I’m Han Solo. I’d prefer it if you call me “Captain”. Nobody calls me Captain. That should tell you something about my life. The muscle sitting next to me is Chewbacca. You can call him anything you like, but if you call him something and he doesn’t like it, he’ll rip your arms off and call it bygones. Wookiees are a touchy lot, but I’d rather take Chewie at my back than a team of old-style ARC Commandos. I saved his life, and now he’s got into the habit of saving mine, and I’m too superstitious to want to interrupt him when he’s on a winning streak in that regard. Besides, he’s a genius mechanic despite the fact his fingers could be mistaken for hairy crashball bats.
My ship has seen better days, but she’s got it where it counts. They made thousands of her model, but there aren’t many still flying. Too expensive to run. Overpowered engines, undersized cargo hold, looks only a mother Rancor could love – she’s the full package. She’s too small to haul the bulk goods that turn a small but reliable profit. All we can carry are the small things. The valuable things. The things people want taken from A to B without going via customs checkpoint C, if you get my meaning.
They say that if there’s a bright centre to the Universe, Tatooine is the planet that it’s farthest from. That isn’t quite the case, but on most days that’s squinting distance from spitting distance of the truth. It’s a seedy, run-down dirtball world with only one main attraction, and that attraction is seeing the planet shrink on your rear view monitor as you pull away to jump to hyperspace. In short, it’s the kind of place you don’t go if you can avoid it, so, naturally, it’s where I found myself down on my luck, out of money, and out of favour with the local heavies.
On any other planet in the galaxy, this would have gone down in the rain, on a dark night. It never rains on Tatooine, and when the suns go down metals crack in the sudden cooling, and besides, on Tatooine they do their crimes in daylight. The locals appreciate a good show, and never spoil one by calling the boys in white. It’s not the sort of place I planned to settle down, but the docking fees were mounting up, the money was running out, and my luck hasn’t made an appearance since two planets ago. The sudden wall of red tape the Port Authority was throwing up was a not-so-subtle message to anyone who knows the way things really work on Tatooine, or any moderately civilised (read: corrupt) planet. The local crime lord, a Hutt by the name of Jabba – yes, that Jabba – was putting his slimy thumb on me to keep me squirming while he decided what to do with me. Jabba and I had a little difference of opinion. My opinion is that I should definitely pay him back the money I owe as soon as possible. His opinion is that I should die slowly for his amusement and as an object lesson to anyone who is thinking about being late in paying him back. This was one of those irreconcilable philosophical differences you sometimes hear about.
In Mos Eisley, if you want to do business, you do it in the bar. There’s only one. The walls are filthy, the clientele is homicidal, the glasses are probably contaminated, and the drinks are definitely contaminated. In short, my kind of bar. The owner, a human, runs the place with a lazy iron fist. There’s a blaster on every hip, but the rule is simple: Draw your blaster, and everyone else in the room gets one free shot at you while the owner looks the other way. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen some gas-headed joker pull his blaster and get wiped before he can pull the trigger. Owner gives a free drink to everyone who joins in the fun. The bar flies are always looking for an excuse to score a free drink, but not many newcomers fall for the “show me your blaster” trick any more.
The bar was a dismal pit, but the music was actually pretty good. But then, its a bith band, and those guys snore better music than most races can compose. It was a jaunty tune, totally unsuited to my mathematical calculations. Like how many times did zero credits go into forty thousand credits. Speaking of credits, I handed the last handful of chips to Chewie, where they vanished in the shovel-like palm, and he grunted softly and moved off to the bar. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to how quietly that mountain of muscle and hair can move, especially when I know first hand just how loud he can roar. He’s a Wookiee of contradictions, but I like puzzles, as long as they’re not trying to kill me.
There was some sort of commotion over by the bar and the music stopped. Not the usual shouts and sudden cacophony of blaster shots. Just a deep thrumming noise and a scream that trailed off into shocked silence. I glanced over, wondering why nobody had pulled. Some old guy was standing there with a lightsaber, bold as brass. The rules cover blasters and projectile weapons, but a lightsaber? That’s a grey area if I ever saw one. Nobody wanted to be the first to pull and make the area distinctly un-grey for themselves, personally, so everyone turned their backs as the music resumed and picked up their conversations where they left off. Weird things happening nearby is one of the signs of luck I’ve learned to watch out for. Whether it was good luck or bad luck remained to be seen, but I decided to stick around and see if there was money involved.