Up and Away

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Escape from the Madhouse

 

“He’s got a trauma, a bad cranial trauma. We don’t know what to do. He’s gapeseeding all day long and talking gibberish.”

“So what? He’s been doing so for years and nobody cared. What’s so unusual with that now?”

The head physician of the General Hamstian Hospital turned round slowly. Once more he glanced at the report in his paws and scratched his head. He had tried to put several questions to the sick mayor but after a few minutes had given up disgustedly.

“Are you closely related with each other?”

Flecki glared at the doctor, quickly cleared her throat and said: “For goodness sake, no. We are – distant relatives, but very, very distant. And we are here just for a visit.”

The head physician nodded. “Perhaps shock treatment is the only thing to help him. Go and see for yourselves. He is in room 18, together with Mr. Botchy.”

Flecki, Goldi, Dodo, Hamstilidamst, and Tealeafy hurried down the passage until they reached the said room. Flecki pushed aside Dodo who wanted to knock, and softly pressed down the handle.

There was a roar of: “Not in my backyard! I want another room or I’ll leave. If that guy once more asks me who I am, I’ll knock him…”

“Now, now, Mr. Botchy”, a nurse tried to calm him down. “Doctor said it’s most important for the mayor that somebody is here whom he knows and trusts.”

“Why don’t you ask his brother – this Balthasar?”

“Well”, nurse said, bending her head, “we realeased him last week already.”

“Then get him back”, the chief engineer roared. “Can’t be that difficult!”

Nurse Nursy shrugged. “We already contacted Daby, his assistant. Unfortunately Miss Daby has no means of contacting him. His last sign of life was a post card from New Guinea. Such a pity that after his release he tried to book a ticket all on his own. Now the fat’s in the fire.”

Chief Botchy turned to continue his nagging when he got sight of his visitors. “Ah, Flecki, Goldi, Dodo, Hamstilidamst, and Tealeafy, how nice of you to come. You must help me to get out of here.”

“Chief, might it be that you said the same yesterday to Sasy, Dasy, Tuffy, and Trample?” Goldi asked with a broad grin.

“That’s what he says to every visitor”, the head physician, who was just coming in, said with a reproachful glance. “We cannot permit this. Mr. Botchy needs much quiet, he’s still quite neurotic.”

“I’m not neurotic, damn your impudence! I just want to get rid of this bloody fool, got that?” the chief yelled, fell on the mayor and strangled him.

“O Sir, have we been introduced?”

“Hear that?” Botchy screeched. “Gone completely nuts, he is, I’ll smash his noggin, throw him out of the window, I’ll…”

“Doctor! Doctor!”

Another nurse entered the room, quite upset. Her white apron was torn and she looked rather dissolved.

“Quick, Doctor, Goulash-Frodo has escaped! I tried to stop him, but he overran me!”

“O my God!” the head physician groaned. “Goulash-Frodo has to be caught at once. Quick, Nurse Nursy, call in HAMPO and HAMFI. Nurse Finny, you come with me to search the cellar.”

“Goulash-Frodo?” Hamstilidamst looked at his friends. “Hasn’t there been something with that guy?”

“Why don’t you ask your pal Goldi?” Flecki purred. “Frodo was one of the hamsters at the famous goulash canon. He was unlucky enough to be too close to it. Since that time he is aggressive and does nothing but mischief. There just was an article in the Hamster Times about his last escape. Did you read it?”

The hamsters shook their heads.

“For a whole week they were looking for him. He had hidden at the building authorities and bound the chief of the office and hidden him in the cellar. Then Goulash-Frodo took over the management and nobody noticed it.”

“Well”, Botchy remarked, shaking his head, “there is no better hiding place for a madman than the building authorities.”

“When it became known”, Flecki continued, “that the application for an underwater power line was cleared, the building inspection commission got the idea that something was wrong.”

“He wasn’t that bad, Frodo”, chief Botchy mumbled. “He after all permitted the erection of the new parking block.”

Now the wailing of sirens became audible in the distance and the running of paws in the passage.

“Guess they’re busy enough at the moment”, Goldi grinned. “How about, chief, what do you think about a little trip?”

Botchy’s jaw dropped and he stared at Goldi with big eyes. “Yes”, he breathed, “yes, out here! The sooner, the better. I won’t stand this fathead for another day.”

“But he shall not, nurse said, doctor said he is to have quiet!”

“D’you call this noise here quiet, Dodo?” Goldi snapped.

“But then we have to take the mayor as well. Perhaps he’s just missing his familiar surroundings!” Flecki said, nudged Dodo and beckoned him to help the mayor from the armchair. Dodo gripped him, threw him over his shoulder and followed the others out of the door, while the mayor asked for a cup of tea with one lump of sugar only.

Without any problem the six hamsters plus the carried one succeeded to pass the security bars in front of the hospital. One escaped hamster was being looked for, after all, not seven. Without haste and suspicious movements they left the hospital behind them and reached the market square.

“And now? What now?”

“Now you may let him down, Dodo!”

There was a loud smack.

“A little more carefully would have been just charming, Dodo”, Flecki hissed and looked at the town hall thoughtfully.

Goldi joined her. “Do you think what I’m just thinking?”

“Yes”, Flecki said, “we’ll take him to his office. He can’t do much mischief there and nobody will be looking for him at the place, at least not during Hamstian working hours.”

Soon the mayor was sitting in his comfortable office chair and thoughtfully looked at the ceiling. “Looking at some landscape would delight the eyes”, he said with a flickering glance.

“View at the landscape? You’ll get it”, Goldi cried. “The wall must come down! I’m just going to get some explo…”

“Nothing of the sort!” Flecki cried. “We’ll have to go on more subtle.”

“But he only drinks tea”, Dodo remarked.

Flecki goggled at him. “What has shrewdness to do with tea?”

Dodo looked helpless, reddened very much and stammered that maybe he had not heard correctly.

“Our first question has to be: What now?” Botchy said when there was a knock at the door.

Helplessly the hamsters looked at one another. The mayor happily clapped his paws and before anybody could stop him, he bawled: “Come in, do come, bring in the sun!”

The Hamstian police! Could it be that they had been discovered that quickly? The chief engineer who was closest to the door, paused on his way. Unfortunately he was not quick enough to hold the door shut to win some time. It was too late and slowly the door opened. A hamster lady with two peculiar sticks in her paws came in.

“Welcome, welcome, what is your honoured name?”

“My name is Mamsy and I…”

“Wonderful, wonderful – did I already say ‘Welcome’? Would you like a cup of tea? Could someone bring the tea? What is your honoured name?”

“Mamsy, and I want…”

“Nice to meet you. Did I already say ‘Welcome’? Where is the tea?”

“I don’t want any tea. I want to complaint.”

“With or without sugar? Did I already say ‘Welcome’?”

Mamsy gave the mayor a look which stopped his grin. “I don’t want any damned tea and no damned sugar. Shove your welcome up your ass! I want to complaint!”

“Now, now, dear lady”, chief Botchy intervened, “the mayor is a little – er – stressed. How may we help you?”

Mamsy snorted and turned to Botchy. “The trash on the market square! Stones and rubbish everywhere. I just stumbled and fell during my Nordic walking!”

The chief engineer looked up to the ceiling for a moment while a small giggle escaped Flecki and Goldi. “Well, er, this debris, I noticed it, too. No idea who brought it there. Of course we’ll take care of the matter at once as this is a public nuisance, isn’t it, Mr. Mayor?”

“Erm, yes, really a nuisance without sugar. What was your name?”

“Botchy!” came a low growl.

“Erm, right, Botcher, do hand to the lady some of these things lying on this desk.”

“But Mr. Mayor, that’s the newest sickle coinage in gold…”

“Of course, of course, my dear, er, Dingus, whatsyourname?”

Chief Botchy did not reply to this question. Now they head quickly to get rid of the angry hamster lady before their cheat blew up.  He gave the mayor a disgusted look but that one was playing with a pen and did not appear to be concerned. Botchy took the gold coins from the desk and passed them to a beaming Mamsy. Then the hamster lady was gone.

“Where were we? O yes, food”, Goldi cried. “Mayor, you won’t mind us taking a look at your pantry, will you?”

“Perhaps we should go and fetch the others”, Tuffy proposed.

Tuffy was not in the best of spirits when she left the room to fetch Sasy, Dasy, Taty, and Trample. In the meantime Goldi had found something delicious and they spent the waiting time in a pleasant fashion while the mayor asked them their names.

“Are the police looking for us now?” Dodo asked, shoving a pie into his mouth. “That is, we offended the law, didn’t we. The doctor after all said…”

“Said, said. My, Dodo, that simply was a doctor’s advice. Moreover they have other things on their minds now.”

“Even if there’s trouble to come”, Flecki interposed, “we’ll make up Goldi as mayor and send him to the hospital. They’ll be ready to release him after three days latest.”

The door opened and panting Tuffy entered, followed by Sasy, Dasy, Taty, and Trample. In so many words Hamstilidamst told them what had happened. They were silent for minutes, then Trample said: “How about some shock treatment? When on opening the window I once fell out of the third floor I also was very confused. I was standing in the street, not even knowing who I am. Next moment a flower pot came flying, knocked my head and I was normal again.”

“Doc said something about whiplash, a flower pot won’t help there”, Tealeafy sighed.

“No flower pot but some good, sound spinning!” Goldi cried and watched the mayor who was animatedly talking to some pot plant on his desk.

“Look, he must have picked up something about Trample’s flower pot story! How about a washing machine?” Sasy hopefully asked.

“Not strong enough”, chief Botchy grumbled.

“Cement mixer?” Tuffi proposed.

“Too low rotation.”

“Throw him out of a moving car?” Goldi said.

“Too risky.”

“Shoot him up with a catapult?” Hamstilidamst cried.

“Might work”, Botchy nodded. “But where do we find one?”

“The turbo pegtop!” Goldi shouted. “We use the turbo pegtop! Push him into the cabin, full speed and up he goes.”

“That really might work!” Botchy cheered and hopped up and down.

“But how will the cabin go up?” Sasie asked and shrugged. “Someone has to unhitch it.”

“And what about the landing? He’ll need a chute for landing!” Tati objected.

“Right, we’ve got to have a real plan”, Flecki agreed. “We can’t leave him on his own, have to help him somehow. He’ll never manage to open a chute.”

“We’ll go with him”, Botchy decided. “We’ve managed all sorts of things, and if we stick together, we’ll manage this, too.”

“My cousin has a chute but he never used it before because he suffers from vertigo. I’ll get that chute!” Trample happily shouted.

“Dear chief, all this is a little dangerous, isn’t it? Do we really have to go all?”

“Let met put it like this, Tuffy: I fully do understand if someone does not like to join us. He who doesn’t will get a fresh outfit from me and runs as Goulash-Frodo through Hamsterton to distract police, fire brigade, and hospital. Did I make myself clear?”

“Okay, Boss, when do we start?”

If was past midnight when eleven hamsters crept to the funfair place. The biggest of them carried another hamster who held a flower pot in his paws. In front of the big turbo pegtop they paused. Some of the hamsters immediately scrambled into the cabin which had the form of a space rocket and was painted with red, blue, and yellow rings. The others busied themselves making changes at the anchoring of the cabin while another one fastened something at the outside of the cabin. Finally they all scrambled into the cabin.

“All ready, people?” the chief engineer whispered. “All belts fastened?”

“Yes”, it whispered back from all sides.

“So we can start”, Flecki whispered.

“Why are we whispering?” Goldi whispered.

“So that nobody notices what we are doing”, Flecki explained in a muted tone.

“But if the turbo pegtop goes off, all Hamsterton will fall out of their beds anyway, won’t they?” Dodo whispered.

“I don’t give a damn!” the chief hissed. “We start now. Hold fast!”

And indeed, there was no one in Hamsterton who was not woken up by the following noise. With a deafening sound the turbo pegtop started to rotate, faster and faster until there was a constant, shrill noise, passing the pain barrier.

“Release, chief, release now!”

“I hardly can move, Flecki, the centrifugal force is too strong!”

“I knew he grew soft in the hospital!”

Botchy reacted with a furious yell on Goldi’s remark and tried again. This time he succeeded and all of a sudden the terrible noise stopped and only the frightened squeaking of the crew was audible. The horrible press of the centrifugal force which had held them in their seats was over and replaced by pleasant zero gravity. All hamsters sat belted in their seats – except one.

“Dodo, you dope, why didn’t you fasten the mayor to the seat?”

“But I, er, I thought because he was to get treatment…”

“Nice mess it is and who’s to clean that up?” Flecki nagged and pointed at the mayor who was gluing at the cabin wall with a big bruise at his head. Beside him lay the smashed flower pot.

“His conversation seems to have run dry.”

“That’s not funny, Goldi”, Flecki growled. “Perhaps our whole project now is done for.”

“But I didn’t want that to happen”, Dodo wailed, “I only…”

“Just shut up!” the chief engineer hissed. “We now should see that the chute is activated. Tuffy, where is the rip cord?”

“Erm, Boss, the rip cord you mean?”

Chief Botchy reddened. “Be damned sure that I mean the bloody rip cord of this bloody parachute. You were to fasten the bloody rip cord so that we can reach it from the bloody window of this bloody cabin. Did you?”

“Sure, Boss, I did.”

“So?”

“D’you think, Boss, the adhesive tape had survived all this? I sticked the rip cord to the window with Scotch tape.”

“We’ve got to get at that darned rip cord and it’s loose now. Out with you and get it!”

“Chief Botchy”, Flecki cried in a shocked voice, “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Tuffy will be blown away like nothing.”

“O yes? Our present plan is to fly and fly until centrifugal forces and gravition become one – and then, my dear hamsters? What do you think will happen then?”

“Eh, party?”

“Tuffy, another word and you’ll be the first one back in Hamsterton!” the chief barked.

“Erm, status report, First Officer!” said a well known voice in this moment.

The hamsters turned in surprise and goggled at their mayor. He was standing straight beside the smashed flower pot, had one paw behind his back and pointed at the chief engineer with the other one.

“Hum, I’m chief engineer, no officer…” Botchy stammered.

Flecki was the first to get the new situation and made a step forward. “Repair hamster Tuffy did fasten the rip cord wrongly. We will crash to the ground, Mr. Mayor.”

“Well, eh, so to say a pity, a real pity. Which crew members are present?”

Flecki named the hamsters present and the mayor nodded. Then he lifted his head and continued in a firm voice: “As your commander I tell you that we have survived much more dangerous letters – er – matters and that we will get out of this matter shaved – er – safe. The point is, as I point out to get the necessary tweedledee – er – tririllium of the Moss Beaver planet so that our friend survives.”

“What friend do you mean, may… - er -, Commander?” Hamstilidamst stammered.

The mayor-commander now put both paws to his back and scampered up and down a few paces. “Erm, our dingus of course – er – vegetarian friend from the Beta-Geranium-System who went astray on our panel – er – planet. If he does not get enough tririllium soon, he will die and all our galaxy will be destroyed.”

“Hey, that’s something new”, Goldi whispered and got a dark look from the mayor-commander.

“Any proposals, Goldi?”

“Lets throw the vegetable out of the window so it gets fresh air. Will feel much better.”

“So you are an expert for extra-terrestic beings?”

“Nope, expert for munching rather.”

“Fine, Goldi, I am herewith appointing you cook of this space craft and… Erm, what is it, First Officer?”

“He’ll munch down everything, Commander!”

“Then I decide that the fat one here and the small dingus there make up the security team to stop that nonsense. You are responsible for the safety of this ship!”

Dodo and Trample goggled at each other.

“What about me?” Hamstilidamst asked. “I for instance can read maps.”

“Aha, a navigator”, the mayor crowed. “And you, chief, will be the, er, machinist, Tuffy is your assistant.”

“And what about us?” Sasy, Dasy, Taty, and Tealeafy now chorused.

“Shut up!” Botchy suddenly yelled. “If we don’t think of something soon, you can scratch your crew off the Hamsterton market square, you loopy stiff! Insteady of jabbering here…”

“Security – arrest this masochist – er – machinist. For the time being he is… Erm, why is it so hot in here?”

Terrified, the hamsters looked at the cabin walls. Indeed it had become hotter and hotter during the last minutes and a smell of molten steel was in the air. With big, round eyes they stared at the mayor-commander who smiled at them charmingly. “Well, er, let me put it like this, erm, I never before lost a space ship, ladies and gentlemen. Today seems to be my first.”

And the hamsters panicked.

 

 


Chapter 2

 

The Enterprise

 

San Francisco, Headquarter of the United Planets' Starfleet. In front of the Fleet Chief's office Dr. Leonard McCoy strode up and down. When he heard the door hissing behind him, he turned round hastily.

James T. Kirk, Captain of the starship Enterprise, and his First Officer, Lt. Spock, came out. McCoy spread his hands and looked at them inquiringly. He did not know what had happened in the office. He only knew that T'Raeg had visisted Admiral McDonald, the Chief of the Fleet. T'Raeg was chairwoman of the Science Council of the planet Vulcan, Spock's home world. She never had left Vulcan, it had to be of first importance.

"Fffft", the Captain said and beckoned him to come along.

"What do you say, Spock – are we a dog?"

"Logically you should ask: are we two dogs, Doctor. However, I do not think the comparison fitting."

"Joke!"

"Your sense of humour is…"

"Don't say it. Your sense of humour is non-existent."

The Vulcan refrained to answer. On Vulcan they learned already as children to control their emotions absolutely completely. The sense of humour was, of course, included.

Captain Kirk, their commander and hero of countless adventures, lead them out of the building. Behind the Headquarter there was a park, a large meadow, bordered by trees and shrubs. Kirk marched towards the centre of the meadow because only here he was sure that nobody was close and might listen.

Dr. McCoy once more spread his hands and this time he received an answer:

"Bones, do you remember our time-helix mission?"

"Eh? Do I remember it?" Dr. McCoy retorted in a piqued voice. "'course not. I never remember anything where you almost bite the dust."

This had been three years ago. The Enterprise was the only ship in the Federation of United Planets which had experienced time warp. Vulcan's government had asked them to execute a mission for them.

About two hundred years ago a time experiment had been made on a Vulcan space station. The experiment had been a complete flop and the station had disappeared in time. Three years ago, however, close to Vulcan there had been peculiar time disruptions. The Vulcans assumed that these were long time effects of that long ago experiment and the Enterprise had explored the matter.

In parts the mission had been sheer horror. They had commuted between time zones, once such a time-border had gone right through Captain Kirk and Communication Officer Lt. Uhura. It almost had cost both sanity and life. – And Dr. McCoy was asked if he remembered that?!

"Okay, get down", Kirk said impatiently. "T'Raeg has given us information they found in the station data."

"Spock blasted that station right into the air…"

"Into the air?" Spock interrupted, irritated. "In space?"

"… and before that transmitted the data to us", the Captain continued. "Will you stop harping on minor points!"

"Yea, dear", the Doctor purred and Kirk suppressed a grin.

"This station has been in a different time horizon. Just don't ask me. T'Raeg discovered an information about some commander named Salta who made first contact to a species calling themselves humans. According to our reckoning that was in 2020."

"Bosh! That was – in 2163."

Kirk and Spock looked at him in silence, he glared back, bewildered. Then his bewilderment changed to understanding. At the time of the Vulcan station's activity, there had been first contact in 2020. In their own time reality however, it had taken place in 2162. Some time something had happened so that the event in 2020 had not taken place.

"And as soon as we know what had happened when, we'll go there and make it happen", Captain Kirk said.

"Oh! Just go there, will we?"

"Officially", Spock said and his right eyebrow made a slow-motion crawl toward his bang. Nobody could ask more show of emotion of him and the lifted brow tended to express quite a lot of things. "Approved by Admiral McDonald."

"And without knowledge of anybody else", Kirk added. "The three of us, Uhura, Chekov, and Scotty will go. Each in his section adapts the ship so that we need no further crew."

"That will take time", McCoy objected.

"Bones, time really isn't a problem", the Captain grinned, and the Doctor grinned back sourly. "We have to check what it was, we have to learn about that time… Lot of work ahead."

"For God's sake, Jim, where will you search for anything?!"

"Doctor, no need to trouble God", the Vulcan remarked. "According to the First Directive which was significantly furnished by the Vulcans, a first contact is only established with civilizations who work with warp-technology. This means that a long time before Zefram Cochrane started his first warp-flight there must have been experiments in this respect which have been successful enough for technical realization."

"Spock, you should be a mayor somewhere, you do hold such beautiful speeches", McCoy retorted.

Two months passed after this discussion. The Enterprise had been adapted at all stations so that it could be run by three persons. The three others were to go on the Earth-mission and during the mission the Enterprise was to lie in waiting position in the moon shadow. A stay of three days maximum was planned.

Captain Kirk held close contact to Admiral McDonald during the whole preparation phase. Wherever it was necessary to smoothen a way within Star Fleet Command, the Admiral smoothed it. Among other things there had to be an official version of the whereabouts of the Enterprise and McDonald gave it. The ship was to dock for an ionisation cleaning, the crew was to get a holiday. Only the Admiral and a technician whom he trusted absolutely would know what really was happening.

Lt. Spock, who at the same time was Kirk's best friend, never had failed him even if he sometimes objected decisions he did not think logical. In the life of a Vulcan nothing was more important than logic.

Now he had read hundreds of files as thoroughly and diligently as ever, had rummaged archives and had been successful indeed. Between 2004 and 2006 a Scottish scientist had made tests to bring particles of matter and antimatter to controlled reaction, the basis for warp-technology. The papers he had written were most promising, but suddenly there were no more reports, no papers, not the smallest note. There could be no doubt that in the end the tests had failed.

Those crew members who were to go into time warp had the certain feeling that they were going to participate decidedly in this failure. And it was to happen at a place which only Chief Engineer Ltd. Montgomery Scott was able to pronounce without difficulties.

Indeed he had no problem to pronounce their destination, Ballachulish-at-the-Bridge, correctly. Moreover he knew that peaceful little town at Loch Leven, a wonderfully quiet paradise. It probably was exactly the right spot for a kind of madcap scientist named Fergus McTinker to seclude himself.

Finally they could start. Slowly the Enterprise moved out of the dock. Dock-control was only manned by Admiral McDonald himself and the technician he trusted. The landing party had busied themselves with the early years of the 21st century intensively within the last two months. The correct garment was ready, the communicators were formed as something which was called mobile at that time. If the reports were to be relied on, nobody had been able to exist without such a device.

Furthermore they had acquainted themselves with several typical phrases of the time. However, up to now Lt. Spock was not able to address his Captain "Ey, dude!" The two of them and naturally Chief Engineer Scott were to bring off the landing mission. Scotty really looked forward to it. He was a true and convinced Scotsman. Never he had lost his accents and if there was reason to put on gala uniform on board, he proudly wore the kilt in his clan-colours.

By now Earth had shrunken to a tiny spot. The Enterprise left the solar system to get a distance big enough to take up time warp speed towards the sun. Lt. Scott was in Engineering, everybody else was on the bridge. Since leaving the dock they merrily practised the 21st century slang – except Lt. Spock of course. The First Officer's brow was gluing under his bang constantly. He almost looked miffed because he had to listen to something like that. Even Lt. Uhura who was not going to leave the ship could refrain from joining in.

"Woa ey", she just said, "Big Boss is on.”

"That sucks a big one", Kirk retorted with a grin. "Shove him in, chick."

Uhura almost choked but put the Admiral through to the Captain and in the following minutes busied herself with biting her lips not to laugh. Had her skin not been dark, her head would have been red as a beetroot. Admiral and Captain talked business in a friendly way and there really was no reason for Dr. McCoy to comment the good wishes of the Admiral with: "Right phat, ey!"

"Doctor, are you quite certain that this kind of language is used by middle-aged people?" Spock inquired interestedly.

"'course I do, pointear. – D'you think my hamster's waxing?"

Spock gave him a look as if seriously doubting the Doctor's sanity. Silently he repeated "my hamster's waxing" und tried to analyse the meaning of this. He was not prepared to take part in such illogical conversation.

When they prepared for time-warp, everybody returned to normal. The narrow orbitting of the sun carried a considerable risk, especially as they did not have the full engineering crew. But Scotty would not have been Scotty, had he not thought about all possible hazards long before.

With the enormous speed, the tremendous pressure effecting the ship, the crew suffered exceptional stress until they all lost their consciousness. After a while the Captain with a dizzy voice called up every name and each of his officers answered.

"Spock, what about the main screen?"

"Switching it on, Sir."

"Chekov, brake application?"

"Controlled, Sir. – We are in 1983, fast ahead."

Kirk hit the com button the arm of his chair.

"Scotty, did you ride out the time-slip well?"

"Ay, Sir, feelin’ a wee bit boozed but gettin’ better."

"Then switch controls to the bridge and prepare for shore leave.”

In the meantime Chief Med Dr. McCoy rounded the bridge and made a crew-check. He was just scanning Ensign Chekov and glanced at the time indicator. Never he would understand temporal physics, just noted that they had reached the year 2000. They would make it!

A moment later the Captain also ordered his First Officer to prepare for shore leave. The Vulcan looked into his scanner, nodded and turned away. Then he jerked back to the indication, a movement so sudden that the Captain became attentive.

"Sir, an object is approaching us from the surface, uncontrolled. – Life forms on board. The object will collide with us."

"When?" Kirk voice sounded stressed.

"Thirty seconds."

"Scotty!" Kirk barked into the com. "Are you somewhere near Transport?"

"Ay, Sir, jist passed it."

"Go back. Get the tractor beam on the object approaching us."

"On my way!"

"The object…" Spock hesitated, then almost shrugged. "It is too fragile, the tractor beam will destroy it. It will break up any moment."

"We'll get the life forms on board. Uhura, inform Scott. Spock and I are in Transporting."

They had already left the bridge when Ensign Chekov succeeded to focus the cameras on the object. He, Uhura, and McCoy goggled at the main screen unbelievingly. The thing had about the form of an ancient rocket and where atmospheric friction had not marred it, it showed funny rings in red, blue, and yellow. Nobody had the faintest idea what that was to be but Lt. Uhura started sniggering.

In the transporter room Lt. Scott pressed keys like mad, scanned and scanned again. He did not catch what he had in the buffer. There were twelve single life forms, very small, and that was all he could say. He still could not say more when Kirk and Spock came in.

