Syral greeted the crew as they filed in - 15 beasts, who had been together for years. "You're lucky to have a commander like Hroljarus," he commented. "From the look on his face, if I hadn't let him keep you on as a crew..."
"I'd have pounded the daylights out of you until you let me." grinned Hroljarus.
"Now THAT I would have to see," laughed Alran.
The lynx turned sombre, and nodded to the secretary to start recording. "Here's your first mission. One of our captains is missing. His name is Fellnaro, a ferret. He was given the original Exceldor, and sent to check out a stellar anomaly. At first, the ship stayed on course, but it started drifting off. Using the homing beacon, we returned it to its course, but it kept getting worse. Now, we've lost all control of the ship. Your mission is to home in, and find out what's going on. Any questions?"
Ensign Ryramorl, another lynx, raised his hand. "Can the ship be controlled by the beast aboard?"
"Yes, it was built that way in case of an emergency."
"I'm wondering if there's something wrong with this Felnaro. If something's wrong with him..." He left it hanging.
Syral thought for a moment. "I don't like that idea. I hate that idea so much, I'm going to give it top priority."
There were no more questions, so the meeting was adjourned.
Alran sighed. "I would have loved to watch that wrestling match, though." Both admirals heard him, looked at each other, and grinned. As the crew and the secretary cleared an area, the two old friends stripped to the waist.
Syral wasn't at all as flabby as he looked. His arms were heavily muscled, and his chest was likewise. Hroljarus, on the other hand, was wiry, more tough than strong.
Hroljarus tackled Syral, but the Lynx rolled back, flipping the wolf and slamming him on the floor. Hroljarus quickly got up, and threw the lynx half-way across the room. Syral rolled, and was back on his feet in seconds. He caught Hroljarus in a grip that brought the wolf to his knees.
Slowly, Syral forced Hroljarus to the floor and pinned him. After holding him down for the required 10 seconds, Syral helped him up. "By the fur, you're good!" commented Hroljarus.
"You can thank some of the officers under me!" laughed Syral. "They tricked me into taking a wrestling course to keep me in shape." He grinned. "I teach the class now. It's more fun than the desk job. Where'd you learn?"
Hroljarus pointed at his second-in-command. " He taught me."
Syral looked at the Wolverine. "Name?"
"Arctos Aponaphelma, Zeremeth clan."
Syral looked with appreciation at Aponaphelma. "Awfully big for a wolverine, aren't you."
"I'm a giant," Aponaphelma shrugged.
"Why'd you teach him to wrestle?"
"I hate working for an out-of-shape officer. Besides, Hroljarus made a comment about getting soft, so I decided to get him back into shape. He's got a ways to go."
Syral glanced at Hroljarus. "You let your command talk to you like this?"
"Blast it, Syral, we've been together for years. There comes a time when formality becomes really odious. I have their obedience, and we have each other's respect and confidence. That's what keeps a team together."
The other crew members nodded. "That's why we were so pissed off when we were scattered all over the place," remarked Aponaphelma. "If you keep shuffling us enlisted all over the place, we don't get to know each other. They keep nattering about teamwork, well blast it, let us become a team!"
Alran agreed. "Anyways, I suppose it might not be a bad idea for you two to get dressed again," he said with a wink.
Syral and Hroljarus chuckled. But just then the door banged open, and Lieutenant Orrin stormed in. "I protest! The crew was sent to where they'd be the most useful, and Admiral Andruvar overruled me on a whim! I insist th-" Suddenly he noticed that Syral wasn't wearing a shirt. And noticed that the lynx was much stronger than he.
"I would love to discuss this with you. What about you, Hroljarus?"
Hroljarus stood behind the rabbit. "I'm sure my arguments would make an impact," he growled darkly. He gave a barely perceptible glance at Aponaphelma, and Syral gave a tiny nod.
The gigantic wolverine removed his shirt and tossed it aside. "I'll speak for the crew," he grated.
The lieutenant didn't have a hope against any one of them, and one wrong word would have all three at his throat. "I'll be going, then," he quietly said, and backed out the door. The three officers didn't take their eyes off him until the door closed behind him.
Syral roared with laughter. "I gotta remember that!" he howled.
Aponaphelma chuckled. "Believe me, a wrestler can pull more than rank."
Hroljarus was cackling with glee. "By the fur, that was FUN!"
The three got dressed again, and the crew took their leave of Grand Admiral Syral. Syral called out, "When you come back, I want a match with Aponaphelma!"
"I'm looking forward to it!" replied the wolverine.
They all went back to the Spacer's Tavern to celebrate their good fortune. Lieutenant Orrin was already there, sulking.
It so happened that the only table open was right by the steaming rabbit, so the crew ended up sitting all together in plain view. They traded stories about the past decade, and looked forward to their next mission together.
Ensign Hrala, the only other wolf in the crew besides Hroljarus, sat right next to her captain. Over the twelve years she had been with Hroljarus, she had become attracted to him, and he to her. They'd become sweethearts, much to the approval of the rest of the crew. They made very sure that there was nothing improper about their relationship, nevertheless it was obvious to all. A quick nuzzle, a shared laugh, it was clear that this was more than a passing fancy.
The all-around comradeship that the crew shared was heightened by one magnificent jest: this was NOT what the High Command had intended when, twelve years ago, Rear Admiral Hroljarus Andruvar announced his intention to remain in the skies.