[Vfw-times] Story: Fuzzy Doom, the Ship Crack'd
orenotter at netzero.net
Mon Mar 12 19:38:49 CST 2001
As promised, I've got a number of stories coming to you, including the next
Critter-Man story and two of the Fuzzy Doom. If you'd like to see the
Fuzzy Doom website, go to http://www.geocities.com/furry_world/ship
This story represents a turning point in the Fuzzy Doom saga. Now, it gets
difficult for our furry crew.
The Ship Crack'd
By Oren Otter
Caleb Forepaw hooted excitedly as he hauled away on his fishing line. "I
done caught me another one! That makes three to your one, Jekyll!
The magpie at the stern sniffed contemptuously. "You can reel this one in
yourself, ye arrogant braggart."
"I can't help it if I'm a better fisherman than you, Eekbeak! I'm a cat.
It's what we do!"
From his cabin, Captain Lem watched the two with mild amusement. Mi, the
funloving little sprite, appeared beside him. "Those two are a scream,
ain't they, Cap?"
"Sure are." said the Captain. "But I'm confused. In this world, animals
"So isn't fishing like murder?"
"Nah. Fish are fish."
"Cote D'Arms is a fish."
"Cote's an octopus. Big difference."
Suddenly, into the Captain's cabin burst Bob Applecart, the cook. Mi
transformed himself into a muskrat, not wanting the regular ship's crew to
see him as he truly was. "Cap'n, he's done it again!" shouted Bob.
"Who's done what?"
Bob held a hoof in front of Lem's nose. Sticking to his hoof as if in
defiance of gravity were a number of hairs. "D'ye know what these be, Cap'n?"
"WEASEL hairs! That thieving Weasely Mike has gotten into me pantry
again, chomped on all the best fruit and nipped off with a whole barrel of
"How could a weasel carry a barrel of rum?"
"Probably got that voracious Rickets to help him."
"I'll have a word with him."
"A word ain't gonna fill our bellies, Cap'n."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that fruit was supposed to stretch our supplies for six more days.
The rum, too. Without them, we're not going to have enough to last until
we pull into port."
Captain Lem stroked his furry chin. "We do have a hold full of fish, Bob."
Bob raised an eyebrow. "I'm a horse, Cap'n. Horses don't eat fish.
Neither do a lot of your crew."
"Besides," chimed Mi. "Those fish are for the people in Meowritius."
"I know, Mi." said the Captain. "Bob, take one of the big tuna and make a
huge casserole. Offer the carnivores on board as much as they want before
serving regular mess. That should make our regular supplies last a little
longer. Also, double up on coffee rations for everyone except Mike. If
anything will get through to a weasel, it's withholding caffeine."
"Aye-aye." said the horse, grumpily.
"Mi, tell the men to catch as many fish as they can tonight. In the
morning, we sail for Meowritius."
* * *
Lindy Lashtail sat perched on the prow of the Fuzzy Doom, licking the last
of her tuna casserole from her spoon. She sat and watched the sun slowly
setting over the western horizon. By and by she became aware of Xan
sitting behind her on the railing, eating a healthy dose of tuna casserole
"I didn't know rats liked fish." said Lindy.
"Me neither until I tried it." Xan replied. "Of course, there's still so
much I don't know about being a rat."
"Is that a twang of regret I hear?" asked Lindy as she licked a bit of
gravy from her paw.
"No, of course not. This is way better than my old life ever was. Best
of all, no school."
"Yeah... about that..."
"You're not going to make me go to school here, are you?"
Lindy purred. "I have to make sure you get a good education. I am still
your mother, you know."
"So you keep reminding me."
"I'm not going to send you off to school, but I think it my be a good idea
if we get you a tutor."
"Do you know how silly that's going to seem?" asked Xan. "In the human
world, I was a kid. In this world, I'm a grown man. Er... grown rat.
Grown-ups don't go to school. Especially pirates."
"Ah, but we're not ordinary pirates." Lindy reminded her son. "We're
Xan was about to speak when he was cut off by a cry from the crow's nest.