Some creatures appeared on the transporter platform towering the floor only a little bit. They sat completely motionless, a heap of ruffled fur. Kirk stared, then he asked in a bewildered voice:

"What is that? Are that tribbles?!"

Tribbles were the most reproductive species they ever met and once they had spread on the Enterprise in a way that some still thought with horror of the time.

"Captain, if my knowledge…" Spock paused as now Dr. McCoy entered and also stared. "If my knowledge on terrestrial zoology is correct, these are mesocricetis auratus."

"Hum?" Kirk grunted.

"Golden hamsters", McCoy explained in a rather flabberghasted voice.

"And… and… and how do they get here?!"

What the hamsters had gone through within the last minutes, had been far more than panic, it had been a Grade A shock. However, now they by and by realized that they really were no longer hurled about, really had no longer to choke on the heat, really were sitting stabile and really heard human voices.

Goldi cautiously turned his head and saw that they were at some place like they never had seen before. Some men were standing around, dressed up funny and all in the same way funny. One of these guys had somehow pointed ears and he never had seen anything like that with humans. Now pointear said:

"I cannot explain, Sir. Mesocricetis auratus are to my knowledge not known to travel space."

"Mega crispies or what does he blab there?" Goldi asked around, und also the others now plucked themselves up, smoothened their fur and looked about them.

"Where did we land here?" Flecki asked.

Goldi still watched the four guys and suddenly saw them make them utmost daft faces. One of them, standing behind a control or something, waved his hands und shouted:

"Captain, Captain, t’ universal translator…"

"I'm not deaf, Mr. Scott! – Er, yes… Well, my dear hamsters, welcome on board I think", Kirk grinned and knelt down. "I do not really know what to do with you now…"

"How about some food and spoiling?" Goldi hopefully asked.

Lt. Scott began to laugh. "They're talking backwards, d'ye hear? Och, ay, really backwards!" He snickered and snickered until also the Captain und Dr. McCoy began to laugh.

"Och, ay?" Hamstilidamst repeated. "Is that a Scotsman?!"

"And if so, is it a Frido-Scotsman or a Lord-Scotsman?" Tealeafy asked.

"And why do they laugh that daftly?" Trample wanted to know.

"Well, dear officers and, hum, dinguscrew, I think I can say that the time has come…", the mayor began, then a shower met him and another one.

Pointear sneezed and while the others could not stop laughing, Lt. Spock could not stop sneezing.

Under the tremendous pressure during time warp at some spots in the ship material fissures had occurred. With the whole crew on board such damages would have been noticed and repaired immediately. But now nobody had noticed the leak in one of the cryogenic lines. It contained nitrous oxide which on emission became gaseous again and was distributed over the ventilation within the ship.

It was not enough to have an anaestesia effect but enough to set all humans into a hilarious state. They giggled, laughed, found the smallest details very funny and in all were filled with a feeling of lightheartedness. With good reason nitrous oxide was called laughing gas.

The effect on the Vulcan was quite different. His mucous membranes were irritated by the gas and extreme lethargy spread within him. After a certain time everybody became used to the gas, the humans stopped laughing, the Vulcan stopped sneezing, but the general good spirits remained.

On the hamsters the gas had no effect whatever, they only got the impression that they had landed in some madhouse or other. More or less in chorus they explained how they had come here and the three humans roared with laughter. The hamsters did not think it very much of a laughing matter.

When Kirk explained to them where they were – in a tone as if making light of it – they did not believe one word. Space ship from the future – what kind of balderdash was that!

"Ha!" the Captain ejaculated. "That's no problem, I can prove that to you on the double. You wanna  have proved it or don't you wannna have proved it?"

"If he only would stop to blabber such trash!" Goldi groaned. "Eh, Botchy, what that guy's telling – might that be true?"

"Well, yes, there are space ships", Botchy replied importantly and Tuffy snapped:

"And there is a future, quite right!”

"The acceleration of our turbo-pegtop obviously hurled us into space."

"But I don't want to be in space", Hamstilidamst wailed.

"I'm sure we are all dead and don't know it", Dodo whimpered.

"Why dead?"

Dodo looked at Flecki with big, sad eyes und replied: "Because there is no air in space…"

"I would like to see how such a space ship works", chief Botchy stated, not commenting that nonsense.

"There's help for this hamster!" the Captain roared. "We have to go down to Earth anyway. Then we'll take you little pet along and the others get the chance to take a good look. What about that chance?"

A delighted chorus answered him, only Spock could not rid himself of the feeling that on the whole something was not as it should be. However, it was not that important and when he saw that Captain Kirk picked up some hamsters to carry them to the bridge, he did the same.

Silently the hamsters had looked about them when being carried through the space ship. It looked totally different from everything they knew. Perhaps this Captain Kirk was not as balmy as they thought, after all. But really convinced they were when they entered the bridge. Something like a giant window was there and in front of the window some red-blue-yellow ringed debris was drifting, without any question their turbo-pegtop.

"Oh, how cute!" a female voice squeaked so close to Sasy's ear, that she started. "Woo, may I pet them? They are such darlings!"

"We don't want to be petted, we are hungry!" Goldi gnarled and let his paw circle over his belly. Lt. Uhura made eyes like saucers.

"Woa, you darlings can talk! You're hungry? I'll get you a little something, don't run away."

"My, they've got room service here", Goldi exclaimed and all hamsters nodded delightedly.

Suddenly they became quiet. Ensign Chekov had merrily played from one camera to the next and now switched Earth on the main screen. That really looked somehow overwhelming. The silence held until Uhura came back with a big bowl of biscuits, after that nothing else was interesting.

Everybody watched the munching hamsters and everybody thought them to be twee and cute and a lot of other things which quite yanked the little munchers’ chain.

"Crewmen, now we are strengthened ", the mayor-commander declared, posturing himself. "We lost a whip – er, a ship, but we also gained a ship. Go to your stallions – er – stations."

"Railway station?" Dodo frightendly asked and looked for some hiding place.

"I told you what your stations are!" the mayor shouted, infuriated. "Take them over. Make under – er, take over your stations or… Well, hum, I'm waiting for proposals!"

"Well he may", Flecki whispered. "Come on, let's take a look around."

Tuffy scrambled up to Chekov, sat down on a button and set off alert red. A terrible howling sounded all over the ship and the navigator of the Enterprise almost collapsed of laughing. Taty and Sasy paid a visit to Uhura's station and discovered that jumping on the control keys was the perfect fitness training. Trample proved himself as a real summiteer, climbed up to the science station, put his head into the scanner slit and got stuck there.

Captain Kirk was sitting cross-legged on the floor and grinned at Goldi:

"Say, what sort of cockalorum is that one?"

"That's our mayor. Now and then he hits his nob and after that he babbles trash."

"The mayor!" Dr. McCoy crowed. "Spock, I beg your pardon. When I wanted to make you a mayor I didn't think of anything like that."

"Nobody thinks of anything like that as a mayor", Goldi grumbled.

Some faint "Pleh, pleh!"-shouts were audible, then the Vulcan was there and plucked Trample out of the scanner slit.

Captain Kirk had the impression that the hamsters were having a good time here, furthermore he had the impression that he should go to the Earth to make the first warp-tests fail. With a broad grin Lt. Scott thrust a fist into the air.

"Ay, Sir, t’wards Scotland!"

"Scotland?!" came a twelvefold echo, then all the hamsters talked at the same time so that the universal translator could not follow up.

Finally the mayor cleared his throat for quite some time.

"The Veganic system, dear dusty scouts – er - astronauts, will supply us with the trillirium to rescue the words – er – the world. We don’t have Scotland in mind.  We all had space in Scotland… I mean stays. What I mean is…"

"What he means is", Goldi impatiently interrupted, "we've often been to Scotland and now would like to do some spaceshipping. That okay with you?"

"I do not want to do any spaceshipping", Hamstilidamst objected.

"So you go and show Scotland to the dusty scouts", Botchy impatiently said. "As it is, you know Scotland liked the back of your paw."

"That wasn't Hamstilidamst, that was the Lordship", Trample remarked who by now was sitting on Ensign Chekov's head.

"But I have Scottish ancestors!"

"O, do you!" Flecki hissed for she really had her fill of that sentence.

"And I would like to stay with these cute little guys", Uhura announced. "Who else?"

"I'll fly us to the moon", Chekov heralded and Trample got such a shock that he crashed to the floor.

"No", he moaned. "Not again! Last time it took weeks until my fur was what it should be!"

"Hey, you travel space?!" Chekov was baffled.

Trample was quiet but Flecki angrily said:

"It's just been good luck that we are still here. If I think of certain dumbos who almost…"

"Hum hum, dear friends, perhaps this is not the dingus – er – time to explain all this. My, friends, let's conquer the universe!"

Only Hamstilidamst did not waver. For the first time in his life he should do something really big and important – guide some astronauts through Scotland. He did not want to miss that chance.

Captain Kirk, Lt. Spock, Lt. Scott, and Dr. McCoy made for their quarters to put on clothes fitting the years of the early 21st century. Somehow nobody noticed that the Doctor was with them who should not be with them at all.

They merrily assembled in the transporter room. The Chief Engineer who brought along some of the hamsters, and Ensign Chekov demonstrated to Botchy what to do with which lever to beam something. Botchy was enthusiastic and planned to try this himself later on. Four officers stood on the transporting platform and waved, Chekov guided Botchy's paw and a moment later the humans and Hamstilidamst vanished in a bright glitter. They simply were gone! Flecki and Tuffy who came along with Botchy and were sitting on the switch desk, craned their necks so much that they lost their balance and tumbled down to the floor.

The fate of the Enterprise lay in the hands and paws of eleven hamsters and two fleet officers who were not able to think very reasonably.

 

 


Chapter 3

 

The new Enterprise Crew

 

“Won’t put down your daft plant somewhere?” Flecki hissed when they were back on the bridge, and she looked at the mayor angrily.

“Formidable idea, Number One, do take it to sickbay!” he retorted and Flecki held the smashed pot plus damaged plant and all the earth in her paws. Doubtfully, she looked at what she had between her paws and tried to remember that she dealt with a sick hamster under shock. If not so, this mayor-commander would now have this trash right in his face.

“We’ve got no sickbay, Mayor!” Flecki gnarled.

“Oh, haven’t we? What a pity? Why haven’t we?”

The mayor waddled up and down the bridge. His glance fell on the Captain’s seat which due to Kirk’s absence was vacant, of course. The grinning of the remaining Enterprise-crew made him nervous, he scampered towards Chekov, pointed at him and asked:

“You – have you nothing to do? What is your full name and rank?”

“No, Sir, I’ve nothing to – grrpfffff – do at the moment”, was the cackled reply. “Navigator Pavel Andrejwitch Chekov waiting for your orders – grrpfffff!”

“Erm, yes, a navigator, how nice.”

“What might our selfappointed navigator do just now?” Flecki thoughtfully asked.

“I hope he must not endure such terrible hunger as we do”, Goldi lamented. “Where is the kitchen? What I mean: As a cook I have to have my working place.”

“Deary, why don’t you use the replicator?” Lt. Uhura now purred, and eleven hamsters looked at her with big eyes.

“And who are you?” the mayor asked, struggled to his feet after he had stumbled over a skirting board and faced the woman.

“Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, just to please you, my little cuddle-ball”, the Enterprise-officer replied with a smile and fondled the mayor’s ears.

“Codingus – er – commander, that’s what I want to state I am. Henceforce – therefore I have to rebuke you in this line and order you not to call me a cuddle-ball. That is an – er – er – subversion of moral and discipline of this ship.”

“Crew – not ship”, Flecki hissed.

The mayor-commander’s paw nervously tapped the floor of the bridge and he continued: “What are you doing here?”

“I’m running communication, darling.”

“Just like Flecki”, Goldi remarked. “If she could, she would all day long…”

There was a slap and Flecki met the glance of the mayor-commander with a most innocent look, purring: “Pity he stumbled…”

“Yea, hum, that shows that, as I several times mentioned, it is unevitable to have a sickbay with trained staff. Yoohoo, can you do such thing?”

“I could glue a plaster to your sweet little paw, darling…”

“Excellent, Yahoo – er – Yoohoo, so you are the chief medical officer. Flecki, please hand her our vegetarian friend of the Beta-Geranium-System!”

Bored, Flecki gestured in the direction of the Captain’s seat. “I put his mortal remains under that seat there.”

Lt. Uhura got up, swaggered to the named seat, knelt and patted the battered plant. “Hello, sweetheart, you got a name? Come along, my pet, Nyota takes you to sickbay.” She put off her jacket and shovelled earth, remains of the flower pot and what was left of the plant into it. Then she rolled up everthing, stuffed it under her left arm and saluted with her right arm. “Permission to retreat for operating, Sir!”

The mayor silently nodded and watched how Lt. Uhura staggered to the door, how the door opened if by magic and closed again. Then Lt. Uhura and the mortal remains of the alien plant were gone.

“Er, what shall we do now?” Dodo wailed. “What I mean is, how will we get back home?”

“Don’t worry”, Tealeafy shouted, “we’ve got a navigator who will manage that, won’t he?”

“Sure!” Chekov delightedly cried.

“He will know all the routes”, Trample cheered.

“Sure!”

“He certainly takes us back to Hamsterton!” Tuffy rejoiced.

“Sure!”

“You got a kink in your attics? Hamstilidamst is on his way with these other comedians! We can’t leave him behind!” chief Botchy raged and gave Tuffy furious glances.

“Moreover, my dear friends”, the mayor now shouted, “we have a mission. Our destination is the planet of the moss beavers. We have to get tririllium from the Moss Beaver planet so that our vegetarian friend and all the galaxy with him can survive. Navigator, will you take us to that planet?”

“Sure”, Ensign Chekov grinned, still in the grip of the laughing gas and checking nothing at all.

“So – er - full seed – er – full speed – erm…”

“Energize!” Botchy whispered to the mayor-commander. “The term is energize!”

“O yes, of course: fully energize, Nav!”

“Sure, Commander!” Chekov grinned, pressed buttons, pushed controls and smirked. “Drive’s off!”

“Erm, why’s the drive off? So it’s no drive-in but a drive-off! Well, well, what now?” The mayor looked about him in a bewildered style and nervously tapped with his paw. “We need a masochist – er – machinist! Somebody has to start the motor!”

“Warp drive, you mean, Sir?” Chekov smiled.

“That’s it, somebum has to start the burpdingus. Who knows anything about this… er – drive?” He looked around wildly but all the hamsters around him seemed to busy themselves with most important matters. Nobody had heard him, they all were fully occupied studying the walls and floor of the space ship.

“Chief Botchy knows his way with machines…”, Tuffy proposed in a whisper.

Terrified, the chief’s eyes widened when the mayor-commander pointed at him. “Get moved, machinist, start the burp-drive!”

“But I’m a chief engineer and not a machine-driver, I…”

“The existence of the whole galaxy depends on us and you puff up here! Security team, take the machinist to his place of work – erm, wherever that is.”

“No problem”, Chekov grinned, “I’ll play the guide.”

“And the munching replicator with the kitchen? Will you guide me there, too?” Goldi bawled and ran behind the Ensign, closely followed by chief Botchy, nagging Tuffy and wailing Dodo.

“Shut up, I said. You come along, I need assistants whom I can blame!” Goldi heard the scolding of the chief engineer. Then the hydraulic door closed with a soft hiss.

“Ey, you, Sample!”

“Hum, my name is Trample, Sir!”

“For my sake”, the mayor grumped. “Follow them quickly and tell them to hurry. A long distance is ahead of us.”

Happy to get such an important order, Trample ran to the door of the bridge like Chekov just had done. Unfortunately he was not Chekov but a hamster and unfortunately the hydraulic door did not react to a lightweight like a hamster. So nothing happened. That is, something did happen: Trample was stopped by the door with an ugly sound.

“Erm, what does this mean?”

“This means the door does not open, Sir”, Trample groaned and rubbed his aching nose. Nobody said anything for it seemed obvious that they had to await the return of Chekov whithout having any means to leave the bridge.

The mayor privily decided to take the next opportunity to reprove Chekov for not informing them. Then he pointed at be big screen which filled the head part of the bridge and shouted:

“Why is there no TV? Ey, Yoohoo, switch on the news! Why does the door not open any longer?”

“She takes care of the alien veggy”, Flecki groaned in a miffed voice. “Moreover that seems to be a control screen.”

“Erm, yes, of course. – Trample, I herewith promote you assistant communicator.”

Trample’s eyes were bright with joy when he climbed up to the com station and looked at the blinking controls. Then there was a splutter and Trample, shrieking, was hurled through the room.

“Hit the wrong button?” Dasy asked sympathetically and together with the other hamsters watched how Trample got up with a moan and looked at his singed fur.

“That happens to the poor chap in each book”, Sasy added when she and Dasy dragged Trample back to the com station. “No fur can grow that fast.”

In the meantime Goldi lived the blackest and most disappointing minutes of his life. Ensign Chekov had shown the chief engineer the way to Engineering and as he could not be of assistance in starting the Warp-drive, Chekov had walked on to the kitchen with Goldi.

“This is a kitchen?” Goldi groaned and deep disappointed was written in his big eyes. “Were is the fridge – where is the pantry, were are the supplies?”

“Don’t need them”, the Ensign smiled, “got a replicator. All we need is the raw material.”

“Much better”, Goldi hopefully grinned. “Where is it?”

“Well, here – behind this hatch are the…” Chekov turned his head and held his nose close with two fingers, “…remains of the last journeys. You regularly dump them into the main replicator and new meals can be replicated on every deck.”

“That is the future?!” Goldi yelled, horrified. “Rubbish as food? Come on, Chekov, get a spade and dig a little. Somewhere about here your future must be buried.”

While the Ensign, grinning, wondered about the sense of this, Goldi left the kitchen and set out for Engineering. Chekov followed him. It was not difficult to find the way as from the distance chief Botchy’s painful wailing was audible. He just had learned that never you should switch on an electrode beam if you are standing right in front of the electrode canon. Dodo and Tuffy were helping the chief engineer up when Goldi approached the Warp-drive, most interested.

“Hands off!” Botchy bawled. Goldi gave the chief a look and grinned.

“Quite right, should leave it to experts.”

“Ey, you”, Botchy shouted at Chekov, “how do you switch that bloody Warp-drive on?”

Smiling, the Ensign walked over to a control and pointed at a large red button with on “ON”-lable.

“That’s English and means…”

“I know that that is English but why doesn’t anybody tell me that it isn’t Hamstish? In Hamstish this means ‘NO’ and if ‘NO’ is written there, I won’t touch it!” the chief interrupted the Ensign. “Well, whatsoever, everybody having nothing to do in here – out. It might become dangerous. I’m going to press that button now.”

Slowly and cautiously, he approached the control.

“Tuffy and Dodo, you watch the indicator minutely, okay? Tuffy? Dodo?”

When chief Botchy turned round he discovered that he was all alone in the big room. He cursed himself that he had not be exact as to leaving Engineering and having nothing to do here. Once more he looked around and felt very, very lonely when he pressed the red button on the control panel. At first nothing happened and the chief gave a relieved sigh. Then the whole room began to vibrate slightly, the big, transparent thing, called Warp-core, started to radiate in vivid blue. The lights on the control started to flicker and an unpleasant shrill sound joined the vibrating of the room.

The chief’s nerves were close to snap, his beady eyes bulged like two little baloons, he lifted his paws like in self-defence, uttered a frightened shriek and ran out. He wanted nothing but to get away from this spooky place. Botchy seemed to fly through the Enterprise-passages, dived left and right into side passages until he reached the lift and with it the bridge. The sill stopped his run and shrieking he was hurtled trough the air, passing Chekov who had just stepped into the door, and landing right in front of the Commander-chair where the mayor was sitting.

“Report, machinist!”

“He he, Commander, no problem at all. A snap so to say, Warp-drive’s on.”

The mayor-commander nodded and turned to Goldi again. “Erm, where were we? O yes, on the bridge! Well, what does that mean: don’t feel like it?”

“Nothing on in the kitchen, I’m quitting. I want to be where some action is!”

“Erm, yes.” The mayor began to brood. His eyes were on the big main screen where the Earth became smaller and smaller and the blackness of space bigger and bigger. Soon they would be in unknown areas. They had been in an unknown area for some time now but space was something very different. The hamsters had made their first experiences in space research in the past but that, too, had been very different. This thing was something absolutely new and the mayor by and by realized it. Perhaps they would meet dangers they even could not imagine. What they needed was safety, yes, that was it!

“Goldi”, the mayor-commander drawled, “on my authodingus I make you weapon officer. In case of emergency you will defend this ship by force of arms!”

There was a clear ‘Plop’ in the background. That had been Flecki who had toppled over in shock. Sasy and Dasy helped her up.

“You got a problem with that, First Officer?”

“He’ll blow us up!”

“Nonsense, Number One, he is a reliable and careful officer!”

“Reliable for disaster”, Flecki hissed. “Careful is an exaggeration. Short time back HAMPO got him because he drove too fast. Policeman asked him if he knew that he had been too fast.”

“Well?” Sasy breathed. “What did he say?”

Flecki gave Goldi a look a reproach.

“He said to the policeman: Can’t be, I was much too slow. Otherwise you couldn’t ask me now…”

There was a crash and they all turned round. Ensign Chekov had fallen from his chair laughing.

“Erm, now we are in orbit. All to the stations!”

“Which stations, Mayor?” Sasy and Dasy chorused.

“Exactly, Taty and I also don’t know what we’re to do”, Tealeafy indignatedly cried.

“It’s Sir! Or Commander!” the mayor-commander snarled and furiously looked round. He put his little paws to his hips and looked determined. “That’s dizzydingus – er – discipline it is what I expect of my hamsters. We now will make further appointments regarding crew.”

He made to slide down from the seat, gave a yell, made a somersault and crashed onto the floor of the bridge.

“Sir or Commander, are you okay?” Flecki asked, hurrying towards him.

“Erm, yes, thanks, Number One. I’m not used to such high chairs. Now we make the appointments.”

Followed an hour of ferocious discussions, accompanied by the giggling of Chekov who was still lying on the floor. Finally the ranking of the crew was agreed upon:

Flecki: First Officer

Goldi: Weapon Officer

Botchy: Machinist; Assitant: Tuffy

Trample: Acting Communication Officer

Dodo, Dasy: Security

Taty: Science Officer, Kitchen

Sasy: Quartermaster

Tealeafy: Party Organizer

By now Lt. Uhura had returned to the bridge and informed the mayor-commander that the vegetarian friend had fallen into a coma-like sleep and should not be disturbed. Then she walked over to her com-station, fondled the waiting Trample and explained to him the different buttons and switches of com.

With a sigh the mayor-commander leaned back in his seat after he had slipped on the plain bolster twice when climbing up.

“Erm, who’s steering, by the by?”

Ensign Chekov, just having got over his fit of laughing and looking at the monitor, feet on the desk, cackled loudly, toppled over with his chair and was out of sight.

“Your’re just swell, you hamsters! Stoj! Nobody steers. None! Njet! Goldi and the HAMPO – hahaha!”

“That way we’ll get nowhere, Commander”, Flecki nagged and disgustedly watched the Ensign who literally rolled on the floor of the bridge and drummed it with his fists. “You’ve got to do something, Commander!”

“Well, erm, yes, well, what shall we do now, what shall we do now?”

The mayor-commander desperately looked around. Everybody hid as well as possible and so his glance came to rest on Dodo.

“You, Dododingus, come here!”

“I didn’t do anything wrong, Commander”, the big hamster said with a frightened look and came closer.

“What are you doing at the moment, man?”

“Nothing”, Dodo whimpered.

“Very good”, the mayor-commander replied and pointed at Chekov who was by now lying on his back, roaring with laughter. “We so to say have a problem with navigation. Take over the helm!”

After a few minutes chief Botchy, Goldi, Trample, and Flecki had succeeded to tansport the wailing, struggling Dodo to helm control.

“And now? What shall I…”

“If we’re not on course in a minute, I’ll throw you out, you jerk-off”, Botchy thundered who felt quite nerved by the whole thing now.

“But I, but I… Shall I pull this lever perhaps, Boss?”

“Commander it is, Navigator Dodo! If you call me Boss again, I’ll have you arrested because of lack of dizzydingus – er – of discipline.”

“Do something”, Goldi urged him, “but stop weeping on the carpet!”

Desperately Dodo pulled the lever. At first nothing unusual seemed to happen but to the loud “Oh!” and “Ah!” of the hamsters the monitor suddenly showed a change of course. At the beginning all stars seemed to move sideward with high speed; then the scenery calmed down. The stars which just had been moving away from them now seemed to fly towards them.

“Great, darling, now we’re flying into the right direction”, Uhura laughed and applauded so that Trample fell down from the panel with shock.

“Your’re undermining my authority, Yoohoo”, the mayor hissed and pointed at Lt. Uhura who had some problems not to roar with laughter. “You call me ‘Sir’ or ‘Captain’ or ‘Commander’ or ‘Sir’ or ‘Commander’ or ‘Captain’, got that?”

“Quite clear”, she giggled as an answer, “I’ll try to remember that.”

Warily, the mayor-commander looked at her, then something came to his mind and he added: “Another thing: We can’t we pass that door.”

“Sir?” Uhura war close to snorting.

“That damned hydraulic door! We can’t go through it!”

“Oh, that damned hydraulic door, Commander, I see. I will in person take care that that lousy door also opens for little commanders and other lightweights. Ay, Sir!”

She saluted and turned to a control a few paces off. Satisfied, the mayor watched her making some adjustments. Then he turned back to the main screen and folded his short paws over his fat paunch. A few minutes later he had fallen asleep.

“Time for a little something”, Goldi cried. “Ey, Chekov, show me how this replicator works…”

The two of them retreated for a while and Goldi listened carefully. He was certain that he was going to busy himself quite some time with this most interesting unit.

 

 


Chapter 4

 

Scotland – Meeting Liza

 

Hamstilidamst being a hamster with Scottish ancestors, sat on Lt. Scott's shoulder. From there he had seen that chief Botchy, Flecki, and Tuffy were sitting on some sort of desk and how a man helped Botchy to move a lever. Then he felt a terribly prickle, something like a veil came up in front of his eyes. When he could see clearly again, there were no friends and no desk but a lot of trees.

