The Surreal Life
You've entered the twilight zone. You've been warned.
The landspeeder tore across the desert landscape, the pilot squinting into the still-hot evening suns of the dry planet. "Have I ever told you how much I hate Jabba?" the smuggler yelled over the roar of the wind.
*All the time,* Chewie yelled back.
"Well, let me say it again: I hate that slimy worm. He's a crook! He told us he'd pay five thousand credits for that spice run, and he only gave us half of that!"
*You could find a different employer, you know,* Chewie pointed out, deciding not to mention that all spice lords were crooks.
"Jabba pays the best," Han replied.
*How about finding an honest job, then? We could work as mechanics....*
"WORK?" Han shouted, sending the landspeeder's nose into the sandy ground, and causing both occupants to go sailing over the viewscreen and into the dirt. Han sat up first, wiping the grit from his face. "Did I hear you mention WORK?"
The Wookiee slowly sat up, glaring at his partner. He'd forgotten that little detail - never mention anything involving manual labor to his Captain. It was certain to cause a spasmodic reaction every time. *If I get sand fleas because of you,* Chewie barked threateningly. *I will rip your arms out of their sockets.*
"Ah, quit threatening to do that," Han said dismissively as his fingers dug into the dirt. "'Sides, I hit my head on something hard buried in this sand pile." He pulled out a dust-covered bottle.
*Good. You deserve it.*
"Look at this," Han remarked, holding up the strange bottle. "Do you think it's worth something? Maybe that jerky fly-by-night used-parts dealer in town will give me something for it. What's his name? Wattle? Waddo? Something like that..."
Chewie eyed the bottle warily as he got to his feet. It was very odd, indeed. Upon closer inspection, he could see it was rose-colored, with intricate gold inlays, wide on the bottom, with a long, narrow neck piece, and stood about 16 inches high. A pretty gem stopper plugged the top of the bottle. He had a bad feeling about that bottle. *Put it back in the sand, Han.*
The Corellian stood up. "What? Why?"
*Bottles like that are cursed.*
*My culture - *
"Well," Han interrupted. "I'm not a Wookiee, am I?" He eyed the bottle, putting his fingers around the stopper. "It probably has some good, aged booze inside."
*DO NOT UNPLUG - *
It was too late. The top of the bottle unpopped with a rather loud whoosh, and instantly, a trail of white, wispy smoke came out of the opening. Han took a few steps backwards, and ended up sitting back down in the dirt, his mouth hanging open in shock as a pretty young women metamorphosed from the smoke.
*I TOLD you NOT to open the krething bottle!* Chewie howled.
"Who are you?"
The young woman folded her arms across her chest, glaring at the two smugglers. "For your information, I'm a princess."
"A princess? You don't look like a princess," Han remarked, leering at her scantily clad outfit consisting of a brown and gold bra and a bikini bottom with a silky, long brown skirt.
"What do you think I am, then?" she snapped, tilting her head back and tossing her very long ponytail back over her shoulder.
"One of Jabba's dancing slave-girls?"
"I'd rather die," she returned.
"A genie, then?"
Her eyes grew wide with surprise. "How did you guess I was a Jedi?"
Confused, Han tried again. "Jedi? No.... a genie. What's a Jedi?"
"What's a genie?"
"Someone that gives you three wishes," Han said informatively. "You owe me three wishes." He looked over at Chewie for confirmation. "Isn't that right? I think three wishes is the going price for freeing a genie."
Chewie shrugged. *I guess. She's your genie.*
"I'm not granting you three wishes, or even one wish," she snapped out. "So just put your nasty little ideas back inside your tiny little brain."
Of all the genies in the galaxy, Han wondered, why did he have to get a snippy, disagreeable one? "What's your name, genie?"
"Leia," she said. "And I'm not a genie. I'm a Jedi."
"Whatever," Han said in disgust. It was obvious he wasn't going to get his three wishes, even if he deserved them. "Come on, Chewie. Let's get back in the speeder and head into town before it gets dark." He turned, and headed to the landspeeder.
Spinning back around, Han put his hands on his hips. "Now what?"
"You can't leave me out here."
"You're not doing me any favors, your highnessness, so why should I help you?"
"If you help me, my father will grant you three wishes," she said, her face getting desperate as she gazed around the desolate landscape. "All you have to do is take me to my home on Naboo."
"Naboo? That's a long ways away, sister," Han said irritably. "If I take you, I want four wishes."
"Fine!" Leia returned quickly. "Four, then. Deal?" She stuck out her hand, and a somewhat befuddled smuggler shook it, and watched her hurry off toward the speeder.
*Be careful, Han,* Chewie woofed softly. *She seems awfully eager to get to Naboo.*
Glancing over at his partner, Han shook his head. "Four wishes? If we can get four wishes, we'll never have to grovel around shipping spice for Jabba again, pal. I smell the easy life coming our way, and it's about time."
*Well, I smell trouble.*
"How'd ya end up stuck inside a bottle?" Han yelled over his shoulder at the dark-haired genie who insisted she was a Jedi Princess. It probably was only a misunderstanding, Han had decided. Probably they called genies by the word Jedi on Naboo. As soon as he got her back home and got his four wishes, he'd never have to see her again, anyway, even if she was kind of cute, in a snippy sort of superior way.
"An evil Jedi put me in there," she shouted back. "To get back at my mother for marrying my father, instead of him." She paused, then added, "Actually, an evil Jedi is called a Sith."
"A Sit?" Han asked back.
Leia looked annoyed. "A Sith, a SITH!"
"Oh. Sorry. I though maybe you had a speech impediment."
"You're the one with the impediments," she muttered. "Not me."
"Can you do tricks?"
Han flushed. "I mean... magic tricks. All genies do magic."
"Jedi can do certain things that non-Force-sensitive beings can't," she replied frostily. "If that's what you're asking."
"Sorta." Han bit his lip thoughtfully. "So why can't you just wink or blink and go home?"
"Why can't you just drive and shut up?"
Chewie gave a bark of amusement. *I think I like this genie.*
"You would," Han grumbled.
Han pulled the landspeeder to a stop, then jumped out, waving his hand toward a broken-down old freighter. "That's my baby - the Millennium Falcon," Han boasted. "Fastest ship in the galaxy!" When the young woman didn't respond, Han turned around and frowned at her. "What's the matter?"
"You can't be serious."
"Does it get off the ground?"
By this time, Han had just about reached the limit of his patience. Moving forward, he stuck his finger in her face and growled out, "Listen here, Miss High an' Mighty, I've just about had enough - "
"So have I," she interrupted, poking him in his chest. "From now on, you'll do as I say, or you'll be sorry. My father doesn't kindly suffer fools."
"Are you calling me a fool?" Han groused. "Do you want a ride to Naboo, or not, sweetheart? 'Cuz you're really pushin' your luck."
"I wouldn't call being rescued by you 'luck', " Leia said huffily, then headed toward the ship. "And hurry up, before the Sith figures out I'm free, or we'll never escape this system alive."
That comment caused Han and Chewie to hurry after her. "Wait.... you never said this Sith lived on Tatooine!"
"You didn't ask."
"No wish is worth this," Han grumbled as he opened up the ship's hatch.
As the Falcon lifted from the surface, a demented Sithly hermit was watching, determined to exact revenge on the two smugglers responsible for foiling his evil plot to lure his nemesis into his sandy lair.
Once in space, Han dug through his spare clothing for some old shirts and pants. Even though the Princess insulted him every time she opened her mouth, he still figured she needed something to cover up that dancing-girl outfit. Besides, she was probably chilly, and the Falcon's climate control was frequently on the fritz.
Small bundle in hand, he approached her as she sat across from Chewie, and laid the pile on the table-top. "Here," he said, pushing the clothing toward her. "They're clean."
Disdainfully eyeing the clothing, Leia looked up at Han. "What do you want me to do with them? I'm not going to iron them for you, unless that's one of your wishes," she said, her face suddenly hopeful.
"Iron them? I thought you'd want something to wear."
"To cover up that skimpy outfit?" Han suggested, starting to wonder about the girl's sanity.
"Are you implying something is wrong with my clothing?" Leia asked indignantly.
"Are you implying that's something you wear everyday?"
Leia leapt to her feet, her eyes blazing. "Yes! This is my regular clothing! How dare you insult my fashion-sense!" With that, she rushed out of the hold, leaving Han standing with his mouth agape.
*Good going, hot-shot,* Chewie barked.
Dumbfounded, he focused on the Wookiee. "How was I supposed to know?"
*All genies dress like that,* Chewie said with a shake of his shaggy head. *Don't you know anything?*
"You could have warned me," Han accused.
*But it's way more fun this way.*
Han's initial impression of Naboo was a positive one - a green and blue planet with pretty lakes, grassy hills and scenic villages. He held this opinion until Princess Leia directed him to land inside a large courtyard in the center of a large town. The courtyard was surrounded by high, foreboding stone walls that protected a huge palace. At one time, Han could see the palace must have been lovely, a true showcase. This was no longer the case, however. As he exited the ship he could see the crumbling granite walls showed signs of wear and tear, and the courtyard was no longer a well tended garden. Overgrown bushes and spindly vines had taken over and choked the cultivated flowers out of existence.
Leaning over to his partner, Han whispered, "And she has the nerve to insult my ship? Would ya look at this place?"
*Perhaps they have fallen on hard times, financially,* Chewie suggested.
This bit of news didn't sit well with the Corellian. "Hard times? Are you telling me genies can fall on hard times? Well, that's great....just great! So much for my dream of riches beyond my wildest imagination."
Chewie was spared further comment as the Princess hurried past, a worried expression on her face. "I wonder what's happened to our gardener? Its never looked like this before."
"Can't you just twitch your nose and fix it?" For a brief second, Han thought she'd haul off and slug him. Instead, Leia gave an angry snort and ran toward the enormous double doorway, flinging it open and rushing inside. The smugglers followed her into the grand foyer, gazing around at the dust-covered chairs and vases. "I think something happened to your maid, too, by the looks of things."
"Mother! Father!" Leia called out, her voice echoing in the vast entrance.
"They're not here, Sister," a voice called from high overhead.
Slowly, Han and Chewie craned their necks to look up, up, up... toward the high ceiling. Swinging on the chandelier was a young man with sandy hair, wearing an orange flight-suit, waving down at them and grinning. Not knowing what else to do, Han tentatively waved back.
"What are you doing, Luke?" Leia yelled up at her brother.
"Practicing flying my X-Wing."
"You don't even have an X-Wing! Get down here this instant... I have to talk to you."
To Han's utter horror, the young man jumped off the light fixture. Chewie let out a howl of dismay, and moved to break his fall, but instead of plummeting to the surface and breaking his neck, the young man simply floated serenely down, landing lightly on his feet. Then he stuck out his hand to the speechless Corellian. "Hello, my name is Luke Skywalker. Leia's brother."
"You....you're a genie, too?" Han finally stuttered out.
"A genie?" Luke asked, looking at his sister in confusion.
"Laserbrain here keeps insisting on calling me a genie," she explained with a sigh. "I keep telling him the word is Jedi." She looked around at the dirty lobby. "How long have I been gone?"
Luke appeared thoughtful. "About six months, I'd say."
"Six MONTHS? What happened to Mother and Father?"
"They went looking for you. I think they're really mad at Uncle Ben for stealing you."
