, "love won't hurt anymore."
"It's like an open smile, on a friendly shore," she agreed.
"It promises something for everyone, even two old fools like us. And I promised you a drink. Here it is, just the way you like it. I gave the bartender special instructions." Ackmena picked up the drink and poured it into a hole on the top of Krelman's head. Tenderly, Krelman took Ackmena's five fingered hand in his six fingered ones and gazed into her eyes.
The band finished their set, and the crowd applauded loudly. A two-headed announcer stepped up to the microphone on the stage and waited until the whine of feedback dissipated. "Okay, thank you," one head said cordially. "That was the Graf-Spanners, Ladies, Gentlemen and, ah, any other categories who may be present. They'll be back to play another set later in the evening, after they've had a refreshing swim." The other head faced two small aliens who were stepping onto the stage. "In the meantime," the second head said enthusiastically, "let's have a warm welcome for the comedy stylings of Rodno and Deerna, from the Planet of Kadril!"
The crowd applauded, and the Kadrillians stepped up to the microphone. They looked like bipedal turtles that had forgotten their shells. "Thank you, thank you all," Rodno, the male said in a slow voice. "It's good to be here tonight at Xerrol's, on the fabulous Kuari Princess! I hope everyone is having a great time." He turned to the lone band member who had agreed to remain on the stage. "Can I have a little music here?" The penguin started to play his Ommni Box with a lounge music beat. Rodno began to sing into the microphone.
"Awwww, star wars, nothing but star wars, give me those star wars, don't let them end..."
Then Deerna joined him for a duet. "Awwww star wars, if they should bar wars, please let these star wars...stay..." Rodno looked out over the drunken menagerie. "And hey," he asked them, "Darth Vader with that black and evil mask...did he scare you as much as he scared me?" Rodno gave a theatrical shudder. "But let me tell you, the old Dark Lord of the Sith wasn't so scary all the time. In fact, the time he came to my planet, he was downright laughable."
"That's right, Rodno," said Deerna, "he came to Kadril to test his deadly new gas weapon, Pacifog, as if his own farts weren't bad enough!"
The crowd laughed out loud, but one laugh dominated all the rest for sheer volume and exuberance. "A-HAW-HAW-HAWWWW!" went the laugh. Eecha Wama looked to see who it was, and saw the largest Hutt he had ever seen, a tough, huge old slug with long white braided hair and a braided beard. It was actually Zorba the Hutt, who had proven indigestible to the Sarlacc, but who found most things digestible himself. Zorba was eating large live beetles from a cage placed next to him, and roaring with drunken laughter at everything the Kadrillians said. A number of aliens nearby were laughing along with him, out of the sheer desire not to offend the notorious criminal.
"So Darth Vader has this Pacifog," said Rodno. "And it's supposed to bring out the weakest trait in a person, whatever that may be. He didn't dare use it on humans, because they have so many weaknesses, they'd just about explode!"
Zorba guffawed in appreciation. "A-HAW-HAW-HAWWWW!"
"Yeah, he had to protect his own troops from it," Deerna continued, "and he figured out that these Kunda stones on our planet can absorb the gas. Instant filter, right? So he ordered us to collect all the Kunda stones on Kadril and bring them to him."
"Yeah, can't let the Rebels have any," said Rodno, "they might win the war or something!"
"A-HAW-HAW-HAWWWW!" bellowed Zorba.
"Well the stones began to really pile up, like tons and tons of them," said Deerna, "and Vader's got warehouses full of them. So, finally, finally, he decides to ask how many of these rocks there are on the planet. And we tell him...we tell him, Lord Vader, the whole kriffing planet is MADE of them. Would you like us to go pick up the entire planet, put it in a bag, and send you on your way with it?"
"A-HAW-HAW-HAWWWW!" Zorba roared. He shoved a giant beetle into his mouth and swallowed it whole. URRRRRRRRP! He belched.
"And that Pacifog wasn't so hot, either," Deerna said. "It was supposed to make people obey the Empire, but mostly it just made Chewbacca the Wookiee sneeze!"
"Did we mention that Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Chewbacca were there at the time?" said Rodno.
"Yeah, they were. That Luke Skywalker, I tell you, he hasn't had the best of luck with women, has he? I mean, they either want to kill him, or they die, or they turn out to be his sister. Is life trying to tell him something, or what? When he came to Kadril, I thought maybe he was giving up on the opposite sex. He and Han Solo both had on these bright pink shirts, I thought I'd die. Not that Luke could take Han away from Chewie. Those two...come on! I've heard of shag carpet, but that's ridiculous!"
Zorba laughed even harder at that. "A-HAW-HAW-HAW-HAW- HAWWWW!"
At that moment, someone in the audience noticed the Ewok, and recognized him for exactly what he was. The small green insect-like Hiromi with the tall antennae wore a blue ribbed body suit and a beret. He saw Eecha Wama, and ducked out of sight as quickly as he could. "Oh, no," muttered the Hiromi, whose name was Hirog. "It can't be! An Ewok, here, on this ship!" Hirog looked about fearfully and cringed. "What could he be doing here? Could he be looking for me? Oh, I think maybe he is! All those years ago, I started a war between his people and the Lahsbees, and now the Ewoks want revenge! He must be an assassin sent to kill me!" Hirog looked at the Ewok again, and observed Eecha Wama panning the camera around the room. "That must be a weapon of some kind, with a tracking device! I'm doomed! Unless...I can ambush him before he sees me. Yes, that's it! It's him or me."
The Hiromi stayed low, and began to sneak around the customers, edging closer to the Ewok. He was almost upon Eecha Wama, when a powerful hand grabbed him by the throat. Hirog struggled as Zorba the Hutt lifted him up and stuffed him into his gaping mouth. The Hutt swallowed the Hiromi whole, mistaking him for one of his dinner beetles.
URRRRRRRRP! He belched loudly.
Eecha Wama decided he had had enough of the nightclub. He lowered his camera and moved on, oblivious to what had happened.
Off in an empty corner of the Kuari Princess, at an unused HoloNet station, Jabba the Hut sighed and regarded his oafish Tof henchmen with disdain. Not for the first time in his troubled career, he thought to himself, What's wrong with this galaxy that a smuggling lord can't buy competent help? Not that he was a smuggling lord any more, not since the accursed Jabba the Hutt had defeated him so many years ago. And, the Tofs were the best he could find for what little money he had left.
The Tofs had once lived at Tof Central, in the same extragalactic star cluster the Nagai came from. When the Nagai fled the region, some of the Tofs followed in a Star Galleon, not willing to give up their favorite punching bags. Then they were foolish enough to get into a fight with the Alliance of Free Planets, and they lost. A lot of the Tof soldiers couldn't return home, and had been down on their luck ever since. Jabba had found them quite willing to work for cheap.
The Tofs were green-skinned humanoids who looked like stocky pirates. They had long curly hair (or perhaps wigs), and wore large hats with feathers. Many of them had bulky clothing, colorful baggy pants and shirts, ruffles, big belts, buttons and bows, sashes, head kerchiefs, and high flared boots. They lovingly carried clubs and blasters. Tofs tended to laugh while they killed. Their thoughts were generally revolting, and they loved to sadistically interrogate others. Despite being so cruel, many of them were quite stupid. They were prejudiced against all other races, but that didn't stop them from working for Jabba, as long as he paid them.
As for Jabba himself, it is important to note that he was not a Hutt. In fact, he was a yellow skinned Nimbanel. If you took a human shaped body, put a pasty, bald yellow head on top of it, added circular black lidless eyes, a flat snout shaped like a baby's bottom, and mutton chop whiskers, you would have Jabba the Hut. He dressed in vaguely militaristic style, sporting an orange uniform with a green collar, a large belt buckle, heavy green gloves, and green boots. The handsome uniform was appropriate, because the word 'Hut' meant 'great' in Nimbanese. Although he was not a Hutt, and lacked some of the more disgusting qualities Hutts were so proud of, he did share some traits with them. He was snobbish and arrogant, full of hot air, and mean-spirited. The Tofs approved of those things in a leader.
One of the Tofs stood there scratching his head and counting his fellows. "Arr," he said, "did ye know there are fifteen of us? A lucky number, it is. It reminds me of my favorite song, it does. Fifteen men on a dead man's chest, Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of Lum! Although, I always did wonder how you could fit fifteen live Tofs on the torso of one dead Tof. Arr."
Jabba wished the HoloNet call he was waiting for would come through. His benefactor had been keeping them waiting for half an hour already. In the company of the Tofs, it felt like an eternity.
Another Tof was trying to read from a large book he had bought, to pass the time. Most Tofs didn't read much, so it was an odd sight. The book was, in fact, a copy of the History of the Heroes of Yavin, by Voren Na'al. Suddenly the pirate closed the book with a thump. "Ahoy there fearless leader," he addressed Jabba, "did you know there's someone in this book who has the same name as you do? A great smugglin' lord, he was, too, Arr. What would be the story behind that? You wouldn't be tryin' to pass yourself off as this other Jabba the Hutt, would you now?" the Tof asked slyly.
Jabba clenched his fists and pounded them on the table. "If you wish to continue working for me, let alone stay among the living, you will not mention that other Jabba again, is that clear? You work for me. The other Jabba is dead, dead, dead."
"Arr, I beg your pardon, I was only askin'-"
Jabba sighed impatiently. "I can see I'll have to put this to rest, as tiresome as the prospect is of explaining it yet again. Many years ago, I set myself up as a smuggling lord. But my species was in servitude to the Hutts, so when that fat slug Jabba the Hutt found out about a servant class Nimbanel with his same name making profit from spice, he was quite outraged. He decided to put me out of business - by force. By the time his goons were through, I barely escaped with my life."
"So then," the Tof with the book asked, "were you the Jabba who had Han Solo frozen in Carbonite, or not?"
"No," Jabba said testily. "Han Solo worked for me for a while, until he accidentally lost a load of spice. When Solo didn't pay me what he owed, I tracked him to the planet Orleon, but Han turned the tables on me and forced me to cancel the debt. That book of yours, like so many others, confuses me with that slimy Hutt, may he rot in Hell. And I get totally forgotten. Well, no more. Soon enough, everyone in the criminal world will know my name, and that other Jabba will be left in the dustbin of history!"
"Aye, and we'll have steady jobs workin' for you, getting filthy rich, won't we?" asked a Tof. "Maybe we can earn enough to make it back to Tof Central. Perhaps, eh, matey?"
"Possibly," said Jabba, "if you all prove yourselves to me once we reach the Capitol. We have a job to do, before we can begin to count our riches." Suddenly, the HoloNet signal light began to flash with an incoming call. "Ah, here is the call we have been waiting for, at last. Now I want you all to be on your best behavior, gentlemen. Our sponsor is a Lady of great dignity. We do not want to offend her."
