Chapter 21

 

The Mayor and the Galaxy

 

Silence on the Enterprise bridge. Then some moaning and wailing told that there still was life. Once more the friendly computer voice said:

“The song is finished – do you wish it to be repeated?”

“I’ll tear out your circuits if you make another squeak!” chief Botchy bawled and doubled his tiny fists.

“Please repeat your wish!”

“Shut up!”

“This piece of music is not filed.”

Groaning Botchy sank down to the floor again and looked at the ceiling. Hamsters and gerbils all were lying on the floor, completely knocked out and with empty eyes. Nobody had to say anything and it took some time until the squealing in their sensitive ears ebbed down. Now some low sound was audible, reaching the pained ears of the animals:

“...come in, Flecki. Please come in!”

Some of the hamsters got up curiously and looked over to Flecki who was still lying flat on the floor and made no effort to get at the com device at her belt. Within the last minutes the Borg-gerbils had retreated into a corner and anxiously stared at the hamsters. Goldi got up and staggerd over to Flecki.

“Hey, your Yoohoo boo-hoos, won’t you answer?”

Moaning, Flecki got up, gave Goldi a venomous look which said ‘You just wait, I’m not finished with you’ and took the com. With a trembling paw she pressed the button.

“Uhura? This is Flecki. Bridge is under control again.”

After a moment the clearly relieved voice of Lt. Uhura was audible again:

“Are there casualties? Is the bridge still intact? How are you?”

“No, yes, fine”, Flecki breathed into the com but when she saw the bewildered faces of her hamster comrades, she explained: “Well, there have been no casualties except our ears but that is Goldi’s fault. Otherwise we are fine and the bridge is still intact. We’re all rather knocked out and I’d love to clean my fur first and eat a little something.”

“Understood, Flecki”, came the prompt answer. “Chekov and I were not certain what was happening there. We felt some peculiar vibration down to Engineering. If only we had a solution for our problem! We’re on tenterhooks here. By the way, what did these vibrations mean?”

“That – er – was just a song, Uhura.”

“A song?! Flecki, I think you will explain that to me some time. However, congratulations that you really succeeded to get control over those loopy Borg-mice. For sure that was not easy and Chekov and I are mighty proud of you. I think you really deserve some rest and some nice food. We will continue looking for the reason why Chekov and I always get the party spirit if we leave Engineering. If we don’t find anything, we’ll have to switch helm control to Engineering and that will be quite a job as we don’t have the necessary safety passwords.”

“Couldn’t chief Botchy toggle some cables?”

“As I said, Flecki, that will be very, very difficult. I’m much afraid we will end with that solution.”

Some moments later they had finished and chief Botchy curiously walked over to Flecki.

“What did she mean, she’s much afraid of something?”

“Oh, nothing, chief.”

In the background the mayor was clearing his throat. Immediately all eyes were upon him, that is, almost all eyes because Goldi had sneaked to the replicator, wondering in which order he was to order a little snack.

“My dear hamsters, once more we have demonstrated that we can reach a goal if only we want to. I am happy to offer my dingus – er – my approval to each member.”

The mayor grinned stupidly and fondled the pot plant at his side which by now had to offer no green at all.

“However, we should not bury the sand in our heads – erm – so to say put the goal out of our eyes”, he continued. “We still have to go for Vega – to rescue the universe!”

“Mr. Mayor?”

“Yes, what is it, Number One? Why am I not addressed as Commander?”

“O well, Commander then. Uhura said that helm control is to be switched to Engineering…”

“Stiddleficks – er – fiddlesticks, Number One. This female has no idea what is at stake. Navigator, report!”

The mayor-commander slid down from the chair with surprising speed, stepped to Dodo and looked into the eyes of the big hamster.

“Report?!” Dodo gasped and took a step back.

“Report!” the mayor-commander hissed and took another step towards Dodo.

“A real report?!” Dodo wailed, taking another step back.

“A real report!” the mayor-commander gnarled, taking another step towards Dodo.

“I haven’t got any!” Dodo howled and took another step back.

“Why not, navigator?” the mayor-commander yelled, taking another step. After a while, desperate Dodo was with his back to the wall. No further retreat was possible, so he took the offensive.

“’cause I’ve no idea about navigation, boss, ‘cause I’ve no idea where we are, and ‘cause I don’t know nothing and ‘cause…”, he wailed, threw himself to the ground and drummed his fists at the floor.

Baffled, the mayor-commander looked at his navigator, said “Erm” and thoughtfully scratched his head.

“Your behaviour does not agree with that of an officer of Flarstreet – er – Starfleet. Get up, man!”

Sobbing, Dodo looked up to him.

“You’re with grace in the fleet, man!” the mayor-commander raged.

“Er, you mean disgrace of the fleet, Sir?”

“That’s what I said, you fleet, erm, beet!”

“What is a fleet beet?”

“You say Sir! Fleet beet, SIR!” the mayor-commander barked.

“Ay, Sir Fleet Beet, SIR!” Dodo replied in a loud voice while he slowly got up from the floor.

“Right, man, you are at once a peach, er, impeached! Weapon officer Goldi, do you dare to dingus, er, steer a ship of this size?”

Goldi, still at the replicator and ready to fall on a bowl of noodles, paused for a moment. He chewed quickly, burped once and replied: “No problem, I’ve dingussed quite other things.”

“So the matter is dingussed”, the mayor-commander summarized and turned back to Dodo. “You, navigator Dowdy, er, Dodo, are herewith ex-navigator Dodo, so to say an ex-Dowdy, er – ex-Dodo, while ex-weapon officer Goldi changes to navigator Goldi…”

“Tell me, Mr. Mayor, does that mean the weapon officer becomes an ex-weapon officer changing to navigator?”

Before the mayor-commander could answer Goldi’s question, Dodo cried:

“But I don’t want to be any ex-Dodo, I want to remain Dodo!”

“Erm, yes”, the mayor-commander grumbled and scratched his head. “Of course you can remain Dodo but you will be no ex-weapon officer because you take the Dowdy job – nuts – the Goldi-job of navigator? Got that?”

“But, Boss, Dowdy-Goldi is no navigator, he’s weapon officer!”

“Ex-weapon officer!” Goldi added while the mayor glared at them with open mouth and hanging cheeks.

“But if Dodo is ex-navigator and Goldi ex-weapon officer und Dodo takes over the job of navigator Goldi, isn’t then Dodo an ex-ex-navigator becoming navigator again?” Tuffy wondered.

“I didn’t mean that Goldi is navigator!” the mayor-commander yelled.

“Right, he isn’t because Dodo is…” Flecki remarked while the mayor-commander reddened.

“Wrong, completely wrong, Number One! Dodo isn’t because he is no Dowdy but Dodo, what I mean is because he is no navigator but an ex-navigator!”

“Because Goldi is navigator?”

“No, Number One, because he is ex-weapon officer!”

“An ex-chief engineer wouldn’t be that bad, too”, some voice squeaked.

“Who said that?” chief Botchy bawled, straightening to full height.

“Or an ex-mayor…” came a whisper from another corner.

“Shut up, or I’ll lock you all up!” the mayor-commander yelled whose colour had changed from red to purple. “You got me?”

“Not really, Boss, for when we are all locked up, who is to lock us up? I mean, there’s no one left to lock everybody up.”

Thunderstruck, the mayor looked at Dodo. This objection stood to reason because he could not have all locked up because those who locked up the others could not lock up themselves. He somehow seemed to loose control on the situation, so now he had to do something. It would be his responsibility to take a decision and end this discussion. His people expected him to put a foot down.

“Erm!”

The hamsters looked at him spellbound and even the gerbils had come a little closer to listen to this most interesting debate. The mayor felt sweat running down his fur.

“Ha ha!”

He felt hot, very hot indeed and his brain worked feverishly which made him feel hotter still, his fur dripping of sweat and wetting the floor of the bridge.

“Well, dear hamsters and officers, it’s like this: Dodo no longer is navigator and Goldi no longer weapon officer. Instead Dingus, er, Dodo is now weapon officer and Goldi navigator.”

“But I’ve no idea what to do as weapon officer!” Dodo wailed and Goldi put a paw on his shoulder, explaining:

“Look here, Dodo, it’s really very simple: take target, fire, blow up!”

“And the weapons, Goldi, what shall I do with the weapons?”

“Oh, I’ll explain that to you later on, Dodo. First of all I’ve got to check the controls of the helm.”

While Dodo tramped behind the new navigator Goldi with a long face, the mayor-commander sighed deeply. He had just made this one, he thought, even if he had lost rather something of his authority. But a hamster gets used to everything after all. Yearningly, he goggled at the comfortable seat of the real Captain of this space ship, one James T. Kirk who at this time romped about in some Scottish tourist centre on the planet Earth. He made a few steps, then remembered something, turned round and shouted: “In the meantime you could tidy up a little, it’s not very cozy here.” Then he tripped on towards the long longed for sleeping place.

Just before he reached the chair, he turned once more, stretched himself, yawned and shouted: “O yes, will you please wipe the floor, it’s a little – er – wet, there is a puddle…” Now he had done all he had to do, laboriously scrambled onto the chair, looked at his Veganian friend. Cautiously he fondled the withered leaves, hanging down like thick, brown spiderwebs. He was curiously tired, closed his eyes and did not notice that at his back hectic activities started on the bridge.

“Why do I have to wipe the floor, only because I’m small and can’t defend myself”, Trample howled and angrily looked at Flecki who as First Officer had taken command.

“Just because you are small, you have to do the dirty work, got that?” Flecki gnarled and turned to Sasy and Dasy who together with chief Botchy collected the garbage after the battle. Her glance crossed the room to Goldi.

“Hey, Goldi-navigator, do stop smudging Dodo and Tuffy with replicated green soap! We’re not here for our pleasure!”

“But I’m only making tests”, Goldi tried to get out of his mischief. “Moreover, why don’t them gerbils have to help tidying up? It’s all their fault!”

“Because”, Flecki patiently said, “I’m reluctant to slave helpless creatures…”

“Oh, but you’re not reluctant to slave your helpless pals, are you?”

Flecki looked at Goldi sharply and let this sink in. From the corner of her eye she saw that chief Botchy nodded in agreement and that everybody put down his work for the moment. She just wanted to start a long speech about tidying up and feeling at home in one’s four walls when a squeaky voice came from the line of the gerbils:

“We would love to help tidying up, if we are permitted.”

While Flecki still pondered, chief Botchy stepped up to the ex-Borg and shouted: “That’s right a first. And who guarantees that you won’t snap again, you muggings?”

“We are so very sorry…”

“Oh, are you? I’ll tell you what I’m sorry about, you bimbos, because I’m right fed up…”

“Now, Chief, it isn’t the gerbils’ faul”, Tuffy squeaked. “You put those lamps onto them and made them run riot.”

“Tuffy’s right”, Goldi said with a grin. “Chief botched things up again and now he’s playing fat tank here.”

So the discussion proceeded for some time but finally it ended like it always ended. While some watched the clearing up and Goldi took care to get food from the replicator, the others were busy. Under Flecki’s guidance the gerbils took great care to clean the Enterprise-bridge from all garbage. They wiped and scrubbed and polished everything. It was quite a job because of course the room had a giant size in comparison to hamsters and gerbils. Just as Flecki also wanted to get some food from the replicator, Lt. Uhura came in on the com.

“Flecki, please answer!”

“Yes, Uhura, everything under control here. We’ve cleaned the bridge.”

“You did what?” came the surprised answer.

“Cleaned the bridge. Scrubbed and wiped, Uhura, for you want to feel comfortable at your place of work.”

“Er, certainly, Flecki. I just wanted to give a status report. Chekov and I started to check the air in all rooms. Obviously we found something but up to now we do not exactly know what it is. Interesting that the computer does not classify it as dangerous because it seems to absorb cosmic rays. Might be some gas.”

“I see, and why has it no effect on hamsters?”

“No idea, Flecki, perhaps it’s lighter than air and so doesn’t appear close to the floor. As hamsters have no wings, nothing will happen to you.”

Uhura finished with a silvery laugh and Flecki got infected by it. She put the com device back to her belt and turned round to the chair where the mayor-commander was sitting beside his withered plant and snored.

“Perhaps this madness is over soon”, she thought aloud. “Hopefully Uhura and Chekov will find a solution because by and by I feel worried about Hamstilidamst. I’m sure he’s bored to death without us.”

This was the moment the mayor-commander woke up, yawned, stretched and took a look at bridge and crew.

“Report, Number One!”

“You slept, Commander!”

”Erm, not slept, Number One. I – er – only thought intensively. What I wanted to say: Status report on ship and crew, how’s the status?”

“Of ship or of crew?”

The mayor-commander only goggled without understanding, so Number One started her report: “The ship is still flying somewhere and the crew cleaned the bridge. That is, most of the crew did”, she added with an angry look at Goldi and Dodo. With a grin she turned back to the mayor who was lying in the commander’s chair, fat and lazy. “Lieutenant Uhura reported and informed us that she perhaps found a solution. If so, they will take over the bridge again.”

“Erm, erm, yes, well, we can’t wait for that. We must and will act at once, the gallery – er – the galaxy is in danger. Navigator, take course to that bright star over there, that’s Vega. Our Veganian friend has to fulfil his mission.”

With quick paws and excited eyes Goldi started to fumble the helm controls.

“What kind o’ mission?”

The mayor-commander looked at his navigator in surprise.

“The balance has to be straightened out – er – yes. The universe had already changed its dingus – er – structure and the cosmos so to say dissolves and all clocks stop. My Veganian friend informed me that we are on an Einstein-wave and only proceed as long as we are hiding it – er – riding it.”

The mayor thoughtfully looked at the main screen and all hamsters around him had the idea that they could see a tiny cloud of smoke above the head of their mayor-commander. With an empty look he turned back to his hamsters.

“Erm!”

“Commander?”

“Erm, well, my dear hamsters, I wanted to ask you something – er – tell you something. Now, what was it... O yes: By a cosmic uniqueness Vega has changed into a highly energetic structure hurtling cosmic foams, that are tiny black holes, into the eternity of the universe. Our Veganian friend has to go to Vega to stop that. Erm, or so I think.”

“Commander, could you please repeat that?”

“Erm, I’m afraid I can’t, Dodo, I’m feeling a little dizzy…”

The mayor-commander, exhausted by his own words, sat down again beside his damaged pot plant and fondled it. Soon he started to snore again. Helplessly the hamsters stood about and shook their heads. The gerbils had assembled in some distance and glanced over anxiously. Goldi tapped his forehead.

“That blatherskite had got a screw loose.”

“He certainly is enlightened…”

“Whatsoever, we’re heading directly for a planet, Tuffy. If you ask me, that’s not so brilliant for the machines.”

“Neither for us, chief, in case you noticed it!” Flecki nagged. “I’ve no mind to always risk my fur for that blockhead.”

“May I say something?”

Surprised, the hamsters turned round. One of the gerbils had sneaked half a step forward and shyly looked at the hamsters. It was their leader. His whiskers were trembling and he really did not feel all the thing in his short fur. The hamsters nodded at him encouragingly.

“The Captain is right. We also feel the presence of some power.”

“I see. So you think we are in danger?”

“Yes. You know that we have telepathic powers.”

“And you hear that plant babbling?” the chief engineer asked. “Lads, that’s so funky…”

“Not the plant, dear Mr. Chief Engineer, but something which has taken possession of the plant or of Mr. Mayor. Perhaps it came on board to look for help. Perhaps an entity living in this system.”

“But the doors have always been shut, how should anyone come in?” Dodo asked with a shrug.

“Perhaps when you started”, the leader of the gerbils whispered.

“Or when we were sucked up by the Enterprise…”

“We have not been sucked up, Dodo, we’ve been beamed aboard”, Goldi snarled, “but that would mean…”

“…that this being, this entity actually wanted the help of Captain Kirk and the Enterprise!”

“And ended with he mayor”, Goldi added to Flecki’s sentence. “What a fatal blunder! That much to the question: Is there intelligent life outside Hamsterton…”

“However, we now have the historic chance of really making a mess of something”, Tuffy whispered. “And perhaps we’ve got the advantage that nobody can tell about it later on.”

“First of all we are then rare animals because we’ve died out.”

“That, dear Dodo, will be of interest to no one, because there will be no one any longer”, Flecki groaned in a nerved voice. She turned back to the leader of the gerbils. “Do you really think we should listen to what the mayor said?”

“Well, for the time being you have no choice”, the gerbil nodded. “In its helplessness the entity probably turned to your leader instinctively, and that was your captain.”

“That’s not our captain, that’s our mayor”, Flecki puffed. “But tell me, what kind of being is that – hiding in foreign flower pots and mayors?”

The gerbil-leader did not answer immediately and glanced at his colleagues. Then his eyes came back to Flecki who waited impatiently and in a low voice he replied:

“A being which had been forgotten since long. Nobody knew where it had been and nobody knows what it is exactly. It is a powerful but good being and the only one knowing what to do. A being which does not harm anyone and exists peacefully. It is called the Plushum.”

The hamsters sat frozen, dazzled, and dumbfounded. Slowly they comprehended that they had a really big thing at hand here. No one moved and the silence on the bridge was only disturbed by the mayor’s snoring. They mayor! All of a sudden the hamsters realized that now everything depended on the mayor. Some entity named Plushum had taken possession of him to rescue the universe. That much was certain, they all now had to follow his orders in detail no matter how daftly he behaved – most important was that the Plushum achieved its purpose. Whatever their destination might by – and it was Vega! – they had to get there.

As if by command they all looked at the main screen. Spellbound they watched how the tiny white spot had grown and by now first details became visible on the surface. Blueish clouds of mist, now and then torn up by flashes, black openings showing here and there on the surface like roaring mouths. All this looked like a nightmare to hamsters and gerbils.

“Shouldn’t we inform Uhura and Chekov?” Flecki gasped und continued to stare at the screen in horror.

“They won’t believe a word…” the chief gasped back.

“Or make a mess of it…” grunted Dodo.

“Don’t think so”, Goldi remarked. “I’d somehow feel better if this Kirk were on board. Flecki, I think we have no choice but to wake up that dumbhead mayor so that the Plushum…”

As if the mayor-commander had heard his words, the nerving snoring stopped.

“Erm, Dingus, er, engineer, prepare the transporter!”

“Transporter?” chief Botchy moaned. “Wanna go on a trip? You got a screw loose?”

“Do what he wants, Boss”, Tuffy whispered, “powerful Plushum is speaking!”

“Speaking powerful plushy bullshit if you ask me, he’s got…”

“Engineer, are there any problems getting the transporter ready?”

“O no, not really, Commander”, Botchy purred. “Whither are ye bound?”

“For Vega, my presence is absolutely necessary there, and hurry up, time is short.”

“You know that you’ll get a sunstroke there and that…”

“Don’t babble, chief, do what he says, it’s the Plushum speaking!” Flecki excitedly screeched.

“Yes, hurry up!” That was Tuffy, screeching as well. “He’s got a full enlightenment!”

“He will get quite enlightened if he’s down there. But okay, let’s go. Tuffy, come along, I need you for adjusting the transporter.”

The mayor-commander had scrambled down from his chair in the meantime and impatiently waited at the open door. Obviously he hardly could wait to be beamed onto Vega. Botchy, Tuffy, and the others followed him. As quickly as possible they hastened along the passage to the transporter room, closely followed by the gerbils. Nobody wanted to miss that show. After they had entered, the mayor-commander immediately ran to the transporter platform and shouted:

“I’m Freddy! Er – I’m ready for beaming!”

“Well, er, Tuffy, how do we aim at Vega?”

“I’m sure I don’t know, Boss, nowhere here anything about Vega or anything is written. Can’t we ring up someone and ask?”

Helplessly the two hamsters glared at the unit.

“You must switch the Dingstomat – erm – must switch that thing to automatic and the transporter looks for the closest destination, that is a planet with atmosphere in our case.”

Baffled, the chief engineer looked at the mayor-commander who still waited impatiently. After searching for a while he found the lever for automatic beamer adjustment. Uncertainly he looked at Tuffy and with trembling paws moved the level. Expectantly everybody looked at the platform where the mayor was slowly dissolving. Now the platform was empty! Was this the end of the mayor? Suddenly, when all seemed to be over and finished, there was a new flickering on the platform.

Slowly they mayor became visible again. Dumfounded hamsters and gerbils watched how the mayor smiled to the crowd, rolled his eyes and crashed onto the platform. His fur was smoking a little and a smell of burning filled the room. At first all seemed to be over but the buzzing which had accompanied his return, suddenly grew louder, the lights began to flicker. Then there was a bang, some parts shot threw the room like missiles, terrified cries of hamsters and gerbils followed. Each of them took shelter as well as possible. However, now it really was over, only the crackling of overheated electronics could be heard, only the wailing voice of Dodo interrupted the silence.

“What now? Have we died out now?”

“No, Dodo”, the voice of the chief engineer replied, “we have not died out. But if I get that correctly, the transporter just died out.”

 

Chapter 22

 

Counts and Jobs

 

The Count and Countess of Count of Twix and Dunvengan and Allan's mother, who in truth was Lady Stately and visiting from Bath in England, were surprised by their guest. The wet, sandy swimming hero Kirk turned out to be a witty converser. Twix had lent him trousers and a pullover and they sat on one of the terraces until deep in the night.

Allan had been sent to bed since long. Which did not mean that he was lying in bed. He had discovered that he understood much of what Hamstilidamst said if he listened carefully. And Hamstilidamst told him all the stories he loved to hear: about astronauts from the future, about blown up laboratories, a secret hamster-organisation which he almost had busted.

"And what will you do next?" Allan was intrigued.

"Eat – if I get anything", Hamstilidamst truthfully replied. The shortbread on the boat had been about a century ago.

"Sure. Like ice cream?"

"Like everything."

So Allan crept to the castle kitchen with Hamstilidamst and they fell on the fridge. Both felt sick when they returned to the boy's room. It had been a long time ago that hamster or boy had stuffed themselves to their own liking without someone controlling them.

"I go to bed", Allan moaned.

"Umph, take me with you", Hamstilidamst moaned who some time before had not at all liked the idea of a little huddling.

In spite of his full stomach the boy soon fell asleep but Hamstilidamst felt like bursting. Finally it was too much. He scrambled from Allan's arms and said in a low, but decisive voice:

"I will do some sport."

His first exercise was to climb onto the bed-head and from there to the window sill. The window had a net curtain which he regarded thoughtfully for a while.

"I will chin the bar", said Hamstilidamst.

That was funny. Now the curtain was in front of his nose, then he saw the moon, then the curtain again, then the moon again, then the… That was boring!

"I will do rope climbing", said Hamstilidamst.

He clawed to the strap of the blind and started to climb. Suddenly some interlock got loose, the blind rattled down. Hamstilidamst did not need to climb any longer as his head crashed under the window frame the next moment. When he let go the strap he crashed down onto the window sill. There he sat for a while and shook his head.

"No, sport is hazardous."

"Hum?" Allan said sleepily.

Hamstilidamst sat very quiet, the boy turned to the other side and slept on. For a little while Hamstilidamst waited and looked about him from the window sill. Close by stood a small cupboard and on the cupboard stood a deep bowl with… Whatsoever, but it smelled like nuts. He simply had to forget that he was hopelessly stuffed. Moreover he had had gone in the sports for hours. One long jump and then…

…he landed exactly on the edge of the bowl. It rolled over, the nuts spattered about and Hamstilidamst was caught under the bowl. As there still were a lot of nuts, he did not mind for the moment. He set on munching and soon got very tired.

Next morning Allan got into trouble. He went down for breakfast and announced that the hamster had vanished.

"That's all you have to tell us?" asked his mother.

"Yes, and the hamster's really vanished."

"Probably", said his mother, "he walked down to the kitchen in the middle of the night and emptied the refrigerator."

"And did not close the door", the Count added. "Cook reported."

"Oh!" mumbled Allan.

"You had a midnight party, hadn't you?" Kirk asked.

"Er – yes", the boy meekly admitted and his mother continued to look sternly.

"I hope you felt sick afterwards."

"Er – yes."

"So?"

"I'm very sorry", Allan dutifully said though he was not really sorry.

"Very well", his mother said. "And now stop that nonsense of vanished hamsters. You cannot keep it."

"But he really vanished."

"Listen", Kirk said who knew the hamster better than everybody else here. "Did you take him back to your room? Window shut, door shut?"

"Hum!"

"May I go into your room and take a look? – Your uncle is kind enough to take me back to Fort William where my colleagues are waiting for me. And I do not like to keep him waiting. Perhaps I'll find the hamster."

"But he's really gone!"

"Perhaps Jim is a detective?" the Count of Twix and Dunvengan proposed.

"Wow, is he?"

"No, he works in the States for NASA."

"You’re shamming, Uncle Miles!"

"He isn't. I really work for space flight, hand on heart", Captain Kirk said and that was not a lie after all.

"Gee!" said Allan and ran ahead. In front of this room he paused, waited for Kirk and nodded at the door. "In there."

Kirk opened the door, his glance wandered through the room, then he laughed. He could easily picture what had happened. A lot of hazel nuts were scattered by the window, on the cupboard was a turned over bowl and under the bowl shouts of "Pleh, pleh!" were audible.

"Allan, come in!"

By now also Lady Stately and the Count were there. They all entered and saw their guest walking to the window, lifting a bowl on the cupboard there and rescuing the hamster once again.

"Oh!" all three exclaimed and Allan's mother said:

"You see, Allan, you are not even able to take care of one hamster for one night. I really do not think that we should buy a dozen white mice for you."

"But… Ma, this really is a very special hamster. He told me great stories about secret organisations and explosions and…"

"I'm sure you had a wonderful dream", Lady Stately smiled. "And now say good-bye to Mr. Kirk and the hamster. Uncle Miles wants to be off."

The Captain was glad that nobody believed Hamstilidamst's stories – or even that he had told any. That would have been embarrassing, worse than embarrassing.

To his secret regret the Count and he did not board the speedboat but an elegant little yacht which was better suited for a tour along the islands. In the cabin the Captain found his clothes which had been washed and put through the dryer over night. While he changed he had the first chance since Pabbay to talk alone with Hamstilidamst.

The hamster bubbled out the whole story and by now it was much more thrilling than it had been anyhow. Nevertheless Kirk had difficulties to keep serious all the time. Two things, however, he clarified here and now:

"First of all, Hamstilidamst: You will never again run away from us, until we meet with your friends again. Second: If you meet someone who's able to understand you, don't tell everything."

"But it's exciting."

"Hamstilidamst, if anyone is going to believe you, Spock and McCoy and Scotty and I will be sent to jail. We had to change history a little in this time. If we had not done so, our time, your future would not exist."

"Would the universe be in danger? And would you be angry?" Hamstilidamst asked who had been much awed by Daby's words.

"Exactly so. And no one, no one must know who we really are."

"I won't tell, to no one", Hamstilidamst whispered. "But it's really hard to be such a terrible carrier of secrets."

It would not happen too often that Hamstilidamst met a human with whom he could communicate. So the danger of divulging anything probably was not very great. But Captain Kirk did not truly rely on the promise that Hamstilidamst did not run away again as soon as he met something exciting enough. On the yacht he risked nothing.

Hamstilidamst stayed in the closed cabin. There he had enough food and if he wished he might sleep, roam about or look out of the window. Through the door the hamster could hear the voices of Kirk and the Count so that he did not feel lonely and was quite satisfied.

The two men on board got along well. Miles did not hurry but made a scenic tour along the islands. For the first time Kirk felt like holiday. Sometimes he appeared a little inexperienced to his host, but the Count was much too well-bred to mention it.

Towards noon the isle of Mull was behind them and they entered Loch Linnhe. After the strait of Corran they now came to Fort William.

"If you were a tourist, Jim, I wouldn't say so", the Count said, "but… Sometimes they are a real plague, the tourists."

"I well believe it", Kirk replied who just enjoyed the view on the crammed coach parking place of Fort William. "I go to get the hamster. Hope he didn't damage anything."

"Nothing which might not be repaired. It’s only a hamster after all."

Kirk did not comment. He remembered the picture of McTinker’s destroyed lab well. Concerning things like that, the Count of Twix and Dunvengan decidedly underrated the abilities of a hamster.

In the cabin he found Hamstilidamst sleeping. He took him up, nudged him with a finger and said:

"Hullo, we're back home."

"Is Scotty here?"

"No, but we're going to him now."

Not immediately, that was. Thanks to the fact that all his money was almost untouched, Kirk bought lunch for the Count. He had seen astonishing hospitality there and this was the least he could do.

His thoughts, however, now wandered to the other three officers. These days had been so busy that he had almost forgotten them. Now he wondered how they got along, whether they had found jobs. First of all he wondered whether perhaps Fergus came to his flat in the meantime.

He would have found it occupied by people who should long have been in Houston. There they should have told their NASA-colleagues that in Scotland a physcist was sitting who had some basic ideas concerning artificial gravitation. – Oops! How was anybody there to learn about that? It was a development which was to begin now and Fergus was to be in the team.

Without thinking he asked Hamstilidamst when they had said farewell to Miles and were on their way to the professor's flat.

"Write a letter, ring them up, send an e-mail", Hamstilidamst at once replied.

"A what mail?"

"A computer letter. No idea how it works but it works."

“Wit! To whom should I write?"

"Look it up in the computer."

"I'm a fool", the Captain said and slapped his forehead.

"Gee, I wouldn't put it like that", Hamstilidamst replied. "Sometimes a bit daft with machines and not really ideas about being a hamster – but a fool…"

"Ey, don't think about it too thoroughly", the Captain grinned. "What I meant is, we could look it up in the tricorder."

They had reached the road with the professor's flat. Kirk pressed the bell, but nobody opened.