*Uncle Ben?* Chewie asked. *Is that the guy on the cereal box?*
"Did you bring this Wookiee for me?" Luke asked enthusiastically. "I always wanted a pet Wookiee."
"You don't even take care of Spot," Leia said, shaking her head.
"Spot?" Han asked, ignoring Chewie's indignant roar at being called a 'pet'.
"Oh, that's Luke's rancor. He lives in the dungeon."
"You have a dungeon?" Han questioned, nervously eyeing the exit.
"All castles have dungeons," Luke responded, rolling his eyes at Leia to indicate he thought Han was dim.
"What happened to Threepio and Artoo?" Leia asked Luke. "This place needs a good cleaning."
Luke fiddled with the seam on his sleeve, trying to avoid his sister's gaze. Finally, he cleared his throat and looked up. "Artoo sort of had an accident, and then he and Threepio went on strike - for unsafe working conditions. He actually filed a complaint with the NaDrOSU."
"What's NaDrOSU?" Han ventured to ask.
"Nabooian Droid Occupational Safety Union," Luke replied.
"Droids have their own union on Naboo?"
"What happened to Artoo?" Leia put in before Luke could reply to the Corellian.
"I kind of spilled some chemicals on him, and, um... "
Leia narrowed her eyes. "And, what?"
"He grew hair. Lots and lots of long, gray hair," Luke explained, backing up from his sister's wrath. "And I think it changed his personality, because he spends most of his time hiding in the chimney." He coughed again and looked back down at the floor before adding in a whisper, "And he insists on wearing a brown derby."
"Dad's going to kill you."
"I have to go feed Spot, now," Luke stated suddenly, looking at Chewie. "Do you want to help me?"
"Better stay with me, Chewie," Han advised.
"I wouldn't feed a Wookiee to Spot," Luke said, annoyed. "It would give him hairballs."
"Besides," Leia added, "Spot's spoiled. He only eats Gungans."
Luke tugged on Chewie's paw, and to Han's surprise the Wookiee tagged after the young man.
"Come on, Solo," Leia said as the two disappeared around the corner. "Let's go contact my parents and tell them I'm home. The sooner they get here, the sooner you can get your reward and leave."
"There's nothin' I'd like better, sister."
The old man pushed back his cloak, sniffing the bar's smoky air in disdain. The woman sitting across the table took a sip of her whiskey, her eyes never leaving his face.
"Fifteen thousand," she said finally.
The man nearly choked on his gizer. "Fifteen thousand? I could almost buy my own ship for that price!"
"But could you fly it?"
"Of course," he lied. "I was quite the pilot in my day."
She shrugged her shoulders. "Go ahead, then. See if I care."
The man sighed. "Five now, fifteen after I get to Naboo. No questions asked."
Seventeen? It was more than she'd hoped for. "No questions. Docking bay ninety-four. In one hour."
Han looked around the huge library, amazed at the quantities of old-fashioned books lining the walls. The shelves were so high, a tall ladder was needed to retrieve most of the volumes. "Does anyone actually read all these?" he questioned the Princess, who was busy pulling out a hidden communication panel in a desk.
"Mother loves to read," Leia replied. "She's read all of them - twice."
The Corellian doubted that outrageous statement was true, since there seemed to be about a million books in this library. He turned around to continue checking out the room, when he saw something that sent his heart into his boots. Gasping aloud, he stepped backwards, at the same time putting his hand over his blaster. "What... the hell?"
Leia looked up, and laughed. "Father likes to hunt. He shot that wampa on an expedition to Hoth about the same time we were born. If I remember correctly, he told me that trip cost him over two hundred thousand credits."
Gulping, Han tore his eyes off the towering, stuffed creature. Even though he knew it was quite dead, the bared fangs and huge, curved claws made him nervous, anyway. "What do you mean, 'we'?"
"Oh, Luke's not just my brother... he's my twin. Having a twin can be a real pain, sometimes," she muttered. "I think he..." Leia abruptly stopped, looking around the room nervously.
"You think he, what?"
"Nothing... nothing at all."
"I see." Actually, he didn't 'see' at all, but nothing made sense in this house, anyway. Han looked at the Princess, who was staring at him and smiling. "Something funny?"
"No," she said. "I was just wondering what kind of wishes you want."
"Credits," Han replied quickly. "Lots of credits."
"A new ship?"
"What's wrong with the Falcon?"
"Besides the obvious?" she asked. "Okay. That's one wish. What about the others?"
"Women? How many do you need?"
Han found himself staring into her chocolate brown eyes, suddenly mesmerized. "Uh...."
"One?" she prodded.
"If she's the right one."
"I think that might be arranged."
For some reason he couldn't put his finger on, that comment worried Han, but he barely had time to think about it when she asked again, "That's two wishes. What's another one?"
Beautiful women, endless money. What else did he need? "Um... never getting old?"
"I'm sure that can be arranged, too. For a price."
"Price? Aren't wishes free?"
"Nothing is free, Solo."
Han was starting to wish he'd listened to the Wookiee, and left the bottle in the sand.
Docking bay ninety-four looked exactly like all the other docking bays. A rounded out crater, surrounded by high walls. The small ship sat in the center, sleek-looking and rather impressive. The man nodded his approval. If this lady was a smuggler, she was doing rather well for herself.
"You're late," a feminine voice said from behind him, making him jump slightly.
This annoyed the man. No one ever surprised him like that. Not since.... he let the thought trail off as he turned to face the red-headed woman. "I'm on time," he said firmly.
"Whatever. Do you have the credits?"
He reached in his brown robe, pulling out a chip. "Two thousand in advance. Fifteen when we arrive."
Her green eyes grew angry. "You said five thousand in advance, fifteen when we arrive!"
"Seventeen," he answered calmly. "We agreed to seventeen. Don't you remember?"
"I..." She stopped, obviously confused. Seventeen did sound familiar, for some reason. But didn't they agree to five thousand in advance? Was she being cheated?
"I don't cheat," the man said smoothly, almost like she asked the question aloud.
"I didn't say you did."
"So we agreed to seventeen."
The man gave a enigmatic smile. "Good. Then let's go." He moved quickly toward her ship.
Something didn't feel right about this entire situation, and a large part of her wanted to back out of the deal entirely. "Wait... you never told me your name."
He turned his head slightly in her direction. "Obi-Wan Kenobi. But my family calls me Ben. What would you like to be called?"
"Captain Jade. Captain Mara Jade at your service, Mister Obi-Wan Kenobi."
The conversation Princess Leia had with her parents was short and to the point. She had informed them she was home, unharmed, and the man that found her wished to be rewarded. Although Han couldn't hear the other side of the conversation, Leia had glanced at the smuggler, then told her father she'd discuss the 'reward' with him when he arrived. Clicking off the communication, she gave Han a false, overly bright, smile. "My father says he can't wait to meet you, and he'll give you exactly what you deserve. Those were his exact words."
Han pondered that comment before replying, "I think I deserve quite a bit."
"I'm sure he thinks so, too," she agreed, standing up and moving out from behind the desk. "We probably should find Threepio and I'll see if I can soothe over his hurt feelings. I'm rather good at that, since I've had a lot of practice. Mother thinks I could be a regular politician, if I wanted to actually work."
"WORK?" Han shouted, grasping his chest, his eyes wide.
"What's the matter?"
"You... shouldn't.... say awful things like that."
"You know...nasty, four-letter words," Han replied, wiping his forehead. "Words I'm allergic to."
"You're strange, Solo."
"Do you want to see my X-Wing?" Luke asked Chewie, his eyes wide with excitement. "I built it myself, but no one knows about it yet. You can help me launch the maiden voyage."
Chewie nodded his agreement, wishing the young man would offer him some food. After observing Luke feed the rancor big slabs of glistening, raw meat, the Wookiee was famished. It had taken all his willpower not to drool over the rancor's tasty meal. Chewie had wondered if the meat was from a Gungan, since he'd never smelled Gungan meat before. Occasionally, as the young human threw the food through the bars of the cage, Chewie thought he recognized a long tongue among the various parts.
The Wookiee followed Luke and entered a lift. The doors shut rather loudly, and the human grinned up at him. "I'd advise you to hang on tight." Luke punched a large, red button.
Hang on? In a lift? Suddenly the lift shot straight up with such speed and force that Chewie was flattened against the floor. Less than five seconds later, the lift screeched to a halt, sending Chewie upward to the ceiling, where a large mattress cushioned his impact, before he fell in a heap back down. Groaning, the Wookiee looked up from the floor at Luke, wondering if he'd broken bones. The human had not budged from his position, and appeared rather exhilarated by the ride.
"Great fun, isn't it?" Luke said happily as the door slid open. "Come on... my X-Wing is right down this hall."
*I'm going to strangle Han,* Chewie moaned as he limped after the odd human.
On board the Jade's Quarry
Much to Mara's displeasure, Obi-Wan Kenobi nosed around the ship after the jump into hyperspace. "Nice ship, Captain Jade. What do you usually haul?"
"Not what... who. Criminals," she answered before she could stop herself. Normally, she'd have told her passenger to stuff it, and refused to answer. Why was this man any different?
"So you're a bounty hunter," he immediately surmised. "Do you work for someone?"
"Whoever hires me," she snapped back. "Quit asking me questions."
"How will I get answers if I don't ask questions?"
Mara didn't know how to respond to that, so she just glared at the man. This only seemed to amuse him. "I have a proposition for you, Captain Jade."
"The last man that propositioned me ended up a soprano."
Obi-Wan laughed. "Have you ever heard of a ship called the Millennium Falcon?"
"Yes. Solo and the Wookiee. A couple of smugglers."
"With a large bounty on their heads from the Corporate Sector, I believe."
"Could be," Mara replied coolly. "What do you care about a couple of two-bit criminals?"
"They stole something that belonged to me, and I don't appreciate it." Obi-Wan stroked his beard thoughtfully. "I'll lead you to them, and help you apprehend them."
"What do you get out of it?" Mara asked suspiciously.
Mara smiled. "I get the reward - all of it - from the Corporate Sector?"
"Every last credit, Captain."
A long, fruitless search inside the mansion for the missing droids took up most of the afternoon. By this time, Han's feet were starting to hurt from all the walking up and down stairs, and he wondered what the point of this search was, since more than half of the doors were locked tight. He looked down the hallway. At the far end, Leia stuck her head inside a door, screaming out the droid's name. Sighing, Han rattled another door handle and was surprised when it opened. The room was dark and damp, and reminded Han of a cave. He jumped slightly, and could have sworn he saw a snake slither across the floor. "Uh... C-3PO?"
"Interlopers I do not like. Invade my swamp, will you?"
Slowly, Han looked down at a short, pink creature with long, blonde hair, pointy ears and a tiara and wearing a satin evening gown. "Are you Artoo?"
The creature scowled at him, then whacked him in the kneecap with a golden scepter covered in pink gems.
"OW!" Han yelled, clutching his leg and hopping around. "What'ya do that for?"
"A droid? MOI?"
The creature hit him again, in the other knee. "Rude man! Swearing in front of a lady!"
Han backed up, limping, and drew his blaster. "Do that again, and you're gonna be one sorry, err, sorry... thing."
"Han!" Leia's voice came from behind him in the hall. "You can't shoot her!"
He spun around to face her. "Why the hell not?"
"Because Cousin Yoda would be upset if you shot his wife," she answered simply. "Come on. The droids must be outside."
