It had been a good evening. The server had disrupted the Star Trek Trivia somewhat, but Bria was rather happy with the event in general. She set about writing the update to post the results.
Iain and Hobbie bickered over MSN, as usual, but she was pretty good at drowning it out by now. Having just plotted to give Bria the Star Trek Trivia Master rank, both Hobbie and Iain were rather glad of that. Bria was too involved in the Update to pay this much attention, so she let it pass.
"I'm concentrating on writing a serious update here!" she told them.
Iain didn't believe a word. "If that's a serious update, I'll kiss a Wookiee." Hobbie shared his scepticism, but found something better to follow up.
He grinned at Iain. "I can arrange that."
Bria saw what he meant immediately. She smiled. "It is a serious update."
Iain looked at Hobbie in horror, then at Bria. "I'm doomed! Can I retract my last statement? Please?"
Hobbie smiled at him. "No, kiss my Wookiee."
Iain's look of horror deepened as Bria burst out laughing. "Hobbie!" he shouted. "I hate you!"
Hobbie grinned. "Chewie loves you too."
"You and your Wookiee!" Iain gave Hobbie an accusing glance.
Bria went back to writing the update with new inspiration. "Actually, Iain, you are doomed…"
Iain stared. "I hate you both!"
Bria finished the update, and once it had been posted it was clear just how doomed Iain was. Or was he really?
"Coming out of lightspeed," Bria commented. Starlines flared and became pinpricks of light, and the Stellar Rogue's sublight engines hummed to life.
"Right on target," Hobbie said. "Good co-pilot you got here." He nodded appreciatively.
Bria gave him a look, but couldn't quite go through with it. "You," she said, laughing.
He grinned. "Yeah, me. Me, me, me."
She shook her head and concentrated on the controls. "Guess we'll start in Rwookrorro, right?"
"Sure, whatever you want." Hobbie frowned at the displays. "Just watch where you fly."
"Always." The comm crackled to life, and Hobbie leaned back and fiddled with the navicomputer while Bria argued with planetary control. The controller was clearly a droid, which made it a lot easier for Bria to talk him into giving the Stellar Rogue permission to land and assign them a docking bay.
She signed off with an exaggerated "Thank you" and turned back to the controls. "All right, Docking Bay 14, transmitting the course now."
"Got it." Hobbie keyed in the course and flicked a switch. "Let's go do this."
"I don't get it." Hobbie's expression was dark as he flung himself into the seat opposite Bria. She looked up from her datapad.
"What's the matter?"
"Ah." He gestured with his hand, as if he could just throw his problems aside. "Never would have thought it'd be this hard to find a Wookiee on Kashyyyk. I mean, I've heard of not seeing the forest because there are too many trees in the way, but this is ridiculous."
He shook his head. Bria sighed. "Me neither."
They'd been hanging around Rwookrorro for almost a week, asking around shops, cantinas, shopping centres, various clubs, sport associations, even nightclubs. There was no shortage of Wookiee ladies, but not one of them seemed willing to leave their home for Iain and Outpost 10f.
"What am I doing wrong?" Hobbie asked. "Why don't I ever have any luck?"
"You have luck," Bria told him. "Think about it. Do you really want to be lucky with the ladies around here?"
"Good point." He sighed. "Still, I thought Iain might be."
"We're going to find someone," Bria said. "Trust me."
Hobbie gave her a doubtful look.
"Look," she said. "This is only Rwookrorro. We can try the Wartaki Island next, maybe we'll find someone there."
"What if we don't?"
"We'll look somewhere else. We'll find someone."
"Stop being such a pessimist," Bria said. "Come on. Show a bit of spirit."
"I've been doing that for a week now," Hobbie told her. "My capacity for happiness is limited."
Bria gave him a look. "Look, we're going to find Iain a Wookiee. And if I only do it to prove you wrong."
Hobbie raised his eyebrows. "I hope you know what you're doing. I only know one thing."
"I'm never, ever, setting up a Wookiee Dating Agency."
Bria went to get the ship ready for takeoff and do the preflights while Hobbie hung around the docking bay, checking umbilicals and half-heartedly arguing with a droid mechanic about the necessity of giving the Stellar Rogue a paint job.
