The Wedge Bagger
by FurFur, MaceVindaloo, SuSu
Wedge Antilles was tired of breaking things, killing people, and wreaking havoc throughout the galaxy. Normally, this sort of sentiment might get him arrested or even put him on 'death row.' But as hero of the New Republic and the man responsible for taking back the capitol planet from the Empire, he had earned the right to an early retirement.
He was asked, "What would you like to do instead?" The New Republic could not afford to lose him, and so thought it best to offer him any position he wished within the new government's structure.
After some thought, he decided that he wanted to build and re-construct lives, the direct opposite of what he had been doing for decades. He'd wanted to be an architect, he remembered, back in the days when his parents were still alive, and his dreams were very different.
So, he stayed within the military, but he had a desk and a mix of military and civilian crew, and he was given an area to rebuild and clean up the area which used to lie atop Ysanne Isard's Super Star Destroyer and prison ship Lusankya. The big boat had been hidden underground for many years, and when Isard realized the battle had been lost, she activated the engines for the first time. It broke free and destroyed buildings and lives for miles around. It was the logical place for Wedge to start his career as a builder and architect.
A planet-city the size of Coruscant formerly Imperial City had many beings on it of all species. The Empire was human-centric, and members of other species had been disenfranchised and were often staggeringly poor. Not able to afford leaving the planet, they stayed in ancient derelict housing. Wedge found numerous examples of code violations, and his first decisions in his new command had to do with cleaning up the hazardous materials exposed in the destruction.
One such material was thermal insulation. As it was never meant to be exposed, and dishonest tradesmen probalby injected substandard materials. They may or may not have known of the material's toxicity, but as the housing was cheap and the people living in it were poor and powerless, there was little risk to the contractors.
It wasn't right, and though Wedge would be building housing for the poor, he wanted to make sure it was good housing. But he could not figure out a way to get that awful insulation out of the old units, and he needed to clear it out before starting demolition and salvaging operations. He didn't want to put his workers at risk, either, and needed a way to get the stuff out quickly and efficiently.
He was complaining about this dilemma to his old Rogue Squadron pilots, Wes Janson and Hobbie Klivian. The two of them had remained with the Starfighter Command and were considered top gun pilot trainers. They'd razz him to come back and teach; Wedge secretly enjoyed being missed.
But tonight, he was frustrated and explained the problem to two of his best friends. He expected them to tell him to quit his job, yet again. But to his surprise, Wes and Hobbie listened and asked detailed questions about the problem.
"Wes, you remember that tunnel " Hobbie started.
"Yeah yeah," interrupted Wed, "in ... shooters, I can't remember the name of that place, but the Imps filled those tunnels with that fluffy crud we couldn't shovel out or punch through ..."
"And it was toxic if you made it burn or get wet," finished Hobbie. "You weren't there, Wedge. It was awesome."
"I'm glad, because I don't recall that campaign," Wedge was miffed that he hadn't seen any reports on it, but he was curious as to how the men had solved the problem. "So, what'd you do?"
"It was called the WowBagger " started Hobbie, but Wes stopped him.
"Nuh-uh, not telling! We have conditions!" Wes had his hand clapped over Hobbie's mouth to prevent him from telling the details to soon.
Wedge frowned, "Okay ... tell me and I won't have you arrested?"
"Nope, wrong," Wes shook his head. "The right answer is that you let us build it and do the job!"
Wedge sighed, "It's a lot of work, you idiots. You'd be at it for the rest of your lives just to clear the stuff out of one building!"
Wes pouted. "Okay, but we still build the first prototype and show you how to use it. Say yes, or no details, and you get to pull this stuff out by the fist full."
"Why do you want to do this?" Wedge couldn't figure it out. "What's the benefit to you?"
Hobbie had managed to get Wes to let go of him by biting the hand that was pressed over his mouth. While Wes was hopping about complaining of his probable lack of digits, Hobbie explained. "Gee, Wedge. We miss you. We just want a chance to hang out with you again."
Incredulous, Wedge wondered what these miscreants were up to, "Couldn't I just pay you?"
"No, no, no!" Wes was still hollering in pain. "We hang out with you, you hang out with us. You tell us we're your bestest buddies and you miss us."
Something tingled in Wedge's brain. "Did ... did Ackbar put you up to this??" He was referring to the Admiral in charge of the Navy and Starfighter Commands. Ackbar was known to be a big fan of Wedge's, and had forced him to take promotions and expand his horizons throughout his career. Wedge's leaving of Ackbar's command didn't sit well with his old boss.
Wes looked nonplussed. "Who wants to know? You saying yes? Nothing doing till you say yes!"
Wedge did agree to Wes's conditions. What else could he do? It's not just that he was desperate to find a good solution to his insulation removal, but had been having doubts about his life as a construction engineer. It was good to know that he was wanted back at the old office.
He made Wes and Hobbie describe what they were doing, so at least when Wedge left the construction corps, there'd be good documentation of this device for others to use.
He assigned a series of 'droids to track Wes and to record him as he built this contraption. There was also a 'droid to prod him to and Hobbie to talk if they got too engrossed in their work. Wedge ended up watching many hours of giggling Wes and Hobbie:
"Anyhow, it's working well, though I blew a couple of seams and I placed the filters in the wrong place (they should be at the back of the bag). It generates a metric fuckton of static though, so I need to lick that problem, any ideas? Maybe a grounding strap? Easier though than doing it by hand, but still not sure what to do with the white sausages when I've filled them.
"The first prototype, I guess we didn't remember how to make it as well as we thought we did. And it kept blowing out and stuff. Anyhow, here's the Wedge-bagger II. Much much improved, the toliet bowl flange allows me to use a spare piece of PVC pipe inside the bag to shoot the insulation as far back as possible. The much larger filter works much better, and a 26" bicycle tube works a treat to hold the bag on.
"I've doubled the length of the bag from 12.5' to 25' long, as you can only fill it up about 3/4 before the filter packs it in. I might make a hold off screen inside the bag out of wire screen to hold the insulation off the furnace filter for as long as possible. The bags take about 20min to make which is the only downside, I wish I had some way to thermo seal them instead of using tape.
"It's wet today (sprinkling here) so no static like yesterday when I couldn't even pick up the bag without getting shocked 4 or 5 times. And with the new system I only have to run the blower at 1/4-1/2 speed, it generates plenty of suction, which is good as the seams don't hold up well under full blow. Maybe the rain will push me to come up with a thermo sealer ...
At this point, the two men were smacking the 'droids around with the big insulation-filled tubes ... but Wedge had enough to make a real version of the "Wedge Bagger."
And he had to admit, flying a starfighter was a lot simpler than watching his former colleagues smack each other around and giggle a lot!
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