Chapter 30

 

The Great Khan

 

“Hold me tight, Tuffy”, Flecki gasped and goggled at the mayor who had the mad idea to call himself Khan. “What’s gone wrong now? Will all that fuss begin from the beginning now?”

“Well, who is that Khan?” Tuffy wondered but Flecki shook her head.

“No idea, perhaps the gerbils or Lieutenant Uhura know something about him.”

“I don’t want to state the obvious”, Tuffy retorted, “but that is some botch of Botchy again. Never in life the Plushum behaves like that!”

Flecki did not reply but once more thought about what she head read in the Enterprise data banks about the transporter and the exchange of the sample buffer. What if the chief engineer had changed the poles? That after all might explain why instead of a benevolent, powerful creature some unkind, power-hungry creature was sitting on the bridge. This at least might be feared after the first impression. Was now also the rescue mission for the gerbils endangered? She did not know but she approached Goldi to tell him her worries. Both decided to have a sharp eye on the further development and to be very careful.

“Hey, you”, the Khan-Mayor barked at this moment, “how do you look and how do you bear yourself? Don’t you realize that we’re at war? I expect discipline and seemly outfit!”

“I’ve had an accident”, Trample whimpered, “I can’t help it.”

“We are in the close vicinity of our home planet, honourable Mr. May… - er – Imperator”, the leader of the gerbils now shouted, pointing at the main screen. “What are we to do now?”

“All to your stations!” the mayor gnarled. “Be ready! I will annihilate this planet, level it and take over!”

Stunned horror on the bridge! Then Dodo’s voice: “Well, I don’t understand that…”

He met with a glittering glance of the Khan-Mayor. “Anything not to understand there, Navigator? Dare to question my plans, you unworthy?”

“I just wondered. Well, if a planet is annihilated how can it be levelled? There’s nothing to level if all is annihilated…”

“That’s it”, Goldi piped up. “And if the planet is levelled and annihilated, why would you want to take it over?”

“You dare to doubt my decisions, you worms?”

“O no, certainly not”, Flecki purred. “We are just here to assist and advise. By the by, we are not worms but hamsters and by that nocturnal rodents.”

“That’s it”, Goldi remarked, “we’re a subfamily within the cricetidae family as every hamster knows. To this family, by the way, are also counted the here present gerbils. However…”

“Shut your gob!” roared the obviously shirted Khan-Mayor. “It’s my business what I level and what I take over – got that?”

“Not necessarily, if I may put that in as advice”, Tuffy squeaked. “Mr. Botchy does not like it at all if someone except him levels anything. Only last month he said: If anybody levels anything here, that’s me. And when the fire brigade…”

“Of no interest – we’ll attack!” the Khan-Mayor roared and scrambled onto the chair of the Captain to stand in the middle of the seat. “Blow up everybody getting into our path!”

“At last! A well thought through, intelligent way of acting!” Goldi cheered. “But how do we get there?”

“Erm – where?”

“Well, there – where we’re to level everything.”

“Yes – er – why?” The Khan-Mayor appeared uncertain for the first time. “We’ve got weapons on board reaching to the planet – haven’t we?”

The complete bridge-crew was silent. Furiously the Khan-Mayor looked from one to the other. No one moved, no one said a word. Of course every hamster was willing to help the gerbils against the mean Klingon hamsters but to pulverize a whole planet was unthinkable and against any hamstian honour. Normal hamstian honour, that was, for the mayor did not seem to be very normal at the moment. Chief Botchy cleared his throat.

“That won’t work. That Uhura said that the weapon room is locked and only Captain Kirk can unlock it.”

“Fine excuse indeed! Engineer, you know well enough that the weapon systems are intact and that weapon officer Goldi already tried them!”

The hamsters got a shock and the gerbils looked downright terrified. Unfortunately, the Khan-Mayor was right and Botchy’s attempt to talk him out of the mad idea failed from the beginning. It was correct that the torpedoes were ready to launch but since his ‘misfortune’ Goldi had not touched them. Even he had realized what a dangerous weapon that was. He could not bear thinking of what would happen if these torpedoes hit an inhabited planet. The mayor, or Khan as he now called himself, had somehow to be stopped.

“Do something!” Flecki said in such a low whisper that Khan did not notice it.

“Do something yourself, Flecki. That Yoohoo has to know what’s happening. If Chekov controls the helm by now, he can at least keep the ship off the planet and that Khan-fool can do no harm.”

Flecki nodded and cautiously approached the microphone on the com control. The chance was there as Dodo was just putting one of his much feared questions to which the Khan-Mayor got a trantrum and yelled that he would show everybody what he was going to do with dumsculls like Dodo. While Flecki crept towards the button she had to press to call Lt. Uhura, she followed with big eyes what was happening on the bridge.

His face a grimace of rage, the Khan-Mayor was standing on the Captain’s chair, stretching one paw in Dodo’s direction. Sparks, flashes, electrical currents were shot at Dodo. The big hamster was bathed in bright light and looked like he always looked – not grasping anything. Horrified shouts were to be heard from the lines of hamsters and gerbils. After ten seconds of constant attack the Khan-Mayor paused and looked at Dodo expectently. “Why are you still standing on your darned legs?” he barked, irritated.

“That tickled a lot, May… er – Commander. May I return to my job now?”

The Khan-Mayor goggled at Dodo, lifted his paw and looked at it. His glance travelled to Trample who was standing close by and with an expression of disbelief seemed to know what was to come. With a coarse outcry the Khan-Mayor stretched out his paws against Trample. New sparks and flashes, electrical currens met the miserable hamster. “Waj, waj, waj!” poor Trample wailed, desperately sidestepping and escaping to the opposite section of the bridge. The smell of singed hamster fur was in the air.

“Curious”, the Khan-Mayor grumbled, looking at his paws. “The matter seems not to be matured. Obviously it only works with small hamsters.” He turned round to Tuffy who cringed anxiously. “Ey, you, engineering assistant, bring all the phasers and put the down here – and hurry!” Tuffy did as ordered and a few minutes later all phasers were lying side by side under the Captain’s chair. In the meantime Flecki had succeeded to reach the microphone button. Now perfect timing was important. If Lt. Uhura came in, the surprise effect was lost. It was most urgent that the officer at once understood what was happening on the bridge, drew the correct conclusions and acted accordingly.

“Mr. Khan”, Flecki shouted, putting one paw on the calling button and so creating a connection to Engineering, “if you destroyed the planet with the torpedoes, what will happen to the gerbils? If you fire the torpedoes, their homeworld is gone, Mr. Khan!” She secretly pushed up the tiny lever which blocked the button and made the connection to Engineering permanent. The Khan-Mayor now gave her his full attention.

“First Officer, you’ll address me Commander Khan! As to the gerbils, I’ll beam them into space, we do not need them.”

“The transporter, dear Commander Khan is not ready for use”, Flecki retorted and with all her heart hoped that Lt. Uhura comprehended how serious the situation was and kept silence. To the surprise of them all, the Khan-Mayor gave a dirty laugh and replied:

“Not ready for use? For me, the Great Khan, it’s child’s game. I’ll repair it.”

“But the thing is completely done for, not even an expert gets that going”, the chief objected but the Khan-Mayor only laughed and replied:

“An expert like you? If we only had experts like you, we’d still be in Hamstian Stone Age and…”

“Commander Khan, we are in Hamstian Stone Age!”

Flecki was right, also Taty and Tealeafy nodded in agreement. Of course every hamster knew. There were a lot of historical eras in Hamsterton but as nobody was really interested in history, one had agreed on three main eras: Sand Age, Wood Age, and Stone Age. There were some estimations as to the years when one age ended and the new one began. But that was not really important because first of all a pupil had to know that the Sand Age had got its name from the fact that the hamsters had been living in houses of sand.

Not such a great solution and when it was discovered that the high number of vanished hamsters was connected with collapsing sand houses and the consequent burials, action was taken at once. Now the Wood Age began and the houses were built of wood. There also were some nice breakdowns and injuries by chippings in furs but it was no real luxury. Floods, rain, broken dams, or the permanent draughts – hamsters are very sensitive in that line – wooden huts were good for nothing. Following the Great Fire of Hamsterton which developed during the summer party, the Wood Age ended.

To their great delight the hamsters discovered that Stone Age offered them the best conditions for successful catastrophes. At the same time explosives were invented and more or less controlled explosions developed. Now progress could not be stopped any longer.

“Well, erm!” The Khan-Mayor looked confused. Obviously he was not really used to protest. “I never gave that order”, he grumbled. “We are in a space ship and so we are certainly not in Stone Age! Hand me the idiot who gave that order and I’ll blast him into space!” He looked around furiously. No one said a word. “Well? Who’s responsible for this nonsense, you ninnyhammers? I want to hear names.”

You said so at the last Christmas Fair”, Goldi shouted and imitated the mayor’s voice: “Erm – by the honour proposed – er – coffered – er offered to me, my dear dingushamsters, I declare that we go towards the Scone Lake – er – Stone Age…”

“All right, all right”, the Khan-Mayor gnarled, waving off the matter with his paw and goggling at Goldi angrily. “Christmas was yesterday. Now and here we are in Space Age.”

While the hamsters were wondering which consequences this would have for them, Dodo lifted a paw and turned to the Khan-Mayor: “Do trees grow in space?”

“Eh?” the Khan-Mayor barked. “What sort of question is that?”

“We-ell”, Dodo stammered, “you said now and here we are in space.”

“So what?!”

“Well, yesterday and here we were here, too, and you said yesterday was Christmas, but I’ve not seen any Christmas tree yesterday and so I wondered if Christmas trees do grow in space, and if they do not grow in space, it’s no wonder that I haven’t seen any Christmas tree, although yesterday was Christmas – if Christmas was yesterday…”

His voice died down under the glance of the Khan-Mayor but around the bridge some giggling and cackling became audible, soon dying down as well, however. The Khan-Mayor glinted at Dodo furiously: “Take this fat fool to the brig! Let him rot there. And now: Attack the planet!”

“Please, who is to navigate?”

The Khan-Mayor glared at Taty.

“The navigator is to go to the brig after all!” Tealeafy added.

Khan-Mayor now glared at Tealeafy. Then he glared at Taty and back to Tealeafy who grinned at him merrily. “O well”, he said, his eyes blinking in rage, “for the time being you continue your job, navigator. Another small error and you are flogged and thrown out, got that? Now take course to the planet!”

Dodo nodded, relieved, and saw that he came to the helm’s control. As usual, he looked at the screen for some time and then collapsed, sobbing.

“What’s wrong, man?!” the self-made Khan-Commander hissed und threateningly straightened up on his chair. “Why don’t we start?”

“I can’t”, Dodo wailed, “I’m not fit for that!”

“Flog him and throw him…”

“Better see not to make a crash”, the chief interrupted, pointing to the main screen. “We’re on course to the planet and quite a straight one!”

Heads jerked round, everybody looking at the main screen. Botchy was right – ahead of them the gerbil planet was growing and growing. Something had to happen or ship and crew would be done. The blackness of space was gone, the whole screen was filled by something white and glimmering. It was the cloud layer around the planet. Soon the ship dived into the clouds, the monitor became a uniform grey. The Enterprise was on blind flight without navigation. The bridge was ruled by stunning horror.

Now they were breaking through the cloud layers and could see the gerbil planet beneath them: Most of the surface was dark blue, probably water. The landmass however showed different colours like green, light yellow and some larger area in a sort of dirty red. The Khan-Mayor had recovered control and awoke from his horror frozen state.

“Fluffbert, what territories are that?”

“The right side is the Right Bluebert Sea which offers an especially beautiful view at sunset. In the distance you can see the edge of an unknown continent. It is Farbert Land which none of us has ever seen. The left side is the Left Bluebert Sea where you find wonderful algae banks which are not only substantial but also very delicious. The upper part is the charming Upper Bluebert Sea which especially in balmy nights…”

“Abstract, Fluffbert, or you’ll learn to know me!”

“Er – yes. Blue is the sea, green is the jungle, yellow is the desert, and red is sponge.”

“Sponge?”

“Sponge.”

“How – sponge?”

“Er – yes, sponge from the right part of Bluebert Sea, there is much sponge while in the left part…”

“Forget it, Fluffbert. Can we land there?”

“Er – yes, we will sink in a little and possibly burn up a little when reaching the hot core of our planet, but…”

“First Officer, assist this yellowbelly navigator, we need counter power or the ship will break apart on touchdown!”

Inwardly Flecki cursed. She had almost succeeded to push the lock lever for communication back to normal. It had been her hope that Lt. Uhura would call in at once to give the mayor a good piece of her mind. That would not work now and Flecki imagined how desperately Lt. Uhura and Ensign Chekov were following the events.

This certainly would have consequences but at the moment this was not so very important and so she ordered Dodo to pull the power lever back together with her. It was not easy but Goldi, Botchy, and Trample came to help and finally the hamsters somehow succeeded to get counter power. Relieved the whole group saw that the planet surface was approaching much slower. The Khan-Mayor shouted: “Pull it up, we’ve got to get higher!” Flecki, Dodo and the others hurried and to the general relief everybody could see on the main screen that they now held a constant distance from the planet.

“Weapon officer! Target the planet surface with the torpedoes – I’m going to give them the mighty Khan’s welcome!”

Happily Goldi followed the Khan-Mayor’s order and took his station. He pressed the torpedo trigger and – nothing happened. He pressed again and again but to his great disappointment there was no bang and not dashing torpedoes. Flecki sent a mute thanks to the Enterprise-officers who somehow had succeeded to switch off the torpedo activating from Engineering.

“Sabotage!” the Khan-Mayor yelled and furiously drummed his seat – not changing the fact that the weapons still were off. “We will steer the ship to the target and initiate self-destruction – yes, that’s what we can do!” he roared and his eyes glinted. If not before, all those present did now realize that they were dealing with a lunatic.

“Navigator, course to the surface, full power! Where is the self-destruction button?”

The Enterprise-crew was stunned. Up to now it had been somewhat entertaining but a crash with self-destruction? No, nobody was really delighted about that.

“I said: course to the surface!”

Flecki was standing beside the helm with folded arms. Dodo looked anxious but took no action.

“You worms, that will have consequences! Out of the way, I’ll do it myself!”

While Dodo still objected that hamsters were no worms but advisors in the dusk, the Khan-Mayor with dark red head climbed onto the control desk and tried to push aside the big hamster. Not being very successful with it, he encircled him and with a coarse outcry threw himself onto the power lever. Nothing happened. Another and louder outcry, another go for the lever with the same result. He goggled at the unwilling power lever and rubbed his aching ribs.

Like touched by a ghost’s hand, the lever suddenly moved and open-mouthed everybody watched how at the same time the view on the main screen changed. The vessel moved away from the planet! How was that possible? While the Khan-Mayor looked at the main screen, thunderstruck, Flecki at his side sighed in relief. The Enterprise-officers in Engineering had succeeded to take over helm’s control! Not one moment too early, she thought and hurried to the com control to unlock the connection to Engineering. Before she pressed the button, she quickly whispered “Thanks, that was a tight thing!” into the microphone, then Lt. Uhura came in.

“As you just noticed, we control weapons and navigation. Send the gerbils back to the planet in their vessel and keep quiet!”

“But – but the Klingons…”

“It’s a pity but Starfleet is neutral and does not meddle in other people’s matters. I do understand you, but we really cannot do it”, Uhura interrupted Goldi’s objection.

Fluffbert nodded sadly and replied: “We understand and we will try to manage on our own. But we cannot reach our vessel, it is docked to the exterior wall and without our helmets we cannot teleport.”

There was some silence as if Uhura and Chekov were discussing the matter, then the officer came in again: “Can you undock the vessel?”

The gerbil leader thought this over and excitedly replied. “Not all helmets are defect – we can try it!”

Followed a manoeuvre Pavel Chekov would remember for long. After several trials the gerbils managed by telepathy to undock their small space ship. Now it hovered beside the Enterprise in a planetary orbit. Chekov’s difficult task was to turn the Enterprise’s stern towards the gerbil vessel.  Then it was Flecki’s turn who, following Uhura’s orders, opened the stern gate to the shuttle deck. Now Ensign Chekov made the Enterprise float slowly until the tiny ship was caught inside the shuttle deck. Uhura ordered Flecki to close the shuttle gate again.

“How will we get to the gerbils’ ship?” The chief engineer put the question which moved all of them. Equipped with communication devices they were directed along the warren of the ship’s passages. No hamster wanted to miss seeing such a start from a shuttle deck – whenever would they have that chance again? So nobody noticed that the mayor waddled after them and nobody noticed that his expression boded ill. Finally arrived, hamsters and gerbils entered the shuttle deck. There it was, the gerbil vessel. Chekov had parked it perfectly.

“Er – so let’s start”, Fluffbert said and at the next steps stumbled over Goldi who was just inspecting the bottom of the ship curiously.

“Yes, let’s start!” the Khan-Mayor roared, waving a phaser. “Get in, all of you!”

“Damn, where is your weapon?” Flecki hissed at Goldi. He looked awkward.

“Well, the weapon – it’s in that ultra-cool belt and the buckle is jammed. It won’t get it out that easily…”

Shaking her head, Flecki with all the other hamsters followed the gerbils. The Khan-Mayor was the last one and had to wait a moment until everybody had found some spot in the much too small vessel.

“Dodo, you’re sitting on me!”

“Sorry, Trample!”

“It reeks, can someone open the window…”

“Shut you up!” the Khan-Mayor interrupted the complaints, waving his weapon. He pointed it at Fluffbert. “Rack out and sharp! Full ahead!”

Followed a very bumpy flight. None of the gerbils dared to point out to the Khan-Mayor that the vessel was not made for so many people. Anyhow, he was likely to notice it himself because the ship lost height in a very jerky fashion when they approached the surface and Softbert, the pilot, had his paws full with his stubborn vessel.

But finally they reached their destination und the small ship touched down on the surface of the gerbil planet.

“Hold on tight!” chief Botchy shouted and clung to Dodo who clung to Trample and “Minimal impulse!” roared the Khan-Commander.

They all prepared for a heavy bounce but there was none. There was a sudden bump and gravitation grew mightily but a moment later they felt very lightweighted. Gravitation heightened again, they were pressed to the floor, next moment the lighter ones of the crew were hovering under the ceiling. Back luck for them anyhow as next moment they crashed down to the floor again, wailing loudly. So it went on for quite some time but one thing they noticed: The time shortened more and more between cries of pain on crashing to the ground and “Yipee!” on hovering. By and by it dawned to the last hamster and the last gerbil what was going on here.

Their touchdown had been intercepted by the sponge-surface like a trampoline. As was seemly for a trampoline the vessel after the impact was immediately thrown up. By and by the jumps became shorter and the crew was lucky that due to the minimal power the vessel did not tailspin.

“Brakes!” came some shout and the wild journey came to an end. Unfortunately Trample had been dashed through the room at the first impact and was lying dizzily between Beatbert and Pushbert who took care of him. Then it was done, the power was switched off. Curiously the hamsters pressed around one of the tiny windows. Some richly green shrubs could be seen in this desert and between the shrubs there were dwellings.

“That your huts?” chief Botchy asked in a contemptuous voice.

“N-no”, Fluffbert answered and his nose trembled, “the h-houses of the K-Klingon hamsters!”

“Tell me, who is this Khan after all?” Taty and Tealeafy asked one of the gerbils who was standing beside them.

“You never heard anything about the terrible Khan?”

“Nope”, Tealeafy replied, “up to now we only had a terribly daft mayor.”

“He is said to be awfully strong and he is very bad”, Poobert moaned and covered his face with his paws. “He is said to eat gerbils…”

“… and babies”, Taty grinned. “Did you ever meet him?”

Poobert shrugged. “I know someone who knows someone who saw a movie where…”

“Stop that babbling! Don’t you have anything to do?” The chat of Taty, Tealeafy, and the gerbil had drawn the Khan-Mayors attention.

“I’m off duty at the moment. Where’s no work to do?”

The Khan-Commander feigned not having heard Goldi’s sneering remark and turned back to the window. He pondered and beckoned Fluffbert, the gerbil-leader. “What sort of building is that, gerbil?”

“That’s our village, Mr. Khan. The Klingon hamsters have driven us out because they wanted to have our pretty houses and…”

“Shut up, gerbil!” the Khan-Mayor barked. “I know everything now. The one ruling the village is ruling the planet. I want to rule the planet!”

“May we get back to the space ship then?” Goldi asked with an innocent look.

“If you know everything now, can you tell me if I’ll get a car as birthday present?” Dodo added one of his most unnecessary questions.

“Why do you want to rule the desert?” Flecki jeered. “And how are you going to drive out the Klingon hamsters?”

“I am Khan and I can do everything!” came a roar. “Ready for shore leave, the battle begins!”

“Does it?” Goldi cried delightedly. “Do we really start now?”

“We will level them!” the Khan-Mayor yelled.

“What I always said!” Goldi cheered

At the same time in Enterprise-Engineering the two officers felt completely helpless. Without the least chance of intervening they had followed the events of the last hours and minutes. Chekov at least had succeeded to take over control for torpedoes and helm. So they had been able to stop the mad mayor destroying the planet surface. For a moment, so it seemed, they had the control but after Flecki or one of the other hamsters did not report, doubts had come up. At a control monitor they had watched the tiny gerbil vessel leave the Enterprise.

“I wonder if the Captain can do without a written report in this case. We are prisoners in our own Engineering after all.”

“And before that on the bridge we behaved like complete fools. You didn’t forget that, Chekov, did you?”

The Ensign nodded and tried a grin. “Sure, that was mega sheepish. Perhaps we get a good point when we take back the Enterprise in one piece.”

Now Uhura nodded. “Certainly, and if we don’t, it doesn’t matter because there is nothing to take back. And we do not have to write a report then.” She sighed and muttered: “If it ends well, we have a good chance. If anything goes awry on that planet, we’ll return without pets.”

Pavel Chekov nodded and once more checked the computer data. After a few minutes he shook his head in disappointment. The data did not agree, it was like a spell – where was the leakage?

In the meantime there was excitement on the planet and with good reason. A space ship might be nice and well, but fresh air and first of all real desert sand was something no hamster liked to miss.

“Do you also have such a big ocean?” Softbert asked.

Dodo thought it over and shook her head. “What for? At our place the water comes out of a pipe.”

In the meantime the Khan-Mayor with the assistance of chief Botchy had opened the exit hatch and was the first one to jump down to the spongy surface. While he without much intention to do so hopped up and down for a while, Flecki and Goldi discussed the subject to close the hatch again and leave the barmy mayor on this planet. Unfortunately this ran again Hamstian tradition. One thing it was to flog a mayor or to neutralize his doubles in a photon-beam, but to abandon him was quite another pair of shoes. Moreover the gerbils would not be helped by such an action and so hamsters and gerbils one after the other jumped down to the soft surface.

It took some time until they found their phasers again which they had lost in the sponge-jumping. The whole group was equipped with phasers, except Flecki who declined weapons for reasons of principle and except Hitbert and Kickbert who were against all kinds of violence. In the meantime Goldi assured Taty and Tealeafy that they would look right cool with sunglasses and that it was a pity that they had not thought of taking along any.

“Quietly ahead in groups of two”, the Khan-Mayor hissed and tripped ahead. Soon they had made up groups of two, only Dodo stood alone and looked helpless.

“What’s the matter, navigator?”

“I never made a group of two, Boss”, Dodo whimpered. “I’m a single child.”

After being badly abused and sent toTrample to make a pair with him, they finally set out. As was seemly for a real commander, the Khan-Mayor walked ahead. He did not take the direct route through the desert but a detour so that hamsters and gerbils had to march through the jungle. The procedure was slow as the ground was muddy, small trinkles crossed their way again and again so that it was impossible to be fast.

“Yuck!” Flecki nagged and looked at her paws in disgut. They were covered with a layer of stinking mud. “That’s so distasteful.”

“Put the paste to your face”, Goldi grinned, “then you’ve got a beauty poultice.”

“Better don’t, it smarts in the face.”

Goldi and Flecki turned round and saw Trample, even if they did not recognize him at first.

“Fell into the dirt, did you?” Goldi faked sympathy.

Trample shook his head. “Dodo slipped and I got the full load.”

“Not that bad”, Goldi grumbled and looked at Dodo whose bum was beautifully black. “Did you ever think about living on a farm?”

Many hours and curses later there was not one hamster uncovered with black, stinking mud. The same of course went for the gerbils. The whole group was in according spirits. Due to his rounded forms the Khan-Mayor faced the same problems as Dodo. Both more than once got stuck and had to be freed by the rest of the troop. While Dodo lamented louder and louder, the Khan-Mayor scowled more and more the longer the enterprise took. Just when they passed an especially muddy area, Goldi’s voice was suddenly audible: “Off with you, that’s mine!” Then there was a smack and a quack. When hamsters and gerbils turned round to Goldi they just could see that something was escaping into the murky, muddy water.

“What kind of creature was that?” Taty asked and looked at the rings in the water which were the only sign that something had dived in there. “That looked like a tiny green frog.”

“That was a greenquack”, Fluffbert explained. “Quite harmless animals.”

“What a fancy name”, Tealeafy grinned. “It surely took you ages to think of something that complicated.”

“Anyway, it’s a shame that Sir Goldi grudges such a tiny, helpless creature something to eat”, Flecki snarled and sat down on a more or less dry leave. Now she took out a few sunflower seeds while in the distance the Khan-Mayor trudged on through the jungle all on his own.

“Let the ninnyhammer tramp on”, Tuffy groaned, “I need a rest.”

Of course they all took a rest now, that is except one, a lonely walker though the mud who did not look back. He did not notice that the rest of the group looked for cosy, dry spots to have a snack. Actually little greenquack showed up again but kept a respectful distance from Goldi. Instead he got fed by Flecki who on her part gave Goldi dark looks. Then another greenquack joined in and another and another. After a few minutes hundreds of tiny green frogs were assembled around Flecki who by now thought the matter to be a bit fishy while the frogs looked at her with big, wet eyes.

“Well, it should be enough now, my dear little greenquacks, your Flecki needs something to eat as well, you see?” her voice was to be heard and while Dasy, Sasy, and Tuffy retreated from the focus point, the other hamsters and gerbils watched with fascination how the matter developed.

Patiently Flecki tried to push aside one greenquack after the other but she had no success at all because suddenly more and more greenquacks appeared. When the first one began to gnaw at her fur, she lost all her patience. She took a stick and with shrill shrieks lashed out. All her sunflower seed stock was gone but the tiny animals wanted more. One tiny frog after the other was hit by stick or paws and with a splash landed where he had come from, in the muddy water.

“A shame that Madam Flecki grudges such tiny, helpless creatures something to eat”, Goldi bawled and toppled over with laughter. While Flecki panted heavily and threw dagger looks at Goldi and hurled the last greenquacks into the water, there was a loud roaring in the distance.

“Seems our boss is missing us”, chief Botchy grumbled. “Let’s make some haste.”

The whole troop snatched up their belongings and trotted behind their leader as fast as circumstances permitted it. From the distance already it was obvious that the Khan-Mayor faced problems and if he had not roared that loudly, they would not have found him that easily. When hamsters and gerbils had reached the source of the roaring, they paused in surprise. Only the head of the Khan-Mayor looked out of the mud which indicated that he was facing certain problems.

“Get me out of here or I’ll neutralize you all!” came a shout towards the hamsters and gerbils.

“Well, really, not this way”, Tealeafy retorted, “that really is no incentive to help a fellow hamster in trouble.”

“Should be something in it for us”, Taty agreed.

“We have some itsy-bitsy ideas on that line”, Goldi added.

“Ideas?” came the roaring answer. “If someone’s getting ideas, it’s me, you get that! And now get me out of here and jab jab or you’ll learn to know me!”

“Wrong answer”, Taty smirked. “We’ll just begin once more.”

“We so to say expect a better offer in a way”, Goldi explained to the Khan-Mayor who was slowly but steadily sinking into the mud.

“Just so”, Tuffy cried, “better treatment, more breaks and so on. Oh, and not that much shouting because no one can concentrate with all that noise.”

“Friendly tone and treatment as is seemly to animals”, Flecki uttered the next idea.

“Anything else?” the Khan-Mayor roared, trying desperately and in vain to get out of the sticky black mush. “I’ll execute you, I’ll level you, I’ll…”

“Ts, ts, you simply do not understand the matter”, Taty jeered, “you are – let’s put it like this – unable of action. Well, that’s no news, looking back impartially at your previous career.”

The Khan-Mayor shot furious glances at his crew. He knew well enough that as to negotiations he was in a bad position, to be exact his position was in a stinking, vicious black pap, sinking deeper and deeper. By and by he felt panic rising because the lower part of his double chin was already in the mud and speaking, or better say shouting became more and more difficult. He had to change his style of negotiating or he would spend the rest of his life in this jungle. He grinded his teeth in silent fury and thought wildly. To a few of their conditions he would have to agree and he had to mind his words. Hamstian code of honour required the keeping of promises.

“Okay”, he grunted, slobbering a little in his fury, “what d’you want?”

“Oh, there’s a number of things like regulated time off and food compensation during holidays…”

“Food allowance”, Goldi interrupted the chief engineer, “3-hours’-week…”

“Steady, folks, steady”, Flecki cried. “First of all he shall treat us kindly, all the rest will follow. He is to promise us the full right to say and animal-like treatment and then we will rescue him of drowning.”

While the hamsters discussed Flecki’s ideas, nobody noticed the satanic grin suddenly appearing on the Khan-Mayor’s face. He literally had his grounds for just now he had felt his toes touching the ground of the mud hole. Matters had changed now and those fiendish traitors would learn it soon. He, the Mighty Khan, would slowly wade towards the dry bank and it would be kid’s game to level them all.

 

Chapter 31

 

Spock

 

Golspie-afternoon, the officers were at the golf link. It did not happen often, but now and then someone came to an amateur golf contest without equipment. More than one player hoped to earn some prize money as he had no job but could play golf. So on the link there were the means to lease full equipment.

Kirk and Scott were grateful. If in their own time they somewhere in the universe had the chance to play golf, equipment was there and they had not even thought of the necessity to bring along something. The two other officers plus Hamstilidamst mixed with the onlookers.

"I'm feeling great", Hamstilidamst trumpeted. "I don't want to sit in the box."

"You want to bolt", Dr. McCoy stated.

"He certainly will not", the Vulcan protested.

"Yes, he will. And then he crosses a golf-club and is hurtled through the air yards and yards."

"But I can't see anything in the box", Hamstilidamst said who at the same time wanted to see everything and not be hurtled through the air.

"Look, I fasten the box on my rucksack", Spock said and did so. "You are very safe there and have a swell view. Better than we have."

So they did and Hamstilidamst was happy. Some biscuits were in his box so he could not starve. As matter of fact he soon fell asleep for the events on the green were decidedly a sleeping matter.

The golfers on the link were of a quite different opinion. There was none who wanted to leave the first prize without fight to two astronauts coming from the future and having no money. They soon had to realize that. Now they would have needed the Vulcan and as that a normal Vulcan. Even if Spock did not play golf, there was no one to calculate tee offs and trajectories better than him. Kirk and Scott had to concentrate and it was real hard work.