The shoulder on which he was sitting moved. Lt. Scott stretched, took a deep breath and said:

"A-a-a-ah! – Wonderful Scottish air."

"Nice spot for a picnic", Dr. McCoy nodded.

And Lt. Spock fainted. The Vulcan brain was not constructed to almost abandon its labour. It had managed the slow inflow of the gas on the ship but on the sudden change to the wonderful Scottish air it simply switched off. McCoy knelt beside him with a broad grin. The Captain, too, thought Spock's reaction quite diverting – then suddenly both shook their heads dizzily.

They looked at each other, their eyes widened. McCoy was not scheduled to be here. What in the world had happened to them? The Doctor examined Spock as thoroughly as possible with his medical scanner, counter-checked with the others and his lips tightened.

"Bones?"

"We've been exposed to nitrous oxide. Not in a degree to stun us but we were… Let's say, a little mindless."

"I remember everything", Captain Kirk admitted. "There were those hamsters…"

He looked at Lt. Scott who had one of those hamsters on his shoulder. Then he dragged the communicator out of his jeans-pocket, wanted to open it with the familiar swing but remembered that it was designed as a mobile for this mission. He pressed the calling frequency for the ship – no answer. They all tried it without success.

Now Spock regained consciousness and looked about him a little distressed. He was very much embarrassed that under the influence of the gas his brain had failed to such an extent. However, when he heard that they got no connection to the Enterprise he only had to think for a moment.

"Two of the hamsters jumped about on the keyboard. That might have caused a communication blocking.”

"That were Taty and Sasy", Hamstilidamst explained and several dazzled looks were directed at him.

"Well…" The Captain took a deep breath. "We really do remember everything, don't we? We really could communicate with the hamsters. You are…"

"I'm Hamstilidamst and I'll guide you through Scotland."

"That – is very kind of you", Kirk said with a twisted grin because being guided through Scotland or not was a minor problem at the moment.

If he thought of Lt. Uhura and Ensign Chekov who did not even know that they were under the influence of laughing gas and could not fulfil their duties reasonably, that a horde of speaking hamsters were running wild on his ship… He felt the hairs in his neck standing on their edges.

And taking a look at the landing party: They all were dressed in jeans and sweatshirts as scheduled, but Dr. McCoy had no identification papers. For Kirk, Spock, and Scott identifications and money had been prepared and certainly Bones had a problem now. Spock who should have worn something called basecap in these days to hide his pointed Vulcan ears, wore nothing of the sort and must not be seen by anyone at the moment.

What should have been a risk-free 3-days-mission developed into a sound problem. Silly as it sounded but before anybody could turn to the important task of disturbing the very first warp-experiments, some head-cover for the Vulcan had to be found.

They were standing on a small clearance in a young forest but at this moment they heard the sound of some motor close by. So a street was to be expected in that direction and if there was a street it certainly led to Ballachulish-at-the-Bridge, their destination. Kirk beckoned the others to follow him and Hamstilidamst who never before had seen a landscape from the height of a shoulder, looked about him happily. He had not the least idea where they might be.

Over a trail they left the clearance and when they reached the narrow road, Kirk looked up and down whether a town was to be seen or somebody passing by. As luck would have it, an old lady came pedalling on her bicycle. Kirk signalled the others to keep in the background, recalled the slang of this time and waved to the cyclist.

"Ey, hag, where’s the game, hum?" he asked.

The old lady pedalled on forcefully, threw him an infuriated look and, passing him, shrieked :

"Impertinent! Who does that fellow think he is? Prison would be the place for him."

And off she was. Kirk goggled after her, turned to his officers with a sheepish face and got shrugs as an answer. Only Lt. Spock lifted an eyebrow and remarked:

"I would have assumed that this kind of slang is something teenagers are speaking among themselves, Sir."

"So it seems. Let's take her direction."

"Ay", Lt. Scott said. "In this time everthin’ will hae looked a wee bit different, but this will be Glencoe, an’ we'll soon get tae Loch Leven."

"Nuts!" Hamstilidamst on his shoulder said but nobody heeded him.

The hamster really did not know where they were but he had been in Glencoe and this wasn't it, no, Sir, by no means. The narrow road went a little uphill and Scotty told himself that in these days it would have been this way or that in those times another road… He interrupted his thoughts because there was a sign which welcomed all of them in Gualachulain.

"My mistake", Lt. Scott mumbled, much ashamed. "I somehow mixed it up."

"You mixed it up?!" Kirk flared up. "Do you have the vaguest idea…"

"And you thought a dozen hamsters would just manage the ship first rate", Bones interrupted him. "Concerning that, we all can take some blame."

"Okay! Okay… Is this godforsaken place somewhere near the town we're looking for?"

Suddenly Scotty had no idea where they were, also the hamster had nothing to say. Grimly, Kirk repeated his "Okay!" beckoned Lt. Scott to his side and ordered the others to wait somewhere out of sight. Well, so they had to ask for the way or buy a map.

The two of them were luckier than they could know. The general store of the village belonged to the old lady whom Kirk had approached. But she had pedalled home and left the shop to her son, a friendly, helpful man.

"Yea", he smiled. "Ye came right frae Glencoe, dinna ye? Then ye right took the wrong turn, sithee? So ye'll hae tae go right back, sithee. Jus’ down t’ road an' left, sithee."

"Thanks fer t’ info", Scotty replied while Kirk looked around in the shop.

"Here, we're looking for a cap", he said. "We'll take this one."

"Ay, that'll be fittin’. Right swell, yer shop, laddie."

"Oh, thanks a lot, I'll right tell me Ma. That'll be right two pounds, sithee."

"Two pounds o’ what?" Lt. Scott asked, bewildered.

"Er – two pounds…", the tradesman said, irritated "Money, sithee."

"No Euro?"

"In Scotland we still pay right in Pound Sterling, sithee. I'd right dinna think tha’ ye're frae abroad, sithee. But I'll convert fer ye, sithee. Just walk right into a bank next town fer exchange, sithee."

Kirk smiled without knowing what this man was talking about. However, he got a black wool cap for Spock and the description of the route for all of them.

Gratefully he turned his back on the "right" and "sithee"-man. Spock put on the cap and the landing party set off. More or less silently because the Captain brooded on everything which might happen on his ship just now. There was still no connection and as matter of fact it made no sense at all to let it get at him. He could do nothing, absolutely nothing but hope that Uhura and Chekov returned to normal.

Behind them they heard a car and dodged to the roadside so that it could pass. But the van stopped, a weatherbeaten man leaned out of the window and grinned at them in a friendly way. At least four of his teeth were missing.

"Whither d’ye head, lads? Shall I tak yer along?"

"Ay, laddie", Scott answered in the same brogue. "Me pals and me, we're headin’ t'wards Ballachulish-at-the-Bridge."

"Ha, tramping?" the dude asked and giggled. "Nae rucksacks, nae tents, nae bedroll? What kinda birds are ye? Och, cam along, hop in. I'll tak yer ter the main road, there I'll go on the opposite way."

It might be that in this time nobody could survive without a mobile, but it was very certain that nobody could exist without a car. The kind man in the shop obviously had taken in for granted that his two customers had a car waiting in front of the door. The distance to the main road would have taken them a day of walking – if one was used to walking.

They were more than grateful to the old fellow with his van for now they reached the main road about noon. He took them to a long white house and told them that they would get something to eat there and probably also the means to get on to Ballachulish. Only when they got out and took a look at the building the Captain noticed that the hamster who had changed to his shoulder in the meantime pattered around excitedly and uttered still more excited noises. Kirk fondled the little animal soothingly and Dr. McCoy asked:

"What's the matter with him?"

"Oh, it'll be all the adventure…"

"No, no, no!" Hamstilidamst squeaked. "Liza lives here."

"You are acquainted with this house?" Spock put a redundant question.

"Yes, yes, Lizsa lives here, we've been here with Frido and the Lord. Liza is very nice. – Good food", he added.

No one objected to good food and so they marched towards King's House Hotel. When they opened the door and entered, they heard some clinking and Hamstilidamst happily said:

"Liza's at home."

"An’ how d’ye know?" Scotty asked.

"If it clinks and rumbles, Liza's at home."

"Oh!" McCoy said and the Chief Engineer grinned:

"But she does exist, ma pet, does she? She's no poltergeist?"

No need for Hamstilidamst to reply for at this moment Liza herself showed up, a bucket full of broken dishes in hand. She merrily smiled at her guests, put down the bucket and required what she might do for them. Then she discovered Hamstilidamst and laughed.

"You'll think this strange, but lately I had to do with hamsters really frequently and before I hardly knew what a hamster looks like."

"Perhaps you even know this special hamster. I think he has been here before", the Captain replied with a smile.

"Oh! Then he was with the others and with – with Frido. You know Frido? A very special friend of mine and his friends are very welcome to me."

"We'd like t’ eat something here", Lt. Scott explained. "And we'd be grateful if ye could tell us if there's a way t’ get t’ Ballachulish-at-the-Bridge."

"Certainly. Please go into the dining room. I shall…"

While speaking, Liza had stepped backwards, stumbled over the bucket and fell down between the broken dishes. However, being used to things like that, she was quickly on her feet again, collected the fragments and hastened towards the open kitchen door. There she came to a sudden stop when the sleeve of her blouse was caught at the handle.

The glances of the officers followed her and they began to understand what the hamster had meant. If it clinked and rumbled in this house, it was a clear sign that Liza was in. It did not take long until she was back and miraculously managed to take a tray to the dining room without accident. Except her, she said, nobody was in today so that it would take a while to prepare dinner for four persons. So she took the liberty to bring some cheese and crackers. One portion she put down to the floor for Hamstilidamst. He had known that he could rely on Liza.

While the bipeds ate baked beans with fried eggs and salad, the hamster lay down on the plate and slept. It had been most important for his decision on this sleeping place that later on he would be able to pick the crumbs of cheese and crackers out of his fur.

As there were no more guests at the moment, Liza sat with the officers. For her it went without saying that people who had one of the hamsters with them must needs be friends of her Frido. Captain Kirk was quite practised in the art of talking himself out of critical situations and he soon had realized that the friendship with this certain Frido would open all doors for them.

He needed not say much. It was Lt. Scott who all the time had noticed that the hamsters somehow connected Scotland with Frido and some lord so that he only asked: "What about the lord?"

Talking to the dozen, Liza poured out how she had met Frido McClown and Lord McShredder, what a kind, friendly, helpful and good man Frido was in contrary to the lord who was nothing but an unkind, unfriendly, curlish and close-fisted miser.

Kirk did not really listen and his thoughts wandered to their mission. Three days had been scheduled but as matters were he was afraid that they had been stranded here for a longer span of time. What was to happen if the situation on the Enterprise did not return to normal? What was to happen if in three days' time the Enterprise was not here to pick them up?

Again and again he had to remind himself of the fact that he could do nothing but fulfil his duty in Ballachulish-at-the-Bridge and then wait how matters developed.

"You're looking so sad", Liza McGyer interrupted his brooding.

"Oh! Well", he started up, caught. "Fact is … Two of our friends are on their way with the other hamsters and we lost sight of each other. I don't know how to contact them."

"Why don't you just wait here?"

"But they don't know that we are here", Dr. McCoy said.

"Happen they'll find us in Ballachulish-at-the-Bridge", Lt. Scott pondered. "They know that's our destination."

"O my goodness, and I'm babbling to you and keeping you!" Liza exclaimed ruefully. "You know what? This afternoon there'll be a supplier from Glencoe who'll go back directly. He surely gives you a lift. And Ballachulish isn't far from Glencoe. He's my cousin. His name is Hercules, but you should not laugh at his name."

"Why should we? The name of a Greek myth is by no means ridiculous."

Perplexed, Liza looked at Spock, for she never had regarded it from that angle. Everybody laughed at her cousin. – A moment later they all looked at Liza for somewhere outside was some big rumble and obviously she could have nothing to do with it.

She hadn't. While the officers had chatted with her, Hamstilidamst woke up and tripped from the dining room to the kitchen. Pots and pans for the guests' dinner were still standing about there and the rest of the vegetable for the salad. The hamster filled his belly once more. When he raised his eyes from the lettuce he discovered at the opposite side two peculiar bushes of hair and made a frightened jump.

The bushes belonged to two squirrel-ears. The squirrel had found its way through the open kitchen window to fill its belly like Hamstilidamst. Squirrel gnarled and jerked its head and the hamster saw it as a challenge and took to his paws.

For the squirrel it was the invitation to a merry chase and none of them got the idea that crashing pots and bowls should stop them. Only when both slipped in some grease on the cupboard, fell down to the floor and tore with them a bowl of mint sauce, they finished their chase.

At that moment the bipeds came in. The squirrel ran away but Hamstilidamst kept sitting on the floor in the mint sauce. It smelled disgustingly and tasted even more so. Liza laughed and scolded at the same time, fished the pet out of the sauce and unceremoniously held him under the water tap. Hamstilidamst struggled like mad, splashed about him water and sauce but she held him so that he could not harm her. Afterwards she looked a little wet and very green-spotted.

Only the officers understood the nagging squeaking of the hamster as their universal translators were activated, and they had some difficulty to remain serious. None of them had expected a hamster to swear so abundantly and eloquently. Finally the cleaning procedure was finished, Hamstilidamst was rubbed dry and was very indignated that he no longer smelled like himself. Well, he also did not smell like the green sauce and so he could forgive Liza.

In the meantime the front door had opened, a man with a heavily loaded sack barrow came in, stood in the lobby and called: "Liza!" He was a spindly little guy with very fair, thin hair and a most common face. At his birth his mother certainly had reckoned with another development of her son for this was Hercules, who was kindly welcomed by Liza.

Captain Kirk collected the hamster and prepared to pay for the meal. At the same time Liza talked to her cousin who nodded several times slowly and obviously was wiling to take the Enterprise-officers in his van to Glencoe.

"You've still got this Euro-money, Jim", McCoy said and Liza quickly looked round.

"Doesn't matter, many tourists stop here with the wrong money. I'll convert it. "

Anyhow, she did not understand why people with such very Scottish names like Scott, McCoy and Kirk did not know how to pay in Scotland. But this was not really her business. After she had stumbled over a box which cousin Hercules had not put away, Captain Kirk could pay the bill. The officers walked out to wait until Hercules had delivered all goods.

While they were standing there, a red car stopped and a couple with two children got out. The father appeared miffed, the mother grumbled that she did not want to go again to King's House Hotel. The son shot at his sister with a water pistol and the girl scolded as fluently as Hamstilidamst when he was put under a water tap.

Then the family disappeared in the house, a moment later Hercules came out, opened the van door and the officers boarded.

Hercules had heard the men talking and he had seen that they paid in Euro. Always the same with these tourists, they simply did not get it into their heads that the Kingdom did not want the Euro. But this time he did not really understand it. One of them had the most beautiful brogue and should know better. The long one with the cap spoke best Oxbridge. The two others however… They had some slang he could not define.

When they reached the main road, Hercules half turned his head and asked in a chatty way:

"Ye're frae t’ Continent?"

In the rear there was a quick, bewildered exchange of glances. None of the officers knew that in Britain and in this time the rest of Europe was called "Continent". So the Captain managed a grin and said:

"Er – yes. The continent's named America."

"Oh!" Hercules said and nodded.

As to that it was quite a miracle that the guys came along with Euro at all and knew that somewhere in the world there were other currencies except the Dollar. However, the one with the brogue did not fit, not in America, that was. – It was rush hour at Glencoe which meant stop and go but when they reached that part of Glencoe which was connected with old legends and new tourists, the Scottish speaking one sighed happily.

"Ay!" he said broadly. "Tha's Glencoe alive an’ athrive."

Why, that lad had to be a Scotsman… Hercules stopped his thoughts because in the rear a conversation developed after which he did not ponder about nationalities but about the sanity of his passengers. Just that lad had said that this was Glencoe alive and athrive and now he asked in a bewildered tone:

"Wha’ d’ye mean, athrive! Just alive an’ athrive.”

"A wordplay", the long one with the cap said. "Living and blooming, but that is no rhyme.”

"For sure mountains are alive", another one said after a moment. "They are for ever growing."

"My goodness, how can you always think of eating?" another one asked.

"Not in that meaning of the word." That was the one with the cap again. "They are shifting.”

"Ha, one centimetre per year’s lots for a geologist, tha's fer certain", the Scotsman said. "An’d ye may reckon that much."

"Billions." The long one. "Certainly. – I did not have the impression that there is no interest."

"Och, tak a nap", the Scotsman said, then silence fell in the rear.

Hercules was sweating. Somehow that had sounded like one end of a phone call but none of them phoned. To complete the madness the hamster had always been squeaking in between. Hercules thought his passengers to be decidedly cuckoo.

It did not take long until the voice of Scott was back, this time sounding decidedly normal:

"There! Tha's Loch Leven, we'll be there in a trice!" Lt. Scott exclaimed and the officers craned their necks to look out of the window to the right.

Hercules glared ahead and grumbled. In front of him were the roadworks which had been here for years and Hercules grumbled over government and authorities. In the middle of the most beautiful view to loch and mountains they came into a traffic jam and would be there in no trice at all. The officers took a nap, even the Vulcan was in a state of dozing which was most unlike a Vulcan. On his home planet nobody dozed, you were awake or you were asleep.

In the beginning sunset the landscape became almost orange and the time came when a good hamster was alert.

Part of the way Hamstilidamst had slept soundly, now he opened his eyes, ready for new adventures. Where was Flecki? Where was Goldi? Nobody there, he was all alone with those humans – he even would have endured the mayor.

"Moo-oo – they're all on the space ship and I didn't want to stay there", he squeaked in a low and lonely voice. "I should have stayed there, this will be very, very boring. And I am hungry!"

Nevertheless, his sleeping place was quite cosy. He looked up – to a face and a noise. It was the Scotsman and the Scotsman snored softly. He, Hamstilidamst, hamster of Scottish ancestry, had been for the first time in his life sleeping on a Scottish lap. That wasn't really bad – he would tell Flecki. But when was he to see Flecki again? And when would he be back in Hamsterton? And when would there be something to eat?!

The car moved a few metres forward.

"Well?" Hercules said as Hamstilidamst had scrambled to the front, was sitting on the panel and looked pathetic. "Funny lads ye're travellin’ with. – Like a biscuit?"

"Ey, that a question?" Hamstilidamst retorted but as Hercules did not have a universal translator he did not understand the squeaking.

He opened the glove compartment, got out a box of oat biscuits and quickly put it down on the passenger seat. The line of traffic set moving, somewhere ahead the traffic lights had changed to green. Hercules had to take care not to bump into the car ahead of him but he had seen that the hamster had disappeared from the panel.

When the lights, being now in sight at last, switched to red again, he turned around with a smile, then the smile was gone. The biscuits had been munched down, beside the box the hamster was sitting, merrily preening his fur.

"Now, what kind of glutton are you?"

"Ha!" Hamstilidamst mumbled into his fur. "You should see Goldi." Then he felt gripped and transported through the air. "Stop!" he shrieked. "Let me down at once!"

"I did not intend any discomfort to you", Lt. Spock said. "But it is not in order to eat all of Hercules' biscuits."

"Why not, if I'm hungry for all his biscuits? And how do you know he hasn't hidden any more somewhere? Who makes a journey with only one box of biscuits? That's right silly."

"Hamster thinking", Spock replied. "There are creatures existing without food over days. There are also creatures who fast voluntarily.”

"Madmen, are they?" Hamstilidamst interestedly inquired.

"Are ye talkin’ tae that cattle?" Hercules asked from the driver's seat.

"I am no cattle!" Hamstilidamst protested and Spock said:

"He is no cattle, he is a golden hamster. As cattle are rating cows, sheep, pigs…”

"Ay, right, why dinna ye take a nap?"

"I am not tired."

"What a pity!" Hercules retorted.

The next green phase was theirs, now they proceeded faster and very soon a sign said that the town of Glencoe was in only 2 miles' distance. They would have to spend the night there as it was much too late to go to Ballachulish-at-the-Bridge. Spock thoughtfully looked at the hamster. How were they to smuggle him into a hotel?

 

 


Chapter 5

 

Replicator Accident

 

On the Enterprise bridge Chekov got up from the floor and staggered to a niche beside several blinking monitors.

“Wodka, dawai[1]!”

A few seconds later a glass with some transparent liquid materialized. Chekov chugged it and shook himself.

“W-what my I goffer t’you?” he slurred and burped.

The mayor-commander gave him a horrfied glance. Trample and Sasy who had curiously followed, cautiously tripped a few steps back and looked for shelter. Then the mayor-commander gave a shrill shriek, once turned around himself and crashed to the floor. Groaning, he stood up and said to Flecki: “Number One, occasionally some staircase or other should be mounted at my commander seat.” Then he waddled to Chekov and firmly looked into his eyes.

“What’s the matter with you, man?”

“Shurplised, Commender, whatcha lepli-pi-cator candoo, potschemu[2]?” Chekov babbled and reeled towards the replicator with his empty glass. On his way he overlooked some control panel. There was a bang and the Ensign was lying on the floor. Firmly in hand he still held the empty glass and slowly got up.

“A-all clear, Co-co,dingus, nitschewo s-straschnawa[3]!” he shouted in about the direction of the mayor-commander, lost his hold and stumbled towards the replicator. Another unpleasant crash and groan from Chekov. Miraceously, the glass in his hand had survived this, too, and with a grin he put it onto the replicator plate. “Da-wa-wai, Wo-wo-wodka!”

“Please repeat the order”, a friendly, female computer voice said and the hamsters on the bridge immediately panicked. All animals having a moment ago followed the Ensign curiously, now hid behind or under the next best place.

“Wod-ka I sa-said, dawai!” Chekow brawled and pointed at the empty glass on the replicator plate.

“Do you require your salad with or without dressing?” came the friendly copmputer-question.

“Wh-what do I do wi’a d-dress, s-silly bitsh? I wanna shnaps!”

“Please repeat your order!” the friendly, female computer voice once more said and Chekov shook his fist.

“Snaps, or I hit y’r pro-professor!”

“Do you require your snaps cooled or not cooled?”

“Don’t madder”, the Ensign slurred and at last the glass filled with clear liquid. Sasy and Tealeafy who had come close curiously, sniffed the sharp smell of the liquid at once and fled, wrinkling their noses. Triumphantly, Chekov turned and with his left hand pointed at his right hand. He opened his mouth to speak, closed it again and looked at his hand in amazement. Then his face lit up, he turned to the replicator and took the glass he had not taken before. After looking about him with a broad grin, he took a sip, shook and slurred: “De re-re-re-pshi-pshi does wha’e’r ye say, people.”

“Food, too?” Goldi hopefully asked and approached the unit, while the Ensign had to hold to his desk not to fall down when nodding. In a trice Goldi climbed up to the replicator, faced the plate, put his paws to his hips and yelled: “Food!”

“Please repeat your order!” said the computer voice.

“Sun flower seed!”

“Please repeat your order!”

“S-u-n f-l-o-w-e-r s-e-e-d!”

“I did not understand your wording. Please repeat your order!”

“Biscuits!”

“Please repeat your order!”

Goldi slowy turned. Tremendous disappointment could be read in his big eyes. He glared at Ensign Chekov, lying on the floor and obviously having fun. His glass had toppled over, the liquid ran over the floor of the bridge. Helplessness spread which only was disturbed by the bawling Ensign. Finally the mayor-commander cleared his throat and climbed down from his seat again. He had realized that his leadership abilities – or whatever that was called – were required now. Cautiously he approached the replicator.

“Let me do it, weapon officer Goldi, obviously you don’t have the required authority.”

Goldi shrugged and left the battle field to him. The mayor-commander stepped onto the replicator plate and once more cleared his throat.

“You thing – er – replicator, a meal for me and my crew!”

“Please repeat your order!”

“My order: Food!”

“I did not understand your wording. Please repeat your order!”

The mayor-commander furiously looked at the replicator and blushed fiercely. This was about his authority, here and now! If now he disgraced himself in front of this machine, his crew would think him to be a hopeless softy who did not even succeed to get at some food.

“Rap… - er – republican – erm – I mean replicator – I order you to replicate!”

“Please repeat your order!”

“Probably the replicator also needs a universal translator, honey”, Lt. Uhura laughed. “He has no Hamstish!”

“Yoohoo, that’s excellent thinking, please do the needful.”

Lt. Uhura got up, walked to a nearby panel, opened a flap and pulled out a small device. With this she crossed the bridge to the mayor-commander who nervously tapped the plate with his left paw. After she had fastened the universal translator at the replicator she retreated with a grin, watching how a red-headed hamster was standing under the replicator, puffing up.

“Erm, replicate! That’s my order!”

“Are you certain that I shall obey this order?” the friendly computer voice asked.

“Yes, the devil I am”, came the yell from the replicator plate. “Replicate”

By now all hamsters had assembled in front of the device expectantly and waited for things to happen. There was a loud ‘Plop!’ and under the terrified cries of the whole crew another mayor-commander materialized who yelled “Replicate!” Another ‘Plop!’ announced the next mayor-commander yelling “Replicate!” followed by a new ‘Plop!’ and a new clone.

Stunned, the complete hamster-crew watched this exceptional event. Even Chekov had stopped his silly giggling and open-mouthed stared at what was happening. Lt. Uhura was sitting at her station in a relaxed pose and watched with a smile the replication of hamster after hamster. Flecki was the first one to really realized the terrifying events. “Computer, stop at once!” she yelled. Right in the middle of a new materializing the process stopped and a soft voice said:

“Replication process stopped!”

There was a general sigh of relief which was however interrupted by a horrible realization: Now they had the mayor-commander 6 ½ fold! On the one side the hamsters looked at the replicator plate, horrified, in the background Lt. Uhura was sitting at her station unperturbed. Ensign Pavel Chekov however had no longer any desire to laugh. With outstretched hand he pointed at the replicator and stammered “Njet – njebosmochno”, meaning “No, that can’t be possible”. He rubbed his eyes, closed them and opened them again. No, he was not caught in some bad dream! Chekov swayed, held to the next desk and groaned: “En-sign Shekuv ask pre-permishun t’be dishmished!”

The 6 ½ mayor-commanders turned to him: “Do you feel unwell, Mister?” they chorused.

“Njet, I’m sheeing ghosts… Ne’er ‘gain allohol!” the Ensign moaned, staggered to the door of the lift, cried “Do swidanija[4]!” and disappeared. A loud rumble implied that he crashed against the back wall of the lift.