That odd being was someone's wife? Han wondered in amazement. When he turned around to tell this short-tempered character off, she was gone. Good riddance, Han thought as he followed Leia.
Once outside, Leia squinted in the bright light. "Don't you just hate sunshine? It's so hot, and makes a body get all sweaty. I much prefer the cool night air, when the mynocks are leaving the bell-tower. They make such lovely, squishy sounds when they fly."
"Actually - " Han started to say, before Leia let out a loud shout.
"THREEPIO! What DO you think you're doing?"
Han followed her to the gate, where a gold protocol droid was pacing the sidewalk, holding a large, hand painted sign that declared: DROIDS ON STRIKE! SKYWALKERS UNFAIR! SKYWALKERS UNSAFE!
The droid stopped walking, and turned to look through the iron bars. "Mistress Leia, it is a pleasure to see that you are well. Everyone was very worried about you when you disappeared without even a note. Next time you take a vacation - "
"Threepio," Leia interrupted. "It wasn't a vacation. Uncle Ben kidnapped me."
The droid drew back, managing to look astounded. "He did? How very inconsiderate of him."
"Why are you striking?"
"Striking?" The droid asked in surprise, then remembered. "Oh, that is right! We are on strike! Blame Master Luke! I think he is trying to melt my circuits."
Leia sighed. "Maybe I can resolve your complaints, Threepio."
"Perhaps you can, but can you repair poor Artoo?" Threepio stepped aside, revealing a knee-high creature covered with long hair, and wearing a brown hat. "I think those chemicals have done irreparable damage to my best friend."
"That's a droid?" Han asked, staring at the hairy object.
Artoo gave a toodle that sounded very close to despair.
"Well, I think you look, um, very unique, Artoo," Leia told the little droid. "A true, outstanding individual. How many other astromech droids can get perms, if they wanted to?"
Han gave a snort, and Leia glared at him, so he forced the grin off his face as Artoo made a series of beeps and twitters.
"Artoo would like to know if you think his hat is natty," Threepio interpreted, then bent his head down toward the astromech. "Natty?"
"It's a wonderful hat," Leia agreed. "As a matter of fact, if you come back in the house, I'll let you order as many hats as you want."
Artoo rocked on his feet, then headed toward the gate as Leia opened it. She looked at Threepio as he lowered his sign in defeat. "Are you coming?"
"Fine," Threepio said primly. "But don't think I'm withdrawing my complaint with the droid union, unless I can order as many hats as I want, too!"
"You can have hats, Threepio," Leia assured him, shutting the gate with a loud clang.
"Why is Master Luke on the roof? And why is that large, hairy creature pushing a box?"
Leia and Han both looked up at the roof. "Good grief," Leia muttered. "Not again."
"What does that mean?" Han asked worriedly, holding up his hand to shield his eyes from the sun.
"Luke likes to test his model X-Wings," she explained patiently. "Unfortunately, he always forgets to build them with engines."
Chewbacca squinted down off the roof at the two small humans madly waving their arms around. From this high up, they looked like tiny dolls. *Is that Han?*
Luke came up next to him. "They're cheering us on." He shoved a helmet at the Wookiee. "Better wear this. You might need it."
*Me? I'm not test-flying this thing,* Chewie objected loudly, pushing the helmet back. *It's your X-Wing!* He patted the side of the ship, frowning at the hollow sound that came from the interior.
The human didn't seem to notice. "Fine, then," Luke grumbled, pushing the battered helmet over his head. "You'd probably crash it, anyway." He pointed at the rear of the ship. "Once I'm inside, you push."
"Push. PUHH USHHH." Luke put his hands out, indicating the action. "DO YOU UNDERSTAND?"
If there was one thing Chewie hated more than anything, it was humans shouting at him just because they didn't understand him. *I UNDERSTAND!!*
"Geez, you don't have to shout," Luke grumbled, then turned and climbed inside the cockpit. "As soon as I close the hatch, you start pushing. This baby needs a running start, or it'll never get off the ground."
*We are already off the ground,* Chewie pointed out as the hatch closed. Shrugging, the Wookiee put his paws on the rear struts, then pushed. The ship moved much easier than he anticipated, and it quickly picked up speed as they approached the roof edge.
"Yahoo!" Luke yelled from inside the cockpit. "Space... here I come!"
*You'd better start the engine!* Chewie instructed the human.
"WHAT DID YOU SAY?"
*I said - *
"HEY!" Luke shouted as the wheels left the rooftop. "I forgot to put the engine in.... again!"
Chewie could only watch as the X-Wing wobbled in a sickly glide for several yards, then nose-dived straight down.
Han and Leia rushed toward the backyard, only to find Luke crawling out of his homemade craft as it floated in the algae-covered swimming pool. "Luke! You are such an idiot!" Leia screeched out. "Do you have any idea how angry Cousin Yoda is going to be? You could have killed his prize khou-fish!"
The Corellian watched in awe as the young man levitated over the water and ended up standing next to his sister, unharmed and quite dry. But what happened next astounded Han even more - the slimy water began to froth and boil, and large, red-colored fish began jumping out of the water, taking large bites out of the X-Wing. Soon, it was entirely consumed, and the green pool became still. "I hate those stupid fish," Luke muttered. "They eat my ship every single time, and I have to start building from scratch." Both brother and sister glared at each other, their expressions dark and hostile.
"See? The dumb old fish are fine," Luke spat out. "And if some of them were dead, big deal. We'd just give them to Grandpa for dinner."
"I'm sure he'd appreciate that," Leia returned sarcastically. "You probably haven't fed him since I've been gone."
"Feeding Grandpa is your chore. Why should I do it?"
"I was indisposed... thanks to you!"
Luke put his hands on his hips. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"You know perfectly well what I mean, brother!"
"Children!" a woman's voice said from behind them. "Are you arguing again?"
"Mother!" both twins cried out at once, pushing past Han and rushing over to the woman.
Han turned around and felt his jaw drop. He couldn't make up his mind which newcomer to gawk at - the short, thin, deathly pale woman with dark hair so long the ends literally touched the ground, or the extremely tall, armor-encased, caped man standing directly behind her. Since the man made him nervous, Han focused his attention on the white-gowned woman as she hugged her off-spring.
"I've missed you two so much!" she was saying. "Have you been behaving?"
"Luke trapped me in my bottle and shipped me to Uncle Ben," Leia accused hurriedly. "Haven't you been searching for me?"
"I did not!" Luke objected. "That's a lie! Lie, lie, lie!"
"Luke!" the masked-man's deep voice hissed out. "Don't you think we can tell when you're fibbing?"
Luke flushed. "She deserved it. Do you know what she did?"
"If you haven't been searching for me, where have you been?" Leia demanded before Luke could continue.
"On a space-cruise, dear," the older woman replied. "You know how much I enjoy recycled air and a nice bout of salmonella. It does wonders for my figure."
"You shipped your sister to Uncle Ben on Tatooine?" the man asked, stepping closer. "I appreciate a good prank, but you know how this family feels about crazy old Uncle Ben."
"Yes," the mother agreed. "Uncle Ben isn't stable, you know, not since - "
"DON'T SAY IT," Vader shouted, putting his hands over the place on his helmet where his ears should be. "LALALALA...."
She looked at her daughter, changing the subject. "Did he let you go?"
"Hell, no!" Han finally spoke up, after staying quiet for far too long. "I'm the one that rescued her. Now I want my reward. Four wishes... just like she promised."
"Did you promise this scoundrel four wishes?" the father boomed at his cringing daughter.
"Wait a minute," Han objected. "Didn't you just get done telling your dad this over the holo-comm unit?"
"Father, I'd like you to meet Captain Han Solo," Leia said carefully. "The Wookiee up on the roof is Chewbacca, his co-pilot."
"But Leia promised me I could have the Wookiee," Luke inserted firmly. "She can't be a Bothan-giver. Right?"
Leia ignored her brother, and looked at Han. "This is my father, Darth Vader. And my mother, Padme Skywalker."
"You really shouldn't go around making all these promises, Leia dear," Padme admonished her daughter.
"What's four stupid wishes, anyway?" Han grumbled. "It shouldn't be a problem for a magic genie."
"WHAT?" Vader roared, making Han flinch. "What did you just call my daughter?"
"A.... a genie?"
The Dark Lord turned his helmet toward Leia. "Did you tell him?"
"No! I kept telling him I was a Jedi. It's not my fault he's too stupid to know what a Jedi is, and too stubborn to listen to me!"
Han swallowed hard as Vader's gloved hand grasped his shoulder. "Maybe I don't really need four wishes. I'm sure one will do just fine."
"We need to have a discussion, Captain Solo. Inside."
As Solo was pushed toward the palace, he could hear Luke gleefully informing Leia, "Boy, you're in big trouble this time, sister."
Han was unceremoniously ushered into a large dining area. A dark, orowood table sat in the center of the room, and the table was elaborately set with twenty-two place settings - ten on each side, and one on each end. Vader pointed at one of the chairs in the center of the table, and Han quickly sat down. Then the four Skywalkers walked to the opposite side of the table, and took seats facing Han. Vader and Padme sat in the middle, with Leia next to her mother, and Luke sitting beside his father. A few seconds later, Chewie was escorted into the dining room by Threepio.
The Wookiee started to head toward Han, when Luke spoke up, "Chewie! Come sit next to me. This is the family side of the table, anyway. You're part of the family."
"Since when?" Han asked indignantly.
*Humor them, Han,* Chewie barked out of the side of his mouth before taking the seat next to Luke.
"Now we will discuss this problem like the civilized beings that we are," Vader said, sitting back and folding his hands in front of him.
"Call a meeting without The Yoda, will you?" a gnarled voice said from behind Han. "Part of this family, The Yoda is not?"
Craning his neck, Han looked down at yet another odd creature. This one was green, with large ears, and wearing what looked like a tuber-sack. The creature that called itself 'The Yoda' stuck a branch toward Han. "Insulted The Yoda's wife, this one did!"
"I did not," Han said, feeling the need to defend himself.
"Called her a thing, you did!"
"Well, what is she, then?"
"Beautiful woman, The Yoda's wife is!"
"If you say so," Han muttered dubiously, thinking back on the sequined, blonde creature with the big snout.
"Can we get back to this meeting?" Vader said with a sigh. "Please join us, Cousin Yoda."
"Humf," The Yoda humffed, before climbing into the chair next to Leia.
"Luke," Padme tried starting again politely. "Can you tell us why you felt the need to trap Leia inside her bottle, and ship her to Uncle Ben?"
*See? She is a genie,* Chewie woofed, pleased he was right all along.
The young man shifted on his chair, carefully folding and refolding his napkin. "Look... I made a turtle."
"LUKE!" Vader yelled. "Pay attention and answer your mother!"
"Leia told me if I didn't marry Winter, she'd tell my best friend Wedge that I didn't like girls," Luke said hurriedly, still not looking up. "That's blackmail, and I like girls just fine. I just don't want to marry a - "
"Luke, please," Padme interrupted. "That still was no cause to ship Leia to Tatooine. Now you've probably got Uncle Ben all worked up."
"If he comes here, you're the one in big trouble, young man," Vader added, then turned toward his daughter. "And what's with promising this Corellian four wishes? You know the rules, young lady."
"That's what he asked for," Leia replied defensively. "He already asked for three of them, and I really don't see any problem."
