Chuck Wendig's final installment in Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy, Empire's End arrives on February 21 and StarWars.com has posted an exclusive excerpt shown below.
Leia startles at the sound of a furious pounding on the door, her knee banging into the table above which a glittering star map is projected. The map flickers, and when the voice comes through the door—“Leia! Leia!”—she struggles to stand swiftly, almost forgetting the tremendous living weight around her midsection. The child inside her kicks and tumbles as she endeavors to get upright. Calm down, little angel. You’ll be free soon enough.
“Mum,” says her protocol droid, T-2LC. “It appears as if someone is at the door.”
“Yes, I hear that, Elsie.” She winces as she moves out from around the couch. That couch was supposed to be comfortable—but all it does is swallow her up like a devouring sarlacc. “It’s just Han.”
“Is he in danger, mum? He sounds like he’s in danger. Should I open the door? I don’t want to let the danger in, but—”
“Leia, damnit, the door,” Han says from the other side. His voice is followed swiftly by more thumps and thuds. He’s kicking the door, she realizes.
“I’m coming!” she yells back. To the droid she says: “I’ll get it.” “But your condition, mum—”
“I’m not dying, I’m pregnant,” she snaps back, then opens the door. Han wastes no time in almost falling through it, his arm cradling a lumpy, uneven bag of something.
“Took you long enough,” he says, smirking as he juggles his footing and skirts past her, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek as he does. “Don’t you know,” she says, shooting T-2LC a dubious look, “I have a condition.”
“Elsie, I told you, Leia doesn’t have a damn condition.” But then, more seriously and in a lower register, he says to her: “You do need to slow it down a little bit.” He gestures toward the star map. “For instance.”
“I am in command of my own body, thank you very much.”
“Tell that to the little bandit,” he says, dropping the sack of whatever down on the counter in the kitchen. The little bandit is what he’s taken to calling the child currently wrestling inside her belly.
“You mean the little angel.” She follows him into the kitchen, and T-2LC’s whining servomotors behind her indicate he’s following closely behind because someone (Han) told the droid to keep close to her in case she falls. Never mind the fact the droid stays so close to her, she’s nearly tripped on his metal feet half a dozen times already. “What did you bring?”
Han winks, thrusts his hand down into the bag, and pulls it out again, gripping a jogan fruit. “Look.” He gives it a lascivious squeeze.
She sighs, crestfallen. “Is that . . . whole bag full of jogan fruit?” “Yeah. Why?”
“I cannot possibly eat that much jogan fruit.” “Sure you can.”
“Let me rephrase: I don’t want to eat that much jogan fruit.” “It’s good for you.”
“Not that good.” “The doctors—”
“Dr. Kalonia said to incorporate jogan into my diet, not to replace everything with jogan fruit.”
He sweeps up on her, cradling her face with his rough hand. He strokes her cheek gently. “All right, all right. I’m just trying to do right by you two.”
“I know, Han.”
“If I think I can help, I’ll always help. With whatever you or our son needs. You know that, right?”
She laughs. “I know.”
It’s been hard for Han. He won’t say it out loud, but she can see it on his face. Her husband needs something to do. He’s bored. Chewbacca’s back home, looking for his family. Luke’s searching the galaxy for old Jedi teachings. Han Solo’s got nothing to smuggle, nowhere to gamble, no foolish Rebellion to fight for.
He’s like the Falcon: retired to a hangar somewhere, waiting for something, anything, to happen.
So he buys fruit. Lots and lots of fruit.
And, of course, he worries about her. He turns her toward the table and the star map. “You’re not still on this, are you?”
“Leia, Kashyyyk was a fluke. We got lucky.”
“I’m always lucky with you by my side, scoundrel.” He shakes his head. “You joke, but this is nuts.”
“It’s not nuts,” she says, suddenly irritated. “What we did on Kashyyyk was the right thing to do, and you know it. If we could formalize that process, if we could target other worlds that the Senate is too cowardly to liberate, then maybe we could—with the unofficial sanction of our friendly chancellor—find a way to do right by those worlds. Which means not only do we save whole systems, but those systems might swing our way and join the chorus of voices here in the New Republic.”
He sighs. “I dunno. Can’t somebody else handle this? Just for now . . .”
“Look,” she says, heading over to the star map. “Tatooine. Kerev Doi. Demesel. Horuz. All worlds still in thrall either to some Imperial remnant or to criminal syndicates or gangs. Rebellions work. We’ve seen it. We’ve helped make it happen.”
“You know Mon’s not going to go for that.” “She already has. In a way.”
In the aftermath of the attack on Chandrila, the New Republic was left reeling. Already the whispers arose: The New Republic cannot protect itself, how can it protect us? Already the accusations have been aimed at Mon Mothma’s head like turning rifles: She is weak on military presence and now she’s injured, how can she truly lead us? Leia and Han came back bringing a much-needed—if illegal and unexpected—victory for the New Republic at a time when it badly needed it. Yes, Chandrila was attacked. But they saved Kashyyyk. They ran off the Empire and liberated the Wookiees. It was a win. And it stopped the Senate from hemorrhaging loyal senators.
She starts to say, “If we could aid rebels on each of these worlds—” “Mum,” T-2LC chimes in, literally thrusting his copper-shine protocol droid head in front of her. “You have a call.”
“I’ll take it here.” She settles back down into the couch, then swipes the star map off the projector. A new image replaces it: the face of Norra Wexley. Once a pilot for the Rebellion, and recently the leader of a team of “Imperial hunters,” tracking down the Empire’s many war criminals when they fled to various corners of the galaxy to hide. She had helped Leia in a different capacity, finding her missing husband and helping Han free Chewbacca and his planet from the Empire. Now, though? Norra is out there looking for prey most elusive: Grand Admiral Rae Sloane.
Star Wars: Aftermath – Empire’s End arrives February 21.