However, regarding calculation, the Chief was still better than Jim. By and by he gained ground. Probably he would not get the five hundred pound after all, but in between Dr. McCoy and Spock walked down to a chard board were the prizes were noted down and studied it.

"First to third's money", he mumbled. "Fourth to tenth material gains. Hum, depends, might be sold."

"You're skint?" a voice beside him asked.

It was Brian McLean and the Doctor was embarrassed. But not embarrassed enough to deny it.

"Rather, Brian, but we're always on the road and can only take jobs by the hour. That doesn't earn us much."

"How on the road?"

"We're – tramping through Scotland."

“The pits, ey", the great-grandfather of Admiral McLean retorted. "How's the hamster?"

"Quite well, but he thinks golf boring probably."

"After the match the link has to be redone."

"Our friends want to win the five hundred pound", Spock announced and the boy grinned.

"So want the other one hundred fifty – Bingo!"

"Anyway, if they don't win… Thanks for the hint", McCoy said.

"No problem", Brian replied and skived off.

McCoy and Spock walked on in search of their colleagues. With surprise the Doctor found that Lt. Scott was on the winner's road. It would come to a duel between him and the Golspie amateur champion.

"Doctor, my head does not think as it should", the Vulcan suddenly said.

Immediately golf match, final duel, and prize were nothing to the Doctor. Within the child or hamster thinking of the First Officer the Vulcan mind tried to get to the surface but could not. This was, if he understood the Vulcan correctly, a hazardous phase.

In case the Vulcan logic found itself not winning within that head, it would switch off the brain. This was a situation in which even in Enterprise-sickbay Dr. McCoy had no means to help. Only Spock himself could do it but first he had to be convinced to take a step he probably did not even understand in his present state.

"You are right, Spock", he said in a low voice. "There is something we've got to talk about. Come."

"Where do you go to?" Hamstilidamst asked, waking up. "Do you let Jim and Scotty fight all alone here?"

"They'll do fine", Bones retorted. "But hold on, there's Brian.”

He walked back to the boy and told him that his friend was feeling sick all of a sudden so that they would leave the links. Perhaps after the match Brian could tell their two friends that they would meet again in the evening at his mother's place? And if there was no prize money, would Brian also give them the hint about the cultivating job?

Brian thought that to be an easy task. He even thought it a fine job. Up to now his sister Tony had always boasted because she had found the men and the wounded hamster. She had behaved like these guys belonged to her. But now the guys asked for his help and as it was for something which permitted him to stay on the links for longer than he was allowed to. If his mother scolded, he could lay the blame at those guys' door.

The last stroke brought the decision. Lt. Montgomery Scott, Chief Engineer of the Enterprise, had the second rank in the amateur-golf match of Golspie. Captain Kirk after all followed on rank five. The one received three hundred pound, the other a lamb.

Their faces corresponded. Scotty was extremely delighted on the win, the Captain did not have the faintest idea what to begin with that lamb.

"Ey", said a voice directly after the presentation - it was Brian. "One of yer pal's got sick, he did a bunk. I was to tell ye that after the match you’d get some lollies if you help to make up the links. Howe'er ye needn't, do yer? Infinite dosh."

"Not really", the Captain replied without knowing what Brian as talking about. "Who's gone sick?"

"The long one."

"Know where they are?"

"Nope. – Ey, me mum will not let that lamb into the house tonight."

"Er… No, I believe that. And what do I do with it?"

"Sell off. I know one."

He took the Captain's hand and dragged him along. Kirk had no chance to protest. Much more important than to get rid of the lamb was the question what befell his First Officer. Of course Bones could not have told the truth to Brian but Kirk assumed that Spock's brain intoxication suddenly had become critical. He would have given more than a lamb to find those two.

While Jim nilly willy became a lamb trader, Scott was celebrated. The three winners of the match went to the next pub. Suddenly they had a lot of friends who wanted to celebrate with them. Until they reached the pub, Scott feared for his prize money.

After that he merged with the general good spirits. This was a cosy old pub, ideal for sitting together and getting drunk. Real Malt-Whisky! He could not have told how long it was that he had tasted real Malt-Whisky.

With every glass is brogue got heavier but he still had control over his words. When finally he staggered out of the pub arm in arm with his sharpest opponent he had spent 50 pound and it was almost dark.

"Wha d'ye lif?" the first prize winner asked who was named Donald.

"Yer jab like McShledder wishout dents innis puss", Scotty retorted.

“Cheersh t’ McShledder!" Donald shouted. "Whosat?"

“Dope! He's a dope!" Lt. Scott announced with stentor voice. "Allare shlaves. Nay wi' Hamshterton, nay never."

"Nay", Donald nodded. "Nay never. Wha d'ye lif?"

"Cap'n MacLean's graegraemum", the Chief Engineer declared.

"Tha' so?" Donald retorted who luckily did not notice that something was wrong with the statement – but Scotty realized it and paused.

"Nay", he said and shook his head. "Brian's Cap'n McLean's graegraemum."

"'t poursh", discovered Donald and stretched out an arm.

"Gee!" Lt. Scott confirmed.

After one, two fat drops a cloudburst had indeed reached Glospie. The two drunken men stood in the middle of the road, lifting their faces to the rain. Then they looked at each other, grinned and began to dance.

"I’m schi-i-i-ngin' in she lain", they bawled and nearby a door opened.

They had not realized that they really had staggered down in the McLean direction. Now Tony came out and scolded.

"Ey, ye're right sauced. Donald, your house is over there, go there. – Now stop hopping into the puddles!" she shouted at Scotty so that he came to an uncertain halt and goggled at her. "Do you sometimes come in with dry clothes?"

"Don' sheek", Lt. Scott retorted and lifted a forefinger. "Yer don' know 't all who's yer graegraemum."

"But you do."

"Ay – Brian."

Tony giggled and dragged him into the house. Luckily her mother was in a meeting and would not know that she took in this guy dripping wet and boozy. When she walked upstairs, Jim Kirk came down and took over his Chief Engineer. He shoved him into the bathroom, undressed him and pushed him under the shower. Then he turned up the cold water and with a grim face watched Lt. Scott getting sober.

"Er – Cab'n", Scotty stammered and grinned daftly. "Erm…"

"Tony prepares extra strong coffee for you. Where's the money?"

"Erm."

"You didn't booze it all away?!"

"But Cab'n…"

Kirk searched in the pockets of the jeans, found the notes and counted them. Fifty pound had gone down many a throat. He couldn't protest for it would have been impossible for Scott not to celebrate his second rank and invite some people. Moreover he had traded off his lamb quite well. However, this was his smallest trouble at the moment.

"The water is cold!" Lt. Scott lamented.

"All the better. Turn it off, here's a towel. We've got to talk with the kids."

"They won't tell on me, will they?"

"I guess Cora McLean will be able to stomach the fact that you celebrated your second rank. - No, the kids know all the places around here. McCoy and Spock have disappeared."

"Why?"

"I'm going to find that out", Kirk said grimly.

The year was 2006. Locality: an old barn. Dr. McCoy would have given everything to be in Enterprise sickbay, beside a diagnostic bed, beside a monitor which showed all measured values. But he was sitting in an old barn between hay and straw with nothing but a tiny med-scanner and felt Spock's pulse with his fingertips.

'"Why does he sleep so long? When will he wake up? Is he terribly ill?"

Hamstilidamst, let out of his box, had rumbled through the hay for a while until it dawned to him that something truly serious was going on here.

"I'll tell you a Vulcan secret", Dr. McCoy said, looking at Spock's face with full concentration. "They can set themselves into a healing state."

"A what?"

"Trance. They reduce all their bodily functions."

"So Spock is no longer hungry?"

"If I don't take very good care he never again will be hungry."

"Gosh, that's what I call terribly ill!" Hamstilidamst answered, awed.

Earlier in the day Dr. McCoy had explained to the Vulcan something every Vulcan knew deep inside. If a Vulcan was seriously ill in body or mind, he could transfer himself in healing trance to stabilize his body or mind. All body functions were close to nil and during such a trance a doctor always had to be present.

In his state of mind Spock had realized that he had to start the healing trance but he had not realized how dangerous it was for him to go into trance there and now. Spock had done so anyhow and just collapsed. Dr. McCoy had dragged him into the next building which had been this barn. Now he could not leave Spock and nobody knew where they were.

"Take him to a hospital", Hamstilidamst proposed and the Doctor made a face.

"He isn't human, pet. In this time he can't be taken to any hospital."

"Hum… That's really a problem, ain't it?"

"Definitely a problem."

"Should I go and fetch Jim? He's really big in rescuing people."

"Of course, I'm a blockhead! Jim can't help Spock, but they have to know where we are. Will you manage to inform him?"

"No problem at all."

Hamstilidamst flitted out and sat down. Who said that it was no problem at all? Where was he to look? It began to get dark, so golf certainly was over. The officers had said they only would go to that house to sleep, so Jim was there neither. He could not help it, he just had to search around.

After an eternity in all corners of Golspie Hamstilidamst returned to the barn. The Vulcan had not moved an inch, Bones hat switched on the light. His face was very pale.

"Will he come?" he asked in a strained voice.

"Didn't find him, Bones. Golf is over, they aren't in the house."

He could not know that Kirk, too, had searched all over Golspie but never in the spots where Hamstilidamst just had been.

"Take a rest, Hamstilidamst. When it's dark, he'll go back to Mrs. McLean."

"Then I'll go there."

"Hamstilidamst, that's really great of you. You are the coolest hamster I ever met."

Cheerfully Hamstilidamst scrambled into the rucksack and searched for biscuits. Now he would sustain himself and then he would look for Jim, and they would be two heroes. Probably the things the doc did were tremendously important, but it looked just boring. Now and then he took Spock's wrist, then he only glared at the Vulcan. If the doctors in Hamsterton were at work, it looked much more thrilling.

"How long will Spock sleep?" he finally inquired.

"Twelve hours at least."

"Then I'll go looking for Jim."

Bones only nodded and Hamstilidamst flitted out. By now it poured outside and was pitch dark. Hamstilidamst kept under shrubs and bays. Once he had to come out because over there a cat was sitting at a front door. Luckily she was fed and only washed and did not mind him. But he was wet now.

There was the house at last. Light came from one of the windows, Hamstilidamst clawed through the ivy growing at the wall and reached the window sill. It was the kitchen. Scotty was sitting there emptying a big cup. Jim was sitting beside him and seemed to listen to someone. Hamstilidamst moved a bit and could see that Jim listened to the children.

As loud as he could he knocked at the window but the rain drummed louder and they did not hear him. He almost shouted his head off but they did not hear him. He jumped up and down on the window sill but they did not see him. Then he slipped, got tangled in the ivy and almost hung himself at a tendril.

"Bloody damn!" he panted. "Bloody… DAMN!" he yelled for above him the light went out. "You can't go to bed. They just go to bed. – Cinap, cinap!"

Umph, that silly tendril was off his neck. Hamstilidamst climbed down and made to run around the house to see where there was light now.

"You came to Scotland without umbrella? That was just daft", Hamstilidamst heard a voice. The voice belonged to Tony and Jim answered:

"O well, we're not made of sugar."

"Jim! JI-I-IM!" Hamstilidamst bawled.

"Wait a second", the Captain said. "Or walk ahead."

He cautiously moved into the direction of the squeaking. But he gave a start anyway when Hamstilidamst jumped at him and climbed up.

"Jim, Spock's got some cealing dance. Bones and he are in a barn. I'm to fetch you."

"Thank God", said the Captain in a relieved undertone. "Healing trance. He's made it."

"Nope!" Hamstilidamst retorted. "He's lying there making nothing at all."

"He made it to get into healing trance. That's most important for him, Hamstilidamst. And now take me there."

He bedded the hamster into his hand and quickly followed the others. Tony and Scott were waiting for them under umbrellas. When they saw whom Kirk brought, Lt. Scott was very relieved and Tony made big eyes.

"Don't tell me he came to fetch you", she breathed.

"Sh-sure, Hamstilidamst's the smartest hamster of the w-world!" Lt. Scott trumpeted.

"And ye're not yet sober", Tony stated.

"And that's a fact", the Captain nodded, and as he did not want to have the girl in it now, he added: "Come on, Tony, take him inside again, I'll wait here."

"Pooh, he can walk all right."

"Och ay, if I can walk", Scott declared, turned and crashed into the garden fence.

With a sigh Tony took his arm and propelled him towards the front door. The Captain watched, then he whispered:

"Which direction, Hamstilidamst?"

He could disappear down the next lane but then if became difficult. Hamstilidamst had mostly flitted through gardens and the Captain hardly could do that. However, he got an idea of the direction and, other than Hamstilidamst, he soon made out a big, dark building at the border of a meadow. When he came closer, he could see light shining though the cracks in the barn. Now he hurried and a few moments later opened the heavy door to the barn.

Somehow Tony had suspected that Kirk wanted to be rid of her. So she was not overmuch disappointed that he was gone when she went outdoors again. But funny guys they were and for an exception she and her brother were at one there.

"What do we tell Mum?" Brian asked.

“Really, no idea", she admitted. "Four rooms rented, three of the guys gone, one's boozed."

"Ey, if I'd known that I'd followed them from the links. - Mum's coming!"

They both grabbed for the remote control of the telly and fought over it. That was a familiar scene for Cora McLean but usually the TV was on while the kids had a brawl over the remote. She sensed something unusual.

"Hi, you two. Did you eat?"

"Er, nay", it came in two voices and in a tone as if the children were surprised about it.

"But I'd put something into the fridge for you to warm up. What have you been doing all afternoon?"

"Poo-ooh – nothin'", came the duet.

"Gosh", Cora said, "I'm not that sure. Are the guests back?"

"Er!" said the duet.

"You don't even know?"

"We do!"

"We do!"

"Okay, what's on?" she asked, left the door post where she had been standing and sat down on the sofa. "What's on?"

"Well, Kirk and Scott joined in the match", Brian began. "And Scott made the second and Kirk won a lamb. And I helped him to sell it."

"And Scott?"

"Above stairs", Tony whispered.

Her mother threw her an impatient look, then an amused flash came into her eyes. Her kids knew well enough that certain people would not be guests in her B&B.

"He celebrated his prize?" she asked with a smile.

"Er. – Yes, with Donald – he was the winner."

"And now he sleeps off his drink?" Tony nodded. "Now listen: If I said that I won't take in drunks and hooligans, I meant people whom you recognize as such from the distance. I think you know exactly which sort of guys I'm talking about. – These four are quite all right, I think. And if somebody won a fine prize, he should well celebrate it. So I certainly will not chuck them out. - And where are the others?"

“Dunno", Brian admitted. "One of them felt sick and the other took him away from the links. And they didn't show up again and Kirk looked for them and didn't find them."

"He asked us where somebody feeling sick might be taken quickly", Tony continued. "We told him some places where we wanted to go. But then came Hamstilidamst and Kirk sent me back into the house with Scott. – I guess the hamster shows him the way."

"Hamsters are well known for that", Cora McLean nodded earnestly. "Which places have you told him?"

However, while Captain Kirk had succeeded in wringing their favourite hiding places from them, their mother didn't. They gave some vague information and the barn at the meadow was not even mentioned. Well, the men were grown-ups, Mrs. McLean thought, it was their own business how they spent the night. As long as they paid for the rooms, it should not be of interest to her.

She sent the children to bed and pondered over her curious guests for some time. For three nights she had promised them the rooms and did not think that she was going to elongate that. Just for safety she crept up the stairs to find out whether Scott at least was really in. Out of the room sounded noises like someone sawing down all the forests of Scotland and she went down again, reassured.

In the barn, neither Kirk nor McCoy nor Hamstilidamst felt equally reassured. When Jim and Hamstilidamst had come in, Spock had still not moved an inch and by now the hamster thought that a bit spooky. The Doctor, who at least had not moved an inch from Spock's side, was tremendously relieved to see the Captain.

He immediately sent Jim to fetch water. Spock's face was white as a sheet, his clothes were wet with sweat. He fought quite a battle in his healing trance. The Captain stumbled out into the darkness and in spite of all his worry decided that the next thing they had to buy for their adventures was a flashlight.

The next moment he crashed against a big water butt. His stomach almost turned inside out. Anyhow, he groped around the butt and found a pot. He filled it and hurried back into the barn.

"Has he slept for twelve hours now?" was Hamstilidamst's concerned question.

"No idea. – Thanks, Jim. Get one of the shirts out of the rucksack, I'll wet it and rub him."

"Do you rely on those twelve hours?" asked the Captain and runsacked the rucksack until he found a shirt.

"Not really, but I don't know enough about it. We've seen Spock in healing trance before – following bodily illnesses. I've no idea how he reacts on brain malfunction."

"May we try to bring him slowly back? Some sharp smell under his nose?"

"I might fart", Hamstilidamst eagerly proposed.

Captain Kirk chuckled but the Doctor did not exlude that possibility. If Hamstilidamst believed that his farts might wake up someone close to death, he would also take farts. He rummaged in his med-kit for something smelling sharp and disappointedly closed it again.

"I thought I still might have disinfection-sticks but there are none left.”

"Oh!" The Captain threw a flighting glance at Hamstilidamst.

He saw it and made big eyes.

"O-o-o-o-oh!" he wailed. "You used them up for me and now Spock must die for my sake."

"Calm down", the Doctor said. "You were badly injured and needed the treatment."

Anyhow, Hamstilidamst thought full power what except his farts smelled strong enough to awaken the dead. He stared at Spock's hand which lifelessly lay beside his body in the straw. Suddenly the hamster blinked. The Vulcan really had lain without moving a bit…

"He moved his fingers!" he announced.

Dr. McCoy was up and goggled at the Vulcan's fingers. Doing so, he bit his lip hard. Hamstilidamst concluded that he had said something tremendously important. Now he thought even harder.

"Got matches or a lighter?" he asked.

"You're not going to flare the barn, are you?" Jim retorted.

"The ideas you've got!"

"None better than yours, pet."

"Right, yours surely aren't better. Now have you got matches or lighter?"

"No. – Yes, just a minute. What do you want with them?"

"Wait and see!"

Hamstilidamst flitted off and a short time later he came back, dragging along a feather. Meanwhile the Captain rummaged the rucksack. He remembered that in 'To Hell' in Fort William he had taken a matchbox. When he saw Hamstilidamst with the feather, he blinked daftly.

"You're a genius!" Dr. McCoy ejaculated and even bowed when he took the feather. "Jim, the matches."

When the Doctor lit the feather, the Captain understood. It was a penetrating smell and McCoy waved the smoking feather under Spock's nose. Meanwhile Hamstilidamst had an eye on Spock's fingers and made a loud report on every finger movement.

"Hamstilidamst", Jim cautiously said, "if he comes round again, we have to do something which will perhaps frighten you."

"Nothing frightens me that easily!"

"We have to strike him, slap his face hard."

"Ey, why that? What has he done?!" The hamster was shocked.

"Nothing at all, that goes along with the healing trance. On his home planet every doctor would do so. If not, his blood circulation won't get going and he'd never recover."

"Bones wanted to hit him anyway, so let him."

However, even Hamstilidamst caught on that this was quite another kind of hitting. Now Spock's hand slowly doubled into a fist and slacked again. Hamstilidamst reported so and McCoy lifted his eyebrows.

"Could you fart at the moment?"

"If I want it, I always can fart."

"Well, we're grateful that you not always want it. But if you sit down right there and do it now, you'll safe Spock's life."

Hamstilidamst felt proud and delighted. Now he knew an incredibly good and simple alien treatment. He would tell everybody in Hamsterton. Perhaps one day he would become a famous doctor, healing by the Vulcan fart-method.

Suddenly there were two movements. One came from Spock who jerked his head aside, the other came from himself for he was lifted into the air. Then he was – and he hated such things – kissed on his head by Bones and passed on to Kirk. Not a moment too early because Spock straightened up with a jolt that would have hurtled Hamstilidamst through the barn.

The hamster sat on Jim's arm and watched with big, a little frightened eyes how Dr. McCoy lunged to strike and clouted Spock and again and again. The Vulcan's head jerked to and fro. Suddenly Spock's hand came up and held that of McCoy. In this pose the two men paused for a while and looked at each other a long time. Then Spock nodded to the Doctor and let his hand go. Captain Kirk in the meantime happily ruffled Hamstilidamst's fur.

 

Chapter 32

 

First Contact with the Klingons

 

Good to feel solid ground under the paws, the Khan-Mayor in his mud hole thought while he slowly waded through the doughy mess. Expectantly he watched the hamsters who where still discussing the right to say and animal conform treatment. Suddenly the discussion seemed to be finished and they all turned back to him.

“Well, what may I do for you?” he purred and wondered at which end of this darned puddle he was to get out.

“Well, it’s like this”, Trample said who as usual had with one vote against been elected the messenger of the conditions, “with immediate effect we want some changes in the fashion of leadership. The Requirement Committee of the Hamstian Landing Party has the following claims which are to be fulfilled without compromise. Basis is the Hamstian Codex of Honour.”

With growing anxiety Trample looked into the jeering face of his mud-stuck commander and continued: “In detail the requirement are as follows.” He cleared his throat and talked on in a stentorian voice: “1. The right to say as to your strategies, 2. Regular breaks, 3. You are not to insult or even to touch any hamster, 4…”

“Fourth I’m now coming to you to discuss all the items quietly”, came a roar from the puddle and with horror the hamsters and gerbils saw that the Khan-Mayor made for the bank. “I have a few additional applications to present to the Requirement Committee of the Hamstian Landing Party and first of all to the unlucky message-bearer if you don’t mind, you morons!”

Horrified silence at the shore. Nobody dared to say a word and all eyes were on the Khan-Mayor. Slowly, very slowly he came closer and looked like having foam at his mouth. Then there was a loud ‘plop’ and he was gone. Everybody looked perplexed. Had he gone soft in the knees or even drowned? Stunned, the hamsters looked at the air bubbles rising from the muddy puddle to the surface. Suddenly the head of the Khan-Mayor emerged exactly at the spot where he had started.

“Dammit”, he roared, spitting mud, “it’s getting deeper there, darn it! But you wait, I’m on my way and I’ll show…”

Another ‘plop’ and the roaring head was gone again. The procedure was repeated: Head up, spitting mud, followed by abuses and the attempt to find a sage direction. This went on for quite some time while hamsters and gerbils had chosen some dry spots to make themselves comfortable. After quite another time the Khan-Mayor appeared with mud-covered head once more where he had been at the start and by now it was obvious that he might well rot there. There seemed to be some sort of mound in the middle of the puddle which descended to all sides.

“Fourth”, Goldi now raised his voice, “you also leave alone the gerbils in future. That are our items of negotiation. Well, your turn now.”

“Without me”, said the mud-covered head in the puddle, “you will not get back to the space ship. I’m the only one who knows the code for the entrance latch because I changed it before I jumped down to this darned planet. You have to fulfil my requirements and that’s it.”

“Hum”, Tealeafy mumbled, “it’s not that he’s not right there.”

“Well, yes, he’s got an ace up his sleeve there”, Taty agreed.

Followed tough and unsuccessful negotiations. The Khan-Mayor was not willing to accept but one item of the Requirement Committee of the Hamstian Landing Party and he was not willing to inform the code for opening the entrance latch. As it was he was not willing in any way and only wanted to be rescued from the puddle. If so he would – with the exception of Trample – make no one of the Requirement Committee of the Hamstian Landing Party responsible for anything. The situation was hopeless until Tuffy could watch something and immediately whispered to the other: “Look at, those funny greenquacks are back.”

“Yes”, Fluffbert agreed, “they always come back in the evening. They retreat into the water because it’s warmer there.”

“Perhaps they find such a howler monkey-commander tasty”, Goldi grinned, taking Fluffbert aside. “Now listen, Fluffy, I’ve got an idea…”

While under Flecki’s stern glance Goldi talked something over with the gerbil leader, the Khan-Mayor did not really feel all the thing. He moved to and fro, scratched his fur hectically and goggled at the surface of the water as if expecting some monster any time. “What’s happening here?” he shouted, glaring at Fluffberg. “What is paddling around in this puddle?”

Goldi nodded at the gerbil leader and Fluffbert shyly scratched his ear.

“Oh, that, honoured leader, that are – er – animals. They are living in the puddle.”

“What animals?” the Khan-Mayor cried and desperately waved his short, fat arms. “Why do they gnaw at me?”

“Oh, they are only greenquacks and normally harmless…”

“Normally? What means normally?”

“A single greenquack is absolutely harmless, you can even keep him as a pet – but a lot of greenquacks, well, well…”

“Well, well, what?!” the Khan-Commaner yelled and with satisfaction Goldi noted that the voice of the mad mayor became shriller and more desperate. “What is it, gerbil, talk! What about a lot of greenquacks?”

“We-ell”, Fluffbert retorted, “there are cases when they ate a whole horse, little sweet-teeth they are. It took them a few days, but anyhow…”

“Get me out o’ here, at once!” came a shriek from the puddle.

“Well, well, we’re back to the conditions”, Taty grinned and nudged Tealeafy.

“I accept everything”, came a shriek from the puddle, “I agree to all items, but get me out of here!”

It took some time to drag the Khan-Mayor out. That was not only due to his own weight but to the heavy mud sticking to him like some mash and not giving its victim free. Panting, he lay there, unhappy with himself and the rest of the world. Hamsters and gerbils around him watched his every movement. Would he really stick to the requirements of the Requirement Committee of the Hamstian Landing Party? Would he offend the Hamstian code of honour – and what was to happen then?

Of course nobody could know what might be going to happen and so they proceeded by the hamster motto: keep alert and run from danger. The break was used by all of them to get free from the sticky mud but it was an action without sense. The whole troop had rather a distance ahead of them – as it was a distance through the jungle.

“Relaxed enough?” the Khan-Mayor asked and got up. “To comply item one of our agreement, I now ask you if anybody minds an attempt to leave this dirty swamp or if anyone wishes to remain here?”

Not burdened with much luggage, hamsters and gerbils could proceed soon. While they walked on through the muddy jungle, Flecki took a good look at the mayor and to her disappointment discovered that he had not lost his weapon in the puddle. Several hamsters had when slipping in the mud and the number of armed hamsters had considerable declined. Only Taty, Tealeafy, Tuffy, and Goldi still had their phasers and the latter fumbled his weapon all the time, aiming at everything he could see along the wayside.

All this did nothing to calm down the hamsters, especially when they found out that it was not easy to get out of the jungle. The further they walked, the thicker the never-ending green seemed to become. Additionally there always was the danger of drowning in some mud hole. Humidity was high and plagued the animals for the longer they walked, the more difficult breathing became. Even the Khan-Mayor showed signs of exhaustion, paused several times, gasping.

“Fluffbert, does any of you gerbils knows his way in this damned shrub?”

The gerbil-leader shook a tired head because neither he nor one of his comrades had ever dared to enter the jungle.

“Dammit, I don’t understand that, Fluffbert, why don’t we get out? I followed the sun all the time, calculated its route and adapted ours by the hour. Always keeping left like our ancestors in the Syrian desert. And now? Over there is that darned puddle again which dared to take the Mighty Khan! Tell me how to get out here, Fluffbert, or I’ll throw you in!”

He fell on the little gerbil-leader, lifted and shook him. This was the moment Flecki tapped his shoulder.

“Item 4 between you and the Requirement Committee of the Hamstian Landing Party says that you leave the gerbils alone. In case you consider to offend the Hamstian code of honour…”

“Okay, okay, dammit!” the Khan-Mayor grunted and let go trembling Fluffbert. “We’re not to lose our nerves now. But as to your fine talk about the items agreed between us, you certainly can make some proposals who to proceed. I’m thinking about item one, that is your right to say as to my proceedings. That includes some sort of responsibility you can’t avoid due to the Hamstian code of honour. If you don’t keep to the agreement, neither do I! So get some idea or the agreement is void.”

For some moments the hamster troop looked rather sheepish because no one had reckoned with such an interpretation of the agreement. Of course no one had a solution for the mess at hand and it was Goldi who crossed the all too obvious plans of the Khan-Mayor.

With an innocent flutter of his eyelashes he said:

“Of course we keep the agreement and to prove that we now refer to item two: the regular brake.”

No one objected and as it slowly got dark, they had to make camp anyway. In daylight they could at least see the dry spots to make camp. Nobody would have been very cheerful to wake up in some mud puddle next morning. Now everyone looked for some big leave as sheet and tried to make himself comfortable.

As matter of fact it was important to choose plain ground and no slanting one like Trample did. When he was lying down on his comfortable leaf, it started to slide and with a loud shriek he plunged into the next mud hole. As poor Trample was wet anyway and had to get dry first, he was named as first guard. The Khan-Mayor had given orders to keep watch in this territory. If some time Trample was dry – which would take long in the moist air of the jungle – he was to wake up Dodo to release him. The first duty of the guard was to look out for unknown dangers and to keep away the greenquacks from the supplies.

The night was quiet; Dodo kept watch after Trample, followed by the chief, and Goldi was the last. Then the quiet night was over. When the first rays of the sun came through the thick green of the jungle, loud, constant phaser fire made the hamsters and gerbils awake with a start.

“The greenquacks”, Goldi said, put away his phaser and tried an innocent smile. “I had to defend our supplies.”

“Did you shoot and kill the enemy?” the Khan-Mayor wanted to know.

“As well as”, Goldi said, nonchalantly playing with his phaser. “I shot a twig from under the bum of two of them, the others escaped.”

“Well done, weapon officer. We should set out anyway and procede. As long as the temperatures are low, we have to keep ourselves warm and move.”

At this moment a ray of sun came through the thick shrubs, blinding the Khan-Mayor. He paused, baffled, and looked up again. He brooded for a moment, the he angrily shouted: “The sun is rising on the wrong side!”

Fluffbert looked at him with big eyes.

“The sun moves from left to right, get me, man?” the commander gnarled at him. He wanted to grab and shake him but in time remembered the agreement with the Requirement Committee of the Hamstian Landing Party. “That’s the way the sun moves around a planet, you ignorant gerbil.” To underline his words he moved his paw in a half circle from left to right. “That’s the way the sun moves around a planet. Am I right or am I right as always?” he grumbled at the assembled hamsters.

“Neither”, Goldi took the word. “For a long time the Greek hamsters did believe that. It is correct that the planet moves around the sun and not the other way round. By the way, with a speed of 30 kilometres per second. The sun after all is the far bigger star and a bigger star never would rotate around a smaller one as one learns in Hamsterton schools today.”

“I do know that”, the Khan-Mayor barked, giving Goldi a dagger look. “What I mean…”

“Meaning and saying is not the same”, Tealeafy put his oar in.

“Shut up, all of you, you furry know-it-alls, or I’ll flog you!”

“That’s a clear breach of item 3, if I may mention it”, Taty angrily cried. “That is: 3. No hamster is to be insulted or even touched by you!”