"SHIP HO!" called Jekyll. "UNKNOWN VESSEL DEAD STARBOARD FAST APPROACHING!"
Everyone rushed to the Starboard side to see the approaching ship.
"BLACK SAILS!" called Jekyll. "SHE'S A CORSAIR SHIP!"
At once, the crew sprang into action. This was what they lived for.
Since taking on the role of the protectors of the seas, the crew of the
Fuzzy Doom worked hard to carry out the commission of the Otterman Emperor:
to seek out and capture or destroy the marauding seaslime who threatened
Captain Lemmuel Cliffdiver began barking orders. "Make fast the holds!
Bring the ship about onto an intercept course! Ye fighters prepare for
"Does he mean prepare to board them, or to be boarded?" asked Scurvy, a
"What's the difference?" asked Caleb the cat as he tightened his headband.
"We're goin' into battle! WOOHAH!"
"Battle? But I'm a receptionist from Ojai. What do I know about battle?"
"You're a what?"
"I'm not even a fox! I don't know what I'm doing here!"
Mi appeared immediately at Scurvy's side. "You're here because you wanted
adventure. This is it!" he said.
"I didn't know you meant getting myself killed!" cried Scurvy as her eyes
fixed on the ship where enemy pirates could now be seen waving their
rapiers and cutlasses.
"You're not going to get yourself killed." Mi insisted. As soon as he
said this, the deck behind him exploded in a shower of wooden shards. The
sprite stared at the hole in the deck with amazement. That wasn't one of
the pint-size projectiles from the little cannonettes which pirate ships
like the Wolfstar used, nor had it been propelled by the liquid explosives
which firearms in this world tended to utilize.
"That was a full size cannonball!" screamed Lem. "Mi, I thought they
didn't have actual cannons in this reality!"
"They don't!" Mi shouted back in confusion.
"Full speed ahead!" the Captain shouted. "I want us too close for them to
use their cannons!"
"I don't belong here." Scurvy was whining as she clutched Caleb's fur in
one paw. "I'm not a fox, I'm a human. My name isn't Scurvy, it's Sally!
Please, I don't belong here!"
Lem pulled Scurvy off of Caleb. "Scurvy, get a hold of yourself!"
"Cap'n," said Caleb, glancing back and forth between the fox and the
enemy. "What's she talking about? What's a human?"
Lem ignored the cat. "Scurvy, Sally, listen to me. In a moment, we are
going to be doing battle with enemy pirates. This is why we're here."
"I know all about it. I come from New Jersey myself."
"You... you too?"
"You obviously know about Mi's powers or else you wouldn't be here. He'll
protect us. He's never let us down, yet."
Rickets the raccoon thundered up from below decks. "Cap'n Lem... that
weapon the enemy hit us with... it went straight through the ship. We're
taking on water, Sir."
"I managed to jury rig a patch. She'll hold until we can effect a more
permanent repair, but we'll have us bit of bailing to do tonight if we
don't fix it soon."
"Good work, Rikkets."
A voice boomed out over the water. "AHOY, FUZZY DOOM! PREPARE TO
SURRENDER TO CAPTAIN RIPGUT OF THE BLACK UMBRA!"
Mi's muskrat face froze. "Did he just say 'Black Umbra'?"
"Um... yes." replied Lem, pointing to where the ship's name could now be
clearly read. "Why?"
"I'm going to be busy for a moment. Good luck to you, Lem." With that,
Mi vanished in a puff of smoke."
Caleb stood aghast. "He just disappeared!" said the cat in astonishment.
"He's abandoning us!" whimpered Scurvy. "We're all going to die!"
* * *
On the deck of the other ship, captain Ripgut, a vicious-looking
crocodile, stood eyeing the Fuzzy Doom with eyes narrowed in contempt. It
actually looked as if they were too wrapped up in themselves to care that
they were about to be raided. "What do you make of this?" he asked the
komodo dragon standing to his left.
