Another Sandstorm

"He went where!"

Jaina Solo was flabbergasted, a word she rarely used when describing herself, but the galaxy she was living in had changed a lot in recent weeks. Tonight, her job was to find her father, Han Solo, who, while grieving the loss of his best friend, the Wookiee Chewbacca, had lost himself in the bowels of Coruscant and a fog of mind-numbing chemicals.

The bulbous, aqua-blue Ortolan rubbed the side of his trunk. "He didn't say where," it shrugged, causing it's floppy ears to pat it's fatty-shoulders. He jerked a sausage-like thumb in the direction of a green-skinned Duros passed-out in one of the tavern's several shady corners. "He told Solo to go jump in a Sarlacc pit, and Solo said, after he punched the guy out, 'That sounds like an excellent idea,' before he scrapped his winnings off the floor and left." The Ortolan hiccuped before taking another swig from a red bottle of liquor.

"He was going to jump into a Sarlacc pit!"

The Ortolan blinked and turned to the dealer-droid next to him. "Boy, the acoustics in here are weird. My echo sounds like a human female," he said before tilting back too far in his chair and falling to the sticky tavern floor unconscious.

Jaina pulled her comlink from its holster and called Flight Traffic Control only to learn that the Millennium Falcon had left Coruscant five hours ago. She let out an unlady-like curse and rushed for the door, but the Codru-Ji bartender hailed her, stopping her in her tracks by saying, "Solo left with a bottle of Hypherion Rum."

Jaina's jaw dropped. "That drink keeps a human drunk for five days, and it's a three day trip to Tatooine!" She had witnessed her father flying under difficult conditions, but those times had been under a degree of sobriety! "What was he thinking?"

The bartender shrugged. "Doesn't matter to me, but you're a member of his family, right?"

Puzzled, Jaina nodded confirmation. "That's correct. Why do you ask?"

"I was hoping you could pay for that bottle of Hypherion Rum. He didn't."

"How much was it?"

"Two hundred."

"Credits!"

"Yes."

"Republic credits!"

"Read my mind, Jedi. I ain't lying."

Jaina did.

He wasn't.

She sighed, she paid, and as she rushed out of the tavern, she mumbled, "Dad, we're going to have a serious talk about my allowance when I get you home."

Jaina got lucky.

"I can see you're impressed," the young pilot smiled at her.

Jaina let out a breath she hadn't realize she was holding. "I'm impressed that we're still alive!" She quickly unstrapped herself from the acceleration couch. "That was the most senseless bit of flashy piloting I have ever been a part of!"

"So, you think you'll recommend me to Colonel Darklighter for a position in Rogue Squadron?"

Jaina punched the hatch release that would lead her off of Smarly Sailor. "I wouldn't recommend you for a fuel service attendant job," she insisted as she marched off the yacht and into Tatooine's heat.

Jaina was lucky to find that the wanttabe gambler and rogue, Willer Turn, owned the fastest ship available for a one-way trip to Tatooine. Turn claimed he was going anyway, but Jaina was afraid that her feminine charms were the real reason he flew her to Tatooine, despite the fact that she hadn't intentionally used them.

Quickly leaving Turn behind her in a cloud of dust and the Jedi-induced memory never to make a pass at another Jedi ever again, Jaina searched for the nearest landspeeder rental business and a map to the Great Pit of Carkoon in the Tatooine Dune Sea.

"One thousand."

"Credits?"

"Yes."

"Republic credits!"

"You're name is Solo, isn't it?"

The rental agent having made his point, Jaina paid and jumped into her newly rented speeder. "We are really going to have a talk about my allowance when I find you, Dad," she mumbled as she gunned the engines and tore down Mos Eisley's streets.