At that, several of the Tofs began to push back their hair, straighten their clothing, and adjust their posture. Jabba shook his head and keyed in the receipt code. The platform in the middle of the table flickered with a large blue hologram of a severe looking old human female with a fierce, haughty stare. Her once expensive clothes showed signs of wear, and her long black, white-streaked hair was put up behind her head behind a tarnished tiara.
"Jabba the Hut," she said imperiously. "Have you gathered the help you said you would need?"
"Yes, Lady Tarkin," Jabba replied graciously. "These Tof mercenaries will provide the necessary muscle to carry out our plan."
"Good," she said, "as long as you found tough fighters. I, the poor widow of Grand Moff Tarkin must reclaim her rightful treasure, the Tarkin family jewels. I have lived beneath my proper standing in society for long enough. My tormentor, Darth Vader, is long dead, and there are those in Imperial space who would welcome my return. But first I must take what is mine from the foul rebels who killed my husband." Visible on a wall behind her were two pictures, one of the Grand Moff Tarkin, and one of his Death Star. Jabba had investigated his patroness, and learned that the widow of Willhuf Tarkin used to live on Phelarion, where she once had a large estate which hosted the Thirteenth Imperial Diplomatic Conclave. The planet was the site of numerous Megonite moss mines. Megonite was a powerful explosive that blew up when heated even slightly, and had to be kept cold at all times. Years ago, Lady Tarkin had let Princess Leia escape from Phelarion, and Darth Vader had punished her by taking her wealth away. Her family Jewels went up for sale, and were eventually purchased by the New Republic leader Mon Mothma.
"And have you kept your part of our bargain?" Jabba asked.
"Yes, of course," she said condescendingly, "I'm no common criminal like yourself who cannot be trusted. The Megonite Moss will be waiting for you at the prearranged location on Coruscant. And use it wisely. That is the last of my private stock that I saved from Phelarion."
"And the Pacifog?" Jabba prompted. "You promised several canisters."
"That was much easier to come by. In fact, I found it at a considerable discount. The dealer warned me that it may be past the expiration date, but since the gas was discontinued years ago, there are no fresh supplies to be had for any price. I'm not sure why you want such a thing, anyway."
"I have my reasons," Jabba said. "You trusted me to plan this theft, so please, do leave the details to me."
"I don't care about the details," Lady Tarkin said tersely. "All I care about is getting my family jewels back. You will go to the gala anniversary celebration on Coruscant and take them from around the cold dead neck of Mon Mothma. After that, you and your mercenaries may loot and steal from the New Republic guests to your heart's content. Is that clear?"
"Perfectly clear, my Lady," Jabba said. Inwardly, he was repelled by this obsessed, cruel-hearted shrew. He could see why the Grand Moff Tarkin had so openly cheated on her when they were married. He dared not refer to that infidelity to her face, though, for she tended to fly into a rage of denial whenever the subject was mentioned. Ah, well. She was paying the bills for now, so he would have to tolerate her abrasive personality for a while longer. "Your fortune will be restored," promised Jabba, "and I will make a name for myself in the criminal world, with the most high profile theft of the decade." He raised a spice wine glass he had by his side. "Here's to a most profitable partnership."
Lady Tarkin frowned deeply and terminated the call. Jabba shrugged and downed his drink in a single swallow.
"When do we get to club some people?" asked the Tof by his side.
"Soon enough," Jabba said. "Soon enough. In a few days, we reach the Capitol, and then, the party can begin..."
Eecha Wama lowered the camera and quietly backed away from the deserted alcove where Jabba and the Tofs were talking. He was not willing to stay longer and be caught and skinned alive by those brutal villains, so he wisely decided he had enough on film to show to Cindel. She would decide what to do with it. What a story he had stumbled onto this time! Cindel would be so pleased, she would probably give him a year's supply of Blumfruit. Moving as quietly as he would in the deep forest, the Ewok left the area and hurried off in search of Cindel's room.
Alone in their cheap room on the Wellad deck, Triclops and Ken were having a small argument. "It's not that I mind you making new friends," Triclops insisted to his sullen son. "I just don't want anything to interfere with our business on Coruscant. You know I've been waiting a long time for this. The way things were going, I thought my father was never going to die. Everyone thought he was dead at Endor, but I knew he wasn't. I could sense it. That's why we had to wait, even after I got out of the asylum. I've waited and waited. I don't want anything to go wrong now, when we're so close."
"If you were so eager to collect," Ken said, "why didn't we try after Grandfather came back, five years ago? He died for sure then. All Done. Finished. Six feet under. Never to return. The old final jump."
"I wanted to be sure he was dead, that's all. Do you think I was too cautious? Just remember, nothing's impossible when it comes to Palpatine. Anyway, I figure we've waited long enough. It should be safe to show ourselves and collect on father's Life Insurance policy."
"What makes you think they'll just hand the money over to us?" Ken said.
"Why not?" challenged Triclops. "We can prove we are his heirs with genetic testing, unlike all the fakers who have stepped up over the years. But we have to make contact with the proper authorities first. I can't have any word of this leaking out beforehand. That's why it bothers me to have you discussing our secrets with those people. What if you were to slip and mention the money?"
"Don't worry," Ken said. "I won't say anything about your precious money."
"Look...son," Triclops said, "think back on all the hiding and fighting against my father's Empire. What did it ever get us? I'm tired of being poor, Ken, tired of having nothing."
"We have each other," Ken said. "It's always been enough for me."
"We'll always have each other, Ken. The money won't change that. Just respect that this is important to me, and don't say anything that will jeopardize our getting it. Especially not to that reporter. Promise me?"
"Yes, Dad, I promise," Ken sulked. "But you have to let me be with my friends. I want to help them with their project to get everyone into the book."
"In that case, I want to come along and keep an eye on you, so to speak, just to be sure."
"Aw, Dad! You wouldn't. You always scare everyone away. I haven't had a friend I could keep in the last ten years."
"Those are my terms," said Triclops. "Take them or leave them."
"Oh, all right. But please try not to embarrass me, okay?"
"You mean, in front of the green rabbit, or," Triclops said knowingly, "in front of the cute little girl?"
"Cindel's not a little girl, she's-" Ken protested, then he caught himself. "I'm that obvious, huh? Hey, wait a second! You were only in the room for a minute. How could you-"
"Fathers know these things."
"You used the Force on me, didn't you?" Ken accused. "Dad, that's not fair. How am I supposed to have any privacy? It's bad enough you have an eye in the back of your head."
Triclops made a placating gesture. "All right, all right. It's your business, as far as that goes. So don't worry. I'll be on my best behavior. Just be sure you are on yours." Triclops made a zipping motion against his pale lips.
As Cindel accompanied Eecha Wama to the Bistro the next morning, she found it hard to keep her thoughts in order. She knew she should be thinking like a reporter and working on the incredible story the Ewok had stumbled upon the day before. But her thoughts kept returning to Ken.
"I just don't know what to do, Eecha," she said to her cameraman. "I can't deny that I'm interested in him. And I think he's interested in me. But I don't know if I want to start anything."
"Yub nub," said the Ewok encouragingly. "Ee chop yub nub."
"I've never had a boyfriend before, either, so I don't even know what I'd be getting myself into. What if it didn't work out? What if he turned out to be a jerk, and dumped me?"
"Coat ee cha tu too, ya chaa!" said the Ewok supportively.
"Oh, but I do like him. He's cute, and he's even a Prince. How many of those come along, anyway? Maybe I should just take a chance. You know, talk to him, let him know how I feel."
"Al lay loo ta nuv!" said the Ewok enthusiastically.
"I guess I'm just afraid, that's all. I lost my whole family on Endor, my brother, my mother and father. That makes it hard to get close to anyone, because I might just lose him, too. It's easier sometimes not to start anything. Safer, anyway."
"Kvark!" said the Ewok scornfully. "Yut ehda, Cindel. Ken gunda."
"I suppose he is. I just don't know. I better try not to think about it. I'm only making myself more confused. And, we have to think about those criminals. We're almost at the Bistro. As soon as we meet up with the others, we'll show them the tape, and figure out what we have to do. Come on, let's hurry."
When Cindel and Eecha Wama entered the Bistro, they found everyone else already waiting for them. Cindel felt uneasy to discover that Ken's father was present as well. Knowing he was the Emperor's son, she found it hard to trust him. But then, what about trusting Ken, who was also a relative of the infamous Emperor?
Triclops was sitting apart from the others, watching his son with an inscrutable expression. Jaxxon was in the middle of reviewing what each of them was going to do, once they arrived at the Capitol. Cindel decided not to interrupt, but she knew her news might change their plans, once she told them about it.
"Okay," said Jaxxon, "Lumpy, you're goin' to talk with your dad, right? Remind him about Aduba-Three an' all." The Wookiee whined his approval. "Amaiza an' me'll find Han Solo an' get him to 'fess up about what happened. With the Wookiee on our side, he oughta roll over pretty fast. Then, Ken, Plif, and Dani, you all go talk to Luke and Princess Leia. I know she's President now, but make an appointment, and get Luke to make sure his sister sees you." Jaxxon frowned at Ken and Dani. The Zeltron was showing the embarrassed Jedi Prince her new lingerie purchase, holding up a sheer, glowing, ultraviolet nightie. Cindel noticed too, and felt a pang of jealousy. "Could ya pay a little attention, here?" Jaxxon said to them. "Once we get all this support lined up, we find this Voren Na'al and tell him he's got one chance to set things right. He might say no to any one of us alone, but all together, I'm bettin' he'll come around to our way of thinkin'."
Plif felt Cindel's pained emotion, and looked at her with sympathy. It would be hard for anyone to compete with a Zeltron for sheer seductiveness. The Hoojib looked up at Amaiza from where he was sitting on her palms. Amaiza, I think there's a problem with Ken and Cindel.
I know, Amaiza thought back to Plif. I know. You don't have to be a telepath to spot that kind of jealousy. I could see this coming a mile away. Don't worry, Plif, I'll have a talk with her later, when I get the chance. If I can stop her from getting hurt...or maybe I can give her some advice on getting what she wants. I've had my share of experience with men, who are of course, the weaker sex.
"Excuse me," Cindel said, mainly to distract Ken from the Zeltron waving her skimpy underwear around, "could I have everyone's attention, please?" When everyone was looking at her, Cindel held up the holovid camera. The Ewok stood proudly by her side. "I have something to tell all of you, and it may change our plans once we reach Coruscant, or at least alter our priorities. Eecha Wama stumbled upon something very important yesterday, when he wandered off. There are criminals on board this ship, right now, who plan to rob the wealthy at the Fifteenth Anniversary Celebration of the Battle of Yavin, on Coruscant. They may even be planning to murder the former Chief of State, Mon Mothma. Eecha Wama filmed them making their plans to attack the reception, and I want you all to see that holofilm now." As her companions muttered in surprise, Cindel turned on the camera and projected a small hologram onto the center of the table.
