"I've always loved that song!" declared Captain Lem as he raised his tankard in a salute to Caleb Forepaw, the accordion player. The other pirates laughed boisterously as they filed over to fill their mugs with soda pop.
"Oy, Cap'n!" said Bob Applecart, the cook. "I ain't complainin' about the drinkin', but would it hurt a great deal to have a little rum aboard next time?"
The lemming captain looked down into his glass. "Maybe." he said. "Unfortunately, we haven't been able to afford rum of late."
The pirates grumbled.
Captain Lem stood up to address his crew. "Now then, mates... I know that times are tough, but they needn't stay that way. You want rum?"
"AYE!" called back the crew.
"You want gold?"
"You want treasure and booty galore?"
"Then let's go get it! We're pirates! Ruthless and cruel! We take what we want! Mister Jekyll, find us a nice big trading ship to loot!"
"Aye aye, Cap'n!" answered the magpie as he flew up to the crow's nest.
The crew was in action, now. They'd all be on the lookout for a ship to plunder. Lem knew that they could function fine without his direct supervision, and so he slipped away into his cabin. He still felt a sense of marvel at the posh, plush interior. And sitting there at the foot of his bed was a mischievous looking little sprite, grinning from ear to ear. "So," said the sprite. "How do you like it?"
Lem paused to regard himself in the full-length mirror. He cut a handsome figure in his frilly red coat and blue tights, along with his nifty three-corner hat with its huge scarlet plume. The strangest thing of all, naturally, was that he was a lemming. "It's been fun so far, Mi." he said. "But I still can't seem to get used to it all."
The sprite giggled and drummed his fingers. "This IS what you wished for. Of course, I could always turn you back into a human and set you in New Jersey again. I'm sure Anthony's Pizza can use another assistant manager."
"Ugh." Lem muttered. "No thanks. I'll take this world over that one any day. I just have one question, though."
"Of all the storybook realities you could have transported me into, why this one?"
"It was your idea to be a pirate captain."
"But why HERE? I mean, why this universe where everyone is an animal, and I'm a lemming?"
Mi looked to the ceiling and shook his head. "Not animals, silly. FURRIES. There's a difference."
Lem was about to respond when he heard the shout. "Ship ho!"
Captain Lem was instantly on deck. He looked out to see what Jekyll had spotted. It was a royal frigate, sailing from Felinia to the Otterman empire. It's markings labeled it the "Golden Goose". Surely it would be loaded down with goods to sell in the empire, as well as a hefty amount of gold from its sales in Felinia.
"Mister Cote, set course to intercept yon vessel!" exclaimed Captain Lem.
"Aye, Cap'n!" answered the octopus as he spun the wheel with four of his arms.
Lem scurried about the deck, barking orders to his crew, until at last, his ship, the "Fuzzy Doom" was pulling up alongside the bogged-down freighter. His men... his furries... cast lines over to the other ship and swung across. In seconds, the sound of clanging steel rang out over the sea as the swords of the pirates met the swords of their victims.
Lem strode through the sea of fur and steel and found the opposing captain cringing at the bottom of the main mast. The captain was a mouse, literally. Lem hoisted him in the air and said in a loud commanding voice "Surrender your cargo and gold to the pirates of the Fuzzy Doom, and I MIGHT just let you live!"
"But... we can't!" cried the mouse. "I can't give up my cargo!"
"Don't be whiny!" said Lem. "Of course you can!"
"But we've already been robbed four times by the pirates of the Wolfstar! If I lose another cargo, the emperor will skin me alive!"
Captain Lem was wondering what to do. The sword fighting was slowing down as members of both crews looked to him for a decision.
"But... We have to loot something! Have you any rum in the galley?"
"None, Sir. We've had to sell off all of our luxury items in order to make up for our losses!"
Lem put the mouse down and ran a hand over his face. "Crud." he uttered. "I could have made a better living selling pizza."
"What's pizza?" asked the mouse captain.
"Come on, boys." said Lem. "There'll be other ships."
"AWWW!" groaned the pirates as they let their swords drop to their sides.
"Captain," said Cote, the octopus as he sheathed two of his swords. "Don't you think you're being just a little bit TOO sympathetic?"
"Of course I am. Would you like to pillage and ravage the ship?"
Cote tapped two tentacles together timidly. "Well, no... not really."
From the crow's nest of the cargo ship came a cry "Pirates ho!"
The mouse captain looked up. "A bit late for that, don't you think?" he yelled.
"No, Sir! Look!" called back the bird overhead as he pointed with his wing. Lem looked to see where the bird was pointing as well. His eyes fell upon the rapidly closing form of the pirate ship Wolfstar.
"Captain?" said a hyena. "I suggest we let the Wolfstar have the freighter, lest they plunder us as well."
Captain Lem stood and watched the vessel as it approached. He had just spared the other ship out of compassion. Could he now stand by and watch it be robbed blind? Some of its crew possibly killed?"
"Mates," called the lemming. "Who among you would like to see some action?"
The pirates of the fuzzy doom cheered enthusiastically.
"I've decided that the "Golden Goose would go free. It seems that the Wolfstar would challenge that decision. I don't plan to let them get away with that. I'm planning to show the Wolfstar who's boss, and send them away just a little bit poorer! Who's up to this challenge?"
There was a moment of silence, until a muskrat, one with a voice peculiarly similar to Mi's, called out "Come on, mates? Are we pirates or are we landlubbers? I say we show these scallywags what the Fuzzy Doom can do!
Bob Applecart cried "If there's rum in it, count me in!"
"I'm in!" called Cote, pointing to himself with six of his tentacles.
