Charity Means Giving
This story was inspired by The Auto 'Fresh 'n Hoser, which in turn was inspired by a complaint about having to shower and get some pantyhose on for an evening event. What a hassle! Then we figured there is more than one reason for the likes of Wes and Hobbie to invent such a machine. Here is the back-story of their motivation.
"Wedge, we have to do it!"
"Why do we HAVE to do it, Wes? It's embarrassing!"
"Because, it's for a good cause. That way, when you're old and decrepit in a few years, we won't have to support you!" Wes Janson smiled merrily as a new round of lomin was brought to the table by the pretty waitress.
"And then we can spend our own retirement funds on lomin and women! Here, here!" Hobbie Klivian noisily clinked steins with his roommate.
Wedge Antilles sighed and rubbed his face with his hands, a habit he'd developed over the years. He did it any time he knew he should give up, because he wasn't going to win the situation in front of him.
"We can do it! Wedge just gave us permission!" Wes chugged his lomin and banged the handled mug onto the table. "Okay, I'm going to register us as a team, Hobs! You keep the old guy company here, okay? Be right back!"
Wedge sipped his lomin slowly, hoping he could deaden the pain of a bad idea with alcohol. "Hobbie, explain to me again, what does this scavenger hunt entail??"
Hobbie was fastidiously spooning all the foam off the top of his lomin. He didn't like getting a lomin moustache and this was his usual ritual. Thus Hobbie was usually less drunk than everyone around him, and Wedge had gotten into the habit of asking the man to clarify things as everyone else got drunker in the late evening.
"It's easy, Wedge. You find stuff, you perform some stunts, you build something. There are prizes based on how fast, how well, how much you found, and grand prize for best building of whatever it is you draw out of a hat." Hobbie had finished making a puddle of foam onto the table and was scooping it onto Wes's seat again, an ongoing ritual.
"Hobbie ... you guys won't tell me what stunts ... why won't you tell me what stunts? And what are you building??"
"You're not drunk enough for that Wedge. How do you expect stuff like this to get implemented if you're not drunk? I mean, when you're sober, everything sounds like a bad idea. You're a bit of a spoil-sport like that, Wedge."
"Hobbie, I'm going to tell Wes you put your foam on his seat again ..."
"See what I mean Wedge? You're a spoil-sport. He knows I put it there. He obviously likes it ... he sits on it every time, doesn't he??"
"Hobs, I must be drunk. You're making sense. Now tell me ..."
Hobbie giggled, "Okay, okay. I hear the judges this year are all women, which means hose."
Oh gadz ... I must be drunk ... "Hobbie, what are hose?"
"Wedge, didn't you ever watch a game of smashmouth? How do you think they keep their shins from splitting?? They wear pads which adhere to hose, which are a sort of tight legging which covers you from toe to butt. Women wear the sheer, light ones. You should hear them griping about having to put them on in the mornings, especially if they've taken a water-shower. Seems the legs have to be bone-dry to get those suckers on."
Wedge started to drink faster, hoping that if he got drunker, Hobbie would make sense.
Wes came back and sat down on the pile of foam and beer which Hobbie had left on his seat and started blabbing about some of the prize offerings. "Hey, my butt's wet! Damn, I should've stopped at the 'fresher "
"Please Wes," Wedge's head was pounding, "no, don't talk about that now ... between Hobbie talking about women and wearing hose and you being an idiot, I'm going to kill myself!"
"You can't," said Hobbie, very seriously, "or else we'd be wasting our effort! We're doing this to raise money for the war veteran's retirement fund, and you'll be one long before us, like we said before! Think of it as a charitable act, okay? Stop thinking about yourself for once!"
"You never listen Wedge," agreed Wes, who was busy pouring lomin onto the entire length of his leggings. "Ah ... now I'll smell like ale and no one will think I pee'd myself!"
"Wedge," Hobbie whispered to him, "the prize money, half of it goes to the fund, half to the winners. How much is based on donations and sponsorship."
Wedge had finished another lomin, "You complaining you want more of the share? I don't think "
Hobbie shook his head, "No! Wedge, Wes and I will put all the money to the retirement pension fund, we promise. We're not doing it for ourselves charity means giving, right?"