The dragon, himself a menacing figure with scales nearly black in hue and
a long black cloak which billowed in the breeze like a monstrous pair of
wings, turned to answer. Yet before he could utter a syllable, a muskrat
popped out of thin air, grabbed him, and vanished with him.
* * *
"You great old party pooper." said the dragon as he hovered above the
surface of the ocean and surveyed the battle raging far off. "We're
missing the best part!"
"I knew as soon as I heard the name 'Black Umbra' that it was you, Selv.
What are you doing here in this universe?"
"And I knew that you were here as soon as I heard of a ship called the
'Fuzzy Doom'. It takes a real moron to come up with a name like that."
"The ship was named when I got here." said the muskrat.
"As for what I'm doing here, I think that's my business, don't you, Mi?"
"Every time you show up in one of my universes, it's my business, Selv.
You're not welcome here."
"YOUR universes?" the dragon scoffed as his cape flared dramatically.
"You're almost as arrogant as father. Your universes indeed."
'My universe in that I live here. I work here. I'm trying to make this
world a better place."
"Well so am I!"
"Like you did with the tribes of flat Earth?"
Selv shrugged. "The tribes were trying to eliminate each other. I just
gave them what they wanted. All it took was one little airplane. The
natives were happy to have the new technology and Emelia ended up a legend
back on her own world."
"They all ended up DEAD!"
"I know. That's the part I find so amusing. But now, there's one more
universe for the Shadows to populate."
"Why?" Mi demanded. "Why is it that every time I settle into a new world,
you have to ruin it and give it to your stupid slave race?"
Selv brought his gaze down level to Mi's. "Because I don't like you, Mi.
And because Father does. I'm not about to let you have a moment's peace,
and I won't let you inherit Father's kingdom."
Mi laughed. "Is that what you think I want? To be king of the Sprites?
Selv, if I wanted that, I would never have left home in the first place. I
just want to be left alone."
"And so you come here and assemble the finest fighting force in this
universe by assembling creatures from two different worlds. Oh, yes... I
can see your peaceful intentions, Mi."
"I'm not going to let you take over this world, Selv." Mi declared,
thrusting out his chest in defiance.
"And what are you going to do to stop me, little brother?" the dragon spat.
"I'll destroy this world if I have to."
Selv fell silent for a moment. Mi knew what he was thinking. This
particular reality was valuable jumping-off point for his conquest of other
realities. Even with his destructive agenda, Selv could not afford to lose
"A compromise, then." said Selv, suddenly acting confident once again.
"You enjoy playing games, don't you, Mi?"
* * *
Captain Lem couldn't believe what was happening. His helmsman, Cote
D'Arms, lay motionless in his bloodstained paws. All around him, members
of his crew were dying, and there was little he could do to prevent it. It
wasn't supposed to be like this. Where was Mi? Why had he abandoned them?
Why was he allowing this to happen?
"What's the matter, Lemming?" asked a deep bass voice. Lem looked up to
see the wicked crocodilian smile of Captain Ripgut. "Are you intimidated
by death? Does the idea of a real battle frighten you?"
Lem lay his friend's body on the deck. Then, with a mighty shout, he drew
his cutlass and slashed at Ripgut. The evil Captain parried as quick as a
flash. Lem was not intimidated by the reptile's speed. He slashed and
hacked, swirling his sword in vicious arcs until it became a blur. With
unbelievable speed, Ripgut parried each blow, until finally, growing bored
with the game, he flung Lem's cutlass out of his paws. Holding the lemming
at swordpoint, the crocodile instructed him "Order your crew to surrender."
Captain Lem grabbed the sword with his bare hands. Ignoring the pain as
it sliced into his palms, he turned the weapon and pushed it into the
reptile's chest. As Ripgut stared in amazement at the fatal wound, he
smiled genuinely. "That was rather daring. I didn't think... you had...
it in you." With a chuckle, he crumpled to the deck in a bloodstained heap.
