-.-.-.-.-.- 11 -.-.-.-.-.-
"Now explain yourself!" Fox yelled at Leon, gun aimed down at the chameleon. "What do you mean 'Andross made a mistake'?"
Leon caught his breath and reclined on the concrete. He stretched his hands over his head, relaxing and posing sexily with a knee up in the evening sunlight. His green ropey tail curled into the air with mirth. He looked at Kelsy, the human girl with gray fuzzy wolf ears in her green hair, a gray eyepatch and shoulder armor. The chameleon fought a smile, then he laughed fully, pounding a fist on the ground.
Kelsy stepped back, crossed her arms and looked away, feeling silly.
Leon pointed at the teenage girl, trying to stifle his laughter. "Wolf... O'Donnell?"
Fox shook his head. "Ignore her, answer me."
Leon snickered. "But why is the ape girl dressed that way?"
Fox said, "I'll tell you what I know if you tell me why you're here."
"Or you'll what? Shoot me in front of a child? I know you Fox. You don't kill. Your blaster was set to stun the whole time."
Fox lowered his aim to one of Leon's long slender legs. "My gun fell in the river. This one's yours." He clicked a lever on the back. "I'd be happy to take out a kneecap. You're not going to want medical attention on this world. They haven't even gone beyond their own moon."
"Shooting him won't get us answers," Kelsy said.
Fox said, "This stain of scales is responsible for the deaths of countless Cornerian soldiers and civilians, some brutally tortured by him personally."
"Oh come off it Fox," Leon said tiredly. "Your Cornerian propaganda is meaningless when we're two thousand light years away."
"I know who he is," Kelsy said. "He's a member of the Star Wolf Team. Very easy to shoot down."
Leon raised an eyebrow at the girl. "And you are my lady?"
"You haven't earned pleasantries," she said.
"Fine, Miss O'Donnell it is I suppose."
Fox charged up the blaster to its next strength setting. The humming pitch of the energy told Leon a shot from it would blow off his leg.
"All right!" Leon said, sitting up cross-legged. "... And you say I'm the sadist."
"I'm waiting for answers," Fox said. "Tell me about Andross's mistake."
Leon hesitated for a bit, then frowned and said annoyed, "You're not supposed to be here. When the good doctor threw you into that portal, he meant to send you to the Demon planet of Socotro, where you would slowly burn and endure an agonizing death over several days while being eaten alive by microscopic Demon spiders."
Fox nodded, trying to push the thought out of his head. "This place is almost as bad. Why couldn't Andross just leave me here to live my days in this primitive world?"
"I don't know," Leon said flatly.
"You do. He sent you here."
"He sent me here to do what the Demon planet was supposed to do. Kill you. But obviously I was caught a little off guard when you waltzed right up to me." Leon looked around at the long glass roof of the convention center. "I had intended to just confirm you were in this strange base and nova bomb it into a crater."
"That would have been a lot of dead furries," Kelsy said.
Fox scratched his neck, thinking. "Andross couldn't just let me stay here alive because his son lives on this world. Is that it?"
Leon looked away.
"That is it," Fox said. "He doesn't want me to find him."
Before Leon could answer, two Anthrocon security guards wearing red shirts and black beret hats ran onto the terrace from the stairwell, walkie talkies in their hands. "Hey!" one of the security guards yelled at the group angrily, jogging up.
"Crap," Kelsy muttered. She stepped behind Fox, unsure of an escape route. Fox holstered his blaster.
Leon stood up, looking between Fox and the security guards. "Who are these goofy looking apes?" he said with disgust.
"Authorities," Fox said. "Don't do anything stupid."
"You!" the older security guard said until he and his cohort stopped in front of the group. "You are all... early!" He suddenly grinned.
"Early?" Kelsy said perplexed.
"Yes! For this evening's fursuit parade. We're using the roof as our staging area and pre-parade sunset photoshoot."
"What is that thing?" the younger security guard said, smiling with wonder at the parked Wolfen on the terrace. They walked up to the elaborate space fighter, gazing at it with amazement.
Leon followed after them, bewildered, "Excuse me strange ape men, that thing happens to be mine."
"Leon," Fox growled.
"Leon quiet," Kelsy urged, chasing after the chameleon.
"This must be for the closing ceremonies," said the older security guard, touching a wing.
The younger security guard took a picture with his phone. "Oh yeah, this is part of what Uncle Kage was talking about when he mentioned really outdoing last year's ceremonies."
On the other side of the terrace, hundreds of fursuiters started coming out of the stairwells: wolves, otters, canines, foxes, cats, falcons, fantasy creatures, cartoon characters, all waving their paws and skipping around and yipping cheerily and laughing.
"Oh no," Kelsy said.
"We would have started the parade sooner," said the younger security guard. "But we're experiencing a malfunction with the elevators." He turned quickly to the swelling group of fursuits filling the rooftop terrace. "Alright everyone! Thank you for making it up the stairs! Line up against the Wolfen! This is our background for the photoshoot! The photographer is on his way and will be here shortly! Follow the sound of my voice! Right this way!" He waved his arms and repeated himself over and over as more and more fursuiters arrived.
Leon covered his mouth, trying not to laugh. "Oh... oh this is rich. This is too rich. This is where you've been trapped, Fox? My goodness, Andross didn't need to send me to kill you at all."
"Excuse me," said the older security guard to Kelsy. "Only full fursuiters are allowed up here at this point. Ears and a tail won't cut it." He pointed at a stairwell behind her with his walkie talkie.
"I'm his handler," Kelsy said, grabbing hold of Fox's paw.
"Handlers can wait downstairs in the main concourse with everyone else. Right now we need total fursuit magic for the photoshoot."
"Oh please," Kelsy muttered.
Leon waved Kelsy off. "You heard the ape man, little girl. Go run along now."
Fox shoved Leon and looked at the older security guard. "I'll be going with her. I don't want to be in the parade."
The younger security guard grabbed Fox by the arm. "You must Fox! You will be placed right in the front row as one of our guests of honor."
"Yes Fox," Leon said, grinning. "We must be in the parade. We're special."
"Incredible Leon Powalski costume!" said the older security guard who suddenly noticed the chameleon. "I've never seen any fursuit construction like this before. The scales, the eyes." He reached to touch Leon's arm and Leon slapped away the fleshy hand.
"The tongue!" said the younger security guard. "What fursuit studio made this?"
"The devil himself made me. Now shoo."
The guards laughed. The older one smiled and pointed at Kelsy. "Alright, you. Time to go."
"But..." Kelsy said.
The older guard pointed at Fox and Leon. "You two, this way." He walked toward the Wolfen. Leon followed happily. The fursuit mob started to encircle the Wolfen. Fox took a hesitant step, then looked at Kelsy.
"Just go," Kelsy said. "You have to play the part. We can't draw any negative attention."
Fox gritted his teeth. "I know you're right, but-"
"Don't let him cause trouble." Kelsy pointed at Leon.
The chameleon hugged random fursuiters, bouncing with them as a photographer lined them all up. "I love this planet," he said blithely. "How delightful! How stupid!"
Kelsy stepped toward the stairwell and said to Fox, "I'll be in the main concourse in front of the dealer room by the escalators. The parade shouldn't last longer than half an hour."