"Are they gone?!" Hamstilidamst sounded shocked.

"Don't worry. Perhaps they found jobs and are just earning money."

A small pad stuck at a corner of the door. He recognized the handwriting of Dr. McCoy and carefully took the pad off.

"'We all are okay. Come to Neptune's Staircase'", he read aloud.

"What's that?"

"The locks where we had been earlier. But what are they doing there?"

"Sitting in the grass chatting."

The Captain preferred not to think so. If they were sitting in the grass chatting they had found no jobs and had no money. Whatsoever, he set out immediately.

A last tour group had been swarming back from the locks. When he reached the unit, he saw Dr. McCoy in a most peculiar pose standing close to one of the locks. While he crept closer to surprise Bones, he realized that the Doctor was talking to a man in a wheelchair who had a plastered leg.

"Shall I shriek?" Hamstilidamst asked in a low voice.

"No, someone is with him. If Bones gets a fright and pushes the wheelchair man into the water…"

"That would be fun!"

"Hamstilidamst, you are a little monster. – Leonard!!"

Dr. McCoy turned his head and for a short moment showed a broad and relieved grin. Then he made his grumble-face.

"I like that. You go on holidays on the Hebridies and we can labour here."

"Come on, three days", the Captain replied and in one sentence knew what the officers had told somebody.

"Ha, t’ island-hopper", the wheelchair man rang out and put out a hand to Kirk. "There's room fer ye, too."

"That's really very kind of you", Kirk said gratefully and without the faintest idea what that man was talking about.

"Well, Perry, this is our friend Jim Kirk. – Jim, this is Perry McPerry for whom Scotty fills in."

"Dammit!" Perry McPerry swore. "Fer thirty years I've been in t’ locks an’ ne’er anything happened. And just now!"

"Well, just now we are here", McCoy grinned. "Wanna go indoors or…"

"Dammit, no! I wanna know wha’ sort o’ fun yer Jim had on t’ islands."

So wanted McCoy as well as Scott and Spock. But the Captain could not tell Perry everything he would tell his officers. Anyhow, Kirk sat down beside Perry onto the grass and grinned broadly.

"Well, last night I spent with the Count of Twix and Dunvengan."

"You what?!" both shouted equally disbelieving.

"Why not? He took me here and I bought him lunch."

"Dammit!" Perry ejaculated. "You bought him lunch? Laddie, that one might buy lunch fer all Scotland."

"Hum, so I thought when I saw Slaint Castle."

"But tha's in-cre-dible! Tha's one o’ t’ Kingdom's richest lads."

"However, he's very affable."

"Ay, so he is", Perry admitted.

"Hullo!" McCoy said as Hamstilidamst was climbing onto his shoulder. "So you're back again."

From McCoy's shoulder Hamstilidamst looked down to Perry's wheelchair and wondered why it looked so familiar to him. Then he remembered that Lord McShredder was pushed in such a cart by Frido when he was too lazy to walk.

In the meantime Kirk told the others what had happened to him during the last few days – partly it was the truth, partly pure fiction. That he had made a fool of himself for the Primrose Breeder Club he did not tell and did not intend ever to tell anyone. So he reported how he had gone by ship to Uist and from there had hitchhiked to Berneray where he had befriended the nephew of the Count.

"Them wi’ their private port an’ private beach? Dammit, why do they need tae go t’ any tiny island?" Perry asked, then he bawled in the direction of the locks: "Sco-o-o-otty-y-y-y! Day off!"

A figure was standing there, looked over, waved, hesitated and waved even more. Then he set out in a trot.

Slowly the Captain got the picture. Perry McPerry was the lockmaster and Lt. Scott had taken over his job. He remembered how his Chief Engineer had told him that he had already been here in their own time. As Scotty was, he certainly had informed himself thoroughly on the old techniques. Probably he made rather a good job here.

Kirk nodded to the two others and strode towards Lt. Scott. He had to learn what happened in the last three days. They could not talk openly in front of McPerry.

"Ye got him?!" Scotty asked and Kirk blinked. "Hamstilidamst – got him?"

"Under danger for my own life", Kirk grinned. "He's sitting on Bones's shoulder. – Slow down, Mr. Scott! Report!"

"Ay, Sir. In t’ house o’ t’ lockmaster a small flat was vacant, and we got it. Seemed t’ be safer."

"How came that about?"

"Perry's son… We asked if he had a job fer us and he…" Scotty paused and grinned. "He's got three!"

"What, you're all working here at the locks?"

"Captain, our Doctor can work nowhere. If ye wanna make some official job, ye need an identification."

"Darn it, that had to happen one day. You – I can see. The lockmaster broke a leg und you filled in. How do you manage?"

"Och, 't's incredible. I'm feeling a student all o’er again." And when the Captain blinked: "Ay, in those days I took a course in basic mechanics an’ worked at these same locks fer three weeks. Almost nothing's changed. Incredible!"

McCoy had no official job, but obviously he took care of the lockmaster with his broken leg. Moreover he managed the household… The Captain instinctively shook himself. Bones could not cook, really not at all, and he dreaded the next meal.

"And Spock?"

"He's already off."

"Glad to hear that. He's got identifications. So, what does he do?"

"I think ye should see tha’ fer yersel’", Lt. Scott grinned.

Formerly McPerry junior had been living in the upper storey of the lockmaster’s house with his family. Now the flat stood empty if not some gaga tourist decided to make his holiday right at the locks. Since the day before yesterday the Enterprise-officers were living here. The rent was dead-cheap.

"Why is money that important?!" Hamstilidamst trumpeted into the chat of the officers because they did not talk about anything else.

"Because we have to buy everything", the Captain explained and turned to his Chief Engineer again. "I guess as to you it won't be too much."

"Ay Sir, tha's right, but it reckons against t’ rent, so 't ain't that bad."

"Jim also has money", Hamstilidamst butt in again.

"Oh?" said Dr. McCoy. "And since when is it 'Jim'?"

"Since Pabbay."

"Since Pabbay. – Go on!"

"If he wants to tell, he shall tell. I won't go and mix up the universe."

"Erm. – That's a wise decision", the Doctor nodded.

"It's okay, Hamstilidamst", Kirk said soothingly. "I also think twice what I'm going to tell them."

"But Sir", Scotty exclaimed. "Ye will nae conspire ‘gainst us wi’ Hamstilidamst? Tha's nae fair!"

"We share a few secrets. – And you're playing nurse here, Bones?"

"Just imagine!" McCoy retorted with a twisted grin.

"Haha, he'd almost swooned when he saw t’ plaster", Lt. Scott snickered.

"Why that?" Hamstilidamst asked. "You take plaster if something's broken. – Or do you have some plaster-lallagy?"

"A plaster-lalla… O my God, allergy he means. Hamstilidamst, stop using foreign words, you don't know them", McCoy laughed.

"And? Do you have an allagy?"

"No, my pet, but where I come from, broken legs are not treated with plaster. That's ancient for me."

"Well, you are in your ancience."

The Doctor could think of no answer as Hamstilidamst was right there. However, he worked as nurse for Perry McPerry and for almost no money. And as he relieved the district nurse they had agreed that she, instead of nursing Perry, cooked for them every day. Captain Kirk gave a sigh a relief.

"Hey, no need to grin that broadly, Jim!" McCoy protested.

"Sorry, Bones, but I'm really relieved. If you do the cooking, I fear for your lives. – Well, and what does Spock do in the meantime?"

“Earning big money", Lt. Scott grinned.

"Pah, money again", Hamstilidamst grumped. "Isn't there some food now? If you are a doctor, you should check on me. I'm certainly completely underfed."

"Check on him by all means, Bones", Kirk said. "Perhaps he's got a rash at the mouth so that it has to be bound up for a while."

"Terrific idea!" McCoy cried and got up.

But Hamstilidamst flitted under a cupboard and was not to be got at. There he frightened at fat spider and sat in the middle of lots of dust flakes. That was not his idea of a nice time. If the bipeds out there talked on and forgot him for a while he would be out in a trice.

In the meantime he busied himself blowing dust flakes over the floor. So he did not listen and learn that Lt. Spock had got a job with McPerry junior who had a kind of pub in the centre of Fort William.

"Spock?!" the captain cried. "In a pub?! O my goodness! He does not play the off hand waiter, does he? Or does he serve beer?"

To both his colleagues shook their heads but would not come out with what kind of job the Vulcan had, one moreover by which he lined his pockets.

Later in the evening the three of them strolled to the town centre. Hamstilidamst at last was sitting on Lt. Scott's shoulder again and both liked it very much. Everybody had made proposals what kind of job Captain Kirk could do to contribute to their living but they came to no result. When Hamstilidamst had the idea that the Captain could open a biscuit-bush-planting, they had given up the matter.

Now they were on the way to the pub of McPerry junior. Kirk certainly would have passed by the windowless building but McCoy made an inviting gesture to the door.

"What kind of shed it this?" blurted the Captain. "This is where Spock earns his money?!"

"Ay, fer sure", Scotty grinned.

Over the door a blinking sign was installed. Red flashes twitched and the words "To Hell" glowed in bilious green. Kirk doubtfully glanced at his colleagues and opened the door.

He got the impression of entering a red cave. Spotlights bathed the walls in red, in some spots waving red/yellow strips of cloth feigned fire. The pub was packed. Girls in blazing red, tight overalls with nodding, long, black devil's tails, served drinks and snacks. On their heads they wore red caps with black horns.

"O my God!" mumbled the Captain.

"Come along, a table is reserved for us", Dr. McCoy grinned.

Only then the Captain noticed that he had to talk up against the babble of voices and not against some deafening music as it was usual in such places. Somewhere in the background a piano sounded and he could well live with that. McCoy went ahead and took them closer to the music. All three sat down and suddenly Hamstilidamst squeaked:

"Spock!"

"Where?" asked the Captain.

But Hamstilidamst was already gone and jumped onto the piano stool. Sitting there was the prince of hell, Satan himself. He was clad in a black cape, lined with red, horn cap on his head and beside the cap showed two Vulcan ears. – It took Captain Kirk some time to close his mouth again. Then he simply said:

"I don't believe that."

But he had to believe it and it suited rather well after all. The Vulcan logic regarded music as a branch of mathematics. It was rather a pity that Vulcan music also sounded like a branch of mathematics. It was complicated like a difficult formula and only Vulcans found pleasure in it. On the other hand there was the advantage that all other kinds of music were something like first grade arithmetic for a Vulcan. Spock played a number of instruments and human music held no secrets for him.

As in this bar – McPerry junior did not like to have it called a pub – a piano player had been wanted, Spock had made an application. The owner had told him that it was the house-gag to have the prince of hell sitting at the piano and he was to be decked out accordingly. So Spock had decked out himself accordingly and with a touch of humour let see his Vulcan ears. Dr. McCoy had more than once told him that he looked like the devil himself with them – and artificial devil's ears he would have got in every joke shop.

"Look, His Highness had got society", somebody at the next table said.

Indeed, Hamstilidamst had climbed to Spock's shoulder and curiously watched how the Vulcan's fingers played over the keys.

"Good to see you, Hamstilidamst", he said in a low voice. "Hold fast now."

"Why?"

"Because I say so."

Then the First Officer of the Enterprise lunged out, let his fingers run over all keys with a wide move and started his programme. He worked the keys in Rock 'n Roll, arranged an ad-lib medley of Beatles-Songs and finished with a huge, complicated passage which sounded like coming out of the crater of a volcano. Only Captain Kirk knew that this was a tune from Spock's home planet.

"Gee, are you finished now?" Hamstilidamst whispered who all the time had a feeling like sitting in a speed boat.

"For the next hour I am. But you may stay here. I have a ten minutes' break."

They talked into the thundering applause of the guests. One of the devil-girls placed a bowl onto the piano. Hamstilidamst assumed that for a change he was to get something to eat. So he scrambled onto Spock's head and from there jumped over to the bowl. It was empty!

"Ey, that’s a dirty trick!" he squeaked after the devil-girl.

As nobody but the officers understood this, the guests were not shocked – quite the contrary. They thought this gag with the hamster great. Two evenings now the bowl had filled well with tips, but today some of the guests also brought crackers and cheese for the hamster who sat beside the tip-bowl, looking absolutely cute.

In the meantime one devil had joined the officers at the table. This was Andy McPerry, the owner, who in this place only was addressed as "Devil". He, too, was now introduced to James Kirk, and James Kirk had to collect his thoughts. He was so shaken at the sight of his First Officer that his mind went helter-skelter.

"Listen, Jim", shrewd Andy said, "can't you leave your hamster with us? That'll be round the town like wild and the place will boom.”

"Hullo, ain’t that cruelty tae animals?" Lt. Scott asked.

"He isn't to stunt. If he just sits on that piano and – so quaintly holds a piece of cheese in his paws, that will be sweeping."

"If he keeps sitting there", the Captain objected. "He is a little capricious.”

"Jim, a plate of food nails him down there, I bet", Dr. McCoy remarked.

"And if he goes a little wild through the room, I wouldn't mind", Andy grinned. "It's 'To Hell' after all."

"He has no objections." That was Spock who now took his break and joined them. "However, I do not trust his promise to behave adequately."

"You well may trust that promise", the Captain replied.

"What do you mean?"

"If he behaves adequately to hamster-standard, there will be something in store for this place."

"Indeed", the Vulcan admitted and an expressive eyebrow wandered upwards.

“I got that right, didn't I?" Andy asked. "That hamster doesn't object and promised to behave?"

"Indeed", Spock said again.

"An’ he told ye so?"

"He did."

"An’ ye understand him?"

"Andy", Spock patiently said, "it would be very odd if the prince of hell could not communicate with a hamster."

"Oh! Sure!" McPerry junior smirked.

"Indeed. I'll get me something to eat now."

"All right. – It's a pity", Andy said when Spock marched into the direction of the kitchen. "It would've been swell to serve a burning steak to him – in here, I mean. But he decided that the prince of hell is vegetarian."

"Ay, he's stubborn enough", Lt. Scott nodded and rose. "I'm off, my duty starts at five a.m."

"And mine not much later", McCoy grinned. "Perry can't go into the locks but he can stand beside them from dawn to dusk."

"Ay, my dad's also stubborn enough", Andy grinned. "Come home safe."

"How long are you open?" the Captain asked who wanted to go back with Spock.

"Till everybody leaves. But the prince of hell has his showdown strike midnight. Don't miss the show, Jim."

He didn't miss it. Close to midnight Spock once more worked the keys until suddenly the lights went out for a few seconds. Within these few seconds the prince of hell had to disappear by a side door. Many a piano player had been sent packing because he, when the lights were switched on again, groped along the wall to find the door. That was more on the funny than on the awesome side and Andy decidedly wished his prince of hell to be awesome. Spock was a first rate catch.

Silent and dark Fort William lay when Kirk and Spock set out for Neptune's Staircase. For quite a while they did not speak. Somehow Hamstilidamst had the idea that this wasn't the time to chat with the two of them. So he looked up to the starry sky and thought of his friends in the space ship.

"How do you feel with that ballyhoo, Spock?" the Captain finally asked.

"I’m no more ridiculous than Dr. McCoy could wish for. And I earn more money that we actually need to survive."

"We can't stay here for long."

"Never you can stay somewhere for long", Hamstilidamst grumped.

"Wherever we go next, my pet, we'll stay until we get back onto our space ship."

"Can't you wait for it here?"

"We cannot, Hamstilidamst", Spock replied. "Fort William is the biggest town of the proximity. Any time someone might show up whom we know and who knows us as scientists who by now should be back in America. Everyone living in this region seems to come to Fort William now and then."

"I know that!"

"You know that?" the Captain asked, surprised.

"Sure. Hamsterton is the captail. All those living around come to us if something's on. And that's always!"

"I'm sure I believe that", the Captain nodded. "Okay, Spock, two more evenings in the Hell for you. I think one week in Fort William should be enough."

"Will you look for some occupation?" the Vulcan inquired who had the impression that the Captain took the whole matter quite easy.

"He founds a biscuit-bush-plantation or a cheese-station. Or he becomes a scones-baker."

"Those are very useful proposals, Hamstilidamst but they do require a longer stay."

"He might become scones-baker at some place where scones are not yet invented."

"I can't bake", Kirk object.

"And what can you do?"

"Rescue you."

"Ay, that's true."

Alternately they now told Spock all the things that had happened to them. Spock listened interestedly and said, when they had finished:

"The number of people knowing us has considerably grown. We indeed should not stay here for much longer."

"Gosh! Adventures to no end and that's all you can say?!" Hamstilidamst shouted.

"That's his way", Kirk said who to his relief discovered that Spock more and more became his old self, cool and matter-of-factly. "By the way, we have to point out Fergus to the NASA. I doubt that he'll get that done."

"And how do you think that should be done?"

"Write a letter, ring them up, send an e-mail", Hamstilidamst once more proposed and for a moment Spock looked up to the stars.

"The last is possible."

"How do you know what an e-mail is?" Kirk marvelled.

"Because I spent the last three days in the civilisation of this time while you had adventures in the wilderness. This town holds an internet-café."

"And what might that be?"

"Internet is the global network of these days. E-mails can be sent this way. From an internet-café you do this anonymously which certainly complies with our orders."

"Who's Hieronymus Lee?" Hamstilidamst wanted to know and the Captain guffawed.

"Anonymously", he explained. "If you don't want to know anybody that it was you."

"That's a top-notch idea!" Hamstilidamst cheered. "Who invented that?"

"Probably Hieronymus Lee", Spock said in his driest tone, then they had reached the lock-house. "Sir, I tend to sleep a little longer and hope you don't mind this."

"Not at all, Mr. Spock. And I hope you will show me tomorrow how such an internet-café works."

"Jim, is Spock ill?" Hamstilidamst asked. "He's talking that posh."

"No, my friend. Up to now he probably had been a bit ill. Now he's back to normal."

"Back to normal he's not that witty."

"I fear you are quite right there, Hamstilidamst", Spock said and closed the door of the flat behind him. "My species is not famous for their witticism."

"What could we do to get you ill again?"

"I do not wish to get ill."

"But I would wish for it if it makes you just a little more lifely. Just now you're just a dweb."

 

Chapter 23

 

Help the Gerbils

 

After a few seconds the emergency light switched on automatically and filled the transporter room of the Enterprise with dim light. Slowly and groaning loudly the mayor got up and looked at the back wall of the transporter room in a baffled fashion. Something seemed to dawn to him and he turned round. Now he saw the crowd of hamsters and gerbils, looking at him anxiously and expectantly. With a shock he noticed that his fur was smoking in parts and he patted the spots immediately with his paws. His head felt like bursting any moment, moreover he had not the faintest idea what he was doing in this room and how he had come here.

“What’s on?” he smilingly addressed the crowd, trying to take it easy and to hop forward a little, but his legs gave in, he stumbled and crashed to the ground. “Okay, people”, he shouted, grinning daftly, while he got up again and with a touch of anger looked at Goldi who was cackling. “Nothing happened.”

“You all right, Commander?”

“Certainly, dear Flecki. Why commander? Just call me as you always do: Mr. Mayor. As I always used to say and think to have mentioned several times, I believe that a title is just a title and a name just a name. What did the well-kown Hamstian poet say…”

“Hey, people, the mayor is back to normal, we may fly home again!” Goldi bawled.

“Home?” The mayor lost control of his features. “Well, but why home?”

The next hours became a little complicated. After the ex-mayor-commander, supported by Dodo and chief Botchy, had been guided back to the bridge, there was much to explain. First of all the mayor had a big blackout which had to be filled up. White and trembling he was sitting there and listened to the story of past events, to be exact, the events till the take-off of the turbo-pegtop at the fun fair. Dumbfounded he heard Flecki’s summary about accident, hospital, take-off to space up to the battle with the gerbils. It was quite a riddle to him what to think about Einstein-spaces and singularities. He had some vague idea about Einstein-bubbles but had no idea at all why he had any idea about that. The past days were completely lost to him.

“Who’s that Plusher you told me about?”

“Plushum – o my, what might have become of him?” Tears were running over Flecki’s face. “Now he’s dead and his lifeless, cold body…”

“Plushum cannot die”, the leader of the gerbils calmed her down. “Some day he will show up again, when there is any grave danger.”

“Look at!” chief Botchy shouted, pointing to the main screen.

Something was happening on Vega. Where up to now chaos, flashes, and disquiet had been, now quiet seemed to return. The intensity of the flashes weakened, by and by the roaring black mouths on the surface disappeared until the whole planet finally was surrouned by blue atmosphere. The planet had calmed down. As matter of fact the planet no longer produced the space foams which had been hurtled as tiny black holes into the universe.

Vega had regained its balance but it would take some time until the flat Einstein-space, i.e. the space between the planets, was back to normal. It still had many spots of porous mass where time and space were disturbed. The offshots of these gravitation effects which had already reached the Milkyway, would no longer be spreading. They had come to a stop, the temporal band would no longer reach the Earth and Hamsterton. Time would not come to a standstill for hamsters and humanity, they were safe.

“Pals, what’s on at your end?”

Lt. Uhura! Flecki took the com device and tried to explain the situation. She glanced at the mayor who was sitting there with goggle-eyes, trying to get an inkling of the things Flecki had just told him. Lt. Uhura reacted likewise and it took some time until the two Enterprise-officers had worked out Flecki’s report mentally. Afterwards Lt. Uhura explained to Flecki, who listened with much interest, how she would be able to send the protocols of the past events to Engineering via the communication control. Then Chekov took over and gave them a few data which Tuffy and Flecki computed at helm’s control while Dodo watched them with big eyes and mounting panic.

“Well done, Flecki”, Lt. Uhura shouted a few minutes later when she had received the required data. “Now we make the computer analyse the data and in a few hours we know more. – Uhura out!”

“Has she left the ship – or what?” Dodo asked and made a terrified face.

“Of course not, Dodo, that’s just com slang”, Felcki said with sparkling eyes and was rather proud of the fact that she was on her way to be a real astronaut – or so she thought.

“And now? What shall we do now?” Dodo once more asked.

“First we’ll close our eyes and then we wait what happens”, Goldi said with a yawn, patted his belly and lay down close to the replicator.

“Some exercise wouldn’t be bad for you”, Flecki said, looking at Goldi’s belly.

“So what!” he promptly retorted. “Some think it to be a paunch, others the biggest mobile store of the world.”

Calm and peace ruled the Enterprise a few minutes later. Past hours’ excitement had left their traces. The big main screen was still filled with a light blue disc, under which violent storms were raging. Now and then there was lightning but all this was nothing compared to what the hamsters had watched in the beginning. Obviously the thunderstorms were ebbing away. Most of the hamsters noticed nothing of these changes. Partly because they were sleeping, like the mayor for instance, partly because they were in discussion with the gerbils. Here and there the remains of the last meal by which hamsters as well as gerbils had strengthened themselves were lying about.

At the moment there were no news from Lt. Uhura and Ensign Chekov because they, too, had to take a rest. During all the years they had become used to the fact that on a space ship there was no rhythm of night and day. Only the clocks on board showed the actual time of night or day.

With impulse speed the Enterprise left Vega. Chekov had given the relevant data to the hamsters before. By this the crew was not on their way home, of course. The two Enterprise-officers only wanted to leave the Vega-gravitation to get to calm waters, as Chekov called it.

“We’ve got to get back to the bridge, Pavel”, Uhura said and thoughtfully looked at the bluish warp core which flickered in the centre of Engineering like a giant camp fire.

“Perhaps the gas – or whatever it was – evaporated in the meantime”, the ensign hopefully said.

Lt. Uhura sighed. “The Captain will kill us if he learns to know that some dumbhead like the mayor was sitting on his chair commanding the Enterprise…”

“Killing would not be the worst”, Chekov retorted with a grin. “That would be a clean thing. Worst would be if the Captain gave us to the Klingons as toys.”

“Pavel, you clearly spent too much time with the hamsters” Uhura grinned and looked at the monitor beside her. “Oh, the data seem to be analyzed. Let’s take a look.”

While for the following hours the officers occupied themselves with making head or tail of the past events, there was boredom on the bridge, interrupted by munching.

“Somehow time travel has no future”, Trample said. “What I mean is, it makes no sense to travel to the past. Imagine we were back in first grade. I should not like to see that once more.”

“Would be grotty. You know: One is talking like a fool, the rest’s asleep – that’s what’s called school.”

“Old saying, Taty”, Flecki smirked. “But why not let Goldi make a time travel and I stay here. Then I could be his teacher and show him what’s what, that lazy head!”

“But whenever I sleep, I don’t do any mischief”, Goldi innocently replied and added, looking at Flecki slyly: “Did you know that during your sleep you’ll eat about 70 cute little insects all your life? You get fed during your sleep and…”

“Stop that, I’m getting sick!” Flecki screeched and put her paws to her ears while Taty and Tealeafy grinned broadly.

“Erm, I ask for general pretension – er – attention!”

The hamster babbling died down and at once the mayor was in the centre of interest. He smiled painfully and continuously tapped the floor with his paw.

“As I, er, just learned from my coloured – er – honoured colleague, the gerbil-leader, there is a dingus. Well, a matter, if you know what I mean.”

He got nothing but bewildered glances.

“Well, this matter, as I said, is a little decadent – er  - eloquent, what I mean is delicate, if you know what I mean.

Nobody did and the glances of the hamsters about him became more bewildered yet.

“Well, erm, in a way it is like this that the verbals – er – our friends, the gerbils cannot go back to their home planet.”

“So we take them along and to Gerbiltown”, Flecki proposed.

Slowly the mayor shook his thick head and grumbled: “That’s not possible, unfortunately, even I bought that – er – thought about that. As my colleague, the gerbil-leader, informed me conferencially – er – confidentially, that’s not possible.”

“And why not?” chief Botchy gnarled. “I’ll set up a few cabins for them and that’s it! Why don’t the guys fly back to where they came from? No pertrol – or what?”

The mayor wanted to say something but looked for assistance at the gerbil-leader who now shyly stepped forward.

“The return flight is not the problem, dear Mr. Chief. The problem are the Klingon hamsters spreading on our planet. Only on our planet those plants grow on which we feed. We have a little stock in our space ship but it will not last for long and then we have to starve.”

With sad eyes the gerbils looked at the hamsters and Flecki, with tears in her eyes, said: “We have to help the poor gerbils! They are feeling creatures and as intelligent as we are. Well, as most of us are”, she added with a glance to the mayor.

“What’s the problem?” Goldi now peeped up. “You put on your helmets again and make mush of those guys!”

“The helmets are broken…” the gerbil sniffed.

“So we’ll come along and beat the daylights out of them”, Goldi bawled and played his tiny muscles.

“We… we can’t ask that of you…”

“Yes, yes, dear colleague”, the mayor interrupted. “In times like this we all must stand together. As I always think to have used to say, we are all brothers and…”

“But aren’t Klingon hamsters closer brothers than gerbils?” Dodo asked. “They are hamsters, after all.”

Followed a long discussion about whose daylights were to be put out. After the gerbils had given a very convincing explanation what kind of hooligans and bad robbers those Klingon hamsters were and that they really had not much in common with the worthy and peaceful species of mesocricetus auratus, the situation relaxed. Everybody looked at everybody, wondering how to proceed. Flecki glanced at Goldi who was looking at the replicator, wondering whether it was not the time for a little Hamstian snack. Angrily she turned to the mayor and hissed:

“Come on, Mayor, think of something and stop goggling around!”

“Erm, well, yes, my dear Flecki, but what?”

“The hamster people are waiting for your decision – today, if possible.”

The mayor heightened the frequence of tapping his paw and thought wildly. After a few minutes he had the usual idea, that was none, and he looked at Dodo who faced him curiously.

“Well, erm, my dear Gogo – er – Dodo, what do you think about all this?” he hopefully asked.

“Me, Mr. Mayor? Me?”

“Yes, my dear Dodo, what are you thinking just now, if I may put it like that?”

All eyes now were on poor Dodo as the mayor had hoped for. By now Dodo had blushed fiercely and helplessly bobbed up and down.

“Come on and don’t be afraid, dear Dodo, perhaps you can help us to solve the riddle. Just speak out what’s coming into your head.”

The mayor’s words seemed to frighten the big hamster even more, his glance was glued to the floor of the bridge and he looked like starting to slobber.

“Well, the – er – well – er, the fl…” he started, still goggling at the floor.

“Yes, Dodo?”

Dodo peeped at the mayor in desperation and quickly stammered:

“The – er – the flea jumps high, the flea jumps far. If he improves, he is a star.”

It took some time until everybody on the bridge calmed down. Tuffy and Trampled consoled sobbing Dodo and Sasy said that it had been a rather pretty poem.

“Yea”, Goldi grinned who just came back from the replicator with some food, “that’s so amiss, it’s really terrific!”

Now Dodo’s sobbing grew even louder and Goldi saw that he was off.

“Terrific!” Flecki hissed behind him. “Typical for you: sensitive and diplomatic!”

In the meantime chief Botchy had had a long discussion with the mayor and now raised his voice:

“People, first of all we’ve got to clarify whether we want to help these poor sods or not. As you know our two watchdogs are stuck in Engineering. So the bridge is ours. As long as the bridge is ours, we can fly at random and help whom we like to help.”

“Can we?” Flecki jeered. “And what if those two have objections?”

“Would be better of course to shut up and tell nothing”, Goldi proposed.

“That will be your job! You’re the greatest at I’m-all-innocent! I don’t want to have anything to do with that!”

“Well, erm, that’s a good idea, Flecki. Our friend Goldi should take over the communists – er – the communication with the dingusses – er – officers”, the mayor trumpeted. “But how – erm – are we to find the gerbil’s home planet?”