"Me too!" shouted Jekyll.
"Lets give 'em what for!" yelled Caleb.
With a roar and a bloodlust, the pirates climbed back aboard the Golden Goose.
"I thought you were letting us go?" whimpered the mouse captain.
"We're defending you!" replied Lem in an exasperated voice.
In moments, the Wolfstar was pulling up beside the other two ships. "Prepare to be boarded! And to surrender your cargo!"
Lem strode forward to face the enemy. "You'll not take a farthing from here, vermin! This ship is under the protection of the Fuzzy Doom!"
The captain of the Wolfstar, a foppishly dressed mink, casually stepped forward to face his lemming opponent. "You are Captain of the fuzzy doom?" asked the mink.
"I am! Captain Lemmuel Cliffdiver, at your service."
The mink helped himself to a bit of snuff before calling "And is that your ship next to this one?"
The mink turned to his crew and said "Fire."
An explosion rocked the sea. A cannonball sailed through the air and through two of the Fuzzy Doom's masts.
"MY SHIP!" screamed Lem. "You're going to pay for that!"
The mink laughed, even as his crew were pulling the vessels together. "Am I? Come now. The Fuzzy Doom has a reputation, you know. Everyone knows that you poor fools couldn't harm a fly. What can you possibly do to me?"
A second later, the mink was screaming as a dozen enemy pirates descended on him with swords flashing.
The crew of the Wolfstar sprang into action. The pirates of the Fuzzy Doom met them head on. For the briefest of moments, it looked like the Fuzzy Doom was going to win one, until the mink Captain threw his attackers off and began screaming to his crew that if they suffered defeat, they would suffer far more from his own hand than at the hand of the enemy. This sent the Wolfstar pirates into a frenzy.
"Oh, ruddy heck!" mumbled Lem. "What do we do now?"
"Don't panic." said the muskrat with Mi's voice. "Things will get better in 3...2...1..."
"FOR THE OTTERMAN EMPIRE!" screamed the mouse captain as he and his crew leapt into the fray. The Wolfstar pirates began to wither under the combined forces of the Fuzzy Doom and the Golden Goose. It wasn't long until they were laying down their swords and rolling over on their backs in surrender.
Lem gave the order to transfer the contents of the Wolfstar's holds to the Fuzzy Doom. Soon, the Doom was loaded with treasure, but still had no sails with which to get anywhere.
"We can give you a tow into port if you like." said the Goose's captain.
"Thanks, but no thanks." said Lem. "We'd be arrested if we docked in the Otterman empire. We ARE pirates, after all."
"Or... we could just leave you here with no way to make repairs."
"We'll take the tow."
Captain Lem had wanted very badly to bring the Wolfstar along as part of the booty, but there was simply no way that the Golden Goose could drag two other ships along. Of course, he could have simply taken the Wolfstar over and left the towed the Fuzzy Doom himself... but that idea quickly proved impossible. Rather than surrender their ship intact, the Wolfstar's crew had completely trashed the helm. It seemed poetic justice, therefore, to set the Wolfstar free without any means of steering their vessel.
"Well," said Lem as he sat on the edge of his bed. "I guess it's back to New Jersey for me."
"New Jersey?" Mi echoed. "Whatever for?"
"My career as a pirate just went up in flames. Not that it was much of a career to begin with. So... turn me back into a human. I'm ready."
Mi crossed his arms. "No." he said.
"No, I won't make you human again. You have a responsibility to your crew!"
"I've failed my crew. I failed them miserably."
"Oh, have you, now?" asked mi as he paced around the bed. "I think you'll find differently. Just you wait and see."
* * *
Lem was scared to death when he and his senior officers were brought before the ruler of the Otterman empire. He kept his head bowed and waited to be addressed.
"So... Captain Lemmuel... it was you who rescued the Golden Goose?"
He hadn't expected this. Lem looked up to see the emperor with a smile on his lutrine face. "Yes, Your Excellence." he replied.
"And you and your men defeated the Wolfstar and accompanied the Golden Goose into port?"
"Aye, Sire. Only, we were towed by the Goose."
"You are a good Lemming, Captain. I wish to reward you for your services."
"Your ship will be repaired and re-supplied at no expense. I also wish to offer you a job."
"The seas are full of pirates, Captain Lem. They are a thorn in my side, as I am sure you know. In return for a very generous wage in gold and goods, I would like you to work for me and begin making the seas safe again by fighting back the pirate menace."
Lem looked to his crew. They were all smiling. Even Cote, his mouth invisible between his tentacles, seemed to be smiling.
"Your excellency, we'll take the job!"
* * *
Captain Lem stood on the prow of his ship, breathing in the fresh salt air as the breeze whipped through his fur. Mi stood beside him, having assumed the form of a muskrat so as not to seem out of place.
"Life as an anti-pirate has been wonderful." he told the sprite. "I can't thank you enough for giving me this new life."
"My pleasure. I'm afraid I'll have to leave now, though."
"Hey... there are still a lot of miserable humans out there in the real world. SOMEONE'S got to help them out."
"Very good, then. I'll miss you, Mi."
"What 'Miss'? I didn't say I wasn't coming back. Where do you think I'll be bringing all those humans?"
"I assumed you'd put them in stories of their own."
"Nah. Too hard to keep track of. Besides, I like this reality. It's fun."
"You think so?"
"Where else can you find a lemming in a three cornered hat? Well, guess I'll be going. Cheerio!" With that, Mi vanished in a puff of smoke.
Lem turned his gaze from the deck where the sprite had been out to the open sea. There was a whole world of adventure waiting. He was eager to find out what would happen next.