Five kilometers from the Great Pit of Carkoon, Jaina's speeder ran out of fuel. The young woman let out a stream of curses that would turn heads in any cantina in the galaxy before punching the vehicle's dashboard in frustration, breaking a fingernail in the process. Again, she cursed, this time at herself for letting her normally well-trimmed fingernails grow-out. Who am I trying to impress, anyway? she asked herself as she climbed out of the speeder, slung the lone canteen of water around her neck, and started the treacherous march toward the Pit of Carkoon.

"And then, we ran out of gas," Han Solo said to the slumbering Sarlacc in the pit below him, tipping his head back to empty the already empty bottle of rum down his parched throat. "Hmmm... I paid two hundred credits for this bottle of rum, you'd think it'd be full," he observed. He looked down at the Sarlacc. "I'm sorry. I'm being inhospitable. I should share, shouldn't I?" Han pronounced before chucking the empty bottle down the creature's gullet.

"Drink up, me hardy," the captain of the Millennium Falcon said before passing out.

Three minutes later, and for the first time in centuries, water fell upon the Dune Sea.

Han Solo sputtered and blinked, peering up at the figure who had dumped a canteen full of water over his face. "Leia, is that you?"

"No," Jaina frowned at the empty canteen. "Mom wouldn't have wasted a whole canteen of water while stranded in the desert." She hadn't been on Tatooine six hours and already the heat from the twin suns was getting to her.

"Jaina! What are you doing here?" Han asked as he wiped water from his face.

"Looking for you, Dad. We have to talk about my allowance."

Han patted the sand next to him. "Well then pull-up a dune and let's talk."

"Dad, where's the Falcon?" Jaina had checked with Mos Eisley's Flight Control Center and learned that the MillenniumFalcon was not berthed in any of the spaceport's docking bays.

Han pointed a finger off into the desert. "It's right over there."

Jaina's eyes followed the direction of Han's finger. "In the middle of that sandstorm?"

Han's head drooped in the direction of where his finger was pointing. "At the rate that sandstorm is going, I'd say it won't be in the middle of it for another forty-five minutes and twenty-seven seconds."

His daughter raised a cynical eyebrow. "You sure?"

"Positive. Now, what's this about some Imperial you've been making eyes at?"

Said eyes went wide. "Can we talk about this in the Falcon?"

"You wanna walk through that?" Han said, his finger still pointed at the sandstorm. "You're braver than I thought."

"We can do it, Dad," Jaina said as she pulled her father to his feet. "You've walked through sandstorms before."

"Oh, yeah," Han smiled, leaning on his daughter for support as they trudged through the sand toward the storm. "As I was telling my friend," he began, nodding his head in the direction of the Sarlacc, nearly unbalancing the two humans in their trek. "Lando, Chewie, and Luke had just rescued me from Jabba the Hutt and his boys kicking us into some sorta monster that, like, takes it's time eating it's meal, you see. Anywho, we go flying away on one of the fat worm's skiffs while Jabba is toasted in his own blubber -your mother's cooking, by the way- when the fifty thousand piece of highly tuned machinery ran out of gas!" Han hiccupped and blinked as grains of sand started to blow into his eyes.

"Hold still for a second, Dad."

"Why? What are- Hey! This is my good shirt!"

"Really?" Jaina said as she tore the other sleeve from her father's long-sleeved shirt. "Well we'll discuss compensation when we bargain terms for my new allowance."

"Your mother was a great bargainer," Han said as his daughter wrapped a sleeve around his mouth and nose. "You should have seen how she bargained with Jabba for my life."

Jaina took Han's arm and lowered her head as they entered the sandstorm. "From what I've been told, you were having trouble seeing at the time."

The elder Solo shrugged. "Nah, I was fine by the time Luke and Leia swung over from Jabba's sail-barge to the skiff we were going to use as an escape vehicle." He shook his head. "I still can't figure-out how they did that. Must have been some Jedi thing."

"So you ran out of gas," Jaina shouted through the sleeve wrapped around her face.

