This is what Han knew: it was a job, and the Empire was paying.
Did he like using the Falcon for prisoner transport? No. Did he like his continued existence, which he was not at all certain would, in fact, continue if he turned down the offer? Quite a bit, actually.
‘How hard could it be,’ he thought, ‘bunch of drugged and restrained people from one place to another?’
One day, Han Solo would learn not to ask questions like that.
“Kriffin’ motivator,” Han grumbled as he rattled his way down the Falcon, beating the unsuspecting piece of equipment twice before it belched enough smoke to make Han back off again.
At least he was near a spaceport.
Han was halfway through installing the new motivator when he looked up. What he should have seen when he looked up was a ship full of creepily sleeping prisoners. What he saw instead was a pair of eyes in a scrawny form blinking back at him. This was a problem.
At least the kid was still restrained. With a twinge of guilt, Han reached over for the drugs to knock him out again.
At least that’s what Han intended to do.
“What the—” was all Han could manage as he came back to his senses just in time to realize that the form of the skinny brat was long-lost to the spaceport crowd.
“Kriffin’ magic powers, kriffin’ old religions. I’m gonna die. That’s just…yep. Gonna die.”
A Little While Later
“YT-1300 492727ZED, please submit your cargo manifest for inspection.”
“Oh, um, yes, of course. Here’s the list. We have all the prisoners. All of them. Why wouldn’t we?”
The inspection goes about as well as expected.
“Alright. There’s got to be something I can do with this,” Han said, looking at the dead body of the inspection officer.
A quiet urfing came from next to him.
“I don’t need you laughing at me!” Han snapped. Han stopped. “Wait. Why are you awake enough to laugh at me?”
“Oh. Because you’re a wookie.” Han sighed, and reached for the drugs again. “Damn it didn’t they drug anyone prop—”
It was quickly evident that the wookie was not restrained anymore, and Han’s windpipe certainly was.
“Hey,” Han wheezed, “Hey, wait we can work out a deal.” The hand around his neck loosened barely enough to let Han speak. “You like being alive, right? I’m a big fan. I will die if I show up without the skinny little mindflayer. We can work something out.”
The hand loosened further, and Han’s feet found the floor again. The Wookie growled.
“Set everyone free? Yeah, sure. Already on it. And then me and my ship will just go…hide in the outer rim for all etern—”
More growling, the hand tightening again.
“You want my ship. Or you’re going to kill me…”
The wookie gave him an impatient little shake.
“I am thinking about it,” Han hissed. After a moment he gave the best sigh he could considering the furry airway obstruction. “Fine, I’ll go with you.”
Inquisitive, slightly skeptical grumbling came from the wookie.
“Oh no,” Han held up a finger, “I am definitely coming along, none of you know how to treat my girl right.”
Despite the fact that the end of Han’s existence was no-doubt rapidly approaching, he still found himself smiling at the quiet urfing that came from the Wookie. “Stop laughing. What’s your name, anyway?”
Han quickly translated the growl. “Alright, Chewbacca. Do you have a plan? Because I don’t have a plan. Is anyone in this place even qualified to come up with a plan?”
As Chewbacca replied, Han nearly let the fact that the wookie was smirking (he didn’t know wookies could smirk) distract him from the more relevant information that was being shared.
Nearly. “Oh.” Han twitched. “You were a decorated veteran. Of the clone wars? A general? That’s nice. I just…set a general free. No big. That’s cool. Everything is fine.”
As Chewbacca started releasing Han’s former prisoner compliment, he growled out a plan.
Han calculated the chance that he could knock out the wookie versus the chance that he would die a horrible death at the hands of the Empire.
After an agonizing three seconds, Han decided he was more terrified of Chewbacca’s immediate wrath than the Empire’s eventual fury. “Alright, sure, sneak into port control and contact the Rebellion. I’m all for it!”
To his surprise, Han did not immediately die.
“This is actually going pretty smoothly,” Han muttered.
One day, Han would learn not to say things like that, but it was not this day.