The moment the image flickered into life, Amaiza exclaimed, "That's Jabba the Hut! I'd know that yellow scum anywhere! I didn't know he was still alive!"
At the same time, Dani and Plif recognized the mercenaries with Jabba.
"I don't believe it! Those green bastards!" Dani said. The tiny images began to speak.
"I have my reasons," Jabba said in the image. "You trusted me to plan this theft, so please, do leave the details to me."
"I don't care about the details," the elderly woman in the image replied. "All I care about is getting my family jewels back. You will go to the gala anniversary celebration on Coruscant and take them from around the cold dead neck of Mon Mothma. After that, you and your mercenaries may loot and steal from the New Republic guests to your heart's content. Is that clear?"
"Perfectly clear, my Lady," Jabba said. "Your fortune will be restored, and I will make a name for myself in the criminal world, with the most high profile theft of the decade. Here's to a most profitable partnership."
"When do we get to club some people?" asked one of the Tofs.
"Soon enough," Jabba said. "Soon enough. In a few days, we reach the Capitol, and then, the party can begin..."
Then the video segment came to an end. Jabba and the Tofs vanished. Nobody said anything for a moment. Ken looked thoughtful. Amaiza glared at the empty place where the hologram had been, fuming.
And, unnoticed by everyone, a very tall, cloaked and hooded person stood up at the next table. This being had followed Cindel through the halls and into the Bistro, in order to learn some vital information, but now he knew what he wanted to know. Silently, the mysterious stranger threaded his way through the crowd of other patrons and left the room.
Amaiza was the first to say something. "That dirty smuggling double crosser! I never thought I'd see him again! Jax, do you remember how I used to run with the Black Hole Gang before I met you? Well, somebody sold the location of our hideout to the Empire, and the Stormtroopers gunned most of us down by Delphon Way. Later, I learned it was Jabba the Hut who betrayed us. But when I finally went after him to kill him, I found out that the other Jabba had beaten me to it. All these years, I thought he was dead. Well, now he's going to wish he was. When I get him in my sights..."
It's not just Jabba the Hut, said Plif. Those Tofs were supposed to be back in their own galaxy with the Nagai. Now we find out they're still here causing trouble. Frankly, they must be stopped.
"I kind of hoped some of you would feel that way," said Cindel. "Listen, I think this may be an even bigger story than Voren Na'al's book, and I want to be there to cover it. The question is, what are we going to do about this?"
"I'm going to blow his yellow head off," Amaiza said. "If you want to film it, feel free. Are you with me, Jax?" Amaiza looked at her boyfriend. He had a distant look on his face, which she interpreted as deep thought. Instantly, that made her worried. "Jax? Are you in there?"
Amaiza was right to be worried. Jaxxon was having an epiphany. "Listen up, alla you," Jaxxon said slowly. "How often does a chance come along to be a big hero? It ain't happened to me much, besides that time on Aduba-Three. I say, when you get the chance, you take it. We've been sittin' here, goin' on and on, just thinkin' about ourselves. Have we been given the credit we deserve? Well, I just realized somethin'. Alla the things we did happened a long time ago. What have we done lately to be heroes an' help somebody? Nothin'. Just sit around an' complain, that's all. Well how about we show people we deserve to be recognized? Then they won't be able to ignore us. Then we'll earn our place in that book, not from what we did years ago, but from what we're gonna do now! Let's go to that reception, stop those guys, and save Mon Mothma!"
Well spoken, Jaxxon! We Hoojibs are with you! Plif was impressed. Now I know you're not the evil one. Beelzebun would never make a speech like that one! There may be hope for you, yet.
"I'm with Jaxxon," said Dani. "Those rotten Tofs invaded my home planet. It's time for a little payback, Zeltron style."
Lumpy groaned enthusiastically.
Chewbacca's son is with us, it seems, Plif said dubiously.
"This is great," Cindel said. "The snubbed heroes save the day for the people who forgot them."
"I'm with you too," said Ken, looking hesitantly at his father.
"I don't think so," Triclops said immediately.
"Why not, Dad? We fought for what's right for so many years, why stop now?"
"That was against the Empire, Ken. That was an important cause. This is just recklessness." Triclops stood up. "I won't allow you to get involved in this."
"Won't allow me? Dad, I'm an adult now. I'll do what I want to do."
"You're my son. If you keep arguing with me, I'll go to this ship's security forces. I'll tell them that there are criminals on board who plan to threaten the former chief of state. We'll let them take care of it."
"I don't think so," Jaxxon spoke up. "What makes you think they're gonna believe you? Ain't you some kinda escaped mental patient or somethin'? So you come runnin' in with that wild hair of yours, an' those marks from the shock therapy, an' tell 'em that this yellow guy and his green henchmen are goin' to try to kill the old President. Yeah, that'd go over real well. You wanna get locked up again? Besides, they ain't done anything yet. Even if security can find 'em, what are they gonna arrest 'em for? Plus, you ain't got any evidence."
Triclops looked grimly at Jaxxon. "I'll have the recording we just saw."
"But that recording is mine," Cindel said quickly. "And I don't think I want to lend it out."
Triclops looked around at each of them in turn, threatening them with his gaze. "Is that the way it's going to be?" he said slowly. "Perhaps you don't know who you're dealing with, here. If I wanted to, I could just...take...that...recording...now. And none of you could stop me." Triclops faced Cindel, who shrunk away from him. He took a step towards her, then caught sight of Ken's worried face. His son looked mortified. Triclops stopped, looked down at his feet, and sighed. "All right," he relented. "All right." He looked around the group once more. "I hope none of you ever has to deal with having children. Because let me tell you, it's never easy." Triclops pointed at Ken. "You're going along with these people, no matter what, is that it?"
"You taught me to do the right thing, Dad. Well, this is it."
"Then if you must go, I'm going with you. I won't let you face hardened criminals alone." Triclops crossed his arms on his chest, ending the discussion. Ken wisely shut up.
"Okay, look," Jaxxon said, "that's great an' all, but if we're gonna do somethin' about this, we gotta plan ahead. I saw some gymnasiums up on the recreation deck, an' last time I looked, they were empty. Seems like people on this boat care mostly about drinkin' an' gamblin'. Let's move this party up there and see what we got for assets."
Assets? Plif looked uncertain.
"Yeah, what we got to throw up against a buncha mercenaries with big blasters," Jaxxon said. "What we got on our side to fight with."
"That should be a brief inventory," said Triclops pessimistically.
Alone in their room (which was rented under an assumed name), Jabba the Nimbanel tried his best to brief the Tofs on his plan to rob the gala, so they would understand everything. It was, of course, an uphill battle.
"No, no, no," said Jabba, "we don't actually slice apart the computer, we slice into the security system, and lock the security guards out of the building. It's an expression."
"I liked it better when we were cutting up the computer," said a Tof with a conspicuous sword. "Computers deserve it, that's what I say."
"Listen, you ignorant brutes-"
"Arr, there's no reason to get personal like that, now is there?" The largest Tof actually looked like his feelings were hurt.
"-it's very simple. I'll fix the system so that additional New Republic forces can't get in, and you will take care of the guards already in the building."
"I like the sound a that," said a Tof. "Sounds to me like we finally get to club someone." There was a broad smile on his green, fat face.
"What is it with you Tofs and clubs?" Jabba frowned.
"Don't you prefer energy weapons? They're much more effective."
"Oh, no," said the largest Tof. "You can't get up close and personal with a blaster, the way you can with a club. In fact, there was a popular song back at Tof Central, called 'All You Need is Club', by the Beaters. I miss that song."
Jabba threw up his gloved hands. "Look, can we just concentrate on the matter at hand? This was supposed to be a quick briefing! Now listen, once we lock everyone inside, we put on our gas masks and release the Pacifog. That will make everyone obey us when we tell them to hand over their valuables. I don't want any rich fool deciding to be a hero. We'll go around and collect their jewels and credits, and take the Tarkin jewels from Mon Mothma."
"Arr, wasn't we supposed to kill that one? Seems ta me we were."
"I'll make that decision," warned Jabba. "And as of now, I haven't decided. I'd prefer it if no one died, except for the guards. I know Lady Tarkin wants Mon Mothma dead, but that could cause more trouble than it's worth. I think she may be satisfied with just getting her jewels back." Jabba waved to get the attention of all of the Tofs. "Then, we make our escape. We go out the back way and descend into the city depths. We'll use the Megonite Moss to destroy the passage behind us, so if any guards do get in, they won't be able to follow us. My ship, the Voidraker, will be waiting at the other end in an abandoned docking bay. We fly away, I pay you, and we go our separate ways. Is all of that clear?"
"Aye," said several of the Tofs. The rest nodded vigorously, except for one. "What's all this about no killin'?" said that Tof. "When you hire Tofs, killin' is what you pay for. Those people at the Capitol ain't Tofs. I say we waste 'em all. We have to have some sport, you understand. Otherwise, it's no fun." The rest of the Tofs began to voice their agreement.
"All right," Jabba said hastily. "Just leave Mon Mothma alone, is that understood? Try not to kill too many, and make sure you get their valuables first."
"So long as they hate us and fear us," said the Tof. "We got a reputation to uphold, that we do."
In the gymnasium, Jaxxon lined up his meager forces and marched back and forth in front of them. He stopped in front of Ken. "You said yer a Jedi, right, kid? Ya got a lightsaber, like that old man, Don-Wan?"
"Well, no," said Ken, as if it should be obvious. "I never had much formal Jedi training. Luke and I didn't have that much time, with all the stuff that was going on. You have to be sort of advanced to build a lightsaber, you know."
Jaxxon frowned. "So, ya ain't got a lightsaber, and ya ain't had any training. Why'd ya call yerself a Jedi, then?"
"It's my heritage," Ken said. "And I do know a few Force skills. I can use the Jedi Mind Trick, and I can levitate things. Luke couldn't do much more than that when he blew up the Death Star."
"What about yer father?" Jaxxon asked Ken, unwilling to go face to face with Triclops. "Can he use the Force?"
"Sort of," Ken said. "I mean, he never got any training either, obviously, but he does have an inherited Force sensitivity, just like me. He uses the Force instinctively, and it manifests in odd ways, like sudden strength, and he does this thing with his eye that-"
"Enough, Ken," said Triclops sharply. "I prefer to keep some secrets to ourselves."
"Fine, suit yerself," said Jaxxon, "but when the fightin' starts, I hope you'll either pull yer weight or get outta the way!"
"Don't worry about me, rabbit," said Triclops seriously. "Worry about the rest of this sorry bunch."
Jaxxon found himself looking at Lumpy when Triclops said that. "All right, Lumpy," Jaxxon sighed, "what can you do?"
Lumpy looked at Jaxxon, and thought hard. He carefully set down his glass globe, and scratched his head. There was a period of silence. Finally, the Wookiee shrugged.