One by one, as they saw that their leader lay lifeless on the deck of the
Fuzzy Doom, the enemy lost heart and surrendered.
The Fuzzy Doom had won.
...But at what cost?
* * *
Captain Lem, his paws bandaged until they were like clubs, stood on the
foredeck and watched the sun rise. "Red sky." said Jekyll beside him.
"We'll be in for some poor weather today."
"Yes." said the Captain, absently. "What's the status of our repairs?"
"We were able to stop the leakage." reported the magpie. "But we'll need
to put her in drydock once we reach Meowritus. She needs more work than we
can do out here at sea."
"And the Black Umbra?"
"In tow, Sir. The survivors of her crew are in the brig, where Xan is
keeping a close eye on them."
Lem did not look at Jekyll. He didn't need to look to know what was
coming. "You want orders concerning our dead."
"Aye, Sir. Truth be told, we've never faced this problem before. Not
even under our last Captain."
"The beasts who gave their lives today are heroes. We will return with
their bodies to the Otterman Empire where they will be put to rest in a
place where their memories will be honored by those they served."
"And the enemy?"
"Once we get to Meowritius, we'll put the enemy dead aboard the Black
Umbra and burn her until not a belaying pin remains while her survivors
watch. I want the entire country to bear witness to her fate. I want them
to see what happens to those who slay the crew of Captain Lemmuel Cliffdiver.
Turning away from the sea, the Captain made his way toward his cabin. On
the way, he came across Scurvy and Rikkets, both of whom were laughing
boisterously. With a small sneer, he inquired "what are you two so happy
"I..." said Rikkets as he shifted unsteadily from paw to paw "am happy to
still be alive."
"You're drunk." Lem accused.
"HE'S drunk." Scurvy confirmed. "Me, I'm just stoked. I went into
battle today! I crossed swords with a one-eyed gecko who was trying to run
me through! I even saved Rikkets here from becoming shark food. That's
something that you don't do when you're working in an office building in
"Yeah." said Lem coldly. "Well, I'm so glad you had a good time. That's
what's important, isn't it? To just have fun." With that, he stomped off
and slammed his cabin door behind him.
In the darkness of his personal quarters, Lemmuel mourned.
Cote D'arms was dead. He would never again see his helmsman and friend.
Lindy Lashtail was gone, leaving Xan an orphan.
Bob Applecart had been crushed by a fallen mast spar.
Weasely Mike had been overpowered by a vicious red panda.
Caleb Forepaw lost a swordfight. Never again would they hear his balads.
Mi was still missing. No one had any idea what had become of him.
Lem found himself missing the solace which the boredom of his old life had
offered. Why had he come here? Why had he let the fast-talking sprite
bring him into this reality, only to abandon him in his hour of greatest need?
* * *
Reg Ropefast was fairly new aboard the Fuzzy Doom. Being an adventurous
sort of anteater, he'd signed aboard when the ship made port in East
Edentata. He'd been an aspiring helmsman, and now, long before he was
ready, found himself to be THE helmsman in Cote's absence. He knew that he
wasn't ready for this, and the building storm only made matters worse.
When the Captain passed, he seized the opportunity to voice his concerns.
"You'll do fine, Reg." said Lem unemotionally. "Just get us to Meowritius
and if you still don't think you're ready to be the chief helmsman, we'll
find someone there who is."
Rikkets stepped up beside the Captain. "Rather strident with that young
fellow, Lem." he said.
"He'll either gain confidence or never admit to being unsure of himself
again, or he'll quit once we reach port. Any of those is an acceptable
alternative to whining."
"Captain, what's happened to you?"
Lem whirled and glowered at the cargomaster. "What do you think happened?
This has all been just one big game for those of us from the real world,
and now almost half the crew are dead. I'm thinking it's time we started
acting like real sailors, Rikkets."
"Those were my friends too, you know." the Raccoon responded. "You don't
think I'm moved by their loss? Heck, Lem, why do you think I was drunk at
six in the morning?"
Lem stood silently at that.
