"More company!" said a surprised Ryramorl. "It's the Wanderers. Oh FUR, it's Ray'an and his crew."
Hroljarus contacted the Wanderers, and again greeted them in their own language.
Ray'an laughed, and replied in the tongue of the Wanderers. Hroljarus carefully enunciated a polite response. Ray'an's eyebrows rose up. "You are truly an amazing wolf. So, tell me, how did your hunt go?"
Hroljarus sighed. "Fellnaro has been captured. His mind's gone."
"I suspected that would be the case. Did our information help?"
"A great deal. Oh, before I forget, Aponaphelma's been getting antsy. He seems to be looking forward to seeing Adran again."
Ray'an laughed even harder. "Why don't we arrange a little reunion?"
The Wanderers beamed over, and Hroljarus ran the tavern sequence on the HoloSim. By mutual consent, the second fight between Aponaphelma and Adran was far from being as fierce as their first.
Hroljarus told the Wanderer what he had found on the original Exceldor, and Ray'an shook his head in amazement. "My goodness. I never dreamed it was that bad. I suppose the High Command is going to look into this in depth?"
Hroljarus nodded. "They're a bureaucracy, but they're not that stupid."
Aponaphelma and Adran had pounded each other into exhaustion, and were enjoying an ale together. Hroljarus looked over at them and grinned. "They seem to be getting along well," he commented.
Ray'an looked at him with a knowing smile. "As well as you get along with the Wanderers."
Hroljarus looked at him, bewildered. "Why does every Wanderer act like they know something that I don't?"
Ray'an chuckled. "Because we do. And when you are ready, you'll find out what it is." He leaned closer. "Don't worry about it. Knowledge comes to those who strive for it, but eludes those that recklessly pursue it. Find out for yourself, if you really wish to know."
Hroljarus nodded, and leaned back. His head was swimming with questions, but he pushed them into a corner of his mind and shut the door.
A flurry of activity exploded in the corner of the simulation. Aponaphelma and Adran were having another wrestling match. The first match went to Adran, the second to Aponaphelma, the third finished in such a tangle that no-one could tell who was pinning whom. The two combatants got up slowly, then shook paws.
Aponaphelma grinned hugely. "Ever since I left Ringfighting, I never had an opponent that was so close to my own abilities."
Adran laughed. "Maybe after you're done with this simulation, we could run a ringfighting one!"
Aponaphelma grinned. "Tomorrow."
"I'll see you there."
True to their words, Aponaphelma and Adran faced each other in something resembling a boxing ring. Hroljarus and Ray'an watched intently as the two fighters pounded each other into a pulp. Aponaphelma won the match, but he commented, "I wouldn't have been surprised if Adran won. He's good!"
Adran mentioned a time when he'd gone to a third-rate match. One of the Ringfighters had challenged anybeast in the audience to go up against him. Adran volunteered, and not only defeated the loud-mouthed fighter, but every fighter that happened to be there!
Orrin had become more confident in his job. Syral no longer continually beat him to a pulp, a light wrestling match now and then if Orrin's ego ran wild, but nothing like it was. He had also gotten to know the recruits and other officers better.
He'd also began to notice something happening in the StellNav, something that Syral would have to know about.
After a few days of talking with the Wanderers, the two groups parted. The Exceldors cruised through space, as the crew grew increasingly homesick. Fellnaro, often visited by the rest of the crew, finally began to come back to his senses. He adamantly swore that he was retiring for good. Hroljarus didn't argue, instead, as Admiral, he honourably discharged Fellnaro. The ferret had been through enough, the wolf decided.
Ryramorl came into the captain's quarters. "I've made contact with the Home System!" he grinned excitedly. Hroljarus went to the Bridge, and grinned as his friend Syral greeted him. "Welcome home, old boy. The High Command's wandering around like lost asteroids in intergalactic space, trying to figure you out. They just can't handle an Admiral who enjoys being in space," he laughed. Then his voice turned sombre. "Where's Fellnaro?"
Hroljarus sighed. "In custody. I gave him an honourable discharge. He is no longer mentally fit to be a captain."
"Is he mentally fit to stand trial?"
"No. The problem was, the solitude snapped his mind. I'll fill you in later."
Syral nodded, then broke contact.
The crew gave a cheer when they returned home. Hroljarus helped Fellnaro, who had fallen ill, off the ship. The crew went to their favourite tavern to celebrate, while Hroljarus explained o Syral what had happened. Syral decided that relieving Fellnaro of his duties was "punishment" enough, and was the best thing they could do for the captain anyways. Syral also filed a recommendation that the Exceldor class ships be accompanied by a small crew, rather than a single caretaker.
After the hubbub was over, Hroljarus made his report to the High Command. When they questioned him about his actions just before leaving, Hroljarus gave them a blistering remonstrance. "You guys just don't get it!" He finished. "You can put the best crew members on a ship, and produce a captain's nightmare, or you can throw together a 'crew of losers,' and wind up with a team that would make all other captains bawl their eyes out with envy." His description was not lost on the High Command, which shifted and looked at each other uncomfortably.
One small admiral had one more shot to make. "Hroljarus, it is at times like these that I wonder why we ever made you admiral."
"Every time I hear about the latest meddling of the High Command, I wonder the same thing, too," snapped Hroljarus. "I don't mind if you sit up in your soft plush chairs and bicker over whether the moon is made of green cheese or red, but keep your noses out of us Spacer's business!"
Before anyone could object, Syral motioned that the meeting be ended. The motion quickly carried, and Hroljarus breathed a sigh of relief.