“Of course, of course”, the Khan-Mayor replied, grinding his teeth and faking a smile. “Certainly I will keep to the rules agreed upon as to the right to say and animal conform treatment. But that does not change the fact that this careless gerbils forgot to point out the fact that this darned planet is rotating in the wrong direction. By that our situation became miserable and we spent a useless night in these wretched mud shrubs. In cases like this martial laws are due and this unscrupulous gerbil will for this act of sabotage be sent into the next mud puddle and…”

“Just a moment, which martial laws? And why sabotage? This poor gerbil had not idea that our home planet rotates the other way round!” Flecki cried

“O well”, came the gnarled answer, “based on item 1 of the agreement which regulated the right to say to my procedures, I noted your remark and refrain to blame him of sabotage. However, as we are marching toward the Klingon hamsters, we are at war all right and therefore all agreements with the Requirement Committee of the Hamstian Landing Party are nil and void. We cannot after all discuss in the middle of a battle when the next regular lunch break has to take place. Would it suit your schedule to walk on and leave this silly jungle?”

Flecki was close to protest loudly but when for the umpteenth time she caught a greenquack gnawing at her fur, she only nodded. The sooner they left this area, the better. Items to dispute could be disputed later.

They soon realized that the further route was pure disaster. The direction was correct now to reach the desert but the path was nothing but repellent as Tuffy stated for several times. Half an hour later hamsters and gerbils looked like walking coal, added by dripping and reeking. First voices came up to simply return but they silenced on the information that the way back was even longer and that they soon would reach their destination.

After Trample had been rescued for the 22nd time out of some vile mud hole, they had made it. Ahead of them was an inviting landscape of dunes and the swamp was behind them at last. While the Khan-Mayor still wondered why he felt like singing, his crew had settled down in the sandy dunes. Now it was worthwhile to start a sound grooming without running the risk to sink into the mud with the next step. They even could think of a nice little snack but unfortunately there was an incident.

Flecki, whose supply of sunflower seed had been consumed be the greenquacks, had to go begging to her comrades to get some food. When she went to Goldi, it did not escape her that he quickly sat down on his supplies and showed an expression of being the world’s poorest hamster. Without even looking at him, she walked to the next gerbil and asked for food. Softbert looked at her in surprise and pointed to the jungle.

“Do you see those shrubs at the edge of the forest?” Softbert asked. “That are greengrain plants. We eat that all the time. Just tear off some and you have a yum meal.”

Flecki, who was close to starving, flitted to the edge of the jungle, paused a moment and cautiously surrounded a small mud puddle. Hungrily she grasped a twig and tore at it with all her strength. First the twig gave way but suddenly it sprang back and hurtled shrieking Flecki into the air. Then there was a splash.

“Gosh, the one puddle there is and down she goes”, Tealeafy grinned, patting Taty’s shoulder. All eyes were on Flecki now who emerged from the puddle muddily. She had a small twig in her paws and her eyes glittered with fury. She shrieked: “Softbert, I’ll right finish you!”

Under the surprised eyes of her hamster friends and the anxious eyes of the gerbils she made for Softbert, twig in paw, slipped, shrieked furiously and ran on. Frightened, Softbert realized that things did not look pretty for him and he shielded his head with his paw. The first blow met his bum and he squeaked, more of fright than of pain. The second blow was better, hitting him right on the nose.

“Ey!” Goldi shouted with a broad grin. “That’s a living, feeling creature – forgot that?”

“So what?!” Flecki hissed, lowering her arm. The gerbil took to his heels and hid behind his colleagues.

“You whomped him over the head with a stick, that was – cool!”

“Stick?” Flecki mumbled, stuffing the twig between her teeth and chewing hungrily. “I don’ she any shfick here!”

“Now do we proceed or not?” the Khan-Mayor barked who had been standing around for some time, wondering why he had some song about ‘summer, sun, and beach’ in his head. So he had not noticed what was going on and that his crew had decided to take a rest for grooming. “Did someone say anything about a break? We have to walk on, the enemy does not wait for us!”

“Why does he not wait for us?” Dodo wondered aloud and some hamsters were grinning expectantly. “Well, if they are up to something and want to go somewhere, we only would disturb them, wouldn’t we? I’ve no idea what they might be up to but…”

Dodo paused when his leader slowly walked up to him. The Khan-Mayor made one last long step and now stood in front of the big hamster who made a cautious step back. The Khan-Mayor followed with one step and Dodo retreated with one step. So they continued for quite some time and just when the rest of the troop made themselves comfortable in the sand again, a sharp voice cut through the quiet: “Stand, navigator – at once!” Dodo did as ordered. “As you are so keen to know, navigator, you will be the scout and creep up to the Klingon hamsters. If there are volunteers, go ahead. Everyone who likes may accompany Dodo!”

On their further procedure through the dunes, there was complete silence because no one had the slightest intent to be caught and thrashed by the Klingons. Dodo felt the same and his low sobbing could not be kept secret. On they walked through the dunes and the closer they came to the desert the louder became Dodo’s sobbing. When they reached a small mound, the Khan-Mayor gave them a sign to lie down on the ground.

“We are there”, he shouted to drown the noise of the sobs. “Over there will be there village. As soon as we know details about the location of their dwellings, we will work out a plan… Can this noise die down, navigator? Thanks! Er, where was I? Yes, work out a plan to take them by surprise. We will attack under the cover of darkness and take them for a ride. Then I’ll take over the whole planet and done with. Well, get yourself gone, navigator, you will scout them.”

“But if they catch me!” Dodo wailed. “Then I’m done with and I don’t like to go for a ride. And I don’t like to go alone!”

“The more people are setting out, the greater is the risk of being caught, navigator. A scout troop has to be as small as possible so that the enemy does not feel like attack. If they catch you, you tell them that you come in peace. If that doesn’t help, you tell them that the Mighty Khan will come to revenge you.”

“Then please give me a weapon, Boss!”

“No way, navigator. How will you explain to the Klingons that you come in peace if you carry a weapon? And now get you gone!”

The Khan-Mayor drew his phaser and directed it at Dodo who immediately stopped his sobbing.

“Chin up, Dodo!” Tuffy cried. “You will make it!”

“Just so”, Trample encouraged him. “In our minds we are all with you and would love to join you but a scout group just has to be small.”

“Did I hear something about your loving to join, deputy communication officer Trample?”

Trample swallowed and it went up and down hot and cold along his back. He realized that just now he had said something very silly and unreasonable. “Er, yes, that is no, what I mean is that a scout group has to be small, hasn’t it? One person is okay…”

“However, two persons are better, deputy communication officer. If one is caught, the other one can take back valuable information to the base camp.”

“Er, Boss, where is that base camp?”

The Khan-Mayor only glared at Dodo and shook his head. He would have liked to do the same with Dodo’s head, but in all he as well could leave that to the Klingon hamsters and so he shouted: “Here is the base camp, navigator! And now come one, set off and never forget that you need not worry: The Mighty Khan is on your side!”

“Need not worry, need not worry!” Trample grumbled when they had reached the edge of the desert. “What is the worth of a hamster life? We need not worry.”

“But if he says so. By the way, it’s a pity that you are no longer the celtic moss beaver. You would be well disguised now, Trample.”

“Green in the desert, Dodo? Swell idea!”

Cautiously the two scouts crept along the desert sand. As it was early in the day, the temperatures were pleasant and if they made haste, they could reach the Klingon village before the sun had reached the highest point because it would be unbearably hot then. Luckily the permanent wind had made small dunes here and there which the two hamsters used as cover on their mission not to get caught too early. One hour later Dodo and Trample had come close enough to the village to make out details. There were a few watch towers which however were not manned. Obviously nobody expected an attack and so the two of them entered one of the watch towers.

“And now, are we ready now and can go home?”

“To the base camp it is, Dodo. I haven’t any idea either what a scout is to do but if we know how many people are staying here and how many houses there are, we do know a lot. It would be good to know how they are armed.”

“And then, will we go home then, to the base camp, I mean?”

“Yes, Dodo”, Trampled nervously hissed, “and now open your eyes, watch and count!”

And so two anxiously trembling hamsters were sitting in a wooden watch tower at the edge of the Klingon hamsters’ village. They peeped through a gap in the wood towards the centre of the village. Obviously they had been lucky for the Klingon hamsters seemed to be still asleep. That was a very important information. After a while the village became alive because by and by creatures came out of the houses with no idea that they were being watched.

“Wow, but they are fat!” Trample whispered. “They look right like Dodo – er – like Goldi after a food party week!”

“Yea, right fat rockers and with their shelled heads they look damn dangerous!”

“Small wonder that the gerbils are that thin when these guys eat away everything!”

So the two scouts had the next important information. With pounding hearts they watched how more and more Klingons assembled in the village centre. Seemed to be the meeting point for general breakfast because there was a big pot made to be put onto the hearth. Now they started to count and after some time Trample had counted 18 Klingon hamsters and Dodo 300 – estimated, as Dodo added. After a few further countings they agreed on about 20 opponents. This was the most important information.

“Ah, uninvited visitors”, a voice suddenly said behind them. “We don’t like that and we’ll beat in you faces for that!”

That now was the uttermost important information and Dodo immediately started sobbing: “We come in peace and just wanted to leave. And if any beating, please not that hard.”

The answer was a loud laugh. “Hey, you are no gerbils after all – where do you come from?”

“We are harmless sc…”, Dodo wailed, interrupted by Trample who kicked his bum to silence him.

“We – er – are only tourists, on holiday”, Trample explained with a trembling voice while from all sides curious Klingon hamsters came closer now.

The unpleasant smell these animals gave off was very noticeable. Water and soap obviously were a foreign concept here. An exceptionally big villager pushed aside the others and now faced the two hamsters. “On holiday, aha. Tourists, aha. And what for?”

Trample thought feverishly. What now? He wondered what Goldi would do in his place now and his face brightened for a moment. He shouted: “To visit you, of course. Great that you’re at home. Till now we only met some daft gerbils who got a thrash. What’s for a meal?”

Dodo was just going to object that the gerbils were their friends and got another kick so that he did not understand anything.

“Hey, you’re all right”, the Klingon hamster bawled who appeared to be the leader. Delighted, he patted Trample’s shoulder heartily so that the little hamster broke down with a whimper. He turned to Dodo. “And you, what about you?”

“Have mercy, it’s not my business, nothing is my business, I’ll lie in the sand for you from dawn to dusk if you want it so but please don’t beat me. If you do so, I’ll tell the Mighty Khan.”

“Khan?” the leader guffawed and showed yellow teeth. “Who’s that? I’ll laugh myself silly!”

The leader scratched his head, turned to his pals and shouted: “The one is a softy, the other’s got pluck. Well, lads, softies get their faces smashed, the other one is invited to entrance test for true Klingons!” When he turned back to Dodo, the big hamster was gone. There was a sort of dust devil to be seen in the desert and Dodo left with a speed no one had expected of him.

“He’s a bit shy”, Trample painfully said after getting up and feeling his shoulder. “But yesterday he knocked out five gerbils, only two less than I did.”

“You’re all right, hamster”, some Klingon beside the leader bawled and forcefully patted Trample’s shoulder.

“No problem”, Trample retorted, spitting sand after he had risen with aching limbs. “That’s nothing. Er, what sort of entrance test is that?”

“Come along to the food pot, friend, and we can start”, the leader said, putting his strong paw to poor Trample’s shoulder once more.

In the meantime Dodo of course had no idea what was going on in the Klingon village and what was waiting for his friend Trample. As the big hamster had no need to be cautious, he had made the distance in record time and reached the base camp again. Now he was lying behind the sheltering dune, panting.

“Report, navigator!”

“There are twenty fat hamsters with fat heads and they want Trample make some entrance test. And ‘cause I always fail all tests, I quickly came home, that is to the base camp.”

“Entrance test, navigator?”

“I think I know what he means”, Fluffbert now said, looking at Dodo ponderingly. “Sometimes there are tests whether someone is a real Klingon warrior, even if he is no Klingon.”

“And if he fails?” Flecki asked, worried.

Fluffbert shrugged. “Thrashing certainly, although…” The gerbil leader paused and looked thoughtful.

“Although – what?”

Fluffbert sighed. “I shouldn’t wonder if Trample passes the test or not. I should wonder if he survives it.”

“People!” the Khan-Commander barked. “Mount guards and wait. We’ll take a rest now and wait for darkness. Then we attack.”

“I’ll keep watch”, Flecki said in a decided voice, “and so do you, Goldi, Trample is your pal after all. He certainly will need our help. I can’t help wondering what made the Klingon hamsters want just him to be one of them. He’s really no muscle-hamster as it is.”

Goldi shrugged and sat down beside Flecki and the edge of the dune. He knew when it made no sense to contradict Flecki. Her brother was in question after all and she did not take jokes there. While the rest of the troop was more or less loudly snoring at the wind-protected side of the dune, the glances of the two watch-hamsters wandered again and again to the horizon.

Hours and hours passed and they no longer could keep their eyes open. The sun had long since left the highest point and the temperatures became more pleasant. After the exhausting events in the jungle hamsters and gerbils were now soundly asleep and no one saw that something was happening in the distance. At the horizon a cloud of dust came up, slowly approaching the hamster base camp.

 

Chapter 33

 

Lairg and the Grants

 

Luckily the officers in Scotland did not know what just was happening on the gerbil planet. They were glad that Spock was all right again and they had one worry less. In the small hours they tiptoed into the house of Cora McLean. Once again they were wet and dirty. They certainly could not burden the poor woman that way any longer and decided not to get into such a state again next day.

Well, they at no time had intended to get into such a state but the next day they really succeeded. They all needed a little recreation time, but first of all Spock had to get some quiet. When they came out of their beds at last, the rain had stopped so that after breakfast they rambled about Golspie, spent most of the day at the beach and had a good time.

"I don't know why but somehow we draw attention wherever we go", the Captain wondered.

"Not my fault", Hamstilidamst said between two peanuts.

"No, and the reason isn't even that we don't always know our way in this time."

"What’s your point?" McCoy asked and with his foot made a hole in the sand.

"We should leave tomorrow. Cora guaranteed us three nights and it somehow would be silly to go B&B here again."

"Where d'ye wanna go?" Lt. Scott asked who still was not able to think very clearly and had a headache.

"No idea."

"Very helpful", Spock commented.

Beside this he did not say much. When he had woken up from the healing trance he had well remembered his behaviour of the last days. And though he knew that the reason had been an illness, he was much embarrassed.

So for the time being he held back. But he intended to protest in all earnest in case the Captain wanted to hitchhike once more on a truck the load of which they did not know.

They wandered around a bit and had already passed the bus station, when the Captain realized its existence and walked back. He studied the timetable and said:

"Tomorrow we'll go to Lairg."

"Anything thrilling happening there?" asked Hamstilidamst.

"Anything special there?" at the same time Dr. McCoy asked.

"Why d'ye wanna go there?" at the same time Lt. Scott asked.

"No idea, no idea, because the bus goes there", the Captain answered all three questions with a grin.

"Where is that place?" the Doctor asked, looking at Scott who only shrugged.

"Map", said the Captain, took off the rucksack and fished out the map.

Lairg was right in the Highlands at Loch Shinn at could boast of a camping site. That was all the map could tell. Anyhow, camping had to mean tourism and tourism probably meant B&B. As they still did not know how long they had to stay here, B&B was their best possibility.

Accordingly, next morning they took their leave of the McLean family, paid a little more than required because of all the dirt they had brought in and walked to the bus station. At this time of the day only few people were on the road. The Captain suspected Lairg not to be able to boast of its largeness or anything else.

To find this out they got more time than they had asked for. Some distance behind Muie the bus started to make curious noises, then it stopped to make any noise at all. The only one making noises was the swearing bus driver.

"I've always known it!" an elderly woman nagged. "This clunker had to conk out some time. I'd like to write to the government!"

"Why not tae t’ Queen, Betsey?" a fat man asked. "P'rhaps she'll invite ye tae tea 'cause ye're such a good, observant citizen."

"Thin tea, flower hats and Corgies around my feet, go on!" the woman thundered.

"Well, pals", the bus driver reported after having taken a look whether he was able to do something. "There ain't an engineer on board by chance?"

"Ay!" Lt. Scott promptly said and was nudged by Dr. McCoy. "Ay, that would be a fine thing, if there were."

"How far is it to Lairg?" the Captain asked the company.

"About five miles", a younger man said. "Well, I'll walk."

"Ha, we'll be faster walking than waiting for repair", the old woman grumbled.

As this was the general opinion, they got off and walked together. There was nothing but a single track road between the mountains, light fog was over the glen – it was breathtaking. Or so the Enterprise-officers saw it. The locals just wanted to get home. Without discussing it they made up a group, and the Captain was quite agreeable.

"Holiday?" the jovial fat man inquired.

"Yes, we're on our way – to the northern cost", Kirk replied remembering the map and knowing that the explanation was reasonable.

"Ay, ye choose a fine road wi' few tourists."

They chatted politely and exchanged travel advices. Most of the time Hamstilidamst had slept in his box. Now the swinging and the fresh air woke him up. He blinked out and mumbled:

"Shouldn't we go by bus? If we're not in the bus, I could need some exercise."

With this commendable plan he began to fumble at the door of the box and as Dr. McCoy had not closed it tightly in the morning, the door suddenly opened and with the Doctor's next arm-swing Hamstilidamst simply fell out.

"Fine", he said. "I 'll run alongside and enjoy the landscape. These officers also are always enjoying the landscape."

With that he flitted to the roadside, disappeared in the grass and his landscape consisted of lots of blades of grass. But that didn't matter for he knew the direction – did he know the direction? Erm, right, perhaps he should walk back to the road.

There the young man by now had noticed that the door of the pet box was open. As the officers did not assume that Hamstilidamst was able to open the door from inside, they immediately guessed that it had not been tightly shut. Unfortunately since the start of their walk they had not taken care whether the hamster was sitting in the box or not. Without doubt they had to go back now and look for Hamstilidamst.

He, too, was on search, between giant grass and herb, back to the road. Now and then he called out for his biped friends but they were too far off to hear him.

"That's funny", Hamstilidamst told himself. "That looks… Yep, these giant greenthings are somehow parting. Hum, that doesn't happen just for fun, somebody's doing this. I should take a look, perhaps Jim's coming."

Well, it was not really a human walking to the grass but perhaps Jim brushed through the grass with a stick…

"Aha-a-aha-a-a!" Hamstilidamst gasped.

Something was winding through the grass, quicker and quicker. It was terribly long and it came towards him terribly unerringly. And from the mouth a tongue darted. A snake! A viper!

"Pleh! Pleh!" Hamstilidamst shrieked. "Yttocs! Krik! Cinap!"

He took to his heels but did not dare to turn his back to the deathly beast. So he ran backwards, keeping an eye on the snake which came closer and closer. He did not even notice that he had passed the tiny distance which had separated him from the road but only stared at the snake.

"There he is! – What's he doing?" Lt. Scott cried.

"He is running backwards", Spock once more stated the obvious.

"Pleh! Pleh!" came a shriek.

Then Dr. McCoy saw the gliding movement in the high grass and the grin was off his face. Three steps and he had reached Hamstilidamst, picked him up and pressed him to his bosom.

“Chappy!" He was relieved and almost sobbed.

"I was in terribly horrible danger!" Hamstilidamst squeaked in shock.

"O boy!" the fat man said. "Better take care of your hamster. An adder might easily kill him."

"I know!" McCoy replied and breathed heavily. "I know that."

"Such a madness to travel with a hamster", old Betsey ranted but she did not sound really angry.

Everybody now watched how the adder, having lost her prey, disappointedly vanished into the grass. Then Lt. Spock said:

"If you do not object, I will take the hamster now. I am the only one who during this journey has not saved his life and I will do my utmost to rescue him from further danger of life."

With a ceremonial bow Dr. McCoy passed Hamstilidamst to Spock. Their fellow walkers became curious. They might hear the story of the hamster being attacked by seagulls at the beach of Golspie. However, they preferred not to tell the story about Kirk rescuing him from the Hamstian Security Service on Pebbay.

So until they reached Lairg, there was enough to talk about. Arriving there, they proceeded with the young man who was named Arthur Grant. For people not only passing Lairg by, the Grants offered B&B and they had two twin bed rooms.

Better still, the house was situated right at Loch Shinn. When the young man locked up the front door, he was hailed from somewhere indoors:

"Arthur, that you? Just imagine, last night McBean was robbed."

The words had grown louder and louder and at the end of the sentence a young woman with a baby on her arm faced them.

"Indeed, love", Mr. Grant replied. "And on the road the bus broke down on the road. We all walked here. I took the chance to bring along some overnight guests."

"How very sensible of you to arrive only now", the young woman said and held out her hand to each of them. "All Lairg is suspected. Lucky who did not spend the night here. Oh, McBean is the sportswear market, a true employer in Lairg. But do take a look at your rooms."

"Probably our guests were sent by Scotland Yard", her husband assumed. "Admit it, you're here to clear up this horrible capital crime."

"Sure", the Capain grinned. "At Scotland Yard we're all telepaths and always set out before the crime has been committed."

"We also brought along our police hamster", Lt. Scott announced.

"Why, that's what I call real undercover. I'm Aileen, do come in", Mrs. Grant grinned. "And if this one is grown up", she added and nudged the baby's nose, "his name will be Maxwell."

"Erm, and what is his name now?" Dr. McCoy asked, baffled.

"Up to the time he begins to walk, his name is Dinky. Then my husband might think of a name for Dinky until he starts school."

"As he is already busily crawling, the question of the name is imminent. First I thought Welly would be nice but I think we should call him Max after all. What do you think, Aileen?"

"By all means. If you call him Welly, all the neighbours will be on the lookout for floods."

In the meantime they had walked up the stairs and Arthur opened the doors to the rooms. Kirk and McCoy immediately walked over to the window and looked out with a sigh. Across a narrow road they had free view on the lake and boat houses. The rooms were large and prettily furnished. Even the Vulcan noticed this and he put the economical question:

"How much do you ask per room?"

"Fifteen pound per bed", Aileen replied. "And you may leave your things here during the day and get a full breakfast."

What a full breakfast was they had learned in the Ballachulish hotel. This was so rich that it was easily understandable why British lunch was on the meagre side. But to prepare such a breakfast was really labour and not really necessary.

"Yes, it is", Arthur Grant nodded. "We are two of the people who can munch like mad and don't put on weight. You'll just join in."

"I'm back to work", Aileen said. "D'you like to show the Yard-men the settings of the crime? You might take Dinky along."

"I just walked five miles!" Arthur objected.

"Oh! Well, so you are back to work and I'll show the Yard-officers the Lairg highlights and take along Dinky."

Perhaps Lairg was not a place to remember but Aileen Grant knew really fine viewpoints and right blandished the little town. When little Dinky decided to bawl for the rest of the day, Lt. Spock placed the hamster box onto the quilt so that the baby could see the hamster. That self-moving thing looking at Dinky with big black bead eyes was enough to silence the baby and made it watch and bubble.

Since his shock with the snake Hamstilidamst had not uttered one word. First he really had been frightened to death, second he seldom said anything when anybody was present beside his friends. Now he straightened up to full height at the box-wall and took a look at Dinky.

"You've got a hamster name but you don't look like one."

"B-l-l-l-l-l-l-l", baby said.

"Ey, that an insult?"

"Nananana", Dinky answered and crowed.

"Well, I hope so 'cause I'm a dragon-killer.”

"Woowoowoowoo!"

"Just so!"

"They seem to have a lot of fun", Aileen Grant said.

"They certainly have", the Vulcan replied who was the only one able to keep his countenance at this hamster-baby-chat.

Finally they reached the scene of the nightly robbery. Aileen pushed the Captain towards the pram and beckoned him to hold the handle. She got sketch block and pen out of her big bag and started to sketch the site of crime. Lt. Scott grinned, walked over to her and watched, fascinated.

"Ye're a painter", he stated.

"Hum? – Ay, we are both painters, Arthur and I. Painters and potters."

"Ailee-ee-een!" somebody screeched and Mr. Grant took a deep breath.

"Okay", she said in an undertone. "Now you'll get daftness at its best."

"Ailee-ee-een!" it screeched once more and a small, chubby redhead came running. "If only you had been here last night. You could have made a wonderful Indipendence Day-picture."

"Sure, Cilly, had I been here last night, I'd be in jail by now."

"You might have been sitting here snugly and sketching the robber who made the Titanic-robbery."

"Don't you worry, Cilly, I've brought some Scotland Yard-officers, who'll take care."

"Oh, really?! La, I'm quite embarrassed", Cilly giggled.

She gave the Enterprise-officers glances and wound some red lock around a finger. Kirk rocked the pram and with a grave face said:

"You will not tell this, of course, we are working undercover. By your leave: Bond."

"Wow!" Cilly cried with big eyes. "Really! Oh, I'm… "

"…so shaken that I’m stirred", Dr. McCoy mumbled.

"Come on, gentlemen", Lt. Scott gnarled. "Let's take an inobstrusive look. Bond, push on Agent 0815."

"Allow me to stay on site, Sir", Lt. Spock begged.

Permission was granted by Scotty because the Vulcan was the only one who did not have the urgent desire to topple over with laughter. Also Aileen Grant kept a poker face and busily sketched McBean's Sportswear with warning tape and police car. Silly Cilly fascinatedly goggled at the remaining Yard-officer. He put his hands to his back and squinted at the shop entrance.

"Oh!" Aileen said with a fleeting gesture. "This is our guest of the planet Krypton."

"That is incorrect, Madam", Spock coolly replied. "My home planet's name is Vulcan."

"Tata", Mrs. Grant retorted, shaking her head, "what a fuzz-head I am. What was it you call yourself? Entaian oder Vesuvian?"

"Madam", Spock replied in the sort of whisper everybody could hear. "Please do not forget that I am the prince of hell undercover."

This was the moment Aileen Grant no longer could keep her countenance. It was really terrible because Cilly stood by with big eyes and believed every word. This woman's existence was cinema. In her humdrum life she sold walking sticks and even them she sometimes made to swords of the three musketeers.

Howsoever, Aileen quickly stowed away her sketch book, nodded to Cilly, gripped Spock's arm and steered him after his colleagues.

"Abominable!" she exclaimed when they were out of earshot. "You sound definitely true."

"Well", the Vulcan calmly said. "I'm tramping through Scotland with my friends, and if we get the chance, we take on casual jobs to – er – fill our pockets. In a pub in Fort William I was a piano playing prince of hell. It – er – quite took on."

"I like that one", Aileen retorted with a broad grin.

"By the way, at that time the police hamster had been a hell hamster."

She still laughed when they reached the three others and repeated what Spock had released. The laughter of the officers sounded a bit forced. Although they were certain that normally the Vulcan would not start to babble, he really should never tell where he came from.

"Will that Cilly tell on that you brought in Scotland Yard?" Lt. Scott inquired.

"Why, 'course she will, but as long as she makes the robbery a Titanic-forray and has me painting Indipendance Day-sketches, nobody will believe a word. Come, let's sit on the landing-stage for a while."

They were not alone there. Several people came over from the camping site for rowing boats or canoes. Many started a walking tour at Lairg. The little town was not a real holiday residence but a place where trips started. Aileen and Arthur worked much for the tourist's business. They did not make big money with it but made a living.

In Lairg the main roads to the south and to all coasts crossed. There was a bus terminal, the railway passed, and there was the lake. It was the place for a stop or a stay with tent or caravan. While Aileen got out her sketch book again, the Captain stayed at her side and watched. The others sat down on the edge of the landing stage in a little distance and dangled their legs. They discussed a question Hamstilidamst had put.

"Say, who's Agent 0815? That bubbling baby or me?"

"You are the Scotland Yard police hamster already", Dr. McCoy grinned.

"As to my knowledge 0815 stands for something most average, it cannot be you", Spock pondered.

"Ha, Vesuvian, you put that nicely!" McCoy smirked.

"I thought nobody was to know who you are", Hamstilidamst reproachfully said to Spock who bend his head a little.

"In a humorous situation, relying with a percentage of 98.6 that no one will give credit to my information, I am permitted to make an exception."

"Hum!" Hamstilidamst grunted and chewed this sentence. Then he said: "I wonder if I have to see our mayor again when I've got you."

"I think on the whole that is an insult", Dr. McCoy said.

"Long phrases with no sense – where's the difference?" Hamstilidamst protested.

"Ay, don't quarrel", Scotty soothed them. "Just look how nice and peaceful it is."

So they sat silently for a while and looked how nice and peaceful it was. Hamstilidamst was happily sitting on Lt. Scott's shoulder and watched the Vulcan working at his tricorder. Then he watched Bones counting money. Scott watched this as well.

"So?" he asked after a while. "How is it?"

"The night will be 60 pound and we've got to go shopping", the Doctor reported. "No idea how we'll go on, but some work wouldn't be that bad."

"I delivered my win from the match", Scotty said.

"Ahem, the amount which didn't go down your throat", Bones retorted. "What are you doing there, Spock?"

"Have you realized that our trouble-free three-days-mission very soon will be a two-weeks-stay?" the Vulcan asked.

"No, truly?!" Hamstilidamst cried. "Well, in all earnest I've spent more boring two weeks in my life."

"Ay, so did we, believe me", Lt. Scott nodded.

"Ain't it all adventure on the space ship?"

"Dammit, no. Sometimes we're on patrol for months and don't know what to begin for boredom."

"I bet that's different there now."

"You win", McCoy nodded. "Spock, put away that tricorder, Jim and Aileen are coming."

Next moment a sheet of paper was waved in front of his face. He took it, looked and whistled. There was McBean's Sportswear with warning band, police car and everything. But in the foreground, their backs to the onlooker, four male figures were standing, one of them holding to a pram. On the pram’s quilt stood a little box with a tiny hamster.

"My present to you", Aileen smiled. "A remembrance to your Yard days."

"Yep, and if we don't like to be Yard-officers any longer we may this evening all help to stow away the rented canoes in the canoe-shed", the Captain added. "Aileen talked with the boat renter."

"And many a mickle makes a muckle", Aileen said. "Heard that you made big money with golfing."

"Hereabouts big money damned quickly becomes small money", Dr. McCoy grumbled, and she sighed.

"Don't tell me. Well, I'm taking along Dinky and go to the studio. See you tonight. I told Jim where to shop here so that your big money gets even smaller. – Mr. Bond, gentlemen – police hamster… - I'd like to make you a model."

She set off with the pram and did not see how shocked Hamstilidamst was. The officers looked at the sketch and were delighted. If they ever returned to the Enterprise they could not take with them anything they had not brought here, but they had an idea.

"Hamstilidamst, do you have art in Hamsterton?" Kirk asked.

"Sasy and Dasy dance and Flecki paints", he absentmindedly replied and then burst out: "Did you listen to that woman?"

"Of course. What has she said to excite you so?" Jim inquired.

"She wants to make a mobile of me. She wants to hang me over that silly baby's bed! That's… Why d'you laugh that daftly?!"

"As model she wants to have you", Scotty sniggered. "Laddie, she wants to paint a picture of you."

"Om!" Hamstilidamst was baffled, then his beady eyes began to shine. "I'm to be pictured on some wonderful picture?! That would be great!"

"I guess she'll sell pictures of you to the tourists."

