"I will not go down to the planet." The voice was colder than normal, which in Avon's case, meant Kelvin wasn't enough to measure the drop in temperature.
This was accompanied by a guttural growl, which, after checking that it wasn't him, Argus realized it came from Sharp-Eyes, who was directing an Avonish-glare at him. Argus blinked, not quite believing his eyes.
"Avon, tell your wolf to stop doing that."
"He is merely expressing my sentiments." Avon patted the creature on his furry head.
"He's staring at me."
"Are you doing something particularly noteworthy?"
"Looks like he's sizing me up for dinner."
"Ah...you're naked again."
Argus gritted his teeth. "I am not naked." Though he couldn't be sure of that two hours ago when the Wolf had 'borrowed' his body for a run. "Avon, we need you down there. They want to see the 'hero' of the rebellion, the man who single-handedly fought off a thousand aliens with his bare hands and saved humanity."
This time, it was Avon who 'glared' as his lips curled in a snarl. "What utter nonsense."
"Don't blame me. You've gained quite the reputation in some circles."
"And infamy in the others."
Argus chuckled, his eyes gleaming with amusement. He knew which Avon preferred.
"I am not going down." Avon's fingers absently rubbed the wolf's ears; noticing it was softer in texture at the tips.
Nothing he heard gave him any compelling reason to leave the familiarity of the ship and his comfortable lab.
"I promise it will only be a short trip. Just a few minutes and you barely have to talk to anyone. They just need to get a good look at you."
"Send a picture."
"Oh, come on, Avon. We need you. Besides, Cally is going down too."
"Don't try to manipulate me."
"You said the people on Gourimpest weren't that simple, so we need Cally's psi abilities..."
The reasoning sounded irritatingly logical and cautious. It was bound to happen eventually.
"You thought that would be enough incentive." Resting his his hand on the wolf's thick, shaggy fur, a comforting warm beneath his fingers, had a calming effect.
"They also wanted you to take a look at one of their advanced mining mechs. Seems it's been breaking down and none of their own people have been able to fix it. They know you're a technical genius…"
"That doesn't sound like a few minutes," said Avon. His mind was racing. The mining mechs were a technical marvel and he'd never had the opportunity to study one up close. He was unfamiliar with the area of Robotics, something that could be easily rectified if he had a chance to study the mechs. And he was a technical genius.
He said, "I'm not a mechanic."
Argus's noticed the slight warming of tone in the three-quarters-hearted protest. "Avon, we are not bringing one onboard. They're huge."
A smile greeted that statement, a mischievous and wolfish expression.
Sometimes, even the best of intentions can result in...
"Kerr Avon! This is delightful!" A smiling, round-bellied man, in a shimmering golden robe, swept across the room and wrapped his arms around Avon before anyone realized what he was going to do. "I'm Prime Minister Miros Furlough. Welcome to Gourimpest!"
Argus was caught between amusement and the need to tear the man away before Avon decided shooting was too good for the Prime Minister.
An official seal, a stamped gold medallion with a clawed and winged animal none of them recognized, hung from a chain around the Prime Minister's neck. His shock of reddish-purple hair, with green highlights, was pulled in a pony-tail behind him and he had a wide-jovial face. He didn't look dangerous, but his taste left something to be desired.
Other Gourimpestians officials in the room had equally rainbow-coloured hair, which reminded Vila of a deranged circus he had watched once on a Delta viscast. Poking his head around Argus's expansive back, he wondered if the Space Rats had come from Gourimpest, or if they had kidnapped a hairdresser from here.
"Your minute is up," Avon snarled in Argus's direction as he thought of how to extricate himself without doing permanent damage to the upcoming alliance. Sharp-Eyes growled menacingly.
The friendly man instantly let go, a look of nervousness on his face. He stared at creature eyeing him as if he were a side of beef. "This is your...dog?"
The "dog" growled again, his amber eyes flashing with displeasure at being called a domesticated animal.
"He is my bodyguard," said Avon. His voice was enough to drop the temperature a few degrees.
The wolf's lips peeled back, showing sharp, business-like fangs.
"Ah..." The man gulped, cringing back from the lethal weapons, but bravely keeping a determined smile of friendliness. "Yes...how delightful. Is he...hungry?"
After the introductions, a thin, severe-faced older woman in grey-toned military fatigues entered. She bowed stiffly as the Prime Minister introduced her "This is the head of our security department, Colonel Strevins."
The woman had dark brown eyes that assessed them in a single glance and a feature that made her stand out among her fellow Gourimpestians, she had ordinary coloured hair, dark chocolate brown with streaks of grey.
"Welcome to Gourimpest," said Colonel Strevins in a scratchy voice. "You come highly recommended."
"I'm sure Avalon exaggerated," said Argus, inclining his head in formal greeting.
The Colonel's eyes were critical and hard. "Easy to do."
"Don't mind Colonel Strevins, she isn't the trusting kind," said Prime Minister Furlough with an apologetic smile.
"A necessary quality in a security officer," said Reya, looking appropriately professional in a dark blue jacket and black pants, very much like her Athol uniform. Buckled at her side was her favourite sidearm, an unadorned phaser pistol whose surface swallowed the light.
"You are?" Strevins turned appraising eyes in her direction.
"Reya Reve, Security officer on the Justice."
A lighting flash of tension crackled between them as they took each other's measure, two old-fashioned fighters waiting for the other to reach for a weapon. There was no menace in their eyes, only active curiosity.
Vila looked nervously from one hard-set face to the other. "Are the two of you related?"
The two women stared at him, making Vila squirm uncomfortably. It was bad enough with one Commander, and now there was a Colonel. He wondered if that meant she was even tougher, though it was hard to imagine. "Not…that you look alike. I mean, you both look like you could take me apart with your thumbs. I'm not saying that you would…would you? I'd better shut up now."
"What a good idea," said Colonel Strevins, her dark eyes boring a hole into him.
Prime Minister Furlough chortled, his round belly jiggling like jello. "Hoohoohoo! Seems you've already found a friend."
The two military women stared at him as if he were insane, but only for a brief moment. It wasn't in their purview to judge the sanity of others, only to protect them.
"We've been looking forward to meeting the Hero who held back the aliens at Star One," said Furlough, a big smile on his face. There was a definite capitalization of the title that made Avon's eyes blaze with fiery displeasure.
* I am not doing this. * This was accompanied by a low, barely audible growl that made the Prime Minister glance apprehensively at the wolf. Sharp-Eyes seemed to shrug his shoulders.
They all looked at Avon, who had a deep scowl on his face.
Cally refrained from linking her arm through his. * Avon, it'll be fine. I'll be with you the whole time. *
* Did you see the look on their faces? They are going to make action figures of me. Life-sized ones. It will be worse than Chandar. *
* You're exaggerating. *
Gentle waves of soothing calm flowed towards him, which only seemed to make Avon more irritable. All of the staring eyes, and admiring faces…he recognized the troubling signs. It was hero-worship and he was in hell.