For years, Star Wars Insider has been home to more than just journalism and criticism about the ins and outs of the galaxy far, far away, but original fiction spanning everything from the highs of the old Expanded Universe to the recent launch of The High Republic. A new anthology is gathering some of its classics, and we’ve got a look inside.
Releasing on Star Wars day itself, May 4, Titan will publish Star Wars Insider: Fiction Collection Vol. 1, gathering stories and artwork from the magazine’s long history of original fiction. Featuring tales from Star Wars icons like Jason Fry, Matthew Stover, John Ostrander, and Paul S. Kemp, as well as art from Joe Corroney, Brian Rood, Jan Duursema, Magali Villeneuve, and many more, it’s a fitting celebration of the magazine’s library of Star Wars creative storytelling.
Ahead of the release, io9 is excited to give you a look inside one classic’s return, highlighting beloved Shadows of the Empire star Dash Rendar—captain of the Outrider and Han Solo knockoff of our dreams. Take a look at an exclusive excerpt from Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnoff’s “And Leebo Makes Three” below, as well as a piece of art featuring Dash and his titular new friend Leebo, by legendary Star Wars poster artists Greg and Tim Hildebrandt!
The Rodian glanced around The Nexu’s Den as if looking for someone he desperately hoped not to see. Sitting across from him at the dimly lit corner table in the seedy port bar, Dash Rendar absently wondered why he even bothered trying to see—the air was a bilious pall of deathstick smoke and other inhalants, all designed to make the present more interesting and the future less attainable. His lungs protested in spite of his shallow breathing.
Aside from the smoke, the place smelled like stale droid lube and fermented fruit. He’d been in worse. It didn’t seem anything to be particularly proud of at the moment.
His Nautolan partner, Eaden Vrill, endured it the way he endured everything— with silent stoicism. Nautolans as a species tended to be unemotional. Add to that Eaden’s few decades of training in the teräs käsi martial arts discipline, and the result was a very inscrutable alien. They’d been working together for over four months, and Dash still found it hard to fathom what was going on much of the time behind the amphibian’s large, maroon eyes.
“Awright, look,” Kood Gareeda said at last, his vocal organs giving the Basica whistling, rubbery sound that made comprehension dicey. Once again, Dash marveled at the alien’s choice of occupations. Stand-up comedy was hardly the best choice for someone whose sibilants and fricatives all sounded alike. Not that most audiences stayed around long enough to be annoyed by this. Put bluntly, Darth Vader probably did better shtick. But concern about Gareeda’s financial future would have to take a back seat to concern about their own. As far as Dash was concerned, it was all over bar the counting. He doubted that Eaden wanted to spend the money, but a mech- of-all-trades would be useful aboard the Outrider.
“Remind me again what he’s programmed for,” Dash prompted the Rodian. He’d swear the guy was sweating, and Rodians didn’t even have sweat glands.
Gareeda ticked off the droid’s features on his scaly digits. “Navigation, piloting, and weapons, as well as da usual repair capabilities standard in da LE series.”
“And you’re selling him because...?”
Another glance at the door. “‘cause I was misinformed. I was told his safety protocols been hacked. Dey lied ta me.” The Rodian glowered at the dormant droid. “He’s a mopak bodyguard. He’ll shoot at sentients, but he won’t hit ‘em. What good’s dat?”
A heavy thump from the door’s direction once again drew the Rodian’s attention. Dash decided it was time to wrap up this palaver.
Comedian or not, Gareeda’s behavior suggested he was expecting something decidedly unfunny to happen at any second. It was even making Eaden jinky, judging from how the heavy cilia on his head twitched whenever Gareeda’s nervous gaze swept past the entrance.
Besides, if the Rodian was under some sort of time pressure, that could only work to their advantage. “Fifteen hundred,” Dash offered.
He got a baleful look from Gareeda’s black, insectile orbs. The comic’s fleshy proboscis worked angrily for a moment. Then—
“Fine. Gimme da creds. I gotta get off dis rock.”“Well, if you need a boost off world, we can offer that, too.”
The Rodian’s bulbous eyes seemed to protrude even further. “No, no. I, ah, I c’n find ‘nother passage...”
“You don’t need to. You got us. Ten hundred—and a lift.”
Gareeda made a slurping sound that approximated a human’s gnashing of teeth, then stuck out a scaly hand. “Fine. Done. How soon d’you—we—space?”
Dash, suppressing a grin, handed over a one thousand credit note. “One hour. Dock Eighty-Four Twelve. Mid- Town facility.”
Gareeda nodded and stood up to leave. Eaden halted him. “It’s got a restraining bolt installed. What’s wrong with it?”
The sharp, bitter odor of rank fear again pervaded the air. “Nuttin’. Jus’ wanted ta make sure it didn’t... wander off, dat’s all.”
“Great!” said Dash. “Let’s fire it up.”
The Rodian looked like he might cry. Dash had never seen such a sight; in fact, he wasn’t even sure if Rodians could cry. “Look, if I’m gonna make it t’your ship inna hour, I gotta get my gear.”
He was so obviously desperate that Dash gestured for him to be gone; there was no fun in torturing someone in such dire straits.
Gareeda fled like a mynock out of Mustafar. He didn’t use the front entrance; he headed out the back.
“Well,” said Eaden, “there he goes. Leaving us a thousand credits lighter with what’s probably an inert piece of junk.”
“At that price, who cares? Even if it doesn’t work, the chassis alone is worth half again as much.” He flipped the droid’s master switch, and was pleased to see its photoreceptors light up.
“Optic circuitry works,” Eaden said. He addressed the droid. “Are you functional?”
“Who’s asking?” the droid replied tartly, then scanned the noisy, smoky chamber. “What’s wrong with this reality? Where’s my boss?”
Dash rolled his eyes. Wonderful. The Rodian had given the droid a personality substrate. Fairly easy to embed, and almost impossible to remove, because the more it interfaced with those around it, the more ingrained the substrate became. It was probably almost firmware by now.
Well, nothing to be done about it. “Your boss took off.”
The droid’s optics fluttered. “He... left me?”
“Sold you. Took a thou of my hard- earned creds.”
“One thousand? I’m worth five times that!”
The droid’s voice carried such indignity that Dash grinned in spite of the situation. “Got a pretty good opinion of yourself.”
“Believe me, you don’t want to know my opinion of you.”
Before Dash could reply, the bar’s front door slammed open. Four beings entered. Two were large, brutal-looking humans, followed by a Barabel. The last was a Trandoshan. They looked exactly like what they undoubtedly were: trouble One of the humans zeroed in on Dash’s table and pointed. The others looked. Then, all four moved with a purpose —right at them.
Eaden stood. Cracked his knuckles. Dash turned to the droid. “What do you call yourself?”
“None of your business. I—”
“Stow it. Emergency nomenclature override. New name: Leebo.”
“Integrating data. New name: Leebo.”
“Okay, Leebo, let’s move back. We don’t want to get hit by flying thugs.”
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