"To tourists all over the world!" Hamstilidamst crowed and stretched. "I'll be world famous like the world famous long hair of dearer!"

"Like what?!" Jim asked, most irritated.

"Perhaps he means the ‘Young hare’ by Dürer", Spock guessed.

"O yea, sure! – Well, now listen, Hamstilidamst. We may not take with us this beautiful picture because in our time nobody must know that we are here. So we cannot take a souvenir. But you will return to Hamsterton in this time. Would you like to have such a picture there?"

"I shall take it as memory to all our adventures?!" Hamstilidamst cried and held his breath. "That's sheer madness! Nobody ever brought something like that back from any adventure. O boy, the five of us in front of the robbed shop. That's – that's just the size for the town hall entrance hall. And you will not forget to give it to me, when we… But when will we?"

"I've no idea, pet", Jim admitted.

"Spock just said, we've been here for almost two weeks", McCoy remarked.

"What – already? O my goodness, what might have happened there?!"

Of course he was talking of the Enterprise for the fate of his ship never left his thoughts. It might be funny and adventurous down here but his place since long should have been on the Enterprise bridge again even if he did not know how bitterly Uhura and Chekov were missing him just now.

"Well, yes, that really might be", Hamstilidamst thoughtfully agreed.

"That's without any doubt", the Captain toughed it out.

"Wow, yea, by all means. What I mean is, if the mayor all the time has got that Commander-kink…"

"Better don't continue", Lt. Spock interrupted him.

"Will you tell me this numbskull…"

"Take care, Jim", Dr. McCoy warned him. "I don't want you to get a stroke."

"This daft little nimbcompoop…"

"We have heard that the peculiar ideas of…", Spock once more tried his luck.

"This blockheaded whippersnapper who can't get together one complete sentence…"

"Jim!"

"This mega-dude, the laughing stock of all Hamsterton…"

"Jim!"

"…is sitting in MY CHAIR?!"

He made five steps up and five steps down, marched off the landing stage and just marched on.

"Does he need a chair to be Commander, or why does he get into such a fuss?" Hamstilidamst asked and Spock lifted an eyebrow.

"I never put this questions but it certainly is an interesting one after what we just have seen."

"Goodness, even I have been sitting on that chair!" Dr. McCoy flared up.

"We all have", Lt. Scott nodded. "But fact is that we also all get up if the Captain enters the bridge because it is his chair. Ay, he's a little nice there."

"I know what it is", the Doctor said. "Tonight we're to stow away canoes and he shirks from any work once more."

"And we have to go shopping", Lt. Spock remarked. "Furthermore we should take a decision whither to we go next."

"Do you always make mistletoe decisions if your Commander isn't there?" Hamstilidamst inquired interestedly. "For it might be as daft as you like but if our mayor has some idea and gets that into a sentence, we do it. – Well, sometimes we give him the real ideas so that he talks about them and we can do it. – Hey!"

He stopped his flood of words as it dawned to him that the three of them did exactly the same. Well, Jim did not have as damn stupid ideas as the mayor! But everybody did what he said and perhaps now and then they wanted to do things he did not say. So they had to teach him in some way so that he thought it was his own idea. Why, they were almost as smart as Hamsterton!

In the meantime they had left the landing stage. They passed McBean's Sportswear where there was no longer a police car and the shop open. Spock mumbled "flashlight" and they directed their steps inside. Perhaps they should not have allowed Hamstilidamst to sit on Lt. Scott's shoulder…

Hamstilidamst absolutely remembered his promise not to run away from the officers. But he did not run away, he just wanted to take a look around this hamsterswell shop like his friends did. Before anybody could say "shortbread" he had left Scott's shoulder. Scotty did not even notice it for he was just standing beside some shelf and Hamstilidamst simply walked from the shoulder onto the shelf.

There he climbed a mound which was comfortably equipped with ropes and when he reached the peak, he fell into the mound. When the Enterprise-officers had found their direction and left the shelf with the hiking boots, Hamstilidamst was gone. Thanks to the napped inner sides of the boots he could climb up the steep wall again. He looked around, saw that his friends were standing in a little distance at another shelf and wanted to go to them.

Eyes on his pals, he hopped down from the shelf and – disappeared once more in some dark cave. Unfortunately an inline skater had not been cleared away. Hamstilidamst was sitting deep down inside it and realized that the dark cave went on a trip. That was funny! He climbed around in the cave, slipped several times from the steep walls when trying to reach the edge but finally he succeeded.

He pulled himself up with a dash and his dash gave speed to the shoe. The inline skater crashed into the heel of a shop assistant who jumped aside with a cry. Hamstilidamst on the other hand was hurled through the air and landed in an artful pyramid of tennis balls which resolved on this.

Finally it was noticed that something was wrong here. Also the officers who were looking for a flashlight, noticed it and Scotty gripped his shoulder.

"Er", he said and nudged Dr. McCoy. "Hamstilidamst's gone and I think we should look for him somewhere near the tennis balls."

"Can't you once take care of that hamster", the Doctor sighed. "Spock, go on with that lamp. We go looking for Hamstilidamst."

"You probably will find him at the place of the greatest chaos", the Vulcan replied and let them set off.

 

Chapter 34

 

The Mighty Khan attacking the Klingons

 

A sorry figure dragged himself along the hot desert of the gerbil planet orbiting more or less evenly in a far away galaxy around an equally far away star. As the orbit of the planet around the star was a little shorter than that of home Earth, the days were accordingly shorter. However, there were no winters because the planet had no ecliptic.

All this did not interest the sorry figure in the least, his was no less than a matter of life or death. The poor creature had considerable problems to proceed because his belly was so bloated that normal walking was hardly possible. Again and again the creature stumbled in the hot sand of the desert and struggled to his feet again. Indeed, Trample had seen better days than this and more than once remembered the old hamster wisdom: Only eat until you lapse into coma. And his head! It felt like bursting any moment and Trample longed for cool shadow. After the shadow, he longed for quiet and a long time of sleep.

He desperately was on the lookout for his comrades in the distance but all he could see was the dune behind which he expected his friends to be. His maltreated belly ached more and more because he again and again trod on a belly-fold and wailed pitifully. Just when the dune was only a few metres away, he trod on his belly again a caught a raw spot. Then a head appeared over the edge of the dune and to his great, great relief he saw Flecki. A moment later also Goldi’s head showed.

“Moss beaver, old boy, did you have a nice time?”

Flecki gave him a reproachful glance and ran down the dune to Trample. Goldi shrugged like not feeling guilty and followed her. Together they dragged the completely exhausted Trample up the dune. A few minutes later they had reached the base camp where their friends had been awakened by the noise and waited curiously.

“Report, deputy communication officer! What are the defence tactics of the enemy?”

“W-water, water!”

“Water? Why water? What sort of defence is that? First officer, what does he mean, do you have an idea what the deputy communication officer is talking about?” the Khan-Mayor wondered and goggled at Trample who had collapsed to the ground.

“He’s parched, poor chap!” Flecki hissed. “If he doesn’t get some drink, we’ll learn nothing at all!” As fast as possible she hastened to the nearby pond at the edge of the jungle. A shriek, a splash, and a curse.

“Well”, Taty grinned, “if the ground is slippery, mind your steps.”

“And don’t run”, Tealeafy added.

One hour later not only Flecki’s fur was more or less clean again but Trample’s thirst was satisfied as well. The sund was close to the horizon by now and the temperatures were pleasant. In the meantime the gerbils had raided some nearby bushes and now had a good stock of greengrain plants. Now they all were sitting around Trample, curiously waiting for his report and chewing away the greengrains.

“Well, deputy communication officer! What are the defence tactics of our enemy? And why did you grow that fat?”

Trample sobbed loudly when he suddenly realized how misshapen he looked. Indeed he in some way resembled a Klingon hamster, especially around his waist. Some hamsters wondered if it was at all possible to walk with such a paunch as the paws hardly reached the ground any longer. Looking at Trample’s raw belly where in some spots even the fur was missing, they knew that this question was not unjust.

“The entrance test”, Trample whimpered and suddenly choked like vomiting.

“Control yourself, man!” the Kahn-Mayor barked.

“He did”, Flecki grinned. “Anybody got slimy paws?”

“It was disgusting”, Trample moaned, “just disgusting. All these tests… and then that acceptance ceremony.”

“Wait a minute!” The Khan-Mayor took out his phaser and aimed it at Trample. “Are you some miserable Klingon now or a deputy communication officer? For if you are a Klingon, you are our prisoner and the security will put you in chains.!”

“Ahum!” the security at once reacted, that was Dasy.

“What is it, security?”

“We’ve got no chains and I’ve not idea where to find any.”

This was a new situation. The Khan-Mayor put away his phaser and thought. He knew that he quickly had to find a solution so that his crew still believed in him – or at least did not laugh at him. All right, they had no chains but what about the lianas he had seen in the jungle? No, he thought, a hamster would gnaw through lianas within seconds. Phaser! Just level him with the phaser? No, no way. In spite of the fact that the mayor still was not master of his senses, deep within still was the code of hamstian honour which among others said: ‘Don’t torture another creature – one day it might get back at you!’ No, that was not acceptable eighter. Lianas, jungle – there had been something!

“Pond!” he cried. “Just by chance I know about a pond. You can stand in the middle but not get out. That will be the prison camp for all POWs!”

“Swell”, Taty jeered. “Not much room for many fat Klingons but just for training we might arrest some greenquacks…”

“No”, Trample cried who did not like this discussion at all. “No, I’m no Klingon!”

“And why do you look like fraternizing with them? Why have they caught you at all? Why didn’t you return like Dodo, our smart navigator, and reported? What about the entrance test and what about summer, sun, and beach?”

This last sentence had slipped the Khan-Mayor and he did not know what he was talking about. Quickly he covered his embarrassement by puffing up his cheeks and looking furious.

While the bystanding hamsters could not suppress some cackling, Trample looked at his leader with big eyes and started his report: “We had hidden in a watchtower near the village and watched. They all seemed to be asleep when we arrived. That is, they just seemed to get up and at their breakfast when suddenly one of them was behind us. When Dodo had said everything we were to say, it looked really bad for us and they wanted to knock us out. Dodo bunked when I thought I might outwit them. I faked being like them, loving to beat gerbils and the Klingons liked that. Well, they liked it so much that they said I was to make the entrance test to become a Klingon.”

Trample paused to take another thirsty sip of water while hamsters and gerbils were hanging at his lips.

“Continue!” the Khan-Mayor said.

“At the first test I had to eat a typical Klingon breakfast.”

He paused again, shuddered and continued. “There were worms – living worms! All the time some chap with a lance was at my side and I was told that at the tiniest incident the test would be over for me. So I ate the worms. Then… then they asked me if I liked it and as didn’t want to give in, I told them it was my favourite breakfast. Then I got a refill.” He shuddered once more and continued his report. “Entrance test for Klingon hamster consists of three parts: eat like a Klingon, look like a Klingon, hunt like a Klingon. The first part I passed and the leader said I was looking too slim and had to put on weight to look like a real Klingon. Then they filled the kettle with these nasty greenquacks. Broth with insert they called it and then two of the guys held me and another one by and by poured the contents of the kettle into me. All the time the chap with the lance was at my side watching me. Such I passed the second part of the test and they all cheered and then…” Once more Trample interrupted his thrilling report and put a paw to his mouth. “And then they took me and threw me into the air and cheered. That was just horrible. Now the last part of the test was to follow and that was my chance to escape. To prove that I can hunt like a Klingon I had to cross the desert without weapons and kill at least five gerbils.”

“Well”, Goldi grinned, “so only the gerbils are missing.”

“You’ll get all right again, Trample”, Sasy tried to console him. “I know of a fine diet where you lose 20 grammes within five days – granted!”

“I’ve tried it once”, Tuffy delightedly said. “That was such a success! You can eat what you like and lose weight anyway. You only have to order the magic diet-stone for 50 sickles and hold it over the meal before you start eating.”

“Or the ring-diet”, Dasy cried, no less delighted. “Just think, I lost more than 15 grammes within three days! You only had to wear one of these rings at each paw. Only 10 sickles per ring and the more rings you wear, the better you lose weight.”

“First of all”, Tuffy now added, “you have to accept your body. You have to convey to your body that eating is not just eating but nourishment and wellness…”

“I’ve always been doing that”, Goldi interrupted, “and it works just great.”

“Say, are you all crackbrained!” Botchy gnarled. “You spent money for such trash? I never should!”

“Well, but you should anyway, that would be much cheaper! You wouldn’t have to buy a new overall every month because the old one is too tight again.”

“Who said that?” the chief engineer shouted and threateningly stamped a paw on the soft desert sand.

“If you finished your most interesting discussion, I also have a question”, the Khan-Mayor now said with a dark undertone. At once they all were silent and the most interesting discussion was finished. He put away his phaser and turned towards Trample. “There’s one thing occupying my mind. I told you to tell them that I told you that the Mighty Khan will come to revenge you in case they harm you.”

Trample looked at the Khan-Mayor innocently and did not say a word.

“Well? Did you tell the cursed Klingons?”

Trample shrugged and looked at Dodo for help. “Yes, I think we did.”

“You think you did? Brain in your belly by now? Navigator, what did they answer?”

“Answer?” Dodo wondered. “I think they did not answer at all.”

“Not at all?” The Khan-Mayor was baffled.

“Nope”, Dodo said, “they only laughed.”

“They did what?” a roar rang out over the dunes.

“It was like this”, Dodo said, shrinking a little. “Trample said that we’re only on holiday and then I said ‘If you harm me, I’ll tell the Mighty Khan!’ Then the leader said: ‘Who’s that? I’ll laugh my head off.’ Well, then Trample stayed with the Klingons and I came back to report.”

“I’ll level them!” another roar rang out over the dunes. “I’ll teach them to know me! I’ll rough them up and make a necklace of them!”

“Now, now”, Goldi soothingly said, “perhaps they already laughed their heads off and you only have to collect…”

“I will! Never ever anyone said something that impertinent about the Mighty Khan! All the universe dreads him! I’ll slag them off one by one, I’ll level them…”

“All of them?”

“Right, weapon officer, Mighty Khan knows now mercy. They’ll know my rage, the wrath of Khan. I’ll annihilate them!”

“Alone?”

“With my own hands – er – paws! They don’t get a chance!”

“Now?”

“Now!” the Khan-Mayor shrieked, more and more enraged by Goldi’s questions and obviously in no state to get a clear estimation of the situation. He took out his phaser and turned to he hamsters and gerbils who had listened to him open-mouthed. “Security and engineer! In the meantime you build a prison, and remember it has to be big enough to take the surviving Klingons. Back soon!”

“I think we better build a hospital”, Botchy spluttered, looking after the departing Khan-Mayor. “On a scale of 0 to 100 he today has the maniac-quotient of 100. Now seriously, people, first we don’t have the material to build a prison and second we should wait whether he returns at all.”

“But he’s our mayor”, Tuffy cried, “we can’t run out on him now!”

“She’s right”, Flecki confirmed, “we’re a super team…” Her glance fell on Goldi. “Well, we are a team and we stick together.

“And now, what…”

“No question, Dodo, we’ve got to help him!”

“But Flecki, if you had seen what I have seen, you would stay here. Those guys are strong and dangerous.”

“Dodo, Dodo, Dodo”, Goldi now said, “what’s the difference between before and now?”

“I’m more hungry?”

“No, Dodo, we are armed and the Klingon hamsters have no chance, have they?”

Dodo did not answer and only nodded.

“All right”, the chief cried, “Taty, Tealeafy, and Tuffy, you’ve got a weapon, you’ll come along. Flecki and I will go, too. The others stay with Trample to guard the base. Dodo, you know the way, you know the village, you’ll come, too! We are the rescue team.”

While wailing Dodo had to walk ahead, the rest of the rescue team followed him. When they crossed the dune, some ugly choking noises were audible from Trample’s direction.

“Disgusting”, Flecki commented the noises. “Well, anyhow, he controlled himself until we were gone.”

The last sun rays flickered over the horizon, announcing the approach of the night. It was pleasantly cool and the wind had died down. This was of advantage as the hamsters no longer had to be afraid of sand in their sensitive eyes and so they proceeded quickly. Soon the Klingon village was in sight. Now the rescue team slowed down and crept towards the houses.

“Surrender to the Mighty Khan!” suddenly a well-known voice roared. “You are surrounded! Surrender or you will be destroyed!”

The rescue team members with surprise looked at was happening in front of their eyes. The Khan-Mayor ran around the village of the Klingon hamsters, again and again. “You are surrounded! Come out, one after the other, and surrender! If you follow my orders I’ll perhaps spare your miserable lives and you may serve me!”

“Is he gone nuts?” the chief wondered. “Wha sort of tactic is that?”

“He has surrounded them after all”, Tuffy said – without sounding very convinced.

“I hope they leave their huts soon so that there is a start”, Goldi exulted. “Well, chaps, what are the odds for the Klingon hamsters? My offer is 100 sunflower seeds.”

No one of course accept the silly bet, the matter was much too serious. Excitedly they all watched how the Khan-Mayor turned one round after the other around the Klingon village. His stamina was fascinating and even more fascinating it was when suddenly several Klingon hamsters came to look what kind of fool made such a row at their front doors. When they saw the Khan-Mayor, they paused for a moment as his fatness easily made him look like one of their kind. The hamstian rescue team could see how the villagers were discussing excitedly. Who was this madman? What did he want?

Then things went haywire. With a shriek the Khan-Mayor attacked. Like a racing dust cloud he approached the group of the Klingon hamsters who at once stopped their discussion and shrank back. They did not seem to know what to think about this lonely attacker. The Khan-Mayor took out his weapon, now only a few steps off the Klingons. They were standing like a wall and waited for him. Then the fight could no longer be stoped. Some bang, an outcry, a loud smack. Then something came flying and chief Botchy shouted: “Take cover!” and the rescue team darted in all directions.

“Fully wicked!” Goldi gasped. “That was at least 40 metres free flight!”

“Don’t babble, better help me to get him up on his legs – in case he’s still alive.”

Goldi nodded and together they dragged out of the deep sand the fury bundle.

“He’s still alive”, Tuffy cheered, “what a brave man. He dared to attack a mighty superiority of dangerous, bloodthirsty Klingon monsters!”

“I’d rather say: What a blithering idiot!” Tealeafy corrected this statement.

“I’d put him into a locked ward”, Taty grinned, “but it isn’t his fault after all. It was us who kidnapped him from his cosy locked ward.”

“We quickly should take him back, perhaps nobody notices.”

“Don’t you worry, Dodo”, Taty jeered, “in case we get home again, we’ll push him back into the ward. Or into the town hall – what’s the difference?”

Thoughtfully they all looked at their fallen Khan-Mayor. He was lying unconscious, his left eye was much swollen and would be a colourful sight for some time. The rescue team of course had no water or anything to help him. So they decided to return to the base camp after the group had several times ascertained that no Klingon hamster was coming to look about the landing of their unwanted visitor. Nobody was in sight, the enemy seemed to have retreated to the village. First part of the way Dodo was to carry the mayor. After the big hamster had collapsed several times, the mayor was simply taken at his hind paws and dragged through the sand by Taty and Tealeafy.

Exhausted, the rescue team reached the base camp behind the dunes and first of all they fetched water from the nearby pond to wash the wounds of the injured mayor and cool his bruises. Except some moaning there came no intelligent noise from him and they left him in peace. To the general delight Trample by now was almost back to his original form although the stink in the air was not felt as very pleasing to the nose. However, this could not be helped and Taty stated: “Sometime it gets out where it gets in.”

“And now, what will we do now?”

The groups of hamsters and gerbils felt helpless. This time Dodo’s question was absolutely justified because none of them really knew what to do now? Well, they had landed on the gerbil planet and were still alive. That was, after all, a nice partial success. They even had managed a confrontation with the Klingon hamsters or, to put it better, they had survived it. Nobody knew in what condition the mayor was just now but they soon were going to find out.

Now of course would be a fine time to board the little space ship and scoot but there were two problems: on the one hand the Khan-Mayor had locked the entrance hatch with a code, on the other hand they had promised the gerbils to help them against the Klingon hamsters. As nobody had any idea and the night was pitch dark by now they decided to postpone all discussions until tomorrow. Exhausted, hamsters and gerbils soon fell asleep but were disturbed with the first sun ray.

“Summer, sun, and beach

where I found the peach,

where I found the maize.

That’s the home I praise.

“Hey, our Brutalo-Khan’s up to scratch”, Tealeafy grumbled and nudged Taty beside him who yawned widely and replied:

“A few nice little clouts do wonders after all.”

“Hooray!” Tuffy cried, took Dasy and Sasy at their paws and danced around with them. “Our mayor is back to normal!”

“Is he?” Flecki asked warily. “Has he ever been?”

“But this wonderful poem”, Tuffy cheered, “isn’t it marvellous?”

“It is”, Goldi remarked who was already busily breakfasting. “Think we might shoo away any number of Klingons with it?”

“Try us”, chief Botchy yawned, the last to be up. “But to come back to Dodo’s yesterday question: What are we to do now? We’ve got a few phasers, the mayor’s his old self again and we don’t have a plan. Up to now we had the advantage that the Klingon hamsters knew nothing about our existence but thanks to Dimwit-Khan they now do. What do you say, Mayor?”

The so addressed who had not really listened because he was still grinning at the dune, turned slowly. A fat bruise decorated his head, his left eye was swollen and by now of a rich blue. Slowly he tripped closer to the chief engineer and scratched his head.

“Erm, well, there must be a plan, my dear chief. As I mentioned more than once, a plan is the name of the game.”

“You never mentioned it”, the chief grumbled, “but go on.”

“Where – erm – was I? Yes, name of the game.” He thought for a moment, scratched his head again and continued. “Yes, but which name of which game? No idea. Well, my dear chief, my dear monsters – er – hamsters and my dear verbals – er – marbles – what I mean is gerbils, of course – I’m waiting for your posies – er – proposals. We should found a planning dingus with subcommittees with all over clear-but dingus.”

The mayor was silent and expectantly looked at his troop. The first proposals took some time but one hour later there was a result. Item one of course concerned the promised help for the gerbils. After a lot of debating they decided to send a peace envoy with the white flag to the Klingon hamsters. Due to International Hamstian Right nobody was to harm such an envoy. They sincerely hoped that the Klingons had heard about this rule. All those present would of course have preferred to send the mayor but bearing in mind his deeds as ‘Khan’ this was not recommendable.

After Flecki several times loudly crowed that ‘things for a change should be done by intelligence’, she was chosen a peace envoy with huge majority. As Flecki was not to start this enterprise without protection and as she still declined to touch a phaser, Goldi with his phaser was chosen as her escort. He was anything but happy. However, Trample’s hint that the resolute attitude and quick-wittedness Goldi could claim would have their effect on the Klingon hamsters, were convincing arguments. Goldi desperately tried to dodge from the desert march.

“I’m not made for that, especially not for a long desert walk. You need months of expert training and moreover I’m unfortunately not in the best shape.”

“Wouldn’t you rather say, my dear”, Flecki purred, “that you are under replicator withdrawal?”

“O no, but without replicator it’s quite lonely. And a hamstian proverb says that life is no express train. There is a time for sleeping and a time for resting. Except that there’s eating.”

“Sleeping and resting, is it?” Flecki hissed. “And what for? Saving your strength for superior tasks? Go ahead, Goldi, this is the superior task you are waiting for!”

“And what about the gerbils? Why don’t they come along?”

“But how can we help you, Goldi?” Fluffbert sadly asked.

Goldi thought this over, then there was a flash in his eyes. “What for did we train you to use your funny telepathic powers? If you can make Dodo fly, you can also make a Klingon fly, can’t you?”

This remark came like a real zinger to the gerbils. After they discussed it for a moment, they at once decided to take some extra training to find out who had the strongest telepathic powers. So while on the one end of the base camp shrieking gerbils were busy making each other fly into the air, the hamsters discussed the remaining topic.

With his best will the mayor could not remember with which code he had locked the entrance latch to the space ship. To be exact, he could not remember anything of the events during the days and hours before his rough touchdown in the desert sand. So they decided to take care of the problem if they were going to start their return flight. As it was doubtful whether was any return flight to come, it did not make much sense for them to burden their minds with the problem before.

By now the gerbils had finished their casting and Softbert, the smallest of all gerbils, had shown to be the best telepath. First they considered to take along another gerbil, equipped with a phaser but Tealeafy reminded them that envoys of peace should not come as a troop – which was correct of course.

The sun was not standing high yet when the peace envoys set out. From some white piece of cloth they had made a flag which Softbert was carrying. Especially for their visit to the Klingon hamsters Flecki had tied a discreetly blue ribbon around her neck which made Goldi sniff.

“Of course I know that they are uncivilized scoundrels, Goldi, but that does not mean that I show up there equally uncivilized. I’m a lady after all!”

She ignored Goldi’s cough and together they walked on along the desert sand. In the distance the rocks could be made out about which Dodo and Trample had talked and behind which they had hidden when sneaking up. The small peace envoy group had no reason to hide and so passed the rocks, proceeding speedily.

“Would you mind to keep that daft weapon out of sight?”

Grumbling, Goldi pushed the phaser into the belt he had made of jungle liana.

“There’s no reason to have that weapon go off for we hardly will convince the Klingons of our peaceful intentions.”

“Sorry!”

This time it was Softbert who got an angry glance from Flecki. The rock he had just telepathically thrown through the air had landed right in front of Flecki’s paws in the sand. Shaking her head, she hurried on, while Goldi and Softbert followed, shrugging. By now the Klingon village was in sight and the small group felt a bit queasy for now the time of decision was near. If they made a mess of this mission, the whole mission was a mess and completely failed.

“Perhaps they’re just at breakfast”, Goldi hopefully remarked. “Trample told us that they are long sleepers and late eaters. Perhaps we might…”

“If you absolutely want to eat boiled greenquacks, help yourself. I for my part expect something more elegant as I belong to the gourmet-hamsters and will not eat every muck.”

They had reached the village. Indeed the Klingon hamsters were up and assembled around a big breakfast kettle. When they saw they small troop marching in, they paused and rose. A moment later Flecki, Goldi, and Softbert were facing them. When then Klingon hamsters saw the gerbil, their eyes gleamed aggressively for a moment but then their eyes fell on the white peace flag.

“We’re peace envoys and like to have a chat with you. We’re coming in absolute peace”, Goldi said and with a curse took up the phaser which had fallen from his self-made belt.

“Peace envoys, are you?” the Klingon hamster leader retorted, showing his yellow teeth while he looked the small troop over with contempt. “That’s our favourite meal!”

 

Chapter 35

 

Envoys of Peace

 

The Klingon hamster leader almost toppled over with laughter and his cronies joined him. Just when Goldi unobtrusively fumbled for his phaser, the Klingon hamster added: “Little welcome joke, ‘course we eat no peace envoys. But what do you want of us?” Grinning, he approached Goldi, facing him closely. Goldi could not fail to notice the smell of the leader’s bad breath.

“Your teeth are like the stars – as yellow and as far apart!”

“Thanks, peewee, and your fur is so fluffy, I’d love to stretch my feet on it.”

“Try it”, Goldi grumped, once more fumbling for his phaser, “would be a healthy death.”

Before the welcome escalated, Flecki stepped forward, thrusting between the two squabblers.

“Is it your tradition not to welcome ladies?” she purred, ignoring Goldi’s mumbled “Have we got one?” She twitched at her discretely blue bow and gave the leader a stern glance. “Indeed your teeth are extremely yellow. If you go on like this, you will get caries and lose your teeth!”

“B-but I brushed them last week only and I…”

“Last week?!” Flecki sounded utterly shocked. “Last week? That’s absolutely disgusting – shame on you! Did you never hear about dental care? And the smell of your breath!”

All of a sudden the grin on the Klingon faces had vanished and they took care to keep there lips closed and not to show their teeth.

“We did not expect visitors…”

“Oh, have your visitors to sign up one week earlier so that you are fit to receive?” Flecki now was really on the go. Head askew she walked past the Klingons with a face of misgiving and looked at the fire with the kettle. “What kind of unhealthy muck is that? Just take a look at yourselves, I would be ashamed to have such a paunch.”

“But there isn’t anything else…”

“I beg your pardon?! We just marched through the desert and know that where we came from is forage enough. Greengrain plants, Mister! Tasty, healthy, and substantial. To be got in the jungle. But Messrs. Klingons to prefer not to move, they prefer to lie in the sun all day long.”

“But now and then we do move. We catch the greenquacks who went astray in the desert. We beat gerbils…”

“What?!” Flecki sounded beside herself with rage. “They are living beings, feeling pain!”

“That’s the fun in it, for if they felt no pain…”

“Oh, and if they’d beat you? If they threw you into the air?”

“But they can’t, my little one. We are the bosses here and if there’s a punch on the gerbil nose, there’s a punch on the gerbil nose until the desert quakes!”

Flecki faked ignoring the words of the leader. Slowly she strolled around the fire, wrinkled her delicate nose after giving her attention to the contents of the pot and looked at Goldi. “The cookware is most dirty, Goldi, could you just clear it away?”

Goldi nodded joyfully. He understood her at once. Casually he took the phaser from his self-made belt and took aim. A hiss, a flash, a smell of molten steel – all this confused the Klingon hamsters. With big eyes they goggled at their fire. By the heat of the phaser the flames glared; the kettle however had gone and remained gone. Baffled, the Klingon hamsters looked at where their breakfast just had been. One after the other they cautiously approached the spot.

What kind of powerful beings had come to their village? What kind of mighty weapon was it that little self-confident hamster was carrying? Who was this hamster girl with the discretely blue bow who did not listen to arguments? Alas, this discretely blue bow! None of the Klingon hamsters knew the reason but the colour blue was sacrosanct to them. Would this be a hamster goddess? Why was the tiny gerbil at her side?

While the villagers stood around helplessly, Flecki approached one of the houses. “When did you clear up in here? The way it looks, o my, since Goldi’s last party I have not seen anything like this. Do you never tidy up, do you want to get sick of all this dirt and junk?”

She looked right into the eyes of the Klingon hamster leader.

“Er, as we said, we were not prepared for visitors and…”

“Tidy up, at once!”

The leader glared at Flecki, then his glance paused at the discretely blue bow and he swallowed. He nodded towards his pals and together they began to clear away the dirt and junk of past weeks and months. When they were ready and put everything into the fire, Flecki ordered them to tidy up the next house.

“Gee, but you have a grip on the boys!”

“Yes, Goldi, it works well with them. What a pity that it doesn’t with you. How often did I tell you…”

“’cuse me, shall we also clear away the litter in front and beside the houses?”

Flecki gave him a piercing glance so that he did not wait for an answer but shrugged helplessly and beckoned to his folk. Immediately the Klingon hamsters set to work; swearing under their breath but no one liked to get into trouble with a holy envoy. Hour followed hour, by and by the Klingon village no longer looked like a rubbish dumb as Flecki stated. While Softbert the gerbil was undecidedly standing around and did not know what to begin with himself, Goldi more than once gave phaser to the fire “to fasten waste combustion” as he called it.