"Here, kitty, kitty, kitty," Cousin Yoda called out, causing Han to notice a large, black cat walking across the table with a pot balanced on its head. The cat stopped walking, hissing and spitting in Yoda's direction.
"What is that?" Han asked before he could stop himself.
"Oh, that's our tea-catty," Padme replied. "He doesn't much care for Cousin Yoda, though... not since the hot tea incident."
"The Yoda's fault that was not!" Yoda huffed out. "Warning label the pot should have!"
"What did Solo wish for?" Vader asked Leia.
"Credits. A wife. Never growing old," Leia listed, ticking them off with her fingers.
*A wife?* Chewie barked out in disbelief. *Since when do you want a wife?*
"I never said a WIFE!" Han shouted as he stood up. The tea-catty jumped in the air, sending the pot crashing onto the table, and spilling a dark liquid over the tablecloth. "I said women! I wanted women!"
"You said you'd take one, if she were the right one," Leia shot back. "I know just the right one, too."
"He can have Winter!" Luke shouted happily. "Everyone will be happy then."
"Who's this Winter?" Han asked in concern. "And why am I ending up with her?"
Vader nodded thoughtfully. "That would take care of two of those wishes at the same time, wouldn't it?"
Luke got up and started dancing around the table, and singing, "I don't have to marry Winter... I don't have to marry Winter...."
Yoda whacked his cane on the table, breaking several plates. "Order, this meeting is out of!"
"Sit down," Vader yelled. "Both of you...before I throw you in the pokey for disorderly conduct!" Vader stood up just as Han and Luke sat down. "Then it's settled. You'll get your credits tomorrow, right after you marry Winter. Show this Corellian to the guest suite, Leia, before he changes his mind."
"I've already changed my mind," Han tried saying.
"Too late!" Luke crowed. "You get stuck with Winter."
Desperate, Han looked across the table at a silent Chewbacca. "Help me," he mouthed.
*Don't open the bottle, the Wookiee said. But does he ever listen to the Wookiee? No.... never.*
Han paced the 'guest suite' that Leia had told him was his for the night. The room might have had potential for being normal, with a large, canopied bed, dresser, and fireplace. However, first appearances were deceiving. The corner posts on the bed were intricately carved with fiendish gargoyles, their heads bent low, their glass eyes catching the flickering flames from the fireplace, and they stared toward the center of the mattress as if they were waiting to pounce. The walk-in closet held an assortment of women's dresses - every piece black. A strange coat-of-arms hung above the fireplace mantel. From a distance, Han thought the twisting edge of the coat-of-arms was some type of rope, but when he looked closer, it was entwined serpents, each one in the process of swallowing the other.
The entire room made him nervous, and on top of everything else, the door was locked, making him feel like a prisoner. He was also hungry and wondered why hadn't it occurred to this odd-ball family to feed him. Didn't anyone eat around this place? And why was the bedroom hot everywhere but the very center, right below the light fixture? In that single, small area the temperature dropped dramatically, and Han couldn't see any reason - no vents, no air recyclers. He eyed the bed, wishing he could just lie down and get some rest, but those nasty creatures looked way too realistic.
A soft rap on the door almost made him leap out of his skin. Trying to keep his voice calm he said, "Yeah?"
"It's Leia." A 'click' sounded, indicating she had opened the lock.
Not knowing whether to be relieved or worried, Han opened the door. The Princess stood in the hallway holding a tray with sandwiches and a beverage. "So you do have food in this place."
Her eyes narrowed, and she shoved the tray at him. "Mother thought you might be hungry."
"I'm starving, actually," he answered, taking the food. "Why am I locked in?"
"It's for your own safety," she answered. "Things sometimes get strange around here at night."
"And you think they're normal during the day?"
"Of course," Leia said, frowning. "We're just an average family."
Han opened his mouth to argue, then decided it would probably be pointless. "Can you answer me a simple question?" he asked, putting the tray down on a table.
"Who is this Winter person?"
To Han's surprise, tears filled the Princess's eyes. "It's such a sad, sad story," she said.
"I have a lot of time."
"Not really," she sniffed.
"What the hell does that mean?"
"This used to be Winter's room, before he came into her life."
"Qui-Gon... his name was Qui-Gon," Leia said, her face getting a far-away expression. "Tall and handsome. He came riding up one day on a white jalloped. Wild and passionate and untamed."
"No... the white jalloped. He called him Wildfire. But Qui-Gon was quite dashing, too. Winter fell madly in love."
"No," Leia snapped. "With Qui-Gon. Who's telling this story, anyway?"
"Sorry." Han took a bite of the sandwich, frowning at the odd, chewy texture to the meat.
"So they had an affair.. Winter and Qui-Gon. Until one day, Qui-Gon declared he couldn't stay, because it was against the Rules of the Order."
"Order? What Order?"
"The Evil Sith Order. It turned out Qui-Gon was nothing more than a dirty, rotten, scoundrel of a Sith. He moved from place to place, stealing young women's hearts and breaking them into a million pieces. Poor Winter was devastated, even though he left her with Wildfire. She took her own life, they say, right here in this very room." Leia gave a huge sigh. "Sometimes, late at night, they say you can see her riding Wildfire down these very hallways."
"She's DEAD!?" Han shouted, while wondering who 'they' were.
"Quiet!" Leia hissed out. "She might hear you!"
"Why wouldn't she know she's dead if she killed herself?" Han demanded to know. "And how do you expect me to marry a dead woman?"
"It's your fault," Leia declared. "You're the one that wished never to grow old. Once you join her in marriage, you'll have to join her in the after-life, too. That way you'll get two wishes at once - a beautiful woman, and never growing old."
"This sounds like a really, really bad idea!" Han yelled. "What about my credits?"
"Father will give you your credits. That was our deal."
"How can I spend the kriffin' credits if I'm dead?"
Leia put her hands on her hips, glaring at the Corellian. "You never said anything about wanting to spend them. You really need to be more specific about these wishes."
"All right! Here's a specific one," Han growled out. "I wish I'd never found your stupid bottle!"
"Too bad. You can't alter the past. That's one of Robin's Rules of Genie Etiquette. Bringing the dead to life is another one, I think." Leia headed toward the door. "Too bad you agreed to marry Winter. I think you're kind of cute, and Father thinks you're a scoundrel. It's a great combination." She winked and slammed the door shut, locking it tight.
The Jade's Quarry set down in a spaceport near the Skywalker Palace, and Obi-Wan Kenobi walked down the ramp, sniffing the air. "He's here. I can smell his foul stench already."
Mara followed him down the ramp. "Okay... I want the rest of my fee, and you tell me where Solo and the Wookiee are. That's our deal."
"Of course. The remainder of your fee and the smugglers are in the same place. My brother's womp-rat infested hole he calls home. We just have to go get them."
"If you and your brother hate each other, what makes you think he's going to give you fifteen thousand credits?" Mara snapped out.
"Give me? Give me? GIVE ME?" Ben threw back his head, laughing maniacally. "Anakin never gave me anything... except a one-way ticket to that lousy sand-pit called Tatooine. I intend to TAKE IT! It's mine! Everything he has is mine! MINE!"
"Shut up, and let's get moving," Mara said, eyeing the crazy man with disdain.
"Okay," Ben agreed. "But first we need to stop off at a florist."
"Flowers," he replied, shaking his head. "You don't show up at a relative's home without a gift. It's impolite."
Since Han had spent the night trying, unsuccessfully, to escape from his room, he was exhausted. He'd found out immediately after the Princess-Jedi-Genie left his room that his blaster was drained and useless, which was puzzling, since he'd charged it up before leaving the Falcon.
Darth Vader came for Han early the next morning. The tall armored man crossed his arms over his chest plate as he stared at the sullen Corellian. "We will go down to breakfast, and then you will spend the day preparing for your wedding," he intoned. "At sundown, we will conduct a family séance to contact Winter, and then the two of you will marry. As soon as the vows are complete, you will need to pass over. It would be better for the union-karma if you did the deed yourself, but if you refuse, I will have no problem assisting you."
"By 'pass over', you mean die, right?" Han asked sarcastically, still looking around for a way to escape his fate. Where was Chewie, anyway?
"Of course. It was one of your wishes."
"No, it wasn't," Han argued. "I wanted credits, women, and to be young forever. Young! Not DEAD!"
Vader shrugged. "Oh, well. It's too late now. The family is busy decorating for a wedding, and the womenfolk are so excited. We haven't had cause to celebrate for years and years." He reached out, grabbing Han by his arm and pulling him along.
At the top of the staircase, Han skidded to a stop and stared down at the main living area. The entire room was draped in black streamers and bunting, and Chewie and Luke were standing on ladders at opposite sides of the room tossing rolls of streamers back and forth. Han couldn't believe his eyes. "Chewie?"
*Hey, Han,* the Wookiee barked out happily. *We are decorating the entire house for this big event. I'm so excited you finally found your soulmate!*
"My soulmate? Did they tell you she's dead?"
*No one is perfect, Han,* Chewie admonished his friend.
"After the wedding they're gonna kill me!" Han shouted down the stairway. "Did they tell you that?"
*Better you than me,* Chewie woofed under his breath as he shook his shaggy head.
"What did you say?" Han asked, since he was standing out of hearing range for a whisper.
Louder, Chewie addressed his Captain, *Han, Han.... all grooms get cold feet and think their life is about to end after they say the vows. Don't be such a wimp.* He tacked up a black paper flower. *Doesn't this look nice?*
"Chewie and I've spent all morning decorating," Luke groused. "You could tell us the house looks swell. I haven't seen you put one single tack in the paneling, Solo. Why don't you do some work, instead of complaining?"
"WORK!?" Han shouted, nearly falling down the stairs.
Vader grabbed the Corellian before he could take a tumble and said, "You can't break your neck this early in the day, although I can see you're getting into the spirit of the event. Just wait a few more hours."
Leia and Padme entered the room, gazing up at the decorations. "I just love weddings and funerals," Padme said with a sigh.
"And we're going to get both in the same day, too," Leia agreed, clapping her hands together.
"Luke, you go ask Grandpa if he'd like to join our séance-wedding this evening," Padme instructed her son. "He might enjoy that, since he so seldom gets out of his belfry."
"Aw, do I have to?" Luke grumbled, climbing off the ladder. "Grandpa likes to throw things."
"Now, dear," Padme said sternly. "He's an old man, and we must humor him."
"Yes," Leia said with a smirk. "Go ask Grandpa, and this time try to avoid the lightning bolts."
"Do you want to come with me, Chewie?" Luke asked hopefully.
*Sure,* Chewie woofed, jumping down off his ladder. *I haven't seen the belfry yet.*
"Some sidekick you turned out to be," Han muttered as Vader ushered him past the Wookiee. "Traitor."
The doorbell sounded, giving a series of soft, light chimes. Han watched as Vader, Padme and Leia all craned their necks, gazing up at the ceiling like they were searching for something. Then they looked at each other, shrugging. Padme sighed and said to Vader, "I'll go see if someone is here." Turning her focus on the Corellian she added, "We've never been able to figure out where that awful sound comes from, but whenever we hear it someone always seems to appear at the door."
Outside, Mara looked around the unkempt mansion, wondering why Obi-Wan thought his brother had a lot of credits. Maybe he was one of those miserly types that stashed it all away, instead of spending it on things like upkeep. There was, however, a strange being with long metal fingers and four arms, busy cutting a spindly bush into an odd shape that appeared to resemble a krayt dragon. Other bushes were already carved into strange shapes - one was an obese Hutt, another looked like a TIE fighter.