"Look, I have enough trouble keeping the captain away from paint as it is," he said. "The last thing this ship needs is more paint."
"It doesn't appear to have been painted in years, sir," the droid persisted.
Hobbie looked at him. "Had a look at the inside? Thought not." He checked the fuel line and continued his round of the ship.
"But sir, a new paint cover would not cost you anything extra and-"
"I don't like free things. They make me nervous," Hobbie said. "Besides, I don't want to have to deal with Bria if you paint her ship. She'll be in a mood for days, I know what she's like."
"Look, tin can." Hobbie levelled a finger at the droid. "Stuff it. All right?"
That ended the argument. It also got him the attention of a male Wookiee standing by the entrance of the docking bay and seeming displeased. He growled and gestured at the droid.
"So?" Hobbie asked, not much in the mood for another argument. "Might be your droid, but it's not your ship."
The Wookiee barked and growled some more.
Hobbie shrugged. "As if droids care about being told to stuff it."
The ensuing roar set him back on his heels. Apparently, this particular guy was of the sort who cared about everything and everyone. He probably thanked his cutlery and hugged his bed goodnight, too. Hobbie sighed, thought some evil thoughts about nice guys, and glared at the Wookiee.
"Look, pal," he said. "You're more than welcome to tell the ship to stuff it in return, if you want to."
The Wookiee paused, looked at him, and then guffawed with laughter. His comment made Hobbie grin. "No, we don't have a protocol droid around anymore. It got annoying once too often."
The Wookiee sympathised and Hobbie allowed that okay, maybe the cutlery went un-thanked after all.
"Hobbie!" Bria was standing at the top of the ramp. "Come on, flyboy, what's keeping you?"
"The Wook," Hobbie called back wryly.
"Hey, I thought Iain was meant to kiss them. Not you."
"As ordered, highnessness. Wouldn't want you to get jealous." He winked. The Wookiee tipped his head to one side and issued a short growl.
Bria rolled her eyes at Hobbie and joined the two at the bottom of the ramp. "Hey," she said. "I'm Bria Terrik. This is Hobbie Klivian, since I'm sure he hasn't introduced himself."
The Wookiee informed them that is name was Grantalzr. Hobbie stared. "Can I buy a few vowels?"
Bria nudged him. Grantalzr laughed and told them that "Grant" was what most people shortened it to.
Hobbie gave Bria a triumphant look. "Now that, I can handle."
Grant growled and barked a few times. Bria looked at him. "Yes, I said "kiss"."
He turned to Hobbie and woofed an inquiry. Hobbie looked at him indignantly. "No, I don't want to kiss a Wookiee. Like Bria said, that's Iain's thing, not mine."
"Iain's a member of our group," Bria said in response to the next bemused question. "He likes Wookiees, see, and we're on a mission to set him up with one."
There was a surprised, drawn-out hrrrrrnnnnnn and Bria grinned. "Well, I can show you... hang on."
She began telling him about Iain while digging for her datapad and calling up a picture of Iain. Grant took it gingerly and peered at the screen.
"And he's got a penchant for dancing to "I like to move it" and -"
Bria trailed off when Hobbie laid a hand on her arm. Grant was staring at the picture with a rapt expression on his furred face. He growled softly and leaned close to the display. His blue eyes were gentle and bore delight as he rumbled deep in his throat. Bria and Hobbie looked at each other, back at the Wookiee, then back at each other. Bria's eyebrows were raised in surprise and incredulity, and when she met Hobbie's eyes, mischief was written all over her face. Hobbie was trying his best to smother his grin, but from the spark in his eyes it was clear that he had found yet another way to cause trouble.
"You like him?" Bria asked innocently.
Grant seemed to notice then that he and the datapad were not alone. He growled, barked and woofed enthusiastically.
"Take that as a yes," Hobbie commented.
"Listen." Bria looked at Grant. "How would you like to come with us? To meet Iain?"
More enthusiastic growls and barks. Bria and Hobbie grinned at each other, then Bria turned back to Grant, who was still busy expressing his enthusiasm.
"Well, collect whatever you need and we'll be on our way."