"And, by the way, there's something you should know."
"The bodies of the dead... they're..."
"They're all limp."
"Well of course they are, Rikkets, you idiot. They're dead!"
"That's just it! By now, rigor mortis should have set in."
Lem pondered a moment. "Maybe death works differently in this world." he
"You know better than that. You've killed raiders before. You know what
happens when people die here. We're still flesh and blood, even if we
Lem had no response to that. Instead, he looked out to the increasingly
choppy sea. "Are the repairs to the hull holding?" he asked quietly.
"For the moment. Though I'm not quite comfortable sailing these rough
waters in the condition that we're in.
* * *
The ship had been heaving for some time. Lem felt like heaving himself as
he sat in the galley with a tankard of ale. The ale was meant to calm his
stomach, but it didn't seem to be helping much. Without warning, water
began rushing under the galley door.
Lem rushed into the hold. The patch had broken and the hole which the
cannonball had made was gushing seawater. Rikkets was already there,
pushing barrels and boxes toward the hole in an attempt to stem the deadly
An enormous wave rocked the ship, sending Lem and Rikkets rolling to the
far side of the hold. The hull breach grew from the impact and the timbers
above and below began to crack.
A cry sounded from above decks, barely audible over the rush of water. It
was Jekyll's voice saying "She's gonna hit!" A second later, the crazed
ocean waves thrust the Black Umbra into the side of the Fuzzy Doom. The
good ship was split in two, and sank in pieces below the waves. The last
thought to go through captain Lem's mind: "Why did you leave us, Mi?"
* * *
Captain Lem opened his eyes. This in itself was a surprise to him. He
was certain that he had died, drowned when the Fuzzy Doom was destroyed.
Perhaps, he thought, his life as Captain Lem had all been a dream, and now
he would wake to his undersized apartment in Hoboken. He looked around
experimentally. No such luck. The first thing he saw was a squid standing
on its tentacles next to his bed.
"Where am I?" asked the lemming.
"Don't try to speak." said the squid in a motherly tone. "You're in
"The kingdom of the squids, deep beneath the sea where you went down. Our
people rescued you and your crew from drowning."
"My crew... I have to see them..."
"Certainly. After you've had some rest."
"No! I have to go now!"
"All right." conceded the squid. "But only for a moment."
The squid, whose name was May, brought Lem out of his room into a large
undersea cave. A VERY large undersea cave. It looked as though an entire
town was housed in this single cavern. Everywhere he looked there were
squids walking in and out of buildings or down sandy streets. The
immediate area appeared to his senses to be rather like the front lawn of a
county hospital. There, gathered around a fire, some in their own tattered
garments and others in hospital robes, were assembled the crew of the Fuzzy
Doom. The whole crew. Lindy. Cote. Bob. Mike. Caleb. Every one of
them alive, and looking quite puzzled because of it.
"Captain?" said Caleb. "Do you know what's going on?"
"I thought I was dead." said Weasely Mike.
"So was I." added Jekyll. "I took two lungfulls of seawater when the ship
"We were all dead." said Reg. "Now we're not. What happened?"
"It must have been Mi."
"No, not me. Mi. Yeoman Mi."
Half the crew nodded in understanding. The other half simply looked
Though still leaning on the tentacle of May the squid, Lem did his best to
assume an official- looking posture as he said "I think it's high time
everyone knew." Finding it increasingly difficult to stand, Lem seated
himself in front of the fire. "The fact is that Mi is not a muskrat."
"But he sure looks like one." someone said.
"Mi is a magical being called a Sprite. He has this hobby... he goes to
this other world populated by creatures called humans. He finds humans who
could do with a better life and he brings them here, where he turns them
into animals and puts them to work on the Fuzzy Doom. In fact, I'm one of
the humans he brought."
"But I've always been a cat." said Caleb.
"And I've always been..." Weasely Mike began. "Well, I wasn't a human,
anyway, whatever that is."
"Not everyone. About half of us are from the other world."
"Cap'n?" said Jekyll. "Why didn't ye tell us?"