"Who's that?" Mara whispered, wondering what she'd gotten herself into.
"That's the gardener. Grevious the General Gardener he likes to call himself, and he's been with the family for decades."
"I've never seen a droid like that before."
Ben frowned at the young woman. "Oh, he's not a droid. Don't let him hear you say that, either, since he's been known to use the occasional visitor as plant fertilizer." He gazed up at the mansion. "Skywalker Palace. You'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."
"I can handle myself," Mara snapped, patting her trusty blaster just to make certain it was still there.
"Just stick close to me," Ben advised. "These people are very unpredictable."
She watched as Obi-Wan shifted the large package of expensive flowers in his arms. She could swear he looked like a nervous suitor on his first date. The door creaked open, and Mara found herself gaping at a rail-thin woman.
"Ben?" the pasty-faced woman gasped out, then glanced over her shoulder. "You shouldn't have come here."
"I've brought you flowers, my Padme," Ben replied, thrusting the box at her. "I'm afraid they all had blooms on them, though."
"Who's at the door?" a deep, hissing voice sounded from inside the dimly lit foyer.
"Go away," Padme whispered as she leaned forward. "Before it's too late."
"We're not going anywhere," Mara spoke up. "This guy agreed to pay me, um, seventeen thousand credits for passage to Naboo. He's paid two, and he owes me fifteen more. Not to mention the bounty on Solo and the Wookiee."
"I'm terribly sorry," Padme said, turning her attention to the red-head. "Solo and the Wookiee are already spoken for, but I do have a son."
"Is he wanted?"
"Unfortunately, no," Padme replied sadly. "But I keep hoping."
Uncle Ben pushed his way past Padme, putting his hands on his hips and puffing out his chest. "I've come to stake my claim, Anakin! This time, I won't be so soft-hearted... like I was on Mustafar."
"Ben!" Padme said in horror. "You said the... the word!"
"Mustafar, Mustafar, Mustafar," Ben taunted the trembling, dark lord. "Anakin went to Mustafar, with all his limbs intact, but when brother Obi-Wan showed up, he left with them in a sack!"
Vader pulled out his lightsaber, igniting the red blade. "You won't get away with that, Ben! No one, and I mean no one, comes into my home and starts spouting bad poetry!"
Ben pulled out a blue lightsaber, grinning like a madman. "I'll do whatever I want, Anakin... this house, and your wife, should be mine. After today, they will be."
"Why we can't have family reunions like other people?" Padme asked to no one in particular as the two men started fighting.
Leia sidled up to Han as the two men engaged in a fierce battle, blades sparking and humming, with the occasional knick-knack sliced in two. A large, rather ugly purple vase smashed to the ground, sending shards of glass scattering and a fine, gray powder billowing up. "There goes the Wing Vase," Leia remarked with a shake of her head. "Granny is going to be mighty displeased, since that's where she kept the ashes of her first four husbands."
By this time, a wide-eyed Mara had joined them as she tried to avoid the wrath of the warriors. "The first four? She kept their ashes all mixed up together?"
"She figured it didn't matter, since she was married to them all at the same time," Padme replied. "They just didn't know it, until it was too late."
"How did they die?" Han wanted to know.
"That's why Grandpa lives up in the belfry," Leia added, as if that cleared everything up.
Han didn't want to know anymore, and turned his attention back to Vader and Ben.
Meanwhile, up in the belfry.....
"Grandpa?" Luke called out nervously as he climbed the narrow, winding staircase. When there was no reply, he slowly opened the trap door above his head, pushing it up. It landed inside the room with a loud thud, and dust drifted up from the floor. Still, there was no sound. "Grandpa? Are you still alive?" When there was only silence, Luke looked down at the quiet Wookiee, standing in the stairwell below him. "Well, we tried. He must've died, so let's go back down."
*You aren't even going to check?* Chewie barked out in disbelief. He pointed up, into the bell tower. *Keep going.*
Luke bit his lip, and took a deep breath before stomping up the remaining steps into the small room. Chewie quickly followed, and gazed around. A bell hung in the center of the round space, and dozens of large mynocks were stuck to the walls. Against the far wall sat a tiny bed and a rocking chair. Even in the gloomy room, Chewie could see someone was sitting in the chair, even though he wasn't moving.
"Grandpa?" Luke said softly, moving forward across the creaking floor. The old man's head was slumped forward, his eyes shut, his body wrapped in a tattered shawl. Tentatively, Luke put his hand on the old man's shoulder. "Gran- "
The man jumped to his feet, sending the rocking chair crashing to the floor, and Chewie jumping up in the air and letting out a howl of surprise. "Welcome, young Skywalker... I've been expecting you!"
"Grandpa Palpatine!" Luke cried out. "I know Leia hasn't been up here to feed you lately, but it's not my fault, I swear! Besides, it's her job to bring you meals, not mine!"
"Your faith in your sister will be your downfall, foolish boy."
"When you didn't answer me, I thought maybe you were dead," Luke said, sounding a bit disappointed.
"You cannot strike me down, for I am the Great and Glorious Emperor Palpatine," he shouted, shaking his gnarled fist at Luke. "Now you will feel the power of my anger!" Lightning shot from Grandpa's fingers at Luke, but the younger man quickly dodged the bolts. Unfortunately, the mynock on the far wall wasn't quite so lucky, and it fell to the ground, sizzling. "Ah...dinner," Grandpa Palpatine said, hobbling over and picking up the creature. "Well done, just like I like 'em."
"Mother wants to know if you'd like to join us for a séance-wedding this evening," Luke said, acting like nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred. "It will include dinner and a funeral."
The old man turned his glowing yellow eyes at his grandson. "Funeral? Whose funeral?"
"Oh, just some idiot smuggler that I suckered into marrying Winter," Luke informed him. "I think Leia had the hots for the jerk, so I took care of that right away."
"Too bad," Palpatine muttered, regarding the charred mynock thoughtfully. "At this rate, I'm never going to see great-grandkids."
"Why do you need great-grandchildren?" Luke asked, annoyed. "You've got us."
"You? You're not even very good, much less great," Palpatine snapped out. "Tell your mother I'll be there, but she'd better keep Shmi away from me. I'm not sharing my jar with anyone."
"I'll tell her," Luke promised, quickly pushing Chewie toward the staircase. "You just be on time."
"Whippersnapper!" Grandpa Palpatine yelled, firing his fingers in Luke and Chewie's general direction. "The Great and Glorious Emperor will be fashionably late... you tell her that!"
The lightning bolt struck the floor just as Luke slammed the trap door shut, leaving the old man muttering about finding the proper clothes to wear to dinner.
Obi-Wan's lightsaber finally found its mark, sending Vader's arm flying off, lightsaber still in hand. "Ah, HA!" Ben shouted gleefully. "I have you right where I want you, brother." He stalked up, pointing the humming end of the blade at Vader's throat. "Say it! SAY IT!"
"Say it ... or else," Ben said in a low, threatening tone. The lightsaber moved even closer.
"Fine," Vader grumbled. "Ben's a wonderful, intelligent brother, and I'm a big bantha-head."
"Say it right!"
"BEN'S A WONDERFUL, FANTASTIC, INTELLIGENT, HANDSOME BROTHER, AND I'M A BIG, STUPID, UGLY BANTHA-BUTT!"
Smiling, Ben flicked off his lightsaber. "There, that wasn't so hard, was it?"
Glowering at his brother, Vader retrieved his arm. "Now I have to go have Dr. Calrissian reconnect it," he grumbled.
"That's it?" Mara asked, incredulous. "All that ranting, and that's it? What about your claim that everything he had belonged to you?"
"What were you expecting, dear?" Padme asked before Uncle Ben could reply. "It was probably Obi-Wan that was saying those things, not Ben."
"There's a difference?"
"Of course," Padme replied, looking at Mara oddly. "Obi-Wan's the revenge-driven Sith, and poor Ben is just the kindly old uncle." She leaned forward, and whispered, "Ever since Mustafar, Ben has issues. Would you like to stay for dinner?"
"Uh.... all I want are my credits."
"Don't we all," Han said under his breath, then told the newcomer, "Better tell them you'll stay, 'cuz it's not like you'll have a choice."
"You don't think we're giving you a choice?" Leia asked, taking his arm and smiling up at the Corellian. "We all choose our own destiny, flyboy."
Han opened his mouth to disagree, but he was interrupted by Luke's shout from the top of the staircase. "Oh, that's just great! A big family fight, and I missed it!"
The group watched as Luke jumped up on the banister, then skidded down the railing one foot in front of the other, doing a backflip off the handrail as he reached the bottom. He landed on his feet, right in front of a stunned Mara Jade. "Howdy! Are you a death-angel?
"What?" Mara asked.
"A death-angel, you know.... those red-headed females that lure space-travelers to their doom with their mesmerizing beauty. They live inside the volcanoes of Must - " The word was drowned out as his mother starting coughing loudly. When she recovered, he continued unfazed by the interruption. "My name's Luke Skywalker, and I'm going to marry you. What's your name?"
Regaining her composure, she replied, "Captain Mara Jade."
"A captain, huh?" Luke asked enthusiastically. "You have your own ship? That's so neat-o, because I'm making my own ship, and someday I'm going to fly all the way to Coruscant and back."
Leia gave a derisive snort, and informed the red-head, "My brother's a moron, so you'll have to ignore him."
The young man glared at his twin. "Oh, yeah? Well maybe I'll just have to tell Solo that - "
"You wouldn't dare," Leia interrupted hotly.
"Why not? I think it would be really funny if you'd - "
"Luke!" Vader interrupted with a shout. "That will be quite enough out of you."
"Yes," Padme inserted quickly. "You and your father must take Solo to the swamp, and have Cousin Yoda and his wife prepare the mandatory pre-wedding hot mud-bath."
"Hot mud-bath?" Han asked in concern.
"We never knew about that until Cousin Yoda married Mrs. Yoda," Padme replied. "She insisted it was necessary, so now it's a Skywalker tradition."
"What if I don't want a hot mud-bath?"
"You don't want to marry Winter, either," Luke shot back. "I think you just like to make trouble."
"Can I come?" Ben asked eagerly. "I haven't witnessed a pre-wedding hot-mud bath for years! As a matter of fact, I haven't seen mud in years."
"Of course you can come," Vader said, still holding his arm. "But first, we must go to the top-secret laboratory and visit Dr. Calrissian, so he can repair the damage you caused."
"Invite the good Doctor to the wedding, dear," Padme said. "The more, the merrier."
As Vader and Luke hustled an increasingly depressed Corellian away, Luke yelled back over his shoulder. "Better cut off her escape route, Mother. I'm in love with Captain Jade."
Mara looked worried, and started easing toward the exit, but Padme quickly stepped between her and freedom. "Come along, dearie. You can help me, Granny and Leia fix the wedding dinner." Addressing her daughter as she pulled Mara along, she added, "Do you think eye-of-dianoga soup sounds like a good starter course?"
The men, followed by Chewbacca, entered the same library that Han had seen the day before. Vader walked up to the book shelf, and pulled a heavy tome forward. It crashed to the floor, the flimsie pages fanning open. "Dang, I thought that was the right book." He looked around, then pulled another book, which also thudded to the floor. "I guess it wasn't 'The Clone Wars - An Introspective Interspecies Insight'," he muttered. "Now, which one is it?"
