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The Gerbil-Space Ship
“Where?” all the hamsters shouted at once.
It was embarrassing to the big hamster to be in the middle of interest all of a sudden.
“I think”, he said in a low voice, “I spent the night there.”
“In the gerbil ship? You spent a night in the gerbil-space ship, Dodo? Where?”
Dodo squinted at Hamstilidamst. “Well, recently, when I was a seal. In the village pond.”
“So the thing sunk. All right, people, as soon as it’s dark, we’ll recover the space ship. We’ll borrow a crane from this site. Then we take the ship here and get it restarted. At dawn we’ll be gone. All right, Mayor?”
“Erm, I so to say have a request. May I for one last time be the cormorant – er – what I mean is commander. I – erm – promise not to say anything but I so wish to shit – er – er – to sit on the captain’s chair once more. Of course – erm – we may dote, that is vote…”
Tearfully the mayor looked around and the chief nodded his agreement to the voting. Slips of paper were given out to all hamsters and a few minutes later Flecki informed about the result:
Void: 1 – as the statement: ‘I want to be back in the pond’ was quite off-key as Flecki stated.
Because Finny and Emmy only were trainees, they were not permitted to vote. Chief Botchy ordered them to take care of the building site and ‘start a bit of cleaning’. As matter of fact Trample sighed deeply at this moment, absolutely glad that something like trainees exited.
Now preparations had to start, this meaning first of all taking along supplies and the most necessary items. It took some time until Goldi understood that 3 trunks with food were a wee bit too much and much too much of weight for the small gerbil-space ship. At dusk the hamster troop set out for the pond. Tuffy drove ahead with a small ambulance, the rest trudged after her. They were in good spirits, only the mayor went on their nerves by his permanent babble of ‘being happy and – erm – honoured’ to have been elected with one voice. All the time he glared up to the evening sky, drivelling about ‘deep space’. Flecki’s hint that it was not very probable that they were going to visit space on their way to Ullapool he answered with a stupid grin. Only after crossing the building site and falling into several pits he calmed down a little and to the general relief kept his mouth shut for a while.
Recovering the small space ship showed to be a little difficult as at the first try the crane with Tuffy slipped from the water’s edge and landed in the pond. After some discussion another crane had to be fetched, to be controlled by Goldi. Flecki and chief Botchy had quite a tantrum after Goldi had made down eight lamp posts because he, as he phrased it, ‘wanted to train a little’. When also this crane ended in the pond, the operation seemed to have failed. About midnight it was decided to send in a frogman. The chief really succeeded to find several old diver suits in the tool room. After a check they discovered that only the smallest one could be used. After another, shorter check they found that this suit would only fit a small hamster, i.e. Trample. So no vote was needed and poor Trample was thrown into the pond with a swing so that he got the necessary diving depth – as Goldi stressed.
After several dives Trample found that the space ship had landed on the fountain and its nose was stuck deep in the mud.
“I see, that’s why the fountain did no longer work”, chief Botchy marvelled. Months ago the city gardeners had given him the order to repair the fountain after all of a sudden it had stopped working or, to be exact, had vanished. So now it was clear that the space ship was lying on the fountain and pressed it down to the bottom of the pond. After Trample had helped Tuffy and Goldi ashore, his job was done and chief Botchy immediately knew what to do.
“Tuffy, turn up to water supply for the fountain, full power!”
Some time later bubbles could be made out in the middle of the pond and about an hour later the gerbil-space ship slowly emerged to the surface.
“Tuffy, turn the water back to normal. Is the order of the city gardeners somewhere about? Yes? Fine, so we can send them a steep invoice and they might as well pay for the recovery of two cranes.”
As the cranes were not at disposal, a truck was needed to recover the space ship. This time chief Botchy in person took the wheel, not surrendering to the plead of the mayor to let him have the passenger seat. At first all went well, the chief dragged the ship slowly towards the neighbouring green. Unfortunately nobody informed him that there was a rail around the pond and when the ship got stuck at the rail, it happened. When the job was almost finished, suddenly it did not go on although the chief at first accelerated cautiously. Tuffy’s desperate shouts about some rail being in the way, the chief could not hear in the driver’s cabin and so the hamsters had to watch helplessly how chief Botchy under roars of fury put in the highest gear and hit the pedal to the metal. There was a loud, ugly sound, a big clatter and the truck’s motor died down. Cursing, the chief scrambled out of the destructed driver’s cabin and together with his repair team took a look at the damage. Like a catapult the space ship had shot onto the truck from behind. Luckily the ship was not damaged, the truck however was a clear write-off.
“Tuffy, put the truck on the invoice. It’s been damaged during recovering the cranes.”
Checking the space ship, they found that it was in good order and a few things only had to be clarified before the start, first of all the length of the runway. Would the distance down the allotments and the recreation park behind them be long enough? Chief Botchy admitted that he was not keen on ploughing down the new soccer stadium of SC Hamsterton. He had after all participated in the building and rather liked the beautiful stadium. Next item was the navigation of the ship. The majority of the hamsters would have refused to enter the ship in case Goldi took the navigation. Goldi’s alternative proposal to take over the weapons again was also rejected, pointing out the peaceful character of their mission. As Flecki refused to touch any navigation unit contaminated by gerbil paws, there was no one but chief Botchy to steer the ship and of course first of all to start it.