Eecha Wama stepped in and took Lumpy aside. Over on the wall was a set of lifting bars and other exercise equipment. The Ewok chose two that looked a little like spear shafts and began to show Lumpy the basics of Ewok fighting techniques. Jaxxon covered his face with his hands.
"Okay...just so we don't leave the success of the mission to those two hairballs, what else have we got?" Jaxxon asked.
"I'm not much of a fighter either," said Cindel. "I bet you could have guessed that. But I do want to be there to cover the story. I'll try not to get in the way, though." Ken smiled over at her. "I'll protect you, Cindel, don't worry."
Cindel smiled back, unable to hide her surprise. "That would be great, Ken, thank you."
"I'm a good fighter," said Dani. "You can count on me to kick some Tof behind."
"Is that right?" Amaiza said challengingly. "Okay. How about proving that? Let's see what you've got, sister."
Dani stepped out of line and looked her rival in the eyes. "Oh yeah? Right here? Right now?"
Amaiza pointed at a large floor mat. "That's right. Right over there. If I'm going into battle with a Zeltron, I want to know if she's got more than just fashion sense."
"You want a piece of me, don't you?" asked Dani. "That's what this is about."
"I'd hardly be the first to get a piece of you," said Amaiza.
"That's it, you jealous blonde bimbo," said Dani. "You've been itching for this from the moment you saw me. Come on, then, let's see who's really got it, and who's just blowing smoke."
The two women marched over to the mat and faced each other in fighting stances. Jaxxon knew that all he could do was let them get it out of their systems. Dani and Amaiza circled each other aggressively, sizing each other up. Amaiza threw the first punch, which Dani dodged. Amaiza followed it up with a side kick, which connected. Cindel gave a little cheer when the Zeltron went down, then looked embarrassed. But Dani was already back on her feet, moving in with a series of punches and knee blows that put Amaiza flat on her back. After Amaiza got up, the two women circled each other more warily, having gained a mutual respect for one another.
"Not bad, Red," said Amaiza. "You learn those moves fighting off unwanted boyfriends?"
"I told you Zeltrons fight well," Dani said. "You just weren't smart enough to believe me."
Oh dear, I do hope they don't hurt each other. Plif was concerned.
"Don't worry," said Jaxxon. "I know when to step in. Just let 'em go for a while longer."
Dani's leg came up and around in a swift, high kick, but Amaiza blocked it and tried to sweep Dani's legs out from under her. Instead, they both went down and started rolling around. Reddish purple and platinum blonde hair was pulled, and both women grunted at each other in fury. Suddenly, they rolled apart, and jumped to their feet. Both gritting their teeth, they threw themselves at each other and began to wrestle standing up. Locked arm in arm, and face to snarling face, neither could bring the other down. Without warning, a huge rabbit foot slammed into both of them and sent them flying. Both women landed on their bottoms with stunned expressions.
"Leave it to a rabbit to teach you how to really kick," said Jaxxon.
Dani and Amaiza stared at the tall green bunny, then looked at each other. Both of them burst out laughing. Dani stood and helped Amaiza up. The tension seemed to be gone.
"You're all right, Amaiza," said Dani. "I promise I'll never go after your boyfriend. Okay? Besides, if he ever kicked me out of bed like that, it would be the end of me."
"Okay," said Amaiza, "truce. But do me a favor." Amaiza lowered her voice so only Dani could hear her. "Stay away from Ken, too."
Dani laughed. "The boy? What makes you think I'd really be interested in a kid like that?"
"I know you're not, but someone is. Your flirting may be meaningless to you, but..."
Dani looked in the direction Amaiza indicated, and saw Cindel. "Ah, I see. Okay Amaiza, no problem."
"If that's all over with, can we get back ta business now?" Jaxxon asked them. "Listen up everybody. Kickboxing's great an' all, but what we really need against the Tofs are blasters, and people who're good shots with 'em. Now who here can shoot?"
That turned out to be Ken, Triclops, Jaxxon, Amaiza, and Dani. On one side of the room was a small target gallery, equipped with low power blasters. Jaxxon got the five of them to line up and practice for him. Oddly enough, Ken's blaster was much louder than the rest. ZZAAAAPPP! it went. Ken and his father proved to be fairly good shots, because of the years they had spent fighting the Empire together. But then, Jaxxon, Amaiza, and Dani quickly demonstrated that they were crack shots.
"Not bad, not bad at all," said Jaxxon, "but which of ya can shoot two blasters at the same time like I can?" He took two guns in hand and aimed at the flying targets. To his surprise, neither one fired. "What the-!"
"I'm so impressed," said Dani. "Where did you learn that trick?"
"No, my blasters are empty!" said Jaxxon. "I swear they weren't a minute ago."
That, I must admit, is my fault, Plif said, sitting by Jaxxon's big feet. The Hoojib looked puffed up and full. You see, I wanted to demonstrate what we Hoojibs could contribute during the fight. We have been in combat against the Tofs before, you know. As I tried to tell you earlier, because we are energy eaters, we can drain the charge out of blasters. I drained yours while you weren't looking. Besides that, we are swift, agile, and capable of swarming onto an adversary and biting and scratching him into a panic. I noticed that you ignored us when you were cataloguing your assets, but I hope this changes your mind about our usefulness.
Jaxxon laughed out loud. "Sure thing, Plif! Glad to have you aboard! That little trick with the blasters oughta even the odds a little, in our favor."
Still, I must warn you, Plif said somberly. The Tofs should not be underestimated. They are brutal fighters, despite their low intelligence. We must all be careful.
"And Jabba's got the smarts to make up for the Tofs' stupidity," said Amaiza. "Together, they're a combination that'll be difficult for us to beat."
On the other hand, we beat the Tofs before.
"And Han Solo got the best of old Jabba years ago."
"Good!" said Jaxxon. "That's the spirit! Go team, go!"
As the others kept practicing, Amaiza took Jaxxon aside to where the others couldn't hear. "Tell me the truth, honey- Bun. What do think our chances are?"
Jaxxon looked at the Wookiee and the Ewok tripping over each other, the Hoojibs hopping around, Dani pausing with her shooting to fix her hair, and Ken and Triclops arguing over in a corner. "I got a bad feelin' about this," Jaxxon sighed. "Look at this, it's worse than that time on Aduba- Three! We look more like a circus than a group of commandos." Jaxxon suddenly brightened. "Hey, that gives me an idea!"
Now, Amaiza was truly worried.
The planet-wide city of Coruscant was a sight that most of Jaxxon's group had already seen at least once. The Hoojibs, however, were nearly overwhelmed by the towering buildings, the yawning architectural canyons, and the constant stream of flying ships overhead. At the end of a broad avenue which was actually a sprawling rooftop, an ornate building was the site of the reception for the guests of the 'Celebration of the Fifteenth Anniversary of the Battle of Yavin'. Wealthy and distinguished personages were entering and taking their seats inside the Hall.
Now wearing baggy and colorful clothing, Jaxxon's team headed for the Stage Entrance at the side of the building. Four humans, a Zeltron, an Ewok, a young Wookiee, a Lepus carnivorous, and ten Hoojibs were an odd sight, and they drew the inevitable scrutiny. They were challenged by a stern security guard, until Ken stepped up to do his part.
"You don't need to see our identification," Ken said to the guard, waving his hand subtly in front of him.
"I don't need to see your identification," replied the guard distantly.
"We're the entertainment hired by Han Solo for the guests tonight," suggested Ken.
"You're the entertainment hired by Han Solo," the guard agreed.
"You can let us in the stage door entrance now," Ken prompted.
"Go on," said the guard, "through the stage door entrance, now."
"You look like a Kowakian Monkey Lizard."
"I look like a-"
"All right, all right!" Jaxxon interrupted the guard. "Don't push your luck, Ken."
Ken looked sheepish as they filed past the guard and entered the building. "I've always wanted to do that," he smiled.
Once they were inside, Jaxxon took charge. "Listen up everybody. I want alla ya ta stick ta the plan. Watch each other's backs, do the best ya can, an' try not ta get killed. You Hoojibs do your thing with the Tofs' blasters, an' we may all get outta this alive!"
Jaxxon, Amaiza, Dani, Ken, and Triclops all had blasters secreted in their baggy clothes. "Alla yer blasters are set on heavy stun, right?" Jaxxon asked. "Cuz a stray shot could kill a guest, an' good guys don't do that."
Jaxxon was annoyed to notice that Lumpy was still carrying his glass ball. "An' you, Lumpy! Why don't ya do somethin' useful with that an' hit a Tof on the head with it!" Lumpy cradled the precious globe and looked offended.
Cindel hefted her camera, ready to film, and Ken took his self-chosen place by her side. Triclops hovered close by his son. Eecha Wama stood by Lumpy, ready to fight. Dani checked her blaster with a determined expression, and hid it again. Plif let everyone know that the Hoojibs were ready. Jaxxon gave Amaiza a long hug, and then looked over the group. "Well, we're as ready as we're ever gonna be!"
"In that case," Ken said, "May the Force be with us!"
When everyone was seated inside, a distinguished New Republic Senator stood up to welcome the equally distinguished guests. As Jabba had predicted, the event was more or less a fashion show, with many sparkling jewels worn by the women and some of the men. It would be a rich haul. Mon Mothma sat at the head of her table, wearing the spectacular Tarkin Family Jewels around her neck. White, blue and green flashes emanated from the elaborate and priceless necklace, visible to Jabba where he stood in the shadows near the entrance. An unconscious guard was at Jabba's feet, and the Tofs crowded impatiently behind him. Jabba waited while the Senator announced that the Heroes of Yavin would be appearing later in the evening to give speeches, then he motioned to the Tofs to follow him in. The Nimbanel and fifteen Tofs burst into the Hall, shouting and firing at the ceiling and walls. Guests screamed and cowered, or stood in confusion. Alert security guards converged on the intruders, and closed with the burly Tofs. Laughing out loud, the Tofs exchanged blaster fire with the guards, or struck at them with large clubs. Two of the Tofs went down with blaster wounds, but all six guards ended up on the floor, not moving.
Jabba attached a computer device to the outlet on the wall next to the main entrance. Lights flashed across the device, and suddenly, all around the room, the major and minor exits were sealed by falling blast doors. The building was secure, and entry codes were scrambled. Jabba knew he would not have a long time to work, but now he had enough time, free of outside interference. He held up a voice amplifier.
"Attention, everyone," Jabba's voice boomed. "This is a robbery. I am here for your jewels and other valuables. If you all cooperate, no one will be hurt." The crowd looked at the bloodthirsty Tofs, and doubted Jabba's assurance. "Everyone is to stay in their seats. Do not move, or you may pay for it with your life. My associates are not noted for their tolerance and gentleness."