“We may take over navigation”, the gerbil-leader said in a relieved voice and beamed at the hamsters. He seemed to pluck up like all his friends. Up to now they had been standing shyly in a corner, backs bent, eyes on the ground. Now they straightened up and looked at the discussing hamsters full of hope.

“We can’t do that, it’s not our space ship. That’s a court martial matter or something like that!”

“But my dear Flecki, as mayor I’ll take the full dingus – he whatitsname – the responsibility.”

“Ha!” Flecki snorted. “We’ll take the full work and trouble and you the responsibility. It’s like that, isn’t it?”

“But, erm, I, well, can assure you that I…”

“Where’s the problem?” Goldi interrupted. “Let him take responsibility. He’s our mayor after all and we have to do what he says. If the outcome is a mess and he’s thrown out to some court martial, that’s no bad solution.”

So the discussion went on while the gerbils followed the events with growing excitement. For them it was a question of survival and with pounding hearts and closed eyes they leaned to the wall while the hamsters started voting. There was dead silence on the bridge when the chief engineer read out the result:

“Well, people, it’s like this”, he began in a serious voice and straightened his whiskers. “The voting of all hamsters present is finished. Eleven of eleven hamsters participated and so we have a turnout of 100 per cent. Of these eleven hamsters one has vote No. One further hamster voted for the flea jumping on… Hum, I don’t understand that, chaps, what does this mean?”

“That means that one vote is void because some jackass did not grip the matter”, Goldi laughed and Botchy continued after once more straightening his whiskers.

“The remaining votes say Yes to helping the gerbils.”

Cheers were audible all over the bridge and the relieved sighs of the gerbils were not lost to the hamsters. The decision had been made but the problems only started now because the next logical question had to be: What now?

“Erm”, the mayor consequently harrumphed, “what now?”

“Lay in course”, the chief gnarled, turning to the gerbils. “Well, come out with it. Where do we have to go to?”

Bashfully, the gerbil-leader scampered towards the chief, his long gerbil-nose trembling of excitement. “The course is 1-10-3. With normal speed we are there in a few hours.”

“Heard that, navigator?” the chief bawled, turning to Dodo who almost fainted in shock. “Lay in course to 1-10-3 and off we are! We want to get home soon, after all.”

Anxiously and laboriously Dodo climbed up to the helm’s control. Again and again he looked back to see whether the chief engineer would not change his mind. Finally the big hamster had reached the control and for minutes stared at the monitor, then at the keyboard and at the monitor again.

“Now will you start?”

With big, moist eyes Dodo looked down to the chief, gave a little sob, blew his nose and continued staring at monitor and keyboard.

“Well, erm, do start, dear Dingus-Dodo”, the mayor tried to encourage Dodo who by now sobbed bitterly. “That’s child’s game for an alligator – er – navigator.”

“Just type in the numbers 1, 10, and 3…”, Flecki cried, clapping her paws. “Yes, you can!”

“No, I can’t”, Dodo wailed and sobbingly fell on the keyboard. ONE was flashing on the screen.

“Done well”, Flecki cheered him. “And another ONE!”

Dodo got up, looked at Flecki and once more fell on the keyboard sobbingly. Another ONE showed.

"Phat!” Goldi bawled. “Now get up, Dodo, and a little to the right… and fall down. Don’t forget sobbing.”

A moment later ZERO showed up and the spirits on the bridge were boiling. Hamsters and gerbils cheered and clapped, while first “Dodo-Dodo”-shouts came up. When finally also THREE appeared on the screen, the bridge became a madhouse. Hamsters and gerbils yelled and embraced each other. Sasy and Dasy performed a merry Highlander-reel in which also Taty and Tealeafy joined. The rest of the hamsters under happy “Dodo-Ddodo”-shouts carried the fainted Dodo down from helm’s control. After the big hamster had been carefully put down in an empty corner, the bridge-party got going.

“My dear hamsters and gremlins – er – gerbils, it is my special fright – er – delight so to say to announce the first concentrated action of hamsters and…”

“Uhura to bridge, Uhura to bridge – please come in! What’s wrong at your end? Did you change course?”

All of the sudden the mayor was silenced and goggled and the loudspeaker. At the same moment the Highlander-reels and party broke off. Only some panting was audible from hamsters and gerbils as all this rollicking had been a bit exhausting. Now they all glared at the loudspeaker, realizing that they had the problem to inform the Enterprise-officers about the crew-outing to the gerbil-planet to beat the daylights out of the Klingon hamsters. Certainly neither Lt. Uhura nor Ensign Chekov would be overjoyed by the change of course, rather the contrary. Nervously the mayor tapped the ground and looked at Flecki – like all the rest. Flecki however did not seem to be much interested and it became clear that she had voted the No for this mad rescue action.

“Flecki, come in, please!” Uhura’s voice sounded from the loudspeaker again.

Slowly Flecki tripped over to the com control, gave the mayor a reproachful glance and said: “Hello Uhura, this is Flecki.”

“What’s the matter at your end, Flecki, why did you change course?”

Flecki gave another glance first to the mayor, then to Goldi and turned round to them: “Our friend Goldi is to take over communication with the dingus – er – the officers. Did I not hear these words before?” She shook her head and turned to the microphone once more. “At the moment I can’t tell you anything, dear Uhura, but Goldi is able to give all necessary explanations.”

At Flecki’s last sentence Goldi all of a sudden stopped grinning and goggled at her. For a moment he did not seem to know what to do but then he climbed up to communication and sat down in front of the microphone.

“Hey, Uhura, you all right? This is Goldi. Well, how’s the weather at Engineering?”

“Goldi, do stop your pranks, please, this is serious. Why did you change the course?”

“Oh, we’re on a little outing…”

“This is a Starfleet vessel, Goldi, and no one makes any outings with it! I require you to go back to the former course”, her angry voice came from the loudspeaker.

“That’s impossible, Uhura”, Goldi purred. “We – er – just take home the gerbils because otherwise they’ll perish. It’s an emergency.”

“Emergency? Because the gerbils would perish? How, dear Goldi, am I to explain that to the Captain?”

“O well”, Goldi stammered, but then his face brightened. “The mayor takes full responsibility and is also ready to stand trial at court martial.”

“Oh, this explains everything, of course, and now I’m very relieved”, “Uhura jeered. “And the Plushum has nothing to do with it this time?”

“Nope, was all the mayor’s idea. Will he now be hanged or shot?”

Lt. Uhura suppressed a giggle. “If he gets to court martial at all. For the time being Chekov and I are wondering what the Captain is going to do with him. We shouldn’t like to be in his fur then. Please explain to me what it is with the gerbils?”

Goldi cleared his throat and explained the trouble with the gerbil food, avoiding, however, to mention the conflict with the Klingon hamsters. He decided to keep this little, unimportant detail to himself. So the two Enterprise-officers got the impression that the ship was simply on a little detour to rescue the gerbils from starving as Goldi convincingly explained. After Lt. Uhura once more asked to be informed on everything going to happen, she switched off. Goldi had of course assured her that this was understood and she need not worry. Then he took a relieved breath and turned to his friends.

“Liar, miserable shammer!” Flecki lamented and glazed at him furiously.

“Well, I did not want to burden the lass with our problems, she was fidgety enough. I only meant for the best.”

“If you mean for the best, Goldi, mostly some big piggishness is behind it.”

Flecki was raging and could not be stopped when the mayor got the idea to be diplomatic.

“But dear Flecki, you’ve heard it, our Goldi had only faked his best will, so to say to the good animal reason…”

“You can explain that to court martial, Mayor”, Flecki hissed. “Perhaps you’ll get attenuation because up to then this Captain Kirk has skinned you with a blunt knife.”

They mayor wanted to reply, but paled and stood frozen. His goggle-eyes, resting on Flecki, suddenly rolled to the ceiling. Then he crashed to the ground. Goldi was the first one to find his speech again.

“Well, dear Flecki, this was too much for the poor, sensitive man.”

For a moment Flecki was shocked and gazed at the fainted mayor, then she grinned. “As I always think to have used to say: There is something positive in every man – and if it’s only a kitchen knife…”

“Did that Kirk kill him now?” Dodo, recovered from his last breakdown, had listened to the talk as well as possible and was now standing helplessly beside the swooned bigwig called mayor. Nobody answered, only Trample consolingly patted the big hamster’s shoulder, stretching to reach up. An excited outcry from Tuffy turned the general attention to the helm’s control where the little hamster was sitting and pointing agitatedly to the screen.

“Oh, it looks right swell, when the stars are just flitting by”, she breathed.

“To be exact”, Goldi said nonchalantly, “they are not flitting by. The ones in move are we.”

“I see”, Tuffy mumbled and blushed.

“The kind of things you don’t learn at vocational school”, he chief engineer bawled. “It’s a fact that you learn from life and praxis.”

“On the other hand, there are fewer accicdents, mishaps, and breakdowns at vocational, chief”, Flecki rermarked.

“Right”, Goldi added, “the real mess only happens in real life, doesn’t it, chief?”

“Hey, what do you mean by that?!”

Chief Botchy was quite puffed up and put his short, fat arm to his wide hips. The general interest of hamsters and gerbils now turned to the discussion.

“Nothing”, Flecki purred.

“Not more than usual”, Goldi said as sweetly.

“If anybody ever found any fault in any of my works, speak up, ladies and gents, speak up!” the chief engineer puffed.

“Well, the dam perhaps…”

“Ages ago”, Botchy interrupted Flecki. “And what else?”

“The new pool, when half of Hamsterton was flooded!”

“That was Tuffy’s fault, holding the construction plan upside down.”

“Oh, and the new parking block matter?”

“Forget it, we dealt with that in the last novel. No new ideas, you dumbheads? Should have known that you have nothing to offer but old jokes, but not…”

“The called-off fair.”

Chief Botchy seemed to freeze, then he slowly turned round to Flecki and glared at her. Very, very slowly he seemed to remember. First drops of sweat rolled down his face and fur and he opened and closed his mouth.

“The fair, er, yes, the fair…”

“Just so. The fair, the fair”, Goldi aped the chief.

“That doesn’t count”, Botchy whispered. He was a bit uncertain but spoke on bravely. “That wasn’t my fault! The Hamstian building officials messed that up all the time. If there hadn’t been such a struggle with all those forms, it would have worked out. The fair had to be called off because we’ll get building license only next year. And by the by, we don’t now have the time to care about such trifles…”

“Well, and the ring-road? What was that? That has been such a flop…”

“There are more important things to do”, the chief hastily interrupted her. “Moreover time is short, we have to prepare for touchdown.” Relieved he turned to the gerbils: “We certainly have to prepare for touchdown, haven’t we? Time is running out, isn’t it?”

“O no, we’ve got lots of time”, the gerbil-leader replied, “it will be hours.”

The chief engineer goggled at the gerbils.

“But course and speed have to be permanently recalculated, haven’t they?”

“O no”, the gerbil said again soothingly, “everything is absolutely okay. Er, dear Mr. Chief, what was that about the fair? We would love to learn from you because pools, parking blocks, and fairs… What a progress! It is wonderful how you do all this – but what is a ring-road?”

The chief continued to goggle at the gerbils. In the background he could hear the cackling of Flecki and Goldi. In the meantime the mayor had recovered and more or less attentively listened to the last words. He felt called up to participate with a few smart sentences.

“Well, my dear friends curb it – er – gerbil friends, in long weeks, months, even years we hamsters have established a certain vulture – er – so to say culture which all surrounding dingus – er – countries belie us – er – envy us. Under my leadership Hamsteron became what it is today.”

“So he tells you it’s all his fault!”

The mayor looked about but could only see innocent looking hamsters. It was impossible to discover who said that. Helplessly he glanced at Botchy who was just stroking his whiskers and looking at the main screen with deep interest.

“In a way as topmost manager together with the chief banjo player – er – the very honourable chief engineer I took the relevant preparations…”

“Screwed over we’ve been by them guys!”

Once more the mayor looked around, his face distorted with rage this time, and once more he could spot nothing but innocent hamsters. He searched for words, tapped with his paw and finally shouted: “Under my management a funfair has been built having no equal! The pride of Hamsterton and all its surpassing – erm – surrounding counties…”

“Being built while he was on a foreign trip…”

The mayor gasped, his eyes by now were so gibbous they looked like little black balloons. “Erm, you, you…”, he rattled and his head remarkably looked like the top of a classical British letter box. “I’m fed up with you undingsy mob. Who said that?” he yelled.

Nobody answered because most of the hamsters had assembled around the helm’s monitor, while some other were working at the replicator. Only chief Botchy and the gerbils were at his side, looking a little sheepish.

“Well, that’s our way”, Botchy tried to turn the subject. “Everybody has a saying even if sometimes its unnecessary and quite a pest”, he added, giving Tuffy a venomous glance who just received some replicated ice cream from Goldi. “By the way, up to now you did not tell us who you are, guys. Do you have names?”

The question was directed to the gerbil-leader, who bent his head a little before he replied. “O yes, dear Mr. Chief, we do have names. My name is Fluffbert. Over there are my assistants Babblebert and Drivelbert, behind them the extended assistants Wailbert, Poobert, Rubarbert, Softbert, Rawbert, Wombert and the further crew members Hitbert, Beatbert, Pushbert, and Kickbert.”

“Er, Fluffbert?”

“Yes, Mr. Chief, Fluffbert. We all have the same surname and because it is so short, we combined it with the forenames.”

“He he”, Goldi laughed and licked some ice cream off his whiskers. “I like those ones: Hit the Bert, beat the Bert, push the Bert, and kick the Bert. Like a fire alarm… hit it till it rings! By the way: D’ye also have a mayor?”

Fluffbert the gerbil started to answer but his words were drowned in the sudden and deafening noise of the alert signal.

 

Chapter 24

 

Duty at the Lock

 

No alert signal had announced the change of weather at Fort William. Rain poured down. Lt. Scott did not swear much as this was Scotland and such weather went with the country. In the office he took an oilskin jacket from the hook and went out to take up his duty.

Five boats were lying in the canal which had to come down to Loch Linnhe level. Now and then he grinned towards the lock house. Perry McPerry did not show up. That certainly was not Perry's fault but Dr. McCoy's. Probably he told the lockmaster wild stories about the danger on wet roads and about soaked plaster. Not because it was dangerous but because the Doctor had no mind to be out in this weather. That was indeed the point.

"Dammit!" McPerry gnarled. "Cut up some plastic sack an’ wrap it around, man. I will nae leave tha’ lad alone out there."

"Ey!" McCoy shouted. "Will you hold up now?"

"My saying! A bonny wet morning, you two. There'll be a good breakfast now and the world will look brighter."

"Dammit!" Perry gnarled.

However, Dr. McCoy smiled at the short, round woman. This was Nurse Katie, the district nurse who was to care for Perry. For the time being she spoiled the men with good breakfast, nice lunch to fill the stomach and lavish supper. They had agreed upon one meal per day but Katie loved to cook and otherwise had no one to spoil.

"Jim came back yesterday", McCoy said. "One more hearty eater. Better to say two hearty eaters."

"Ah, he brought a beauty of the Hebridies?" Katie asked in a thrilled voice for she just loved romances.

"No, a hamster."

"Och, go off!" she laughed. "There are no hamsters on the Hebridies."

"Dammit, Katie, d'ye never listen?" Perry bawled. "He took t’ hamster along an’ now returned wi’ it. If I'm to sit ’bout here, Leonard has nae work tae do. Ye go an’ buy hamster food."

"O gosh, he eats everything", McCoy retorted.

"Nae, ye go an’ buy hamster food. Wha’ ’bout breakfast now, Katie?"

"If that's your idea, I'll come riding on a broom next time."

"He! Haha, I'd like tae see that!"

"You won't for I can't work miracles, you old knocker."

"Shall I help you?" McCoy asked, but Katie denied, terrified.

"Not you! When last time you helped me, I could put everything into the garbage. – I'll take up coffee to those two lads."

She moved her lavish forms with surprising ease up the narrow staircase, carrying a tray. She placed it onto the small table beside the upper flat door and very quietly opened the door. Then a happy smile spread over her face. Someone was snoring. Cautiously he pushed open the door to the sleeping room.

To the left and right of the small window two beds were standing. She did not know it but when she came up the stairs, Spock always woke up. Then he dived under the cover so that she could not see his ears. So she thought that the funny lad just slept this way. But in the second bed she made out a tousled blond head and of course that was where the snoring originated.

As usual, she put the tray onto the table at the window, arranged the cups, looked up and…

"Oops!" Katie cried. "Oh! But you gave me a fright, little hamster", she whispered. "That one has worked all night and needs his sleep."

"I also worked all night", Hamstilidamst retorted and she gave a low laugh.

"I'd think you answered me."

"Well, I do. That only coffee or have you got something to eat?"

"Don't think that you can debauch me even if you look at me with those hungry eyes."

Then she fetched a crunchy bar out of her apron pocket. She softly crackled with paper and put it onto the tray. Somehow she had the idea that the wee pet grinned at her. Well, why not, beasts were also human, she thought and slipped out again.

Spock emerged from under his cover, looked at the munching hamster and said:

"I begin to understand why money is not important for you."

"Hum?" chewing Hamstilidamst asked.

"Humans find you cute. Your glances give the credible impression of hunger – even if that is incorrect."

With that he turned and slept on. Hamstilidamst did something amazing. He stopped eating. After a while he took another bite and mumbled:

"Your problem. Do look cute and study a hungry face yourself."

"He can't", came Kirk's voice from the other bed. "He's Vulcan."

"Now listen, that can't be an excuse for everything."

"It isn't an excuse, it's an explanation, my pet. There are things you can do and things you can't do – just because you're a hamster."

"But I get along without money. Drink your coffee and think what's more important."

"Umph!" Kirk grunted, threw aside the cover and poured himself coffee as ordered.

A short time later he shuffled into the bathroom. When he came back he was wide awake. Showered, shaved and with brushed teeth, the world looked somewhat brighter. Not however, if he glanced out of the window. Hardly possible that yesterday he was out on the sea in brilliant sunshine.

There was a short knock at the door and Dr. McCoy came in. So Spock decided not to try for sleep any longer and sat up. Since he worked at 'To Hell' deep into the night he had began to drink coffee, too. McCoy renewed his saying that in the end Spock would mutate to human.

"I placed Perry behind a newspaper", Bones said. "I think if we are back to normal duty I'll advance all my nurses. Nursing is quite a job."

"So you learned something during this mission", Spock said. "Jim, you wanted me to accompany you to the internet-café today."

"Correct. But first we have to know who's sitting at NASA today whom we might approach. Someone who's…" He searched to words.

"…mad enough", McCoy continued, "to listen to some message from some Scottish hicksville saying something mad about…"

"…some mad professor having some idea regarding artificial gravitation", the Captain nodded. "So look for someone, Spock."

"I… ", Spock began but the Captain was on the go.

"And we need a game."

"Le-o-nard!" a downstairs' voice barked. "I wanna go out!"

"O man!" McCoy shouted angrily. "He can't be through with that newspaper already."

"Perry only reads information on sheepdog-tests, Doctor", the Vulcan explained.

"Something like that for hamsters?" Hamstilidamst inquired.

"It's you who should know that."

"Hum. – And how long do you want to sit in here?"

"Come along", the Captain said. "Spock is busy here, Bones has to nurse Perry. We'll go shopping. We need a map."

"How does that taste?" Hamstilidamst asked and McCoy laughed.

"Good question. – Jim, you can buy that map but… Here's money, shopping list is downstairs. If you go shopping, you go full scale."

"Eh?! Now listen, I've never been shopping here."

"I'll help you", Hamstilidamst promised. "I know exactly what's good for us."

He knew indeed so that the shopping went less awry than would be expected from the commander of a 23rd century space ship. He found a small grocery. There he read his shopping list to the shop keeper and listened to several whispers of Hamstilidamst concerning things which were good and important for them.

The shop keeper was of course enrapped by the cute little pet and handed Kirk a box of oat biscuits for the hamster. They both thought that the shop keeper was very nice. When they came out of the shop, the sun was back. Kirk strolled to the locks to pay company to Lt. Scott.

"Say, what kind of agreement do you have here?" he asked. "Does everybody for whom you work realize that we may be gone over night?"

"Ay, Sir, in principle they do. But I think Perry hopes me to stay for some time. I would."

"Hum, you do look quite convincing."

He glanced his Chief Engineer over who in rubber boots and oilskin jacket somehow looked like belonging here. In the meantime Hamstilidamst thought of his promise not to run away although at the moment it was definitely boring with them. Well, he did not run away, he only climbed a little along the rails of one of the lock gates.

The officers had not noticed that he once more had chickened out. And they did by no means thought of Hamstilidamst when suddenly they heard a woman shrieking.

"A-a-a-a-ah! A-a-a-a-a-ah! A rat! A-a-a-a-h!"

And they heard a man's voice calling:

"Darling! Darling! Darling! Darling!"

"What's on there?" Lt. Scott asked, stepped to the edge of the lock basin and looked down.

Also Kirk stepped closer. While Scotty still tried to get some sense into the bustle on the small boat, the Captain was on his way down the ladder at the basin wall.

In the boat a blond was busy with a hysteric fit. A bald man obviously had no idea how to calm her down. Hamstilidamst was sitting on the rail and watched the scene with big eyes. He had slipped at one of those daft poles because they were wet. Then he had fallen deep down and landed quite softly. And then the shrieking had started.

"If anybody's got a reason to shriek, that's me", he now protested and glared at the silly blond. "Ey, dammit, shut up!"

Kirk almost fell down from the ladder. How right Hamstilidamst was! Now he was on boat level. The blond who still shrieked "A-a-a-ah!" saw him and shut her mouth.

"A thousand pardons, Madam", he smiled. "I'm afraid my hamster ran away."

"You brute!" the bald man shouted. "How dare you…"

"Oh!" the blond said instead of "A-a-a-ah!". "That is… Dear me, it really is a hamster! Your little hamster? How charming!"

She glanced only fleetingly at Hamstilidamst but very steadily at the Captain. He gave her a kind smile, snatched Hamstilidamst and climbed up the ladder again. Behind him he heard the bald man say:

"But my dear Eglantyne, may I trust my eyes?"

Kirk was so busy keeping his balance and not laughing that he missed the rest. Hamstilidamst found the way up along the black wall quite spooky and spared up his comment until they were on solid ground again.

"Now listen, was her name Gelatine? That's what you take for jello, isn't it?"

Kirk collapsed on the grass with laughter. When he calmed down, he decided to take Hamstilidamst plus shoppings into the house. With the assistance of the hamster he unpacked his bag until suddenly Hamstilidamst dragged wildly at his sleeve.

"Jim, Jim, call in HAMPO, now, this second!"

"Call what?"

"HAM… Some police. Look at this. That's hamster-torture, that's against the interhamstian convention, that is – MEAN!!!"

"For goodness sake, what's the matter?"

"Here! HERE! They sell scrapped hamsters. That's… That'…"

"Ahem!" Kirk grunted and suppressed a giggle. "Listen! Do listen!"

"NO!"

"Hamstilidamst, that food isn't made of hamsters but for hamsters."

"NO!"

Kirk realized that he could not get through, took a bowl, ripped the package open and shook in the food. Hamstilidamst who in rightful outrage had been tripping on his toes, crashed onto his belly when seeing this. It took some time until he said in a low voice:

"But why is a hamster-picture on the package?"

"So that we human fools know that hamsters are to eat this and not – not fishes."

"They did it because you humans are daft?"

"Erm… Yep, exactly."

"No hamster-knowledge. Somehow we all have known that."

"Perhaps you'd like to eat something now?" the Captain asked who after all did not want to know Hamstilidamst's opinion about humans that exactly.

Somehow the beginning of the day had been quite enough for him. He took hamster and bowl and went upstairs to Spock. The Vulcan was sitting in the living room working at tricorder-data. He was as little society at the moment as Hamstilidamst and he well might look where to go next.

Lt. Spock's right eyebrow was fixed under the brim of his cap. A moment later the left one followed. Then both slid back into place and he shut the tricorder. Just now Captain Kirk began to open a curiously folded paper and he looked over with some interest.

"An ancient map. – If we were to take with us some souvenir of this mission, this would be quite interesting."

"I didn't buy that as souvenir, Spock. If we leave here, I'd like to know whereto we might set off."

"Go to the lord-castle", Hamstilidamst proposed, sitting in the middle of the hamsterfood-bowl and munching. "We blew that up."

"Obviously a hamster-specialty", Spock assumed. "But what should we do there if you blew it up?"

"Oh, there's room enough."

"And where is the castle?" Kirk wanted to know.

"In a dead end.”

"And what is a dead end?"

"You can't go on there."

"That's a most helpful information", Spock said dryly. "Jim, we may very easily contact NASA. – The NASA had a department for interesting technical developments."

The Vulcan spoke in his most Vulcan voice but Kirk knew that there was a smile in the background. He had to smile. Well, why shouldn't such a department be at the space travel office already now? They also had it at Starfleet. Without the department for interesting technical developments the life on a space craft would be much less comfortable.

"Okay", he said. "And can we send this computer mail stuff there?"

"Can send it everywhere", Hamstilidamst knew. "Every jackass has got e-mail."

"The lockmaster hasn't", Lt. Spock said. "And I do not think it wise to send such a message from a private user."

"Come, Spock, let's admit it: We both don't know how to send a mail. We need a game."

"Great!" Hamstilidamst cried. "Soccer? Or Poker? Or baking competition? Or…"

"Hamstilidamst, you’re crazy", the Captain interrupted him and placed the hamster onto his shoulder. "You come along. I will need you."

"I'll join in?!" Hamstilidamst was delighted.

On their way out Kirk passed his shopping bag and took out sunglasses. Yesterday night Spock had told him that during the day he hardly was in town. When he had rested, he had either helped Lt. Scott at the locks or assisted Dr. McCoy in entertaining Perry McPerry – a hard job. His time for Fort William was the night.

So Kirk did not expect that Spock was well known downtown and he himself certainly was not. On this he relied. If he was wrong, the game was up. He explained his plan to the Vulcan who only nodded.

On their way to town they met set first group of tourist. When the two men emerged from that group their behaviour had completely changed. The Captain wore the dark glasses and made a face as if the whole world belonged to him. At the same time he walked slowly and like groping his way. Spock had linked his arm into the Captain's and obviously guided him. Hamstilidamst was sitting on Kirk's shoulder and stared down to the street with concentration.

In the bustle of tourists they did not draw any attention. When they were close to the internet-café, Spock said:

"Now!"

Immediately Hamstilidamst twitched at Kirk's ear lobe and he cried:

"To the right? Okay! An' I tell you, I never don't need such stuff. The technique I need I've got on my Iowa farm. – Ey – what? Straight through?" he thundered on a further ear lobe twitch of the hamster. "An' where might we be now?"

The owner of the café came towards them. Kirk shouted:

"Somebody's nearing me."

"Good morning, Sir. A beautiful morning", the owner of the internet-café said. "Welcome to our internet-café. Your are in an internet-café. Is that where you wanted to be, Sir?"

"Yep, gotta send some damn mail, my mobile's down. Tech-bullshit! Never don't need such stuff on my Iowa farm. Well, gotta send a message, man, got me?"

"Certainly, Sir. May I assist you?"

"Nope, man! This one here does the typing."

And he waved about his hand so that it landed right in the owner's face. He took a step back and thought about Americans and their ways.

"You, man, where are you?!"

"In front of you, Sir", 'you, man' replied and took another step back.

"You give me some computer and switch it on. No more. I pay no other service, got me?"

"Certainly", the owner retorted, a little edgy. "Before you sit down at the PC… Animals are not allowed in here. So I will…"

"Ey, man, what animals?"

"Sir, a hamster is sitting on your shoulder", 'ey, man' said. "That's not permitted at the PC."

"You, man, that's not a hamster, that's my guide-hamster. An' now I wanna get some computer."

"Perhaps your friend tells me to whom you want to send a mail?"

"P'rhaps he does when isn't mute any longer."

"Oh, I beg your pardon!"

"I don't want your pardon, I want a computer."

By now every single guest listened to this rumpus. When the owner went ahead to guide the blind and the mute man to a computer, the guests fascinatedly watched how the hamster on the shoulder of the blind man twitched his ear lobe for each change of direction. I worked excellently!

Spock sat down at the monitor, waited for the unit to be booted and his eyes quickly wandered over the menu. Luckily he had already heard people talk about "Google" here. As he had not had the faintest idea what that might mean, he had looked it up in his tricorder.

"Piss off, you numbheads!"

"Ey, what's on?" Kirk sounded with Iowa-farmer voice. "I feel somebody's there!"

Indeed some of the visitors had wanted to take a closer look at the guide-hamster. But they were already retreating because the guide-hamster had squeaked, hissed, and shown his teeth. That was by far not as cute as might be expected from a hamster.

"If somebody's near me: Off! Stop goggling at my private mail!"

However, nobody did. Nobody wanted to be better acquainted with that blustering American and his hissing hamster. As matter of fact Hamstilidamst nearly toppled over of laughing. Jim almost acted like Lord McShredder. But if you knew that it was just a game, it was swell.

By now Spock had found the page of the NASA department of interesting technical developments, opened the link "Contact" and found to his delight that he could type in a text there.

"Ey, you, d'you type what I told you to type? Hamster, does he type? Keys clicking, he's typing. You never don't type anything but what I told you to type, got me?"

"If you don't want to set me shrieking, do shut up", Hamstilidamst whispered into his ear.

Kirk had difficulties to keep up his "the world belongs to me"-face. Luckily Spock could be shaken by nothing. Through his dark glasses the Captain followed the text of the mail and was satisfied.

His First Officer hinted to the NASA that in the Scottish town of Ballachulish lived some Prof. Fergus McBastle who was developing basic ideas about artificial gravitation within space ships. These were promising ideas but the scientist lacked the means for technical experiments. Taking up contact was advisable.