Goldi was the first one to compose himself a little and approached the group of mayor-commanders. Interested, he goggled at the interrupted replication, i.e. half a mayor-commander, missing the upper half including head.

“Know what?” Goldi grinned. “My ass and your face might get friends!”

“You’re right impossible, Goldi”, Flecki scolded. “We’ve got a real fat problem and you’re joking!”

“We don’t have a fat problem”, Goldi said with an impish grin, “we’ve got 6 ½ fat problems.”

“Erm”, one of the mayor-commanders piped up and nervously tapped with his left paw. “Erm, certainly, dear crew members, you noticed that at the moment there are certain things – er – disruptions…” he began but was immediately interrupted by his fellow mayor-commanders.

“Honoured colleague, if I might mention as summary that this dingus-situtation requires a certain thing – er – measure of determination…”

“Not only dinugs – er – determination but also dingus – er – as I in the beginning was going to – er – stress…”

“This dingussituation, and I have to thingmention, is…”

The circumstances were just terrible for the Hamsterton hamsters. Bad enough to have to endure one mayor of that sort but now 6 ½ mayors were discussing at the top of their voices, the half-mayor being restricted to tapping with his right paw.

“People, I can’t stand that for long”, chief Botchy moaned. “We’ll blast up the space ship and that’s that.”

“Good idea”, Goldi bawled, “I’ll go to get something for blasting! Where’s the weapon room?”

“No good idea, my wild little woolly”, Lt. Uhura remarked. “We don’t want to damage our pretty space ship, what do you think?”

“But we’d be rid of those silly blatherskites then!”

“That’s no reason to blast up everything, you bad, bad hamster!”

She fondled Goldi’s ears and stood up. Without doubt she still was heavily under the influence of laughing gas but as responsible officer of Captain Kirk she still had the idea that the safety of the ship had first priority. As matters were, selfdestruction was out of question. Moreover she was a little worried over her colleague Chekov of whom nobody really knew where he had gone and where he was right now. Lt. Uhura swaggered towards the replicator and with a broad smile watched the 6 ½ debating mayor-commanders. Behind her the other inhabitants of Hamsterton were lined up, watching with big eyes whether Uhura had a solution for this dilemma.

“Won’t you come down from the replicator plate, my little frizzies? Some accident might easily happen and we’d had the same trouble as with the tribbles.”

“Tribbles?” wide-eyed Dodo asked and Tuffy cried:

“What is that?”

“We once had a mission at space station K7”, Lt. Uhura said with an impish smile. “Among others we met a trader there. He had a tribble with him and I bought this cute little thing from him, quite frizzy and a bit flat. It squeaked so charmingly and I just had to buy it. Well, I never found out where the head of that little pet was but one thing we found out very soon: Such a tribble can reproduct on his own and that very, very quickly – you hamsters can’t compete. It didn’t take long and the whole ship was filled with cute, squeaking little tribbles.”

Lt. Uhura interrupted her story and held to a table, almost toppling over with laughter.

“And then”, she cackled, “the Captain came back from K7 and almost went bonkers. At first he was quite all right but when he sat down on his seat, there was a loud squeak, he jumped up and raged!” She broke off, hardly able to suppress her giggling. “And when”, she cackled, “a tribble was sitting in his coffee pot, he completely lost control. Then he has, that is then we have…”

“You have blasted up the space ship?” Goldi hopefully asked.

“No, you little rascal! Captain Kirk never would permit that. No, he has… ha ha, he beamed the tribbles to a Klingon ship, ha ha ha! Klingons are allergic against tribbles!”

While Lt. Uhura was shaken by another fit of merryment, the hamsters stood wondering. What would Klingons be? And what did ‘beamed’ mean? Universe was curious…

After recovering, Lt. Uhura saw the faces of 16 lost looking hamsters.

“Oh, poor you, you haven’t any idea what Klingons are, have you?”

“And what beamed means”, Tealeafy added in a whisper.

“Klingons are a dangerous race, very much warriors. They somewhat look like gorillas, but they are able to speak at least. Our Captain had a lot of trouble with them and they with him.” She giggled again and added: “Beaming we need to transport things or beings from one place to another.”

“Old stuff”, Goldi cried, “we use vehicles.”

“But we do it without using vehicles. Within seconds we can be moved over thousands of miles without making a move ourselves.”

“Once Trample has been flying 100 metres from one place to the other without making a move”, Botchy objected.

Uhura laughed. “We’re beaming over distances of 20.000 miles, our emergency transporter still makes it over 8.000 miles. We need a circular containment beam as well as phase transit spools.”

“And that works?” Tuffy breathed.

“Well, the tribbles safely landed on a Klingon cruiser and we had our peace. However, the Klingons had some problems afterwards. Since that day they just hate our Captain.”

“This Captain Whatshisname, where is he, by the way? Why isn’t he on board doing his job?” one of the mayor-commanders asked, making an important face and impatiently tapping his right paw on the floor. “In a crisis like this it is – er – vital and important that every dingus is at his place.”

“That Kirk went to Scotland, remember?” Flecki grumbled at the mayor-commander.

“Erm, yes, of course I know, ha ha. As I just thought to have mentioned it’s about dizzy-plin. In a uni-er-verse we can’t afford to meet frizzy Klingons or warrior tribbles. They might eat our food.”

“Well, my dear colleague, we in a way heard that these things don’t manage, so keep your hat on – er – fur on!” the next mayor-commander said with a knowing face.

“As I always say, honoured colleagues”, the next mayor-commander remarked, “the prior hamster rule is: Keep fool – er – cool…”

“Without wanting to forestall you, dear colleague, we should prepare for an attack”, another mayor-commander bleated. “I propose to form a community – er – commission by all means  which in subcommittees and by exact targets…”

“I’m going bonkers!” chief Botchy barked. “Won’t stand you clowns any longer! Who is the real mayor-commander of you?”

At once six paws went up while mayor-commander No. ½ toppled over after trying to lift one of his two paws, too.

“Fine”, Botchy grunted, “so we’ve only got six comedians left – so what now?”

“Uhura, tell me”, Flecki whispered to the Lieutenant, “can the replicated things be made disappear again?”

“Only with the antimatter-beam, baby”, Lt. Uhura purred, “but that’s damned hazardous. If you lock the beam on all of them, the original dissolves, too, and woosh – all cute hamsters are gone.”

“So we could make the original disappear as well”, Goldi delightedly cried, playing at one of the many control panels under the monitors.

“Goldi”, Flecki hissed, “you’re really unique. At least so all Hamsterton hopes. And do stop fumbling at the switches!”

“First Officer”, one of the mayor-commanders shouted, “don’t you have any work to do? Status report!”

“That’s – er – what I wanted to mention…” the next mayor-commander added.

“I can only heartily agree to my dingus speakers”, the next one interrupted.

“Me, too”, mayor-commander No. 4 said, “can’t so to say not in a way avoid to ask the First Officer for a status report. Well?”

Before the next mayor-commander could butt in, Flecki with glittering eyes gnarled: “We’re still in space and on course to the Veganic system.”

“Time of arrival?”

“Yes, erm, when are we there?”

“I also cannot refrain…”

“No idea”, Flecki shrieked, interrupting the mayor-commanders. “How should I know? I’m no navigator or anything.”

“Where is this Check-dingus, Yoohoo?” mayor-commander No. 2 asked, excitedly tapping the floor with his left paw.

“Boozy in his bunk, deary”, Lt. Uhura grinned.

“I weed – erm – plead for a crisis meeting”, mayor-commander No. 3 now bawled, “for extra coordinated – erm – extraordinary circus dances – er – require measuring…”

“What my previous speaker wants to express”, the next one shouted, “is that in some way or other we need a fill-in who…”

“But we’ve got one…”, Tuffy said in a surprised voice.

“Yes, ‘xactly – er – Dingus – er – let’s say Dodo”, mayor-commander No. 2 stated, “who…”

Now all eyes were on Dodo who desperately tried to hide under a desk. Unfortunately Goldi subverted his plans and transported him back with a kick. Another flight seemed to be without sense so that Dodo faced the 6 ½ mayor-commanders who all tapped the floor with one of their paws and looked at him impatiently.

“I didn’t do anything wrong”, Dodo wailed. “That Chekov has tuned everything. I don’t know nothing! I wanna go home!”

“Dodo is such a softy, he’s too much coward to bite himself”, Dodo whispered to Flecki with a grin. She desperately rolled her eyes and walked over to Dodo to calm him down.

“You only have to look at the instrument readings and read them aloud”, she proposed to Dodo who was sitting under the navigation control with trembling whiskers and continued to look for some escape.

Whimpering, Dodo climbed up the desk and placed himself in front of the small screen with the route data. He did not appear to have the vaguest idea what all the lines and numbers meant. Frightened, he alternately looked at the crowd and the screen.

“Come on, Navigator”, one of the mayor-commanders snorted, “height and position!”

Frightened, Dodo looked down from the table. “Well, my height is 21 cm and my position in front of a screen.”

“As we’re just joking”, Goldi suddenly shouted: “What does a woman do in space?”

Flecki gave him a sharp side glance.

“Vacuum cleaning”, Goldi cackled and held his belly of laughter.

There was a short, loud smack and Goldi lay dizzily on the floor.

“What is it, First Officer?” came a voice from the mayor-commanders’ group.

“He made a suspicious motion”, Flecki innocently explained, “and I thought him to be a Klingon. You can’t be careful enough.”

“Now I know where we are!” suddenly Dodo cried. Immediately all eyes were on him again. Expectation was in the air and after a long, long time there was silence on the bridge. Uncertainly Dodo smiled around, pointed at a spot on the screen and said: “We are here – exactly here – at the blinking spot.”

Everybody stared at Dodo who did not dare to look up. The mayor-commanders still tapped the floor with their paws nervously, while by now Goldi had risen and darted furious looks at Flecki. Lt. Uhura was humming to herself, which made one of the mayor-commanders ask: “Hey, you, Yoohoo! What do you have to report?”

“Interesting things, woolly. I receive distant signals.”

“Signals? From where? By whom?”

Uhura shrugged and grinned broadly. “No idea, darling, but the blinking spot that sweet, cosy tuft has seen is certainly not our ship.”

“Erm – where – er – why?”

“’cause that will be another ship and ‘cause the signals will come from them.”

“Well, erm – er – well, what does that mean?”

“Let’s think about it”, Uhura replied and had difficulties not to fall from her chair of laughter. “Well, on the screen we see that there is another ship and suddenly we hear strange signals. That might mean…”

“That another ship is close by!” the mayor-commanders chorused.

“Smart!” Lt. Uhura smirked. “Really smart. One smarter than the other.”

While the com-officer shook with laughter, the hamsters panicked. A strange ship out there! Never in Hamstian history anything like that had happened. Small wonder as Hamstian space travelling was in its earliest stages up to now, better to say Hamstian space travelling had never been planned. So no hamster ever had the duty to busy himself with any strange space ships.

“Shall I get the weapons ready?” Goldi’s voice sounded. “We’ll thump their hamster-alien gob…”

“Perhaps we first should find out if they are hostile at all”, chief Botchy remarked quite correctly.

“Yea, but then…”, Goldi shouted, full of hope.

“When will we meet the alien ship?” came a voice from the mayor-commander group.

Dodo anxiously looked at the screen and uncertainly shook his head.

“No idea.”

“How fast does it approach?”

“No idea.”

“From which direction?”

Now the familiar reply did not come but only a sad shaking of the head and a desperate sobbing of the fill-in navigator.

“Mister, pull yourself together!” one of the mayor-commanders shouted while the others stood around, scolding.

“That depends”, Lt. Uhura rescued the pathetic fill-in navigator, “a few hours at least, a few days at the longest. Moreover they might not notice us at all.”

This was the moment of an embarrassed “Oh oh!” from Goldi and the big main screen seemed to be filled by a fire ball which slowly decreased.

“Congratulations, honey”, Uhura smiled. “Now they certainly will notice us.”

“W-what was that?” chief Botchy stammered and goggled at Goldi who was sitting on weapon control with a bashful grin.

“Torpedo”, Lt. Uhura explained. “On this distance it can’t do any harm, however.”

“You dope!” Flecki hissed. “Fumbling switches and munching, that’s all he can do!”

“Weapon officer”, came a voice from the mayor-commander corner, “why did you shoot?”

“I’ve seen some suspicious movement and you never can be careful enough.”

“Fine, fine”, mayor-commander No. 3 now said. “As I always used to dingus: A hamster cannot be careful enough.”

“Perhaps so to say we should have made contact first…” the mayor-commander beside him objected.

“Nonsense!” mayor-commander No. 5 unnecessarily bawled. “Knock them down and that’s it. Questions come later.”

“If I may point out to my previous speaker that it may well be possible that these aliens in a way could regard it as a welcome…”

“We wait if they fire back then we dingus back”, mayor-commander No. 6 interrupted mayor-commander No. 5.

The mayor-commanders all shouted now, everyone pointing out his opinion to the present situation. It was absolutely embarrassing. On one side of the bridge 6 hamsters were tapping their hindpaws at the ground, gesticulating with their forepaws, the half one excitedly ran up and down and if he paused, also tapped with his paw. On the other side 8 helpless hamsters were waiting, now joined by Dodo who no longer liked to sit at the spooky screen where aliens were approaching.

“Done great”, Flecki gnarled at Goldi who also had left his station.

“I won’t be able to stand this any longer, you know”, chief Botchy grumbled.

“Perhaps we should make a mayor election, Boss”, Tuffy hopefully shouted.

Botchy gave the little repair hamster a shattering look and grumped: “And before that we for days listen to the campaign speeches of these clowns – or what?”

“Lieutenant Uhura”, Flecki shouted, “where is this antimatter beam you told me about?”

“Engineering, darling. Opening the screening of the warp spool and standing in front of the spool means being atomized, bang!”

“Fine”, Flecki retorted with a satanic grin, “then election speeches will start there.”

Terrified, her hamster friends glared at her and even Lt. Uhura stopped her smiling.

“Good idea”, Goldi interrupted the silence, “but will you dissolve them all?”

“We can’t”, the chief engineer breathed, “we’ll get the original mayor, too!”

“That’s it”, Tuffy cried, “first of all we’ve got to know which one is the original one!”

“I’ve known since long”, Flecki retorted. “There’s something I noticed.”

 

 


[1] Russian = at once

[2] Russian = why?

[3] Russian = no damage done

[4] Russian = Good bye

 

 


Chapter 6

 

At the Hotel – Surprise Meeting

 

Liza’s cousin Hercules at the moment did not think about how to smuggle a hamster into a hotel but he passed the town of Glencoe and drove on along Loch Leven.

"Laddie, shouldna we've got off there?" Lt. Scott asked – the officers by now were all awake again.

"Ay, but I'll tak ye t' few miles t’ Ballachulish, tha’ does nae matter now", Hercules replied.

"That's really very kind of you", Kirk gratefully said and Hercules snickered.

"Yer name's Kirk, but ye're no Scotsman. Laddie, ye're in Scotland, we’re kind folks."

"Yea", Dr. McCoy nodded. "We've seen that all day long. – Do you know some hotel there where we may stay overnight?"

"Sure", Hercules retorted and gave no further explanation.

The road ran along the lake, the view was breathtaking and Lt. Scott waited for Ballachulish-at-the-Bridge. But it did not come, at least nothing looking like the Ballachulish Scotty knew. But when Hercules slowed down and stopped, the Chief Engineer’s jaw dropped.

"Th-that's the hotel!" he stammered and Hercules turned round.

"Ay, laddie, tha's the hotel. I use tae deliver goods here an’ know t’ manager. Let's see if we get rooms fer ye. I'll come with ye. – And see tha’ this hamster’s not seen."

Hamstilidamst got the strict order not to make a sound and Captain Kirk stuffed him into the wide sleeve of his sweatshirt. He grinned in the direction of Lt. Scott whose mouth still stood open. Kirk wondered whether Scotty had been here before. It was an elegant old building like a manor. Situated at the lake, the view was overwhelming, even if it got dark by now.

In the meantime Hercules conferred with the hotel manager. There were no single rooms for the Enterprise-officers but they could get two double bed rooms and Kirk nodded. Time to have the quiet of a room and to be among themselves. Up to now they somehow had managed but a few things really had to be done and discussed now.

"Ay, Laddies, so that was that", Hercules grinned. "I'm on t’ road again."

"Laddie, stay fer a whisky", Scott begged, but Hercules shook his head.

"Nay. I've gotta get hame an’ wi’ the van. Been a pleasure tae meet yer."

They said good-bye, asked him to give their regards to Liza and waved. At this the Captain felt some movement in his sleeve, then Hamstilidamst's head peeped out.

"Off with you", Kirk said and nudged the pet. "We're going to our room now. You may get out then."

"Anything to eat there?"

"I am quite baffled which quantities of nourishment a hamster can take in within relatively short periods of time", Lt. Spock remarked who well remembered the box of oat biscuits.

"I guess he knows best", Dr. McCoy said. "However, we'll get you something when we've got our rooms. – Who shares with whom?"

"You'll share a room with Scotty, Bones", the Captain decided. "I'd just need you to roast each other half the night, Spock and you."

"I also like roasted peanuts", Hamstilidamst hopefully said.

But on another nudge of Captain Kirk he hid in the sleeve and only moved again when the cuff was widened and Kirk looked in.

"Get out. Here's a tray with tea and coffee and shortbread."

"Who would want tea and coffee?" the hamster asked, scrambled out of the sleeve and fell on the biscuits.

"I wouldn't mind some tea", Kirk retorted. "How about you, Spock?"

"The caffein will affect your sleep, Sir."

"Nothing will affect my sleeping. And don't call me Sir."

"Sir?" Spock retorted, baffled.

"What kind of Sir would I be here, eh? – Just imagine you patiently explain something to me. I don't know whether you ever noticed it but in such cases you do call me Jim. Could you bring yourself to do so?"

"I will do my best, Sir – Jim."

"Jesus, not Sir Jim!" the Captain grinned.

"I am not Jesus, as you well know”, Spock said.

Then he sat down on the bed, fetched a flat packet out of his trouser pocket and opened it. Hamstilidamst, having done with all the shortbread on the coffee and tea tray, became curious what Pointear was doing and climbed onto the bed. Spock looked up for a moment.

"Hamstilidamst, I would advise you not to handle any of these components."

"Hum?" Hamstilidamst asked.

"Leave your paws off the stuff Spock put there", the Captain translated.

"What does he do with that?"

"He assembles a tricorder."

"Sure he does", Hamstilidamst replied in a knowing voice.

Tricorder sounded somewhat important. He'd no idea what Pointear was doing there but it looked intriguing. Tiny parts were placed with a pincette into a box. That Spock worked with racing speed.

"With this unit I can scan and examine and great variety of things", the Vulcan explained as he positively noticed the vivid interest of the hamster.

"Could you scan and examine me?"

"Certainly."

"And what do you know then?"

"For example that you are a golden hamster."

"Gosh, you know that anyhow", the pet snappd. What use was a unit telling you things you already knew?

"If I did not know that you just have been eating biscuits again I could find that out with this unit."

Hamstilidamst blinked in surprise, then he turned round because the door opened and the two others came in. The Scotsman looked at everything, walked over to a second door, opened it and looked into the next room. Grinning, Dr. McCoy sat down on one of the beds.

"What is it?" Kirk asked.

"He'd been here before", the Doctor replied drily.

"Guessed it."

"Ay, Captain, I'm knackered ", Lt. Scott said, leaning at the wall. "Tha's t’ same hotel I visited five years back – fishin’. Ye'd nae believe it. It's still standin’!"

"Mr. Scott", the Vulcan said, closing the now assembled tricorder, " in the south of this country you will find the circle of Stonehenge. It has been standing there for six thousand years. I see no reason why a hotel should not last three or four hundred years.”

"But me getting’ here wi’ ye now…"

"Well, yes, let be now", Kirk interrupted. "Do take a look at this water boiling machine or whatever it is. I don't get it working."

"Tha's a wee thin’ fer me", the engineer drawled. "I get dozens of space ships runnin’, a water boilin’ machine isna any problem."

"For sure, that's why we took you along", McCoy grinned.

As Spock just now was doing nothing of interest for a hamster, Hamstilidamst climbed down from the bed and joined the Scotsman.

"Computer!" Scotty ordered. "Boil the water."

"He's been here before indeed", Dr. McCoy nodded. "When he was here, it worked like that."

"Cable, Mr. Scott?" Kirk asked. "Down there at the, er, socket and here at the machine I connected this cable."

"There was nae cable when I was here", the Chief Engineer grumbled. "P’rhaps there's nae power."

Lt. Spock pointed the tricorder at the cable and informed that there was power. Hamstilidamst was delighted. Now he got the functioning of the box. You could search and find things! Then he looked up to the bewildered Scotsman. Could it really be true that an engineer did not understand this? Well, chief Botchy was better after all.

Hamstilidamst took a run-up and jumped against the red flip switch at the water boiler. He hit it at the right spot so that a light went on in the switch. In his back the officers roared with laughter.

"I don't believe it!" Captain Kirk bawled. "We've got to learn a lot in this time."

"And by no means we must ever forget our hamster", McCoy added.

"I assume that after this extraordinary effort Hamstilidamst needs some sustainment", Spock said and Hamstilidamst discovered that after all this Vulcan was not as boring as he all the time had thought him to be.

After this rescue from tea-emergency the officers splashed out. Captain Kirk in person went to fetch a bowl of things a hamster liked best. The men went to the dining room to take a late supper. Hamstilidamst munched until he was tired and fell asleep.

When he woke up the room was pitch dark. He heard snoring and as he by now knew this noise, he was not frightened. This was his time, he felt very enterprising but there seemed to be no enterprise at hand.

He immediately began to miss his friends. Certainly on the space ship there was much more fun. And he had to sit in the darkness and nothing at all happened. Then he saw that the curtain was moved by a soft wind. So the window had to be open and Hamstilidamst made his way to the windowsill. The upper window had been pushed open a little, the lower one did not reach much beyond the windowsill. He would take a look for something interesting outside.

"Hooty?" a voice asked when he stretched his nose into the fresh air. "Hooty, is that you?"

"No, this isn't Hooty. My name's Hamstilidamst."

"Hamstilidamst?! But that is not possible. How did you get here? You all have travelled home to Hamsterton."

A slim hamster came out of the shadow and Hamstilidamst squeaked delightedly:

"Daby! – What are you doing here? We had a lot of adventures and really terrible things happened. And now I'm here all alone with some humans. I show them how euqipments work."

"Do come with me, you must tell me immediately. – I'm looking for my cousin Hooty. Did you see another hamster here?"

"No, I didn't. – What does your cousin Hooty do here?"

"She owns a penthouse here. As President Balthasar was mindless enough to get himself a flight ticket without my assistance, I am most uncertain whether he ever will be able to return. Well, so I'm paying a visit to my cousin at this place."

"What does she own?" Hamstilidamst was bewildered.

"A penthouse. That is a house on the roof of another house. Do come with me, you may take a look."

A house on top of a house – that sounded most interesting. He followed Daby through a dazzling number of ventilation shafts until they emerged at a windswept corner on the roof. This hotel house seemed to have quite a lot of gables and they crossed two of them until Daby pointed ahead with her paw. Really, close to one of the many chimneys stood a beautiful little house.

"You see, it really is convenient. In winter Hooty has a central heating. And the view from here… I could envy Hooty, really."

"It truly looks great", Hamstilidamst said, impressed.

If some human had been here, he could have given an explanation. Some time a craftsman had forgotten his wooden toolbox up here. With the help of befriended hamsters Hooty had erected a roof over the handle of the toolbox and built in doors and windows. There hardly could be a better accommodation for a hamster. The separate cases now were three comfortable rooms, the biggest one was used as living room and supply store.

Daby and Hamstilidamst sat down to a choice of cheese as was to be found at the hotel kitchen. Then Hamstilidamst reported how they had got into space with the funfair turbo pegtop and met the big, strange star ship coming from the future. He did not tell her that he had been afraid to stay on the space ship but proudly said that he had the task to guide the astronauts through Scotland.

"But why are they here?" Daby asked.

"Want to be guided through Scotland."

"Hum", she said. "Would you mind very much if I accompany you to the hotel room and listen what they are talking about? Afterwards we might hold council."

"They do understand us, too."

"I know that your friend Frido mastered Hamstish a little, but…"

"No, we're right chatting. They've got a u-ni-ver-sal translator."

"Oh!" Daby ejaculated who did not know either what that might be. "All these occurrences are quite extraordinary, don't you think so?"

"Sure! – Completely extraordinary", he admitted though up to now he had not thought the matter somehow special.

"I shouldn't be surprised if this a very big and secret matter."

Her eyes sparkled delightedly. If there was one thing she was really good at, it was to declare matters to be most secret. Universal translator or no universal translator, tomorrow she would listen to the talks of the astronauts to find out whether there was something extraordinarily secret.

As President Assistant, Daby perfectly knew how to handle secrets. About the great idea of BANTACH she only spoke in vague hints and surrounded her boss and herself with secretmongery. Balthasar had no inkling how very secret he was. However, Daby worked in the administration and yearned to participate once in her life in a real secret secret.

So the following morning she was sitting under Captain Kirk's bed while Hamstilidamst made a tour to the kitchen. She listened to Kirk's snoring and from behind a leg of the bed watched excitedly how the other one, the one with the strange ears, left the room very early.

She decided that all this was very mysterious, almost cunning. When Hamstilidamst re-entered the room with a loud somersault through the window, she hissed:

"Need you be that noisy? I'm just watching most interesting happenings."

"Do you?!" Hamstilidamst asked. Excitedly he looked about him, but with his best will he could discover nothing more interesting than the sleeping Kirk. "I brought you something to eat."

"Now really! How can one think of food in such a situation?!" Daby was shocked and munched away the cracker.

"O-o-o-oa-a-a-a!" it sounded above them and the mattress bumped. "What's the time? Spock? – Spock!"

"I'm not here", Daby whispered. "I am absolutely not here. You've never seen me, got that?"

"Why that? I do see you and you are right here." Hamstilidamst was bewildered.

"Who squeaks… Oh, our waterboiler-hamster", Kirk's voice said.