The Tofs spread out and stood behind the guests. Each Tof had a canister of Pacifog and a gas mask at his belt. Jabba took up a position near Mon Mothma. The former Chief of State looked indignant and unafraid. As she glared at Jabba, he smiled back, thinking that she was quite a bit taller than she looked on the HoloNet. The Tarkin jewels were within his reach. Jabba raised the amplifier to give his Tofs the order to don their masks and release the Pacifog. That was when a very strange assortment of characters bounded out onto the stage at the other end of the Hall. Jabba whirled and stared at the newcomers in wide-eyed surprise.
Outside the building, puzzled security personnel were trying to get the doors open, when Luke Skywalker, President Leia Organa-Solo, Han Solo, and Chewbacca strolled up to them. To commemorate the occasion, Han, Leia, and Luke were dressed in clothing similar to the outfits they wore at the Battle of Yavin. Han had on his dark pants with the red Bloodstripe, tall boots, a white shirt, and a black vest with many pockets. Luke had pants and boots like Han, a black shirt, and an orange jacket. Both Han and Luke had dug out their old medals of valor from fifteen years ago. Leia was wearing a white senatorial robe, white boots, a silver belt, and her old hairstyle with the buns on either side. Chewbacca wasn't wearing anything, but that was normal.
Han was complaining about having to give a speech. "I hate these formal things," he griped to his wife. "Isn't there a way I can get out of this?"
"Too late, flyboy," Leia said playfully. "We're here already. No turning back now."
"It'll be fine, Han," Luke said calmly. Then again, the Jedi Master was almost always calm, so Han wasn't impressed.
"Easy for you to say, Kid," Han said. "You have to lecture your Jedi students all the time. I'm no public speaker."
"Where's my brave Captain?" Leia teased him. "After facing Star Destroyers and asteroids, you get scared by a few dignitaries?"
"I had the Falcon with me then," Han said. "Hey, can I go get it now? That might make me feel better."
Chewie roared his approval, and made as if to go fetch the battered freighter.
"Yeah, Chewie, that'd shake those rich snobs up a little, if we flew in with the quad guns blazing! Recreate the time I swooped in and saved Luke at the Battle of Yavin, what do you say?" Han grinned broadly. "You're all clear, Kid!" Han shouted, and slapped Luke on the back. "Let's blow this reception and go home!"
Luke and Han were laughing when the closest security guard turned to face the four of them. "Carrie!" the guard said to Leia. Then he looked embarrassed. "Oh, President Organa-Solo. I'm so sorry. You're wearing your hair in that old style of yours, and my girlfriend, Carrie, has taken to wearing her hair like that. For a second I thought you were...I beg your pardon, Ma'am."
"No problem," said Leia. She looked at the closed doors and the security men milling about. "Is there something wrong, here?"
"We're not sure," said the guard. "There seems to be a malfunction in the security system. All the blast doors have shut and locked. We can't get in, and we can't seem to contact our people inside on their comlinks, either."
"Could be trouble," Luke frowned.
"We'll handle it," the guard said firmly. "If you could all stand over to the side while we figure this out..."
"We were supposed to give a speech here," Leia said.
"And you will, as soon as we can get the doors open," said the guard.
The four heroes obligingly stepped to the side of the plaza. "I don't know," said Luke. "There's something not right here. I feel like..."
Leia could sense it too. "Something familiar, and something dangerous, too."
They all looked uneasily towards the reception hall. "I take it we all have a bad feeling about this," Han said.
Chewie rumbled his agreement.
While Jabba the Hut stared, Jaxxon's group bounced out onto the empty stage and waved theatrically while Cindel loudly introduced them. "Ladies and Gentlemen!" she shouted. "For your entertainment, we have for you tonight, direct from Hologram Fun World, famous across the galaxy, Madame Amaiza and her Roving Players!"
Amaiza waved to the crowd, while her companions posed and waved all around her. While all the attention was on Jaxxon, Dani, and the others, the ten Hoojibs jumped off of the corner of the stage unnoticed and darted between people's feet in all directions. Each Hoojib was headed for a Tof. When they reached the green pirates, they hopped stealthily onto the tops of chairs and put their mouths onto the Tofs' blaster rifles, which were slung over their shoulders and behind their backs. Silently, the Hoojibs began to drain the charges from each rifle, visibly puffing up as they drew off the energy from each power cell.
Meanwhile, the group on stage lost no time in jumping down and bounding out into the audience, smiling and waving all the while. Jabba didn't know what to make of it. There was a tall green rabbit-headed person, a couple of short hairy types, a few humans, and a woman all colored in red. These clowns seemed to be oblivious to the danger presented by his armed mercenaries. As for the Tofs themselves, they were thoroughly distracted by the entertainers. They were laughing and pointing, and a few of them seemed to be getting ready to club the entertainers on the head. Whatever this was about, it wasn't good for his plan. Jabba felt he had to get control of the situation, and fast. That was, of course, when everything went terribly wrong for him.
The rabbit-head had stopped in front of a laughing Tof, and had begun a silly dance of some kind. Then, without warning, the long-eared performer kicked the Tof in his fat stomach, lightning fast, and hard enough to send the pirate flying backwards into the air and crashing into a wall. The Tof was down for the count. The other Tofs saw that and wised up fast, and then things got ugly. "Hey! Look what he did!" shouted a nearby Tof. "Enough fun an' games. Let's waste 'em!"
The Tofs drew their blaster rifles and took aim at the fake entertainers, but most of the pirates cried out in anger when their guns did not fire. The Hoojibs had done their work. Only three Tof rifles still functioned. Dani, Amaiza, and Jaxxon took aim at the Tofs who could still shoot. After a brief exchange of fire, those three Tofs lay stunned on the floor.
The remaining Tofs threw away their guns and took out their clubs. "Arr, what a bunch of junk, just like I said," a Tof complained. "Didn't I say clubs were better?"
One of the Tofs raised his club, only to be covered with leaping, biting Hoojibs. Plif and his followers swarmed onto the mercenary, driving him wild with panic. "Arrgh! Vermin! Get 'em off me! Club 'em! Filthy vermin!"
Vermin indeed! said Plif between bites.
Another Tof found himself being attacked at knee level by Eecha Wama. Lumpy set his globe on the floor and joined the Ewok in combat. Following his instincts, Lumpy tried to pull the Tof's arm off, but he ended up dangling from it instead. The Ewok stabbed the Tof with his small stone knife, making the pirate howl and drop the Wookiee.
Triclops was suddenly assaulted by a Tof as well. The big green soldier came at him confidently, hitting his club against his open palm. "Your hair looks sorta messy," said the Tof. "Let me make it worse for you. Hey, what are you doing, turning your back on me?" The Tof was very surprised to see another eye open up in the back of Triclops' head. He was even more surprised when a powerful energy wave beamed out of the eye and lifted him from the floor. The power of Triclops' eye hurled the Tof against the wall, and knocked him out cold.
In the time it took for Triclops to deal with his Tof, another Tof moved in on his son. Ken stood bravely in front of Cindel, digging in his loose clothing for his blaster. The gun was stuck in the garment. "Avast there, ya swabs," the Tof said to them. "Let's see what ya look like with your brains on the outside of your heads!" The Tof prepared a mighty blow with his club. Ken didn't panic. Unable to free his gun, he used the Force to levitate and hurl a storm of dishes and silverware at his enemy. CRASSSSSSHH! That distracted the pirate long enough for Ken to free his blaster. The Tof went down with a stun blast in the face. BZZZZZT! Cindel, wide-eyed, filmed all of it and panned the camera around the room.
Jabba was furious. He raised his voice amplifier and shouted orders to the Tofs. "Release the Pacifog, you fools! Put on your masks, and release the gas!"
For some Tofs, two orders at a time are a lot to process. As a result, the orders were not followed correctly by everyone. One of the Tofs shook free of the Hoojibs and released his gas valve without first putting on his mask. Another Tof only put on his mask without releasing any gas. Still another simply kept on fighting without doing either. Four Tofs got it right, and a cloud of Pacifog billowed out into the room.
Jabba put on his own mask and waited for the gas to take effect. He was guilty, it should be said, of not knowing enough about the Pacifog he was using. He had been told only that it would make people obey him and quietly give over their valuables. But, after the failed Pacifog experiment on Kadril, the Empire had abandoned the gas, not because it didn't work, but because its effects were so unpredictable. Darth Vader had once described it as bringing out the weakest trait of a person, but that wasn't entirely accurate. For some people, it seemed to do that, but for others, the effects were anyone's guess. Once unleashed, no one could tell exactly what it might do. The two Tofs without masks breathed in the gas, and collapsed onto the floor, drooling like idiots. Their own stupidity had overwhelmed them. Now there were only five Tofs left standing.
The effects of the gas on Jaxxon's group were even more interesting. Jaxxon himself began to reel about as if completely drunk. *Hiccup!* "Hey! Jabba! I got a bone ta pick with ya!" Jaxxon shouted. *Hiccup!* "Or maybe that was 'Maiza." *Hiccup!* "Well, somebody wants ta kill ya! Come over here an' you an' me can talk about it!" *Hiccup!*
The gas surrounded Triclops, and immediately his third eye became very red and painfully itchy. He clutched the back of his head in misery. His eye power was now useless.
Both Lumpy and the Ewok began to sneeze uncontrollably. Their sneezes were so powerful, they fell onto the floor in convulsions, and were effectively taken out of the fight.
Ken, Amaiza, and Cindel each began to laugh, harder and harder, until they couldn't stop. Ken and Cindel looked around at the room, the gas cloud, the frightened guests, the bodies, and the threatening Tofs still standing, and found it all hilarious. They fell into each other's arms and laughed helplessly, tears rolling down their faces.
Amaiza found Jaxxon's apparent drunkenness equally funny. She pointed at her boyfriend and doubled over, holding her stomach as she nearly choked on her laughter.
Dani, in contrast, began to cry. Tears of loneliness and loss flowed out of her very soul. She buried her face in her hands and sobbed for all she was worth.
The Hoojibs were terrified. A wave of fear swept through their ranks, and they cowered together in the corner, frozen with terror.
The guests of the reception displayed a variety of symptoms as well. A few people swelled up like water balloons and oozed bodily fluids everywhere. Some became like zombies and sat staring straight ahead, waiting for orders. Many more simply passed out.
Jabba was shocked at the results of his gas weapon, but he soon recovered his wits. He turned and faced Mon Mothma. It was time to get the Tarkin jewels; if nothing else was accomplished this night, he would still have completed his main objective.
Jabba was taken aback when he saw Mon Mothma wearing a Tof gas mask. He was further confused when Mon Mothma stood up, and turned out to be over seven feet tall. And, he was downright amazed when Mon Mothma took out a long curved sword and held it at the ready.
Jabba doubted he could draw his blaster in time to avoid the blade. "Who are you?" he demanded.
"Surrender, and I'll tell you," said 'Mon Mothma' with a distinctly male voice.