Then Spock noted down the phone number of the NASA department and that was that. The owner of the internet café had been lurking in the background for he had the suspicion that this bigmouthed fool wanted to sneak out here without paying. He would not let him get away!

"Ey, man, I'm done with that technical bullshit. What money d'you get?"

"Scottish pound", 'ey, man' retorted bitingly.

"D'you think I'm running along here with Indian Rupies in my pockets?!"

The payment was made, Spock led Kirk by the arm. Hamstilidamst twitched at the Captain's ear lobe which by now was quite red and the three of them walked out of town again. The visit was thoroughly gossiped over in the internet café.

Hamstilidamst succeeded to suppress his mafficking until they were far enough away from everything. Again they waited for a group of tourists on their way to Neptune's Staircase. Within that group the sunglasses came down and of the whole scene only a red ear lobe remained.

"Why did you note down the phone number?" Kirk asked in his normal voice.

"We should ring up the professor from Houston and inform him where he might report his advanced idea."

"Good idea. Might easily be he doesn’t get that one straight."

"Jim", Hamstilidamst said in an awed tone, "you're right swell as Lord McShredder."

"As who? – What? That ninnyhammer? That's what he was like? What I mean is, that is his usual way?"

"All the way down. Everybody is his slave. But we Hamsterton hamsters don't let anyone do that to us."

"I'm very sure you don't. – Lord, Spock, look at, our Scotty explains the locks to the tourists."

"You like to listen?"

"I don't. But he'd like to stay. – And I'd like a coffee."

"And I'd like a scone."

"Well, you should have said so before. Here's no shop."

However, when they entered the house, Nurse Katie was there preparing lunch. She had brought a bag of fresh scones and just was putting them into a pretty bowl.

"Oo-oops!" she shrieked when Hamstilidamst climbed up at her, down again along her outstretched arm and grinned at her happily. "What kind of hamster are you? – Hullo, you two. I'm preparing Scotch Broth so you can warm it up in the evening. – We haven't been introduced up to now. You will be Jim, won't you? I'm Nurse Katie."

"Rescuing us from Leonard's Nouvelle Cuisine", the Captain grinned and shook her hand. "Hmm, that smells nicely."

Spock went upstairs but Kirk and Katie liked each other on first glance so that he stayed in the kitchen with her, chatting. Hamstilidamst ate his scone, listened, and was happy.

After a while he became hamsterlike day-tired. He left the two in the kitchen to each other because he was able to do without Scotch Broth. Upstairs in the flat he flitted into the living room to Spock. He was studying the map of Scotland. When Hamstilidamst came in, the Vulcan looked up and said:

"Your presence in 'To Hell' earned me more money than before. Are you still willing to accompany me this evening?"

"Dead sure. Shall I make some show?"

"If you have any idea what kind of action humans might regard as cute, this would be helpful."

"I'll think it over."

Spock seldom had seen Hamstilidamst that cooperative and guessed that the little rodent now needed his hamster-nap. So he got up, took a cushion from the sofa, made a small dent with his hand and pointed at it invitingly. Hamstilidamst snorted and looked like grinning. Two minutes later he was asleep.

Spock took up his study of the map again. Not because he had some good idea where they should go next when they left here. It was the map itself which fascinated him. This was 2006 after all – he had really not expected that a map which one was to follow in all earnest looked that primitive in this time.

Finally his concentration was disturbed. Through the open window he could hear loud voices, one loud voice to be exact. If Spock could hear this voice up here it was to be expected that downstairs Kirk and Katie could hear it as well. But while the upstairs Vulcan simply closed the window, the two downstairs listeners curiously walked outside.

"Get moving, McClown! If I permit you to accompany me on an outing, I don't do it for your pleasure."

"I well believe that, Sir, but the road is steep and uneven."

"I’m not interested in sheep in a van. Move, McClown!"

By now in front of the lockmaster’s house everybody – except Spock and Hamstilidamst – was assembled who had business there or hadn't.

Down the road at the canal a sweating man pushed a nagging man who was sitting in a wheelchair. The one in the wheelchair had a snack box of fish 'n chips on his lap, was comfortably wheeled along and munched.

"Any moment something will happen there", Nurse Katie said. "Madness to race down that road in a wheelchair."

"Dammit, Leonard", Perry McPerry said, "push me there, we'll bar his way."

"Are you nuts?!" Dr. McCoy cried. "Wanna take your plastered leg as barrier?"

"I'll take care of the matter", the Captain said.

"Sir, the chips are already hopping up and down", McClown shouted in a troubled voice.

"So put a lid on them but don't pause when you do so, McClown."

"Then I cannot put a lid on it, Sir!"

"What sort of butler are you if you cannot do two things at a time…"

"Stop!"

To the two newcomers it looked as if the man who was standing in front of them with outspread arms had fallen out of the sky.

"You have the impertinence to detain me, slave! I'm going where and how I wish. Let me pass!" McShredder bawled and reddened.

But the Captain did not let him pass at all. Now also Perry, McCoy, Katie, and Scott joined him. They all stood in front of Lord McShredder's wheelchair.

"Would you please let His Lordship and me pass?" the sweating butler begged.

Now Dr. McCoy pushed Perry McPerry forward so that the two wheelchairs faced each other. When the lord saw this, the colour of this face changed to dark violet.

"Pass ye may, but at some speed that nobody gets the blame if anything befalls ye", McPerry said.

“My body frets the lame ass? What an impertinence, you worm!" the lord gasped. "Don't you know to whom you are talking?!"

"If I see that right", Perry retorted, took a deep breath and yelled: "If I see that right, dammit, I'm talking ter a damn blockhead."

"You have the tactical advantage of a plastered leg, otherwise I would call you out", Lord McShredder said with dignity. "Although a creature like you is not even worth to be called out."

"Sir, we certainly could pass if…"

"I'm talking to that worm, McClown, don't interrupt me!"

"As you like, Sir."

Frido McClown let go the handles of the wheelchair, made two steps back and folded his arms before his chest. He did not have the impression that any of these people were worms, but His Lordship might as well find that out for himself.

"Dammit, who's worth being called out here tha's nae for ye tae say, ye bogie", McPerry thundered. "And if ye wanna get yer face smashed, just say so."

"This slave threatens me!" the lord flabbergastedly told the blue sky. "The worms offers me a thrashing - as if I were his kind. – I am the conqueror of the Loch Ness monster, as you well know!"

"Gosh!" Dr. McCoy was surprised. "Somebody conquered Nessie? I didn't know that."

"Nobody did", Katie remarked. "Push Perry aside, I'll talk to that numbskull."

"Ye won't push me aside. He's at my house and at the lock I'm responsible for. If anyone… Leonard, dammit!"

McCoy pulled the wheelchair back so that Nurse Katie had room enough to step in front of McShredder's wheelchair. She put her hands to her hips and looked His Lordship up and down, then she quickly  bent and gave his knee a karate chop. The leg shot up with a jerk and she straightened up again.

"Might be he's the conqueror of something. Might be he's any number of things. But one thing he isn't: a helpless hampered cripple who has to be wheeled along. Are you too highbred or too lazy to walk?"

She looked up quickly because there was a kind of snorting behind McShredder. This came from Frido who bit his lip hard and did everything not to laugh about his master in his presence.

McShredder was so completely speechless over the attack of this fat female that he could think of no answer. Furiously, he stuffed the last chips into his mouth and threw the box at Katie. But also he could not do two things at a time. Throwing the box into the right direction and stuffing chips into his mouth, that did not work.

Lt. Scott caught the box, made a quick step and bashed the thing over His Lordship's head. McShredder took a deep breath to shout at the slave, but one of the chips got stuck in his throat. He tried to cough, but did not get any breath and his head again became dark violet.

McCoy as well as Nurse Katie were with him in a moment, for this was not funny.

"You, give a hand, turn the wheelchair aside. Katie, hold his shoulders."

She and Frido at once did as he ordered them, then the nurse looked at him sharply. She knew that tone, only real medics had it! McCoy applied one aimed hit and the chip hurtled out of the lord's mouth into the water of the canal.

"Jim, a glass of water", McCoy said over the shoulder and also the Captain immediately set off.

It was only a few steps to the kitchen. When he came back, McShredder was still busy to cough and to wipe his streaming eyes. Katie took the glass and handed it to McShredder. He emptied it in big gulps - and held it to his mouth – a long time. He was very silent which was surprising enough so that all the others were silent, too.

"McShown", he mumbled and Frido bent to him. "McShown, you musht go into she watsher."

"I must go into the water, Sir?" Frido asked, perplexed.

"My tsheesh…"

Nurse Katie pressed her lips tightly together, but no way. Snorting, she turned round and stumbled into the Captain's arms.

"What is it?" he asked.

"His false teeth fell into the canal!"

She was not able to speak in a low voice and everybody burst out laughing. This Lord McShredder could not put up with, no matter whether teeth were in his mouth or not. Furiously he shouted:

"Wha' doesh sha' mean? You don' know hum you're tshalkin' tsho! I'm Lord McShledder of Killichonan, conquela o' she Loch Nesh monsher, Chuke o' Shpain an' Lord o' Lourne o' Chunollie Cashtle."

After this memorable speech two things happened. Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and Lt. Scott fell into each others arms, howling, and there was a big splash into the water.

The Enterprise-officers had realized that this nimcompoop was no other than the lord about whom they again and again had heard since their arrival. Frido had realized that his master was in a horrible situation and that as a good butler he had to help him at once. So he had jumped into the lock basin to dive for the denture.

"Dammit, has tha’ lad gone mad?!" the lockmaster yelled. "He will kill himself. Scotty, climb down. Katie, call an ambulance. The lock has low water."

Lt. Scott was already going down the ladder, the nurse ran into the house, the others pressed to the edge of the lock basin. The water was not so low that someone would have been able to stand in it, but jumping down from this height was really dangerous.

"Is he okay, Scotty?" Dr. McCoy called down. "Shall I come?"

"Ay, do!"

"Jim", McPerry said, "some ropes are in my office. Fetch one of them. We'll hae to pull up the lad."

Frido was lying in the water almost consciousless. It was not as bad as it appeared for he had made a big belly flop which had pressed the air out of his lungs and given him some contusions. Lt. Scott and Dr. McCoy paddled around him until Scotty got a tight grip on him and the Doctor could examine him. At that moment Frido already had come to.

"Nothing broken", McCoy said. "But them contusions will hurt a while. We'll take you up but that won't be without pain."

"I… I thank you", McClown groaned who just could breathe again. "But His Lordship's teeth…"

"His Foolship shall buy damned new teeth", Scotty hissed. "Ye're Frido, ain't ye?"

"Yes, Frido McClown. Nice to meet you. And thank you that you take such pains…"

"Och, shut up, laddy", Lt. Scott said harshly. "Why don't ye leave tha’ guy?"

"But… I'm his butler. – O well, now and then I do flip out, but I am his butler."

"My dear boy, with that guy I wouldn't flip out, I would be in the vapours", Dr. McCoy said. "Ah, they let down a rope. – Jim?!"

"Okay, Bones, I fastened it at the lock door, that will hold. Take your time. Katie fetches Spock so that he lends a hand up here."

The two officers in the water wound the rope under Frido's armpits and made a knot. McCoy sent a troubled look up the lock wall. They could go up the ladder only in tandem, that would not be easy. When his glance had reached the edge of the lock basin, he saw the Vulcan. They exchanged a look, then McCoy said:

"Scotty, climb up and lend a hand with the rope. Spock is a better help down here."

The Chief Engineer did not discuss. They all knew what kind of strength a Vulcan had, much more than any human. Spock would be able to carry Frido's full weight. Like a cat the First Officer came down the ladder. Suddenly Dr. McCoy realized that they all hat given up their roles. They were Starfleet-officers who acted in an emergency and they had acted like the officers they were. But that was as it was now and if matters got tight, they must be off quickly here. Moreover somewhere in the distance he heard the horn of an ambulance.

Now Frido was heaved up far enough that the Captain could help. Cautiously they dragged the injured man over the edge and laid him down in the grass.

Lord McShredder had been truly frightened. Of course it had been the right thing that his butler had jumped into the basin to look for his dentals. But when he heard that this was really hazardous, he remembered the many occasions Frido McClown had been at his side.

When he now saw that his butler was a bit stricken but still alive, he perked up again. Nurse Katie had been with the men for a moment. Now she came back and said:

"A few days relaxing and he'll be straight and up again."

"Shat'sh it", McShredder nodded who of course had understood only half of what she had said. "You'll hop light into sha bashin, McShown."

"I don't believe it!" Katie whispered, glared at him and became loud. "I don't believe that! You almost send your butler to death for your damn stupid choppers, we start the hell of a rescue…"

"What's the matter?" Kirk asked and also came over.

"He wants to send him into the basin once more!" Katie shouted.

"Now listen very carefully", Dr. McCoy said with raised voice and planted himself in front of McShredder. "If I hear but one word of Your Lordship, then Your Lordship will get from me a clyster with castor oil that Your Lordship doesn't get off the loo for the next week. Do you get me?!"

Of this Lord McShredder understood every word. He opened his mouth, closed it again, looked at McCoy. The man's blue eyes flashed in anger and he looked like standing to this castor oil matter. For the first time since many years the lord preferred not to answer.

When the ambulance arrived at the lock house, he even decided to accompany his butler because he wanted to have no business with this vulgar mob. And after also a group of rubbernecking tourist was gone, the locks came back to normal. Without doubt the tourists would have a lot to talk about. Those who had got wet, cloaked into warm plaids and Katie made coffee. Only to McCoy she handed the mug in person and said in an undertone:

"I recognize a doctor in such situations, Leonard. But today even doctors lose their job, don't they?"

"Yes. – I – I've been in a hospital in Glasgow. Thought to find something new in the north."

"And the others?"

"We're just friends, for many years. We'll get along. One of us always finds a job which makes a living."

"I might ask around."

"Katie, that's really kind of you but we have our plans. Jim wants to get on."

"A globetrotter?" she smiled and he smiled back.

"You couldn't have put it better."

 

Chapter 25

 

Repair Works I

 

At the same time there was complete chaos on the distinguished bridge of the Enterprise. To the shrill sound of the board alert the hamsters shriekingly ran in circles. This did not help in any way to solve any problem, but it was a solution familiar to them. Good hamster traditions were there to maintain them after all. The gerbils looked fascinated and anxiously at the hamsters who were running round and round the helm’s control in the red glimmer of the alert light. Moreover they loudly cried the word “Pleh!” and the gerbils could not make anything of it.

“What shall we do, Boss?” Babblebert asked his leader and Fluffbert replied: “It must be one of these hamster traditions. We should join them at once!”

So hamsters and gerbils ran together around the helm’s control until first Dodo, then the mayor, then chief Botchy, and finally Goldi and all other hamsters collapsed of exhaustion und held their ears. Also the gerbils now sank to the ground and put their paws to their pointed ears. So for quite some time hamsters and gerbils were lying on the floor, wailing and groaning. It was Flecki who with her keen ears made out sounds coming from the com control. She ran and climbed up as quickly as possible and heard “…in, please come in!” Flecki at once knew that this could only be Lt. Uhura and as loudly as she was able to she shouted: “There’s an alert, Uhura, no idea what’s wrong!”

For quite some time the loudspeaker remained silent and Flecki felt like going mad any time. A howling alert and the delicate hamster hearing did not go together. For the little hamster it was like eternity until Uhura came in again: “We do not know exactly what initiated the alert, Flecki. Might be a drop in energy supply. This has to be repaired…”

“In a moment there won’t be anybody here to repair anything, Lieutenant Uhura”, Flecki screeched. “This noise will kill us!”

Once more a short silence from the loudspeaker, then Uhura’s voice again: At the left arm-rest of the Captain’s chair there are several push buttons at the bottom. The foremost has to be pressed and the alert will be switched off.”

Flecki climbed down from the station as quickly as possible and beckoned Dodo. He had no inkling but followed her to the Captain’s chair. There she shouted: “Quick, help me up there, Dodo, I’ve got to get onto the chair before we all go bonkers!”

The big hamster nodded and when Flecki tried to climb the chair, Dodo gave her such a push that she was hurled full power against the backrest and stayed there for a moment dizzily. She plucked herself up and discovered several push buttons under the arm-rest. She desperately pressed the foremost one and all of a sudden there was dead silence on the bridge. They were rescued again, at least for the time being. Flecki felt her body but found no fractures or other injuries. Then she gave Dodo a venomous glance who stood in front of the chair and had no idea what to think about all this.

“Thanks, Dodo”, the hissed, “that had been most sensitive.”

“Wasn’t it?” Dodo delightedly replied. “I’m always giving my very best.”

“The safety alert has been switched off”, the friendly computer voice reported.

“Thanks for the hint”, Flecki gnarled, “but why need alerts be that shrill?” She turned, looked at her hamster friends and the gerbils and shouted: “Anybody injured?”

“There’s a silly whistling in my ears”, Trample wailed from the background. Nobody answered as everyone had enough to do with recovering from the terrible Enterprise-alert noise. Tuffy had some problems getting the chief engineer to his legs while Goldi watched with a grin how the mayor for the third time had got up and as many times tumbled over again. The fourth trial was a success, he straightened his fur and looked around. All the others, including the gerbils, were up again and inquiringly stared at Flecki who exhaustedly was sitting on the Captain’s chair and breathed deeply.

“Well, erm, dear Dingus – er – Flecki, in the name of the crew I thank you…”

“All right, all right”, Flecki panted. “Better help me down here. I don’t think our problems are solved with that. We have to ask the two people in Engineering what all this means.”

Dodo, standing close by, helped her to get down from the chair. She ran to the com control and called Lt. Uhura. It was a short talk because the two officers were busy analyzing the computer and so there was only a short, but very interesting status report.

Uhura and Chekov had not been lazy in the meantime but controlled the controls and limited the error rate. There was an energy interruption to the pilot units of the ship. Consequently there were disruptions between helm’s control and piloting elements in Engineering which were to keep the whole ship on course or should do so at least. As this connection was interrupted, the main computer interposed before the ship could get off course. Not only the alarm had been initiated but for safety reasons the main drive had been switched off and thrust reversal switched on to stop the Enterprise. Now the friendly computer voice reported:

“Enterprise is stopped now. Drive has been switched off.”

“Yes”, Tuffy excitedly confirmed, “she’s right. The stars no longer fly by.”

Helplessly everybody now looked at the mayor who looked at the main screen equally helplessly and noticed the glances of the hamsters with growing uncertainty. “Well, erm, we don’t seem to fly any longer.”

With a loud laugh Goldi put a paw to his forehead while Flecki shook her head silently. Luckily Lt. Uhura called again so that further embarrassments were spared to the stressed mayor.

“Tell me”, the puffing voice of the Enterprise-officer came from the com, plainly audible for everyone. “Something’s wrong there. Did anyone of you fumble around with the power supply to the bridge?”

Of course Uhura could not see what was happening on the bridge at the moment. Had she been able to, she would have seen some head-shaking hamsters. Hesitatingly Flecki moved towards the com control to stand in front of the microphone for she had nothing to do with this mess after all. Just when she had reached the com device, Tuffy squeaked: “Hey, did not our chief unfasten some cables and connected them again? Perhaps he made a mistake there and…”

“Tuffy?”

“Yes, Chief?”

“Thanks a lot for this interesting information”, Botchy gnarled with a smile but everybody heard him grinding his teeth and saw him giving the little assistant hamster a dagger look. “Good to have such an attentive assistant.”

Flecki who just wanted to call Uhura, was sure to hear Botchy hissing at his little repair hamster: “There are lots of filthy, stinking drains in Hamsterton, Tuffy, and you will get to know every single one of them when we are back because you will scrub every single stinking one of them.”

“Uhura?” Flecki shouted into the microphone and gave the chief a mocking look who with bright red head pointed at the main screen and seemed to explain something to one of the gerbils. Obviously he had no interest in the matters between humans and hamsters. “Might it be that the power supply to the transporter room is defect and causes the problem?”

“Well possible, Flecki”, the officer replied, “the cables run along there at least. What a pity that Scotty is not here. He would know which cable exactly has the hiccups.”

“Hiccups?”

“Joke, Flecki. Will say that our Chief Engineer knows every cable and every screw of the Enterprise by name. But what makes you think of the transporter room? Even if the transporter room was shorted, the cables are secured there, being beneath the floor.”

“Because…” Flecki searched for words, “because perhaps one of us might have swapped some very, very tiny cables…”

Silence on the other end – and on the bridge as well except noises from the replicator where Goldi was working for another little “in between snack”. Everyone was now expecting a fit of rage from the officers who were stuck in Engineering – or at least some angry shouting from Uhura about this self-made mess. To their great surprise her purring voice sounded: “Chief Botchy, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, sorry: chief Botchy”, Flecki purred back and thought to hear some distant rumbling and outcries in the background of Engineering.

“Well, I’ll summarize”, chewing Goldi peeped up. “They mayor stands court martial, scalped, and the chief walks into Starfleet jail ‘cause of sabotage. People, the future looks rosy – for most of us at least.”

“And what about the gerbils?” Dodo put a most interesting question.

“If we don’t get this vessel moving again, the poor sods will starve and perish”, Goldi answered and cleaned his whiskers. “Perhaps our Yoohoo can…”

Like having waited for this prompt, Uhura came in again: “Flecki? Chekov and I are not sure if we can risk leaving Engineering. We are quite certain that there is a gas leakage within the Enterprise but we have problems to scan the spot. So it’s your turn. You somehow have to repair the cable. That chief of yours should be damn…”

Lt. Uhura paused for a moment and a deep taking in of breath was clearly audible before she continued.

“That chide has to try to remember which cables he moved. Make a sketch of the cables and check thoroughly. By the by, I’m to give him Chekov’s regards. One of these days he will bind his paws to his back so that he no longer can mess around. Well, enough of civilities! I’m crossing fingers that you get the Enterprise moving again. Uhura out!”

“Does that mean she…”

“Shut up, Dodo, I’ve got to think”, chief Botchy grunted and shoved Tuffy out of the way. With a grim face he ran up and down between door and helm’s control, scratched his head, straightened his whiskers and now and then gave poor Tuffy dagger looks which said: You got me into the hot water! The little repair hamster was of course not at fault, neither were the other hamsters who watched with fascination how the chief ran from the door to the helm and from the helm to the door.

“What is he doing there?” Flecki asked half an hour later.

“Hush”, Goldi whispered, “he’s thinking.”

“Yes”, Tuffy whispered back, “recently at the building site he did the same. When an idea came to him he noticed that everybody had called it a day since long and he was all alone. By then it was dark and to worsen things, the police came and took him along because they thought him to be a burglar. Only the next day – against noon – he…”

“Nobody can concentrate with all this noise”, chief Botchy barked and Tuffy was immediately silent.

“Ey, people, did you know this: If you shout for 8 years, 7 months, and 6 days, you have produced enough energy to warm a cup of coffee!”

“Erm, yes, well, thanks for the information, dear Goldi”, the mayor remarked. “Perhaps our steamed – er – esteemed chiefingus would like to begin so that we can so to say our mission…”

“I’m doing all I can”, Botchy yelled, “but these things need some planning and thinking to avoid unnecessary mistakes.” He tried not to hear the cackling of certain hamsters and talked on: “Now I’ll go to that transporter room and check the cables. We will keep in contact to agree on further steps.”

With a loud snort he left the bridge, not much later contacting the bridge in a purring voice: “I – er – could do with some assistance. Send Dodo, I can’t open the floor flap.”

The mayor nodded encouragingly at Dodo who set out while Flecki came back to Tuffy’s interrupted story and asked: “And what happened to the chief next day?”

Tuffy turned round and round to be certain that Botchy really had left the bridge, then she squeaked: “Something must have gone wrong the next day. He rang me up on the site to tell me that for business reasons he had to stay with the police for another day. I could hardly understand him for in the background there was some loud splashing.” Once more Tuffy turned to the door and continued: “Well, some days later I found an invoice on the chief’s desk – wasn’t my intention of course. ‘Dear Mr. Botchy’ was written on it and they wanted to have money for a destroyed washstand and some water damage. O yes, and there also was a notice because of abusing officials.”

“And he never revealed what had happened?” Goldi asked, hardly able to control himself.

“Nope, never. I guess he tried to repair a dripping tap.”

“Some bungler-tap for certain with defect 45 sockets and wrongly installed valves. Probably also the mixing batteries had to be reloaded and the tools were crap”, Goldi said with a broad grin.

A short time later the chief engineer reported again: “Very good. Dodo will now remove the floor flap and I… No, careful, you fool, I’m still standing on the flap – argh…”

Some loud rattling finished the connection. On the bridge hamsters and gerbils looked at each other and then at the loudspeaker where after a crackle the chief’s voice came in again: “All right, people, only a little incident because some certain Dodo did not take care. Now all cables are in front of me and I can see at once that they are not correctly marked. That way I cannot work, so first of all I will carefully and expertly disconnect the cables with the screwdriver and – er … Tuffy? Where is my screwdriver? Where have you put the darned thing?”

“You have in you left trouser pocket, Chief, as usual!”

“Isn’t there! Oh, here it is, I think. Oh, oops! Tuffy, I need a new screwdriver, the damned thing just plunged into the cable duct! I can’t work this way!”

Tuffy shrugged and set off for the transporter room.

It took some time until the chief’s voice reported the latest development: “Now with outmost precision I will take out the first cable… Aha, insulation seems to be a bit thick… Talking about thick, Dodo, please hand me the knife instead of standing about here in that silly way.” Followed a short pause, a “Thanks” could be heard and the chief engineer continued: “The insulation colours seem to be selected quite mingled and hazardous; all this does not look very professional… I think I’ll start with this cable. It’s a bit outside the cable harness and such a secondary cable. I’ll simply cut it because nothing much can happen and then…”

Two things happened: First the connection to the transporter room was cut off, second the light on the bridge went out.

“It’s all black”, Trample moaned into the darkness.

“Like our future”, Flecki added. “However, we’re nocturnals, why should we need light. Absolutely unnecessary.”

“I’m afraid it’s worse than you think, people”, Goldi groaned and at once all eyes were upon him. “As Flecki said, a little darkness does not matter to us but if we have to die in space, we should do so honourably. Not this way, that’s cruel and unhamstish.”

Nobody seemed to understand what he was talking about. Terrified faces looked at him anxiously. What cruel way did Goldi mean? It appeared to get colder on the bridge or so it seemed to the hamsters and gerbils as they shivered a little after these spooky words. There was not a sound until Goldi cleared his throat and explained:

“The replicator ceased to function!”

Just as the mayor decided to cheer them all up by a little speech, there was a bang and for a tiny moment the lights on the bridge were switched on again. Frightened, the mayor fled under the Captain’s chair, now deciding to hold no cheering speech after all.

“Hey, people, Botchy seems to progress”, Goldi merrily cackled and hopped up and down.

“Yes”, Taty agreed, “the bang came from the loudspeaker. Perhaps Dodo sat down on the microphone.”

This was the moment the light came back to the bridge. There was a loud and general sigh. The mayor slowly crept from under the chair and straightened his fur. A moment later he crept back and listened.

“…not?” the loudspeaker suddenly roared. Surprised, everybody looked at the loudspeaker. What was this to tell them? What did the chief mean? Before any assumptions could be uttered, the chief’s voice was back. “I’ve got my fill of this mess, I can tell you! Why doesn’t this bleeder work? Power’s back for ages and still no damned noise. No quality any longer, all scrap today! Hello, hello! Why doesn’t it work, it should work. I’ll smash the whole now, can’t do that with me, not in my backyard… What is it, Tuffy? What do you mean – it works again? The… oh, yes, ha ha, sure, knew it at once, well, hello, you on the bridge, you all right?”

“The light’s on again at least, Chief”, Tealeafy sniggered, “and the replicator…”

“It’s all like before, Chief”, Flecki angrily said. “Drive is still out of order!”

“Well, that’s good news”, chief Botchy purred. “Although it’s quite a demand to work at all that scrap.”

“Good news? We’re still where we were and time’s running out!”

“Okay, Flecki, okay. I’ll continue the repair works. Aha, a clip is loose here, will be done in a trice. Dodo, fling me the hammer… a-a-h, no! Oorps!”

“Sorry, Chief”, came a low voice from the loudspeaker while the hamsters – except the mayor – were rolling on the floor. “But you said I was to fling it.”

“That was damned silly, Dodo”, now came Tuffy’s voice. “If the hammer had gone down the cable duct we would never have got it back. Luckily the chief engineer was standing there heading it off with his head.”

“Shall I help the chief to his feet, Tuffy? I think he’s looking so happy and peaceful, perhaps we should let him rest for a moment.”

“Well, yes, perhaps we should, Dodo. Maybe after a nice dream he’s in a better mood. On the other hand he has to continue that repair because we won’t get ready otherwise… Hullo, Chief, are you still with us? Wake up, we need you!” Sounds like clapping hands became audible through he loudspeaker. Then there was silence and after the silence a loud slap. Finally Tuffy’s voice was back: “Pointless, he’s soundly asleep. Flecki? Can you bring a glass of water to wake up the chief? We’ve tried everything but he does not want to wake up.”

“Sure, Tuffy”, Flecki replied and pushed pouting Taty towards the replicator while squinting to the com and hoping that Lt. Uhura would not report just now.

Apparently the short power blackout had not reached Engineering, she thought with relief, although she realized that she should have reported this disturbance. As matter of fact, since Flecki had found a file of ‘Regulations and Rules of Engagement for the Enterprise-Crew’ she felt all the more responsible. She angrily watched how Taty and Goldi were standing at the replicator and played with the replicated water. Infuriated, she hurried to the device and took care of the matter. Now it did not take long until the chief came in at the com again.