"I swear, one more day and you can sign me up for the Axis," Hobbie growled as he dropped into the copilot's chair.
"What's eating you?" Bria did not look up from her display. Data scrolled across the display; a cargo list. Hobbie glared at it. It kept scrolling, unconcerned.
"Nothing," he bit out.
She looked over at him, askance. "Sounds like it. What's the matter? Ewok in your closet?"
"No." Hobbie cast a glance aft. "Bit bigger than an Ewok, isn't he."
Bria raised her eyebrows. "Did he eat your portion of dinner or something? I thought you were all for this operation."
"I was," Hobbie shot back. "I just didn't realise we'd be this successful. There's a limit to how much and how long I can talk about Iain."
"There's a limit to how much you can talk?"
"Depends on what the topic is. Iain's a great guy and all, but this stuff gets repetitive."
"Take it easy, flyboy, we're coming up on OTF."
"I know, I heard the alert. Otherwise I'd still be stuck with the Wook."
Bria gave him a look. "Be nice to him, will you? This is the best chance we've got."
He shrugged. "Fine. I'm not the one whose artwork he destroyed, so I guess I can't complain."
"What?" Bria stared at him.
"Didn't I tell you about that?"
Hobbie could hear the bat floating at the end of that question. "You know that weird sculpture thing in the cargo hold? Silvery, wiry thing. Looks kinda electric."
"What did he do to it?"
"Sat on it," Hobbie said. "He thought it was a massage chair or something."
Bria seemed to shrink. "Oh no. Oh no. Klivian, that's the new plasma cortex generator that Jaden wants for the Senate building! Do you have any idea what that's worth? Do you know how dead this makes me?"
"Well, he didn't know that!" Hobbie retorted. "Neither did I."
"Think we can fix it or something?" he asked.
"Sure, you try to fix something like that after a Wookiee sat on it," Bria told him bitterly. "Never again, Klivian. Never again."
"We can agree on that," he said, and for once, he really meant it.
"AJ! Didn't you say that the coffee machine was fixed?" SG asked, leaning in the doorway.
"Yes, I did." AJ was lounging in a comfortable chair, his attention fixed on a datapad in his lap. Cricket.
"Well, it isn't," SG told him.
"I know," AJ replied. "I said it was fixed. What I didn't say was that, when it was working again, Iain tried to reprogram it to read out the news in the morning, too. It was broken, then it was fixed, and now it's broken again."
"Read out the news?" SG frowned. "But a coffee machine doesn't even have any audio -"
"I know," AJ said.
"So? Even if he did program it to read out the news, it shouldn't matter, as long as he didn't mess up the other program."
"He didn't." AJ sighed. "The program was flawless, and would have worked if the machine had the necessary audio components. But it doesn't, so it got frustrated that it couldn't do what it was perfectly capable of doing, in theory. And now it's not doing anything."
"He managed to depress a coffee machine?" SG asked, incredulous.
"Yeah." AJ looked mournful. "Eagle's going to have to wipe the program and install a Prozac chip."
Iain chose that moment to breeze into the room. "Good news, everyone! Bria and Hobbie just landed."
SG and AJ looked at each other. "This really could be good," SG said.
"And attach the right coolant line this time!"
Bria's voice accompanied Hobbie down the ramp. He turned at the foot and yelled back, "I'm not the one who can't tell coolant from fuel!"
She yelled back something unintelligible. Hobbie shrugged and got to work attaching the required coolant line.
AJ grinned, waving. "Hobbie!"
The pilot looked up and waved back. He came over to join them, wiping his hands on the jumpsuit he wore. "AJ!"
The four Syndicate members exchanged greetings. SG cast a look toward the ship. "So... how did it go?"
"You might call it a success," Hobbie told him, blue eyes sparking in a way that made Iain feel profoundly uncomfortable.
"A success?" he demanded. "You mean, you actually went to Kashyyyk to -"
"- deliver a shipment of vweliu nuts and bowcaster parts, then pick up Jaden's fancy machinery?" Hobbie asked. "Yes."
"Oh." Iain was relieved.
"And we have a passenger," Hobbie informed them. "He's looking forward to meet you all. Especially Iain."