“Are we finished now?” one of the Klingon hamsters gnarled who already had attracted attention by coarse curses. The leader had rebuked him several times which never had helped for long. Noticeably the leader lost control.

Flecki did not answer, faked to have not heard the question. She walked up and down a few steps and pointed at three closely standing houses. “Don’t you think that these houses are much too close together? Optically it would be better to have them wider apart.”

Another few steps, then with her paw she made a cross into the ground. “This should be the spot for the central house and the overall view of the village…”

“Well, do you think we’ll start rebuilding the whole – or what?” the before mentioned Klingon hamster hissed and the desperate leader smiled as if this was no concern of his. For quite some time he had realized that his people would no longer put up with all this. If the situation got too tight, what was he to do? The little resolute hamster girl had caught his fancy and if need be he would defend her.

From the corner of his eye he saw that Ruffian placed himself in front of the central house, lowering at Flecki. This smelled like trouble because just this house belonged to Ruffian who, following Klingon tradition, also was his substitute. Slowly, very slowly Fabian, the leader, walked over to his rebellious substitute. When he faced him, he tapped his shoulder and said: “Listen, Ruffian, don’t make trouble. Let her see how she gets that house moving.”

Ruffian looked at Flecki with a dirty grin. Clearly he did not intend to lose one step of ground or have his house touched. Unnoticed by everyone Goldi had come closer and now was at Flecki’s side to let off some well aimed phaser shots if necessary.

“So you do not want to step aside?” Flecki asked, fluttering her eyelashes in a bored fashion. “Well, my dear Ruffian, that will not be necessary after all.”

She turned to Softbert and whispered to him. Baffled and with contempt, the Klingon hamsters looked at the tiny gerbil who now stepped forward closing his eyes to slits. Then Softbert slowly lifted his paws. The Klingon hamster still was full of contempt, glanced up to the sky and faked unconcern. So he did not notice what happened to him. Only the excited screams of his pals made him look ahead again. Where was that darned gerbil, where was the village? He felt so light-weighted, where was the ground beneath him? He swallowed hard and slowly directed his glance downwards.

“Argh! Wha’t this? Get me down, I have no head for heights – help!”

“Just a moment, Mr. Ruffian”, Softbert whispered who now directed all his concentration on the Klingon hamster as well as on the house, “I’ll be finished in a minute.”

The terrified screams of the villagers had stopped, pure horror had taken them and what they saw made them disbelieve their eyes: While one of their folk was drifting in the air and desperately cried for help, the tiny gerbil still pointed at him with his left paw. With his right paw he now pointed at the house and slowly lifted the paw which made the house take up towards the sky. Then Softbert moved his right paw to the side and the house crashed into Ruffian who screamed all the louder.

“Oh, I’m sorry”, whispered Softbert, “but I’m not in training with two things at a time.”

Then the house had reached its new location. Slowly it floated down to the ground, exactly onto the cross Flecki had made. Touching the ground raised some dust while the gerbil now turned is attention to the Klingon hamster who was whimpering of fright. With a soft movement of his left paw Softbert made him come down to the ground. At the former spot of the house only the interior fitting remained. Just when the gerbil wanted to lift the paws once more, Goldi was at his side, pressing the paws down.

“Thanks, Softbert, that will de. Come on, Ruffian, don’t leave your work to all the others. I want to see more employment from you. If that were my house, I’d be ready since long, you lazy dog!”

“Hear, hear”, Flecki jeered, “I’d never expected you to say anything of that kind.”

“I’ve caught that up from some old Scottish lord or other”, Goldi grinned and with satisfaction watched Ruffian run to and fro hectically to carry his things back into the house.

Half-heartedly his Klingon colleagues lent a hand but their glances again and again wandered to Flecki, Goldi, and Softbert. The glances however had changed considerably. Now they expressed uncertainty and anxiety. The tidying action did not take long. How should they go on now? Fabian, the Klingon leader, had no idea. He looked at Ruffian his substitute whose eyes also signalled: I don’t know what to do, we have no chance against these mighty beings. One last glance at his Klingon troop told the leader that he had to take action. Slowly he approached Flecki, Goldi, and Softbert, sank to his knees and said diffidently: “Command us, our life is in your hands. You are mighty beings and we are your servants.”

While Flecki and Softbert looked at one another, Goldi walked over to Fabian. Right in front of the kneeling leader he stopped and took out his phaser. Casually he played with it and let is glances wander along the row of Klingon hamsters.

“Servants you want to be? Pretty offer but what are your abilities after all?”

Flecki closed her eyes, hoping desperately that her pal did not make a mess of it now. Up to now all had gone well, very well indeed, although she also did not know how they were to go on now.

None of the Klingon hamsters dared to answer and so Goldi continued, still playing with his phaser. “We could need a few slaves, of course, but tell me what could we use you for?” Goldi paused for a moment. He felt the Klingon hamsters’ desperation growing with every minute and every word of him. After a while – for the effect – he continued: “We might sell you after all. There are a few intergalactical slave traders who would offer a nice price.”

“So you come out of space, Master?” the still kneeling leader breathed.

“We are everywhere”, Flecki took over who enjoyed this tremendously. She winked at Goldi and went to face the Klingon hamsters who by now all were on their knees. “We see everything and note everything.”

“That’s really true”, Goldi remarked. “Just a short time ago she…”

“Thank you, Goldi, thank you”, Flecki quickly interrupted and pointed at the kneeling group. “We are no barbarians and lend a hand wherever necessary. We have a few proposals…”

The atmosphere in the base camp was strained. There was nothing but waiting and while on one side of the camp the gerbils stared into the air with desperate eyes and full of expectation, on the other side of the camp the hamsters were happily snoring. There was something at stake for them as well but their further existence was not as much in danger as the gerbils’. What if the envoys had no success?

More than one hour ago the mayor had held a speech on the subject. His own troop had listened, yawning, the gerbils had felt growing horror. What did his words mean ‘The ermfuture is lice – er – nice without us, too’ and what did his hint mean ‘In the past hamsters have proved that they can lose’? He certainly had said something about his full confidence in the envy of cheese and Fluffbert believed that he was talking about the envoys of peace. What however if the two hamsters and Softbert the gerbil did not return?

So hour after hour passed. The hot sun of noon had become a sun of afternoon with more pleasant temperatures. On the hamster-side the first sleepers woke up, yawned and looked around for a little afternoon snack. The lucky ones who had left over some of the greenseed plants before falling asleep could stay where they were and start munching. The others trudged to the jungle edge and fetched food. This idyll was interrupted by a cry from the dune. Rawbert the gerbil had been standing guard there, for hours waiting for some movement in the desert. Now he rolled down the dune head over heels and tried to give some information on his way. Only when he had reached the foot of the dune quite out of breath, hamsters and gerbils could understand what he was saying: “They’re coming!”

“All o’ them?” the chief engineer cried who was clearly stressed. “Do they all come back?”

“All five of them!” Rawbert replied, patting the sand off his fur.

“All five of them? Why five? Weren’t they fewer?” the mayor sputtered. “Eh, is that very good, good or not so good news?”

“Well, that depends, Mr. Mayor. If our people are with them, it’s good. If not, it’s not so good news.”

“Erm, well, thanks, Tuffy. Ey, Dingusbert, are our people with them?”

Rawbert hastened up the dune again and after a short look at the approaching group came back, screeching. “The Klingo… Klingo… Klingon hamsters are with them!” Without pausing the gerbil spurted past the baffled hamsters to the jungle. There was a splash and Taty commented: “Right into the mud pond!”

At this moment the envoys of peace appeared at the top to the dune. Beside them two Klingon hamsters were walking, carrying a white flag, as it was exactly the flag Softbert had carried on his way to them. While the gerbils around Fluffbert slowly retreated from the place of action, the hamsters hurried towards their returning friends.

“You made it!” Dodo cheered. “You made it without months of expert drill!” And he patted Goldi’s shoulders.

“Well, how shall I put it, Dodo”, Goldi replied, “sometimes a hamster has to cut his own path like leading me not into temptation but tempt me into the lead – if you know what I mean.”

“Sure I do, Goldi!”

“Do you really?”

“Er – would you repeat the last sentences, please, Goldi?”

“Today’s or also yesterday’s, Dodo?”

In the meantime Flecki had explained to her base camp friends that the two Klingon hamsters had come to a return visit of the envoys. The mayor quickly cleared his throat and tripped up to them.

“Erm, see heavy smell come, my dear clone-things – er – what I mean is: Be very welcome, dear Dingus-hamsters. In the name of Hamsterton I have the honour to feed you – er – to greet you so to say as envoys of cheese – er – peace. As we use to say in Hamsterton: Let us with fresh strength…”

“Hamsterhoosen!”

“Er – yes, thank you, Flecki, Hamsterhoosen of course. So let us with fresh strength and courage see the problems which we together and so on. I am in a way the payer – erm – mayor of er… of er…”

“Of Hamsterton!”

And so Fabian and Ruffian the envoys for quite some time had to listen to things they did not really took interest in. Somehow the fat dwarf reminded them of someone but the two Klingon hamsters were not certain. As the mayor during his last action had gained two big bruises and a swollen cheek, they were not able to identify him as the Khan who had attacked their village. After the mayor could not think of any more words, the two Klingon hamsters introduced themselves. The mayor immediately followed their plead for some food and send out Trample to find greenseed. Half an hour later Trample returned with a bunch of greenseed plants. He smelled very much like mud pond and also looked like it.

“Tell me, Mayor”, the Klingon hamster leader asked while munching away the greenseeds, “why do you have black hamsters?”

“Uh, him, erm, well, yes, that’s our Trample, he now and then changes his fashion, could call him a change-hamster.”

By now they had exchanged politenesses and eaten their fill so that now negotiations could start. Flecki outlined how they already had come to an agreement with the Klingon hamsters. When the gerbils could be convinced to join the debate, first decisions could be made, very much to the delight of the mayor:

1. The Klingon hamsters no longer hit gerbils

2. The gerbils no longer make Klingon hamsters or their houses fly through the air

3. The gerbils show the Klingon hamsters how to find greenseed plants

“Well, chaps, so we can go home now, can’t we?” chief Botchy cheered, clapping his paws. “We’ve done here, haven’t we?”

The hamsters had indeed finished their mission successfully and after all the exertions looked forward to a little comfort, some certain hamsters especially thinking of the never ending supplies of replicators. Flecki took Fluffbert aside and advised him to be on his guard. First of all the gerbils should continue to train their telepathy because nobody after all knew if the Klingon hamsters would stick to the agreements. Farewell from the gerbils did not take long because nobody was interested in a farewell-party. Fluffbert and Fabian were standing together discussion storage systems, Ruffian talked with Softbert and Rawbert about good water places and the other gerbils crept closer and finally joined the talks.

“They seem to have a lot to say to each other”, Sasy cried. “Small wonder, they did not really know each other although they were neighbours.”

“Small wonder”, Goldi agreed. “Who talks much during thrashing?”

“Oh, isn’t it wonderful that we brought a little peace to the galaxy?” Tuffy got almost lyrical which animated the mayor to add a few words. Anyway, in the middle of one of his beautiful sentences he stopped and glared up to the sky. The other hamsters were around him at once and also glared at the sky.

“Well, I can’t see anything there”, Tealeafy said. “What about you?”

“Nice blue, but nothing of interest”, Tuffy said. “But perhaps we don’t do the correct looking. Maybe the mayor had an inspiration?”

“Or a sunstroke? Or late effects of the brawl with the Klingons?” Taty added with a grin.

“Perhaps he just needs a kick to the bum”, chief Botchy grunted. “I do not want to be on this daft planet longer than necessary.”

This moment the mayor was back with them. He looked about him in a bewildered style and grinned. Then his face became grave and the shouted: “We have to go back to the ship, high time to return to the Enterprise.” Without waiting for his people, he tripped towards the jungle. After looking at each other in surprise, the hamster troop followed him.

“What I said, he’s got an inspiration!”

“But why and how, Tuffy? Should the Plushum be behind this?” Flecki wondered. “Even if so, why do we need to hurry? The gerbils are saved after all? Why always ‘now and at once’? Why hurry if we could enjoy nature? Why all this hectic? Why always… Argh!”

“Why all that babbling?” Goldi piped, dragging Flecki out of the mud hole. Dasy and Sasy came running to hand a few leaves to nagging Flecki so that she could clean her fur roughly.

“The way I look!” her wailing sound all over the place. “Even my bow is dark black now!”

“Deep in mourning, like a real stick-in-the-mud”, Goldi jeered but shut up immediately when a hand full of mad met his neck.

After one hour’s walk through the jungle Flecki was no longer an outstanding sight because all hamsters had taken a rich black colouring.

“If I’d live here, draining this damned area should be the first thing I’d do”, chief Botchy grumbled, shooeing away some curious greenquacks hopping behind him. “A few excavators, a few compressors and done with. This would be dry in no time.”

“That’s what you said, Boss, before you drowned the excavator in the village pond. You’d been driving over a few hoses with the excavator and dragged the compressor along into the pond. And when the compressor in the pond blasted…”

“Tuffy!”

“Yes, Boss?”

“Nobody is interested in your stories and moreover the repair hamster ahead of me signalled clear route. If I have clear route, I go ahead, let me tell you.”

“But he didn’t, Boss, he waved like mad that you should not drive over him.”

“So next time he should express himself more distinctly. – Ey, Mayor, is it far yet?”

They mayor, just being dragged out of a mud hole by Dodo and Trample, gave a crabby laugh and retorted: “Far – erm – no, that is, maybe. To make a somehow reliable prognosis, we should know – er – where we are.”

The complete hamster group came to a stop to goggle at their mayor.

“Does that mean”, shrieked Flecki, “that you have no idea about the direction?”

“Yes – er – that is, no. I – er – relied in a way so to say on my hamstian hair – er – flair…”

“We are lost”, Tealeafy stated. “Let us send emergency signals so that the gerbils or the Klingon hamsters to help us out of here.”

“Or fight our way with the phaser”, Goldi bawled but Flecki shook her head.

“Somewhere have to be traces. As it is, we must have left traces when we came here. Let’s look left and right. If we find traces of our way here, we only have to follow them.”

“But then we get back to the gerbils, don’t we?”

No one answered Dodo’s remark because everyone was busy looking for traces. Easier said than done, however, for in the muddy ground every paw trace was quickly filled with water and could not be seen. Finally it was Trample, stumbling over a root, who saw it when he lifted his head out of the mud: At a leave right before his nose were the traces of Goldi’s phaser shots! He clearly could see it from the torn leave edges. So they were on the right way and they had to be twice as attentive, looking at the ground not to miss the smallest trace in the mud. It was quite a job and again and again there was splashing and cursing to be heard.

“Let us have a break”, the chief engineer panted, sitting down at an almost dry spot. “It cannot be far now. Certainly the worst is behind us.”

No one minded a break although they all were wet and dirty and would much have preferred to get to the ship. On the other hand there was the little matter of the entrance latch which the Khan-Mayor had coded. However, they did not talk about it at the moment because everybody hoped that the problem could be solved somehow or other. If not, they had to start thinking. If all went awry, they still had the phaser though by now only Goldi and Tuffy had one left. The others had lost their weapons somewhere on the route. Perhaps it was possible to shoot open the latch with two phasers. They would just have to try if it was possible to cross space with a defect latch. So the hamsters were sitting cold and shivering in the wet jungle. The mayor just wanted to ask them to walk on when suddenly Dodo pointed into the direction they were walking. “Hey, I think something’s glittering there!”

The hamsters craned their necks and hurried on. “That looks like metal!” Dasy discovered.

“Hey, that even looks like a space ship!” Goldi shouted and spurted forward. With loud cheers the rest of the group stormed after him. A few minutes later they really had reached the end of the jungle and approached they dry sponge territory of the planet. With shouts of “Eippy!” and “Yarooh!” the hamsters hopped along the spongy ground, surpassing each other with acrobatic trampoline shows. As the sun no longer was shut out by the jungle vegetation, the wet mud on the hamsters’ furs soon built a dry crust. When by and by the crust chipped off, the hamster at last looked like hamsters again.

“Now we only have to get into the space ship, Mayor, haven’t we?”

“Well – erm – er – dear Flecki, I agree with you without any reserve – in a way.“

“Well? What’s the code?”

The mayor looked at the ship. It was placed a little askance on the spongy surface so that the hamsters had no problem climbing up to the entrance latch. There they were sitting now, looking at the gleaming metal and thinking hard. Goldi’s proposal to get the latch open by phaser was denied with one dissent. Chief Botchy was convinced that it was too risky because in open space vacuum bubbles could get into the vessel.

“This, dear friends, will result in the fact that in parts of the ship it will not be possible to breath”, he explained to the terrified hamsters.

“And as air is invisible, you wouldn’t see where you can breath and where you can’t.”

“Er, yes, thanks for your contribution, dear Dodo. We of course do not want that. On my part I would much prefer to decide for myself if I breath or don’t. Now – er – my dear hamsters, I’m expecting further four posies – erm – proposals.”

“What about the gerbils?” Trample now said. “Perhaps they could open the latch with their telepathic powers.”

“Great idea”, the chief engineer retorted with a sneer. “Our friend Trample will surely love to walk back through the jungle to call the guys, won’t he?”

Our friend Trample felt most uncomfortable. Through the jungle once more? All on his own through the mud – surrounded by hungry greenquacks? Luckily the chief continued: “Moreover it doesn’t help if they lift the space ship! No, we can’t do that.”

“We might torture the mayor until he remembers!”

“Erm – dear Goldi – er – I really cannot approve of that plan”, the mayor gasped, lifting his paws.

“Got it!” Dodo cried. “I know how to get in!”

All murmurs and giggles died down instantly. Spellbound they all looked at Dodo who with bright eyes glared at the space ship, pointing at it with a paw. The crowd jerked, hope was back!

“How!” Tuffy breathed and all spritis were tensed.

“Easy”, Dodo said with a smile. “If we want to get back into the space ship but cannot get in because the door is locked and we have no key, we only have to – knock!”

It took the hamsters some time to calm down. If Flecki and Dasy had not covered Dodo, something terrible would have happened to him – nobody was amused about this proposal. When they were quiet again, chief Botchy stepped up to Dodo, smiled at him kindy and purred:

“Go on, Dodo, why don’t you knock at the damned latch. It will be opened in no time, that’s for sure. In case it doesn’t work, we still may use your head as battering ram.”

A little unsettled, the big hamster walked over to the latch and once more looked round to Botchy. He was not really sure what that chief meant. Then Dodo lifted his paw, once more looked at his friends with a wry smile and knocked at the latch loudly several times. Then he took a step back and waited. Nothing happened. Once more he stepped up to the latch and knocked as hard as he could. He could not ignore the disappointed, furious grumbling of his collages.

“Perhaps you can talk to the ship”, Tuffy proposed, “like at the Enterprise.”

“Good idea”, Botchy said and made a step. “Open latch!”

To the big surprise of the hamster some squeaking computer voice said. “Please name authorization code, thank you!”

Followed heated arguments for every hamster shouted out his idea about a pass word. Nothing worked and Goldi who just had been informed by the voice that the pass word he proposed was wrong, furiously hissed: “Bloody stupid computer!” To his surprise the computer replied:

“Excuse me, is that a pass word or an insult?”

“That’s a statement”, Goldi retorted with a broad grin, “a hamster always outclasses a computer.”

“Wrong”, the computer said. “I for instance know the pass word and you do not.”

“So what? You don’t know who super-hamster is.”

“Super-hamster? No, I never heard that name.”

“See?” Goldi triumphed. “What I told you. And everybody knows who super-hamster is – except you!”

“And you do not know the pass word”, the computer stubbornly replied.

“What’s a pass word compared to super-hamster?” Goldi purred and nonchalantly stroke his whiskers. “Super-hamster is just – super-hamster.”

“Come on”, the computer pleaded, “do tell me who super-hamster is.”

“You would be the first computer who knows…”

“Please! Please!”

“O well”, Goldi sighed, “and what would be the reward?”

“The pass word!”

A few minutes later the hamsters were back in the small gerbil vessel and prepared the return flight to the Enterprise.

 

Chapter 36

 

Robbery and Highland Witches

 

Some of the campers who had found the sportswear shop of Lairg closed due to the police investigations now took the opportunity to shop here. The manager had taken into account that occasionally kids had to be parked and established and children's sports and play corner.

Up to now nobody had discovered what had happened to the tennis ball pyramid because Hamstilidamst had immediately made off there. Instead he had found some wonderfully swinging climbing rods. With each of his pull-ups they moved and bumped - just swell! Then directly beside him he heard a voice:

"Oh, but that is exciting! Which examinations are you making, police hamster?"

It was Cilly, waiting for walking stick customers. She had to do nothing but watching these walking sticks hanging around. She did not dare to touch the police hamster who certainly was on duty. Yes, two of the Yard-officers came closer now and she scurried towards them.

"Gentlemen, your police hamster has obviously discovered a hot scent between the walking sticks."

"Eh?" Dr. McCoy said, but Lt. Scott caught on and gnarled:

"Thanks, Ma'am, your hint is invaluable."

Unfortunately by now Hamstilidamst was no longer in the mood for climbing sticks, especially after one of them slid out of its holder and crashed to the ground with him. Over there was a staircase. He just had made the first step when he was lifted into the air. Hamstilidamst looked into the face of a little girl. The hairs of the little girl stood wildly in all directions and it smiled broadly.

"Come, we'll slide together. That's fun."

Fun sounded good, slide sounded good, so Hamstilidamst squeaked his okay. The girl held him cautiously, scrambled up the stairs and stood at a short slide. The slide led into a big basin with balls of all colours. Hamstilidamst thought this to be a charming view. Then he was pressed to the breast of the girl, she sat down on the slide and sailed into the mass of the balls.

When they reached the ground, Hamstilidamst gave her a slip. This really had been fun but he did not rely on it that the girl did it once more. However, he wanted to do it once more and wanted to run to the slide but he literally was drowned between the balls.

"Oh!" the little girl cried. "Hamster, where are you? Ha-a-a-amster!"

Her shouts brought McCoy and Scott to the spot. They explained to her that the hamster belonged to them and had run away and if hey might get him back. Certainly they might if the girl only had known where he was. She looked a riot, her hairs stood around her head like pikes.

"Pleh!"

Somewhere in the sea of balls a giant hamster emerged and immediately vanished again.

"But…" McCoy was baffled. "That was him, wasn't it?"

"T’ balls", grinned the Chief Engineer. "His fur stands around him like t’ hairs o’ t’ kid."

"Pleh!"

"Come on, we've got tae look fer him", said Lt. Scott.

"And then look like Hamstilidamst."

"Now, don't be tha’ missish!"

"Pleh! Cinap!"

If Hamstilidamst cried "Panic!" it was serious. Both men climbed between the balls and groped around. The little girl helped them. By now Lt. Spock had bought a good flashlight, followed his colleagues and saw the course of events. He preferred to wait in a safe distance.

Then he watched how a well-dressed man approached and also watched with a grim face. Cilly once again left her walking sticks and stepped up to the man:

"O Sir!" she delightedly cried. "Isn't this exciting? The officers of Scotland Yard over there certainly found a hot scent. - Sir?!"

The man had given a start, turned on his heel and quickly walked to the exit. Bad luck that he did not see one of the stray tennis balls. He fell down flat to the ground. One of Spock's eyebrows moved upwards. He thought this to be peculiar.

"O Sir!" Now Cilly was at his side and felt terribly important. "Your fellow officers certainly found a hot scent!"

"So it seems", the Vulcan thoughtfully replied and watched the well-dressed man plucking up himself and hurrying to the exit – with a bad limp. "I have no permission to make an arrest, Madam. You should call in the local police."

"O yes, o yes, I will. I'm certain you'll find the Pink Panther!"

Busily she hastened away and could not see Lt. Spock's irritated face: Pink Panther?!

In the meantime Scott, McCoy, and several children crawled with spiky hair among the balls and still looked for the hamster. Bones systematically groped along the edges and corners. Suddenly he felt a small, hard obstacle but that could not be Hamstilidamst. Then he sensed a button on top of the obstacle and just pressed it.

"Got him!" cried Lt. Scott and then he cried: "Ey, what's on?"

The whole ball container and slide glided about a metre aside. The children delightedly cheered! Dr. McCoy looked over the edge and discovered some sort of flap in the floor. He scrambled out and a voice said:

"If I estimate the situation correctly, Doctor, you better should leave this alone."

"Spock?"

"The cinema-mad redhead is just ringing up the police."

The police who earlier had noted down everything about the robbery in the sportswear shop had expected silly phone calls. They also had listened to Cilly during the first inquiry and she was exactly the sort of woman who would unnerve the police with her cock-and-bull-stories. But when during her diffuse, excited story she also mentioned the behaviour of the manager and that he had left, they pricked their ears.

"It was funny in a way", Hamstilidamst just said, "but my fur simply felt daft and…"

"Hush!" Scotty said. "Don't babble that much!"

"What's the matter here?"

With by now straightened hair, the officers waited for the police. The kids alternatively also had thought the flap in the floor interesting but Spock stood right on it with an icy face. He didn't look very lenient so that by and by the children had left.

"Here, Constable, the gentlemen of Scotland Yard…"

"O my God!" mumbled Dr. McCoy.

"The police hamster had sniffed a hot scent and they followed it."

"Cilly!" the policeman said. "It's okay. Just leave me alone with these – gentlemen."

"O yes, certainly, agent's talks", she twittered and cleared off.

"May I ask what all this is about?" the policeman sternly asked.

"We're only in transit", Lt. Scott began.

"We only bought a flashlight", Dr. McCoy continued.

"Correct", sounded the cool Vulcan voice. "We took rooms with the Grants and Mrs. Grant showed the town to us. We then met that lady and Mrs. Grant as a joke introduced us as Scotland Yard officers."

"Oh! I see!" the policeman said with a grin. "Cilly believed every word of it."

"She did indeed. I have to admit that when we entered the shop we did not transport our hamster in an adequate box. He left us for a while. With some difficulty we found him in these – er – toys."

"Bet you've been a sight."

"He wasn't", McCoy grumbled with a glance to the Vulcan.

"While my friends were searching here, they were being watched by a gentleman who is, as I learned, the manager. The red-haired lady stepped to him and told him that we came from Scotland Yard and found a – er – hot scent. The manager on this was in quite a hurry to leave the sportswear shop. I thought this to be peculiar."

"Yes, and I rummaged that case for the hamster and found some contact in a corner. Well, I pressed it and the whole case slid aside."

"I remember", the policeman pensively said. "In former times this was a storage hall of the railway company. There had been an ice-cellar but we all thought it had been filled up and is no longer accessible. This might have been the loading flap. If you are right…"

The policeman took gloves from his uniform pocket, put them on, beckoned Spock to step aside and bent down. The double-flap was closed by an inserted lock and the policeman looked around searchingly. With quick steps Scotty walked over to a shelf with ice picks. He fetched one of them and handed it to the policeman.

He fumbled around with it clumsily until the Vulcan said:

"With your permission."

A loud crack and the lock was open. The Constable looked at Spock with surprise for he had not suspected such strength in that thin fellow. Both opened the flap and McCoy directed the beam of their new flashlight into the opening. The policeman whistled.

"That's much more in there than reported for today's robbery", he said. "Gentlemen, to secure this I will call in reinforcements. – Mr. Deen!" he called and beckoned to a man in the crowd of rubbernecks. "He's the head assistant. - Mr. Deen, see to it that the house is cleared. I’ll call in reinforcements."

Mr. Deen immediately called all shop assistants to drive out the customers like a flock of sheep. The Constable smiled at the strangers.

"You may go now. I got that correctly that you're staying with Aileen and Arthur Grant?"

"Correct. If you need us, we may prolong our stay."

"No, no, I'll just step in tonight and ask you to be there then."

"No problem", Scotty replied. "The Grants will fall on that story, I bet."

"The Grants?" grinned the policeman. "Ye'll have to describe it to the last detail. Then they'll paint it and the pictures will be a piece of history in Lairg."

Captain James T. Kirk had walked around for ten minutes, infuriated and desperate. He was furious on everybody – including himself – who had anything to do with this mission. Without it, where might he be now? Diplomatic mission on Altair VI, chasing Orion-pirates, space battle against the Klingons!

All this, every bit of it would have been better for in each case he would have been in command on the Enterprise-bridge and not this megadumbhamster-mayor whose name he did not even know. And desperate he was when he thought how this hamster-blockhead gave out orders. If he projected the ideas of the only hamster he knew closely, pure chaos had to be on the Enterprise.

He wondered if hamsters ate glass fibre. If they did, he never would see his Enterprise again. He would be stranded in Scotland for evermore and the Enterprise would be astray in this time period.  All relais would be eaten…

"Jim, you're screwy!"

He stopped in the middle of the street and shook his head. The replicators gave biscuits, cheese and God knew what without end. As long as they worked, no hamster would munch cables. Obviously he went bonkers by and by.

He walked back to the landing stage but his colleagues were no longer there. Well, Lairg was not really the place to get lost. Probably they had gone shopping and taken the things to the Grants.

But nobody at all was there. So he searched up and down the streets. Without fail he again and again came out at Loch Shinn and then he saw them. They were busily chatting and had no shopping bags. What had these guys done all the time?

"Ey!" he shouted. "Didn't you even go shopping?"

"Well?" Bones shouted back. "You calmed down?"

Then they were face to face and Kirk turned to Hamstilidamst:

"Do hamsters eat glass fibre?"

"Got a sun stroke?" Hamstilidamst retorted disgustedly.

"That's no?"

"'course not, gone bananas?"

"He would have to buy some first", the Vulcan remarked.

"Ha! Ha!" the Captain gave an artificial laugh.

"In t’ meantime we solved t’ crime, Sir", Lt. Scott reported.

"Hum?"

"The sportswear robbery, Jim."

"Bones, I well know the only crime in this godforsaken place. How did you solve that?"

They told him while they set off shopping. The Captain was much amused and angry that he had not been there.

"And again we've drawn attention", he said when they reached the Grants' front door, shopping bags in their arms. "Where might we go and not draw attention?"

"Well, if we do so in Lairg…", Scotty began and Kirk patted his shoulder, laughing.

"Just so, then there'll be no place in Scotland where we go unnoticed. Anyhow, we should leave tomorrow. How about the northern coast?"

"Regarding roads we have rather a choice…", Lt. Spock began and the Captain nodded.

"Right, it doesn't matter. But I guess that up to the north we'll find spots were the Enterprise herself might land and nobody's there to see it."

"Och, Capain, tha's nae possible!" the Chief Engineer protested. "Wi' none but Uhura and Chekov aboard!"

"Scotty – joke! And now we'll lock up this door and stow away these bags. Afterwards we'll go to the canoe-shed and earn us some money."

"Ay, Sir", Dr. McCoy replied and gave a mock salute.

"Does Hamstilidamst think we might leave him alone in here while we go stowing away canoes?" Kirk asked.

"Sounds boring", the hamster admitted. "Our shoppings are much more interesting."

"All right, but no nonsense."

"Jim, I never make nonsense. Some things just happen", Hamstilidamst innocently assured him.