"Would you have believed me?"
"I'm not so sure I believe you now." said Caleb.
"It's true." offered Rikkets. "I came from the other world, too."
"So did I." said Lindy.
"And me." said Xan.
"Same here." Scurvy chimed.
"Mi wanted us to have happy, fulfilling lives." Lem tried to explain. "So
he turned us from a scattered bunch of losers and criminals into heroes.
He's been watching out for us ever since the day I became Captain. I can
only assume that it's his magic which brought us back to life."
"Not exactly." someone said. Everyone turned to look and see who had
spoken. It was Mi. This was obvious from the simple tunic and sash which
he always wore. No longer was he a muskrat, however. Instead, his fur had
given way to pale pink skin, and his muzzle to a bizarre face like no
creature any of the locals had ever seen. Those from the other world might
have categorized him as human if not for his severe eyebrows and pointed
ears. "You weren't dead." said Mi. "I was able to sort of suspend each of
you in the last second of life until I could come back and heal you."
"Lem rose unsteadily from his spot by the fire. "Mi, you miserable
half-baked elf, where in the name of the queen's quills have you BEEN?"
"Let me explain."
"Oh, you bet I will."
"Everything the Captain told you is true. I have been working to make all
of you from both worlds happy, and through you, make this a better world.
But there has been someone working against me."
Lem was taken aback at this. "Who?" he inquired.
"His name is Selv. I'm ashamed to say he's my brother."
"With the same powers as I have. Only he uses his powers to conquer
entire worlds and populate them with his slave race, the Shadows. He's
done this to every world I've ever called home, and he wants to do it to
this one, too. Just as I've been serving as Yeoman on the Fuzzy Doom, so
Selv has been acting as the first mate aboard the Black Umbra. It was he
who gave the pirates their cannon, a weapon from the other world. He has
no compunction about using his powers for evil. If I hadn't removed him
from the battle, he would have used his magic to destroy you all on the spot."
"So you've been fighting with him since the battle?" Lindy postulated.
"Not exactly fighting."
"What HAVE you been doing?" asked Lem, angrily.
"If Selv and I duked it out, we'd probably end up destroying this planet.
That's how powerful we are. Neither of us wants that. Instead, I got him
to agree not to use his powers except in a minimal fashion."
"I don't understand."
"We're both acting under a strict set of rules, now. He can't use any
magic unless I let him. The trade-off is that I can't use any magic
either. The moment I do, he gets to do the equal and opposite. That means
that if I want to keep him from taking over this world, I have to interfere
as little as I possibly can."
Rikkets held up a paw as if to ask a question. "So... you're saying that
you brought us all back to life, but as part of the deal, he gets to bring
the crew of the Black Umbra back to life?"
"Exactly. But I can't do anything else, or I give him permission to do
the same back to us. I have to do everything I can to keep him from taking
over this world, or he'll destroy everyone in it, and then he'll move on to
the human world."
"You mean our world." Xan said blandly.
"Exactly. Of course, he's still got His ship and crew. Even without his
magic, he's going to spread his evil around the planet using them. That's
why I need your help. We've got to work together to stop them."
"How? We're in a cave at the bottom of the sea, Mi, and our boat is in
"Not quite so."
"What do you mean? You said you wouldn't do any more magic. How else
could the ship be recovered?"
"There's a reason I called on the people of Moluskova to rescue you." said
Mi. "Do you feel up for a little walk?"
* * *
The walk turned out not to be little at all. Instead, the crew found
themselves walking up a steep incline which seemed to go on forever. Up,
up they went, until at last they emerged into the daylight on a tropical
island. Just ahead of the beach, Lem saw the most beautiful sight in all
the world. Either world, for that matter. Standing proudly in the water
was the pirate ship Fuzzy Doom, looking as brand new as the day she was
"But... but how? She sank to the bottom! I was there!"
Mi smiled mischievously. "Lem, how deep is too deep for a squid to dive?"
"I... I don't know."