"Never!" Jabba called to his remaining forces. "You Tofs! Get over here immediately! I have someone I want you to kill for me."
Jabba's five reinforcements faced a small delay, however. Jaxxon, Amaiza, Dani, Ken, and Triclops stood in their way, and they all held blasters.
Jaxxon fired at his Tof, missing several times. *Hiccup!* "Hold still, ya scurvy bum!" Jaxxon ordered. Finally, the drunken rabbit hit his target. *Hiccup!* "Take that, ya bilge rat! You guys give the color green a bad name!" *Hiccup!*
Still cackling, Ken and Amaiza stunned two more Tofs, laughing even harder as their fat forms fell foolishly to the floor. WHAAAAMMM!
Triclops tossed aside his blaster and closed with his Tof. A sudden rage blossomed in him as he grappled with the pirate. A dark strength filled Triclops, and he manhandled his much larger adversary into a choke hold. The Tof gasped futilely for air, then went limp and collapsed at Triclops' feet.
The last Tof confronted the weeping Dani. "Seems ta me I remember somethin' about your kind," said the Tof as he squared off with her. "Zeltrons, right?"
Dani stopped crying for a moment and swept her leg up in a vicious kick that caught the Tof squarely in the head and laid him flat on the ground.
"Seems to me I remember something about your kind," Dani sobbed. "Morons, right?"
Jabba saw that no help was forthcoming, and he backed away from 'Mon Mothma'. "I don't care who you are," Jabba said. "Give me those jewels you're wearing, now. I'm taking them and getting out of here."
"What makes you think you can get away?" 'Mon Mothma' asked.
Jabba spoke into his voice amplifier. "Because I have a container of Megonite Moss in my pack. If you don't comply with my wishes, I'll let it open and warm up, and we'll all be blown sky high!" Jabba reached into his satchel and took out a glass freeze jar of Megonite. He held it up where all could see it. Several people screamed.
'Mon Mothma' knew the threat was real. He slowly took the Tarkin necklace off and placed it on the table in front of him, then backed up a step. Jabba held the Megonite in one hand while slowly reaching for the necklace with the other. 'Mon Mothma' chose that moment to act. He stabbed the sword down onto Jabba's gloved hand, slicing into it and pinning it to the table. The container of Megonite almost landed on the table as planned, but at the last moment, it bounced and fell tumbling through the air to crash on the floor. The glass shattered, and the deadly plant matter spilled out and was exposed to the warm air.
"Get out!! Everyone run! Move, all of you!" 'Mon Mothma' yelled, but he knew it was already too late.
Everyone in that hall had only moments to live. Plif read the threat clearly in the minds of Jabba and his disguised adversary. The Megonite was going to explode in seconds. Plif sent a telepathic command to his followers and together, they fought free of the terror that had immobilized them. Ten Hoojibs leaped and bounded towards the Megonite on the floor, their courage uniting them as one.
Chew that moss, Hoojibs! Plif cried to them. Bite it, and eat the energy out of it like you've never eaten before! The Hoojibs fell upon the moss and chewed it with a vengeance. Furiously, they chomped it and spit it out. Explosive energy poured out of the moss and into their tiny bodies, until at last, the moss was depleted and the threat was ended. Plif and his companions lay on the floor, hugely bloated with excess nourishment, and too exhausted to say anything.
Luke Skywalker finally got tired of waiting. "Let me get this open," he said to the guard. "I think there's something going on in there. People may be in danger."
"Oh, and how do you know that?" the guard said snidely. "I can feel it through the Force," Luke said seriously. "People are in pain, afraid. Please step aside and let me open the way in."
"I have orders to keep people away while the technicians work on it," insisted the guard.
The guard's immediate supervisor stepped up. "Now look here, son," he said to his underling. "This here is Luke Skywalker. You know what that means? If not for him, we wouldn't be here on Coruscant. So take a lesson from me. You don't tug on Palpatine's robe. You don't spit into the wind. You don't pull the mask off of old Darth Vader, and you don't mess around with Luke." He turned to face Luke. "So, Mr. Skywalker, what can I do for you?"
"Just stand back, and I'll get this door open my way," said Luke. "I think the people are in trouble in there." The guards backed off as Luke ignited his lightsaber. The green blade levitated into the air and flew to stab into the blast door. With a shower of sparks and melting metal, the moving lightsaber carved out a large rectangular section of the thick portal. The saber flew back to Luke, who then held out his hand, palm facing the door. The cut- out section was hurled backwards by the Force, leaving a smoking opening wide enough for three men to enter at a time. Luke wasted no time in hurrying inside, followed by Han, Chewie, and Leia. A group of security guards trooped in after them.
The security guard who had tried to stop Luke stood there with his mouth open. "Oh, now who's going to pay for that?" he griped.
Luke was the first one to notice the smell of the Pacifog. "Hold on, I think there's some kind of gas in the air. It smells familiar, but I just can't place it. Let me see if I can clear it out."
Luke raised his arms and summoned a powerful wind through the Force. In a minute, the gas had been pulled out of the Hall ahead and blown out the door. The heroes of Yavin entered the room to find a scene of chaos.
Dazed and unconscious guests were slumped all over the place. There was broken furniture, shattered glass, and tables were overturned. A very tall and unattractive woman was handcuffing a cursing Nimbanel with energy binders. Large green humanoids were lying knocked out on the floor, weapons fallen at their sides. "Tofs!" Luke exclaimed. Several dead security guards lay next to them.
Someone kicked Lumpy's glass ball and it rolled across the floor to stop at the feet of the mighty Chewbacca. The Wookiee almost bent to pick it up, but then he saw his son hurrying towards him. He roared in disbelief.
Han looked in the direction Lumpy had come running from. He saw a diverse little group of people standing together and getting out of the loose, colorful clown suits that covered their regular clothing. Han's gaze traveled over the motley crew. He saw a tall green rabbit, a bikini- wearing woman, another woman with red hair and skin, a collection of little long-eared creatures, a teenage girl, an Ewok, a young man, and an older man with a wild shock of white hair who was rubbing a third eye on the back of his head. Han's jaw dropped. "Oh, no," he said thickly. "No, no, no. Please, no." New Republic security forces filled the Hall behind Han, preventing him from escaping.
People in Jaxxon's group began to notice the new arrivals. Dani squealed and ran to Luke, throwing her arms around him. "Luke! It is you! I knew I'd find you! Do you remember me? I missed you. Did you miss me?"
"D-Dani?" Luke stammered. Then a Hoojib landed heavily on his shoulder. "Plif!" Luke said at once. The Jedi Master was caught off guard, but only for a moment. Recovering his poise, he smiled and hugged both of them warmly. "Yes, yes I did miss you both," he said, surprising himself.
It is so very good to see you again, Luke. Plif looked over the mess. As you can see, we've had a bit of a difficult time. I suppose you are too late to help, but your arrival is welcome nonetheless! There is much to sort out here.
Chewie picked up his son and they hugged each other happily.
"Raaaarrrrr!" said Chewbacca. "Wuf-wuf-wuf."
Lumpy sneezed twice. "Whiiiinnne!" said the young Wookiee.
Chewbacca smiled and patted Plif on the head. Well, some things are already well in hand, it seems.
As the newly arrived guards secured the Tofs with energy binders, the very tall person Han had noticed earlier led a bound Jabba the Hut over to them. Han gaped at the prisoner. "I don't believe it! Jabba the Hut?!"
Jabba spat at Han. "You blasted Corellian space jockey! You would have to see me like this. The gods are most unkind."
"Well, well, well," Han said, warming to the occasion. "Jabba the Hut. Seems to me I've seen you in worse positions, like outside my airlock, covered in stone mites, begging to get in!"
The security chief took charge of the prisoner and looked up at the woman, or man, who had caught him. "Who are you?" he demanded. "Identify yourself at once!"
The mysterious warrior took off the Tof gas mask, and then peeled a second skin-like 'Mon Mothma' mask from his face. Underneath, he had a large bushy mop of white hair, pale skin, and a red patch over his left eye. Han knew him at once.
"Bey!!" Han exclaimed, his mind reeling. This was getting to be too much, even for him.
The half-Corellian, half-Nagai hero saluted the security chief. "I'm Bey, New Republic Intelligence secret service. This prisoner attacked the reception with his mercenaries, used a gas weapon on the guests, and threatened to kill us all with Megonite. See that he is taken to a secure area." The guard nodded and saluted back. "I've heard of you, Sir. But then, who hasn't? It's a pleasure to finally meet you. We'll take care of the prisoner just as you asked. Please report for a debriefing at your earliest convenience."
Jaxxon came over to them, still a bit tipsy from his gas- induced drunkenness. A grinning Amaiza was at his side. Nine Hoojibs hopped along at their feet. Ken and Cindel followed, holding hands and giggling. Eecha Wama waddled behind her, sniffling and sneezing. Triclops brought up the rear, looking irritated.
Bey turned to greet them. "Thank you," he said, "for your timely assistance in fighting the Tofs. I didn't expect to be cut off from outside help, and you all filled in the gap nicely. Especially you Hoojibs," said Bey. "If you hadn't taken care of the Megonite, we would probably all be dead. Everyone here owes you a debt of gratitude. Besides that, there is the fact that you discovered the threat in the first place. I was on the Kuari Princess with you. I followed your reporter into the restaurant and spied on you while you played your holovid. After that, I alerted Mon Mothma to stay home, and took her place at the reception."
"Ya hear that?" Jaxxon said loudly. "He's glad we came along, unlike some people I could name." Jaxxon glared at Han Solo, who was trying to hide behind Chewie.
"Well, I'm certainly not glad," babbled Jabba as he was led away out the door. "My plan evidently would have worked, if it hadn't been for these meddling kids, and their Ewok, and their Wookiee, and their little rabbits, and their big rabbit..."
Bey watched until Jabba had disappeared from sight. Then he noticed Cindel looking at him strangely. "Wait a minute..." she said, "you...you're Bey, aren't you?"
"At your service," he said, towering over her and taking her hand.
"Oh, my God!" Cindel squealed. "I can't believe I'm standing here with Bey! And I helped you out! This is incredible. Did you know you're my hero?" She stared at her hand. "I'm never going to wash this hand again."
"We didn't come here just because of Jabba," Jaxxon said loudly, crossing his arms on his chest. "We all got a bone ta pick with the guy who wrote that new book, that History of the Heroes of Yavin, an' didn't put us in it. An' we got the heroes of Yavin right here, it looks like. Now all we need is that author, that Voren Na'al, an' we can get down ta business, straightnin' this out."
"Ah, excuse me, did I hear my name mentioned?" a groggy guest said. "I'm Voren Na'al. I think I passed out from the gas. Is there some problem? I hope I haven't caused any of you any problems. I saw how you fought those intruders. I think you saved all of our lives."