“Let’s go on, people. Now I adjust the clips a little – what is it, Tuffy? No, of course they don’t carry current, you can touch them without any risk. Look here… A-a-argh!”

“Gosh, the replicator is off again”, Goldi’s voice came out of the bridge’s darkness. “Chief seems to proceed down there.”

“I wonder how!” Tealeafy cackled.

“I’m afraid we’ve got to report that to Engineering”, Flecki grumped and discovered that the connection to Engineering was interrupted as well. Obviously Botchy had made a fine job of it and taken care that the power on the bridge was completely down. Just when in the darkness some “Erm” indicated that the mayor was searching for a speech, the lights went on again and a well-known voice said:

“Of course not, Tuffy! That’s because bloody dabblers were at work here who never heard anything about good earthing. What do you mean by ‘marked’? A red flash on yellow ground? Why doesn’t anybody tell me? There should be an arrow pointing at the sign, that’s how real pros do it! I really got my fill, you know, you clowns? Anyway, I’ll do it as it should be done, with an adhesive tape so that it’s unmistakeable. Is there any adhesive tape left in the tool box? Dodo, throw me the tool box!”

The next moment some inarticulate gurgling was to be heard, then the transmission was interrupted.

Half an hour later the chief was back to life and with booming head continued the repair works. By now Dodo was back on the bridge as chief Botchy had insisted on relieving him. Instead Trample now was in the transporter room and did his best to assist Botchy and Tuffy.

“We’re getting closer to the problem”, the chief engineer hopefully said. “Probably it’s due to the green and red cable which have been wrongly labelled. I’ll exchange them now and that might take some time.”

During all these events in the tansporter room there was some fidgeting on the bridge. Nobody knew what to say and for the animals it was hardly bearable just to sit there and wait.

“Have we got some flashlight?”

“What do we need a flashlight for, Sasy? We are nocturnals after all”, Flecki grinned and turned to the com. “I’ll contact Engineering to…”

“Done!” came chief Botchy’s voice. “Call yourselves happy to have such an apt engineer.”

“Aha”, Goldi grinned. “And where did he spring from?”

The chief faked not to have listened. “Now everything should be all right. We’ll clear up here and that’s that. Hey, take care, the box… Oh, sorry, Trample, does it hurt much?” For some moments only some whimpering was audible, then Botchy was back: “As mentioned before, we’ll make the finish here and come back!”

A noticeable sigh of relief filled the bridge, but then the all too familiar voice peeped up. Flecki hurried to reach the com station to report to Engineering and at the same time escape the imminent mayor-speech.

“Erm, as I always use to say, I have the fullest conference – er – confidence in – er – everybody’s abilities and in difficult times like this in general and especially it’s necessary to relay – er – reply – er rely so to say. We should…”

“Bridge for Lieutenant Uhura, please come in!”

“It’s Uhura, Flecki, is all well at your end? We watched some potential drop…”

“Yes, there were some problems but the chief says that everything is all right now.”

“Okay, we’ll try to start the Warp-drive again. Uhura out.”

When Flecki climbed down from the com control, chief Botchy entered the bridge, swaggering on his short legs, swinging his short arms. His face said: ‘Didn’t I do a swell job?’ He was followed by pouting Tuffy and limping Trample. With a broad, satisfied grin the chief looked about him and hastened to the replicator to get some food.

“What happened to Trample?” Dasy asked and Tuffy replied with an innocent look. “O yes, that silly matter with the tool box. Unfortunately he had his paws just where the chief placed the heavy box…”

“Well, such a mission is no bed of roses”, Botchy trumpeted and shoved a handful of biscuits into his mouth. “Shings lie shat fan ham!”[1] He grinned broadly while swallowing the biscuits. “What’s wrong with those clowns in Engineering, don’t they know that we can start off again?”

At the same moment the Enterprise jolted softly and Lt. Uhura’s familiar voice was audible: “Flecki? We reactivated the Warp-drive. It’s your turn now!”

“Er, what shall we do, Lieutenant Uhura? Take up the old course?”

“Old course is taken up automatically if you initiate impetus. You only have to pull the lever at Chekov’s station up, that it backwards. But do it softly, we’ve got lots of time.”

“Understood”, Flecki said and beckoned to Dodo. He however did not seem to understand anything but goggled at Flecki with big, black eyes, while in the background Goldi jeered: “He’ll start to blabber in a second.” But Dodo did not blabber, that is not up to now. He continued goggling at Flecki.

“The lever, Dodo, you’ve got to pull up the lever – er – no, forget it. Don’t pull it but push it up very gently – don’t tear it off or the like. Do you understand?”

“Why always me?!”

While Flecki now tried to explain to Dodo that is was the duty of a navigator to navigate, Goldi was bawling again in the background: “Why always Dodo? Because Dodo is responsible for the precision work!” And he hardly could keep on his legs of laughter. After a dagger look from Flecki he preferred to retreat to the replicator to get another ‘in between snack’. In the meantime Dodo got an explicit explanation what to do and how to do his job.

“You can, Dodo”, Flecki, Tuffy, Dasy, and Sasy shouted while Tealeafy, Taty, Trample, the mayor, and the chief were clapping their paws rhythmically.

With surprising speed Dodo climbed up to the helm’s control and now faced the controls. “Yes!” he cried and proudly looked at his friends. “I’m a navigator, I can do this!” Slowly Dodo approached the lever and smiled hopefully. Yes, this time he would succeed.

“Say, does the replicator also replicate Kleenex?”

“What do you want with Kleenex now, Goldi”, Flecki hissed, “that’s of no importance at all.”

“’cause Dodo will make a mess of it and start to howl again.”

Dodo paused and looked at Goldi with big eyes. His face was right falling. Uncertainly he looked at Flecki. “And now, what shall I do now?”

“The lever, Dodo, just push the lever gently. Nothing else, you will succeed!”

“I can’t!” the big hamster suddenly wailed and fell down to the top of the control. “I’m small and weak. Why does no one help me?”

“Wonderful, Goldi, you just managed that swell!”

“Erm, well, yes, I agree with my previous speaker Flecki and cannot help to minimize – er – to criticize Goldi. After all we are all others – er – brothers who should help one another…”

“Yes, and therefore Goldi will now help poor Dodo!”

Surprised, Goldi looked at Flecki. “But I’ve not finished my in between and…”

Flecki now faced him, arms folded, tapping the floor impatiently with one paw.

“Because one always should scrape one’s plate or it will rain tomorrow…”

“In a space ship, dear Goldi, and there we are at the moment, it never rains. If you do not at once move your lazy bum and help Dodo, I’ll split you on to Uhura!”

“Great”, Goldi mumbled and rose, “that much for democracy. You’re born free and then? You’re put to school and that’s that. If your luck is out, your best friends split you on and food is cancelled…”

“Now will you take your paws off that replicator? Stop all that bolting! We don’t have the time, Dodo’s waiting!”

Pouting, Goldi drew his paw from the replicator and set out for Chekov’s station. Slowly he climbed up and waggled towards Dodo. The big hamster appeared hopeful again and looked at him expectantly. Goldi walked up to the afore mentioned lever, pointed at it and said Dodo: “Do come here, dumpling, and make yourself comfortable!” Cautiously Dodo came closer and Goldi took his paws, pushing the big hamster around until Dodo’s back was to the ignition.

“Comfortable?”

Dodo nodded doubtfully.

“Okay, Dodo?”

The big hamster nodded once more for an answer and glared at his opposite who grinned at him and told him in a low voice and with a broad grin: “Please keep relaxed.” Then he gave Dodo a gentle push so that he fell backwards against the lever, screeching. With mixed feelings the hamsters watched how the lever moved under Dodo’s weight. There was a soft vibration going through the ship and they all cheered. The hamsters embraced each other, chief Botchy paraded up and down proudly while the mayor stroked his whiskers. First ideas for a pretty speech were forming in his head regarding courage and intelligence of the hamsters who once again had the decisive role in the matter. Also he gerbils were standing by, delightedly clapping their tiny paws.

All the delight and relief were brief for beside the cheers something else broke lose – hell!

 

Chapter 26

 

Take to your Heels!

 

Rescuing Frido McClown had been nothing but some tiny hell and this tiny hell was behind the men in Fort William. Within the next hours three of the officers had to stay indoors. Lt. Scott had borrowed trousers and shirt from Perry and worked at the locks again. The wet, dirty clothes Katie had collected and taken home. She wanted to put them into the washing machine and dryer. For the time being the leading officers of the Enterprise sat about in their pants.

Hamstilidamst was deeply offended. When he heard that Frido and the lord had been here and nobody had fetched him, he decided never to talk to those astronauts from the future again.

However, he still could listen and grew constantly more offended. A real rescue action, right an adventure. Frido in danger – and he had not been there to look. There were no words to describe what sort of hoggishness this was.

"Jim, it’s no use if you study that map", Dr. McCoy said and gestured towards the Scotland-map.

"The Doctor is right", Spock said. "We…"

"I'll examine you thoroughly", McCoy interrupted. "You have to be ill. You never before agreed with me."

"I always agree with you if your statements are logical – but when are they?"

"We might go to Inverness", Kirk said and did not heed the usual banter. "That's a bigger town, we'll find work there."

"Oh, you are going to work?!" the Doctor asked in a surprised voice. "All right, all right", he said when he saw Kirk's glance. "You are always busy rescuing somebody."

"Grrrm!" Hamstilidamst gave low growl but the officers did not mind him.

"For further planning we should wait for Mr. Scott", Spock proposed. "Inverness is a bigger town indeed, so I assume that Lieutenant Scott knows something about it. However, I wonder whether it will be wise to stay in a bigger town."

"It is if we want to have jobs", the Captain said.

"First of all we want, if I remember correctly, to stay at our next destination until the Enterprise is back. We do not know the circumstances of that event."

"O my God, you're right", the Captain moaned. "What are those hamsters doing with my ship?! It will be a scrap heap. We never will get back into our time. They will have hosed all the technique."

"Ey, we are first rate technicians!"

Hamstilidamst had the feeling that the period of "never again" was over now and he at last could barge in again. The humans had no confidence at all in the Hamsterton hamsters, if he listened to them. But the Captain only grinned flightingly.

"With the turbo-pegtop into space. Sure, that are first rate technicians."

"That was only because the chief engineer botched there."

"Might it be that this chief engineer is on board the Enterprise now?" Spock inquired interestedly.

"Sure. He goes everywhere. If he wires a house, then… then…"

"Probably the house explodes", McCoy nodded. "I’m full of misgiving for our ship."

"Is that space ship of yours so flimsy that it can't stand a little Botchy?!"

"Good question", Kirk retorted. "The Enterprise stood some wild things but then the crew was on board. Now there are only Uhura and Chekov – and probably not in their right senses."

"Oh, we'll manage, we've still got Goldi and Flecki and Tuffy and…"

Well, he'd better not count on Trample – and he would not even mention the mayor. Gosh, if the mayor still was commander-nuts, there would be some mess on the ship!

"And?" Kirk asked. "That all? I do count on my people getting all right again. You know, we really cannot stay in this time."

"At least I cannot", Spock nodded.

"Nope, you cannot", Hamstilidamst admitted who well remembered the funny green stuff which should be Spock's blood; if more people saw that – it was really no good idea.

With his last words Spock had taken up a thick book and began to leaf through it. Hamstilidamst who really still wanted to be offended because he had missed Frido, curiously came closer.

"What do you have in mind, Spock?" the Captain asked.

"As in this outfit we cannot begin anything, I will ring up the professor."

"Shall we blow up his lab once more?" Hamstilidamst hopefully inquired.

"No. – I am in America and from there phone to Ballachulish."

"Perhaps the Doctor should examine you after all?" Hamstilidamst asked. "Perhaps your head?"

"It's a fake", McCoy grinned. "However, I would love to examine his head. Thinking for years there's something wrong in his attic."

"Doctor, your repetitions begin to the boring", Spock retorted. "Hamstilidamst, will you please hold the page down while I fetch the phone?"

"Er, shall I rip the sheet out or what?"

"Sit on the book so that it stays open by your weight."

"Why don't you say so? I thought I was to hold the page down."

He hopped onto the open directory and studied what was written there: McTaft, McTamore,  McTemper, McTevellin. He looked up in surprise.

"Lot of people in that story!"

"Hum?" Kirk and McCoy asked.

"And no action. There's always action in a book."

"Oh, you booby!" Kirk burst out laughing. "That's simply a list of names and the phone numbers they've got."

"Then it's no real book!"

"Thank you for your assistance, Hamstilidamst", Spock said and sat down again. "You will also find McTinker there."

"Fact!" Hamstilidamst cried who just had discovered the professor's name. "What's he doing there?"

"You could say he informs us how we may contact him."

"Nuts! Take the bus and go there."

"My God, he thinks we're back in America", McCoy groaned.

"Why does your God think so?"

"Now will you stop that rubbish? You know exactly what I mean!"

Captain Kirk lifted both hands and brought them down again with a jerk. Hamstilidamst looked there equally jerkily and noticed that this gesture silenced the men. Jim listened to the noises in the house, the noises on the street. Then he nodded to his First Officer and Spock pressed the keys. There was no noise which could betray that they were sitting in McPerry's lock house in Fort William and not in some NASA-office in Houston.

"Hullohullohullo!" someone said and this only could be John McGofer.

"Mr. McGofer ? Professor Spock calling", the Vulcan said. "Is Professor McTinker at home?"

"Professor Spock?!" McGofer cried. "But that's an incredible surprise! How are ye? Are ye safely home? But ayayay or ye couldn't ring up here. Where are ye calling from?"

"I'm calling from my office, Mr McGofer", Lt. Spock answered in a very icy tone. "Is it possible to talk to Professor McTinker?"

"Ayayay, o’ course. But he will be surprised. I assist him in a new test series. That's most exciting. Now he's erecting a magnet system…"

"Mr. McGofer, my time is limited. Is the professor in? I want to talk to him."

"Oh!" McGofer cried. "Yes – Profeso-o-o-o-or!" he yelled so that Spock yanked the receiver from his ear. "Call from NASA-A-A-A!"

"What? What? What?" came a voice from the background.

Then there was some muffled babble as on the other end John McGofer held the hand over the mouthpiece. Spock waited patiently, the two others rolled their eyes. Hamstilidamst who found all this quite boring, got himself a potato chip and climbed to Spock's shoulder. Directly beside the receiver he crackingly bit into the chip just when in Ballachulish McTinker took over the receiver and first of all heard some peculiar grinding.

"HULLO!!!" he bawled as he guessed this was an interference, and Spock gave a slight start.

Grinning, McCoy got up, fetched the hamster and closed the little mouth when he wanted to protest.

"This is Spock", the Vulcan said.

"I just could not believe it!" McTinker cried. "Analysis: a NASA-scientist should be occupied with highly important matters. Question: Will he not quickly forget his visit at my place? Answer: …"

"Obviously not", Spock gave the answer. "I inform you the phone number of the Department for interesting technical developments."

"The what department?" McTinker cried incredulously.

"Interesting technical developments", the Vulcan repeated in a slightly baffled voice. "Is anything wrong with that?"

"Something like that does exist?!"

"Something like that does exist. We already contacted the department and advised them on you. As I do not know whether the colleagues will ring you up, I propose that you ring them up. I inform you the phone number."

"I'm to ring up Houston?!" Fergus squeaked.

"No, Alabama. I inform you the phone number", Spock now said for the third time.

Hamstilidamst held to his potato chip and fascinatedly goggled at the Vulcan. Somehow it sounded as if Fergus was incredibly slow on the uptake. Somehow it sounded as if Spock was phoning to the mayor of Hamsterton. The two other officers watched with broad grins how Spock once more yanked the receiver from his ear. At the other end McTinker yelled:

"Bridget, something to write. Leaf, paper, scrap, fountain pen, roller ball, pen. – No, not all of it, something. And HURRY UP!"

As neither Kirk nor McCoy had any idea what was happening at the Ballachulish end, they only could watch the First Officer. They had big trouble not to burst out laughing. But they also knew that they never would forget this sight: the First Officer of the Enterprise, dressed in underpants and woollen cap, with frozen mien, the telephone receiver in a distance of about 15 cm from his ear. It itched Kirk to take the digital camera and shoot a photo…

"There you are!" Spock heard. "What do you bring there? What is that? O my goodness! – Hullo? Just imagine, she brings the cardboard of a shirt and a marker!"

"And are you able to note down a phone number with this equipment?" Spock asked who did not have the faintest idea what the cardboard of a shirt was – he never had seen any cardboard-shirts hereabouts.

"Sure, sure, but how unworthy for such a phone number. Absolutely unworthy."

"Directly after this call you might copy it on a card with a gilded edge", the Vulcan proposed in a patient voice.

Kirk threw himself into the corner of the sofa and bit into a cushion. McCoy left the room softly but hurriedly. Hamstilidamst glared about him wonderingly and started to speak. Immediately he was gripped and found himself under the sofa cushion.

In the meantime the First Officer succeeded in giving the phone number of the NASA department for interesting technical developments to Prof. McTinker. In Ballachulish he had not realised that Fergus could put even the patience of a Vulcan to a hard test.

The reaction of his colleagues to this hard test was not very helpful. But he finally could finish the call, hang up the receiver and said:

"You should permit Hamstilidamst to come out, Jim, before he suffocates."

"O God!" the Captain gasped and did as told. "I'm awfully sorry, Hamstilidamst, but you were to utter absolutely no squeak."

"You crumbled my chip", the hamster reproachfully said. "I need a new one immediately."

As Dr. McCoy in his pants neither could nor wanted to go far, he soon came back. He, too, had something to tell but did not really know how to begin. They all felt very comfortable in the lock house and if someone had asked him, he could have stayed for a while. However, things got tight by and by.

"I think Katie sees through our game", he cautiously said.

The door opened and Lt. Scott came in. Nowhere any boats were in sight so that he could allow himself a little break. McCoy repeated what he just had said.

"Ay", Scotty nodded to their general surprise. "In any case she's watchin’ us."

"During that rescue action for Frido she realised that I'm a doctor."

"So what? Also doctors lose their jobs", Kirk said and shrugged.

"But they truly keep to themselves and don't wander about with a lot of funny figures", Hamstilidamst remarked, and that really surprised everybody. "Don't you believe that the Hamsterton-doctors keep company with other hamsters."

“Snobs", Bones growled, and Hamstilidamst nodded.

"You can say that again."

"Beside that, Jim… We just before behaved like Starfleet-officers on a rescue mission. Each of us acted correspondingly."

"Doctor, our mission certainly has a humorous touch", the Vulcan said. "But on that occasion…"

"You are both right", Kirk interrupted. "Of course the situation was serious and we simply forgot our fake for half an hour. – Hum, I've been chatting with Katie in the kitchen for a while. She's clever."

"You mean we may trust her?!" McCoy asked and sounded astonished.

"Of course not, we cannot trust anyone. She certainly will not guess the truth."

"And I won't tell", Hamstilidamst promised.

"That's what I expect of my officers", the Captain seriously replied. "But she could blabber out that we are not what we seem to be. That would be enough. – As agreed, we'll be off the day after tomorrow. I would say tomorrow but we need the money Spock earns."

At these words Spock looked at the clock. He had to be off soon but was even less willing to go out in his pants. It was time they got their clothes back.

All the time Hamstilidamst sat amazingly still and like frozen. He was thunderstruck, right floored. Jim had called him one of his officers. Somehow he felt respect for Jim Kirk. Well, he did not have good ideas like hamsters had, but he had ideas. And he was really big in rescuing. If someone like that came along and counted one to the officers, one could be right thunderstruck.

"Scotty!" Perry McPerry barked from below stairs. "Boat!"

"Comin'", Lt. Scott barked back. When he opened the door of the flat he turned round with a smile and shouted: "Nurse Katie's coming with a Christmas parcel!"

"I will right Christmas parcel you", Katie snorted. "Better take it." A moment later she came in and burst out laughing. "You know that you look like? Like dropped out candidates for the Mr. Universe contest."

"Hullo?" Kirk said, rose, made a pose and played his muscles.

"O well, tenth rank for you, Jim. And now do dress and stop sitting about here that indecently."

She did not want to hear about thanks for the work she had done because stuffing a few jeans and shirts into washing machine and dryer was no real work. In the meantime she had made most of her afternoon round. Some patients, however, were still waiting for her so that she could not tarry.

Soon now Spock set out for the city as he did not have much time to spare until his first performance. He took Hamstilidamst with him and the hamster had some really great ideas to animate the people to give bigger tips. Spock had his doubts whether these ideas were going to have this special effect.

"Well", the Captain said when he was alone with McCoy. "So where to?"

"Er, Jim, do you realize that by now we've got something like luggage?" Bones asked.

"To be transported. I've already seen some practical bags. Or rucksacks."

"Would be better for our backs."

"So they would. You know what? Tomorrow we collect all our luggage and go downtown to find a suitable rucksack. One will be enough, won't it?"

"If you wear one set of clothes and do not want to walk about in your pants, one certainly will be enough."

"Don't start to fill in Spock's logic, you're not able to", the Captain grinned.

"Le-o-nard!" it bawled from downstairs and the Doctor sighed.

"Join me, Jim, I can't endure Perry any longer. We'll go for a walk with him.”

So they did and the Captain was willing to spend the whole evening with Perry. After his performance as blind, bigmouthed Iowa-farmer he did not want to be seen in Fort William today. Tomorrow he would venture again and was sure that the matter would be forgotten by then and nobody would mix him up with that Lord McShredder-blend.

Andy McPerry alias Devil relied on Spock to bring the hamster again. He thought it would be fun if a hamster ran in a wheel to the music. So he had bought a hamster-wheel and placed it onto the piano.

"Got porridge in his head?" Hamstilidamst said.

He had listened to the explanation but not given a squeak, of course. Also Spock had not commented but somehow the Vulcan had had the idea that Hamstilidamst would not think the wheel-idea that bright. Now he walked up and down the room with the hamster and showed everything to him. In the room which served as his dressing room he convinced Hamstilidamst that the owner of "To Hell" would not think it funny when his bar was set on fire or under water.

It took some time until Hamstilidamst abandoned these charming plans. But he was nagging too loud for Spock to really believe him.

"I am sure you already have new ideas", he said. "So say farewell to your destruction plans and report what came to your mind while we took a look at everything."

"And what if I tell you?"

"Well, I have to absolve a programme here…"

"What do you up self?"

"Not self. What I mean is… Safe a few short breaks I'm playing the piano during the whole evening. Ten minutes to every hour I'll play some loud, effective pieces, afterwards – I strumming away some background music."

"Okay, got it. Oh! We agree on what you'll play and what I'll do then?"

"That is my proposal. However… Well, Hamstilidamst, you are rather an exceptional hamster but whatever you do should look like you were quite a normal hamster."

"To get that clear: I won't go into any wheel!"

"You might express that somehow."

Hamstilidamst breathed in deeply, out again and grinned. Gosh, sure he could express that!

The Vulcan had only asked Andy to place one of the artificial ribbon-fires directly beside the piano. Andy wondered why he had not done so earlier. The light effect on the prince of hell was just great! After Spock had assured him that the hamster without any doubt would be helpful in entertaining the guests, a bowl with crackers was placed onto the piano and "Devil" in person made an announcement.

The place was packed. The prince of hell which Devil had at the moment, was an absolute whiz and the story about the hamster which obviously belonged to him had been passed to the friends of the guests like wildfire.

"What do hamsters do in hell?" Andy shouted. "I don't know, you don't know but TONIGHT you will see it. Your Highness", he turned to Spock, "where is hell-hamster at the moment?"

Talking was not Spock's job. He glared at Devil as arrogantly as the prince of hell just might glare at some underling and then directed his eyes to the "fire" beside the piano.

The onlookers cheered and clapped their hands. Between waving red/yellow stripes Hamstilidamst was peeping out, and Hamstilidamst elegantly ate a cracker.

"Aha, we might have guessed that", Andy bawled. Then he took Hamstilidamst up and set him down on the piano. "Look here, hell-hamster. Your prince will now play a hell of music. How about running to the rhythm?"

He placed Hamstilidamst beside the wheel, touched a piece of cheese hanging at a ring at the highest point of the wheel. Devil Andy was sure that this was going to be a great show and retreated.

"Quite cool, the guy", Hamstilidamst mumbled.

He had no mind at all to go into the wheel but the cheese was terribly tempting. Spock was to accompany the hamster-running with some fitting music. But when the Vulcan saw what Hamstilidamst intended, he started the heavy tune of the towing-song of the Wolga shippers. Hamstilidamst dragged down the wheel until the piece of cheese was in front of his nose. The audience shrieked!

The piece of cheese was the stock Hamstilidamst held for the time after coming strain. To a suiting music he slid along the piano until he crashed into the wheel-frame and the whole thing tumbled down from the piano. That was good enough for the moment.

Hamstilidamst made himself comfortable beside the cracker-bowl, Spock played an ABBA-medley. Giggling, one of the devil-girls came and put the tip-bowl onto the piano. When Spock paused for the first time, Hamstilidamst took over and played a hellish opus for four paws. This was the time Lt. Scott and Dr. McCoy came in and sat down at the table which was reserved for them.

The hamster melodically spurted over all keys and was with the officers a moment later.

"It would be much better if the other Hamsterton hamsters were here as well", he announced. "I cannot do much all on my own."

"Ay, tha's teamwork", Scotty said to McCoy as he must not understand the squeaking. "Each on his own an’ the result is a united thing."

"Absolutely", McCoy nodded. "I would wish for my team."

"I know wha’ ye mean." The Chief Engineer nodded melancholically. "Fer a few days these old locks are really interesting, but in the long run…"

"I'll climb onto your head", Hamstilidamst said and did so.

Only now they realized that it was showtime for the hamster tonight so that Spock got a lot of tips. Somehow they should join in but really did not know in which way. So Scotty sat there with a funny face and rolling his eyes. Nobody was much impressed by that.

No, they wanted their prince of hell and fortunately he was back soon. Until midnight Hamstilidamst had shown two beautiful trip-dances. He had climbed along cables and made friends with almost everyone in the audience. He had catapulted sugar lumps through the room by transporting them onto spoons and jumping onto the spoon handle. Finally he showed a free climbing up Spock's cape. He had to admit that after all these exercises he was more tired than hungry.

McCoy and Scott had left long since when Spock balanced accounts with Andy. He got an extra note for the hamster and the tips of this night came up to almost a hundred pound. Satisfied he left "To Hell" through the backdoor. He carried Hamstilidamst in his hand and strolled down to the harbour.

There he sat down on a bench and studied the starry sky. He was a little baffled when Hamstilidamst said something entirely seriously:

"You are a Vulcan and all alone with humans and I am a hamster and all alone with humans. Would you like to be back with your Vulcans as I with my hamsters?"

"For many years I have good friends with the humans, Hamstilidamst", the Vulcan replied in an equally serious spirit. "We are living and working together. Sometimes I find humans to be very peculiar."

"So do I", Hamstilidamst nodded.

"But they are bipeds as I am and I know my space ship friends much better than most Vulcans. – It's much more difficult for you."

"Yes. – I want to see my sister Flecki again and my friend Goldi. Sometimes it's really great with you, but…"

"You will certainly see them again. Perhaps it will not take very long."

The next morning developed to an entire disaster. Perry had taken a look at the boats reported to come in and without qualms could give Lt. Scott the morning off. So all four plus hamster set out. Their belongings they had stuffed into three plastic bags and now went looking for a rucksack which could hold all the contents of the bags.

The Captain immediately put on the rucksack, the bags were stuffed into the next garbage. As matter of fact they might go home now. Directly in front of them a woman and a man walked along the pavement and they heard the woman saying:

"I'm truly grateful that you picked me up, cousin." She stumbled over the edge of a flagstone and rowed with her arms. "I hope it's nothing serious but I just have to visit Frido in hospital."

"Liza an’ Hercules", Lt. Scott said in an undertone.

All four squeezed into some entrance until those two were around the next corner. When they wanted to walk on with a relieved sigh, a voice said:

"Why, you don't appear to that blind today, Sir. And maybe you are not numb?"

The Captain remembered this voice only too well. They had not seen that the internet café was the entrance into which they crowded. Without answering they hurried on, zigzagged through the streets of Fort William and after some detours came out close to the Nevis-bridge.

"Damn!" Kirk swore. "What sort of day is that?!"

"A black one", was McCoy's dry comment.

A well known "O ayayay", made them freeze.

"Of course you must help me, John. I have countless files in my flat here. Before I contact the NASA I want…"

No chance! Within the next few seconds, at the next corner they would collide with John McGofer and Fergus McTinker. He would recognize them, even if they turned and took to their heels. No entrance to hide in. Kirks thoughts raced.

"In there!" he breathed.

Directly ahead of them stood a truck the loading ramp of which was down. Only a minute, then John and Fergus would have passed and they could wait somewhere until the coast was clear.

They had not seen that a moment earlier the driver had boarded the truck. The four Enterprise-officers raced up the ramp, stumbled over some sacks and became aware of a penetrating smell. When they got to their feet again they heard some rumbling and hissing – the loading ramp was drawn up.

Lt. Scott made a quick step towards it but was held at the arm by Kirk.

"Lie down", the Captain said in a low voice.

They were too much used to follow his orders. The ramp came up, a moment later the driver came to lock the doors.

"Jim, have you gone mad?!" Dr. McCoy hissed. "We would have made that easily."

"We've got to leave and now we do leave", the Captain shortly said.

"Perhaps he goes to the layby close to Hamsterton", Hamstilidamst said and sounded most satisfied.

"I doubt that", Lt. Scott grumbled. "I don't mind hitchhiking but not in something pitch dark an’ stinking like hell."

"And how would you have explained us to McTinker?" Kirk retorted. "Moreover it's not pitch dark. There are ventilation slits in the door."