"That's the wonderful thing about squids on this world. They can dive as
deep as the ones in your world can, and then they can come and stand on the
shore just as comfortable as you please. It was the squids who salvaged
the ship and rebuilt her. Oh, and look! Here's the mollusk who oversaw
the whole project.
Casting a disapproving eye, the approaching sea beast responded "Aye, and
this must be the stupid landlubber who broke me ship in twain."
Lem was incensed. "Landlubber? Why you spineless, blubbery... what do
you mean YOUR ship?"
"I suppose this big lummox of a fae did na tell ye. I'm Captain Qid, the
original Captain of the Fuzzy Doom!
* * *
As if they had always been old friends, Lem and Qid sat together in the
galley of the Fuzzy Doom while Bob Applecart, refreshed after being dead
for so long, served them a lunch of shrimp dumplings and dandelion tea.
"I grew up in a small lake in the Otterman Empire." Qid explained as he
stuffed a dumpling into his beak. "It was officially the Moluskova
embassy. My heart, though, longed for the open sea. That was why I
decided to become a corsair. With a pair of sea otters as my only helpers,
I built this ship with my own ten tentacles. My crew consisted mostly of
dissatisfied ambassadors' children. I should have known we'd never make it
as pirates. I just didn't have it in my heart to take on anyone who was
truly bloodthirsty. We were compassionate beasts, but awful pirates.
Barely managed to scrape out a living."
"I know the feeling." said Lem, smiling as he thought back to his early
days commanding the Doom.
"Then one day, this muskrat signs on. Didn't know it was a sprite in
disguise back then. He had a wisdom about him. Helped me look inside
meself and see that it wasn't being the captain of a ship I wanted. It was
the ocean. He made me realize that I'd me so much happier IN the briny
blue than ON it. He was right, of course. I've been living here in
Moluskova ever since. Of course I asks him 'what about me ship? Who's
gonna take care of me crew?' Says the muskrat 'Don't you fret none,
Captain Qid. I've got just the man for the job.' I'm assuming he meant you."
"Just one question though." said Lem as he swirled his glass of tea. "Why
did you name it the 'Fuzzy Doom'?"
"I confess I'm not much for imagination. The scariest name I could come
up with was 'Ship of doom'."
"So why the fuzzy part?"
"Me mateys suggested I call it "Tentacled doom" or "Doom from the deep".
But I'm a squid. None of those things scared me. So I named it for the
appearance of the most un-squid-like creatures I could find. The fuzzy
creatures of the Otterman Empire."
Lem laughed uproariously, then became suddenly quiet.
"What's the matter?" asked Qid.
"I was just thinking of what we're going to do now. We were supposed to
be on our way to Meowritius with a hold full of fish to help relieve the
famine there. Naturally, we lost all the fish in the crash."
"Ah, why didn't you say so? My squids can have your holds filled again by
tomorrow morning. Ain't nobody can catch fish like a squid."
"Oh, and by the way, we managed to recover your library, though the
scrolls and books are a bit damp. You may want to consider having them
* * *
It was with glad hearts that the crew set sail once again in the newly
rebuilt Fuzzy Doom. Glad because all which was lost had been restored, and
glad to have new friends and allies in the squids of Moluskova. The trip
to Meowritius seemed to take no time whatsoever because of the crew's high
spirits. However, things became a little bit more disturbing when the Doom
pulled into port. For not too far distant lay the pirate ship Black Umbra,
her crew reveling drunkenly.
* * *
Captain Ripgut was enjoying himself immensely as he tormented the poor
helpless koala at his feet. "What precisely is the problem?" Asked the
crocodile slimily. "Everyone else on this island has shown us courtesy and
cooperation. The butcher let us have his fish. The green grocer gave us
his choicest vegetables. The man at the lumberyard wasn't going to give us
any timber, but he eventually relented. When we left, he was so cheerful
that he had a great big smile across his throat."
"Please!" begged the Koala. "I'm just a scribe! I don't have anything
here you want! Only old stories I've copied!"