"Yes," Wes was hollering lightly, as he was quite tipsy and couldn't modulate the volume of his voice, "charity means giving, and we're giving it to you!"
"I'm not drunk enough for this ... am I? What's the catch?"
"Say 'yes' first, Wedge."
"Do you take me for an idiot?" Wedge suddenly grasped the edge of the table, for the room suddenly lurched to the left in his vision.
"That means yes," Wes was hollering louder now. "Tell him!"
"Great thanks, Wedge! It's not much, you won't regret it. Remember you're benefiting directly from our largesse. So we don't think it's much to ask you to help us demonstrate our invention when we show it to the judges!"
The two miscreants had to bodily carry Wedge home that night. It was the first time they'd ever had to do that.
* * * * *
The judges were announced at the start of the competition: Princess Leia Organa of the Provisional Council; former-General Lando Calrissian and Tendra Risant, owners of mining interests throughout the galaxy; Dr. Qui Xux, lately of Vortex, where she was involved in the repair of the Cathedral of the Winds; Nien Nunb, owner and Chief Administrator of the Kessel mines; and Talon Karrde, head of the unallied Joint Intelligence Agency and former head of the Smugglers' Alliance. People wondered how something like a fund raiser for war veterans could attract such a diverse, high-profile group of judges. In truth, all of the judges owed something to veterans of the Galactic wars, and specifically to the commander of Rogue Squadron, Wedge Antilles.
Wedge was mortified to find himself as the representative of the veterans; Wes and Hobbie explained to him in whispers that without him, they'd never attract so many wealthy donors if not for the judges. And the judges never would have agreed to it if Wedge had not been acting as spokesman. Wedge had been wanted throughout the galaxy by the Empire, had staged his own war against Ysanne Isard, even after the New Republic had captured Coruscant. He'd been a hero within the ranks of all military men, women, and aliens, and was often an enemy by reputation, so great were his accomplishments. Right now, he was also hungover.
But Wedge was a modest man and hated politics and diplomacy, though he'd performed both functions as ordered. He kept telling himself that he was here on display not because he'd been muscled by his fellow pilots, but because he'd been asked to participate by none other than Princess Leia. She pointed out to him, "Wedge, if I have to show up at this circus, so do you and you'd at least get to see the benefit of it if you live long enough!" Wedge swore that next year, he'd be somewhere safer than near this competition ... like in orbit around Nal Shadda without a magcon suit!
Thus, Wedge could hardly say no to the demands made for this inaugural event. Up till now, there were no government-based pensions available for anyone. He knew he should be grateful for this period of relative peace, so that a distant future of the rewards of old age could be considered for military men and women.
The rules for the event were explained to contestants right after the opening ceremonies. The contestants could work in teams of up to four beings, and the end result had to be a device of a new sort to solve a problem: this year's problem was "how to make life easier in the mornings."
Wedge furrowed his brow, "I thought it was a scavenger hunt?" He tried to remember what Wes and Hobbie had told him, but quite frankly he could not say if this thought was one that was actually told to him, or if it was wishful thinking?
"It was," Leia whispered back at him, "but several of the things to be found had 'disappeared' seems the items have some value to thieves. Kaarde had advised against finding objects, since the contestants could end up resorting to thievery. The contest was revised to include a different sort of scavenging hunt."
Leia explained that the contest would take place in the central junkyard and garbage pit of the city-planet. It was reasoned that the unusual venue would allow the contestants to find what they needed toward creating their inventions. However, it was understood that like everywhere on the overcrowded planet had being living on it. There was a whole economy of scavenging in these junkpits, which would require the contestants to barter, borrow, and cajole with these professional scavengers for the things they needed to win the prize. For that, each team would be given a number of credits to accomplish their buying. If additional credits were needed, they had to sell something or barter for the items.
Wes and Hobbie waved to their commanding officer and everyone they recognized, which was to say, everyone on the judging panel. The two goofballs were well-liked and actually well-respected; Wedge tried to avert his eyes from them. He knew that the two would have no trouble getting anything they needed from anyone, and he hoped that complaints from females could be kept to a minimum.