"Yeah, we had to leave that fifty thousand credit flying-machine in the middle of the desert for the Jawas to claim." Han's head continued to sway back and forth. "Your mother didn't want us to go back and find it. Said something about meeting the Alliance fleet or something. You know, if we had sold that skiff on the black market, I could have paid back Jabba and be completely debt free."

Jaina shook her head at the atypical statement. "Dad, you're really out of it right now," the girl observed with a chuckle.

"I must be, because you have the grand delusion that you can find the Falcon in the middle of a sandstorm," Han pointed out.

His daughter frowned, sure that her father didn't mean the words to be hurtful even though they were. "So what did you do after the skiff ran out of gas?"

"Well then this sandstorm comes out of nowhere, see."

"No, I can't," Jaina quipped, squinting into the gritty-storm.

Her father barked a sharp laugh, making her jump. "Neither could we, but Ole Luke said he could find it, and everybody believed him."

"Didn't you?"

"I didn't care; I had Leia wrapped in my arms. Did you see the outfit Jabba made her wear?"

Jaina blushed. She had heard about it, even discovered it while looking through her mother's drawers as a little girl when she was playing dress-up. But before she could say something, her father prattled on.

"With all that sand blowing around, her skin was the softest thing a man could feel at a time like that. Wizard, she had a body that could make a blindman see."

Wizard? Jaina thought, squinting in her father's direction, amazed at her father's choice of a youthful exclamation. "So, you got through the storm?"

"Oh, yeah. Luke found the Falcon. No problem."

"Never a doubt, right?"

Han smiled behind the sleeve wrapped around his face. "I'm sure you'll be able to find it easily, Dear."

"Only if you pointed us in the right direction."

They walked on for another half hour before Jaina said, "So what happened when you got back to the Falcon?"

"Well, to my surprise, Lando had this big Welcome Back celebration all prepared for me on the ship."

"Really?"

"At least that's what he said, although I think Leia let him take credit for it because organizing surprise parties was, and still is, not her thing."

"Balloons, cake and everything?"

"Steamers, music, we even took turns smacking Chewie with a vibro-brush to see if any candy fell out of him."

Jaina laughed. It was good to hear her father talk about good times with his old friend. "You must be joking. You had to be mad to hit Chewie with anything!"

Han laughed back at his daughter. "You're right, that would have been an insane thing to do, but Chewie did spend a good hour with the vibro-brush getting the sand out of his fur."

They walked a few minutes more in companionable silence before Jaina finally said, "I think I see something."

"You should," Han said over the roar of the storm. "Another twenty steps and we should be just below the hatch controls."

Jaina squinted at her father. "You counted steps?"

Han winked at his daughter. "That's Luke's secret, not mine."

Exactly twenty steps later, Jaina typed in the code that unlocked the access hatch leading into the Millennium Falcon. A slowly sobering Han Solo slumped into the chair at the engineering station in the craft's main hold while his exhausted daughter went searching for fresh cups of water. After providing her father with his, Jaina sipped from her cup and slid into the couch behind the gameboard. "So how did the party really go?"

"There's something wrong with this rum."

"It's water, Dad."

"Oh, yeah," Han recalled, taking another sip from his cup. "That's why it's so wet."

"Daaaad."

"Oh, the party. Right." Han shrugged. "Luke spent most of the time cleaning his hand, Chewie did some quick maintenance on the droids-"

"Before or after he got all of the sand out of his hair?"

"Before. Lando broke out cigars for himself and Correllian Ale for me."

"And what did Mom do?"

Han frown into his cup. "Much to my dismay, she got dressed. And here I was hoping she'd do a dance or something."

Jaina couldn't help but laugh, spraying water across the gameboard and inducing laughter from her father; sweet, wonderful laughter. When the merriment faded, Jaina said. "Dad, I think it's time to go home."

Han didn't say anything as his daughter went to the cockpit. When the ship lifted into the Tatooine sky, Han sadly whispered, "Yeah, time to go home."

END