Girl On a Swoop Bike Rating: PG

A girl on a swoop bike races flat out across the Tatooine desert.

She rides low, hugging the bodywork, and on the back of that big beast of a machine, she looks like an afterthought, an extension of the chassis.

Her tanned skin and leather trousers are cast in the same burnt, sand-smoothed, oil-sheened colours as the rest of the bike, as much a part of the machine as the cowling, the engine-block, or the steering vanes.

Her black hair and her bright red top are just flashes of colour in the slipstream, vibrant against the light-blurred sand and sky — decorative accessories, like the gleaming chrome surface on the long shafts of the steering-sticks.

She rides low, wrapped around the hot-running engine — legs clenched tight on the flanks of the hull, bare belly pressed against the padded leather seat, her body throbbing in time to the dynamo pulse of the motor. Her lean-muscled arms are raised — shoulders cocked back, cuisses thrust forward, small fists clenched tight around the ribbed plastic grips of the steering-sticks.

Some people say that Jaya Desilijic Organa is only happy when she has the warm, lean chassis of a speeder-bike between her thighs. And when she’s in the saddle, you can see exactly what they mean. She's crouched across the back of her old Ubrikkian Skybird like a racing pilot, goggles pulled down over her eyes, dark hair whipping around her face in the wind, a great big grin curling from one side of her mouth to the other.

Behind her — eight hundred metres and closing fast — two squads of Imperial biker scouts follow in pursuit.

But Jaya seems oblivious to the danger. She's grinning. To look at her, you might think she's surrendered completely to the swoop, so intimately involved in the ever-shifting interplay of speed and movement and mechanical power that she doesn't consciously realise there are eight troopers from Storm Command chasing up her tail.

But then she glances over her shoulder at the tidal wave of dust kicking up half a mile behind her, and at the white-flecked black shapes of the biker scouts tucked in under its crest — and her grin flashes even broader.

She opens the throttle, and a flash of heat and light flares from the ion booster, punching her swoop up even faster.

She'd say top speed, but she's never actually found the bike's limits, or her own.

And yeah, she's loving this.

Jaya Desilijic Organa has been getting into trouble on a regular basis since she first learned to ride, back in her early teens. Her father knows that he always needs to have an excuse ready for her, just like he does for her wayward mother. But it helps that most people never actually see her like this. They simply can't keep up with her snubbed-up Skybird's four-hundred-knot crusing speed.

When she's already boosted out to the horizon before they even know what's happened, when people have to work out an understanding of what she's done from gossip and rumour and the word on the street, they believe what they're told about why she's done it, too.

They believe that she surrenders herself to the speed and power to find a happiness that otherwise eludes her. They believe that she slips out from under her own conscious control, that she becomes a creature of instinct and intuition at the controls of that bike — an animal.

After all, that's what her father tells them — and when he offers an opinion, there aren't many people on Tatooine who'd dare to offer even a whimper of disagreement.

You don't argue with Jabba the Hutt.

Especially not where his daughter is concerned.

He's palpably proud of her — she's smart, and beautiful, and deadly, the leader of the most powerful swoop gang in Mos Eisley at just twenty-one. She's also very useful to him, because she acts as his eyes and ears in the spaceport city, and her Twin Suns are the most loyal, and most efficient, combination of muscle and metal that he can call on.

But she also loves him, and that means more than anything else in the Galaxy.

Even before she learnt to say 'Dada', Jaya loved her father — simply adored him, without hesitation or question. He remembers cradling her in his arms when she was a few hours old, seeing the laughter and delight in her innocent infant face, and thinking how much human babies looked like little Hutts. He remembers how she used to crawl over his tail and back when she was learning to walk, and he remembers laughing and clapping with delight when she took her first steps — and the shocked looks on the faces of his friends.

He remembers how Jaya's love for him finally undermined her mother's weary resistance.

She's made her father a very happy Hutt. She's made her mother very happy, too. And she's made the three of them a family.

So Jabba will indulge her. He'll tell the world that she's wild and happy, and they'll believe him.

And father and daughter will catch each other's eye, and smile their matching smiles at each other, and know the truth.

She doesn't court danger like some of the other swoopers, but she relishes the challenge. She likes the fact that she can make herself the mistress of any situation — even the impossible speeds and razor-edges angles of high-speed swoop-racing.

And, of course, she likes to fly.

The zipping blaster-bolts that are sing past her hull now are just more obstacles to dodge, more things to have fun with. This is a dance for her, a half-hour's entertainment with a bunch of guys who she's going to have a good time with, but who she has no intention of getting really close to.

The watcher, tracking her across the sand through his macrobinocs, knows none of his. To his eyes, she seems oblivious to the danger. He watches her, and he glances back to the Imperials behind her, and feels his heart in his throat.

Behind the cowled lens of the battered old viewer, his eyes narrow in keen despair. He's seen too much death, too much innocence destroyed.

Without time for thought, Jaya slews the swoop right round, shedding speed in a scything skid-wave of sand as she turns to face the biker scouts. Even at that distance, he sees her grin — a quirk at the side of her mouth.

And then he sees her jaw drop in surprise as the Superfortress shoulders its way through the dust-cloud, and the scouts snap out to flanking positions on either side of its vast hull.

He snaps down his goggles over his face and opens his own throttle, lifting his own swoop up out of the hollow where he has been hiding.

He has to do something about this, he decides.

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