How we think the fight will go
In Chalmun’s Cantina the band plays loudly at all times. Locales in which spacers of all descriptions can have discreet private discussions are few, and the regulars of those establishments tend to like music loud, to drown out what is actually being said. (Many of the conversations are between spacers and natives of dubious legal status).
Unfortunately, on this day, the table nearest to the Cantina’s entrance was occupied by someone whose voice was actually drowning out the band’s music. A human of advanced years, he was dressed oddly, even for Chalmun’s, and his behavior struck many in the Cantina as an invitation for blasting: he drank and did not get drunk, he talked and never stopped, and he insisted on holding on to your arm while he talked at you. Still, there was something … relentless about the man. You got the feeling that, even if you stuck a blaster into his face, he’d just keep talking.
Somewhere near the third hour of his monologue, Leia Organa Solo made the mistake of walking into the bar and was immediately collared by the man. Those nearest to the man fled with great relief, abandoning her to his whims. Leia eyed them curiously as they departed, but not sensing any danger coming from the man who had accosted her, paused to hear what he had to say.
“Ah! A human woman!” the man boomed. “I confess, my attraction to the opposite sex has always mystified me. And sadly it was not limited to humans. Once, in my palace in Istanbul, I had the misfortune to be attacked by a swarm of bees, who were under orders by their queen to take me to her to serve as her love-slave. I had nothing like an offensive weapon nearby and further had no desire to aggravate the bees by slaying them all with my hands, so I decided to jump out of their way; but, by an unlucky turn of events, I became entangled in the claws of a passing roc, who, panicked at my presence, flew upwards and continued rising till it reached what I took for the moon. Upon my approach a fiery light emitted from an enormous round crater on the moon, but I took out my shaving mirror and deflected the light.”
The man was speaking nonsense, Leia realized, and why was he clinging to her so? “Would you … let go … of my tunic!” she asked, as politely as she could manage.
“And a lovely pattern it is, Madame,” he said, still holding on to her, “and such wonderful material! It reminds me of the light from that moon I spoke of. It lit up a vast expanse of space, including one system in which a city had grown to cover the size of an entire planet, so I steered the roc toward it. The roc let go of me, unfortunately, and I fell to the ground with such amazing violence, that I found myself stunned, and in a hole nine fathoms deep at least, made by the weight of my body falling from so great a height: I recovered, but knew not how to get out again; however, I dug slopes or steps with my finger-nails, then of forty years’ growth, and easily accomplished it.”
She tried unsuccessfully to pry her shirt sleeve out of his iron grip. “You are seconds away from losing that hand,” she warned him.
“Ah, my right hand! Why, I lost that hand once, in the very planet-city I mentioned! An uninteresting tale, like most of my adventures on the planet-city. I will say that I was eventually successful in convincing a race of tiny organisms to gather in my hair and invest it with ‘the Force.’ Of greater interest to you will undoubtedly be what happened afterwards.”
Leia’s eyes narrowed, and she reached out in the Force to examine the man more closely. His white hair was long and curled at the end, almost as if it were a wig, but there did not seem to be any Force-presence there. Was the man mad? Her hand carefully slipped toward her belt and her lightsaber.
He nodded and smiled at her. “You will of course have no doubt of my veracity.”
“No … certainly not!” Might as well humor him, she decided, at least until she could discover whether he was merely insane or something more sinister.
“I was leaving the planet-city when I noticed a strange object on a collision course with the planet-city. It was a gaping black hole in space, moving at high speed and gathering everything into it, from the tiniest rocks to the largest Star Destroyers. It posed a serious threat to the safety of the planet-city and all endeavors to evacuate the planet-city were in vain, so I caught the black hole with my cloak and threw it back into space. Unfortunately, other planets now lay in the path of the black hole, so I ran to the Outer Rim of the galaxy, and with much effort spun the galaxy in an opposite direction, creating a whirlwind which propelled the black hole in yet a different direction.” With his left hand he made a spinning gesture.
What he was saying was ridiculous, and yet there was something … strangely compelling about him, Leia thought. Like eating an overly sweet pie – you can’t stop, even though you know you should.
“Unfortunately, my dash around the galaxy lent my individual body parts variable amounts of speed, and my head and limbs separated from themselves, each in different directions, a situation which continued for some months before I was able to reunite them. Ah, such times my head and arms and legs had! My right arm and left leg landed on a frightful forest moon, where they were mistaken for the limbs of a god by the small bear-like forest dwellers. But that is a story for another time. Much more interesting to you, good Madame, I’m sure, is what occurred to my head.”
“I’m sure,” Leia said dryly. She silently congratulated herself on her patience; Han would have blasted the man by now.