"I think it's 'Tauntaun Soup for the Jedi Soul'," Luke suggested, yanking the book down. "Ow! It fell on my toe! Stupid book, anyway..."
"If I remember correctly," Uncle Ben said, "I think it was 'The Tail of Two Dewbacks'." The men spent several long minutes searching for that title, finally locating it. It came off the shelf in Ben's hand. "I'll be darned... I guess it wasn't that one, either."
While they continued to pull at various books, Han moved over to Chewie. "This might be my last chance, pal. We gotta make a break for it, or I'm a dead man. A boiled dead man."
*Han, you worry too much,* Chewie woofed out.
"You're not the one that has to take a hot mud-bath, marry a dead woman, and then die - all in one day!" Han protested. "What about your life-debt to me? Huh?"
*Trust me, it'll work out.* The Wookiee pointed as the wall finally parted, revealing a hidden corridor. *Look...they finally found the right one!*
"Oh, goody," Han grumbled as he was forced to step over dozens of books and head into the secret passageway.
The women entered a large kitchen that was surprisingly clean and modern. It wasn't the shiny appliances that caught Mara's attention, however. It was the elderly woman sitting at a table, chain-smoking death-sticks. Her gray hair was braided, and wrapped tightly against her head, her lips painted bright red and smeared more than a bit outside the natural lip area. She stood up when they came in the room, and Mara tried not to gawk at her short, red leather skirt and purple-spotted shirt that was tied up under her sagging bosom, revealing her mid-section. The outfit was completed by a yellow feathered boa scarf, wrapped several times around her neck. "Where have you been?" the woman demanded. "I'm not your slave, you know. My son won't appreciate how you're treatin' his arthur-ritic old ma, makin' me clean tubers all day long in the hot kitchen."
"Shmi, you know I've been busy," Padme told her mother-in-law. "Getting ready for a wedding and a funeral isn't easy."
"You're tellin' me?" The older woman stubbed out her death-stick in the tuber pot. "I married my second husband the same day the first one became one with the Force."
"I thought you were married to all four at the same time," Mara said.
"Who told you those lies?" Shmi screeched out. "That'd be my ungrateful daughter-in-law, I'd bet my last pair o' panties! I wasn't married to no four men at the same time... only the last two sorta crossed with each other. But I can't help that, 'cuz I forgot Napoleon was still on life support. That man hung on and on, let me tell you. No wonder I forgot."
"I don't want Han to marry Winter," Leia suddenly announced. "He found me... so he's mine."
"What?" Padme asked in surprise. "I thought you didn't want to have a Master. We're doing this for you, honey."
"He's cute," Leia said. "And technically, he's my Master now, right?"
"You'd be smart not to let the cute ones get away," Shmi said. "Where's this one from?"
"Yee, haw," Granny shouted, jumping up and clicking her purple high heels together. "Those Corellians are the best in the sack - "
"Mother Shmi!" Padme said, aghast. "This is my daughter you're talking to!"
"An' I'll bet she's no innocent school girl, neither." Shmi winked at Leia, who blushed madly. "An' she's got every right to claim that man, if he's the one that found her."
"Well," Padme said after some consideration. "We'll still need to have the wedding supper. But I do feel badly that Winter won't get her soulmate."
"What about Luke?" Leia said. "She can still have Luke."
"Your brother loves Mara," Padme said firmly. "And I think one wedding a day is enough, anyway." She smiled sweetly at a speechless Captain Jade. "Tomorrow will be soon enough for your wedding, right, dearie?"
"But I - " Mara started to protest, but was cut off by Granny.
"That's just great.... now I gotta slave away two days in a row peelin' tubers."
"Doctor Calrissian?" Vader boomed out as the men and Wookiee marched deep into the dark, cobweb-filled hallway. They soon approached a door, which was shut tight. A tiny sliver of light peered out from the bottom edge of the doorframe. "Doctor Lando Calrissian!?" Vader pounded on the door with his one remaining fist. "Open up.... I need your assistance."
"Just a dang-burned minute," a muffled voice came from behind the door. "You got space-gas in your after-burners, or something?" The door swung open with a loud squawk, and they all hurried into the laboratory. "Is this a parade? Who are all these people?" the scientist asked, pushing huge, round spectacles up on his nose. The dark-skinned man with a handle-bar mustache was dressed in a white lab coat, and wore a cone-shaped hat on his head, which was covered with small gold stars and moons. He squinted up at Chewie. "I guess this one's not a human-person, huh?" He snorted, making a sound that Han assumed was laughter. "If the kid spilled some of that chemical on you, it wasn't my fault. He should've learned his lesson after making that Artoo droid all hairy. That unit comes in here once a day, nagging me to fix it. What does he think I look like? A veterinarian?"
"It's not that," Vader hissed out, holding out his disconnected arm. "I need this reattached."
"Again?" Calrissian muttered, taking the arm and checking the wiring as he pushed his spectacles up again. "How did it happen this time?"
"Uncle Ben cut it off," Luke supplied.
"I did not!" Ben objected indignantly. "Obi-Wan did it. Obi-Wan is always getting me into trouble."
"Well, have a seat," Calrissian said, waving to a chair. "This'll take some time... I'm not a miracle-worker, you know." He looked back at Solo and the Wookiee. "Who are you?"
"Captain Han Solo, and this is my former friend, Chewbacca," Han said curtly.
"Han's going to marry Winter this evening," Luke added, grinning. "And you're invited."
"Winter, huh?" Lando sighed. "She's a real beauty, that Winter. I envy you, Solo."
"Really? Why don't you marry her, then?"
"Can't," the doctor said. "I'm allergic to jallopeds."
"It's a ghost jalloped!" Han argued.
"Well, I'm certainly not going to take allergy shots for a ghost jalloped now, am I? Besides, needles scare me."
"How can you be a doctor if needles scare you?"
The doctor glared at Solo, then looked back at Vader. "How can you expect me to fix your arm when he's bothering me with stupid questions?"
"All he ever does is ask stupid questions," Luke remarked. "Are you coming to the wedding? Solo's funeral will be held right after."
"Sounds like fun," Dr. Calrissian agreed. "Count me in. What are you planning on doing with the remains after the funeral? I could use some spare body parts around here."
"I don't see why you can't have the corpse. Solo won't be using it anymore," Vader said as he watched the man carefully connect his wires. "Luke will be getting married tomorrow, too. You can come to that, as well."
Lando turned and grinned at Luke. "Congratulations! Who's the lucky lady?"
"Uh..." Luke paused, frowning.
"Jade," Ben said helpfully. "Mara Jade."
"Oh, yeah!" Luke said. "Her name is Mara Jade. She has a real ship, and everything."
"Well," Lando remarked, pushing his spectacles back up on his nose. "I'd be honored to attend." He looked down at Vader's arm. "All fixed."
Nodding, Vader flexed his fingers. "Good as new."
Lando stuck his hand out toward Han. "Nice meeting you, Solo. Sorry we won't have time to become friends, but I'll make real good use of your parts."
"You don't have any lenses in those spectacles," Han pointed out in surprise, refusing to take the man's hand.
"I don't?" Lando took off the spectacles, poking his fingers through the opening. "Well, I'll be a uncle's womp-rat."
"I don't want you," Uncle Ben told him. "I've seen enough womp-rats to last me a lifetime."
"Come on, Solo," Vader ordered. "You still need your mud-bath."
Mara watched as Leia plopped some disgusting green ooze into a pot, slamming the lid shut. "What's that?"
"Pond scum. Every meal needs something green."
"Listen," Mara whispered, leaning toward Leia. "I don't want to marry your brother...."
"I don't blame you."
"Can you help me escape? I don't even want the fifteen thousand credits anymore. You can have Solo, too. I just want to get the hell away from your family. No offense."
Leia shrugged. "Why would I take offense?"
"So you'll help me escape?"
Leia put the pot into the oven, setting the heat as high as possible. "But Luke loves you."
"He doesn't even know me!" Mara hissed out. "We've said two sentences to each other. People don't marry that fast."
Mara felt like her head was spinning. "They just don't."
"Granny married her husbands only a few hours after meeting them. Look how well those worked out."
"They all died!"
"Not Grandpa. He's still alive."
"He's living in the belfry!"
"I can't help you," Leia said firmly. "I wish I could, truly. There isn't anything I'd like better than to ruin Luke's life, but my Mother and Father would be upset. Sorry, but you'll have to make the best of it. You can be my bosom-buddy. I've never had a bosom-buddy before, besides Winter. And she doesn't count, since she died nearly eighty years before I was born, and I think she likes that stupid jalloped better than me, anyway. I'm glad I decided she can't have Han. She doesn't deserve him, that little ghost-shrew."
"You people are all crazy."
Leia smiled. "Thank you!"
The men all marched back down the secret corridor, then went upstairs to the swamp. Chewie sniffed the air, then asked Han, *How did they get an entire swamp in here? And why doesn't it leak through the floorboards?*
"Don't ask stupid questions," Han grumbled.
"Expecting company, The Yoda was," Yoda said, hobbling out from behind a large tree. "Prepared the mud-bath, The Wife has."
The pink, blonde creature followed her husband from behind the tree, flipping her long locks back. She was no longer dressed in a sequined evening gown, but a lavender-colored jump suit with a matching headband. "Mud baths are so wonderful for the skin, don't you agree, Kermee?" She looked at the group. "Well, take your clothes off and follow moi. You are in for a real treat." As she trounced off, Han heard her mumble under her breath, "And so am I."
"Why does she call you Kermee?" Han asked the wizened green Yoda.
Yoda shrugged. "Have no clues, The Yoda does. Insists she does that is my name, so humor her I do." Yoda removed his tuber sack. "Come....short temper The Wife has. Anger her we should not."
Uncle Ben and Luke started removing their clothing, while Han just stood and stared. Finally, Luke glared at the Corellian. "What's the matter? Take off your clothes, Solo."
"We're all going to take a hot mud-bath?"
*I'm not,* Chewie objected. *It'll never come out of my fur.*
"The Wookiee and I will observe," Vader said. "You'd better hurry, Solo. Cousin Yoda is right about not making Mrs. Yoda mad. She's got a mean right-hoof."
"Don't you mean right-hook?"
"No... I mean hoof."
The hot mud gurgled and belched, sending sticky bubbles into the air. By the time Han and the rest arrived, Yoda was already sitting in the mud, his head bent backwards, sighing blissfully. "Love mud baths, The Yoda does."
Luke and Uncle Ben tossed off their shorts, happily joining their cousin, but Han felt self-conscious as he undressed in front of the attention of Mrs. Yoda. "Can you turn around?"
Rolling her eyes, she stalked away. "Men," she muttered. "Always think they have something special."
Han hurried and got into the mud pit, gasping at the heat. "You think this feels good?"
"You'll get used to it," Uncle Ben said, groaning in contentment. "Just relax and enjoy. After all, it's your last worldly pleasure."
Easing his body down into the muck, Han glared at Chewie. *Don't blame this on me,* Chewie barked. *I told you not to open the bottle.*
"Are you ever going to stop saying that?"
Suddenly, from a branch high above the pond, Yoda's wife gave a yell, "Hi...YAAA!" Han only saw a pink and blonde blur as she belly-flopped into the mud, sending a wave of brown goo over the men's faces.