The same moment something else lit up. It was the display of Spock's tricorder. Everyone was quiet until the First Officer had checked whatever he was checking.

In the meantime the truck hade taken a bend. The Captain thought of the roundabout in front of the bridge but he had no idea how they proceeded. In the direction of Neptune's Staircase there was another sharp bend but the car did not take it.

"Guano", Spock's voice said.

"Bueno?" Lt. Scott sounded bewildered.

"Gu-a-no", Dr. McCoy accentuated. "Bird's dung. We are sitting on a cargo of bird's dung. That's the smell."

"Is it is rubbish car?" Hamstilidamst asked. "We once went with a rubbish car."

"No", McCoy replied. "Guano is used as manure."

"We're sittin’ on manure?!" Lt. Scott cried. "Ay, tha's what I call a nice day, truly."

"Anything to eat?" The question came from the hamster, of course.

"For a change the question is most justified", Dr. McCoy said. "Jim? You packed the rucksack before. Anything to eat?"

"A package of biscuits. That's for all of us and we'll ration them carefully. We don't know when we will get out here again."

"If he goes to Hamsterton, we'll be on the road for days. And nothing to eat! We have to live on dung!"

Hamstilidamst obviously began to panic. The Captain groped around in the darkness to take the pet in his arms but could not find anything between the sacks. Luckily Hamstilidamst could see well enough, struggled out of a gap and climbed onto Kirk's shoulder.

"Listen, Hamstilidamst", the Captain said. "I am absolutely sure that we will not be on the road for days. Perhaps for a few hours. The driver some time has to take a rest and get out of the car."

"But the bird's dung needs not get out and take a rest!"

"Ay, he's right when he’s right", Ltd. Scott grumbled. "He might as well…"

"Shut up your face, Mr. Scott!" Dr. McCoy said sharply.

He just needed the Chief to count down all kinds of disastrous possibilities and the poor hamster to panic more and more. They had to get along as well as possible in here. Luckily they had bought a bottle of mineral water when they had got the rucksack so that they would get some liquid. Well, and after the hamster had munched all yesterday evening long, he would not be for the worse if he did not get one biscuit after the other.

"Anyhow, it's not machine parts or cement. The sacks are not that uncomfortable", the Captain said.

"True cosy beds", Ltd. Scott gnarled.

"Exactly. We can't do anything but sleep in here. Or would you like to play some funny little guessing game?"

"Nay, Captain, then I'll liefer choose one o’ these snug dung-sacks an’ tak a nap."

"I think Spock already does", McCoy grinned.

"Not really", the Vulcan's voice came out of the dark. "But I'll try it if you think it reasonable."

The Captain thought so indeed. He rolled in on one of the sacks and against the smell held his shirt over his nose. Doing so, he thought of Katie who had just washed their clothes so nicely. When they came out here, they would stink like hell.

He also thought of Perry McPerry and before he fell asleep he thought of the entrance hall of the Count of Twix's castle. Then he dreamt that Lt. Uhura was waltzing with a giant hamster on the Enterprise and Spock accompanied them in his devil's costume on the piano.

The concentrated smell of the bird's dung had an almost stunning effect on the blind passengers, even on Hamstilidamst. Scotty had still nagged for a while but finally his head had been so dizzy that he dropped off.

The secret passengers missed the possibility to check if there was a Loch Ness monster after all. There was a short and dizzy wake-up when they rolled over the sacks because the truck turned sharply left in Inverness into the road along the Beauly Firth. In Beauly the driver made a short break. But as Hamstilidamst had guessed correctly, the dung-sacks did not get out, too, to have a break.

Close to Bonar Bridge the driver switched on the ventilation in the loading area. When later on he opened the back hatch he did not want to faint because of the Guano-smell.

"Where's everybody?" someone lamented in the loading area. "Flecki… O no! Jim! Scotty!"

Some penetrating noise beside his ear woke up the Captain. His head was aching like hell! Oh, the sound was Hamstilidamst! And some second sound… Hum!

"Uah! Dammit!" That was the voice of Dr. McCoy. "Oh, my head!"

"Argh!" said Lt. Scott. "Well, at least he switched on the ventilation. Ouch, my bonce!"

"Why did he switch on the vergilation?" Hamstilidamst asked, also feeling quite dizzy.

"Fresh air. If I were you, I wouldn't object", the Captain proposed.

"I don't – but why?"

"Er – good question. Mr. Spock?"

"Yes, I'm here."

"Where else would you be?" McCoy snapped. "I think the driver has to get in here soon and doesn't like to experience what we did."

"How about biscuits?" Hamstilidamst asked.

"First of all we'll drink a bit", the Doctor said. "Where's the rucksack with food and drink?"

The Captain groped around in it and got out the water bottle. It was handed around into the direction of the voices. Hamstilidamst got a sealing cap of water and was not very happy over the carbon. But at last there also was a biscuit for each of them. The smell got better due to the ventilation so that soon they all felt rather fit again.

"Spock, will you take me onto your shoulders?" the Captain asked. "I'll try to see something through the ventilation slits."

"You want to stand on my shoulders? That is a curious idea."

Anyhow, he came forward and behaved exceptionally daft during the action. They had become used to the dimness by now and could make out each other. Dr. McCoy watched the behaviour of the Vulcan and frowned. Why did he have the feeling that Spock was not quite all right?

"Most interesting", the Captain said dryly. "I can see a really exciting part of asphalt. You may let me down again, Spock."

"And you do not want to watch that part of road any longer?"

"Certainly not. What's wrong with you, Spock?"

"Why, I'm cold and stinking."

Hamstilidamst scrambled onto Dr. McCoy's shoulder and whispered excitedly:

"Is Spock ill again? Is he funny again now?"

"You also think something's wrong with him, don't you?"

"He never laments. Now he laments hamsterlike."

"That's a fine and clever observation. As soon as we're out here, I'll examine him."

"But why is he ill?"

"Hamstilidamst, we don't know that he's ill. Now wait…"

"Hey, now wait – what? Got a cramp?"

"Shut up, I'm thinking!"

"Umph, if everybody would shut up only because I want to think!"

But he received no answer. Dr. McCoy thought full power. It had taken him years to be able to treat a Vulcan to a certain degree. It would still take him years to know how they really functioned. The Vulcan brain in many aspects was much stronger than the human one but in some aspects it was much weaker.

No Vulcan survived if he went mad. His brain cells simply paralized. And there were chemical substances which switched off certain brain functions if a Vulcan came into contact with them. – Bird's dung!

"Spock, would we lend me your tricorder?"

"My tricorder?"

"The measuring instrument you always have with you."

"Don't be witty, Bones", Kirk said. "Spock will know what a tricorder is."

"For sure", the Vulcan nodded. "The measuring instrument I always have with me. You mean this one, don't you? I don't mind a bit to lend it to you."

Busily the Doctor took the instrument. Captain Kirk and Lt. Scott silenced, and the Chief Engineer felt Kirk's hand gripping his shoulder hard. Something had happened to the First Officer, he no longer was himself. The Captain shifted to McCoy.

"The bird's dung, ain't it?"

"I'm certain. I'm just analysing the contents. Heaven knows, which reactions these point-ears show."

"Do you control the shit?" Hamstilidamst asked and climbed onto McCoy's knee. "Jim, how will we get out here?"

"That's really not my biggest problem now."

"Hullo Hamstilidamst", Spock kindly said. "Like another biscuit? They're truly tasty."

"What sort of question is that whether I like 'nother biscuit?!"

"Aha! Means you do, don't you?"

"We've got to be terribly sparing with them."

"I think our last biscuit was ages ago."

"So my stomach tells me."

"So does mine", Spock admitted, then some crackling was audible.

"Grr", Ltd. Scott growled in a very low voice. "We've asked for that. We always wanted him to be like a human. And now? He's like a hamster."

The Captain followed the analysis of the tricorder and could read the result on the display.

"Ammonia?" he asked, baffled. "But that's…"

"A natural decomposing gas, Jim, correct. We humans get a headache and detest the smell. On Vulcany there is no ammonia. "

"Why not?"

"Desert planet. Normally nothing festers there but dries out."

"Dammit, Bones, there must have been a score of times that we met festering and ammonia."

"Probably not as often as you believe. And certainly not over hours and as concentrated as now. – Jim, I'm worried."

The Captain nodded. He, too, was worried. The influence of the laughing gas on the Vulcan had been much stronger than on the others. The last effects had just faded. The evaporations of the dung had a similar effect on the Vulcan – worse, at it was.

"I can't treat him, Jim.

"I know that, Bones. – We must hope that it fades like the laughing gas. Darn it! We can't count on him any longer. He might become a hazard."

"Well possible. In his state he may blabber out everything."

Again the Captain nodded. They must never lose sight of Spock. And they had to prick up their ears what he talked. Well, it had been his own idea to choose a lonely region for the end of their mission. Now it would be best to follow his proposal.

But now – and there Hamstilidamst was right – they had to find a way to get out of the truck. Kirk needed a game and it came to his mind that he needed the hamster for it.

 



[1] Things like that can happen!

 

Chapter 27

 

Repair Works

 

“Goldi, will you please help me up?”

Dodo was still lying helpless and with his back on the ignition lever which a moment ago he had pushed down by his own weight and with Goldi’s assistance.

While the big hamster was helped up by Goldi, the general cheering died down because something seemed to be wrong. First of all the lights had started to flicker again which terrified everybody. Some highpitched buzzing filled the bridge and the room vibrated. But there was something else. Even the mayor who had robbed to the Captain’s chair to hold a speech, noticed it clearly. He was standing in the middle of the seat, holding up his short, fat arms and squinted towards the side walls of the bridge doubtfully.

So he stood for a while with lifted arms, wondering what had suddenly changed. Unfortunately his wondering came to no result and the outcome to the new situation was limited to “Erm!” He then tried to walk a few steps, but only turned around himself and crashed down from the Captain’s chair. Next moment there was some “Ee-ee-eek!” and some ‘Plop!’ followed by “Ouch!” All eyes were on the helm where an instant ago Tuffy had been. The place at the control screen was empty now and the little repair hamster was lying close to the wall, rubbing her aching bum.

“Did you know that 72 per cent of all hamsters are landing on their paws?” Goldi shouted, clinging to the replicator. “9 per cent will land on their bum, 10 per cent on their head – the rest could not be questioned any longer.”

“Cats even have a higher percentage”, Taty remarked while desperately holding to the leg of a desk to which a moment ago he had comfortably leaned. “But they have a longer tail and can compensate a fall.”

“Better do help Tuffy and stop blabbering”, chief Botchy gnarled and his voice sounded curiously strained while he desperately tried to get away from the wall. “I hope nothing happened to her. I would not like to carry about my tool box myself in future.”

“Dodo, don’t goggle around, help her up!” Dasy nagged, who nearly had hit Tuffy’s head. She was lying at Tuffy’s side now and clawed to the floor as she felt drawn to the Enterprise-wall by some invisible power.

Dodo, some way off the control screen and still beside the ignition lever, hastened but paused when he passed the screen to take a look at it. An instant later there was another ‘Plop!’ followed by a cry of pain from Dodo.

“Well, Dodo is one of the 10 per cent landing on their head”, Goldi stated. “By the way, so is Trample who just now is lying beneath Dodo. But what in the world is wrong here, people?”

“I felt dizzy suddenly”, Tuffy lamented, “and then the floor was gone. That is, it was not gone, it was somewhere else, that is, not where it was before although it still was there, but gone. Whatsoever, everything was whirling.”

Shaking her head, Flecki in the meantime had struggled to get onto Chekov’s desk and wiggled towards the screen. Spellbound, the glances of the hamsters and gerbils standing or lying about followed her, saw how she looked at the monitor, shook her head and seemed to ponder. Then she turned slowly, wiped her eyes with a paw and staggered back. Before she climbed down again, she turned to the waiting crowd, shouting: “You get right dizzy! That’s like a merry-go-round, all racing from left to right. Either the stars went mad or we are spinning around.” When after these words she tried to climb on, she slipped over the edge of the desk and disappeared. At the same moment a resolute voice came in at the com station.

“Uhura to Flecki, come in, please!”

Flecki, lying in a corner of the bridge, nodded to Tealeafy who was clinging to the com station and now slowly crawled to the microphone.

“This is Tealeafy, Flecki is busy and feels dizzy. How are things at your end?”

“Thanks for asking, Tealeafy, we seem to have a problem. We are on Warp and some halfwit has switched on spin cycle.”

“Spin cycle?” Taty asked who had followed Tealeafy curiously. “That’s madness. Since when do space ships have a spin cycle? As it is, we’re not in a laundrette, are we?”

“Will you now stop babbling, I’m managing the negotiations here!”

“Come on, one might ask, mightn’t one?” Taty hissed back.

“Nope”, Tealeafy grinned, “first you have to ask if you might ask.”

“And how am I to ask if I might ask if I mightn’t ask, eh?” Taty rumbled, pulling up threateningly in front of Tealeafy. “After all I learned at school that one shall ask.”

“At school, at school’”, Tealeafy aped him. “Be glad that we’re far away from any school – you especially!”

Taty goggled at his brother. All of a sudden he remembered and felt hot, very hot indeed. Mrs. Tweetling! How could he forget that? Back in Hamsterton Mrs. Tweetling would with a broad grin screw him up, that much was certain.

“Well, I”, Tealeafy gleefully added, “have not been caught by the math teacher when she came in too early and someone was just writing at the blackboard: ‘Strictly forbidden to feed the ape at the blackboard’.”

“Hello, you two, hello, hello!” Uhura’s impatient voice came. “Would you mind very much if I went on talking?”

“Nope”, Tealeafy said and turned to Taty. “What about you?”

“Nope, not really, let her talk on”, Tealeafy broadmindedly said.

“That’s really most kind of you two, a thousand thanks”, Lt. Uhura sighed and continued. “That is of course no spin cycle like in a washing machine but it means that the Enterprise is rotating.” The officer made a meaningful pause and again continued. “Now to our problem: “By the enormous centrifugal forces the structural integrity of the ship is damaged. And that means that the whole ship will soon been torn apart if we don’t do something.”

“Let me guess”, Tealeafy remarked. “Your Captain wouldn’t like it, would he?”

“Do we have to pay for the ship then?” Taty asked and got a reproachful glance from his brother.

“Certainly not”, Uhura replied with surprising calmness. “The one advantage in the whole matter would be that we will be safe from the Captain’s revenge because we would be particles of the great star dust. If we don’t want that to happen, we have to act quickly now. We cannot switch off the Warp drive here because we would not survive the sudden stop. You have to pull back the ignition lever slowly, and if I say slowly, I mean slowly. After that the f… - the chief had to get his fat ass… What I mean is, the chief has to return to the cable duct and once more try to repair everything. Did you understand everything?”

“Sure”, Tealeafy confirmed. “We pull back the ignition lever and send the fat ass, that is chief Botchy back into the duct to repair his botch.”

“Fine”, Lt. Uhura said. “By they way, we, Chekov and I, recommend Flecki to accompany the chief. It certainly will not be a fault to keep a sharp eye on him – better two sharp eyes. Make some drawing about this and that. Well, good luck to you. Uhura out.”

“Does that mean that she…”

“Later, Dodo, I need you now. Come up here!”

In the meantime Flecki had succeeded to climb onto the helm’s control and now waited impatiently until Dodo at last had crawled up to her. After several attempts and as many bad crashes he was facing her, a big question in his eyes. She pointed at the ignition lever. When Dodo wanted to say something, she put her paw over his mouth, shook her head and pushed him toward the control. When both hamsters passed the wildly flickering screen, Flecki pushed Dodo on quickly so that no new disaster could happen. Before the big hamster could protest, Flecki pointed at the still resting ignition lever and beckoned Dodo to pull it upwards a little and another little and another little, until the lever was where it had been earlier in the day.

The shrill whistling which had filled the Enterprise all the time, died down. For a moment it was silent on the bridge, even the lights had stopped to flicker. Cautiously some of the hamsters moved and discovered that there no longer was any centrifugal power to press them to the walls. A loud flop confirmed that also the chief engineer no longer was glued to the wall but back on the bridge floor where he looked around dizzily.

“I’ve always known that this gravity is a fraud”, Dodo shouted into the silence. “Already at school I could not believe it!”

Fluffbert the gerbil, standing beside Dodo, looked at him in surprise and could not refrain from asking: “But dear Dodo, if there is no gravity, what keeps us to the ground?”

“I don’t know about you gerbils”, Dodo retorted, “but all that gravity is a fraud. It’s quite different on Earth, I’m sure. There is not gravity actually because the Earth does it all.”

“Th-the Earth?” Fluffbert gasped.

“The Earth”, Dodo once more confirmed. “Gravity is nothing but a fairy tale. Actually it is the Earth, she sucks…”

“That’s it”, Goldi bawled, while Fluffbert did not understand a word, “and Beethoven was so deaf that half his life he thought that he actually was a painter!”

All of a sudden spirits had considerably risen on the bridge but after a few minutes of joking and cackling the hamsters all of an equal sudden remembered that a mission was waiting for them. To be really on the safe side this time they decided to follow the advice of Chekov and Uhura and let Flecki accompany Botchy. Of course this did not thrill the chief at all but as he did not like to discuss the matter once more with Lt. Uhura, he agreed grudgingly. As Dodo was sitting in a corner and was miffed and not prepared to talk with anyone, he could not fill in. So Tuffy was the choice and the mayor congratulated her to the honour of being permitted to carry the toolbox and the com device. Flecki had some drawing paper and crayons replicated and the mission could start.

“So, now I will break up all this mess and them damned strings…”

“Stop!” Flecki interrupted the chief and took out the drawing paper. “First I make a sketch so that afterwards we know exactly were the cables have been!”

Grumbling, Botchy sat down and with a bored expression watched Flecki sitting at the edge of the duct and making a pretty sketch. Each single cable got an extra colour and she also did not forget to draw the cable duct. While chief Botchy grumbled impatiently and Tuffy took a short nap, Flecki worked on line after line, not even forgetting a few flowers.

“What does that veggy scrap mean?” Botchy hissed and got a dagger glance.

“These are flowers, you dope! Flowers are necessary to warm the sad atmosphere of this cold technique. Without warmth there would be no life, no joy, only grey technique… just a moment, I’ll be ready in a minute.” Flecki took a step back from the picture and looked it over, made a few changes, added another flower and cried: “I’m ready although a lot is still missing, blue sky for instance and the…”

The rest of her speech was drowned in Botchy’s hammering. Tuffy, jumping up from the sudden noise, hurried to push the tool box as close as possible beside the wildly hammering chief.

“Does he always work in that style?”

“Mostly he does, Flecki. But only if he’s miffed. And mostly he is miffed.”

“But that is… unsophisticated! Where is the sensitivity? Small wonder that everything collapses behind him.”

“Sometimes he’s absolutely scatterbrained. A few months ago he took in the order to blow up the old factory in Speltlane. So he threw all the explosives into the van and set out. Unfortunately he forgot the note with the address in the office and a few hours later the mishap happened.”

“Was he blown up with the van?” Flecki hopefully asked.

“O no, that would be too good to be true”, Tuffy retorted. “He wouldn’t have liked to return for the note and thought he remembered the address well enough. Next morning the HAMPO was in our office and took the chief engineer along. Instead of blowing up the factory in Speltlane he blew up the Hamstian Museum in Peltlane.”

“Oh my!”

“Luckily the museum had just been closed because of paintwork”, Tuffy added.

“Are you going to jabber all the time or will you give me a hand?” the chief’s gnarl came out of the cable duct. With his hindpaws he was hanging at a bracket and tried – head in the duct – desperately to knot together the cables which belonged together. It did not look very smart and Tuffy and Flecki had problems to keep serious.

“I’m here, Boss!”

“The pliers, Tuffy, the pliers!”

“Here are the pliers, Boss!”

“Cable ties! I need cable ties!”

“Here are the cable ties, Boss!”

“Thanks – oh, ah, damn! My screwdriver is down! Tuffy, I need a new screwdriver!”

“We don’t have screwdrivers any longer, Boss, they all went down the cable duct.”

“How am I to work, he? Without tool, he? Am I your tomfool? You won’t get me down, not you! O well, I’ll do without the damned screwdriver, you’ll see the outcome. I’ll now take these f… pliers and cut up these shabby cables…”

On the bridge there was a fascinated audience listening to the transfer from the communication unit which was lying behind the toolbox beside the chief. Several hamsters had joined Goldi at the replicator and while food and drinks were handed around, everybody listened quite thrilled. Goldi would have loved to switch in the two officers in Engineering so that they could have a share in the fun. Unfortunately the mayor had put in his strict veto so that Goldi as an alternative convinced some of the gerbils to listen to the ‘thrilling live broadcasting’ – as Goldi called it – and to wager on the outcome of Operation Botchy.

Failing any wagers also this idea could not be realized and so everybody just listened enthralled to a hefty discussion between chief Botchy and Flecki to which colour-criteria the cables were to be cut up. While Flecki insisted on cutting the ‘ugly yellow cable’ so that the bright red one came to advantage, Botchy bawled about the house:

“If I tell you that I’m going to cut that silly blue cable, I’ll cut the silly blue cable!”

“And if I tell you that you won’t, you won’t – or Tuffy and I return to the bridge!”

As matter of fact Flecki’s vehement fight for the blue cable had a good reason. On rummaging the data banks she had found the information that blue cables were fundamentally important for primary energy supply. Furthermore she had discovered the information that primary energy supply was only to be touched by experts. Naturally Flecki did not think the chief to be one.

The matter got the final touch by Flecki’s sketch of the final circuit. As the two screwdrivers deep down in the duct marred the picture, chief Botchy had to get the tools out. After much cursing and swearing and several painful falls the chief succeeded – partly at least. He could safe one screwdriver, the other one he could not find, as he said. While the final discussions between the chief and his assistant and especially between the chief and Flecki were transferred to the bridge full power, the excitement grew. Last time the Enterprise had almost been torn apart – what was to happen this time?

Goldi had risen from his cosy place at the replicator and once more tried to invite his colleagues to a little bet. Not being successful, he tried his luck with the gerbils. In the end he talked round one of the assistants, that was Babblebert the gerbil. Subject of course was the effect of what chief Botchy had initiated just now. The gerbils as matter of fact were much in awe of some chief engineer, representing an authority and being able to manage things nobody else could manage. Goldi’s ideas about the chief were of a quite different nature and so he bet with Babblebert that there would be an explosion at the least.

“Call it a child’s game”, Botchy bawled when he entered the bridge, followed by Flecki and repair hamster Tuffy. “And if I once meet his Scotty, I’ll give him a fine lesson about proper cabling.”

Walking on, Flecki put a paw to her face but did not say anything. Instead she reported their return to Lt. Uhura. After a few words she nodded at Goldi who was in position already at the helm and ready to move the ignition lever. Slowly, very slowly he now pushed the lever back. A constant humming and slight vibration was the effect. On the main screen they could see the familiar scene of stars flying by. Everything seemed to be all right again.

Only the smug grin on chief Botchy’s face rather shirted some of the hamsters. He ridiculously stressed some leisurely walking up and down. His fat hamster pouches looked even more puffy than usual and his goggle-eyes seemed to start out of their sockets. Then a bang, a flash and the emergency lights went on.

“I won, I won”, Goldi’s voice jubilated through the silence on the bridge. “Ey, Babblebert, I won! Give me the prize!”

Completely baffled, hamsters and gerbils watched how Babblebert with staggering steps tripped over to Goldi and handed him something. It was one of the defect helmets the gerbils had worn when trying to capture the Enterprise. So that had been the wager between Goldi and Babblebert! As after Botchy’s repair work there had been an explosion, Goldi had won the helmet from Babblebert the gerbil. By the way, the gerbil could call himself lucky to have lost the bet. If Goldi had lost, the gerbil would have won a free course of ‘How to become Super-hamster’. This fate was spared to Babblebert and Goldi put the helmet down at his favourite place beside the replicator.

“B-but, b-but, what w-was that?” the chief engineer stammered.

A moment later Uhura came in and made some spirited remarks about a certain chief. Then she gave the recommendation to return to the transporter room to inspect the cable duct. “As to Chekov’s data that was a classical short circuit.”

“Classical short circuit”, Flecki hissed. “Of whom does that remind me? Anybody any idea? Who might that be?”

Nobody answered, only Goldi could not be stopped commenting: “Don’t move – especially hamsters starting with a ‘B’ like blubberbutt. You know: Who arouses suspicion or acts suspiciously suspicious, is suspected to be suspect.”

“C-c-certainly the cables were defect”, chief Botchy gasped, desperately trying to disclaim any fault. “Certainly completely rusty or something like that.”

“Well, to me they looked very new”, Flecki objected and walked over to the mayor who had not peeped up for quite some time without anyone noticing it very much. “Look at, Mayor, here are my sketches. Do those cables look worn or anything?”

The mayor took the drawings, turned them left, right, up, and down before he got an idea what this was. After a while he cleared his throat. “Erm, well, yes, as far as I can – er – will – might judge the situation – erm – and without anticipating anything or pacing any dingus – er – I can state that this looks just fine. The cables, that is. In the sketch, I mean.”

Flecki gave the chief a triumphant look and handed the sheets to Taty and Tealeafy who studied the drawings curiously.

“Swell pictures”, Taty cried, and Tealeafy added: “Great, all the details, Flecki! What might that there be? Something’s sticking in the cable!”

With a jump Flecki was at Tealeafy’s side, snatched the drawing from him and looked at it. Then she handed back the sheet and explained: “I’ve drawn everything exactly as it was and that is the screwdriver which a certain chief engineer has lost.”

“Boss, Boss!” Tuffy cried when these words had barely left Flecki’s lips. “Can it be that the screwdriver you lost and could not find is now sticking in the cable and…”

“Impossible”, Botchy interrupted with decision and tried to smile in a superior fashion. “The height and by this the power of the impact of the screwdriver were not strong enough to penetrate the insulation of the cable. Certainly the cables were rusty underneath. The best expert cannot help that.”

“But Boss! What about the kick you gave the screwdriver when it was down? You yelled something about ‘bugger’ and ‘ramming it into the ground’ when you again and again kicked the tool.”

“I think”, the chief said with bright red head and a false smile like a grimace, “we should finish this useless discussion and see what can be done. After all – we have to fulfil a mission!” With these noble words he beckoned Tuffy to take the toolbox and follow him. Though he had not looked at Flecki and beckoned her to follow, she would not for the world miss the fulfilling of the mission. And if Lt. Uhura had not insisted, she had advised Flecki to join in. Moreover Flecki was convinced that only because of her drawing the mistake had been discovered and why not lay open further botches by further sketches? Just before Botchy reached the door, something came to his mind and he turned round, shouting: “I need a middle-sized hamster to accompany me into the cable duct and assist me. Who volunteers?”

Hopefully, he looked at the crowd. Obviously none of them had listened to him because suddenly everybody was very busy, not taking any interest in the chief’s request. “Let’s put it this way”, Botchy smiled, “if no one volunteers, we’ll make you volunteer, you see?”

“I would love to”, Dodo said, “but unfortunately I’m too big for middle-size. If I were smaller…”

“Thanks a lot, Dodo”, Botchy growled. “What about you, Goldi?”

“I’ve just finished lunch, Chief, nothing doing. Into that duct with a full belly…”

“Thank you, Goldi, I quite understand. Sasy, Dasy?”

“O no!” Sasy sounded right shocked. “We are ladies and never would crawl into any dark, spooky duct, where perhaps…”

“Thank you, ladies, thank you. Trample?”

“I’m just going to take my lunch…”

“But you didn’t”, chief Botchy snapped. “Come along, Trample, you are volunteering!”

The chief turned and hastened into the turbo lift. Flecki and panting Tuffy, who had some problems with the heavy toolbox, followed him. A few steps behind pouting Trample shuffled along. He did not appear to be much interested and when finally they reached the transporter room, he gave Flecki’s drawing equipment a languid glance. “That real felt-tip pens?”

“Nope”, Flecki replied importantly. “Can’t use felt-tips for this, they are smearing so easily.”

“Did you try wax crayons?” Trample tried again. “They are not that bad, are they?”

“I never liked wax crayons very much”, Flecki said, sorting her crayons. “They don’t have a nice taste.”

“Trample, if you finished babbling, you can climb down into the duct.”

Trample gave a start like being pinched. Up to this moment he still had hoped to escape his fate or to skive from his job but now he realized that it would be as it always had been. “Why me?” he bitterly thought while approaching the cable duct. Many times he had faced a situation like this and as many times he had to be carried away afterwards.

Suppose he would not fall down the duct and strain all four paws, supposed he really would succeed the get out the screwdriver without tearing up his fur – what other dangers would be waiting for him? Certainly getting out of the deep duct would be something, countless dangerous spots to get injured. The sight only of the screw driver made him desperate for the tool seemed to be stuck really deep in the cable. He threw one last, imploring glance at Botchy but he only pointed at the cable duct. Shrugging, poor trample descended. While he still wondered if this time he was going to strain his paws of ripping his fur, he had no idea that his best friend Goldi was just laying long odds if Trample survived this mission or not.

Cautiously Trample climbed down a cable and to his utmost surprise he suddenly was standing beside the screwdriver, completely uninjured. With one glance he noticed that the tool indeed had gone through the insulation and into the core. Tuffy was right, he thought. Chief Botchy had in blind rage kicked the screwdriver so hard that it had gone through the upper wire into the next one. Very carefully the hamster now scrambled along the blue cable to the spot of the problem. He looked at the screwdriver from all sides and wondered what to do now.

“Fell asleep down there or got rooted?” the loud voice of the chief engineer penetrated into his thoughts.

“Wha-what am I to do now?”