A Little While Later
“Yes,” Han said into the comm, his eyes wide as he stared at Chewbacca, rummaging through the pockets of the Imperial, who prior to his existence as a corpse, had been in charge of port control. “This is…Give me his I.D.!...Commander Ravisk.” Han ran his fingers through his hair. “We are undergoing an emergency drill and I just need…everyone to evacuate, please. Thank you. Have a nice day. Long live the Emperor.”
Chewbacca gave a skeptical grumble, just as evacuation sirens started to sound.
“Hey, it worked! Pretty well if I do say so mys—”
Han stared at the viewscreen. Chewbacca followed his gaze and stared at the viewscreen.
A Star Destroyer filled said viewscreen.
The comm chimed. Chewbacca and Han looked at each other. An official voice said, “This is Admiral Pohlash, Commander Ravisk, please prepare to board and discuss the nature of your emergency.”
Chewbacca made a thoughtful rumble, and picked up the body formerly known as Commander Ravisk. He held it next to Han. They were about the same size.
With a profoundly disgusted look on his face, Han leaned over to the comm. “Yes, of course, Admiral Pohlash, I’d be happy to. Be there in a jiffy.”
A Little While Later
“I hate this collar,” Han muttered to Chewbacca in the turbolift as it sped upward. “It’s too tight. I still don’t see why we didn’t just leave. I can outrun a Star Destroyer.”
Chewbacca snorted. The turbolift doors opened, revealing two bored-looking ensigns. “Yes,” Han said, trying to sound official and failing, “I am Commander Ravisk, this is my manservant Jimminy.”
As they walked along, Chewbacca rumbled disapprovingly in what he probably thought was sotto voce.
“I really don’t care if you don’t like the name, sell the bit,” Han whispered back, in what he hoped was actually sotto voce.
The ensigns left them at a pair of doors.
The pair of doors opened to a man in crisp white Admiral’s uniform. “Commander Ravisk,” he sneered. The higher ranks of Imperial military tended to communicate by sneer and Admiral Pohlash was no exception. “So good to…see you again.”
“Oh. We’ve met before.”
“I really don’t think we have,” the Admiral sneered, showing dedication to the aesthetic, if a certain lack of emotional range.
“Um”—Han thought fast—“facial surgery is the new big fad?”
Not quite fast enough.
“Yeah, that was a longshot,” Han said.
The good news was, Admiral Pohlash was no longer sneering.
“Okay, dead Admiral, that’s fine. It’s not like this day can get any worse,” Han said.
Really, it was impressive that Han hadn’t learned better by now.
“What do you mean we’re no longer over the same planet?” Han said, blinking at the comm.
The comm was kind enough to answer him.
“What do you mean we’ve been summoned by a Moff?”
Han ran his hand down his face. Chewbacca lifted the body of the Admiral consideringly next to Han.
Han practiced his sneer, “Adequate job anticipating orders Ensign. Admiral out.”
A Little While Later
“This collar is even worse.”
“Good point, it’s a nice cape.”
The doors opened. The Moff entered.
A Little While Later
“I really shouldn’t be surprised at this point,” Han said, nudging the body that was most recently used to house the consciousness of Moff Ispiallion with his toe. “Maybe we can still get out of here?”
Chewbacca pulled out the Moff’s scandocs, and rumbled thoughtfully.
“What do you mean we can access the Imperial Palace?”
Chewbacca pointed to the man’s access cylinders.
“Why would we want to access the Imperial Palace??”
Chewbacca responded in a tone of voice Han suspected usually used to tell young wookies that gravity hurt quite a bit so maybe you shouldn’t play near the edge of the bridge.
“Depose the Emperor! I am not deposing the Emp—”
Chewbacca stood up. He loomed.
“Yes, yes, big fan of breathing..” Han cast about for something resembling sense and reason, which frankly he had never been well acquainted with. “Even with Moff clearance codes we couldn’t just walk in there.”
Chewbacca rumbled thoughtfully.