* * * * *
"You've got it all wrong," Hobbie sounded wounded, "I'm not asking for your pantyhose for myself! It's for the good of all women!"
Fedra Duus did not budge. She had collected women's hose in all states of damage, and made a decent enough living recycling them by cleaning, sorting and selling them to others who could use them for weaving objects like nets or baskets, or for art. She had never been asked for used, intact hose for wearing, and certainly not by men!
"Why don't you just buy a new pair? You boys look like you can afford 'em. That's where the rest of the kinky boys get theirs." The men were actually dressed rather shabbily in grimy workclothes, but she did have a good point.
"See, darlin'," Wes drawled his words out slowly, fancying his tone was persuasive, "we are conducting experiments to help women put their hose on again after they'd been worn once. Not worn then refreshed ... worn, removed, and then worn again. You know what I mean, darlin'?" Wes winked politely.
Fedra sniffed at him, "I suggest a brothel, then."
Wes chuckled, "You're a bright one, darlin'." He persisted in calling her by the diminutive, even though she was older than him, "but we're not that sort of men. We're inventors, not sleezeballs."
When she cast him a surprised and incredulous look, Hobbie nearly burst out laughing, but he choked it down and pretended to cry instead. "We just want to make life easy for the type of woman who must resort to that sort of lifestyle, don't you see?" He sniffled and whined long enough till he saw that Wes had managed to procure a large armful of used hose from the woman's stash. Hobbie kept talking to keep her attention from Wes's activities.
"Those poor, unfortunate girls ... I'm sure they don't have the money to rinse out their hose between customers ... and then they have to look attractive for their next ..."
"You're pimps, aren't you?" Fedra's eyes raged with anger, "You're trying to invent something to make your girls look good! Get out!" She picked up a stick and hit Hobbie with it on the back as he retreated!
"Stop, thief!" The junkwoman was shrieking as she was knocked over by Wes running out with armfuls of hose.
"Pay her!" Wes hollered at Hobbie as he ran in a different direction to make it harder for Fedra to follow them.
"Thank you for your time and produce, madam!" Hobbie tossed her a purse of credit chits in small denominations. He figured it was more than she likely made in a week, so she wouldn't end up calling the local constabulary on them. Besides, the rules clearly stated that if they got arrested, they'd be disqualified from the contest!
They stopped running when she stopped to pick up the purse, then screech for joy when she opened it. "I guess that means 'sold'," panted Wes, when he met up at an appointed place a few minutes later. "She's stopped yelling and running after us."
"For all the trouble, we should have just offered her the money in the first place," pouted Hobbie.
"Eh, win some, lose some," said Wes, packing the used hose in his rucksack, "she might've given it to us for free. She was a hard bitch. Anything else we need?"
Sitting down next to a pile of mechanical springs and gears, they went through their list. "Just the motor," said Wes, "but you said you knew a place where we could get one cheap. Or free. I hope free, because we're out of the credits we got from the judges."
"Right, right," said Hobbie. "Okay, that was the task of our team member."
"You mean Luke? What's he doing?"
"Making the motor. Let's go."
Wes looked confused, "How'd you get him to do that?"
Hobbie smirked, "I know something about Luke you don't!"
Wes was very upset, "What do you know? And you never told me!"
"I was his best friend's best friend at the Imp academy, remember?"
Wes thought carefully, then recalled, "Oh, you mean that Biggs Darklighter guy? Yeah, I remember him. You're right, the time I spent with him on Yavin IV, he only talked about guys he knew. He did say Luke was special. I just assumed they were "
"Nothing like that, idiot," Hobbie stopped his friend, "Biggs told me that Luke was a mechanical and electronic wizard, could build an engine or motor out of string and a paperclip. And if you could make a washer fly, Luke could pilot and land it. Biggs told me this anytime we were assigned to clean or repair stuff, always a goody two-shoes parable-telling "
"Speaking of Biggs," Wes was much more somber, "remember, we promised to live enough for him and all the others who died."