“Tear the bleeder out and that’s it!” came a bawled answer. Trample tried to grip the said bleeder with both paws and dragged full power. Nothings happened and he tried again and again and again.

“Got jelly in your arms or what? Can’t you even drag out a simple screwdriver? A 3rd grade repair hamster does better, you pansy!”

“But it’s stuck, chief, can’t do anything…”

“Always the same with the unskilled! Lazy, cheeky and silly! Bigmouthed, yes, but if they’re called to task, they all flop!”

Trample wavered between breaking into tears or biting the chief’s fat bum. All of a sudden he realized that his colleagues on the bridge all listened to this degrading conversation. Cold rage welled up in Trample and with a coarse yell he once more gripped the handle of the screwdriver, pushed it to and fro, yelled once more and dragged with all the rage and power his tiny body held. Incredulously, Botchy glared at what was happening in the cable duct and when he realized his mistake, it was too late. Crash, flash, whiz and with a bang the screwdriver shot up. Botchy had no chance to duck away. There was a most hollow sound when the tool met the chief’s head, some buzzing when it darted on through the room until it came down with a clatter in a corner.

“Trample?”

When there was no answer, Flecki crept towards the duct while Tuffy took care of the fainted Botchy whose head was decorated by an enormous goose egg.

“Trample, are you well?”

Flecki had shouted these words, then she flinched hastily. Something gigantic came climbing towards her! She saw to be off and sat down beside Tuffy, trembling. Now they both goggled at the smoking opening, to be exact at the thing emerging from the smoking opening. Flecki and Tuffy were certain that just now some space monster had been awakened in the abyss of the cable duct. Surely the last hour had come for all hamsters and gerbils on this vessel same as the last hour had come for Trample who surely had been eaten by the giant monster.

Now they could make out details. The monster had long, dangerous spikes and Flecki immediately had to think of porcupines. Porcupines are most, most dangerous, she thought and with a mixture of curiosity and horror watched how now the monster’s eyes became visible. Followed the rest of the body and something really looking like a giant porcupine was facing them.

 

 

Chapter 28

 

Mayor-Khan

 

Beside them the swooned chief engineer was lying, not being of much assistance at the moment. Now they were all on their own and glared at what was approaching them. Behind it was a cloud of smoke and when the smoke settled, two black, mournful eyes could be made out. Flecki repeated her question in a whisper.

“Trample?”

The spiky being did not answer, not in words at least but only in an almost wailing snort.

“Trample, is that you?” Flecki asked once more.

Slowly, slowly the spiky being came close and now also Tuffy realized that this was no porcupine but a hamster. As it was, a hamster on whom each single hair – and hamster can boast of very many – was standing away from the body. Incredulously she goggled at Trample and tried to remember where she had seen such a sight before. Tuffy’s glance wandered to the peacefully sleeping chief engineer. Then her glance went back to Trample and back to chief Botchy. Suddenly she remembered and nudged Flecki.

“Now I know where I’ve seen this before”, the excitedly cried. Flecki looked at her curiously. Even Trample paused at these words and listened intensively for here and now his future would be decided after all. Or he would know whether he had any future at all if he learned what just had happened to him.

“What? Where?” he croaked and shrank from his own voice which sounded more like the quaking of a frog than like the squeaking of a hamster. After she peered at him for a moment, Tuffy continued.

“The chief engineer”, she began in a shy voice and after another look at anxious Trample, “was to carry out an order for HES, the Hamstian Electricity Supplier. Actually it was quite a simple order but…” She paused and looked at Botchy who to her relief made not a sound. “But it was a disaster.”

“Tell me something new”, Flecki grinned. “And how?”

“We only should set in a door but the opening in the wall was a little too small or the door was a little too big – couldn’t be checked later on. The chief engineer talked it over with the people of the authority and there were bag wiggings. Finally they agreed that either Botchy widened the opening or supplied a bigger door. Actually he came along with a jackhammer to widen the opening. The whole wall collapsed. Unfortunately it was a carrying wall so that the floor above came down.”

“And after that the chief looked like a porcupine?” Flecki could not believe it.

“Not at that time”, Tuffy said. “Only when the above floor came down, one of the electricity generators came down, too, and right onto the chief engineer. When the Hamstian Fire Brigade after five hours had lifted the generator off…”

“After five hours?” Flecki cried. “Had the HAMFI been on a company outing or why did it take that long?”

“No, no”, Tuffy replied. “The problem was that the generator was under current and no one was able to switch it off because the one having installed it had forgotten to install an emergeny off-switch.”

“I see”, Flecki nodded. “That was the one under the generator.”

Tuffy nodded, too. “Exactly - and for that reason the 2nd repair team had to be called in because the 1st repair team after the breakdown of the wall had called it a day. All colleagues had gone home. I had only remained because I wanted to ask the chief engineer if I might get some holiday in the week to come. Well, there was nothing doing with holiday because Mr. Botchy had to go to the hospital again. However, there was a big problem – him. Because of the current all his hairs were standing out – like Trample’s now. For when they tried to put him onto the stretcher, he always rolled down from it. Finally the Fire Brigade could do nothing but roll the chief out of the room.”

“Well”, Flecki asked, “how long did it take him to get fit again?”

“He had to stay in hospital for some week but not due to the current. When rolling him, HAMFI for a moment did not pay attention and so the chief engineer rolled down the stairs.” Once more Tuffy looked at the fainted Botchy und continued. “Five floors he rolled down until they got him and a big whiplash he had. And as they could not get him into the ambulance, they had to roll him to the hospital as well. Mighty dirty when he arrived there. I do not know exactly when he was fit again because two weeks later I just took my holiday. When I returned after six weeks, he was back at work and at first did not recognize me but by now…”

“You’ll be all right, Trample”, Flecki consoled her colleague but refrained from patting his shoulder. “It’s only static charge. See here, it’s much better than falling into a pot of paint. And you survived that one, too. In a few days your fur is okay again.”

With big, sad eyes Trample looked at Flecki: “You think so?”

“For sure”, came the prompt reply. “Perhaps it works quicker if we somehow can decharge you…”

“We’ve got to ground him”, Tuffy remarked. “At vocational school we learned about that. If something is grounded, the stored current can flow into the ground. It does not hurt at all – or so teacher said.”

Some moaning drew the three hamsters’ attention. Chief Botchy moved and uttered another moan. Slowly he opened his eyes but did not seem to understand where he was. Then he sat up cautiously, moaned louder and felt his head. When he reached the goose egg which by now was a turkey egg, he made a pained grimace. Then he saw Trample.”

“What sort of daft hedgehog is that?”

While Tuffy tried to console sobbing Trample, Flecki marched over to the chief who was still sitting on the floor. “It’s all your fault. You sent the poor lad down the cable duct!”

“I?” Botchy was baffled. “Why that? I don’t know that silly hedgehog at all. How would I’ve sent him down the daft duct?”

After a short and loud discussion Botchy comprehended that this was deputy communication officer Trample. Of course the chief engineer had a number of solutions for this, as he said, interesting statical problem but on the expressed wish of Trample none of these solutions was tested. All this was to be done later for now they had to return to the bridge.

“I am proud and at the same time relieved so to say that this – er – enterprise was successfully…”

“Later, Mayor, later!” Flecki shouted, running past the baffled mayor. “I’ve got to contact Lieutenant Uhura!”

While Flecki left the mayor quite helpless and reported to the Enterprise-officer, Trample irritatedly stood in a corner and listened to the loud argument two gerbils had with Goldi. As to Goldi the creature returned was not definitely Trample but some lousy porcupine and he insisted on having won his bet. Rubabert and Softbert the gerbils however were of the opinion that they had won the bet because only Trample’s appearance had changed a little.

In the meantime Lt. Uhura had given green light for another start of the Enterprise and the further discussion between Goldi and the gerbils was postponed. Once more the ignition lever was pushed up but this time no smugly grinning chief was parading the bridge. Botchy had secretly retreated to the replicator, ordered a piece of ice and cooled his bruise. For today he had his fill of repairs and his head was aching so much that every noise made him jump.

When the Enterprise-machines started and the normal light went on, he closed his blinded eyes and made an ailing face. When cheers came up on board of the Enterprise, he made a still more ailing face and held his ears with both paws. One exception granted his colleagues were in the best of spirits. Goldi had agreed to a fair stand-off with Rubabert and Softbert the gerbils and Trample looked at his reflection in a chromed table-leg and wondered about his future.

Nobody minded the mayor holding a spirited speech, praising himself and the bridge crew. And nobody minded the chief holding his ears all the time. Except the afore mentioned chief they were in good mood – the other exception was Trample. He was standing a little apart and Goldi stepped up to him.

“Don’t loose heart, it’s not smart, Trample. Did you ever think of changing your hairdresser?”

All of a sudden the merriment was interrupted by a loud yell. The yell came from the gerbil-leader and made them all ears. Fluffbert glared at the big main screen. With a trembling paw he pointed at something. Wombert, Rubabert, Wailbert and all the other gerbils assembled around him and seemed to understand at once what excited Fluffbert so much. Only the hamsters did not see what all this fuss meant and only goggled. Flecki and Goldi looked at each other, wondering, and even Trample stopped his ailing mien, now looking to and fro between gerbils and main screen. The mayor who had not yet finished his speech was a little angry at first but he was quite used to have his speeches interrupted, did not let on about it and waddled over to Fluffbert.

“Erm, well, may I be of any assistance, dear colleague Fluffpert?”

“Bert”, the gerbil stammered, “Fluffbert, Mr. Mayor.” Once more he pointed at a section of the main screen and said: “We are approaching our home planet! There is the Warthog Constellation, there we are at home!”

“Aha, warthog, most interesting – and dingus – eh – further?”

“Only Warthog, Mr. Mayor, there is no family name.”

“Erm – I – er, don’t mean the warthog, I mean: What now?”

“Well, we have to go back to the planet…”

“And smash the Klingon-faces in!”

Fluffbert turned to Goldi, smiled broadly and shouted: “I knew you would keep your promise and not desert us! We don’t want to hide any longer, we don’t want to be thrashed any longer. We are free creatures and want to live free!”

“Did you numbskulls wonder at all how to do it?” Flecki asked who of course had listened for some time. “Forget the tansporter, it’s gone for good. Nobody knows how to land the Enterprise. There’s only the tiny gerbil-vessel but if we take it, we can’t take weapons. Not to talk of the simple fact that it is too small for all of us, isn’t it? Well, Mayor, what about some comment?”

Flecki put her tiny paws to her tiny hips and expectantly turned to the mayor. The gerbils and hamsters turned to him, too – except chief Botchy who was sitting beside the replicator, ice-cube on his head and not caring much for anything. Desperately, the helpless mayor beckoned to the named chief Botchy but had no success. The mayor cleared his throat and attempted to look at the crowd bravely. “Erm, yes, my dear hamsters”, he began and hastily added: “And of course my dear verbals – er – gerbils so to say. Great times ask for great deeds as we say in Hamsterton…”

“So they say at Hamsterjello!” Flecki put in indignantly.

“Er, yes, thanks, Dingus – er – Flecki. So, where was I stuck – er – did I stop? O yes, great times ask for great deeds as they say in Hamsterjello and a hamster, a decision as we say in Hamsterton…”

“In Hamstermound!”

The mayor gave Flecki a furious look, showed his teeth and continued with a smile: “The dingus, that is the great times ask for great deeds as they say in Hamsterjello and a hamster, a decision as they say in Hamstermound, all this, and I want to stress it is.”

“Is what?”

The mayor turned to Flecki, looking confused: “Erm, what is what?”

“Well, all this – what about it? Where is the meaning?”

The mayor blinked. “The meaning – er – I just had…”

“Smart!” Goldi bawled. “If he planted a tree for every meaningless sentence, we would not have to worry about dying forests!”

The blinking was now added by a nervous tapping of the right paw and the mayor tried to play down his embarrassment by a false smile.

“Ha ha, of course I realized the meaning dingus. As they use to say in Hamsterton, everthing has three sides…”

“In Hamstercity!” Flecki was still shocked. “And moreover everything has only two sides”

“People, will you stop all that shouting?” the chief now peeped up. He had lifted his head a little and with one paw held the ice so it could not slip off his forehead. “My head’s almost bursting! Don’t you know any consideration?”

“I’m sincerely touched said the ear after the box”, Goldi grinned. “How could we be that inconsiderate.”

“Yes, indeed”, Tuffy shouted at the top of her voice, “some consideration, please!” In case somebody had not got it, she drummed with her paws on the table where she just was sitting. “The chief engineer needs quiet! Got that? QUIET!”

The mayor cleared his throat and looked at Botchy whose ice cubicle had fallen down and who now desperately held his ears with his paws. Then he continued: “We – erm – have to be strategical so to say.” He looked around and could see a lot of hamsters and gerbils staring at him hopefully. “So to say dingus – tactical, without risk and all that.” Everybody still stared at him. “In a way, acting without rushing as they say in Ham… - er – in Dingus. I – er – expect proposals.”

He secretly wiped off some drops of sweat and looked about him. Silence, general silence all around. His glance was on the chief once more who was all but a help and by now snored peacefully. Well, well, he thought, all the better, this way he’ll soon be fit again. However, there was no sound except the snoring on the bridge. The mayor got more and more nervous. Then he had an idea. “Where’s the Plushum? He might help us now!”

Hamsters and gerbils looked at one another. Then Fluffbert stepped forward and said: “Unfortunately, Mr. Mayor, nobody knows. The Plushum only comes if it thinks it necessary.”

This reply made the mayor think deeply. Yes, that was it: They had to call the Plushum – but how? How could they draw the Plushum’s attention? He pondered, running up and down the bridge without noticing it. Spellbound, the crew watched his tripping, moved their heads to the left or right, depending on where the pondering creature just was. After half an hour of marching he paused all of a sudden, put his paws to his head and remained in that position.

“Brain got stuck again?” Tealeafy asked with a broad grin and got a reproachful look from Flecki.

“If that were all”, she grumbled. “Who knows what that pal is brooding about.”

Hamsters and gerbils had no chance but to wait. Of course it itched Flecki to report to Lt. Uhura but what was there to report? Mayor thinking – since long? No, that would make her cringe. Better wait for the outcome of the brooding. If the worst came to the worst, they… Flecki whirled around. The mayor was moving again! Slowing his paws came down and he walked up and down a few paces. All eyes were on him and so he knew.

“I think I know how to get the Plushum to help us”, he cautiously said. Some more excited tripping steps and he continued: “Well, the Dingus – er – Plushum came from the pot plant, you remember? Our Veganian friend.”

“Yes, from the Beta-Geranium-System”, Goldi yawned. “The relicts are still lying over there beside the chair of Captain Kirk.” He stressed ‘Captain Kirk’ so that no one could doubt that Goldi thought the mayor on the chair of a real space Captain to be a figure of fun. “And what do you want with the scrap?”

“Erm – well, I think of a dental winking – er – metal blinking… No matter, the thing the gerbils have down pat.”

“A mental linking, Mr. Mayor?” Softbert asked who was just standing beside him.

“That’s not without risk”, Fluffbert intervened. “Moreover the Plushum no longer is within the plant.”

“But certainly in the buffer of the transporter!” cried Flecki.

“How do you know?” Goldi was baffled.

“Ha”, Flecki triumphantly cried, “I’ve got that out of the computer. There’s something about the functioning of the transporter system. If only I would find something about navigating the ship…”

“Don’t!” Goldi moaned. “All those women behind the wheel in Hamsterton are quite enough for me!”

“In-deed!” Flecki snapped. “Ever heard about the fact that women are better drivers?”

“Sure”, Goldi grinned. “No doubt. Driving men – mad!”

While Goldi saw that he was off to avoid Flecki’s revenge, chief Botchy woke up. He yawned and stretched and looked about him. What he saw was familiar: fleeing Goldi and enraged Flecki. Slowly he got up and felt his head. He was better, much better. Curiously he walked over to the crowd of hamsters and gerbils who were assembled around the mayor.

“Er, are you feeling better, dear chief?” Tuffy shyly asked when suddenly Botchy showed up at her side.

“Thanks for your concern, I’m feeling fine, indeed very fine. I’m just wondering what sort of tiny bits of work I have for you. Later! What’s wrong with the mayor?”

“He wishes to be linked, chief!”

“Good idea, I think. Other mayors may take him as an example. But why does he wish to be linked?”

“The honoured Mr. Mayor wishes for a mental linking to the transporter buffer or, to be exact, with the contents of the buffer.”

The chief goggled at Fluffbert as if just now he had said something very idiotish.

“Gosh! What would be in that buffer?”

“The Plushum.”

“Yes – erm – exactly”, the mayor now unfortunately replied, “the patted buffet, no, the pattern duffer of…”

“Pattern-buffer of the Plushum”, gerbil Fluffbert corrected.

“Just so. Well, as my honoured colleague just mentioned and I tend to agree to the just mentioned – er – we should busy ourselves with that dingus – er – buffer. Certainly the estimated thief – er – chief can take a look at it.”

“O yes?” Botchy croaked. “Can he? And what will the estimated chief do? I’m not your tomfool! Nobody knows what that thing looks like, nobody knows how it works, nobody knows how to get the Plushingus out, and nobody knows…”

“Now come off it, chief”, Flecki gnarled who by now was quite shirted. “You’ll find in the computer what such a pattern-buffer looks like. It’s also explained where you can find it and how you can dismount it. It is even noted down that the poles must not be changed because…”

“Indeed”, Botchy interrupted her. “And then?”

“Then we will try to transfer the contents of the pattern-buffer to Mr. Mayor by our mental powers”, Fluffbert whispered.

“Okay”, chief Botchy said with a shrug. “I can try it.”

Followed hectic activities on the bridge and in the transporter room. For quite some time Flecki stood at the Enterprise-computer and showed the chief engineer what she had found about transporter technology. In principle the matter was simple because the pattern-buffer was often exchanged in the course of maintenance works and there was maintenance shaft to reach the buffer unit. The chief was of a different opinion so that they could only start after a heated discussion.

In the meantime the gerbils named Rubabert, Hitbert, and Beatbert set about repairing one of their helmets so that at least for a short time they could draw from it the required help for mental linking. After Botchy’s recovery the place beside the replicator was vacant and Goldi sat down there to prepare mentally as he explained to his colleagues or at least tried to make them believe.

Flecki only had a scornful glance for him and did what she had on her mind for hours now: report to Lt. Uhura and Ensign Chekov. She knew that the two of them would have called if there had been any news but she also knew that secretly the two officers waited for a call of the hamsters. Lt. Uhura was glad indeed that the hamster girl made an unscheduled call. For the time being Flecki preferred not to mention anything about that fact that the chief was occupied with the transporter once more.

Uhura had to report that she and Chekov had succeeded to find the cause of the peculiar behaviour of the two officers which they showed every time they left Engineering. Obviously there was a leakage in a pipe, and it was a pipe transporting laughing gas of all things. Both officers were now busy locating the exact spot of the leakage. If they had found it, the hamsters would have the job to fetch face masks from the equipment chamber and bring them to Engineering. Would certainly be an interesting job for Dodo.

Concerning the coming mission on the gerbil-planet, it took quite a while until Lt. Uhura regained speech. She was not sure whether the First Directive of non-interference with alien peoples, which applied to space crews, also applied to hamsters. After a long discussion Uhura discovered that hamsters have firm principles and that it was impossible for a hamster to take back a given word. Which in this case meant that the hamsters had promised the gerbils to assist them against the suppressions of the Klingon-hamsters.

“O well”, Lt. Uhura sighed after thirty minutes of discussion. “At the moment Chekov is desperately trying to transfer helm’s control to Engineering. To be honest, we are not much convinced about your abilities in that line.”

Flecki swallowed and looked at her colleagues. Chief Botchy had returned from the transporter room in the meantime and swaggered around like a peacock, carrying a chip in his paws. Close to him the mayor ran in excited circles, Goldi was still occupied with mental preparation beside the replicator, Dodo had fallen asleep on the helm’s control, Trample desperately tried to smoothen his fur, the other hamsters were playing cards with the gerbils.

“I’m afraid you are right, Uhura. We are not made for things like this.”

Lt. Uhura paused in silent agreement, then she continued: “As to Klingons, we met them often enough, not however, like now, hamster Klingons. No idea if they are alike. Anyway, remember one thing: Never show fright, they think it to be an unpardonable weakness. It certainly would be of advantage if you met them armed.” The last sentence came slowly and thoughtfully. She of course could not know that Flecki goggled, with big, terrified eyes at the microphone. The idea of hunting down any creatures with weapons did by no means find her approval. There had to be some peaceful solution!

“What kind of weapons do you have?”

Only now Flecki noticed that Goldi had crept by and took his unavoidable share in the discussion.

“That’s like you!” she hissed. “Banging and bursting hardly mentioned and you’re the first one to cry Hooray!”

“Flecki”, the officer continued without heeding Goldi, “the problem is that the weapon chamber is locked. It can only be opened with Captain Kirk’s authorization and Captain Kirk unfortunately is far off. However, I know that the Captain has hidden an emergency-weapon in the armrest of his chair. With the help of the replicator you should be able to produce weapons for all but you have to inform the replicator that you need a reduction of factor, say, six or seven. That should do. Please look up everything about the use of hand-phasers in the data bank. Uhura out.”

Flecki looked around cautiously if Dodo was close by but he was still lying on the keyboard, yawning. Obviously he was just awakening. Fine, she thought, to he can carry the weapon to the replicator. She waved to Dodo, who waved back sleepily and did not grasp anything. Flecki took a deep breath and hurried to the mayor who was still debating with chief Botchy.

“But that wasn’t my fault, Mr. Mayor. You know me. I can’t have my eyes everywhere! Unfortunately there are always incapable employees – the best boss cannot help that. You will know that from your own experience.”

Thoughtfully the mayor nodded. “Anyway, my dear Botchy, we can dingus ourselves lucky and no one suffered by that reconstruction, not talking about the fact that the new sports hall cost a lot of money. How could that be possible at all?”

“Hamstian failure, dear Mayor. I had told my repair team that the welding had to be finished within two hours. And these dumbheads melted away a carrying iron pillar…”

“Excuse me? The chief can go on finding excuses”, Flecki interrupred the witty chat. “It’s about the arming of our landing party against the Klingon hamsters…”

All of a sudden Flecki was in the center of interest. She reported in detail her discussion with Lt. Uhura. When she had finished, all eyes went to the chair of the Captain beside which the relicts of a flower pot plus contents were lying. “All right, people”, chief Botchy grumbled, “let’s fetch the weapon. We make a few copies and then we try to get that Plushum back!”

Fetching the weapon was not as easy as assumed. At a first look there was nothing special about the arm rest at the Captain’s chair. It was after all Trample who found the secret button. What looked like some sort of decoration, really was a press button. If it was pressed, a steel spring was activated and a small drawer slid open. Unfortunately Trample found no delight in his find because the open-sliding drawer met him full power. Wailing and struggling for breath, he landed in some corner while his colleagues applauded him.

Now it was Dodo’s turn and under loud groaning and lamenting he dragged the phaser pistol out of the drawer and to the replicator. It took some time until Goldi had found the best reduction factor because factor 6 and 7 as proposed by Uhura was a little too high. In the end they all thought reduction factor 4.7 fitting for the paws of hamsters and gerbils.

While Flecki excitedly flitted from hamster to hamster and from gerbil to gerbil to explain the use and the dangers of phaser pistols, the chief engineer put down the transporter chip. During the last minutes Rubabert, Beatbert, and Hitbert had succeeded to repair one of their helmets so that it would do for short use. The time had come: the mayor lay down with his head beside the chip in which there was the pattern of the Plushum.

Gerbil Babblebert put on the helmet because he had the strongest mental powers of all gerbils. Together with Fluffbert, Kickbert, and Hitbert they made a circle around the mayor. Then the four gerbils closed their eyes. Some high buzzing coming from the helmet filled the room. Then Babblebert yelled, the helmet catapulted from his head, smoking, and the gerbils anxiously opened their eyes. The mayor was still lying on the floor, but his eyes were open now and he seemed to wake from a long sleep. His glance wandered from one to the other and paused at Dodo.

“Hey, navigator, what do you have to report?”

Shocked, Dodo stepped back but Goldi behind him pushed him forward again.

“Now will you talk?” the mayor barked.

Once more Dodo tried to escape, once more Goldi pushed him back. “Come on, say something, Dodo”, Goldi whispered into his ear while Dodo was close to tears and shyly looked at the mayor. When Goldi nudged him, Dodo opened his mouth and said:

“When the bell rings, Santa Claus is at the door.”

“Man, have you been drinking? On duty? You’re a shame for the fleet!”

“But Mr. Mayor”, Dodo wailed, “I can’t help it if that was the first thing coming to my mind and moreover, Mr. Mayor…”

“And moreover”, the mayor interrupted him bitingly, “moreover I’m no mayor – I am Khan, the mighty Emperor Khan!”

 

Chapter 29

Golspie

 

The truck on which the Enterprise-officer in Scotland travelled turned into a drive and came to a stop in front of a garden market. One of the gardeners came and the driver got out.

"Hullo, Pete. Good thing that ye made it today."

"Hullo, Kev. Got a cramped bum on the darned box. How about a beer after unloading?"

"Right in t’ fridge, laddie. – I'll tell Sandy tae come wi’ t’ forklift."

"All right, I lock it up."

He driver unlatched the loading doors, then went back to the driver’s cabin and applied the lever for the ramp. When he went back and leisurly waited for the ramp to come down, he heard some scratching sound from inside.

"What the hell is that? – Hey, who the devil are ye?!"

On the first row of sacks a hamster was sitting! The hamster went up onto his hind paws and desperately – or so it looked – scratched at the loading ramp which no longer was there. And because the hamster could no longer lean to the loading ramp, he just toppled over.

"Poor little chap", the driver pityfully said. "Must hae got in at Fort William. An’ all t’ time in that stink. Gosh, I'm right sorry."

He bent to take up the hamster. The hamster squeaked miserably and Pete had a soft heart. At home he had three children and each child had a hamster. He knew something about the little rodents. No food for hours, that knocked the best hamster out. In the garden market they surely had got something.

"Hi, Pete! – What hae ye got there?"

"Hullo, Sandy. A hamster strayed into my truck. Needs be in there since Fort William."

"Lord, but he's cute. All battered up, he is, ain't he?" Sandy asked who had come with the forklift. "Look how cute he looks. Och, me pet, ye're hungry for sure, ain't ye? Come along, Pete. We feed him an’ then think what do to do with him."

"Ay, tha's right kind o’ ye, Sandy. As it is, I've got three o’ t’ sort, I might well…"

The voices faded in the distance. Back in the darkness of the loading area the officers had crouched. Now the Captain stalked out first and looked about him. Dusk was beginning to fall and nobody was to be seen. Kirk turned and beckoned the others to follow him

They did not have the faintest idea where they were. However, it was more important just now that there were a lot of shrubs to take cover. Hamstilidamst had assured him that he would find them again if they did not go too far. Ducking, they ran to the next shrubs. Kirk tested if they could be seen from the other side. Probably not, and he breathed in relief.

They all breathed in relief and breathed deeply. The air was wonderful. It was not just wonderful because they were out of the stinking car – it smelt like salt water. They had to be close to the sea.

"Must I still be quiet?" Spock asked.

"No, but speak in a very, very low voice", Dr. McCoy replied.

"What do those people do with Hamstilidamst?"

"They will give him something to eat and be very kind to him."

"And then?"

"Then he will run away and come to us. Until then we stay around here."

"I do like that", the First Officer said, satisfied.

Scott and Kirk exchanged a desperate glance. The Vulcan was in a terrible state. Dr. McCoy skipped his usual quibbles. Now the Vulcan was his patient and as that a patient whom he was not able to help. The Vulcan's brain was poisoned, something which could not happen to a human.

"I think we should advance to the shrub over there", Kirk whispered. "That's rather thick and still close enough."

"Do you come, Spock?" McCoy kindly asked. "We'll sit down there and wait for Hamstilidamst."

"O yes. That will be cosy."

If Spock asked for something to be cosy, he had to be very sick. Vulcans did not soften themselves and of all things cosiness was something illogical and no Vulcan could do anything with it. For the time being they took cover behind a huge rhododendron. They could do nothing but wait. Anyhow, the Captain was certain that Hamstilidamst was going to find them.

That one in the meantime faked dizziness and held still. But it was an awkward game. Yes, in all earnest, never in his life a role had been that difficult. He decidedly was a hero of an actor. There stood that Sandy-girl, mixing grain and corn and sunflower seed. And he succeeded, he really succeed in faking listlessness.

"Now, honey, there's something fer yer spirits", Sandy said. "Ye're lucky we've got chicks or we could nae offer ye the like."

With that she took up Hamstilidamst and sat him down in front of the bowl. At last, at last he could stop faking. Oh, but this was yum-yum! He would stuff some of it into his pouches and take away.

"Why, he's getting on", Pete laughed. "Come on, let's unload. I'll take him tae my bunk later on. My kids will rejoice."

"That's what you believe", Hamstilidamst said between two corns and Sandy laughed.

"Guess that's 'Thank ye' in Hamsterlish. Okay, Pete, let's go."

"Er, yes, thank you, in all earnest", Hamstilidamst mumbled, embarrassed.

The two of them had hardly left, when he began stuffing some of the bowl contents into his pouches, then he looked aroud. Kid's game to get out here. The window stood a little ajar and only humans would think that nobody could get in or out there.

From the window sill he could easily jump onto a twig. The twig unfortunately was very rotten and broke under his weight. No matter, he fell into soft, freshly broken up soil and only shook his head once. Then he arranged his supplies, stalked along the house and took his bearing. Over there the truck was standing, through the shrubs he would get close to it.

