Wild, Beautiful and DamnedBy Gemini
Page 1 of 7
"And just what is so wonderful about Akhaia?" Jenna
"The climate, days on end of balmy sunshine, and the women. Never forget the women!" Vila rolled his eyes up in delight.
Jenna turned away in disgust. "Is that all you ever think about Vila?"
Vila eyed the glass he was holding in his hand, and raised it up to the light to fully savour the rich ruby colour of the liquid within. "No," he replied, swirling the liquid slightly and inhaling its scent. "I have other interests too."
Jenna snorted in disgust and walked over to the food dispenser to dial up a slice of chocolate and kirsch gateau. One thing was certain, the Altas might have built the Liberator, but someone had done an awful lot of modifications to it since then. Jenna was absolutely certain that the Altas were responsible for neither the clothes room, nor the food stuffs on board.
Finishing his wine, Vila departed the rec room, with a parting taunt to Jenna that she'd get fat. Strolling down the endless corridors to the flight deck, he hummed slightly to himself. He'd been doing some research with Orac's assistance, and Akhaia seemed a perfect place to visit. Blake thought it was an ideal planet on which to try and establish a base. It might be off the beaten track with a small population, but the people were technically advanced, and from Vila's point of view, there were certain other distinct advantages.
Blake looked up from the printout he was examining as Vila came down the steps onto the flight deck. "You're late. I want you to operate the teleport for me."
"I'll come with you."
Blake's head jerked in surprise; Avon standing behind him laughed.
"Since when did you volunteer for anything?" Avon asked derisively.
"Just now," said Vila in an offended tone. "You always say I never offer to do anything. Well now I'm offering."
"And just why," asked Avon, "should Blake want you along in any case? This is supposed to be a diplomatic introduction to open negotiations with the ruler of Akhaia. I hardly think your presence is likely to impress."
Vila played his trump card. "Well, he can't take Jenna or Cally, can he?"
"And why not?" asked Avon in a lazy amused tone that suggested that he already knew the answer.
"Because of the local customs of course. Blake wouldn't expect them to sleep with Halil, would he? So he's got to take a man."
A smile twitched at the corner of Avon's lips. "But you're hoping that he'll maintain his side of the custom and delegate one of the local women to keep you company?"
"In the name of good diplomacy," Vila answered hastily. "I mean, Halil might be offended if I refused. I wouldn't want to cause a diplomatic incident, would I?"
Blake was getting impatient. "Sorry Vila. I'm taking Avon."
"Some people get all the fun," Vila muttered under his breath.
Blake and Avon materialized in the entrance hall of the palace. Avon spun round automatically, almost slipping on the highly polished marble under his feet. Blake wondered how Avon felt without a weapon; he'd vetoed bringing any guns on the grounds that this was a mission to try and establish friendly relations. Taking in his surroundings, Blake noted an ornamental pool with a number of brightly coloured fish; and blue and green decorative tiles on the walls around them. The room was empty apart from a man, who from his manner as he approached them, had to be a servant.
"Lord Halil will be ready to receive you in ten minutes. If you will make yourselves comfortable, I will arrange for coffee to be brought."
Blake nodded his head slightly. "Fine." He looked around, and then sat on a low tiled seat that ran around the wall of the room. It was hard to sit on, but not too uncomfortable, and the pool was pleasant enough to look at while they waited. The centre of the room had no roof, and the light streaming in from outside reflected on the surface of the water, making the rounded stones on the bottom look like strange and exotic jewels. Which reminded him. "Avon, did you remember to bring something suitable from the treasure room?"
"Of course. I still think it's a waste of time coming here though. I cannot think of any reason why the people of Akhaia would want a rebel base on their planet."
"It would give them protection against the Federation."
"Don't you mean, attract the attention of the Federation?"
They'd been through this argument before. The servant reappeared with a tray bearing the coffee, tiny cups of a thick sweet liquid, unlike any coffee Blake had ever tasted. He sipped cautiously, uncertain as to whether he liked the flavour or not. Avon beside him was more positive. He handed back his cup and requested another drink with less sugar. The servant bowed silently and returned moments later with another cup. Avon sipped it cautiously, then deciding that he liked it, drained the little cup rapidly and replaced it on the tray.
They sat in silence for a minute or so, then Blake got up and started to examine the patterns in the tilework, while Avon studied the fish.
"Lord Halil will see you now." The servant's reappearance caught them both by surprise, he seemed to have the knack of moving about almost noiselessly. He opened a large metal covered door at the far end of the antechamber, to reveal a long, wide room. The floor was covered in a large carpet woven mainly in reds and blues, the walls were decorated in tiles with a complex design of intertwining vines running from floor to ceiling.
At the far end of the room, seated cross legged on a low throne was Halil of Akhaia. An imposing man, he was, as far as could be judged, in his late thirties. The long brightly coloured robes he wore were strange to eyes accustomed to Federation styles of clothing, but seemed appropriate to the room around him.
There seemed to be no sign of any machines or computers. Given Orac's report on the state of the planet's technology, either Halil ignored such things in his palace, or more likely, they were simply well concealed.
Together, Blake and Avon walked forward and stopped close to the throne. Blake bowed slightly and Avon followed suit a moment later. Blake spoke, "My Lord, I bring you a gift." He nodded to Avon.
Avon took a step forward and reached into his jacket pocket for the gem stone. Before he could bring it forth, Halil smiled.
"Blake, I must congratulate you. You have surpassed my expectations. He looks superb!"
Blake stared at Halil in surprised silence. He looks superb? Blake wondered. He? Syntax aside, Avon hadn't even brought out the gemstones yet.
Which meant that the he Halil was referring to was...Avon? Shocked, Blake turned his gaze to his companion.
Avon's expression was wary, surprise rapidly turning into a cold anger. He was obviously not impressed by either Halil's approval, or his attention. In any other situation, Blake might have found Avon's discomfort amusing, but not now, not with an alliance at stake.
Blake's gaze flickered back towards the Akhaiaian leader; he couldn't help but recognize the lust in Halil's eyes as the Akhaiaian continued to stare appraisingly at Avon's slim figure. It made Blake distinctly uncomfortable and irritated. Trust Avon to throw a wrench into the works. He felt Avon's accusing stare and met it head on, wanting so badly to yell, "How the hell was I supposed to know Halil likes men?" What he really needed to do, was to reassure Avon that of course they could work around the local custom, that they could explain to Halil that Avon wasn't Blake's property to bestow as he might desire. But if Avon's refusal was seen as an insult, all hope of using Akhaia as a base might be lost.
"You seem surprised, Lord Blake?" Avon's lips curled at the form of address. "Certainly you must appreciate the quality of the gift you offer me."
"Rarely," Avon muttered softly. Blake shot him a quick glare. Now was not the time for Avon's temper to be aired. Later, in private, Avon could flay him alive with his sarcasm but not now.
"He is pleasing," Blake said firmly with a sharp glance back at his increasingly restless companion. "But I was not aware of your interest in such - pleasures."
Halil laughed. "Then it is fortunate for me that our tastes so coincide. I enjoy beauty in all its forms, male and female. However, male beauty is particularly prized here on Akhaia. You yourself, if not Lord, would be highly favoured."
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