May The Fourth Be With You!
In honour of Star Wars Day, I’d like to present my first ever fanfic (well, unless you count the endless childhood stories where I teamed up Spiderman and Green Lantern to fight Daleks and the like). I should probably say that my take on the Wars in this story is maybe more Alternate Universe than Expanded Universe, but that’s where I found the most fun.
What follows came from a Twitter conversation with the ever-splendid Kiera (@kizzywiggleboo). I’ll go into the details of the conversation after the story, because, y’know, spoilers. And after that there’s something REALLY special 😉
She found Han exactly where Threepio said he’d be, though she’d been hoping against hope that the golden droid had been mistaken for once. She knew the droid’s software was designed to adapt to the context of what its voice circuits were relaying, and its visual sensors were programmed with a range of human and non-human expressions so that it might read someone’s face and adjust its tone accordingly, but even so something of the droid’s inclined head and the slight pause before it spoke made Leia think that there was an actual sadness there, a grief beyond software.
The door to the medical bay wheezed open, and there he was, standing at the long, high window that looked onto the next chamber. He had his back to her, his forehead touching the glass. One of his palms was pressed against the window too, and if his hand was desperate to connect with something on the other side.
‘Han?’ she whispered as she approached him. It was a moment before he answered, and when he did, his face turning to hers, she saw the dark circles beneath his bloodshot eyes, and her heart broke to see that the only light that glimmered in them came from the bright illumination of the room beyond the glass.
‘Hey, your Worshipfulness.’
She took his hand, and they turned back to the window. The light was dazzling, Leia thought, and tried to convince herself that that was why she was blinking, why there was a sudden sting at the corner of her eyes.
Chewbacca was dead.
He lay on the polished metal plane of the autopsy table, his lower half covered by a crisp white sheet. The broad curves of his torso had been partially shaved, and the laser scalpels had cut a Y shaped incision through skin and muscle to allow the medical droids to peel back a view into his body cavity. A white-gowned medico stood at a comp-terminal, tapping at the keys while the surgical drones hovered at one side of the room, awaiting the medico’s next command.
‘You shouldn’t be here.’ Leia said, and though she was talking to Han, she felt as though she was talking to Chewie as well.
‘I have to.’ Han said grimly. ‘I have to be sure.’
Leia nodded slowly. ‘General Madine told me what happened …’ She hesitated. ‘Well, some of it. He said … he said you wouldn’t talk when you brought the Falcon in.’
Han sighed. ‘I guess they got a surprise when they looked in the hold, huh?’
She squeezed his hand. ‘What happened?’
‘We got word of a small Ewok colony on one of the Raxos moons,’ he told her. ‘It used to be an Imperial mining base, but when the resources had all been used up, they converted it into a scientific outpost.’
He shook his head. ‘The Imperials always thought of the Ewoks as a kind of vermin, something to be stamped out. One of the projects at the outpost was focussed around finding a biological weapon to use against them, something quicker and more efficient than hunting them down. A plague.’
On the other side of the glass, one of the surgical drones glided across the room to hover over Chewie’s corpse. It swept a gentle blue light over the body, gathering data.
‘When the Imperials abandoned the base,’ Han went on. ‘They left the Ewok test subjects behind. When we got word of it, I knew Chewie was gonna volunteer us for a rescue mission.’ He chuckled softly and wiped his eyes. ‘He’d got pretty attached to those little troublemakers.’
‘So we took the Falcon there. There were a couple of Imperial patrols that we had to go around but it was all fine, no problems. When we landed the Ewoks were kind of nervous, but Chewie calmed ’em down and we got them all into the hold. He set the nav-computer to take us home and that was that.’
Leia watched the surgical drone kill its scanning beam and retreat. Above the medico’s comp-terminal, a holographic image of the Wookie’s brain flickered into existence.
‘I noticed that he was kind of quiet.’ Han said. ‘I asked him if he was okay, and just for a minute, he looked as though he didn’t recognise me. I should have realised then that something was wrong.