Then the mattress bumped once more, he leaned out of the bed and looked under it. Daby pressed into the shadow of the bed-leg and was absolutely not there.

"When is breakfast?" Hamstilidamst loudly asked and hurried from under the bed for if Kirk carried on like that he soon would discover Daby who did not want to be here.

"Good morning, little glutton. First of all I'll take a shower and shave… Ouch, I don't have a razor! I can't show myself outdoors like this."

"Why don't you hide under the bed? That's the place to go if you don't want to be seen."

Kirk began to laugh and laughing disappeared into the bathroom. So he did not hear the furious whisper coming from under the bed, stating that Hamstilidamst was the silliest idiot the world had ever seen. He could by no means agree to this because the silliest idiot he knew was the mayor.

Then the door opened and Spock entered. He carried a small plastic sack so that Hamstilidamst ran to him happily. Plastic sacks were carried for buying something and if someone bought something there also went some food with it.

"Good morning, Hamstilidamst", the Vulcan said politely.

"Anything to eat in the sack?!" Hamsters did not hold with politeness on an empty stomach.

"Following yesterday's experience I compiled a statistic about your daily consumption in relation to the day ahead of us…"

"Grrr", Hamstilidamst gnarled. "Stop talking operas!"

"Begging your pardon, but operas are not talked, they are sung and I by no means…"

"Spock, that you?" came Kirk's voice. "Where've you been?"

"Shopping, Sir – Jim."

"Does your shopping include a razor by chance?"

With a sound close to a sigh Spock emptied the contents of the plastic sack onto the bed. From one side Hamstilidamst fell on it, from the other Captain Kirk. The one found a box with biscuits and a bag of peanuts, the other an electric razor, tooth brush, deodorant and a digital camera. Both gripped what seemed substantial to them at the moment. Halfway back to the bathroom Kirk turned.

"What do you need that thing for?"

"That – thing is a camera for digital photographs. By means of a modem it can be connected to a computer."

'"And?"

"I checked whether a connection to the tricorder is possible. It is possible."

"But…"

"S… Jim, in this time we will meet things unknown to us. If we are unable to describe them, we may take a photo and have it analysed by the record-file of the tricorder. I will be able to adapt it accordingly."

"Ah! – Tell me, Spock, how do you manage to talk that posh before breakfast?"

Hamstilidamst, busy with opening the peanuts-bag, threw Kirk a glance. He was quite right. Even the mayor at his best was not able to do that. Now he got the bag open at last and with such a bounce that the peanuts spread on and in front of the bed. He goggled after them and saw that from behind the bed-leg a paw dashed out quickly, grasped a peanut and was gone again.

"Tidy – that – up!" Kirk said and now really disappeared into the bathroom.

"No problem", the hamster retorted, jumped down from the bed, shoved the peanuts together and under the next bed.

Spock watched it and concluded that this action was the basis for the expression "to hamster", the gathering and hoarding of supplies at a certain place to which one could return in case of a hungry feeling to…

"Morning! Anybody got a razor?" Dr. McCoy came rumbling in.

A short time later the officers – all shaved – went down to breakfast. The two hamsters enjoyed their own meal of nuts and biscuits. Daby chewed quickly, her look directed into some distance. Then she stared at Hamstilidamst with big eyes.

"It's quite obvious, isn't it?"

"Hum?" Hamstilidamst asked and gulped down a big bite of biscuit.

"It's about secret units."

The hamster took another bite, chewed and looked at her big-eyed. She might be right. Up to now several units had come across which either he did not know or the humans did not know. So he nodded expressly.

"What does one do with secret units?" Daby mused.

"Perhaps they're for the space ship? That's from the future."

"That is well possible. – Unfortunately we have now knowledge in which way the secret units are to be used on the future-space ship. Certainly it is very dangerous."

"Perhaps they are testing them here?"

"Hamstilidamst, this is most clever of you!" Daby cried. "And certainly the most important unit for the future-space ship is without any doubt the razor."

"Why?"

"They all were wild on it, they all tested it. It needs be substantial for them."

"Sure. – Without razor Kirk had preferred to hide under the bed before he went outside."

"Are they good or bad people?"

"They always got me something to eat."

"This might mean they are good people. But it might also mean they want to lull you and really they are bad people."

That was too deep for Hamstilidamst. Up to now everyone who fed the hamsters had been really kind. Perhaps Daby was a little wacko after all?

In the meantime the Enterprise-officers regaled themselves with a lavish breakfast. The Doctor predicted stomach cramps as they were no longer used to such kind of food in their time. Kirk however feasted on fried eggs with bacon and tomato and Scott filled his bowl with porridge for a second time. To the strict vegetarian Spock nothing much except toast and jam remained and so he asked Dr. McCoy for an exact description of the ingredients for porridge – then he tried it.

Never a Vulcan would have admitted that he felt anything. Included was the conviction that a meal served the substantion of the body and nothing else. So he never would have admitted that he found anything tasty. When he got up to fill his bowl with porridge for a second time the three others looked after him and grinned.

"Is there any shop close by or where did you buy the things?" Kirk asked when Spock sat down again.

"He can't answer, his mouth is full", McCoy remarked.

"Perhaps he learned from our hamster", Kirk nodded.

"There is a room in this hotel where a few necessary and very many unnecessary things can be bought", Spock said, not willing to be roasted.

"Well, then I'll go fer somethin’ unnecessary tae tak along as souvenir", Scott said. "Ha, I'll show them if I come back here in our time."

"You won't, we're not here", Kirk said curtly.

"And who are we if we are not here?" Dr. McCoy asked.

"Your are literally nobody. You don't even have an identification."

"Then I'd better behave."

"Generally speaking: by all means", Spock retorted. "We are scientists who, following the test reports Professor McTinker published, pay him a visit."

"The question is: Where do we visit him?" the Captain said. "Nowhere in our files there is an exact address of him in this time."

"What I read ‘bout him, he'll be rather a fogey", Lt. Scott said.

"Does that mean that fogeys do not have an accommodation in this time where one could visit them?" the Vulcan asked, slightly baffled.

"Nay, laddie, tha’ means that everybody knows him here anaway. What are t’ odds tha’ we just might ask ‘bout him here in t’ hotel?"

"First I would be grateful if you would not call me laddie, Mr. Scott. Second: Four scientists who are to have a date with Professor McTinker should know his address."

"Take it easy, people", Kirk said. "We'll just set out and ask for the way. That shouldn't be a problem."

Lt. Scott wanted to start on the double, but Spock reminded them that he had to fetch the tricorder from their room. Moreover he was not very confident that Hamstilidamst in the meantime had done no mischief and damage to the room.

He could not know that by now there were three hamsters in the room. Daby had insisted on keeping watch. Hamstilidamst was to go to the penthouse to see whether Hooty had shown up by now.

However, he went astray in the ventilation shafts and this way found Daby's cousin. The flap of a shaft had slammed and was stuck in a way that no single hamster could open it. In vain Hooty had cried for help, had lived a horrible day without nourishment and was close to starving.

Finally she had heard somebody coming and again squeaked for help. Hooty, pushing with her last strength, Hamstilidamst pulling with all his strength from the other side, had succeeded to open the flap and he had taken her to Daby, the peanuts, and the biscuits.

Hooty had caught a terrible cold. When she caughed, it sounded "oot oot" like the old hoot of a car.

"Oh, you're one of oot oot the hamsters Daby oot oot told me so much about. I'm glad oot oot to meet you. And you oot oot rescued my life. Daby, he really rescued my oot oot. I'm so very oot oot…"

"Dear Hooty, rest your voice a little. We are on the trace of a very secret matter. It would be terrible if they would make us out only because you always have to cough."

"Oot oot!"

"You see. So I propose that Hamstilidamst takes you to the penthouse while I'm watching here. In case the secret carriers leave the hotel, I'll take up pursuit"

"Nope, no deal!" Hamstilidamst objected. "I'm here officially. They take me along everywhere 'cause I know my way."

"Dear Daby, you are surrounded by oot oot secrets. That's much too oot oot for me, I don't want to partici… oot. Some cheese will be good for my oot oot, so I'm setting out for home. You need not oot oot accompany me."

Now the two hamsters felt guilty because they wanted to leave sick Hooty to herself, but anyhow it was too late. The door opened, all four officers came trampling in. Hamstilidamst darted from under the bed where they all had been sitting.

At Hooty's first cough Daby jumped at her and held to her little mouth so they would not be noticed. But there was not much danger as the humans babbled loudly and obviously wanted to leave again immediately.

"Well, our hamster seems to have been good", Dr. McCoy said. "Where… Oh, there you are. We're leaving you behind, we're going to look for someone."

"I can tell you all ways. In Ballachulish there is a long bridge over water. I've been here before!"

"Mmmmm", mused Scotty. "He's quite right, t’ bridge’s there. But hae we tae cross t’ bridge? I bet ye've no idea where Fergus McTinker’s livin’ – or hae ye?"

"You must – you have to…"

"Enophelet", somewhere behind him came a whisper.

"Yea, sure, take the telephone!" Hamstilidamst blared, relieved.

"Woa ey, telephone book!" Dr. McCoy was impressed.

"Ye've got Scottish forefathers, pet!" Lt. Scott cheered. "Tha's our way o’ thinkin’."

"His consideration corresponds to the logic of this time in a way that he well might have Vulcan forefathers", Lt. Spock remarked.

"Are you ill?!" the Doctor asked but before the Vulcan could answer, Kirk shooed them all out of the room, saying:

"Porridge makes tolerant, Bones, didn't you know that? Here is your tricorder, Spock. Hamstilidamst, where are you? Of course we take you along."

The door closed, Daby gave Hooty free who indulged in several minutes of ootootootoot. Soothingly her cousin patted her fur, thinking feverishly. All the morning the men had tested the razor, now they were looking for someone. There must be a connection. How she would have loved to go with them to find out the secret!

"Daby, I know Fergus McTinker ", Hooty panted.

Still patting Hooty, it took Daby some time to understand what her cousin just had said. Her eyes grew bigger and bigger.

"Do you?! Say it again – do you really?"

"Two of my friends oot oot who built the roof for the house are living with oot oot…"

"What are their names? Can you tell me the way? I'm so grateful to you."

"Their names are Bummy and Balla and they…"

She could not go on. The coughing did not stop. Now Daby could be attentive, take her to her house, prepare something against the cough. She mixed warm water with honey, this being good for the throat. Hooty was very grateful and when she was able to speak again she explained the way to Bummy and Balla who were living in a shed beside the house of Fergus McTinker.

 

 


Chapter 7

 

First Contact with the Borg

 

“What did you notice?” Sasy, Dasy, and Tealeafy chorused, while the other hamsters stood by with big eyes, staring at Flecki and wondering who of the 6 ½ mayors was the original one.

“I’m right thrilled, honey”, Lt. Uhura laughed, “what did you notice? All them wooleys are just cute in my opinion.”

“Don’t give us any crap!” Botchy whispered who had closed up to Flecki. “If you’re really sure we have to act at once before those aliens knock us out. It’s not that there’s much chance with the real mayor but there’s none at all with these freaks.”

“Contrary to certain hamsters I do not wish to name, I know well enough what I’m doing”, Flecki snarled and shot a dagger look at Goldi who was interestedly watching the blinking controls at the science station. “Uhura, this amnesia-beam, where is it?”

“Antimatter-beam it is”, Uhura laughed. “It’s directly beside the Warp-core. Around the core is a glas screen. If you go in there, you’ll take a bad end. Every replicated thing dissolves immediately.”

Before Flecki could put the next question, hell seemed to break lose. The bridge lights darkened and the whole room was bathed in red light while an alarm made such a horrible noise that the delicate hamster ears almost burst. Along with this a friendly computer voice said: “Emergency evacuation has been initiated, please go to the emergency capsules now!” Even Lt. Uhura put her hands to her ears and, horrified, watched how the hamsters crouched to the bridge floor and desperately tried to somehow get rid of the noise.

After years of Starfleet membership Uhura acted auomatically. She jumped up from her seat and looked about her. A second later her eyes were on the science station in front of which a convulsive hamster was lying. Goldi it was and he certainly had played at the switches again, Uhura thought with a grin. She hastened to the station, thought for a moment and handled several keys. All of a sudden the hellish alarm stopped and the light came back to normal. Like a confirmation that she had done the right things, the computer voice said: “Evacuation sequence stopped!” Lt. Uhura took a deep breath and picked up the trembling Goldi.

“Well, little rascal, messing up things again?”

“Weapon officer, what do you think you’re doing?” came a voice from the mayor-commander group where the first ones got up, groaning and giving Goldi angry looks.

“Erm, status report, officer Goldi, what happened?” the next mayor-commanded added with an important face.

“I – er – cannot refrain to ask by way of remark what is to be seen on the screen”, another mayor-commander cried and with a terrified face pointed at the big main screen. Of course everybody now stared at it spellbound and what they saw made no sense to hamstian ideas.

Several bright spots were visible which moved away from the ship.

“What is it?” chief Botchy groaned. “Some torpedos again?”

“This”, Lt. Uhura said, switching off her smile for a moment, “are no torpedos. This were our emergency capsules.”

“We have to take a sample”, one of the mayor-commanders bawled, “er – so to say make an example. I propose to punish weapon officer Goldi at once!”

“I want to continue by adding that his unauthorized behaviour is to be noted down in the log!” another mayor-commander said. “Furthermore it appears to me…”

“Shut up, I say, all of you!”

Shocked, they all glared at chief Botchy who had climbed onto Uhura’s chair and stood there with bright red head. Some grumbling came from he mayor-commanders’ corner, announcing a wave of protest, but Botchy did not give them a chance.

“Out there any number of aliens are flying around, wanting to get at us and we are sitting here, discussing log entries. I’m that fed up, I can’t tell you! Either you agree who’s got the saying here or I’ll blast up this whole damned ship. You got me?!”

“That’s it”, Flecki quickwittedly shouted, “we make a voting now who is to be in command!”

“A voting, a real voting”, one of the mayor-commanders happily cried. “Dear colleagues, what do you think about it?”

“Erm, well, my honoured colleagues, I think…”

“You don’t think anything, you get your bum moving to the voting booth, right? That goes for the other dummies, too. Flecki, you’re election admin, tell these clowns what to do.”

Spellbound, everybody glared at Flecki, who in turn glared at Lt. Uhura in an embarrassed fashion. The mayor-commander group was standing close by as usual; all made important face and tapped the floor with one of their paws. Only Goldi faked being terribly busy looking at the main screen where the emergency capsules of the Enterprise by now were nothing but tiny dots drifting into space. Lt. Uhura cleared her throat.

“Well, honeybees, I’ll show you the way to the voting booth. Stay with me closely so you don’t get lost.”

She winked at Flecki and slowly walked to the exit. The door hissed open and the mayor-commanders – except one – shrank back. For some distance they went by turbo lift, then walked along a long passage, Uhura turning off right and left until they had reached Engineering. There it was: the warp core, looking like a giant blue pillar in the centre of the room, sheltered by thick special glass surrounding it like a tube. Just when they wanted to enter the room, there was a shout behind them. Anxiously they looked back and saw somebody running along the passage. Chekov! It did not take him long to face them, he was panting. He looked like a good hangover but smiled broadly and cried:

“Hey, folks, you on an outing? May I join? Sorry, had taken a short nap, but now I’m fit again, people!”

“Sure you come along, we make some mayor voting. Guess there won’t be any champagne afterwards”, Lt. Uhura giggled while they all walked towards the bright warp core. Now they faced the impressive unit and nobody knew what to do now. Flecki cleared her throat.

“Now I ask all mayor candidates to line up!”

Immediately the 6 ½ mayor-commanders did so and waited. They all grinned in a self-pleased style while tapping the floor of Engineering with their paws. In the meantime Flecki, accompanied by Goldi, surrounded the warp core and pondered.

“They must not go in there all of them, Goldi”, she whispered, “one of them has to stay outside. But how shall we arrange that?”

“Either I knock one of them down or you tell them that the voting booth isn’t big enough for all!”

Flecki gave Goldi a look. However, she then turned to the mayor-commanders still waiting in a line and for their performance.

“Gentlemen, unfortunately not all of you fit in at the same time. So one of you has to wait a moment.”

There was an outright grumble about this being an impertinence and quite beneath them… Flecki groaned and lifted her paws. “Gentlemen, I now think of a number and one after the other tries to guess which number it is. Candidate No. 1, please give me a number between 1 and 2!”

One after the other now hectically named a One or Two and was nodded towards the voting booth by Flecki. With a regretful shake of the head Flecki indicated to one of the candidates that he had guessed the wrong number and had to wait. To the other candidates chief Botchy shouted: “Get you into the voting cabin!” Immediately 5 ½ mayor-commanders set out to a flanking control opening which the chief engineer had opened under Uhura’s guidance.

“Ey, have you gone stark mad?” Ensign Chekov shouted now, pure horror in his face. “You all will…”

“…be elected!” Lt. Uhura quickly interrupted. “That’s all right, Chekov!” In an undertonde she added: “It’s all right, Pavel, we know what we are doing. Those ones are replicates only, the original mayor-commander’s standing over there – or so I hope.”

“I missed one or two things, didn’t I?” Chekov stammered. “I think I behaved rather silly.”

“As matter of fact you are not the only one who’s not able to think clearly. Why am I joining in such nonsense?”

This was the moment a shocked outcry of the hamsters filled the room. The 5 ½ mayor-commanders had entered the tube and vanished. The remaining mayor-commander suddenly turned very pale and fainted.

“Pavel, something’s wrong here”, Lt. Uhura continued. “Do you have a tricorder?”

Chekov shook his head, then his face lit up. “Over there is one of Scotty’s tricorders, I’ll scan this room with it.” After trying a number of tunings, he once more shook his head and said: “No unusual rays or the like in here. Everything seems to be okay. We should go back to the bridge and report to the Captain.”

“Very well”, Lt. Uhura agreed, “but take care to scan on for any emissions on our way.”

Ensign Pavel Chekov nodded and smiled when Lt. Uhura picked up the unconscious mayor. She looked at him thoughtfully and turned to Flecki.

“Can you explain to me how you knew which was the right one? To me they all sounded equally daft.”

“Well, their sound wasn’t that important, it never had been, as to that. But two things I noticed. Only one of the bubbleheads knew what happened before, I mean before they were copied. Only one of them knew that Captain Kirk stayed on Earth. And only one tapped with his left paw like the original.”

In appreciation Lt. Uhura and Ensign Chekov lifted their brows as normally Spock did if he was fascinated.

“Now let’s return to the bridge”, Uhura proposed. “Time to get back to normal. I’m highest in rank and take over command and first of all we’ll contact our commander. Flecki, we are still in Earth orbit, aren’t we?”

Anxiously she looked at the hamster girl. Chekov stepped to her side and dark bodings were mirrored in his face. Flecki looked around to her hamster friends but no help was to be expected from that end. Goldi goggled at the warp core while Botchy, Tuffy, and the rest watched the walls of Engineering.

“We had taken course to the Veganian system.”

“To the what?” Chekov breathed.

“Veganian system”, Flecki repeated. “Because that fool of mayor absolutely wanted to deliver his pot plant there.”

“Pot plant?”

“To save the world and the whole universe.”

“Chekov, enough is enough!” Lt. Uhura almost doubled her fists in frustration but remembered in time that she was holding the mayor. “Pavel, find some cage for these little maniacs or lock them into a cabin. We’ve got to return to the bridge at once and change the course. Anything else we should know?”

Flecki looked at the officers with big eyes and whispered: “Out there is some sort of space ship with aliens who maybe want to attack us.”

“Attack us? Why should they?”

“Because Goldi fired a few torpedos in their direction.”

“I shouldn’t have asked”, Uhura groaned. “And I won’t put any further questions for who knows what other sort of mischief you did.”

In the background Goldi’s gasp of relief was audible and he just wondered what the aliens might think when they met the empty emergency capsules. Ensign Chekov had found a tool kit and put in the hamsters. Then he picked up the box with both hands and followed Lt. Uhura. The door of Engineering closed behind them and they were back in the passage. In the sealed off machinery room the two Enterprise officers had been safe but now they were once more exposed to the laughing gas which had infiltrated almost the whole ship. A few minutes later Lt. Uhura und Ensign Chekov re-entered the bridge – cackling merrily and each of them with some hamsters on their shoulder. To the general delight the Ensign played soccer with the empty box and finally kicked it to the commander’s seat. Lt. Uhura laughed.

“That’s a fine place and our darling Commander can get up and down the seat without a crash!”

While the hamsters were sitting beside the navigation control, excitedly discussing the new situation, she carried the mayor who was slowly awaking, to the Commander’s seat and put him down there carefully. By and by he opened his eyes and took some time to understand where he was.

“Umph! Erm, may I take it for granted that I won the voting?” He cautiously looked around. “Where are the things – er – the others? They so to say office-colored, they did. Hey, First Officer, where are those ruffians? Status report!”

“More or less evaporated”, Flecki grinned. “But now we’ve got these aliens on the plate who by Goldi’s daftness…”

“Unfortunately we have to disdingus from any punishment but if weapon officer Goldi continues to act crashly – er – rashly, then…”

“The emergency capsules, he…”

Flecki got no further because some loud crackling and hissing came from the loudspeakers at Uhura’s station. At the same time the main screen clearly showed something approaching the Enterprise and her crew.

“Status report, Navigation-Dodo!”

“Hum, well, there is a big white spot on the screen…”

“Status report, Communication-Yoohoo!”

“Crackling and hissing here, honey!”

“Well, erm, what do we make of it, what would that mean?”

Helplessly the hamsters stood beside the mayor’s chair and anxiously watched the approaching space ship. Only Dodo was sitting in some distance at the navigation desk where also Ensign Chekov had sat down out of habit. Now Dodo softly cleared his throat. Immediately everyone looked at him and the mayor asked:

“Yes, Dodo? Any proposals?”

“May I join you? As it is, the real navigator is here now and so I might…”

A nod of agreement and Dodo saw that he came to his friends. The big white spot by now had clearly taken a form and white had changed to grey-brown. It was a big armoured globe facing the ship.

“Wanna play golf with us or what?” Goldi grumbled but before anyone could give some witty answer there was another crackling and whistling in the loudspeaker.

Uhura turned several buttons and grinned. “I’ll switch in the universal translator. Perhaps we will pick up something.”

“…futile…”, the loudspeakers sounded and they looked at each other.

“Erm, well, my dear hamsters, what might be futile? What does the thing want to tell us?”

“That life is futile?” Taty wondered.

“Situation is futile?” Dasy guessed.

“…is futile…”, once more it sounded and he Enterprise-crew was bewildered.

“What – erm – is futile?” The mayor alternately looked at the screen and at the loudspeakers.

“You’ve got to press the button at the arm-rest, silly”, Lt. Uhura giggled, “and speak up or nobody will hear you.”

Redheaded the mayor did so, took a deep breath and shouted: ”Erm, well, yes! Hi and welcome. We’re on our way to the Veganian system and…”

“…is futile…”, again it came from the loudspeakers and the mayor shook his head.

“No, erm, I think I may see that differently, dear alien. It is not futile but, as I want to stress, of greatest importance so to say and I welcome you in the name of Hamsterton…”

“Hamsterton is airy…” That was what they understood. “…stance is few…”

“I think they’ve got blanks in their transmission, Commander. That really sounds funny”, Uhura cackled.

“Erm, yes, thanks, Yoohoo. Er, did you hear that? You have blanks!”

“Blanks are irrelvant. Resistance is…”

The mayor shrugged and helplessly looked at Botchy. The chief engineer, glad that he got something to do after all, quickly scrambled onto the tool box and jumped onto the Comander’s chair. Then he breathed in deeply and yelled:

“We’ve got something better to do here! So what do you want of us?”

“Something better is irrelevant!”

“Got a damage in your head, or what?”

“Resistance is futile!”

“Oh, is it? Try us, you dummy!”

“We will assimilate you…”

“What are the odds you won’t. A good sound thrashing you’ll get, you numbheads!”

“Bravo!” Goldi cried, clapping his hands. “That’s what I call diplomacy!”

“Why”, Flecki panted, “do I have the feeling that our first contact will not lead to good relationship? And what do they mean by ‘assimilate’?”

“They’ll make us be like them, pet”, Lt. Uhura replied.

This was the moment the view on the screen changed and chief Botchy abruptly stopped his yelling. Frozen, they all glared at what was happening on the main screen. A giant head with long, pointed ears appeared and cold black eyes stared at them. But neither the long ears nor the whiskers shocked the hamsters, there was something else: Half of the face of this oversized gerbil was covered with some peculiar gadget looking like the face was molten with this artificial metallic equipment. It was a spooky sight and the hamsters panicked when the voice sounded once more: “We are Borg – resistance is futile – we will assimilate you!”

Then the screen went dark and with much interest Lt. Uhura watched the hamsters preparing for the approaching attack. Crying “Pleh!” and “Cinap!” they raced around the Commander’s chair while Ensign Chekov looked at his monitor with a broad grin. After a while the preparations were finished and a panting mayor took the word:

“Erm, my dear hamsters, I am certainly not wrong in assuming that maybe we perhaps should defend ourselves to stop those whatstheirnames – er – to get onto this ship!”

“We should pulverize them with some well aimed torpedos!” Goldi bawled. “We blow them into space!”

“Why always such senseless violence?” Dodo lamented. “Cannot we just give in peacefully?”

“How would they come in?” Flecki asked and sharply looked at Uhura. “If we don’t let them in, nothing can happen to us, can it? And I have no mind to look like them, something like that stuff in my face is completely uncool and won’t become me.”

“And if they beam into the ship, honey? We’ll look worse than uncool then.”

“Can’t we prevent that?”

Lt. Uhura thought and nodded: “Sure, Captain Kirk puts up the shields and it’s closing time. Pavel, if you’ve got a tiny moment, what about putting up the shields?”

“I’d do everything for you”, the Ensign grinned, “but unfortunately I lost my smart book where I can read how the shields are taken up – hahaha!” After a glance into the hamster faces which mirrored pure horror, he grinned and said: “Little joke, my friends. Pavel won’t forget something like that – look here – shields are up!” His voice once more sounded into the hamsters’ sighs of relief. “Odd, don’t grip that.”

“Status report, nav! Explain odd to me – erm – I don’t want to grip it either.”