“And how will we get there?” Flecki put a legitimate question. “Does anyone know the way? And don’t tell me anything about Hamstilidamst and his Scottish ancestors – or I’ll start crowing!”
“You do so anyway”, Goldi grumbled and immediately was asked if he was any better in knowing how to reach Scotland.
“Easy”, he retorted. “Map and compass.”
“Wonderful, so to say excellent”, the mayor cheered. “Go let so – er – so let’s go!”
Cheering, the hamster troop went on board. The next moment they were inside the ship and looked about them. There was a little light from the street lamp so that the few controls and switches on the tiny bridge could be made out easily.
“Dodo”, Taty shouted, “say something!”
The big hamster looked around, looked at Taty and back to the bridge. “And now? What shall we do now?”
“Swell, that’s what we’ve been waiting for!” Tealeafy cried and nudged his brother.
The chief eyed the switches, tapped here and there, craned his neck and for several minutes studied the instruments.
“Any idea, dear Mr. Botchy?”
“Well, my dear Mayor, the real pro checks alien techniques well before making quick and false judgements. Only a raw greenhorn would jump to conclusions.”
Two hours later some disquiet came up when Botchy was still knocking at the controls and switches, somewhat louder by now. Even in the dim light of the street lamp everyone could see that by now his head has the colour of a very ripe tomato.
“Well, erm, Mister…”
“How am I to concentrate with all that gibberish?” he interrupted the mayor who after hours wanted to put the one important question. “How am I to analyze alien technology if all the time someone is babbling to me?” Furiously, he kicked the wall of the space ship and banged his little fist on one of the units. The board lights went on with a flicker and the chief jumped back.
“Three cheers to our chief!” Tuffy shouted and the other hamsters laughingly agreed.
“All right”, the chief bawled and put his much too small paws to his much too fat hips. His self-confidence was back and with legs apart he placed himself in front of the main panel – or what he thought to be the main panel. “Let’s proceed with logic and analytical”, he shouted, looking at the inscription on the instruments. “’Forward’ could well mean that the ships moves into bow direction, the reverse would be ‘Backwards’. ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ would indicate the navigation direction as well as ‘Up’ and ‘Down’… Well, ‘Start’? Well, I’ll test that one.”
A trembling paw moved towards the lever with the inscription ‘Start’ but before he could push it, Flecki was at his side, holding back his paw. He looked at her with big eyes and Flecki purred:
“How about to pro first using the ‘Close door’-button so that we do not lose half the crew on our way?”
Some hamsters cackled while the chief did as bidden. “A little rusty”, Botchy grumped and once more looked round to this troop. He obviously did not feel very well and wondered to let someone take his place.
“Well, shall we start now?” Goldi asked, yawning.
“You see he’s yellow…”
“I’m what?” Botchy roared, turning round. “Who said that – confess! Me an’ yellow! You’ve no idea, I’m doing that all day long. Hold fast, you softies, I’ll show you!”
With a very read head and much infuriated, the chief pushed the lever. He did not push it cautiously but down to the stop. The engines reacted at once. “See, tha-a-a-a-a…..”
The shear force made his words stuck in his throat and pressed him – and the rest of the troop – to the back wall of the bridge. From here the hamsters had a first rate view on what was happening on their course. As matter of fact the gerbil-ship accelerated – very much so – and could not be stopped by irrelevant things like fences and park benches – neither by trees. So the travel group quickly crossed the small park and approached the Hamstian allotments. The outer fence was soon conquered and so was the club house. Spellbound, the hamsters watched how an allotment garden with house was ploughed down. Just when the space ship crossed another of these charming little houses, Trample recognized his new furniture which he had bought one week ago and with much love had furnished his allotment with them.
On they raced through several freshly planted hedges and over the club-flag to the recreation park. The new pavilion, opened a few weeks ago by the mayor with many ceremonial words, disappeared with a loud, ugly sound, same as the freshly planted plants. On they went down a recreation green, several chestnut trees and a number of hedges. At this time the whimpering of the mayor could not be neglected any longer and also the chief realized that it was time for him to take action.
“Bit much power, isn’t it?” Flecki shouted at Goldi how raptly watched through the bow window how the racing ship approached non-braked the large parking lot in front of the new soccer stadium of the SC Hamsterton. The gatehouse was no opponent for the space ship, neither the first row of parking cars which clever Hamsterton people had left here to save the city’s parking charges. Soon the large entrance to the stadium was down, only the grandstand damped the speed a little and a pained “NO!” rang out from the back-wall of the ship’s bridge. The next moment the chief desperately scrambled against the centrifugal force and with his last grain of strength pushed up the lever inscripted “Up”. Followed a lot of rattling, accompanied by the howling of a certain chief who had to watch how row after row of seats disappeared which he had mounted in many long hours and with many exaggerated invoices. As show-down the giant flood-light mast was cut in halves – then the gerbil-ship was in the air.
“Are we in space now?”
No one answered Dodo. They all were exhausted and mighty glad to be still alive. By now the mayor was sitting in the commander’s seat, patting the chief who was lying beside him, sobbing and drumming his fists at the floor of the bridge.