"Right," Hobbie let himself wipe a tear away, "we're doing this for the ones who lived ... so let's get going. Luke said he'd leave the motor in the 56th quadrant for us, under some Bakuran sunfruit peels ..."
* * * * *
Wes and Hobbie arrived somewhat later than the other contestants, which was understandable considering that the contraption they were hauling in was huge. Other teams had brought in objects no larger than a Wookiee, and most were smaller. The devices ranged from automated breakfast cookers, to adhesive appliers to be used to fix errant hems and accidentally torn clothing, to machines that simply swallowed garbage and rapidly broke it down chemically, or compacted it something very relevant in a crowded, garbage-producing, living planet.
They were all very interesting, and Lando and Tendra, who would buy the winning device for future development as part of the prize, took a long time talking to the teams. So at first, no one noticed the two Rogue pilots quietly dragging in and setting up their huge contraption.
They'd used the extra hose they'd bought from Fedra Duus to roughly weave a sort of net which was now covering part of the device. In truth, even though they didn't have enough opaque fabric to cover the whole thing, it was impossible to figure out what it could possibly be by looking at the exposed parts.
As the set-up was completed, one-by-one, the judges took notice and stopped what they were doing to stare at the thing, then at the men who had brought it in.
"Well, hello, gentlemen," Lando Calrissian came toward them and clasped their hands, "So nice of you to finally arrive! We were contemplating sending out a search party in the junkpit! From your aroma, you did spend quite a while in there."
"Nice to see you, too, former-General," replied Hobbie, merrily. "Met some of your friends in the junkpit, they send you their regards and ask why you don't write?"
There was an uncomfortable silence as the other contestants and some of the judges thought this insult to the prize-buyers was out-of-line, but Lando merely laughed easily, "If I thought you guys could read, I'd have you deliver the messages!"
Wes joined in, "We're wholly unreliable, former-General, sir. Unless the recipient is a curvy "
"You've met Tendra?" Lando was used to Wes and Hobbie, and introducing his very beautiful business partner was a good way to change the subject.
"A pleasure!" Tendra held out her hand, which was only slightly mauled by the two men who attempted to kiss it. Instead, they knocked their skulls together, which everyone noted made a sound like two gourds banging together. "You gentleman seem to have a very large entry into the contest! Can you elucidate it's use and operation?" The amber-haired woman smiled charmingly to the two men she knew by reputation.
"Of course, milady," declared Hobbie, warming up to the sales pitch. "This project is one dear to us. As you know, we are pilots, and the charity which is to benefit from your generous purchase of the winning entry will benefit our brethren directly, and serve as a suitable memorial to those men and women who died toward the fighting of the galaxy's freedom."
Wes picked up speaking next, "It is also dear to us because this particular device solves a real and important problem in the morning: getting washed and dressed in the smallest amount of time possible. It's bad enough if you are a man, which we know from personal experience. But from the testimony of many women, getting dressed in the morning is even more troublesome if you are a woman!"
The whole gathering was now clustered around the device; only Wedge Antilles had his eyes closed, and his lips seemed to be mumbling a prayer.
"The main problem seems to be pantyhose," Hobbie continued, "not only do they have to be carefully pulled on to prevent what are called 'runs' and holes, but the legs must be clean and dry for this to happen smoothly. What's more, if a lady was exercising her rights as a full individual and occasionally spent the evening other than in her domicile, she might be forced to put the hose onto her legs which she had worn the previous day."
"Now," interjected Wes, in what was now apparently a rehearsed presentation, "we are not judgmental fellows. What a woman does with herself is her own business, but we do feel that you can make money with our invention, which makes it your business! Behold! The completely automatic, easy-to-use 'Fresh 'n Hoser!"
As Hobbie pulled off the scrap covering what looked like an elevated tank tread, like one on a Jawa sandcrawler. The audience was totally perplexed.
Lando nodded, as if he understood. "Could you give us a demonstration of how this works, boys?"
"Oh, yes!" Hobbie was smiling broadly. "In fact, we already have a volunteer! General Antilles? Could you please fulfill your promise?"