“What if we…” Han trailed off as reason attempted an introduction. “No, bad plan.”
Chewbacca gave the universal go on gesture.
“No, really, it’s a bad plan, General. I’m sure you can think of a better one.”
Chewbacca repeated the gesture.
“Well…we don’t need to walk in there, do we? We’ve got a Star Destroyer. We just need an excuse to get it close enough…”
Chewbacca growled, gesturing excitedly and pulling up the weapon controls.
“Wait.” Reason waved again from the doorway. “What do you mean good plan? Orbital bombardment is not a good plan!”
Chewbacca walked quickly over to Han and laid a hand on either shoulder. Han flinched, anticipating those hands quickly continuing on to his neck.
Instead Chewbacca growled urgently, soft and quiet.
“Oh. Kriff. They really did that to your planet?”
“And your people.”
Reason sighed and bid Han farewell.
“Okay, I’m seeing the benefits of this plan.” Han looked morosely over at the body of the Moff. “We’re going to die. You know that, right Chewbacca?”
Chewbacca rumbled. Han found himself smiling despite his better instincts. “Alright. Chewie. We’re still going to die.”
Chewie gave the wookie equivalent of a smile (terrifying and toothy) as he growled his response.
“Yeah, sure,” Han said, beginning to struggle the Moff’s uniform off of Ipsiallion. “Worthy cause. Never thought I’d get one of those.”
A Little While Later
Han stared down at the planet, blinking slowly at the pile of rubble where the Imperial Palace used to be. As he was debating between being horrified, proud, or some combination of the two, the doors to the Star Destroyer bridge were finally forced open.
“You,” the Vice Admiral snarled (he didn’t quite have clearance to sneer yet), “are not Moff Ipsiallion!”
The Emperor had always been a bastard. Han decided on proud.
Han turned to him with a smirk (the hallmark expression of smugglers everywhere) and said, “Wow, Bright Eyes, no, I’m not Moff Ispsiallion. Was my youthful good looks or my regicide that tipped you off? I’m Han Solo, and I just killed the Emp—”
The Vice-Admiral was kneeling.
“Why are you kneeling?” Han said, with a sinking feeling that things were about to get much worse.
“Hail! Hail Emperor Solo!”
Han did not love being right.
“Forty percent of the fleet has sworn allegiance to…you. Emperor Solo.” The Vice-Admiral said, avaricious eyes glittering up at Han.
Reason kicked down the door and grabbed Han by the lapels.
Much like Han, the Vice-Admiral appeared to be the sort of guy that liked his continued existence.
Vice-Admirals who let their boss get murdered, and then let their boss’s boss get murdered, and then let their Star Destroyer get kidnapped tended to not do well with the ‘staying on this mortal coil’ thing.
Which meant, for the Vice-Admiral, that the best way of persisting in this reality was to make it look like the Star Destroyer had been intentionally pursuing a nice bit of insurgency.
Which meant that the Vice-Admiral needed Han as a figurehead.
Which meant that the Vice-Admiral was going to try to kill Han as soon as politically expedient.
Which was a problem.
But it was a problem for later.
“Your orders, Sir?” the Vice-Admiral asked, making a passable show of deference.
And, possibly, if Han swung it right, a problem for someone else. He happened to know a guy. Someone big. And hard to kill.
“Well! I am just going to defer to Grand Moff Chewbacca over here. He’s in charge of your ships, got that?” Han pointed.
“Sir.” The Vice-Admiral looked like he had just eaten something unpleasant.
Chewie looked like Han had just given him a particularly delicate houseplant. Baffled, irritated at how complicated it was, but seeing some potential nonetheless.
Han gave the room a jaunty wave as he quickly retreated toward what seemed to be the Admiral’s office. “Good! Good. I’m just going to go into this little room. And lock the door.”
As Han closed the door he heard Chewbacca starting to growl out orders. Okay. Chewie was far smarter than Han was. Maybe he could actually get them out of this mess alive.