Except the fact that Hamstilidamst once got lost in the rucksack, everything went quite well. It wasn't his fault after all, that the officers had stowed away the biscuits at the bottom of the rucksack. Afterwards he amused himself sitting on the ON-button of the flashlight and at the same time moving the light around to light the room. And if the people with the bubble-baby hung a picture behind glass so that the beam suddenly blinded him, it wasn't his fault either. It just could happen that the lamp fell down and rolled under the bed.

When the officers returned from canoe-stowing, everything looked very harmless. And if his friends behaved like the seven dwarf in Snowhite, that wasn't his fault.

"Who put away the flashlight?" Spock asked.

"Who rummaged my rucksack?" Kirk wanted to know.

"Who jumbled the money?" McCoy asked.

"Who the deuce made all the crumbs on my shirt?" Scott thundered.

Hamstilidamst was sitting on the bedside tabe, listened to this daft lamenting and put his fore paws to his hips.

"And without whom couldn't you have solved that horrible crime?!"

"O well", the Captain admitted, "it isn't that bad after all."

"Compared to the…", Bones began.

"… police work ye did today", Scotty continued.

"And where is the flashlight?" the Vulcan insisted.

"Under the bed."

"Did you look for monsters there?"

Hamstilidamst just wanted to explain but there was a knock at the door.

Aileen Grant had heard voices in one of the guest chambers. Usually B&B-guests were to show up for bedtime only, but she did not mind at all. The cursory idea to use the hamster as a model, had established. Some sketches tonight and she could paint a little sequence of them. The tourists might buy it as a souvenir for the rooms of their kids so that perhaps it was quite a good idea.

Hamstilidamst, too, thought it to be quite a good idea. And as he had uttered his delight already earlier, the officers not did not ask for time to think if over but took Hamstilidamst down to the living room.

"If you are sketching, has everybody around you to be silent?" the Captain inquired.

"Ay, sure, I always hand out Pattex for gluing the lips", Aileen grinned. "Nay, 'course not. Tell me, how was your day in Lairg?"

"Have you always been living here?" Lt. Scott asked.

"No, my home town is Oban."

"How, open?" McCoy wondered. "To tourists?"

"Or Loch Ness monsters?" she retorted with a grin.

"The town's named Oban, Leonard", Kirk explained, also grinning because he had already made the same daft mistake.

"Right. – May I put the hamster under the lamp?"

"As hamsters are desert animals originally, that should not be a problem", the Vulcan said. He took Hamstilidamst, set him under the cone of light and said: "Could you for a very important picture sit still for a short time? It certainly will not take long."

"I'm sure, he'll heed you", Aileen dryly said. "Why d'ye wanna know where I came from?"

"I thought you perhaps know what McBean's Sportswear was in former times", the Captain said. "It had been a storage hall of the railway company. And it had an ice cellar."

"My God, that's awfully thrilling!" she said in a most exaggerated voice.

"You could well store things in an ice cellar and afterwards report them as stolen."

"Hum?" she said and looked up from her sketch book.

"The old loading door was covered by a ball case – or whatever it is called – for children", Spock explained. "When touching a contact within the case the whole structure glides aside and the entrance to the former ice cellar becomes visible."

Aileen sat with open mouth and her pen slowly draw a long line over the paper.

"Ey, I'm not going to sit here all the night, so take care what you're doing. You're botching my wonderful painting", Hamstilidamst nagged.

Three of the officers bent forward and very suddenly minded their shoelaces. On the squeaking Aileen came to, tore of the sheet and crumpled it.

"Y-you cleared up the robbery? Like real Yard? I go nuts!"

"Wi’out Hamstilidamst it would nae hae been possible ’t all", Scott grinned.

"Superhamster!" she cried. "Wow! Ye like nuts?"

"Never had a hamster, did you?" Hamstilidamst scornfully retorted.

"He likes nuts", she concluded from the squeak. "Wait a minute. And I want to know all that in every detail."

A few minutes later Hamstilidamst could regale in peanuts and cheese crackers. While Aileen had prepared this, Arthur had come home. Now the officers could tell their story of success to both and had delighted listeners. The policeman had been right, they took down the whole case in sketches.

While Arthur took care of the real story, Aileen gave her hamster-picture idea a new line. He needed no longer be a model. The paintress sketched what he had told to his friends about his sportswear adventures: the ascent to the hiking boots, the journey in the inline skater, the touchdown between the tennis balls, the escape into the ball case. Highlight was a giantly fluffed hamster who with a grim, accusing face pointed at someone.

Laughing and spellbound the officers watched how one sketch after the other developed. Hamstilidamst entirely forgot that he was to be nothing but a bog-standard hamster. With big eyes he was sitting at the edge of the table and stared at the incredible pictures of him which were drawn there.

He was truly sorry that Aileen finally had to stand up and mind Dinky baby. While she was gone, there was a ring at the door so that also Arthur got up and walked out.

"Isn't that just great?!" Dr. McCoy cheerfully cried. "Hamstilidamst you're right a hero."

"Come on, we're all heroes in Hamsterton. But up to now none has been pictured. You're right, Bones, it's absolutely great!"

Next moment everybody came in again: Aileen with Dinky on her arm, Arthur followed by the policeman. Constable McBoot looked at the table which was littered with sketches and began to laugh.

"That's exactly what I thought. Give them a subject and they start to paint and potter it."

"Er, I didn't even think of it", Arthur grinned. "That's a right fine idea. – Gentlemen, Constable McBoot has a date with you."

"Take a seat", Aileen invited him. "If you take Dinky, I'll fetch some beer. Or are you on duty still?"

"On my way home. Beer is permitted."

Beer was permitted for all except Dinky and Hamstilidamst. McBoot looked at the sketches and laughed and laughed. Finally he said:

"And you don't know the best of it. A reward was offered for catching the thief. One hundred pound."

"Hey!" Aileen cried and grinned at her guests.

"By the McBean manager", the policeman added.

"What?!" Kirk cried. "He himself put aside all that trash, faked a robbery, offered the reward and now…"

"And now he himself is in arrest!" crowed McBoot.

After the roaring laughter had died down, the Vulcan said matter-of-factly:

"As it is, Sir, the reward belongs to the hamster."

"Ay, tha's right", Scotty nodded. "If he hadn't again run away, we hadn't searched that case."

"Gentleman, you can handle that as you like", McBoot snickered and put some bank notes onto the table. "I've no idea what a hamster begins with one hundred pound but you might shop for him without end."

"Scones!" trumped Hamstilidamst, and Scotty involuntarily cried:

"Scones for one hundred pound?! – Er – what I mean … He just loves Scones."

"But not for one hundred pound", McCoy laughed and stuffed away the money.

Next morning during breakfast they learned to know that they were famous. And if they were not now, they were to be during the course of the morning. That began by Aileen letting the rooms to them for twenty pound less because:

"Thanks to you I can expect to send Dinky to Eton", she said.

Arthur was just lifting a fork with scrambled eggs to his mouth and now held it halfway up in the air.

"Does that happen to you that someone says something and you understand something which is definitely nonsense?" he turned to his guests. "I just understood that my wife expects to send Dinky to Eton."

"So she said", Spock nodded, spooning porridge.

"Hey, you said so?!" Mr. Grant sounded thunderstruck.

"Your Artship heard correctly", Aileen retorted. "I may expect to get as rich as any Lordship-Babbitt who sends his kids go to all the schools."

"Oh!" Arthur said and continued with his scrambled eggs.

"Well, probably rather less than rather more", Aileen restricted. "But I rang up 'Weekly'. The day after tomorrow they have make-up. McBean will be the lead of course. I can bring in the sequence. And I'd lay odds to the moon that it goes national. "

The Enterprise-officers chewed their breakfast and kept their silence. They did not have a glimpse what Aileen Grant was talking about. Seemed to be something everybody would understand in this time. Arthur nodded to them.

"Mega-city Lairg really has a weekly newspaper. Wouldn't have believed it, would you? If Aileen brings in the hamster-sketches with the report, my location sketches will completely drown. I even won't try."

It dawned to the Captain what all this was about. Of course the robbery in the big sportswear shop was important enough to rule the headlines of the only local newspaper. And if Aileen…

"I've already called Jim", she just said and Jim blinked, baffled.

"Did you?!"

"Ay, he… Och, nuts, not you, you'd have noticed it, wouldn't you? Nay, that's no secret any longer and the story is just too good to be true. Oh, he'll drop in later on to shoot some photos of you. If they go with the hamster-sketches, we all will be terribly famous."

"Great idea", Lt. Scott nodded and the officers exchanged quick glances.

If there was one thing they did not need at all, it was photos of them in some newspaper. After they had paid their rooms they hastened upstairs. Fortunately, the two painters planned to work out their hamster-sketches and would leave for their studio any moment. Their guests should by all means stay here until the photo reporter arrived.

"At this point I want to give a preventing protest", the Vulcan said when they were alone.

"What might a preventing protest be?" McCoy inquired.

"Jim, if we go hitchhiking again, I will not board any car before I know what its cargo is."

"No problem. When yesterday I've been looking for you all I found that back here you get to the main road via two side lanes. Scotty, Bones, tidy up your room, get your things in here. Ten minutes after down there the door falls into the lock, we're off."

"Ey, have you to run away again?" Hamstilidamst defiantly asked who had taken his breakfast in this room.

While in the next room Lt. Scott and Dr. McCoy collected their belongings, the Captain explained to the hamster what was threatening them. Hamstilidamst did not mind at all to become terribly famous.

"You certainly will become famous", Lt. Spock said. "On the other hand we must not become famous here. Your pictures will be in the newspaper, Aileen will sell them to tourists worldwide. Probably one day you will hear about all this in Hamsterton."

"Okay!" Hamstilidamst nodded. "That'll be all right. Because you are secrets here and if you get into the newspaper, you're no longer agronome."

"Hieronymus Lee", Kirk corrected with a smirk and the hamster gnarled:

“Don’t hose me!"

Then the two others came in. All their belongings were stuffed into the rucksack and fifteen minutes later they had left the house. Aileen Grant should have her hamster-fame, they did not grudge it to her. But if somewhere in the historic files of the 23rd century a newspaper photo of the four staff officers of Starfleet's flagship showed up, they would be in real trouble.

They walked along a forest which was welcome to them. Scotsmen were tough and if one of them planned to get them into a newspaper by hook or crook they probably would be searched for. In that case they now always could dive into the woods.

However, in Lairg it happened that first the journalist was late. When he met nobody at the house of the Grants, he tried it at their studio, stayed with Aileen and her hamster-pictures and was asked to come back in the evening. Finally Arthur Grant discovered in the afternoon that the guests' luggage was gone. So it came out that the strangers did exactly what they had done: They had buggered off.

The four men plus hamster could not know that until the afternoon they were not even missed in Lairg. Their trust in the Scottish toughness - they'd known the Chief Engineer long enough after all – and their fright of any fame in this time period lasted for hours. Every car from southern direction made them hurry between the trees until Lt. Scott finally said:

"Dunno how ye think ’bout this, but I think tha's right silly."

"Regarding how the paths are kept this is a hiking area", Lt. Spock reported his observations.

"Well, then let's walk on through the forest. We'll get out somewhere", the Captain decided.

"You'll have to live on berries and mushrooms", came a sinister voice from the pet box.

"Ey, we made big shopping", McCoy said. "Forgot that?"

"And it ain't mushroom season", the Scotsman added.

"You're and old know-all!" Hamstilidamst nagged. "I'll sleep now."

"Being carried through such a beautiful forest and sleep!" Scotty nagged back.

Howsoever, they turned into the next forest path and marched on there. They seemed to be all alone here. The birds were singing, once a weasel flitted across the path, but they met no people. It was just beautiful. They did not talk much and the hamster had really fallen asleep.

At a creek they made their lunch break. After Hamstilidamst had sworn a holy oath to stay with them all the time, he was allowed to leave the box. They sat together peacefully, shared their lunch and later on cooled their feet in the icy water of the creek. Only Hamstilidamst was sitting on a stone at the bank and remembered how last time in Scotland he had spend a night in the wood with Frido and the lord. All his friends had been with him and he very much wished for them now.

The officers certainly did not wish for the whole troop of hamsters but they, too, yearned for the Enterprise. Nearly two weeks and no sign. Kirk with all his strength suppressed the thought of the hamster-mayor who possibly had the command there. That would have angered him too much.

"Ylfnogard !" Hamstilidamst suddenly shrieked.

"Indeed!" McCoy cried. "Jim, look at, such a big one."

"I assume that Hamstilidamst feels attacked", the Vulcan said and stood up. "In comparison a dragonfly above his head will have the same effect like a golden eagle flying towards us."

"Ay, that might well be", Lt. Scott nodded, remembering the owl at Dunrobin Castle which had frightened him so much. "If ye now promise once more not tae skedaddle here in the woods, me pet, I'll put ye on my shoulder."

"And where do you put me, if I skedaddle here in the woods?" Hamstilidamst asked.

"If I find ye again, I'll put ye o’er my knee. Got that?"

"Ay, got it", the hamster retorted.

Leaving the creek, they walked northwards. Curious: fog came up now. First such thick fog was curious in a wood, second at this time of the day, and third the weather was not like it. But the path to the north led them into the fog and nothing doing.

"If there's no change, we better see to get back to the road", the Captain proposed.

"Gets lighter ahead. I think, the forest ends there", McCoy assumed.

"No, it continues", Spock said after consulting his tricorder. "Ahead of us is a swamp."

"I don't want any swamp!" Hamstilidamst stated in a most decisive voice.

"None of us", Scotty admitted. "So we better…"

He stopped short. They all paused. A figure emerged out of the fog. It was a woman, an old woman. She had to be very old for her face was very wrinkled and she was very short. Face to face with them she paused and looked at them. Her eyes were incredibly blue.

"Gone astray?" she asked with a surprisingly lovely voice.

"Not really, Madam", Captain Kirk replied. "We just walk northwards. With all the fog here, we want to return to the main road."

"Are you living here?" Lt. Scott asked. "In the middle of the moor?"

"Yes, I'm living here. I'm Frida."

The officers politely introduced themselves and Frida invited them to tea. Somehow Hamstilidamst had a peculiar feeling on the whole thing.

"I think she's not really real", he whispered to Scotty.

"What do you mean by not really real?" Frida asked. "Do you think I vanish into the thin air any moment?"

"See? What did I tell you!" Hamstilidamst triumphed. "And she's got no translator."

"Er…", McCoy stammered. "Excuse me, Madam, but..."

"My dear, you certainly heard about Highland witches", Frida answered his babbling, a little surprised. "However, I'm a white witch."

"A white witch", the Captain echoed and Scott explained:

"That will be good witches, Sir. Why should nae we take a cup o' tea wi' her?"

"Did I understand correctly that you are a witch?" Spock inquired and sounded a little disbelieving.

"Yes, my dear, you are not again stricken with some illness and your hearing is still better than that of every human."

"Er-bww!" uttered Captain Kirk. "Yea, well… Why should we not take a cup of tea with you?"

Except in the Scottish Highlands there may in these days be only few regions on Earth where people believe in witches. This was different with the Enterprise-officers. They had been on planets the inhabitants of which had real supernatural powers. And somewhere in the depths of the universe existed a species of bodychangers who any moment could take on a completely different outer form.

The officers did not have such power even if the Vulcan knew some telepathic tricks. Anyhow, meeting someone who claimed to be a witch was unusual enough to ask for confirmation – but not unusual enough for them to put if off.

"It is not far", Frida kindly said.

"I've got a feeling like walking through cotton wool", Dr. McCoy lamented.

That's what they all felt. Nevertheless they proceeded quickly, much faster then they knew. Suddenly the fog was like cut off. Now they were in the centre of the swamp. The moor under their feet made smacking sounds. Frida turned and looked at the feet of her guests.

"Oh, you will be too heavy", she said and snapped her fingers.

Out of the swamp emerged a dripping wooden gangplanl They could walk on here and short time later they saw that the plank ended at a tiny house.

"Madam, when you invited us, you perhaps underrated the number of your guests", Lt. Spock informed her.

"Hum? O yes, but that does not matter. Please wait here, I'll go ahead."

So she did and now Hamstilidamst dared to say something.

"I know witches. She shuts you off in her prison and you have to eat toad soup with toadstools. Don't go with her", he hissed.

"So you know what's what?" the Captain grinned.

"Yes, of course. Outside Hamsterton is the Magic Forest. And there lives an absolutely horrible witch, ab-so-lute-ly horrible! Once…"

He stopped short, gave one "Hick!" and was numbed. The witch did something to her house. There was a noise sounding like "ftftftftft". With every "ft" the house grew a little. The Vulcan, watching closely, discovered that it was Frida, standing at her front door, who made "ftftft". His right eyebrow moved upwards.

"Fascinating", he admitted. "Obviously Frida is pumping up her house."

"Gone lost of your senses?" Dr. McCoy asked.

"Gone lost of your senses?" Dr. McCoy asked.

But he did not really mean it as he saw himself that the house became bigger and bigger. Finally Frida tripped towards them, beamed at Spock and asked:

"Fitting now?"

"The volume should correspond", he answered.

"I hope the volume also corresponds with teatime", Frida said and smiled.

Hamstilidamst held to Lt. Scott's earlobe until it hurt so much that he took the hamster from his shoulder into his hands. Hamstilidamst seemed to be really frightened but when they walked in, there was nothing to be afraid of. It was most cosy, spotlessly clean and the tea table was laid.

The hamster had rolled up in Scott's hand and preferred no to be there. Not that bad for the moment as two cats were romping through the big room.

"My gals", Frida smiled. "They love to have me visitors because then they have so much room to play. Please, do take a seat." Then she turned to one of the cats and said in firm voice: "Mee waa mewaw! – Just to get that settled, darling."

The cat looked pensively, replied: "Weeaao!" and strolled off.

"And what was this?" Lt. Scott inquired.

"Oh, I had to tell her that you are my guests and we are kind to friendly guests – also to hamster-guests. However, perhaps you should set him down on the table and keep an eye on him."

Hamstilidamst clawed to Scotty's finger and closed his eyes firmly. However, when he dared to squint a little, he let go the finger at once and stayed on the table without arguments. He had not been wrong in the smell: freshly baked scones. Frida appeared to be quite another sort of witch than that hag in the Magic Forest.

Everyone was comfortably sitting around the table. Frida poured the tea, but suddenly she paused and looked at Lt. Spock.

"It would be polite of you to take off your cap for the meal."

"There are things one quickly gets accustomed to", the Vulcan replied and took off the woollen cap.

"Oh!" Frida looked at his ears, amused. "Peter Pan?"

Spock blinked and had no idea why his colleagues burst out laughing. Over Hamstilidamst's head the Captain reached into the bowl with the scones, took a bite and delightedy closed his eyes. These were the very best scones of his life – white-witch-scones. Cautiously he said:

"You know quite a lot about us, Frida."

"Why yes, a strong emotion of longing for friends reached me. I was interested and took a look at the globe."

"A real crystal globe!" Scotty exclaimed, fascinated.

"And do you see the future?" Dr. McCoy asked and the Captain quickly looked up.

"Sort of?" Frida retorted with a smile. "Today at 15.36 hours you will stumble over a rock? – At 16.12 the drop of a bird will fall onto your head?"

The men smiled as they did not think of things like that. It was Hamstilidamst who phrased what they all were thinking – of at least thoughts to that effect.

"When will I meet my sister Flecki again?"

"And your friend Goldi, and Tuffy, and Tealeafy? What a charming name, by the way, as is yours."

"And when will I meet them all again?" Hamstilidamst asked for if he wanted to know something, a hamster with Scottish ancestors was insistent.

"Stop that!" Frida suddenly said sharply and looked at the Vulcan.

"What's the matter?" Kirk asked, alerted.

"I'm a white witch, working friendly spells and helping with my magic. But", she sternly added, "no one is to look into my head. Do we understand each other, Vulcan?"

Spock abruptly took off his chair and crashed back onto it. He understood well enough. The witch had felt his attempt to take up telepathic contact to her and she had instantly drawn her battle lines. His bum knew now – and his brain, too.

"Well, I will try to help you, but I have to know this and that before. I know that you came from the future with a space ship and for some reason cannot return. Like to tell me more?"

"That much about looking into other people's heads", Jim Kirk dryly commented and Frida laughed.

"Well, yes. And if you do not like it, just make me rise a few inches into the air."

 

 

Chapter 37

 

Touch-Down on Farbert-Land

 

After a few starting problems the little gerbil vessel with the hamsters left the spongy planet surface. The hamster crew steered a zigzag course towards the Enterprise and every space alien would have been worried to death at this approach.

“That never will work”, chief Botchy grunted. “We’ll either bang right into the Enterprise or pass it neatly! Can’t you be more precise?”

“I’m doing what I can”, Dodo wailed who was steering the ship with Flecki’s assistance. “Can’t do better.”

With anxious faces most of the hamsters looked out of the window while a tiny minority of the crew desperately tried to get control of the helm. By now the Enterprise was in sight but the hamsters did not manage to steer a halfway straight course to the Starfleet vessel. At one time the Enterprise was somewhere high above in space, at another time far below. Nobody dared to wonder whether this way they would get to the shuttle door of the Enterprise. Moreover they all had to hold fast because the whole ship was bucking and felt like a roller coaster. Suddenly, suddenly enough to make all hamsters glare at Dodo and Flecki, the bucking stopped. Baffled, Flecki and Dodo looked at one another and Dodo cried:

“It’s not my fault!”

“Madness”, Tuffy remarked, “we’re flying right towards the stern of the Enterprise.”

They all were assembled at the windows and looked out. No one thought of navigating for the vessel seemed to move automatically, made a tiny course correction and sailed up to the hatch of the shuttle deck. Terrified yelling all over the place! Any moment they would crash into the Enterprise – but like directed by a ghost’s hand, the hatch opened at the very last moment and the little gerbil space ship slid in. They found themselves in a large, empty hall, slowly the little ship sank to the ground and stopped, rattling. They were back on the Enterprise shuttle deck. At the same moment they heard a loud voice, obviously from a loudspeaker: “Engines off! Engines off, please!” Flecki hurried to the helm, looked for and found the required lever and switched the engines off.

Silence, none of the hamsters spoke until a trembling voice said: “Someone has to take a look…”

“Fine idea, Dodo, so go and take a look”, chief Botchy replied and pushed Dodo to the door. Dodo pressed and pressed but the door seemed to be stuck. He took a run to throw his whole weight against the hatch and at exactly that moment it slid open and the friendly smiling face of Lt. Uhura appeared. Her smile gave room to surprise when a screaming hamster passed her, crashed onto the floor and slithered down the shuttle deck.

“And now, what shall we do now?” Tealeafy sniggered while Lt. Uhura looked after poor Trample, shocked.

“I’m so sorry”, she said, “I did not want to frighten the poor chap. Was that Trample?”

“Nope”, Taty grinned, “not this time. That’s only Dodo, he can stomach that.”

For a moment human and hamsters were silent. Fascinated, Lt. Uhura looked into the tiny space ship while the hamsters looked at Uhura. Then their eyes met again.

“Don’t worry, my pets. We – that it Ensign Chekov and I – are quite normal again outside Engineering.” A fleeting grin crossed her face and she added: “We found the leak and repaired it. It really took time and I’m not able to understand Scotty who loves to stay in Engineering for months. There still is some gas in the ship but that will be gone in a few days. You’d better come back to the bridge. When do you think your friend Dodo will be back?”

“Oh, won’t take long”, Goldi grinned and indeed Dodo was coming already. He limped a little, rubbed his aching head and looked embarrassed but otherwise he seemed to be all right.

“You okay, Dodo?” Uhura asked, worried. Dodo scratched his head and nodded.

“With some people hitting the brain means hitting vacuum”, Goldi slandered and got an angry look from Flecki.

“In case you wonder why after your little…” Uhura could not suppress a grin, “…space dance you got back safely: Thank Pavel Chekov. He got you in by the tractor beam.”

Uhura took up the limping Dodo and beckoned the others to follow her to the bridge. There Chekov welcomed one hamster after the other happily and it was obvious that the Ensign had been worried about the hamsters without end, like Lt. Uhura. While the half starved hamsters fell on the food, Flecki told the two Enterprise-officers what they had experienced on the gerbil plant. Lt. Uhura and Ensign Chekov listened spellbound because after the tedious days in Engineering they hungered for news. The mayor’s idea to regain his comfortable place on the Commander’s chair was quickly stopped by Uhura who resolutely gripped his neck and set him down on the floor.

“To get that straight, Chubby, if Captain Kirk is not on board and if no higher ranked officer is on board, I should like to take command – if you don’t mind.”

The mayor looked at her with goggle-eyes and while he slowly nodded, Tuffy exitedly flipped her paws. “But he had a vision or something and he said that we have to leave quickly and certainly Plushum is with him still!”

Most of the hamsters now expected the Enterprise-officers to laugh about such nonsense but Uhura only looked thoughtfully at Chekov. On their former journeys they often had met creatures behaving quite different from humans or hamsters. So Pavel Chekov and she had seen quite some experience with telepathic matters. Last but not least they had seen such things with the Vulcan Spock who for years had been a reliable colleague with superhuman mental powers. No, they had to take this seriously, even if it came from a little puffed up hamster.

She lifted the mayor from the floor, set him down on her hand and took seat in the chair of the Commander. “Well, what can you tell me?” she asked. Pavel Chekov interrupted his work at the helm and curiously looked between Uhura and the mayor.

“Well, erm.”

Silence.

“Well, erm – what, Chubby?”

“What are the odds that he hasn’t got an inkling”, Taty whispered to his brother Tealeafy. This proved to be true. Members of Starfleet passed a long time of training and learned to respect against alien life forms. This was of course also true for hamsters and of course also Lt. Uhura had been trained accordingly although at the moment her patience was really on the test.

“Well, I’m really honoured to welcome you, my dear friends, on Dingus – er – Banterslice and moreover…”

“Now, listen, pug, the name isn’t Banterslice but Enterprise and no you welcome us but we welcome you!”

“Well, erm, as I said as a smart – er – at the start I am delighted, so to say very delighted to welcome everyone on board.”

Uhura sighed. “I think we’ll try it once more later on. Pavel, what about leaving the orbit now?”

Ensign Chekov looked at his control monitor and nodded. “In all we are ready and can start in two hours’ time, then the checks are through.”

Lt. Uhura nodded her agreement then her glance fell on the mayor who like a flash was on the Commander’s chair.

“Chubby, didn’t I tell you…”

“We have to start”, he shouted, “we don’t have any time left, we are in greatest danger!”

Uhura and Chekov looked at each other. “Any hints about dangers or planetary activities?”

Chekov shrugged, calling up the latest data. “I can’t see anything, however…”

“However, Ensign?”

Chekov pointed at the main screen. “I’d bet we just were many miles above the surface, Uhura.” He gave a few orders to the computer and received new data. “But that’s impossible”, he breathed, “this means, that we are sinking!”

“Take-off, Chekov, leave the orbit at once!”

“But the ship-wide check is not yet concluded, Lieutenant!”

“Noticed, Ensign. – Start, full power!”

Cheering, the hamsters watched and listened how the two Enterprise-officers passed data to each other, corrected courses and hectically tried to get the giant space ship on course.

“We are sloping, Chekov, compensate!”

“I cannot compensate any more, there isn’t enough propulsion! What’s the matter there? It’s like being drawn to the planet. We either go further leeway or switch down energy at port side.”

“If we switch down energy, we’ll never get out of the orbit, Chekov!”

Ensign Chekov typed in a few data, looked at the monitor for the results and shook his head. Again he fed in data and impatiently waited for results. When the screen showed them, the Ensign disappointedly banged his fist on the control and groaned: “Pointless, Lieutenant, njet, njet, we’re sideslipping!”

“All right, Ensign, switch down energy on portside… What is that green territory ahead of us?”

“Eh, that is – well, Fluffbert told us about it – what was the name?” Flecki pondered, looking around for the help of her friends. Everybody shrugged, faked not having heard anything, or was busy at the replicator.

“We have to know exactly”, Uhura shouted. “To whom did this Fluffbert say what?”

“To this – er – Khan”, Flecki shyly said.

Lt. Uhura turned to the main screen and said: “Computer, play off log: Conversation Fluffbert – Khan concerning planet!”

It took a moment until the friendly computer voice reported and the attentively listening hamsters heard the following:

“The right side is the Right Bluebert Sea which offers an especially beautiful view at sunset. In the distance you can see the edge of an unknown continent. It is Farbert Land which none of us has ever seen. The left side is the Left Bluebert Sea where you find wonderful algae banks which are not only substantial but also very delicious. The upper part is the charming Upper Bluebert Sea which especially in balmy nights…”

“Abstract, Fluffbert, or you’ll learn to know me!”

“Computer, stop play-off!” Uhura looked at the main screen where she clearly could make out an island.

“Farbert-Land”, Taty cried, “sounds like ‘summer, sun, and beach’ – what do you think?”

“I think that sounds like mighty problems and crash-landing”, Chekov groaned.

“A real crash-landing?” Goldi cheered. “Really live?”

“The question is, if we are still ‘live’ after that and if we’ll get away from this planet. Mayor, say something!”

The mayor glared at Flecki, straightened his whiskers and shrugged: “Well, I’m no textbert – er – expert, that is so to say chief Botchy.”

Botchy goggled at the mayor, cleared his throat and whispered: “Well, whether we get off, I can only say after we touched down. This depends on several facts…”

“Hold on!” the two Enterprise- officers shouted at this moment. Then the reverse thrust of the engines drowned all other noises and the bridge as well as the whole ship trembled like braking apart any moment. The ship bent to the left suddenly and all hamsters rolled into one corner while the humans had been clever enough to hold to something. Then the ship swayed to the right while Chekov desperately tried to steer in the opposite direction. Uhura at her controls dosed the thrust accordingly, now and then glancing in a nerved fashion at the hamsters who rolled to and fro along the bridge floor, squeaking cheerfully and obviously having a lot of fun.

“Well”, Flecki mocked, artfully avoiding Dodo who was rolling towards her, “and which facts would that be?”

“Well, to name a round figure: several… In the best case, that is.”

“Oh, and in the worst case?”

“Then…” Botchy straightened his whiskers. “The number is twice as high. A little less perhaps.”

“Pull her up, Chekov”, Uhura shouted, turning to the navigator. By now she was sitting at her com and checked several frequencies but without success. No one was here to answer her emergency calls. The glance to the main screen showed what it had shown for some time now: They approached some green territory and the Enterprise was bobbing up and down like a cork on water.

“There just isn’t enough power, Lieutenant”, Chekov retorted a little frantically and forced himself not to look at the main screen. He knew that looking at looming danger might well paralyze him. More important it was at the moment to concentrate on his control desk and on nothing else to save what could be saved. Well, as he saw it, there was damned nothing to save. He once more checked on the data and shook his head. “Njet!”

“What does ‘njet’ mean, Chekov?”

“Njet means ‘no’, Lieutenant…”

“Don’t tell me! If this means we have to make an emergency landing, we should look for some free space at once.”

“Trees, nothing but trees. Nice for a holiday but not for landing”, Chekov cursed.