“Sure, Commander, it’s funny – they’re within our shields…”

“I don’t want to be asylumated…”

“It’s assimilated, Dodo”, Flecki hissed. “We should negotiate, what do you think, Mayor?”

Trembling, the mayor lifted his head and looked down from the Commander’s chair to which he was clinging. “Well – erm – I think we should think about escape. You heard it: Resistance is futile. I bet they don’t negotithingus…”

“To arms!” Goldi bawled. “We saw them down, them crappy guys. Hey, Chekov, where are the weapons?”

This was the moment when at several spots on the bridge pillars of light appeared, accompanied by some buzzing sound. The Borg! They had come! Frozen, the Enterprise crew watched these portentous light-pillars while in the background the howling voice of Dodo was audible: “Sent them away, I don’t want to be anticipated!”

 

 


Chapter 8

 

No McTinker - but other acquaintances

 

Hamstilidamst was a little gleeful because the officers had taken him along after all. If Daby was not absolutely mean, she first of all would look after Hooty. And some time it would be him who told her what was on. Perhaps she had infected him. By now he, too, believed that there was some secret.

If he looked at the four of them, he did not think that anything was going to happen soon. Helplessly they were standing in front of the hotel and somehow it was about north and south. The silliest idiot knew where north and south were!

"Well, Mr. Scott, it's your turn. Where is North and where is South Ballachulish?"

"Och, when I'd been here, ‘t was one Ballachulish an’ that was that. A few holiday cottages w’d be beside t’ hotel, o’er there t’ fishin’ centre…"

"Come on, that's not yet here", McCoy mumbled. "I'm looking up and down and there's nothing but the hotel."

"Hamstilidamst!"

The three humans whirled round because Spock's voice had been very stern. Then they grinned. The hamster had jumped onto the tricorder by which Spock just was analysing something. Kirk plucked Hamstilidamst off the unit and looked at the display.

"North is north and south is south", Hamstilidamst said angrily. "What's there to talk about?"

"Now shut up", Kirk rebuked him, still studying the display which showed a small map. "Scotty?!"

"Ay?"

"If you had informed us that your town continues beyond the bridge, we might already have been on the way. Gentlemen, down to the right is South-Ballachulish."

"Sorry, Captain, I thought that was clear!"

"Here and now nothing at all is clear."

"Tell me, are you doing something really secret?" Hamstilidamst inquired and Kirk fondled his neck.

"Yes, my pet, but I don't rely on your secrecy. So you better don't ask, okay?"

"Then she's right after all! It's about razors, isn't it?"

"About what?!" Kirk burst out laughing. "Well, one thing I can promise you: It's not about razors."

"Just a moment", Spock interrupted. "Which 'she' is right after all, Hamstilidamst?"

"Er – a saying", he hastily retorted. "A Hamstish proverb."

He saw Lt. Spock's eyebrow lifting in an unbelieving fashion and he had to admit that this eyebrow fascinated him. He would have loved to have something like that, too, just for lifting it.

And he could not fool the First Officer of the Enterprise. There were few possibilities for the hamster to have contacted somebody. Hamstilidamst had been here before – in this time – it was well possible that he had other hamster acquaintances here.

Spock was willing to admit that he never met hamsters like Hamstilidamst and his friends – as matter of fact he never had been personally acquainted with any hamsters und could not have said whether hamsters generally were as smart as these ones. Up to now he had been convinced that hamsters were harmless nocturnal rodents but within the last two days his opinions about hamsters had soundly changed.

Suddenly Lt. Scott stopped and grinned broadly.

"Captain, I'm hearin’ piper's! Ay, haen't changed tha' much after all. 's the daily piper's parade."

"And what might that be?" McCoy inquired.

"Fer tourists. Ev'ry day t’ pipers parade through Ballachulish in t’ tartans o' t’ region – a right bonny sight!"

The pipers' sound carried far and they had to walk some distance until reaching the first houses of South Ballachulish. Then all four stood rooted. High up between two poles a banner was hanging with the wording: WELCOME TO THE BALLACHULISH FLOWER SHOW AND FUNFAIR

"Funfair! Funfair!" crowed Hamstilidamst cheerfully.

The jaws of four officers almost dropped. It was one thing to communicate with a hamster via the universal translator but to discover that he was able to read was quite another matter. They stood speechless while Hamstilidamst almost flipped out with joy. Flower show was only of interest if there were any edible vegetables, but a funfair like at home in Hamsterton…

"And we came here especially to fetch the Lordship to play the monster in our ghost train. He might be good for nothing, but as monster he's first rate. And all the adventures we had here until we got home at last. And we've been so looking forward to our funfair. I wanted to ride along everywhere and eat at every booth. And then the mayor got bonkers again and we packed him into the turbo-pegtop and then we met you and now I'm in Scotland again and here is a funfair. Madness!"

"From your rather confusing speech I conclude that you wish to visit this fair", the Vulcan stated and McCoy rolled his eyes.

"I almost think you may conclude that from his speech, my good man", he said patiently.

"But visiting such an event is not the reason for our being here."

Hamstilidamst who was sitting on Captain Kirk's shoulder, craned his neck and looked firmly into the eyes of the First Officer of the Enterprise.

"At first I didn't think you that boring."

Scotty almost toppled over of laughter und Dr. McCoy stretched out his forefinger to fondle the hamster. Often enough the Vulcan had got on their nerves with his exact, always logical ways, but nobody had called him boring up to now. McCoy liked that very much and was glad that they had taken the hamster along. Spock for his part looked a little baffled, then someone bumped into him roughly.

Three broad-shouldered, ruggedly looking young men shoved along with swaggering steps and appeared to have too many muscles to walk.

"Ey, ye breedin’ here, or what?" one of the guys said with a rough voice and Kirk took a step forward.

"I propose you apologize, okay?"

"Ey, put a sock in it", another one mobbed back.

"Excuse me, might it be that you are looking for trouble?" Lt. Spock asked politely.

"Ey, wanna be smacked in t’ puss, tell ma."

"Now you better shut up" McCoy retorted. "You better don’t tangle with him."

"Woa, tha’ spindle?!" the third one said, began to laugh and fainted.

The two others goggled. The long one with the cap had done nothing, had only put the tips of his fingers on the neck of their pal. The Captain smirked over the daft faces. That was the outcome if anyone made the Vulcan use his Vulcan stunning-grip. No force, no pain, you were just sent to sleep for a while. The boys could not know that of course.

"Well?" Kirk asked and craned his neck.

But nobody could do something like that to the two ones who were still awake. They doubled their fists and went for the four men. In Ballachulish they were known as bully lads, they tangled with everybody. The Captain lifted Hamstilidamst from his shoulder, passed him to Dr. McCoy and said in a low voice:

"You stay out of this, Bones, you've got no identification."

"That's okay. – Hey, will you stop flouncing!"

"Isn't that swell?!" Hamstilidamst squeaked delightedly. "A real brawl. At home we do that every day."

"You might bite the ear of one of them."

"Yea!"

"Stop, you stay. – Ooops!"

Between the two rowdies, Kirk, and Scott the first blows had been exchanged. The boys might be bullies and musclemen, but they never had got a sparring like every officer got it at Starfleet-Academy. Quickly Scott had turned the arm of one of them and given him, when he went to his knees , a good push. At "Ooops!" the boy had staggered towards McCoy who pushed him on to Spock.

The Vulcan had no need to bandy. As soon as the boy came into the reach of the Vulcan neck-grip, he went down. The same fate befell to the third one, but before that he had received a nice shiner from Kirk.

"What's on here?!" a voice shouted from some distance.

It was the policeman who was to take care that today everything went peacefully during the summer feast. A few minutes ago a woman had come running and told him that the three village hooligans were going for some strangers.

How terrible if tourists who wanted to visit the funfair were beaten up by these three bad guys. What would be in the newspaper tomorrow?! The policeman gripped his baton and set off. When he arrived the bullies were lying on the ground unconsciously, three men were standing around them, a fourth one kneeled beside them. One just said:

"Did they come to any harm?" Then he stepped to the policeman and smiled. "O Sir, my friend is a doctor. These three poor young men suddenly fainted."

"Reckon they ate som'in’ wrong", another one added with a fine brogue and the tall one with the woollen cap said:

"Probably they have not enjoyed porridge for breakfast."

A group of onlookers began to laugh. They knew these guys and were glad that they had been walloped. Even the policeman found it hard to suppress a grin, but he must not grin, he was on duty. When he bent to take a look at the three guys, he only saw that one of them soon would have a shiner. Now they were just lying there sleeping peacefully.

"Suddenly fainted, did they?" he asked. "Not very trustworthy, gentlemen, but I can't find anything else. I'll call the ambulance."

"Leave them there, them duffs!" a voice came from the crowd. "Nothin’ better than tae hae them knocked out. They'd only cocked up our festival."

"Ay, Joe, and if they're taken away with the ambulance, they'll stay in hospital till tomorrow", the policeman retorted and the people applauded. "Tourists, are you?" he turned to the officers.

"Not really", Captain Kirk smiled. "We are scientists and want to pay a visit to our colleague McTinker. We didn't even know that you hold a festival today."

"An’ if we're here anaway…", Scotty added. "I've nae been hame fer long and wouldnae miss t’ pipers."

"Well, and then we met these three young men", McCoy added in a pitiful voice.

"Now, Saer", an elderly man said, approached them and beckoned them to follow him away from the policeman, "ter t’ professor ye turn aff t’ road at t’ village centre t'wards them bens. He's li'ng a wee bit off wi’ his lab. An’ there behold t’ pipers."

He had successfully lured them away from the policeman and it was quite obvious that they had rendered a good service to the festival when they finished the three hooligans. Surely it spread like a wildfire through South-Ballachulish that everybody would be left in peace by those lads today.

Only Hamstilidamst was disappointed. A good brawl had to be louder and take longer. But it wasn't that bad after all for now the first stands came into sight, here was a merry-go-round, there an old-fashioned swingboat. Everything was prettily decorated with flowers but on first sight Hamstilidamst could see that nothing edible was among them.

There were the pipers as Scotty knew them. He listened to the music cheerfully and just wanted to begin to rumble along when close to his ear he heard a voice saying:

"Over there they've got pancakes!"

In his enthusiasm he had not noticed that the hamster had come back to him. Slowly he turned his head and looked into two dark beaded eyes. He grinned.

"Buckwheat pancakes an’ oat biscuit afterwards – ay, tha's Scotland."

"O well, I don’t care if that's Scotland", Hamstilidamst retorted.

One thing none of them knew. Wherever they went somebody whispered to somebody "Tha's them!" Everyone was really glad that the strangers had knocked out the three bullies. They might have lived like in Cockayne and pay nowhere. But the Captain felt distressed about this and when he and his colleagues did not only get free pancakes but also free tea, they walked off to look for the street branching off the village centre.

Even Hamstilidamst did not object because he had eaten so much that he scrambled into Kirk's sleeve to take a nap and did not notice that the officers passed the merry-go-rounds without merry-go-rounding. Kirk was grateful for the hamster's pigged out sleepiness. Hamstilidamst was able to express his wishes very loud and nerving.

Unfortunately the old man had not told them where the village centre was where they should turn towards the mountains. They walked through the whole place and had to go back to find the right way. Again they approached the noise of the funfair but it died down soon in the quiet street which really ran straight to the mountains. After they passed the last houses standing close together, the road became a path. In a short distance they could see a long building beside a small tenement, beside a shed, beside a garage, beside another shed. All this looked quite warped.

"That can't be it, can it?!" Dr. McCoy exclaimed.

"Has there been anything the like when you've been here, Scotty?" Kirk inquired.

"Och, I've been fishin’ here an’ nae looking ’t age-worn houses."

"In case that means no…" Spock began.

"Means nae!"

Spock directed his tricorder to the buildings and scanned them. Then he took a deep breath.

"As much as this contradicts my idea about a lab where someone tries to experiment with the controlled reaction of matter and antimatter…"

"So that's it", Kirk interrupted.

"Yes, Sir."

"So let's pay a visit."

"Why is it that quiet? Is the power off?"

Hamstilidamst, waking up. He scrambled out of Kirk's sleeve, looked about him and fell into a shocked silence. The funfair was gone! That was unfair – that simply was unfair.

"What power?" Scott was baffled.

"We're no longer at the funfair!" Hamstilidamst squeaked in a voice holding much reproach.

"Perhaps you remember that we never wished to go there", Lt. Spock remarked and Hamstilidamst gave him a dark look.

Never mind where they wanted to go. A good hamster was only interested in the things hamsters liked best. When he wanted to run away from the sleeve, Kirk held him. Didn't say anything, didn't scold – just held him. Somehow that was rather convincing. No way!

Instead they walked towards a few buildings which… Hum, might be of interest for a hamster. If he saw that correctly this would be paradise to the repair hamsters. There a roof tile was missing, there something rattled. Hamstilidamst really wondered what the men wanted here.

At the front door Captain Kirk looked for a transmitter unit to announce them. As he found none he looked at Spock who opened an archive file 'Everyday life in the early 21st century' in his tricorder. He required information as to how to get entrance into a house if one wanted to pay a visit. Soon he received a detailed text on contact wires to sound units.

"Bell", he said. "There should be a kind of button. If we press it, inside the house sounds a ringing or gonging noise. This signals to the inhabitants that one or several persons require admission."

"This is a most interesting lecture, Spock, but here's nothing like that", McCoy said who had looked for a bell during the reading out of the information.

Also Hamstilidamst had listened to this humbug. As the Captain was holding him in the right height, he did what one did in Scotland if one wanted to enter some house and was tall enough. With his paw he gripped the knocker, lifted it and let it fall again. The noise was surprisingly penetrating.

"That's the way", he said uppishly.

"But that's darkest Stone Age", Dr. McCoy mumbled, repeated the procedure, however.

When he lifted his hand for the third time, the door was wrenched open. A spindly old woman faced them, tussled grey hair, clad in a slop and worn shoes. She fitted the house well.

"Yes?" she croaked.

"Excuse me, does Professor Fergus McTinker live here?" Kirk asked with his most charming smile.

"Yes."

"My name is Kirk, these are my colleagues Professor Spock, Dr. Scott, and Dr. McCoy."

"Yes."

"We have read his interesting publications", Spock explained.

"Yes."

"We’d like ter talk wi’ him ’bout them ", Scott said in a bit pressing fashion.

"Yes?"

"We've been informed correctly that he lives and works here?" Kirk asked and slowly the smile froze on his face.

"Yes."

"Is it possible to talk to Professor McTinker?" Dr. McCoy now tried it and the old hag frowned heavily.

"Yes", she hesitatingly croaked after she decided that in principle it was technically possible to talk to the professor.

"May we come in?" Captain Kirk tried again and her eyes became icy.

"No!"

"Is Professor McTinker at home? Will you ask him if he wants to talk with us?"

"No and no", she answered both questions and banged the door into their faces.

The said faces were quite a sight. What were they to do? Nothing but yes and no was to get out of the old hag. If she had told the truth, the scientist was not at home. They had not considered the possibility that he was not there. They just wanted to leave to take council somewhere when they heard shuffling steps.

"Hullo?"

Around the corner came a young man lugging a big log. As "Hullo" was a much better beginning than yes and no, they turned to him. Once more they introduced themselves and told him what they wanted.

The young man opened his arms and at the same time jumped backwards so that the falling log just missed his feet. Then with a grin he stretched out an arm.

"I'm John McGofer, t’ professor's assistant. Why, tha's swell, ye comin’ here. Ye take him serious? Nobody takes him serious."

As he was standing there, gangly, red-haired and very freckled, he did not really look as if he should be taken serious – he decidedly did not look like the assistant of any professor.

"Oh, in America we are liberal against new ideas. We found the papers of our colleague most interesting", Kirk explained and Spock added:

"For us the question of executing the theoretical idea comes up. We would like to discuss with him about this."

"But if ye’re his assistant, ye might show us his lab?" Lt. Scott put the decisive question.

"Nonono", John McGofer replied in a terrified voice and blushed fiercely. "O my goodness, absolutely impossible. No one must see his lab, even me."

"Er, how can you then be his assistant?" Dr. McCoy wondered.

"Oh, I prepare them slates, tha's very important."

"Aha-a-a!" Kirk said in an enlightened voice although he did not look very enlightened. "And the wood, too?"

"That?!" McGofer said and looked at the log a few centimetres from his feet. "Nonono! If the professor's not in I make meself a wee bit useful. Helpin’ good ol’ Brigg. Choppin’ wood an’ so on. I just wanted to take it ter the shed. Wanna join me? I can make tea an’ offer some biscuits."

"Ouch!" said Kirk and gripped his forearm.

When "good old Brigg" had opened the door, Hamstilidamst had already vanished into Kirk's sleeve again. He had almost fallen asleep but the magic word "biscuits" made him wide awake and he nudged Kirk's arm. If he dared to refuse the invitation! His last meal after all had been ages ago, he could not even remember it.

"Haha, strained something!" Kirk laughed artificially and inwardly cursed the hamster.

"Perhaps there are some items we might talk about, Mr. McGofer", Spock said. "We accept the invitation to the shed."

Hamstilidamst in the sleeve clapped his paws until the sleeve wobbled. Quickly Kirk turned away to give the sleeve a little slap. After a murmured "Dammit, keep quiet!" the sleeve immediately stopped wobbling. After all it might be well possible that he would get nothing to eat if he did not do what Kirk wanted, Hamstilidamst thought. He had not had to care for nourishment himself up to now and for a hamster that was quite pleasing.

With a loud thud the log fell to the ground. Once more John McGofer hopped away in time not to get it onto his feet. Five people quite filled the shed but for a shed it was very comfortable. Beside a workbench and a sawbuck there was a roughly carpented table and a few stools, a shelf with mugs and plates and an electric cooking plate. John seemed to spend a good part of his time in here. Now he laboriously cleared his throat.

"Harrump! By the way, I share this shed wi’ two hamsters. Probably ran away somewhere. I feed them an’ sometimes they disappear but they – er, well they're ‘t home here. If somethin’ hamsterlike crosses yer path… I hope you don't dislike it."

"But not at all!" Kirk replied at once. "We do love hamsters. To tell the truth we are travelling with one, but we didn't know…"

"Nonono! Just don't!" McGofer cried, terrified.

"Don't what?" Lt. Scott asked, baffled.

"Er, nonsense, what I mean… Good that ye dinna show him up t’ now. Brigg w’ld have banged t’ door into yer faces."

"She did anyway", McCoy mumbled.

"'Dinna let those beasts into t’ house!' – She's very particular. - Where is he?"

"Er, in my sleeve."

"How cute! Let him come out. Wha's his name? I even dinna know whether mine are here. Noonoonoo, where are ye pet? Wha's yer name?" John changed into some silly language which grown-ups often use with children when the hamster scrambled out of Kirk's sleeve.

"His name is Hamstilidamst", Spock explained. "An exceptionally intelligent animal."

"Is he indeed? Haha, I always thought hamsters are only there tae get food. Hahaha! Now where are you? But ye're a canny ‘un. Ay, do run, p’rhaps ye'll find Muckly and Waggly. Ayayay…!"

Nobody needed to tell Hamstilidamst twice, but for an exception he refrained from any comment. That guy seemed to be bonkers and he did not want to have business with madmen. He had sniffed the hamsters as soon as he had come in. And there was something else, somehow familiar… He ran exactly to the corner where the two hamsters were living behind the workbench. Then he braked until wood shaves were flying.

"Daby!" he exclaimed, thunderstruck.

"Indeed, my dear Hamstilidamst", the hamster-girl replied and graciously added: "Hooty is befriended with these two. They're named Bummy and Balla. This is the acquaintance from Hamsterton I told you about. He's named Hamstilidamst."

"Hi", said Bummy and

"Hi", mumbled Balla.

"O well", Daby said who already had made the acquaintance of their politeness. "When in between Hooty stopped coughing she told me that she knew Fergus McTinker because Bummy and Balla are living here who helped her with the roof on the penthouse. Well now, I asked her for a description of the route. And how did you fare in the meantime, dear Hamstilidamst?"

He told her about the funfair, the nice brawl, and the knocker. Daby thought the knocker trivial, the brawl disgusting and the funfair something to think about.

"So, those guys do have a secret", Hamstilidamst explained, "but is has to do nothing with razors."

"Well now, the fire of enthusiasm carried me away", Daby admitted. "As to what Bummy and Balla know it is about things Fergus McTinker does in his laboratory. Razors don't come in there."

"And what does come in?" asked Hamstilidamst who felt just a little shirted by Daby.

"Stone plates - which I do not understand. But Balla said so."

"Yep", Balla said.

"That red haired guy babbles something about slate and that it's important."

"John", grumbled Bummy.

"Say, can you talk in complete sentences?" Hamstilidamst hissed.

"Nope, why?" it came in two voices.

Hamstilidamst wondered how those two had managed to get to the roof of the hotel and to put a roof onto Hooty's house. Both were fat, for ever chewing and appeared to be extremely lazy not only in talking. Miracle that Daby got anything out of them at all.

"I did not get very much out of them", she admitted. "Now and then it is very loud in the lab, sometimes there are explosions, Fergus McTinker often curses. John McGofer usually is very excited then."

"Fergus isn't in", Hamstilidamst knew.

"Aha! This explains why your astronauts are talking to McGofer. Could you learn where he is at the moment?"

"No, but if anybody knows it will be those two blubberbutts", he retorted and jerked his head in the direction of Bummy and Balla.

"Who? We?" it chorused from the corner.

"I don't see any other blubberbutts."

"They are really a little - portly", Daby admitted.

"Shall we roll you down? Wanna get a drubbing?" Bummy asked and Balla added:

"Might get it."

"O please! Please!" Daby squeakily tried to soothen them.

But the two fat hamsters had already fallen on Hamstilidamst. He defended himself with all his strength but against those two bruisers he would have no chance. For some moments Daby watched disgustedly, then she produced an artificial sigh, took a chipping and banged it over the two heads. Bummy and Balla would get nice big goose eggs and rather staggered around.

"Treating a guest, an outlandish guest, as it is, like that, is impertinent. I will certainly tell Hooty about it", Daby said firmly.

From both came the expected wailing. Hooty took care that her friends regularly got titbits from the hotel kitchen. And if Hooty knew that the two of them had attacked Hamstilidamst who had rescued her from the ventilation shaft there certainly would be no more titbits for some time.

Daby had taken Hamstilidamst aside and explained this to him. He was completely satisfied with this solution. Now she helped him to straighten his fur so that he quickly felt better. When Daby saw that she cautiously said:

"Dear Hamstilidamst, something peculiar is happening here. It is our duty to get to the root of it but up to now we have not been successful."

"Hum – right."

"How about presenting me to your companions? As I know you have been of great assistance to them in some situations. Perhaps they are willing to accept further assistance."

"Why, it's been you who didn't want to be seen", he retorted. "Now listen, somehow nobody shall know that they can talk with me. I don't speak with them, if strangers are about. That okay for you?"

"Certainly, dear Hamstilidamst. It's just most important that I – that we can hear everything they talk about."

However, they had missed the communication between John McGofer and the officers. Concerning any experiments, John could tell them nothing because the professor did all this clandestinely. But John thought the professor might perhaps show his lab to colleagues from America. McTinker had published many papers on his experiments but most scientists only laughed at him and called him an oddball. If now four came at a time who were seriously interested in his lab-work he perhaps showed it to them.

"Ay, but where is he now?" Lt. Scott asked who had thought that the professor would turn up any moment.

"He's in Fort William tae collect somethin’. As he dinna know exactly when’t arrives he’ll p’rhaps stay there for a few days", John McGofer explained.

"Unfortunately our schedule is a little tight", Spock said. "Do you know where we might find him there?"

"O ayayay. He's got a small flat as he often goes there tae collect somethin’ and has tae wait for it. If ye wanna pay him a visit I'll gi’ yer t’ address."

"That would be really kind", Kirk said. "We expect to be called home the day after tomorrow and so…"

"O ayayay! Jist wait a moment, I'll go tae t’ house an’ note it down."

He jumped up and set off. However, at the door he stopped, turned, grinned and lifted first the one, then the other leg to look at the soles of his shoes.

"Anything wrong?" the Captain asked.

"Nonono, everythin’ a’ right. But good ol’ Brigg turfs me out at once if I’ve sawdust at the shoes. – But I haen't!"

After this cry of triumph he slammed the shed door and was gone. The officers looked at each other and even Spock took a deep breath. The young man was a little tiring!

"Do you know Fort William, Scotty?" Kirk asked.

"I do indeed, Captain, hae been there more than once. The Caledonian Canal ends there, they've got a really interestin’ ol’ lock-system. Now and then it's still in use."

"For tourists?"

"Och nay, ye dunnae find tourists there. It's shown tae students o’ mechanical history."

"Ohum!" it sounded beside his shoe and he looked down.

"Now look at, Sir, Hamstilidamst found a girl friend."

"He's a fast one", Kirk grinned.

"Could one of you lift us upon the table before that guy's back?" Hamstilidamst asked politely.

Lt. Scott bent and took up both hamsters. He scrutinized the new hamster, was scrutinized in turn, then a well-bred voice said:

"If you do not mind, Sir, I would prefer solid ground under my paws."

"Cool!" Dr. McCoy ejaculated.

"This is Daby", Hamstilidamst explained. "We know her since our last trip to Scotland. She's the assistant of Balthasar."

"Of – whom?" Kirk exclaimed with a grin.

"Balthasar is the president of BANTACH – the Basic All Nations Trust of Archaeology for Celtic Hamsters", Daby explained politely.

Four jaws dropped, then Scotty cleared his throat.

"Eh? Er, ye exc’vate Celtic hamsters – or what?"

"Unfortunately I can give no detailed information. All this is most secret. – I'm used to be a carrier of secrets.”

"I assume it is about excavation works which are done by Celtic, that is Scottish hamsters", Spock said.

Daby looked at him ponderingly for a long while, then she slinkily hurried over the table, sat down in front of him and said in a conspirative voice:

"Sir, even if you were right, I could not tell you anything about it."

"Certainly not, it is the most fascinating aspect in carriers of secrets. - My name is Spock."

"Pleased to meet you. – You are obviously an exceptionally intelligent human."

"No!" McCoy wailed. "Now he starts again!"

"With this illogical outburst my colleague announces that now I'm going to inform you that I am not human. Perhaps Hamstilidamst told you that we came from the future? My home planet is named Vulcan."