Padme clapped her hands together, pleased at the lovely table set with a black table cloth and metal-gray plates. A large bowl of eye-of-dianoga soup bubbled in the center, with a wide variety of food from one end to the other. "The freeze-dried kouhun insects make such a crunchy topping to the salad," she told Mara. "And if you clean them correctly, they're not even fatal."
"I'm not really hungry," Mara told the woman, hoping she'd live through the meal.
"Oh, look," Padme said. "Here come the menfolk! Luke!" She waved wildly, even though they were already entering the dining room. "Your fiancée isn't feeling well."
Instantly, Luke was at Mara's side, his expression one of concern. "What's the matter? Do you have a headache? The chills? How are your bowels feeling? Do you need me to give you a sponge-bath?"
Backing up, Mara said, "I think I just need fresh air."
"Fresh air?" Ben asked. "That's the worse thing you can do while you're taking a sponge-bath."
"I don't want a sponge-bath!"
"Why not?" Han muttered. "I had to take a mud-bath."
"How did that go, anyway?" Leia asked Han, touching his face. "Your skin is nice and gritty now."
"That's because I couldn't rinse off with water," Han complained. "The green guy just handed me some dry old leaves to clean off with."
"Deaf, The Yoda is not," Yoda said loudly as he entered the room with his bejeweled wife, who now was wearing a satin teal-colored dress with a matching pill-box hat, long, white gloves and fish-net stockings. Yoda was still wearing his tuber-sack.
"No, Kermee hears quite nicely," Yoda's wife said in her high-pitched voice. "Not only has he put on a lot of weight, he grew very large, hairy ears. I always thought it was noses that got bigger with age."
"Then ancient you must be," Yoda told his wife.
"Hahaha," Mrs. Yoda said, lowering her voice. "Very funny. I'm so not amused."
Both Mr. and Mrs. Yoda sat down at one end of the table, just as Dr. Calrissian came stumbling into the room. "Why did you have to tell me I don't have lenses in my spectacles? Now I can't see a dang-burned thing!"
"Can you help my death-angel?" Luke cried out when he noticed Lando. "I think she's dying!"
"I'm not dying," Mara snapped. "And quit calling me a death-angel."
"You don't like pet-names?" Luke questioned, looking stricken. "I love pet-names."
"You don't like the ones I call you," Leia told her brother sweetly.
Luke snapped his fingers, grinning wickedly. "Solo...you found Leia's bottle and freed her, so she's your genie now... forever and forever! She can't make you marry Winter... or kill yourself, or anything! She has to do what YOU tell her! For the rest of eternity!"
"LUKE!" Vader roared, making the chandelier sway. "You are in such big trouble...."
"Now, now," Padme said, patting Vader's sleeve. "Leia has already decided to marry Han, so it's all okay."
"Are you serious?" Han spluttered out, his knees going weak with relief. "I don't have to marry a ghost and die?"
"DANG IT!" Grandpa Palpatine shouted from the dining room doorway. "I wanted to see a kriffin' funeral!"
"If you test the kouhun salad, old man, we still might be able to," Granny Shmi said, coming in from the kitchen and carrying a large tray with what looked like a baked baby Hutt, and some type of fruit stuck in its mouth.
"You shut your trap-door, old lady!" Palpatine yelled back. "You're not putting me in that jar with the others! Say one more word, and I'll start shooting my lightning fingers at you!"
"Try it, an' my iron fryin' pan will have the shape of your head conked inside it." She put her tray down, and pointed at a chair. "Sit down, an' mind your manners."
Grandpa Palpatine sat down, muttering under his breath, "Good thing Shmi's so hot in those short skirts, or I'd never put up with her."
*See, Han? I knew this would all work out,* Chewie howled in happiness. *I could tell Princess Leia was your real soulmate by the way you two bicker! You're just like them already. It's so romantic.*
Han looked at Chewie in disbelief. "You want me to marry into this insane asylum?"
*Personally, I like these people,* Chewie told his partner. *They are not boring, like other humans. And you will never have to worry about work again.*
"WORK!?" Han yelled, a sense of nausea sweeping over him.
*In my humble opinion, you already fit in just fine.*
No one noticed as Obi-Wan eased over to Mara, whispering in her ear, "You still want your money, and a way out of this marriage? I have a plan..."
"Are you kidding me?"
Obi-Wan looked puzzled by the question. "No... I'm serious."
"Just tell me!"
"We'll contact Winter right before the big event.... she'll be so upset Leia stole her betrothed at the altar, she'll bring down the entire house. Then, while all hell breaks loose, I'll steal Padme and my brother's credits, and you and me will make our escape."
Mara sighed. "Since I can't think of anything better, I'll help you."
Obi-Wan rubbed his hands together in glee, his eyes glowing yellow. "Of course you will."
Vader sat at one end of the long table, and Padme sat at the other. Leia was seated next to her mother, then came Han, Chewie, Lando, Cousin Yoda and his pink wife. On the opposite side, Luke was directly next to his father, then Mara, Uncle Ben, Granny Shmi and Grandpa Palpatine.
Padme yelled across the table to her husband, "Isn't this wonderful? A dinner party for thirteen, the perfect number!"
Threepio entered the room, wearing a frilly apron and a maid's cap. "Would anyone like some wine? It's been aged for nearly a thousand years."
"Open up the bottle already," Palpatine grumbled. "I'm not getting any younger."
"You can say that again," Shmi agreed, loudly slurping her eyeball soup. She leaned forward, frowning at Mara, while revealing her ample cleavage. "Why aren't you eatin' your eyeballs? They're nice an' rubbery, just like they oughta be."
"Are you staring at my wife's chest, Solo?" Palpatine roared out. "Because if you are, your eyeballs will be floating in my soup in a minute."
Mara pushed the soup bowl away. "I think I'm going to throw up."
"Can I hold your hair while you do?" Luke asked eagerly.
The protocol droid tried popping the cork - unfortunately it erupted into a dry powder, but that didn't deter Threepio in the least. He simply poured the thick, brown liquid into crystal wine goblets, while bits of cork floated on the surface.
*Why do you keep scooting your chair closer and closer to me, Han?* Chewie questioned his friend.
"Because," Han whispered. "The Princess keeps getting fresh under the table."
Chewie gave a toothy grin. *Since when has that bothered you?*
"Since she's holding a salad fork!"
"If you don't want your soup, moi will eat it," Mrs. Yoda informed Mara, reaching across the table and taking the bowl.
"Hmmm, healthy appetite, Mrs. Yoda has," Yoda said with a nod.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Mrs. Yoda asked testily.
"I can't tell what I'm eating," Dr. Calrissian moaned. "Not since Solo stole my lenses."
"I didn't steal them!" Han objected. "They were never there!"
"So you say," he replied petulantly.
"I need to use the refresher," Mara suddenly announced as she stood.
Obi-Wan quickly stood up as well. "I'll show her the way... don't wait for us... keep eating...." The two left the room.
"Leaving the table before the brain gelatin is served is downright rude," Leia informed the group.
"I know...." Luke said dreamily. "Isn't she perfect?"
Obi-Wan ushered Mara into an upstair's bedroom, which gave Mara the creeps. "Who sleeps in here?"
"It used to be Winter's room," Obi-Wan informed her. "But now it's just used as the ghost…err…guest suite."
"Why are we here?"
"To call Winter forth," Obi-Wan said, pointing to a place under the light-fixture. "That's where she did the deed, so it's the best place to contact her. A portal to the otherworld, you might say. We have to hurry, since midnight is approaching, and that's when Solo and the Princess say their vows."
Mara stepped over to the spot, and immediately noticed the drop in temperature. Maybe the crazy hermit knew what he was talking about. "So what do we do now?"
"Hold hands and hum loudly, then say, 'We call forth the spirit of Winter and her minions!'"
"Minions? You didn't say anything about minions!"
Obi-Wan sighed. "We want a big distraction, so we can steal my brother's credits and Padme. How can we do that with just one ghost?"
"Fine," Mara groused out. "Is there anything in particular we have to hum?"
"Personally, I'm fond of show tunes."
Padme looked at the clock, then shook her head. "I guess we'll have to proceed with the ceremony without Uncle Ben and Mara. They seem to have disappeared."
"That just figures," Grandpa said. "That Ben always has been unreliable, anyway."
"I have a hard time believing he's my brother," Vader agreed. "We are so different."
"Oh, he's only your half-brother," Granny Shmi informed everyone. "Ben's my first husband's kid.... what was his name? Oh, yeah. Count Dooku."
"I knew a Count, once," Mrs. Yoda spoke up. "I wonder if he was the same one. Greasy, slicked back hair, big teeth, liked wearing capes?"
"That'd be my Count, alrighty," Shmi agreed. "Man was obsessed with his credits. Spent all day counting 'em."
"Why do you keep checking the front door, Luke?" Leia asked suspiciously. "Are you expecting someone?"
"Yes," Leia snapped. "If you have something evil planned to disrupt my wedding, I'll make you pay."
"Mother.. Leia's threatening me again," Luke complained.
Padme stood up. "Let's go into the living room - don't you just hate that term? - and start the wedding."
*Come on, Han,* Chewie prodded, pulling Han to his feet. *Don't look so upset.*
"I don't think I'm husband material," Han said, looking at the annoyed Princess. "I'm a smuggler... you're a genie.... it's not a good combination."
"So you'd rather marry Winter?" Grandpa Palpatine asked hopefully.
"Those Corellians are hard to tie down," Shmi told Leia. "But once ya got 'em roped, they get right tame."
The group headed into the living room, and Yoda took his place at a wheezing pipe-organ. The wailing sound filled the mansion, and Mrs. Yoda starting singing as Leia was escorted down the aisle by Vader.
"Some enCHANTED evening.......
You will find your sweetHEART!!!
Across a CROWDED roooom...."
"WE CALL FORTH THE SPIRIT OF WINTER AND HER MINIONS!" Mara and Obi-Wan chanted loudly and repeatedly. "WE CALL FORTH - "
"I heard you the first time," an annoyed, breathy voice spoke from atop the light-fixture.
Mara looked up in awe as a ghostly woman with pure white hair, and dressed completely in a black gown, floated down.
Once her feet touched the floor, she turned and looked at Obi-Wan. "Why am I always called fourth? Who does everyone call the first three times?"
"This family planned your wedding tonight to a handsome Corellian by the name of Han Solo," Obi-Wan quickly informed her. "But at the last second, Leia stole him from you!"
Winter let loose with an eerie keen. "Why, oh why, do I always get my heart broken?"
"The wedding can still be disrupted, and you can claim Solo as yours! But you have to be quick, because Leia's wedding is starting right now."
"Minions!" Winter cried out. "I need your assistance!"
Instantly, seven ethereal Jawas appeared, jumping up and down.
"Those are your minions?" Mara asked in surprise.
"Yes," Winter replied. "Let me introduce them ... Dopey, Sleepy, Doc, Grumpy, Moe, Curly and Larry." She waved a spectral hand toward the doorway. "Hurry, my dwarfs! Stop that wedding!" The Jawas lifted off the floor, spinning wildly around the room. "Downstairs, you fools," she ordered, then watched as they left the bedroom and headed in the wrong direction. "Good help is just so hard to find in the afterlife."