"Tockto-o-oac", it suddenly sounded directly beside him. "Tocktockto-o-oac!"

A giant monster barred his path. Hamstilidamst glared up and saw a horrible beak coming towards him.

"Now listen, I won't hurt you, so you won't hurt me", Hamstilidamst said in a voice which was to sound brave and heroic. "A friend of mine is the conqueror of the Loch Ness monster. So you now know whom you are dealing with."

"Tockto-oac", the monster yelled and lifted a foot armed with exceptionally horrible claws.

That was enough. Hamstilidamst flitted through the legs of the monster, raced under a shrub and sat there, panting. Cautiously he peered through the twigs. The monster was still standing there, jerked its head – then it went off.

"Ha, not that easy to fight a hamster", Hamstilidamst squeaked. "I don't always need Jim, I can as well save myself. – Gee, Jim!"

As all around here monsters were swarming, at least one was swarming, he moved with yet more caution. Now he was on eye level with the truck. Like any clever hamster, they would hide behind shrubs but of course the shrubs had to be bigger. Over there was a shrub like a forest. When he got closer he heard a familiar "Ay, Sir" from behind the shrub and made a little skip. They had waited for him!

They still did not know where they were but at the moment they couldn’t care less. The fresh air after all those long, stinking hours just did them well. Hamstilidamst was with them again and for an exception he did not grumble about being hungry.

"We'll hae t’ spend the night somewhere", Lt. Scott said.

"Well, let's not hurry too much about that", the Captain grinned. "We're all stinking like some giant dung hill. Let's air our clothes first."

"Why don't we go for a walk?" Spock mildly asked.

"Ay, tha's a fine idea. As long as it i’nt dark."

"I'm sure it's entirely undark when we're out of these shrubs", Hamstilidamst guessed and Kirk gave him a fascinated glance.

"Did you say 'undark'?"

"Humhum. No longer really bright yet but not as dark as in here. What do you call that?"

"Undark – even there is no such word."

"Hamstilidamst is a word inventor", the Vulcan said in a pleased tone.

They got up, looked around if anybody was in sight and set off into the most undark direction. They reached a huge green. Here and there were small mounds, over there was something like a big sand pit. Kirk, McCoy and Scott paused and made a blinking trio.

"Golf", they said uni sono.

It was a large golf link indeed, much longer than wide. During the day there certainly was much on. The officers kept in the cover of trees and shrubs and crossed the area undisturbed. For a moment they all kept their breath: Ahead of them was the sea.

"Why don't we go for a swim?" Spock asked.

"Now and then we should put you into some dung cart", the Doctor grinned. "Afterwards you start to get really good ideas. As it is, we'll go in with our clothes on. We'll be wet but the stink will be gone."

Everybody could live with that proposal. Hamstilidamst who did not think it such a great idea to go for a swim, promised to guard the rucksack at the beach. He climbed right onto it, put his fore paws to his hips and looked as threateningly as he was able to. Now let them come, all those monsters, he would defend himself against everything.

"Cold, but wonderful", the Captain remarked when they were in the water. "And after that a nice long walk along the beach. By and by I get a holiday feeling."

"Ay, Sir, and I even can tell ye where ye are."

"In Scotland, Scotty, that much I got."

"In Golspie, Sir. Just turn round, will ye? – There!"

In a little distance to the north rose the towers of a mighty castle. This was, Lt. Scott knew, Dunrobin. Dunrobin belonged to the Earl of Sutherland. And if it still belonged to him in their own time, he could be sure that it did in this time. In their own time it was the tourist castle but Scott did not know about today.

Golf link and castle, that promised some chances to get an overnight stay. The officers finished their splashing and leisurely waded back to the beach. Somehow they had lost the direction, but there was the beach and if they were there…

"Hamstilidamst's in danger!"

Spock's voice and it sounded close to normal. Kirk looked into the direction the Vulcan looked and let out a shocked cry.

Hamstilidamst, guarding the rucksack and himself against everything, had dozed off a bit. Suddenly wild screeching woke him up and made him jump. Seagulls, giant seagulls looking for food. One of them had discovered prey and informed the others with loud yells. When Hamstilidamst understood that he was the prey, he hastily scrambled down from the rucksack and wanted to dig in under it.

But that easily the seagulls did not give up. Some landed, some were fluttering directly above his head. It was horrible! Now a hard beak gripped one of his paws and he could just free himself. Desperately he dug a well so that he could disappear under the rucksack.

He did not even have time to cry for help. Again and again one of these beasts attacked him. And then he was certain that he was done. One of the seagulls with a strong jolt pulled him out of the much too small well. Now he yelled, but his voice was drowned in the yelling of the gulls. Sharp claws were on his head, dug in. Just when he swooned he felt that the giant bird was jerking - then all went dark.

"Fiends!" the Captain swore. "How is it, Bones?"

"Can't say, shut up", he snapped.

This time Lt. Scott had been the rescuer. Running through the water had been slow. They all had been afraid to be too late. And then they had seen how one of the seagulls had gripped Hamstilidamst. Quick as lightning Scotty had bent, picked up a flat pebble, calculated the trajectory and hurtled the stone. On this distance the missile had not seriously hurt the gull but enough to make it let go her prey.

At last they had been able to take up speed and run towards the swarm of seagulls, yelling loudly. Well, gulls were not of an anxious nature but the concentrated attack of four men had driven them off. Hamstilidamst lay there bleeding and llifeless and the Doctor instantly sat down in the sand to examine him. Now the Capain got the small med-kit out of the rucksack. It was hardly possible that the contents held anything for treating a hamster but…

"Yes, Jim, thanks, I need something for disinfecting. And hand me the headband."

He needed light for by now it had grown too dark to see distinctly. A strong light cell was integrated in the headband and now he had a clear view on the injuries. Kirk held the open med-kit so that the Doctor could help himself with all he could need here.

"Nothing serious", he finally said in a relieved voice. "Only flesh wounds. Spock, do hold Hamstilidamst so I've got my hands free."

"Of course, Dr. McCoy. Will Hamstilidamst recover?"

"For sure. In two days he will be all right again. I've got to see how he gets along with the pain. Impossible to treat a hamster with one of my sedatives. Perhaps we've got to go to a vet tomorrow."

While speaking, he dabbed each wound with a disinfecting bud. Tonight he would keep the hamster close to him. When Hamstilidamst woke up, he certainly would wail how everything hurt him and the Doctor could offer consolation and loving care if nothing else.

Barking loudly, two beautiful border collies came running now. Cheerfully they stormed towards the officers so that Scott and Kirk positioned themselves protectively in front of McCoy and the hamster. A shrill whistle and the dogs stood. With running pace a girl approached who obviously belonged to the dogs.

"Hi", she hailed them and kept her distance. "What are you doing here?"

"Would you mind calling back your dogs?" the Captain asked. "We left our hamster at the beach when we went for a swim. He has been attacked by seagulls."

"O bullshit!" the girl sympathetically said. "He still alive?"

"Yes, we're just giving him a treatment."

"Okay! – Sir! Lady! Heel!" she sternly ordered and the dogs, listening to these names, obeyed at once. Then the girl came closer. "That really true?"

"Yes", said Spock and held out the unconscious hamster to her.

“Bullshit ", she repeated from her heart.

"Thanks", the Captain smiled. "Be off. We have to be, too. Gotta look for some overnight stay."

"Ey, why don't you come along?"

"Where?"

"Our place. My Mum's on B&B. We've got four rooms."

"Well… That's really swell. We'll just get together our things, okay?"

"Bingo", she retorted and walked over to the dogs.

Hastily the Captain searched for the tricorder, called up the file they had questioned so often and wanted to know what in the world B&B meant. When he found that in this time and in this country it was usual to rent private rooms for overnight stay and breakfast, he grinned broadly. Nothing better could happen to them.

"I'm Tony", the girl said when they joined her.

"Well, Tony, that's tremendously kind of you. We came hitchhiking and did not even know exactly where we are."

"No problem", she retorted.

He introduced his colleagues and himself and she giggled when she heard that the hamster was named Hamstilidamst. Also Tony marched across the golf link as it was her shortest way home. Her parents owned a beautiful old house with bow windows, light shining brightly through them.

The house was so lovely that Kirk felt rather embarrassed to show up in once again wet and sandy clothes. He did not expect that a girl of Tony's age – he estimated her to be eleven years old – would mind that very much. Her parents would probably turn up their noses.

"Will you wait here?" she asked. "I'll just inform."

"Thanks, Tony."

There was a garden at the house. As far as they could make out it was blooming with flowers. They looked forward to seeing it tomorrow in daylight. A window close to the front door stood a little ajar and now they heard voices.

"Ey, why're ye back already, ey! Ye'd wanna go with them dogs."

"Did, so don’t diss me." That was Tony's voice. "There'd been a few guys with a hamster at the beach."

"Bit wanting, are ye?"

"Ey, the gulls fell on the hamster. Wounded! Got that in your thickie?"

They could not follow this conversation further but assumed it was nothing but a loving chat between sister and brother. The front door opened and a most elegant lady was standing in the door frame. She was exceptionally good-looking and suddenly Kirk had the impression he knew her.

"Good evening. My daughter found you as jetsam?"

"You could say so, Madam", Kirk said and stepped forward. "My friends and I came hitchhiking. Before we went to look for rooms we went to a swim. Well…"

"And then your hamster was attacked? I guess you rescued him like heroes?"

"Yes, we did, and like true heroes as that", Kirk grinned for he liked her way of talking. "Unfortunately we're all quite wet and full of sand."

"He's coming to", the voice of Dr. McCoy was to be heard and the lady stepped closer.

"What a picture of misery. - If I think it over, this goes for all of you. I'm Cora McLean. Please, do come in."

Lt. Scott took an audible breath – and he wasn't the only one. Then they stepped into the hall and the light and the officers could not but scrutinize the face of their hostess.

"Brian!" the called and went into the next room with an excuse.

"Brian, son of Cora", Kirk murmured. "That can't be a coincidence."

"And the green McLean-eyes", Scotty added to the murmur. "Och, tha's a wee bit spooky."

Patrick McLean was a Starfleet-Captain and good friend of Kirk. During their first academy years they had been inseparable. More than once Kirk had been with the McLean’s in Los Angeles, Admiral Brian McLean and his wife. The Admiral's mother at that time had been an old lady, Captain as well, and her name had been Cora. She had told him that she had been named after her great-grandmother.

Now the Enterprise-officers, wet and dirty, were standing in the hall of that great-grandmother. And now Brian came, followed by Tony. He just hailed them and the children went upstairs. The officers stared after him, fascinated. If they got that correctly, this cheek was the great-grandfather of Admiral MacLean.

"It is a bit spooky. I've once been on a bat with his great-grandson", Dr. McCoy said in an undertone.

"O-o-o-oh!" it yammered in his hand. "Have I been on a bat, too?!"

"Shsh!" the Doctor hissed. "You're badly hurt, pet. Stay quietly where you are and it will be better soon."

Now the present Cora MacLean returned and asked the officers into the kitchen. She did not like to offer her living room sofa to these sandy jeans. The men, however, looked like needing something to sustain them. A pan with scrambled eggs was on the stove, toast was in preparation and water for tea would be boiling any moment.

A short time later they sat down for their meal. Cora McLean in the meantime took Hamstilidamst and with a fine brush began to clean his fur. Kirk smiled at her. Always busy, always practical, always keeping the track. This Cora had passed more to Captain Cora McLean than the cat-green eyes.

The great-grandfather of the future Admiral McLean meanwhile prepared the rooms together with his sister Tony. They worked swiftly but did not forget their usual exchange of politenesses. Fed and tired the officers came up the stairs and heard Brian say:

"And quit comin' tae the dog's competition", whereas his sister spit:

"No problem, and you've been with the falconers for the last time yesterday. I won't talk myself blue for you once more."

"Falconers?" the Captain asked interestedly and leaned to the door frame. "Do you mean a real hunt with falcons?"

"Gosh, no, scrap. Up in the castle we train birds of prey. Show for the touries."

"I might take you", Brian offered.

"Forget it!" Tony gnarled and straightened the bed cover with a furious jerk. "Ready. How's the hamster?"

"Not very well", McCoy answered. "We'll see about the night. I guess you've got a vet?"

"Ey, 'course we have", Brian said. "We're not only golf, if you think so."

"I think we are for bed", the Captain soothingly said. "Has been quite a lousy day until we met Tony."

"O well", she snapped, showed her brother her tongue and propelled him out of the room. Then she turned round once more. "The next three rooms down the passage."

The Enterprise-officers did not sit together for long until each of them went down the passage to his room. They were in Golspie, far off from Fort William, as they had discovered. Here no one knew them, they would meet no acquaintance by chance. They did not have to think of any fake. The rent was not high, Cora McLean had informed them that they might stay for two or three nights.

Regarding the town, it might be small but certainly there would be enough chances for jobbing. There was the golf link and so there would be work by the hour. That would not be different from their own time. Moreover they had to wait for Hamstilidamst to recover. If they really wanted to travel on to some even remoter region, the hamster had to be fit again.

Dr. McCoy did not have a very pleasant night. Hamstilidamst felt his pain and the rest of the world was to know that. The Doctor felt like some Stone Age or earlier healer but he only could use the most primitive treatment. He would have liked to cool the wounds but did not know if a hamster might over-chill after all. So he spent much time blowing on the injuries.

"The head is really nasty", Hamstilidamst moaned. "How can anybody be that mean?"

"Isn't it better if I blow on it?"

"And then the pain flies away? I'm no baby. It doesn't fly at all, the pain, it sticks like three days old cold glue with the clamp still on it. It HURTS!"

"How about camomile?"

"I won't drink camomile tea, there's nothing wrong with my stomach!"

"Grrrm! Is it okay for you as hamster if I wash your wounds with camomile tea?"

"Hum?!" Hamstilidamst grunted, surprised. "Herb healing? You do that, too?"

"For sure. Herbs are made for healing. It's just that not everybody agrees with everything."

"Camomile is okay."

However, McCoy could only promise this for the following morning. He could, after all, not spook around in a strange house to search the cupboards for camomile. Finally Hamstilidamst's groaning grew softer and unintelligible. He fell asleep and the Doctor had the chance to do the same.

Two rooms down the passage Lt. Spock was sitting at the open window and also needed very long to find sleep. A curious chaos was in his head. His Vulcan intellect tried hard to get to the surface again but the thoughts Spock really had, were extremely simple. Somehow he had an idea that something was wrong and somehow he even knew that he could help himself. He just did not remember. All this was very confusing.

But he, too, finally fell asleep and next morning the world looked quite different. Especially when looking out of the window. The rain which they had not noticed yesterday in the truck, had now reached Golspie. It looked like a resting day for the officers.

"Morning! Morning! Morning! Morning!"

That was their morning call and was accompanied by a bang of Tony's fist at each door. Dr. McCoy turned in his bed with a growl, Lt. Spock did not react at all, but the two others were out of bed in a trice.

"Grrm, dammit", Kirk grumbled when he saw the rain through the window.

"Ay, what a terrific Scottish day", Lt. Scott on the other hand said when looking through the window of his room.

"Breakfast in half an hour!"

This time Tony simply stood in the middle of the passage and barked the message. Lt. Scott opened his door.

"Hey, ye're nae at school?"

"Ye're off the moon? Before breakfast?!"

With that she turned and marched downstairs. Now the Captain came out and went looking for the bathroom. The door opposite to his room opened to an office and he wanted to shut it quickly. Then he paused and said:

"Scotty, come here."

The Chief Engineer came quickly as Kirk's voice had sounded quite peculiar. Opposite the door stood a desktop, above the desktop hung the photo of a uniformed man. He had the face of Admiral Brian McLean.

"The bath is two doors down. Good morning", Cora said, standing behind them.

"I'm sorry", Kirk stammered.

"Tony should have told you."

"Madam, excuse me but… Who's the man on the photograph?"

"Patrick, my husband. He's with the Royal Airforce and on duty now."

"He's got the same green eyes like you. Is that so frequent?"

"No. We're both McLeans but of different lines. That are the McLean-eyes, you know."

"I know", Lt. Scott smiled and cleared his throat hastily. "I – I heard about that."

"I see. However, the bathroom is over there and you may come down for breakfast afterwards. – What about your friends? Long sleepers?"

"Scotty – bath. I'll take a look."

First he looked in at Dr. McCoy's and got no further. The Doctor blinked sleepily and Hamstilidamst looked quite satisfied again. However, when he saw who was entering, he at once started lamenting:

"Everything hurts me, Jim. Bones wanted to wash my bad wounds with camomile and now he lies here, snoring, that lazy sod. Everything will be inflamed and I'll be feverish and sick to death and go to the hospital. Then you will leave me and I will starve. And talking about starving…"

"What gives me the idea that you are quite well again?" Kirk interrupted. "Come on, Bones, get up, wash, dress, breakfast."

"Yes, Daddy", McCoy grunted. "You hear that unrespectful hamster? He really calls me Bones. He picked that up from you."

"Eh? Jim calls you Bones, too!" Hamstilidamst protested.

"And nobody else but Jim. – O well, and you, my pet. Jim, could the first one going downstairs ask Mrs. McLean to prepare some camomile tea? That should do for disinfection and sedating but later on I'll take another close look at the injuries."

"Bathroom vacant!" Lt. Scott shouted from outside and bumped against the door.

Kirk went out and passed on the Doctor's orders, then he disappeared in the bath. Finally they all were assembled around the breakfast table. By now the children had gone to school, Mrs. McLean had told them that she went shopping and they might come again in the evening. So the B&B-idea was clear: this was no hotel to stay during the day. It was just bed and breakfast.

So they had to leave the rooms and decided to visit Dunrobin Castle before they looked for some kind of job. They only stayed until Hamstilidamst's wounds were dabbed with camomile tea. The only thing of their belongings they had left in Fort William was the Rocking-Travel-Transport-Unit. As Hamstilidamst was not yet strong enough the sit on some shoulder all the day long, they went shopping before visiting the castle.

In this weather everyone received a base cap and Hamstilidamst a pet box of transparent plastic with big vents so that he could look out comfortably. He did not feel quite the thing and dozed a lot. So it was not he who saw the big sign but Lt. Scott paused in front of it.

"Talking about money…"

"Hum?" the Captain asked who was busy being miffed about the weather.

"Look. Amateur golf competition this afternoon."

"Oh!" the Captain cried and was wide awake. "Registration till noon. Well, how good are we at golf? I can participate but if we want to get a price…"

"If the price is a silver plate, it won't help us much", Dr. McCoy said. "It should be money."

"But I can't golf", the Vulcan remarked.

"You need not, Spock", Kirk calmed him down. "In Fort William I made no money at all and Scotty and Bones only very little. Remember, you earned the most."

"I was the prince of hell", Spock announced. "That was fun."

"And I was hell-hamster", it sounded from the box. "That also was fun."

"So we both a lots of fun", Spock nodded, satisfied.

The Captain bit his lip. His Chief Engineer had been entirely right. The whole crew had always expected Spock to behave like a human one day. Now he did and it was terrible. But they must not let him feel it, so he merrily said:

"Let's have a look about the registration. Scotty and me, I think, don't you?"

"Hey, why not me?" the Doctor protested.

"Because perhaps you need some paper to show that it's you. We don't risk that."

"Gosh", McCoy grumped. "Once I'm acting the nurse, once I'm not allowed to do anything. Some day you'll not permit me to eat with you."

"That's torture, that's forbidden", came a voice from the pet box.

"Don't worry, our penalties are not as harsh as that", the Captain soothed him.

They looked for and found the entrance and office of the golf link where they could register. It was one pound but if one of them was to carry home the first prize, that would be 500 Pound. The Captain and his Chief laid their plans accordingly. With such a sum they would be well off for the rest of their time here.

Now they set off for Dunrobin. It was a lovely walk with view to the sea over most of the distance and until they reached the castle, the rain had stopped. Lt. Scott was the only one who knew this castle and several times had said "Ay!" until they came closer. Obviously it had not changed much – or was not to change much until their own time.

"Ay!" Scott said again when they reached the entrance, and grinned broadly.

At the entrance of the impressive castle a piper was standing. Reading the face of Scott correctly, the piper would still be here in 200 years and welcome tourists. Just now a coach had arrived and a lot of Japanese tourists got out. They all took pictures of the piper and the officers squeezed through the crowd.

"Only the castle or the gardens, too?" asked the Captain, studying the prices list.

"By all means t’ gardens, too!" Lt. Scott ejaculated. "Ye just hae tae see them."

In expectation of a golden shower after the golf match they spent themselves a tour through castle and gardens. The box with Hamstilidamst was hidden because the men did not know if they were allowed to take him within. Luckily Hamstilidamst had fallen asleep and made himself not heard.

The rooms of the castle were furnished in the style of some former Lord of Sutherland. Captain Kirk sent several prayers of thanks to heaven that Hamstilidamst was in the box and sleeping. He found all this rather interesting but preferred not to think how interesting Hamstilidamst would have found all this had he been top fit. Probably they never would have got him back…

"Scotty!"

A score of times Kirk had reminded his Chief Engineer to walk on. Close behind them was the troop of chattering Japanese who regularly had to be stopped to start a thunderstorm of flashlights on the historic rooms. The Captain had no mind to be overtaken by them.

Then a sign directed them to shop and snack bar and as they did not know when they would get anything to eat again, they took that direction. The castle had opened only a short while ago so that today they were the first ones in the shop, were welcomed most kindly and watched when they looked around.

"Look at this kitsch", Dr. McCoy mumbled. "Does anybody buy that?"

"If not, the shop would not run", the Captain retorted.

He had an eye on Spock who looked at everything with great interest. The Vulcan took up some curious object which had a Mini-Dunrobin inside. When he moved the globe he saw that it was filled with water and some little white flakes whirled up like snow. Spock looked bewildered, shook – and there was a blizzard in the globe.

"I want to have this!" he delightedly cried.

"Spock, we don't have the money for useless things", Dr. McCoy reminded him. "Look, here is a very lovely bar of soap which really smells nice. We may buy that."

"Our Doc", Lt. Scott murmured. "If only the hygiene is all right."

Then the Japanese fell into the shop and the officers stopped their discussion. They bought the shake-globe and the soap and fled to the snack bar. There the sign said that every day another soup was served. Today carrot soup was on offer and Dr. McCoy grumbled. Healthy food for him ended when he did not like its taste.

But it was the only warm meal and cheap as well. As matter of fact the soup was delicious and much better than anything Dr. McCoy up to now had tried as carrot soup. Before the Japanese flooded also this room, the officers bought some prepacked scones and shortbread, then they left.

"Here it goes down to the gardens", Lt. Scott knew. "But over there is a sort of large balcony."

"I'm hungry!" a strong squeaking came out of the pet box.

"You're lucky, we made some shoppings for you", Dr. McCoy said.

They had followed Lt. Scott to the big terrace. It was a good opportunity to open the box and give some of the biscuits to Hamstilidamst. But on the view they had from the balustrade they forgot it.

Beneath them was a large, beautiful park and directly behind it the sea. For some moments words failed them.

"What about my hunger?" asked Hamstilidamst who for the time being could take interest in nothing else.

"Why yes, sure", the Captain said.

He had stuffed everything into the rucksack which he now took off and put it onto the balustrade. Hamstilidamst was let out of the box, got shortbread and was willing to take a look at the landscape while he was eating. By now the sun was shining again, the flowers below were glowing, the sea in the background was glittering.

"That's truly cushty", the hamster commented.

"Ay, so it is", Lt. Scott answered with the pride of the castle owner.

"Hey! That's my shortbread!"

The Captain turned round and saw that out of nothing a squirrel had shown up and nicked the biscuit from Hamstilidamst. Spock quickly gripped the hamster before he could start to hunt the squirrel.

"There are much more biscuits", he said. "With your bad injuries you shall not run after squirrels."

"If there are much more biscuits… Then I'm generous", Hamstilidamst said and shouted after the squirrel: "Ey, get off with that biscuit! I won't have it with all that slobber of yours. I've got much better here!"

"He doesn't seem extremely sick to me", the Captain commented. "And now we'll go down. Hamstilidamst, into the box."

"Nope!"

"O yes!"

"Nope!"

"Down there are also these large birds…", Lt. Scott began.

Hamstilidamst was sitting in the box and shutting the door before one of the officers could say "ginger bread". The Captain grinned at Scotty and handed the box to him with a bow. Then he struggled into the rucksack again and over many stairs they climbed down to the park.

Well, this really was holiday and there they all were at one. It was like a dream down here and the view on the castle almost knocked them down. The opinions differed crassly when the officers decided to visit the birds of prey-show. The officers, however, understood well that Hamstilidamst's shock after his encounter with the seagulls was deep and he did not want to see any big birds.

"I'll sit down on a bench here with Hamstilidamst", Dr. McCoy proposed. "We surely will not be bored."

"That's okay but keep the biscuits", Hamstilidamst said with good will.

The Captain discovered that the birds of prey-show was open air and would take a while. Nobody was nailed to his seat, everybody might come and go as he liked. So he decided to release Bones after a while so that he could enjoy the show as well.

It really was impressing to watch how falcons, buzzards, and eagles rose up into the sky, reacted on whistles and came down precisely on the arm of the falconer.

"Why do they always come back?" Lt. Spock wondered.

"It's the big idea tha’ they always… Hoahaha!" Scotty almost fell from the bench. Entirely soundless a barn owl had flown towards him from behind and passed his head to the inch. "O God! Now I know how Hamstilidamst has felt."

"You don't know", the Vulcan objected. "Who put claws into your head?"

"True. The more I do pity him. I'll go to release Bones."

The Captain nodded and grinned. Obviously the Chief Engineer was quite fed up with birds of prey after this private encounter with a barn owl - like Hamstilidamst. When Scotty approached the park bench, he saw that the Doctor was in company. To his right and left and old lady and a small boy were sitting. On Bones' shoulder sat Hamstilidamst, at their feet four squirrels had a brawl over biscuits and nuts.

"Reckon ye prefer t’ stay here", Lt. Scott said – Bones turned his head.

"Didn't you like it?"

"Fine show o’er there. Worth having a look. Will ye get off tha’ muddle?"

"When you go to the show, take me along?" the little boy asked.

"Deary, we haven't got that much time", the old lady objected.

"I want, I want. Ye're daft!" yelled 'Deary'. "I want the show. And I want the hamster."

"And I want ye tae shut up", Lt. Scott firmly said and the boy's mouth stood open.

"My saying", he heard Hamstilidamst grumbling. "Incredible, how this dumbhead nerves all the time."

"Listen, I don't want you to talk to my grandson this way", the old lady said in a shocked voice, but Lt. Scott saw now reason to change his mind.

"Tha's as may be, Lady. Perhaps you should talk tae him this way now an’ then."

"Come, Brucy, let us go. That's not a nice gentleman."

"But I want the hamster! Whe-e-ehe-e-e! I want the hamster!!!"

"Oh, please do give him the hamster", the helpless grandmother said to Dr. McCoy.

"Dare it!" Hamstilidamst hissed.

McCoy took him from his shoulder and gave him a slight nudge with the finger. Brucy-Deary saw it and took it for a farewell gesture. Quick as lightning he grabbed for the hamster, jumped down from the bench and – stumbled full power over the squirrels. Child, hamster, and squirrels sailed into different directions of the park. Grandma shrieked in shock and fell on Deary, Scott and McCoy dived into a flower bed after Hamstilidamst. The squirrels hastily vanished.

Brucy's howling had already drawn some attention, among others that of the castle park's attendants. At the same time in the bird-show the Captain wondered why Bones did not come. As he did not want to leave Spock out of sight, he took his arm and returned with him to the flower beds. They just arrived when a park attendant asked with stern face what the noise meant and what the two men were doing among the flowers.

Hamstilidamst had landed in hundreds of snapdragons. As he had fared worse during his life he just tried how snapdragons tasted. The test did not last long because Lt. Scott discovered him and fished him out of the sea of flowers. Meanwhile the attendant said:

"Madam, will you please silence that child. Or has it been hurt by these men?"

"I want the hamster!" Brucy bawled.

"Which hamster?" the attendant asked.

Brucy stretched out his arm and pointed at Lt. Scott who just was stepping out of the flower bed. Granny, who wanted to do everything for her grandson without drawing too much attention, explained the matter in her own fashion:

"This kind gentleman wanted to make a present of the hamster to my Deary. And then my dear little grandson stumbled and the hamster fell out of his hand. This nice gentleman fetched the hamster out of the flower bed as you could see. And now you give the hamster to my Deary, will you?"

Everybody looked expectantly at Lt. Scott whose jaw had dropped on this pack of lies. Then he blinked twice, then Spock was there. He took Hamstilidamst, pressed him to his breast and said.

"That's my hamster, nobody gets it."

"Just so", Dr. McCoy added. "I held the hamster because he shouldn't go to the bird of prey-show. And this – this Deary made the hell of a noise and stole the hamster from me."

"You're a really nasty, mean child!" Spock said. "Get off here!"

Now at last the Captain had reached his First Officer, took his arm and spoke to him in a soothing voice. The attendant had quite a good idea what had happened. The long guy with the cap was a bit weak in the head and now his warder took care of him. That was quite all right and they better were off now. And as to granny and Deary they better were off all the quicker and not to return in near future.

The men with the hamster were already on their way back up and saw that they came to the road to Golspie. Hamstilidamst said:

"I think you did that just swell. Where'd you like to rescue me next time?"

"We can't for ever rescue you, Hamstilidamst. But I think we really did that good enough."

Very slowly three humans turned their heads and glare at one Vulcan. Now Dr. McCoy blinked.

"Spock, you faked that to that snotty brat and the granny  - and us?"

"You?" Spock was surprised. "You fell for that? That's yet more funny!"