“My head landed back on the planet-city. Its fiery impact was productive of infinite litigation, and I was forced to testify for both sides. All the lawyers of the galaxy were employed, and the entire affair was rendered as complex and gloriously uncertain as possible. To quote myself, ‘in fine, the whole nation became interested, and were divided on both sides of the question.’ (That is from Chapter XXXI of my Autobiography, a fine work which I am certain is easily to be found even on this benighted desert planet).”
Leia tried to keep a straight face. “Oh, certainly.”
“The affair was at length submitted to the decision of a grand council in a great hall, adorned with large seats on every side in the form of an amphitheater. The assembly included representatives from every race in the galaxy, save only the Grebleips, whose ambassadors were displeased with me following a lengthy card game in which I drew to an inside straight no less than four times in five hands, resulting in the forfeiture of their moon to me.”
“Wait a moment, the Grebleips are–“
“Notoriously bad losers, I agree. Their behavior was ungentlemanly, quite unlike the Besalisk attorney defending me against the cruel calumnies of the Mon Calamari prosecutor. Back and forth the arguments raged, quite similar to the cannonballs which once carried me on to the very horns of the moon itself. At length the Besalisk attorney won the day, and despite my testimony in support of my position I was found liable for damages.”
“Now, hold on, the Besalisk never–“
“Ah, but on this occasion, Madame, they did. I was forced to labor in the mines of Kessel. Without hands or feet, I was forced to dig for spice, especially glitterstim, with my teeth. Many long miles of rock did I chew up and spit out, enough that I eventually dug a tunnel underneath the city of Kessendra and, by good fortune, led a mass escape of all the miners. Unfortunately, the tunnel led right into a den of exogorths, commonly known as space slugs.”
“But – I’ve seen a space slug, they –“
“Are quite formidable, yes, Madame, they are, but fortunately in this case I had an iron skillet which I happened to have packed with my belongings, and we succeeded in frying the exogorths in glitterstim, ginger, and sesame oil, a quantity of which I always bring along with me. After consuming the exogorths, the miners and I assembled a ship out of rock and … but I go on. I am not boring you, am I?”
Leia seized upon the chance to escape. “Well, actually, I really must be going –“
The man looked vaguely offended. “Madame, none have ever successfully doubted my stories, for they are entirely truthful. Unlike the Bpfasshi, whose leader took exception to my wooing his mate. I must admit that the Bpfasshi leader had cause for objection, for his mate was bearing my child at the time. My third child by the woman – it had been a prolonged courtship while her mate was busy negotiating with off-worlders. At length I was brought aboard a spaceship and forced to jump out of the airlock. Ordinarily this would have been my end, but a passing comet snagged the tail of my coat – see the burn, here? – and dragged me some distance outside the galaxy.”
“I don’t think –“
“Yes, Madame, outside the galaxy itself. I found myself on a strange moon, inhabited by a number of beings. One, a ghastly individual calling himself ‘Yun-Yuuzhan’, insisted that I was an outsider, and interloper, and various other insults. I was forced to deal with him as a gentleman does. I slapped him across the face and demanded satisfaction from him. As the insulted party I had my choice of weapons, and I chose nuclear weapons.”
Leia had almost been nodding off at that point, but that last bit caught her attention. “You what?”
“Yes. We each sat atop a nuclear weapon whose timer was running down, and the first to move from the weapon would be deemed a coward and a liar. Well, my bravery has never been questioned, and long after Yun-Yuuzhan had fled from atop his bomb I sat on mine, intending to show the crowds that I was no coward. Unfortunately, the bomb went off, and I was again thrown into space. I was shot across systems until I landed on this sandy place, and walked here. But let me tell you a more interesting story –“
Leia had had enough. More than enough. And he was still holding on to her tunic. “I really must insist that you unhand me,” she said.
“But I haven’t even begun to tell you about —“
His grip on her tightened. Leia drew her lightsaber, but didn’t activate it just yet. “Story time is over,” she said, in a tone of voice that usually ended any argument.
“Madame, are you challenging me to a duel?” She could sense an undercurrent of delight in his voice.
“Only if it becomes necessary,” she said tightly. Subduing someone so addled felt … un-sporting somehow, but he had pushed her to her limit.
“Very well. En garde!” He finally released her, then pulled out a thin metal sword with a rusting hilt and swooshed it through the air with a theatrical flourish.
Leia centered herself in the Force and ignited her lightsaber. “So be it.”
Predicted Winner: Leia Organa
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON Friday, March 14, 2014, AT 12:00 PM, EST
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Editor’s Note: Jennifer Heddle is senior editor of adult fiction at Lucasfilm Ltd. and loves Princess Leia most of all. She can be found on Twitter at @jenheddle. Jess Nevins is the author of numerous works of genre non-fiction, including the Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana, the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes, and the forthcoming The Victorians For Freshmen.
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