Jaxxon reached out and shook the historian's hand. "Well, ain't this convenient! Things're finally goin' my way! I'm Jaxxon, and this is Amaiza. Those two are Ken and Triclops, the Zeltron is Dani, and that's Plif an' his gang of Hoojibs. We all came ta Coruscant lookin' for you! Pleased ta finally meetcha!"
"You wanted to see me?" Voren asked, confused. "What about?"
Cindel handed the camera to Eecha Wama, and told him to continue filming for her. She took her copy of the book from her backpack. "It's about your book, Mr. Na'al. You claim it's complete, but all of these people have had extensive adventures with the heroes of Yavin, and none of them are in the book. We think this is unfair, and that it should be corrected as soon as possible."
Voren nodded in understanding. "I see, yes indeed, that would be a problem. I do very much want the book to be complete, but you see, I based much of it on extensive interviews which I did with Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, Lando, and See Threepio. I tried my best to push them to tell me everything, but sometimes they were uncooperative, not especially forthcoming...especially Han Solo," Voren said. Han began to eye the exit, hoping to 'haul jets' as soon as he got the chance.
"Of course," Voren went on, "Luke was busy a lot of the time as well, very, very hard to track down, and Leia has been very busy in the political arena. I had the feeling all along that things were getting excluded, but the publisher insisted the book be labeled 'complete.' So you see," Voren told them, "if you got left out, it was probably because the interviewees declined to mention you to me."
Jaxxon, Amaiza, Ken, Dani, and Plif rounded on Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie. "Just like I thought from the beginning!" Jaxxon accused. "It's all your fault, Solo!"
Han tried to play the innocent, touching his chest as if to say, who, me? It didn't work. Jaxxon took a step towards Han.
"Look," Han said, "it's not my fault. I can't remember everything that happens to me. There's so much of it that goes on... I'm getting older, you know, forgetting things. And Voren said it was supposed to be a serious book, so what was I supposed to do? Some of those things that went on, they weren't exactly the most dignified stories to tell everybody about. I have a reputation now, as the husband of the President, right? I deserve a little respect these days. What we did on Aduba-Three was a fun little side trip, but-"
"Ah-Hah!" Jaxxon pointed at Han. "You do remember! You left us out on purpose cuz the story embarrassed you!"
Han squirmed and looked at his boots.
"Is that true?" Ken asked Luke. "Is that why I'm not in the book, either?"
"Well," Luke said carefully, "I think that the truth very often depends upon your point of view."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Ken demanded.
Luke shrugged. "I don't know. It worked for Ben Kenobi."
"Come on, Princess," said Dani, "after all we've been through together. How could you forget about me like that?"
"There were, um, certain New Republic security measures," Leia said lamely. "Some wanted the Tof-Nagai conflict to stay secret from the general public. And, as a political leader, I did have my reputation to look after. My image to maintain..." Leia suddenly gave up trying to lie. "Oh, blast it, the truth is, you drove me crazy with all of your fawning over Luke, and then those five other Zeltron boys wouldn't leave me alone, and I just didn't want to hear the word 'Zeltron' again, as long as I lived!"
Dani laughed. "At least we're being honest!"
Even so, was it necessary to leave out the entire war with the Nagai? Plif said accusingly. Regardless of personal issues, and ignoring for the moment the fact that I myself am absent from the book, a war should not have been left out of a history book.
Bey took the book from Cindel. "Is that right? Did you leave out the Nagai, Han? How about me, your best friend from childhood, who's also a half-Nagai? Did you leave me out too?" Bey checked the section on Han Solo's youth while Han waited silently. "I see Garris Shrike here, and Dewlanna, but not me," Bey said. "I guess I have a complaint here, too. What's this about, Han?"
Han scowled. "I didn't want to dredge up more bad memories. I guess I never forgave you for bringing that Nagai half-brother of yours, Knife, into my life. He caused me a hell of a lot of trouble, you know. Then there was the time you went over to the Nagai side on Endor. You decked me pretty hard that time, Bey, and you went away with Knife. Are those the things a childhood friend does? No way, Bey. I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings by not talking about you to Voren Na'al, but this goes deeper than that. A lot deeper."
Han turned and stalked away. Leia looked after him with concern, but Bey said, "Don't worry. I'll go after him. It's been a long time since we talked. I guess we have some things to work out."
Bey turned to Voren Na'al, who looked distressed. "I hope you'll work this out with these fine people," Bey said to the historian. "They deserve to be recognized, both for their past accomplishments, and for what they did here today."
"Oh, yes, Mr. Bey, Sir," Voren said. "I fully intend to do right by all of them. In fact, if all of you would like to make appointments with me for interviews, while you are here on Coruscant, I'll be glad to meet with you and copy down your stories. I can revise the book in time for the second printing, the electronic mass market edition. Will that be satisfactory to all of you?"
Excellent, sir, said Plif. Most fair.
"Okay with me," said Dani.
"That would be great," said Ken.
"You're okay in my book," said Jaxxon, "so long as I get inta yours. We got a deal."
Amaiza smiled and hugged Jaxxon. "I can't believe you did it!" she said. "I mean, I never doubted you for a second, honey-bun."
"You folks are all heroes in my book," said Voren. "And besides, it is my book. I know we'll get this matter rectified."
"Good," said Bey. "I'll be off now. Good meeting you people."
"Bye, Bey," Cindel said wistfully. "I'll tell my kids about this, I promise." Bey simply bowed to her and then followed after Han.
As Lumpy noisily told the tale of his bravery to his father, Dani took Luke aside from the others for a little private talk. "Luke," she said quietly when they were alone, "I didn't really come here because of that book. I came here to see you again. It's been a long time, I know, but I never really stopped being attracted to you."
"Dani-" Luke began.
"Let me finish. I'm not going to play any more games with you, chasing after you while you brush me off. That was the old Dani. I came to ask you if you want to..." She whispered something in his ear. Luke's eyes widened. "If you're interested, that's fine," she said. "If not, I'll be on my way again."
Luke looked into her eyes. "You have changed. I can sense it, and I can see it in you. I think I like what I see, Dani." Luke sighed. "To be honest, things haven't been so good for me lately. Did you know I fell in love a while ago? There was a disembodied Jedi spirit named Callista who lived inside a computer on an Imperial ship. She entered the body of a student of mine, and became my lover for a while. But then she lost her Force powers, and when she couldn't get them back, she decided to leave me."
"You have the weirdest life," Dani said teasingly, taking his hands in hers and caressing them.
"That was two years ago, and I haven't had a love life to speak of since then. But that's the past, now, and here you are, an old friend who I still care about."
"It's okay, Luke," Dani said. "I don't mean to put you on the spot. If you're not interested..."
"No, what I'm trying to say is, I am interested. I'm glad you're here."
Dani couldn't hide her surprise. "You are? You mean, you want to...?"
"We can talk about that somewhere else, okay?" said Luke.
"Let's get back to the others." Dani smiled and hugged him again.
Lumpy climbed down out of his father's arms and retrieved the glass ball from the floor. Proudly, he gave it to Chewbacca. "Moooaaaaaan, groooaaannn!" he explained. Chewbacca took it and grinned. He thanked his son with a great woofing growl and hugged him again.
"Hey," said Leia. "That's a Life Day peace ball, isn't it? This really reminds me of that time on Kashyyyk, when we all came to help you celebrate Life Day, Chewie. That was a wonderful time, wasn't it? I remember I sang my favorite song that day. You know, this is such a special occasion right now, that it would be appropriate to hear it again. Let me see, how did it go?" Leia opened her mouth wide, and Chewbacca gasped in horror. As she began to sing, the Wookiee struggled to reach her, but a security team carrying Tof bodies got in the way.
"We celebrate a day of peace, a day of harmony A day of joy we all can share together joyously..."
Chewbacca shoved the guards aside, but then several Hoojibs got tangled up between his furry feet, slowing him down.
"A day that takes us through the darkness A day that leads us into might A day that makes us want to celebrate the light..."
Chewbacca kicked the Hoojibs away, and came face to face with Jaxxon and Amaiza. "How ya doin' ya old Wook?" Jaxxon asked. "I heard from Lumpy that you're still proud of what happened on Aduba-Three. That was good ta hear, an' -"
Chewbacca groaned and tried to shove past them.
"A day that brings the promise that one day we'll be free, to live, to laugh, to dream, to grow, to trust, to love, to beeeeee-"
Leia's last drawn-out note was abruptly cut off when Chewbacca clamped a huge hairy hand over her mouth and shut her up.
A little later, Amaiza had the chance to talk with Cindel alone. "Hey there, you okay?"
"I'm fine," said Cindel. "Um, I'm sorry you didn't get to kill Jabba...I know you wanted to."
"Oh, that's alright. At least I know he's going to prison for a long time. Those tapes of yours will be the best evidence anyone could want in a trial. And, maybe when he gets out...if he gets out...I'll pay him a little visit." Amaiza made a gun with her fingers and fired it silently.
"I'm going to edit that tape right away," said Cindel, "and send it to the editor in chief at the Life Monitor. I really hope it will get me a job there."
"It will," Amaiza said. "You did a great job, and it's your exclusive story." Amaiza put a kindly hand on Cindel's shoulder, to the girl's surprise. "Cindel, I also wanted to talk to you about that boy, Ken." Cindel squirmed uncomfortably. "I can see the growing attraction between the two of you..."
"Oh great, it's that obvious?"
"To a woman, or a Hoojib, it is. I can also tell something is really bothering you. Would you like to tell me what it is? Is it maybe the fact that Dani was flirting with Ken right in front of you?"
"No," Cindel said quietly. "It's not Dani. Well, yes, that made me jealous, because I don't have her body or her looks, but what worries me is really not about her. It's about me." Amaiza sat and listened patiently. "I think I told you about my childhood? How I got stranded on Endor? How I lost my family?"
Amaiza nodded. "You're afraid of losing more people, so you avoid getting close to anyone, except maybe that Ewok, who really doesn't count."
Cindel stared at Amaiza. "How do you know all that? Are you a mind reader too?"
"No, honey, lots of people feel the way you do. It's not hard to understand. And it's okay to feel that way. I had trouble letting Jaxxon into my life, for the same reason."
"Really? Is that true?"
"It's true enough. What matters is, eventually you have to let yourself heal, and try again. There's always a risk, and there's lots of ways to lose people, but there's lots of ways to keep them, too. Unless you let people in, and see what can happen, you'll live an empty life anyway, so what do you have to lose, really?"
"So, you're saying I should go talk to Ken, and tell him how I feel?" Cindel asked hesitantly.
"I think so, dear. I have a feeling it will all work out for you this time, if you just take the chance." Amaiza squeezed Cindel's shoulder supportively. "Thanks Amaiza. I think I will." Cindel stood up. "But wait. What about Dani?"
"I've taken care of that," said Amaiza. "You have a clear playing field. Good luck, and remember to get him wrapped around your little finger as soon as possible, and keep him there. That's where a man belongs."