“By the by, are you well-insured?” Dodo asked. “That is, if so, nothing much can happen to us.”

In spite of the crucial situation, Uhura and Chekov turned their heads to Dodo and goggled at him.

“Once Trample was tremendously lucky”, the hamster added. “He had bought a brand new car and effected an insurance. Next day the car was totalled. He really was lucky.”

“Er, yes, no, we’ve got no insurance, Dodo”, Uhura groaned, “and to tell you the truth, we have other problems at the moment. – Hold fast!”

She said so to all of them because now the Enterprise had reached the tops of the trees which raced past them like a giant green landing strip. At this moment the final decision had been taken because there was no way back: The huge vessel would touch down here and now.

The all looked at the main screen, also Chekov who no longer could take any action. Power was switched down slowly. Slowly in case they had the unexpected chance for some touch-and-go. From now on they had to wait until the ship somehow and somewhere came to a standstill. By now there was no longer any view ahead because the Enterprise went along the tree tops like a giant lawn mower and the outboard cameras were covered with cut-off green.

“Now, that really looks nasty. Don’t you have wipers out there?”

“No, Flecki”, Uhura replied, smiling in spite of the strain, “up to now we had no rain in space.”

In the meantime the navigator had checked the flanking outboard cameras and as they also were dirty, he had switched to backward view. Now he sensor-checked the section ahead of them and they all were glad that their unusual landing strip did not seem to end. In spite of the modulators the vessel’s bucking had heightened within the last minutes and the Enterprise-officers were amused over the hamsters who happily hopped up and down on the floor. Finally, after many minutes, the heavy vessel came to a standstill. Frantically Uhura and Chekov checked the controls and the navigator gave a loud sigh: “The green stuff is tough – we won’t crash!”

After a long, long time there was silence on the Enterprise-bridge. Humans and hamsters seemed to be reflecting for some seconds after all their exciting, dangerous adventures. Up to now they had gained nothing, of course, but for the time being they were safe after all. Or weren’t they?

“And if it isn’t tough enough?” Tuffy asked the question of all questions.

“We’ll go a storey down”, Chekov smiled. “However, my data say that these tree tops are very, very stout. I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

“The chief engineer also said once that the new storehouse is very stout. Built for eternity he said…”

“Just so”, Trample angrily interrupted Tuffy. “When Dodo and I stored the sacks with sunflower seed, a strong wind came up. Dodo ran out at once but silly me thought it doesn’t matter because the chief had said it will hold. After four days in hospital they still removed splinters from my fur!”

“Rotten wood, adverse wind”, the chief explained, “this can happen any time, you are powerless against such events.”

“So are we, my little pets”, Chekov said in a low voice and cupped his chin in his hands. “How can such a small planet have such a strong gravitation? Why did the engines not have enough energy? I don’t understand.” He glanced over to Uhura who shrugged her shoulders helplessly and softly replied:

“After all we can finish the ship-wide check now and we should do so. Perhaps we get some answers then…”

Chekov sighed and turned back to his station. He keyed in some data and noticed Dodo just when he had pressed the Enter-key. “Umph, but that’s a lot of keys”, hamster marvelled and thoughtfully looked at Chekov.

“Don’t have any computers at Hamsterton, do you?” the Ensign grinned. Dodo looked at him resentfully and said: “Of course we have computers. Even I have one! However, I mostly need the keys of R, I, or P.”

Now it was Chekov’s tun to look at the hamster resentfully. “RIP?” the Ensign said. “Resquiecat in pace? Rest in peace? – Now, really, pet, you put that on gravestones. Are you working on a graveyard in Hamsterton?”

Dodo retreated a few shocked steps and was very confused. “No, no”, he said, “nothing of the sort. I only said that I mostly use the keys of R, I, or P. If something goes awry at hamster computers, you always get the information: ‘System error: (R)epeat, (I)nterrupt, (P)anic?”

“Gee”, Chekov grinned, “and what is your choice usually?”

“Well, all three keys of course – as indicated.”

While the Enterprise-officers and the surrounding hamsters grinned merrily, Flecki decided to give Dodo some hints on computer use very soon. In the meantime the board computer had finished the general check. Hopefully Uhura and Chekov looked at the control screen.

“Hum, interesting, that explains a lot, of course.”

Lt. Uhura agreed with a nod. “At first none of the primary systems was concerned, so there was no alert. Well, and none of us noticed this tiny light.”

She pointed at a yellow, intermitting light on the energy supply control. Indeed no one had looked at the control within the last hours as they had had enough other problems. Moreover the tiny crew was not able to keep an eye on every single control.

One of the secondary circuits, i.e. the circuits not directly concerning the major tasks of the vessel, had fallen out. As now the two Enterprise-officers noticed, it was the energy supply for a temperature sensor, the temperature sensor on the shuttle deck. When the hatch had been opened for the hamsters, the motion sensor had signalled accordingly. As at the same time the temperature sensor had not signalled the drop of temperature, a programme loop had developed in one of the sub-computers. The computer of the next level had discovered the failure but had not been able to analyze it because there had been no answer from the sub-unit. So when the next level used all its energy to receive a defect analysis, the following levels had been involved.

Some time one of the priority computers considered it necessary to switch down the drive of the Enterprise gradually. Gradually because none of the responsible computers had capacity left to inform the crew. Only that tiny yellow lamp indicated the total breakdown which had forced the Enterprise into the emergency landing.

“Well”, chief Botchy said in a patronizing voice and innocently looked at Chekov, “nothing is perfect and some things just happen. Don’t you blame yourselves.”

“Well, yes, certainly”, the Ensign replied, frowning, “but I think it’s most remarkable at which spot this disaster had its origin.”

“Of course”, Botchy said, leisurely stroking his whiskers, “of course there has to be cause analysis so that such little faults don’t happen again. Who knows what might have happened.”

While in the background several hamsters whispered and giggled, Chekov nodded his agreement, slowly knelt down in front of the chief engineer and prodded him with his outstretched finger. “And you little expert know what I know?”

The chief cautiously shook is fat head and boded ill somehow because also Lt. Uhura had now read the error analysis and glared at the hamster who wished himself elsewhere. “Nope, er, there certainly is some very simple explanation…”

“Indeed”, Chekov retorted and nodded with some meaning. “This circuit was going through a certain cable duct and by chance this cable duct was in the transporter room. So if we hear cable duct and transporter room – what comes to our mind?”

“That the chief botched it”, came a background-squeak.

Chief Botchy did not try to find out who had said so but stood with a fiery red head in front of the Enterprise-officers, smiling desperately. Next moment he was gripped in the neck and a few seconds later looked into the face of Lt. Uhura.

“That’s the last warning, my dear hamster. If we one more time get you fumbling at any ship units, you go into the brig, got that?”

“And if you don’t get him?” Goldi asked with a broad grin. “And if he blows up the brig?”

“He is right”, Chekov shouted, “we always have to keep him in sight or our life is no longer safe.”

“O well”, Uhura sighed, “then we put him into chains like in the good old times. So”, she once more turned to the chief, “next time you are in for it, understood?”

The chief engineer nodded silently and, back on the floor, took to his heels. He followed the Hamstian guideline: If you are in disgrace, make yourself invisible. So he made himself invisible under some desk and interestedly watched some blinking lights. His hamster colleagues kept close to the officers for at the moment this was the most exciting area. Next step was the repair work and Chekov had already left for the transporter room. He had no special repair training but mending a cable should not be any problem for a member of the Enterprise-crew. It indeed took not take him long to return to his station. He nodded, satisfied with himself.

Taty and Tealeafy curiously scrambled onto his desk and watched him. “Is there already a travel schedule?” Taty asked. “It’s not that we don’t like it here but we also like to get home some time. We are missing our school.”

While Tealeafy almost toppled over with laughter, the Ensign looked at the hamster and grinned. “Fine that you so much like to learn, friend hamster, perhaps later on you could go to Starfleet.”

“Well, I’m not aiming that high”, Taty grinned. “A pretty job with the administration wouldn’t be bad either.”

“Yes, er, fine”, Chekov said, occupied with the data on his monitor, “as I told you, be good and learn busily at school.”

“Last month I even was the school crossing guard in Hamsterton!”

“Swell”, Chekov mumbled, trying to concentrate on the value on the screen.

“I even put up a traffic sign so that the car drivers are careful!”

“Humhum, yes, reduce speed or something?” Chekov uttered, a little nerved, and once more compared the peak values.

“No, no”, Taty replied, “much better. On the sign was written: ‘Dear car drivers, please do not run over the pupils, wait for a teacher!’”

“Let me guess”, Chekov grunted, “now you’re looking for a new school because you’ve been relegated?”

“Nope”, Taty said, “headmaster nagged a little. But you know it: Teachers are like babies – they think they get everything by crying, don’t they?”

Chekov shook his head while Uhura laughed loudly. From the very beginning he had wondered what it might be like in Hamsterton, how the social structure worked. After having spent some time with the hamsters, he was not sure if he really wanted to know.

“I think I had quite another kind of schooling”, he groaned and looked at the two hamsters. “Regarding the schedule, we’ll be able to start in a few hours. So you may begin with your homework.”

“Sure”, Tealeafy grinned, “let’s write an essay about aliens and Mrs. Pushdush (Note: Teacher at the Gimmy-Mound-School) will go wild again. Like at that time about the werewolf.”

The last word had awakened Chekov’s interest. In old stories he had read about it – why did hamsters know such horror stories?

“Werewolf?” he asked, turning to Tealeafy. “Why werewolf? Are there werewolves in Hamsterton?”

“O well”, the hamster grinned, “we were to give an example about the five big Ws in investigation. Taty showed up and said he could do it about wolves. Mrs. Pushdush was delighted but then Taty said: ‘Whowolf, Whatwolf, Whenwolf, Whywolf, Wherewolf.’ After that the teacher ran out, screaming – no idea why.”

The Ensign shook his head, laughing, and when he turned from his station he saw the rest of the crew toppling over as well.

“Can’t we at least go out and play a little until we fly on? Being kept in a cage isn’t seemly for rodents, we need space.”

Laughter suddenly died down and all eyes were on Chekov who goggled at Taty. This was a question of utmost hamster interest. Sasy, Dasy, and Flecki joined Taty and Tealeafy and looked at the Ensign with big, sad, begging eyes. “We need space”, Sasy pitifully squeaked, “we need nature!” Chekov did not react, his glance wandered to Uhura. “Or at least see if we could do some shopping here”, Flecki added.

“I – er…” Chekov looked at Uhura who watched the events, amused. “I cannot decide that”, he smiled, “I – er – am only an Ensign. Decision must be made by a higher rank.”

Now all eyes were on Lt. Uhura who could not suppress a grin. “All right, you win”, she said after a moment and let her glance wandered over the assembled hamsters. “Under two condition: you stay within sight of the ship and…” Her glance wandered to Chekov who was just sighing, “…Ensign Chekov will accompany you. Just for your safety.”

All hamster glances wandered to Chekov, who swallowed audibly and pointed at his monitor. “It will take me quite some time to make the necessary adjustments for the start. I’m afraid I don’t have the time.”

Immediately the hamster glances wandered back to Uhura who shook her head with a smile and replied: “All right, Chekov, for the very first time in your life you have the sole command over the Enterprise – congratulations. I’ll go with the hamsters.”

While the Ensign turned back to his monitor, taking care that no one saw his broad grin, Uhura and the hamsters prepared for shore leave. “But don’t go shopping too long!” he shouted. “In a few hours we want to start.”

Had he known what was waiting for them, he certainly had bitten back this remark.

 

Chapter 38

 

Frida and the Consequences

 

In the meantime in Scotland it was evening and the Enterprise-officers on Earth were sitting with Hamstilidamst in the parlour of the white witch.

"Foo-oo, foo-oo", Frida said and the house had a second floor. "Stepstup, stepstup, stestup", she shouted and a staircase led up to the first floor. Then she said:

"Glass for windows, wood for bed,
pretty little cabinet.
Wallpaper with leprechauns,
carpet in the colour of lawns.
Downs fill pillows to the bottom,
softly sleep in fresh, white cotton.
Eight felt slippers, by any rate.
All this I wish and I create. "

Above them the officers heard some scraping and rumbling. Big-eyed and open mouthed they stared at the ceiling. Only Spock said:

"I do not need felt slipper."

"Pity", Frida retorted. "When you are as old as I am, you will find how nice it is to relax your feet in the evening. And if after all the time you air your shoes a little, surely nobody will be unhappy, especially your noses."

Then the officers walked up the witch-stairs to the first witch-floor. The furniture Frida conjured for them was a bit old-fashioned but really comfortable. Everyone chose a bed and when they were under the covers, the Captain asked:

"What do we think about this?"

"Well, the cheese was first rate", Hamstilidamst announced. "And it was absolutely great of Frida to make oat biscuits for me."

"Well, then we are all content", Dr. McCoy replied. "All else? Jim, we've seen madder things."

When they had met her, Frida had known so much about them that they had told her the whole story. That had taken a while and some time supper had been on the table. Not only Hamstilidamst had enjoyed it and Frida was obviously delighted in the company. So she had proposed – as night was falling in the moor – that they all spent the night here.

Before they did, however, a big glass ball had slid down from the ceiling. The officers had thought it to be a lamp shade but it was Frida's seer's globe. She had looked into it for a long time, her blue eyes seemed to sparkle fire. Nobody had dared to say anything. The Enterprise-officers did not know whether to believe in her magic power or not. But by now they all longed for their ship and for their own time period so that they were terribly curious what Frida might see crystal ball.

The globe shone in changing colours and lit their faces. Only when the gleam died down they saw that it was pitch dark by now.

"Oh, light!" Frida shouted and small lamps lit up at all walls. "Yours is a merry story, but you really are a case of hardship."

"Could – couldn't you see anything?" the Captain asked and felt that there was a knot of strain in his stomach.

"My dear, I will not goggle into this globe for hours if I cannot see anything in it", the witch replied. "You need help and you will get it. I will give you a little, a little you get – from others."

She glanced at Hamstilidamst and fished him off the cheese plate. He would have readily admitted that he was close to bursting but this cheese… When he looked up he saw that he faced the wrinkled face of the witch. Her blue eyes did not let him go. A message reached his head but aloud Frida said:

"You are a glutton."

"Then don't make such swell cheese!" he protested.

But his thought was: Understood! – She nodded with a smile and put him back onto the table. Then she folded her hands on the tabletop and looked at the officers one by one. How much could she tell – how much must she not tell?

"Will Hamstilidamst see his sister again?" Lt. Scott asked and Frida grinned.

"Yes. And you will see Uhura and Chekov again. – A few days, I cannot exactly say how many. I believe that things are happening as they are to happen."

"This is subject to numerous philosophic discussions", Lt. Spock nodded.

"Would you mind very much to begin none of them now?" the Captain asked.

"Not at all. My philosophy is certainly different from that of any philosopher. What I mean is that we should meet. You probably would have walked on and on to the northern coast?"

"If you always have to run away from every place…", Hamstilidamst grumbled and Dr. McCoy placed him on his shoulder.

"… you some day forget that you might stay somewhere."

"You will come to Altnaharra, that is the next place on the road", Frida explained. "Stay there until the Enterprise reports in. Perhaps she reports earlier but there is a hotel in Altnaharra and none in Clebrig."

"In – Claybrig?" Kirk repeated as he understood it.

"Like a brig made of clay?" Hamstilidamst inquired.

"Well, you might say it sounds like that", Frida nodded. "At that spot you will meet them all again. That is the help I give. Do not go to any other place. And now…"

Then she had conjured the first floor and the staircase and the furniture so that her guests had a place to sleep. Now the officers were lying in their magic beds, felt most comfortable and Spock asked:

"Did it occur to you, too, Jim?"

"Chrrrr", came the reply from the Captain's bed.

"What do you mean?" McCoy asked in a low voice.

"She said we will meet all of them at that spot. Why don't we beam onto the ship?"

"Probably the hamsters damaged the transporter."

"That might well be."

Nobody except him seemed to have noticed anything. It really might well be that the hamsters had damaged lots of things. One hamster alone did not have much difficulty with a laboratory.

Lt. Uhura or Ensign Chekov could fly a shuttle but it was absolutely impossible that only one person held the Enterprise in orbit, an Enterprise moreover which probably had a number of malfunctions. As Spock saw it, there was only one possibility: The Enterprise as such had to touch down in the Scottish Highlands. Never before the Enterprise had touched down on any planet, not to talk about the Scottish Highlands and by no means if there was a number of malfunctions. That might be a very interesting experience, thought Spock, and fell asleep.

They all overslept but one after the other woke up from some regular "plock – plock – plock". Lt. Scott whose bed was the closest to the window, thrust aside the cover, got up and looked out. Then he snorted:

"Come here, ye've got tae see that!"

Hamstilidamst was beside him like a flash, stared out of the window and uttered:

"Eh?"

McCoy showed up beside him. He said nothing but blinked instead. Below them in front of the house stood a chopping block, a big log on it. Above it an axe was hanging in the air, powerfully came down and made "plock". The log was split but kept standing and the axe came down again "plock".

"Nice to be a witch", the Captain grinned.

"Ay, and I'd love tae see how she lets t’ air out o' the house", Scotty added.

"You gone bonkers?! You can't let the air out of the house. You'd suffocate!" Hamstilidamst loudly objected.

"Our little scientist", Kirk teasingly said. "Yesterday Frida pumped up the house to its present size. We'd like to see how she makes it small again."

Well, that was something Hamstilidamst, too, would like to see. But before they had breakfast and asked if they could do Frida a favour for her kindness and hospitality.

"We'd just love to chop wood for you, Frida, but we've already seen that you've got your own methods", the Captain said and joyfully licked his finger which he had spilled with tasty blackberry jam.

"No, there is no work to be done, but you really could do me a favour. If you get back to the road, you will soon reach Crask Inn. Do ask for little Amy there. I wanted to pay her a visit but outside my magic fog my feet tire easily. Little Amy is ill and I thought of something to make her laugh."

"With pleasure, Frida", Dr. McCoy said, "but we can work no magics."

"You need not, but perhaps you can tell Amy a funny little story. I am certain, you easily remember the text. Spock with his memory certainly does."

"Well, he’s just the right one to tell funny stories to kids", Bones mumbled.

"He will do it nicely", Frida replied. "So listen:

On the spire of the church
sits a big brown bear.
To and fro does rage and lurch
like in a rocking chair.
Not for love and not for dosh
anybody dares to shin.
As so oft in life, o gosh,
a hero's missing, brave a man.
Hamst'lidamst the hamster - Yoicks!
races up the spire,
gives the bear two hefty pokes
showing guts like fire.
And the big brown, raging bear
crashes down right - wham
Hamst'lidamst, how does he fare?
Scratching just his bum.

"I'm a hero, I'm a hero", crowed Hamstilidamst. "We'll play that, won't we? Scotty, you're the raging bear and sit on the chandelier, that's the church spire. And then…"

"Stop, stop, stop!" the Captain interrupted him and laughed. "Amy's parents for sure will be delighted if Scotty sits on their chandelier. Spock, teach me that poem until we reach Crask Inn. If you recite poems, it’s droning and nothing else."

"That would be swell!" Hamstilidamst cheered. "Spock says the poem and Frida makes some drones flying in the living room."

"I guess, you endured something with the little chap", Frida dryly said. "Will you do this for little Amy?"

"Yes, of course we will, and we'll have fun with it", McCoy replied.

"Do you make your house smaller again when we leave? May we watch?" Hamstilidamst asked, thrilled.

"We better go outside for that. – Lassies!"

The two cats came striding elegantly. They squinted at the hamster but still remembered that he was a friendly guest who was not to be harmed. Hamstilidamst did not terribly rely on this and willingly took his place in the pet box.

Frida opened the front door. The cats went for a walk and the men retreated a little to get a better view.

"Well, first of all I do not need the staircase any longer and the first floor neither", Frida said. "Stupstep, stupstep, stupstep. – Oo-oof, oo-oof", she made and the roof went one floor down.

Then she, too, stepped back, concentrated on the size of house she just wanted to have and started to draw in the breath with open mouth. With every breath-drawing the house scaled down a little.

"That’s beyond belief", the Captain said under his breath.

"Ay, tha’ flattens me", Scotty admitted. "Frida, ye're the kindest witch I ever met."

"Oh, and that with all the witches you met in your life", Frida grinned back.

"During our journeys we met some", Lt. Spock seriously replied. "And I can agree with Lieutenant Scott. You are the kindest of all witches, Frida. Most of them misused their might and did mischief."

"Why should I mischief if I can do such a lot of good? – You remember the story for little Amy?"

"Certainly."

"Fine, so let us say good bye. I would give you supplies but they would be there no more if you leave my magic fog. Go thither, it is the shortest path to the main road."

They merrily waved to each other, Frida disappeared into the house and the officers walked towards the magic fog. Again they felt like walking through cotton wool but getting on very fast. That was the fog's trick and if it had not been there, they would have had to walk much longer.

When they left the fog behind them, it took them only half an hour to the road and they happily marched on northwards towards Crask Inn. The Captain learned Frida's poem from Spock, Hamstilidamst trained himself at Scott in pushing bears and Dr. McCoy minded the traffic.

Crask Inn was a lonely house at the edge of the wood. The region was flat and if there was no wood, there were meadows. That was that, there was no more. However, all the friendlier any visitor was welcomed at this lonely spot. Many travellers on their way to the northern coast stopped here, so that at first the visit of the Enterprise-officers was nothing special.

The day was sunny and warm and the men ordered some mineral water. After they had been sitting at one of the tables for a short time, Captain Kirk stood up and walked over to the counter.

"Excuse me, does a girl named Amy live here?" he asked.

The man behind the counter looked up quickly.

"What would ye know 'bout Amy?"

"We – er – well, we're to take greetings to Amy."

"You tell me", the man only said.

"From – erm – from Frida", Kirk explained with some hesitation.

The man looked left and right, bent over the counter and whispered:

"How d'ye come t' know Frida?"

"We – er – we met her by chance. Why, in fact, well – er – we stayed with her overnight."

"Ay, she's hospitable to the friendly 'uns", the man cautiously admitted.

"As matter of fact she wanted to come herself because the little girl is ill… Yes, she said outside her… Well, her feet would tire easily."

"Outside her s'curity mist. Must be ’bout hundred, mayhap much older. I dunno none who kens Frida young. Och, p'rhaps she's been born old. – Amy'll be happy on a good wish."

"As matter of fact", Spock said who had joined them, "she taught us a funny poem which we are to recite and also to play to Amy. This hamster" – he put the pet box with Hamstilidamst onto the counter – "plays a leading part in it."

"Tha's all wrong", Lt. Scott now drawled. "He's playing a shovin' part. Ay, shovin’ bears from kirk spires, what'll t’ world come ter!"

The man heard Scotty's brogue and unbent. Of course they might visit Amy to tell her something she took delight in, poor mite.

"And what ails her?" McCoy inquired casually just as anybody would ask.

"The doctors call it muscle paralysis."

"Oyoyoy", McCoy said sympathetically. "One would wish Frida could do something there."

"Ye tell me", the man said in a heartfelt voice. "Please, do come. I 'xplain ter t’ wife. Can't be off here."

His wife beamed like a Christmas tree when she learned that the visitors were sent by Frida the white witch. Obviously the two women were well acquainted. The name of Frida opened every door for the officers, in this case the door into a merry children's room. A girl was standing at the window there, turned her back to them, seesawed on her feet and decidedly did not look like paralysis. However, fact was that she did not turn although the men hailed her loud enough.

Dr. McCoy slowly lifted his head, studied the child, saw the strain and nodded. Then he opened the box and said to Hamstilidamst:

"Why don't you go to Amy and introduce yourself? She has to know you because you're the hero of Frida's story."

Hamstilidamst set off, hopped over a stool and a chair and the table onto the windowsill and positioned himself right in front of Amy.

"Hi", he merrily said. "I'm the big bear shover."

Amy wasn't one of those people who were able to understand hamsters. But he looked so cute that she held out her hand to him. He climbed onto it, and now she slowly turned. During their space travels the officers had seen countless beings who just looked like they looked but were dead ugly for human understanding. That was why they did not turn away and even did not look to the floor in an embarrassed way when they saw Amy's face.

The muscle paralysis only concerned her face. It was all askew, one corner of the mouth was hanging down, one eye was half closed. She was about eight years of age and if not several operation could mend her, she would look like this for the rest of her life. Starfleet-medicine offered far easier means of healing.

"Last night we spent in the house of Frida the witch", the Captain said and smiled.

"Ay, tha's right", Scott nodded. "To get us all in, she ftftft pumped it up. Ye imagine how we marvelled."

"Indeed", the Vulcan admitted. "We met quite a lot of witches but never one like Frida."

"She's nice, ain't she?" Amy said in a blurred voice.

"The nicest we ever met", McCoy said. "And especially for you she gave us a magic poem. Like to hear it? Our hamster Hamstilidamst plays a big part in it."

"O yes, please."

Spock kneeled and was the church spire. Scott made wild pranks all around him. Kirk said the poem and McCoy kept to Amy's side as audience. The Vulcan was the only one who could see that Bones set his med-kit onto the windowsill and got something out of it.

While Jim lamented, that there were no more heroes in the world, Hamstilidamst came running, raced up at Spock and hit Scott’s forehead so that the Chief Engineer fell down from the church spire with much ado. Hamstilidamst stretched up his arms like a real victor until he remembered that he was only to scratch his bum airily.

Amy clapped her hands and laughed, but her face did not express the laughter. Within all this ado Dr. McCoy quickly gave her an injection. Amy only rubbed her throat a little and thought nothing of it. Speaker and players bowed politely, while the doctor inobstrusively stowed away his med-kit again. Before they left, Spock stepped to Amy, stroke her chin softly and said.

"Frida says all things do come as they are to come. And I am very certain, there is a big magic in this poem so that you for ever can be happy, Amy."

"That was very, very kind of you", Amy replied.

Suddenly she touched the hanging corner of her mouth, and excitedly fumbled it. Jim Kirk shot a quick glance towards Spock and McCoy. Both interestedly studied the ceiling. So he bent down to Amy and said:

"Big magic, you wait and see."

When they wanted to take their leave from the man at the bar, he had prepared four lunch packets in the meantime and handed them over. It was nothing but thanks because they had brought greetings of Frida and not passed Crask Inn.

While they still were changing a few words, two young men were getting up from one of the tables, heaved mighty rucksacks onto their backs and made for leaving. One of them said to Lt. Scott:

"Excuse me, Sir, are you going to the north?"

"Ay, t'wards Altnaharra."

"We are going to the northern coast. May we keep your company for some time?"

"Sure, why not", the Captain replied.

Just when they left Crask Inn, they heard a woman's voice yelling:

"Tom, To-hom! Come quickly, Frida sent a healing spell!"

As Captain Kirk had a good idea what kind of healing spell that was, he gave the doctor a quick glance and they saw that they were off.

The two young men gave their names as David and Oliver. They had come over from Germany, were students and in Scotland for the first time. They knew the map and nothing else. When they learned that those four guys were bent for Altnaharra, they had assumed that they were locals as they saw no reason to go to Altnaharra for holiday. They were, however, not disappointed to discover that the men were no locals but from America. That was even better because the coolest movies and the hip bands were in the USA. So they informed the officers in best Oxbridge.

"But you don't think people of our age know anything about it, do you?" the Captain asked who had no scooby about the pop and movie scene of this century and willingly would add ten years to his age if only he did not have to give information.

"Well, not really", David replied. "But you are also not longer of the Beatles generation. It will be ABBA, won't it?"

"We are familiar with both", Spock answered, thus shocking his colleagues.

By now Lt. Scott squinted at his left forearm. Like with everybody else, the translator chip was implanted there and somehow it didn't work correctly. Probably it had to work up too much Hamstish.

"Gòrach", he suddenly gnarled, angry on himself.

"Hum?" asked McCoy.

"Naught!"

"What’s biting you?"

"Mysel’", Scott replied in an undertone. "I dinnae get why the stuff them lads are talking is nae translated to everyday English."

"Why should it? They are speaking English."

"Just so."

"Now, come on… Oh!"

The Doctor sniggered. Of slow, stilted school English the universal translator made nothing but slow, stilted school English. Probably the translator had to offer something more interesting if they talked in their mother language.

"He-e-e-lo!" Hamstilidamst sounded out of his box. "Anybody hand down something to eat?"

Lt. Scott burst out laughing. Well, the translator had no problems with Hamstish after all. Bones, too, was grinning and shouted:

"Jim! Let's take a short rest. Hamstilidamst's hungry. I'll cut an apple for him. So hand over the rucksack."

"Right whacked out, them wrinklies with their hamster basket,ey."

"Sure, right loopy!”

Aha! Lt. Scott thought. That's what the translator offered if the lads talked German. He hadn't the faintest idea what a wrinkly might be but it somehow did not sound like a compliment. Och ay, it was their own teen's language after all.

“Snotty brats", the Captain said in a low voice, while he handed an apple to Bones and also pulled out the mineral water. Loudly he added: "Somebody some water? Old rusty buckets like us have got to fill up now and then."

"This is a good idea", Oliver said and turned to his friend: "Ey, Dude, open the back flap, bottle at the right."

"Ahum", David replied and also fetched a bottle of mineral water out of his friend's rucksack.

He turned, drank, and suddenly spluttered the water out of his mouth, laughing. His arm pointed ahead:

“Dude, believe that?"

"What?"

"That!"

"Where?"

"Man, need a guide dog?! The sign there, you ass."

"Here, ey…" Then Oliver stopped short and goggled.

Involuntarily, the officers' eyes followed the glance of the young men after their exchange had been so absolutely daft. Right ahead of them was street sign, something was written on it and it was not in English. Lt. Spock took his camera, shot a photo, connected the camera to the tricorder and asked for a translation. The sign said in German: Attention! Lambs on the road.

Nobody knew why there was such an ado about this. Then David said:

"Either that's here since the Potatoe War of 1871/72 or there's a German colony around here, Dude."

"Ey, or there're more Germans on the road than you'd dream of", Oliver retorted.

"It might be a measure in connection with the globalisation", Spock proposed and everybody stared.

"D-d-do you speak German?" Oliver stammered at last.

"No, but it was obvious that you were talking about this traffic sign", Spock retorted.

"Er, yes, of course! Er, UNICEF?" Oliver made a counter proposal and his friends waved a hand in front of his face.

"Why not Children’s Village?" he asked in German. "Or species protection for aliens?"

The Captain glared at the Vulcan and almost lost his countenance on Spock's most patient mien.

"Probably", he managed to say, "it's an international traffic sign exchange programme."

The two boys laughed and David said in German to Oliver:

"Shouldn't wonder with all that EU bunk. Ey, them Daddys ain't that uncool."

Also Oliver suddenly thought the guys much more bearable. If they wanted to walk through Scotland with a hamster in a box – why shouldn't they, their business. And on one thing they all soon agreed. When it was high noon and they still tramped flat meadow regions, it was darned hot.