All were baffled when Daby rested her chin on a paw. Enrapted, she stared at Spock, then she breathed:

"An alien! How incredibly exciting! Surely nobody is to know that?"

"Quite right, nobody is to know that."

"O my God, I'm feeling quite dizzy!"

"Come on, stop feeling dizzy", Hamstilidamst interrupted this adoration. "I can hear that guy coming back."

"Into the sleeve", Kirk said and opened the cuff of his sweatshirt.

"The sleeve?!" Daby was bewildered and Hamstilidamst replied in about her tone:

"Indeed, dear Daby, during this journey in Scotland I use to travel in a sleeve."

"So in with you, luv", the Captain grinned and she gave him a look.

"Are we that familiar?"

"Being friends of Hamstilidamst, we should be at least. I'm Kirk, that's Scott, the one over there is McCoy, and now into the sleeve."

"Pleased to meet you all", Daby said, nodded to them and slipped into Kirk's right sleeve, while Hamstilidamst disappeared into the left one.

John McGofer apologized for the delay but Brigg had kept him. The officers wondered what good old Brigg might talk about beside yes and no and restraints to the occupants. But it really was not important. They got the address of Prof. McTinker in Fort William and the directions as well.

"Ye certainly hae ’ired a car?" John asked.

"No", Spock curtly replied.

"So ye'd best tak t’ bus. Due to t’ feast t’ station hae certainly been moved. Ye'll find’t all right. Haha, I’d be happy if ye came ’gain together wi’ t’ professor. Hae been a real pleasure."

While they left the premises, Spock got out his tricorder and inquired what hiring a car meant. He all too clearly remembered something which had happened a few years ago.

They had visited a planet where the people were living like Chicago gangsters of the first half of the 20th century. Against their wishes they had been drawn into the ongoings, had to flee several times. On one such occasion the Captain had stolen a car - without having the faintest idea how such a vehicle functioned. It had been a horror trip. For nothing in the world Lt. Spock would sit again in an automobile with Kirk at the wheel.

A squeak interrupted his memories:

"May we come out at last?"

"Why, yes, sorry", Kirk said and let the two hamsters out of his sleeves. "But I guess you've got to get in again when we mount the bus."

"The bus is due in the afternoon", Daby said, climbed along the sweatshirt and sat on Kirk's shoulder.

"Great, then now we've got time for the funfair", Hamstilidamst cheered.

"Jim, I think we can't avoid that", McCoy grinned. "Look, over there is a big wheel.”

"You all right in your attic? I won't mount any big wheel.”

"But up there ye've got a great view o’er Loch Leven an’ Loch Linnhe an’ Glencoe an’…"

"Scotty, you sound like Hamstilidamst!"

"Doesn't he?" the hamster said. "That's when you've got Scottish ancestors."

"Probably it is indeed", Kirk retorted angrily.

"Perhaps it would not be a mistake to get an overview of our surroundings", the Vulcan said and McCoy stared at him open-mouthed.

"I just got that right? You want to mount a big wheel?"

"Doctor, I would of course prefer to scan the surroundings from a shuttle…"

"Don't you believe that", McCoy interrupted. "You only long for some childish amusement."

"He wants to do us a favour", Hamstilidamst remarked. "Why shouldn't he? You may well stay away."

"No way, my pet. I want to be there if the guy begins vomiting up there."

"I do not have the tiniest reason to do anything like that", Spock replied, piqued.

By now they were close to the noise of the funfair. At the first munching stand Hamstilidamst forgot the big wheel for a while. Except the biscuits at John's none of them had eaten anything since breakfast and the hamster needed not ask for anything. To the contrary, he had the choice between scones, fruit salad or fish 'n chips. The hamsters spoilt for choice but as each officer chose something different they tried everything.

Finally they stayed with Kirk and Spock. The Captain had ordered fish 'n chips, Spocks only took chips. Again Dr. McCoy accused the Vulcan of some time mutating to a human being. It was not to be expected that he really would, but he was a friend to the hamsters and bought a bag of scones so that Hamstilidamst and Daby would not starve during the journey to Fort William.

 

 


Chapter 9

 

Mental Merging with a Pot Flower

 

On the Enterprise bridge the buzzing of the light pillars had stopped and for a moment all those present stood frozen. Then the silence was broken by Chekov’s laughter. “Small wonder they were within our screens, these bad little Borg! They parked their globe right in front of our camera!”

“And we thought they’ve got a giant space ship”, Lt. Uhura cackled and delightedly drummed her desk with both fists.

At this moment came the familiar announcement, only much softer: “Resistance is futile – we will assimilate you!”

Baffled, the hamsters looked at the intruders and for the moment did not seem to know what to think about this. Then they heard Goldi’s voice: “Yea, go on like that and we beat the daylights out of you!”

The uninvited visitors seemed to be irritated for a moment – they looked about them cautiously and squeaked in chorus: “Resistance is futile – we will assimilate you!”

Chief Botchy beckoned Dodo and Goldi to follow him and approached the Borg. All day long he had not been in the best of spirits and these intruders were the last thing he had a mind for. When Dodo and Goldi had joined him, he looked at the troop coming in dispeace. The gerbils he faced numbered 15. This was ridiculous after all because these dwarfs did not even reach the size of a normal hamster – not to talk about a Dodo-sized hamster. Botchy looked these peculiar beings over. They wore a kind of armour and the curious units in their eyes blinked at him permanently. The chief engineer squinted as the light was blinding him which did not heighten his spirits. “Say”, he grumbled, “can’t you switch of that daft gloom of yours?”

The Borg whom he had addressed, looked a little irritated and retorted: “Gloom is irrelevant – moreover the battery won’t work that long. Resistance is futile – we…”

“That’s what you babbled before, you dummy, and if you’re not off this instant, it’s Doomsday for you.”

“Doomsday is irrelevant, we will assimilate you!”

“Something wrong with your ears?! I’ll count down now and if you’re not gone at 3, it’ll be funfair around here.”

“Softly, softly, dear friends”, the mayor now said before the Borg could answer. “Certainly our outhamstish guests want to know so to say who we are. I’m the dingus – er – commander…”

“Dingus-commander is irrelevant, we will assimilate you. Resistance…”

“O yes”, the mayor-commander smiled, “a I always think to have by and by mentioned there is a certain redingus – er – requirement on our end concerning assilidingus. Of course we are – and I’m speaking in a way as representative – absolutely copulating – er – cooperative. So to say there is no need of assidingus – er – milation.”

“Assidingus is irrelevant, we will assimilate you! Resistance…”

“Do you know the trash you’re babbling? Wanna pull our legs?” chief Botchy now roared and towered in front of the Borg. Silence. The Borg seemed to ponder. Now it caught their attention that some of the beams at the head units were flickering and went off.

“Erm, is this so to say a power loss, dear aliens?” the mayor politely asked.

“Power loss is irrelevant – batteries are bitch, not worth their money – resistance is futile!”

In the meantime Flecki watched Goldi with misgiving. She did not miss the glitter in his eyes which was most suspicious. Leisurely he walked over to Dodo, paused at his side and with a malicious grin said: “Won’t you help our guests to put off their coats? We want to be good hosts, won’t we?”

“All right”, Dodo muttered and marched towards the Borg who looked at the big hamster bewildered and seemed to feel panic. “Hand me your coats!” There was a short crack and one of the Borg stood naked without armour.

“The hat, Dodo”, Gold said and soon there was a second crack and the Borg was rid of his head unit. Now he was completely naked and tweeted something about the hat being irrelevant. Now Dodo went to the next one to help him out of his coat. The Borg however had recovered from the first shock and stepped back.

“Resistance is futile, we will assimilate you!” came the chorus again.

Dodo shrugged and looked around, bewildered. “I think they want to keep on their coats. What shall I do, Goldi?

“They’re just shy, Dodo!”

“Enough it enough!” chief Botchy yelled. “I’ve got my fill of you and if you’re not off this minute, I’ll knock you into space.”

“Hey”, Flecke interrupted, “you can’t do that, chief. They are feeling creatures. The Prime Hamster Directive says that you must not hurt other creatures.”

“Now, now”, Goldi tried to calm down raving Flecki, “that are broad rules. A little face smashing…”

“Face is irrelevant”, the Borg now shrieked. “Resistance is irrelevant – assimilation also is irrelevant!”

“See”, Botchy grumbled. “Changed you invasion plan – or what?”

“Exactly!” Goldi cried. “What about resistance and all that?”

“Does that mean they don’t want to put off their coats after all?” Dodo asked, bewildered. “Do they just want to anaesthesize us?”

“They will assimilate nobody today”, Fleck spoke up again. “Somehow they’re bonkers.”

“Erm, yes, as you say. I already noted so if I may stress this. Well, dear Borg-visitors, may I as commander of this ship now ask you to tell us about the reason of your visitors – er visit?”

One of the Borg-gerbils – maybe their leader – who just had escaped Dodo’s attempt to help him out of the coat, answered in a sad voice: “We are junior Borg. We rather do that not to be kicked by everyone.”

“Well, lads, that’s been rather the wrong way”, chief Botchy grumbled.

“Yes, erm, as I additionally would like to add how did you get the idea to attack this space ship?”

“We had counted on the surprise effect”, the Borg-gerbil whispered, embarrassed. “We thought if somebody hears the name of Borg, he will surrender immediately.”

“Right”, Goldi chuckled, “we were surprised enough when we saw you pipsqueaks.”

For a moment nobody knew what to do. There they were, the Borg-Gerbils, quite aware that their surprise attack had gone very much awry. Also the hamsters did not really know how to handle the matter. Well, gerbils – the hamsters had had trouble with gerbils often enough but at the same time they pitied them. Obviously they did not have much fun recently. Did not look well nourished. All right, gerbils they were but they looked like needing help. On the main screen everybody still could see the warrior-ship globe by which the would-be Borg-gerbils arrived. It looked gigantic which was only due to the fact that it was parked right in front of the camera. The mayor cleared his throat but when he felt the eyes of all those present on him, he quickly stared at the main screen for he had no idea whatsoever. Finally Flecki stepped forward.

“You said you have been kicked. By whom?”

“O yes, do tell us!” Goldi bawled. “In all detailed details!”

The Borg-gerbil leader looked at the floor bashfully. Then he took off the unit at his left eye so that the eye became visible: swollen and black. Only with difficulty he was able to blink – the sight was pathetic. His neighbour now opened his armour and they could see the bandage at his right shoulder. The leader sadly looked at the hamsters and said:

“Our neighbours, these villains. They call themselves Klingon-hamsters and don’t have anything in their minds but badness. They steal our food, plague us, pee into our water. They are stronger than we and we can’t defend ourselves against them.”

Thunderstruck, the hamsters glared at the uninvited visitors. Uhura looked at the events spellbound and even Chekov had since long stopped to play at his monitor. The situation had completely changed. They mayor excitedly fidgeted on his chair and cried: “Klingdingus – er – hamsters! I think I heard about them but I thought them to be a legend or something.”

“Apparently not”, Flecki remarked. “They’re said to be related to us but not true to type. Commander, we’ve got to help these poor Borg-gerbils, it’s our duty.”

“Erm, harrumph, erm – well, why that, Flecki?”

“Because we are related to the Klingon-hamster, it’s our duty to guide them back to straight and narrow! They are our brothers and sisters after all and we have responsibility for them!”

“That’s it!” Goldi happily cried. “And if they don’t want to be straight and narrow, we’ll smash their brotherly faces!”

Now all eyes were on the mayor-commander. Here and now a decision of far-reaching consequence had to be made. However, nothing much seemed to happen. The mayor nervously tapped the floor with his paw and shouted: “Erm!”

“Erm – what?”

“Well, er, Flecki, that’s not easy, that’s rather difficult – if I may put it like that. On the one band – er – hand there are so to say our visitors, the Bordingus, and on the other hand the Klingon-hamsters. Well, here we are, if I may put it that drastically.”

“Oh, great, the answer is right in sight”, Flecki jeered. The mayor reddened, tapped the floor more nervously yet and once more turned to the Borg-gerbils.

“Erm, well, by the way: Where do you come from?”

“Our home is Epsilon Lyrae.”

The mayor’s colour changed from red to pale. “Erm, well, I just forgot where that is exactly. Er, Yoohoo, where is that?”

Lt. Uhura laughed merrily and replied: “Epsilon Lyrae is in the Lyra constellation, north-east to Vega.”

“Vega!” the mayor croaked and hopped from one paw to the other. “Vega, that’s it, dear hamsters, we’ve almost reached our destination!”

Now the mayor had the undivided attention of all. However, while he hopped around cheeringly, nobody but him seemed to understand what was what. Why had they almost reached their destination?

“He surely is enlightened again”, Tuffy breathed, enrapt.

“He surely is completely wrong in his garret”, Flecki hissed.

By now the mayor had stopped his silly hopping and with embarrassment looked at the hamsters who looked at him, bewildered. He had the impression that this was the time for an explanation.

“But don’t you see?” he trumpeted. “Vega! The Veganic system! Home of our dingus – er – vegetarian friend of the Beta-Geranium system who went astray on our dinugs-planet. There we will find Tririllium which will rescue him and all the galaxy!“

Lt. Uhura was the first one to answer this: “Commander-love, you’re not talking about the miserable veggie whithering in sickbay?”

“That’s exactly what I mean, Yoohoo. That’s our mission which we have to fill full – er – fulfil. We will land on Vega, get the Tririllium and all the galaxy will be grateful to us.”

Before Flecki could say that all the galaxy would probably be roaring with laughter rather, there was a giggle from Navigation.

“Sir, Vega, that’s a central star – a sun. That’s boiling hot!” Ensign Chekov chuckled and faced problems to keep on his chair.

“So what, Mister!” the mayor gnarled. “We’ll land there at night, where’s the problem?”

While Goldi tried to stop Flecki from strangling the mayor and while Lt. Uhura and Ensign Chekov rolled on the floor, laughing, and while the rest of the crew goggled, the mayor had scrambled back onto his seat. He looked at the main screen and said: “Borgs, you’ve got to park your ship elsewhere, I can’t see anything. Security, fetch our vegetarian friend of the Beta-Geranium system from sickbay, his – er – presence on the bridge is needed.”

The troop set moving, and while two Borg-gerbils vanished in the transport beam, Dodo and Dasy travelled to sickbay to fetch the pot plant back to the bridge. The remaining hamsters and Borg-gerbils as well as the two humans watched how a short time later the Borg-ship moved away from the camera and cleared the sight to space again. By the time the lift-door opened and the security team carried in the whithered plant, the two Borg-gerbils had beamed back to the bridge. The mayor-commander nodded, satisfied, and turned to Chekov who just was busy playing ping-pong against the computer.

“Navydingus, lay in course for Vega!”

“Now, Sir?”

“Of course now. Every second counts!”

Ensign Pavel Chekov nodded and interrupted his ping-pong game. With deft fingers he typed a number of orders into the computer and shouted: “All right, Sir, we’re on course.” And returned to his game. Dodo and Dasy left a clue of earth behind them, dragging along their heavy burden across the bridge up to the commander’s seat. Panting, both hamsters paused there and looked up to the chair expectantly. A nod signalled them to put the plant onto the box in front of the seat. Then there was silence on the bridge. Everybody looked at the main screen and fascinatedly watched the light spots passing by. After some time it became boring to stare into the blackness of space and Goldi finished the silence.

“What about some food and party? Hey, Taty, you’re the cookhouse wallah, get us some munchies. Tealeafy, you’re the party organizer – when will we start?”

“Well – erm – I also think we have deserved a little something. Er – Dingus and Dingus, see what the kitchen has to offer.”

“Hey, commander-love, why don’t you take the replicator?” Lt. Uhura remarked and winked at Flecki.

“Yes – erm – excellent idea, dear Yoohoo. So get you gone, security, order some sunflower seed! Und what – er – do our guests eat?” he continued, turning to the gerbils.

“Sunflower seed is irrele… - er – yes, yes, we like that, too!” the leader quickly tweeted and fumbled at his damaged armour in an embarrassed way. After Dodo’s kind assistance it could not be repaired. Security, that is Dodo and Dasy, walked slowly and anxiously into the direction of the replicator while the gerbils made room for them as anxiously. After several trials they really could convince the replicator to give them quite a portion of sunflower seed and some biscuits. Lt. Uhura and Chekov also went to the replicator because for them, too, it was high time to take a meal. Munching noises filled the bridge while the Enterprise raced towards the Lyra constellation with warp speed.

“Nav, status report”, the mayor-commander shouted and burped gently.

"All’s right”, Chekov replied, smacking, “slight course correction and we’re on.”

“Shouldn’t we indicate then?” Dodo asked with big, wondering eyes and Ensign Chekov whooped.

“Don’t you remind me of indicate”, Goldi groaned and shook his head.

“Oh, shouldn’t he?” Flecki curiously asked. “What was on there?”

Goldi scowled at her, angry about his own forward remark. Then he snorted and said: “Those daft HAMPO-cops. When the other day I went out for a hop, they followed me. Don’t ask me why. Close to the motorway to Hamsterjelly I’d to turn off. Well, there they stopped me. Indication was defect.”

“He he”, Flecki giggled gleefully, “and then they diddled you, didn’t they?”

“Almost”, Goldi grinned. “They walked around my car with long faces and said the defect indication would be 50 Sickles. Great, I said, okay with me. Workshop wanted to have 80 Sickles.”

“And then?” Flecki breathed.

“Well, they rang up their operations centre ‘cause they didn’t know what to do. Operations told them they’re muppets and HAMPO don’t do repairs. Then they were really fed up and probed my car and found more defects and told me they’d have an eye on me. That went on and on till the cops saw they were off after hours. Well, so I saw that I drove on.”

“There you see it!” Flecki nagged. “If you need the police – can’t rely on them! And did they have an eye on you?”

“Nope”, Goldi muttered, “next day I sold that car.”

“What?” Trample shrieked and goggled at Goldi reproachfully.

“Sorry – in all earnest, Trample”, Goldi mumbled. “How should I know that HAMPO was going to confiscate your new car the very next day?”

“I had to pay 50 Sickles penalty”, Trample wailed.

“Chief Botchy’s indication once has been defect, too”, Tuffy remarked, “and right in the middle of an urgent repair job. Police stopped us, too.”

“But a repair job must be different”, Tealeafy cried. “That’s a kind of emergency.”

“That’s what the chief told the officers”, Tuffy shouted, “but then they started a fight. Right in the street! My, that was awful!”

“Tuffy”, chief Botchy gnarled, “nobody is interested in that…”

“Yes, we are! Go on, Tuffy!” the other hamsters chorused.

“Well, it wasn’t much more”, Tuffy continued and ducked when the chief engineer walked towards her in a threatening fashion. “Or wouldn’t have been. Police said he was not to drive on that way. Unfortunately the chief then went out of his mind and shouted that he would repair the indication at once.”

“Well, all was all right then, wasn’t it?”

“No, Flecki, it wasn’t. Chief Botchy took a hammer and smashed the indicator. Then he fell on the police car and made mincemeat of its indicator, too. When the cops took him away, he roared that they were not allowed to drive with a defect indicator.”

“Get this!” Flecki jeered. “That wasn’t by chance the week they said that the chief suddenly had taken a holiday?”

“Hey!” Goldi shouted. “Talking about jokes: What is black and…”

“We know that joke, it’s a lousy electrician”, Trample snorted.

“All right, all right”, Goldi said, “but what is red and hanging beside it? His assistant, still glowing!”

While chief Botchy still wondered which parts in Engineering urgently had to be scrubbed by assistant Tuffy within the next days, a wanton spirit was ruling the bridge.

“What might Hamstilidamst be doing just now?” Flecki wondered.

“Oh, I’m sure he has a fine time”, Taty dotingly said. “Being in beautiful Scotland for a real holiday. He’ll certainly show this Kirk and his folks all the sights.”

“Perhaps they’re in trouble. What a pity that we can’t help them now.”

“We help them, Goldi?” Flecki hissed. “We’re in a sort of trouble that we hardly can hold our heads above the ground.”

“Why, we never hold our heads much above the ground, except our super cool commander on his super cool chair. Say, what is he doing all the time?”

There had indeed not been anything from the mayor-commander for quite some time. The hamsters had not missed it but it was unfamiliar. Slowly the hamster-crew walked over to the commander’s seat where the mayor was sitting beside the battered pot flower. His eyes were closed and one of his paws rested on one of the leaves. Curious and marvelling, the hamsters assembled around him. The gerbils were standing a little aside and did not know what to begin with all this, same as Lt. Uhura who followed the events with an inquiring look. Only Ensign Chekov did not notice anything because he just had lost his game against the computer and started a new ping-pong sequence. Chief Botchy was the first one to find his voice again.

“Mr. May… er, commander, don’t you feel well?”

Mayor-commander appeared to hear nothing. Disquiet spread between the hamsters – what was it now again? Silence, except the clacking of Chekov’s keyboard. Now a low sigh, and excitedly everybody goggled at the mayor-commander who now began to move again. His eyelids fluttered and he took a long breath.

“Commander, everything all right?”

The so addressed did not seem to notice Flecki’s question. Anyhow, he opened his eyes and looked at the plant beside him. Potting soil was spread on his seat like everywhere on the bridge. Lt. Uhura had risen from her chair, came closer and shouted:

“Hey, commander-wooly, what’s on, you okay?”

Only now the mayor-commander seemed to realize that he was addressed. He slowly turned his head and first looked at the incredulously staring hamsters before his eyes wandered to Lt. Uhura. He nodded several times and slowly said: “It’s all right, Yoohoo, I feel fine. I had a mental merging with our Veganic friend. Now I now everything he knows.”

The mayor-commander looked bewildered at Goldi who was rolling on the floor, laughing. Then he went on: “Navigator – course correction to 1-4-7-2, full power!”

Pavel Chekov started up and cursed. He had almost succeeded in beating the computer. He turned to the helm, gave a short “Ay, Sir!” and put in some orders.

“Talk sense, Navigator!”

“Sir?”

“Don’t talk about you private wishes on duty.”

“But I only said ‘Ay, Sir’.”

“That’s what I mean!” they mayor-commander redheadedly barked.

“B-but that means ‘Yes, Sir’ and…”

“No, you said ‘Icer’ and not ‘Yes, Sir’ and if you talk…”

“Oh, commander-wooly, don’t fret”, Uhura said, giggling. “You’re looking so ruffled when you’re fretting. It’s like this: Ay – new word – Sir. That’s bord language and means ‘Yes, Sir’ and we always say so.”

Slowly the situation relaxed as the mayor-commander understood. Things were complicated enough as it was and he was sick of having his competence in doubt. He hardly had calmed down when Chekov spoke up again.

“Sir, the course must be wrong.”

“What do you mean, Mister, why is it wrong?”

“Well, Sir it isn’t correct.”

“How not correct?”

“We’re heading towards a black hole.”

“Perhaps with your mental merging you forgot the universal translator”, Goldi bawled and got a censorious look.

“2-7-4-1?”

“No, Sir, then we’re heading for the Delta Quadrant.”

“Well, erm.” The mayor-commander was clearly bugged. Once more his decision was doubted. “Mental mergings are difficult… 7-2-1-4?”

Chekov put in the data and shook his head.

The commander’s colour changed from red to green. “In a way it seems necessary to me to repeat the mental merging. Have you ever done something like that, Navigator?”

For the first time since long the grin died on the Ensign’s face. With frightened eyes he stared at this amazing hamster who looked at him so curiously and with trembling voice said:

“7-2-4-1?”

“Ay, S… - er – I mean: Got it, Sir! That’s a class M-planet around Vega.”

“You see”, the mayor-commander purred. “Set course, Naivgator!”

Relieved, the Ensign put in the data to the helm’s computer and took a deep breath. On the main screen the change in star constellation could clearly be seen. For some seconds there was silence on the bridge which however was soon interrupted by a well-know voice: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are so to say on a historical journey. We are on our way deep into the Veganian system. You all can be proud and happy to participate.”

“Shall I scrub the machines now, chief?”

“Just don’t, Tuffy, isn’t worth the while.”

 

 


Chapter 10

 

Fort William – Explanations

 

For two hours the hamsters on the Ballachulish funfair had their fun. In the end Captain Kirk had agreed to mount a bunjee-ball with them which was almost as wonderful as the turbo-pegtop in Hamsterton. This reminded the Captain of the Enterprise and he wondered what might be happening there in the meantime. Had he known, he would have been much surprised.

However, he did not know, could do nothing and could not intervene but the question where it might be now gnawed at him. Here they somehow would get along with the unfamiliar circumstances but financing the matter would soon become a problem. Starfleet had simply ordered money from one of the historic archives and for the scheduled three days they had one thousand Euros. This morning in the hotel he had changed them for Scottish Pound and had been shocked how little was left to them now.

In case the Enterprise was not back in time they would by no means be able to stay at the hotel because they could not pay for it. If up there around the moon – or wherever the Enterprise just was – everything got out of control they probably had to look for jobs to earn money.

At last the bus arrived. The hamsters disappeared in Kirk's sleeves again and they travelled to Fort William and hopefully to Prof. McTinker. It was no long drive but most beautiful along Loch Linnhe. When they dismounted in the town centre they looked around them and were baffled. Then Dr. McCoy said in a biting voice:

"Och, there are no tourists. – That's what you said, Mr. Scott, wasn't it?"

"Ay well, in a sense…"

"He said so?" asked Hamstilidamst who had made himself comfortable with Lt. Scott again. "That's completely nuts.”

"Thank you, Hamstilidamst, we can see that", Spock said. "Obviously a time reasoned error."

All about them tourists were swarming. Close by a parking lot was packed with coaches. Snack bar stood beside coffee shop beside souvenir shop beside snack bar beside coffee shop. More or less they only had to follow the masses who all were moving in the direction of a certain bridge. The officers had the same way.

The tourists walked on to the locks while the Enterprise-officers wanted to look for a side road were Prof. McTinker had his flat. It was impossible to avoid some jostling in this squeeze. At one of these jostles both hamsters lost their balance, crashed down to the ground and looked that they came away from countless feet which would trample them.

"Come here, Daby!" Hamstilidamst cried, pressing against the pillar of the bridge.