All heads swiveled to look at Wedge, who looked very pale. Wes was already by his side and pushing him forward, whispering discretely, "C'mon Wedge, you promised!"
Wedge hissed back fiercely, "No, I didn't!"
"Wedge, you remember the deal ... if we win, Tendra and Lando buy the invention, we get half, the retirement fund gets half. And we promised we'd donate our half to the fund if you helped with this demo! You agreed!" Wes kept walking his commanding officer toward the machine.
"Just a moment, folks," said Hobbie to the crowd, "the General has to be readied properly for a realistic demo." He'd taken the fabric that had been covering part of the machine and hung it off a stand to provide some privacy screening, and helped Wes push Wedge behind it.
The audience giggled as they watched the shadows behind the screen. They thought it was all part of the show, as the two pilots held Wege down between them and appeared to strip him! Finally, Wedge's body seemed to relax and Hobbie stepped out from the screen holding one end of a rope, "Ladies and gentlemen, we are ready for the demonstration!"
The crowd whooped and hollered as Wedge came out mostly undressed, his wrists tied behind him! The other end of the rope Hobbie held was tied around his neck, and Wes had a pikestaff with which he was prodding his commanding officer forward. "Forgive us for the not totally realistic depiction," explained Wes to the guffawing crowd, "but the General here prefers to preserve his modesty, but I assure you, he's more than adequately "
The machine was started with a huge CLUNK, interrupting the description of what was adequate about the General. The two pilots bodily carried, pulled, and poked Wedge to the rolling, suspended tread, and the judges watched in fascination as dryrays from the microwave refresher unit cleaned Wedge's body. As his body moved down the tread, Hobbie hollered loudly, "Wedge, pick up your legs for the hoser part!"
His eyes still closed, General Antilles did as he was told, telling himself that the more he complied, the sooner this nightmare would be over. He cringed as he heard the whir of holocam 'droids recording this event. Then he felt a mechanical arm grab his right ankle to steady it, then the feel of something silky on his feet.
"Don't squirm, Wedge! The electric eyes aren't the best, okay? And point your toes!" Wes advised.
"It tickles!" complained Wedge.
"Yeah, doesn't it?" The two pilots agreed, smiling, pleased at how well the contraption was working. Wedge closed his eyes again.
Then Wedge felt his body being pulled up as the hose were worked up his legs, and pulled over his skivvies. He felt the elastic snap over his waist, then he felt his body being flipped down, forcing him to stand. He felt his feet being slipped into trouser legs, and he opened his eyes. He saw his shoes on the ground and stepped into them, as he'd been instructed previously by the inventors. A mechanical pincher arm grabbed a zipper and closed it, then he felt something being plunked onto his head.
The audience applauded as Hobbie pulled Wedge forward, "Ladies and gentlemen! Refreshed, hosed, dressed and ready to go in under four minutes! As the user becomes used to the motions, another minute could be shaved off this time. Note that in particular, the hose went on smoothly, without rips of ladders, even when the hose were clearly stretched from previous use!" Wes had been pulling the trouser legs up to display Wedge's efficient stocking-cladding.
Wedge felt the whole thing was surreal. Was he in his old flightsuit and helmet wearing almost nothing but pantyhose underneath?!?
* * * * *
Wedge sat at the tapcaf booth with Wes and Hobbie with his shoulders slumped down, his head on the table. He was crying into his lomin, mortified that the image of his near-naked body had rated prime-time showing on the local holonews.
The ridiculous and entertaining invention dreamed up by Wes and Hobbie had not won first place, but Tendra and Lando had bought it as well as the first-place prize winner. They actually paid much more for Wes and Hobbie's invention than the first-place trash compactor. In fact, they purchased all the machines on a sliding scale, even the ones which did not work when they were presented. Perhaps something would come of the ideas after real engineers had looked at the plans, and it was a generous consolation prize to all the entrants. It was an enormous success and the fund had a healthy endowment with which to start the awarding of pensions to those who needed them.
But no one really remembered who had won first place and why, because it was the sight of Wedge Antilles, General of the New Republic Starfighter Command, which had captured the interest of the masses. The news stations had been flooded with requests to find out more about the General, with questionings ranging from his marriage status to whether he'd consider modeling bondage fetishwear.