Cindel smiled and held up her little finger. "I'll do my best."
"That," Luke said, "was incredible." He was lying in bed with Dani, his hands behind his head. The sun was just coming up. An orange jacket was tossed onto the floor. Next to it lay Dani's ultraviolet negligee, still softly glowing.
"Oh, I know," said Dani. "I thought your Jedi powers could be good for something besides fighting. I loved it when you levitated us, and how you kept foreseeing what I wanted you to do."
"And that thing you did," said Luke, "with your...I'm not even sure how to describe that. But it was great."
"That's a Zeltron specialty," Dani said. "Feel free to tell people about that." Dani snuggled up to Luke. "Now aren't you glad you finally gave in?"
"What do you think?" Luke smiled into her hair. "So, Dani, I wanted to ask you...will you be staying for a while? I was hoping we could-"
"Oh, Luke, I'm sorry. I'm leaving today." Dani stroked his face, seeing his disappointed expression. "I guess I didn't make myself clear, darling. I only wanted this to be a one-night stand. I guess I can see how you would think otherwise, what with how lonely it's been for you lately."
"Can't you stay for a little while?" Luke asked plaintively.
"No, I have to go. This is for the best, trust me. I had a wonderful time, though." Dani looked into Luke's sad puppy eyes. "You were wonderful. I bet you won't be single for long, once I put the word out how amazing you are."
Luke sighed. "It's just my luck. You probably are better off leaving. Otherwise, you'd have to die, or you'd turn out to be another relative of mine."
"What about Mara Jade?" asked Dani. "I read about you two in the gossip columns. Don't you have something going with her?"
"Mara? Hardly. She wanted to kill me!"
"Hmmm," Dani mused. "That's often a sign of true love. You just watch. I think that Mara may be the one. If it works out, don't forget to invite me to the wedding," she teased gently. Dani kissed him once more, and got up to get dressed.
"Dani," Luke said, managing a smile, "I hope you'll come back, whenever you want to. My door will always be open."
"I think I will, unless Mara Jade is around. I don't want to mess with that one. She has quite the reputation." Dani gathered her things while Luke watched her. Finally, she stood by the door and gave him a small wave. "Goodbye, Luke. It's been fun."
"Bye, Dani," Luke said. He didn't get up, and she quietly slipped out and closed the door softly behind her.
Luke watched the closed door for a while, not moving. Then a pink furry head with a little antenna popped up from behind the headboard. "Plif!" Luke exclaimed. "How long have you been there?"
All night, I'm afraid. I came to talk to you about my search, but when you came in, you had company.
"She's really something, isn't she, Plif?"
Try not to feel too bad about her leaving, Luke. It really is for the best. I have had the opportunity to observe Dani for the past several days. I'm sure you recall her state of depression at the end of the Tof-Nagai war. Well, she managed to get past all that by becoming independent. Dani needs to be her own woman. It's the only way she can truly be happy.
Luke thought about that for a while. "I guess that makes sense. Hey, Plif, about yesterday. I want to apologize to you for not making sure you ended up in Voren's book. I really don't have an excuse, except that things have been so crazy for me the past few years. There was that trouble at Bakura, and then I had to defeat the witches of Dathomir and Grand Admiral Thrawn, and the Emperor came back and I went over to the dark side for a while, and then I had to start the Jedi Academy, plus getting rid of Exar Kun's spirit, dealing with the Hutts' Death Star, and Admiral Daala, and Waru, and having Callista leave me. It's been rough. Still, that's no excuse for forgetting an old friend. I hope you can forgive me, and that this hasn't ruined our friendship."
That's quite all right, Luke. I forgive you. I haven't kept in good touch, either. Lately, I've been leading a number of followers on a quest to find an old Jedi Master named Ikrit. He left us four hundred years ago, but he promised he'd be back. The time of his return is supposed to be now. I came over to ask you if you knew anything about him. He's small, and he looks a little like a Hoojib, especially around the ears.
Luke thought hard, but he had to disappoint Plif. "I'm sorry, I haven't heard anything about him. This is the first time I've heard him mentioned. But I can ask the others at the academy to keep an eye out for him and an ear to the ground. Maybe Kam or Tionne know something. Don't give up, Plif, the Jedi have their resources, and you say Ikrit's one of our own. I'll do whatever I can to help. Maybe that'll make up for leaving you out of the book."
Thank you, Luke, I sincerely appreciate that. Well, in that case, my followers and I will be continuing our search. Ikrit must be out there somewhere. And, speaking of my followers, I had best go see how they are doing. Coruscant is a bit intimidating to we Hoojibs, you know.
"It was good to see you, Plif," Luke said. "We had some great times together. You can come back and perch on my shoulder any time." I'd like that. If I do find Ikrit, I'll bring him to meet you. Plif gave a tiny wave with his paw, and hopped off the bed. Taking one last look back, he hopped out the door. Luke watched him go, and a feeling of melancholy settled over the Jedi Master.
The extremely gaunt and pale man sitting in front of Ken and Triclops had once been a high-ranking Imperial Advisor, a survivor of the intrigues of Palpatine's court. Now he was merely an estate lawyer.
The lawyer shuffled the papers in front of him and regarded Ken and Triclops with a bland expression. He cleared his throat. "So, then, Mr. Triclops, and, ah, Mr. Ken. Are you sure neither of you has, ah, a last name? No? Well, no matter. I have read your, ah, claim, and your proof of identity seems to be in order. But, ah, having reviewed your, ah, case, I find that I must be the bearer of, ah, bad news. You see, your, ah, father, the Emperor, had an extraordinary plan which he, ah, implemented in order to, ah, significantly prolong his life. Hidden on the planet Byss, he had, ah, a number of cloning cylinders, each containing, ah, a clone of himself. Through his dark side powers, he, ah, transferred his life energy into a new clone, each time his, ah, old body wore out. So you see, Mr. Triclops, and, ah, Mr. Ken, the Emperor planned to live forever, and he, ah, had no life insurance policy. I'm sorry. Now, if there is no further business, I wish you a pleasant, ah, rest of the day."
Triclops was speechless.
Outside, Ken and Triclops stood on a high balcony and looked over the cityscape. In the distance, the enormous Imperial Palace dominated the skyline like a hybrid pyramid and cathedral. Triclops looked at it longingly, imagining what it must have been like to have all that power and wealth.
Ken tried not to say anything for a while, to give his father time to just think. "Maybe it's for the best, Dad," he said eventually. "Money always changes everything, and not always for the better."
Triclops sighed. "You believe whatever you like, son. Someday, you'll grow up and know better."
"Dad, I talked with Cindel this morning. She said she likes me, and that she wants to give it a try and start a relationship. I told her I liked that idea very much. She's going to be staying here on Coruscant, so I was wondering if maybe you knew what our plans were going to be, now. You know, where we'll be staying. Or, maybe whether I could live on my own now, if you think I'm old enough."
Triclops measured his son with his front eyes. "Yes, I think you're old enough. You should have your own life, Ken. I realize I've been dragging you along on my fight for too long, now." "Maybe the fight's over, Dad. Maybe we can both give it a rest, even if we don't have that money."
Triclops looked out over the city again. "I suppose I should tell you about the offer I got from Mon Mothma. Once she heard I was on Coruscant, and learned about what I did at the reception, well, she decided I was still one of the good guys, and offered me a job. She wants me to be a diplomat, an ambassador to the Imperial remnant, working for eventual peace."
"Dad, that's perfect for you!" Ken enthused. "As the son of the old Emperor, they might really listen to you when you talk about reconciliation."
"I'd be away a lot of the time, Ken, but this planet could be our home base. I'd know that you were in good hands while I was gone."
"You think Cindel is okay, don't you."
"So, will you take the job?" Ken asked.
"I'm leaning towards it, after what we found out in there. Let's go talk about it at dinner. Tell Cindel to come. I'd like to get to know her better."
"Dad," Ken warned, "you better be on your best behavior. No scaring off my girlfriend when we're just getting started."
Triclops smiled and patted Ken on the back as they walked away. "Don't worry. I won't let her really see my dark side until after you're married."
Jaxxon and Amaiza walked, arm in arm, towards the spaceport at sunset. "Well, green ears, that was quite a vacation," Amaiza said. "I'm looking forward to getting back to work."
"I dunno, Amaiza," Jaxxon replied, "I think we done good. Justice was served, the bad guys went ta jail, and we all got the recognition we deserved! Looks like a happy ending ta me."
"That may be the case, honey-bun, but you have to promise me you won't drag us off on any more adventures like that for a while. I'm not getting any younger, you know."
Jaxxon squeezed her tight, his arm around her shoulder. "Yer still as young an' beautiful an' intimidatin' as the day I met ya, Amaiza. You showed everybody ya still got it."
"You old smoothie. Promise me, Jax."
Jaxxon looked her in the eyes. "Geez, ya know that's a tough promise for me. You know us rocket-ridin' rabbit types...we just can't stand still!" Amaiza threatened to pull on his ears. "Awright, I promise, I promise." But behind her red bikini bottoms, Jaxxon crossed his white- gloved fingers as they walked off into the sunset.
Credit where credit is due (or, who wrote these characters in the first place?) Here are the creations used in this story, the authors who first presented them, and their first appearances.
Jaxxon & Amaiza, by Roy Thomas, in Marvel SW #8: "Eight for Aduba-3"
The Kuari Princess, by Ray Winninger, in Riders of the Maelstrom (SWRPG)
Cindel Towani, by Bob Carrau, in The Ewok Adventure TV movie
Plif, by David Michelinie, in Marvel SW #55: "Plif"
Ikrit, by Nancy Richardson, in Junior Jedi Knights: The Golden Globe
Dani, by Jo Duffy, in Marvel SW #70: "The Stenax Shuffle"
Lumpy, Krelman, and Ackmena, by Rod Warren, Bruce Vilanch, Pat Proft, Leonard Ripps, and Mitzie Welch, in The Star Wars Holiday Special
Ken, by Paul Davids, and Hollace Davids, in Lost City of the Jedi
Triclops, by Paul Davids, and Hollace Davids, in Mission From Mount Yoda
Rodno & Deerna, by Russ Helm, in SW newspaper strip "Planet of Kadril"
Zorba the Hutt, by Paul Davids, and Hollace Davids, in Zorba the Hutt's Revenge
Hirog, by Jo Duffy, in Marvel SW #94: "Small Wars"
Jabba the Hut (sic), by Roy Thomas, in Marvel SW #2: "Six Against the Galaxy"
The Tofs, by Jo Duffy, in Marvel SW #103: "Tai"
Lady Tarkin, by Russ Manning, in SW newspaper strip "Princess Leia, Imperial Servant"
Bey, by Jo Duffy, in Marvel SW #101: "Far Far Away"
Voren Na'al, by Grant Boucher, in Galaxy Guide #1: A New Hope (SWRPG)