"Oh no!" Iain stared at Hobbie. "You really found a Wookiee?"
"That's amazing," AJ put in. "Going to Kashyyyk and finding a Wookiee, of all things! Who would have thought it!"
SG and Hobbie laughed.
"AJ, you're fired!" Iain shouted. "Listen to what I mean, not what I say!"
He looked back at Hobbie. "You must be kidding."
Hobbie didn't get around to answering; Bria appeared at the top of the ship's ramp. "Hi lads!" she called. But it was not the sight of Bria that made Iain's jaw drop several centimetres; he'd long since got used to her new "hairstyle". But behind her... no one had that much hair, no one but a -
"Brianess, my love!" SG was grinning from ear to ear. "Well done, Agent 0007!"
Bria grinned back at him, then turned to the towering Wookiee behind her. "Guys, this is Grantalzr," she said. "But "Grant" might be easier."
The Wookiee chuffed in response, looking from one to the other with keen blue eyes.
"Grant, these are my friends," Bria continued, indicating each in turn. "That's AJ, that's SG, and that's Iain -"
The Wookiee let out a roar and approached the group. He advanced on Iain and swept him up in a bear hug before Iain could even think of opening the armory. "Hi, I don't thnggggghhhargghg!"
The others watched with a mixture of shock and amusement as Grant all but buried Iain against his huge chest. Bria and Hobbie looked at each other and burst out laughing, holding onto each other for support. It didn't take long for SG and AJ to join them.
"So, ah..." AJ tore his eyes away from the Wookiee. "I guess that counts as "Mission Accomplished"."
"DEA!" SG shouted gleefully.
Bria nodded, still laughing. "Yeah. I didn't think it'd work this well."
"Me neither," Hobbie said. "It's all worth seeing the look on Iain's face, though."
"We'll have it on camera, too," Bria added. "I left the outboard recorders on."
Hobbie grinned at her. "Hey, I didn't think of that, great idea!"
"Of course it is, if you didn't think of it," Bria returned.
"No, despite the fact that I didn't think of it," he countered smugly. "Why do you think I was so surprised?"
She hit him. AJ raised his eyebrows. "So I take it that you had a good trip, then?"
Hobbie laughed. "It was all right, if you don't count the countless questions about Iain, and Bria's tantrum at having her artwork destroyed."
"That wasn't artwork, Klivian, it was Jaden's cortex generator!"
"I wasn't talking about the generator, Terrik, I meant the painting of the Falcon in the galley. The one that Grant tore down to mop up the nerf sauce he spilled."
She shot him a betrayed look. "He what?"
"Just before we landed. Didn't I tell you?"
"Hobbie, you... urgh!" She hit him again, harder. "I didn't throw a tantrum about that! Because I didn't know about it!"
He frowned. "Crap. Did I get the time mixed up again?"
AJ and SG laughed, while Bria did her best to glare at him. He spread his arms. "Hey, sweetheart, no need to look like that, I'm right here!"
"Good." She hit him again, harder.
"Looks like they're hitting it off," SG commented. Bria and Hobbie both turned to glare at him, but he was looking at Grant and Iain. Iain had managed to persuade Grant to let him go, and the Wookiee was now ruffling his hair and growling at him in ways that made SG vaguely glad that he didn't understand Shyriiwook.
AJ chuckled. "Hitting what off? Someone should tell Grant that human bones aren't as durable as Wookiee ones."
Bria laughed. "He's very enthusiastic about the whole thing."
"Iain isn't," Hobbie commented. "Watch your back, I'd say. He'll start pressing buttons as soon as his hands are free again."
She looked at him, askance. "I thought that's what I kept you around for, flyboy."
He grinned. "Of course. I was only waiting for you to ask."
"What do you say we go into the Cantina for a bit?" AJ suggested. "I guess that the two of you could use a drink."
"Or two," Hobbie agreed.
"Let's wait for them though," Bria said. "We can't leave Iain alone with the Wook. That's too much."
"Instead, you're going to get them both into the Cantina?" Hobbie looked at her doubtfully. "That's a lot better."
SG rubbed his hands, grinning. "That will be fun."