Grandpa Palpatine stood at the altar, scowling down at the reluctant groom-to-be as Leia took her place at his side, holding a bouquet of wilted weeds. "If you ever give my granddaughter a hard time, I'll be forced to use my lightning fingers on you," he warned the Corellian. "I don't take kindly to men hurting my little girl."
"I just looove weddings," Mrs. Yoda wailed as her husband patted her arm. She blew her nose loudly.
"Do you, Jedi-Princess-Genie Leia Skywalker, take this Corellian scoundrel as your husband, to nag and annoy and force into shopping trips to the mall, for all of eternity?" Palpatine asked.
"I do," Leia said happily.
"And do you, Captain Han Solo, take my wonderful granddaughter as your wife, to obey, and spoil and generally do everything she tells you to do, for all of eternity?"
"I thought I was supposed to be the Master," Han said.
Shmi snorted in laughter. "All men think that, Solo. It's just a pathetic delusion, though."
"Answer me, before I shoot lightning at you," Palpatine threatened.
"I do," Han grumbled.
"By the powers invested by me, the Great and Glorious Emperor Palpatine, I hereby declare you husband and - "
A loud bang sounded at the outside door, and a golden-haired, tall man rushed into the living room. "I OBJECT TO THIS WEDDING!" he screamed.
"Isolder!?" Leia gasped in shock. "How did you find out..." She trailed off, turning to glare at her brother, who was busy picking at his sleeve again and refusing to meet his sister's eyes.
"Who's that?" Han questioned.
"Prince Isolder," Leia moaned. "My stalker. I dumped him years ago, and he just won't go away."
The Prince dropped to his knees. "Marry me, Leia! I'm so much better than this no-account scum you're throwing your life away on!"
"Hey!" Han objected. "I resent that."
"I'm rich, handsome, tall, muscular, and I LOVE YOU!"
"Well, that is an impressive list," Shmi said thoughtfully. "You could marry him first, an' save the Corellian for later."
A loud howling came from the foyer, and the wedding party turned around in time to see seven ghostly Jawas rush into the room, then madly start throwing objects every which way, screeching, "Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk!" and poking each other in their glowing eyes. Vases, pictures, knick-knacks, whatever came loose, was fair game to send spinning across the room.
"Who summoned these minions of Winter?" Vader boomed out.
"Winter's here?" Han asked, nervously looking around.
"Of course," Padme surmised. "That's where Uncle Ben and Mara took off to. They wanted to stop this wedding. How very cunning of them."
"Why?" Leia sobbed. "I never did anything to Uncle Ben! This is all Luke's fault!"
"I didn't call Winter," Luke shouted back. "I think Uncle Ben's kidnapped my beautiful death-angel. She'd never leave me willingly."
"I hope he did kidnap her," Leia shot back. "I hope he marries her!"
"That's plain disgusting!"
"Children, let's not argue," Padme said, frowning as the Jawas started peeling off large strips of the wallpaper. "We need to settle this little problem, once and for all."
"You've made this little problem," Winter intoned, suddenly appearing in the middle of the room. "Leia stole my fiancé."
"I was never your fiancé," Han objected loudly, since the minions were very noisy. Being married to Leia was looking better and better with each passing second.
"Besides, it's too late," Leia added. "Han's my husband now."
"He is not!" Winter yelled, stomping her foot soundlessly. "Grandpa Palpatine never said the last word!"
"Grandpa," Leia said imploringly.
"WIFE!" Palpatine finished declaring over the racket.
"You can't do that," Isolder objected. "I objected! You're breaking the rules!"
*More rules?* Chewie woofed.
"Solution, The Yoda has!" Yoda said, standing up on a chair, and waving his gimer stick in the air.
"Don't you just love a man that takes charge?" Mrs. Yoda cooed, batting her long eyelashes at her husband.
"What's your solution?" Vader asked.
"A wife Isolder desires, a husband Winter desires. Another wedding we will hold, fix this problem will we."
Mrs. Yoda applauded. "Kermee's a genius."
"And I'll get my corpse, too!" Lando spoke up, grinning.
"That would solve everything, wouldn't it?" Padme said, tapping her finger on her chin.
Isolder's beautiful gray eyes grew wide. "I have to marry a ghost?"
"Better you than me, pal," Han muttered as the minions quieted down.
Vader hustled Isolder toward the altar, and a beaming Winter took her place beside him.
Palpatine cleared his throat. "Do you, ghostly Winter, take this handsome, rich, Prince Isolder as your other-worldly soulmate, for all of eternity, and beyond?"
"Yes," she said breathlessly.
"And do you, Prince Isolder, take the beautiful and other-worldly Winter as your soulmate, for all of eternity, and beyond?"
Both Vader and Grandpa Palpatine shot Force-lightning at Isolder, who dropped to the ground, screaming in pain. "YES... make it stop! YES!"
"Does anyone object to this union?" Grandpa asked.
"Hell, no," Han crowed out.
"I hereby declare you husband and wife other-worldly soulmates."
"I'm married! I'm married!" Winter shouted in glee, floating around the room.
"And now you must join your wife in the afterlife," Vader intoned.
Isolder staggered to his feet. "WHAT?"
Leia leaned forward and whispered, "Luke has a spare X-Wing up on the roof. If you hurry, you can still escape."
"That's a wonderful idea!" Isolder cried, rushing out of the living room and up the stairs.
"You're a brat," Luke said, glaring at his twin. "That was the last spare X-Wing I had all built."
"That's okay, honey," Padme said soothingly. "Your fiancée has her very own ship, remember?"
"Oh, yeah!" Luke looked around. "Where is Mara, anyway?"
The front door opened again, and General Gardener Grevious escorted Mara and Ben back into the house. "I caught these two trying to get away with the family jewels," Grevious hacked out.
"Ben!" Granny Shmi admonished. "How could you do such a thing?"
"It wasn't me.... it was Obi-Wan!"
"Obi-Wan's an idiot," Mara shot back at Ben, her eyes blazing in fury. "We could have escaped with a fortune if you wouldn't have insisted on going back for Padme!"
"You stole from us?" Luke asked, his eyes wide, and a huge grin breaking out on his face. "Mara... I love you!"
An engine-less X-Wing flashed past the window, crashing into the ground outside with a tremendous thud. A second later, Wildfire came galloping in the living room through the outer wall, with Winter astride and a transparent and terrified Prince Isolder clinging to Winter's waist. "I.... ha..hate jallopeds," Isolder managed to stutter out right before the animal disappeared with its riders.
"They make such a lovely couple," Padme said happily.
"Yee, haw!" Granny yelled. "Go get that body, and grab the karaoke machine! We finally got ourselves a funeral to put on!"
Leia leaned her head contentedly against her husband's chest as she watched Grandpa Palpatine serenading Granny Shmi with a strange song, "Shmi, Shmi, koko-bop, Shmi, Shmi bop..."
"I think it's so sweet they still love each other after one hundred years," Leia said with a sigh. "They even have their very own song."
"Yeah, I guess it is sorta sweet," Han agreed as he watched Shmi get up and lead her husband from the room with a seductive shake of her hips.
Vader got up and walked over to his son. "You should take Mara up to the guest suite for the night and allow her to get some rest. Tomorrow is another big event day."
"Okay," Luke said, jumping to his feet. "Do you want me to carry you to your room? You look awfully green around the gills, Mara, my little death-angel."
"I can walk myself," she grumbled, staggering to her feet. Having listened to Luke's off-key singing of a weird song called, "Mara in the Sky with Diamonds", it wasn't any wonder she felt nauseated. Mara thought back about the strangest 'funeral' that she'd ever witnessed in her life. Each Skywalker family member got up and made a short speech about what a wonderful person Isolder had been and how much they'd miss him, then performed whatever song they desired. Yoda had warbled an endless, tuneless song about some idiot that baked a cake and left it out in the rain, which made Mrs. Yoda cry her heart out, claiming soggy pastry songs always made her weepy. Even that wasn't as bizarre as Darth Vader crooning about a "Witchy Woman" to his wife, which had made Uncle Ben jealous and go stomping off in a huff to his bedroom. And now she was doomed to become a part of this freak-show. It was almost enough to make her want to 'do the deed', like Winter had eighty years before.
As she headed out the door, Solo called out, "Don't bother looking for a way out.... you won't find one." Mara had a sinking feeling he wasn't lying.
Dr. Calrissian motioned Chewbacca over to where he stood by Isolder's head. "Would you like to help me move the dearly departed to my lab?"
*Sure,* Chewie barked out, bending over and grabbing the body's ankles. *I'd like to stay and watch you take it apart, too.*
Lando nodded. "If you're asking me if you can eat it, I suppose I can give you some of the liver... but that's all."
After Chewie and Lando shuffled out with the corpse, Padme said her goodnights to Yoda and his wife, then headed into the kitchen for a glass of water.
The protocol droid looked up just as she entered. "Mistress Padme! Could you please tell Artoo that he needs to help me with all these dishes? I will be cleaning up the rest of the night at this rate."
She peered down at the short, hairy droid with a hat. "Why doesn't he want to help?"
"He claims the steam makes his hair frizzy and hard to manage," Threepio replied, irked.
"Then maybe you can just dry and put away?"
Artoo gave a long, negative beep and hurried away to find a cold chimney to hide in. "I hope you get mange!" Threepio yelled after him.
Shaking her head in amusement, Padme went back into the living area, and was surprised to find only her husband still in the room. "Where did Leia and Han go?"
"She took him to her bottle," Vader answered shortly. "You should have heard Solo asking how he was going to fit inside. That man really does ask too many stupid questions."
Padme patted his arm. "He'll learn. Come, let's go to bed. Tomorrow is Luke's wedding."
Darth Vader took Padme's hand and headed toward the staircase. They paused at the bottom of the stairs, and stared at the small table that held Leia's genie bottle. The bottle was busy shaking back and forth... then Solo's tiny, annoyed voice could be heard drifting up from the small opening. "OW! Put the kriffin' fork down already, your worshipfulness!"
"Corellians," Vader muttered in disgust, then led his wife upstairs.
Han Solo -------------- Major Nelson/Maynard G. Krebs
Chewbacca, -------------- Roger Healy
Leia Skywalker, -------------- Jeannie/Wednesday Addams
Luke Skywalker, -------------- Pugsley Addams/Dennis the Menace
Mara Jade, -------------- Emma Peel (ok... I couldn't think of anything else! And they DO both wear catsuits! LOL )
Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, -------------- Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde/Uncle Fester
Darth Vader, -------------- Fred Munster
Padme Skywalker, -------------- Lily Munster/Mortica Addams
Grandpa Palpatine, -------------- Grandpa Munster
Granny Shmi, -------------- Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies/Maxine
Threepio, -------------- Alice from The Brady Bunch
Artoo, -------------- Cousin Itt
Winter, -------------- dead Snow White
Wildfire, -------------- the horse
The Jawa Minions,(hey, that would be a good name for a rock group!) ---------------- dead stooge/dwarfs
The Yoda, -------------- The Donald (to everyone but Mrs. Yoda)
Mrs. Yoda, -------------- Miss Piggy
Dr. Calrissian, -------------- Dr. Frankenstein/The Nutty Professor
Gardener Grevious, -------------- Edward SScissorhands
Qui-Gon Jinn, -------------- JR Ewing-type cad
Isolder, -------------- Snow White's lame-o Prince
Count Dooku, -------------- The Count!