"You've embarrassed me, you idiots! Mortally and foolishly! I'll never be able to show myself again!" It was hard to hear Wedge through the accent of a drunken man. "And what's worse, you put me in my old uniform! You've embarrassed all of Starfighter Command! All of our history as the Allian"
"Aw, Wedge, the comments have been largely favorable! I'm rather jealous, if you must know," Hobbie was trying to speak in a reassuring tone.
"Yeah, Wedge! They even referred to your package is a bantha hum" Wes would have continued, but the server 'droid had come with new drinks, and they busied themselves emptying out the collection of mugs and glasses for the 'droid to take away.
"I'm a laughing stock," wailed Wedge, "Starfleet will kick me out! My life and reputation are so over! And you gave out those cards with pictures of you on the thing naked!! People will thing horrible things about me!"
Everyone knew this wasn't true, but then again, perhaps the illustrated instruction cards they'd handed out to all the judges and members of the press were a bit much. They had humiliated Wedge and wondered if they'd gone a bit too far, perhaps. The two men were hoping that getting Wedge a girl for the night might compensate him for his suffering, but considering how long their commanding officer had been weeping and wailing tonight, this was looking doubtful.
"Luke was on your team, I saw the entry form," sniffed Wedge, "why didn't he have to do the demonstration??"
Hobbie sighed, "We told you Wedge, he built the motor. He made us promise that this was all he had to do, or we wouldn't have been able to get the thing to work at all."
"I don't know why you're upset, Wedge. We did donate our share of the prize money to the fund. We did a good thing! Say something nice about us!" Wes had drained his lomin mug and was motioning for another.
But instead of a server 'droid, several young women came to the table. They weren't dressed like tapcaf servers; in fact, they were seductively and attractively clad. "Ladies!" Wes greeted them cheerfully, recognizing them as prospects for the night, "And what may I do for you?"
"Excuse me," said a sloe-eyed brunette, "but is that General Antilles? The one on the holonews?"
Wedge groaned and put his arms over his head. "Why, yes, he is, ladies," Hobbie was answering on his behalf. "But he's a bit tired right now, having been making the celebrity rounds. But we are authorized to answer questions on his behalf. Please, won't you join us?" Hobbie had slipped out of the booth and was pushing one of the women into his abandoned seat, and pulling the brunette onto his lap. "There, isn't that more comfy?"
"Oh! We ... my friends and I ... we just think it's so admirable for a man like the General to put so much into the pension fund. We all have relatives who have died in the Galactic War, and others who will benefit from the fund ... and we just wanted to say 'thank you,' personally." The brunette wriggled a little as Hobbie nuzzled her neck and put his arms around waist to keep her from getting up.
The voluptuous red-head batted her eyes at Wedge's head, "Yes, and we also greatly admired that you'd invent a machine for us ladies! You're quite a man to subject yourself to the torture of hose for our sake!" They noticed she was clutching one of the instruction cards they'd handed out that afternoon. "Do you suppose General Antilles would sign his card for me?"
Wedge's head popped up with surprise at the woman's girlish, squealing request. "But, I ..."
Wes shoved Wedge's head down firmly, "What the General means, ma'am, is that he's honored. He's just shy. But he's a really charitable guy, gives so much of himself for others! Oh, here, let me get that for you." He reached over to the blonde's shoulder to adjust a falling strap. She batted her eyes at him as his fingers lingered over the fastenings of her dress.
"Will the General be okay? He looks "
"Oh yes!" Hobbie replied to the red-head. "Say, would you like to come and see the newly patented 'Fresher and Hoser' prototype in action? I'm sure we could get the General to show you how easy it is to use ..."
"And you could even try it yourselves, if you'd like," added Wes, winking at Hobbie. "We'd appreciate your testimonials in field-testing the General's invention, we'd really be grateful!"
The following morning, the three men had to admit that after an enjoyable evening, there was nothing nicer than getting overnight visitors cleaned up and out of the apartment in just under four minutes!
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