They were sweating like hell, feet by and by became heavy. Only the Vulcan felt right swell. His home was a desert planet, it just was always hot there and he liked the temperature. He had taken the lead now, taken the rucksack and had several times been asked not to hurry so. They were glad when the first houses of Altnaharra came into sight.

Fact was that the first houses of Altnaharra were the only houses of Altnaharra. Compared with this, Lairg had been a town.

"We'll do our utmost not to draw attention here, please", the Captain ordered. "In Lairg we still had a tiny chance to go unknown, here we haven't. And according to Frida we've got to stay here."

"And according to Frida there is a hotel", Dr. McCoy said.

"Then we'll go looking for it."

They had parted from David and Oliver. The two of them wanted to walk on and pitch up their tent somewhere along the road. If now they were approaching the end of their mission, the officers had indeed no use for company.

"I'd thought in such a godforsaken place strangers would be goggled at like Mars-men."

"Mr. Scott, there are no Mars-men", the Vulcan said in an astonished voice. "That should be well known to you."

"Ay, but p'rhaps nae ter the people here."

"Mars had been visited in this period and it is known that there is no intelligent life."

"Ha!" Hamstilidamst said rebelliously. "A month ago you wouldn't have thought a planet full of hamsters to be intelligent life."

"A behaviour equivalent to yours certainly would have changed our opinion soon", the Vulcan retorted.

"Don't quarrel, there's the hotel", said Kirk.

"We don't quarrel", the hamster grumbled and Spock agreed.

"Indeed, Jim, we are only exchanging opinions."

"Whatsoever, just stop it."

That was all he needed, his First Officer loudly exchanging opinions with a hamster while he asked for rooms in the hotel. But he did not even ask. A price table was hanging beside the entrance and they turned as soon as they had read it. One night for the four of them and they would be in debts.

Altnaharra was situated at Loch Naver and the only local hotel was for fishing holidays and for people with cash. The Enterprise-officers neither wanted to go fishing nor had they cash.

"Frida probably thought us to be rich", Bones guessed. "A tent wouldn't be bad now."

"B&B", Lt. Scott objected. "If people come here fer fishing, nae all o’ them will have dough. There'd be somethin’."

He was quite right and with the size of Altnaharra it was not that difficult to find the B&B-sign. After they talked to the owner of the house, Spock retreated into a quiet corned and asked his tricorder. Hamstilidamst sat on his arm and watched.

"Come on!" he cried. "For that you ask that machine? Everybody can explain that."

"You too?" the Vulcan asked.

"Sure. Main season is the time of most tourists and that's summer and that's now."

"I crave pardon, Hamstilidamst, you explained it far better and simpler than the tricorder."

"Well!"

"Doesn't matter", the Captain said. "We'll try it again later on and if the people who booked the rooms do not show up, we get the rooms."

"Ha, and if not?" Dr. McCoy protested.

"My, then you'll sleep in the open", Hamstilidamst scornfully retorted. "Are you such softies?"

"Hey! Did we give you that idea up to now?" Kirk shot back and Hamstilidamst shut up his face.

"So? How about a sightseeing tour?" Lt. Scott grinned.

"My suspicion is that we already made it", the Vulcan replied. "However, Frida told us that we all will meet at Clebrig. We might walk there."

"Anything special at Clay Brig that we should meet Flecki and Goldi and everyone just there?" the hamster asked.

"So I think", Spock retorted and no one understood this now.

But no one up to now had really realized that, if Frida had seen it correctly, the Enterprise was to land here. The area between Lairg and Crask Inn had mostly been flat, then it became mountainous again. Altnaharra had mountains to one and the lake to the other side. It was unthinkable that the Enterprise could come down here, it would be difficult enough for a shuttle.

A local man showed them the direction to Clebrig and when they were on their way, Spock nodded several times. Here was a depression indeed which stretched along a river and Loch Naver.

"Wow, look at!" the Captain cried. "A stone circle!"

"Ay, we've got lots o' them", Scotty nodded.

"Right, but up to now we didn't meet any."

"D'you meet stone circles?" Hamstilidamst snickered. "Hullo, nice to meet you. How are you today?"

"Might say that when we are closer."

This was of course not such a fantastic stone circle as Stonehenge in the south of England. They all had seen that one. The crowds of tourists there were incredible. Even if an alien member of the Federation made holiday on Earth and booked a world-tour, he would see Stonehenge so that it was hardly bearable there. Here, however, a stone circle was just standing in the middle of nowhere and nobody cared.

For centuries the inner circle of Stonehenge was closed. Of this, too, nobody took care here. So Spock took some pictures and scanned it with his tricorder.

"Curious", he suddenly murmured and just wanted to say something to the Captain, when Hamstilidamst crowd:

"Hullo, stone circle, nice to meet you! How are you today?" And he almost rolled about laughing.

"I'm quite well, but may I ask, how you got here? This is restricted area."

Hamstilidamst choked over his own laughter, the officers' jaws dropped, even Spock blinked. Beside one of the standing stones Daby was sitting in the grass.

 

Chapter 39

 

Meeting the Mossbeavers

 

At the Enterprise the hamsters set out with loud cheers and at the door of the turbo lift waited for Lt. Uhura. Excitedly they were standing on their hind-paws, fore-paws pulled up in hamster fashion and looking like hypnotizing Lt. Uhura with their black beaded eyes. There was the unspoken request: Let us get out, we desire nothing else, we are suffering, we cannot stay inside any longer. Ensign Chekov gave a sound like a guffaw but quickly turned back to his work, appearing unconcerned. Lt. Uhura gave her colleague a warning glance and turned to the hamsters.

“To get that straight, my pets: no single-attempts – we will stay close together. None of us knows what is waiting outside. Perhaps it is quite harmless but we should take care. So now we go down a few decks with the lift.”

Agreeable nodding everywhere, the door opened, the hamsters stormed into the lift. Shaking her head, Uhura followed and said: “Computer: Exit!” The lift started to move, the hamsters merrily shouted “Eippy!” and Uhura wondered if the starting preparation really made it necessary for Chekov to stay on board. Finally they had reached the exit hatch. A ramp moved out and once more the officer reminded the hamsters to act cool-headed and level-minded. Once more the hamsters nodded but the ramp had hardly touched the green surface of the tree tops, when the hamsters dashed away with loud cheers and left behind a helpless Uhura.

“Does not look like shopping here”, Flecki noticed a few minutes later.

“This green stuff has an aftertaste”, Goldi grumbled, “the replicator is better!”

“Well, erm, yes, I was prepared for first contact with dingus – er – non-hamstian beings…”

“We had that, Mayor, if you will kindly remember the Klingon hamsters, and you made quite a mess of it”, Flecki snapped.

“It’s somehow boring here”, Sasy complained, “nothing on here.”

“Might well happen that there’s nothing on on a planet”, Lt. Uhura now said who had cautiously followed the hamsters. “Not everywhere are intelligent beings…”

“Yes, I realized that some time ago”, Botchy grumbled, “when I went to the Hamstian city authorities…”

“Rooba?”

All of a sudden all heads turned into one direction, that is the one the noise had come from. Some tiny creature was sitting in a little distance. When it noticed that it had all the attention, it made a frightened step backward, toppled over, stood up again and once more said: “Rooba?”

The creature was small and in size and form could well be compared to a hamster. Its fur was green and scrubby, ears were not visible. The nose was a bit shorter than with a hamster, so the long incisors could be seen clearly and the whole expression did not indicate much intelligence.

“Woosh!” Dodo cried. “That certainly is a mossbeaver!”

“A… mossbeaver?” Uhura exclaimed, baffled. “Which family is that?”

Dodo shrugged, slowly turned round to the Enterprise-officer and said: “I can’t say. I don’t know any family with a mossbeaver!” Now Uhura shrugged, looking at Flecki who covered her face with her paws and at Goldi who clapped his paws delightedly. The mayor however was unimpressed, he tripped towards the little green creature, seeing his chance for alien first contact.

“Honoured Mr. Booby – er – Rooba”, he said, “it is my honour, no, my pleasure, more honour than pleasure equally, if I may put it like that, to dingus – er – welcome you as alien hamster – erm.” He thought a moment while the green creature watched him musingly. “Yes – erm – what I mean is that not I am the alien hamster but you are. Or both of us? Well, as I always use to say. It’s very complicated, if you understand my meaning, Mr. … er…”

“Rooba!”

“Fine, fine!” Unpertubed, the mayor talked on, interpreting this as affirmative. “Erm, as first prosy – er – proxy of Hamsterton I do not want to piss the dance – er – kiss the lance – er miss the chance of a counter-visit…”

“Aroob? Baroo?”

Surprised, the mayor, the whole hamster troop, and of course Uhura watched how more and more of these furry green animals showed up. They seemed to flock in from all sides, ten, twenty, thirty and more came closer. Soon they were surrounded by hundreds of these animals.

“I’d like to return to the space ship”, Flecki whispered to Goldi. “There’s no shopping and by now it’s getting tight and uncomfortable.”

“Back to the ship!” Lt. Uhura commanded. “I think we have seen enough.” She beckoned the hamsters to follow her and turned round. There was a loud squeak under one of her feet. She stopped, horrified, and bent down. Suddenly all was silent, the little green furries had stopped babbling and looked at Uhura. The mayor interrupted his monologue. All eyes were on the officer who now had in her hand the animal she had trodden on by mischance. “O my!” she exclaimed. “Poor little one, I did not want to hurt you!”

“We’ve got to take it to sickbay”, Flecki proposed. “Goldi, explain to his friends that we’re going to help him.”

“Why me? Did I trod on it?”

“It’s your job as super-hamster. Do you want to let the mayor explain it?”

Goldi shook his head. No, of course he did not want that. If the mayor with his never ending, daft speeches said something wrong, there might be disaster. Angrily Goldi gnarled and stepped forward to face the assembled mossbeavers. He lifted his paws and shouted: “Rooba!” Hundreds of “Rooba!” were the answer. So first contact was made.

Next Goldi shouted: “Rooba, Rooba!” and indeed hundreds of “Rooba, Rooba!” answered him. Now Goldi pointed at the smiling Uhura who held the obviously injured animal and caressed it. Then he shouted: “Rooba sick!” and hundreds of “Rooba sick!” answered. Goldi shook his head and tapped his forehead, whereupon the surprised hamsters watched how hundreds of mossbeavers shook their heads and tapped their foreheads. A bit shirty, Goldi now stretched out his left paw beckoning for silence. Accordinly, the animals to his left made signs, too. Goldi grinned, pointed at the mossbeavers to his right and shouted: “Rooba!” Immediately the right half chorused a loud “Rooba!” With his left paw Goldi now pointed at the left half and shouted: “Wallaballa!” When hundreds of “Wallaballa!” answered him, he pointed to his right and got hundreds of “Rooba!” as an answer.

So they went on for some time and Goldi was standing in front of the little green animals like a conductor and made them shout “Wallaballa – Rooba!” Once more Goldi lifted both paws whereupon the mossbeavers interrupted their canon and also lifted their little paws. Goldi pointed to his left and shouted: “Rataplan”. When hundreds of mossbeavers answered with a loud “Rataplan”, he pointed to his right and this time shouted: “in the van!” Enthusiastically the crowd now shouted “Ratplan – in the van” while Goldi equally enthusiastically conducted the crowd.

“Say, Goldi, what are you doing there?”

“First contact – why do you ask?”

“Because”, Flecki groaned, “what you are doing looks somehow daft and completely pointless.”

“Not my fault, these beasts are completely daft and pointless. Perhaps Dodo should talk to them!”

“Just a moment, I’ve got an idea”, Taty loudly said not to be drowned by the rhythmic ‘Rataplan – in the van’ of the mossbeavers and he stepped forward. There was at once silence and the animals curiously waited for new words. However, Taty took his universal translator and switched it off. “Let’s see whether they understand original Hamstish”, he whispered to his sister Flecki and shouted: “Ruoy lap si lli!” (Hamstish: Your pal is ill).

For a moment there was an almost frightening silence and Taty gave Goldi a triumphant glance. The mossbeavers appeared to understand because they looked very thoughtful like wondering how to help their pal. However, the next moment it became obvious that Taty’s plan had gone awry because now the mossbeavers shouted with a deafening noise something like: “Roll up silly!” It was a terrible noise and Taty switched on the universal translator again, resignating.

“Nice try”, Tealeafy grinned. “Really, I liked it. But it doesn’t work with these airheads. Any other idea?”

“Running”, Lt. Uhura remarked. “We all will run back to the ship, get in and shut the door. Then we will examine this sick mossbeaver or whatever it is. If he is okay, we’ll send him back. After that I hope we can leave this peculiar planet and say farewell to its inhabitants.”

“Running away from these dwarfs?” Chief Botchy was incredulous and the others hamsters seemed to appreciate his question because the nodded in agreement.

“That’s not running away”, Uhura calmly replied. “It’s a precaution. I would not like to ask this primitive green gang into our ship. We, that is I have injured this unhappy creature and we at least have to try to help him. Ahead!”

Hamsters and officer ran towards the Enterprise as quickly as possible. As expected, Uhura was by far the first to reach the Enterprise-hatch, typed in a code and impatiently drummed her fingers on the vessel’s surface. Before the ramp had completely lowered, the officer jumped onto it and scrambled into the ship. The hamsters followed closely. Hastily she typed in the code to close the hatch while the first mossbeavers started to close in. They nearly had made it, a few centimetres and the hatch was locked again. Lips pressed together, Uhura counted the hamsters while the hatch was still open a crack. A loud yell and she at once realized that this was a hamster-emergency. There, stuck between the closing hatch and the outer surface, was Dodo, wailing terribly.

Uhura took a sharp breath and quickly pressed the interruption-button to stop the closing process and saw with relief that Dodo came slowly down the ramp. Unfortunately he was not alone because also the mossbeavers had succeeded to get into the ship through the gap. This was a dangerous situation. If the hatch was closed, many of the little, green animals would be squashed. A second time Uhura took a sharp breath and turned round quickly, pushing off from the wall with one hand. The next moment she cried out and tried to find her balance. Her idea to run along the passage and to lock the next door to the interior of the Enterprise behind her, became impracticable. The floor was already covered with little green rodents, storming the Enterprise with shouts of “Rooba” – “Wallaballa” and “Roll up silly”. Lt. Uhura dragged out her com device.

“Chekov?”

“On board and enjoying the quiet, Lieutenant. What’s on, did the hamsters forget the shopping money?”

Uhura patiently waited until the Ensign stopped laughing, then she purred: “I’m happy about your sense of humour, it will change soon. Tell me, Chekov, are the doors of bridge and lift still adjusted to hamster-weight? Can you change it very, very quickly?”

The com was silent for a few seconds, then Chekov was back: “Very, very quickly is no good idea, Lieutenant, it will take some minutes. Is there a problem about the doors or why… Hey, what’s that? Where did you spring from?”

The connection was cut, Uhura sighed, held the com to her mouth again and shouted: “I guess now you know why and can answer your own question.”

Resignedly, she was leaning against the wall beside the hatch, waited and looked at her com device.

It took some time until her colleague came in again. “What is this?” he desperately asked while in the background shouts of “Rooba” – “Wallaballa” and “Roll up silly” were audible, alternating with “Rataplan – in the van”. – “Lieutenant, I feel sick, I see mice – green mice!”

“Mossbeavers, Chekov, the hamsters said that are mossbeavers – no mice.”

“But what shall I do now, Lieutenant, they are occupying the bridge.”

“The command is yours, Chekov, so use your authority!”

“Uhura, I no longer want the command – get off the station!”

Chekov’s last remark was obviously directed to one or more mossbeavers. Lt. Uhura shook her head and closed the hatch. She looked at the mossbeaver in her hand and cautiously walked on. When she reached the bridge, her colleague Chekov offered such a miserable sight that she could not help laughing. He was sitting at his station, face buried in hands, all around him little green rodents bawling “Roll up silly!” When he noticed Uhura, he lifted his head and the mossbeavers were silent for a moment.

“No, Lieutenant, you will not bring in more of these – er – mossbeavers! The bridge is packed with them, it’s a disaster!”

The bridge was indeed packed with mossbeavers. The hamsters had retreated to the com station and only Goldi defended the area around the replicator. Several times he had beckoned Dodo to help him but Dodo studied some control screen and looked very busy.

“Computer!” Uhura shouted and at once all eyes were on her. “Computer, lock all bridge exits! Are any mossbeavers on the ship outside the bridge?”

“Please define mossbeavers”, the friendly voice from the ceiling said. There was manifold, excited squeaking from the baffled mossbeavers and all these peculiar animals looked up to the ceiling.

“The green rodents on the bridge are mossbeavers – or that’s what we call them until we know to which species they belong.”

“There are no mossbeavers outside the bridge!”

“Thank you, computer”, Uhura replied with a relieved sigh because all she needed was these alien animals running to Engineering or some other place. The information did not rid them of their problem but the problem was limited to the bridge. Now they had to work out a plan how to get the green rodents back to their planet.

“Oh, oh”, Taty uttered, “will that work out?”

Uhura and Chekov inquiringly turned to the hamsters. They did not see Tati’s point. Flecki, too, looked at the mossbeavers with big eyes. Many of them had toppled over when trying to look at the ceiling but now something happened indeed. Few were beginning but more and more followed and finally the whole mossbeaver-troop bawled:

“Computer – computer!” The main processor naturally was programmed to react to this request.

“Please specify your inquiry!”

“Computer – computer!”

“Please once more specify your inquiry!”

“Computer – computer!”

“Data incomplete, please specify your inquiry!

“Computer – computer!”

“Is there an emergency? Please specify the kind of emergeny!”

The animals were silent for a moment so that humans and hamsters took hope, but it continued without mercy.

“Emergency – emergency!”

“Please repeat!”

“Emergency – emergency!”

“No!” That was Lt. Uhura. “Computer, state normal, nothing amiss…” Her words were drowned in the deafening howling of the alert. The mossbeavers goggled, fascinated and shouted on: “Computer – emergency!” while Uhura desperately tried to make her voice heard. It was pointless. A moment later the bridge was dark. The normal light was replaced by the red emergency light.

“What’s up now?” chief Botchy yelled.

“Must be the computer”, Flecki yelled back. “Got not useful reply and now thinks something’s wrong. Perhaps it thinks all are injured on the bridge. For sure all doors are locked now and no one gets in our out.”

As matter of fact, Flecki’s assumption was correct. The two Enterprise-officers realized it as well. And they realized that they had a fat problem which might get worse. The mossbeavers with their shouts of “Computer – emergency” forced the computer to take further steps and neither Uhura nor Chekov did exactly know the consequences.

“We’ve got to take action!” she shouted at Chekov and the hamsters. “They at once have to stop their yelling or the computer runs riot!”

The mayor tripped forward, lifted his short paws and shouted: “Dee-eear green friends!” He stopped to enjoy the effect of his words but there was nothing to enjoy. Obviously mossbeavers did not have the night vision hamsters had. They did not mind him at all. Moreover this voice had not been loud enough to penetrate their noise.

“Give me a try”, chief Botchy gnarled who by now quite bugged. He straightened up and yelled: “Dammit, shut your bloody gobs or I’ll floor you all, you green dorks.”

The effect was just fantastic. None of the noisy animals had understood a word – the chief had made quite a slur of his shouting – but he had their attention and curiosity. They appeared to discuss among each other what Botchy just had been shouting. Scattered yells like “Wham it!”, “Muggy orbs!”, or “Lean orcs!” came up.

“Well, that’s much better”, Tealeafy grinned.

“Yes, you definitely have more talent handling aliens”, Uhura laughed and turned to Chekov. “I think I’ll tell the computer to switch on the light again.”

“Perhaps we should wait a little”, Flecki remarked. “Our green guests seem to have some difficulties in the darkness.”

“Right”, Goldi said, suddenly standing at Flecki’s side, “the replicator is in the dark and these blind brutes are just running past it. Some of them bumped into the wall. Now they are standing there, knocking at the wall and shouting “Rooba!”

“Perhaps it’s something like ‘Please open!’ in Mossbeaverish”, Tuffy cackled.

“Some discussing going on there”, chief Botchy said, pointing at the mossbeavers. Indeed, some were shouting “Wham it!” and another group “Muggy orbs!” Several other groups disagreed by “Lean orcs!” or “Rooba!” or “Wallaballa!” There were first brawls and hustlings and the green rodents obviously could not agree on some united shout.

“Shouldn’t we do something?” Flecki asked in a troubled voice.

“Sure”, Goldi retorted, “get something to eat and look out for the box seat. Lay odds on the greenies and the one remaining gets Dodo as sparring partner.”

“Wouldn’t the Captain be delighted”, Chekov remarked with a broad grin.

“First of all the Captain would ask who was in command when these dumbheads boarded”, Uhura replied with a smile so that Chekov’s grin froze.

Helm at least, where he was sitting, was free of mossbeavers, same as keyboard and screen. Fascinated, humans and hamsters watched how now their uninvited visitors came hobbling from all directions to join the general wrestling. The situation was out of control by now and it was high time to stop the brawling animals. But how? Uhura and Chekov exchanged a glance, then looked at the hamsters.

“What would you do in such a case?” Uhura hopefully asked Sasy who was sitting beside her.

“Oh, the usual. This happens now and then – especially when the mayor is giving a speech.”

“Or at soccer. Some ballyhoo there last time, I can tell you”, Tealeafy added.

“I don’t care for soccer”, Flecki grumbled, “I just hate it. Moreover it’s brutal.”

“Oh, not really”, Goldi mumbled.

“Not really? Well, you tell me. Just last week I read that some referee has kicked some footballer off the ground. Kicked off the ground! The poor man will have been bruised all over. Why do they let such a lout of referee play at all?”

“My idea exactly”, Goldi retorted, “without him the match would have been much more interesting without so many interruptions.” Goldi of course did not mention that he had been the player sent off the ground due to too many fouls.

“Well?” Uhura asked, waiting impatiently for an answer. “What would you do in such a situation?”

“Sunflower seed”, Tuffy cried, “that always works. Well, no idea if it works for mossbeavers. We don’t know which food the like best.”

While the bridge was ringing from the mossbeavers’ battle noise, humans and hamsters helplessly watched how some groups scrambled onto the desks and even beat each other on the keyboards. Desperately the Enterprise-officers tried to shoo away the animals but there were too many. If some had been pushed off, double their number replaced them. The matter looked hopeless.

“Interesting”, Flecki remarked, sitting on some mossbeaver-free desk and watching the green hooligans.

“What? Aliens brawling?” Dodo asked.

“No, no, something else. Everytime one or a small group shouts something different from the majority, there are blows.”

“Almost the same at our end”, Tealeafy said with a broad grin.

“All that’s missing, is HAMPO”, Taty added.

“Fine, fine, I’m glad to hear that”, Lt. Uhura groaned, “but how can we use it strategically? I hardly see any chance – except…”

“That’s it”, Flecki cried, “we need a decoy to lure these dummies from the ship!”

“Now, who does the name of McCoy remind me of and why do you need him for luring?”

Flecki rolled her eyes on Dodo’s question while Goldi looked at Dodo, shaking his head and said: “We can take none of those mossbeavers. They’re simply too daft. Someone had to provoke the greenies with a new shout. The moment the exits are opened, the green dumbheads are lured out of the ship and that’s it. Best would be to use someone as a decoy who had some experience with mossbeavers.”

Trampel felt hot and cold at the same time. Suddenly all his friends looked at him and spite of that he felt very, very lonely. “No”, he whispered, “please don’t!”

“Er – what is the point, please?” Chekov asked who of course never had heard anything about Ullapool and the corresponding events.

“Well”, chief Botchy explained, “our friend Trample has relevant experience as mossbeaver.”

“Indeed, indeed”, now the mayor piped up, “he is so to say, if I may put it like that, the first choice.”

“But I don’t want”, Trample whimpered. “Moreover my fur is grown and no longer green…”

“Can be changed”, Goldi grinned.

“What about the injured mossbeaver?” Trample wailed. “Can’t he be hypnotized or something?”

“I freed him, that is he hopped from my hand and is somewhere in a brawl”, Uhura sighed.

“But, but…”, Trample whimpered and Goldi patted his shoulder

“You can ask for a vote of course but to tell the truth: Don’t – we’d loose precious time. Where do we get green colour?”

“Replicator!” Tuffy cried and Chekov shook his head.

“No deal, green colour is no food…”

“Spinach!” Taty and Tealeafy shouted unisono.

Fifteen minutes later unhappy Trample was sitting in a bowl of lukewarm spinach.

“The shading is not perfect”, Flecki pondered. “You should be a hue lighter.”

“Oh, the blind dummies won’t notice”, chief Botchy gnarled. “It’s important that you sound convincing, Trample.” When spinach-green Trample looked at the chief engineer with distressed eyes, Botchy continued: “Look here, that’s simple enough: You run to the exit of the ship, shout something, the mossbeavers follow you and done with. We’ll be rid of the whole gang.”

“And then?” Trample whimpered. “What happens then?”

“Well”, the mayor interfered once more, “then Hamsterton and, if I may say so, Starfleet is highly inapted – er – indebted to you. Of course in your honour there will be a party of steel – erm – a party in style.”

“Funeral party!” Trample wailed.

“Now stop babbling and get going”, Botchy grumped. “We can’t wait for ever.”

“But the spinach has not dried…”

“Now come on!” Botchy pushed unhappy Trample who, shaken with fright, plunged backwards from the desk into the crowd of the mossbeavers. Spellbound, his friends and the Enterprise-officers watched. None of the green aliens minded Trample but were all busy with each other. Trample hopefully looked up to his friends and shrugged.

“Say something!” Goldi shouted. “Show them who’s the boss!”

Trample gulped, seemed to pluck up all his courage and said: “Olleh!”

At first the mossbeavers were not much impressed and Trample took more courage. “Olleh!” he said, a little louder this time, and some animals indeed interrupted their brawl to turn towards the hamster.

“Rooba Silly!” came the furious retort. Two of the animals marched up to Trample, tried to push him but the quick hamster ran to the lift, shouting: “Wai, wai, wai!”

“Wai!” – “Wham it!” – “Rooba!” the shouts came from all directions and all mossbeavers stormed after Trample.

“He does it very well”, the chief nodded appreciatively.

“Yes, and if he survives the lift, the chances are even better!” Goldi added.

The door of the turbo lift opened now and Trample jumped in. Desperately he climbed up a small batten until he almost had reached the ceiling. Luckily the mossbeavers were too clumsy to follow but more and more of them scurried into the lift, piling up on top of each other until they almost reached the trembling hamster.

“Where is he?” Chekov shouted who had switched his monitor to the lift camera. “The poor chap is gone, the buggers got him.”

“Come off it!” Tealeafy soothed him. “He’s hiding somewhere at the lift ceiling. See how the daft mossbeavers all look up?”

The Ensign nodded, relieved. Now the lift reached the exit deck. The door had hardly started to open when some vague green streak was visible on the screen. Next moment the sight was blocked by dark dots.

“The lift camera is dirty, how odd”, Chekov marvelled but Flecki had recognized it at once:

“Spinach! That was Trample!”

Quickly Chekov switched over to the next camera and the exit hatch could be seen. Another switch, the hatch opened and the ramp was slowly lowered. For a split second some vague green shadow  could be made out again, racing towards the ramp. For a moment only the ramp could be seen, still lowering. Then a bawling crowd of mossbeavers passed the camera, scurrying, pushing, each of them trying to be the first leaving the ship. It took some time until the last of those peculiar animals had left the ramp to the planet. Chekov turned away from the monitor and his right hand reached out to the key board.

“The hatch!” Uhura cried. “Don’t shut it!”

Chekov looked at her in surprise.

“Wait, Chekov!”

“But Lieutenant, the mossbeavers…”

“Just a second, Chekov”, she cried, looking at the monitor, “we have to give the little pet a chance.”

Dead silence on the bridge, Dasy and Sasy clung to each other and Flecki took Goldi’s paw. Open-mouthed, the mayor and chief Botchy were standing side by side, Taty and Tealeafy had pressed their paws together like praying, and Dodo whispered: “I don’t grip that. Did they die out now or not?”

Seconds passed like hours. After a while Chekov shook his head and whispered: “We can’t wait any longer, Lieutenant, those beasts might return any time!”

“Just a moment, Ensign. Zoom the camera to the ramp, will you?”

Obviously Uhura’s sharp eyes had seen something as she was standing right in front of the screen. The hamsters assembled around the monitor, watching how the ramp was zoomed in.

“Now take up the ramp, Chekov, quickly!”

The steel ramp seemed to jump out of the monitor towards them, they all held their breath and then they cheered. When the centre part of the ramp passed, everybody could see how a green hamster desperately clung to the bottom side of the ramp. Trample was saved!

“Brave, clever pet”, Lt. Uhura said, secretly wiping away a tear, “he did not leave the ship at all. He simply hid at the bottom of the ramp and those silly mossbeavers ran over him and did not notice.”

Chekov smacked his knees in joy: “You are the world’s cleverest animals!”

“Universe as well”, Goldi added, leisurely fluttering his eyelashes.

“By all means”, Flecki laughed and let his paw go. Next moment her face darkened and she turned round to Goldi: “Tell me, why is my paw suddenly so sticky and smelling like food?”

While Flecki, full of revenge, tried to hunt down Goldi, Uhura had taken the lift to fetch Trample who was still trembling with fright and excitement. A few minutes later she re-entered the bridge, carrying the spinach-green hamster, and was welcomed with cheers.

“So to say it is a big honour for me”, the mayor roared, “to praise you, my dear mossbea… - er – Trample and to nominate you for the spinach-pedal – er – medal. You will be an example to all hamsters…”

“May I first get my original colour back?”

“Certainly, certainly, my dear. Although I have to add additionally, my dear Spinachtrample, that because of Czechian treasons – er – technical reasons this was to happen only after the conifer – erm – after conferring the medal…”

“Without me”, Trample sobbed and made for the lift. “I’d rather go back to them silly mossbeavers. You only want to use me for your daft election campaign as poster hamster – without me!”

It took some time until upset Trample could be calmed down. After long discussions it was decided that Trample was permitted to clean his spinach-coloured fur. Concerning the conferment of the medal the mayor finally accepted Flecki’s proposal to use green light for illumination. While Trample disgustedly licked his fur, the mayor boasted around what a fine sight it was going to be: He on the stage, bathed in bright light, walking, medal in hand, up to Trample who would be bathed in green spotlight.

Shaking her head, Lt. Uhura watched the scene, a smile on her lips when she joined Chekov who contentedly looked as his controls. He nodded and Uhura shouted. “Take your stations, we are flying home!”

After the Ensign had computed the last data necessary for take-off, he once more looked at the outer cameras and checked the hull-sensors. Then the time had come, after many adventures they were going to leave this planet.

Eleven pairs of black eyes glared at the main screen like hypnotizing it. Soft vibrations went through the ship, a high, humming noise filled the bridge. Once more Uhura’s voice came: “Energy!” Then the sky seemed to crash onto the Enterprise – so fast the space ship suddenly took off. The hamsters rolled over the floor and stuck at the back wall. Uhura and Chekov were pressed into their seats by some invisible power and both at once knew that something had gone wrong.