‘We’d just dropped out lightspeed when he told me that he was going to check on the Ewoks, make sure the jump out of hyperspace hadn’t scared them. It was only a couple of minutes before I heard the blaster fire.’
The hologram in the autopsy chamber rotated to show the medico another angle. A section of the flickering brain pulsed with a glowing crimson light.
‘I thought we’d been boarded somehow, that maybe one last stormtrooper at the outpost had stowed away.’ Han was saying. ‘I grabbed my blaster and got down there as fast as I could. But what I found … Leia …’
He closed his eyes for a moment. Above the window to the autopsy chamber, a commlink crackled, the medico’s voice sounding strangely metallic through the speaker.
‘My scans confirm it, Captain Solo. There are traces of viral infection in your co-pilots brain. I’ve never encountered this specific virus before, but it has enough characteristics that I’m familiar with. My guess is that it was something the Ewoks were carrying, some kind of dormant strain that the Empire had infected them with. Harmless to human-like lifeforms, but with a Wookie …’ He paused. ‘The virus would have taken hold in a few hours, affecting the victim’s reasoning, memory, personality. There was nothing you could have done to save him.’
Han nodded. ‘Thanks, doc.’
‘I’m sorry,’ Leia said. ‘Han, I -‘
‘When I got to the hold,’ Han went on as if she hadn’t spoken, and she realised that he had to tell the story, just like he had to be here now. ‘There were bodies everywhere. The Ewoks were screaming, running, trying to hide but there was no escape. Chewie was in the middle of them all. He had his laser crossbow and was just … cutting them down, even the children. I screamed at him, and he turned.’
A tear rolled down Han’s face, just one, but the first of many. ‘There was nothing in his eyes, Leia,’ he said. ‘Just a kind of … wild light, like his mind was gone. All the Ewoks were dead or dying, and he was standing over the bodies and he was roaring, Leia, not anything I could understand, just something savage and crazy. He saw me, and started to bring up the crossbow, his finger already on the trigger.’
‘You couldn’t have saved him,’ Leia said, crying. ‘You heard what the medico said.’
‘He would have cut me down without a second thought,’ Han said softly. ‘So I did what I had to do. What I always do.’
He stared through the glass as the surgical drones gently drew the sheet over his friend’s face.
‘I shot first.’
* * * * *
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! And if you did make it this far, you’re in for a real treat. That conversation I had with Kiera … Basically we were talking about geek-themed T-shirts, and I mentioned that I own one with C-3PO and R2-D2 drawn in the style of a Haynes Manual (if you’re unfamiliar with them – the manuals, I mean, obviously you’ve heard of the droids … and T-shirts), the Haynes books are technical manuals available for real-world vehicles and machinery, full of cutaway drawings and suchlike. Quite a few are available that tap into the geek or sci-fi culture, so we have editions that feature the USS Enterprise, or the Millennium Falcon.
Anyway, Kiera, knowing of my love of the macabre, suggested that rather than the schematic drawings of the droids, she would have expected me to have something more like a diagram of a dissected Wookie, and the cogs began to turn. Not just my writing cogs, but rather wonderfully, Kiera’s artistic cogs. The idea of working with her was irresistible, and so we decided to form our own Rebel Alliance and produce what follows, a Special Edition of the story you’ve (hopefully) just read.
The subject matter was grim and gruesome, so of course we wanted to do it in the style of a child’s storybook, with panels of Kiera’s fantastic artwork and my retelling of the story in four-line verse. I can’t thank Kiera enough for all the hard work and talent she’s brought to the project, and I know that you’ll absolutely love it!
DVD EXTRA ALERT!!!
I found the process behind the amazing artwork you’ve just seen fascinating, and Kiera has very kindly agreed to let me post some of her original designs …
Thanks again to Kiera and thank you for reading! 🙂 More of Kiera’s brilliance can be found here.