When she wanted to run to him, a casual kick touched her and she skidded towards the edge of the bridge. For one second Hamstilidamst froze. A mighty water was running under the bridge. Daby's life was hanging by a thread.

Then he saw that she used all four paws as a brake. That was his chance!

"Brake on, brake on!" he yelled.

While Daby only shrieked, terrified, Hamstilidamst with all his strength held to a decorative bar of the bridge rail with his right fore- and hind-paw and stretched as far as possible. Had Daby not braked there would not be the tiniest chance but now he hopefully could hold her in a way that not both of them crashed down from the bridge.

He saw her eyes, big with shock, she came racing towards him. Suddenly there was nothing but hamster, the impact came, he lost his hold. A small kerb saved them both. They painfully banged against it but they were still on the bridge.

"You okay?" Hamstilidamst asked in a troubled voice and nudged the panting Daby.

"These damned humans with their clodhoppers. Don't see what's happening at their feet. Handles me like a castaway Coke-bin, that idiot. Jostling each other, just in walking. Blind…"

Daby stopped and clipped the last word. It would have been most indecent! Hamstilidamst sighed in relief. If Daby cursed like that it must have been bad, but as long as she cursed, it was not too bad. For sure she would talk posh again in a minute.

"I'm craving your pardon." There it was!

"That's okay", he graciously replied.

"You saved me from death. I am eternally grateful to you, dear Hamstilidamst. May I help you to clean your fur?"

He only nodded, they groomed each other thoroughly until they remembered that first they had lost the humans with whom they were travelling and that second very much time had passed since the last scone in the bus.

There was someone who paid much attention to what was happening at his feet, who paid not much attention to anything else. A short, almost tubby bald man pattered over the bridge. With both arms he clutched a small, heavy package. By no means he must stumble and so he stared ahead to look for an unevenness. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a very curious unevenness at the edge of the bridge, slowed his steps and looked there.

"Fancy!" he said and wrinkled his ample forehead heavily. "Analysis: Wild hamsters in Scotland are more or less unusual. Two at a time belonging together – even more unusual. So: two escaped hamsters. Question: Who is known to house two escaped hamsters? Answer: John McGofer - That far you removed yourselves from Ballachulish. This is unusual. If I believed in fairy tales, I would think you came by bus. Question: In which case do hamsters go by bus? Answer: In a box to a vet. – Hardly probable. I think you belong to John McGofer and I will take you with me."

For Hamstilidamst and Daby there would have been a score of chances to leave the spot. First however they had not listened to the fat babbler, then he had named John McGofer. They found it most shocking to be compared with the two blubberbutts at John's, but as an exception they were able to ignore it. This had to be Fergus McTinker on his way home. When they realized this, they had no desire to run away. They only desired him to stop jabbering and take them along.

Lt. Scott was at the same time busy coaxing the Captain to take a look at the lock system of Fort William. That ancient water mechanic was a masterpiece. Only to see it was a sight. While he talked they looked for the street with the flat of Prof. McTinker.

At last Dr. McCoy pointed at a street name. He had walked ahead and now turned round.

"This should be it."

"Right, Linnhe Way", Kirk replied.

"Scotty!" McCoy exclaimed. "Where are the hamsters?"

"Gorblimey!" the Chief Engineer shouted. "They're gone. Must hae scotted in t’ squeeze! Well, I never!"

"I doubt that they - scotted, as you phrase it", the Vulcan said and held up the sack with the scones. "As long as they get food from us without effort they certainly see no reason to leave us."

"Then we've lost’em", Scotty said. "Come on, let's look fer them."

"Stop!" the Captain interrupted. "Before we start off blindly… - Where have they last been with us as certainty?"

"Just before we reached the bridge", Spock immediately said.

"Tha's it", Scott nodded. "Hamstilidamst said, he thinks all tourists are barmy and I agree with him. And Daby said they are a considerable economic factor – there I agree with her."

"What does a hamster know about economic factors?!" McCoy asked, impressed.

"As assistant to a president…", Spock began and Kirk laughed.

"You humanize your hamster-girl, my dear chap."

"Considering the fact that still in our time we do not have many possibilities to comprehend the communications of the various animals, we have no knowledge about their social structures. It is, however, baffling how many similarities are recognizable after we have got the chance to communicate with these hamsters."

"Nice 'n well", Lt. Scott grumbled, "but I wanna go an’ look fer them. P’rhaps they're sittin’ somewhere by t’ roadside…"

"Like two lonely orphans", Kirk interrupted. "If they're not by some roadside, we'll be in a scrap, I fear. So…"

He made an inviting gesture. All four turned round and slowly walked back the way they had come. Their looks were only on the pavement for somewhere on the ground…

"Cooee! Cooee!"

Four heads jerked up. The voice came from somewhere considerably beyond the ground and Scotty's face lit up. A tubby bald man was coming towards them, clutching a package and on the package two hamsters were sitting.

"Hamstilidamst!" Scotty cried happily and ran to the tubby who jumped back, shocked. "O Sir, beggin’ yer pardon, but these hamsters belong tae us. We’re just lookin’ fer them."

"To – you?!" the tubby asked, bewildered. "According to my analysis that's not possible, Sir."

"Which is your analysis?" Spock asked politely.

"After thorough examination of all facts they only can belong to my assistant."

"Who also has two hamsters?" Captain Kirk grinned and felt a wave of relief rising in him.

"I do not know about also, but he has them."

"Professor McTinker?"

"Er – yes?"

"Mr. McGofer has given us your address. We're just coming from Ballachulish."

"Analysis: Hamsters do no only go by bus to be taken in a box to the vet but also accompanying certain persons to look for certain persons. Question: Do the hamsters have a special meaning for the persons they accompany? Answer: Probable in a high degree. Question: Are the hamsters connected to the person to visit? Answer: Unverified. – You want to see me?"

"Yes, Sir", Kirk smiled. "We are colleagues of you from America. Allow me: My name is Kirk, these are Professor Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Dr. Scott. We are most interested in your research work."

"I'm delighted. I am most delighted indeed. Oh, do accompany me. Four colleagues from America, I'm really extremely delighted. – Oh, I cannot let go this package. Put your hand into my right jacket pocket, will you, you'll find the key. You believe in my work, don't you? Otherwise you would not have come. Thank you, it's the key with the blue ring. The package just arrived, it's valuable, most valuable. Do come, please, here to the left. The key with the yellow ring. This evening I will go back home and spend the night with new experiments. Do come in, take a seat. If I make the breakthrough, it will be epochal, be assured. Just imagine I had not found the hamsters on the bridge and taken them along because I thought they belong to John. Well! I'm putting down the package very cautiously. Do call me Fergus."

During his nonstop talking they had reached street, flat, and living room of Prof. McTinker. After he placed his package onto a shelf, he stretched out his hand and Kirk took it.

"James – call me Jim."

"Leonard", Dr. McCoy said and

"Montgomery", Scotty introduced himself.

"Delighted, very delighted. And you, Sir?" the professor turned to Spock.

"Wa… Walter."

Kirk almost hiccupped. Everbody called the Vulcan Spock as no human was able to pronounce his first name. So Starfleet had given him the name Walter in his faked papers. Obviously it had taken a moment until Spock had remembered this. It was not every day that they had a stuttering Spock.

Not only Daby now went for Lt. Spock shamelessly. This time Hamstilidamst joined her because Spock had the bag with the scones. He took out one of them, broke it in two parts and they disappeared under a chair with them. Here they could listen and eat at the same time. As agreed upon they did not speak although it would have been much more interesting than listening.

Around the table matters were discussed which the hamsters did not even understand basically. Hamstilidamst and Daby chewed and look at each other. Once Hamstilidamst puffed in a bored fashion and sprayed a small fountain of crumbs. Then he saw that the living room door had been left open und nodded at it. Certainly there would be some room where they could talk undisturbed.

The debating humans did not notice that they flitted out. They came into the kitchen and climbed onto the next cupboard. Unerringly, they found a bowl with the remains of cornflakes. They scrambled in and scoffed away this dessert before they discussed the situation.

"What do you think?" Daby asked.

"No idea. What do them guys really want here?"

"Analysis…"

"Ey, you stop that trash", Hamstilidamst cried and Daby sniggered.

"Well now. What do we know?"

"They came by space ship from the future and had to go to Scotland."

"To Fergus, the scientist. – They fake being scientists, too. – What do you say, Hamstilidamst, in future people must do everything better than today, don't they?"

"I don't see why", he retorted stubbornly.

"Well now, I do", she iffily retorted. "If I learn something and can do it better, then I hold it in mind. And then I learn something new and do it better again…"

"Now, will you stop? I've got that so far. – Okay, so they can do everything better."

"So what do they want here?"

"That's what I asked! – It's something about antibutter."

"About what?!"

"Antibutter", Hamstilidamst repeated impatiently. "That's what they're jabbering about, aren't they?"

"Antimatter. – What it that, by the way? – I think they have to tell us."

"'xactly!" he trumpeted. "We get them out of so many messes and they don't even tell us why they're here. That's not fair. But that's the human way, you know."

"Hum, Spock is not human…", Daby pondered.

"Here ye are", a voice said from the door and Scotty came in. "Ay, I should hae thought o’ this. – Fergus, I'm sorry, but our hamsters are sittin’ in yer cornflakes."

"Oh, doesn't matter, I didn't want to eat them anyway", Prof. McTinker’s voice came from the passage.

"Ye're right the most hoggish I e’er met", Lt. Scott said, set the hamsters on his shoulder and immediately heard protest.

"You don't know Goldi. And he's nothing against Bummy and Balla. To compare us to them, that's a cheek. "

"Against who?" Scotty asked in a low voice.

"The two guys at McGofer. Blubberbutts!"

"Well, p’rhaps I'll meet them. We're leavin’ now."

"Whereto?"

"Ter t’ lock."

More they did not learn. Hamstilidamst and Daby looked at each other under Lt. Scott's chin. What had locks to do with all this? But then they heard that the four men wanted to take the bus back to Ballachulish in the evening. There they would meet with the professor again, but they had much time until the next bus left. Scotty had won and they would spend the waiting time at the locks of Fort William.

When the two of them discovered that they should be shut away in a wooden box which the Captain had begged from the professor, they raised the next protest. But the little box had holes to look out and Scott explained to them that he had been very frightened when they had vanished before. He did not want to happen something like that again and the box…

"O well", Hamstilidamst said with a shrug. "There's straw inside, it might be cosy."

"And if some jostler comes along we will not fall out", Daby admitted. "But only to our destination."

"Wherever that might be", Dr. McCoy retorted and closed the lid.

Except that they were really comfortably dandled along, the hamsters did not notice anything of the little walk. The officers enjoyed it. Now they had found their professor, now they were allowed to have some fun during the excursion to this time.

When they reached the bridge over the river Linnhe, Scotty made them turn to get a look at Ben Nevis. Everywhere on Earth and a lot of other planets he had seen mightier mountains, but this was his Ben Nevis, the highest mountain of his home land and it was an overwhelming sight. On they walked and when they came to the next bridge, this time over the Caledonian Canal, they all stopped in surprise.

Lt. Scott had not promised too much. Neptune's Staircase, the Fort William lock system really looked terrific.

"Now, wha’ d'ye say?!" he proudly asked.

"Fascinating", Spock admitted and appreciatively lifted his right brow.

"I can't help it", Kirk smiled, "but seeing this I'm feeling more at home than in our own presence."

"What's on, what's on?" Hamstilidamst bawled from out of the box.

"Nothing, you bray, we've reached the locks."

"That's not nothing if Scott croaks about it all day long!"

"He's quite right", Dr. McCoy remarked, impressed, and opened the lid again.

What the hamsters saw was their idea of a kind of giant staircase with a lot of monkey bars over some water. The funfair in Hamsterton had been better – in every respect.

Scott, Kirk, and McCoy walked up and down the locks and could not stop admiring them. The Vulcan had scanned the system with his tricorder and saw no reason to continue crawling between the lock doors. At this time of the day the tourists had buggered off so that he simply sat down on the bank and let the hamsters out of their box.

He admitted – even if not in words – that he felt a certain fascination towards these two rodents. To talk with them opened quite a new world to him.

"Now listen", Hamstilidamst said, "you're not such a boring guy. We surely could help you in what you’re doing here."

"But you do not know that we are doing here."

"It is difficult to help if one does not know at what", Daby said and he bent his head in confirmation of this logical statement. "We are most able to be silent about your secrets. – Even Hamstilidamst is."

"Ey, what do you mean? I'm not Tuffy and I don't gibber, okay?"

"You will hardly be able to imagine what all this is about."

"Yea, how should we? Nobody tells us", Hamstilidamst grumbled.

"Spock?" Daby asked silkily. "What is antimatter?"

Now both Vulcan eyebrows shot up. He did not see that the hamsters were a danger regarding the necessary break in human history. But if they were to talk about it among hamsters it better was the truth. Hamstilidamst and Daby should realize that the officers' duty was not without danger.

"What you are – that is matter", he said.

"Nope, that's a hamster", Hamstilidamst retorted.

"Now will you shut up?!" Daby snapped. "Why matter?"

"You know what material is? – Well, material is matter. You could say a blade of grass is material, your skin, your fur, my shoes, the water here in the canal…"

"Got that."

"Very good, Hamstilidamst. Your fur consists of countless single hairs, every hair is made of countless tiny parts and these particles again of particles and so on. The smallest particles are so tiny that you can only see them under a very, very big microscope."

Hamstilidamst had tried to fake being above those things but now he was fascinated. And suddenly he had the link. Almost breathlessly he asked:

"Also matter?"

"Congratulations."

"Hum? It's not my birthday…", Hamstilidamst replied, baffled, and did not know what the Vulcan meant now.

"I congratulate you because you have realized this. That is a big achievement – not only for a hamster."

"Ey, sure", he retorted and puffed himself up mightily.

"The particles are not always linked, they exist in singles and they are very fast when they move. Sometimes such particles meet and collide. If something collides with very high speed…"

"It hurts very much", Daby interrupted and rubbed her back.

"Did you have a corresponding experience?" Spock asked and allowed her to divert him from the subject.

Both told about their experience, their very painful experience on the bridge. Well, a Vulcan was not able to feel pity but he admitted that he would not have thought it positive to loose the two hamsters. Although he had already given them a scone at the professor's, he brought out another one and this could be regarded as consolation.

Until they had finished the last crumbs the three other officers had joined them. When Kirk heard that Spock was just explaining their mission to the hamsters, he almost went crazy but the Vulcan only asked:

"To whom do you think the hamsters would report?"

"Erm", said Kirk.

He had no idea but he thought those two capable of much. Spock felt a tickle at his hand and saw that Daby nudged him with her paw. She wanted him to continue. Up to now she did not see the secret but she just wanted to know.

"So two particles crash", she said. "Does it hurt them, too?"

"No", Spock replied. "Such an immense collision changes the matter."

"Parking block!" Hamstilidamst blazed.

"Parking block?" the three humans chorused.

"At home in Hamsterton once a parking block completely collapsed. Well, afterwards it really looked completely different. Or when our van crashed down…"

"We – know – exactly wha’ ye mean", Scotty groaned who almost toppled over with laughter.

"That wasn't as funny as you act!" Hamstilidamst scolded.

"But in principle it is correct", Spock said and somebody could almost have caught him at a grin. "It is only… With particles it is as if…"

He could not think of an example and the Captain took over.

"Just imagine that a strawberry and a raspberry collide with immense power. Afterwards you just can't recognize any longer which is the strawberry and which is the raspberry, so squashed they are. It is mingled and connected but the mass separates again in splashes and then it's something quite different."

"Jam", Hamstilidamst proposed. "Or juice – or…"

"Tiny particles are no jam", Daby interrupted.

"That's correct", Spock said, "they became another kind of particles."

"Anti-strawraspberries for instance", Dr. McCoy said and Daby jumped high into the air so that everybody started.

"Antimatter!" she squeaked in her shrillest voice.

"Correct!" nodded Spock.

Daby danced around wildly. She had discovered it, she had discovered the secret. She knew a real, true secret! Hamstilidamst folded the paws over his belly and watched the fuss. At last he loudly said:

"So what?"

"What, so what?" she asked and stumbled over her own paws.

"Do you know now why they are here?"

For a change Dr. McCoy lifted an eyebrow and made peculiar noises to suppress a spasm of laughter. It was a roaring sight how Daby almost collapsed when she realized the truth. However, hats off to Hamstilidamst. He wanted to know why the Enterprise-officers were here and would stick to his guns until he got an answer he understood. Someone might tell as many pretty stories as he liked, they all were no answer to his question.

"A little beforehand , wasn't it, Daby?" the Captain grinned and she bared her teeth.

"Okay", Hamstilidamst said and stretched to his fill height. "Now put up or shut up!"

"Pardon?" Kirk ejaculated.

"That means he now really wants to know why we are here", McCoy translated.

"That's it. – If you already know what antimatter is, you need not come here with a future-space ship."

"I had not finished my explanation", Spock declared.

"And it would be all right for me if it were shorter now."

"Certainly. – We want to forestall the basis of warp-ignition."

"Ey, not that short!" Hamstilidamst protested.

"But it's something with antimatter?" Daby asked who slowly calmed down and stomached the disappointment.

"If particles of matter and antimatter collide, there is a tiny explosion."

Hamstilidamst was on the alert again. Explosion was okay, he had made a lot of experience with that here in Scotland. Therefore he understood perfectly that the explosion was bigger if several of these particles crashed at a time. And if a big mass of matter and antimatter collided it was the biggest explosion of the universe. Hamstilidamst was most interested.

"If you start a car, you send a spark to the petrol. The petrol burns in a controlled way and thus is a kind of energy by which you can set things moving", Spock continued his explanation and both hamsters nodded fiercely.

"We know. And if there's no petrol in the tank, that silly car just stops."

"Quite right, Hamstilidamst", the Vulcan said. "Anyhow, we are not talking about stopping but about moving. The explosion of matter/antimatter sets free an immense energy to move things."

"Oh!" said Daby.

More she did not say but put her head into her paws and thought full power.

"With this energy you have the precondition to be faster than light."

"Eh?!" said Hamstilidamst and more he did not say.

"That is the energy by which our space ship is driven."

It was almost frightening how silent the two hamsters suddenly were. The officers who in all their life never had thought much about hamsters, stared at them. By now all four bipeds believed that the two clever rodents really understood what just had been explained to them.

Moreover the hamsters might well understand the events on different time levels. After his opening Spock just wanted to take breath to continue his explanation, when Daby scrutinized him ponderingly.

"That's no secret for you. How about us?"

"In your time? It does not exist."

"I said they are much better", she mumbled and Hamstilidamst grumbled:

"Yea, right, you said so. Only because you said so we still do not know…"

"… why we are here", Captain Kirk interrupted. "All right. In this time that kind of energy should not exist. That's what our history books say. However, Professor McTinker is working on a way to bring matter and antimatter to a controlled reaction so that this energy might well exist very soon."

"So what?" Hamstilidamst asked. "Your history books are wrong."

"Dope", Daby hissed. "Don't you think it's in all books since when they can fly faster than light? – Perhaps the things Fergus is trying do not work after all?"

"Tha's what we dinna know", Lt. Scott said. "And we’re here tae see that it doesn't work."

"That so mean!" Hamstilidamst scolded. "Ay, that's really mean. You coming here all snooty out of future…"

"Now listen to reason", Kirk interrupted, but Hamstilidamst did not want to listen to reason, he now wanted to scold, nag, and grumble.

"Fascinating", Lt. Spock murmured. "We really discuss the rightness of our actions with two hamsters."

"You've got funny notions about discussions", Dr. McCoy retorted. "Then one acts, the other one grumbles? – Moreover we've got to leave if we want to get our bus. – Ey, you two, back into the box."

"That's just nice", Hamstilidamst nagged. "You only object a little and are thrown into prison. If your time's like that…"

"Hamstilidamst, you are yelling about that much that you don't twig anything", Daby protested. "We are not thrown into prison, we are going back into our transport box so that we safely can travel to Ballachulish. Moreover your noise interrupts my thoughts."

"And what are your thoughts? D'you think about how Fergus may pull through his thing after all – that fat explosion?"

"I wonder why he shall not do it."

"They won't tell you, no way. I know how humans are."

"Dear Hamstilidamst, calm down a little. I am certain that Spock was just going to explain it when you started to behave so extremely uncivil."

"Ey, you won’t set the world on fire."

"Dear Hamstilidamst, setting anything on fire, with or without reason, is much more to your taste than to mine", she answered in a voice as polite as it was smashing.

Then she fell silent and pondered how she might finally get the secret out of the humans yet – and especially out of the Vulcan. It was a secret, that much was certain, but she did not see what should be so secret in the things she had heard up to now.

Perhaps after all Bummy and Balla at John McGofer knew more than they said. Maybe they were lazy and greedy but she really could not imagine that two hamsters living close to a carrier of secrets were too stupid to know something.

The officers got out at the hotel bus stop. Here they wanted to eat something and later in the evening pay Prof. McTinker another visit. Furthermore they wanted to take a look at the hotel shop.

They had learned and memorized a lot of things concerning this time but there were some things they had not really been able to convert into the everyday life of this time. One thing was clothing. In their own time clothes were put into a high pressure-steam cleaner and after a few minutes were clean again. Here and now there was water and washing powder.

Alternatively each of them could buy a new T-shirt. And that was all what remained doing. Water and washing powder also made the clothes clean in a few minutes but they were dripping wet. As none of them knew whether the Enterprise was going to pick them up within the next two days, they had to make themselves acquainted with the everyday life of the early 21st century for better or worse and none of them would have liked to be in the same dirty and stinking shirts for days.

"Ay, ye brought hame t’ bacon", Scotty sighed into the direction of the hamsters.

He came out of the bathroom where he had tried to find something were he could hang out his shirt for drying.

“Bacon?” Hamstilidamst replied who was munching away the new biscuits on the tea tray.

"No need to worry if your clothes get dirty and smell", Dr. McCoy nodded. "You really come off well."

"Ay", Hamstilidamst aped the Scotsman, "if we come off better still, we'll probably explode."

"Why, I don't hope so", McCoy grinned. "We'll go down for dinner. Wanna wait here or at the Captain's?"

"Oh, we'll wait here", Daby sweetly said and Hamstilidamst threw her a pondering glance.

He did not think much of waiting in any room. If so, it should be at the Captain's, there still were peanuts under the bed. But he did not argue for somehow he had the idea that Daby had plans.

The men had hardly left the room when she pointed to the heating pipe which higher up the wall passed the ventilation. At the ventilation the grill was missing.

"A quick way to Hooty", she said.

"Umph, we've got to look after her, haven't we? She'll cough at us."

"First of all Balla and Bummy are her friends. I hope she can tell me how to make those two talk."

"What for? The officers will take us…"

"No", she interrupted him. "Earlier in the bus you had fallen asleep, dear Hamstilidamst. And as I followed your proposal not to talk if strangers are close by, they certainly thought I also had fallen asleep. – They will not take us with them. When they have taken their dinner, they immediately will go to Fergus."

"Ey, but that's mean, it really is!" Hamstilidamst shouted.

"Yes, but it doesn't matter. I know a way which is much shorter than along the roads the officers have to go. But before that I absolutely have to speak with Hooty."

Hastily they scrambled through the ventilation shafts. There was a terrible draught and small wonder that Hooty had caught a cold. When they reached the roof of the hotel and stood in front of the penthouse they already could hear the "ootootootoot" from the distance. It had got her pretty badly!

The more Hooty was ill, however, the hungrier she became. She felt much too weak to supply herself in the hotel kitchen and since the morning her supplies had drastically dwindled. She almost panicked that nobody would come and she would be starved by tomorrow.

Daby could see that no other thought was in her cousin's head just now, borrowed a rucksack and set out to the hotel kitchen. In the meantime Hamstilidamst told the hamster-girl about the adventures Daby and he had had during the day. The diversion did Hooty well.

When finally Daby came back with the full rucksack, Hooty was very satisfied and certain not to starve. Now she could think of other things and Daby said:

"Dear Hooty, your two friends Bummy and Balla do not talk very much. Do they not like to talk or is it not in their nature to talk much?"

"You've got to bribe them oot oot", Hotty replied. "If you bribe them, they talk and work."

"They certainly have to be bribed with food from the hotel kitchen?"

"What they get in Fergus McTinker’s house surely is not equal to the food here in the oot oot."

"Did they ever tell you what Fergus is doing in his lab?" Hamstilidamst inquired.

"Horrible!" Hooty moaned. "It must be really horrible oot oot. I think nobody would have ever made Bummy and Balla work at my roof if at that time it had not been so extremely oot oot oot horrible in their house. Horrible and dangerous."

"Yes, but what was it?" Hamstilidamst impatiently asked.

"Dear Daby, would you please hand me oot oot a bowl of porridge? I think that will oot oot… Oh, thank you very much, you're most kind to me."

Hooty let the porridge glide down her throat slowly and softly. Hamstilidamst tapped his paw on the ground. He only stopped when he remembered that especially the mayor had this daft habit. Beside him he heard some curious wheeze and quickly turned his head to Daby – then he wheezed, too. Daby breathed in and out very slowly but a lot of fury was in her eyes.

She wondered whether her cousin deliberately kept them on tenterhooks or whether she did not notice at all that Hamstilidamst and herself were sitting on pins and needles.

"Ah, that was really nice", Hooty said with a much clearer voice. "Nothing better than some soft porridge or tea with honey for a sore throat. Don't you agree?"

Then she started to shriek because Hamstilidamst fell on her and shook her.

"If you don't tell us at once what's happening at this professor, I'll do something horrible to you!"

"Hamstilidamst!" Daby exclaimed. "Stop that! If you shake her, she shrieks, then her throat is sore again and then… Now well!"

He had immediately stopped shaking Hooty for all that stuff about sore throat and porridge and what else he did not want to hear once more.

"Listen, Hooty, this is really important", Daby urgently said. "You must tell us what happens in Fergus's house."

"He must not harm me", Hooty wailed and shrank back to the wall. "I don't want him to come here again. He isn't nice to me!"

Hamstilidamst was close to hitting the roof but Daby held him and nodded reassuringly.

"No, he certainly will not come here again, promised. I'll take him with me and he never again will harm you. But please do tell us now what kind of horrible things are happening in Fergus McTinker’s house. What does he do?"

"He oot oot oot … He makes earthquakes!!"