"Why must you be so contrary?" teased the pirate. "It breaks my heart.
Well, I guess I'll just have to kill you. Sorry."
"Not as sorry as you're going to be." said a voice behind him as something
blunt poked his back.
"Captain Cliffdiver?" said Ripgut. "Is that you? You slew me once
because you were lucky. You shan't have that good fortune again."
"Potassium nitrate, sulphur, charcoal. Sound familiar?"
"The ingredients of gunpowder."
"Yeah, well did you know where your first mate got the secret for making
gunpowder? Same place I'm from. Pointed at your spine is a weapon called
a pistol. If I pull this trigger, it will ignite a charge of gunpowder and
send a little metal pellet hurtling through your body, killing you
instantly, and I will do just that if you don't let the koala go."
Ripgut sheathed his sword and made for the door. "You're quite the clever
little lemming, Captain Cliffdiver." he said without turning around. "I
shall enjoy killing you when next we meet."
"Maybe then." said the lemming as he stuffed his weapon into his belt
beneath his cloak. "But for now your crew is too drunk to be a threat. If
you fought us now you'd lose. So I'm going to be gracious and give you
twenty minutes to leave this island."
Ripgut looked over his shoulder. "You're letting me go because you lost
half your crew in our last battle and you don't want to risk them again
until you're certain they're ready to take us."
Lem's hand moved to his waist. "Don't make me use this thing!"
Sweeping a pile of books over with his tail, Ripgut stalked out the door.
The Koala scribe looked quizzically at Lem. "Your pistol looks strangely
like a belaying pin."
The captain took the wooden pin from his belt and with a wink said "It
sure does. Imagine that. Old Captain Ripgut was afraid of a belaying pin.
What a horrible fraud I am. I'll have to reprimand myself when I get back
to my ship."
"You saved my life, Captain. How can I ever repay you?"
"You can accept the job I'm about to offer you."
* * *
The Otterman Emperor was at once pleased and distressed to learn the full
story of the Fuzzy Doom's voyage to Meowritus by way of Davy Jones' locker.
"I wish you to know" he said with a nod to Captain Lem followed by one to
Mi. "That if there is ever anything we of the Empire may do for you, you
have only to speak it."
"Actually, there is." said Captain Lem. "I almost hesitate to ask this
after all the work that Captain Qid put into rebuilding this craft, but
there are a few modifications I would like to make."
* * *
"An iron hull." said Reg with incredulity. "I'd think that would cause
the ship to sink."
"Not at all." replied Lem. "On my world, they only make ships out of
metal. Of course, we don't want to advertise what we've done. That's why
the metal is sandwiched between two layers of wood. But trust you me, next
time Ripgut fires off that cannon of his, he's going to be surprised at how
little damage it does. And as the ship's new chief engineer, it'll be your
job to take care of this new hull."
"Aye aye, Sir." replied the anteater as he threw off a smart salute.
Mi was impressed with Lem. "Here, I thought you were going to mount
cannons on the Fuzzy Doom." he quipped.
"Why start an arms race?" Lem replied. "I don't need a bigger gun. I
simply need to make his ineffective."
"True enough. But you said that you wanted to make a couple of changes.
What was the other one?"
"I'm creating a new crew position."
"You mean the job you gave the koala, copying our library?"
"No, no... ah, here he comes now."
Up the gangplank strode an officious looking river otter with a riding
crop under one arm. "Name's Sargent Keel!" shouted the otter in an
unnecessarily loud voice. "Cap'n hired me to whip you sorry worms into
shape! I'm gonna make beasts outa you babies!"
"You hired a drill Sargent?"
* * *
Captain Lem knew that life was going to be hard. No longer was it going
to be the closely protected fairy-tale existence Mi had intended. Now the
action was free-form. The adventure was genuine. The danger was real.
The urgency of the Fuzzy Doom's mission had a new dimension. Strangely
enough, Captain Lemmuel Cliffdiver found that he couldn't be happier.
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