"...So we have made these changes to accommodate the crew." finished the mechanic who had greeted Hroljarus.
The wolf nodded in approval. "I like it."
The others had all moved aboard. Hroljarus looked the ship over. It was better equipped than a lot of Space stations he'd seen.
"You see one of the reasons we want you to look for that other ship." said Syral, who had come up behind him.
"Yes. This has got to be the top line."
"Absolutely," agreed the mechanic. It's even got a Holographic Simulator."
"A HoloSim? That's great!" grinned Aponaphelma. "Then I can teach Hroljarus Ringfighting."
"I can't wait," said Hroljarus.
"In other words, you'd rather eat your tail," laughed the wolverine.
There was an advertisement circulated in the StellNav Headquarters. A Grand Admiral was looking for a personal assistant. Orrin, eager at a chance to boost his career, immediately answered. A few days later, he got a note saying that he was accepted.
Orrin was overjoyed. Being a personal assistant was a great way to move up through the ranks. Besides, he'd never have to face that big lynx who had terrorized him. He looked at the office number, and went to report for his first day of duty.
Grand Admiral Syral smiled across the desk. "Well, well, well. Look who's here." Lieutenant Orrin's heart landed in his footpaws. Syral's smile melted off to give way to something more grim. "I highly suggest you give etiquette serious consideration. I can throw more than rank around."
As far as Orrin was concerned, Syral may as well have said, "Welcome to Hell."
As the weeks went by, Hroljarus and the crew got used to the ship.
Aponaphelma had recruited Androv, a sable, to program a fighting ring and dojo into the HoloSim, and immediately started giving the crew lessons. He proved an unforgiving taskmaster. "C'mon, Hroljarus! Put your weight into it!"
WHUMP! Hroljarus flipped Ryramorl over his shoulder, and pinned him.
The next two matches went to the lynx.
Hroljarus got up slowly. "What happened?"
"You got overconfident," replied Aponaphelma. "Arrogance is weakness, as you just found out."
Although the crew was getting better in hand-to-hand combat, Aponaphelma was unquestionably the best fighter.
Hroljarus remarked to Alran, "It's like fighting a mountain, except he hits back."
Aponaphelma chuckled. "Thanks for the compliment. Actually, you are making progress. I'm very impressed."
"I've always been a vicious old codger," laughed Hroljarus.
"Sir, we have something off the port bow!" said Ryramorl. "It's a ship!"
"Usually, it's only Wanderers out here," murmured Hroljarus.
"I'm checking up on it now... oh, no. Hyena pirates."
Alran spoke up. "They're hailing us."
Hroljarus thought for moment. "Aponaphelma, your lessons just might come in handy. Everyone keep out of sight. Let's surprise them."
Hroljarus sprawled in his chair, making himself look as fat and out-of-shape as possible, and activated the Communicator.
The hyena on the screen grinned with wicked delight. "Well, if it isn't a lonely captain. All alone on this great big ship, with no-one to protect him."
"How do you know I'm alone?" asked Hroljarus.
"That last captain we saw was. We couldn't get on his ship, no way to get through its shields, but we worked it out. And now, we can get you!"
Hroljarus sighed. "Yeah. Especially with the weapons you have."
"Just to make this all the more humiliating, we're coming over unarmed. Toodles." The pirate signed off.
The others gathered for a council of war. "They're coming over unarmed." Hroljarus said.
"The thing that they really hate is disgrace, and that includes living through a failed attack," growled Aponaphelma. "If we let them go alive, they'll be so ashamed, they'll probably do something even stupider to get themselves killed."
"So we just keep them alive?"
"Beat them up, and drag their sorry asses down to the transporter."
"Right, get ready to rumble!" grinned Hroljarus.
They were not a moment too soon, because the hyenas transported onto the bridge, only to be attacked by the crew.
Aponaphelma showed an amazing variety of low and dirty tricks, while Hroljarus put the fighting he'd learned to good use.
Suddenly, one of the hyenas broke away, and fled. Hroljarus chased him down, and tackled him. The hyena struggled, but Hroljarus picked him up, and slammed him on the floor. He grinned as an idea came to him, and began Ringfighting, pulling out all stops.
A second hyena attacked him, and Hroljarus had his hands full. But Alran brought the second attacker down with a bony elbow just above the ear.
Hroljarus smashed the other into the wall, and drove his knee into the hyena's belly. The hyena doubled over. Hroljarus grabbed the him by the scruff of the neck, and shattered the pirate's nose with his knee. The hyena shrieked, then collapsed, blood pouring from his nostrils. Hroljarus collared the pirate, and hauled him off to the transporter room.
Aponaphelma and the rest of the crew were already there. The hyena's attack had been a miserable failure. When the last of the hyenas had been put back on their ship, Hroljarus hailed them.
"Didn't work out too well, did it?"
"We'll get even with you!" snarled the captain.
"Why don't you come over, alone, and we'll duke it out, just you and me?" sneered Hroljarus.
The hyena's only reply was to cut off communication and flee.
Aponaphelma cocked his head to one side, pretending to listen. "Is it just me, or did I hear somebeast calling for Mommy?"